Today is my grandmother's 90th birthday.
The daughter of missionaries, she was born in Hong Kong.
When they came home they worked on the steamliner to pay the transocean passage. And that was just the beginning of her life.
She has all kinds of stories and adventures that have marked her life and shaped her as a person, and I suppose in a lot of ways they've shaped my father and me as well.
Today I celebrate Betty Mueller, my grandma, a mother, wife, sister, daughter, aunt, minister, diva, world traveler and more.
I have learned several life lessons from Grandma.
Anyone who has met her knows that she lives by a principle: "Be adventurous; just look good while you do it."
Grandma is a classy lady and has always looked like a million bucks. One time we went inner-tubing on a river and she managed to get through the whole day, including going down rapids, with her hair and makeup perfectly intact.
Grandma is beautiful, and she loves beautiful things; however, the best lesson I learned from her is that our lives are not about things, even the beautiful things.
As we start the month of December, we are surrounded with a whirlwind of ads and desires. We are asked for lists and wants.
In the middle of it all I hear my grandma's voice: "Hold your stuff in open hands."
My grandma has nice stuff, and she knows how to enjoy it, but it doesn't own her. She has learned the lesson the hard way. The story passed down to me is that she and Grandpa Hiriam were living in Florida with their kids. They pastored a church there and were just starting to get ahead, so much so that they built a house — a modest, but brand-new house.
The day they were given the keys, my grandfather told Grandma that they were needed at a church in Carlsbad. After planning and building, Grandma walked away from the house before she ever moved in.
When she or my mother tell this story, they tell it with their palms up, hands open, as if to drive home the point. It may be that when your hands are open, you can let things go and yet the rest of that story, for Grandma, has been that when your hands are open you are also in a position to receive.
Her life has been a story of God's provision and abundance. Each new blessing she holds with open hands. Each blessing she shares with others.
This week, I will need to figure out my Christmas shopping plan. I will make lists of gift ideas for myself and those for whom I shop. I will drink peppermint lattes and put on Christmas music in an attempt to feel the holiday spirit.
But the best motivation and guide for how to celebrate this season will come tonight, when my cousins and parents and aunts and uncles and friends gather around my grandma. We will celebrate her humor, her generosity, her love and faith, and realize that those are what have made our lives truly rich.
CRISSY BROOKS is co-founder and executive director of Mika Community Development Corp., a faith-based nonprofit in Costa Mesa, where she lives.