Falling from the sky

August 21, 2014 | My Jottings

Our youngest daughter Sara takes after her dad in many ways. She has a little bit (well, actually maybe a large chunk) of the impulsive adventure seeker in her, as he always has, and recently she checked something off of her bucket list by jumping out of a plane from 10,000 feet in the air. That’s almost two miles up.

Sara has a friend who works for a local skydiving company, and she called her up recently and said, “We’re going up this evening, want to come along?” So Sara gave me a long hug, told me she loved me, and dashed off to go up in a small plane and tandem jump. The only way you can skydive on your own is to take many hours of training. However, you can tandem jump with about an hour of training (yikes, don’t get me started), and she was paired with a young man who had done this many times.

Here are some photos from Sara’s first time falling from the sky. Yes, that would be the plane they were in.

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I think this photo means she was liking it so far:

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This shot shows the St. Louis River below them:

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And this picture caused me to ponder, If her young skin looked like this, I wonder what mine would look like if I decided to jump?

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In this photo below the parachute had opened and Sara said they floated down slower than she expected:

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How about you? Have you ever gone skydiving? Would you? Why or why not?

For hurting hearts

August 20, 2014 | My Jottings

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“But what if the great secret insider-trading truth is that you don’t ever get over the biggest losses in your life? Is that good news, bad news, or both?

The good news is that if you don’t seal up your heart with caulking compound, and instead stay permeable, people stay alive inside you, and maybe outside you, too, forever.

This is also the bad news, not because your heart will continue to hurt forever, but because grief is so frowned upon, so hard for even intimate bystanders to witness, that you will think you must be crazy for not getting over it. You think it’s best to keep this a secret, even if it cuts you off from certain aspects of life, like, say, the truth of your heart, and all that is real.

The pain does grow less acute, but the insidious palace lie that we will ever get over crushing losses means that our emotional GPS can never find true north, as it is based on maps that no longer mention the most important places we have been to.

Pretending that things are nicely boxed up and put away robs us of great riches.”

~~Anne Lamott, Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair.

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I found wisdom and comfort in this excerpt today.

The Road Unwanted

August 16, 2014 | My Jottings

I keep wondering how I’m going to write about this, and I still don’t know. I’m not certain how to put in black and white what seems like the most life-altering thing that I’ve ever experienced, apart from my decision to ask Jesus to take over my life when I was a little girl…except that event opened up my world and put a compass in my hand, and this event feels like it has nearly ended my world and set me adrift in a deep, dark, and uncharted ocean. It seems like there are no words in the English language that I can access in my numb mind to share the depth of sorrow and lostness I sometimes feel now that Michael is no longer in our home. Six weeks ago, after months of considering, praying, agonizing, researching, seeking counsel, second-guessing myself, and weeping, I drove Michael to a small state veterans home one hour north of us, and admitted him there. These very words I just typed stab my heart with a pain that has made me feel like life is over for the both of us, except for the part where I put one foot in front of the other and function like a person not quite fully alive.

The place Michael lives now is one of the most highly regarded care facilities in our area. It is not like a regular nursing home and the pictures we might have in our minds of those. Unbidden and unrelated, many people over the past few months mentioned to me this particular facility up the shore of Lake Superior in glowing terms. Wives of husbands who live there, social workers who drive up to attend their cases there, a local surgeon who has patients there, and even an actual resident himself, all spoke reassuring and recommending words they had no idea were directing me north as I neared the frayed end of my abilities to care for my beloved husband at home.

Parkinson’s Disease coupled with advancing Lewy Body Dementia has whittled cruelly and relentlessly away at Michael’s handsome, strong, capable body for over a decade. In these past few months he’s had days when he couldn’t walk. His visual/spatial perception is grossly impaired. His speech is at times almost unintelligible. And sometimes simple words spoken to him don’t seem to get through.

Mornings are usually his best time. He can walk with a tiny bit of assistance and a gait belt, has a stronger voice then, and flashes of his wonderful personality are evident; I cling to those times. As the day wears on, everything fades. His walking, his voice, and his personality all shut down, and he becomes so very dependent and so terribly vulnerable that to speak of it seems almost too flippant. But it’s not. It’s precious and sacred to me, so I want to speak of it. I just don’t really know how, even with my efforts here. Michael’s life is condensing right before my very eyes, and the beautiful essence of that reduction is priceless to me.

The nursing staff at this small facility are truly loving, competent, patient and respectful. Most of the people I’ve met have worked there for between twelve and twenty-two years. Many of them shook Michael’s hand on the day he moved in, saying things like, “It will be an honor to care for you, sir. I thank you for your service to our country.” On the third day when I spoke to Michael on the phone and asked him how he was being treated he said, “They treat us like kings.” They take the men fishing, they help them garden, they have weekly outings to local restaurants, they have many thoughtfully planned activities, and their dignity is guarded and prized. There are two resident dogs there, one of whom has taken a liking to Michael, and he to her. Her name is Bella. There are also two resident cats, and over a dozen colorful songbirds that flit about in a large aviary in the sunroom, where Michael and I love to sit quietly and hold hands. There are two worship services a week on Tuesdays and Sundays, and Michael always looks forward to attending.

Of course no place is perfect. A couple of the residents in the mild memory care unit he’s in are much more ill than he is, and the noises they make and the behavior of one person is a little troubling to me, even though it happens infrequently. I realize they can’t help themselves, but it’s hard to accept that where he is now isn’t exactly like the quiet and soothing environment of our home.

I drive up to see Michael on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, and spend the whole day with him. I am an adult foster care provider to two sweet women who have lived with us for many years, and after I prepare their breakfasts and see them off to their respective jobs in the mornings, I put our Schnauzers Edith and Millie in their kennels and head north. On the days I don’t drive up, I do all the things anyone else would do — I tend to the paperwork, errands and appointments involved in my job, make sure meals, laundry, and housecleaning get done, take my Fosters out to dinner and the movies, and I try to rest now and then.

Lewy Body Dementia is marked by extreme fluctuations in cognition (Michael can be pretty fine for a few hours, then not at all fine and almost semi-conscious within minutes), detailed and often frightening hallucinations, delusions, REM sleep disturbances, and loss of autonomic functions. The hallucinations and delusions Michael has are the hardest thing for him to deal with, and they are heartbreaking for me. I don’t know what to do when he’s in the throes of an episode and he’s agitated, and what he sees is as real to him as reality is to you and me. I pray for him, comfort him, sometimes read scripture to him, try to distract him, and many times I turn my head and try not to let him see that I’m sobbing.

My sister-in-law has tried to help me understand that the care Michael is getting is better care than I was able to give him at home. I had come to the end of every reserve I had, but even knowing that, each morning I still wonder if I can stand having him gone for another day. My sister-in-law asked me how many people care for Michael in one day at this small veterans home. I started counting as I answered her: a registered nurse, a licensed practical nurse, and an aide (minimum) for each eight hour shift (that’s nine people to begin with), a cook, a physical therapist (they work with Michael every single day), an activities director, a housekeeper, a laundry worker and a chaplain. Then there is his social worker, his site physician, and the many people who volunteer and help make all the daily activities possible. Thinking about all of this very specialized care helps for about an hour. Then I walk through our home where he lives no longer, and I cry and pray and wonder how I could possibly work things out to bring him home.

I will be honest. As much as I know how blessed we are in so many ways, at times this has felt like hell to me.

Here’s how our Schnauzer Millie feels about Michael being gone:

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That’s his pillow she’s sleeping on. The dogs feel their Daddy’s absence deeply.

And here’s my beloved husband of thirty-three years, the former mighty Marine, whose service to our country brought on the Agent Orange-induced affliction that has poisoned his body and put us on the road unwanted.

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Aside from spending as much time as possible with Michael, I call him at least twice a day. He can’t speak on the phone easily, but he can listen. Last night when I called, I asked him if he wanted me to read the Bible to him and he answered yes. I slowly read a few verses to him. I ended with part of the 42nd Psalm, and when I read this verse aloud, Michael whispered fervently, “That’s a good one!”

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

Psalm 42:11  (ESV)

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I will share more another time. I thank you all so much for praying for us….

Wednesday’s Word-Edition 114

August 6, 2014 | My Jottings

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“It may be that when we no longer know which way to go that we have come to our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.”

~~ Wendell Berry

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In quietness and trust…

July 30, 2014 | My Jottings

I received a gift recently from someone I’ve never met in person. Her name is Peggy and apparently she reads my blog (hi Peggy!) because my dear friend Ginny told her about it. Last week Ginny and I attended our local community playhouse’s huge and celebrated production of Les Miserables, for two reasons: 1. I love Les Miserables and that book is in my top ten favorite, mind-blowing books, and 2. My daughter Carolyn was in the play and I love her and she is in my top four favorite, heart-holding people in the world. Possibly even the universe. What a play it was! I have had the privilege of seeing Les Mis at The Queen’s Theatre in London, and this one in our city was on par with the quality we saw in England.

Anyway, on the night Ginny picked me up for the play, she handed me a bag with a beautiful pillow cover in it, with a little note from Peggy. Peggy has known her share of heartache; sometimes I think those who have suffered know how to bless others in ways the rest of us are still learning. Peggy must have known from this post that I love cardinals, and here is a photo of the pillow cover. (I measured it and bought a pillow insert right away so I could use the pillow — it looks lovely in both our bedroom and living room.)

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It says, “His love is as gentle as freshly fallen snow, His joy is as lovely as winter’s glow, His peace is the quiet place our hearts can go.” And the scripture at the bottom of the pillow is “In quietness and trust is your strength…” Isaiah 30:15 (NIV).

I realize that cardinals are often thought of as winter birds and are used in a lot of Christmas decorations. And the snowflakes and the verse on this pillow make it seem like it should be a seasonal pillow, pulled out and displayed when the Christmas decorations go up.

But I’m going to keep it out all year long. We live in Minnesota and our winters are long. As a matter of fact, this last winter was one of the longest and snowiest our region has ever known. So when one lives in American Siberia, one can use winter decor all the live-long year if they want!

On another note, I have been trying for four weeks to write a post about the latest things that have happened in our lives. I am not sure why the words won’t come out as I would like. Someday soon I hope to share.

This scripture is so fitting for us right now — in quietness and trust (in the Lord and His ways) is our strength….

Thank you for this beautiful gift, dear Peggy…

God’s Agenda or My Agenda?

July 24, 2014 | My Jottings

My dear friend Kay is one of those people I’ve never met face to face, yet feel a bond with that only the Lord could have orchestrated. Many of you who read this blog regularly will have seen her gracious comments after some of my posts. Kay lives in Cornwall, England with her husband Alan. She’s an avid reader and such a great writer, I’ve encouraged her to start her own blog and told her I’d be her first subscriber. Kay may not be ready for that yet, but she has generously agreed to do a guest post here on my blog, and I know you’ll love what she’s going to share. I look forward to reading your comments in response to what God has laid on Kay’s heart….

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God’s Agenda or My Agenda? — by Kay Stevens

Have you ever heard anyone say that ‘Life is a funny old thing’? It may be an unknown phrase in the U.S., but I’ve heard it said quite a few times here in the U.K. Life is often unpredictable, challenging, surprising (sometimes shocking) and unfathomable. Christians are not exempt from these feelings. Sometimes people will say ‘Life is what you make it’. Well, I would like to argue that is not the right way for those who follow Christ.

I had had my life planned out for so long. Obviously I realized that unexpected things happen along the way, but I felt quite happy planning my future. This was way back when my children were small and I was still married to their father. Although I was a Christian, I tried very hard to be the one in control of my life. Life wasn’t too bad, but it wasn’t particularly good either. I just trundled along, not growing in my Christian life at all. And then I came upon a big crossroads. It took me eighteen months to decide what to do and I’m ashamed to say I took that decision without turning to my God. I took a turning that led to sadness, loneliness and depression that lasted for eight years. During those long years I cried out to God for help and couldn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel.  235527974_640

One day I went to my usual church house group meeting and the leader, Mary, gave everyone a small piece of broken pottery and she asked us to write on them something that we wanted to leave at Jesus’ feet. I thought for a moment and then wrote ‘Lack of hope for the future’. This was my honest, laid-bare feeling. Mary then glued the pieces to a wooden cross as a physical representation of what we had done spiritually. I then promptly forgot about this action.

A few weeks later after praying with friends, I was persuaded to register with an on-line dating site. It was a secular company but I made it clear on my profile that I was looking for other Christians.  The rest, as they say, is history. Within six months I had met and married my lovely husband, Alan, and we are now approaching our sixth wedding anniversary. Mary gave me the piece of pottery back and it is one of my most treasured possessions.

God had provided me with this wonderful, Christian husband at just the right time. I was devastated when three years later my beautiful daughter moved two hundred miles away when she got married. In my previous plans, I had always envisaged Louisa living close to home as an adult and that we would go out on shopping trips, cinema viewings and coffee mornings together. After just over two years of marriage, my son-in-law walked out on Louisa not once, but three times. This was something I had not planned for either. I expected Louisa would want to come home after this, but she is part of a church plant in her new home town and she is very happy there. When Louisa was first married I looked forward to loving her children – my much wanted grandchildren. But Louisa isn’t sure that is what God wants for her. But God’s provision of a loving, Christian husband blessed me so much. It also blessed Louisa, because she knows I am not lonely or sad anymore.

Last year Alan and I went on a short course named ‘The Course of Your Life’. The lessons were spread over a few weeks and they permanently altered my way of thinking. One of the sayings that we were told was, ‘Happy wife, happy life’! This was said as a joke, but not long ago I found a little laminated sign in a gift shop with these exact words displayed. The sign now hangs in our garden room.  Alan says that he appreciates the sign and the sentiment is very true!

But, much more importantly, I learnt about God’s agenda versus my own agenda. When I turned control of my life over to Him, life was still a succession of highs and lows. For example, Alan’s health has seriously deteriorated this year and I sometimes get tired coping. But I know that God’s Agenda will prove to be the best for both of us and He will continue to bless us.

So when seemingly unpleasant things happen unexpectedly, I try to remember to tell myself that this is all in God’s Agenda. Sometimes it’s hard to be patient when ‘storms’ happen in our lives. But during each storm I know that He is always with me and this certainty is my rock. I still flounder around at times until I remember and accept these truths. And then His calm surrounds and pervades me.

I pray that someone reading this will be encouraged to ‘Let go and let God’.

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Thank you Kay, for sharing part of your story with us! I can relate very closely to wanting to be in control of my life, and learning time and again how to trust God when that futile desire just doesn’t work. How about some of you who are reading today? How have you coped when your own agenda didn’t come to pass for your life, and God’s agenda changed things in ways you didn’t expect?

He giveth more grace….

July 21, 2014 | My Jottings

When I was in my mid-twenties, my pastor’s wife and dear friend Kim and I used to get together once in a while to exercise to Christian Music. The album we played was called Firm Believer. (Pause and solemnly think of that.)

The two women who did the album are named Bobbie Wolgemuth and Judy Moser. I was made aware of how things have gone in Bobbie Wolgemuth’s life recently, and this video is part of her story. I knew I wanted to share it with you.

It made me want to learn more hymns than I already know. I’ve always felt like something deep and true and ancient was being done in my soul when I have the opportunity to sing some of the old hymns. “Be Thou My Vision” is one of my favorites, and when I sing it, it becomes the most intense prayer flowing from me to the Lord in melodic form. [And I'm also grateful that God is happy with joyful noise and doesn't require skilled singing... :)]

I think if you know anyone going through very difficult times, this short video of Bobbie and her husband sharing about how God has met and changed them in the midst of some pretty tragic circumstances, could really be a powerful encouragement.

God bless your week, friends.

Fondly,

He does all things well.

July 12, 2014 | My Jottings

I’m not sure why I love pictures and videos of animal parents and their babies, but I do. There’s something about seeing a first-time animal mama nurture her little one in ways no one but God could have taught her. You can call it instinct and it is, but God is the one who thought up instinct and puts it inside those animal moms and dads.

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You may have already seen these pictures, but if you haven’t I hope you enjoy them today. Please click here.

I was in a sinking mood a couple of hours ago and happened to peruse this site, and my eyes filled with tears of wonder and I whispered out loud, “Oh Lord, You do all things well!” I just sat for a while thinking about Him and how beautiful His creation and ways are, and how good He is, no matter what others and our circumstances may otherwise proclaim.

What was your favorite photograph? (I especially loved all the bears and the little baby fox….)

Seeing the delightful pictures of these incredible animals helped me to trust the Lord a little more fully today. I hope you are trusting Him too….

Need to laugh and ponder and rejoice?

July 8, 2014 | My Jottings

Happy Tuesday everyone. I have just a few minutes before the second part of the Breakfast Brigade begins, and I thought I’d recommend a book to you. As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, I’ve been reading Donald Miller. Years ago I read his Blue Like Jazz and loved it. Last week I finished A Million Miles in a Thousand Years and it made me think about my life in ways I never had before. And it gave me a dream I shared with the Lord and left in His hands for fulfillment, or not. If you haven’t read these books I think you should.

Spurred on by A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, I just ordered a used copy of Miller’s Searching For God Knows What, it conveniently arrived yesterday in the mail, and I’m already chuckling and feeling stirrings of correction and hope. This book will bring some smart humor, pondering and rejoicing your way. Anyone need some of those?

Friends, when I ask you if you need to laugh, I mean the kind of silent laughing that shakes the bed at night when you’re trying to keep quiet. The kind you can’t stop. (By the way, are you familiar with Paperbackswap? I’ve been trading in the books I don’t plan to keep for years, and receiving books I want to read in the mail in exchange. Check it out.)

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So here’s a quote from the book I thought I’d share (and the author is referring to Robert Tilton’s imposter ministry and Shirley MacLaine’s outrageous belief that she is God, as she has stated in one of her spiritual books and the subsequent made-for-TV-movie):

“If you ask me, the way to tell if a person knows God for real, I mean knows the real God, is that they will fear Him. They wouldn’t go around making absurd political assertions and drop God’s name like an ace card, and they wouldn’t be making absurd statements about how God wants you to be rich and how if you send in some money to the ministry God will bless you. And for that matter, they wouldn’t be standing on a beach shouting about how they are God, twirling around in the waves. It seems like, if you really knew the God who understands the physics of our existence, you would operate a little more cautiously, a little more compassionately, a little less like you are the center of the universe.”

I realize that the above quote probably didn’t make you chuckle, and it wasn’t meant to. It was just something I read last night in bed before I turned out the light, and it moved something deep in me and made me think that sometimes I trifle with the God of the universe, don’t love and respect Him as He deserves.

I will say more later but for now I must get dressed and prepare to welcome some of the dearest women I know into my home for our weekly summer Bible study. The kitchen isn’t clean, the chairs aren’t set out, and the coffee isn’t yet made.

Grace and peace to you all….

238 Years Old

July 4, 2014 | My Jottings

I’ve been teased over the years because the 4th of July is my least favorite holiday. “What are you going to do to celebrate the 4th, Mom?” Sharon will often jest. I’m not sure why, but fireworks and picnics have never been things that excited me. I’m really a dud on the 4th.

I am grateful to have been born and to live in this beautiful country. I want to be a more faithful pray-er for our leaders and citizens. And I always shed a few tears when I hear “God Bless America” being sung. But I also want to be more faithful as I pray for the world. There are so many all over this globe who need our prayers and God’s direction and reality in their lives. (Just as I desperately need the same.) It’s overwhelming to consider.

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But we won’t be oohing and aahing over our city’s fireworks show tonight — I’m pretty certain I’ll be asleep by 10:10 when they begin.

Whatever you do to celebrate the 4th (assuming you’re an American), I hope you have a fun, friendly, family, food-filled time.

Thank you for stopping by here….

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