Kids, kidneys, a kite, and the knot.

September 20, 2019 | My Jottings

Hi friends. Happy autumn to you. I hope you are experiencing lovely leaf colors, cooler weather, fires in your hearth or in your heart, pumpkin something or other, a good book, and/or a return to blessed routine.

I follow an old childhood friend named Ann on Instagram, and not long ago she posted this picture:

I had never seen it before, but I remembered the birthday party immediately. The two “twins” who are playing Twister are my oldest childhood friend Denel (in the front), and me. My mom made those bell bottoms with the daisies on them. Behind us are two schoolmates I haven’t seen since then — Jill Crabtree and Doreen Castro. It was fun to think back on that slumber party, even though I never quite felt like I fit in anywhere. That thought doesn’t bring pain anymore, only a matter-of-fact recollection of what was. I wish I could tell other young girls that this feeling is often universal and that you will live through it and become your own person someday, and hopefully learn to be more welcoming to others.

It has been so hot and steamy in Northeastern Minnesota this summer I don’t even want to talk about it. The time that gets wasted because of humidity is frustrating. Do I want to walk at the cemetery when it’s 88 degrees and dripping per cent humidity? No I don’t. Do I want to bake cookies and put a yummy pot of soup on to simmer? No. How about having people over or taking grandchildren somewhere fun? Nein. Or going to church on Sunday in a beautiful old building with stained glass windows and no air conditioning? Nyet. So, yes, summer is basically dead to me, and if fall doesn’t make itself known pretty quickly I might have a pouty attitude.

We do have some leaves showing off, though. What do you think? Would you yawn at that? I hope not. I sound like a broken record, but I never, ever, get tired of fall colors. If only they would last three months.

On a breezy day in late August, I took my granddaughters Mrs. Nisky and Li’l Gleegirl to fly a kite. Oh, did I find a fantastic kite on Amazon. It’s so fun, so sturdy, and so good at lifting itself into the wind, that it began to fly when it was barely out of our hands. I have not done a lot of, ahem, running, in many years, because I have a knee replacement and a few several pounds of jiggly here and there. So I was hoping when we drove down to Park Point on the beach of Lake Superior, I wouldn’t have to run to get the kite to fly.

It actually took effort to get the kite to stop flying, so it was a successful afternoon of kite flying. Mrs. Nisky is 15 now, and Li’l Gleegirl is 12 1/2. They reached these ages in some eye blinks.

We actually flew the kite while sitting down too. We let the entire roll of string out and the kite was so high we had trouble seeing it at times.

Can you see it? It’s waaaay up there, dancing around in the wind off the largest freshwater lake in the world, which (I have never mentioned this before, have I?) I can see from my living room, my dining room, my kitchen and my bedroom. I am grateful to live here.

My oldest granddaughter Clara is 17 now, which is another shock to the system. She is a senior in high school, and is enrolled in college at the same time, taking classes she will ace, and drawing cartoon strips in her spare time. She’s a gifted artist and I follow her “Seabeast” comic strip on Instagram of course.

Clara had her grad pictures done recently, and it’s very convenient to have a professional photographer in the family. My oldest daughter Sharon took them, and here is one I love:

Clara is the oldest child of my second daughter Carolyn, and she is about 5′ 11″ now. We try our hardest to grow them tall in this family.

Carolyn and Jeremy also have this little cutie, who started preschool this month. She’s almost five, and her preschool spends most of their time outside. Rain or shine, snow or sleet, they dress for the weather and go exploring and playing. Miriam looks so much like Jeremy’s beautiful mother Diane.

Aaannnd… there is this kid. He is Chris and Sharon’s oldest, and is also a senior in high school this year. He likes football and sports and basketball and sports and spending time with his friends, and sports, and working at his job, and sports. Cullen is just a hair under 6′ 7″ tall, and out of all my children and grandchildren, he is the most Sooterish. Meaning he looks like a Sooter, which is my maiden name. I am frequently told that he looks like me, and sometimes if I squint I can see it.

A while back I posted about how my son-in-law Chris was recently (shockingly) diagnosed with severe kidney failure. He needs a kidney transplant as soon as possible. If you would be willing to fill out an easy questionnaire to see if you or someone you know could possibly donate a kidney, please click on the recent post at the left called “Every Good and Perfect Gift.” Toward the bottom you’ll see Chris’s picture and a link to the Mayo Clinic. If you do, you’ll need his birthday so please leave a comment and I’ll email you. Everything will be paid for and you will be taken care of.

Anyway, out of the few people who were willing to see if they could donate, somehow I, a 62 year old woman, have risen to the top of the list of possible donors so far. I just returned from three days of amazing, efficient, friendly testing at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, where I learned that I may be able to donate one of my kidneys. Not to Chris, since our blood types don’t match. (This is why we still need someone to donate for him.) If I donate, it will qualify Chris to be in Mayo’s Paired Donation Program. I could give my kidney to someone, Mayo would look for someone to donate to Chris, and we could all four potentially go into surgery on the same day. Kidney donation surgery takes 40 minutes, is done through a small scar below the navel, and hospital stay is two days.

I still have two more tests to go through, but here are my kidneys from the CT scan Mayo did. I now know I have a slight curvature of the spine. 🙂 I think I should name my kidneys. I read this morning about a young woman who named her kidneys Jeff Left and Dwight Right and I like those names. She made it possible for a stranger to live. Do you have any suggestions on what I should name my kidneys? I already know that if I become a donor, they will take my left kidney, because it has one artery. My right has two, which apparently complicates things in surgery a bit.

And now an abrupt segue. Do you see this church below? It’s my church. I’ve been a member there for two years, and I love it. It’s a big departure for someone who grew up a Baptist and then raised her family in an Assembly of God church. But it has been rich and new and very healing for me to be there.

I love the stained glass windows in my church. I gravitate toward dark, jewel toned colors, and I particularly like the dark reds in these.

Soon, in this blessed church with the pretty stained glass windows, I will be participating in a solemn and happy ceremony where these very rings will be exchanged and vows will be said, and granddaughters wearing jewel-toned dresses will carry flowers down the aisle and adult children will stand up as attendants, songs will be sung, scriptures will be read, prayers will be prayed, friends will be there to celebrate….

….and after almost five years of living without Michael, I will marry again. I will wear a dark sapphire colored dress.

His name is Lloyd and I’ve mentioned him here before. He and I met at a local senior citizens’ grief support group over three years ago. He lost his Rosemarie two months before Michael died. Lloyd and Rose were married 51 years. Michael and I were married 33.

His family has welcomed me so lovingly, and my family has welcomed him the same. I am so proud of the way my girls have loved and supported me as I took a long time to come to this decision.

Lloyd lives in a log cabin he built in the woods, about 50 miles south of me. We will go back and forth between my house and his as we can. When I decide to retire from doing adult foster care, we may well sell my house and get something smaller for the two of us. But all those decisions can be made slowly.

What helped me eventually say yes to Lloyd’s many patient marriage suggestions (he didn’t actually officially propose until he knew I had worked it all out in my heart) was what a kind man he is. What a good conversationalist. How servant-hearted he is. How sensitive he is. How ready his laugh is. How he loves his children and how much they love him and want to be with him. How thoughtful. Here’s an example of the latter. Recently we were in church together and as soon as the scripture readings commenced, I began to cry. It’s not unusual for me to react to the reading of God’s Word that way, and I try to be quiet when it happens. On this day I had no kleenex in my purse and Lloyd didn’t have a clean handkerchief. There were no boxes of tissues around, so he went to the nearest bathroom and brought back some brown paper towels from the dispenser for me. When he sat in the pew and handed them to me so I could wipe my nose and eyes, I noticed they had been wadded up and opened, wadded up and opened, so they would be softer to use and not so stiff and rough. He does a lot of things like this without fanfare, and I am grateful.

I hope you’ll pray for us as we begin our life together. I’m a little nervous to be honest. Not about Lloyd, but about getting married at this late stage in life when I’m so set in my relatively solitary ways. It’s not like it was when I was 18 and threw caution to the wind and said “I do” to someone who wasn’t any more prepared than I was to make that kind of commitment. Now I’m old and overthink things and entertain myself with too many what-ifs and am much more practical than I used to be.

I’ll share some wedding pictures when we get back from our After Wedding Trip. I am refusing to call it a honeymoon, because at my age that seems weird.

I told the transplant team at Mayo that I can’t give away a kidney until November when the wedding and After Wedding Trip are behind me, and they are more than willing to work with anyone who would take that step.

I’ll close with this curious and serendipitous fact I learned at the Mayo Clinic, which by the way is 4.5 hours south of me. The transplant surgeon is a woman named Julie. And when she was little, she used to live in the house where Michael and I raised our family. How about that?

Thank you for reading. Thank you for praying for my family. Tell me how you’re doing now…okay?

Wednesday’s Word – Edition 140

August 28, 2019 | My Jottings

“When I lay these questions before God I get no answer.
But a rather special sort of ‘No answer.’
It is not the locked door. It is more like a silent, certainly not uncompassionate, gaze.
As though He shook His head
not in refusal but waiving the question.
Like, ‘Peace, child; you don’t understand.’ ”

C. S. Lewis

         *         *         *         *         *

A Beautiful Way to Start the Day

July 30, 2019 | My Jottings

It’s early where I am — around 5:45 a.m. For the first time in weeks, I slept with my bedroom windows open, as our temperatures finally went down into the sixties and the dewpoint dropped enough to make the feel of the sauna blow away. I can’t remember a time when I’ve had my central air conditioning on non-stop, day and night, for weeks at a time. I know there are people out there who say the globe isn’t warming, and I’m no scientist, but my part of the globe has been increasing in temperature for years now. When I first moved to Duluth (known as The Air Conditioned City — meaning Lake Superior is our air conditioner) the really hot days amounted to a handful. Our average summer temp was 74 degrees. Not anymore.

Anyway, I’m so grateful this morning to smell the fresh cool air blowing through my house. I’m sitting up in my bed with a cold cup of Stok Cold Brew Coffee by my side, soon to welcome eleven friends in for our sixth week of summer Bible study, and I want to share something very nice with you.

Months ago I read about a website called Pray As You Go, and the person who recommended it uses the night time prayer of Examen and loves it. She actually credited the Examen prayer with giving her peace and saving her marriage. Wow, I thought. I will check this out. I too have loved the prayer of Examen, but more often I use the daily morning prayer at this website.

I’ll link to the Pray As You Go website below, but first I’ll tell you the things I like about it.

1. I have downloaded the app on my iPhone so I can listen whenever it’s convenient. I love to listen in the morning before I get out of bed. You can download the app, or you can just go to the website.

2. It takes about 10 minutes to listen.

3. The readers are various British people and their voices and accents are so soothing and lovely.

4. A short piece of beautiful music is played first, often from choirs around the world, and it always stirs my heart.

5. A short passage of Scripture is read, so I’m beginning my day being nourished and strengthened. My mind is being calibrated and I also know I’m joining with countless others around the world, listening to this same lesson on this same day.

6. The listener is invited to let the short passage touch or guide or impact their life and day, and some gentle questions help with that.

7. The passage is read a second time after you’ve meditated on it and allowed the Holy Spirit to personalize it for your life and circumstances.

8. It ends with several voices quietly saying the Gloria, and I join in, whispering, Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end, Amen.

9. If you explore the simple site, you’ll find a few examples of end of the day Examen prayers, and I love the one for the young adult, even though they’re all wonderful. It would be beautiful also to play the child’s Examen for your children at night before they go to bed, joining in with them. There are also a couple of prayer series to explore, and I have enjoyed many of them at night before I go to sleep.

10. I believe that anyone with anxiety would benefit from listening to the daily morning prayer, and the night time examen prayer. Once you listen, you’ll understand what I mean. The whole experience is soothing and uplifting and applies God’s Word to our anxious and thirsty hearts, and helps us talk to Him about the coming day, or about the day that has passed.

I’m not Catholic and it took a couple of times to get used to the ancient flavor of this, but I think anyone could benefit from this. I hope you’ll listen and be blessed. I want to start each day with these short times of prayer.

From the Pray As You Go Website:

Pray As You Go is a daily prayer session, designed to go with you wherever you go, to help you pray whenever you find time, but particularly whilst travelling to and from work, study, etc.

A new prayer session is produced every day of the working week and one session for the weekend. It is not a ‘Thought for the Day’, a sermon or a bible-study, but rather a framework for your own prayer.

Lasting between ten and thirteen minutes, it combines music, scripture and some questions for reflection.

Our aim is to help you to:

   * become more aware of God’s presence in your life

   * listen to and reflect on God’s word

   * grow in your relationship with God

The style of prayer is based on Ignatian Spirituality. It is produced by Jesuit Media Initiatives, with material written by a number of Jesuits, both in Britain and further afield, and other experts in the spirituality of St Ignatius of Loyola. Although the content is different every day, it keeps to the same basic format.

We also have a number of prayer tools, retreats and resources to help supplement your prayer life.

Here’s the website.

I would love to know if you listen, and what your thoughts are. For those who don’t have the time before getting out of bed, listening as you’re driving, or taking a bath, or walking, would be good too. Or as you’re having breakfast.

I’m making it a habit and I love the help it gives me to start the day talking to the Lord. I love how it helps me begin the day from a place of calm and strength in Him.

Bedding, Bible Studies and Whatnot

July 3, 2019 | My Jottings

Every summer for the past many years, I have hosted a Bible study in my home and invited about a dozen dear women to come gather around God’s Word with me. We have done Beth Moore studies, studies by Priscilla Shirer, Margaret Feinberg and Mary Kassian, and even one based on the book The Hiding Place about the life of Corrie ten Boom. I say this each year, but the several Tuesdays we spend together end up being the highlight of my summer. We are crammed into my living room almost elbow to elbow, and the three friends with the smallest behinds are cozy on the couch while the rest of us plop ourselves down on the various upholstered or folding chairs. We have coffee and treats, we pray for each other during the week, we go through questions and share our hearts, and we laugh and learn and wipe tears as we watch the DVD for the week.

This summer we’re going through a seven week study by Lisa Harper, called Job – A Story of Unlikely Joy, and I think we all love it already. If you know of anyone trying to make sense of why God permits His children to endure pain and heartache (hello, all human beings who ever lived), I would recommend this study. You can google Lisa Harper and Job and find a little trailer about it online.

Anyone who is acquainted with me knows how much I love plaid. I could have plaid in every room and not get tired of it. Oh wait. I have plaid in every room and am not tired of it. Not really. I don’t (yet) have plaid in my bathrooms, but given the right wallpaper, it could happen.

I also love toile, and my poor toile quilt is now 16 years old and wearing out. I can’t bear to send it down the road yet, but it did get me to thinking about how I need to buy another one for my bedroom, and I decided on deep red and black buffalo plaid. I found it at Kohl’s and knew I would layer it with the old quilt and a thin coverlet I use on my bed.

First, though, here is Mildred the Schnauzer, now 13 years old, taking a morning nap on my bed. She knows how important it is for one to make sure one’s lower jaw and neck are perfectly parallel to the folded edge of the toile quilt which is placed on the new buffalo plaid quilt. See how carefully she lined up her little beard there?

I love the layered, textured look in decorating, so I decided to experiment with that in my room. You can click to enlarge these if you like. I kept my black and cream dust ruffle. The first layer is a cream colored coverlet with pretty swirly stitching. On top of that is the new buffalo plaid quilt. On top of that is my threadbare-in-places black and cream toile quilt. Add in nine pillows and I’m semi-pleased with the initial experiment. I may change things up, but right now this is how I’m configuring everything.

Here’s a closeup of the stitching on all three. I like how they don’t really match, but how that’s sort of okay. I sometimes do the same mismatched style when I set my table. If you would like to see that, click here.

I have some errands to run today — a deposit to make at the credit union, a few groceries to buy, and a drive up to the cemetery to see how all the baby ducks and goslings are doing.

Lloyd and I have been watching the mini-series John Adams starring Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney. It’s over 10 years old and I saw it years ago, but watching it again is a treat. It’s one of the best I’ve ever seen — have any of you watched it?

A friend was just commenting to me recently that she isn’t loving Netflix like she used to because she has such a hard time finding something worth watching. I agreed that we need some good recommendations. What are some series or movies you’ve watched and enjoyed on Netflix?

That’s all for now — have a great week!

Why we believe…

June 24, 2019 | My Jottings

I have long loved Phillip Yancey and his books. His writing is so rich and his thoughts so deep and real, I always look forward to what he puts to paper.

I read this on his blog recently and thought it very worthy reading. It’s called “Why I Believe,” and I hope you’ll let me know what you think of it.

I especially like that he deals honestly with his own skepticism and times of struggle, as a Christian, to believe.

Here’s the link: Why I Believe.

Have a wonderful week,

Every Good and Perfect Gift

June 18, 2019 | My Jottings

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. – James 1:17

Yesterday I was pondering the state of my mind, and I found that my mind was not in a good way.

At the end of the day, when dinner is over and my foster gals have taken their nighttime meds and are tucked into their beds, I like to put on one of my plaid flannel nightgowns and my Acorn slippers, make a relaxing cup of tea, and watch something on television. My favorite thing is to watch some series on Netflix, something that is compelling and keeps me thinking and wondering, wanting to go on to the next episode. There have been so many like this. Recently I decided to give a certain series a try because it was about murder and mystery (there’s where it could start to go wrong, because too much gore and debauchery is not a good choice) and the lead actress is someone I loved in an excellent movie.

Early on, this series, while compelling, became awful. I should have stopped at awful, but the compelling won out. At least for several episodes. I kept the remote in hand so I could hit fast forward when scenes would come on that I didn’t want in my mind. There are things I believe we are truly not meant to see. And as I age and my brain struggles to hold on to things that used to stick like Velcro, why would I put things there that are not helpful, beautiful, uplifting, strengthening? I have long thought that our brains/minds are the prime real estate of our lives, valuable beyond measure, and yet we dump toxic waste there and wonder why we have hopelessness and anxiety and fear as our daily companions. This series I watched for a couple of nights became toxic to my mind, and it wasn’t even as bad as some of what’s out there, I know.

I began to notice a dullness and a sense of hopelessness crowd out the normally thankful and optimistic thoughts I have. I felt gray. So I made the decision to stop watching the series, of course, and have made a more conscious effort to care for my prime real estate with intentional kindness and tenderness. I would never allow someone to come and dump their garbage on any piece of land I owned. Not one time. Why do I allow this with my mind?

Perhaps when we’re young we don’t know how to live out the encouragement of Philippians 4:8, and think on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, excellent and praiseworthy. That might not even seem practical. Well, I can tell how not to live out that verse, and it’s by watching hours of dark programs that encroach on that valuable property I have between my ears.

Anyway, I went to bed last night counting creatures. Some count sheep, I decided to bring a lovely slideshow into my mind of all the magnificent creatures I have seen just from the windows of this house. I knew that would be limiting, because I’ve seen wolves, but not from this house. I’ve seen undulating fishers in the winter, but not from this house. So as I turned on my left side with my right knee bent and pulled up on a supporting pillow (old hips), I closed my eyes in the dark and began to thank the Lord. Thank you for the deer. And I saw the most recent doe, neck stretched high to reach the bird feeder right outside my office window, eating the seed from the tiny openings. I had thought of running her off, but I watched and marveled instead. Thank you, Lord, for the fox. It has been a while since I’ve seen a fox in this neighborhood, but I recalled when I saw him, trotting down the middle of our street in all his rusty beauty. Thank you for the cardinals. We don’t have many this far north, but warming weather has brought them to us in recent years, and when I see one, I am filled with hope. And the goldfinch, Lord. Just three days ago, a brilliant, almost neon flash of yellow on the bird feeder, and I stood and gazed and smiled. You know that God’s creation has an eternal element to it when you can see the same things over and over and over, yet still they thrill you like the first time you saw them. The beauties of creation never get old, they just keep feeding and healing and strengthening us. But we must take time to look. And absorb. Thinking on God’s goodness and faithfulness, and also His magnificent creation, is a good way for me to fix my mind on things that are true and good, excellent and praiseworthy. It makes a difference!

After I thanked God for the gift of the goldfinch, that was it. I fell asleep. Four creatures, four gifts, was all it took. It felt truly delicious to go to sleep that way. And tonight I will do the same, perhaps starting with the frequent flyers of our area, the chickadees. I love the way they swoop when they fly to our suction cup window feeder on the dining room window.

Here are some other gifts I’d like to share with you.

These red flowers are called mandevilla, and I love the red against the white of my house. Sara does my front deck planters every spring, and also decks them with greens and ornaments every winter. We’ve never had mandevilla before, and they will hopefully trail down as they grow. Isn’t it a gift to be able to see color?

Please click to enlarge these.

I have three flowering crabapple trees at the side of my house, which grow so full each summer they’re almost like a privacy hedge. This picture below doesn’t do the pink spring blooms justice, but when I walk into my living room, the pink fills my vision and touches my heart in such a way I must pause and take it in.

And this might not be terribly beautiful, but some of what I love are represented on this table in my living room. Songbirds (Eastern bluebird, cardinal, goldfinch) whose trills and calls lift the spirit, a part of a psalm to remind me to treasure each day and not waste it, candles and lamps that in their own simple way remind me that Jesus is the Great Light that pierced the world’s and my great darkness. The B in the picture was a gift from my niece, who made it out of cardboard, covered it with Bible verses, put the spine of a Bible on it, and attached an old key with a ribbon. I love it. Birds, words, light, life. So much better than murder, conniving, lying, cheating, treachery, selfishness.

And can a porcupine be a gift? I think so, if it’s measured by the heights to which my heart soared when I saw her. I was at Lloyd’s house recently. He lives in the woods in a log cabin he built himself, and he sees bears, wild turkeys, beavers, myriad birds, deer, fishers, martens, ducks, and porcupines. I’ve never seen one in person before, and as I was looking out of his dining room window, there she waddled, toward the house. I took this picture with my phone, so it’s not terribly clear, but I wanted to share it with you today. I had no idea porcupines have blond tips. She wanted to go under the house, but Lloyd clapped his hands and she raised up on her hind legs when she heard the noise, wavered in porcupine uncertainty for a moment, then turned around and ambled back into his woods. Their tails are so long and paddle-like! I would not like to meet her up close, but seeing her was a gift, and I thanked God for letting me fill my mind with His beauty in this way.

I named this lady Polly Pointer, and surmised that if she has siblings out there in the Minnesota woods, they could be called The Pointer Sisters. Was she praiseworthy and admirable? Oh yes, she was.

You may not think mismatched pillows are uplifting, but they bring me a little jolt of happiness. Sara knows I love plaid, so she gave me these two black and white buffalo checked pillows for mother’s day, and I love them.

Another sub-quality picture below, but the sun pours into my house and I walk from room to room, grateful to see it. I bought my first piece of furniture online and it turned out well — the brown leather recliner below.

The greatest gifts of all are people. This man below is my son-in-law Chris. He is my oldest daughter Sharon’s husband, and the father of four of my grandchildren, ages 17 to 6. I could do seven blog posts about all the ways in which Chris has blessed and loved our family.

Out of the blue, Chris recently learned at his annual physical exam, that he is in severe kidney failure. He needs an immediate kidney transplant. He has been accepted into the Mayo Clinic’s transplant program, and we are praying that someone will come forward and donate one of their kidneys to him. Chris is a behind the scenes giver, servant, helper. He is humble, and would not love that I’m putting this on my blog, but if there is someone out there who knows someone else who knows someone else…. his life might be saved. I myself am being tested (just sent my 24-hour urine collection sample and tubes of my blood taken from my doctor’s office yesterday) and am willing to give one of my kidneys. But I am 61, and even if my kidneys turn out to be healthy, they are older models. A younger kidney would be even better. So I’m going to include a link at the end of this post, and if you know of anyone who might fill out this simple questionnaire on the Mayo Clinic’s transplant site, please forward it to them. You will need his name — Chris McMahon. And you will need his birthdate, but I won’t publish that here. If you email me at JulieBalm at gmail dot com, I would gladly give you his birthdate for the questionnaire. (All costs will be paid by his insurance.)

He is a gift to our family, to his wife and children, to his church, to so many. And there is a person out there with a kidney who could give a priceless gift to Chris. Thank you all for your prayers.

Speaking of gifts, this young man just passed his driver’s exam. Mr. McBoy was waiting to have his picture taken for his first license. He is Chris and Sharon’s oldest child. 6′ 6″ tall and still growing. He calls me Gma (Gee-mah) and it always makes me smile.

I took a walk in the cemetery where Michael is buried a few days ago, and even though I’ve passed this little stand of trees many times, I never noticed how close and straight the nine trunks stand. It reminded me of a family.

I’m asking God to wash my brain, and I’m cooperating with Him and filling it with creatures and creation and praise and people I love and the hope He has given me. Pondering His many gifts brings joy, and a deep contentment.

What are some of the gifts you’re most thankful for?

The link to the questionnaire:

http://www.livingdonormc.org/#_

God bless and keep you all,

The Colors of Rest

May 21, 2019 | My Jottings

Every once in a while I like to take my two foster women on a little weekend trip. Most of you know we live in a beautiful place with a close view of Lake Superior, so sometimes being in this home feels like a retreat to me, especially when I have a day at home and can putter in my bedroom.

But there’s something to be said for getting away, having a change of scenery, going to a place for intentional rest and also exploration, and both my gals are always game.

Years ago we used to do much bigger trips — we took them to Walt Disney World, on an Alaskan cruise, and to Branson, Missouri. But flying was a huge stressor for one gal in particular, and it also became apparent that neither one appreciates grandeur and beauty as some do. They like to shop for souvenirs, dine out, and rest. So in the past years we have stayed closer to home, and they are so content with that.

A couple of months ago Betsy, Carrie and I drove 100 miles north to the sleepy Lake Superior town of Grand Marais. Michael and I visited many times over our 33 years together, and I decided to rent a cabin that sits right on the edge of Lake Superior.

This is the small bedroom I slept in. I love the little elevated stove that gave heat and cheer.

This is the view from my bedroom in the morning. Just a few strides and you’re on the edge of a cliff that overlooks our beautiful lake. Lake Superior is roughly the size of Austria and there’s enough water in it to cover all of North and South America with lots left over. I might be biased, but it is the best tasting water I’ve ever had.

I took this picture on Saturday morning as the sun was coming up.

The little cottage doesn’t have any closets, but handy hooks were all we needed.

Sunday morning I stepped outside in my bare feet to catch the sun coming up. Magenta, cantaloupe, periwinkle, blue heron, peach, grays, golds, the deep greens of the trees and the sapphire water…it’s the anti-depressant palette. Gazing at this as often as possible is a mood lifter.

I love that there is no television reception at this cabin, and I wondered how my gals would do with that. They like having their own TVs in their rooms at home, and spend a lot of time relaxing there when they get home from work. I try to take them on regular outings, to movies and restaurants, on little trips, so they can experience something a little different. There’s a small TV that plays DVDs, though, so they were able to bring their favorites, and after our days of exploring Grand Marais, we came back to our cottage and got into our jammies, then popped popcorn and watched one movie each night by the fire in the living room.

We enjoyed sleeping in past 6:00 a.m., shopping at the iconic Ben Franklin and the Lake Superior Trading Post downtown, and trying out new restaurants. We enjoyed the chickadees and their flight patterns and varied calls. We took naps, chatted together, and felt ourselves exhale.

Carrie has a saying we can count on each time we return home after a little getaway. “You know what I always say, Julie. It’s nice to get away, but it sure is nice to come home too.”

We have another weekend getaway planned in August, but this time it will be to the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. The gals are looking forward to seeing our favorite comedian, Tim Hawkins. He makes us laugh like no one else.

May you have a good week, and I hope spring is bringing you lovely colors and comforting sounds wherever you are.

A Wintry Spring

April 13, 2019 | My Jottings

We’ve had the snowiest winter here in NoMin. And considering the mountains of snow we had everywhere until recently, I think we could call Northern Minnesota “NoMin’s Land.” I live in NoMin’s land.

I had to have my roof shoveled off this year, needed salt-filled tube socks placed above the gutters to melt ice dams I’ve never had before, and Michael’s grave stone was almost completely buried in snow. It’s about lower hip high, and you can see the top of it peeking out behind the wreath Sara made, below. You can click to enlarge these pictures if you like.

Some of the drifts in my front yard were shoulder high, and I had to lift Mildred the Schnauzer up to set her on the frozen snow so she could do her business.

Then we had several warm days and the snow melted completely, leaving streets and grass showing for the first time in months. We rejoiced! We talked about how wonderful it was with bank tellers and grocery store cashiers and neighbors.

Then, two days ago a mean storm named Wesley (appropriate) came barreling through, and for two whole days Wesley snowed and blew until everything in NoMin’s Land is white and cold and grey again. There is no use complaining about the weather, since I have power and heat and food and peace in my life. But I don’t think I’ll be alone in kicking up my heels when spring really shows itself, whenever that will be.

It has been a while since I posted, because I’ve been working on four sessions for a women’s retreat. The retreat was last weekend and as far as I can tell, it went fairly well. The best part for me were the 100 women of the church who welcomed me and were so gracious. I have never spoken at a weekend retreat before, and it was overwhelming to prepare talks and PowerPoint presentations when I’m so out of practice. I felt like I was helpless, really, and prayed that God would just bring His strength and mercy and breathe life to my feeble words. If that happened for one person there, it was worth it without a doubt.

The church, Bethel Lutheran in Hudson, Wisconsin, blessed me with a beautiful hotel room right on Lake Superior. Hudson is three hours south of me, and the church held the retreat in Duluth for a nice getaway for their women. Even though the weekend was rainy and cold, this was the sunrise from my room.

Here are a couple of other pictures, taken by a delightful woman from Bethel named Mary.

The whole group:

Saturday morning session – Jesus is Our Bread:

My friend Lorna led the worship for the whole weekend and I’m still singing and playing some of the hymns she did:

The Saturday evening session was Jesus is Our Light, and a nice buffet meal was served as well:

I have another blessed day at home today, spent catching up on little things that have gone by the wayside these past weeks. I think I am a true housewife at heart, even though I’m not currently a wife. I love wiping off my kitchen counters, running the dishwasher, putting oils in my diffusers, folding laundry, writing out bills, making order. I don’t do any of those things very efficiently anymore because I’m getting slower and I take my time. And I take breaks. But my home is an oasis, a gift from the Lord that I don’t take for granted.

I also have a book to read. I ran into a woman I know from my church – she was returning books at the library and said ever since she retired she reads a book a day. My father was the same, and that sounds like heaven to me. I asked her for a good recommendation and she walked right over and pulled a book off the shelf for me. Not a book I would ever choose, or even a genre I’ve enjoyed, but I took her word for it and hope to begin it today.

What are you doing this weekend? Tell me one or three things…

Wednesday’s Word — Edition 139

March 13, 2019 | My Jottings

Oh, how I love this quote by C.S. Lewis — what a mind he had.

We must simply accept it that we are spirits, free and rational beings, at present inhabiting an irrational universe, and must draw the conclusion that we are not derived from it. We are strangers here. We come from somewhere else. Nature is not the only thing that exists. There is ‘another world’, and that is where we come from. 

And that explains why we do not feel at home here. A fish feels at home in the water. If we ‘belonged here’ we should feel at home here. All that we say about ‘Nature red in tooth and claw’, about death and time and mutability, all our half-amused, half-bashful attitude to our own bodies, is quite inexplicable on the theory that we are simply natural creatures. If this world is the only world, how did we come to find its laws either so dreadful or so comic? If there is no straight line elsewhere, how did we discover that Nature’s line is crooked?

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February Felicitations

February 11, 2019 | My Jottings

I’m grateful for a Monday morning at home, no appointments, no company coming, nothing tugging at me. Except foster care paperwork and four sessions I’m writing and praying about for a women’s retreat, and a couple of untouched books and a kitchen sink full of dishes. Just those things. 🙂

It has snowed off and on for days, and this morning when I woke up I couldn’t see the front steps that lead to my house. If I were a younger woman I’d be all bumbled up (as one of my fosters says) and doing the shoveling myself, but those days are behind me. Especially since my back has been healing and I don’t want to undo that. It’s seventeen degrees above zero and since a couple of weeks ago we had twenty-eight below with sixty below wind chills, this seems like a gift. The forecast for my city says one to three more inches of snow tonight.

What’s the weather like where you are? I see online friends posting pictures of spring flowers breaking through the ground, but in northern Minnesota we are months away from that.

My oldest daughter Sharon and her husband Chris recently took a trip to Maui, and their three daughters stayed with me. I felt bad that the worst of the cold weather prevented us from doing much outside, so we watched more TV than I preferred. We also played Farkle, Backgammon, Gin and Uno.

Here’s six year old Weezer, fast asleep next to me. She and I read quite a bit from the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books, and a few chapters from Charlotte’s Web.

Her older brother calls her Louis and some friends at school call her Lisa, and she isn’t thrilled about that. She told her mother recently that people can call her Louisa, Weeza, Cheetah or Snoodlepoop, but not Lisa. She is so good-natured and I am having a difficult time watching her grow up so quickly.

Here’s a picture Sharon took a few weeks ago when we were celebrating Carolyn’s birthday.

They are twenty months apart and are so alike, and so different. I love observing the women they’ve become, and learn so much from each one. They have both comforted and wisely advised me now that I’m nearing my dotage. And they make me laugh.

It’s surprising how many people have told these two girls that they look like twins and are hard to tell apart.

Sharon is blonde and is six feet tall, Carolyn is a brunette and is 5′ 10″. They obviously look like sisters, but our family has never been able to understand the twin thing. Both of them have had strangers approach them and think they were the other.

What do you think? Do they favor each other a lot? Is it so much they might be twins?

Carolyn is mother of seven (six on earth, one in heaven) and Sharon is mother of four. They have made me rich in grandchildren and love.

Our elderly Schnauzer Mildred has struggled with our bitterly cold temperatures. We noticed that if it was colder than 10 degrees out, she would run out into the yard to go potty, but then would get stuck and have a hard time walking back in. It is treacherous to go outside quickly to pick her up and bring her in, when there’s a layer of ice under the snow and it’s frigid enough to cause frostbite in less than a minute.

So my youngest daughter Sara bought booties for Millie (not shown in the picture below) that she hated because of the Velcro sound. And next Sara brought home a puffer jacket, which Millie was thoroughly delighted about. Can’t you see the pure joy in her schnauzery face?

It took several times for Millie to adapt to her winter wear, but oh, what a difference it has made. She submits to the donning of the booties and jacket now, and can be outside more comfortably without getting stuck. We are so proud of her.

Sara has been going to college, working, and fitting in a few fun things whenever possible. I so appreciate the help she gives me around the house, and the respite care she provides when I need a little work break.

She and a friend are taking a belly-dancing class together, and she comes home and shows me what she’s learned. Apparently belly dancing has very small, precise-yet-jiggly movements to it, and is not at all easy. We’ve had some laughs when Sara tries to instruct me in the small, precise-yet-jiggly motions. I am doing well in the jiggly, but the small and precise elude me.

Sara and I have been looking at pictures of Michael and reminiscing a lot lately, because the four-year anniversary of his death was on February 9th. How is it that my beloved husband has been gone for over one thousand four hundred days? She has been counting her blessings because she felt unconditionally loved by her father, and I have been thanking the Lord for all He’s done in my life through Michael.

For those who grieve, the pain does fade. Tears still come for me, but I don’t feel that desperate, raw sorrow that I did four years ago. As I put on my Instagram account recently, no matter what happens, I will always be Michael’s and he will always be mine.

My oldest grandson is going to be seventeen in a couple of months, and he has a very sweet girlfriend. They went to their first Sweetheart Dance at their high school last month, and since Carissa’s dress was red satin, she asked Mr. McBoy to rent a gray tux with a red vest and tie. Plus, their school colors are red and gray, so I guess they were totally sick. When I was his age we said far out and cool and outtasight. Now they say sick.

Mr. McBoy is 6′ 5″ tall and the doctor says he’s not done growing. He played high school basketball but loves football more, and enjoys singing in his A’capella choir. If anyone reading this knew my father, you might be able to see those Sooter genes beaming out in that face. I’ve been told that Mr. McBoy resembles his grandma, and once in a while I get a fleeting glimpse of that. 🙂

I see the sun rise over Lake Superior almost every day, and it never fails to give me a thrill. Here’s a picture I took a couple of weeks ago when the morning temperature was twenty below zero and the ice was beginning to form. If you enlarge the photo, you can see the ice on the surface.

Since then, the Lake has frozen solid enough to beckon crazy brave ice fisherpeople to set up their ice tents, drill holes in the ice and sit for hours waiting for a bite. There must be a lot of biting, because a couple of days ago I drove by a portion of Lake Superior and there were over a dozen tents and even more people standing out there, mere yards from the open water.

While my granddaughters were with me (twelve days, the longest visit so far), fourteen year old Mrs. Nisky drew this for me. It took her less than an hour.

I have a wonderful carved cross my friend Ember gave me, just perfect for holding in a closed hand while praying or pondering the love of Jesus. Mrs. Nisky drew this of her own hand holding the cross, and chose this verse, which I took as a word from the Lord to me. I am going to have this framed and will hang it in my room.

Mrs. Nisky plays the cello and is on the girls basketball team at her high school. She has the most beautiful copper colored hair and eyes, and has been a blessing to me from the day she was born. I don’t mind at all either that her middle name is Julia, sort of after me.

Speaking of sunrises, Lloyd sent me this picture taken from his bedroom loft window in his cabin in the woods. Isn’t that breathtaking?

He gets up every morning and makes a cup of coffee, suits up and goes outside to feed the birds, deer and wild turkeys that wait for him to thump on the bucket to let them know breakfast is served. After he spreads the corn and seed around, he goes to his huge shop/guest room and builds a roaring fire in the wood stove to keep the in-floor heat from freezing, and by the time that is done, over a dozen turkeys have come in to feed. When they’ve had their fill they roost in the trees surrounding Lloyd’s home, and then they all walk jerky-turkey across his pond and back into the woods. I enjoy the pictures he texts to me from fifty miles away.

Well, laundry is calling, my work on the April women’s retreat is waiting, and I haven’t had breakfast yet. I think a small bowl of Muesli sounds good. Here’s the recipe if you’re interested.

How are things with you?

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