Podcasts, anyone?

April 4, 2018 | My Jottings

I’ve been wondering for a long time why podcasts are all the rage. I know so many people who love podcasts and listen to them in the car, when they go to bed at night, while they’re working or cooking dinner. I love to listen to music and enjoy an audio book now and then, but I haven’t been able to get into even one podcast. I thought I’d jump on my blog and ask if any of you like podcasts, and why? 

The ones I’ve tried are the highly rated ones: S-Town, This American Life, Invisibilia, and Stuff You Should Know. To be fair, I’ve only listened to one episode of each one and found them pretty uninteresting, and I was scratching my head in puzzlement. Do I need to just keep going to understand the appeal? I have experienced this with various television series before (for example, Doc Martin, which took quite a while to understand but now I wouldn’t miss it), so maybe someone needs to tell me to keep at it.

What are your favorite podcasts? Did you have to keep listening to be interested? Am I just old now, and completely and permanently disconnected from modern culture? I would love to read everyone’s opinions on this.

And I hope it’s warmer where you are than it is where I am.

I’m making those potatoes again…

March 30, 2018 | My Jottings

Every Easter I make Julie’s Stuffed Baked Potatoes, and the rest of my family brings the ham, vegetables, desserts, appetizers, etc. I shopped today for all the ingredients, and thought I would repost the recipe for those of you who haven’t tried these yet. They are moanworthy.

You will need large baking potatoes, cheese (I often use colbyjack but you could use cheddar, jack, pepper jack, whatever), blue cheese dressing, parmesan cheese, butter, green onions, and McCormick Salad Supreme.

First, bake your potatoes. I have two ovens, which comes in very handy on holidays. I baked my large baking potatoes in the smaller upper oven (you can see the pizza stone I store there) while the not-so-ho-hum ham was cooking in the larger oven below.

While your potatoes are baking, take some green onions and chop them up pretty fine. I used about 4-5 onions. One nice thing about this recipe is that you can just put in as much or as little of everything as you like. Experiment with the flavors and adjust as you go. You’ll see how I did that later. I use the green and the white of the green onions. Some people call them scallions but I never have. Maybe one of you can tell us why they’re called scallions – is it a regional thing? I don’t care as much for that name because it reminds me of the word scallywag, and the word scallywag reminds me of a certain person that I would prefer not to be reminded about when I’m making Stuffed Baked Potatoes.

This next part is important. Have all your ingredients ready in a bowl while your potatoes are baking, because it’s the heat of the baked potatoes that will cause everything to melt together nicely. Below you can see that I tossed in about two heaping cups of grated colbyjack cheese. We were feeding a lot of people on Easter.

Next, I added about 3/4 cup of blue cheese dressing and about 3/4 cup of Parmesan cheese. You could use less or more of either ingredient. I happen to love blue cheese dressing so I put in a lot. Maybe it was even closer to a cup of blue cheese dressing.

If you look closely now, you can see that the first potato is in there (I’ll get to that in a minute) and I also threw in about 3/4 of a stick of butter. This is Easter, so don’t worry about fat grams. You could worry about that the day after Easter. Well, don’t worry about things anyway.

Now I just started to mash things together a little bit. My potatoes were done baking. I smooshed things around with the fork while my daughter took photos with her very nice camera that she uses for her amazing photography business.

When the potatoes are done, I take them out one by one, hold them in an oven mitted hand, and gently cut them in half, taking care not to ruin my beautiful oven mitts.

I take a large spoon, and while cradling the hot potato in my mitt (please try not to notice the holes in my mitt) I gently scoop out the very hot potato innards.  I try not to ruin the skin, but sometimes it happens. See how there’s very little left of the innards? Then you can just set these forlorn looking skins on a baking sheet.

And they will look like this. Sort of like sad spudwaifs.

Because I have made this recipe hundreds of times, I can tell by looking if it’s what we’ll like. I could see after smooshing and mashing that for the number of people we were going to feed, we needed to add another handful of cheese. Just stir and mash with a fork until the hot potato innards have melted most of everything, and until you don’t have any clumps of unmashed potato left. If you do, that’s okay though. Potato clods never hurt anyone.

Now you can take your holey mitts off and start to fill the empty potato skins. The mixture will be cooled off enough to use your hands. Grab a few globs of cheesy goodness and press them into the potato skins.

Make sure you delicately lift your little finger as you do it, as a polite Englishwoman would do when sipping her afternoon tea. I’m not sure why this important, but just take my word for it.

When you have enough in a skin, it will look like this:

Not too much – just a little mound of the potato/cheese mixture will do.

You can find this product in the spices aisle at your grocery store. I’ve used it for years for just this one dish, and it adds color, great flavor and interest. It’s supposed to be for salads and pasta and I’ve never used it on either. Just on my Stuffed Baked Potatoes. (When McCormick comes out with a new product called McCormick Stuffed Baked Potato Topping, maybe then I’ll try it on my salads and pasta.)

Here are all the potato halves, stuffed with that delicious cheesy mixture, sprinkled conservatively with the Salad Supreme, and lined up ready to go back into the oven. If you lean to the left politically, then you could be a liberal sprinkler. For the most part I’m a conservative sprinkler.

I then bake them at about 375 or 400 degrees (I can’t remember which) until they get hot all the way through, maybe about fifteen minutes or so. Then about five minutes before I’m ready to serve my Stuffed Baked Potatoes, I turn on the broiler and begin to watch them carefully. I want them to get just a little bit darker and start to bubble. You could let them get browner than this if you like – just keep an eye on them.

Above, I took them out and thought they needed another two minutes under the broiler. Here’s the final result below:

And they are all gone.

These also freeze really well, reheat really well, taste good the next day for leftovers, and some people even like them packed in their lunches.

How do you fix your Stuffed Baked Potatoes?

Sharon and I were talking about all the variations that would be good with these – bacon bits, broccoli, rosemary, and a few other things I can’t remember now. What else would you add to your Stuffed Baked Potatoes?

Let me know if you try them.  Have a wonderful week…

Who’s praying for you?

February 22, 2018 | My Jottings

In light of the recent passing of Billy Graham, I thought I would republish this old post of mine about Billy’s wife Ruth.

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Several years ago the phone rang while I was vacuuming, and I thought I’d let it go over to voice mail. Then I saw that Michael picked it up in the garage and was speaking with someone for quite a while. When he hung up the phone he came in the back door with tears in his eyes, and my stomach sank as I thought the absolute worst and then whispered to him, “Who was that?”

“Ruth Graham,” he answered emotionally.

It took me a few seconds to react and I stood there staring at him, saying nothing. Ruth Graham, Ruth Graham, Ruth Graham – I was searching through mental files for something that would click, because I was expecting news about a family member.

Then it registered.

“Billy’s wife?” I asked incredulously. He nodded and his tears spilled over as he told me why she had called. Most of you probably know that Ruth Bell Graham had been an invalid for quite a while before her death a few years ago, but apparently she hadn’t let that stop her from impacting the kingdom for Christ.

I’d read that even though she was bedridden and in constant pain, she studied her Bible and spent hours in prayer each day, and that her passion for Jesus hadn’t been diminished by her suffering. So on this particular day, Mrs. Billy Graham was volunteering for her son Franklin’s organization, and she called to thank us for giving to Samaritan’s Purse. Michael and I had sent a small donation a few weeks before.

After she thanked Michael, Mrs. Graham chatted with him and asked him if there was anything she could lift up to the Lord for our family. He told her about one of our daughters, who was a prodigal taking a faraway path. For the next couple of minutes, Michael bowed his head and tried to keep from sobbing while Ruth Graham compassionately and powerfully prayed for our girl by name. Mrs. Graham knew a thing or two about prodigals from her own experience. I will never forget that blessing, that gift from God to my husband and me, and how greatly that encouraged us.

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I remember marveling as I did the rest of my housework that day, “Ruth Graham has our phone number!” 🙂  And the next time we saw our daughter we told her that Mrs. Billy Graham had prayed for her, and she was surprised and encouraged too.

Over the years we began to see the hand of God move in our daughter’s life, just as we’ve seen His hand in our other daughters’ lives, and of course in our own lives as well. He has been faithful and merciful. Ruth Bell Graham isn’t the only one who has prayed for our family. We have cried out to God for our family, in whispered prayers while driving, in silence while doing dishes, in wailing and in weeping while snotting into the couch cushions, and I suppose we will continue to pray until we take our last breath on this earth – the needs are many and the Supplier is great.

Which one of you doesn’t relate? Aren’t we all deeply yearning for God to intervene in our lives and in the lives of the ones we love? I think the hardest thing about prayer is God’s timing. I have found it difficult to continue to pray in faith while wondering why God doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to tend to my cries and important requests. But I’m learning. He’s teaching me patience and trust. My progress is snail-like, but at least I’m moving in the right direction.

So who is praying for you today? Your friends? Your spouse? Your pastor? Romans 8:34 says that even Jesus is ever interceding for us. I don’t fully understand this, but I accept it and give thanks.

I am no Ruth Graham, but I would be honored to pray for you today. We don’t even have to know each other – if you happened across this blog and you would like prayer for anything at all, please e-mail me and I will pray for you and keep your request confidential. I will sit quietly with you in God’s Waiting Room as you watch to see His hand move in those situations and people so dear to your heart.

Kneeling down and looking up,

The Day The World Almost Blew Apart

January 11, 2018 | My Jottings

One winter afternoon my seven year-old granddaughter went missing, and for the first time in my life I knew what genuine terror felt like.

It was in early 2014, and I was sitting in the living room with Michael as I always did, once we’d reached the point in his illness (Parkinson’s with Lewy Body Dementia) where I couldn’t leave him alone anymore for more than a minute or two. I was keeping him company as he watched Bonanza on TV. My thoughts had turned again toward how I was going to make dinner and keep him from getting up on his own and hurting himself, how could I once again try to explain to him and actually have him understand, that I’d just be in the next room and would be back with him soon.

The phone rang and it was my son-in-law Chris, asking if seven year-old Margaret had come over to my house after school. She had not. Adrenaline shot through me, and in two seconds my mind leaped to this sickening conclusion: Margaret didn’t make it home after school, some evil man had taken her and they were already on their way out of state, we would never see her again, and darkness and despair would engulf and paralyze our family, and we’d never claw our way out of it. The fear that gripped me felt truly hellish.

I quickly moved to help Michael downstairs into the basement, then out to the attached garage and into the car. We raced over to Chris and Sharon’s neighborhood, where several friends were already going door to door asking about a pretty little dark-haired girl in a khaki school uniform and a pink coat. The police were called. A photograph of Margaret was given. A white van with no windows that had been seen exiting the alley around the time Margaret normally got off the bus was reported.

We tried to reach Sharon, my oldest daughter and Margaret’s mom, but her phone was off because she was busy with a photography session at her work studio. In minutes three police cars rolled up, and Chris and Sharon’s house was searched. Chris could tell he was under suspicion, because those closest to a child always are. After the police searched the house once, they asked for permission to search the entire property again, looking deeper and more carefully this time — in the basement behind the furnace, in the attic crawl space, in the garage rafters, under the tarp in the back of the truck.

Margaret knew the rules, that she could never under any circumstances talk to a stranger, or allow them to get close if she could help it. She was an obedient, bright and lively little girl. We all knew she would never have willingly gone with someone. I couldn’t help thinking about how we are the products of a society with Elizabeth Smarts and Jacob Wetterlings and media reporting that never lets up, so we choose the lesser of two evils and instill an unnatural fear in our little ones rather than risk losing them forever to sick perverts.

Had I ever prayed before this day? Had any of my years of seemingly earnest prayers since learning about God’s love and power in my three year-old Sunday School ever really been as true and desperate as this? As Michael and I drove around with our windows open in the bitter cold, the car heat and radio off so we could hear any little cry, I whispered under my breath a thousand times, please God, please God, please God, with every pound of my heart.

Up and down the streets we drove, looking left and right, stopping every single person we saw and asking if they’d seen a pretty little girl with dark hair, a khaki school uniform and pink coat? No one had. As I drove east on Superior Street I saw a squad car one street down, driving slowly, looking for my flesh and blood whom I wasn’t sure got a hug and kiss from me the last time I’d seen her.

By this time Sharon had been reached and she had joined in the search. How she was not screaming, I didn’t know. A quiet, fierce determination was on her face as she drove and looked and drove and looked, urgently leaning forward over the steering wheel.

Margaret’s friends’ families were called. No one had seen her. The bus company was called, the bus checked to no avail, and prayer chains activated in California, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Tennessee.

When the sun began to set, Margaret had been gone for over two hours. I had to stop searching and go home to begin dinner and evening cares for my two foster women with disabilities. I wanted to tear my skin off my body with the cruel incongruity of needing to go home to make salad and spaghetti for our fosters and help my husband go to the bathroom while my beloved granddaughter had vanished.

I knew that if the next day came and she was still gone, I would never again be able to do normal things.

After I filled a pot with water and set it on the stove to boil, I went to our bedroom. I vividly remember laying across our bed, putting my face into our sheets and wailing out my prayers to God. I didn’t care if the neighbors heard, and I knew our fosters would be sitting in their rooms wondering what had happened to their foster mom, but that didn’t deter me from sobbing. While my ailing husband sat helplessly in a bedroom chair, quietly distressed and unable to speak well, I howled out my plea to God. PLEEASE! Bring her back! God! You know where she is! I paced, I sobbed, I slashed the air with my hands as I prayed. I got back down on my knees again and pleaded, “Michael, pray with me!” and he bowed his head and whispered the most urgent, “Help us Jesus!” prayers his frozen body and fading mind would allow.

Somehow I served dinner. As the winter sun went down and the outside temperature dropped, my body slowed from exhaustion, but my mind was still under siege: I felt like I was close to losing my grip on sanity. I couldn’t allow my thoughts to wander to what might be happening with Margaret.

I kept crying and praying, begging God to give me another chance to show my love to my precious granddaughter. I couldn’t even bring myself to ponder what her parents were going through as they searched the streets and empty lots, and went door to door for hours.

When the phone rang and I heard Sharon’s elated, “They found her!” I sank to the floor and sobbed in relief and joy. Margaret had gotten off the bus and accepted the invitation of a new little girl in her class to come over and play. She had called out this information to her sister Eleanor and assumed she had heard.

A police officer who’d been searching for two hours spied a little girl with a pink coat bouncing up a neighborhood street on her way home after a nice time at her new friend’s house. Margaret was alarmed when he stopped her and asked her name, then insisted she get in the car with him so he could take her home.

I wept out the words thank you thank you thank you to Jesus over and over that night. I will never be able to thank Him enough for the priceless gift of Margaret. For the riches of all my grandchildren, my daughters, for life.

My own grandmother never hid the fact that she was, at best, ho-hum about having me for her granddaughter. She never really showed me much love or interest. As each of my ten grandchildren have entered the world and gloriously turned our hearts and lives upside down, I’ve wanted to be different, and make certain they know how much I treasure them.

I don’t think I’ll ever be the same after Margaret came back to us on that historic day. That experience simultaneously freed and imprisoned me.

To the frustration of all my grandchildren, when they ask to leave my yard, perhaps to skateboard down the sidewalk, or ride their bikes on the nearby Lakewalk, unless I’m with them the answer is always no.

But to their reluctant grins and and I hope their delight, they never leave my presence without kisses and hugs, words of encouragement, games of Farkle, and a thousand or so I love yous.

Wednesday’s Word — Edition 137

January 3, 2018 | My Jottings

“Life is not a straight line leading from one blessing to the next and then finally to heaven. Life is a winding and troubled road. Switchback after switchback.

And the point of biblical stories like Joseph and Job and Esther and Ruth is to help us feel in our bones (not just know in our heads) that God is for us in all these strange turns. God is not just showing up after the trouble and cleaning it up. He is plotting the course and managing the troubles with far-reaching purposes for our good and for the glory of Jesus Christ.”

~~John Piper

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“Beyond Excited”

December 19, 2017 | My Jottings

My five year-old granddaughter Louisa has been wiggling a loose tooth for a long time, and has been anxiously waiting for it to come out. This is the first tooth she’s ever lost, and Sharon texted me with this picture yesterday and said Weezer was “beyond excited” to finally be able to put something under the pillow for the Tooth Fairy. (In case you didn’t know, the Tooth Fairy’s name is Fluora.)

This little grin made my day, and I thought you might like to see it too.

I always try to be done with my Christmas preparations by November 30th each year, so I can spend December quietly, gratefully and peacefully pondering what the birth of Jesus means in my life. This year I did not achieve all of that, and even today I was wrapping gifts and mailing things. I yearn for a Christmas season when purchased gifts are not part of the plan. I’m a terrible shopper and I don’t need anything myself, so each year can be a struggle.

Anyway, I hope your Christmas is blessed — may you have some joy, some peace, some love, some family, some friends, some food, some hope and some rest.

Thank you for reading,

Winter weather, where art thou?

November 28, 2017 | My Jottings

It’s hard to believe that on November 28th, the temperature was fifty degrees. Any snow we’ve had has melted, the frost is coming up out of the ground, and I’m still wearing my Birkenstocks. I remember Novembers of long ago, and it wasn’t unusual to have three feet of snow on the ground and sub-zero temps. No one is complaining, but everyone is commenting on how weird the weather is everywhere.

We are looking Christmas-y in our cozy home, in spite of the lack of winter weather. Sara gets the bug to decorate for Christmas right after Thanksgiving, and I thought I’d share a few pictures I took today with my phone.

Is there anything better than a tartan plaid throw on a neutral colored couch? Well, maybe a piece of See’s candy, or a trip to Switzerland, or a hug from a grandchild… but plaid throws are pretty high up on my list of wonderful things.

Our tree, full of more red this year than ever before:

We have three small hanging lights over our bar in the kitchen, and Sara ties ornaments to them every year:

This stocking, with my mother’s name on it (Virginia) is about 65 years old. I hope it passes down through many generations to remind our family of that woman who loved us so well:

Mendelssohn the Moose is sporting some jingle bells to keep his mood merry and bright. From what little I know about the moose population, they could use some help with this.

This red and blue plaid pillow was an early Christmas gift from Sara to me — she knows how my heart thrills to anything plaid:

And she has decked our deck flower boxes with fresh greens, birch twigs from Bruno, Minnesota, and huge plastic ornaments. These look stunning after it snows:

A reindeer (I’m assuming) and a cardinal, existing together quite peacefully on the handles of my kitchen hutch. The wool cardinal was a thoughtful gift from my friend from church, Julie:

Sara thought our plain mantel needed some over-the-top Christmas festooning this year — isn’t it pretty?

And a view from the front:

As I sit and type this at 4:00 p.m. on this Tuesday afternoon, I’m already in my nightgown. Community Bible Study was this morning, and what a joy and privilege it was to gather around a table with women young and old, and dig into even the book of Exodus! We find God’s beauty, compassion and mercy there, and He feeds us with His Word each week.

Once again, I have tried to write about the recent heaven-going of my tenth grandbaby Hannah Joy, and I just can’t seem to do it. I hope I’ll be able to share soon. As we sat around our Thanksgiving table last week and each commented on what we are grateful for, Hannah’s name was mentioned several times. She lived on this earth for less than two hours, yet her perfect life impacted our lives with such power and longing there aren’t really adequate words for it. She brought an exquisite beauty into our midst that has marked us forever. We are trusting Jesus with her now.

Aside from my regular foster care provider job which I have done in my home now for seventeen years, I have been busy with a new friendship. I’ve shared a little before about a man I met about a year and a half ago, in a grief support group for seniors who’ve lost spouses. A group of us have lunch together twice a month, and it has been a wonderful blessing to fellowship with people who truly understand this kind of loss. Mr. L. and I see each other two or three times a week, and since he lives a ways from me in a cabin he built in the woods, when he comes into town we tend to spend the day together.  We walk as much as we can, have Cobb salads for lunch at The Duluth Grill, take tea together while watching the shipping traffic on Lake Superior, and watch Doc Martin episodes on TV as the day draws to a close. Last week for the first time, it was too cold to walk in the cemetery as we usually do, so we drove to the mall and joined the early morning walkers there. They let the walkers in early before the mall opens, so we put in a couple of miles and I snapped this picture of Mr. L:

Other shocking things that have happened in the last months: my oldest grandson (age 15) is now 6′ 5″ tall. My oldest granddaughter (age 15) is now 5′ 11″ tall. I flew to Florida and spent a few days at Walt Disney World with my daughter Sharon and her family. I bought a new car. I have only read two books. And I am thinking about retirement.

One of the two books I’ve recently read is by Brennan Manning, recommended by my friend Ember, and it was a comfort to me. Click here to see. What are you reading that you could recommend?

Even though it’s still November, I’m hoping that your Christmas season is lean on the shopping and all the running about, and full of peaceful family times, quiet contemplation on the goodness of God, and heartfelt rejoicing that unto us a Savior is born. All my hope rests in that.

God bless and keep you all,

Birdbath

October 28, 2017 | My Jottings

My youngest grandchild Miriam turned three a couple of weeks ago, and we had a little party for her here. She is full of personality and is a total delight to her family. Even her older siblings think she’s adorable and love her so much. I’m grateful to see that.

Carolyn made a cake and brought it over, and we were all gathered around the table to sing our loud rendition of Happy Birthday to Miriam. She smiled, paused, stopped smiling, then slowly closed her eyes and pressed on the lids with her thumb and index finger, indicating that all that attention and focus on her was too much to bear. Like her older sister Clara, her portals are so wide open she just couldn’t take all that in at one time. She blew out her candles, happily opened her gifts, and apparently went off to play.

After everyone left and I was walking around the house picking up a little, I found this in my bathroom:

I have collected some stuffed birds over the years. You can press on the belly of each one and a real-life recording of that bird’s call or song plays. Clara is fifteen now, but I have memories of her lovingly brushing the red cardinal’s crest when she was three years old. She named him Calvin. There’s also Eddie the Eastern Bluebird, Clarence the Chickadee, and the unnamed Red-Winged Blackbird, Loon, and Goldfinch. Not pictured are a turkey, a Purple Martin, a robin, and a few others. All my grandchildren know where the birds are stored, in a drawer in my closet. Evidently Miriam decided to bring most of them out and line them up around (and in) the bath tub.

It made me laugh out loud to see this, and warmed my heart. I wondered why she placed the woodpecker on his back in the tub all alone? What was her bright little mind thinking as she arranged these birds around the bath?

This is the best example of a birdbath I’ve ever seen.

And in eyebrow news….

September 29, 2017 | My Jottings

I thought I’d pop in here today to share something a bit different. I’m getting ready to go out to dinner and a play at our community playhouse with a former neighbor of mine, but here’s a little something about eyebrows.

Eyebrows?

Yes.

I have been noticing hubcaps and eyebrows since I was a little girl. Hubcaps probably don’t impact a person’s life very much, but eyebrows make a huge difference in the way a person looks, I think. As I’ve gotten older (in my 60s now), I’ve noticed that many women my age and older have some eyebrow issues.

I actually started to see some sparseness in my eyebrows when I was in my 50s, and did what most women do I guess…used an eyebrow pencil. The problem with this for me was that my natural brows are fairly flat and don’t have a very pronounced arch, so penciling in an arch was always a little outside my natural browline.

Couple sparse eyebrows with worsening vision that makes it next to impossible to see if you’re doing a decent job, and all of a sudden you’re an older woman who looks like this. Or this.

So after a lot of research and consideration, I decided to go to the only business in our town who specializes in microblading eyebrows. I didn’t want my eyebrows tattooed, because I didn’t want to make that commitment, plus I know two people who’ve done it, and their brows faded terribly. If you’re not familiar with microblading, click here and look at these before and after pictures! The trained, licensed technician measures your face and bone structure carefully and shows you the shape they will/could be, and then creates tiny semi-permanent hairstrokes over your own eyebrows that make it hard to tell they’re not really all your own.

So here’s a picture I took with my iPhone the day I had it done, so I could text my three daughters who were anxious to see the results.

The “hairs” toward the outside of my eye are not hairs at all, but tiny microbladed pigment lines that will last for about a year.

I don’t have to squint and haphazardly draw on my eyebrows anymore.

I would really recommend this to women who have thinning eyebrow issues. My daughter knows someone who lost her brows from cancer treatment, and decided to have microblading done. Her stunning results helped me decide to take the leap.

I realize with all that’s going on in the world this seems like such a vain and lightweight thing. I’m sorry if this rubs anyone the wrong way.

My mother-in-law used to say she felt naked if she went out of the house without her eyebrows drawn on. I don’t think I was quite to that point, but it is very nice to not have to think about eyebrows at all. Not that hubcaps or eyebrows have been given that much real estate in my brain, but you know what I mean….

Walking On

August 28, 2017 | My Jottings

I, who dearly love my quiet times and solitude, have had the busiest couple of months I’ve had in years. I have always guarded my calendar and intentionally kept days blank each week as much as possible, and that has changed quite a lot. I’m still processing the changes.

Along with a new friendship that feels like a part-time job in many ways, I am still struggling with how to put words to what our family experienced in early June. I want to do justice to the post I’ve started, when I share about my beloved tenth grandchild, Hannah Joy, who went to heaven ninety minutes after she was born. I have the most precious photos and feelings and yearnings I want to write about, but just haven’t been able to as of yet.

My daughter Carolyn, son-in-law Jeremy, and their family have walked through such a sorrow-filled time, and I have been humbled and grateful to see God’s faithfulness to them. Sometimes there are just no words, even for someone given to verbosity.

I have walked in the cemetery regularly this summer, and now the season is coming to a close and autumn is showing its welcome presence. We’ve had a muggy few months and I love the promise of dry air, crisp nights and blazing trees.

Here is the place I always park my car when I take my morning walks.

I’m not sure why dappled sunlight filtering through tree leaves moves me so much, but it always does. Even when I’m driving and I see this kind of light, I always notice and say aahhhh. Maybe I’m being taught that light shining through dark brings beauty. Jesus does that in our lives, doesn’t He?

We have a beautiful Lakewalk in our city that runs right along the shores of vast and breathtaking Lake Superior, and it’s about two stones’ throw from my house, but I don’t walk there nearly as much as I do in the cemetery where Michael’s body rests, where Hannah’s body rests, and where mine will rest someday. The Lakewalk is wonderful, but there are bikers, dogwalkers, skaters and joggers, and it can feel a bit traffic heavy. The cemetery is quiet, gorgeous, and soothing to me, and there are miles of paths. I usually walk 1.5 miles.

I love how from almost any place in the large cemetery, I can stop and turn toward one hill and pick out Michael’s headstone and grave. I didn’t plan it this way, but when I chose the spot for his (and eventually my) burial, I didn’t know that the light colored granite and the height of the site would make it stand out even from afar.

There are two large ponds there, with ducks and geese abounding. I’ve seen deer and foxes too. You can click to slightly enlarge this photo if you like — the arrow points to Michael’s headstone.

Now the maple trees are starting to show off, and the squirrels are more active, gathering their winter stores. I have two chipmunks who frequent my deck and probably live underneath it. I actually turned my furnace on for a little while last weekend, and the hints of fall and winter make me feel content. I’m much more of a turtleneck, SmartWool socks, simmering soup, fire in the hearth kind of person, than a gardening, shorts, picnic with potato salad sort.

Maybe someone will need to remind me of that when dark and treacherous January arrives, and there seems to be only eight hours of daylight and the furnace never goes off and the icicles hanging from the roof are five feet long and it’s sixteen below zero outside. I’ll probably be talking potato salad and flowers right around then. (But never shorts!)

Today I have a foster care provider meeting to attend, and later tonight I’ll be attending our first Community Bible Study leaders’ dinner. The CBS season begins next month and will go through May. This will be my twentieth year in CBS, and now seems like a good time to recommend it to you once again. There just might be a CBS class in your area, and you can check right here. From the drop-down menu, you can choose your state and see where the nearest CBS class is located. There are classes all over the world in over eighty countries, and if you’re outside of the US, check here.

I will be a Core Group Leader again this year, and I always look forward to receiving my core group list, to see who God has placed in my group for the next thirty weeks. I begin to pray for them right away, and ask God to prepare our hearts and minds to gather around our table with the feast that is God’s Word.

Young and old, unchurched and very churched, freely charismatic and deeply liturgical, the Lord always meets us when we open our Bibles and ask Him to be there with us, teaching us, correcting us, training us, encouraging us. The older I get the more acutely I see how much I need His power and mercy, and I always find it there in His Word.

Speaking of old…. I’m about to leave my fifties behind. That feels okay to me. From the vantage point of almost sixty years old, I turn to look behind me and see a lot of sorrow (much of it self-inflicted) and foolishness. What I see most clearly, however, is the patience and wonder and love of God. I pray that however long I live into my sixties, He will strengthen me to love Him more deeply, represent Him more accurately, and praise and thank Him as effortlessly as I draw breath.

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