The gift of prayer

October 30, 2008 | My Jottings

It’s Thankful Thursday. Today I give thanks to the Lord for prayer. For the promise that He hears. For His power that can move mountains. For His love that has made me His daughter.

I thank God for friends who will pray. I thank Him for the invitation to come boldly to His throne of grace. For His words, “Bring them here to me” regarding people or situations where miracles were desperately needed.

Lord Jesus, thank you for your love and power. Thank you for hearing us when we pray. Thank you for defeating the enemy of our souls. Thank you for being my God and King and Father.

Today’s playlist

October 27, 2008 | My Jottings

Now that snow is in our forecast, it seems all the more imperative to have some carols playing in October.  Here’s what’s going through the house on the stereo/intercom system today:

Windham Hill’s Celtic Christmas – this one makes me wish I could spend all day with a book by a roaring blaze in our bedroom fireplace. 

 

A Charlie Brown Christmas will take you right back to your childhood, but aside from the familiar songs from the Peanuts cartoons, this is a mild, jazzy CD that I love to play each year.

 

Carpenters Christmas Portrait – “Merry Christmas Darling” is our favorite.

 

Happy Holidays by Jo Stafford is a wonderful old recording that reminds me of my mother, who loved and played this kind of music.

 

What’s on your playlist today, even if it’s not yet Christmas music?

Road Trip

October 24, 2008 | My Jottings

I will drive five lovely women to the Twin Cities soon to attend a leadership conference for Community Bible Study. My dear husband will be at home taking care of people, dogs and details here.

Here are some things on my to-do list that really should be attended to before we depart:

1.   Put gas in the Odyssey and check the oil.

2.   Make sure a fresh box of Kleenex is in the van.

3.   Print out driving directions to hotel.

4.   Remove the old computer keyboard from the back of the van.

5.   Remove the green and camouflage snake costume from the way-back of the van.

6.   Pack a Honeycrisp apple and a Kashi Peanut Butter bar for snacks.

7.   Make sure I wear the jeans with Lycra.

8.   Wear turtleneck since my neck gets cold when I drive long distances.

9.   Make sure meals at home are planned for.

10.  Kiss everyone goodbye, see the emotion in my husband’s eyes and begin to question why I ever agreed to go in the first place.

It’s Thankful Thursday again

October 23, 2008 | My Jottings

Last week I introduced a weekly feature on the blog here. I know I’m being frequently reminded about how vital it is to live in a grateful manner. And I don’t want to grow into a bitter, complaining old woman. Bitter, complaining old women generally aren’t fun to be around. I want to grow in grace and gratitude.

Today I thank God for my vision. Blurry as it is without corrective lenses, I can still see. With my glasses, I can clearly see the gorgeous fall displays outside my windows. I can see the three huge deer that wander into our yard each morning. I can see my husband’s kind eyes look at me. And oh, the wonder of seeing the smiles of my grandchildren! I can see the words of friends typed in e-mails. I can read God’s Word. I can see. And I give thanks to the Lord today, for the amazing gift of sight.

Are you thankful for anything today?  I would love to know.

(Julie) Ann of Beige Gables?

October 21, 2008 | My Jottings

It doesn’t sound right does it?  (Julie) Ann of Beige Gables. Or Julie of Eight Gables. Not when Anne of Green Gables rolls right off the tongue and evokes wonderful literary recollections of wistfulness, innocent antics and simplicity. 

I’ve always felt transported by the Anne series by L.M. Montgomery, and would someday love to visit Prince Edward Island. I even play the sound track to the movie, and have a very specific prayer I ask the Lord about, relating to one of the songs on the CD. (Strange, I know).

And long before I loved these books, I have favored gable roofs. With a husband who’s a carpenter, I soon learned the difference between a hip roof, a mansard roof, a gable roof, a shed or a gambrel roof. And I always liked the looks of gable roofs, especially if their pitch was steep.

Yesterday I just realized that we live in a house with a total of eight gables. Eight beige gables. And my middle name is Ann. So I ask you – if I had fancy personal calling cards made up with “(Julie) Ann of Beige Gables” or “Julie of Eight Gables” printed on them, do you think it would fly? 

When introduced to someone new, if I firmly shook their hand, smiled warmly and looked straight into their eyes and said, “Hello, so nice to meet you. I’m Julie Ann of Beige Gables”, do you think they would feel right away that we were kindred spirits?

Where’s Joseph when I need him?

October 17, 2008 | My Jottings

Are any of you gifted in dream interpretation, as Joseph, wrongly imprisoned in Egypt was?  I don’t often remember my dreams anymore, but this is what I dreamed right before I woke up this morning:

A former pastor of ours decided to start up a church again. In the midst of all the preparation he and his friends were involved in, he wrote a message to me on one piece of paper (I haven’t seen him in years and didn’t know him well, personally). He put it in an envelope and wrote on the outside of it: “A Scotsman Can’t Hurt a Scotsman”. A woman I am only just acquainted with delivered the envelope with the note inside to me. But the letter had been sealed in a thick plastic container similar to what you get electronics in these days – those molded, impossible-to-open packages that require a small chainsaw to cut through them. As I was trying to open this molded package with the letter inside, there were about fifty crickets scrambling around inside too. I kept pressing down on the crickets with my thumb (through the hard plastic), hoping to crush them all before I opened the package to get to the letter that had “A Scotsman Can’t Hurt a Scotsman” written by my former pastor on the outside. The crushed crickets made quite a juicy mess all over my envelope. When I finally got the package open and pulled the letter out, it was black and wet with cricket corpses. I opened the envelope and held the single sheet of paper by the corner and instantly dipped it in a liquid solution in a tray, similar to what a person in a darkroom developing a photograph does, and most of the cricket crunch washed off, but the ink of the message was running off too, due to the strength of the solution, I think. I quickly tried to open the folded note, and before I could read it, the acquaintance who delivered it to me announced that she already knew what it said. She casually remarked that the note inside the envelope that said “A Scotsman Can’t Hurt a Scotsman”, basically confirmed that I was so deeply flawed that no one knew what was wrong with me, and it was generally agreed that I couldn’t be fixed.

And that was the end of the dream. I got up, let the Schnauzers out, and started fixing breakfasts.

Now I know dreams often reveal what we’re internalizing, but I just don’t buy that I can’t be fixed. I happen to think I’m fixable. I know it’s a hard job and would take an expert, but I know Someone who can do it, and I’m sticking pretty close to Him these days.  :)

“I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” 

                                                                                                         Jeremiah 32:27

Thankful Thursday

October 16, 2008 | My Jottings

I have to say, I’m loving Blogland. This little blog has turned out to be something that’s a creative outlet of sorts for me. Maybe posting a recipe for granola or a photo of a fall-colored maple tree aren’t exactly the most creative things you’ll ever encounter, but I’m enjoying myself. On WordPress, the program that this blog is written on and powered by, I can type up a rough draft of a future post and save it, returning to it later when I have more time or inspiration. I might come back to it weeks later when more ideas come to mind, and then end up publishing the post long after it has sat in the “saved drafts” section of my blog. Here are some saved drafts I’m working on, things I hope to write about and post on the blog as the months roll by:

The Quest for Beauty.  My Man Part 2.  Slaying the Dragon of SelfishnessWords Pack a WallopThe SAGs.  Once Upon a Toile.  A High-Maintenance Wife.  The Applause of Trees.  My Favorite Books.  The Writing on the WallOh, Opel! And of course I have posts begun about more cherished friends, and all my sweet grandchildren. I have many photos waiting for just the right post to appear in.

But today I’m introducing a weekly feature, and I hope it will be a blessing in more ways than one. It’s called Thankful Thursday.

On Thursdays, I will publish a post on something I’m thankful for, and invite you to share as well. I might say one word on Thankful Thursdays, or I might elaborate in a paragraph or two.

Many of you may remember this old song we’ve sung in church since we were small:

Count your blessings
Name them one by one
Count your blessings
See what God has done

When upon life’s billows
You are tempest tossed
When you are discouraged
Thinking all is lost

Count your blessings
Name them one by one
Count your many blessings
See what God has done

Are you ever burdened
With a load of care
Does the cross seem heavy
You are called to bear

Count your many blessings
Every doubt will fly
And you will be singing
As the days go by

Count your blessings
Name them one by one
Count your many blessings
See what God has done

When you look at others
With their lands and gold
Think that Christ has promised
You His wealth untold

Count your many blessings
Money cannot buy
Your reward in heaven
Nor your home on high

Count your blessings
Name them one by one
Count your blessings
See what God has done

So, amid the conflict
Whether great or small
Do not be discouraged
God is over all

Count your many blessings
Angels will attend
Help and comfort give you
To your journey’s end

Count your blessings
Name them one by one
Count your blessings
See what God has done

Count your blessings
Name them one by one
Count your many blessings
See what God has done

Words by Johnson Oatman, 1897

The melody and the words to this song can make its truths seem sweet and childish, almost irrelevant in the face of the problems most of us walk through today.  We might say, “Yes, yes, I know I should be thankful, and I ambut -” and then fill in your particular blank or blanks.

Well, I struggle with melancholy and almost always see things in a much darker light than is healthy for me. Not long ago I saw something as I was reading my Bible, and it was an epiphany of sorts. This is from Romans, chapter 1:

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.    22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools…

I saw a progression here, in five parts. Keep looking at the above verses as you consider the five following points:

First, people can be believers, and know their wonderful God.

Second, for whatever reason, they can decide to not look to Him and continually thank Him for all He has done for them and all that He is.

Third, when living in this completely ungrateful manner, their thoughts become futile and destructive.

Fourth, taking this path, the believer’s foolish choices cause things in his/her life to start looking really bleak. And dark. Confusion and hopelessness would abound.

Fifth, the end result is that they don’t rely on the goodness, wisdom and power of God, but on their own foolish ways, which always means trouble. Sometimes serious trouble.

So, if you’ve followed this with me, choosing not to purposefully thank God can lead to a dark and dangerous place. Giving thanks can flow from a full and happy heart, and sometimes it can be a difficult discipline, the last thing we want to do.

So join me in sincerely giving thanks to God today, for at least one thing in your life. And don’t be afraid to actually make a comment on Thankful Thursdays to share with other readers what it is you’re giving thanks for!  Maybe someone else needs to read your words. Nothing is too trivial. One word is enough. Or you might want to elaborate in paragraphs.

It might seem trite, but if we look at those verses in the first chapter of Romans, we might see that deliberately remembering God and giving thanks protects us in ways we may have never previously considered.

Today I am thankful to God for the blessing of my seven grandchildren.  Their love is priceless to me.

Carols in October

October 15, 2008 | My Jottings

Sometimes old habits die hard. I have a habit of beginning to play Christmas carols in October each year. And it all started like this…

In October of 1978 I was twenty-one years old, married to a man in the United States Air Force, and we had an eighteen-month old little girl and another one due in January. We had just moved to Germany (then known as West Germany), and we lived in a little village called Damflos, not far from the Luxembourg border.

My husband worked twelve hour shifts in a top secret underground bunker about forty minutes away from our village home. Our household goods had been loaded onto a ship in Long Beach, California weeks before, but weren’t due to dock at the northern German port of Bremerhaven for six more weeks.

We rented this wonderful German house from the town butcher (the Metzger) and his wife. I even found a photo online – click here and you can see part of the house just to the left of the church. The Air Force had put an old couch, two upholstered chairs, a dinette set, some beds and dressers in our little house, to keep us functioning until our personal things arrived. We had only the clothes we had packed in our suitcases. The Air Force housing office was out of cribs at the time, so they provided a playpen for our daughter Sharon to sleep in, which of course she didn’t. (She liked our bed better. I didn’t sleep through the night until she was almost two years old, but that’s another story.)

We had no television, no books, no nearby friends, no car (our 1978 Volkswagen Rabbit was also being shipped from the states, down through the Panama Canal and across the Atlantic Ocean to Bremerhaven), and I didn’t speak any German yet. And because we lived in such a small village, no one there spoke English. I take that back. Our kind landlord, Herr Diel, could say, in a typical thick, guttural German accent, “Hall-ooo Yimmy Carter!” And then he would smile and nod, as if he had uttered something profound.

So for hours each day, my little daughter Sharon and I would walk the quaint village streets of Damflos, stroll to the outlying forests surrounding the area, visit with Herr und Frau Diel, watch Herr Diel butcher pigs and make myriad assortments of wursts, and wait for Daddy to get home. After a week or two, my husband decided we needed some music, so he got a ride to the Base Exchange an hour away and came home with a nice stereo system. I borrowed some books and toys and games from friends, so Sharon and I had something to do during the day. By playing with old fashioned wooden blocks with letters on them, she learned to read simple words by the time she was two. I also studied German a little, and practiced conversing with our landlords, who lived behind us. They were patient and encouraging, and within about two months we could have simple conversations with them.

Finally we received word that our car and furniture had arrived, and having our own things again felt familiar and good. But my husband still worked twelve hour days, and the television stations were naturally all in German, and we had no phone. Our good friends the Zobels lived an hour away. As I went through some boxes that had been delivered, I found all our LPs (long-playing vinyl record albums), and for some reason I didn’t want to play albums by Chicago, Bread, or The Tubes in Germany. The Tubes in Germany just weren’t right. (The Tubes anywhere on planet earth still aren’t a good idea, if you want my opinion). 

Things had become simpler in a few short weeks and I was enjoying the quiet and the soothing rhythms of life in the village. Germany was beautiful, quaint, picturesque, and for me, very much like the fairy-tale illustrations from the books of my youth. As I unpacked that carton of LPs, I realized that I wanted to hear Christmas carols, even though it was October. I guess being surrounded by gingerbready houses, castles and ancient forests just put me in the mood. So I played Christmas carols day in and day out. Glen Campbell sang Over the River and Through the Woods. Dinah Shore warbled Silent Night. And Julie Andrews was my favorite – her rendition of I Saw Three Ships was enough to set me to daydreaming and yearning for hours. I still love that song.

Ever since that time, it’s like an internal chime in my head goes off when October arrives, and it keeps sounding softly until I put away the Modernaires, Fernando Ortega and Sara Groves, and bring out the huge pile of Christmas CDs. Thankfully no one in our busy household seems to mind.

So today, October 15th, 2008, these are the CDs cycling through my stereo, which goes through our house intercom and into each room.

A Scottish Christmas. What is it about ancient European places that makes me pine and yearn? I would drop everything in about six seconds to spend Christmas in this Highland castle. Maybe someday.

 

Ring the Bells by Travis Cottrell. This is a brand new CD and very rich sounding. The London Symphony Orchestra accompanies him, and Travis can really belt out the tunes.

 

The Christmas Collection by Amy Grant. What is Christmas without one of Amy’s sixty-four Christmas CDs? 

 

And one of my favorites – the sound track to the movie Little Women - I loved this book, loved the movie, and can’t wait to play this CD every year. Beginning in October.

So today I’ll be doing laundry, writing out bills, making a huge pot of spaghetti sauce, and working on my paperwork Alps. Oops – see how I slipped something European into even my mundane daily duties?  Why not “piles” of paperwork?  Because maybe I’ll want to actually attend to them if they remind me of the Alps.

Tomorrow I might play Perry Como or Windham Hill. The next day it could be Debby Boone or Jo Stafford. Or Rosemary Clooney.

What is your favorite Christmas CD? Or your favorite Christmas song?

A feast for the eyes

October 11, 2008 | My Jottings

This little maple in our front yard is trying with all his might to get noticed. I thought I’d reward him for his efforts this morning by posting this picture.

And while I was out there, I took this shot of the the ivy creeping up our chimney. I rip it all down to the ground at the end of autumn, and this is just five months’ growth, from about late April until now.

Does your week include baking, hiking, fall-color drives?  Laundry, errands, naps?  I’ll send a (nice!) gift to the sixth person who posts a comment anywhere on the blog this week.

Tauni

My Joys

I am excited to introduce you to Tauni, one of my oldest friends. She’s only a year older than I am, so I don’t mean one of my most ancient friends, I mean that Tauni is someone I’ve been friends with a long, long time. 

Tauni and I met when we were very young – she lived in the house behind mine, or you could say I lived in the house behind hers. My family moved into that particular house when I was three and I believe Tauni and I met within a year or two, so we have known each other for over forty-five years. Our yards were separated by tall cinder block walls typical of what you still find in Southern California, and Tauni’s family was one of the privileged ones in our neighborhood who had a built-in swimming pool in their back yard. As I wrote earlier here, I was passionate about swimming from the time I was about five, and it was in Tauni’s pool that I spent most of my swimming hours. It was on that high block wall that separated our back yards that I often sat, looking longingly over into her yard and hoping that I would receive an invitation to come and swim.

Our lives did not converge that much in school. Tauni played the flute and was in band; I took organ lessons at home on my mother’s behemoth Hammond B-3.  Tauni and I even had different groups of friends we hung out with. Her parents were much younger than mine, and her family vacations usually centered around water-skiing at Lake Nacimiento, while mine were more sedate and involved driving north to Morro Bay and taking lazy strolls on the beach. Tauni was the oldest of four children; the only girl. I was the youngest of three children; also the only girl. We often spent the night at each others’ houses when it wasn’t a school night, sleeping in a pull-out couch and staying up late to watch television. Almost every scrapbook from my childhood has several photos of Tauni and me doing something together.

I think Tauni would say that she best remembers our many outings to Disneyland, our just as many trips to the beach together, and my mother’s homemade popcorn balls, which we wrapped in wax paper and were the size of cantaloupes.

I remember all of Tauni’s younger brothers, Rodd, Brett and Glenn, and the constant activity in their home and back yard, and the fun and the wild splashing and the creative games they engineered. I remember her dad, who teased me for years about being a Tibetan Llama (too long of a story), and her mom, who had a huge and warm smile, and always elicited the open-hearted sharing a young girl thrived on. I used to marvel at the intercom in their house, and the soft and soothing music that always came from the speakers in each room. I used to covet the lazy susan sitting in the middle of their round dining table.

A very vivid memory I have of being with Tauni and her family involves two specific songs. I can remember riding in the way-back of their station wagon with a posse of kids, on the way home from a day at the beach. We were all full of sand and either tanned or sunburned, and Tauni’s mom Ann was driving, and the radio was on. Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Lookin’ Out My Back Door” was playing, and Tauni’s youngest brother Glenn was singing his heart out on the “toot, toot, toot” part, with a huge grin on his adorable face. Then, when B.J. Thomas’s “I Just Can’t Help Believing” came on, Tauni’s mom murmured, “Oh I love this song”, turned it up and sang along quietly. To this day, whenever I hear those two songs, I’m instantly transported back to their car and the water-logged, sun-drenched days of our childhoods.

As the years passed, my parents divorced and my mom and I moved to another house, and Tauni’s family also moved, toward the end of her high school years. They were still in the area, but we didn’t see each other that often. We didn’t even go to each others’ weddings.

But God is the most brilliant crafter of friendships, and He knew when He merged our lives as children, that Tauni and I would need each other decades later as grown women. So we never completely lost touch. Sometimes years would go by, but we would still occasionally write letters, exchange our children’s school photos, and call each other to catch up. It seemed that the closer Tauni and I both grew to the Lord, the closer we grew to each other. Our friendship as adults is much deeper and more connected than it was as children.

I have watched this dear friend walk through things that would have ruined some, but she has clung to the Lord and His fragrance is always around her. I have seen Tauni persevere in circumstances others would not have endured. The loss of a cherished brother. The end of a marriage. Dark times. But I have also seen that she has chosen to forgive, to bless others in the midst of her suffering, and to allow hardship to make her better, not bitter. 

We all know people whose hard and relentless circumstances are written into the very lines and expressions on their faces. But Tauni isn’t one of those people. Look at her picture. The vivacity and joy and optimism you see there are real and deep. The trust she has in her Savior not only permeates her life, but shows on her countenance as well.

Tauni is the mother of two beautiful adult children who consider her their hero. She has made her mark on this world in many ways, but as a mother, most don’t even come close. She is now enjoying being a new grandma to her daughter Shannon’s baby Ben, and someday he will know how blessed he is that God gave him Tauni for a Nana.

Tauni and I are separated now by over two thousand miles. In years past we have each traveled and visited one another, and now we’ve made tentative plans for a long-overdue visit in 2009. The last time I saw her in person was in January of this year, when she and her new husband Curt (who is the blessing she has deserved all her life) drove quite a distance to attend a memorial tribute for my father held in Southern California. We only had a couple of brief hours together there, but as we sat together, I pondered thankfully what we’ve shared. Tauni and I share years of history. Countless memories. And an abiding faith in Christ that has kept our friendship intact for all these many years, and will continue to bind us together for the rest of our lives on this earth, and into eternity.

I admire and love her so. To me, she is beautiful inside and out. I wish everyone could know her. I am so glad to introduce you to my dear friend Tauni.

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