New Blog Design!

December 16, 2010 | My Jottings

Welcome! It has been almost two and a half years since I started this little blog, and a while back I got a hankering for a redesign. Some bloggers like to update their sites every year or so, some even seasonally, but I tend to hyperventilate and develop hives when too much change happens in my life, so it took me a long while to decide to have Just Julie redone. The talented web designer who did all this is named David Salinas — he listened to what I wanted, worked cheerfully at making the little tweaks I asked for, and the result is something that I’m pretty tickled with.

You may have noticed the quick flash of a cardinal at the very beginning, showing the loading progress of the site. Cardinals are very meaningful to our family, and if you don’t know the story, you can read about it by clicking here.

Once the blog’s header has loaded you’ll see a number of items that are like keepsakes sitting on an opened book. Take a second and see how nifty it is to be able to click on the items one by one and drag them around with your mouse. What, exactly, is the purpose of being able to move the items around? I don’t know. I just like it!

Every component you see has personal significance, whether it’s as trivial as the black and white toile wallpaper Michael and I have in our bedroom, or as profound as the two things I cherish most in life: my faith in Christ, and the family He has given me.

The yarn photograph is of an actual skein that my oldest daughter Sharon hand-dyed herself. This yarn colorway with the deep red, blue and green I love so much is called MacBeth and is one of dozens she has created. I encourage you to visit Sharon’s website to see some of the most beautiful yarns in the world. (I’m not much biased.)

The old-fashioned playbill of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella represents my middle daughter Carolyn. She has loved films and theater since she was a little girl, and she’s an amazingly accomplished actress and singer. She has played lead parts in many of our local community playhouse’s productions, including Carousel, The Philadelphia Story, Fiddler on the Roof, The Last Five Years, Hello Dolly and Cinderella, to name a few.

The long-stemmed rose symbolizes my youngest daughter Sara. She has been a floral designer for several years, and has a seemingly effortless gift for creating beauty in her surroundings, often from simple and unexpected things. Our home is frequently graced with small arrangements of flowers, pods, fruit and lush greenery that Sara puts together, and her creations are inspiring and remarkably unique.

Every keepsake on this page lands on an old, open book — I love to read and cannot imagine my life without a pile of books nearby. And I try to make my own life, with appropriate disclosures, an open book. I try to live honestly and transparently, but I still fail at this and am definitely a work in progress. I appreciate these qualities in others and hope to better cultivate them in my own life.

The scrap of paper has one of my favorite Bible verses written on it. It is my prayer that this verse will someday more authentically summarize my life as a follower of Jesus. I love God’s Word; I want to love it even more. And the key symbolizes my belief that Jesus is the key, and that He holds all keys.

From Isaiah 33:6:
He will be the sure foundation for your times,
a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge;
the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure.

I love the old fashioned postcard with the two cardinals on it, because for our family, cardinals have come to be beloved reminders of hope. Like me, you’ve probably had times in your life when you’ve felt completely without hope. For years now God has been teaching me how to trust Him more fully, in good times and in sorrowful times. He has lovingly encouraged me and shown me that even when I can’t figure out His ways, I can rest in the knowledge that He is the God of hope.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

I have found the above verse to be true. When I trust in Him, He pours out joy, peace and hope. When I choose to fret and complain instead of trust, joyless living commences and hope seems elusive. The many treasured cardinal gifts around our house and the rare, real flesh-and-feather visitor at our bird feeder always remind me that God is at work no matter how bleak things seem, and that He is worthy of all my trust and hope. He is the God of hope!

Only the design of the blog has changed — all the old posts are still archived over at the left, and the various links are still the same.

The My Jottings link is just that — my day to day jottings about our lives — past, present and future. I like to show you things you never knew you were interested in, such as pictures of our two schnauzers, how my office looks before and after clutter, my geeky elementary school pictures, bunnies in our garden, a muskrat in our fence, recipes, odd thoughts and inane ramblings.

The My Joys link is updated occasionally with posts about dearly loved people in my life. It is not complete yet, so I encourage you to check there once in a while. I have more people I want to share about, including my husband and three daughters.

The My Journey link is just a short bio on me. Maybe I’ll add to it someday.

A friend asked me the other day why I blog. I told her I blog to have a place to say what’s on my heart. I can always put my thoughts into print better than I can say them out loud. I blog to invite others to take a peek at our family and share our days with us, albeit somewhat vicariously. I blog because it’s my form of creative expression. Some people paint, some play an instrument, some sculpt, some build, all with varying levels of expertise. I blog. I may not do it as well as others, but that has never been my objective. I blog to celebrate my children and grandchildren, and to memorialize the precious parts of their lives that change so quickly. I blog to work out my thoughts and struggles. I blog to speak out my praise and thankfulness to my heavenly Father. I blog in hopes that someone will read, perhaps even relate, and visit the site again. I blog so that when I die, my daughters will print out all my posts, and give them to my beloved grandchildren, so they can see what was most important to me. And I blog with the hope that on occasion what I write will encourage someone and/or bring a smile to God’s face.

I hope you enjoy the new design and will come back and visit now and again. I’d love to know what you think –I truly enjoy reading your comments, so I encourage you to comment often. If you’ve never left a comment before, maybe this is your day….it’s easy to click on the comment link at the bottom of each blog entry.  🙂

Thank you for reading! May God bless you today…

Wednesday’s Word-Edition 51

December 15, 2010 | My Jottings

“Bitterness/resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

Unknown

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Simple Things

December 14, 2010 | My Jottings

I find that simple things make me happy. The more complicated something gets, the more cheerless I feel.

I like simple things like clean sheets, a crisp, noisy apple, loopy handwriting, the smile of a child, and the voice of a friend. I like a bar of lavender soap, a husband who whistles in the morning, and the pleasure I get from looking upon deep jewel-toned colors.

I dislike clutter, not because I look down my nose at anyone who prefers it, but because clutter seems so complicated and it jumbles up my thinking. I can keep most of my home free from clutter, but have been woefully unable to keep my office clutter-free.

Here’s a photo taken a few months ago, and you can see the piles of paperwork here and there, waiting for proper homes:

Every time I walked into my office I would inwardly groan, which is a lot of inward groaning, because I work a lot in my office and need to be in that room several times a day. Frequently I would resolve that soon and very soon I would take a day and just do whatever it took to deal with the clutter.

But of course, other things always called my name. The laundry, the meals, the errands, the books, the meetings, the ringing telephone, and of course the beloved people in my life. So I answered those calls and ignored the office, which had stopped calling my name and instead started up with this ominous thrum that never quieted down.

Until a few days ago. Sara generously took the day and sat in the office with me, going through every single piece of paper and other miscellaneous items. We listened to Pandora on the computer while we worked, and when we were finished, my office looked like this, and still does:

I can’t even begin to tell you what a difference this has made. Why I procrastinated about all of this office clutter for so long could probably be a study in human behavior I wouldn’t want to know about. I just know that I feel like I’ve been given a new start, and I love walking into this room again.

I love simple things.

Like comfortable silence between old friends, the constant flutterings of chickadees at our feeders, a pair of thick warm socks, and a neat and uncluttered office.

What kinds of simple things do you love?

A Reality Check

December 11, 2010 | My Jottings

We’re getting pummeled with snow and wind, Sara and I have bad colds with fevers, and in a minute I’m going back upstairs with a cup of tea to rest. But first I wanted to share a recent drawing that my granddaughter Clara did of me.

She and Elijah were spending the night a couple of weeks ago, and while I was sitting on the bed folding clothes and they were quietly drawing, Clara said, “Grandma, do you want me to draw a picture of you?”

“Yes!” I enthused, “I would love that!”

“Sit really still, Grandma,” Clara instructed, and for about ten minutes I did, until she was finished.

Here is her drawing, and I hope it makes you smile as much as it did me.

I am so glad she drew me looking happy, and I actually think the ears are pretty good.

Today’s Nine Things

December 9, 2010 | My Jottings

1. It’s snowing today – three more inches is the prediction. The sky is low and gray and it’s a perfect afternoon for tree lights, Christmas music and paperwork a good book.

2. We put our tree in the corner this year instead of in the front window. It sits next to the newly installed fireplace mantel in our living room.

3.  I’m feeling my age. In fact, I think I’m feeling someone else’s age…someone who’s much older than I am. I’m pretty sure I have needles under my kneecaps. The elasticity has gone from my skin. I think a good night’s sleep is very exciting. And I’m thinking about prepaid funeral plans.

What also makes me feel my age is this:

The photo above was taken in December of 1982.

Now these three little sweethearts look like this:

**Sigh**

3.  My blog is currently being redesigned and it will look completely different within the next couple of weeks. Then, because I have a few difficulties with change, I will most likely never do it again.

4.  I am going to learn to knit. I think it’s about time since my oldest daughter dyes yarn for a living. If anyone in my area would like to take a class with me in January (once a week for four weeks, taught by Sharon), let me know. It will be at my home.

5.  Here’s what’s on our house stereo intercom today, while the snow falls outside and the tree lights twinkle inside:

6.  Here’s one of the best salad recipes you’ll ever try, called Panzanella. (Just be sure you plan on using more olive oil to cook the bread than she calls for, and I always double the dressing recipe too.) I make this a lot, and everyone asks for the recipe because it’s so eye-rollingly delectable.

7.  I’m trying to figure out if I need a travel agent to help with our trip to Scotland next September. Does anyone have any recommendations? Since there will be planes, trains and automobiles involved (and buses), I just don’t know.

8.  A gratitude journal can work miracles.

9.  Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid.”

I’m so thankful for this today.

What are your nine things?

Wednesday’s Word-Edition 50

December 8, 2010 | My Jottings

“I would take those who question faith’s value back a few years to St. Luke’s in Duluth, where I pulled duty once a month as a night chaplain. Late one night I shuttled between two aged men who lay dying, their families around them. In one room, tears of hope, joy, and peace. An old soldier of the Lord awaited his final promotion. The other room, unassuaged anguish and loud crying. If faith is only an illusion, I’ll still take it.”

Lloyd Mattson

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A Council of Cardinals

December 6, 2010 | My Jottings

Sara put up two of our three Christmas trees last night — one in the den and one in the living room, and we decorated both. I’ll take some pictures soon and share them here.

One of the ideas she had was to put some of my cardinal collection (all were gifts over the years) on top of some little chairs we have hanging above the bookcases in the den.

Way up by the ceiling, six wooden chairs are now occupied by a serious looking group of cardinals.

I wish I could have taken a better photo straight on, but the ceiling fan was in the way, and my camera is simple and I don’t have a wide angle lens.

Do you decorate for Christmas with anything unusual or meaningful?

Full of grace and truth

December 3, 2010 | My Jottings

Every year I vow to rebel against all the retail foolishness that happens this time of year, and I stay home as much as possible. I have a lot to do with our business and with loved ones, but I have never been a happy shopper, so staying out of the malls is no sacrifice for me. Some years I even achieve my goal of having all my (meager) shopping done, online, by November 30th, so I can enjoy the entire month of December. Quietly, peacefully, and pondering and soaking up what Christmas is about.

I’m putting my foot down again this year and I refuse to join the hordes. I’m staying home as much as I can, listening to sacred carols and paying attention to what the words mean for my soul, I’m going to do my tiny bit of shopping online, and I’m going to listen for that still small voice.

Several years ago a friend of mine was teaching a small group and I heard her say something that struck a deep chord in my heart and has stayed with me. She said that if our perception of Jesus Christ isn’t one that is full of grace and truth, then our perception of Him isn’t accurate.

I looked at the scripture that supports this, and am going to be meditating on this all month long.

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14.

This time of year we celebrate that God Himself took on human form and came to live for a time on this beautiful but sorrowful sod called Earth. Jesus didn’t just come to see what taking on human flesh was like. It wasn’t a nice neighborly visit. He came to accomplish many things, like setting captives free, binding up the broken hearted, proclaiming good news to the poor, and to show us what God is like.

"Heaven's Loss" by Ron DiCianni

And if Jesus is full of grace and truth, then that means God is too. God is also holy and perfect and stunning in His glory and majesty – none of us could stand in His presence without help. His ways are inscrutable and His timing isn’t often to our liking, but He is full of grace and truth!

So, this whole month I will be pondering on the fact that Jesus is full of grace and truth, and how that should inform my life. If He is full of grace and truth and dwells within me, should I not also be full of grace and truth?

What do you think of when you hear the name Jesus?

If you need grace in your life (as I do) and if you are searching for truth (as I am), I know Someone who is full of grace and truth. Has anyone judged or condemned you? Have you been betrayed and lied to? Jesus is full of grace and truth.

As you go about your Christmas season activities, I humbly ask you to consider joining me in thinking on and praying about these two attributes of Christ.

Grace and truth. Grace and truth.

What could these mean to you?

I welcome and am blessed by your comments! Have a wonderful weekend….

Starry-eyed Bride

December 1, 2010 | My Jottings

Thirty-five years ago this week I got married. I was barely eighteen years old. Aside from the minister, there were eight people at our small ceremony at the Wayside Chapel in Rough and Ready, California, in the Gold Country of the Sierra Nevadas. I made my dress for $35.00 and my veil for $10.00. I put a navy blue ribbon around the dress to complement the color of my husband’s Air Force dress blues. 

I don’t know for certain if back then I really thought we would make it, or if I just hoped we would and didn’t think about it much.

We made it three and a half years.

While we were living in Germany during a military assignment near Birkenfeld, my husband decided our marriage wasn’t what he wanted, and he left. It all happened rather suddenly. My daughter Sharon was 2 1/2 years old and Carolyn was 8 months old. I thought my life was over, but what helped me hang on were my two precious daughters. Their smiles and the way they reached for me every morning helped me put one foot in front of the other.

I flew home to California, lived with my mom for six months, and then got a good job and a place of my own. Gradually and eventually, healing came. I asked God to help me forgive, because I knew even at that young age that holding on to unforgiveness only enslaves the bitter one.

I look back now and clearly see the enormous red flags that were waving in front of my face as we were setting our wedding date. There were things I wasn’t paying attention to that I should have looked at very carefully. I was starry-eyed and thought I was in love. He was tall, handsome and a bit remote, and I did not know who I was back then. It was a recipe for disaster.

But I have learned that God can take the most disastrous things in our lives and bring good from them. He even repairs things that we ourselves have willfully broken. He has been so patient and generous with me. The life He has given to me stuns me most of the time.

In 1975 my young husband and I began our marriage thinking we really loved each other. Looking back from this vantage point I can see we didn’t know the first thing about love.

1 Corinthians chapter 13 holds high that lofty standard that helps me remember what true love is, and reminds me of how impossible true loving is without God:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

These are the attributes that should be in operation for a relationship to be happy and growing. How do I know this? Because I have been the opposite of all these ideals: impatient, unkind, prideful, dishonoring, self-seeking, angry, distrusting, hopeless and ready to give up. I’ve tried the other way. It doesn’t work. At all.

My life still isn’t notably characterized by the real flavor of love the Bible speaks of. But now I know what the real thing is, and I can more quickly recognize the taste of the cardboard counterfeit and spit it out of my mouth at first bite.

With the exception of the pain the end of my first marriage brought to my sweet daughters, I do not regret those years and experiences. They were excruciating, but they were also very instructive.

Thirty-five years ago I thought I was deeply in love. I was a starry-eyed bride. These days I am learning instead how to love deeply.

And there are still stars in my eyes….but now I keep searching to see if I can get a glimpse of the One just beyond them.

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