In His Hand
February 28, 2011 | My Jottings
“But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;
or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
or let the fish in the sea inform you.
Which of all these does not know
that the hand of the LORD has done this?
In his hand is the life of every creature
and the breath of all mankind.”
* * * * * * *
Each bird, each breath, a gift!
What if it’s true? What if the very breath we draw before we inwardly curse someone is a breath He has given us from His very hand? What if the breath we take before we tear someone down with our words is a breath that God Himself gave us as a gift of His mercy and love?
Lord, teach me to draw each breath with awe and thanks. Show me how to use that precious breath to build and encourage. I thank you for my very breath this morning.
And I thank you for the birds…
Room With A View
February 25, 2011 | My Jottings
I can tell the worst is over. This morning when I woke up right before 5:00 a.m., my throat was no longer flaming. It felt like the Throat Elves had ceased with the blow torches and switched over to just a little harmless sandpaper. I coughed and it didn’t feel like I was attempting to break cement loose in my lungs. My skin didn’t feel feverishly sore. The virus that put me in bed for three days is weakening and whimpering instead of galloping and raging. I’m so thankful to feel a little better!
I’m not a napper (although sometimes I wish I could be), and to have to stay in bed because of illness can be boring. We don’t have a television in our bedroom, on purpose. So for the hours I couldn’t sleep while I was sick (which were basically the hours from 5:30 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. every day), I did the same thing over and over. Read, knitted, listened to soft, soothing music, curled up in a fetal position and counted my blessings, and prayed. None of those were boring at all, it was just the in-between times that were a little ho-hummish.
For three days I looked at the same things in our bedroom. I had the same views. I thought I would share them with you. (Now that I’m feeling better I can tell how sick I really was by the fact that I felt certain that varying views of my bedroom would constitute a fascinating blog post.)
Here’s a view of the nightstand to my left, and all the needed accoutrements for a short illness:
Books to read (two recommended by my friend Jeannie in Australia), one a gift from my friend Ember in England, another book already read and moaned over, ready to absorb again. House telephone handset, because the old-fashioned black phone in our bedroom doesn’t ring. Remote control to the little CD player across the room. Cell phone. Eye drops for chronically dry eyes. Water bottle, probably teeming with replicating flu viruses. A cup of hot Lipton tea, just made in the bathroom with an electric water kettle. Hand lotion. Pens. A Q-tip. And wadded up, used Kleenex. What? You don’t have gross used Kleenex laying around?
Here is a view also to my left, out of the window to the street in front of our house. See the bare trees? The snow left on the ground after last week’s considerable thaw? It’s now below zero again as I type this. Minnesota enjoys playing cruel tricks like that on its trapped devoted residents.
Still looking to the left, but now to the floor, here’s another view of a sick person’s room:
I can explain. You can see stacks of more books to read. A trash can next to those, lined with a Super One Foods grocery bag. My multi-colored purse in front of that. And then, sticking out of a brown tote, some knitting I’m doing with purple yarn my daughter dyed. In front of that, you have a nice view of a gray wool sock, part of a pair my friend Su brought back from Ireland for me years ago. The book in front of that I finished yesterday: Notes From A Small Island by Bill Bryson, whose writing made me laugh every couple of pages and burst into paroxysms of violent coughing that almost turned my fingernails blue from the gasping. The leather book in front of that is my gratitude journal. Thank you Ann Voskamp, that I could truly find things to exult over while I was laying there with walrus-tusks of twisted Kleenex stuffed up my nose. Then, lastly, you have a view of my Sorel house slippers that I wear in the winter, to uh, slip around the house in. You may notice the pink towels pressed against the wall under the heater? When you live in a house that is 85 years old in a place that is bitterly cold in the winter, you quickly learn which parts of the house (which was built long before the terms “r-factor” and “energy crisis” were even thought of) are vulnerable to seeping cold. This is a spot in the room where the icy claws of cold creep into the room and grab you by the ankles when it’s 20 below outside. Unless of course you take some ugly pink towels and place them carefully over the uninsulated spot. Then the claws of cold can’t gain entry into your bedroom quite as easily.
On to a new view. We are still looking to my left (from the bed, remember), but now we’ve moved on in the room a bit, to the fireplace. The fireplace that has never seen a fire since we moved into this house three years ago. Because the fireplace sucks all the warm air out of the room during intensely cold weather. The fireplace that looks nice, but has had its outside chimney capped, to prevent the warm air from escaping. Those of you from extremely cold climates will know what I’m talking about. Those of you from more temperate climes who love a crackling fire on a coolish night will wonder what the heck I’m talking about. Oh well, we need to move on.
Let’s pan our view slightly to the right a little more. Next you’ll see what I see as I’m looking out over my feet bumps under the comforter at the end of our bed. You see a magazine rack on the left, full of more reading and study materials. There’s a big, comfortable overstuffed chair with an ottoman, and it has a dark green towel on it. This is where our oldest Schnauzer, Edith, sleeps at night. The dogs are relatively clean, but I have a thing about a teeny bit of dog dirt added to a teeny bit of dog dirt multiplied by a TEENY bit of dog dirt over an extended period of time, eventually equaling an enormous amount of dog dirt on furniture in the end. So the dogs can come up on the bed and the chairs, they just have to lay on a towel or something.
You might be able to see between the two chairs a small antique table and a French lamp that my friend Lana gave to me. On the floor is a CD player with a CD in it that I’ve been playing over and over again since the beginning of time. It has delightful, background birdsong on it, and some Celtic-sounding music that’s soothing and hypnotic.
Now look to the right a little further and zoom in a bit. Normally things are a little neater in our bedroom, but no one cares about things like that when illness strikes. On this chair you can see a red throw that is so heavy it’s startling when you lift it — when I cover our grandchildren with it they say, “That raspberry blanket is really warm Grandma!” And you can see my beautiful prayer shawl that Sharon made for me as a Christmas gift. And my CBS notebook (we’re studying the book of Acts this year), and another book I’m exploring.
I include the next photo to draw your attention to the small radiator, over in the corner by one of the closets. On top of this radiator sits a tray of tea things. There are various tea bags, a few sugar cubes in a small Tupperware container with a dark red lid (to match the red accents in the room), there are normally two cups, a tea bag squeezer, and an electric tea kettle. The tea kettle isn’t on the tray in this particular picture, because it’s plugged in and heating water in the bathroom for another cup of tea.
What’s that you say? You don’t think an electric appliance should sit on the side of the bathtub in one’s bathroom? Yes, I agree. This tea kettle is never in the bathroom when there’s water in the tub. It will be moved back to its red tray on top of the radiator as soon as it’s done boiling water for my tea. And the teabag squeezer doesn’t usually share space with the peperomia plant in the bathroom either. This all happens for just a few minutes now and then when a cup of tea is called for, because an easily accessible outlet is right there.
Before we return to the bedroom for more exhilarating views, let’s take a peek out the bathroom window at the back of the house to see if there are any visiting deer. We’re in luck — there are! If you click to enlarge the photo below, you will see some of these graceful animals across the creek in our patch of woods. Find the hanging bird feeder in the photo and look right above that to see them. I believe you can even click one more time for more magnified views.
Well, now that we’re getting weak and shaky and need to get back to bed and blow our nose, let’s leave the deer behind and continue our tour.
When I couldn’t sleep and was too tired to read or knit, I contemplated this huge dresser and thought of my Grandpa Bud and Grandma Oma McInteer. They owned this mahogany Drexel bedroom set and I used to look at it when I was a young girl and was told not to touch or I would leave fingerprints. My mother owned it after my grandparents died, and when my mom died eighteen years ago this week, I inherited it. It’s not so shiny new-looking anymore, but it brings memories I’m thankful for.
Michael brought up the mail one afternoon and wonderful things were delivered. A beautiful photo of a dear granddaughter who lives in Red Wing, MN, bills, that if paid, will keep us in warmth and water for another month, and a new book from my friend Ember, with a nice note. Notice the ubiquitous used Kleenex…a view of real life when the flu is running rampant in your body. You can also see my Kindle, where I read this book in two days, alternately exclaiming, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” and “This is incredible!” and “No no no no no!” and “Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!” and “This just cannot be happening!” and “Praise the Lord!” because the book should be read by every human on the planet and is something I hope to never, ever forget.
Here are a couple of photos of what I was able to ponder while laying flat on my back: the too-large light fixture over our bed…
…and the dessicated remains of a mosquito on the ceiling that I swatted last summer and forgot to swipe away.
My photography skills are impressive, no?
Well, I think it’s time we bring our tour to a close. This room has afforded us many views. Perhaps this post should have been called Room With A Few Views instead of Room With A View. I thought the latter sounded a little more succinct.
Here’s the last view in the room — one that I couldn’t see (thank you God) but one that Michael saw when he came upstairs to check on me, or to lay down beside me to keep me company, risking contagion and virus replication in his mucus membranes.
I think I’ll head back upstairs to rest a while now. I’ll throw away the Kleenex, turn on my birdsong CD, and later I believe I might actually get dressed in real clothes for the first time in a long while.
This now concludes our tour. Please use the handrails and watch your step on the way out.
Have a blessed, virus-free weekend!
Man of the Tombs
February 24, 2011 | My Jottings
Bob Bennett is one of my favorite Christian artists of all time. Even though his music may have been most popular in the 1990s, I still play his CDs today. These are the ones I keep going back to:
I found a simple youtube video of a compelling song of Bob’s, called “Man of the Tombs.” It still give me chills even though I’ve heard it a hundred times or more.
I have the flu today so am headed back to bed, but I thought I’d share this song. It might not be much to watch because it’s so simple, but the words can penetrate all the way to the bone.
They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.
Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
“Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him. And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.
A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission. When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.
When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left.
The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.
* * * * * * * *
Wednesday’s Word-Edition 56
February 23, 2011 | My Jottings
“The best thing is neither to seek nor avoid troubles but to follow Christ and take the bitter with the sweet as it may come. Whether we are happy or unhappy at any given time is not important. That we be in the will of God is all that matters. We may safely leave with him the incident of heartache or happiness. He will know how much we need of either or both.”
* * * * * * *
What Brings You Here?
February 21, 2011 | My Jottings
Sometimes I wonder what brings people here.
There’s a feature on most blogs that allows a blogger to see which google searches people have conducted in order to arrive at their site. It doesn’t give away personal information. Once in a while when I should be doing paperwork, I remember to check to see what brings people to Just Julie, and am reminded that most of the folks who stumble upon my blog do so accidentally, and probably don’t find what they were googling for.
Below is a list of exact words and phrases folks have used in google searches within the past six months, that brought them to this blog, and my answers:
Things that are almost thirty — my marriage, my youngest daughter, a couple of items in my closet, the box of cornmeal in my baking drawer.
List of alliteration to describe yourself — Christian, curious, controlling, capable, chocolate-lover
Jerry West — this is the third most common search term that brings people to this blog. He played for the Los Angeles Lakers and wore the number 44 on his jersey.
Get her out car stuck mud — it’s so interesting that he came inside for a google rather than a shovel 🙂
Don’t pull a Julie — I wholeheartedly agree with this advice. Whatever you do, don’t pull a Julie.
Julie failed out of university July 2010 — I am very sorry to hear this. Could she try again and apply herself a little more?
“Oh Lord, take me to heaven” — Someone has bugged our house!
What happened to Cappuccino Coolers? — I have them, all of them, in my refrigerator.
Pooch and sweetheart scripture — I would also like to know of any scriptures for pooches and sweeties.
Do muskrats live in garage — Not to my knowledge, but they do get caught in our fence.
Schnauzers in stealth mode — Every day. Day in and day out, day in and day out.
Women longer femurs — Yes, all the women in our family seem to be members of the LFW club.
Cookie sheet pallet at Fedex — For once, I’m at a loss for words.
How is mac n cheese made before you put it into a box — I would recommend putting leftover macaroni and cheese in a Tupperware container, not in a box. Whatever works for you, though.
Can heating pipes make a skittering noise — It depends on your plumber, but I actually think mousetraps might be in order.
Amy Grant sideburns — People have a lot of extra time on their hands these days, don’t they?
Scriptures to help people be encouraged during dog days — I need these scriptures.
Spiders native to Smartville, CA — Arachnismarticusvillicus — I’m glad I don’t live there anymore.
Flamenco outfit nudibranch — Nudibranchs are the second most common search term that bring people to this blog!
Big gums small teeth help — Oh dear. I’m terribly sorry.
Penelope Wilcock bread recipe — I asked Pen for her recipe and she said a handful of this and a handful of that. Does that help?
Swamp living — Never recommended for any reason whatsoever.
How to fall back asleep — The number one search result for this blog — there are a lot of people having trouble sleeping these days. Check out my remedy.
Out of this furnace Julie — Yes, I’m trying, I really am.
$$ Just Julie $$ — Were they looking for financial advice or what? Here’s the best I can do: pay your bills, live within your means, be generous, stay out of debt.
Don’t leave your window down, zucchini will be found in your car — I had no idea — I will take this advice from this day forward.
I have muskrats in my basement — This would freak me out. Those long, shiny, thick tails, the yellow teeth, the lightning-quick movements. (Jessica, just a heads up – don’t read this.)
So, dear reader, I have a question. What brings you to this blog?
February 18, 2011 | My Jottings
I want to tell you about a new blog you should check out. In fact, I think you might want to put this blog in your bookmarks, because you’ll probably want to visit there often.
Carey is still in the process of tweaking her blog and making it just right, so we might see some changes over the next few weeks. For those who aren’t well acquainted with her, I’ll tell you a few things I love about Carey. She is fun to be with — whether we’re together or just chatting on the phone, we almost always share a laugh or a deep moment of understanding between the two of us. She is an amazing cook and baker — you can see one example of that in the photo below — there’s a creation she made for my birthday a while back. She has her own Etsy shop and makes the most beautiful, reasonably priced sea glass jewelry you’ll ever see. She’s a prolific reader — she and I were in The Long Winter Book Club for over ten years and to this day we read books together and talk about them. We’re in Community Bible Study together. So much of what we share is rooted in our faith in Christ and the change and hope He’s brought to us. We pray for each other and for our families. We have also gone away for quiet, girlfriend/reading trips together, and dream about the day we might even visit Guernsey. You’ve heard the proverb about, “a friend that sticketh closer than a brother?” Well, Carey has been a friend that picketh closely on my head; a true friend indeed. 🙂
We have been friends for twenty-seven years, and have walked through a lot together. We have each others’ backs. She is a cherished gift to me, and I believe her blog will be a blessing to all who read it. Carey is a wife and mother, a deep thinker, a willing servant, a fantastic writer, a kind and humble spirit, and has begun a journey of gratitude that will bless and inspire us all.
As you visit This Life of Wander, you’ll see the reasons unfold for why she has started this venture — I’ll let her tell it herself. No pressure or anything Carey… 🙂
Wandering and wondering too,
February 17, 2011 | My Jottings
Today is Clara Pearl’s ninth birthday.
We were talking last night about how vividly we remember our first awe-filled glimpse of her. She was wrapped up in a hospital blanket, hair still damp, and she was quietly peering at me, trying to focus, as I held her in my first-time grandma arms.
This sweet photo was taken by her Auntie Sharon several weeks ago. Clara likes to read, draw, swim, build snow dinosaurs, and direct people. She loves her three younger siblings and takes delight in their cuteness and accomplishments.
Nine years have flown by. In another nine she’ll be eighteen; I can’t bear that.
Grandchildren make you rich. My life of lavish wealth began nine years ago today.
February 16, 2011 | My Jottings
February 14, 2011 | My Jottings
Since my daughter Sharon has been knitting professionally for years and now owns a hand-dyed yarn business, I thought I’d better learn to knit. My mom was a knitter and I have always enjoyed creating things with my hands, but I didn’t set my mind to knitting until this year.
I sent out an invitation to a handful of friends and asked if they’d like to join me for a four-week class in my home. Sharon would be our patient teacher and no one would feel like a fool if they couldn’t catch on right away. We had eight people signed up in no time, and have had two classes.
We are all working with a bulkier yarn and circular needles size 13, and we’re making a cowl to keep our necks warm in winter. My yarn was actually dyed by Sharon and she gave it to me for Christmas. It’s called “North Shore.” 🙂
So here’s a photo of my almost complete first project — a cowl full of mistakes and holes. A holey cowl. After a few mistakes, I ripped it out and started again, ripped it out and started again, ripped it out and started again, ripped it out and started again, ripped it out and started again until the yarn started getting fuzzy, and then I decided that I’d keep going whether I made mistakes or not. Someday the imperfect cowl would be a reminder of the humble beginnings of my illustrious knitting career. Ha.
The colorway reminds me of some of the lyrics to “Sweet Baby James”….. “deep greens and blues are the colors I choose…”
And here are a couple of the dime-sized holes in my cowl:
So, I have really enjoyed knitting so far. I decided that I wanted to try some smaller needles, and a less bulky yarn this time. I could get free yarn from Sharon, but I decided to wander nonchalantly into our local yarn store (which carries Three Irish Girls yarn) and buy some from them. I found the display where TIG yarn was set up, and I ooohed and aaahed as I looked at all the skeins so the owner might possibly see how smart she was to carry Sharon’s yarn. Then I bought some silky yarn, along with size 8 straight needles. And a row counter.
I’m making a very plain scarf for a friend of mine who doesn’t read this blog, so I think I can put a photo up. Her favorite color is purple, and she has warm skin tones and brunette hair, so I thought the colorway “Eilis” would be perfect for her scarf. Here’s what it looks like about one-third complete:
It has some mistakes I didn’t know how to fix but nothing dime-sized yet.
So in the last couple of days we watched a movie at home. Guess what I was doing while we were watching? Knitting.
Today I had to take our car in to have the remote entry keys reset. Guess what I was doing while sitting in the customer waiting room? Knitting.
We are planning a trip to Scotland and England in the fall, Godwilling. Guess what I plan to be doing to help pass the time during an eight hour flight? Knitting!
I hope I can learn to do something other than cast on, knit, purl and cast off someday soon. I have read and heard that the brain waves of a person who’s knitting are almost identical to the brain waves of a person who’s meditating. Many avid knitters say they find it very therapeutic. That sounds good to me.
I need help with my brain waves these days, and I’m hoping some knitting will do the trick.
When A Heart Breaks
February 10, 2011 | My Jottings
I was fourteen years old when my mother took to her bed. Back then it was called a nervous breakdown. Today I would call it a broken heart.
She stayed there for nine months.
I had heard occasional rumblings in my parents’ marriage, but I thought they were only small tremors of little consequence. At that young age I had no idea that those minor temblors were announcing the massive quake that was to come, the one that jolted us off our feet as the tectonic plates of our family shifted so powerfully it seemed the earth opened up and swallowed some of us whole.
After 31 years of marriage, my father had told my mother he wanted a divorce.
I remember the summer morning I woke up and went to the kitchen to pour some Cheerios and milk in a bowl. Dad was sitting at the table, the hanging lamp glowing yellow on the pages of the San Gabriel Valley Tribune he pored over each morning as he had a piece of peanut butter toast and a cup of coffee. Mom was sitting in her nightgown on the couch, her coffee in front of her on the marble coffee table. I noticed a small piece of paper next to her coffee cup with her handwriting on it; at the top on the left side she had written “Doc,” and at the top right she had written “Virginia.” Several words were listed under each name, words like house and Buick and retirement account. Looking back I’m amazed that I didn’t stop right there and demand, “What’s going on?” but the written words must have not fully registered right then because the scene seemed okay. My mom and dad were in their morning places, quietly sipping coffee, and nothing seemed very different.
But everything was different. And everything was about to come apart.
My parents later broke the news to me that they were going to get a divorce, that they still cared about each other blahblahblah, deeply loved all three of us kids blahblah (who were 29, 24 and 14 at the time — I was the only one at home), and very little would change blahblahblahblah except that Dad would be moving out into his own apartment. My father said that he had stopped loving my mom years ago, that their lives had grown apart, and that he had stayed with her because of me. He had wanted to wait until he felt I was old enough, mature enough, to emotionally handle the difficult news. I guess he thought fourteen was the magic number. That sunshiny Southern California morning, Mom was sad, Dad was quiet, and I went outside to see if my next door neighbor and boyfriend Rick was around so I could talk to him about what I had just been told. Later in the day I called my best friend Denel to break the news to her.
After Dad moved out my mom started crumbling a bit. She poured out her sadness to me and it was a heavy load for a fourteen year old girl to bear, but I tried to carry it. She cried and told me if only, if only, if only…..if only she had not allowed herself to gain weight, if only she had taken more of an interest in going to the basketball games my dad coached, if only she had been smarter and a better conversationalist, if only.
My mom also had lower back trouble, and not surprisingly, her back went out at this time. I remember a chiropractor actually coming to the house a few times to give her adjustments there. Mom probably didn’t want me to think she was in bed for so long because she was so heartbroken, so most of the time she just said to people who would call, “I’ve thrown my back out.” Which was true, but now I know it wasn’t the only thing. Throwing one’s back out is a much more acceptable reason to stay in bed for nine months than having an emotional collapse.
Mom was a professional organist in the old days of the smoky supper clubs. She was a gifted musician who could hear a song once and move to her behemoth Hammond B-3 and play it effortlessly in any key, with no sheet music to refer to. I do not exaggerate. She worked at night playing music at an organ bar at a nice restaurant, and she was so personable, so loved by people and so talented, the bar seats were always filled and other restaurant owners were always trying to lure her away to their establishments.
I remember watching her long, elegant fingers dance fluidly and gracefully over the two keyboards of our Hammond at home, and I was so proud of her. I loved how she played “Seventy-six Trombones” from The Music Man. When I was really little we would sit together on the bench and I would play chopsticks while she accompanied me with advanced chording and rapid lilting riffs that made me sound like I was a spectacular organist at the age of seven. At that age I thought I was. 🙂
When my parents split up and my mother took to her bed, she didn’t go to work for those nine months. The big Hammond at the restaurant sat silent, and so did the one in our home. Her boss and friend, Helen Hasabales, had compassion on my mother’s situation and paid her anyway. Every two weeks her paycheck would arrive and for those months Helen made sure that financial difficulties weren’t going to be added to the pile of grief already weighing my mom down.
Friends came to visit and the phone rang off the hook with well-wishers and people wanting to express their love to my mom. She was a woman with a hundred friends. I have no doubt that this stream of support and caring kept her above water emotionally. I came home from school and sat with her and sometimes she would weep out her heartbreak and regrets to me. Other times I felt relieved that she had friends who reached out to her so I wouldn’t have to do so much. People brought food, friends came and sat with mom and knitted while they chatted, and I had time to do what fourteen year-olds do (and time to do what fourteen year-olds have no business doing). I had my own heartbreak to deal with.
I’ve heard of people who get divorces and they handle it so well, so maturely and matter-of-factly, that hardly anything seems to skip a beat in their families, supposedly. Moms and Dads go into overdrive to make sure all the kids know that they are loved, that they aren’t the cause of Mommy and Daddy’s divorce, that sometimes these things happen and mommies and daddies don’t love each other in the same way anymore but we’ll always be a family and we’ll still do fun stuff together and all of that garbage. Pardon my French here. I didn’t buy it when I was fourteen years old and I don’t buy it now that I’m fifty-three.
I desperately wanted my parents to stay together. I wanted my dad to love my mom again. I wanted my mom to stop being so emotionally weak and devastated. I begged God and cried out to the heavens for my parents to do whatever it took to stay together and heal. I realize that I don’t know all the ins and outs of my parents’ relationship even now, and I’m very aware that there were bad dynamics on both sides that contributed to a union that got weaker and more toxic as the years went by. It wasn’t just Dad. And it wasn’t just Mom. It was the careless, selfish, most likely tiny choices they made day after day for thirty-one years. Choices that didn’t strengthen and build and bless. Choices that may have been so subtle no one could have noticed until things were so fractured, that the road back wasn’t even visible anymore because of the rubble and ruins.
Lest you think I’m speaking from my lofty high horse, I inform those who don’t already know that I myself have been divorced. While the circumstances of my divorce weren’t the same as my parents’ situation, heartache still came in and put down deep roots. My little girls were two and a half years old and nine months old when their father decided he didn’t love me anymore and wanted to leave and take up with someone else. It couldn’t have been all my first husband’s fault — I have to own my part in the unhappiness that helped him open that door and walk out while I stood there crying pathetically. Thirty-two years later, much healing has taken place, but open wounds always leave scars, and we all have them.
My mom got out of her bed after nine months and went back to work. She laughed again. She grew a little stronger, but not as much as I think she would have liked. Years later she developed macular degeneration of the retina and had to retire early from playing the organ professionally. She was an amazing, generous and loving grandmother. But the rest of her life was a bit shrunken, a bit withered, after the divorce. I know that people can heal after divorce, but I never thought her healing was really complete. Fear and loneliness and melancholy marked much of her life. She had multiple health issues and eventually had a hard time even walking.
Here’s a picture of my mom when she was eighteen years old, right before she and my dad got married in 1940.
I love the jaunty cap and her beautiful lips and the serenity I see in this photo.
And here’s one I found recently of Mom, behind the organ at the supper club where she worked. This was taken around 1970 when she was 48 years old, right before the divorce.
I think of her a lot these days, especially when I’m with my grandchildren, or when the accomplishments of my daughters bring joy I wish I could share with Mom. Of course I wish life had turned out differently for her, but I don’t dwell on it too much anymore.
Even though my mom’s faith didn’t shape her daily living as much as it does some, she believed in Jesus. In her last years when she couldn’t see well and had to use a thick permanent marker to write huge words on typing paper for grocery lists, she let me read to her quite a bit. And when I read to her about the love and forgiveness of God, she cried. The tears would stream down her face and I could see her reaching out and grabbing that lifeline. Then peace would be present for days after.
When she died, her last words were, “Help me Jesus!”
And He did. Jesus helped her slip out of that body that had become a prison, away from those modes of thinking that had worn grooves so deep she couldn’t climb out for very long, out of that loneliness and fear into the best company and contentment and joy and confidence and love she’s ever known.
The desert and the parched land will be glad;
the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom;
it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the LORD,
the splendor of our God.
Strengthen the feeble hands,
steady the knees that give way;
say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
he will come to save you.”
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Then will the lame leap like a deer,
and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
and streams in the desert.
The burning sand will become a pool,
the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
In the haunts where jackals once lay,
grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.
And a highway will be there;
it will be called the Way of Holiness;
it will be for those who walk on that Way.
The unclean will not journey on it;
wicked fools will not go about on it.
No lion will be there,
nor any ravenous beast;
they will not be found there.
But only the redeemed will walk there,
and those the LORD has rescued will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
Isaiah, Chapter 35.
Can’t wait to see you again Mom. I know you’re finally smiling and dancing around free. No longer heartbroken.
I have so much to say to you. Fancy that.
Your yearning daughter,