The day I was Peggy Lipton for 10 seconds

March 30, 2011 | My Jottings

In late 1979 I was 22 years old, living in Germany, and my daughters were two years old and eight months old. As I’ve shared about before, things in our life changed rather suddenly that year, and we found ourselves flying home from Europe to California, sans a husband and daddy. We lived with my mom for six months before I climbed to my emotional feet, and got a good job and a place of our own.

Since my husband was in the Air Force, I was still legally entitled to military benefits until he secured the divorce he wanted, so when we returned stateside, I had to get a new Air Force ID card. My ID card allowed me to shop in any military commissary and Base Exchange, and it showed that we were eligible for military medical benefits as well.

When I walked into the licensing building at March AFB, I took a number and waited to be called to sign my name and have my picture taken. When I stepped forward, the airman who took and perused my paperwork greeted me without looking up. “Here for a new stateside ID card? Okay, step to the gray line, look right here at the camera…”

Then he looked up and did a double-take. I had no idea why he was peering at me so intently for a few seconds, and checking the paperwork I’d handed over. Then the young man said, “Wow, for a minute there I thought you were Peggy Lipton.”

Peggy Lipton of “The Mod Squad.” For younger readers you may not know who Peggy Lipton is, but when I was an eighth grader at Traweek Junior High School and a Freshman at Covina High, “The Mod Squad” TV show was all the rage. Almost every teen girl I knew had a crush on Michael Cole. As a matter of fact, the two girls I walked to school with each morning were so enamored with him, they insisted on carrying on a make-believe production every morning about how they were dating Michael Cole. They wanted me to play along as we walked and carried our books, and say things like “Oh, yes, Mike came over last night and we went to get an ice cream cone. He is crazy about me. We had so much fun.” Guess what? I refused. I was 14 years old and I was slightly grossed out by their play-acting and just wouldn’t do it. I tried not to make them feel bad since they were having such a good time — I think I told my friends I would just listen as they discussed their fun activities with Michael Cole the day before.

Anyway, almost a decade later (by then “The Mod Squad” had faded into television history) I was momentarily mistaken for Peggy Lipton, which I thought was perplexing and a little funny.

Fast forward 32 years. We are currently getting ready to list our house for sale, and I’ve been going through things. In an old box of photos I found the Air Force ID I’m talking about:

Peggy Lipton:

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And I also found a picture of The Mod Squad, but not in my old box of photos. :)

Other than perhaps the hairstyle, I didn’t see the resemblance the young airman commented on. But on that day in 1979 with the future uncertain, I took it as a sort of compliment. Because he could have said I looked like Ethel Merman. Or Ruth Buzzi.

Of course I no longer have a military ID. In recent years when I’ve gotten my driver’s license renewed, no one has mistaken me for Peggy Lipton. Not one person.

What’s up with that?  :)

Who have you been told you resemble?

Soon and very soon…

March 29, 2011 | My Jottings

It was nine degrees when I woke up yesterday morning.

But by the time I put dinner on the table at 6:00 p.m., it was thirty-seven degrees and the snow had gone down a little bit more. Today’s forecast calls for temperatures just above freezing, so we might see drips from the roof and wet streets — always a heartening sight in the Great North Woods.

I keep telling myself that soon and very soon, real spring will be here. Soon and very soon, this might be the view outside my office window once again. (Click to enlarge and see who loves spring as well…)

Green and lushness are coming. Leaves and shade are coming. Open windows and soft breezes are coming. Sandals and short sleeves are coming. Blooms and color are coming. Hammocks and 5:00 a.m. bird twitter are coming. Soon….

“It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want — oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!”

Mark Twain

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What does the coming of spring mean to you?

So what am I supposed to do?

March 25, 2011 | My Jottings

Fear and grief paralyze. Have you ever experienced that? Have you ever been so struck by heartrending news that you wonder how you’ll live the rest of the day? How you’ll manage to do all that’s required of you? I have had that happen to me, more than once unfortunately. I know I’m not alone.

And for a day or two I am gripped by fear and feel paralyzed. I cry and sit and pray short pleading prayers. Help! Do something! Please rescue! Protect my family Lord! Please. Please. Lord Jesus. Please. Some folks reading this might think that’s rather pathetic…that’s okay. I just want to cry out to the One I know can help me.

But since I never mercifully die in my sleep or accidentally plunge off a cliff into the frigid waters of Lake Superior, I’m left with this dilemma when I’m feeling afraid and paralyzed: what am I supposed to do now? When the axis of my existence tilts and all life as I know it shifts, what am I supposed to do? It feels like things should just come to a halt. The brakes should screech and the deadly sound of a vehicle being demolished should follow, and nothing should continue on as before. Meals should not have to be cooked when the heart is bleeding. Paperwork should not have to be done when the soul is limping and dragging itself along. Small talk should not be expected when tectonic plates shift and I see rubble all around.

But that’s not the way things go, and I ask again, “So what am I supposed to do?”

For today, this is what I’ve arrived at.

When I feel like throwing in the towel, I will instead fold the towel; I’ll do the laundry, give thanks for electricity and clean water, a washer and dryer, and working hands and arms, and I will fold the towels. And the underwear. And the jeans and the socks.

When I feel like slitting my wrists, I will instead feel the pulse on my wrists. I will remind myself that my heart is beating because God wills it so, and He therefore must have some kind of plan for my day. I will give thanks for my beating heart (that I feel through my wrists that I have not yet slit) and His mysterious plan. :)

When I feel like ushering all people out of my life because I vont to be alone, I will invite someone for dinner. I will text a friend. I will respond to emails. I will give thanks because the Lord has filled my life with loving people.

When I can’t for the life of me figure out what God is doing, I will trust His ways, His power and love for my family. “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

When my default reaction is to be afraid, I will try to remember that God says this: “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

I will knit a scarf for a friend in California. I will drive our gals to their appointments. I will clean the kitchen. I will fold the laundry. I will pour love into my wonderful grandchildren. I will watch the bears at www.bear.org and thrill at a few creatures on this earth that are getting it right. I will make sure those I care for have the best I can give. I will make homemade pizza with whole wheat crust, and panzanella with fresh basil. I will search for His words meant just for me in His Word. I will give hugs. I will praise Him in the dark. I will keep writing of His gifts in my gratitude journal. I will ask forgiveness when I fail. I will not throw a cup on the floor and break it. I will watch the deer in the forest. I will resist being paralyzed by fear and grief. I will try to be of good cheer.

And I will pray.

And I will pray.

And I will pray.

If You Want Me To

March 24, 2011 | My Jottings

written by Ginny Owens and Kyle Matthews

Wednesday’s Word-Edition 58

March 23, 2011 | My Jottings

“Whatever you give unreservedly to God, He will take.  Whatever God takes, He will cleanse.  What He cleanses, He fills and what He fills, He will always use.

God will always take what we give Him-when we give to Him without strings attached.  If you offer to Him a special friend, He will set about the business of purifying that relationship and filling it with His power and purpose.  If you offer God your thought life, He will take that as well, helping you to cleanse your mind and fill it with thoughts that are noble and praiseworthy.

Who wouldn’t want to be the vessel God reaches for when He has a job to do?  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to so win His favor that He delights in choosing you for special purposes?  It’s the desire of every Christian to be handpicked by God for a unique task He has in mind.  So if you desire to be used in the Lord’s service, take heart.  He wants to use you.

When you offer yourself to God, as one who has been brought from death to life, He knows you mean business.  He is then free to cleanse you and fill you with His power.  And remember, the person He fills is the person He uses.

Lord, I want to be someone that You delight in using for Your glory.  When You desire to accomplish a certain task, I want You to think of me.  That’s why I offer myself unreservedly to You.  Please take me and cleanse me.  Fill me and use me.  That’s all I ask.

‘Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.’ ”

Romans 6:13

Joni Eareckson Tada

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Twelve Random Things

March 22, 2011 | My Jottings

1.  For the last several days Spring has really made her presence known, with snow dripping off the roofs, patches of brown grass showing in the yard, temperatures in the balmy 40s, and more daylight. And in some places nearby, crocuses bravely pushing through.

2.  We saw Rango recently and thought it was very long, brilliantly animated, and extremely scary.

3.  Four year-old Lil’ Gleegirl (also known as The Mooster) spent the night at Grandpa and Grandma’s last night and was very brave when getting her hair washed, rinsed and combed out. 

4.  Last night we had our final beginning knitting class. Sharon helped me finish a scarf, helped Ginny and Su finish their cowls, Gail began a scarf for her daughter, Lana began a blanket for her first grandson, and Mackenzie and Sara made progress on their cowls.

5.  I, who can never have too many books within my reach, have not read a book since the beginning of Lent. It’s not as hard as I thought, but I’m still very aware of how quickly things other than prayer rush in to fill the void.

6.  Tonight I have SAGs. Being with Pat, Gail and Lorna is always a shot in the arm, a dose of hope, a haven of compassion, a circle of understanding and encouragement…a true gift from God.


7.  I have SAGs tonight unless the predicted blizzard hits early and it won’t be safe to drive. Then we’ll have to set another date for our SAGs meeting. The forecast is for 50 mph winds and very heavy snow, possibly like a record-breaking blizzard we had a couple of years ago, where the houses looked like this.

8.  We bought a new CD to play when the grands visit, and Michael and I like it as much as they do. Check it out here, and take a few seconds to listen to some of the samples. The kids love Brent Holmes’s singing and they giggle at the clever animal songs. Listen to samples 2, 4 and 5 if you want to hear Bernie the bear actually singing. It’s exactly how I imagined bears would sound like when they sing. :)

9.  Carolyn warmed my heart and made me grin when she told me about their four kids putting on a circus for them the other day. Clara did magic tricks, Elijah was a clown, Vivie twirled a ring on her arm while humming a circus-like tune, and I can’t remember what Audrey did. Just was herself, I suppose.

10. Sara came into our room right after we went to bed last night and gave me a 10-minute hand massage. A little bit of heaven.

11.  I found a new recipe today that I know I will make – it sounds fabulous.

12.  I am going to write a blog post soon called “What to do when you keep waking up sad.”  There really are some helpful things to try…I’m getting pretty good at them and thought I’d share.

What are your twelve random things today? Or four random things? Or one random thing?

Long ago and far away…

March 18, 2011 | My Jottings

Long ago and far away there was a young mother with two little girls.

The mother was 22 years old and the little girls were 2 1/2 years and 11 months. They were celebrating their first Christmas as a family without the daddy present. It was an uncertain, heartbreaking time in their lives.

The older little girl would wake up every morning and ask her mother, “Where’s Daddy?”  The younger little girl didn’t know how to say “Where’s Daddy?” yet, but she spent a lot of time needing to be held and reassured.

A job had to be found. Childcare decided upon. A safe home needed to be located and rented.

And hearts needed to heal.

I don’t always like how long it takes for hearts to heal. I know they do heal, but the pain of heartbreak is like no other pain, and it takes a special Healer to do the job right. And that Healer’s name is not Time, just in case you were wondering (see Isaiah 61:1-3).

I learned this song…

Smile though your heart is aching
Smile even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through for you

Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear may be ever so near
That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what’s the use of crying?
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile

(written by Turner/Parsons/Chaplin)

And I did smile. When I smiled, my two little daughters smiled back at me. With them, I saw the sun come shining through. They were the lights of my life.

And one foot in front of the other eventually became a mile, then a year passed, then a new morning dawned that didn’t begin with a heavy despair in the young mother’s heart.

I’m not saying that smiling heals a broken heart. It doesn’t. But it helps a little, tiny bit.

I found this photo today of the three of us smiling…and I smiled.

St. Patrick’s Day Druthers

March 17, 2011 | My Jottings

Today is St. Patrick’s Day, and I’m thinking about Ireland.

If I had my St. Patrick’s Day druthers….

…Michael and I would take a moseying walk over these hills…

…until we reached the edge of the sea, where we could spread out a simple picnic lunch in the cheerful yellow flowers right here…

…and when we woke from our post picnic nap we would return to our
cozy little cottage in the glen…

…where Michael would be so happy to see a nice loaf of soda bread
come out of the oven to cool…

…and some savory Irish stew bubbling away on the stove…

…and I would put my feet up by the fire and continue to read this…

…and we would probably not end our evening with this because we are so
impossibly stodgy and fuddy-duddish…

…but would instead get our laughs and fun from something like this…

…but that’s only if we had our St. Patrick’s Day druthers…

You can never have too many cardinals

March 14, 2011 | My Jottings

It appears as though my grandchildren associate cardinals with me, or (eek) me with cardinals. What word comes to mind when you think of one of your grandparents?

Here’s what comes to mind when I think of my own grandparents.

Sadly, my father’s father died before I was born, but when I think of him the word preacher comes to mind. Grandpa Neddy followed in his own father’s footsteps and was a poor pastor/preacher in a couple of Missouri hamlets back in the 1920s and 30s. One of the places was called Sudheimer.

When I think of my father’s mother, the word letters comes to mind. Grandma Julia lived her whole life in Missouri and I only saw her three times, but she wrote to me in Southern California about twice a year. Each time she would send a five dollar bill with her letter. Her shaky handwriting conveyed how fragile she had become in her eighties, and even though she wrote about people and daily events I didn’t know much about, I liked getting letters from Grandma. I remember that she would occasionally make an attempt at humor in her letters, which was suggested from her use of the word “ho” at the end of the funny sentence. Sort of like we use “ha.”

When I think of my mother’s father, the word Pledge comes to mind. Not the kind of pledge that means promise or oath, but Pledge furniture polish. Yes. Grandpa Bud was so fastidious, and believed so fiercely in taking care of the things he had (and worked hard for and paid cash for, never owing a penny to anyone) that perhaps he took it just a leetle too far sometimes. He used to go out into his garage each morning and wipe down his car with Pledge furniture polish and a soft rag. His garage was neater than most houses. I remember seeing his 1960 black Cadillac, and later his 1970 brown Buick Electra in the rain, and they had been polished with Pledge so often that rain would bead up on the cars in large, nickel-sized drops.

When I think of my mother’s mother, the word cook comes to mind. Grandma Oma loved to cook, and put every Midwestern favorite on the table frequently, and invited us over. Cream gravy and biscuits (which I never liked), bubbling fruit cobblers (which I never liked), pot roasts and potatoes (which I never liked), pies, green beans cooked in bacon grease, and fried chicken, all of which as a child I would not eat.

Apparently, when I am just a memory to my grandchildren, one of the words they’ll think of when I come to their remembrance, is cardinal. And that’s okay with me, as long as they remember the cardinal story and why these gorgeous red songbirds are so meaningful to me.

We have two sets of Magformers that we keep here at the house that all the grandchildren love to play with. Invariably, one of the grands will grab the Magformer basket when they come over, plop down on the living room carpet and begin building, sometimes for hours.

Last week my daughter Carolyn came over and brought her two youngest children with her — Vivienne (age 5) and Audrey (age 3). I love watching them play because they’re creative and lively and on this day were kind to each other and shared toys cheerfully.

Before it was time for them to go, Vivie brought me to one of the living room lamps, which has a metal base that looks like a swirl of leaves on a vine. She had built a cardinal out of the strongly magnetic Magformers, and a hanging birdhouse to go with it, and stuck them on the lamp.

Vivie is on the left and Audrey is on the right, and aren’t the cardinal and birdhouse so sweet?

You might be able to see a cardinal or two elsewhere in the photo. I’m beginning to think that when my grandchildren are grown and perhaps telling their own children about their Grandma Julie, the words they remember about me might be Jesus and cardinal. (Which would be just fine with me, because Jesus and cardinal would be so much more desirable than big butt and dithering and/or controlling and crying.)

I’m hoping they might say something like this: “My grandma believed in two things with all her heart. She believed in Jesus, and she believed you could never have too many cardinals in your house.”  :)

What are some words that come to mind when you remember your own grandparents?

A Lenten Offering

March 9, 2011 | My Jottings

I had my first full day of being out of bed yesterday. My voice is barely there, but I do think I’m slowly on the mend, and I’m going to assume that I talk too much anyway, and my voice going on a little vacation is just another sign pointing to a change or two that needs to happen in my life.  :)

Yesterday I went to Community Bible Study for the first time in a few weeks too — it was so good to be back. At the opening, my friend Sue shared something that went straight to the core of me and I knew I needed to respond. Sue shared about a personal experiment the late author Catherine Marshall (she wrote Christy and A Man Called Peter, among many others) conducted years ago, about giving up speaking any criticisms for one day.

I found an account of this online and quote it here:

A Fasting on Criticalness

by Catherine Marshall (1914-1983)

“The Lord continues to deal with me about my critical spirit, convicting me that I have been wrong to judge any person or situation: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matt. 7:1-2; NIV)

One morning last week He gave me an assignment: for one day I was to go on a “fast” from criticism. I was not to criticize anybody about anything.

Into my mind crowded all the usual objections. “But then what happens to value judgments? You Yourself, Lord, spoke of ‘righteous judgment.’ How could society operate without standards and limits?”

All such resistance was brushed aside. “Just obey Me without questioning: an absolute fast on any critical statements for this day.”

As I pondered this assignment, I realized there was an even humorous side to this kind of fast. What did the Lord want to show me?


The Experiment

For the first half of the day, I simply felt a void, almost as if I had been wiped out as a person. This was especially true at lunch with my husband, Len, my mother, son Jeff, and my secretary Jeanne Sevigny, present. Several topics came up (school prayer, abortion, the ERA amendment) about which I had definite opinions. I listened to the others and kept silent. Barbed comments on the tip of my tongue about certain world leaders were suppressed. In our talkative family no one seemed to notice.

Bemused, I noticed that my comments were not missed. The federal government, the judicial system, and the institutional church could apparently get along fine without my penetrating observations. But still I didn’t see what this fast on criticism was accomplishing—until mid-afternoon.

For several years I had been praying for one talented young man whose life had gotten sidetracked. Perhaps my prayers for him had been too negative. That afternoon, a specific, positive vision for this life was dropped into my mind with God’s unmistakable hallmark on it—joy.

Ideas began to flow in a way I had not experienced in years. Now it was apparent what the Lord wanted me to see. My critical nature had not corrected a single one of the multitudinous things I found fault with. What it had done was to stifle my own creativity—in prayer, in relationships, perhaps even in writing—ideas that He wanted to give me.

Last Sunday night in a Bible study group, I told of my Day’s Fast experiment. The response was startling. Many admitted that criticalness was the chief problem in their offices, or in their marriages, or with their teenage children.


The Result

My own character flaw here is not going to be corrected overnight. But in thinking this problem through the past few days, I find the most solid Scriptural basis possible for dealing with it. (The Greek word translated “judge” in King James, becomes “criticize” in Moffat.) All through the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus sets Himself squarely against our seeing other people and life situations through this negative lens. What He is showing me so far can be summed up as follows:

1.  A critical spirit focuses us on ourselves and makes us unhappy. We lose perspective and humor.

2.  A critical spirit blocks the positive creative thoughts God longs to give us.

3.  A critical spirit can prevent good relationships between individuals and often produces retaliatory criticalness.

4.  Criticalness blocks the work of the Spirit of God: love, good will, mercy.

5.  Whenever we see something genuinely wrong in another person’s behavior, rather than criticize him or her directly, or – far worse – gripe about him behind his back, we should ask the Spirit of God to do the correction needed.

Convicted of the true destructiveness of a critical mind-set, on my knees I am repeating this prayer: “Lord, I repent of this sin of judgment. I am deeply sorry for having committed so gross an offense against You and against myself so continually. I claim Your promise of forgiveness and seek a new beginning.”

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As I sat there yesterday morning listening to Sue share about Catherine Marshall’s experiment, I was thinking that today, Wednesday, March 9th, begins the season of Lent. I didn’t grow up in a church that observed Lent, and because it has never been part of my faith observance, I’ve never given it a lot of thought until recent years.

I know a woman close to my age that radiates joy and unshakable peace and happiness. She’s a follower of Jesus, and she has her share of life’s struggles and sorrows just like anyone else. But she is always shot through with a beam of true joy that sometimes nearly takes my breath away. It’s not phony, it’s not showy, but it’s really noticeable, because people are lacking joy these days and hers seems in abundant supply. Anyway, this woman observes Lent each year to prepare her heart for Easter. She knows Easter is the most wonderful celebration for Christians and should be experienced as such. Egg hunts and spring dresses and hats are wonderful, but how many of us have ever celebrated Easter and after the day passed, just knew that its import hadn’t sunk in like we wished? Easter is why we have hope. Easter gives us reason to get up in the morning. Easter puts an eternal set of lenses on our eyes, if we will but participate. I have many times wished that my observance of Easter were more special and meaningful, and less anemic. When the woman I’ve mentioned spoke of observing Lent in order to prepare her heart for the coming of Easter, I took note.

When I was little I always thought Lent meant you just abstained from something and God would like it. I have known people who gave up chocolate for Lent, or television, or other things they considered bad habits or vices. This year, I do feel the Lord put on my heart something to set aside for the 46 days of Lent (books), and I will obey. But in addition to not reading any books except my Bible these next few weeks, I’m going to take Catherine Marshall’s lead and fast from criticism.

For me, being critical doesn’t just encompass the words I say. It would also deal with the looks on my face, whether or not I sigh in exasperation or roll my eyes (which effectively tells a person how utterly inept I think they are), and it is also about my body language. These are all things I want the Lord to change in my life. A critical spirit is deeply rooted in pride, and I want to approach the end of my life in humility, not in pride.

Sue shared yesterday that while she may not be an outwardly critical person, she still finds herself dealing with critical thoughts. And the best and shortest answer to dealing with those kinds of thoughts? Immediately pray about them, rather than letting the criticisms spin around in your head. Even a short unspoken prayer “Lord, please help that person with their ______,” could be a better choice than verbalizing a criticism.

I realize that there are times when we need to address things…corrections need to be made…feelings need to be expressed. I still think I have a lot to learn about doing these things with gentleness and in a building way, rather than in a destructive way. I need lots of help. It’s a good thing God’s resources and patience never run low!

We probably all know people who have a tendency toward criticism. They’re not usually fun to be around. You guard yourself around critical people — they don’t feel like a safe, comforting place to land. I grew up in a family where some of our members had criticism worked out to the finest detail, and I’ve seen the fruit of this in my own life. I would like to lay the axe to that root of that tree.

“Set a guard over my mouth O LORD;
keep watch over the door of my lips.”  Psalm 141:3.

I am in the autumn of my life. There is still time to be who I’m supposed to be, with God’s help and love. I know I was not created to be a critical person. That is not the legacy I want to leave. I want my Lenten offering to the Lord to mean something. “I will not offer to the Lord that which costs me nothing.” I want it to do a work in me.

Will any of you join me in Catherine Marshall’s experiment? Will you, for one day, go on a criticism fast? Or do you think you could try it for one week? Or are you feeling the nudge to give up criticism for all of Lent? I think any offering is significant. If you will take part in any small way, will you leave a comment here and share? Later, I think it would be encouraging to know what happens in our lives as a result. As you read above, Catherine Marshall experienced tremendous changes. I am looking forward to being changed as well.

God bless you!

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