Wednesday’s Word-Edition 77

January 11, 2012 | My Jottings

“Every human interaction offers you the chance to make things better or to make things worse. To decide to make things better can cost you bundles of self-interest. To decide to make things worse generally feels a lot more powerful. The only problem is that the power rolls away from you like a rogue wave, as the person you slammed into finds someone else to slam into, and so on, and so on. The good news is that you can set off the same sort of chain reaction with unwarranted kindness.”

Barbara Brown Taylor, from An Altar in the World

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Hope is the thing with feathers

January 9, 2012 | My Jottings

In the midst of a small campaign to give away one thing per day in the year 2012, I also have a few new things to show you that I will never part with.

I like water. I try to drink some every day. That means when I’m out running errands I often take a water bottle from home with me so when I’m thirsty I can keep hydrated with something good, and not impulsively decide to buy some kind of sweet coffee concoction or smoothie with 10% fruit and 749 calories. Here is what I now carry my water in, a travel cup from my dear friend Pat, who’s a fellow SAG.

I’ve never had one of these kinds of cups, and I love it. Most of all I love the thoughtfulness behind it. Pat knows the cardinal story, and in giving me this gift she is helping me hang on to hope. Do you have friends that help you hang on to hope? I really hope that you do.

It’s not that things are truly hopeless, it’s just that every so often I lose my clear view of hope, and need help getting back on the hope wagon.

Pat gave me a boost back on that wagon with this cup. Thank you Pat.

Next, I have a new B.

To be honest, I never had an old B. But that’s not the point. The point is, my niece Lauren and my sister-in-law Debbie sent me this for Christmas.

It’s the first letter of our last name, and it’s about the size of a book. The left side of the B is the spine of a dark blue Bible. Attached to the spine with a taupe ribbon (perfectly matching our living room) are three old keys, with the words “memory, life, and love” engraved on them.

The B is completely covered in scripture. You can click to enlarge the photos if you like. There are pertinent verses and passages pasted all over the letter.

When I opened the gift my eyes filled with tears, because this was such an amazingly thoughtful gift from family members who know what’s important to me, and made something to underscore those very things. I felt known, and loved.

They sent me this letter B to help me hang on to hope. Or to hang on to the Author of hope. 🙂

We put the B on the mantel and it will always be a blessing.

Thank you, Debbie and Lauren.

Right before Christmas I received a package in the mail from an old friend. Shari and I met in Junior High School in West Covina, CA, and were in a couple of classes together with this teacher we both still love.

Shari is a gifted artist and photographer and you can check out her beautiful photo blog here.

Imagine my surprise when I opened the package and received a large framed print of a photo Shari took of a cardinal.

The day it arrived was the sort of day when hope seems distant or faint. After I gazed at it through tears for a few minutes, thanking God for the timing of this stunning gift and for giving me friends who remind me to keep hoping, I went straight to our kitchen tool drawer and found a hammer and nail.

This breathtaking photo hangs on a prominent wall near our den, where we walk past it and look at it many times a day.

Thank you, Shari.

How grateful I am for friends and family who show their love and care in such personal, thoughtful ways!

I love this quote by Emily Dickenson:

“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.”

Today I can hear that wordless tune being sung, and see the brilliantly colored feathers of that thing called hope that’s perching in my soul.

And my friends and family help to make sure the tune of hope never stops at all.

What helps you hang on to hope?

Switzerland, savoring, and staying put

January 7, 2012 | My Jottings

I’m up before the sun this morning, sitting here at my office window and looking out across the front yard that’s usually buried in two feet of snow this time of year, but has patches of leafy brown showing through the areas of quickly disappearing white. Yesterday it was over 40 degrees in northeastern Minnesota, which is almost unheard of for January.

Yesterday was also Friday, which is the day each week that my homeschooled oldest grandson Mr. McBoy comes over for some Grandma/Bible time. He and I enjoy our time together. It’s very relaxed and intentional, which sounds paradoxical but is basically how homeschool should be, I think. He and I have been slowly reading aloud one of my favorite children’s books, Treasures of the Snow by Patricia St. John. The setting is in a quintessential Swiss village. If you haven’t read it I encourage you to get a used copy and treat yourself. The newly printed edition has been revised with some of the dated language changed — I don’t recommend that one. Look for an older copy.

My grandson and I sit in the overstuffed master bedroom chairs, prop our feet up on the ottoman, wrap our shoulders in comfy throws, and prepare for almost immediate transportation to Switzerland, which happens after I read approximately one page of the book. We are there. We hear those Swiss bells tinkling on the cows’ necks as they are driven to higher pastures from the Alpine valleys. We can see the chalets with their heavy mantels of snow, and the primitive carts pulled by donkeys carrying huge rounds of Swiss cheese to the village market below. We can see the moon as it lights the jagged peaks of the Alps until they look silver.

At one point yesterday when I was reading about Annette and Lucien having hot chocolate, thick pieces of crusty bread with fresh creamy butter smeared on them and sitting contentedly by a fire in a humble dwelling, Mr. McBoy interrupted his rapt listening and said, “Mmmmm! That sounds so good right now Grandma. Thick crusty bread with butter on it.” If I had had any thick crusty bread I would have stopped right then and gone downstairs to cut us each a slice.

After we returned from Switzerland Mr. McBoy went downstairs, and I opened the children’s Bible and read in Genesis about Isaac and how the Lord provided his wife for him. We are going chronologically through the Bible — I want him to understand as much as he possibly can at age nine. Two weeks ago we learned about Job. I wasn’t sure if that would be too heavy for my grandson, because even an adult who has walked with the Lord for many years can still be completely silenced by the story of Job. I always try to make sure Mr. McBoy can summarize what we’re learning. I want him to see that even the hardest-to-understand Old Testament accounts have application for our lives today, even relevance for a nine year old boy. After we soberly read about Job and all that he lost, all he endured, how truly miserable his life had become, I sat next to Mr. McBoy on the couch and asked him quietly, “Do you think there’s something in this sad story that God might be trying to say to us?”

Mr. McBoy nodded. “I think God wants us to trust Him even when things are going bad and we don’t understand why.”

Yes.

I’m so glad the Lord has given me grandchildren who can teach me about Him. Because they do teach me, even if they don’t know they do.

After Switzerland and Job, Mr. McBoy had a snack. I think when I’m dead and buried my grandchildren will remember me for a lot of things, but mostly for peanuts and raisins. I always offer them snacks like cut up apples and string cheese, raw almonds and sliced pears, or little bowls of peanuts and raisins, and the latter is usually most often chosen. They know how you can take apart two halves of one peanut and squish a raisin in between them, and make that look like a tiny little hamburger.

Perhaps at my interment my grands will throw peanuts and raisins on my casket instead of dirt, and I officially endorse that idea right now.

Then Mr. McBoy and I retired to the living room, where we played with a remote control helicopter I have for the grandchildren to enjoy. It’s quite the nifty toy. It has lights that flash when it flies, and it takes a bit of finesse to gently raise it off the ground and keep it hovering, and even more skill to micro-move the tiny joy stick on the right of the controls that makes it go forward or backward or from side to side. We crashed it several times, but yesterday Mr. McBoy and I took turns and we both got that helicopter up in the air and slowly circled it around the living room and even finally landed it on the couch. Edith is quite interested in it; Mildred puts her ears down and runs for her life when she sees the rotor blades even begin to turn.

Mr. McBoy went home before lunchtime and I did housewifey things, like watch lovely and graceful deer eat the food my formerly deer-hunting husband places near our creek every day. I cleaned the kitchen, I put the sound track to Anne of Green Gables on our house stereo/intercom, and thought of how beautiful some of the pieces would be for a wedding processional. I composed a mental grocery list. And I told our real estate agent that when our six-month contract expires four days from now, not to renew.

Our house has not sold. In six months we’ve had seven showings and zero offers. Some of the feedback that was given was amusing to me and some of it was puzzling.

“We loved the house, but didn’t like the way the bedrooms were laid out.”

“We love the kitchen but it wouldn’t work because my wife is 4′ 8″ and the counters are too high.”

“The whole house is lovely, but we don’t like the basement.”

“It’s a nice house, but didn’t give us the warm fuzzies.” (I’m not making this up.)

“I like the house but I don’t think my husband would like the wallpaper.”

“We love the way it looks on the outside, love the backyard, but don’t think there’s enough family space.”

And the final pronouncement from the folks who came through last week: “We didn’t care for it and it was overpriced.”

So it appears as if we’ll be staying put in this big house for a while. We’ll see what the coming of spring brings to our area in terms of real estate trends. It has been a terribly slow market and I guess we’re not surprised that it didn’t sell, but I think I did expect a very low offer or two.

My son-in-law Chris is the Cub Scout master for his son’s (Mr. McBoy) pack, and while they went to the courthouse for a field trip yesterday afternoon, I had Mrs. Nisky (age 7) and Li’l Gleegirl (age 4) over for a couple of hours. I bought a used copy of The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey not long ago because my niece Lauren thought we would like it, and I sat with my two sweet granddaughters to share it with them. What amazing illustrations! As we sat together on the couch, Li’l Gleegirl snuggled close on my left and laid her head down on my shoulder as I read. From my right side, Mrs. Nisky’s attention never wavered, and when we got to the several parts in the story where there’s an unwelcome knock on Mr. Toomey’s door, I put the hardcover book down on my lap so she could vigorously knock on it for our sound effect.

When they went home I turned my attention to getting dinner on the table. Do you ever make Rosemary Roasted Potatoes? You probably do. But if you don’t, give them a try. So easy, and only a few ingredients, and they made the house smell so fragrant (I adore rosemary) and they go with almost anything.

There’s something that happens to me when I’m with my grandchildren. It’s like I enter a time-slowing bubble. And in this bubble, not only does time slow down a bit, but a magnifying lens is put in front of my eyes. It’s hard to explain, but when they’re near I know it’s time to savor. To revel. To pay attention. To fully immerse myself in what it means to be with them. I look into their eyes when they speak and I stroke their hair and just barely touch their forearms. I kiss the tops of their heads and tell them the things I love about them. Or I look at the beauty of their skin and freckles and the many colors of their irises. I love their giggles. I love how they’re the most fascinating mingled genetic representations of their parents. It thrills me to see Sharon’s hands in Mr. McBoy’s hands. It makes me smile to see Chris’s childhood in the shape and contours of Mrs. Nisky’s face. I marvel at the pigeon-toed walk and perpetual cheerfulness in Li’l Gleegirl and wonder where that all came from. 🙂

Truly, I have been lavished upon.

So all in one Friday, I took a delightful little trip to Switzerland, savored the blessing of being with three of my seven grandchildren, and learned that for now, Michael and I are staying put in our current home.

That’s what’s on my mind today. Have I thanked you lately for making time in your busy day to stop by my little blog? If not, I’ll say it again.

Thank you. And God bless your weekend, dear family and friends….

Seven Things Lighter

January 6, 2012 | My Jottings

Here are the seven items (one per day) that I’ve donated this week. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, click here.

(I read yesterday in Colossians chapter three, about six other things the Lord wants me to be rid of:

“But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices.”

I fear I can’t just toss these in the back of my car and take them to my local Goodwill, however.)

Here are the tangible things I have duplicates of, or items I know I won’t be using anymore; I’m so happy to let them go to other places where they will be enjoyed or better utilized.

I know those three metal bowls aren’t really one item, but hey.

Have you decided to get rid of a few things in your house this year? Are you trying for one per day? If that’s too many to think about, might you try for one per week?

It’s not too late to join us. What kinds of things have you given or tossed so far?

Wednesday’s Word-Edition 76

January 4, 2012 | My Jottings

“Being in a hurry.

Getting to the next thing without fully entering the thing in front of me.

I cannot think of a single advantage I’ve ever gained from being in a hurry.

But a thousand broken and missed things, tens of thousands, lie in the wake of all the rushing…

Through all that haste I thought I was making up time.

It turns out I was throwing it away.”    

Ann Voskamp

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Schnauzer Schnoozer

January 3, 2012 | My Jottings

Our oldest pooch Edith will be ten years old soon, and even though she seems happy and chipper, she’s showing her age. She doesn’t like to go up the stairs anymore. She’ll do it, but she sometimes acts like her joints are stiff, and it’s becoming more of an effort. Millie, on the other hand, is still acting like she has gazelle blood in her.

The last time we took the dogs to the vet for vaccination boosters and checkups, serious Dr. Lee felt Millie’s back legs thoughtfully and asked me, “Does Mildred do a lot of running and leaping?”

Wondering how he knew this is exactly what she does in our big back yard I said, “Why, yes, yes she does.”

He pointed out the impressive definition in her Schnauzer quadriceps and commented with quiet admiration, “Mildred is quite a well-muscled dog.”

So you can imagine what we say about her when she comes and lays next to us on the couch at night. We palpate those notable quads and say in a deep Dr. Lee voice with mock seriousness, “Look at these legs. This is a well-muscled dog.”

Edith, not so much. Edith’s diet has not changed, but her body seems to be doing what many middle-aged women’s bodies do, and she’s developed a little belly pooch. The pooch has a pooch, I guess. And no one would ever marvel that Edith is a well-muscled dog. She trots and sniffs when she’s outside, and she still jumps at the television if she sees anything four legged appear on the screen, but leaping and gazelle are not words we would use in the same sentence with Edith.

So along with old age comes napping, or so I’ve been told. Edith is definitely into taking at least one nap per day, maybe four. Recently Michael and I were in our bedroom having our quiet time together and Edith wanted to be on his lap. As we read out loud and prayed for our family and many of you, Edith fell asleep. She was a Schnauzer Schnoozer. I had to get a picture.

See how she even matches our bedroom decor? And the sides of my blog? Does your dog match your bedroom decor or your blog? Does your husband wear t-shirts that match your animal? No?

Oh.

I told you we needed prayer.

A long time ago a friend who loved her dog as much as I love mine said this, “I think God gives us our pets to increase our joy.” I’ve always remembered that, and I think it’s true. All these little goofy tidbits about Edith and Millie make me smile and revel in simple things.

I’ll try to think of something nondoggish to write soon.

Have a blessed Tuesday!

Er, no.

January 2, 2012 | My Jottings

Well, January reared her frigid head last night and our temperatures dropped many-something degrees. It’s supposed to be -2° tonight, or -19° Celsius for my two across-the-pond readers. And as I’ve mentioned a few dozen times on this blog, January is usually our coldest month, and it can get down to -30° sometimes.

I know we’re supposed to live in the moment, but these kind of January moments are always hard for me. I spend most of each January waiting for each January to leave.

If you read my post about giving away 365 items over the next year, you saw that I threw out a big pile of grocery receipts. Pen gave away a funky pair of feather earrings.

Today these are going:

Four tiny, old candles the size of shot glasses. They were stored away with Christmas decorations and we had them out on a side table in the living room last month, and I kept asking myself why.

I wouldn’t light them because the flame would be so close to the thin glass I was afraid they would crack. And I am not into babysitting little candles these days, so I think their usefulness has been used up.

Pen is going to be so good about re-purposing and recycling the things she’s donating, and I will certainly try. But I’m throwing these candles in the garbage, and don’t feel a bit of sorrow about it at all. If you think I should, let me know.

Today I took one look at these and said, “Er, no. They must go.”

I’m trying to decide if these could count for January 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th. I guess the week ahead will tell me that. We have several couples coming over tomorrow night for Life Group from our church, I have a sick gal home today, and I have an important report to start work on, so perhaps I’ll lean toward letting these four candles count for four days.

Have a wonderful week, and thank you for reading…

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