This and that…

March 29, 2012 | My Jottings

A couple of weeks ago we received a call from our realtor asking us if we were still interested in showing our house, even though our six month contract to list it had expired and we had taken it off the market. We told her we were interested, so we tidied and vacuumed and I actually made our bed and straightened the paperwork Alps in my office. Many living beings had to fit in our Pilot: Michael, me, Sara, our three Foster gals, and Edith and Mildred the schnauzers in their kennels because they’re allergic to drives in the car and we do like to protect our legs and necks from deep, bloody gouges. As we drove off, I thought all that was missing was Granny on the top of the car in her rocking chair, and a few pots and pans roped to the sides, and we could have honked as we departed and sung loudly for the neighborhood to hear, “…so they loaded up their truck and they moved to Beverly…Hills that is…swimming pools…movie stars…”

We drove up the north shore of Lake Superior to a small town with a Culver’s, and we ate there. We took our time, and wondered aloud if the people going through our home of four years would be interested in it. And a day later I learned that they were. They offered us an acceptable price, with a closing date of April 27, which made my innards twinge and my mind race. We countered their offer by asking for a later closing date, and for five business days to find a suitable house of our own to purchase. Through our communications through our realtors, our potential buyers seem like very nice people, but they’ve been renting and they are anxious to move. They were not keen on giving us five business days to find a house, but our realtor explained to their realtor that we provide foster care in our home for women with developmental disabilities, and could not just move to any house. We would be moving several people, and since there aren’t a glut of one-level homes on the market right now, we asked for a few days to find one. They agreed, and told their realtor to tell our realtor that it was with great reluctance and considerable frustration that they did so.

So we began looking, and it was discouraging at first. We need a smaller house than we have, in good condition and with three-four bedrooms, with a master bedroom and bath on the main floor. And we hoped for a basement that was either finished or finish-able. And I wanted to be fairly close to my daughters. Our city is 27 miles long from east to west, and I wanted to stay in the eastern part, near Lake Superior if possible. We weren’t finding anything suitable and the two houses we toured that would have worked, just felt wrong to me. I don’t know how to explain that, but logical and analytical as I am, I also have a deep feeling side, and a house has to feel right. I trust that the Holy Spirit within me is powerful enough to get through even the densest person, so we prayed before we looked at each house, and I waited for peace to come when we would go inside, and no peace was coming.

We had to give our buyers an answer by last Saturday morning. We scoured our MLS listings, looked at houses for sale by owner, put an ad of our own out there, and even asked around. On Friday morning we saw three houses — all nice homes but not the ones. On Friday afternoon we saw a house we had seen before (and crossed off our list due to the seller not being able to come down on the price as much as we wanted), and decided to make a low offer on it. The house had everything we needed, but felt a little iffy because the decor is very Swedish/modern, and every stick of furniture and dish and doodad we own is more traditional. The owners of this very beautiful modern home accepted our lower offer, and by 9:00 p.m. on Friday, we had entered into a purchase agreement — just under the wire.

The house has beautiful views of Lake Superior, which Michael and I just love. It’s considerably smaller than what we have now, which will feel odd at first, but makes me very happy. Everything is on the main floor (except the basement — the basement is not on the main floor, the basement is on the basement floor) and has been lovingly cared for. The house passed inspection with flying colors, and now our current home will be inspected tomorrow. We’ll have to do the Clampett thing again, but this time for threeeeee hours. What are we going to do with all those people and all those dogs in the car for three hours? I’m open to suggestions, but if anyone suggests getting out of the car for long it won’t work. I’ll explain why another day — it has to do with being The Dog Owners of Shame.

If our house passes inspection, it looks like we might be moving at the end of May, but I’m not counting my chickens before they’re hatched. We have a good buyer for this house, we have a good house to move to, and we’ll know for certain if we’ll all be moving after the inspection on Friday.

It has seemed like such an eventful few weeks in other ways. I’ve been observing Lent, and have given up using my iPad during this time. I have occasionally missed playing Words With Friends, but I’ve been quite content to have my iPad rest in my underwear drawer for a season. I’ve been drinking in the Lenten readings from this book each day, and spending time meditating on what it means that Jesus bore my sins on the cross. My selfishness. My harsh words. My idolatry. I want the darkness of the days before Easter to envelop me, and I want the hope and triumph and amazing Love of Easter to shoot through me like never before. I am full of awe for His love these days, and the words thank you Lord seem so feeble and pale compared to what He deserves and what He has done.

Sara and I also decided to give up eating sugar together, and doing it with a buddy has been so helpful. It hasn’t been as intolerable as I thought, and I’m so grateful that the Lord has shown me yet again, that I can indeed live through something I thought might kill me. Woman Dies from Sugar Abstention will apparently not be a headline in our local paper any time soon.

Michael and I drove down to the Twin Cities recently for his appointment at The Struthers Parkinson’s Center, the best place in the Midwest for Parkinson’s treatment. Parkinson’s is a progressive disease and is not for cowards, and the news we received wasn’t the kind that gave us a warm and comfy feeling all over. His very compassionate and direct neurologist told us some things that were hard for us to hear. Some medication changes were prescribed, along with another medication for memory issues, and a stern warning about Michael driving was given. He isn’t driving right now, and will have to take a test soon, which will determine if any changes will come regarding his license.

After his appointment at Struthers, we checked in to our downtown Minneapolis hotel, and then walked several blocks in the blowing wind to Zelo’s Italian restaurant, which was excellent. I knew he needed time to process the changes that have to be faced whenever he sees the doctor. I asked Michael what he was feeling about his visit and he replied quietly, “I hated it.” But he is also one of the most gracious, patient men I know, and I know he will bear whatever comes with humility and trust in his Savior.

We held hands across the table and I told him again the things he already knew. I told him I would never forget what a faithful husband he has been, how he’s never even spoken of leaving, during the off and on challenging times in the early years of our marriage. I was (and guess I sometimes still am) a woman whose middle name could be Bossypants, Tina Fey notwithstanding. Michael has been steadfast and has loved me like no other person has ever loved me. So I looked into those huge, kind eyes of his and told him again what we both promised to each other in June of 1981, “I will never leave you. I will be here for better or for worse. In sickness and in health.” I assured him that whatever was ahead, we would deal with it together, and in the strength and love of the Lord. We would face whatever comes to us, with the grace that Jesus promises us for that day. I told him that just because we’re getting older and our earthly lives are being whittled down, doesn’t mean our lives can’t be rich and full of love. I told him how much I needed him. And I do. I need my husband. I need the unconditional love he has lavished on me for over 30 years. I need his warm presence beside me. He is part of me and I am part of him.

There’s more to share — there always is. But I’ve just looked at the clock and need to run upstairs and get ready for another drive to the Twin Cities today. One of our gals has a longish dental appointment and we’ll be leaving in a few minutes.

That’s what’s going on in our lives. What’s going on in yours?

Humiliation on the William A. Irvin

March 28, 2012 | My Jottings

I have always liked practical jokes. Not cruel ones, but the good-natured kind that take everyone by surprise and make for a memory that just won’t go away lasts forever.

About fifteen years ago my oldest daughter Sharon was in college, almost finished earning her degree for teaching Social Studies to high school students. She was a great student herself, and had part time jobs all the way through her college years to support herself.

One of Sharon’s summer jobs was as a tour guide on the William A. Irvin, a huge, retired ship docked in our harbor. Over the years of the Irvin’s service on the Great Lakes, she carried millions of tons of iron ore to various destinations; ore which is mined in northern Minnesota. The vessel is over 600 feet long, and is similar to the famed Edmund Fitzgerald, which sank in a stormy Lake Superior in late 1975.

One fine summer day, my dear friend Kathleen, who is one of the funniest people I know, conspired with me to play a little practical joke on Sharon. We thought it would be the most wonderful thing to dress as hobos or homeless people, and show up unexpectedly at the William A. Irvin to take the tour given by Sharon. Because Sharon has a quick and quirky sense of humor herself, we knew she would appreciate what we were doing, and all the trouble and time it took for us to do this.

Michael, Kathleen and I did everything we could think of to make ourselves look strange. We colored our teeth brown with eyebrow pencil. We wore clothes that didn’t match and didn’t fit. I pulled on a petite orange sweater over my plus-size clothes on a very warm day, and wore a holey hat. We put a ton of gooey, shiny gel in Michael’s hair, plastering it down and arranging goofy little points on his forehead. Michael wore an ugly double-knit “tourist” shirt, elastic-waist shorts pulled way up to his armpits, like some older men wear their pants. He wore black knee socks and old shoes. I browned out one of my teeth; Kathleen did all of hers. And I carried a hand-held personal fan to take with me. We practiced quirky expressions (see Michael below) and odd, nasally ways to speak. We posed for a quick photo before we drove down to the ship to surprise Sharon for our tour.

Many people were on the tour that day — families with children mostly, and the three of us. As soon as Sharon stepped out of the office to call the next tour-takers around her, I raised my hand and twittered in a nasally voice, “Hi Sharon! Hi Sharon! Hi! We’re here to take the tour Sharon! We’re so excited Sharon!” Michael and Kathleen also greeted her with great enthusiasm. Probably no one else noticed it, but I saw the split second of shock on my daughter’s face. Sharon is quick though, so in a flash she was in I-don’t-know-these-people mode, and she carried on the hour-long tour with composure, confidence, and her usual uncanny ability to retain and impart encyclopedic amounts of information about any given topic. In this case, the topic was the history of the esteemed William A. Irvin, and all the things that made this ship interesting.

As the tour proceeded over several decks of the ship, we three waddled along behind the crowd, who politely and consistently kept their distance from us. I used my personal fan two inches from my flushed face for most of the hour. We clapped our hands giddily when Sharon extolled about the luxury of the ship’s elegant guest suites. We made perfect O’s with our mouths and nodded at each other, sort of like these guys do on Sesame Street. We twittered, we gawked, we grinned stupidly as Sharon knowledgeably led the tourists through the ship and pretended that Kathleen, Michael and I were completely invisible.

After the tour was over, the three of us thanked Sharon profusely for how thoroughly impressive she was in her position as a docent on the distinguished William A. Irvin. I’m not sure she heard our rhapsodizing, though, because she didn’t make eye contact with us as we were bobbing and gushing. I think there was something exceedingly important for her to do in the ship’s office, because after ending the tour she headed in that direction posthaste.

I’m not sure if we created a good memory for Sharon or not, but I do know that Kathleen, Michael and I gave ourselves something to cackle over for the rest of our lives.  :)

How about you? What practical joke have you played on someone? Or what’s one that has been played on you?

So long to seven more

My Jottings

I didn’t have a chance on Monday to post the seven things I’ve given away this week, as part of my efforts to donate 365 things in 2012, so here they are, a little late:

Five candles, some dusty fake roses in a vase of dusty fake water, and a tray from an old cash box I had years ago to use during garage sales.

It hasn’t been difficult at all to donate one thing per day, and I would highly recommend it!

Thank you for reading…

Spring Inside

March 22, 2012 | My Jottings

Having a daughter who’s a floral designer definitely has its perks. Every once in a while Sara will spend her own money and bring home an armful of flowers, and within an hour there are little pops of color and beauty in different parts of the house. She never tells me she’s done it, and I often find out after I’ve come home from errands and then notice the simple gatherings she’s placed here and there.

The grape hyacinths below are on our kitchen table, and were Sara’s recent gift to Michael, who loves flowers more than any man I know. Last week these were just green shoots, but in the last three days the blooms have come up are getting ready to burst open, and we get so much delight sitting at breakfast and inspecting the growth that takes place in just one day! (You can click the photos to enlarge them if you like.)

Carnations sometimes get a bad rap, and they aren’t used much at the shop where Sara works, but I’ve always loved the smell, and this big bunch of them is in our living room.

And here’s a smaller bunch in my office…

Boronia heather on a kitchen windowsill:

More carnations on the mantel…

And in the downstairs bathroom…

In the master bathroom is this peperomia plant with its odd blossoms poking upward…

I think if I were a flower, I would be a peperomia. Weird, not very colorful, sort of prickly, and always aiming upward.

I’ll bet there are some readers out there who might say they’re like daisies or roses or peonies.

If you were a flower, which one would you be, and why?

Wednesday’s Word-Edition 81

March 21, 2012 | My Jottings

“I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross. The only God I believe in is the one Nietzsche ridiculed as ‘God on the Cross.’ In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? I have entered many Buddhist temples and stood respectfully before the statue of Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time after a while I have had to turn away.

And in imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in God-forsaken darkness. That is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us.”

John Stott

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Sugar Sabbatical

March 20, 2012 | My Jottings

I shared recently how I felt strongly that I needed to stop eating sugar. I said that I wasn’t sure I could do it, and I’m still not sure I can. I thought that on day one or day two of not eating any sugar, my expression might look something like this woman’s does.

But so far, to my knowledge, I don’t look like this.

And I am giving thanks for several days without a substance I didn’t think I could live without.

Here are a few things I’ve noticed so far.

1. I walked up the stairs yesterday without knee pain.

2. I have a bit less of an appetite in general. (Which makes me wonder if sugar is an appetite stimulant.)

3. My shoe size has gone from a size 9.5 to a 7.

Actually, only two of the above statements are true.

I don’t know how long I’ll be able to stay on my sugar sabbatical, but I don’t think about that. I did it yesterday, I can do it today. That’s all I need to know. If you prayed for me, thank you.  :)

We have some very focused, prayerful days ahead, and I look forward to seeing which way the Lord leads. I know that even when there’s only enough light for the step we’re on, more light will come when needed.

I hope your day is peaceful and blessed!

When I’m in a tizzy

March 19, 2012 | My Jottings

You would think that a good offer on our house, from qualified buyers who love it and are anxious to move in, would be something that would bring great relief and joy. I had long pictured that when we had a buyer for our house, we would be so thankful, and then would be able to go house shopping with many places to choose from, because in our area it’s a “buyer’s market.” So I was stunned when we received this good offer, and then scoured the real estate listings in our area only to find that less than ten houses currently for sale fit our criteria. There are many houses in our city that have the master bedroom and bath on the main floor, but only a few in the areas we prefer. And since this move is intended to be our last (God-willing), it’s important to me that I like the area we move to. I am totally fine with having to make cosmetic changes to a house — new carpet, new paint, even new kitchen cabinets would be okay. I really, really, want to like the area and neighborhood we’re in. I don’t want to move too far away from the neighborhoods where my daughters and grandchildren live. I’ve asked the Lord to show me if I’m being too particular or selfish — I’m willing to change.

We saw three houses yesterday, and none of them are something I truly want to move into. I spent a long time in prayer and in the Word yesterday morning asking for God’s help in discerning where we are to go. If it were just Michael and me, I wouldn’t be concerned a whit — we would accept the offer and then just rent a house for a year until the right one to buy came on the market. But we have six people in our home that we need to consider. The move has to be just right for many reasons.

So as I write this, I’m unsure if this offer on our home (that came, by the way, when our house was off the market) is going to result in our moving right now. I want it to. I pray it does! I’m so uncertain. I’ve always been a doer, and fairly decisive. Right now since I don’t feel absolute peace about any of these houses we’ve seen, my inclination is to say no. I don’t think it’s wise to move out without a good plan or a house we love to move to.

The perfect scenario would be that in the next day or two, The House For Us comes on the market. We have spring-like weather and that can often motivate people to list their homes for sale. That is what I’m asking for at this minute.

When I was in an inner tizzy yesterday I felt very directed toward John 14 in my Bible, and when I opened it, this is what the words of Jesus said:

1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?”

Now I know Jesus was speaking of heaven here, but it still ministered to my heart. Later in the chapter Jesus says,

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

So right this moment I have no idea what will happen. I do know that the Lord doesn’t want me to be in a tizzy, so I will try to make today a tizziless day. He asks me to trust Him, and to not be afraid.

And in the midst of uncertainty, I am still donating or throwing one thing per day in 2012. These are the seven for this week:

Thank you so much for stopping by. What are your plans for the coming week?

I’ve got to try a different street

March 14, 2012 | My Jottings

Once upon a time, a long, long, long, looooong time ago, I didn’t eat sugar.

I also didn’t eat much white flour. And my little girls didn’t eat sugar either.

When my daughters grew old enough to attend birthday parties where cake and ice cream were served, I decided that they had to be allowed to occasionally eat cake and ice cream at birthday parties if they were going to speak to me have a normal life when they grew up. But we didn’t buy candy or other kinds of sweets, and when we did partake, it was a very rare event.

Then I moved to Minnesota in 1981 when I married Michael. Minnesota is the Land of White. Snow and long white winters, white noodles in the ubiquitous Minnesota hotdishes with thick white sauces, white skin on all the Scandinavians (my pale skin fits in well!), white mashed potatoes, white milk and cheese from Wisconsin right next door (The Dairy Capital of the World), white, flaky butterhorn rolls, white Cool Whip in white rice pudding. White, white, everywhere.

And so we started doing as the natives did, which was eating all those white things. Well, except for Cool Whip. I still wouldn’t eat Cool Whip if you tied me up with a white rope and beat me with a white stick.

Slowly over the years, the pounds crept onto my 5′ 10″ frame. Since childbirth I’d always seesawed back and forth — losing and regaining fifteen-twenty pounds, but after moving to Minnesota the fifteen became thirty and then fifty and then….bleh. You get the picture. Minnesota is a beautiful place to live, but it can be so mean!

And I’ve read all the books about how sugar is white death and contributes to heart disease and inflammation all over the body, but when you’re young and energetic, you can be foolish and try to ignore things like that because they haven’t caught up with you yet. Until you reach your fifties and your knees scream at you and your energy flags and your extra poundage feels like a sack of boulders you’re carrying around that can never, ever be laid down.

Not everyone has a problem with sugar, I know. But I have long known that I do. It’s like a drug — I don’t need very much, but I want just a little bit three or four times a day. And of course there have been days when fourteen Miniature Reese’s seem like the more reasonable choice than two. Insanity.

So I’ve decided to give up sugar, starting today.

Here’s a little autobiographical story by Portia Nelson (she was a nun in The Sound of Music) that I read on a popular blog recently, and it reached down through my throat and grabbed me violently by the pancreas:


Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

Chapter 1

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost…I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

 

Chapter 2

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

 

Chapter 3

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in…it’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

 

Chapter 4

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

 

Chapter 5

I walk down another street.

I know that this is going to be impossible for me unless God gives me strength. I know He’s willing, but I know that for decades now I have been unwilling. Today I’m willing.

I even think sugar has become a sort of idol for me, as awful and possibly ridiculous as that sounds. In Community Bible Study this year, our class is studying The Divided Kingdom, which covers many books of the Bible. Every week we study how Israel and Judah would not lay down their idols and turn to the Lord, no matter how much things were falling apart for them. We of the 21st century can sit on our high horses about this because WHO would be brainless enough to bow down before an image carved from wood or stone, or actually BELIEVE that a forged golden calf could do even one thing for them? Well, I have no idols made of stone or wood or gold in my house, but I’m learning that an idol is what I turn to, again and again. For comfort, for help, for something to do; it’s something I focus on. And I think that foods with sugar have been something I’ve turned to over and over again. I love sugar and I hate sugar.

I know it’s futile to say “I will never ingest a granule of sugar again so long as I live.”  There may come a day when I feel I can have a treat at a family gathering. I don’t know. And I have no idea if I will succeed. So I ask for your prayers. If you think I’m being silly, pray for me. If you see how serious this could be, please pray for me. If you think I’ve gone overboard, pray for me.

For years I have lived and worked and played on Sweet Street.

Today, I absolutely must walk down another street.

Whiter than snow…

March 13, 2012 | My Jottings

Not long ago, my dear sister-in-law Christy and I were blessed to visit Pacem in Terris (Latin for Peace on Earth), a silent retreat center in St. Francis, MN.

I’ve been there before, but never in winter. Here is the prayer hermitage I stayed in for two days and nights:

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.

Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.

Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.

Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.


Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Psalm 51:1-7

The longer I live, the more the kindness, patience and mercy of God bless and astound me!

Thankfully,

Patty and some pictures

March 12, 2012 | My Jottings

Thank you for your comments about the books you’ve been reading. This month’s winner of the book A Sack Half Full is Patty!  I’ll email you for your address, Patty, and you’ll have to let us know what you think of the book.

Also, as I continue my campaign to donate one thing per day in the year 2012, here’s what’s going away this week:

A bag full of dozens of old photos, mostly of places and people I don’t know. How did I get so many pictures of places and people I don’t know? Well, some of them were from years-old rolls of film from daughters’ trips: forty-two views of the ocean, seventeen shots of office buildings in downtown Managua, blurry pictures of ducks paddling one hundred twenty-nine yards away, that sort of thing.

So I’m saying goodbye to birds I’ll never know, sights I’ll never see, and double prints of large tropical leaves and primitive roads that will never make it into a scrapbook.

I kept all the important photos of loved ones, in case anyone was wondering.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.   Hebrews 12:1

It’s a lot easier to throw off extra household items that hinder and entangle me, than the sin that hinders and entangles me, but I’m trying. With God’s help, I’m working on this every day. Not by my strength, but by His…

I’m thankful that God is so merciful with me! His patience with my failures is so heartening and humbling. I would have given up on me years ago….but not my Father.

In praise and hope today,

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