Small Enough

January 27, 2014 | My Jottings

A sweet reader wrote me a note recently to tell me she had been visiting this blog, and I was so humbled and happy to hear from her. Peggy has been through some very difficult times, and God has made Himself and His Word real to her through her church and friends. She sent me this music video today and I was so moved by it. Michael came and stood behind me as we listened in stillness. Maybe someone else will be comforted by the words of this song today… 

God bless you this Monday….

January and the Book of Job

January 20, 2014 | My Jottings

Monday greetings everyone! I hope the weather in your little part of the world falls pleasantly on your skin and soul. We have had a few relatively balmy days (at least for Northeastern Minnesota in January) but the dratted weatherman tells us this morning that temperatures will fall steadily today until they’re almost twenty below zero tomorrow morning. Then we’ll have a couple of deep cold days before warming up into the teens and twenties above zero again. This morning one of our Fosters commented that when summer comes she’ll be out on the front deck in her shorts and Crocs and sunglasses, drinking tea and taking in the sun. I know her quite well, and this scenario will last for about ten minutes before she returns to the cool of the air conditioned house and says, “Man, I can’t wait for fall!”

I was looking out the kitchen window this morning as the sun was just beginning to show, and I thought about the sights of January. January is white…white skies and snow and frozen lakes, over 30,000 of them in our humble state. January is grayish brown…the bare trees and the dirty snow drifts on the sides of the roads where the plows have been. January is periwinkle…the color of the snow in the morning sunrise. January is steam…especially the ethereal look of Lake Superior in all its hugeness, steaming quietly (and I try not to think it’s steaming malevolently) in the bitter cold. January is ice…deadly looking icicles the size peoples’ arms and legs hanging from roofs, ice in thick shattered plates piling on top of one another at the edge of the Lake, ice so thick on inland lakes, fishermen drive their trucks on them. January is dark…a dark that stays late and comes early and makes me long to hibernate in my bed instead of  rising at 5-something a.m. to begin my caretaking tasks. January is slow. It seems to roll on at glacier speed, and even though I know any day, any month is a gift, I’m always relieved when January is gone. The one thing I like about January is the 12th, which is my daughter Carolyn’s birthday. If not for that blessed day, I could say goodbye to January and never miss it.

Yesterday while Michael was watching football on TV for sixty-seven hours, I made a list of the books I’d like to read in 2014. There are 36 of them. Never in my life have I had to make a list to help me accomplish the reading of books, but alas, lately it is so. Ever since I joined the smart phone world, I’ve noticed a decrease in my reading. This has been very concerning to me, especially since playing Words With Friends and Sudoku and the various other things one can do on a smart phone are the culprits I allow to steal my time. Even though I know it’s not good for the brain, I check the weather, I read the local newspaper and two or three other news sources, play Scramble a time or two, look up information on any random things about which I’m curious, and before I know it, a couple of collective hours are gone from my day. And then I lament the fact that I’m behind in my paperwork and don’t feel like making a wonderful, delicious meal.

Then I happened to read something very interesting by one of my favorite musical artists, Audrey Assad. She noticed a decline in her creativity when she got her first smart phone. I think you’ll find her post very insightful and worthwhile, and you can click here to read it.

Next, I have been visiting a blog for several months now called Study in Brown. I found it through an online friend named Elizabeth, and I so love Tonia’s gentle writing. Recently I read how she set a goal to read 100 books in 2014, and that struck something deep in me. It’s not that I want to read, read, read, so I can put a check mark by each of the 36 titles I wrote down yesterday. It’s so that my brain can go deep again, so I can think and meditate and feel creative and be a miner. I’ve been a skimmer for too long. I’ve been skimming, perhaps even scraping the surface of thinking, not mining the depths like I used to. I’m having difficulty even describing what I’ve lost, in part, I believe, because I’ve given too much time to the brain-hijacking smart phone. Have any of you noticed a similar thing happening to you?

Oh, and I’ll be sharing about some of the books on my list, especially after I read them. 🙂

If you’d like to visit Tonia’s lovely blog, click here.

We’re studying the book of Job in Community Bible Study and even though I haven’t been able to attend our class regularly, I’m keeping up with my daily lesson. I miss being with the beautiful women of my core group. But, Oh. My. Goodness. What a rich, timely, magnificent study this is.

Here are just a few of the many things I’ve underlined in my commentary, from author and pastor Dr. Doug MacIntosh:

“Had [Job] known that his sufferings were significant, he might have found them easier to bear.”

“Many people in the modern world — even Christians — regard Satan as a fantasy or as a mere influence. The Bible does not support such a view. Most of the references to Satan in the Gospels occur on the lips of Jesus Christ. The Son of God once held an extended conversation with the tempter himself in the wilderness of Judea. (Luke 4:1-12). Jesus did not carry on a discussion with an influence…”

“Suffering that is deserved can be endured with patience. It is logical, even if it is painful. Suffering that is undeserved can be borne as well when the purpose is clear. For example, if by suffering a Christian can bear a clear witness that leads to the salvation of others, and if this purpose is known at the time, the pain of affliction is bearable because it has a known meaning. Man cannot live, however, without meaning. During the course of this remarkable book, God is asking Job to submit to his sufferings without knowing the divine purpose. That makes his life much harder. He will have to trust God without knowing God’s intentions. This situation is repeated constantly around the globe as God’s people discover that it is often impossible to discern God’s purposes when sufferings come along. At one time or another, all Christians have to learn this lesson–perhaps the most difficult of all lessons in the Christian life.”

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Job, his wife, and three “friends”

All along this Parkinson’s journey that Michael and I are traveling, it has helped to try to remember that this is not all for nothing. This is all for something. It is not meaningless. We might not know or understand all of what Michael’s suffering could possibly mean, but on our best days we do trust that God has His purposes and He’s good and He’s with us. (We have prayed for healing and continue to pray for healing. But when healing is delayed, or doesn’t come at all, there needs to be a way to live.)

Job was being watched by the unseen realms, both good and evil, and we are being watched too.

This is not going to be a very fine depiction, but consider this with me. What if for one day we were given eyes that could see into the spiritual realm? What if we could see that followers of Christ are on a real and sometimes steep and treacherous road, and He is walking with us, or sometimes walking ahead of us and turning toward us to beckon us further on with those wonderful eyes of His, with an encouraging gesture from those rough and marvelous hands with nail holes in them? What if He stops and sits with us as we catch our breath, puts His arm around us and whispers strength and hope into our ears while we wait for the will to go on to return. What if we could hear Jesus call us by name, saying, “_____, My strength is made perfect in your weakness. I am here to help you love and serve the people in your life. I will help you to know and love Me.” Can you even imagine what it would feel like to hear the Creator of billions of galaxies lovingly speak your very own name?

Then, what if our spiritual eyes could see that in exceedingly great numbers on either side of the road we’re traveling, there are powerful, lightning-bright angels and also loved ones who’ve died before us and gone to heaven, cheering and earnestly urging us on as we follow Jesus, telling us to keep walking and trusting Him; and what if we could see the demonic hordes who hate Him and hate us, spewing their lies and sneers and garbage at us, to entice us to doubt the character of God and further convince us of how hopeless we are and how we’ll never change and He’ll never answer our prayers and this is all a big hoax.

What if something like this is really happening, and we just don’t see it yet?

Job didn’t know that thousands of years later, we would be studying his story and wishing we could be as faithful as he was, even in all of his unbelievable suffering and questioning. But we can learn from him. We can know that whatever we’re going through, if we’re trusting God and trying to look to Him to get us through, if we’re praising Him in the darkness, it’s not for nothing. It means something. He may not reveal that meaning to us in the timing we would prefer (like yesterday), but we can trust Him.

Well, I was going to tell you about the super delicious oatmeal buttermilk pancakes I made for breakfast yesterday, and I was going to burden you with details about Edith’s limp, Millie’s bump, Michael and Julie’s Very Bad, Horrible, Despicable Day That Was Redeemed By Some Hymn Singing In Bed, Michael’s new home health aide named Paul, and I thought I would blather on about a few other things as well.

But I’m looking at the clock, and need to get out of my plaid flannel nightgown and into some real clothes, because Michael has a neurology appointment in one hour!

Many blessings to you this week, dear ones…

Here’s what I’m doing…

January 16, 2014 | My Jottings

If you read Ann Voskamp’s blog, A Holy Experience, you’ll know that she has invited her readers to participate in a scripture memorization project. If you haven’t seen it, click here and be sure to read through the whole post so you can see the verse printouts that are available at the end.

I have memorized a bit of scripture now and again, but I want to be more intentional about it, and when I read this post I felt encouraged and hopeful and strongly nudged. So I printed out the small verse cards on regular paper, cut them up, and have begun hanging them in my office right above where I sit each day as I do my paperwork. I’ll add a new verse each week, and hopefully will have memorized many beautiful scriptures about Jesus before the year is through.

They’re a bit faint in the picture, but you can get an idea of how it looks. Click to enlarge if you like. I’ve strung some twine all the way across the wall, and will attach each verse with a tiny crafting clothespin.

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The first card says, “Memorizing the Soul Sustaining Words of Jesus…The Jesus Project…For the Weary Soul to Take Wing…Verses from the book of John…the year to fly.”

The second card says, “God’s Word — Make It Your Habit.”

And the first verse, which most of us are familiar with, is: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God,” from John 1:1.

Are you working on memorizing scripture? If not, would you like to join me as I join a few others?  🙂

I’ve never in my life been more aware of how much I need the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. I also want to meditate on these verses I’ll learn, and ask the Holy Spirit to help me apply them wherever they’re needed.

Let me know if you’re thinking about giving it a try.

God bless your day!

Wednesday’s Word-Edition 110

January 15, 2014 | My Jottings

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“Think how much grace one saint requires, so much that nothing but the Infinite could supply him for one day; and yet the Lord spreads His table, not for one, but many saints, not for one day, but for many years; not for many years only, but for generation after generation.” – C.H. Spurgeon

         *         *         *         *         *         *

Schnauzers Sleek and Severe

January 13, 2014 | My Jottings

As I shared recently, we took our two Miniature German Schnauzers to The Bad Lady last week. They were getting furry and smelly, and over three months had passed since they had been groomed. We drive 3.5 miles east to drop off the first dog, then drive home and twiddle our thumbs for a while before it’s time to drive 3.5 miles east again and pick up the newly naked looking dog and drop off the second one. Then in less than an hour we drive 3.5 miles once more to pick up the second shorn Schnauzer and pay Joyce her extremely reasonable fee. It feels like a full day, like we’ve driven to North Dakota or something.

Edith and Mildred act slightly embarrassed each time they’ve been groomed. They know they look different and I’m sure they feel colder when we let them outside too, because they don’t dally. They’re right back at the French doors looking desolate in a minute or two.

When I took out the camera today to snap a couple of pictures of them, they wouldn’t cooperate! They always come when I call them, but not today. I’m not sure if it was the camera in my hand or what, but I had to carry them each into our master bathroom and shut the door behind me in order to corner them for a photo. These poor doggies probably feel upset that they visit The Bad Lady and live with The Mean Lady.

Here’s a photo below of almost 12 year-old Edith showing off her new cut. Click to enlarge if you like. We no longer have them groomed in the typical Schnauzer fashion because we have so much snow in the winter and mud in the spring, so we keep their spindly little legs clipped close. Here’s a picture of a classical Schnauzer cut if you’d like to see how puffy their legs are usually kept, although that dog has a longer tail than most Schnauzers.

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In trying to think of an alliterative analysis of how Edith and Millie look right after they’re groomed, the words sleek and severe came to mind. Edith looks especially severe to me with those ears that won’t fold over like normal Schnauzers, and with her eyebrows and long beard and mustache. She looks like she might say something gruff and severe, like “Achtung!” You know, since they’re German Schnauzers?

Actually, I don’t think Edith is the type to ever say the word achtung.

And here’s almost eight year-old Millie, looking simultaneously obsequious and worried, as usual.

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I can tell they miss all their curly, insulating hair because during the night they take turns burrowing down underneath the covers of our bed when the room gets chilly. Then after about an hour they apparently get too hot and come out panting loudly, and plop down dramatically on top of the covers until they start to cool off again and nose down underneath.

Yes, we’re all sleeping so well around here.

Tonight my three daughters and I will be going out for dinner to celebrate Carolyn’s birthday, which was yesterday. We had an ice storm yesterday and had to change our plans since driving was treacherous; there were so many accidents our police department told people to stay off the streets.

This week will be a week of report writing, paper work, training, and cooking. And I’m going to get my hair cut this week too. My groomer is named Bobbie, and I don’t call her The Bad Lady. She gives me the Judi Dench look every couple of months and I’m way overdue.

Okay this is getting boring. I hope you have a good week!

Odd and End

January 9, 2014 | My Jottings

I woke up this morning around 3:25 to help Michael go potty, and I could feel the difference. It had warmed up outside. We have all been expecting it and waiting for it, but it’s interesting that you can feel it inside that it’s better outside. I think when the outside temperatures are 30 degrees below zero, every possible drafty place in the house is felt. That kind of relentless, angry cold finds its way through walls and joist gaps and around windows and gets into the house no matter what the furnace thermostat says. It might be 70 degrees in the air of the house, but stand close to an outside wall and you can feel the cold radiating from the walls. I don’t know if that’s an oxymoron or not — I thought only heat radiated. But you get my drift.

When I got out of bed at 6:20 I looked at the outside thermometer on our front deck and it said 2 degrees below zero. And I am not making this up, it felt warmer. When I let the dogs out and went out on the deck in the dark waiting for them to finish their business, I stood there in my nightgown and slippers in 2 below weather and it felt more tolerable. Today it’s supposed to reach 10 above and tomorrow the 20s above, and we’re all so happy and relieved about that. Polar Vortex, good riddance! is what I say. I read online that a few nights ago Minnesota was actually colder than Mars. There isn’t a word accurate enough to express how that feels, but here are a few tries: harrumph…gahhhh…sheesh…yikes….blech. And the best word of all for that kind of inhuman cold?

No.

Today our two Schnauzers will make their quarterly trip to The Bad Lady. Her name is really Joyce but our dogs have called her The Bad Lady for years; they hate the loud buzzing of the clippers over every part of their sensitive little bodies and the way she plucks hair from their ears and the humiliating squeezing she does in nether schnauzer regions. They look so forlorn when I drop them off at Joyce’s house.

Here’s a picture of 12 year-old Edith taken a couple of days ago, so you can see how desperately she needs to be groomed:

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When she gets this unkempt we call her Sesame Street Wolf.

This blog post is entitled Odd and End, and the photo above would be the “odd” part. Edith looks shaggy, daft, desperate and a bit odd, don’t you think? When she returns from The Bad Lady today she’ll look sleek and naked and clean and shiny — I’ll post a picture later.

And for the “end” part of the post, here are a few shots I took with my iPhone at the end of 2013. This was the Panzanella salad I made as part of our Christmas Eve dinner, minus the bread. Panzanella has big chunks of sauteed-in-butter-until-crisp French bread tossed in it right before serving, and it’s my favorite salad.

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See the little julienned ribbons of fresh basil in there too? Yum.

And we also had some stuffed baked potatoes, as I mentioned in a previous post. I kept them in the oven just a little too long so they sort of melted out of their skins, but I didn’t hear one complaint all evening…

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And on Christmas Eve, three of my grandchildren sang in their church’s children’s choir, and of course I had to go sit and listen and take it all in, and wipe tears and send up silent but truly spilling over thank-yous to the Lord, again and again. Mr. McBoy had a solo and his voice is beautiful and pitch perfect. If you click on the picture to enlarge it, you might be able to see him in the white shirt (with the blond hair) in the group of children at the left of the altar.

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And at the end of the year, Lake Superior (of course) had begun to freeze (or “make ice” as Michael always says), and our tremendous winds caused a lot of the new ice to break apart into 2-inch thick shards and pile up on on the shore. Our son-in-law Jeremy retrieved one of these tiles and brought it over so we could see it. It was about 18 inches wide and 2-3 feet long. We studied it for a while and even took a lick, because Lake Superior provides our drinking water and is some of the best tasting in the world. Not that I’ve tasted lots of the world’s water, but compared to Germany, England, Scotland, Ireland, Canada, Mexico, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and at least twenty-five of our American states, Lake Superior water is, well, superior. Jeremy quickly carved a tree on the ice slab and put it in a flower box on our deck.

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Later this afternoon Michael goes in for an MRI of his brain. His neurologist wants to rule something out, so this is part of the journey, I guess.

Here are some things I’m thankful for today… the neon magenta sunrise we had this morning, a good night’s sleep last night, the promise of a warm-up to almost 30 degrees this weekend, a date at the symphony this Saturday night with my grandson, a hot cup of tea, a new book to read (and it’s set in Scotland!), a recent letter from a beloved friend faraway, Edith’s health and digestion getting better, the new home health aide assigned once a week to come in and help Michael, and the reassurance of God’s love and power.

I’ll leave with you something that made me smile yesterday. As you might know, Michael’s speech is often unintelligible and/or very muffled, but once in a while he speaks out a word or a phrase that’s as loud and clear as a bell. While I was clearing away his breakfast dishes he said to me, “You’re shapely!” Which I thought was a very kind assessment of my physical being. I laughed and responded, “Well thank you! And how’s my hair look?” (because it was wild and frizzy morning hair) and Michael said in total seriousness, “Improved.”

Aha.

From your shapely and improved friend,

Open my eyes, Lord

January 6, 2014 | My Jottings

Well, this “polar vortex” that’s been on the national news has caused our wind chill temperatures to fall to -61 degrees this morning. Unbelievable. I’m ready to emigrate. Alaska sounds balmy right about now and indeed would be a more temperate place to live. When we let the dogs out to go potty they can only be out for less than one minute before their feet start to freeze and they have trouble walking. I’m sure the neighbors found it interesting when I was out on the front deck in my plaid flannel nightgown this morning half bent over at the waist, clapping my hands and urgently calling our Schnauzers to hurry, hurry, go potty, come back in Edith, come on Millie! Then there was more Schnauzer butt-cleaning once Edith was back inside. People who don’t have garages are finding their cars dead this morning. Our governor ordered all schools closed today because of the danger of exposing our skin to the bitterly cold air. But we Minnesotans have our hands held over our eyes, bravely scanning the weather horizon, because by Thursday of this week we’re supposed to be back in the twenties above zero, and that will make us feel giddy and like kicking our heels up. T-shirt weather, some will say.

Edith is still sick and I’ll be taking her to the vet today. I’m supposed to follow her out into the dangerous, flesh-freezing air and knee-deep snow, catch some of her diarrhea before it gets mingled with the snow, and take it to the vet with us. I know that with God all things are possible but I just don’t know about this task.

Yesterday my daughter Sara asked if I had a few minutes to watch something on her laptop, and of course I said yes. She and I sat on my bed and watched this short video of a pastor named Ed. By the time it was over, we were both crying. Watching it was one of those lens-changers for me, when the cloudy lenses I was looking through were taken off and exchanged for some clearer, sharper ones. I hope you’ll watch this and tell me what you think.

This message reminded me that just because Michael is sick doesn’t mean that each day isn’t still full of possibilities. I might need to wear some strong lenses in order to discern what those possibilities are, but they’re there, and I’m thankful this video so gently and powerfully spoke to my heart. Sometimes I need the Lord to open my eyes to what He’s doing in our lives. Sometimes I need the Lord to open my eyes about why we live in northern Minnesota. 🙂

Maybe there’s someone you know who would benefit from seeing part of Pastor Ed’s story too. Feel free to point them to this video.

Wherever you are, I send a wave from The Great Frozen North and thank you for stopping by here today….

Thursday Thirteen

January 2, 2014 | My Jottings

1.  It’s minus nineteen degrees (minus twenty-eight Celsius) on our front deck this morning. But it was minus forty-seven in two of Minnesota’s coldest cities this morning: Babbitt and Embarrass. Yes, these are apt names for cities that get this cold.

2.  I made delicious creamy chicken, vegetable and wild rice soup for dinner last night, and we have enough left over to have it again tonight. Salad, crusty bread and hot soup. I could live on those three things.

3.  Against my better judgment, I gave Mildred and Edith a piece of cooked chicken as I was making the soup yesterday. Edith doesn’t always tolerate different foods and throws up easily in her old age.

4.  I was cleaning dog puke from deep shag bedroom carpet early this morning while it was still dark outside, and minus nineteen degrees.

5.  I have now cleaned a Schnauzer butt two times this morning and it’s only just 8:00 a.m. Edith has diarrhea. I am not ashamed to say that even though it’s probably my fault she’s sick, I stood at the kitchen sink washing my hands after I scrubbed her and said in a whiny voice, “Please Lord. Please.”

6.  I have this candle burning right now and our house smells like what I am certain heaven could smell like.

7.  Michael and I started a read-through-the-Bible-in-two-years plan yesterday. If you’d like to try it yourself, click here. (the link for the PDF plan is at the end of the post.)

8.  I have been doing some mindless and unfruitful things lately, like watching Seasons 1 and 2 of “Grey’s Anatomy” (which I’ve never watched before and sometimes wonder why I’m watching now) and eating Oreo peanut butter cookies.

9. Michael is confused a lot of the time these days, especially in the middle of the night, and I now get to be the bossy woman who tells him every single thing he ever needs to do for the rest of his life. “Your autopilot has up and flown, Michael,” is what the Occupational Therapist told him gently, and of course we knew this is what Parkinson’s does to the brain. He can’t do the next obvious thing. So here’s how I sound every night, all the time, when I sense him stirring next to me. (And these phrases are said quietly with long pauses in between each, over the course of about five minutes, and only when needed.) “Do you have to go to the bathroom? Okay, stand up. Turn this way. We’re going to walk toward that door. Wait. Take big steps. No, bigger. Hold on. Try again. Okay, through that door. A little closer. Closer to the toilet. Stand on the rug, a little closer. I’ll hold your cane. No, don’t close the lid, lift it up. It’s okay. You can go. No, you didn’t go yet, try again. Michael, please try to go. Okay, you’re going! Thank you Lord, thank you. Try to go some more, that was just a tiny bit. Okay, now turn toward me, take some bigger steps. This way, toward the door. Wait. I’ll help you so you don’t fall. You can trust me. Yes, here’s the cane. Toward the bed now. Ooops, bigger steps. No, this way. Okay. Now let’s put your cane down on the floor, not in the bed. I’ll help you move over. Put your head on the pillow. No, the pillow, right here. Good. Okay here are your covers. We don’t have to get up for two more hours, so try to go to sleep. It’s still dark out.” And so on. You wouldn’t speak to a young child in this way because a young child’s autonomic nervous system is working and they know all the steps they need to do when you say, “It’s time for bed” or “let’s go potty.” All the unspoken things our amazing brains do? They need to be spoken out for Michael now.

10.  Eight of my nine female offspring and I went to a gorgeous Jacobean mansion recently to take a self-guided tour. We live very close to this beautiful home and it was fun to see it decorated for Christmas, and to hear the little girls say which bedroom they would choose if one of the many rooms could be their own. Little Louisa did not attend because at eighteen months she isn’t interested in Jacobean mansions yet.

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Above, from left: Vivienne, Sara, Mrs. Nisky, Clara, Li’l Gleegirl, Sharon, Audrey and Carolyn. My heart almost explodes when I look at this picture. I have no idea how to come close to expressing the depth of love and emotion and prayers I have for these young women. It gets stronger day by day. I know all you mothers understand exactly what I’m talking about.

11.  We had our roof shoveled yesterday. The snow was piling up so high and I started hearing occasional scary cracks and pops above me, so I knew it was time to call a crew. It took four men three hours to clear the roof of snow and then shovel it all off the deck and driveway where they’d thrown it.

12.  Our new mandated health care will not be a good thing for us. The websites have been messed up, we will pay a lot more money for less coverage and higher (triple) deductibles, and I am having trouble deciding which company to choose. I have yet to talk with one person who likes or is better off by the changes.

13. As I mentioned previously, my word for the year is “gentle.” Here’s a quote I found to be jarring, but likely:

“I learned that it is the weak who are cruel, and that gentleness is to be expected only from the strong.”  Unknown

And here’s my mandate from my heavenly Father for 2014, with my name inserted to remind me that He really is speaking to us through His Word…

Julie, rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Let your gentleness be evident to all, Julie.
The Lord is near.
Julie, do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
 

Philippians 4:4-7

What is your Thursday Thirteen? Or your Thursday Three?

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