God is…

December 30, 2014 | My Jottings

Some of you might remember that a while back we painted a small wall in our dining room with black chalkboard paint. If you missed seeing what I drew on that wall, here’s a link to see the first one, and here’s a link to see the second one.

With 2015 two days away, I thought I would start a new chalkboard project, and here is the beginning of it:

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(Our house is almost seventy years old and the walls are plaster and have a bumpy texture to them, so they don’t wipe as clean as a sheet-rocked wall would. I’m not sure why the wall doesn’t come completely clean, even with a damp cloth, but oh well….).

I plan to add one word descriptions and/or very short phrases to this wall all throughout the coming year. I know already I will write God is…. love, faithful, powerful, my Father, patient, omniscient, and so on. As the calendar pages turn on the year ahead, I want the whole wall filled with the attributes of God, and I want my own knowledge of who God is to transform into deeper experiences with Him. I use this wall to preach to myself, to remind me of Truth, and what I need to know to get through the day. My prayer is that if I’m still alive at the end of 2015, there are some attributes of God that I will have grown to know and love like never before.

I will come back and post pictures now and then of the progress, with some thoughts too.

Would you like to help me start the wall? I would welcome that. What are some words you might put on a wall like this?

Praying your week is blessed,

Open my eyes, that I may see….

December 26, 2014 | My Jottings

In recent years past, choosing one word to focus on for the coming year has been a thing. I’ve done it too, and like the idea. One year my word was “honor.” I have a couple of blog friends who chose their one word after praying that God would show them what He wanted to work out in their lives in the next twelve months, and they’ve recounted how He really did bring joy, or rest, or restoration over and over in uncanny ways.

For 2015, I’m not really choosing a word, but a concept, and it has to do with my eyes. God-willing, my focus will be learning to see the things He wants me to see, asking Him to heal my blindness and sharpen my focus on things with eternal value, teach me what it means and how to gaze upon His beauty, and to turn my eyes from worthless things.

My physical eyes have gotten a bit sick this year, and I think my spiritual eyes have fallen ill right along with them. Some days it seems like I’m groping along, not really seeing where I’m going or what I’m supposed to be doing. I know that might sound odd, since each day I have people and work to attend to and in that sense, of course I know what to do. But (as I keep saying) Michael isn’t here in our home anymore. And when that one sentence strikes my heart, as it does many times a day, I feel lost… lost and disoriented without my husband here by my side. I’m not sure I have God’s perspective on this whole tragedy. Or am I being extreme by even calling Parkinson’s Disease with Lewy Body Dementia a tragedy? Is it more of a trial? It certainly feels tragic to me. I can turn in the Bible to many accounts where sorrow and tragedy struck, and God’s hand could still be seen, along with His ultimate purposes, His keeping care and the way He ordered the steps of His people and helped them. I wish I had the spiritual eyes to see more of what God is doing in our lives now that Michael is sick and we no longer live under the same roof.

I’m still writing in my gratitude journal and have no trouble finding God’s activity in His stunning creation, in the kindness of other people, in His generous provision of not only creature comforts but salvation, and in the myriad large and small ways I know I am blessed. Nevertheless each day seems sort of surreal, like we’re all just playing these sad parts in this melancholy story and pretty soon the curtain is going to go down and we’ll all be who we’re supposed to be, at last. As I typed that last sentence, I had a mini-epiphany. That’s exactly what we’re all doing. This is real life, yes, but we are walking out our days trying to cooperate with the Lord as He makes us more and more into who we’re intended to be. To borrow loosely from C.S. Lewis, it’s like we’re all stone statues, and pretty soon God is going to come and breathe on us and we’ll come to life and be our real selves. I believe that will happen after life on this earth is done, but I believe it’s happening bit by bit now, as we travel the paths He’s set us on, sometimes with good light, other times groping and squinting in the dimness, as I said.

Psalm 27:4 — One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek Him in His temple.

I don’t have a firm grasp on everything the verse above means, but I know I want it. I am asking God to make this more of a reality in my life in 2015. I want to gaze upon His beauty more than I do. I want to seek Him in His temple. This side of the New Testament, the word temple primarily means my body, any person’s body who is a Christian. Remarkably, He has promised to come and live in those of us who ask Him to forgive us and take over our lives, and He makes our bodies/selves His holy temple. I don’t treat my temple very well. This last year, due in part to stress and loneliness, I’ve packed an additional twenty pounds on my already ample temple. Funny how when things are pallid and thin on the inside, the outside gets more and more well-fed. Well, not funny, really.

Psalm 119:18 — Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in Your law.

I attend Community Bible Study and have delighted in finding God in the pages of scripture for many years. But (no surprise, in light of our last year….see how I keep making excuses for myself?) these last months have not found me enjoying many spiritual disciplines. And I long for the bounty that comes from their quiet practice. This year I am going to read through the Bible chronologically, something I’ve never done before. If you’d like to try it yourself, here’s a link to a printout to help you keep track of your daily reading. So instead of opening my eyes so I can read CNN, our local news, USA Today, and about a dozen other sites, I’m asking the Lord to open my ailing eyes to show me some wonderful things in His law.

Psalm 146:8 — The LORD gives sight to the blind. 

Jesus was sure good at healing blind people. I love how He didn’t use just one method, either. Whether it was with a gentle touch of His hands or a warm smear of saliva mixed with dirt (how many think the blind man didn’t care too much about the ickiness of that method once his sight was restored?), Jesus knew how to open sick eyes. My eyes need a touch too — my physical eyes and my spiritual eyes. I’m believing that Jesus wants to touch my eyes this coming year, and perhaps the years following that, if I’m still here. If He heals my sick, dry, plastered-shut-each-night eyes, the physical ones with Meibomian Gland Dysfunction, you’ll be the first to read about it here. But if He only heals my spiritual eyes, I will rejoice in that. I need to see who needs His touch. I need to see His hand reaching out to me when I’m groping in the dark. I need to see the pathway out of old sinful patterns. I need to see His work in sorrow. I need to see which other ministries to support. I need to see my lowly estate (in light of His power and majesty) and my constant need for humility and a laying down of my prideful ways. I need to see His love for those I find so hard to love. Lord, open my eyes and heal my blindness, for your glory.

Matthew 20:32-34 — Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want Me to do for you?” He asked. “Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.” Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed Him.

Can you imagine Jesus actually calling out to you, asking you what you wanted Him to do for you? What would you ask of Him? I have about ten things I would choke out to Him, falling on my knees and sobbing. And how beautiful that He responded in compassion, and touched them.

Luke 24:31 — Then their eyes were opened and they recognized [Jesus].

I want my blindness to be healed so I can better recognize who He wants me to help, who needs prayer, a patient listening ear, words of encouragement. I want to recognize Him in people, and His beckoning to me from the path ahead. Lord, open our eyes so we recognize You today.

2 Corinthians 4:18 — So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Oh, how I need His help doing this. I fix my eyes on my iPhone so I can distract myself and play Words With Friends and Sudoku and read the news and see who said what and why I should care about that. I shudder to think how many hours I’ve fixed my eyes on things that aren’t going to make a difference in my life or any other person’s life, as I’ve tried to zone out and detach myself from the emotional and mental pain that has so boldly intruded on my days and nights.

But as is true with everything, I cannot do any of this in my own strength. So I hand myself over once again, place the whole of my life in the hands of the One I feebly love, but yes, it is still love even if it needs to grow, and I say, Lord, open my eyes. Heal my blindness. Make me aware of the things you care so deeply about. Forgive me, dear Jesus.

I got a new pair of glasses not long ago, and posted a picture here on the blog. I also mentioned how heavy they were and how the bridge of my nose began to ache, and my eye sockets. Well, my friend Jodi texted after reading about that and steered me to an optometry shop in our city I’d never been to. Jodi’s steering has been excellent in a number of things in my life, so I went right down to the glasses place and told them my nose woes. They had several pairs of feather-weight glasses that suited me well, and these are the ones I finally settled on. They look a lot like my other pair, but they are so much more comfortable.

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(If I’m ever arrested for disturbing the peace because I was caught uproariously celebrating the healing of my eyes, I guess I already have a mug shot for the police to use.)

Do you have anything you’d like the Lord to do in your life this coming year? Would you be willing to share?

In His grace,

Grayness and Grace

December 18, 2014 | My Jottings

(Written three days ago…) I woke up this morning around 3:30 and couldn’t get back to sleep for a long while. I pulled back the curtain behind my bed and watched the snow fall for a while. We’re supposed to get three inches today. The wind is howling and it seems like a good day to stay home, except I have a doctor’s appointment at 9:20 this morning, so I’ll be venturing out. I don’t really want to go to the doctor because he’s new to me, since my old, beloved family doctor of 32 years no longer works at our clinic. Our new guy is friendly, loves his work, listens well, has a beard, all good things in my book. I’m going because I think I need a sleep study. I have awakened a few times in the past couple of months with a loud, desperate, air-sucking gasp, halfway sitting up, with my heart pounding so hard and fast it feels like it will come out of my chest. I think I can tell my heart is doing this because I stop breathing, and the severity of the pounding makes me think my breathing lapses are long. I don’t think I’m having a dream or nightmare. Maybe I’ll get on the CPAP wagon now, who knows? I have a couple of friends who use CPAP machines at night and these little whirring boxes have truly transformed their sleep. I never thought I would be headed down this road since I’m not much of a snorer and haven’t had other sleep apnea symptoms. Oh well. I guess putting on my plaid nightgown and climbing into a strange bed while being hooked up to various wires, and being observed by strangers while I sleep with my mouth open is the next thing on my list of adventures.

My sweet seven year old granddaughter Li’l Gleegirl spent the night on Saturday and helped me make cookies for the annual cookie exchange my three daughters and I do together. We made Spicy Molasses Cookies and they are so scrumptious with a small glass of milk. Li’l Gleegirl wanted to go with me on Sunday to spend the day with Grandpa, so she brought some toys and books, we packed a lunch for her, and off we went. It’s almost an hour’s drive, and after we had gone about twelve miles she said, “Are we half way there yet?” I forget how quickly time can drag when you’re young, and how true the overused cliche “time flies” is for us older folks.

Anyway, Grandpa was so glad to see her and they shared a long hug. She enjoyed seeing all the birds again, and she explored the big gameroom they have there, played some little instruments during the Gaither Homecoming Gathering that was on the TV in Grandpa’s living room, and was very good company for me. When the time for afternoon worship/church rolled around, Li’l Gleegirl and I were getting ready to take Grandpa to chapel when a staff person from the veterans home approached and informed us there was a confirmed case of influenza in the building and we were to put on a mask. All visitors were also encouraged to limit their time there to fifteen minutes, and we’d already exceeded that, so we returned Michael to his neighborhood called Birch and prepared to leave. Because this was a sudden change in our plans, chapel canceled, no nice long goodbye with a quiet prayer, Michael became agitated. The delusional thinking that is part of Lewy Body Dementia kicked in and he thought the whole flu thing was a big conspiracy dreamed up by the powers that be to keep us apart, and he didn’t think I should leave. I hate trying to explain things to him that he can’t understand. This is one of my roles at this point in our lives now, and I hate it. 3741001103f41e2024a1d9e0f95f488c

Driving home, the landscape of the north shore of Minnesota and weather was as bleak as I was feeling inside. Gray and colorless, no signs of life, nearly frozen, lacking light. Li’l Gleegirl was a bright beam in the midst of it all, though…

I have a small white tree in my bedroom, decorated by some of my grandchildren. I haven’t put up the larger green tree in our living room, and am not sure I will. My daughters may think I’m becoming like Mrs. Scrooge or something, but that’s not it. I’m not sure how to articulate it. I’m happy about celebrating Jesus and the hope, love and mercy He brings and I am desperate for. I just crave a pared-down, condensed, slow walking out of this celebration. Yet I know I cannot impose my Advent journey/desires on others.

I do look forward to our family get togethers so much. But somehow everything has become wistful, nostalgic, tinged with sorrow for me, and you can imagine how fun that is for everyone. Some would say, “and this too shall pass…”, but I don’t want to rush these times. I don’t want them to quickly pass. When life gets harder and narrower, I hope the Lord can cause me to go deeper.

My friend Ember wrote this to me: “Spring always comes. ‘As long as the earth remains’. The human heart will also have its time in the sun and its season of life rising anew.”

I know this is true.

So this is my refrain for today: “Oh, for grace to trust Him more….”

Wednesday’s Word-Edition 117

December 17, 2014 | My Jottings

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“I have sometimes thought that we cannot know any man thoroughly well while he is in perfect health. As the ebb-tide discloses the real lines of the shore and the bed of the sea, so feebleness, sickness, and pain bring out the real character of a man.”

~~James A. Garfield, 20th President of the United States

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For your perusal…

December 12, 2014 | My Jottings

I’m always glad for Fridays. It means no appointments for a couple of days, it means getting into my nightgown before the sun goes down (much to my daughter Sharon’s constant surprise), it means being able to sleep in on Saturday morning past 6:30, and it means I’m just a little over a day from seeing Michael again. Yay!

I thought I would share a few unrelated things that have had me thinking this week. Some of these issues inspired deep thinking, and some, not so much. But do with them what you will, and maybe you’ll find something of interest to peruse.

First, I read a very sobering piece written by Kay Warren, wife of famed Saddleback Church’s founder and pastor, Rick Warren. Many of you might know that the Warrens lost their son to suicide last year, and what she writes about how insensitive our Christmas cards can be to those who are grieving, is worth considering. We all know someone who will be grieving or going through very difficult times this Christmas, so I hope this is as helpful to you as it was to me. Click here to read Kay’s very transparent thoughts.

Next, I usually try to buy one Christmas CD each year to add to our collection. This year I gave away three Christmas CDs that never got used, and I bought one called “Christmas At Downton Abbey.” It’s very traditional and European sounding, which I love, and some of the songs are performed by the characters of the show. What Christmas CDs are you listening to this year?

I’ve been spending some time with my grandchildren lately, as their daddy traveled south for a few days to be with his mother, who is ailing, and their mama is working hard getting Christmas photographs ready for the many families she’s photographed these past weeks. Two of my grands spent the night last night and I threw their school uniforms in the washer and dryer so they’d be fresh and ready this morning. One of Mr. McBoy’s pair of khaki pants had been in his backpack for quite a while, long enough for a smear of thick mud that covered the whole thigh part of his pants to dry and penetrate nicely. I treated the pants with a pretty good laundry spray, washed them in hot water in my favorite liquid laundry detergent, and when they came out the mud-stain was still there. Boo. So I decided to try once more, and was so surprised at the results I thought I’d share. I put the pants back in the washer, using the same liquid detergent, and this time I added about 1/2 cup of powdered Borax. k2-_51d3df44-6fe2-456f-89d3-39b35d9a5af0.v1I washed them on a hot cycle, and when they came out, the mud stain was gone. I was impressed. I keep Borax in my laundry room because I’ve found it’s the best thing for keeping front loading washing machines fresh. Do you have a front loader? If you do, you know that you’re supposed to always keep the door ajar, and occasionally “treat” the inside with a special freshening dealy-bob to keep it from smelling icky. Well I’ve tried the dealy-bobs and I’ve also tried a cycle of bleach, and I finally read that 1/2 cup of Borax does the trick, and it does. It works better than anything. So there you go.

I’ve shared on my blog before how much I have enjoyed Radio Theatre’s productions over the years. I own most of them, and Michael and I have listened to At Home in Mitford, A Christmas Carol, At the Back of the North Wind, Oliver Twist, The Chronicles of Narnia, Little Women, and Anne of Green Gables, among others. Well, there’s a new production out called C. S. Lewis at War and I just finished listening to it today. I like to keep these in the car, especially for longer drives. This one is fantastic, just as all of them are. I cried and exulted as I listened to the back story of how C. S. Lewis began to work on his incomparable book Mere Christianity, which I also highly recommend. The acting and quality of these Radio Theatre productions are top-notch. If you’d like to see more about this particular one, click here and you can also hear a sample. I’m almost ready to listen to this one again!

49114766ce237002c8ceae5054b57eceTo continue on with my plaid kick, I’m actually thinking about doing something really huge, dark and dramatic with plaid wallpaper in our house somewhere. Our dining room would be a good place, since it’s smallish and full of very bright natural light. Our hallway would also be a good choice.

I actually gasped when I saw this large scale tartan plaid wallpaper. Using something like this would not be out of the question. I would draw the line at using several pairs of shoes and duffel bags as decor items, however.

They say that you either love wallpaper or you hate it, and I guess you can figure out that I’m in the former camp. I have seen some of the most gorgeous wallpaper used by decorator Sarah Richardson lately, and it always strikes a chord deep within. You know someone is a bit strange, or at the very least, quirky, if the things that make them happy are Borax laundry booster and bold wallpaper.

And I got a new pair of glasses, the first pair in five years. I wanted something a little larger and clunkier than what I had, and here they are.

Photo 50There’s only one thing. They’re heavier than my other frames, and after a day of wearing them my nose feels tired and achy. That’s JUST what I need in addition to all my other tired and achy spots. (Have I mentioned my left hip? Remember I had my right knee replaced eighteen months ago? And yes, now my left hip is waking me up three or four times at night and hissing, “Stop laying this way! Turn over! No–not like that! Like this!” and I’m getting ready to smack her.)

So after wearing my new glasses for several days, I put them on my desk and put on my old ones and the bridge of my nose said, “Aaahhhh. Thank you!”

I haven’t figured out what I’m going to do about this yet.

Earlier today I met my dear friend Su for lunch at a local burrito place, and it was wonderful…the food and the company. We agreed to meet again soon at a new little tea house in our city called The Snooty Fox. I’m really hoping I love The Snooty Fox because I love the name so much.

It’s getting dark now, so I will go and warm up some dinner. I made the Pioneer Woman’s hamburger soup for dinner last night and varied it a little bit, adding some red wine to the broth. I always make a lot of soup so we can have it two nights in a row. A day off from cooking! Yes!

So I have some questions for you now. What is your favorite soup? Do you have any wallpaper in your house by choice? Have you ever enjoyed a Radio Theatre production? Does your front loader ever get smelly, and if so, what do you use to freshen it up again? (If you don’t own a front loader and are thinking we must be quite the filthy household to have such washer issues, just google “front loader smell” and see the hundreds of articles that pop up about it.)

And….what are you doing this weekend?

Faithful Friend

December 9, 2014 | My Jottings

I loved this video and had to share. This sleeping pooch is apparently having a bad dream…maybe he’s trying to get away from a pursuing bear or a wolf!

His friend notices his doggy distress and decides to wake him up, to get him out of his nightmare.

“Wake up, wake up! It’s going to be okay! I’m here! Now let’s just rest here a while together….”

Aren’t dogs wonderful?

True Friendship

December 8, 2014 | My Jottings

Good Monday morning! It’s beautiful in my neck of the woods today — a very fluffy two inches of snow has fallen, and every twig and branch is covered. I went outside last night to let Edith and Mildred go potty, and some of the flakes falling were the size of quarters.

Have you read any of Shauna Niequist’s books? I thought her Bread and Wine was one of the most honest, inspiring and comforting books I’ve ever read. Now I’m reading Shauna’s Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life, and as I read last night before being afraid to go to sleep (more on that later), this paragraph on friendship was a balm on my soul:

“True friendship is a sacred, important thing, and it happens when we drop down into that deeper level of who we are, when we cross over into the broken, fragile parts of ourselves. We have to give something up in order to get friendship like that. We have to give up our need to be perceived as perfect. We have to give up our ability to control what people think of us. We have to overcome the fear that when they see the depths of who we are, they’ll leave. But what we give up is nothing in comparison to what this kind of friendship gives to us. Friendship is about risk. Love is about risk. If we can control it and manage it and manufacture it, then it’s something else, but if it’s really love, really friendship, it’s a little scary around the edges.”  p. 50, Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist

I think one of the reasons this paragraph struck me as it did, is because I have always had this lurking core belief that if people stuck around long enough, they would eventually leave. Not knowing the seeds they were planting, my parents used to tell me when I was a little girl that I would never have any friends if I didn’t stop being so bossy. I thought I was just directing and helping things along when I would tell my friends what we were going to play and how, but this began to nurture in me a false belief that I was not worthy enough, interesting enough, for people to be friends that would stick around forever. I have other good reasons to have this icky, corrupt core belief, even if it’s a false one. I do not embrace this belief at all, but do all I can to make it shrivel and die. It has definitely shriveled over the decades. It used to be this big, juicy poisonous thing, watermelon-sized. In my thirties it had shrunk to the size of a prune. I think it’s pretty much like a raisin now. Shriveled and small, yes, but not completely dried up yet.

Maybe someday when my skin is as dry and shriveled as the two exquisitely beautiful women friends pictured above, all my crippling thoughts and ways will have completely dried up as well.

In the meantime, I’m grateful for books written by brave and transparent people who come alongside, so to speak, and whisper kindly, “You are not alone…..”

Mad About Plaid

December 4, 2014 | My Jottings

It’s no secret that I love to decorate with toiles and plaids. I thought I would post a few pictures of the newest plaid items in our household.

Sara recently bought this throw for me, and Mildred thinks the back of the couch is the perfect place for it.

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I also like buffalo plaid, even though I’m not a fan of the name. I have a set of summer sheets for our bed and now a set of winter, flannel sheets. How did this black and red check/plaid get its name, I wonder?

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And we normally have plain white shades on our dining room chandelier (maybe it’s more like a hanging light — chandelier sounds fancier than it really is…), but for a richer, darker touch, we now have these:

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And I love to put a buttery piece of Scottish shortbread on one of these small plates and sit down to enjoy it with a hot cup of tea:

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There’s more. But I don’t think I’ll line up all my long, flannel nightgowns and take a picture of those just yet. I will someday though. It’s inevitable…when you’re mad about plaid.

Thanksgiving, a tour, and some thoughts…

December 2, 2014 | My Jottings

I hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving. We had a wonderful day. I did the turkey and stuffing and rolls, and my three daughters did the rest, and the food was delish. We had a fresh turkey (which I may have cooked 30 minutes too long), sage and onion stuffing, French, dense rolls and butter, mashed potatoes and gravy, baked yams, roasted asparagus, cranberry sauce, a relish tray with dip, apple pie a la mode, pumpkin pie with fresh whipped cream, French silk pie, wine and coffee.

Right after breakfast I drove up the North Shore to pick up Michael. I pulled into the garage when we got home, helped him up the basement stairs and got him situated in his living room recliner, I let the whining, tap-dancing Schnauzers out of their kennels. They rushed at Daddy, jumping in unison up on his lap and chest with such excited energy they knocked him back in the recliner and his glasses came off. Edith and Millie squealed and licked and showed all their doggy joy at having their daddy home. I will never forget that scene and how hard Michael was laughing.

Michael wanted to lay down for a while after that so I helped him to our bedroom. Another memory I will always cherish happened a few minutes later. Jeremy and Carolyn and their children arrived, and filled the small entry with the Minnesota Family Holiday Look, with multicolored winter jackets, boots and other winter outerwear placed wherever possible. Jeremy came back to our bedroom right away and climbed in bed right beside Michael and cuddled him. I have tears to recall it now. Then Carolyn came in with beautiful baby Miriam, and held her close so Michael could see our newest grandchild. I haven’t written in my gratitude journal in a few days but these scenes will be written down when I open it next, and I will sit and ponder how lavish and kind God has been to me, to our family, and how much He has brought us through.

After our huge meal we went around the table as we always do, one by one sharing the things for which we’re thankful this year. I think that is the best part of the day, and I can still remember what each person said. And later in the evening two-year old Louisa climbed up into the recliner with Grandpa and just snuggled with him for the longest time. So priceless to me.

That night after everyone went home, Michael wanted to go to bed. He was happily exhausted and slept like a rock for about eleven hours, barely moving. The next morning he wanted a piece of pumpkin pie and some coffee, and then later I helped him dress in a new pullover sweater I bought for him. He is sixty five years old and I still think he’s the finest looking man. I tell him that and he smiles sheepishly and acts like it couldn’t possibly be true, but it is. Actually, Michael could probably look like Henry Kissinger and I’d think he was hot. His kindness and love and faithfulness has made him the most beautiful man to me.

After watching an episode of one of our favorite shows, “Doc Martin,” we started to prepare to leave for the veterans home. It had begun to snow and I knew I wanted to be home before dark, so we left around noon. It was very hard, I don’t know how else to say it. I question and second-guess the things I have decided for Michael, and no one truly knows my heartbreak, except maybe God. I have three or four different scenarios I work on in my mind, ways to do things differently with Michael, and there’s hardly an hour that goes by that I’m not trying to figure out what to do. It’s exhausting.

On the drive up the shore we listened to Robin Mark sing songs that helped us focus on the trustworthiness and goodness of God, and Michael pretty much massaged my right hand for an hour as I drove. Every once in a while he would lift my hand to his lips and kiss the back of it tenderly, and I would silently sob, trying to wipe tears so I could see the snowy road ahead. We stopped at Culver’s in Two Harbors and had ButterBurgers, which Michael was happy about.

Once we arrived at the veterans home and I wheeled him to his Birch residence, it was heartwarming to see so many people greet Michael. He is known and loved in this facility, even by employees who work in other parts of the building and don’t help care for him. “Hi Michael! How was your Thanksgiving with your family?” so many asked. I don’t have pictures yet, but the whole place was decked out in Christmas decorations. There are eight Christmas trees beautifully trimmed in the four different residences and all common areas. There are wreaths, lights, and every kind of Christmas display you can imagine on coffee tables, in bookcases, on table tops. Snow globes, glittering sleds filled with shiny glass ornaments, garlands entwined with lights and ribbons. To say they go all out is putting it mildly.

Here are a few photos of the facility that I took a couple of months ago.

This is the main living room or lobby. The real moose head which hangs over this fireplace now has a Santa hat on it.

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Michael and I often sit together on the couches or recliners in front of this fireplace and share a snack or read something.

This view below is the main hall you see when you step into the lobby/living room. It’s made to look like a Main Street, and there’s a barber shop and bank on the left, a computer/phone booth, several family areas and public bathrooms to the right.

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There’s a little cafe of sorts near the living room too. Hot coffee and tea is always available, and there are tables nearby set up with cribbage boards and magazines and newspapers. The four neighborhoods (or residences) are listed below. The whiteboard you see listed the results of a fishing contest they held for their residents. They take the men fishing on a local lake, on a pontoon boat, almost weekly during the summer months.

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The room below is the sun room, at the back of the facility. Michael and I spend a lot of time here. Just to the right of the door is a very large aviary filled with many finches, a canary, a weaver, and for a while, there were tiny little doves. He and I sit quietly together and get so much enjoyment out of watching these beautiful little birds. Many of them build nests and actually hatch eggs — seeing tiny, almost featherless babies emerge from the nests and open their mouths wide for their patient parents to feed them is pretty thrilling.

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I love these two little turquoise-colored finches, who are so devoted to each other.

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You can click to enlarge these photos. The orange and black bird is called a weaver, and the one clinging to the nest at the upper right is called an owl-faced finch.

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You can see the doves below, some of the nests up high, and the materials provided in that long wire column, so the birds can fluff and build their nests. Michael and I love it when it’s bath time and one of the employees puts in a large flat pan of water. The birds bathe immediately, fluttering and putting their little heads down in the water, splashing everywhere. Then they return to the many branches above and preen for the longest time. Then they all go to sleep, tucking their heads under a wing, and we can see their little chests rise and fall as they do their little birdy breathing.

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Below, this is a not very good photo of the game room. There’s a pool table, some computers, several computer games, a shuffleboard/bowling table, children’s games and toys, a television which is always playing some sort of sports, and a jukebox. Michael likes the TV show “Duck Dynasty” (that hunting mentality is a huge part of Minnesota culture), so I play the theme song (“Sharp-Dressed Man” by ZZ Top) each time we pass the juke box, and he and I actually do a silly little jive dance to it, him sitting, me standing, holding hands and smiling. Our grandchildren like this room when they visit.

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This is one of the living areas in the Birch residence. That is not Michael’s foot on the left, but believe it or not, that older man (very kind, very quiet, very impaired) used to be a most accomplished ballet dancer in the Minnesota Ballet. Usually this room has several residents and employees in it. There’s a huge dining room and kitchen to the left, with a high wall of windows and a small porch with tables and chairs where people can eat outside in the summer, and have bonfires for s’mores.

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This photo of Michael was taken in August. He has had some kind of a beard for most of our married life, but they began to shave him every morning and he prefers it that way now.

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Part of the front entry:

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Michael’s visit home was such a blessing, but unfortunately the three days and nights following did not go well with him at all. I won’t even go into the details because they’re just too sad.

If any of you know of a Mary Poppins/Julia Child/Maria von Trapp/Mother Teresa kind of person or two who is available for full time employment, please let me know. If a couple of unattached, competent, kind, strong, compassionate, culinary, selfless, patient, cheerful, singing, gentle, godly people were to come along, I might have my answer.

And I know that sounds a bit lighthearted and flippant, but my intention is not that at all.

It has been 149 days since Michael and I have lived apart, and neither one of us wants it this way.

I will drive up to spend the day with him tomorrow, and my heart has already flown ahead…

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