A Hiding Place

June 30, 2016 | My Jottings

Every summer for the past 13 years I have hosted a women’s Bible Study in my home. I take that back…. there was one summer I just couldn’t get it together for 12 Tuesday meetings. It was when Michael’s Parkinson’s Disease really started to dominate our lives, and I was entering the stage of being perpetually overwhelmed. But somehow, by the grace of God, a group of dear friends have been meeting on Tuesday summer mornings now for a long time. It has become the highlight of my summers.

If you stop by here now and then you know that this summer we’re doing something different. Instead of the video-driven Beth Moore or Priscilla Shirer studies we’ve most often done, we are studying the book The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. And rather than make our Tuesday meetings a book club where we just discuss the chapters we’ve read the previous week, I wanted our group of ten women to have some homework to do.

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So I put together a pseudo-workbook, and we have some questions to discuss when we meet. At the end of each meeting, we watch a 20 minute segment of the film by the same name. We have different prayer partners each week, and we lift our needs up to the Lord and ask Him to invade and change our lives for His purposes and our joy.

So far, even though what we’re doing is quite different, I like it. The Hiding Place speaks of several hiding places, the most renowned being the tiny spot behind a bedroom wall where Jews were hidden in the Ten Boom house in Haarlem, Holland during World War 2. Another hiding place often inferred is the place we are hidden in Christ when we give our lives to Him.

I think of my living room as another hiding place, where ten of us carve out two hours a week to come and seek the Lord and hope we’ll encounter Him in personal, lasting ways. So while my living room isn’t the Hiding Place, it’s a hiding place to me. I would guess that many of you have “hiding places” in your home and lives where you can go to meet with the Lord in prayer and to read His Word.

I bought a new iPhone recently after I’d been trying for a while to continue using my shattered old one, and I noticed that its camera has a panoramic feature. I finally tried it out, standing in each of the four corners of my living room. I was surprised at how well the pictures turned out, considering I just swiped the camera in a slow circle without paying much attention to how steady my hands were.

You can click to enlarge these if you like:

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The wall color varies a little from shot to shot, depending on where the sunlight was coming in, I guess. I would call the paint color robin’s egg blue.

And on Tuesdays I bring in some dining room chairs wherever they fit, so we can sit in a circle for our time together.

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Just a little more than a stone’s throw from that front window behind the two chairs, is beautiful and vast Lake Superior. I don’t take for granted that I get to look out on that blue treasure every single day.

And a lovely quilt has a spot of honor in the room, folded on the ottoman you see below. In the evenings, I use the quilt that my friend Helen made and sent to me from Switzerland, but I don’t put it on the back of the couch anymore when it’s not in use, because Millie liked it too much and I don’t want little Schnauzer paws to break the threads.

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In the photo below, you can see into our dining room and beyond that, the kitchen. The paned doors right behind the blue floral chair lead to the front door of the house.

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This is just one of countless hiding places the Lord has provided for His people. Most days I just think my smallish living room is a pleasant and comfortable place. On Tuesday mornings before Deb, Kristi, Kay, Dawn, Connie, Laurel, Fiona, Sharla and Sue arrive, a sense of awe and anticipation surrounds me, and I get down on my knees and ask God to come and be with us in whatever special ways we each so desperately need.

Have you read The Hiding Place yet?

And where is one of your “hiding places?”

Divine Appointments

June 23, 2016 | My Jottings

I’ve been thinking about the ways that God must have been pursuing me from the time I was a very little girl. What a comforting thought that is. When I have come to a time in my life when my company is not often sought out, it brings tears to my eyes to slowly scan back over my life and see that He wanted to make Himself known to me, and was scheduling divine appointments before I could even speak.

When I was born my parents and two older brothers lived on DeLay Avenue in Covina, California. We lived in that house until I was three years old. Our next door neighbor was a woman named Ruby Greener, and she was a Sunday School teacher at the First Baptist Church of Covina. My parents never told me this, but I believe she must have invited them to church. I know that Ruby used to chat with my mother over the wooden fence when they were in their back yards hanging laundry out to dry, and decades later Ruby told me that my mother confided many sad things to her. My parents never became regular attenders, but they began to take me to church every Sunday, from the time I was about two or three years old. Most Sundays my dad dropped me off, and then returned two hours later to pick me up and take me home. Living next door to Ruby Greener was a divine connection, I believe, a mercy of God who knew there was a little girl whose heart would begin to respond to Him at a young age. He knew what was ahead for me, and knew I would need Him early on.

3212323848_b4a38220791If I keep the God lenses on as I look back, I can see many divine appointments in that church of my childhood. I remember Mrs. Greener leading a group of four year-olds in singing “This Little Light of Mine,” and how vigorously I whipped that “bushel” away from my finger posing as a candle. I can still recall the happy, curious feeling I had in those small, upstairs Sunday School rooms, and how much I looked forward to going each week.

I also remember Mrs. Celeste Klee, my fourth grade Sunday School teacher, and how our class of about ten children sat around a table with her, in an alcove off of a larger area with chairs and a piano. I recall how Mrs. Klee taught us many Bible stories, and how she patiently helped us memorize the 23rd Psalm that year. I can still see the two college-age sisters, Lois and Gayle Graves, lead the fourth, fifth and sixth graders in songs like “He Arose” and “He Lives,” which was one of my favorites. He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today… He walks with me and talks with me, along life’s narrow way… He lives, He lives, salvation to impart… You ask me how I know He lives, He lives within my heart!

Divine appointments.

I will never forget the weekly welcome and beaming smiles of two Sunday School co-teachers when I was in fifth grade. Mrs. Edgar and Mrs. Mount, with their 1960s beehive hairdos, their two piece outfits just like these, their nylons and high heels, and their love. I can still see Mrs. Edgar telling our class what the word testify meant in regards to sharing what Jesus had done in our lives, and I wish I could find if she is still alive today, and contact her to tell her I listened, and to thank her for teaching us and loving us week after week.

I think about how God must have seen to it that my parents bought the house on Eckerman Avenue right behind Tauni Booth’s house in 1960. He must have guided the people who organized the classes each year at Workman Avenue Elementary School to make sure that Denel Lupiani and I were placed together in Mrs. Lokken’s second grade class in 1964. God knew that Tauni and Denel would be lifelong friends of mine, and that He would schedule decades of divine appointments for them too, and they would come to love Jesus.

I remember the day two little girls wandered shyly into my back yard in the NCO housing area of Beale AFB, where my husband Glenn was stationed. I was only 18 and a new bride, and they were 9 and 7 years old. Celeste and Kathleen introduced me to their mom and dad who lived one street over, and that friendship would eventually pave the way for me to be exactly where I am today, in Duluth, Minnesota, the still grieving but deeply grateful widow of Celeste and Kathleen’s older cousin Michael. I would never have thought that two sweet little girls at my back door would lead to friendship with their parents Frank and Yvonne, who were originally from Duluth, MN (which I’d never heard of), and that years down the road when my marriage suddenly ended in Germany, the wheels would begin to turn toward me receiving a letter from Yvonne’s nephew Michael, whom I married after one meeting. And that marriage turned into almost 34 years of love and grace and learning and challenge and blessing. When I connect the dots backwards, it’s mind-boggling.

Another divine appointment was when I met my friend Su. I have plans to share about her on the blog someday, and indeed I already started the post long ago. Little did I know that the spark of friendly connection we felt for one another in Southern California would turn into so much and last so long — forever friendship, her move to Minnesota years after mine, the ease of two who accept each other just as they are, the deaths of husbands, some beautiful travels together, and more.

I have another friend named Sue, and she’s another treasure I’ve begun a blog post about, but haven’t published yet. When I think of the almost casual way she and I met in church, yet consider how profound her godly influence has been on me, I shake my head. Sue told me about Community Bible Study over twenty years ago, and after dragging my heels a few years, I finally showed up at CBS one morning in September and registered. Nothing has ever shaped my spiritual walk like CBS. As the years of CBS blessing continued, so did our friendship, and Sue is someone I love and trust implicitly.

I picked up a local Christian newspaper years ago and read an interview about a woman I didn’t know, but I never forgot her name. Later when I heard that her husband had Parkinson’s Disease like Michael did, I kept getting nudged over and over for almost a year, call Vicki S….call Vicki S….call her. I tried to find her a few times but her number wasn’t listed, so I couldn’t even get her address. Finally one day I saw her email address in a group email we received from a Parkinson’s support group leader, and I emailed her and introduced myself. Picking up that article to read lead me to Vicki years later, who then informed me about medical insurance that was available for no cost to me because my husband was 100% disabled due to his service as a Marine in Vietnam. Even though Vicki’s friendship has blessed me relationally, knowing her has saved me literally thousands of dollars, and provided for me in a way that makes me want to bow my head and sob.

Heavenly setups.

I could go on and on about the meanderings of my life that seemed like nothing at the time, but have turned out to bring about the richest gifts from God. Friendships. A faithful, loving husband. Another daughter. Fellowship around His Word. The daily awe of living a stone’s throw from Lake Superior. Provision.

A man’s mind plans his way [as he journeys through life],
But the Lord directs his steps and establishes them.
Proverbs 16:9 –– Amplified Version

I can see that God has directed my steps, even when I had no idea it was happening. Even during some of the saddest, darkest times, I believe He was guiding me in spite of my oblivion. He is so merciful and powerful — He directs our steps even when we pay no attention to Him, so we’ll look back one day and be floored by His kindness and mercy.

Well, it’s time to do something about dinner on this beautiful Thursday evening.

How has God directed your steps? I hope you’ll be willing to share one or two examples with us….

Thank you for stopping by,

489 Days

June 13, 2016 | My Jottings

I woke this morning around 4:00 a.m. to the sound of thunder and heavy rain. Stormy weather is a comfort to me, which hearkens back to my childhood in Southern California, where rain was a happy, special thing to be celebrated. At least that’s what my mom thought, and she instilled it in me.

I turned on the fire in the dining room and started to prepare breakfasts for my fosters. There’s nothing better than a cool, gray, blustery day at home with a heartening little fire in the center of one’s home, don’t you agree?

My sister-in-law Christy told me it’s 92 degrees where she is. Inside her house. Because her air conditioning stopped working. I almost swooned just reading about her plight, and am praying she’s able to have it repaired soon. I am deathly allergic to heat and humidity and I keep hearing other 50ish/60ish women say the same thing.

Today will be a blessed and busy day at home, because tomorrow is the first day of my annual summer Bible study. I think I’ve been hosting dear friends in my home for 12 or 13 years now, and it’s the highlight of my summer. We’ve done some Beth Moore studies, some Priscilla Shirer studies, one by Mary Kassian (one of my favorites, called Conversation Peace), and this year we’re doing something different. We’re reading The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom, and will use a homemade workbook I’ve put together for our study questions. What I wrote is nothing like a Beth Moore study, but it will give us something to record our thoughts and prayers in for these next eight weeks.

Yesterday I thought I would check elderly Edith’s nails because she is clickclickclicking with every step she takes all over our hardwood floors, and it finally occurred to me that her doggy Morse code might be saying, “helphelphelp — dot — dot — dash –checkmyfeet — helphelphelp!” I felt awful when I put her on my lap and inspected her furry old paws. Her black nails had grown in a circle and were almost pointing back toward her paw pads. I hate trimming my dogs’ nails because they hate it, but it had to be done. Sure enough, I made one of them bleed, and felt I almost couldn’t continue, but I kept on, very carefully. It turned out fine, but this morning I can tell I need to take a look at Edith’s feet again, because as she walks through the house I hear “puff, puff, puff, click.” Three soft paw sounds, one paw with nails still clicking away.

It has been 489 days since Michael died. I don’t watch the wonderful slideshow with music about his life as often as I did a year ago, but at least once a week I still watch, and smile. And cry. If you are new here and haven’t seen it, click here. I don’t think I’ll ever hear the songs “Turn, Turn, Turn,” “You Put This Love In My Heart,” or “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You” again without instantly going to a Michael place in my heart and mind.

I wish I could go to a real Michael place.

Here’s what an earthly Michael place used to look like:

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He loved the rugged beauty of northeastern Minnesota. He loved our lakes, our trees, our challenging seasons. He loved being outdoors, fishing and hunting and marveling in the wildlife, especially the birds.

The photo above was taken up the north shore of Lake Superior in 2011. Michael had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s for seven years and things had started to really change. When I saw this photo recently I was struck by the way he walked by himself on the uneven rocky terrain. It’s easy to forget how strong and capable he once was, because Parkinson’s and Lewy Body Dementia just sort of swallowed everything up and dictated how we would live every single minute of every single day, for over three years.

But even as I just typed that last sentence, I’m reminded again that while illness can certainly call the physical shots, it can never separate us from the love of Christ. (Romans 8:35-39). What a gift that our souls and spirits are protected from the ravages of this world and the devil. There is indeed a hiding place for Christians, and Michael knew how to take refuge there.

The north shore of Lake Superior was once a Michael place, but he has moved on. The new Michael place is heaven, which is so glorious we can’t even conjure up its wonders with our limited human minds. One of my fosters often says, “I’ll bet Michael is bowling in heaven right now.” Or “I think he’s four-wheeling today.” To her, that would be the ultimate for him, but while I smile and outwardly agree with her, I’m trying to imagine what wonders and joys he’s really experiencing.

I want to go there.

But I woke up today on this earth, so I will do some laundry, fluff some pillows, get books and workbooks ready for ten expectant women, shake rugs, shine sinks, wipe counters, and then sit down to pray. I hope God is making me ready for His place. Which is also Michael’s place now.

Wednesday’s Word — Edition 129

June 8, 2016 | My Jottings

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In ancient times, Christianity was widely recognized as having superior resources for facing evil, suffering, and death. In modern times – though it is not as publicly discussed – it continues to have assets for sufferers arguably far more powerful than anything secular culture can offer. Those assets, however, reside in robust, distinctive Christian beliefs.

The first relevant Christian belief is in a personal, wise, infinite, and therefore inscrutable God who controls the affairs of the world – and that is far more comforting than the belief that our lives are in the hands of fickle fate or random chance.

The second crucial tenet is that, in Jesus Christ, God came to earth and suffered with and for us sacrificially – and that is far more comforting than the idea that God is remote and uninvolved. The cross also proves that, despite all the inscrutability, God is for us.

The third doctrine is that through faith in Christ’s work on the cross, we can have assurance of our salvation – that is far more comforting than the karmic systems of thought. We are assured that the difficulties of life are not payment for our past sins, since Jesus has paid for them. As Luther taught, suffering is unbearable if you aren’t certain that God is for you and with you. Secularity cannot give you that, and religions that provide salvation through virtue and good works cannot give it, either.

The fourth great doctrine is that of the bodily resurrection from the dead for all who believe. This completes the spectrum of our joys and consolations. One of the deepest desires of the human heart is for love without parting. Needless to say, the prospect of the resurrection is far more comforting than the beliefs that death takes you into nothingness or into an impersonal spiritual substance. The resurrection goes beyond the promise of an ethereal, disembodied afterlife. We get our bodies back, in a state of beauty and power that we cannot today imagine. Jesus’ resurrection body was corporeal – it could be touched and embraced, and he ate food. And yet he passed through closed doors and could disappear. This is a material existence, but one beyond the bounds of our imagination. The idea of heaven can be a consolation for suffering, a compensation for the life we have lost. But resurrection is not just consolation – it is restoration. We get it all back – the love, the loved ones, the goods, the beauties of this life – but in new, unimaginable degrees of glory and joy and strength.     

~Tim Keller

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Salutes for Grandpa

June 1, 2016 | My Jottings

On Memorial Day I received this photo by text from my son-in-law Jeremy. Four of his and Carolyn’s five children were standing at Michael’s grave.

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It’s hard to believe they’re this tall, this far along in life already. It seems like last week when Clara was sitting in a highchair in our kitchen. She used to ask me to sing “Bick-tow-ee in Jesus” to her. She doesn’t ask me to sing any more. It seems like two days ago that Elijah enthusiastically explained to me that he and I had three main things in common, the big one being that we both had lamps! And it can’t be years ago that Vivienne sat in my lap and told me my perfume smelled like “Appley Glump.” Or that the days have long passed when Audrey called us Bocka and Backa. 🙂

Our memories are so precious.

Have a wonderful Wednesday, friends.

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