New names and a New Year

December 30, 2016 | My Jottings

I hope you all had a nice Christmas. Our Christmas was absent of conflict, full of food and laughter and gratitude, so when I pulled the covers up to my chin that night I was sleepily rejoicing. (If those last two words aren’t oxymoronic, anyway.)

On Christmas Eve we usually gather at my house for a meal and some carols, but because Jeremy and Carolyn have recently moved into a new old house, they invited us to have dinner there. It was delightful. The house they bought is one street up from their former home, and they bought it with the intention of fixing it up and selling it, but as Jeremy worked on it all summer, they grew to love it and decided to move there themselves. It’s not quite completed yet, but it was far enough in the remodeling process for them to move in just a couple of weeks ago.

I took pictures of the huge, lovely table as soon as I came in toting my pan of melty stuffed baked potatoes, and then as the night wore on, and we listened to carols on an old fashioned record player and I engaged in conversation with grandchildren, I forgot to take pictures of my actual people. Gah. So here are a couple shots of the table.

That is my oldest daughter Sharon, and Carolyn’s husband Jeremy in the background. Our silverware was placed in darling little Santa hats, and there were little chalkboard names for our seat assignments.

And it is wonderful to have a resident florist in the family, because Sara always whips up something spectacular in no time at all, to add to the beauty in the room. This year she used pine boughs, pine cones, and whole and sliced fruit.

That is little Miriam by the window.

Carolyn did such a lovely job — there was candle light everywhere, heavenly smells, the chatter of young ones, and a side buffet full of baked goods that made my blood sugar spike just to look upon it.

Here’s a view from the kitchen looking over the table where my fourteen beloveds eventually gathered. In the living room are Sara (on the couch), Audrey standing near her, Louisa in the pink dress, and Sharon taking pictures of the table. We were so surprised Jeremy and Carolyn could rig up something that would fit us all, I guess we had to document it.

On Christmas Day everyone gathered at my house, which I used to think was a spacious home, but has somehow shrunk over the last couple of years. We had this breakfast casserole, which is easy and delicious, along with baked French toast, homemade cinnamon rolls, smoked fish and many European cheeses, and so much more I can’t even remember. The grands all came over in their new Christmas pajamas, even the teenagers, and after gift opening we all just hung out. We played Guesstures, I saw a game of chess going on, there was ukulele music, drawing and knitting happening, and there was a Christmas movie on in the background too. Toward the end of the evening we played the silliest game which had everyone laughing so hard. I guess the title of the made-up game would be, If Your Name Had to Be. The kids took turns making up two horrible names, and we’d go around the living room circle and each of us had to choose which name we’d want if we HAD to choose one, and go by that moniker for the rest of our lives. It went like this: “If you HAD to be called by this name every day, sign your name this way, with no explanation or variation, which one would you choose? Malalacahcah Amickdosnot, or Peep Stinkyface?” And as soon as the two names were uttered, there would be an eruption of laughter. The funniest part was to see the adults HAVE to pick their forever names, and the kids thought it was hilarious when their straight-laced daddy chose a name that was the lesser of two evils but still so ridiculous it could hardly be spoken.

Let me ask you this. If you HAD to choose one of these names, and it HAD to be on your driver’s license and you HAD to sign your checks with it, and hear your friends and loved ones call you this, which would you choose? Poodilot Hobblebutt or Tramuckledump Zeeblatherkook?

After everyone left on Christmas night, Sara helped me pick up, and the first step toward restoring the house to order began. We took our time and really didn’t finish until the next day, and then I drove Sara to the shuttle that takes travelers from Duluth to the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport, so she could catch her plane to Paris. She has the travel bug, and will be driving around France and Portugal for a couple of weeks, before flying to Tel Aviv where she will tour Israel. Yesterday when I woke I saw that she had texted several photos to me, one of which was this:¬†

As 2017 approaches I thought about prayerfully choosing one word to mark the coming year, as has been a trend for the last several years. I have never had great success in that, no matter how high my hopes. One year I felt like my word should be “honor,” and that was the year I felt I had dishonored God and my husband more than I ever had. Relinquishing the last seven months of Michael’s care to a nursing facility seemed like my only option, but I will always carry with me how devastating that choice was to both of us. Only caregivers would truly understand the grief and pain I’m talking about.

So in 2017 I hope to walk through each day with the grace to trust Jesus in deeper ways, I will keep praising the Lord and gathering around His Word in Community Bible Study, and will ask Him to help me to grow in my prayer life. Oh, and I would also like to be a more loving person. So maybe my one word would be multi-hyphenated: trust-praise-study-pray-love. But isn’t that what the Christian walk is anyway? If anyone has something to add to that, I would like to know your thoughts.

On this Friday morning as I get ready to publish this post, I wish you all a new year full of the peace of God and the love of Jesus!

Blessings,

Licensing, limbo, and losing my lunch.

December 23, 2016 | My Jottings

A couple of days ago I spent at least seven hours at my dining room table, catching up on foster care paperwork and preparing for the always-epic state re-licensing coming my way next month. A friend and colleague went through one of my books page by page with her trained eyes, and she’ll be back in a few days for round two. As we sat across from each other and occasionally chatted, Christmas carols played from my little Bose speaker on the fireplace mantel behind me, 1000-foot ore boats passed in clear view on the big Lake, lovely, feathery snowflakes fell, and tea and treats were consumed. When we heard that the forecast for Christmas day was calling for three to five inches of snow, we said yay and agreed that we hoped for a doozy of a storm. Now the forecast has been updated and it looks like those of us close to Lake Superior will see only rain or freezing rain. Boo.

That scene was much more pleasant that the one I was in on Monday morning, however. Something happened to me that I hope was a singular occurrence. The weekend had been bitterly cold, and I wasn’t anxious to go out to run my errands, but we were low on groceries and a prescription for one of my fosters was ready to be picked up. I drove my Subaru Outback to the closest grocery store, parked close to the entrance since I didn’t want the biting wind on my face any longer than necessary, and then I grabbed a cart inside. I chose asparagus, Honeycrisp apples, romaine lettuce and blackberries. As I meandered toward the back of the store, a sudden wave of nausea overwhelmed me and I knew I was going to throw up within seconds. I hadn’t eaten anything new or out of the ordinary that day, I hadn’t been sick, I’m the kind of person who might puke once every ten or fifteen years, and there I was, seconds from throwing up in public, near the produce section of the store. I bolted for the black swinging doors that lead to the private rear of the store and they slammed open from the force of my cart. An aproned employee was there and looked at me quizzically. I blurted out, “Where can I throw up? I need a container!” and he shook his head no and pointed behind me to other parts of the store, where there must have been a bathroom. There was no way. Right there, with no place to turn, the horrible thing happened. The middle aged, wavy-haired, slightly built man did not want to see what he was seeing, and vanished through another door. There was nothing but water in my stomach, so (I realize this is TMI) there wasn’t a terrible mess. I found a towel-like cloth on a shelf and foot-mopped a bit, and then went back out into the store with my cart of produce. I felt terrible that the employee had been given a bad work-related memory, but there was nothing I could do. In fact, even though the nausea was gone, I felt very wobbly and weak, but continued with my shopping! I wasn’t about to go home and then have to send someone back. I felt okay the rest of the day, but think I might not go back to that store after this.

What an awful thing to read on someone’s blog, right? I would totally understand if you just decided you were done here.

Thankfully, Christmas is in two days, and my shopping is done. We choose numbers in our family so aside from the grandchildren, I had one person to shop for, and it was all done online. We will go to Jeremy and Carolyn’s on Christmas Eve, and she will make Beef Bourguignon, and everyone else will bring something to add to our family feast. I will bring my stuffed baked potatoes, and if you’d like to see mouthwatering pictures of them and see the step by step recipe, click here. On Christmas Day the children will open their gifts at their own homes, then everyone will come to my house for a mid-morning brunch. We’ll read the Christmas story from Luke, sing a few carols, and maybe play a game or two in between all-day grazing.

I’ve enjoyed attending many Christmas events in the past couple of weeks — as my grandchildren grow, so do their talents and commitments. I’ve been to Cullen’s Freshman choir concert, Eleanor’s Christmas orchestra concert (she plays the cello), Margaret’s youth choir’s Christmas concert, Vivienne and Audrey’s elementary school holiday program (where the word Christmas is apparently verboten but Hanukkah and Kwanzaa and non-Christmas related songs were enthusiastically performed), Margaret and Louisa’s school Christmas program, and Cullen’s first home basketball game at his school. He is 14 years old and is already 6′ 2″, which I’ll probably keep reporting since it still tickles me.

As I type this, Mildred the Schnauzer is licking her chops after just finishing her dinner and trotting around in the melting snow in our front yard. I have the tree lights on just to the right of me, and I can hear Phoebe the Parakeet in the dining room, doing her little sleepy rhythmic cheeps (she actually sounds like she’s beeping, but who ever says a bird beeps?) as she settles down for the night. I don’t have to make dinner since both my fosters are safely ensconced with their families for the next couple of days, so I think I’ll just have a handful of this and a hot cup of that in the lovely new mug my dear friend Su gave me recently. Sounds like heaven.

It has been 682 days since my Michael graced this earth. It’s hard to believe the two-year anniversary of his move to heaven is approaching. Last night on my way to Cullen’s basketball game, I drove up the street that leads to the house we used to live in before we moved to our smaller home in May of 2012. I wanted to see the neighborhood Christmas lights, and see where the family who bought our house put their tree. As I drove through the winding streets, I was reminded how much Michael and I used to love taking a Christmas drive to see all the lights in and on peoples’ houses. We used to play carols, he would have a hot cup of coffee in his travel mug, and we would ooh and aah like so many people do. A wave of sorrow washed over me as I felt anew that I will never, ever experience any of this again with him. Never hear his deep voice, see his eyes looking into mine, smell his neck. Truly, grief is a journey that changes hour by hour, and even though my heart doesn’t feel as raw as it did in February of 2015, there’s an odd sense of unreality to this path sometimes. Sort of like I’m waiting, watching, like I’m in some kind of limbo. And yet I am quite content, full of gratitude and praise most days, and enjoy the life God has given me. I am now a single woman, but I don’t feel single. I feel married. Maybe that’s the way it will always be. I know some of you are walking through different forms of loss as well.

What is the best thing and the hardest thing about Christmas for you?

As I close this post for today, I pray for each person who might stop by here, and I ask that the Lord would give you His peace this Christmas.

Blessings,

Anyone need a little encouragement?

December 15, 2016 | My Jottings

I record the Monday-Friday program called Life Today. James and Betty Robison are usually the hosts, and in a world of very weird and questionable Christian “leaders,” these are two people I trust are the real deal. I won’t go into their story because it would be hundreds of pages, but they have walked through hell with the Lord and come out more like Jesus, in my opinion. dscf9239-685x10241Every morning after I feed my fosters and get them off to their places of work, I sit down in Michael’s (someday I’ll call it mine) recliner, and see who is being interviewed on Life Today.

This week Sheila Walsh is hosting so James and Betty can have some time off, and the guest today was Liz Curtis Higgs. I have known who she is for a long time, particularly because Ann Voskamp has featured her on her blog and speaks so highly of her and the friendship they share, and I know Liz writes books. But today’s program really touched my heart and I thought perhaps there’s someone out there who needs to hear what Liz shared.

If you have a past, you should watch this. Or a prodigal child? Yes, this would be the encouragement you need today. I hope you’ll take the time (the portion with Liz Curtis Higgs is about sixteen minutes long, just enough to enjoy a hot cup of something while letting the Holy Spirit strengthen and encourage you.) I appreciate her wisdom, candor, humility and humor, and I hope you’ll let me know what you think.

Click here to watch.

God’s peace to you,

Midweek Musings

December 7, 2016 | My Jottings

As I sit here in the early morning dark, I can hear the lovely sound of the wind chimes playing outside my office window, as the mean December wind tosses them about. We had some snow last week but most of it melted the next day. Yesterday we had horizontal snow and the temperatures dropped, and I see that our distant forecast has below-zero numbers predicted. Two apt words come to mind when I see that: gaaahhh and waaahhh. I say let it snow, let it snow, let it snow, but keep the arctic temperatures at bay until at least the end of January.

I decided to put up a small tree this year instead of our big one, and Sara carried it up from the basement and set it up for me. She and I decorated it while watching A Christmas Carol starring Jim Carrey. If you haven’t seen that movie and you like the Dickens tale as I do, I recommend it. At first glance it might seem too comedic since Jim Carrey’s own cartoonish likeness is Scrooge, but the movie was so brilliant and touching I think I’ll watch it again. The special effects or special animation or whatever it’s called, were stunning. Here’s a short trailer if you would like to see.

Here’s a poor picture of our little tree:

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And here are a couple of close-ups…I made the lettered banner a few years back and still like it because of the plaid paper behind the letters.

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Michael and I bought this copper maple leaf in Alaska when we were on a cruise.

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And every year Sara fills the three flower boxes which hang on the railing of our front deck with various fresh greens, and puts oversized ornaments in amongst all the lushness.

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And Sara tied a little ribbon around the console table lamps in the living room. Probably no one else would notice but we were quite pleased with them.

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This little vignette sits in a corner of our living room. Our (almost obsolete) CDs are stored in this cabinet.

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Sara also tied some bells up on the three hanging lights we have over our counter that divides the kitchen from the dining room. I love how festive they look.

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Last week I had four of my nine grandchildren here for one week. Seven days. In a row. Round the clock. Things went well, but I learned something about myself during that time, which is that I am old. I had a sneaking suspicion about this before, but having Sharon and Chris’s kids here and having to make sure they all arrived at their respective activities confirmed it…I am officially elderly. Or at least that’s what my body is telling me.

Chris and Sharon both have full-time jobs and they had planned a long time for this much needed vacation for just the two of them. They flew off to warmer climes, enjoyed uninterrupted meals together with quiet conversation, slept past 5:00 a.m. each day, and also did this:

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I’m so glad they had such a peaceful and relaxing time.

I had to make a chart to keep each day straight. Mr. McBoy had to be up at a certain time and off in the dark on his bike to freshman basketball practice at his high school. The girls had to be up at a different time and taken to school, one to one school and two to another. Lunches had to be packed the night before, which they all did. Uniforms had to be washed and ready. Homework done and gathered. Snow pants and boots dried out and mittens found. I made a different breakfast each morning — oatmeal and fruit, cheese omelettes and toast, sausage and waffles, etc. Li’l Gleegirl¬† had to be taken to choir practice and picked up. Mrs. Nisky had a Friday night 7th grade girls’ fun night from 7:00 to 10:00, which meant I had to keep regular clothes on past 5:30 p.m. for a change. Li’l Gleegirl needed a BD party present and had to remember to pack clothes for an overnight at a friend’s house. Mrs. Nisky had to be picked up from school at 2:30 because she had her cello with her, Li’l Gleegirl at 5:00 due to keyboard lessons at school. Little Louiser stayed home one day since she had a bad cold, and there’s more. I don’t know how their parents do it. By the time the seventh day rolled around, they were all so ready to see their mama and daddy again, and even though things went well these seven days, I was in my nightgown and sitting in my recliner with a glazed expression on my elderly face by dark (which is early this far north) within minutes after they were picked up.

img_3444Yesterday after Community Bible Study, the women of my core group came to my house for our Christmas luncheon. We had sandwich loaf which looks something like the photo below, 7263ccadf7d033790d356e096cad1454chips, fruit, veggies and hummus, and Christmas cookies with our coffee and tea.

The women in the core group I lead range in age from late twenties to ninety years old. The mix of wisdom and calm, and freshness and energy, are such a gift to all of us. Some have little children, some are great-grandmothers. Some have never had children. Some are widows, some divorced. But we all gather around God’s Word and ask Him to change us, and to help us know and love Him more.

We went around the table and shared either a Christmas memory or tradition, and after everyone left I cleaned up while pondering how rich it was to listen to such beautiful women openly share. We laughed, marveled, and cried a little at what was said, and it felt like we were on fun and holy ground. I love knowing that fun and holy can go together.

Well, this was a bit fragmented, but I hear some footsteps down the hall, so off I go to make breakfast and get meds ready for one of my fosters. I will make sure she is well bundled before she leaves for the bus, because I can still hear the wind knocking the wind chimes around. The sun is just now coming up.

I pray your day isn’t too busy and that you find some moments of peace and gratitude.

May Jesus bless you today,

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