About Welcomes

April 23, 2017 | My Jottings

Yesterday afternoon I looked at the thermometer on the railing of my front deck, and it read 72 degrees. Unless you live north of Minneapolis, you might not realize how glorious this was. Lime green buds have formed on the trees, robins are hopping around in yards and on my next door neighbor’s roof, and the grass is greening everywhere.

This morning, it’s snowing.

Big flakes are drifting from the greyish sky, and in less than twelve hours my mindset has shifted from exploring mode to nesting mode. We Minnesotans know that any snow that falls in late April won’t be around for long, so we don’t despair, but we still take note. And write about the weather incessantly on our blogs and in our newspapers, and talk about it with cashiers and waiters we aren’t acquainted with.

Yesterday I was invited over for breakfast and devotions at my friends Steve and Diane’s house. I hadn’t spent time with them in a while, and it was a delight to share over three hours with them, catching up but only scratching the surface. I wish all our days could be as full yet as leisurely as what I experienced in their home. They are in the process of completely renovating a lovely old house, so there was sheetrock on the walls, exposed joists and much left to be done, yet it was the warmest, most welcoming haven. I remember Michael’s and my first home, and how we lived with remodeling for a long time, but still loved to have people over. If it didn’t bother us, we were hoping it wouldn’t bother anyone else.

We recited part of the Heidelberg Catechism, sang some scripture songs, read from the Old and New Testaments and the Psalms, and the day’s devotional from Spurgeon. We prayed together and had the most delicious late breakfast I’ve had in longer than I can remember.

Diane made homemade English muffins, which were cooked in a skillet, and breakfast sausage sauteed together with onion and peppers and tiny potatoes, with perfectly cooked over-easy eggs on top of all the savory goodness. We smeared strawberry jam over the hot English muffins, sipped coffee and orange juice, and sat around the table visiting and while the last hour passed in no time.

We talked of the bond that happens when you prepare food with someone and then sit down at the table to enjoy it together, a pleasure from the Lord we often rush through or forego entirely as we sit in front of the TV with plates on our laps. We talked about how possible it might be that being nourished by slow and purposeful food preparation in the company of those we love (and/or those we’ve newly invited) could feed us in a way that would help us to not fill up so mindlessly on food itself. A profound thought for me.

I want to keep opening my home and have set a loose goal of having a group of people over at least once a month for a nice meal. I learned from Steve and Diane (and Diane’s mom Mary Lou) yesterday that it might not be necessary to have every single thing done by the time people walk in the door. I would like to learn to be less precise, less scheduled, when it comes to hospitality. I will keep at it, and ask the Lord to guide me. After all, He is the Master of welcome, and would teach me much if I sat at His feet to listen.

This summer the women’s Bible study I host in my home will be doing “Wonder Struck” by Margaret Feinberg. I’m reading the trade book in preparation for the study itself, and it’s excellent. Our group hasn’t done a study by Margaret before, so it will seem quite different of course, after having done so many Beth Moore and Priscilla Shirer courses. I’m usually not one who loves change, but in this area I’m craving it.

In one of the chapters of Margaret Feinberg’s trade book, I loved her words about Lent:

“I couldn’t help but reflect on the way I had approached the forty days before Easter. I’d approached the season by asking, ‘What will I give up for Lent?’ as if Lent’s whole focus is asceticism. But Lent’s concern isn’t in removing something as much as receiving Someone. The passion of Lent is Christ. The annual sojourn calls for a more focused relationship with God.”

I “received” Jesus Christ as my Savior when I was twelve years old, but I want to receive Him again and again, around my table, in my mind, through my music, in my prayers, through my friends, through His Word and at His table. It’s such a wonderful and mysterious journey we walk as Christians. I’m grateful for the lovely ways He unfolds things to us as we face each day with Him.

My next door neighbor’s daughter gave her season tickets to our local community playhouse, so my neighbor (also a widow) invited me to see the current production with her. Last night she and I went out to dinner and saw a musical I have no words for. It was called “La Cage Aux Folles,” and apparently a movie called “The Birdcage” was based on it, which I never saw. We had seats in the middle, second row back, so were presented with details I didn’t want from men made up and dressed as women and men in passionate love with men, and I will be honest, if my dear neighbor hadn’t invited me I would have slipped out and gone home. The “moral” people in the show who were said to value traditional families were made to be complete buffoons, and I guess this is the way of things now.

It just made me want to come home, talk to the Lord about a few things (like my own self-righteousness, lack of love, clinging to my safe and familiar ways), and plan to open my home to some friends for a slow and nourishing meal. Soup, bread, salad, and heartening conversation. Nothing mocking, hopefully nothing irreverent. Hope around the table, and fellowship, that’s what I want.

Do you regularly have guests in for a meal? I’d love to know if you do or don’t, and your thoughts on this.

Lastly, have any of you watched the new show on TV called “Long Lost Family?” It’s on TLC (The Learning Channel on cable) and if you haven’t seen it, you must! It comes on here Sunday nights, but I record it on the DVR so we always have the episodes. I think it’s one of the best things on television. Each week there are two stories about someone looking for family they didn’t grow up with, either because an adoption took place, or the separation of siblings due to family hardship. Two really compassionate and likeable people who themselves were adopted as children, research and research and research through the online site called Ancestry, and help reunite siblings or children to their birth parents. Sara and I watch it every week and we wouldn’t miss it. It’s one of the most uplifting, encouraging, loving shows on television. It exemplifies the adoptive, restoring heart of God and I hope if you haven’t seen it, you’ll watch it tonight. Or whenever it’s on in your area. Here’s a short trailer if you’d like to see.

Well, I guess I’ll wish you all a blessed Sunday, and begin my day. May the peace and strength of Jesus fill our minds and homes, I pray….

Sagging skin and other things

April 17, 2017 | My Jottings

It’s almost time for bed, but not quite, so I thought I’d prop some pillows up around me and tap out a few things on my laptop.

I just finished a unique book and really liked it. It’s entitled A Man Called Ove. My friend Linda recommended it to me when we went out to lunch not long ago. It was a slow starter for sure, but that doesn’t usually deter me in a book. It took several chapters to be likeable, but soon I was laughing out loud, and by the end of the book I cried too. There were moments of real beauty in the pages.

So I was pretty happy to learn that there’s a movie based on the book, and I finished that tonight. It’s a Swedish film and was subtitled, but it was worth watching.

A couple of days ago I was feeling feisty and decided to take a close-up selfie and send it to my friend Su for a laugh. It showed all the lines and sags in my skin, and I captioned it, “You too can have younger looking skin!” and texted her I thought I’d look for a skin care gig. She got a kick out of it, as I did.

That prompted me to do a comparison, and here it is below. You may have seen this first photo on the blog before — this was my kindergarten picture at Workman Avenue Elementary School in West Covina, California. There’s a tragic story about my hair in this photo — you can read about it here.

Age 5….

And age 59…

Fifty-four years have passed between these two pictures, and the first thing that comes to mind is how faithful and kind God has been to me. I can hardly believe I’m still alive sometimes! The close calls, the darkness and instability, the pain and dysfunction, the wrong thinking and the sin…oh my. To be fair, there have been some pretty wonderful times in these five decades as well. There was fun and love, hearth and home, family and friends and hope and forgiveness too. In huge measure.

At times it feels so disorienting to be in a new phase of life where I am no longer defined by the words married or wife. I might be brushing my teeth in the morning and glance up at the mirror in my bathroom and a thought will flash into my mind that I’m single now. Not married. No one’s wife. It doesn’t sucker punch me like it did a year ago, but there’s still a thud in my insides when I remember this new truth. I still feel like I’m Michael’s wife, but the law tells me I’m not. I know that divorced people understand this too.

Other changes come with widowhood. I’ve read a handful of good books these last two years and mentioned most of them here. The most recent one was by Miriam Neff, a Christian author who shares about her godly husband and his suffering with ALS, and his eventual death. They had just retired and were looking forward to travel, adventure and ministry, when God allowed all those dreams to be interrupted by hardship. Miriam has a website for widows I’ve found helpful, and something she wrote about there struck me hard. She says:

“I read before becoming a widow that we will lose 75% of the people we believed were our friends. That won’t be me, I thought, as friends flooded our lives during my husband’s terminal illness. The statistic has been true for me as well. During my first year alone, the exit of friends has been one of the more painful parts of my journey. I have pondered, researched, wept, and confided in those still in my life.”

When I read this I thought, “Seventy-five percent?!” That means if a woman has four good friends, she may have one left after her husband dies. There are numerous reasons for the exit of previously trusted and what we thought were lifelong friends from our lives, but none of those reasons really help when you are the one wondering what happened. I haven’t done any math because I don’t want to, but I can say that some of the people I thought were friends I’d grow old with have pretty much turned away now. In my lifetime, I’ve had at least four close friends who were widowed, and I would never have considered pulling away from them in those dark times of their lives. I don’t say this in any way to boast — I have been a thoughtless friend at times and have had to ask for forgiveness. I have nothing to brag about. But it’s hard for me to understand why this has happened. To say that it has brought me pain is an understatement.

But somehow the Lord always brings us through the things we never thought we’d have to face. I’ve learned to sit in my sorrow or confusion and wait on the Lord. Not perfectly, but with some progress. I know He loves me and will never forsake me, and I also believe with all my heart that He has a purpose for every single thing. He knows I want to change and learn and grow. I don’t shy away from the word repentance these days, and I ask Him to help me live a life of gratitude, praise and humble repentance. I wonder if I made Jesus grimace right then. Does He grimace? I hope not. Because my life is sometimes so far from those three attributes I mentioned. I ask Him anyway. And keep coming back to His feet.

Tomorrow is Community Bible Study and we are less than a month from Sharing Day, and breaking for the summer. How does 30 weeks fly by like a jet? I want time to fly by like a hot air balloon. Our weeks in the gospel of Matthew have been a rich blessing, and the love we all have for each other in our core group is something I will cherish forever.

Well, this was a post with a lot of twists and turns. I was going to share about Easter, about my new church, my new denomination, my travel plans, the summer Bible study our group will be doing, and about a “date” I went on recently. But I’m tired and my red and black flannel sheets are beckoning. Another time.

God bless and keep you, dear ones…

Sara’s birthday and Millie’s ears

April 12, 2017 | My Jottings

Would you like a lovely song to listen to while you read my nonsense? Something uplifting to counteract the frivolity? Click here for a song I’ve been listening to on repeat lately — it will open in a different window without closing this one.

For years our family has commented on how quirky our Schnauzer Millie’s ears are. “Look at those ears,” is something you might hear at least weekly in this house. We repeat ourselves a lot, and things can be a little boring, but all in all I’m content about that.

Here’s a photo I took of Millie as she sat on my lap, looking toward a window in our living room. She expresses herself with her ears a lot, and they perform more gymnastics than any other dog’s ears I’ve seen.

Somehow she lifts them straight up in the air, then bends the top third of her ears outward, forming two little silky platforms almost level with the ground.

We have always said her ears remind us of this:

nun

There are probably some of you who never watched “The Flying Nun” on television in the late 1960s. The series starred Sally Field, and I most certainly watched every week. She played a tiny nun in Puerto Rico whose starched cornette (the headpiece of her nun’s habit) caused her to rise involuntarily up into the air to fly around whenever the wind would blow.

Do you see the resemblance between Mildred’s ears and Sally Field’s hat?

Here’s another view of Millie from the front. She’s a little more relaxed here, so her ears aren’t quite bending at right angles.

And today is my youngest daughter Sara’s birthday. I sang to her this morning as she was making her coffee. Then I did a goofy little birthday cheer including arm motions, hearkening back to my high school cheerleading days when I had my own knees and a bit more energy in the tank. I omitted the splits and jumps, though. It made Sara smile a little, at least.

Tonight the three women I gave birth to many moon ago will meet me at a local restaurant we love, and we’ll celebrate Sara’s birthday. I know three of us will have the most delicious Cobb salad in existence, and I’ll let you know if the fourth of us decides on that too.

Sara and I took my two foster gals out to dinner and a movie last week and they wanted to see the Smurfs movie and we wanted to see The Case for Christ, so we were happy to see both shows were at the same time in the same theater complex. I can’t recommend The Case for Christ enough. I hate to say this, but sometimes Christian movies don’t seem to have the quality that other films have. I always go to see them anyway, am always glad I did, and I want to support the growing industry. But this one is different. The acting is fantastic, quality in every other way great, and I laughed and cried and will probably end up buying the DVD. I had read Lee Strobel’s books years ago and thought they were superb, and I wondered if this movie would end up being a documentary, but it wasn’t. Go see it! And if it’s not showing where you are, buy the DVD when it comes out, or save it in your Netflix queue. I learned so much — it wasn’t just inspiring, it was informative. I leaned over about 3/4 of the way through the film and sniffled to Sara, “What a privilege it is to be a Christian!” You’ll understand what I’m talking about if you see it.

Here’s the trailer, to give you an idea about the movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rhe8KhSxWGo

Well, I think it’s time for foster paperwork, kitchen cleaning, a walk in the cemetery with a dear friend, a CBS lesson, and putting a little dog with flying nun ears outside so she can bark at something.

I hope you have a peaceful day!

Moo

April 6, 2017 | My Jottings

Not long ago one of my granddaughters came over to spend the night and do fun stuff with Grandma. I’ve called her Li’l Gleegirl since she was tiny because it fits her so well, but one of her family’s nicknames for her is Moo.

My usual birthday gift for my grands is a card with a note in it, giving them the choice between some money so they can buy something they like for themselves, or a date to spend the night at my house and go out to dinner together. The older kids lean toward the money now (sniff) but the younger ones still think being with Grandma is fun, and that’s what Moo chose.

She chose a local Italian restaurant down by the lake, and it was a thoroughly delightful meal. Moo is cheerful, chatty, energetic, diligent in her academic and dance endeavors, and is a really wonderful companion.

Here’s a picture of this ten year-old with her birthday dessert:

There are many traditions my grandchildren take part in when they spend the night. There is always a book to be read aloud, a tubby to be taken in the deep and fancy tub, snacks to be munched, games to be played, snuggles to be had. When Moo was here we finished reading the book Treasures of the Snow by Patricia St. John, which I have read out loud to my children and six of my nine grands so far. It’s one of the best books a child could hear. The new edition has been terribly revised, so I don’t recommend it, but if you ever want to buy a book that will profoundly bless you and those you read it to, you can find used copies online. The cover of the best edition looks like this.

As I read the last two chapters out loud, Moo listened intently with her eyes wide, anxious to hear how the hearts of the Swiss children Annette and Lucien were so dramatically changed by “letting the Savior come in.” I have read Treasures of the Snow at least nine times, and it always makes me weep at its beauty. It never grows old.

I keep soft footed sleepers in various sizes here for my grandchildren, so they don’t have to pack jammies when they come over. I know this might sound sappy, but I want even what they sleep in when they’re here to make them feel warm and safe and comforted. I know they will have memories to unearth someday, and I want them to recall even the colorful soft one-piece sleepers at Grandma’s. After a tubby full of mountains of bubbles, Moo put on the bright pink sleeper with the black print, and then sat patiently in front of me while I carefully brushed and detangled her long hair, and then put it in a French braid. I tell the girls that even loosely braiding their hair at night before they go to bed will save some tears the next morning from trying to brush out the knots.

Moo loves games and can be competitive, so we played Farkle, three games of Backgammon, and Gin. I love sitting across a table from her and watching her expressive face and listen to her near-constant chatter as we make our way through a game.

Moo takes weekly dance lessons and showed me the tap routine she’s working on. Her older sister Mrs. Nisky takes lessons at the same studio and is graceful as she learns ballet. I will attend their recital in May and will sit in the darkened auditorium with hundreds of other grandparents and parents, keeping a secret from them all: my granddaughters are the sweetest, most talented, radiant and lovely dancers in the world. I’m content to hold that truth close to my heart and wipe tears as I watch them perform, and send up prayers for their tender lives.

If Moo has homework she likes to get to that right away, and she asks me to check it. She might have a snack of peanuts and raisins or a cut up apple with string cheese. We might watch a kid’s show in the evening. She loves for me to make her a cup of hot chai tea.

When it was time for bed, we brushed our teeth together, turned on some pretty music in my bedroom, and read books. Moo sang a couple of songs for me, and she has a clear and lovely voice for a ten year old. She told me she thinks her name will be on the Hollywood Walk of Fame someday, and while that wouldn’t be one of my dreams for her, I can’t say I doubt it could happen.

When we got up on Saturday morning, I gave her choices for breakfast and she chose her usual: two fried eggs over easy, toast with butter, and an orange or clementine.

When our time together is drawing to a close, I always ask my grands to name with me the things we enjoyed together in the last sixteen hours or so. We take turns, and say simple things like, “We had dinner at Valentini’s.” Then, “We played two games of Farkle.” And “I took a tubby and you braided my hair.” And “We finished Treasures of the Snow.”

I realize Moo already knows everything we did, but somehow going through every little thing, the snacks, the songs, the games and books and conversations, the bath, seems like we’re making an altar of sorts, as happened often in the Old Testament. I’ve read about how sometimes God’s people built altars of remembrance by piling up stones at certain important locations (one example is in the book of Joshua when God parted the Jordan so His people could cross over on dry land). Moo might not realize it, but in my mind I’m ever piling up stones of memories, altars of remembrance and thanksgiving for the precious times I have with my grandchildren.

My most fervent hope and prayer is that when they’re drawing baths and reading aloud and braiding hair and frying eggs for their own precious grandchildren, they’ll remember old times with me and begin to build altars of their own, marking and acknowledging the unfathomable kindness and faithfulness of our God.

One of the kindest things He has ever done for me was to give me a granddaughter like Moo.

Wednesday’s Word – Edition 135

April 5, 2017 | My Jottings

“If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that He said; if He didn’t rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what He said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like His teaching but whether or not He rose from the dead.” — Timothy J. Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism

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