The Colors of Rest

May 21, 2019 | My Jottings

Every once in a while I like to take my two foster women on a little weekend trip. Most of you know we live in a beautiful place with a close view of Lake Superior, so sometimes being in this home feels like a retreat to me, especially when I have a day at home and can putter in my bedroom.

But there’s something to be said for getting away, having a change of scenery, going to a place for intentional rest and also exploration, and both my gals are always game.

Years ago we used to do much bigger trips — we took them to Walt Disney World, on an Alaskan cruise, and to Branson, Missouri. But flying was a huge stressor for one gal in particular, and it also became apparent that neither one appreciates grandeur and beauty as some do. They like to shop for souvenirs, dine out, and rest. So in the past years we have stayed closer to home, and they are so content with that.

A couple of months ago Betsy, Carrie and I drove 100 miles north to the sleepy Lake Superior town of Grand Marais. Michael and I visited many times over our 33 years together, and I decided to rent a cabin that sits right on the edge of Lake Superior.

This is the small bedroom I slept in. I love the little elevated stove that gave heat and cheer.

This is the view from my bedroom in the morning. Just a few strides and you’re on the edge of a cliff that overlooks our beautiful lake. Lake Superior is roughly the size of Austria and there’s enough water in it to cover all of North and South America with lots left over. I might be biased, but it is the best tasting water I’ve ever had.

I took this picture on Saturday morning as the sun was coming up.

The little cottage doesn’t have any closets, but handy hooks were all we needed.

Sunday morning I stepped outside in my bare feet to catch the sun coming up. Magenta, cantaloupe, periwinkle, blue heron, peach, grays, golds, the deep greens of the trees and the sapphire water…it’s the anti-depressant palette. Gazing at this as often as possible is a mood lifter.

I love that there is no television reception at this cabin, and I wondered how my gals would do with that. They like having their own TVs in their rooms at home, and spend a lot of time relaxing there when they get home from work. I try to take them on regular outings, to movies and restaurants, on little trips, so they can experience something a little different. There’s a small TV that plays DVDs, though, so they were able to bring their favorites, and after our days of exploring Grand Marais, we came back to our cottage and got into our jammies, then popped popcorn and watched one movie each night by the fire in the living room.

We enjoyed sleeping in past 6:00 a.m., shopping at the iconic Ben Franklin and the Lake Superior Trading Post downtown, and trying out new restaurants. We enjoyed the chickadees and their flight patterns and varied calls. We took naps, chatted together, and felt ourselves exhale.

Carrie has a saying we can count on each time we return home after a little getaway. “You know what I always say, Julie. It’s nice to get away, but it sure is nice to come home too.”

We have another weekend getaway planned in August, but this time it will be to the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. The gals are looking forward to seeing our favorite comedian, Tim Hawkins. He makes us laugh like no one else.

May you have a good week, and I hope spring is bringing you lovely colors and comforting sounds wherever you are.

A Wintry Spring

April 13, 2019 | My Jottings

We’ve had the snowiest winter here in NoMin. And considering the mountains of snow we had everywhere until recently, I think we could call Northern Minnesota “NoMin’s Land.” I live in NoMin’s land.

I had to have my roof shoveled off this year, needed salt-filled tube socks placed above the gutters to melt ice dams I’ve never had before, and Michael’s grave stone was almost completely buried in snow. It’s about lower hip high, and you can see the top of it peeking out behind the wreath Sara made, below. You can click to enlarge these pictures if you like.

Some of the drifts in my front yard were shoulder high, and I had to lift Mildred the Schnauzer up to set her on the frozen snow so she could do her business.

Then we had several warm days and the snow melted completely, leaving streets and grass showing for the first time in months. We rejoiced! We talked about how wonderful it was with bank tellers and grocery store cashiers and neighbors.

Then, two days ago a mean storm named Wesley (appropriate) came barreling through, and for two whole days Wesley snowed and blew until everything in NoMin’s Land is white and cold and grey again. There is no use complaining about the weather, since I have power and heat and food and peace in my life. But I don’t think I’ll be alone in kicking up my heels when spring really shows itself, whenever that will be.

It has been a while since I posted, because I’ve been working on four sessions for a women’s retreat. The retreat was last weekend and as far as I can tell, it went fairly well. The best part for me were the 100 women of the church who welcomed me and were so gracious. I have never spoken at a weekend retreat before, and it was overwhelming to prepare talks and PowerPoint presentations when I’m so out of practice. I felt like I was helpless, really, and prayed that God would just bring His strength and mercy and breathe life to my feeble words. If that happened for one person there, it was worth it without a doubt.

The church, Bethel Lutheran in Hudson, Wisconsin, blessed me with a beautiful hotel room right on Lake Superior. Hudson is three hours south of me, and the church held the retreat in Duluth for a nice getaway for their women. Even though the weekend was rainy and cold, this was the sunrise from my room.

Here are a couple of other pictures, taken by a delightful woman from Bethel named Mary.

The whole group:

Saturday morning session – Jesus is Our Bread:

My friend Lorna led the worship for the whole weekend and I’m still singing and playing some of the hymns she did:

The Saturday evening session was Jesus is Our Light, and a nice buffet meal was served as well:

I have another blessed day at home today, spent catching up on little things that have gone by the wayside these past weeks. I think I am a true housewife at heart, even though I’m not currently a wife. I love wiping off my kitchen counters, running the dishwasher, putting oils in my diffusers, folding laundry, writing out bills, making order. I don’t do any of those things very efficiently anymore because I’m getting slower and I take my time. And I take breaks. But my home is an oasis, a gift from the Lord that I don’t take for granted.

I also have a book to read. I ran into a woman I know from my church – she was returning books at the library and said ever since she retired she reads a book a day. My father was the same, and that sounds like heaven to me. I asked her for a good recommendation and she walked right over and pulled a book off the shelf for me. Not a book I would ever choose, or even a genre I’ve enjoyed, but I took her word for it and hope to begin it today.

What are you doing this weekend? Tell me one or three things…

Wednesday’s Word — Edition 139

March 13, 2019 | My Jottings

Oh, how I love this quote by C.S. Lewis — what a mind he had.

We must simply accept it that we are spirits, free and rational beings, at present inhabiting an irrational universe, and must draw the conclusion that we are not derived from it. We are strangers here. We come from somewhere else. Nature is not the only thing that exists. There is ‘another world’, and that is where we come from. 

And that explains why we do not feel at home here. A fish feels at home in the water. If we ‘belonged here’ we should feel at home here. All that we say about ‘Nature red in tooth and claw’, about death and time and mutability, all our half-amused, half-bashful attitude to our own bodies, is quite inexplicable on the theory that we are simply natural creatures. If this world is the only world, how did we come to find its laws either so dreadful or so comic? If there is no straight line elsewhere, how did we discover that Nature’s line is crooked?

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February Felicitations

February 11, 2019 | My Jottings

I’m grateful for a Monday morning at home, no appointments, no company coming, nothing tugging at me. Except foster care paperwork and four sessions I’m writing and praying about for a women’s retreat, and a couple of untouched books and a kitchen sink full of dishes. Just those things. 🙂

It has snowed off and on for days, and this morning when I woke up I couldn’t see the front steps that lead to my house. If I were a younger woman I’d be all bumbled up (as one of my fosters says) and doing the shoveling myself, but those days are behind me. Especially since my back has been healing and I don’t want to undo that. It’s seventeen degrees above zero and since a couple of weeks ago we had twenty-eight below with sixty below wind chills, this seems like a gift. The forecast for my city says one to three more inches of snow tonight.

What’s the weather like where you are? I see online friends posting pictures of spring flowers breaking through the ground, but in northern Minnesota we are months away from that.

My oldest daughter Sharon and her husband Chris recently took a trip to Maui, and their three daughters stayed with me. I felt bad that the worst of the cold weather prevented us from doing much outside, so we watched more TV than I preferred. We also played Farkle, Backgammon, Gin and Uno.

Here’s six year old Weezer, fast asleep next to me. She and I read quite a bit from the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books, and a few chapters from Charlotte’s Web.

Her older brother calls her Louis and some friends at school call her Lisa, and she isn’t thrilled about that. She told her mother recently that people can call her Louisa, Weeza, Cheetah or Snoodlepoop, but not Lisa. She is so good-natured and I am having a difficult time watching her grow up so quickly.

Here’s a picture Sharon took a few weeks ago when we were celebrating Carolyn’s birthday.

They are twenty months apart and are so alike, and so different. I love observing the women they’ve become, and learn so much from each one. They have both comforted and wisely advised me now that I’m nearing my dotage. And they make me laugh.

It’s surprising how many people have told these two girls that they look like twins and are hard to tell apart.

Sharon is blonde and is six feet tall, Carolyn is a brunette and is 5′ 10″. They obviously look like sisters, but our family has never been able to understand the twin thing. Both of them have had strangers approach them and think they were the other.

What do you think? Do they favor each other a lot? Is it so much they might be twins?

Carolyn is mother of seven (six on earth, one in heaven) and Sharon is mother of four. They have made me rich in grandchildren and love.

Our elderly Schnauzer Mildred has struggled with our bitterly cold temperatures. We noticed that if it was colder than 10 degrees out, she would run out into the yard to go potty, but then would get stuck and have a hard time walking back in. It is treacherous to go outside quickly to pick her up and bring her in, when there’s a layer of ice under the snow and it’s frigid enough to cause frostbite in less than a minute.

So my youngest daughter Sara bought booties for Millie (not shown in the picture below) that she hated because of the Velcro sound. And next Sara brought home a puffer jacket, which Millie was thoroughly delighted about. Can’t you see the pure joy in her schnauzery face?

It took several times for Millie to adapt to her winter wear, but oh, what a difference it has made. She submits to the donning of the booties and jacket now, and can be outside more comfortably without getting stuck. We are so proud of her.

Sara has been going to college, working, and fitting in a few fun things whenever possible. I so appreciate the help she gives me around the house, and the respite care she provides when I need a little work break.

She and a friend are taking a belly-dancing class together, and she comes home and shows me what she’s learned. Apparently belly dancing has very small, precise-yet-jiggly movements to it, and is not at all easy. We’ve had some laughs when Sara tries to instruct me in the small, precise-yet-jiggly motions. I am doing well in the jiggly, but the small and precise elude me.

Sara and I have been looking at pictures of Michael and reminiscing a lot lately, because the four-year anniversary of his death was on February 9th. How is it that my beloved husband has been gone for over one thousand four hundred days? She has been counting her blessings because she felt unconditionally loved by her father, and I have been thanking the Lord for all He’s done in my life through Michael.

For those who grieve, the pain does fade. Tears still come for me, but I don’t feel that desperate, raw sorrow that I did four years ago. As I put on my Instagram account recently, no matter what happens, I will always be Michael’s and he will always be mine.

My oldest grandson is going to be seventeen in a couple of months, and he has a very sweet girlfriend. They went to their first Sweetheart Dance at their high school last month, and since Carissa’s dress was red satin, she asked Mr. McBoy to rent a gray tux with a red vest and tie. Plus, their school colors are red and gray, so I guess they were totally sick. When I was his age we said far out and cool and outtasight. Now they say sick.

Mr. McBoy is 6′ 5″ tall and the doctor says he’s not done growing. He played high school basketball but loves football more, and enjoys singing in his A’capella choir. If anyone reading this knew my father, you might be able to see those Sooter genes beaming out in that face. I’ve been told that Mr. McBoy resembles his grandma, and once in a while I get a fleeting glimpse of that. 🙂

I see the sun rise over Lake Superior almost every day, and it never fails to give me a thrill. Here’s a picture I took a couple of weeks ago when the morning temperature was twenty below zero and the ice was beginning to form. If you enlarge the photo, you can see the ice on the surface.

Since then, the Lake has frozen solid enough to beckon crazy brave ice fisherpeople to set up their ice tents, drill holes in the ice and sit for hours waiting for a bite. There must be a lot of biting, because a couple of days ago I drove by a portion of Lake Superior and there were over a dozen tents and even more people standing out there, mere yards from the open water.

While my granddaughters were with me (twelve days, the longest visit so far), fourteen year old Mrs. Nisky drew this for me. It took her less than an hour.

I have a wonderful carved cross my friend Ember gave me, just perfect for holding in a closed hand while praying or pondering the love of Jesus. Mrs. Nisky drew this of her own hand holding the cross, and chose this verse, which I took as a word from the Lord to me. I am going to have this framed and will hang it in my room.

Mrs. Nisky plays the cello and is on the girls basketball team at her high school. She has the most beautiful copper colored hair and eyes, and has been a blessing to me from the day she was born. I don’t mind at all either that her middle name is Julia, sort of after me.

Speaking of sunrises, Lloyd sent me this picture taken from his bedroom loft window in his cabin in the woods. Isn’t that breathtaking?

He gets up every morning and makes a cup of coffee, suits up and goes outside to feed the birds, deer and wild turkeys that wait for him to thump on the bucket to let them know breakfast is served. After he spreads the corn and seed around, he goes to his huge shop/guest room and builds a roaring fire in the wood stove to keep the in-floor heat from freezing, and by the time that is done, over a dozen turkeys have come in to feed. When they’ve had their fill they roost in the trees surrounding Lloyd’s home, and then they all walk jerky-turkey across his pond and back into the woods. I enjoy the pictures he texts to me from fifty miles away.

Well, laundry is calling, my work on the April women’s retreat is waiting, and I haven’t had breakfast yet. I think a small bowl of Muesli sounds good. Here’s the recipe if you’re interested.

How are things with you?

With a bad back from a big bed

January 12, 2019 | My Jottings

I don’t like being in bed. I mean, I like being in bed when it’s time to be in bed, around 9:00 at night until around 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning. But being in bed when you have injured your back is not a very good situation. I forget that I am in my sixties and can’t or shouldn’t do foolish things anymore, like lift my king-size bed so some risers can be placed underneath the posts. I felt the twangy pull across the sacro-iliac area when I lifted, and a groan of “ooohhh noooo” went through my brain, and then I lowered the bed. I was okay for a couple of days, just a little sore but functioning. Today I am not as okay, and I am a large amount of sore and pretty much lacking in the functioning department.

So on this gray Saturday, I am trying to get comfortable and hoping that my back will heal and that nothing catastrophic has occurred. I still have my nightgown on, some soft music is playing on the David Nevue Pandora channel, my little electric fireplace is “blazing” cheerily, and I have a good book at hand.

Today is my middle daughter Carolyn’s birthday, and we celebrated last night with her family, my oldest daughter Sharon’s family, Jeremy’s parents and his grandmother. I decided last week to have the meal catered, and how fortuitous that was, with my back and all. It was the first time I’ve ever hired a caterer and it was such a treat to watch the Duluth Grill van arrive, uniformed people hop out and carry hot and delicious food into the house, set it up with little fires underneath, and have everything be ready to serve. We had lasagna, chicken marsala, wild rice pilaf, smashed potatoes with parmesan, fresh marinated green beans, spring greens salad with homemade dressings, focaccia bread, and roasted Brussels sprouts. Sharon made a deep, dark chocolate cake and I don’t think a person here went home hungry. In fact, there was enough left over that three families will be having yummy leftovers tonight.

I was supposed to attend a snowmobile club banquet with Lloyd today, but I had to bow out since attending the event would require me to get dressed and be upright for a couple of hours.

I checked today and it has been 1,433 days since Michael moved to heaven. How can over a thousand days pass without my seeing him? How do we survive without the ones we love? I couldn’t tell you a fancy answer to that, except that the Lord gets us through, an hour at a time, then a day, a week, a month at a time.

I remember in the late 1980s when carpentry work in our area was scarce and Michael got a good paying temporary job in West Virginia. He and a friend drove to Marlington, lived in a tiny trailer and worked 18 hour shifts for 49 days, and I couldn’t believe we’d been apart for so long.

After Michael died I used to visit his grave quite a lot. It was a lot more often than I had ever pictured myself doing. I found great comfort reading the words on his grave stone, watching the ducks and geese in the ponds, praying and thanking God for all He had done for us. Now I might visit two or three times a month. I was there a couple of days ago and the snow was deep and the sun was setting. The wreath my youngest daughter Sara made stands there, telling whoever sees it what a loved, missed man Michael is.

As I recline awkwardly in my bed today, I see a basket of unfolded, clean white laundry on the ottoman of my plaid bedroom chair. Mildred the aging Schnauzer is laying at my feet on her side, looking so scruffy and unkempt and breathing deeply. She wants to be fed and I’ll do that as soon as I publish this post. Strewn across my bed are pieces of today’s mail with piles of catalogs I never peruse, two devotional books, my purse, some foster care paperwork, a wrist brace, and some prayer beads. It’s almost dusk, but I can still see the snow-covered Wisconsin shoreline as I look way across this southern tip of Lake Superior. I can see that there’s no wind today, and that the chickadees are enjoying my feeder on the front deck.

I was asked to speak at a women’s retreat this April, and I hope to spend a lot of time working on that tomorrow, even if I’m still hobbled. I was surprised to be asked since I am not familiar with the church, which is three hours south of me. I will speak four times in one weekend, all on the theme of Psalm 112:7: They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them. I prayed about it when I was asked, and only agreed after much trepidation and what I felt was a clear confirmation from God. I’ve done this a couple of times, but have never been comfortable doing it, and always have second thoughts after saying yes. My friend Lorna told me, “Julie, you’ll do what you can and show up, and God will do the rest.” I keep hanging on to that.

Well, I see that it’s time to feed the little gray beast, and then I’ll warm up our catered leftovers for my two foster women. I’m so glad they don’t mind a cook in a red plaid nightgown.

Do any of you watch Netflix? I would love a good recommendation of your two or three favorite shows or series. I just finished watching “Loch Ness,” and it was gripping. A little too raw for me, but I watched it anyway. Have any of you watched the documentary “Minimalism?” I would recommend it. And of course I’ve seen the first episode of Marie Kondo’s new tidying up show and loved it.

May you have a gripping, tidy, not-too-raw weekend.

Fondly,

A Prayer for 2019 and Other Things

January 2, 2019 | My Jottings

Happy New Year, friends. Do you remember when 1999 turned to 2000 and we thought we’d never get used to no longer saying “19–” and how strange it felt to say the year as a “2000-something?” Now we’re knocking on 2020’s door and we’re so used to space age numbers.

My resident florist (youngest daughter Sara) filled our front three flower boxes again this Christmas season, with piles of fresh greens, pine cones and huge red bows. Now that we’ve had two significant storms, they’re mounded with snow and look even prettier.

These good-sized boxes are on our front deck.

It was below zero yesterday and today, and whenever that happens Lake Superior steams. Here’s a picture of an ore-boat coming into the Port of Duluth in the frigid air.

And this is what massive Lake Superior looks like from space when it’s steaming. You can click to enlarge if you like. I live right down there by the tip of the wolf’s nose.

A couple of weeks ago I spent the day with Lloyd at his home in the woods. We walked his property at sunset and looked at all the animal footprints in the snow. I can easily recognize deer and rabbit tracks, but he showed me how to tell the tracks of voles, turkeys, mice, squirrels and coyotes. I love the silence of the woods in winter, disturbed only by the occasional flutter and call of the chickadees.

I like to make frittatas for breakfast once in a while — they’re so easy and it’s a good way to start the day with protein and vegetables. I don’t usually add the cheese that I did to this one below. I sauteed fresh mushrooms and asparagus, threw in some chicken and sage sausage and chopped tomatoes, poured over a few beaten eggs, and cooked it covered on super-low heat until the eggs had set. What is something you make for breakfast that might be a little different than the usual?

My granddaughter Louisa’s school recently asked family members (mostly grandparents) to help them put together a museum of sorts, bringing old things from their lives to be displayed. On Grandparents Day after visiting Louisa’s classroom and meeting her teacher, she took me to the gym to see the many tables set up with photos and vintage items of yesteryear. Louisa is six years old and in the first grade, and she’s standing in front of one of the tables from her class’s grandparents — that is my six year old, first grade picture right there by her.

About once a month Lloyd and I like to take a drive up the north shore of Lake Superior, and we often stop in Knife River at Great Lakes Candy Kitchen. We buy four pieces of candy — two homemade salted caramels dipped in chocolate, and two of what they call peanut butter buckeyes. We drive to Stoney Point a couple miles away and watch the waves while eating our candy. He likes dark chocolate, I prefer milk. It’s a fun place to visit because it feels like you’ve stepped back in time, and the quality of the candy rivals my childhood favorite, See’s.

My beautiful new grandson Levi is doing well at almost five months old now. He has such a sweet disposition, is a voracious nurser (and consequently has wonderful chunkiness everywhere), and is so beloved by everyone in our family. I think this picture below is one of my all-time favorites. My oldest daughter Sharon took it seconds after Levi Samuel’s birth in August, and the joy on Jeremy and Carolyn’s faces needs no explanation.

I hope you had a peaceful Christmas. We had seventeen people here, and my living room isn’t that big so we were pretty cozy. But there were no arguments, no harsh words, no testiness, no undercurrents of strife… and there have been times in my life when that wasn’t the case. I felt so grateful. After everyone went home and Sara and I began to slowly pick up and restore things to order, I kept telling the Lord thank you. Thank you, thank you, Jesus.

I follow Pastor Tim Keller on Instagram, and this is his prayer for 2019. I make it my own prayer for the coming year, and thought I would share with you.

Lord,
I worry because I forget your wisdom.
I resent because I forget your mercy.
I covet because I forget your beauty.
I sin because I forget your holiness.
I fear because I forget your sovereignty.
You always remember me.
Help me to remember you.
Amen…

Thank you for stopping in today. May God give you a year that brings you closer to Him. That is what I’m asking for.

Our Tribute

December 31, 2018 | My Jottings

IMG_0053I’m republishing this one so anyone who missed my daughter’s slideshow at Michael’s funeral can see it. The link to click is below.

Friday was my husband Michael’s funeral. I don’t know how I’m going to write about everything yet, so for now I will share the tribute our daughter Sharon compiled for her dad.

This wonderful slideshow was played at the funeral, and I don’t think there was a dry eye in the church. I’ve watched this over and over, and it makes me weep and smile and remember and pray and laugh out loud and praise the Lord each time.

I will never get over the gift of having a husband like Michael. To have had his love makes me feel like the most blessed of women.

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to watch it all the way to the end, and let me know what you think. It’s an absolute treasure to me. (Thank you, dear Sharon…xoxoxox)

Please be sure to turn your speakers up, and click here to watch.

God bless and keep you all,

D. Michael, my husband

December 29, 2018 | My Jottings

(One of my favorites from the archives….)

My husband Michael’s name is really Dennis. His parents named him Dennis Michael but never intended to call him Dennis. So he signs his name D. Michael B______.  Some friends still call him D. Michael instead of just Michael, and that always makes me smile.

Anyway, my husband and I are a very romantic couple, and by that I mean that we take moonlight strolls on The Lakewalk near the shores of Lake Superior, listen to Etta James as we gaze longingly into each other’s eyes each night before we climb into our big bed, hold surprise scavenger hunts for each other with trinkets and love notes hidden all over the house, enjoy large red boxes of waxy chocolates and have a hefty bubble bath bill each month.

Actually, only one of the last six statements is true. The rest are all bold falsehoods. We haven’t taken any moonlight walks by the Lake because when the moon rises I’m usually yawning or already in bed, and Michael is watching the Minnesota Twins or the Vikings. We don’t hold scavenger hunts for creative ways to show our love, because we’re already tired of searching high and low for small, hidden things and are lately trying to give that up — we frequently have harried, romantic hunts for keys, cell phones, and checks that need to be deposited. And eating chocolate (hopefully coupled with peanut butter) is something we both firmly believe should be a daily chore practiced with moderation and discipline, so we eschew big red boxes of random shiny candies. Reese’s will do just fine.

Michael and I usually go out to dinner once a week, but the last time we went out for Valentine’s Day was several years ago. We did the unthinkable, which was drive to one of our favorite restaurants expecting to be seated within one hour. Once we saw the crowd and were told how long the wait was, we left and drove to one of our second favorite restaurants, and were surprised to find no place to park and standing room only inside. Then we drove to our favorite little sandwich joint and were greeted by the same. We decided that from then on we would go out to dinner for Valentine’s Day on either February 13th or 15th. No more of this February 14th business.

Well. Life has a way of changing things. Michael and I would probably never be chosen for the reality show America’s Most Romantic Couple. Sara teased us recently and said a reality show should be done about us, and I told her it would be successful only because it would help insomniacs get back to sleep. But we have some things that are so precious to me I don’t exactly know how to put words to it all.

He wanted to marry me before we ever met, after writing many letters and talking dozens of hours on the phone. He wanted to stay married to me after reality set in, which is even more amazing than wanting to get married before meeting. He helps keep me sane when I feel like craziness is maniacally tapping on the windows of my mind to be let in. He has taught me what faithfulness means and what a priceless, solid foundation it is for a marriage. He has built my confidence day after day, year after year. He has never disrespected me by an outright or a sideways glance at another woman in my presence. He sits with me on the couch when we have a few minutes, takes my feet in his lap and scratches the ridges left in my ankles by my SmartWool socks. He comes up behind me in the mornings when my mood is low and my hair is on end from the night’s sleep, puts his arms around me and tells me lies about how pretty he thinks I am (did I mention he has vision problems?) and how blessed he is to have found me.

He struggles with a terrible illness, but rarely with selfishness. He gets up every morning and makes me feel like I have a life partner who will always cherish me and work side by side with me, and believe the best about me. He often says in the middle of the day when there is finally quiet, “Let’s go read together,” and we take tea and shortbread on a tray to the sitting area of our bedroom, and soak in the truth and help from the Bible that we need for each day. He recently told me that when he saw me pull into the driveway after I’d been out running errands, that his heart did a little flip and he felt “twitterpated.” He dug his heels in years ago when my immaturity allowed me to talk of leaving each time things got rough, and he said, “I will never leave, I will always love you.”

He has worked his body into the ground for our family, sometimes in winter temperatures so far below freezing that he came home with tiny icicles on his mustache. He cries when I read touching stories out loud. He frequently directs me to take out the checkbook when someone is in need. He has never nagged, harped or driven home an important lesson to me. He has never withheld forgiveness for a time, just so I would learn my lesson.

He wrote “Happy Birthday Honey! I love you!” in giant spray-painted letters on a 4′ x 8′ piece of plywood tied to the side of his truck, and drove it through town and to our house, honking the horn so I’d come out and see it. You can see the photo of that sign if you click here. Over the years he has gently Q-tipped my face for hours, which must be quite the boring and confining prospect for a manly man who would rather be hunting or fishing outdoors. He has leaned over and kissed me while waiting in the checkout line at the grocery store. In front of people,  even when we were in our fifties. He has assured me in the darkest of times, “God is faithful. He will do a miracle. He will answer our prayers.” He smiles like no one I’ve ever known. He has knelt with me and laid his arm over my shoulders in prayer as we have wept and snotted into our couch, crying out for our children and the people God puts on our hearts. Quite literally, he has helped me live.

He has reminded me to praise God, many times when my spirit was flagging and I didn’t want to. He has shown me what it looks like to humbly trust God and to rejoice in Him no matter what. He lives the same way today as he did when we had seventy-six cents to our name. In thirty-one years he has never touched another, and I am so thankful for the freedom and peace this has brought to our marriage. He has made me feel like I’m a gift from God to him, which at times is laughable because I can be a high-maintenance wife.

Stated simply and profoundly, Michael has loved me.

So we may not be sipping champagne by candlelight and sitting in bubbles in our whirlpool tub on any future Valentine’s Days, but I’ll take our form of romance any time. My husband Michael has done for me what no other man could do, and for that I will thank him and the Lord until I no longer have breath.

As I write all these things today, I’m reminded of some verses from 1 Corinthians 13:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

Why Jesus chose to bless me with a husband like this, I don’t know. It’s certainly not because I deserve him. I think it might be because my heavenly Father wants me to have a clearer picture of His grace.

Michael has been that, and more to me…

The Bathroom Fraud

December 27, 2018 | My Jottings

I wrote this blog post right after we moved into our current house in 2012.

Right before Michael and I dropped off to sleep last night, I remarked to him, “We’ve slept in our new house 43 nights now.”

“Wow,” he said, then he turned over, and his soft, back-of-the-throat snoring began.

You know you’re getting really, truly old, when a little shiver of happiness goes through you each and every Friday night because you know you’ll get to sleep until 7:00 a.m. the next morning. This is what happens to me now, and I’m going to just go with it and enjoy it, rather than bemoan the fact that my life is rather small.

What makes a “big” life anyway? Travel? A super-powered job? Fame? A large, active family? Being crazy-busy and over-committed? I’m not sure. I do feel like our lives are slowly being pared down into something small, and there are times when that brings some melancholy thoughts. Most of the time I just take those thoughts right to the Lord. I think it’s fine and normal to have them, especially if you’re me, and I tell Him about them (as if He doesn’t already know) and begin to thank Him for all the ways I see Him in this whittled down life, and then a peaceful blanket of joy and wonder often settles over me.

But I digress. I am going to talk to you today about what a Bathroom Fraud I am.

First, I’ll start out by showing you a picture of the kind of bathroom I would probably design for myself if we were having a house built or remodeled.

I have always loved a deep claw foot tub to soak in.

I’ve never owned a claw foot tub, however. I like how old-fashioned they look. In the bathroom I design I would choose a pedestal sink, white cabinetry, and a pale, classic color on the walls. I would have white towels and fresh flowers, perhaps some wainscoting halfway up the walls.

I like the way some decorators manage to make things look old-fashioned with a modern twist. I like the bathroom pictured to the right.

If I were designing my own bathroom, the kind of decor I would never choose would be the ultra-modern, upscale hotel-type, super-chic bathroom with all the latest bathroom bells and whistles.

That is just not me. I like nice things, but I don’t have to have them. Mostly I just want things to be clean and orderly. We lived in a house for 25 years that was by no means fancy, but after Michael was done with it, it was a blessed refuge I cherished, and it had wavy floors and walls out of plumb and lots of old house issues. But I loved it.

Whenever we’ve watched HGTV and seen the bathroom makeovers that are said to have a “spa” feel, I can appreciate the craftsmanship and the design, but I’ve never been attracted to that modern look. Old and traditional has always whispered my name.

Well.

If you’ve read my blog these last months you know that we moved recently. You know that we tried to sell our previous home and it didn’t sell for months. You know that it finally sold when it was off the market. You know that the buyers weren’t keen on giving us time to find a new house, didn’t seem to appreciate that with Foster care, you don’t just set sail toward the horizon and hope that an island will eventually appear. You might remember that we asked our buyers to give us two weeks to find a suitable house, and they reluctantly gave us five days. You might even recall that when their offer on our previous house was about to die on Saturday morning, we had looked at houses all week and found nothing. We even looked at the one we eventually bought and ruled it out, because it was a little more expensive than we wanted, and every room had a very modern vibe to it, which I could admire, but didn’t want to live in. You’ll remember that we looked at that modern house again on Friday night, trying to see it through a new set of lenses, since we were down to the wire. And that we put in a low offer, it was accepted, and we had entered into a purchase agreement just in time.

As we packed up our old house and prepared to move on May 31st, I often thought about the things in this new house that I love, and eagerly anticipated each one. The lack of stairs, especially for Michael. The view of Lake Superior. The finished basement. The huge master bedroom that I knew would be a refuge for us.

But each time I thought about our new home’s master bathroom, I had to stifle a laugh. Because it is so modern and spa-like and “over the top,” I wondered how I would ever feel comfortable in it. I am a simple woman who comes from hardy Midwestern stock (Missouri and Kansas), even though I grew up in Southern California. Refined and elegant I am not.

When we moved in and I first used this room which is attached to our master bedroom, I felt like a poser. A fraud.

Yes, I am a Bathroom Fraud.

No claw foot tub here. The tub is an infinity tub (have you heard of infinity swimming pools?), so you can fill it all the way up to the edge if you want a deep, soaking bath with only your eyes sticking out like an alligator in a swamp. If the water sloshes over the edge a little, no prob. Click on the photos to enlarge them if you like, and you can see the little trough around the tub which catches any overflow and prevents it from spilling on the very modern black slate floor.

No pedestal sink here. These are stainless steel vessel sinks, set on a thick glass counter that is softly lit at night so when we stumble to the bathroom in the “wee” morning hours, we can find our way.

The ultra modern, strange looking toilet is in a separate small room; you can just see the door at the right beyond the tub. The toilet has two buttons. One is to save water and gives a half flush. The other is a full flush. I should probably have never mentioned the differences to my grands, because now when they come over, the little ones come running and say, “Grandma, which button do I press if I go pee?” and so on. They just can’t remember which is which.  🙂

I like old-fashioned looking faucets. Our new faucets stick right out of the huge mirrored wall behind the vessel sinks. Can you see them?

At the far end of the room is a black towel, hanging over a towel warmer. I told Michael in a dismissive snort, “I will never use that towel warmer.” He promptly replied, “I will.”

Just above the black towel on the towel warmer is an opaque sheet of glass. Just beyond that is the biggest shower I have ever been in. I feel like I’m back at Traweek Junior High School on the first day of P.E. (in SoCal we called it Physical Education, here in the Midwest they call it Gym Class).

There are tiny turquoise, aqua, light grey and white tiles everywhere in the bathroom, including the walls and the ceiling of the shower.

Guess what Michael’s favorite feature of the bathroom is?

The shower head as big as a pizza pan, that makes you feel like you’re standing under a tropical waterfall when you’re taking a shower.

Guess what my favorite part of the bathroom is?

The multi-colored lights that you can turn on when you’re taking a nice, soaking bath!

Uh, no. I’m kidding. These lights change slowly from pink to purple to green to blue to yellow. So if you take a bubble bath, then just below the frothy surface you can see a mild psychedelic light show going on.

If you take a bath without bubbles and turn on the multi-colored lights, then you can enjoy the singular experience of seeing your cellulite in bright and cheery colors as you’ve never imagined it before. Neon, multi-colored cellulite. Who says my life is small?

Now, guess how this super deep tub with a zillion air jets is filled? If you look back at the pictures you can see there is no noticeable spigot (although there is a hand-held sprayer at the right of the tub for washing your hair.)

Imagine our slack jaws when we first turned the handle on the wall and this happened:

A stream of water the diameter of a garden hose flows from the ceiling. Without splashing all over the place. What I will say about this is that the grandkids love it. “Can we take a tubby?” is one of the first things they say when they come to visit now.

Do you see the electrical outlet and the cable hookup above the towels in the photo above? The previous owner had a flat screen television mounted there. I don’t think I’ll be following suit. That would make me even more of a Bathroom Fraud than I already am.

I have an aqua colored shirt that I wear when I go into our new aqua colored bathroom. Who could have known how fortuitously foresighted my catalog purchase was years ago?

At one end of the bathroom is the shower. On the opposite end is our closet.

Neither Michael or I are what you would call fashion conscious. I used to be someone who liked clothes a lot, but now I try not to pay attention to them too much. It’s my way of being an ostrich about my surplus poundage. If I don’t try on and buy a lot of clothes, don’t have to look at myself in a mirror that much, then I don’t need to address the issue, right? Isn’t that how it’s done? I do have some clothes, but just getting on the subject makes me start to break out in hives just a bit, so I’ll just move on to the next photos.

When we toured this house the first time and saw this closet, I laughed. “Well, I guess our eight shirts would fit in here!” I said with a touch of sarcasm. Then we bought the house and even though we’re not clothes people, I could see that we had more than eight shirts. This is Michael’s side of the closet below, but those are my shoes. We use the upper shelves (which go all the way to the ceiling) for extra blankets and doodads.

And this is part of my side of the closet, and I used the upper shelf for things I used to store in bookcases.

Michael is always telling me he needs a new jacket, a new spring windbreaker, a new hoodie, a new down-filled winter coat. Now I have photographic documentation in the photo below that proves he is set quite nicely for coats and jackets for the next century or so.

We no longer have a guest bedroom, so I used some of the shelves to store the guest linens until we figure out if we’re ever going to transform our huge attic into a guest suite.

This closet is the size of a small room. We have an inflatable queen-sized mattress we use for guests, and when the grandchildren come over, they think it’s the biggest treat ever to sleep on that mattress in Grandpa and Grandma’s closet!

Even though just being in our master bathroom still seems to me like we’re visiting someplace, I’m starting to be less startled by it. The tub I thought was a little too over the top, has now become the nicest tub I’ve ever bathed in, and it feels like a gift.

Thank you for stopping by today and taking this little tour with me.

You know how when you have something you want to share, you say things like, “Hey Christy, come on over and sit with me on our deck and have some fresh lemonade.” or “Carey, would you like to come over to sit by the fire and have some tea and scones”?

Now I’ve taken to saying to friends and family, “Why don’t you come over sometime soon and take a bath?”

A Love Story

December 21, 2018 | My Jottings

(Another from the archives….I wrote this poem in 2000)

In Southern California in a home near the beach
Lived a broken young woman, her dreams out of reach
Her fair little daughters, ages two years and four
Would ask her, “Will Daddy be home anymore?”

He wouldn’t, she knew, and their lives were all changed
And she chafed and she wept for those things rearranged
By her God, who had seemingly, mercilessly scattered
The scraps of their life as a family, now tattered.

Off to work this mom went and the Lord did provide
And the pain, it diminished, and the three of them tried
To live every day with a smile and a song
And God helped them and met them as they walked along

Then one day a letter she found in her mail
From a man in Duluth, Minnesota, and his tale
Was the same as hers was — an unwanted divorce
At 30 he’d met Jesus, who put him on course

They wrote and they spoke on the telephone each day
They sent photos, they shared, and they’d quietly pray
In less than a month he had asked her to marry
But they hadn’t met, and the woman was wary

She loved him and felt that his love was a gift
But her 23-year old feet had not touched a snowdrift
From warm, sunny California to frigid Minnesota?
In terms of life’s stresses, had she exceeded her quota?

They met only once before tying the knot
Each one felt so certain of the treasure they’d bought
The woman quit her job, left her kin and her friends
And knew for the first time, that yes, a heart mends

So the Lord gave a sign and they made the big leap
With her family all present they promised to keep
The vows that they said — they were so joyful hearted!
Three months after that letter, for Duluth they departed

Fairy tales say “they lived happily ever after”
And their home for awhile was filled with bright laughter
The blizzards, they came, and the cold, it amazed her
By spring her blood thickened; the weather hadn’t phased her

In less than a year a new daughter was born
But the cloth of their marital bliss was now torn
For the man and the woman, despite their great love
Had some lessons to learn from the Teacher above

He wanted to mold them, to hone them, to polish
If they were to be Christlike, He’d have to demolish
Their stubbornness, selfishness, anger and greed
God’s plan for the couple was that His Word they’d heed

With tenderness, Jesus, their Savior, gave care
He led them through valleys and deserts so bare
He took them to mountaintops, gave them refreshing
He held both their hands when their wheat needed threshing

There were years of home schooling, and daughters’ emotions
Their ups and their downs and their tears that made oceans
There were days when the woman was sure that her life
Would never be free from confusion and strife

But the Lord was so generous, constant and kind
He always brought healing and true peace of mind
The couple had humor and friendship and they
Learned slowly that adversity helped them obey

Soon many years passed and their daughters had grown
Those beautiful girls were striking out on their own
The man and the woman, they looked on, astounded
And saw much answered prayer from those Gates they had pounded

From that first special letter to their love story today
There is one scarlet thread that has woven its way
Through the deaths and the triumphs they have known through the years
In the heartbreak and doubt, in the troubles and fears

This thread has been present when money was lacking
When the woman, offended, in her mind began packing
It ran through the days when no good thing was missing
The thread wound its way through the hugs and the kissing

The years that have passed almost number nineteen
And the woman has aged and isn’t nearly as lean
And the man who had brown hair is now fully gray
But they have not, they do not, they never will stray

From each other’s embraces, from the shield of the Lord
From His mercy and grace, from the blood He has poured
From the chastening He brings, from the pruning He gives
From the song in their hearts that cries out “Jesus lives!”

When she reached her forties the woman surveyed
That the scraps of their lives had been carefully laid
While faded and tattered and worthless to some
They’d been magnificently stitched by the One who had come

To show them the Way and the Life and the Truth
That He’s right in their midst there in arctic Duluth
The man and the woman know their story of love
Is the handiwork of their dear, faithful Father above.

This couple still lives, and they yet are quite flawed
But as long as their hearts beat they’ll be molded by God
His plyings, severe, and yet merciful, truly
Tell the story of Michael and his sweetheart Julie

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