Just for fun

July 18, 2016 | My Jottings

Sometimes the world news is too much. I want to keep informed and I have a strong desire to keep praying, but there are times when I click over to an online news site or turn on the nightly news, and I have to turn the TV off or click away within minutes. I feel helpless and sad and alarmed at what is happening in our country and world.

Yesterday was one of those days. I did all the things I normally do to keep things running as efficiently as possible in my home, and then for about two-three hours (off and on), I played with a new iPhone app someone told me about. It’s called Prisma. I have nothing uplifting or profound to share today, so I’ll post six of the photos Prisma altered from the one I chose. The original photo was from last December, when my three daughters and I went out to lunch and had our Christmas cookie exchange.

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Some of the renderings on Prisma actually make your photos look like beautiful water color paintings and are framable, I think. Some make you look like a zombie. 🙂

Today I’ll be cleaning, baking, doing laundry, preparing for The Hiding Place study tomorrow, and going to my first Yoga class for ancient people in pain.

Praying God’s help and peace for every one,

Edith’s Return

July 14, 2016 | My Jottings

Our little Miniature German Schnauzers have kept us entertained for years, and we are pretty weirdly devoted to them. Edith and Mildred are like oil and water, however, and I wrote about how opposite their personalities are, here.

Now we are coming to the latter days of Edith’s life. She is approaching 15 years old, which in small dog years is almost 90. She doesn’t eat much and we try to hand feed her to make ourselves feel better. When she manages a few morsels we’re so happy. She is skin and bone, which doesn’t really show under her wild and ungroomed schnauzer hair. Schnauzers don’t have fur, which is why they’re a good choice for people with allergies.

Edith is also nearly deaf, and only hears the loudest of noises. Her cataracts are so cloudy we’re surprised she sees anything at all. In the dark she behaves like she can’t see one thing. Edith has had pancreatitis for years and we’ve fed her a low-fat prescription diet which can’t be very satisfying. Once in a while she can have some apple and carrots. Not long ago I hadn’t put on my thinking cap for the day and I spooned some leftover eggs in her bowl, which she devoured. Eggs have fat in them, and the rest of the day she was deathly ill, throwing up and shaking from pain, and the day after that she laid on her side in our living room in a semi-coma. As long as she was asleep, I was hopeful she would recover, and after 30 hours she did. I will not make the egg mistake again.

I watch her carefully for signs of pain, because I know she trusts me to take care of her, and as soon as I see suffering I will drive her to our veterinarian and say goodbye to her, which makes me cry to even consider. I know we are getting close to that day.

Because she’s an old lady dog, her bladder has shrunk to the size of a thimble, and she needs to be let out at least once during the dark of night. Sara and I take turns having Edith sleep on our beds, and if Edith lasts until 4:00 a.m. we think that’s so great and we croon and tell her how well she did, and what a good girl she is. After her middle-of-the-night potty run, she settles right back down for sleep until around 7:00 a.m.

A few mornings ago, Sara let Edith out, and thought it was odd that she didn’t return to the door like she always, always does. Sara went out to find her in the yard and Edith was gone. In her 90 doggy years, she has never wandered out of the yard one time. We have an electric dog fence and it took her one day to be trained on it. She has known the boundaries and stayed away from them, even when other passing dogs are on the front sidewalk barking at her. You can see her obeying that invisible fence even without the collar on. Sara came to my room, understandably distressed, to tell me about Edith, and we quickly dressed and drove off in separate cars to look for her. The rain was coming down in torrents, and thunder was booming and lightning blazing. There was no way to call Edith as we drove, because she wouldn’t have heard us. She wouldn’t have seen us either, since it was pitch black, pouring rain, and wherever she was, she was in unfamiliar territory. We knew she was scared and lost.

Sara and I criss-crossed the streets in our area for close to two hours, driving slowly, looking into yards, on front porches, under bushes, praying that Jesus would bring Edith back to us. I cried and cried, telling the Lord I didn’t want her end to be like this. I wanted her to be with us, held, petted, kissed, loved, when it was her time to go see Michael.

I needed to get home to get breakfasts and meds ready for my foster gals, so I left Sara to the search and came home so sad. After our gals were seen safely off to their respective jobs, I looked for a recent photo of Edith (who looks like Sesame Street Wolf when she hasn’t been groomed for months) and was just going to my office to put a lost ad on Craigslist, when the doorbell rang. The sun had started to come up but it was still darkish outside, and I opened the door to see a man in a camouflage military uniform, bicycle behind him, holding a drenched and whining and scruffy Edith in his arms. Thankfully both dogs have tags on their collars with their names and address and phone numbers. This 30ish blond man with the huge smile asked, “Is this your dog? I found her down on the trail.” I ugly cried and said, “We’ve been looking for her for hours! Thank you!” I took Edith into my arms and she whined in doggy relief. I gave the man a big hug and as he walked down the steps to ride and mounted his bike (he must have started out before the rain fell) he turned and asked, “What’s her name again?” When I told him, he smiled, waved, and rode off into the downpour.

I called Sara and told her, so she came happily home from her search, and we sat with Edith and dried her off as she whined and trembled in what was obvious relief.

And then? Aging, arthritic Edith Elaine Bubbleloo did the Bucking Bronco. IMG_2965It’s what she used to do when it was time to eat. She would excitedly jump around in a way that looked just like a rodeo horse, and we would always declare with our teeth gritted and our voices altered (because that’s what we do when we talk about our dogs), “Bucking Bronco…Edith is doing her Bucking Bronco dance! Oh, dear!” I wish you could see and hear how we say it, because it’s really quirky and alarming and strange, but we don’t mind. And Edith did the Bucking Bronco for about five minutes, as if to say, “I’m home, I’m home, I’m home!” It was a beautiful thing to see.

So now she’s back to sleeping about 22 hours per day, drinking well but hardly eating. And I am back to watching her carefully and wondering when the decision will have to be made.

Mildred is the dog we call The Bad Seed for various reasons, even though we love her too. But Edith has been loyal, obedient, adorable, and devoted to us her whole life. She even held vigil under Michael’s hospital bed for three days as he lay dying. Michael loved these doggies so much too.

I plan to share how things are going in our weekly study soon. We are being abundantly blessed by The Hiding Place, and the lively discussions are a delight to me.

Have a great weekend friends,

Peonies, Pasta and Perspective

July 4, 2016 | My Jottings

I found my wallet!

In my own home, amongst some piled, unfolded clothes.

I’m so glad I didn’t call the police and have the security cameras at the grocery store reviewed. I’m so glad no one stole it, as I was thoroughly convinced had happened.

I’m also a bit relieved that many of my friends have memory lapses too. (A good friend of mine came over last week and I asked her how her week had been. She paused, looked deep in thought regarding how to answer, and then said with a smile, “I don’t remember!”)

I recall why I had the wallet out in my bedroom now. Everything came back to me once I saw it all in context.

But considering how none of it came to mind while I was placing a lost and found Craigslist ad, texting a few friends to ask for prayer, looking through the nooks and crannies of my house, or lamenting the loss of precious photos, this is alarming.

My friend Ginny sent me a beautiful text about how she didn’t think this was just a senior moment, and she encouraged me to seek the Lord about what this was really all about. She believes this experience was meant to shift something in me and give me a better perspective on God’s heart toward lost people. I received her words, and will continue to pray expectantly about this.

The first piece of fruit from this reorientation might be a person who needs prayer. I went to Craigslist to delete my ad once I’d trumpeted my praise to God when I found my wallet, and there was a new ad for another lost wallet. It was posted by a young woman who lost her wallet near our public library, and she said much the same as I did — she didn’t care about the money, she just wanted the things in the wallet returned to her. She gave her name and cell phone number.

So I texted Alyssa and told her I’d seen her ad, gave her some of the details about my own “lost” wallet, told her my name and promised to pray for the return of her wallet. Immediately I had a sense that she needed prayer for more than that, and I put her name in my journal and will pray for Alyssa until the Lord no longer presses her name on my heart.

Today is the 4th of July, and I have sixteen things on my to-do list. That’s a little more than usual. Later this evening one of my fosters and I will be going to my dear friend Su’s house, to a potluck and fun fourth gathering. Su’s fosters and my fosters enjoy this get-together every year. I’m bringing a pasta salad and I’m trying something I’ve never made before. It’s called Tortellini and Asparagus Salad with Tomatoes and Pine Nuts. The pine nuts are toasted and there are ribbons of fresh basil and a homemade vinaigrette in the dish.

I also have laundry to do, a bird cage to clean, toilets to scrub and a foster report to complete. And because tomorrow is our fourth meeting for our Hiding Place study, I should probably do something with the crumbs on the table, the blades of grass from Millie’s paws on the couch, and the toothpaste blobs in the sink of our main floor bath.

Yesterday was such a gorgeous day in Northeastern Minnesota. As I was coming home from the store where I bought the ingredients for the tortellini salad, I decided to pull over and take a picture of the Sarah Bernhardt peonies in the front corner of our yard. Sara transplanted some peonies from our last house and they are gorgeous. I think the light pink ones look like a choir of flowers singing their hearts out to all passers-by. You can click to enlarge the photo if you like.

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What do you usually do on the Fourth of July? I will be approaching slumberland when our city’s fireworks show begins right before 10:00 p.m. tonight. I’ll be able to hear the BOOMS from my house, but the memories of past years of those spectacular bursts of fizzling light will have to suffice for me.

Apparently I can remember all the fireworks, but not the wallets.

Have a safe and blessed holiday…

Things Lost

July 1, 2016 | My Jottings

“This is what the past is for! Every experience God gives us, every person he puts in our lives is the perfect preparation for the future that only he can see.”   — Corrie ten Boom

Yesterday I had three of my nine grands with me for a few hours. Mrs. Nisky had a cello lesson, so we drove up just north of Duluth and dropped her off for that. Then Li’l Gleegirl and Louiser and I drove to one of the larger grocery stores called Super One. We picked up a watermelon, some bananas, organic half and half, lean ground beef, and a rotisserie chicken, among other things. They both sat in front of one of those shopping carts with a kiddie car attached to the front of it, and by the time we were halfway through the produce section I leaned down and whispered to them to please limit the beeping of the squeaky horns in the little pretend steering wheels to once every aisle or so. Shopping in a fairly crowded store while maneuvering the wide turns of a forty-foot long shopping cart with two little hands continuously sounding the beep-beep-beep-beep-beeps made me realize how very alive I am.

When we were ready to check out, I unloaded our groceries onto the conveyor belt, reached for my wallet in the depths of my Vera Bradley purse, and my heart sank. My wallet was gone. I knew right away it had been stolen. The reason I thought this was because everything to do with my purse is large and intentional. I always buy a big purse (usually a pretty Vera Bradley fabric tote) so I don’t have to rummage. I look at other women with these tiny little clutches only big enough for cash and credit cards and I think, “How can you possibly fit your computer in that?” My Macbook Air will fit in my purse, a large library book will easily fit, and the other things I carry are pretty well organized. The pens are together in one side pocket of the purse, my cell phone in another, and my lip glosses are kept in a zipped pouch that’s easy to find. My keys are on a huge jailer’s key ring and I have never lost them in my life. 10913032

I also like a large wallet, so I can fit every wallety thing in it — cash, credit cards, my driver’s license, rewards cards for Great Harvest Bread Company, Qdoba and Walgreen’s, band aids, pictures of my loved ones, etc. I can reach into my purse without looking and grab the large key ring or the large padded checkbook or the large pouch of lip gloss or the large book or the large wallet, and this system has served me well for years. I don’t lose things, I don’t rummage around in frustration, and I hardly ever have to give my purse or its contents a thought.

But sometimes intentional and organized women can be idiots.

Like when they’re shopping in a crowded grocery store with their granddaughters and they don’t zip the top of their well-considered and spacious purse. My wallet was at the bottom of my purse, so whoever decided to just slip their hand in yesterday saw the unzipped opportunity, watched me very carefully and did it within about 2.5 seconds. Thankfully the woman at the cash register let me write a check without showing ID.

We picked up Mrs. Nisky from her lesson and drove home. Of course I looked for the wallet at home, but I knew it had been with me, so looking in trash cans and in the garage and under paperwork was fruitless. I called Super One and nothing had been turned in.

I spent the next hour calling my credit card companies and canceling my cards, and I texted a few friends and asked them to pray. My prayer is that whoever stole the pretty padded blue and green wallet took the cash and then discarded the wallet in a public place. I’m hoping its bright colors will draw someone’s eyes to it, and they will find it and contact me from the information on my license. I want my pictures back.

I fretted quietly for about an hour, I really did. But then I thought of the quote above by Corrie ten Boom, and I decided to believe that my wallet was in God’s possession, no matter whose human hands it was in. I praised the Lord out loud while I was emptying the dishwasher, thanking Him that my checkbook wasn’t taken. I thanked Him for my grandchildren, for my home, for the things I still have. I asked Him to give me His perspective on this little tiny thing that had happened, and I think He began to do just that.

I started thinking about all the people I know who have lost things, or are lost themselves. And I was ashamed to realize once again that I don’t always pray for the most important things with the care, passion and focus I was feeling as I was praying about my wallet. Gahh.

So I prayed for my friend whose relationship with her daughter and grandchildren has literally been stolen from her. I prayed for my friend who has lost the marriage and family life she cherished. I prayed for my friend whose son has lost his way and isn’t reaching out to the hand Christ offers him. I prayed for my friend who lost her beloved husband this year, also to a disease caused by Agent Orange, like my Michael.

This morning I woke up and was thankful to tell the Lord again that I knew my wallet was in His control, and that I would wait on Him for it to be returned to me. Not the money, but the other contents, especially the pictures of my human treasures. I asked Him again to smite my soul so that I care about lost people like He does.

But I also remembered the parable Jesus told about the lost coin. Even though He was teaching people how wonderful it is when someone repents and turns to the Lord, I think He was also acknowledging how even a lost possession can bring distress, and interrupts everything in our lives until it’s found.

“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it?  And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
— Luke 15:8-10  ESV

So when my wallet is returned to me, will you rejoice with me? Thank you! I think I heard a yes out there somewhere.

And until that happens, I will ask the Lord to give me His heart for things and people who need to be found and rejoiced over.

Is there someone or something lost to you? I will pray for you today, if you leave a comment. (You can remain anonymous when you leave a comment if you like too.)

In anticipation,

A Hiding Place

June 30, 2016 | My Jottings

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can click to enlarge these if you like:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you read The Hiding Place yet?

And where is one of your “hiding places?”

Divine Appointments

June 23, 2016 | My Jottings

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

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

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

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

Divine appointments.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heavenly setups.

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for stopping by,

489 Days

June 13, 2016 | My Jottings

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

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

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

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

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

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

I wish I could go to a real Michael place.

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

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

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

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

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

I want to go there.

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

Wednesday’s Word — Edition 129

June 8, 2016 | My Jottings

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

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

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

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

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

~Tim Keller

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Salutes for Grandpa

June 1, 2016 | My Jottings

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

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

Our memories are so precious.

Have a wonderful Wednesday, friends.

The times they are a changin’….

May 27, 2016 | My Jottings

Friday felicitations to you, my tens of readers! I hope you’re able to enjoy a long holiday weekend and make a delightful memory or two with your family.

I have plans for this weekend, but I’m not sure about the delightful memory part. If driving up to the Subaru dealer to have my lug nuts tightened, and then going to the Verizon store and hoping to replace my shattered iPhone without spending hundreds of dollars constitutes some delightful memories, then I’m in trouble. Nevertheless, those are my plans. And I might read, and I might eat something with blue cheese dressing on it, and I might finish up all the paperwork necessary for my foster care re-licensing that happens next week. And I will go to my husband’s grave on Memorial Day, and tell the Lord for the ten-thousandth time how blessed I am to have been married to Michael for almost 34 years.

DSCN1281Speaking of foster care, I drove to Minneapolis yesterday with one of my gals, who will be having some minor surgery in a University of Minnesota clinic next month. We listened to the Radio Theatre production of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader on the drive south, ate some fruit, and watched the outside thermometer go from 50 degrees to 82 in just 150 miles. Then when we drove home we watched it go from 82 to 54. I know not everyone appreciates the cool springs and summers we can have by Lake Superior, but I do.

I’ve never been to a medical facility like the one we visited yesterday. There was valet service, and when we drove in to the bustling driveway, uniformed young men gave us a numbered receipt and parked the car. When we stepped inside the huge, light-filled building, more uniformed young people approached us and asked if we needed help finding Clinic 4J, which we did. We rode the elevator to the fourth floor and when we stepped out, there were many waiting areas with modern, comfortable chairs very similar to this one.

We checked in with an employee who stood behind a tall podium/desk, piled with large iPad-like tablets in leather holders. She did all her info taking and recording on her own tablet attached to a long-necked stand. When we were done checking in we were given one of these tablets in leather, so we could answer questions on it, sort of like the clipboard and paper and pen of ancient days. Will our grandchildren someday ask us, “Grandma, did you ever ride in a Conestoga wagon and use paper and pencils when you were little?”

Before we sat down with our tablet, my foster resident was given a lime green, plastic rectangle with a button on it, to clip to her shirt, “So she could be tracked by satellite” while she was in the building. At this point I was agog. They want to track us by satellite when we’re in the doctor’s office now? Because we might do what? Or go where? Lastly, the employee checking us in lifted her own tablet out of its stand up to her eye level to take a quick photo of my gal, so that when it was her turn to go through the doors of 4J, the nurse coming to get her could recognize her from the photo and not have to break her privacy and call her first name out loud.

We had a great appointment and the three professionals who helped my gal were fantastic.

When we rode the elevator down to the main floor, we were met by a young uniformed man who asked if we had used the valet parking. He led us to a station with several iPad-like tablets on it, and showed us how to scan our ticket under the red light, and pay for our parking by swiping my Visa, which then alerted the valets to run and get the Outback, which was parked in the hinterlands. As we approached the exit doors, there was a lime green push-door in the wall, where we were instructed to remove the clip from my gal’s shirt and drop it in. When we stepped into the bright Minneapolis sunshine, we took our places in line as the valets pulled up in the various cars of the departing patients. It reminded me of Disneyland and what it’s like to get on a ride there, except you’re not waiting for a Matterhorn bobsled or a boat for Pirates of the Caribbean to board, you’re waiting to spot your own blue Outback slowly rolling in the line of vehicles, then stopping right at your feet with an attendant to help you in.

Do any of you have medical facilities like this? It felt a bit futuristic, but it was very efficient. The times they are a changin’…  (I thought I’d say that because it’s true, but also because it was Bob Dylan’s 75th birthday this week, and he was born and lived his first five years in my city, and that’s also the title to one of his songs. He’s a distant cousin of Michael’s, on the Zimmerman side, but I don’t think that means Bob wants me to call him up to say hey or anything.)

I guess it’s time to make a cup of tea, turn on some music (this is one of the songs on today’s CD), and get to my tasks.

May God bless you with His hope and help today,

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