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

Are you thankful you can pee?

December 19, 2018 | My Jottings

From the archives:

I’ll bet you’ve never read that for a blog post title before.

Are you thankful you can pee? Because I am, and I’ll tell you why.

Years ago I had to have sudden and unexpected bladder surgery. (Here’s your chance to click over to another blog right now since you have an idea about where this is going.) One week I was on a cruise with my husband in the Western Caribbean, and the next week I was being scheduled for surgery, and feeling stunned.

When the surgeon told me that part of my recovery called for a supra-pubic catheter and explained what that meant, my courage almost failed me. For those of you who are rusty with your Latin, supra means above, and pubic means, well, you don’t have to speak Latin to know what that means. I wasn’t going to have a normal catheter, no. I was going to have a tube surgically inserted through my abdominal wall above the pubic bone, straight into the bladder. Just the thought of it again makes me sort of shudder.

Anyway, when someone punches a hole in your lower abdomen and pokes a stoppered rubber tube the diameter of your little finger through it, puncturing your bladder and securing the tube to the inside of your heretofore faithfully functioning bladder by inflating a tiny balloon there, it’s an event. Take my word for it.

After I dried my tears and went home from the hospital, I had to learn how to pee through the tube. I couldn’t pee the normal way. In a day or two I got the “hang” of it (here’s your second chance to click over to another blog if this is getting to be too much for you) and finally felt I could bear it while my bladder healed. I had never before been able to walk into a bathroom and pee in a sink, but now I could. And did. Do you think I’m going to tell you whose sink I peed in? No, I’m not. You’ll never get it out of me, because then I might have one less friend than I do now. I did clean the sink however, if you were wondering.

After about a week of being able to pee (do the British say “wee”?) like the other sex, I was scheduled to have my supra-pubic catheter removed. I was more than ready, because the puncture wound was painful and I wanted to get back to normal again. The deflation of the balloon inside my bladder took less than a minute, and when the whole contraption was no longer one with my body, I let a few tears of relief run down my cheeks. And I thanked God I had made it through.

But the hard times weren’t quite over. The surgeon warned me that my bladder had most likely become lazy while healing, and that it would take a while for it to relearn how to do its thing the old way. Oh brother, that’s all I need is a lazy bladder, I thought. But I had no idea how true this would be, and how painful.

The first time I had to pee, I did what most females do, and sat down on the toilet. But my bladder had forgotten its function and I couldn’t go. Oh, how it hurt. And I returned to our room and cried a little, and asked Michael to pray for me while I sat on the edge of our bed and got up the courage to try again. You know you’re blessed when your husband closes his eyes, rests his strong hands on your shoulders, and asks out loud for God to help his wife pee, with as much sincerity, faith and fervency as he prays for someone who is dying or who needs to turn their life over to Jesus.

It took several attempts, and it was the most unbearable kind of pain at times. Like nothing I ever want to experience again, and I’ve given birth to three good-sized babies without pain medication. When I finally emptied my bladder for the first time after having that dreaded SP catheter removed, I cried in relief and praised the Lord. Out loud. While I was peeing. “Thank you Jesus! Thank you for helping me! Praise you Lord….” and so on. And Michael could hear me peeing and praising and he stood outside the door and did the same. (The praising part, not the peeing part. I would have had a fit if he had stood outside the bathroom door peeing on the floor and praising God, and then the holy moment would have been ruined.)

Right then, sitting on the toilet, I made a promise to God. I promised Him I would never, ever take the simple act of emptying my bladder for granted again. And while I don’t remember to praise the Lord every time I pee, I do thank Him wholeheartedly now and again while I’m sitting there. I will never forget how something I rarely thought of and took completely for granted went haywire, and taught me about how blessed I am in so many ways.

My eyes can blink today. Can yours?  We can thank Him for that, no matter what else is going on in our lives. My voice works — I am able to tell someone I love them. Can you? What a gift! My fingers can move — I can type this blog post to tell you I think you should give thanks to God the next time you pee.

I would never try to boss you around (although I’ve been accused of being bossy more than once in my life), but today I just want to be bold, and tell you that if you haven’t thanked God for the privilege of peeing without help, peeing without pain, I think you should do that right now. 🙂

Peeing and praising. It’s a good place to start.

To the deep

December 17, 2018 | My Jottings

This isn’t the first time I’ve reposted this, but for some reason this memory comes back to me frequently.

Growing up in Southern California always provided me with many opportunities to swim. Many of our neighbors had built-in swimming pools in their back yards, and of course we had hundreds of miles of Pacific coastline to choose from as well. Surrounded by so much water, my parents made sure I had swimming lessons at an early age. By the time I received my certificate of completion when I was five, I was hooked. Pretty much all I cared about for the next ten years was swimming. And books. Books and water competed for my affections, but water usually won out and it animated my young life. Until we moved to a house with a pool during my sixteenth year, I spent a lot of my childhood fervently hoping my friends with pools would take pity and invite me over to swim.

I also loved the beach. Sometimes my parents would take a drive to Huntington Beach and I could hardly wait to get my feet in the water. It didn’t matter if it was a 90 degree summer day or a 50 degree winter evening. As long as I can remember, I have been irresistibly drawn to water. I learned to body surf and enjoyed catching and riding the waves in to shore, but for some reason what I always wanted to do most was swim as far out into the ocean as I could.

My father would sit on the sand and watch me swim. I used to tell him, “Daddy, wave your hand up high when you think I’m out a mile!” I would swim way out past the breakers, and then stop to tread water and turn to see if Dad had his arm up. He never did, that first turn.

I would swim farther out, sometimes brushing my feet and legs against the rubbery, floating kelp beds as I kicked, and I always got the creeps thinking that those thick, slippery vines and leaves were trying to grab on to me and pull me down. Then I would turn and look toward the beach again and see that the form of my father had gotten a bit smaller, but he usually didn’t have his arm up the second time either.

So I’d put my face back in the cold water and swim so far out that the people on the beach looked like colorful dots. I could distinguish my father from others only because he was a large man and usually wore a white short-sleeved sport shirt and was sitting close to the water.

Many times I would stop to float so I could rest and catch my breath; swimming was hard work. Before I started out again, I would deeply breathe in and out, in and out, then fill my lungs with as much air as they could hold, and dive down, down, down as far as I could, trying to touch the bottom. I tried not to open my eyes as I always did in chlorine pools, because the salt water burned so intensely. When I swam out so far that I couldn’t touch the ocean bottom when I dove, I always knew I was pretty far out. I would tread water again and look back to the shore to find my father’s white shirt, and could just barely see his upraised arm waving back and forth at me. Then I would start swimming back to him.

Never once did the thought of an ominous dorsal fin gliding silently across the surface of the water enter our minds. This was before the movie Jaws came out and before the days when shark attacks became so commonly reported. You might ask, “What on earth was her father thinking, letting his little girl swim out so far into the ocean?”

And here’s my answer: I don’t know.

There is no way I would have allowed one of my children to do what I did. Had they tried, I would have been the first mom running into the water with her clothes on, yelling, “Get back here! Don’t go so far out!” In those days fear didn’t seem to reign as it does now. Maybe there were just as many shark attacks and kidnappings imperiling our children, but we didn’t hear about them as much as we do today. Perhaps he wasn’t cautious enough, but my father was not afraid that I was going so far out of his reach that he couldn’t save me. And I certainly wasn’t afraid. I have never had an iota of fear when it comes to water.

I realize now that my father didn’t really let me swim an entire mile out to sea before he gave me the come-back signal. But at ten years old I didn’t know that. I don’t know why I wanted to swim out into the deep water. I just did.

Something has always drawn me to the deep things in life. I like movies and books that have hidden messages beneath the scenes or the words on the surface. I like deep conversation. I like in-depth Bible study. I like to try to figure out the meaning of things. I like deeper, darker colors. I like mystery.

But for all that, I sometimes feel like I’m stuck in the shallows. Because to go deep with the Lord requires surrender. To fully experience the depths of His unfathomable riches, I know I have to give up control. I kinda sorta want to do that, at least that’s what my head tells me. Why would I hold anything back from my Heavenly Father who has proven Himself faithful to me again and again? I don’t have an answer to that. But I find myself still dallying around sometimes, sitting at the water’s edge and putting my feet in, splashing the water on my face, but not throwing caution to the wind and diving into the deep, where it’s way over my head. And I’m not sure why. I hate to admit it, but I think fear has something to do with it.

I’ve memorized these verses (with a friend) and as I meditate on them, I’m asking God to reveal more to me.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  Ephesians 3:17-19

I wonder how we can possibly have the power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep the love of Jesus is for us?  Yet these verses say that with God’s enabling, it is possible.

Maybe I need to go back to my old childhood ways. I remember how exhilarating it was to run into the pounding Pacific surf and swim out past the huge waves to deep water. I think God is calling me deeper with Him, and I might be afraid to go.

There’s a passage from one of my favorite C.S. Lewis books, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, that I draw comfort and courage from. The Pevensie children are in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, and they’re hearing about Aslan the Lion, King of Narnia, for the first time.

“Is he a man?” asked Lucy.

“Aslan a man!” said Mr. Beaver sternly. “Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the Great Lion.”

“Ooh!” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”

“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver, “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

“I’m longing to see him,” said Peter, “even if I do feel frightened when it comes to the point.”

I think I can long to see something or Someone, yet still feel a bit frightened at the prospect. I’d like to swim out to the deep water of the ocean again. And each time I stand on the shore of Lake Superior and look wistfully to its horizon, I think the same thing – not “oh how beautiful, look how huge” like others might think at the same view, but I want to jump in and swim out far. It’s too cold and dangerous for that, but the longing is still there.

I sense the beckoning of the Lord to go deeper with Him too. I don’t know why, but I hang back on the shore. Maybe because all my old ways and selfishness won’t be safe if I do jump in over my head. Maybe I want the safe rather than the exhilarating these days. I honestly don’t know.

But I can still hear that call, and with His help I will jump in and swim out past the breakers.  Out to the deep.  Hopefully soon, because I live in a very dry and thirsty land.

29 Things I Love About Michael

December 14, 2018 | My Jottings

I wrote this about Michael years ago, but it still brings me such happiness to think of him. He went to be with the Lord on February 9, 2015, and I will miss him forever…or at least until I see him again.

Our next wedding anniversary will be our thirtieth, and we’re looking forward to celebrating with a trip to the UK later this year. Today I want to share a few things I love about my husband in honor of our most recent anniversary.

I love:

1.  his one-of-a-kind smile

2.  the way he compliments my cooking (last night as he was eating my homemade spaghetti sauce he said, “Wonderful! Awesome! You could sell this on a corner somewhere!”)

3.  his patience

4.  his ability to say he’s sorry

5.  the way he’s not afraid to cry

6.  when he once forgot I was taking a friend to the airport for an early morning flight and searched the whole house for me, including under all the beds

7.  the way he has such a soft spot in his heart for dogs, and croons to our schnauzers as they gaze at him adoringly

8.  his faithfulness to me for 29 years

9.  his muscular V-shaped back

10.  his quirkiness

11.  the way he endures his Parkinson’s with grace and humility

12.  his desire to give to others

13.  the way he willingly scratches the ridges in my ankles left by my SmartWool socks

14.  the way he will dance a jerky little jig if anyone asks him to

15.  how much loved he is by his friends

16.  his big, kind eyes

17.  his flexibility in scheduling

18.  the way he rubs my right hand when we’re traveling to the Cities and I’m driving with my left

19.  his expertise and hard work that made our house of 24 years a cherished haven

20.  his love for adventure and travel

21.  the way he kneels with me to pray for our children, and puts his arm around my shoulders

22.  his rock-solid faith in Jesus

23.  how he tells me he thinks my rear end is getting smaller when it’s not

24.  how he makes me feel young and pretty even when I see old and frumpy in the mirror

25.  how he would never, ever leave

26.  his call to me to come and read the Bible with him in the morning

27.  how he thinks our daughters are the finest young women to ever walk the earth

28.  the way he kisses my cheek when we’re standing in line at the grocery store

29.  his unwavering certainty that God is at work and will bring good from any difficult circumstances our loved ones are experiencing, and the way he keeps reminding me of it…

He is God’s gift to me.

Muskrat Love

December 12, 2018 | My Jottings

A repost. This happened years ago, but the memory of this evening still makes me giggle.

Earlier this week it rained and the temperatures dropped. The wind blew and a hint of winter was in the air. Michael had been outside and he came in to tell me that there was a critter in the front yard, over by the neighbor’s fence. I asked him what kind of animal it was and he said a muskrat. A muskrat? I thought. In our front yard? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a muskrat before and wouldn’t know one even from a photo.

I followed Michael outside into the cold drizzle and this is what he showed me:

Do you see the round furriness and the long, hairless tail? (You can click on the photos to enlarge them.) As we approached I thought it looked like a beaver, but once I saw the tail I knew it wasn’t. At this point we thought this little beast was just resting near the fence and we didn’t want to get near her because we figured she could viciously attack us at the speed of light and permanently disfigure our faces. So we backed off. She was calmly sniffing the air and sitting in the rain and I wondered where she had come from, and what she was. Michael left to run his errand and I went back inside to check online to see what I could learn. Sure enough, not a woodchuck (which was another thought we had), but a Minnesota Muskrat. They swim in lakes and ponds, and they dig and they make messes of people’s yards. They are also known to be carriers of rabies and leptospirosis.

Michael returned a little while later and came in to tell me she was still there. So back out we went into the rain, and it was then we saw her wriggling, and we could now tell she wasn’t resting near the fence, she was stuck in the fence. Apparently she had tried to squeeze herself through, gotten the front half of her thick-furred body through one of the square holes of the chain link fence, but couldn’t get the back half through. We bent over and talked to her and clapped our hands and said in high-pitched voices, “Come on, you can do it!” to give her a bit of friendly encouragement to try again, but she wasn’t having it. She began to look tired and she closed her eyes.

I did not like this one bit. A large rodent was painfully stuck in a fence bordering our yard, and if we didn’t do something, she would die there. In the cold and rain. And away from her family and the soothing warmth of her cheerily blazing hearth.

“She’s going to die here!” I said to Michael. “What can we do?”

Please forgive my husband for what he said next. He grew up in Minnesota where he has hunted and fished since he was a little boy. It’s the culture here.

Michael responded helpfully, “We could kill her.”

I cringed. “How?” I asked timidly.

“Hit her over the head.”

Oh, no, we don’t, I thought. Not on my watch. I’m not a fan of anything that ruins yards and spreads diseases, but seeing her stuck so tightly in that tiny square of wire made me feel strange twinges of compassion for this little animal, and we were not going to kill her. Moths? Smash ’em. Mosquitoes? Whack! Flies? Swat them dead! But Minnesota Muskrats? No killing.

What were we going to do with her, then? Well, if you are Michael and Julie, you spend thirty minutes in the rain, going back and forth with various unlikely implements, trying to help the poor muskrat get free.

First, I took a shiny yellow gardening boot that belongs to our daughter Sara. I grabbed it because I was looking for something to prod the muskrat’s rear end with, something not too sharp to cause more pain than she was already in. So I let myself in the neighbor’s back yard through their gate, and cautiously proceeded (in my slippers, in the rain) to the trapped muskrat. I inserted my hand into the boot and used the toe to gently prod and push her rump, to help her squeeze through the fence. She turned in a flash of fur and tried to bite me, but of course she couldn’t because she was stuck, and I was on one side of the fence and her little yellow beaver-like teeth were on the other. The other defensive thing she kept doing was swatting both her front paws quickly down on the ground in front of her. I kept gently prodding with the yellow boot, but I could feel that this little muskrat was really, really wedged in tight. And her hind quarters had begun to swell. Oh dear! I thought. What are we going to do?

Back into the garage. This time Michael found a large pronged garden hoe. He carefully placed the prongs under the upper part of the wire square she was stuck in, hoping to pull upward to bend it slightly enough to release her. This was a strong fence. He pulled, I pulled, she wriggled, to no avail.

“Do you have any thick gloves?” I asked Michael. He had begun to shiver a bit and our muskrat was looking feeble, closing her eyes. Back into the garage. We looked for gardening gloves and couldn’t find any. So I went into the house and found a pair of my winter leather gloves, and a large pair of Thinsulate mittens. I put them both on my hands and tromped back out into the rain. I went into the neighbor’s yard and bent down to push, but she was so swollen it didn’t work.

Next I came back into our yard and decided to gently pull her out. But that meant dealing with her little yellow teeth. So I crooned to her as I carefully placed the leg of the vinyl yellow gardening boot over her head to keep her from seeing me. She did not appreciate having a yellow gardening boot put on her face. Do you want to know how I knew this? Let’s just say I could tell. She did settle down and once she did, I grasped her front sides and tried to pull her out. I believe she moved forward an inch or two, but she made the most pitiful little muskrat whimpers and I stopped. I tried again, but couldn’t move her any further. She was truly stuck fast.

Michael and I were praying out loud now. “Lord, please help us get her out!” Michael hadn’t really wanted to kill her to be unkind — he was wanting to put her out of her misery. As we worked together to see what we could do for this helpless creature, he kept praying and we kept brainstorming.

“Do you have wire cutters?” I asked. He did. Back into the garage, and he came out and handed me this heavy, long-handled, mammoth tool that I knew I would be unable to use. I tried. I went back into the neighbor’s yard, and from behind I placed the wire cutters on one of the wires that made up the little square she was caught in. I exerted all my strength and could not snap that wire. I was starting to feel very sad. We kept praying.

I came back into our yard and was almost on the verge of tears. It was getting dark and we were expecting company for dinner. I had Chicken Parmesan to finish and Panzanella to toss. I thought I’d try the wire cutters one more time.

As the muskrat sat there looking exhausted, I bent down and placed the cutters on a wire right above her back. “Lord, give me strength!” I said as I squinched my eyes shut and brought those handles together with all my might, and snap! the wire was severed. Wow! Now we brought out the pronged garden hoe again, placed it under the newly cut wire and pulled upward, hoping to bend it enough to enlarge the hole a bit. No good.

I then took the wire cutters and placed them on the other connecting wire above the muskrat’s back. Once again, click! — that wonderful sound, and I had cut right through. Michael gently placed the prongs of the garden hoe under the area where these upper wires of the square had been cut, and pulled upwards, grunting with the effort. The hole was getting bigger! He pulled again — now it was a little larger. I went back to the neighbor’s yard, my slippers completely muddy by now, and used my double-gloved hands to push her rump through the hole.

It worked! She was free. Free to spread rabies, leptospirosis, to make tunneled messes of people’s yards, free to trundle back to Birdinal Creek at the back of our property and do whatever it is muskrats do.

She didn’t run at first. She sat still for a minute, breathing heavily, and we wondered if she had been permanently injured from her ordeal. But soon she started waddling away, toward our back yard and down toward the creek.

“Thank you Lord,” I said with relief, and as we put away our wire cutters, pronged garden hoe and Sara’s shiny yellow boot, we were both smiling and feeling so happy. The dinner got finished and we had an enjoyable evening of nice visiting with our old friends Bob and Linda.

I am a little worried that I’ll have to explain to the neighbor why his fence was cut, but I’ll deal with that when I must.

And to end this little adventure, I leave you with the song that came to mind as Michael and I were working hard to free this little muskrat from her fence trap. I remembered the words from The Captain and Tennille’s song as the rain was soaking us, and I said to myself if this story has a good ending, I’ll find the song online so I can share it on my blog.

Those of you born in the seventies or later may not remember this song, but I have vivid memories of it.


*       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

I’ve been asking God to increase my capacity to love. I want to love Him above all, and I want to love people better than I do. I know He answers prayers like that.

And maybe while He’s at it, He’s giving me some muskrat love too. 🙂

A Year of Nots

December 10, 2018 | My Jottings

I’m republishing a few posts this month — this one dredges up strong feelings in me.

First grade at Workman Avenue Elementary School was a year of nots for me.

I did not have a really close friend yet, so I spent recess time wandering around deep in my thoughts, talking to myself a little bit.

I did not like most foods, so spent lunch time in the cafeteria hoping others would offer me their peanut butter balls that came in the tiny paper cups. When it was time to go outside for lunch recess, I always took the mashed potatoes and hamburger gravy, peas, and cherry cobbler that I did not eat, walked to the cafeteria garbage can and threw them away. I also did not eat the fish sticks, the pizza, or the spaghetti and meatballs.

It wasn’t a concern because I was not that hungry. Abba Zabbas and cottage cheese were usually waiting at home if I was.

In first grade my hair did not have bangs. My mother always took an uncompromising moral stand against bangs. She believed little girls’ foreheads should be seen and not covered. And the rest of them covered and not seen. 

Consequently, one small drawer in my room was not lacking in a wide variety of plastic headbands.

I did not think I’d better chop off my hair right before picture day, like I did when I was in Kindergarten, here.

At age six, I began to be aware that my parents did not have a solid marriage. I felt this deeply and probably spent a lot of time walking around at recess begging God to please not let them split up.

In Southern California in 1963, I was miserable and petulant if I was not allowed to swim as often as possible.

I was not close to my older brother Steve, who regarded me as a pest he did not want to have around.

I did not see my oldest brother Larry enough, as he was twenty-one when I was six and did not live with us anymore.

I did not miss very many afternoon episodes of Mighty Mouse.

One afternoon during story time on the rug, my teacher Mrs. Weber asked the class if they believed in the devil. I was a Sunday School goin’ girl so said yes, and when I described to her what I thought he might look like, Mrs. Weber laughed and mildly snickered at me. I was a little embarrassed and did not like that. (Mrs. Weber was in her fifties then, so I do not think she’s alive today. I would imagine that no matter what side of the spiritual fence she ever came down on, she is not snickering about that topic now.)

My mother had a friend named Mary Wyles who did not ever miss a Wednesday visit at my house with my mom. They did crafts together and talked over the matters of their hearts.

I had a little red bike with training wheels and did not like it when it was stolen from our garage less than a year after I’d received it for Christmas.

In first grade I had not yet eaten anything green except celery and iceberg lettuce, had not had a nibble of cheese, or a taste of an egg.

When I was in first grade, I did not realize how wonderful it was to have a back yard with two nectarine trees, one apricot tree, one peach tree, one plum tree, and a lemon tree with fruit the size of oranges.

I did not know that two chocolate donuts mushed up in a bowl of whole milk was not a healthy breakfast. And apparently my parents did not realize this either.

I did not realize then how I could have been the poster child for Gummy Bears, but hindsight is everything. (Click on the photo for further confirmation.)

I did not know that twice-yearly trips to Disneyland was not the norm for other little boys and girls of the world.

In 1963 I did not have a clue that I would do better in school the following year.

I did not know that someday I would drink from a water fountain and not have the water run out of my nose.

In first grade I realized my mother had a slightly crippled foot (due to a botched spinal anesthetic), and that was why she sat in the car and did not go into the local Alpha Beta grocery store, and sent me in with a list and a check instead.

There was never a time when Knutsen Cottage Cheese was not on the list.

Right around this time I decided I would like to be a grocery checker (we didn’t call them cashiers) when I grew up, and not a nurse or a teacher after all.

Even at age six, I was not afraid of deep water.

I did not understand puns yet, and had no idea how humorous it was to have a dentist named Dr. Payne.

I did not know a lot of things.

What I also did not know when I was in first grade was that God was really there with me at all times. I did not know yet that He had made me and was going to see me through a lot of things in the coming years. I knew He loved me because my Sunday School teachers told me so, but I did not realize what kind of love and keeping that would turn out to be.

I did not know that He would save my life over and over again, and that He would not ever let me go.

I did not know that no matter how tied up in nots, Jesus can take any life and make His light and presence known in the deepest of darks.

Even today, I sometimes do not remember that this is His promise to His children.

During the year of nots, Jesus was there. He never left me.

He will not leave me now.

And He will not leave you.

Have you called out His name lately?

If not…why not?

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