The Big Picture

August 26, 2008 | My Jottings

This is what’s turning around and around in my mind this morning: The Big Picture. More specifically, The Big Picture of Life.

I am not a Big Picture person. I am a detail person. I would never contribute much to a committee established to bring visionary leadership to any group or company. I’m the person they would hire if they wanted their files straight, their pencils in one cup and their pens in another, and their teaspoons all nesting perfectly together. If someone wanted their towels folded first in halves, then in thirds and piled in a visually appealing way, their checkbook ledgers reconciled with their monthly statements to the penny, and their keys always at hand, then I am their gal. I have noticed that no one is lined up at my door clamoring to enlist my services, although I do think my husband appreciates the order now and then.

But I usually lose sight of The Big Picture. Detail people can do that easily. This morning I remembered that in relationships, especially in marriage, details are very important, but The Big Picture should be always on the front burners of the mind and heart.

I read an interview several months ago that jarred my thinking, and I thought of it this morning.  A fairly well-known Christian singer was talking about marriage and how difficult it can be, with two people bringing to the mix their different pieces of baggage, their patterns, their expectations, their weaknesses.  She said that in her marriage, especially when she and her husband disagree or experience tension, she asks herself (and then answers) this question: “What is the ultimate goal here? The ultimate goal isn’t to win the fight, it’s to build a life together.”

People who love details usually love to be right.  But today as I consider The Big Picture, I am reminded that our ultimate goal is to build a life together.  It’s not so important being right. It’s more important to be loving.  This is a challenging lesson for me, because my default mode is not love, it’s truth. Learning to speak and work and glance and touch and listen in love, in love, is like driving on the left side of the road for me, in a car with the steering wheel on the right side and the stick shift at my left hand.  I tried this in Great Britain a couple of years ago.  It can be done, but it takes intense concentration and determination, and God’s help.

So today I’m thinking about The Big Picture. What do I want things to look like in five years?  In twenty-five years?  When I peer ahead in my imagination to try to envision what kind of life we might have, files and towels don’t come to mind.  At all.  One thing that comes to mind is a DVD mini-series I just watched – a gift from my daughter Sharon for Mother’s Day. It’s called John Adams and is about the second President of the United States. It’s beautifully done and so worth watching.

Apparently John and Abigail Adams had a very devoted, honest, loving and intensely loyal relationship. In their letters to each other and often in person, they called each other “My dearest friend”.  The tenderness with which they regarded each other was so moving, and even into old age they seemed to both know that the other was their greatest treasure.

One doesn’t reach a marital place like this without keeping The Big Picture in mind. Details are important, but “what is the ultimate goal here?…it’s to build a life together.”  Today I am very keenly aware of what kind of building I want to do.  I need God’s help to do it, but with God, all things are possible.  (Matt. 19:26)

Indentured Schnauzitude

August 23, 2008 | My Jottings

Old and young. Calm and anxious. Intelligent and not-much-upstairs. Long-suffering and impatient. Wiry and curly. Dark and light. Tolerant and instigating. Endearing and annoying. Edith and Mildred. (Edith Elaine Bubbleloo and Mildred Virginia Sizzlelorum, but their full names will be addressed in another post).

These are our Miniature German Schnauzers. Edith is on the left and she’s six years old, and Mildred “Millie” is two.  Other than their size, breed and slaves owners, they have very little in common.

Edith is the quintessential Schnauzer: alert, affectionate, bright, and devoted to her people. Millie was born in Nebraska, so maybe that has something to do with her aberrant ways. She needs The Dog Whisperer in the worst way. She, too, has many of the Schnauzer traits, but we’re still waiting for her to grow out of her puppy stage. She pees on the floor when new people say her name, she enjoys shredding pre-driven Kleenex with her teeth, she inhales her food and then greedily lurks behind Edith as she’s slowly savoring hers, and she tries to get Edith to wrestle about every twenty minutes or so.  Edith endures it like a martyr, looking at us resigned and sighing, “See what I go through for you?”

Our dogs sit on our furniture, watch our television (a photo of that will be coming in another post), occupy the greatest space on our bed, demonstrate several times a day how efficient their digestive systems are, and pretty much run our lives. It’s called Indentured Schnauzitude. We signed up for it, and the contract reads something like this: “In exchange for the best of food, a large, comfortable human bed and several overstuffed chairs, regular vet visits, expensive minty Booda Bone chews, quarterly grooming, unlimited wildlife in the yard for loud yipping and shrieking practice, and an abundance of ear-scratching and Teletubbies viewing, Edith and Millie agree to live with the slaves Michael and Julie.”  Maybe we should have procured legal counsel before we signed on the dotted line?

We sure love these little dooginses, though.  Dogs can really make your lives happy.


August 22, 2008 | My Joys

Let me introduce you to Diane. diane

We met in the early part of 1977 when we were both very pregnant and taking childbirth education classes with our husbands.  Our friendship was thus conceived at the celebrated and distinguished Yuba College in Yuba City, CA, birthed at Beale AFB in Marysville, nurtured in Germany, and has grown and flourished through decades of letters, visits and talks on the phone.

Diane has had adventures many of us only dream about. She has traveled the world, and lived in a good portion of it: Guam, Korea, The Azores Islands, Germany, and yes, even Louisiana.  She’s a native Southern Californian, as I am, and even though she’s thinking toward retirement, she exudes optimism and youth and resilience, and she knows how to make a new beginning when one is called for.

This woman can write. You and I will see her name on book covers someday.  She is a sensitive poet and has published many pieces. She’s working on a novel that will cause me to someday say proudly, “I knew her when….”  Much of our friendship has been conducted through the written word, long before electronic mail, and on the days I found a thick letter from Diane with that familiar tiny handwriting in my mailbox, I would return inside my house and plop down on the couch, anxious to savor what she wrote.  I still have most of her letters.

In 1988, after moving to an island off the coast of Portugal, she described their house to me: “We live in a 200-year old house which used to be a convent. It is by far the most interesting (although possibly the least comfortable!) home we’ve ever had, although we are taking steps to make it more homey. It’s large and stark, as befits a convent, with high ceilings, thick wooden doors and shutters (which we close at night to keep out the howling wind) – and it’s made of whitewashed volcanic rock. We have 4 bedrooms, a big kitchen/dining room, a small frontroom and bathroom, and a long, spooky hall.”  Can you see why I wanted to hop on a plane at once and go right to where she was?  I wanted to hear and feel that howling wind off the Atlantic, I wanted to tiptoe down that spooky hall and hear those ancient doors creak.  And I wanted to sit and have coffee with Diane so we could talk and laugh and connect.  I still do.

Diane has three remarkable grown children. She was an effective and well-loved high school teacher. She still teaches at the college level. She paints. She travels. She does unexpected and adventurous things like purchase wild, untamed land in Alaska on which to someday build a cabin, and considers up and moving to different states where she might have a new start, a desert climate and a writing casita.

Generous. That’s what Diane is. Generous with her encouragement and words of cheer.  Generous with the way she listens, gets acquainted with people, and imparts comfort and hope into their lives. She’s a woman so generous, even lavish with patience and goodwill toward others.

She came into my life bearing a gift – she knocked on my front door at Beale AFB and handed me a lovely wrapped present for my newborn daughter.  She continues to give so much to me all these years later, and I honestly can’t imagine my life without her.

Meet Diane.


August 20, 2008 | My Joys

Let me introduce you to Susan.

I met Susan when she and her husband Dale moved next door to us over ten years ago. We became friends quickly and often had tea and Pillsbury Orange Rolls together at each others’ tables. She gave me some of the best recipes I’ve ever had and still use, such as Athenian Couscous Salad.

We talked about books, God, marriage, children, about not going home again, aging parents, dogs, and the joys and sadness of life. She is a brilliant woman – a geologist by profession who knows her asbestos! – but she is also one of the most kind and humble people I’ve ever met. You would never know by just visiting with her that she could probably demolish you in Jeopardy; instead you would immediately feel that she could be a soft place to land and a person you could implicitly trust.

She loves all things Egyptian. She is so honest and allowed me to know her, and wanted to know me. A little bit shy by nature, she stepped out of her comfort zone and dressed as a clown for my birthday one year (along with many other clown friends). “See how much I love you?” she smiled. And I was so touched.

She found out I had a hubcap obsession and gave me old hubcabs planted with flowers. She and her husband Dale asked my husband Michael and me to sponsor their children Will and Zoe when they were baptized, and we will never forget the sacred glow of those days. We used to wave at each other through our windows. We used to eat Vietnamese food together on New Year’s Eve.

Susan and her family eventually moved to the southern part of our state and we now have to rely on occasional phone calls and e-mails. I hope we can visit in person before too many years fly by. She

        My Orange Roll Friend

My Orange Roll Friend

will always be one of my most cherished friends, and I never eat an orange roll anymore without feeling like I’m betraying our friendship in some way.

Meet Susan. To know her is a great gift.

Old friends and new…

August 19, 2008 | My Jottings

“A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.”   Unknown

I love this quote and find it so true in my own life. 

Aside from a place where I can share my goofy observations and serious contemplations, I am excited to share about my friends on this blog.  God has used each of my friends to impact my life in ways that no one else could.  Some of my friends have spoken much needed truth to me.  Some have been so patient with me when it would have been easier to wring my neck.  Some have faithfully cheered me up in very melancholy times.  Some of my friends have given to me and served our family in amazingly generous ways.  But every friend I’ve been blessed with has, in their own way, “known the song in my heart and sung it back to me when I’ve forgotten the words.” 

I have never wanted my friends to be exclusively mine. I love them so much I want others to know and love them too. So over the next several weeks I’m going to introduce some of my friends to you, and share a little about how they’ve all enriched my life.

You can read about my friends in the My Joys section of this site.  And if any of you are so inclined, I’d love to hear about one special thing a friend has done for you.

Do you have a life verse?

August 18, 2008 | My Jottings

My life verse is Job 23:12.

I have not departed from the commands of His lips;

I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my daily bread.  (NIV)

A life verse is a verse or passage from the Bible that is very significant for you.  Some people choose a life verse because it was that scripture that cut through the darkness and revealed to them their need for Christ.  Some choose a particular verse for the hope and encouragement it speaks into their specific circumstances.  Another may feel a certain passage truly sums up what God has done in her life.  And then there are people who choose a life verse because that’s what they hope to see become a reality in their lives, through God’s love and power. This is why Job 23:12 is a verse I’ve memorized and have clung to for years now.  It isn’t a full reality in my life yet.  But I want to someday be able to look back at my life and point to Jesus and say with confidence, “Through His mercy and constant care and enabling patience, I have not turned away from His ways; He has caused me to truly love the brilliance and wonder of His Word more than even the food I crave every day.”

Some days my life verse is a concrete reality for me.  When I sit in my chair in the mornings and ask God to speak into my dry and needy life as I open His Word, the ways in which He often does that are so personal and amazing that I cry and marvel all at once.

Other days I sadly feel that I have treasured my daily bread more than the words of His mouth.  So I would say that God is beckoning me to allow this verse to become a scripture that accurately sums up my life.  Does it now?  No.  But will it someday?  I sincerely pray that it will.

Do you have a special verse or passage in the Bible that is significant to you?  If you are a Christian and don’t have a “life verse”, I encourage you to ask God to give you one.  Ask Him to show you in the way that only He can, what scripture He wants to bring to completion in your life.  Then perhaps you could memorize that verse, post it in various places in your house, to help you keep it in the forefront of your mind, and begin to rehearse it over and over.  Whatever we most rehearse in our minds is what we will end up believing, and what we believe is what we live. I want my  rehearsals, my beliefs and my living to be a little different these days.

One of the hardest things about walking with Jesus in our culture is turning down the volume of the world enough to hear His whispers.  When I’m up and running in the morning, getting medications and lunches and laundry going for our foster care gals, it seems so hectic that even before an hour has passed I feel weary.  But if I will carefully tune my ear to Him, I can sometimes hear Him whisper.  I live for those times.

If you read this post, will you share what your life verse is with me?  You don’t have to post it as a comment if you don’t want to, but it might be encouraging to someone else if you do.  E-mail if you prefer.  But wouldn’t it be wonderful if He whispered something personal to you from His Word, something that was on His heart about you and the days He has numbered for you?

Learning to listen,

Blogging, Kombucha and a pixie

August 16, 2008 | My Jottings

I really do not have the time to blog more than once every few days, but since this is all so new, it seems to call from the office to me.  I was mashing avocadoes to make guacamole and I suddenly remembered that I had a bottle of Kombucha in the fridge.  So I need to talk about Kombucha.

Two of my daughters have encouraged me to drink Kombucha, but I discarded that idea once I had a tiny sip –  it is very sharp, very vinegary and yeasty.  However, one daughter really gave me the hard sell the other day.  She talked about how she didn’t like it either, how other friends encouraged her to try it and that it made them feel really good and healthy, and how she now really enjoys it.  She said it actually makes her feel more clear-headed and more energetic.  Hmmm.  And it’s not a drug? 

“Just drink one bottle,” she said.  So I have 1/8 of a bottle of Divine Grape Kombucha down and am going to persevere to see if I am more clear-headed and energetic.  I could certainly use both of those attributes lately.

It’s not tasty at all.  But the bottle assures me it will “rejuvenate, restore, revitalize, replenish and regenerate.”  You can be sure I’ll be reporting if any of these re- words become a re-ality for me.

One more tidbit: aside from being a new blogger and drinking Kombucha for the first time, I also recently had all my hair chopped off.  I think it would be called a pixie, but I’m afraid it’s possibly even shorter than that.  About an inch long.  While I’m paring down many things in my life of late, I added my hair to the list.

The next time I post I’m going to tell why I chose Job 23:12 as the Bible verse I wanted on my site. 

Have you tried Kombucha?  Do you like it?  Does it make you feel different?  I’m interested in knowing…

Long-femured women

My Jottings

Most of the women in my family are tall. My mother, Virginia, was 5′ 10″ – very tall for a woman born in the 1920s. I’ve had tall great-aunts and cousins, and my peak height was 5′ 11″, although being 50 and postmenopausal has now pounded me down to 5′ 10″.

My oldest daughter Sharon is 6′ 1″. Next comes Carolyn and she is 5′ 10″. Sara is just over 5′ 6″, so she may or may not qualify for being a member of the LFW. Not the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars, of which my husband Michael definitely qualifies), but the LFW.  Long-Femured Women. Because the women of our family don’t have height due to our longish spines or our just generally longer bones – we are tall because of of our long femurs (thighbones). Some of us freakishly so, but I won’t divulge which ones of us fit into that category.

Look at any of the women in our family with a femur-critiquing eye, and you will see relatively short calves, extremely short torsos (about four inches from waist to armpit – yet another anomaly in our gene pool), and femurs more fitting for something either mutant or prehistoric.

When one of our granddaughters, Miss E., was being looked at in utero by an ultrasound technician, the main comments given about her were that she seemed perfectly healthy, and had very long femurs. Oh boy, I thought. Another LFW in our family.

If someone could magically give the women in our family thighbones of normal length, we would all shrink by at least four inches. Then where would we be?  Only God knows.  He alone knows the ramifications of something that mind-bending. I believe if we weren’t members of the LFW, our lives would be completely different than they are right now.

Perhaps an average-femured Sharon wouldn’t have married a 6′ 5″ Chris. (this would have been horrible). Maybe an average-femured Carolyn would have gotten different parts in plays, and gone on to Hollywood to become a household name. (this would not have been good.) Perhaps an average-femured me would have taken up gymnastics instead of scrapbooking, and I wouldn’t be sitting here blogging today. Isn’t that an amazing thought.

I need to stop right here. The thought of no LFWs in my family is too sad, too traumatic to think about. I’m so thankful our long femurs have been influential in shaping our destinies, and I would never, ever want to change that.

Are you an LFW?


August 15, 2008 | My Jottings

Welcome to my blog! Isn’t it the neatest space?

You can see that my three beloved daughters are represented here. Sharon, my oldest daughter, is a fantastic professional photographer and started a yarn company that sells yarn all over the world, Carolyn, my middle daughter, is a gifted actress and singer, and also does makeup professionally. Sara, my youngest daughter, is an amazing and creative floral designer. There is so much more to say about them and about life, but that’s what a blog is for, and those posts will be forthcoming.

I hope you will feel free to visit every now and then.