Random Rambling Regarding Rodentia

November 27, 2010 | My Jottings

I woke to the skittering and gnawing sounds of a mouse in the wall. It was 1:50 a.m. Even though we’re in a residential area, we live on the edge of a small wood full of creatures of all sizes, and when the weather turns cold it’s not unusual for mice to try to find warmer places to stay. Apparently a little rodent found its way into our house and climbed its way up through the walls, deciding that the best place to chew and get his exercise was in the space of wall just to the left of the fireplace in our bedroom. I turned on the nightstand lamp, then got up and put my ear to the wall and could hear it clearly just beyond the plaster. Chomp, chomp, skitter, skitter, crunch, crunch. Michael woke up and saw me with my cheek pressed against the toile wallpapered wall at 2:00 in the morning and asked, quite understandably, “What are you doing?”

“There’s something in the wall,” I whispered. He turned over and and pulled the comforter over his shoulder and said, “Will you turn out the light? I’m trying to sleep.” I knew there wasn’t much I could do about the mouse at this time of night, so I did crawl back into bed, but the noise kept me awake. I mentally prepared how many traps we were going to need, how I would put peanut butter and a chocolate chip on each one, and carefully position them in the most obvious places. We’ve only had two mice come to call in this house, and each time, even though we heard them in the walls at various times, they came to their ends in the basement. Somehow they had gained entry under the siding or through a basement window frame, and I assumed that this one came in the same way. I knew that at least two of the traps would need to go down there.

I couldn’t get back to sleep because the mouse was now using a tiny rodent microphone. He tore off a dry little piece of plaster with his teeth, and then held the tiny mic up to his furry jaws as he chewed, and the amplified sound filled our bedroom for a long time. I got up and pounded on the wall a couple of times to see if he would stop, and he did. For about a minute. Unfortunately, Sara, who was sleeping on the third floor right above us, thought my pounding was someone knocking on her bedroom door at 2:00 a.m. “Come in!” she called groggily. “Come in!” she kept saying. She got out of bed, opened the door to her bedroom, knowing someone was knocking, and was confused as to why no one was there.

One floor below Sara, I still could not get back to sleep, so I got up and went downstairs to start my day. At 2:00 a.m. I prepared my daily Cappuccino Cooler, turned on the computer, turned up the heat, and put food in Edith and Millie’s dishes, then sat down to read what I normally read online in a day.

I checked my email, and answered a few. I looked to see if anyone left a comment on my blog. I love comments – have I ever mentioned that? When you leave a comment it’s surprisingly comforting. Someone is reading! I think, and I’m encouraged to keep on sharing. Next I usually read the local newspaper. Then I check bear.org to see if they have den cams set up yet for Hope and Lily, the mother and daughter black bears. Then I check a handful of blogs I enjoy perusing – I love the ideas and personality of Melissa at The Inspired Room, the color and humor on my daughter Sharon’s blog at yarnista.com, the writing and chuckles at Jessica’s Bits and Pieces, the deep thoughts and transparent writing at my friend Ember’s Kindred of the Quiet Way blog, and the constant amazement I find at Joni Eareckson Tada’s blog. At Ganeida’s Knots, I enjoy the conversational essays written by Jehane in Australia. I love the gorgeous creations at my dear friend Carey’s Etsy Shop, the photos and dishes from Scotland at A Wee Bit of Cooking, the book recommendations and cultural commentaries found at The Rabbit Room and the never-ending fount of astronomical knowledge from my friend Astro Bob. Then I look at the forecast and am usually ready to start breakfasts for everyone. Notice I didn’t say breakfast, but breakfasts, since everyone eats something different for breakfast around here, for various reasons.

On this particular day I didn’t have to rush through answering e-mails – I had hours before the sun would come up. After a good long while I went to the kitchen and set out meds, prepared sack lunches, made sure the women we care for were properly dressed for the weather, then saw them all off at different times for their days’ work. Later in the morning I placed two of the mousetraps upstairs, and Michael took three of them to the basement.

After I got dinner going in the crockpot, a load of laundry started, the kitchen cleaned and my own self dressed for the day, it was wonderful to sit in the quiet and open my Bible and this year’s CBS study on the book of Acts. It’s like I’m a bone-dry and dusty vessel that needs cleansing and filling, and if I’ll sit before Jesus, the Living Water, I will be filled and refreshed and washed.

After a day of errands, housework and paperwork, I was ready for night to fall. I thought I should pick up Ben Hur, which I’m reading in a two-person book club with Carey, but instead Philip Yancey’s newest book called my name and I read the first chapter of What Good is God – In Search of a Faith That Matters. I marveled at his writing and insights, and then my eyes reminded me I had only three hours of sleep the night before and it was time to give them a rest. I turned out the light on my nightstand and was asleep in no time.

At 1:55 a.m. I was awakened by the gnawing and skittering of the mouse inside the wall, exactly in the same place as before, and I sighed, wondering why our peanut butter and chocolate hadn’t yet lured him to his (hopefully instant and painless) death. I guess when I’m sleep deprived I’m not very merciful.

Somehow, this time the noise didn’t keep me awake and I fell back to sleep before 2:30. I woke fairly refreshed hours later, ready to start the day, and write the most boring blog post I’ve ever written. (Except for the blogs I’ve mentioned above – they’re not boring at all. You might want to visit them when you have some time.)

I hope your weekend is blessed!

Giving Thanks

November 24, 2010 | My Jottings

How wonderful it is to have reason to give thanks! How comforting it is to have Someone to thank!

For my family, for my friends, for my Savior, I say thank you, Lord…..

From our home to yours….Happy Thanksgiving!

The Shop Around the Corner

November 22, 2010 | My Jottings

One of my favorite old movies is “The Shop Around the Corner,” a romantic comedy from 1940 starring Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan. Have you seen it? It would be a fantastic choice for a cozy night at home with someone you love. Anyway, our youngest daughter Sara works at a shop around the corner, or a shop on the corner you could say, and recently I visited her there and took some photos to share.

Sara is a florist, or as they say nowadays, a floral designer. I think the latter term is better, because what Sara and her gifted co-workers do is truly gorgeous design.

Some of the photos enlarge quite a bit when you click on them. Here’s a large table arrangement that would look stunning on a large, set holiday dining table:

These kinds of arrangements are what I love about the shop on the corner where Sara works. Look at the huge pods, the asymmetry, the elegant ribbons, the lavish use of different kinds and textures of greens:

When I visited, Sara was working on a tall arrangement for a customer who wanted something “wild looking.” There is thistle from Scotland in this, curly willow stems and fragrant cedar.

Sara has worked at Angela’s Bella Flora for a few years. Our city has many florist shops, but people tend to go to Bella Flora if they want something stunning and out of the ordinary. Angela hosted a “Holiday Hot Chocolate” event last week so people could drop in and see how they’ve decorated the shop for Christmas, and place their orders for the coming holidays.

The label says “Sara’s Holiday Extravaganza” and the photo doesn’t do it justice – the arrangement below was huge and interesting, full of different textures and color, and the ribbon itself looked like it had tiny dried cabbage roses on its surface.

You could do this with your own oranges, and let them dry:

Bella Flora always looks beautiful at Christmas time, and I wandered through the shop, appreciating the artistry in their displays.

I always think of Sharon when I see aqua and turquoise paired with brown – her favorites.

I love how the shop is always decorated with old things that some people would throw away, like this shutter in front of the cooler.

I wish I had been better able to capture the sparkle in the shop.

I love this bird sculpture, full of personality:

Look at the old, yellowed book pages pasted randomly in the fireplace opening:

This bucket of muted florals was sitting on the floor near Sara’s workspace, waiting to fulfill a customer’s order for something specific and lovely.

I wonder why my house doesn’t look as inviting when we leave our drawers open like this?

I liked this rusty sleigh right outside the shop:

I always order my Christmas wreaths from Bella. They last long past Christmas and Sara matches the ribbon to our outdoor shutters. You can see a photo of the wreath (with artichokes and oranges!) she made for us last Christmas, right here.

I wasn’t asked to take these photos or post about this on my blog – I just thought I would share some of the extraordinary talent and beauty found at one of our local little shops around the corner.

Sometimes you meet the nicest people you’ve never even met

November 18, 2010 | My Jottings

Not long ago I received a gift in the mail from one of the nicest people I’ve never met. Her name is Patty, and she’s a customer of my daughter Sharon’s. For those who might not know, Sharon hand dyes yarn and sells it online. You can take a look at her website here.

I read Sharon’s blog and occasionally leave a comment there, signing my name as the “Yarnista’s Mama.”  Patty sent me this beautiful tote bag with the logo from Sharon’s business perfectly embroidered on it, along with my title. 🙂  I was absolutely thrilled! What a personal, thoughtful gift. You can click on the photo to enlarge it if you like.

Patty and I have chatted by email about our grandchildren, and she has been so generous and complimentary about Three Irish Girls yarn. Isn’t this the neatest tote?  I’ve been using it every Tuesday morning when I go to CBS.

Thank you Patty!

I think it’s amazing how through the internet, you can meet the nicest people you’ve have never even met…

Edition 49-Wednesday’s Word

November 17, 2010 | My Jottings

“If there were no God, there would be no atheists.”

G. K. Chesterton

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First Annual Family Vacation

November 15, 2010 | My Jottings

Now that we’ve had our first significant snowfall of the season, my mind drifts back to a couple of months ago when we went for a long weekend in the Brainerd Lakes area. One of the great things about Chris and Sharon and their family living so close by now, is the possibility of family vacations together. We rented three “cottages” on Lower Cullen Lake in Nisswa, MN, and we’re hoping to make it a family tradition. Here are a few photos from our weekend:

Two of our cottages were adjoining
This resort had a wonderful beach, a playground, and a lot for families to enjoy
The two oldest grandchildren on the shores of Lower Cullen Lake
One cottage living room, looking into the adjoining cottage
A view of one of the kitchen/dining areas from the stairs
This resort even offered interesting seed pods to contemplate
Mrs. Nisky kayaking for the first time
Sharon and Mr. McBoy on the paddle boat
Clara – a happy kayaker
Audrey and daddy Jeremy and their excellent kayak adventure
A good place for a good book
Horsey giddiness
Bocce ball was fun!
Sharon and Little Gleegirl
Sara, Audrey, Chris at dinner
Carolyn and Sharon making tacos

We read, roasted marshmallows, shared meals, took naps, swam, boated, biked, played games and talked about going again next fall. And maybe the fall after that…

I thank God for my family, for our times together, and for the hope of many more weekends like this one.

The Weather Talk Has Begun

November 12, 2010 | My Jottings

The first snowstorm of the season is apparently barreling our way.

That means that folks will be out buying groceries, putting gas in their cars, buying plastic windshield scrapers, bags of sidewalk salt, making sure their shovels, mittens and boots are within reach, and talking about weather incessantly for the next several months. It’s what we do here.

“Nice day, eh? What’s it gonna do tomorrow? Gotta bundle up tonight! Is it still cloudy out? How about that snow? Are you staying warm?”

These are all real greetings I have received from neighbors or cashiers or servers, instead of the usual, “Hi, how are you?” one might expect. Living in northeastern Minnesota automatically enrolls you in the Club for the Weather-Obsessed, whether you want to be a member or not. I have been a member of that club for almost thirty years now, so in keeping with our way, here’s a little view for those of you still blessed enough to be in warmer climes:

I’m looking forward to making bread and a pot of soup. I have a lovely book to read. We have a new furnace. Mukluks for our feet. Shelter from the storm. Down comforters on our bed.

And hope in our hearts.

What’s the weather like where you are?

One Veteran’s Story

November 11, 2010 | My Jottings

Today in America, it is Veteran’s Day. I thought I would post my husband Michael’s story in honor of his service in Vietnam. Anyone who knows Michael would realize that he’s not as wordy as what follows – but this is his story, as told to me many years ago.

I thought it deserved putting down in print.

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In 1966 at the age of seventeen, I left my lifelong home in Northeastern Minnesota and joined the United States Marine Corps. I saw my decision as a chance to get away from my parents and school and all that entangled me, my father saw it as a decision that could make a man out of his headstrong, only son.

Successfully conquering the mental and physical challenges of Marine Basic Training fueled the impression I had about myself; I was young, strong and indestructible, and had an entire lifetime ahead of me, so when Vietnam was my ordered destination I didn’t blink twice. At eighteen I felt I was prepared to go and accomplish what was required of me, and I cavalierly thought I’d come back as unscathed as I was when I went. When I boarded that Vietnam-bound aircraft jam-packed with fresh faces and newly shaved heads, I sensed I would soon see more death and destruction than Gunsmoke or Combat had ever shown me, but I had no inkling of the death and destruction that was skulking in the Asian jungles, waiting to tear me apart in a different way.

Three days after arriving in Da Nang I had my first encounter with the carnage that would eventually become an almost everyday occurrence in my tour there. Three young Marines took a direct hit from an enemy mortar while they sat at a nearby table eating their meal. Their bodies were completely blown apart. I felt an unfamiliar gnawing somewhere deep inside me but I knew I couldn’t last in Nam if I pondered it too much. I turned my head and forced the scene from my mind.

The next eighteen months were filled with days and nights that only my fellow Vietnam vets can truly comprehend. Back home in Duluth I had felt awkward and uncomfortable around sickness and funerals; in Vietnam I eventually learned to callously sidestep the dead bodies blocking my path as we swept the jungles during surveillance. Prior to the war I had drained a beer or two; once into the thick of things on the front lines in Vietnam I stayed stoned on marijuana as often as possible. As a young teen in Duluth I had openly wept when my faithful Black Lab, Duke, had to be put down; now in Nam as fellow troops directly in front of me or behind me stepped on mines that blew their legs off, I would avert my eyes and mutter, “Better them than me.” While growing up near Pike Lake I honestly loved and respected my mother and only occasionally teased my little sister Patty; while learning how to be a man in Vietnam I was ordered into enemy villages where at nineteen years of age part of my duty to my country was to gun down women and children. That disconcerting gnawing I had initially experienced had all but stopped after several months in Nam.

Many of us spent so much time trying to stay alive physically that perhaps we didn’t realize we were gradually dying emotionally. How does a young man deal with the atrocities he sees during war unless he shuts down inside to protect himself?

When my tour in Vietnam was over and I was preparing to return to the States, I still possessed my arms, legs, hands and feet. Aside from a slight shrapnel wound, a mild case of malaria, a rat bite on my finger and the ensuing, excruciating abdominal rabies shots, I was undamaged. Aside from a severe case of dysentery that had transformed my muscular, 190 pound body into a gaunt and hollow-eyed 142 pounder, I was intact. At least I thought I was.

When we landed at Los Angeles International Airport for a layover on our way to Minneapolis, I was stunned to find angry, placard carrying demonstrators waiting to greet us with jeers, taunts, hurled pieces of rotten fruit, and spittle. “Stop the bombing!” they shouted. “Baby killers go back to Nam!” No ticker-tape parade, this.

Settling back into civilian life in Minnesota was fairly uneventful, I thought. I did instinctively drop to the ground a few times when a passing car would backfire, and I learned to avoid concerts with strobe lights because they stirred up a panicky feeling in me that was too sickeningly familiar. In the ten years following my return from Vietnam I got married, welcomed the birth of two daughters, learned a challenging and satisfying trade, and bought a house. Occasional nightmares seemed to be the only residue of the war that plagued me, and I dealt with them simply by wiping the sweat from my face, gulping some cold water and turning over in bed and settling my thoughts toward sleep once more.

During the few times that I allowed myself some deep and personal introspection, I came face to face with one fact over and over again: the war had changed me. Most folks who knew me probably thought I was the same old guy, but I knew that I had shut down emotionally. I had come home in one piece but was not totally unscathed like I had anticipated I would be. Some unnamed but vital thing inside me had died, and I didn’t know how to resurrect it.

I found myself angry when I shouldn’t have been, and flat when more emotional responses were called for. I became a high-functioning, hard working young man with everything I’d ever wanted….everything, that is, except a sense of happiness and peace. Peace had seemed to elude me in my youth, peace certainly wasn’t a close companion in Vietnam, and now at 30 years of age, peace was still nowhere to be found. Important relationships began to suffer and drugs and alcohol usurped their place in my life. Driving home from a bar one night I was so drunk I couldn’t keep my eyes open, so I steered with one hand, and propped open one eye with the thumb and index finger of my other hand. To say that things were spiraling downward would be an understatement.

I grew up in a home with a devout mother and I had also dabbled in Buddhism, but for the most part I had always disdained religion. So in 1978 when a new friend named Neal told me that “Jesus was the answer to every question I’d ever had,” I was skeptical at best. I believed that Jesus was a great holy man, a prophet and an important part of world history. But my perspective of Jesus was of him hanging on a cross, looking as dead as I felt. What could Jesus do for me? Could he heal the wounds I’d received in Vietnam? Could a dead man hanging on a cross bring another dead man back to life? I didn’t think so, but despair had taken hold and I found myself willing to ask this Jesus to prove himself to me.

I said a simple, genuine prayer, asking Jesus to do something with my life, and something I now know was a miracle happened. Gradually, I was no longer drawn to drugs or alcohol. I began to understand the Bible when I picked it up to read. I felt new flickerings of compassion for other people. Tears were a welcome, frequent occurrence. Even though life was still difficult in many ways, I knew what peace meant for the first time in 30 years. I had an encounter with a living Jesus and He breathed new life into an emotional corpse. Some things He healed instantaneously, some things He has healed gradually over a period of years, and some things He is still healing as I learn to walk closely with Him.

The end of the Vietnam war brought so many dark memories to my mind, and I ached for my fellow veterans and their families whose lives have been forever altered because of it.

As for me, I can say that what was meant to destroy me eventually led me to the place of my healing: into the arms of Jesus Christ.

Love Means Having to Say You’re Sorry

November 8, 2010 | My Jottings

I think the time of day when my brain is most productive is between 4:00 and 5:00 a.m. I wander through my days with nary an original thought, doing the same things I always do, but for some reason when I wake up early and lie there in the dark, a hundred new ideas bob to the surface; I think of ways to solve difficult problems, strategies for getting things done less stressfully, and brilliant blog post ideas.

Then I get out of bed as quietly as I can so as not to disturb Michael. I put on my Sorel slippers and white terrycloth robe and go downstairs to get breakfasts going, lunches packed, meds ready, dogs fed, heat turned up, and cappuccino cooler concocted. After everything is humming along nicely I realize that all my clever ideas for blog posts and solutions to weighty problems have vanished. Pouf. Gone from my mind, like a profound and vivid dream you think you’ll remember forever and then realize it has faded from your memory by 10:00 a.m. I hate that.

Except for this morning. I woke up and these were the words in my mind, waiting for me to notice them:

Love means having to say you’re sorry.

When those words flashed on and off on the screen of my mind, immediately my thoughts went to the hugely popular book by Erich Segal called Love Story. When I was growing up, it seemed there wasn’t a person alive who hadn’t read that book. Then the movie came out in 1970, and the buzz phrase from that film was “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” That bit of cultural wisdom found itself on millions of posters, bumper stickers and greeting cards for years to come. Everyone was supposed to rapturously sigh and think, “Isn’t that sweet? Isn’t that romantic? If you love someone, your love should be so deep, so transcendent, that when you hurt them you don’t ever have to apologize.” Not true.

Sincerely saying the words, “I’m sorry” could be the pivot on which our entire future turns, changing things for the better.

Many years ago I had a dear friend who was the finest wife any man could want. She loved her husband, was a great mom, and worked hard at making their home a place of peace and comfort. Her husband was a good man and loved his wife and family, but he had a bit of a pride problem. Not that he thought he was all that special, but for some reason he had a hard time apologizing when he behaved  impatiently or spoke unkind words. Like many of us, he would occasionally behave toward his family in a way he would never have treated colleagues or friends. He let his frustration out on his wife and children. He was occasionally demanding. He would come home from work and see that even though his wife had worked all day, there were still things left undone, and he would comment on those. He was never physically abusive, he never uttered despicable words, and he showed his family he loved them more than he let his impatience surface, but still….his careless words hurt.

My friend confided in me that even though her husband was 90 per cent wonderful, he never once apologized for the times he had been unkind. His conscience must have bothered him after he would snap at his wife, because for several days afterward she could tell he was trying to make up for what he had said. He would be extra attentive and kind. He would help around the house. He would tell her he loved her. She knew he was sorry, and she forgave him.

But he never said the words, “I’m sorry.” His children never saw him apologize. They knew they were loved, they had marvelous memories with their daddy, but none of their memories included a humble apology.

I think love means having to say you’re sorry. Humbly, with no excuses, with no referral to what the other person did (not that there aren’t times when that is very necessary), and with no expectations from the other person. This is really hard for some people. Sometimes it’s really hard for me. I can usually apologize when I know I’ve blown it, and I really am contrite and want the other person to know I’m sorry.

But there have been occasions when I’ve uttered veiled, unkind words, or have neglected doing something I knew I should have done, and for some reason the words, “I’m sorry. I was wrong. Will you please forgive me?” were really slow in coming. I think it’s a pride issue.

It can also be difficult to say you’re sorry when the person we need to apologize to needs to say it more. Then our minds justify the hurtful things we do or say because that person has caused us more pain than we have ever caused them. I understand this and have used this rationale many times. “I may have been abrupt with her, but what she did was much more wounding than what I did.” We always tend to wrap ourselves in soft down comforters and want others who’ve hurt us to lay forever on beds of nails. It’s human nature.

And it’s not conducive to peace, joy and happy living.

Picture yourself on your deathbed, if you are blessed enough to someday have one. Hopefully you will be old, loved, ready to meet Jesus, and will not have suffered too long. As you’re lying there on your bed, strength and life slowing ebbing out of the body that has carried you through this world, your mind will probably be reliving the most meaningful parts of your life. Will you smile smugly when you think of the person you never forgave, or the one you never gave a heartfelt apology to? Will you think with gladness about the bitterness you toted around for years toward that person at work who slighted you? As you’re gasping for your last breaths, will you inwardly pump your fist and hiss a satisfied “Yessss!” when thoughts of your past cruel words, cold shoulders, exasperated sighs, and self-righteous martyrdom come to mind?

No. I don’t believe we will entertain thoughts like this. I believe the closer we come to death, the more clarity we’ll have. We will mourn the opportunities we missed to love, to forgive, to serve, to bless. I mourn my missed opportunities already. But I’m still alive, so all is not lost. 🙂

My human tendency is to withdraw when I’m slighted, lash back when I’m treated badly, and to excuse my small errors in the light of others’ colossal sins. But I’m not called to live according to my human tendencies. I’m called to live in joy and peace and generosity and in love.

To my handful of readers, I offer no lecture here. I have only an ounce of wisdom to give, and there’s so much I have to learn. But at 53 I have a little more wisdom than I did at 23, or even at 43, and this much I know: deep inside we want to love. We were created to love. And when we don’t love, discontent is our constant companion. Why live like that? Why add to the list of what we’ll weep over on our deathbeds?

Sometimes love means I need to make Michael’s breakfast as well as everyone else’s. Sometimes love means I should not audibly sigh when I have to ask my husband to repeat himself yet again. Sometimes love means being cheerful in the mornings even if I’d like nothing better than to go back to bed. Sometimes love means being grateful for someone’s very presence, not for whatever they can say and do. Sometimes love means trying to see beyond a person’s actions or neglect, and treating them like the person they could be, instead of the one we think they are. Sometimes love doesn’t involve feelings at all, but just a willingness to do and say the right thing, no matter how many times we’ve failed in the past. Sometimes love means not administering justice, but mercy.

Let’s not let anything stand in the way of saying we’re sorry when we need to. We can act sorry, we can feel sorry, but most of the time we just need to say the words, and then follow them up with corresponding behavior.

These are my thoughts this morning. Without a doubt, I believe love means having to say you’re sorry…

Scotland in September

November 3, 2010 | My Jottings

In January of 2007 some good friends invited us to go to Ireland and England with them. Air fare to Dublin was cheap, and even though “spontaneous” is not a word anyone would ever use to describe me, we jumped at the chance and booked our flights. As we read guide books and looked online for information to help us decide where to visit and how to drive with the steering wheel on the wrong side of the vehicle, we also consulted people who had been abroad before. Michael has been to Vietnam (although, ahem, not as a tourist) and I lived in Germany for just under two years, but we knew almost nothing about how to choose from the myriad delights the UK and Ireland have to offer.

As we chatted with our son-in-law Chris, it became clear to us that we would need to see Scotland as well. Chris has been to more countries than I can count, but his words, “Scotland is one of the most beautiful places in the world…” surprised and intrigued me. So we rearranged our plans and decided to spend the bulk of our trip in Scotland.

Little did we know what effect the Highlands would have on us. I still remember driving (white-knuckled at first, on the wrong side of the road, sitting on the wrong side of the car) all the way from Prestwick airport near Glasgow to Inverness in the northern Highlands of Scotland. The highway was almost deserted, and the farther north we traveled, the quieter we became. I turned off the BBC radio. When I wasn’t trying to adapt to shifting with my left hand, Michael took my hand and I knew he was feeling similar things. My mother’s maiden name was derived from MacIntyre, and Michael’s last name is of Scottish origin too. We’ve never searched our genealogies or spent a lot of time talking about our ancestry, but an inner bell (or inner bagpipe?) sounded inside both of us as we drove on. Sappy as this sounds, when we later spoke of it we both agreed that visiting Scotland had been like finally going home.

Next year we will celebrate thirty years of marriage. Shall we all observe a moment of silence to honor God’s work in such a miracle? It still boggles my mind. Thirty years of being with the same person day after day, and my heart still swells with love and gratitude for him. And there were times when I thought for sure I was done. How thankful I am that God never let me walk, and that I know the grace and wonder of a happy union. Our marriage isn’t even close to perfect. We would not be a model for anyone. I just consider myself very blessed that I had nowhere to go when years ago I wanted to leave, that somehow God helped me stay until love returned (which it always did), that my husband loved me through my selfishness and pride, and that the man I am growing old with is D. Michael. He has been faithful and true. But I digress.

As we motored northward, the wild barrenness of the land, the sheep dotting the hills, the snow on the mountain peaks, the lakes and rivers, the hospitality of the people we met in passing….all felt so familiar to us. Sort of like we’d been wanderers all our lives who had finally settled in. We loved what little we saw in Ireland and England too, but Scotland stole our hearts.

So, Lord-willing, we will be celebrating our anniversary next year in Scotland. We are in the tentative stages of planning a two week trip. If all goes as we hope, we will stay in this beautiful little cottage near Loch Ness. We will be able to spend time with the dear friends we met last time we visited, when we stayed at their magnificent Ivybank Guest House in Inverness. Tom and Catherine are kindred spirits and we have prayed for each other and enjoyed long-distance fellowship ever since our meeting in 2007.

It hasn’t helped things that Michael and I have been watching a BBC series called “Monarch of the Glen” recently.  The show was set in the Highlands in this great house, and we’ve been foolishly further smitten with Scotland week after week. Even Sara has caught the Scottish bug from watching the Laird of Glenbogle as he tries to protect the 35,000 majestic acres his family has owned for 400 years, while moving its operation into the 21st century. Sara has developed unexplained yearnings to don a plaid kilt and learn to do this.

I’ve never had any feasible explanation why I have to stifle sobs when I hear bagpipes being played, or why I’ve always been drawn to plaid and have three upholstered plaid chairs in my house. I haven’t fully understood why we’re compelled to buy shortbread and feel quite peaceful and content when we nibble it while sipping brisk tea on wintry afternoons. I was never sure why I felt like jumping up and down when Sharon decided to walk down the aisle at her wedding to the song Highland Cathedral.

There are so many places in this beautiful world we would like to see. Michael wants to go to China and Israel. I want to visit Austria, Switzerland and St. Leonards-on-Sea in England. But there’s some kind of magnet in both of us that is being irresistibly drawn to the Highlands of Scotland. Why?

Could it be that like countless others before me, deep inside I know my true home can’t be found on this earth and I’m just always looking for the real thing? Even though I love the part of the world I live in, it all feels so temporary.

For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Hebrews 13:14

Scotland isn’t my lasting home either. But for some strange reason, it feels just a little more like home than the one I’m in right now.

This is my country,
The land that begat me,
These windy spaces
Are surely my own.
and those who toil here
In the sweat of their faces
Are flesh of my flesh
And bone of my bone.

Sir Alexander Gray

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