December 31, 2011 | My Jottings

For the past 25 years or so, I’ve tried hard to stay organized. I have never liked clutter because it seems to prevent me from thinking clearly and calmly. When towering piles of things are sitting on surfaces that should (in my mind) be perfectly devoid of stuff, I can get cranky. And if I don’t get outwardly cranky, then I can get inwardly agitated while acting not outwardly cranky. Neither are highly recommended.

Being organized doesn’t come naturally to me. When I was a little girl my mother was always after me to clean up my disastrous room, especially my closet. I was supposed to clean my room at least every Saturday, and most of the time I would take all the things that were out of place and shove them in the back of my closet. Once in a while Mom’s Atrocious Closet Radar would activate and she would come into my room after I had “cleaned” it, and open the left closet door. I knew I was doomed. She made me take everything out and put them in their proper places, telling me how much easier it would be if I would just keep things neat in the first place. It wasn’t until I was married and had a house of my own that I finally started wanting things to be a little neater and more organized.

So while neatness was never a strong point in my youth, I was still never a hoarder. I’m a thrower. Or a tosser, whatever word works best. Some people are collectors, and I myself have two lovely collections started for me by other people, but my innate default setting is to throw. To donate. To toss. Not to accumulate. Most of the time I’m able to live my throwing life unhindered, but because we do foster care and the state requires us to maintain books and books and files and files of paperwork, it can occasionally get ugly.

A few years ago I think my inner thrower was magnetically drawn to purchase Penelope Wilcock’s book In Celebration of Simplicity: The Joy of Living Lightly. I read that book and sighed and yearned. Here was someone who had gone before me (a looooong distance before me — I’m still on the foothills of simplicity while the author has perhaps lived near the peaks of simplicity for many years) and gave me additional ideas and whys about living simply. And I read that it’s not just about the clutter. It’s about being able to give more in every way. It’s about having extra time in the day. It’s about having time to think and to pray and to listen to God’s voice. It’s about saying no to materialism and yes to living mindfully. It’s about saying yes to people and their needs, and no to too many things. And it’s ever so much more than all of that.

Not that things are bad. I have things. I think I have too many things, actually, even though I’m a thrower. And I’m certainly not immune or innocent of ever having been materialistic. But I’m on my way out of that kind of living (hopefully), if I haven’t left the building already.

Anyway, a couple of years ago I started reading Penelope’s blog (I had read her other books too) and recently she posted something of great interest to me. I’m stealing borrowing her very idea for my blog post today. She has graciously already given me permission to quote her at any time, isn’t that generous of her?

Penelope plans to donate/give/get rid of one item from her house per day, in the year 2012. At the end of the year, her house will be 365 items lighter and easier and airier. I liked her idea right away and decided to give it a try myself.

I don’t know for certain yet if there are 365 items that I can donate in the coming year, but I’ll find out soon enough. If you would like to join in, leave a comment and let me know you’re doing it too. If one item per day sounds like too much to you, how about donating one item every week, making your house 52 items lighter in the coming year?

I don’t plan on giving away things that have great sentimental value to me. I probably won’t donate the plates that hang on the side of our kitchen cabinet that my mother hand painted when she was a young woman. I won’t give away things that people have lovingly made for me out of their founts of creativity and the kindness of their hearts — I so enjoy those things because they remind me of the givers, and then I feel a swell of love and that’s always a good thing. There are books I won’t ever give away. There are grandchildren’s drawings I won’t throw. There are a couple of kind and compassionate bras I wouldn’t part with. I might seriously consider giving away a couple of my mean bras, I don’t know. (What is a mean bra, you ask? A mean bra is a bra that continually pinches your shoulders until they have sizable dents in them, and pulls on your poor neck all day long while cackling evilly in your ear, with the intention of doing permanent damage to your body…that’s what a mean bra is.)

But there’s bound to be many dozens of things I can throw, and I thought I’d share my first thing with you. First, a little history.

As foster care providers, we are required to save grocery receipts in case we’re ever audited by our county. I guess some people occasionally do foster care and then don’t feed their residents — thankfully those homes don’t stay in business very long. But we’re required to be ready to prove that we buy whatever food our gals need and want (some of what I buy for them I’d never buy for myself), so we keep every single grocery receipt in a file I have ingeniously labeled “Grocery Receipts.” 🙂

Well today I took a look at that bulging file, and it has grocery receipts from 2006 in it! Time to purge. If the county comes looking for six year-old receipts any time soon, they’ll be disappointed, because today I’m throwing them out. A big pile of grocery receipts from 2006, 2007 and 2008 — gone. I thought I’d better keep 2009, 2010 and 2011 receipts for now, though.

The pile below is about an inch thick.

I’m not even waiting until January 1st. I’m starting a day early, so that I’m ending the old year on a freeing note, and beginning the new year doing the same. So, on Day 1 of my 365 or 366 (oh! — is it leap year this year? 367, then) days of letting go of one thing each day, I’m throwing a pile of receipts in the garbage. Because these were hidden in a file drawer, no one would notice their absence, but I know they’re gone. And it feels pretty terrific.

Tomorrow I think I’ll continue with some bud vases. Who needs a dozen bud vases on the top shelf of a kitchen cupboard? Or maybe I’ll go through my small appliances. I know I have two food processors, so I think I’ll give one away. Why should one household have seven unused three-ring notebooks? Out they’ll soon go. I’m not sure we need five sets of sheets for our bed, either. Two or three should suffice.

And so on!

If you were to embark on a “365 Thing Throw” or a “52 Thing Throw” adventure, what would you start with first?

When you’re wondering what to do next

December 28, 2011 | My Jottings

Have you ever fretted over something and said, “What am I supposed to do now?” Have things ever gotten so dire in your life that you truly had no idea what to do next? If so, you’re not alone.

Anyone who knows me knows I like lists. I think the Lord likes lists too. I was reading the book of James this morning and found a to-do list that the Holy Spirit wrote through James, who was one of the brothers of Jesus.

Read it through slowly, if you would, and then at the end you’ll see how it could be the Lord’s to-do list for us today.

“Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!

Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned.

Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.

My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”    James 5:7-20

Here’s the list:

1. Be patient and stand firm. Are you ready to give up on your situation? Be patient and stand firm….ask God to give you strength and even joy as you wait on Him.

2. Don’t grumble against one another. I know from experience that this never, ever, ever, ever helps. Never. No matter how frustrated or fed up we might be, grumbling and complaining doesn’t make the situation better. In fact, it’s like joining with the enemy and swinging a wrecking ball of your own. Can we picture right now that the enemy of our souls is aiming to swing a huge wrecking ball against us and those we love, working round the clock to bring us all down into a pile of rubble? We need to stand firm against that, not help it happen.

3. Do not swear — let your answers be a simple yes or no. Language and words are so powerful. My words should be true and they should be helpful. Even if I have something difficult to relate, I can still say the words in a loving, constructive way. Also, if I’ve lived in such a way that the veracity of my word is questioned, the Lord will help me change that if I ask Him. Integrity can be lost, but with the Lord it can be regained.

4. When in trouble, pray. Pray! Out loud! Under our breath! In our hearts! Through our tears! While sitting on the toilet! When driving! When going to bed each night. When opening our eyes each morning. If all I can muster is a heartfelt, “Lord, please come and help me,” then that’s okay. Just call out to Him, over and over again. There are plenty of places in the Bible that teach us He likes persistence. So in prayer, be persistent. Help us, O Lord! Our eyes are on you! I’m not very eloquent when I pray, but He is my Father and understands my frailty. And I don’t think He’s moved by fancy words.

5. When happy, sing songs of praise. I think this is more powerful than we might suspect. If “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart” is all that comes to mind, sing that. We are being watched. I think we should sing when we’re not happy too. I want the heavenly realm and the demonic realm to see me trusting my Savior when I’d rather take to my bed as my mother did. I want the angels to cheer when I’m trying to be patient and stand firm, and the demons to cringe when they see and hear me singing to the Lord even if I don’t really want to.

6. If you’re sick, call together some leaders in your church and ask them to pray over you. And then again every day, we ask for healing. Physical healing and spiritual healing, Emotional healing and financial healing. Social healing and familial healing. We are all ailing in some way. Every one of us. I think this verse is addressing a physical malady, but I believe the Lord can heal any kind of sickness. If you’ve asked others to pray, perhaps it’s time to ask again. And we keep praying every day that the Lord will bring His healing into every hidden place in our lives.

7. Confess your sins to each other. This means we have to let go of pride. And that’s the hardest thing for many of us, because we think we know others have sinned against us worse. Isn’t that what we all think? “Yes, well, I’ve done some things wrong, but she said this about me.” “Of course I shouldn’t have done that, but he did this first, and that was way more hurtful than what I did.” Miracles will happen when we lay down our pride, choose not to perseverate on what the other person did, and just humbly confess to the Lord and to each other, what we did. Do you think I’m preaching to you here, as if I’m some holier-than-thou person and have the right to tell you what to do? I am not preaching, I am not holy, and I know I have no special right. I’m just telling whoever will read that I have done things the other way, and they don’t work. I am talking to myself here too, taking my own self up by the collar and saying, “Look! Stop doing it your way and try doing it God’s way!” Humbling ourselves is hard, particularly if we have a family history of pride. But miracles will come if we make humility a way of life. I’m not talking about groveling. I’m not referring to exempting the person who hurt us. I’m speaking merely of humbling ourselves and admitting our stuff, and asking the Lord to deal with the people who hurt us. (And if you’re in a dangerous situation of abuse, you should go get help right away…I’m not encouraging anyone to sit quietly while someone is hurting you.)

8. Pray for each other. Why is prayer so often mentioned? Because it’s the thing we struggle with most. And it’s the thing that is most needed and most powerful.

Whether or not we see results right away, pray. Whether or not we feel like praying, pray.

And remember Who we are praying to:

Thou art coming to a King,
Large petitions with thee bring;
For His grace and power are such,
None can ever ask too much;
None can ever ask too much.  (part of a hymn written by John Newton)

So if we’re wondering what to do, we can pick up God’s to-do list for us today. Nothing He puts on our lists will ever be of no consequence. He gives us things to do that really matter, and He helps us to do them in His strength. If we could do all this by ourselves we wouldn’t need Him. But we do need Him.

Dear Jesus, thank you for giving me something meaningful to do today and tomorrow and for a thousand tomorrows. You know that I can’t do any of it on my own. So I come to you now and I ask you to accomplish your to-do list in my life today. Help me to be patient, help me to wait, help me to sing, help me to stop grumbling, help me to stand firm, help me to speak helpful words, help me to lay down my pride, and help me to pray.

I ask all of this in your name, dear Savior,

Thirteen Things I Did and Didn’t Do This Christmas Season

December 26, 2011 | My Jottings

1.  Didn’t make our favorite Christmas cookies.

2.  Didn’t put the tree topper on the Christmas tree.  Not because I was too lazy or too short, but because I couldn’t find it. We’re missing a whole box full of decorations!

3.  Didn’t spend more than one hour at the mall.  (Cue the Hallelujah Chorus…)

4.  Didn’t go Christmas caroling.  I would have liked to, though.

5.  Didn’t play Faith Hill’s Christmas CD.  Ho ho hum.

6.  Didn’t buy a new Christmas ornament. We always buy one new ornament at at least one new CD each year. I got three new CDs but no new ornaments.

7.  Didn’t send out Christmas cards. And deduced that if you don’t send them, you don’t get them. At least not as many anyway. Several of you sent wonderful cards and Christmas letters — thank you!

8.  Didn’t wear my red and green tutu. A tragedy of epic proportions.

9.  Didn’t shovel snow. On the 23rd we finally got two inches of snow! So beautiful. I’m still trying to decide if two inches is shovel-worthy.

10. Didn’t host a women’s Christmas luncheon. Honestly thought about it, but then forgot. Maybe next year.

11.  Didn’t get invited to any Christmas luncheons either. Boo hoo!

12. Didn’t receive a gift from Michael. Which is so totally okay. But it sort of marks something…

13. Didn’t make a big Christmas dinner. We had brunch on Christmas morning instead, and everyone brought something delicious.

But I did…

1.  Eat two pieces of fudge that someone else made. It was half chocolate/half peanut butter. And just a few other goodies over the course of the week.

2.  Pray for snow. It’s the driest beginning of winter our city has had in 49 years. The two inches that fell on Friday was a blessing, but we need a couple of feet more.

3.  Listen to Windham Hill, Julie Andrews, Perry Como and Eden’s Bridge Christmas CDs.  And many others.

4.  Go to see comedian Tim Hawkins in concert. You must watch this short video he just released online. Anyone who’s ever owned a cassette tape will appreciate this. I saw it last night on my iPad right after I went to bed and I texted Sara who had just gone to bed one floor above me, “Are you awake?” She texted back, “Yes.” Then I texted, “Come here.” She answered, “Okay.” (We are good at communicating in our family.) She came downstairs and laid in bed beside me while I showed her this video and we laughed. And laughed. Then Michael came in and we showed it to him and he laughed. Then Edith saw us watching something on my iPad and she jumped up on the bed and put her nose next to the screen. Edith loves Tim Hawkins. You think I joke? I do not.

5.  Study 1 and 2 Kings in the Old Testament and couldn’t believe how rich and exciting these books are. Of course I’ve heard of King Ahab and his demon possessed bride wife Jezebel; of course I could tell you a teeny bit about Jehoshaphat; I knew some about Elijah and Elisha, but I never knew how amazing this part of Israel and Judah’s history is. And how relevant to my life today.

6.  Notice for the first time that as my skin ages I’m getting “marionette lines” at the sides of my mouth. Marionette lines? Who thought up that name? Google it.

7.  Sit quietly several nights in our darkened living room looking at our tree lights and thinking about this line from “O Holy Night” — Long lay the world, in sin and error pining, ’til He appeared, and the soul felt its worth!  That is Christmas in a nutshell for me.

8.  Floss my teeth faithfully. I have never been someone who flosses her teeth every single day (shocking, I know), but I decided to start. I like it.

9.  Watch “The Biggest Loser” with just a bit of yearning. But I wanted either Ramon or Antone to win, not John! Oh well.

10. Watch my very favorite Christmas movie of all time, the 1970 musical Scrooge starring Albert Finney. My brother Steve loved this and ever since I was a young teen I’ve watched it almost every year. Here’s one of our favorite songs from the movie, and when it was over, Sara and I sang this loudly for a while.  🙂

11. Watch the movie The Hiding Place with Michael and Sara and cried my eyes out. I want to be like Betsie ten Boom. But I’m nothing like Betsie ten Boom. If you haven’t watched the movie I would recommend it highly — here’s the trailer.

12. Slept in past 7:00 a.m. on at least three occasions. Cause for rejoicing!

13. Thank the Lord for making sure I heard about Jesus when I was three years old in my first Sunday School class. It was at the First Baptist Church of Covina, CA. My memories from that time are quite vivid. I remember the upstairs Sunday School room, the teacher (Mrs. Ruby Greener), the painted desks and chairs, the songs I learned, and even some of the frilly dresses I wore on Sundays.

Mostly I remember that Jesus loves me, pursues me, forgives me, watches over me and my family, and is preparing a place for us in heaven. Perhaps Christmas would not mean what it does to me today, if I hadn’t spent so much time in this building then.

So, what is something you did and didn’t do this Christmas season?

We wish you a Merry Christmas

December 23, 2011 | My Jottings

“When they saw the star they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with His mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”

Matthew 2:10-11

From our house to yours, we wish you a Christmas full of joy, hope, and the peace of Jesus Christ.

And God bless us, every one!

Of Levi’s, log cabins and The Lupi-Soo

December 20, 2011 | My Jottings

Lately every morning when I get up I peek hopefully out of our bedroom window to see if it snowed during the night. So far this season, all we’ve gotten is a dusting. Everyone is talking about how we’re probably going to have a brown Christmas, and that seems a little sad and disorienting to me. Last year at this time we had two feet of snow on the ground already. Our newspaper says that the last time we entered a winter this dry was in 1949.

I’ve been trying to rewrite the words to “White Christmas” in my head and have gotten this far:

I’m not dreaming of a brown Christmas
In Minnesota we have snow!
Our yard looks so drabby
It makes me crabby
To hear dead leaves crunching as I go

I’m not dreaming of a brown Christmas
It’s certain something is amiss
We won’t stoop to say “boo” or say “hiss”
But a Christmas blizzard would be bliss!

I know. You’re in awe, and you just don’t have words to describe my poetic gift. Shall we pause, then, and let those stanzas silently impact our souls?

I have to do something today I try never to do — visit our local shopping mall. I have a pair of Levi’s to buy for someone and since there are four hundred twenty-seven styles of Levi’s to choose from now, I think I need to see and feel them firsthand to make a good choice. I mean, there are Levi’s 501 Originals and 505 Straights. There are 559 Relaxed Straights and 569 Loose Straights. There are zippers and there are button flies, skinny legs and wide legs and bell bottoms.

All I know right now is that I think I’ll want dark blue denim, regular Levi’s. Not the Scraped Gray Levi’s or the Chinchilla Levi’s. Would you wear a pair of Chinchilla Levi’s? How about the Skinny Commuter Levi’s or the Skinny Zipper Back Levi’s? How do the Skinny Selvedge Levi’s jeans sound to you? Or how about a pair of Volcanic or Ex-girlfriend Levi’s?

Nothing sounding good yet? How about a pair of Dimensional Rigid Levi’s? Or a pair in the BBQ color?

Mom!! Have you seen my Dimensional Rigid BBQ Zipper-Back Levi’s? I’m late for school Mom! Didn’t you wash them Mom? What about my Raw Selvedge Mid-shift Sahara Levi’s? Moommmm! I thought I told you to wash my Levi’s!

I’m not making this up. Check the Levi’s website if you question my sanity. All I want is a pair of regular Levi’s in a size 34 x 34. I hope I don’t come home from the mall this afternoon all traumatized by my Levi’s experience.

In other news, we received a phone call recently from the salesman who sold us our Honda a couple of years ago. First he wanted to know how many miles are on our car, and when I told him 20,000 he sort of let out a little squeak of glee. Then he wanted to know if we would consider selling him the Honda he sold us. He said used Hondas are a hot commodity right now and he would give us a really good deal on it, especially if we wanted to buy another Honda. I told him we’re actually thinking of buying something smaller next time, like a Subaru Outback or a Toyota Highlander, and he tried hard to hide his disappointment.

On the unexpected phone call front, I received a call a few weeks ago from a man who told me my maternal grandmother (who died in 1983), had a sizable unclaimed chunk of money in a certain stock company, and that his organization had been hired by this stock company to find the legitimate heir/s. I was of course able to fill in for him many missing details about the few heirs my grandmother had. When I asked him which stock company held my grandmother’s money, he declined to tell me, saying politely, “If I told you the stock company, what would prevent you from going straight to that company to claim your inheritance? This is how our company makes its money.” He told me stock companies often hire organizations like his, and that for those of us who are my grandmother’s heirs, we would each have to sign an agreement forfeiting donating 35% of the monies to the man’s company for their services. When all divided up between the heirs we’re not talking about huge bucks, but 35% does eat away a large portion. Hmmm. Maybe there’s a different way to go.

Here’s a marginally related segue.

When my best friend Denel and I were very young, we were always together, always reading, and always using our wild imaginations. Denel and I were both avid Nancy Drew book fans, and when we were about nine years old, we decided we wanted to be girl sleuths too. Except neither of us had titian-colored hair or were old enough to drive roadsters while wearing our dark blue pumps. Using the first letters from our combined then-last names, we decided to open The Lupi-Soo Girls Detective Agency. We were so certain there were mysteries waiting to be solved in the greater Covina, California area, and that we two girls would be called upon to assist. After waiting a few minutes for the phone to ring with desperate people on the line needing our sensational sleuthing services, we decided to go bike riding instead. The Lupi-Soo Agency never really got off the ground, but it still lives on in our hearts four and a half decades later.

So I reached deep into the recesses of my Lupi-Soo Girl Sleuth memories and started making some phone calls. In less than a day I was able to find out the stock company that has my grandma’s unclaimed funds. But they won’t release it to us, because we don’t have a copy of her last trust. And trusts (unlike wills) are not required to be filed publicly, and anyone who would have known the whereabouts of the trust is now gone from this earth. It’s easy to prove we’re my grandmother’s heirs, but without the trust we can’t prove that she intended for us to inherit. From the stock company’s point of view, we could just be a few fake grandchildren trying to illegally obtain someone else’s dormant property.

Our attorney says that our only hope is to somehow find the attorney (among the 64,000 lawyers who practice in the state of Missouri) that drew up my grandmother’s trust in the early 1980s. This means that there’s even a good chance that said attorney has gone on to glory himself. The phrase needle in a haystack is very apropos in this situation.

One of my brothers is working on the case too. I don’t know if he ever thought about forming The Ladasoo Boys Detective Agency when he was little, but if he did he’s getting his dream now.

I have a solid peace that somehow it will all work out. I don’t feel a need to rush about it, be overly concerned about it, or develop a twitch in my left eye about it. In the right time, it will all be resolved.

Now back to Denel.

After her trip to Minnesota in October, she and I decided that we just can’t let so many years go by in between our visits. So in 2012, we’re planning to meet halfway between her home in SoCal and my home in NoMin, and get together for a long weekend in a log cabin in the Rockies. We’re calling it our First Annual Lupi-Soo Convention.

I can picture now the blazing fire in the cabin’s stone fireplace, the cups of tea and coffee, the feet up on the ottomans, the dark chocolate, the smell of pine as we walk the trails, the laughter and reminiscing, and the heartfelt, mother’s prayers for our beloved children.

And God-willing, the year 2013 will find us in yet another beautiful location for the Second Annual Lupi-Soo Convention. Denel and I are both 54 now, so I wonder if there will ever be a Twentieth Annual Lupi-Soo Convention? I hope so. Life never seems to serve up certainties, especially as we grow older.

There is one thing about which I am fairly certain, however.

If Denel and I live to be 74, and are still flying off to the nether regions of the world to spend a long weekend celebrating our blessed friendship each year, I won’t be packing any Rinsed Neppy Caraway Twill Levi’s.

I think I might pack my Relaxed Rebel Roamer Levi’s instead.

And I’m not making that one up either.

Won’t you please come in?

December 15, 2011 | My Jottings

In ten days it will be Christmas, and during the remainder of Advent I want to be at home and as quiet as I possibly can. I want to hear the choral voices and orchestral strings of “O Holy Night” and “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” over and over. I want to sit in the evenings in our darkened living room and look at the lights on our tree, thinking about Isaiah, chapter 9,

The people walking in darkness
   have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
   a light has dawned.

And from 1 Peter, chapter 2:

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

A decade ago we didn’t have any cardinals on our tree or in our house. Now we have dozens. Each one reminds me to take hope, to believe in the things I know more than the things I see. (As always, feel free to click on the photos to enlarge them.)

Putting a bowl of ornaments out on an accessible table when there are often grandchildren galloping around could be risky. Unless you have plastic ornaments that look exactly like glass ornaments, as these are:

The German-made straw wreath below was a gift from a German friend. The disco ball was a gift from a friend who participated in a New Year’s Eve event with me at our church years ago – we were Gladys Light and the Hips and we danced and sang “I Will Follow Him” while most of the people in the audience either rolled on the floor laughing, or sat in stunned silence. The picture of my three beloveds always makes me cry….how did 28 years pass in a blink?

This was a gift from a cherished friend and hangs by our back door year round. It is my true prayer.

Sara always scouts around the yard for bits of nature to bring in, and I love the greenery she puts all over the house. This is in our kitchen window.

Almost every cardinal we have was a gift from sweet friends who have heard me tell this story.

Because we have such a full mantel this year, the stockings were hung near the staircase with care. The one that says “Virginia” is at least 60 years old and was my mother’s. Oh, how I miss my mother these days. Isn’t it a terrible truth sometimes that you don’t realize how much you desperately need something or someone until they’re gone?

Will you allow me to whisper a gentle truth into your heart today? Look around you and ask God to help you truly love and appreciate the people in your life, no matter how much they’ve hurt or disappointed you. They might be gone tomorrow, and the sorrow of not loving them would be too great a burden for you to bear.

This sits on our mantel:

The orange ornament below is one of three I have left from my childhood Christmas trees.

I bought a roll of inexpensive silver-tinged blue ribbon at Menard’s, and this is part of what Sara did with it in our kitchen. These are the lights that hang over our island. I love it!

This is the holiday season view of the inside of our microwave. I was trying to think of something to share that was a little out of the ordinary. You can see trees and ribbons and stockings in a million places out there in blogland right now. But I ask you – where else can you see a blog photo of the inside of a splattery microwave? Nowhere.

The microwave can get pretty messy, pretty fast. Sort of like life.

No presents under the tree yet. 🙂

Part of our nativity scene. Joseph, Mary, the wise men with their gifts, and the Christ Child. (I am the little lamb who dares to stand close and gaze upon the scene with wonder and awe…)

Today I will go to the elementary school four of my grandchildren attend to see their Christmas program. One of the songs Mrs. Nisky’s class will be singing is “Go Tell It On The Mountain” and I intend to engrave it on my memory as I watch and smile and wave at her. I wonder if in my lifetime we will see the complete banishment of sacred Christmas songs in public places. It has begun already. But here in my corner of the world there are still places where the music is allowed to reflect the real meaning of the season.

Late this afternoon we will be taking our Foster gals out for an exciting Christmas treat – a huge display of lights and music and cookies and roasted marshmallows they’ve been talking about for days.

Then this evening I will head to a local church to watch Lil’ Gleegirl sing for her preschool Christmas program. I will be waving and smiling hugely at her too, hoping she sees the joy on my face, all for her. Her class will sing this:

Come on, ring those bells,
Light the Christmas tree,
Jesus is the king
Born for you and me.

Come on, ring those bells,
Everybody say,
Jesus, we remember
This your birthday.

Thank you so much for coming into our home for a few minutes today!

I hope as we all prepare for Christmas over these next ten days, we will never lose sight of the fact that Jesus is the King, born for you and me.

Wednesday’s Word-Edition 75

December 14, 2011 | My Jottings

This week in our Community Bible Study commentary, we learned about the famine that comes to the soul that chooses to turn away from God’s Word and to willfully ignore or disobey Him.

We were reminded that God’s great desire is to give us refreshment and renewal, and to restore us to Himself and to others. The commentary writer quoted Max Lucado and I would like to share a small portion of it here:

Deprive your soul of spiritual water, and your soul will tell you. Dehydrated hearts send desperate messages. Snarling tempers. Waves of worry. Growling mastodons of guilt and fear. You think God wants you to live with these? Hopelessness. Sleeplessness. Loneliness. Resentment. Irritability. Insecurity. These are warnings. Symptoms of a dryness deep within.” 

(from Come Thirsty: No Heart Too Dry for His Touch — Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2004)

We were exhorted in our CBS studies today that if we turn to Jesus, the Living Water, He can quench the thirst of our souls.

One drink doesn’t do it, though. I get thirsty often. My heart can dry out in a day or two.

I think I need to turn to Jesus many times a day…..

Kidquips 7

December 11, 2011 | My Jottings

The night before last, nine year-old Clara and eight year-old Elijah spent the night. We had a fun, quiet time together. They slept in the guest room and stayed up late reading Tintin books. On Saturday morning they slept in until 8:00 a.m., which is late for all of us; it seemed like such a luxury. They played quietly and cheerfully together on our living floor — Clara with the Magformers and Elijah with the Legos. We had carols playing on the house intercom system, the tree lights were on, and Grandpa and I were sitting there with them, enjoying their company.

Clara and Elijah both decided they wanted to count how many cardinal ornaments are on our Christmas tree. They both came up with fifteen.

Edith and Mildred were in the living room with us too — they always need to be with their people and follow us around from room to room. Edith was snoozing on Michael’s lap as he sat in the wingback chair. Millie was laying on the floor near the Christmas tree, with her legs stretched out behind her. (Click the photo to enlarge the cuteness.)

I have some new skeins of Sharon’s yarn and I was sitting on the couch rolling them into balls.

Elijah looked up from his Legos and said casually “Grandma, I think Edith is looking more like Grandpa as she gets older, and Millie is looking more like you.”

I did not laugh. I could see he didn’t mean this as a negative thing, so I paused for a few moments.

“Really, Lije?” I said. “In what way do you think the dogs look like us? Is it because I have a grey sweater on and Millie is grey too?”

“No,” Elijah said in total seriousness as he looked at me. “I just think her face looks like your face, especially the eyes.”


A good prayer

December 9, 2011 | My Jottings

“…[Lord,] we do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You.”

2 Chronicles 20:12b

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Dith & Dred

December 6, 2011 | My Jottings

I’ve heard it said that the older people get, the weirder they get, and I’ve known a few elderly folks whose eccentricities would support that theory. (I think my daughters secretly believe I am proof of this.)

We have two miniature German schnauzers who are getting stranger and more eccentric with every passing day.

Edith and Mildred look alike in many ways, but the similarities stop there. A long time ago I wrote a fascinating post entitled “Indentured Schnauzitude” about their differences here. You do not want to miss that one, I assure you.

Sara has always given inexplicable nick-names to our animals. One prime example is when she decided our long-deceased schnauzer Winnie should be called Niffery Yoder. She also thought Beauteous Montoya fit Winnie well, which, er, might be a stretch. Lately Sara has taken to calling our dogs Dith and Dred, and occasionally Dithy and Dreddy. When Sara walks in the back door the dogs go nuts, barking happily and dancing around her legs. Mildred lifts her snout and sounds out a guttural greeting, “Rrroooo!” that I can imitate quite well. I actually think I sound so much like her when I’m doing my own guttural “Rrroooo!” that if you had your eyes closed you’d have a hard time telling which one was Millie and which one was me.

Both dogs have annoying and unhealthy fixations that seem to become more firmly entrenched as each year passes. For the last few weeks, Edith expectantly stares at Sara’s iPhone and/or my iPad any time she sees them, whether they’re in hand or sitting on a table. Sara has shown Edith this one too many times, and now Edith will sit and stare for up to 30 minutes, patiently waiting for it to come on again. Edith also loves the Christian comedian Tim Hawkins, and when she sees my iPad she begs for me to show her one of his videos. Here’s one she likes a lot. I’m completely serious.

And this is a recent picture of Edith, with her one ear sticking up in the air as it always does. She’s sitting on our living room window seat, waiting for any sign of movement outside. She gave up barking at falling leaves years ago, but is still on alert for any squirrel, deer, person walking their dog, or the postal carrier. No one will ever come near our house without their arrival being hysterically announced. We sometimes have to coax her away from the window because we want Dithy to have a normal schnauzer life, and we worry that her obsessions will completely take over.

But Edith is a good dog. At almost 10 years old, she is loyal and affectionate, fairly obedient, and amazingly patient with Mildred.

We are convinced that Millie has some developmental disabilities. She has Narcissistic Disorder, Kleptomania and a mild case of Paranoia thrown in for good measure. She’s been raised in the same balanced, exemplary and über-healthy home as Edith, but her deficits are numerous. When these doggy girls get their daily rawhide chew stick, Millie gobbles hers down and then lurks opportunistically at Edith’s shoulder, ready to pounce and steal hers. Edith sighs and lets her have it. When we see this happening, of course we pry the stick from Millie’s jaws and give it back to Edith, but the same thing happens again. Sometimes Edith goes into the office and asks me with her eyes to shut the door so she can enjoy her stick in peace.

Millie inhales her food. Edith savors. Millie paws at you incessantly and looks into your eyes with a pitiful and desperate longing that says, “Please notice me. Please pet me every minute of the day. Please bolster my sagging schnauzer esteem. Please. Pleeeeease. Pleeeeeeeaaasssee.” If you think there is no way a miniature German schnauzer can say all this with one paw and a set of brown eyes, you haven’t met Dred. That is exactly what she says, and more.

Edith is comfortable with herself. She loves to be petted and crooned to, but she’s content to curl up beside any of the humans in this house and just be. She has no gaping neediness that seeks to be filled. She’s at peace with herself and her world. (Unless her world happens to have a rodent scurry into view, then the schnauzer shrieking begins…)

Here’s a photo of five-year old Mildred sitting on “her” leather recliner in the den. If you click to enlarge the photo and study it carefully, you’ll see the marginally forlorn expression, the slightly hunched posture, the one side of her little black schnauzer lips drawn back in uncertainty.

Poor, poor pitiful Dred.

Do any of your pets have quirky psychological behaviors or grave diagnoses? Or do they have interesting facial expressions? How about their thoughts? Can you tell what they’re thinking sometimes?

Don’t answer that.

Dith and Dred might be a little out of the ordinary, but I’m willing to bet there are pet owners out there who could share some of their pet’s cute/unusual antics with us here. Or, do you have silly nick-names for your pets?

What is your animal like?