Is our house floating yet?

February 13, 2012 | My Jottings

Donating one thing a day may not seem like much to others, but it seems significant to me. Each time I go through and choose seven items for the week, it seems like the house feels lighter and more spacious, even though most of these things weren’t seen to begin with. For those who have no idea what I’m babbling about every Monday, you can click here to read about my commitment to getting rid of 365 things in 2012.

Here are this week’s donations.

Juggling pins:

I know, most of you don’t know that I can juggle a bit. I’m not great at juggling with pins, so I’ve donated these. I can only juggle three balls for about a minute, so I will never be a professional juggler. (I do think I’m moving into the realm of being a professional jiggler, however.)

A working blender, donated to a deserving family whose blender just broke:

I have no idea where this little bag came from — it’s been in the toy boxes for years, and the grands don’t play with it:

Same for this little toy:

I don’t even own the laptop computer this was purchased for years ago:

I feel like if we’re not careful, our house will start to slowly lift from its foundation into the air, from all the dead weight I’m getting rid of, sort of like Carl and Ellie’s house in the movie Up:

If you had an uninterrupted hour right now to work on gathering things from your house to donate, what two items would be at the top of your list?

More goodbyes

February 6, 2012 | My Jottings

A dark blue cookbook prop, a thermos without a cup, a clock I love that no longer works, an old glucometer in a black pouch, child security things for cabinets, lightbulbs that don’t fit anything in our house, and a round box with fruit on the lid.

These were all hidden away in a high kitchen cabinet, out of sight and out of use. Now they’ve been donated and that cabinet is almost empty, and hopefully someone will be able to make use of these in some way.

Dozens of things gone so far in 2012, dozens more to go. I do realize that these posts about paring down make for immensely spine-tingling reading. I hope you’re able to handle it. I know I’m actually quite thrilled.  🙂

Birds I’d like to meet

February 3, 2012 | My Jottings

My mother used to love birds. When I was growing up we had two canaries, Mr. Clean (who wouldn’t stay out of the water cup in his cage) and Apricot (because he was a pale orange color). Then we had a Mynah bird named Ringo whose cage was in my room. Ringo enjoyed raw ground meat and pecking my mother’s cuticles when she cleaned his cage. We also had a pair of finches we called Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee, because they finished each others’ sentences. One said “deedle deedle DEE!” and the other would always immediately answer, “deedle DEE-dle.” About four hundred times a day.

My husband also loves birds. When I married him I hardly ever paid attention to birds, but living with him for thirty years has changed that. We have had three cockatiels (Rosie, Chester and Walter) and one canary (Harriet).

We don’t keep birds as pets anymore, but we feed the wild outside birds a lot, and even our grandchildren love to watch as chickadees, jays, juncos, sparrows and nuthatches make frequent visits to our back deck.

Here are some birds of the world (found online) I’ve marveled over today…

Meet your average Green Honeycreeper:


A Lady Gouldian Finch:

A Mandarin Duck:

This is a Lorikeet:

A Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock:

A Polish Chicken:

A Flamecrest:

Lady Amherst’s Pheasant:

Wilson’s Bird of Paradise:

Bleeding Heart Pigeons:

A Resplendent Quetzal:

And this is the Blue Footed Booby. Click here to see two Blue Footed Boobies do their very slow and simple mating dance. I think even I could do it. (Don’t tell Michael though.)

And my favorite bird of all, the Northern Cardinal. (For those who might not know why Cardinals are special to me, click here.)

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?   

Matthew 6:26

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Thank you for stopping by, and have a wonderful weekend…

What to do when you just want to die

February 1, 2012 | My Jottings

I would guess that most people have been in that place before. Feeling like things are so bad, so unfixable, so far gone, that you can’t see any hope no matter how hard you search for it.

If you’re the naturally optimistic sort, maybe you’ve never truly despaired of life. Or maybe you can only remember one time when the thought crossed your mind that you’d be better off dead. But if you’re someone who could be Vice President of the Pessimist’s Club, then you may have had many times in your life when you were ready to call it quits.

I tried to take my life many years ago. It wasn’t a cry-for-help attempt, it was a real, carefully plotted out time-to-die plan, and I almost succeeded.

I was fourteen years old.

Someday I will tell the story of how I almost ended it all. It’s not a topic I visit very often but I’m not afraid to share it. It’s part of my history and I freely speak about it if I feel nudged and if it could be helpful to someone.

Today I want to share about what we can do when life is really hard and we can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. (Disclaimer: this post should not be taken as the whole of advice we might need when life is difficult — some folks might need to get professional help such as a doctor or a trained counselor or a pastor, and do so right away.) 

I was born with a melancholy temperament, which means I feel things deeply, tend to over-analyze, can have much compassion and empathy, revel in details, can be creative, tend to be critical and nit-picky, and usually see the glass as half empty rather than half full. The other part of my temperament is choleric, which is often defined by bossiness and pride, a take-charge attitude, and someone who can get the job done while forgetting the feelings of others. For me, the combination of these two temperaments means that when one part of me is feeling low and hopeless, the other part of me tries to grab me by the lapels and give me a good shaking and a firm talking to, and tells me harshly to just quit blubbering and shape up.

The melancholy me thinks the choleric me is really mean and uncaring. The choleric me thinks the melancholy me is a wimp and should just get over it. It can be a bad combination.

When life gets really hard and the enemy of my soul pitches a tent on my shoulder so he can hiss his poison in my ear, it’s my melancholy nature that let’s him stay there for way too long. I have learned a lot in recent years about how to take my thoughts captive and replace the lies with truth (see 2 Corinthians 10:4-5), but that doesn’t mean satan gives up for very long. It’s still a battle. But here are a few things to do when life gets so hard it makes death looks easy:

1. Cry out to God for help. You’ve heard me say this before, but I can’t emphasize this enough. If all you can do is weep and whisper the name of Jesus in between your sobs, do it. Whisper the Name above all names, over and over again. That is deep prayer, when it’s coming from a place of total helplessness and humility.

Don’t be discouraged if the blinding light of angels doesn’t immediately fill your room, or if your mood doesn’t lift right then and there, or if the person causing your grief doesn’t fall at your feet completely changed. I have yet to experience quick answers to such cries for help. God is not constrained by time and He is (maddeningly) not in a hurry. He is into doing things His way, and they’re always the right way. When pain is so deep it’s hard to understand why comfort doesn’t seem to come the second we plead for it, He is teaching us to wait on Him. Cry out, talk to Jesus, tell Him everything, and in faith, carry it all to Him and leave it there. Ask for His miracles and be willing to do what you’re supposed to do when that revelation comes.

2. Wait three days. Don’t drive off the cliff today. Don’t stroll the aisles of sleep aids at Target or Walgreen’s tomorrow. Don’t let thoughts of guns and razor blades stay in your mind longer than a nanosecond. Don’t do it. Wait. Call a friend. Call a sister. Call a pastor. Call a crisis help line. Take a walk. Read your Bible. Put on some worship music. Watch a decent movie. Cook a meal. Pet your dog. And keep asking Jesus to give you the strength to put one foot in front of the other, keep living one more day, one more hour. What good is waiting going to do? Believe me, waiting three days can make all the difference in the world. Why? I don’t know exactly why, I just know from experience that when you’re feeling like you’re done with life, you should wait. Wait on God. I think God might have a thing about waiting three days too. Consider Jonah and also how many days Jesus was in the tomb.

3. Start a gratitude journal. Or if you’ve already started one, get it out again and start writing. I have kept gratitude journals at various times in my life, but until I read Ann Voskamp’s unforgettable book One Thousand Gifts, I never really saw the transformative power behind that kind of spiritual discipline. When I wrote down what I was thankful for before, I was merely writing down what I was thankful for. My husband, my children, my eyes, my independence, my faith, etc. Now when I open my gratitude journal, I number each thing I record, and I view each one as a gift directly from the hand of my heavenly Father to me. I picture His nail-scarred hands giving each one to me, personally.

If I believe nothing is random, and as a Christian who believes the Bible I do believe that, then a deer walking by my office window in the moonlight isn’t just a deer walking by my office window in the moonlight. It becomes a deer walking by my office window in the moonlight because God willed it so. Because He knew what pondering His wonders would do for my soul, for my mental health, for my perspective, for the strength I need to carry on each day.

Very recently a large deer with a huge rack of antlers strolled by my office window as I sat in the dark. The moonlight softly lit the snow around him to a barely perceptible periwinkle color, and he was five feet from me as I watched his dark silhouette. He stopped to nibble on the peony branches and decided they weren’t worth a second bite. He strolled languidly across our front lawn, paused at the big rock with the peace sign on it, crossed the street and found another kind of bush more to his liking in a neighbor’s front yard. Because I am becoming more practiced at watching carefully for the gifts God gives to me every day, I sat in the dark and the quiet, and exulted. This was a gift to me from God, with my name on it. He extended His hand and said, “Julie, this is for you” and I took it with reverence and awe and thanks. He loves me enough to give me hundreds of gifts each day. And I’m going to notice. And I’m going to thank Him. And I’ll write them down to help myself remember that when things get dark and when life gets hard, He’s still up to something. He’s still at work in my life and in the lives of those I love so much. He can be trusted.

And when you write down the things you’re thankful for, number them. And don’t hesitate to thank God for little things. When I write down even the smallest of gifts, something shifts in my heart, soul and mind. A bit of strength comes. A bit of hope. Just enough.

What if you’re having a hard time thinking of things to be grateful for? I understand that. I think of people like Joni Eareckson Tada who have lived with quadriplegia for decades and can’t blow their noses or brush their teeth by themselves. Yet she finds things to be thankful for. I can too.

I can see color this morning. Thank you Lord that the deep cardinal red on our living room pillow brings a bit of pleasure.

I can wipe spills on our counter this morning, with my own hands. While standing on my own feet. I thank you Jesus.

I can pee!

No bombs went off in my neighborhood last night. Write it down.

I have teeth in my mouth to chew my food, and not one of them hurts.

Write one thing down, then another. Ask for eyes to see, and ears to hear. And then write down what you see and hear, and realize they are gifts from God….to you.

When you keep a gratitude journal, gifts multiply. Saying thank you to God for a precious daughter then blossoms into thanking God for the way her eyes look at you when you tell her how proud you are of her, or thanking God for the way her neck smells when she hugs you good night, and the nose to smell her scent with, or of how unique her handwriting is, and how she wrote “I love you Mama” on a handmade birthday card, or how graceful she walks and what a gift it is that she can walk, or how trusting she is, and how God is using that to teach you to trust Him.

Saying thank you multiplies blessings. Complaining obliterates them. I know this.

What if I’m wrong? What if all these things I’m thanking Him for are random, and He didn’t really send the deer for me and didn’t really give me healthy teeth, and it’s all about chance, heredity and flossing? Well, okay, maybe someday I’ll find out I’m wrong. But I would hate to find out someday that He crafted 10,000 or 1,000,000  or 10,000,000 gifts just for me, and I went blindly on my way and complained, or ignored them. I’d rather be found thanking than not.

I don’t know when God will intervene in your situation, or mine. But until His answers come, I am going to do whatever it takes to gratefully receive these breaths, these heartbeats, these moments, these gifts that He gives me, and live.