Thursday Things

January 31, 2013 | My Jottings

1. After a few days of more reasonable temperatures (near the freezing point), we are supposed to go into the deep freeze tomorrow. Michael and I were talking about it in the dark this morning before we got out of bed, and we both said, “This might be the last of it.” Everyone in Northeastern Minnesota knows what that phrase means — it means since we’re almost to February, these next below-zero dips might be the last ones we’ll see like this until next year. Reason to rejoice!

2. We just learned that our state has foisted another huge paperwork task on all the family foster care providers. What they are requiring of us is almost unbelievable to me. And the friendly phrase, “failure to submit this review by May 31 will result in not being able to receive payment.” I truly wish I could hire a paperwork specialist to come into my home for a few hours a week and do the paperwork for me. It never seems to end.

3. We are just finishing up the book of Mark in Community Bible Study, and will start Ephesians next. We recently learned what our 30-week study will be for 2013-14 and I’m looking forward to it very much: Daniel, Job and I and II Peter.

4. I have been introduced to Norwex products and am trying them out in my home. So far I’m impressed. Anyone out there use them?

5. I picked up a book at the library yesterday that my sister-in-law Christy recommended to me. She said it was the most beautiful book she’d ever read, and since she’s a prolific reader, that’s saying a lot. Have any of you ever read The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey?

6. Edith and Mildred know what the word squirt means now. My friend Diane suggested that we might try squirting them with a little stream of water when they bark so shrilly at passersby, so even though I was pretty sure this wouldn’t deter them, I gave it a try. Well, it works. One squirt stops the Schnauzer shrieking instantly and they slink into the living room to escape. Diane also told me that she needs only to call the word, “Squirt!” out to her dogs from another room, and they stop barking. This would never work with our dogs, I thought. But it does. I can holler “Quiet! Knock it off! No!” and they just keep on happily yipping and wagging their tails at the squirrels, joggers, postman. If I hear them start up and I yell ominously from my office, “Squirt!”, they stop.

7. I love this game on my iPad.

8. Here’s a picture of Michael and Sara at Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World in Florida, taken a couple of months ago.

9. We’re having chili for dinner tonight. And salad.

10. My friend Denel told me that for our 2nd Annual Lupi-Soo Reunion this fall, she’s thinking of choosing some place in the Pacific Northwest. I can’t wait.

How about you? What are a couple of your Thursday things?

Wednesday’s Word-Edition 95

January 30, 2013 | My Jottings

“Marriage is sacrifice, commitment and work. But anything worth anything, always is.”

Julia Shalom Jordan

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Cooler By the Lake

January 26, 2013 | My Jottings

I put my knitting away all last summer and fall, and now since the weather is so cold it seems like the right time to take it out again. I’m still a total beginner, and have not ventured beyond making scarves. I hope to try something more complicated from a pattern someday, but for now I guess making my sixth or seventh scarf is just fine.

In the evenings after dinner Michael likes for me to watch television with him, so we’ve been enjoying a few BBC series lately, and a movie or two. I’ve been picking up my knitting then, and it feels like I’m being a bit productive instead of being a couch potato.

Some of the things we’ve been watching are this version of Dickens’ Little Dorrit, which I loved. It took us a while to get into it and really like it, but it was worth persevering through. We’re also watching the series “All Creatures Great and Small” again, and it gives us the itch to go to England. Sometimes I actually think we should try a second trip and other times I’m not so sure. But watching anything in Yorkshire makes me think we might.

My friend Diane texted me recently and told us to watch the movie Bernie with Jack Black. We watched it Thursday. It’s a true story and I’m still thinking about it. Have any of you watched Lars and the Real Girl? That was another one Diane told me about, and when Michael and I sat down to watch, at first I wasn’t sure I would care for it. But I ended up being so touched by it, and have recommended it to several people. Very quirky though! And last night we watched 84 Charing Cross Road and I liked it. Michael thought it was a little boring, but I thought it was worth watching. What have you seen recently that you would recommend?

Anyway, here’s the scarf I’m knitting.

The yarn is from the yarn company my daughter started and eventually sold, Three Irish Girls, and the colorway is “Cooler By the Lake.” A while back our city was visited by the King and Queen of Norway, and in honor of their arrival Sharon designed several colorways that represent notable parts of our city. The yarn was presented to the King and Queen, and then Sharon made it available later as limited editions. This yarn was dyed to look like a prominent tourist attraction in our harbor, the William A. Irvin ore boat and surroundings.

See the rusty/brownish color of the ship’s hull? And the gorgeous blue sky? And if you look you can see another of our landmarks, the gray Aerial Bridge right behind the ship to the left of the smokestack. Sharon combined these colors to make this colorway, and I think it’s unique and lovely.

I think it has a masculine look to it, but I won’t hesitate to wear this scarf if I end up keeping it for myself. Here’s another peek at the yarn that shows a bit more of the gray:

And the phrase “cooler by the Lake” is one heard a lot around here. Lake Superior has a tempering effect on the weather in Northeastern Minnesota, usually making the temps cooler by the Lake in the summertime, and a bit warmer in the winter.

If you would like to see the other colorways Sharon designed for the royals, you can click here to see photos.

Do you work on anything creative or crafty in the winter time? If so, what is it? If you would like to send me a photo of your project/s I’ll post it here too.

Have a blessed weekend…

Blessed is the Home…

January 21, 2013 | My Jottings

When I got out of bed this morning at 5:45, it was still dark. I padded down the hall in my Acorn slippers to the kitchen, turned on our outside light to check the temperature, and it was 17 degrees below zero. Or about minus 27 degrees Celsius. I had half hoped we would escape these bitter temps since January is 2/3 over and the globe is warming, but hey. Instead of fretting I started counting my blessings as I fed Edith and Mildred and let them out, laid out breakfast things, and started making lunches.

1. Our house is warm. This alone deserves about 647 thank yous. Thank you… thankyouthankyouthankyou Lord!
2. The flu has now left my body, and I’m feeling human again, and my skin doesn’t hurt at the merest touch.
3. I don’t have to finish An Episode of Sparrows if I don’t want to. I love Rumer Godden and really wanted to like it, but at page 100 I’m still not enjoying the book, so made the very unlike-me decision to take it back to the library.
4. I’ve had Eden’s Bridge on our CD player lately and had forgotten how much their music lifts my heart and touches my soul.
5. Michael and I might watch another episode from the 1970s series “All Creatures Great and Small” tonight.

This morning I also gave thanks that our garage is attached to our house, so starting the car in this weather is never an issue. I drove to Community Bible Study Leaders Council where the company of women, the prayers, the song and the discussion snatched the woe-is-me lenses off my nose and firmly placed the God Lenses there instead. What a relief that always is. The woe-is-me lenses are awful — do you have a pair too?

When I returned home I took my mittens off, hung up my coat, and exchanged my shoes for my indoor Acorns again. I let the dogs out of their kennels and they greeted me in their quirky Schnauzerly ways. Michael and Sara had gone to get some groceries. I did some tidying up, and felt happy that I actually knew what I was going to make for dinner tonight. I defrosted some very lean beef and made an old recipe for tiny baked meatballs with a homemade BBQ sauce, served with brown rice and marinated six-vegetable salad.

Then I decided to rest for a bit, since each day I still feel a little weak even though my fever has long gone, and I picked up my iPad to catch up on my Words With Friends game. Carolyn, Sara, Kay, Pat and I have leisurely games going, and I smiled as I chose the tiles to make my words and thought of the silly little connection I feel with the people I play with.

After about 15 minutes I got up and took this picture:

This apothecary cabinet holds our CDs and sits in a corner of our living room. The plaque on the wall behind it reads:

Blessed is the home where each puts
the other’s happiness first

You might be thinking that since we have this hanging so prominently, we live by this maxim in our home. But you would only be thinking that if you didn’t know me very well. If you know me at all, you know that this is something I strive/yearn/long/attempt to do, but alas, still struggle with.

I’m learning, though. And I know that the Lord is showing me how profound this admonition is in ways I never expected.

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t take care of themselves or make their own needs a priority, or that wanting our own joy and happiness isn’t a good thing. But just think if everyone in a household tried to live this way for a month. In order for it to be the biggest blessing, everyone would have to do their part, but imagine how wonderful it could be.

In a family with a mom and dad and some children, think of what might happen if the husband put his wife’s happiness before his own. Then what would happen if the wife responded to that kind of sacrificial love and decided that she would put her husband at the top of her list that month? Then what if the children saw the harmony, tenderness, and the servant-hearted love between mom and dad, and they caught on in their own way, sharing their toys and helping out without being asked? And what if this became a habit, or at least the way things went in that household more often than not?

If I could go back and live my life over, this would be one of the things I would pursue most wholeheartedly, trying to live this way with God’s help. Since I am basically a very selfish person by nature, I would need God’s help to live this way for even one day, much less one month.

My daughters are grown now, and I’m not sure I modeled the words of this plaque very consistently for them when they were little. I think I did sometimes, but oh, how I wish I could undo a few words and actions that should have gone unsaid and undone.

But I do have today. There are still people in my home and in my life. And I have reached a point where I think the happiness of others in my care and in my family is a very worthy aim.

Bald Puppy

January 17, 2013 | My Jottings

I am still recovering from the flu….slowly feeling better but the operative word here is slowly. 🙂

Would you like to hear a song that played in my house a lot when I was a teeny-tiny girl? Click here and you can listen while reading. Have you heard it?

And here’s a sweet picture of six-month old Louisa, my eighth grandchild, that Sharon took at Christmas time. The two big dogs of their family love Louisa and she enjoys their maternal lickings and sniffings. According to Sharon, Rosie and Lucy (the two big dogs) call Louisa “Bald Puppy.”

Louisa’s hair is coming in golden blonde (apparently Rosie and Lucy haven’t noticed this yet or they wouldn’t be calling her Bald Puppy) and her long lashes are the same. She has a sweet temperament and smiles all the livelong day.

In no time at all she’ll be getting her driver’s permit and applying for colleges, so I thought documenting her first Christmas here on the blog was important.



January 14, 2013 | My Jottings

Do you ever listen to a song over and over again because you like it so much? I do that once in a while. When I was a little girl I had a very modern and hip record player in my bedroom. I took the white poodle lamp (with an umbrella as its shade) off of my round, pink-painted metal nightstand and put the record player there, and listened to music as I read Nancy Drew books. I bought long-playing albums sometimes, but I mostly chose the smaller 45s – they cost 99 cents at The May Company, the large department store in the mall near where I lived. Some of the 45s I owned and played repeatedly were: Venus by The Shocking Blue, Angel of the Morning by Merilee Rush, and Love Is Blue by Paul Mauriat. If I hear these songs today, the seasons and views of my Southern California youth come rushing back, sometimes accompanied by warm memories, sometimes not. And the lyrics are still engraved in my mind and I can sing along without missing a beat, although these days I’m more careful about what I put into my head.

I’ve been listening to a song a lot lately, on an older CD called City on a Hill with various artists. I have it in our van, and everyone knows it by heart now because I play it so much. The song is beautifully done, truly a prayer, as you will hear. It is so far removed in scope and portent from the songs of my childhood that there aren’t words to convey the contrast.

Here are the words, which should be very familiar to most, followed by a link so you can listen.


Our Father
Which art in Heaven
Hallowed be Thy name
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done
Hallowed… hallowed…

Done on the earth as it is in Heaven
Hallowed be Thy name
Give us this our daily bread,
Hallowed… hallowed…

And please forgive all of our debts
Hallowed be Thy name
As we forgive our debtors
Hallowed… hallowed…

Lead us not into temptation’s lair
But deliver us from the evil snare
For Thine is the kingdom
Power and glory

Forever and ever, Amen…
Forever and ever, Amen…
Forever and ever, Amen…

Hallowed… hallowed…

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Click on the red word, then once it opens, click on the play arrow:

Hallowed – by Jennifer Knapp, accompanied by Phil Keaggy on guitar.

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These are the words of Jesus. Even though all believers know this prayer, this song helps me grasp in a fresh and powerful way what He wants for my life, and what His desire is for the lives of my children and grandbabies. This is what is on His heart for all of us this very day.

God bless you!

(updated from the archives…)

When Oprah Came Calling

January 11, 2013 | My Jottings

(I’m recovering from the flu, so am sharing something updated from the archives….)

In September of 1998 I began attending our local Community Bible Study, which has turned out to be one of the most momentous things to ever occur in my spiritual life. If you have never considered attending, I encourage you to click on the link above and see if there’s a class near you. I don’t believe anyone studies God’s Word in depth and ever regrets it. Whether you are Bible-literate or have never owned one, are politically liberal or conservative, young or old, enthusiastic about Bible study or quite dubious, interested in making friends or preferring to remain on the fringe, you will be welcomed, accepted, and loved at CBS. For me to convey all the things that God has done in my life through CBS would take several blog posts, and will have to be for another time. Because this blog post is about when Oprah came calling. And CBS sort of figures into the story.

I was asked to be a Core Leader that first year I attended, and after I got over the nervousness about what the position entailed, I loved it. I loved the women in my core group, I loved the daily accountability of the study (which was thirty weeks in the books of Mark and Ephesians), I loved the different ages of the women in our rather large class. I loved the amazing things I learned about Jesus. I loved it that the Bible wasn’t so difficult to understand anymore. I loved the different perspectives from women of Baptist, Lutheran, Pentecostal, Methodist, Catholic and even unchurched backgrounds. I loved seeing light-bulbs go on in women young and old. I loved the way my own faith in Christ was strengthened. I loved the fellowship, the scholarship, the comfort, the challenge, and the hope I found there.

Did I mention that I love Community Bible Study? I guess I did.

So when I was informed about our annual Sharing Day each May, I was curious and anxious to experience it. Many people who had been in CBS for decades waxed eloquent about how special Sharing Day was each year, the grand finale that was so memorable and such a blessing. I couldn’t wait to end the year by gathering with 250 women over a meal, and then listening to some of them share what a personal, powerful and loving God had done in their lives that year through the study of His Word. I was told Kleenex would be needed and I armed myself. (But Kleenex is always needed in my life. People who cry over something every single day usually own stock in Kimberly-Clark.)

You’re probably wondering where Oprah figures in to all of this. It all started when I met my husband Michael through a snail-mail letter back in 1981. I was living and working in sunny Southern California; he was a rugged outdoorsman born and raised in northern Minnesota. We wrote letters, talked on the phone a lot for three months, and were engaged before we ever met; then married each other the second time we were together. I left my home, family and friends in SoCal and moved to Minnesota, where I’ve been for almost 32 years now. I wrote a very rhyme-y poem that tells the details of our love story, and if you’re interested in it, click here.

Back in the day, I used to occasionally watch Oprah, and then I sort of lost interest. Years ago I would look at her website now and then to see what kinds of stories her producers were asking for. One day I saw that they were asking for people who had “unusual love stories” to write in and share the details. They gave you about enough space to write one concise paragraph about your unusual love story, and since I thought Michael’s and my story qualified as “unusual,” I wrote. I clicked “send” and didn’t really think much more about it, knowing I was one in probably thousands who were doing the same thing.

The next day, Oprah came calling. Or at least her producer did. These were the days before caller ID, so when a professional-sounding female voice identifying herself as Maren from The Oprah Winfrey Show asked for me, I was stunned. “I’m Julie,” I said hesitantly.

“Hello, Julie! We read your story about your unusual love story and I wondered if you would be willing to tell me a little more about it.”

I didn’t mind, and after Maren heard more of our story and apparently had discerned that I was not an imbecile and could be trusted to be a guest on the show, she said magnanimously, “Well, Julie, we would like to have you and Michael on the show. We will send you first-class round trip tickets and pay for your stay in the all-suite Omni Hotel in the heart of Chicago!”

“Oh my gosh!” I exclaimed. “Thank you! Thank you so much. When will we have to come?” Maren told me the date in May that the “unusual love story” taping would be, and I quickly went to my calendar to mark it down (thinking who on earth gets to write “Be on the Oprah show” on their calendars?) but I stopped short when I saw something already written there on that date. “Sharing Day – CBS.”

I know not everyone will understand this, and my three daughters certainly didn’t, but it wasn’t hard for me to decide which I would choose. Of course I wanted to be on the Oprah Show and fly first-class and stay at the all-suite Omni Hotel on the Miracle Mile in the heart of Chicago. I wanted to meet Oprah and have a video tape of the show we would be part of (even though I knew we would be 60 seconds of it) so we could show our grandchildren someday. I wanted Michael and myself to experience all of that, and to tell our story, which we believe is such a God-thing.

But I also wanted to attend my first Sharing Day at Community Bible Study. I knew it would be a great blessing, and I also wanted to be there at our special table with the fourteen other women I’d bonded with during our year of study. I wanted to hear what things the Lord had done in ordinary women’s lives through His extraordinary Word.

I told Maren no. “Uh, I’m so sorry – I’m really thankful you called and wish we could be there, but um, we already have something planned on that day.”

Pause. “What do you have planned?” Maren asked.

“Sharing Day at Community Bible Study,” I answered quietly.

“Sharing Day? At Community Bible Study?” she asked, a little less friendly. I could almost hear the unspoken words in her head, Lady, do you know who you’re talking to? Do you know how many people try to get on this show and now you’re turning it down for Sharing Day at Community Bible Study?

“Are you sure you can’t reschedule or get someone else to take your place?”

“Yes, I’m pretty sure. I don’t think I should miss it. I’m sorry to have to decline – thank you so much for considering us and offering this chance to us.” I didn’t try to explain to Maren. I just knew I wanted to be at Sharing Day with my core group.

And I did go to my first Sharing Day at CBS that May of 1999, and was not disappointed with my choice. I probably used more Kleenex than anyone there. We sat and bathed in the love and unity that had been built over the year’s study, rejoicing over the changes that had happened in women’s lives. We listened with tears streaming, cheeks aching from the huge smiles, and hearts swelling with hope as we saw and heard firsthand how active God is in His children’s lives. We just need a little help seeing it sometimes. Sharing Day is one of those things that always helps me see.

So there’s the story about how Oprah came calling. Sometimes friends mention it to others, so I’ve been asked to share it many times, and always feel a little funny telling it. I’m not sure why.

Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing

January 8, 2013 | My Jottings

I thought I’d share with you a book I recently bought for each one of my grandchildren. I absolutely love it and think you might like to know about it too — it would be a wonderful gift, and an even better resource to keep at your house for when the little ones in your life visit.

It’s Sally Lloyd-Jones’ newest work, (along with the artist Jago), and it’s a devotional book for children.

I bought a copy to have here as well, and have almost finished reading through. The one-page, simple devotionals are powerful and tender and unique. They’re meant for children, but they have ministered deeply to my heart.

Here’s a short video about the book, with some of the illustrations:

Have a blessed week, dear family and friends….

Joy and Woe

January 7, 2013 | My Jottings

I love this quote below. I also believe that if we truly expected our lives to be woven both with joys and woes, and if we quit trying so hard to make our lives woe-free, we would have more peace and contentment.

Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine,
Under every grief and pine,
Runs a joy with silken twine.
It is right it should be so,
We were made for joy and woe,
And when this we rightly know,
Through the world we safely go.

William Blake

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What do you think?

Birdhouse of Prayers

January 3, 2013 | My Jottings

We had a nice Christmas — did you? Was yours quiet and spacious? Or crowded and noisy? Did you have some good food? Or did you make some toast and eat a bag of M&Ms? Did you receive a gift or two, or did you abstain from all of that?

Our Christmas was blessed — anytime all my family members are under one roof is a blessing to me. Add to that zero arguments, no hurt feelings, no slammed doors and no burned meat, and that makes it extra special, I think. Not that many of my Christmases have been characterized by the above scenarios, but I’ve had a sad one or two in my lifetime. And I know that Christmas isn’t always the happiest time for many people.

On Christmas Eve everyone brought something to share for our dinner. Carolyn made the most mouth-watering Beef Burgundy, with tender chunks of sirloin, carrots and mushrooms in a rich dark sauce. I made my cheesy Stuffed Baked Potatoes (recipe and photos here), Sharon made Roasted Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts that were moanworthy, there was torn (not sliced) French bread to sop up the meat juices, and Sharon also brought a Peanut Butter and Chocolate Pie that was so rich and delicious we almost couldn’t stand it.

We also sang some carols, and I mostly cried during that time, because “long lay the world, in sin and error pining, til He appeared and the soul felt its worth” and other lyrics like that always do me in. In a good way. There’s a song I always ask Jeremy and Carolyn to sing because I haven’t memorized it yet, and it’s Psalm 84 set to a Celtic-like melody that touches something so deep in my soul I almost can’t sit up straight when I hear it.

This year my dear friend Diane came all the way from Lompoc, California to spend Christmas with us. She and her guy Davey stayed with us for a few days, and since she and I have been friends for about 37 years, our time together was a treasure to me. She gave me an amazing heirloom gift that I will share about later in another post.

Here’s a gift I received from four of my grandchildren, and if you click on the photos to enlarge them, you’ll see it’s called the Birdhouse of Prayers. How appropriate is that?

The kids painted it, and several little slips of paper sit on the porch, for me to write down my prayers and put them in the birdhouse, letting go of whatever might be worrying me and leaving it with the Lord. I penned my first heartfelt plea yesterday, folded it solemnly and neatly, and placed it inside.

Seven year-old Vivienne painted the cardinals on the roof of the Birdhouse of Prayers.

This thoughtful gift will sit on a shelf in our bedroom, near our chairs where we sit in the mornings and read and pray together. I hope to use it until the day I die. 🙂

Did you give or receive a meaningful gift at Christmastime?