“J.J.” and “S.D.G.”

January 27, 2016 | My Jottings

Yesterday at CBS our Teaching Director Laurel gave an excellent lecture after our core group discussions. We’re spending thirty weeks in the book of Isaiah this year, and it’s a challenging and beautiful study. As Laurel was bringing her teaching time to a close, she shared something about Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) I’d never heard before.

Above is a familiar work of his for your listening pleasure while you read. 🙂

Apparently when Bach began work on a composition, he wrote the letters “J.J.” at the top of the page before he started recording all the musical notations. These letters stand for “Jesu juva,” which is Latin for “Jesus help me.”

See the example below, in the upper left corner?


When Bach finished a piece, he wrote “S. D. G.” at the end, which is “Soli Deo gloria” and means “Only God Gets the Glory” or “To God Alone be the Glory.”


Laurel encouraged us (a varied group of women ranging in age from the 20s to the 80s) to practice something similar. What if each morning before we got out of bed we breathed the prayer, “Jesus, help me”? (I say this very prayer so often it has become almost like my heartbeat.)

And before we drop off to sleep each night, what if we were to turn our hearts and minds to Him and whisper a variant of Bach’s declaration, something like “I want to glorify you, Lord Jesus”? And if anything praiseworthy happened in our lives on that day, we could say honestly to Him, “You alone get the glory for that, Lord.”

Simple, yes. But profound enough to make my heart yearn and the tears stream at Community Bible Study yesterday.

Wishing, Widowhood, Wesley and the Weather

January 17, 2016 | My Jottings

I realize that when it snows I mention it and when it’s bitterly cold I mention it and when the trees are ablaze I mention it and when it’s too hot and humid for my delicate constitution I mention it, but I reside in Northeastern Minnesota and life can be dominated by the seasons here. I’ve said before that growing up in Southern California made me completely weather oblivious, and then I moved here in 1981 and I’ve been obsessed with paid attention to the weather ever since.

I looked at the thermometer on the front deck when I got up this morning, and it read a solid -20°.  After Edith and Millie had their respectively slowly-sampled and frantically-inhaled breakfasts, I let them outside to go potty and then moved to the living room so I could keep an eye on them from the window that looks out onto the side yard. Within 45 seconds, Millie was stuck from the intense cold, crouching and vibrating and unable to move, and lifting one paw in pain. I was in slippers and nightgown and knew I didn’t have time to run and get dressed so I could dash out into the snow and cold to rescue her. (Note: the word “dash” is quite optimistic and perhaps even humorous in describing any movement I might make these days, no matter how desperate the need.) I felt a bit of panic as I quickly unlocked the living room window and raised it a couple of inches, bent down and yelled outside in the dark, “Millie come! Come on, come inside!” and clapped my hands over and over. She heard me and started moving, but it was alarming to see. She was hunched over and pitifully hobbling on three paws, moving at a snail’s pace, and I could see it was everything she could do to climb the deck stairs and get into the house. I almost cried in relief. Edith mounted the steps right after Millie, but she didn’t look quite as impaired by the cold. They both trotted around the house for a few minutes and then curled up for their morning naps. A few hours later the temperature had risen a full twenty degrees, to a balmy 1°, and when the dogs had to go out again, they were able to take care of business and return inside without incident. I keep telling Sara we have such high-maintenance little hounds, and they’re so emotionally costly!

As I was doing my CBS lesson this morning, pondering Isaiah chapter 41, I glanced up and looked again at the beautiful little stained glass window of a cardinal I have in my room. My friend Penelope Wilcock’s daughter Alice made it for me over four years ago, and I have gotten so much enjoyment from it. I had originally intended to hang it from a window with chains and solid fasteners, but we use all our windows and I’ve never been able to decide on where to put it. So instead I have it sitting in a sturdy stand on top of one of my dressers:

cphoto (1)

The back of the stand sort of obscures some of the details of the window, but you can still appreciate its beauty, I hope. Click the photo twice to enlarge if you like. Isn’t it exquisitely done? I love it.

I’m rereading portions of a book I picked up soon after Michael died. It’s called The Undistracted Widow by Carol W. Cornish and has been very helpful and inspiring. In the chapter I read today she quotes a Charles Wesley hymn I’d never heard before, “Thou Hidden Source of Calm Repose” and the lyrics touched my heart:

1. Thou hidden source of calm repose,
thou all-sufficient love divine,
my help and refuge from my foes,
secure I am if thou art mine;
and lo! from sin and grief and shame
I hide me, Jesus, in thy name.

2. Thy mighty name salvation is,
and keeps my happy soul above,
comfort it brings, and power and peace,
and joy and everlasting love;
to me with thy dear name are given
pardon and holiness and heaven.

3. Jesus, my all in all thou art,
my rest in toil, my ease in pain,
the healing of my broken heart,
in war my peace, in loss my gain,
my smile beneath the tyrant’s frown,
in shame my glory and my crown.

4. In want my plentiful supply,
in weakness my almighty power,
in bonds my perfect liberty,
my light in Satan’s darkest hour,
in grief my joy unspeakable,
my life in death, my heaven in hell.

Have you heard or sung this before? Such rich lyrics, and so wonderful to thrill to something written almost three hundred years ago!

Along with the three or four books I’m reading right now, I picked up C.S. Lewis’s Prince Caspian today. Last month I decided to read through The Chronicles of Narnia again, soaking them in during these cold months that keep me inside more. Since December I’ve read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Magician’s Nephew, and The Horse and His Boy, all new and fresh in different ways even though dear old friends. I always manage to sob in different parts of each book. In Lion, I cry when I read almost anything about Lucy Pevensie and her interactions with Aslan. In fact, many years ago I told the Lord I wanted to be more like Lucy Pevensie. She is in awe of Aslan, yet loves Him so deeply she buries her face in His mane, and trusts Him completely when He tells her to climb on his back and hold on before they fly.

I started occasionally writing down the fictional characters and real-life people I am so inspired by and would love to be more like. In the back of one of my journals I started my list, which isn’t terribly long, and here are a few of the names:

-Lucy Pevensie (from C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books)
-Matthew Cuthbert (from L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables)
Betsie ten Boom (a real Dutch person written about in the book The Hiding Place)
-Matty Jenkyns (a fictional character played by Judi Dench in the British DVD series Cranford)
Anna, the prophetess in Luke, chapter 2, who was a widow so focused on meeting Jesus she did practically nothing else but fast and pray and watch for Him.

There are other names on my “wish” list too. Mostly I think they all remind me of the traits I long to have…gentleness, mercy, humility, devotion, such inner strength from utter dependence on God, and more. I am not much like any of them, yet as long as there’s life, there’s hope. In some way, all of the people on my list are Christlike to me.

Can you think of anyone you might put on a similar list of your own?

Well, it’s getting close to the time when I need to start thinking about what to make for dinner. If I had my druthers, I’d serve Qdoba burritos with pico de gallo, cilantro lime rice, black beans and homemade guacamole, but the likelihood of me going out in this cold is close to nil. I might whip up some omelets instead, butter some whole grain toast, slice some Honeycrisp apples, and then read a chapter or two of Prince Caspian while I wait for Downton Abbey to come on.

Have a wonderful week, dear friends and family…I’m thankful to know you stop by here.

The Hobbit House

January 14, 2016 | My Jottings

My granddaughter Mrs. Nisky made her daddy a special present for Christmas, because he has read The Lord of the Rings over fifteen times. I guess that makes him a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Here’s how her project turned out:


She walked to Grandma’s house after school several times in the last three months, and worked on it little by little. When everything was finally modeled and baked, she glued it together and gently put it in a box for wrapping. It even has Gandalf’s secret mark on it.

Isn’t it fantastic?

Wednesday’s Word-Edition 124

January 13, 2016 | My Jottings

Have you read Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis? I read it again last year and still remember the little blazes of light that came to my understanding as I read. I highly recommend it! Here’s a wonderful quote from the book:

“You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen (college), night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him of whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. supprisedbyjoyThat which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape? The words compelle intrare, compel them to come in, have been so abused by wicked men that we shudder at them; but, properly understood, they plumb the depth of the Divine mercy. The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.”   

— C.S. Lewis, in Surprised by Joy

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Blowin’ in the wind…

January 11, 2016 | My Jottings

Sara and I drove to the cemetery recently but right before we left she decided she wanted to make a heart-shaped wreath to drape over Michael’s headstone. The personalized wreath she made for Christmas is still there on its stand, looking beautiful in the snow, but this one is simpler.

She also decided she wanted long red ribbons attached to the wreath, so they would blow in the wind and look pretty and unique from a distance. Here’s a photo of Sara hanging the wreath. It’s on the other side of the headstone and you can only see the ribbons to the right.

grphotoAs we drove away, the wind was briskly blowing and when we got to the bottom of the hill and looked back up toward Michael’s grave, you could see the ribbons billowing and streaming as if to say, “Look! Here he is!”

We laughed about how incongruous the ribbons are for Michael, a humble man who didn’t want to call attention to himself and was much too manly for a beribboned grave.

And we also know that actually, he isn’t there. Only what’s left of his earthly tent remains, and that isn’t needed anymore. He has a new body, a new smile, a new voice, new legs to run and leap, new arms to raise in praise to Jesus, and joy of joys, his new body will never die again. I firmly believe he will still be recognizable as our Michael, but he’ll be the most beautiful and vigorous he’s ever been, and I look forward to the day when I can lay eyes on him again.

“But [we are different, because] our citizenship is in heaven. And from there we eagerly await [the coming of] the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who, by exerting that power which enables Him even to subject everything to Himself, will [not only] transform [but completely refashion] our earthly bodies so that they will be like His glorious resurrected body.”   Philippians 3:20-21, Amplified Version

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Writing in the morning dark

January 7, 2016 | My Jottings

Last night I took my two Fosters out to dinner and we used an Olive Garden gift card I had received for Christmas. The gals had Chicken Alfredo and Lasagna, and I had the Chicken Marsala. By the time we got home and put our leftovers in the fridge, let the dogs out and turned on a fire in the dining room fireplace, it had begun to snow outside. I stood and watched from the kitchen window, looking toward the streetlight across the street and down aways, and was happy to see big, fluffy flakes blowing around. It snowed about an inch or two, but it’s a light, powdery snow, easy to shovel, and right before I went to bed around 10:00 p.m., I let the dogs out one more time (such high-maintenance pooches — always wanting to potty outside!) and then shoveled off the deck in a couple of minutes.

When I can be outside on a winter night in my flannel nightgown and slippers, with no coat, hat or socks, and it feels brisk and refreshing, then I know it’s at least 26 degrees out. Photo-on-1-7-16-at-6.47-AM-300x200 (1)My internal thermometer tells me so. When it’s below 20 degrees, I feel the chill seep deep in less than a minute and don’t watch and wait for the dogs on the deck but from inside the house. If the temperatures are close to zero or even below it (as is predicted for this Sunday — 10 below — gahhh) I might go outside to hurry the dogs down the deck steps so they won’t lollygag and end up with painful feet, but the bitter cold brings aching pain in seconds and I can’t get back inside fast enough.

I’m a homebody anyway, but there’s nothing like a northeastern Minnesota winter to underscore that tendency. Since Michael died on February 9th, I have cocooned myself as much as possible in this home I’m so grateful for, to heal, to ponder, to insulate, to cry, possibly even to prepare. I’m not sure what I’m preparing for, but I feel like there’s something. Maybe a trip abroad? Maybe the writing of a children’s book? Maybe my own death? We never know how long we’ll have, and I think when you lose a loved one, mortality stops being a hunched, shadowy figure darting from bush to bush in your peripheral vision, and instead walks up those front steps, rings the doorbell and offers its hand in a bold hello. And it’s not scary.

Two things make death not scary for me: Michael’s death, and Jesus. The ways the Lord beautifully tended to our family, and to His beloved Michael, during the final week of Michael’s life, forever changed how I think about the process of dying. I do realize that not everyone gets to experience what Michael did, but I hope I learned a deeper level of trust in the Lord for when my own time comes. And pretty much the whole Bible points to how God dealt with the problem of death (and in Genesis it became a huge problem right away) and His answer was, by the time the New Testament was penned, Jesus. Writing this makes me think of Fernando Ortega’s song “Give Me Jesus,” especially the lyrics, “and when I come to die, give me Jesus.” If you haven’t heard it, you’ll be blessed to listen, right here. I asked my friend Lorna to sing this song at Michael’s funeral.

I’m reading a book right now I think I can safely recommend, even though I’m only in the second chapter. One of my eleven readers, Nancy, mentioned it in a recent comment she left. It’s called Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Deibler Rose, and it’s already stirring my soul.

I want my soul to be stirred, yet this past year I have done all I can to hole myself up so my soul is not stirred. Maybe that’s not the most accurate way to put it. Maybe I want my soul to be stirred, but my life to stand still for a while, which of course is foolish. I need to start moving again. My grief and inactivity have added pounds to my already ample frame, and my joints never let me forget it. This thought came to me the other day: I buried my husband and am now trying to bury myself as well. Not literally bury in a grave, but am I trying to wrap and hide myself from all that life still offers? If so, why? I have no idea. If I knew the answer to that I probably wouldn’t have written the last paragraph.

The sun hasn’t come up yet, but I have a hot bath drawn (with my favorite mild bubbles from a splash of Amway’s LOC) and several things on my to-do list today. Grocery shopping, foster report writing and mailing, laundry folding, my Community Bible Study lesson, prescriptions to pick up for my gals, and if I can reach to the depths for a shred of self-control and discipline, a walk.

What do you have planned for today? Or tomorrow? What are you reading right now? Are you preparing for something too?

My Mismatched Style

January 4, 2016 | My Jottings

I took some photos of our table as Sara and I were preparing for our Christmas Day family brunch, but they were “in process,” and I forgot to get any shots after the glasses, cups and silverware were added. So these are incomplete, but I thought I’d share anyway. Also, we do have a few pictures of actual people in our home on Christmas rather than just dinnerware, but I’m waiting on those to be sent to me from the person whose camera contains them.  🙂

I used to think my decorating style was simply called “traditional” — I’m drawn to rolled arms on couches and chairs, wingbacks, darker woods. But when we moved into this house on May 31, 2012, it was full of light wood, clean lines, modern hardware and Scandinavian touches, so the two styles had to co-exist together. And I have relaxed a bit and like the meld.

So I’ve taken to calling my odd decorating style “Scottish Traditional Mismatched Ornithological, with hints of French-Scandinavian Eclectic.”

You can see it all here, and the photos can be enlarged by clicking if you like:


Plaid plates, Swedish placemats, wintry woven Norwegian placemats with reindeer on them, brass candlesticks, toile-ish plates, cardinal napkins and salt and pepper shakers (a lovely gift from my dear friend Kristi), and a traditional-yet-slightly-modern centerpiece made by Sara.

Sara also pulled our deacon’s bench to the table, and three little children occupied that spot.  🙂


A closer look at the centerpiece Sara made. For whimsy, she draped some antique glass beads over the branches.




And here’s Vivienne’s little red wax sculpture of a cardinal again, perched on a candlestick. And a closeup of the adorable salt and pepper shakers:


I’ll post some photos of the people who ate off these plates soon — they might all be dressed in various ugly Christmas sweaters.

Have a blessed week,