Wednesday’s Word — Edition 131
August 31, 2016 | My Jottings
“Present is living with your feet firmly grounded in reality, pale and uncertain as it may seem.
Present is choosing to believe that your own life is worth investing deeply in, instead of waiting for some rare miracle or fairytale.
Present means we understand that the here and now is sacred, sacramental, threaded through with divinity even in its plainness. Especially in its plainness.”
~ Shauna Niequist, Present Over Perfect
Reading and Routines
August 23, 2016 | My Jottings
My alarm clock this morning was Millie’s borborygmi. She was sleeping in a schnauzery circle near Michael’s pillow, and around 5:00 a.m. I heard the high-pitched gurgling sounds of her intestines, which, frankly, sounded like I needed to get her outside immediately. A couple of days ago we ran out of her special grain-free Blue Buffalo dog food and she had to eat Beneful, which has lots of grain in it but seemed to be the best available at our neighborhood grocery store. Her good stuff arrived last night, so hopefully her tummy settles down now.
I just finished the book The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and enjoyed it. It was tragic, but reminded me what a person is capable of if they just keep going in the face of unspeakable sorrow.
My next read will be quite different. I have had this book sitting on my nightstand for months now, and it’s almost like I’ve been circling around it over and over, looking at it, taking its temperature, gauging its potential to effect lasting change, and then averting my eyes and picking up something else. I started the book a while back and was so deeply struck by the first few pages I almost couldn’t bear it. And the impression that I must read it never leaves. It has almost felt like a directive from the Lord, a firm and gentle pressure from a huge finger between my shoulder blades, steering me toward the book several times a week. Why I would resist something like that, only God knows. I suspect that the enemy doesn’t want any of us reading about prayer and then praying, so the thought of opposition is reasonable.
I have an evening routine that settles and moves our home toward bedtime, as I expect most people do. After making sure my fosters are ready for bed, I usually load the dishwasher and start it, get meds ready for my foster gals for the next morning, lock the doors, turn out the living room lights. I cover the cage of our parakeet Phoebe with a large navy blue towel and smile at her little birdy grunts when I disturb her. I let Millie outside one final time, making sure to put on her bark collar so she doesn’t go nuts at a nighttime dog walker or a deer trotting through the yard, and wake up our elderly neighbors, then after she comes back in I close the shades over our French doors. As I move down the hall toward my bedroom, I stop in the office and turn my desktop computer off. I close the door to my bedroom, adjust the air conditioning for the night, turn on my nightstand lamp, and watch Millie settle on the bed for the night. I fill the reservoir of my blessed, wonderful, miraculous, treasured CPAP machine with distilled water, turn it on to warm, brush my teeth, clean my Invisalign trays and snap them back on (I’m on the 5th set of trays now), put on my plaid nightgown, and once I’ve plopped my head on my very soft down-filled pillow, I play a few moves of Words With Friends with my sister-in-law Christy and my friends Ginny and Vicki. I have been listening to Nightsounds by Bill Pearce on my iPhone each night as I drift off, something that brings back memories of when Michael and I used to have our clock radio play Nightsounds softly as we went to sleep each night. Do any of you remember that late-night radio program? Click here to listen to the moody, transporting theme song. I almost feel like I’m being lifted to the galaxies when I listen, and of course I probably don’t need to say that tears fall because it all reminds me of life with Michael.
What are some of your evening/nighttime routines?
Before I turned out the light last night, here’s a portion of what I read in Tim Keller’s book on prayer:
“Prayer is the only entryway into genuine self-knowledge. It is also the main way we experience deep change — the reordering of our loves. Prayer is how God gives us so many of the unimaginable things He has for us. Indeed, prayer makes it safe for God to give us many of the things we most desire. It is the way we know God, the way we finally treat God as God. Prayer is simply the key to everything we need to do and be in life. We must learn to pray. We have to.”
The reordering of our loves. I need that desperately. I’ll bet deep inside most of us know there are things we love too much, and things and people we don’t love enough. Not to mention our love for God needing to increase…
Have any of you read this book? I would love to know your thoughts if you have.
Yesterday my friend Su and I walked in the cemetery where Michael is buried. A few weeks ago a terrible storm ripped through our city, and 100 mph winds uprooted thousands of trees and shut off electrical power for days, in the middle of some of the hottest weather you can imagine. The cemetery was hard hit. Huge, majestic, decades-old trees have been uprooted or snapped in two, and lay criss-crossed over toppled grave stones, and block roads and paths. Su and I tried to walk our usual path last week, but we couldn’t get through, so we’ve started walking in an area of the cemetery without so much damage. We both have knee issues so we aren’t power walking, but it’s a lovely time as we process what we’re each going through in our lives, share our prayer needs, and enjoy each other’s company as we have for over 30 years now.
Well, the sun has come up and a beautiful magenta glow is coming through the curtains of my bedroom windows. Time to start my day.
Lord Jesus, I ask you to touch each person reading these words today. Make yourself real to them and to their loved ones, strengthening them to walk out the lives you’ve blessed them with, giving them joy and hope in the midst of their daily challenges. Reorder our loves, Lord. Help us to love you and love people, and cast aside the things that distract us. Teach us to live humble, thankful, praising lives, and give us your peace, I pray. In the name of Jesus, Amen.
You can never get it back
August 18, 2016 | My Jottings
Here is an endearing photo of my two oldest grandchildren, when they were still my only grandchildren. This was taken in late 2002, I believe. Mr. McBoy is Sharon’s oldest child, and Clara is Carolyn’s oldest. There are now many more in the clan. They all refer to each other as The Cousins. (We are slayed by their originality.)
And this photo was taken yesterday, when Mr. McBoy and Clara attended their freshman orientation for high school, with their two mamas there in the background. Do you see any resemblances from their baby picture?
At age 14, Mr. McBoy is now 6′ 1″ tall, and Clara is 5′ 10″. I think they were happy that they have one class together (Science), and they also signed up for Drama Club. (Mr. McBoy for acting, Clara for set design, stage managing, etc.)
I wish I could ponder the passage of time without feeling like wailing. I want to hold each of their days in suspension so I can revel in the beauty and treasure God gives us with life. Our life, their lives, His life.
“Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it, you can never get it back.” — Harvey Mackay
Toilets and Tears
August 12, 2016 | My Jottings
Friday felicitations, everyone. We love TGIF in this house, because it means that for the next two mornings, we can sleep past 5:43 a.m. I sound like a broken record, but I am a creature of habit and the rhythms of life are pretty basic for me these days. Adventure is not my game and Spontaneous is not my middle name. Although if I had better knees this might not be the case.
It’s nearing the middle of August, and it’s already starting to be dark in the mornings when my fosters and I have breakfast. Turning on the lights in the kitchen and dining room in the morning seems to signal the approach of winter to us. I’m already thinking about how our outdoor hoses will have to be put away, the spigots drained and shut off for the next six months, deck furniture stored in the garage, snow shovels brought out and leaned against the house. You know you live in American Siberia when you just keep your snow shovels leaning against your house for six months out of the year.
I’ve been helping with driving my grandson Elijah to or from his summer tennis lessons this week. When you have grandchildren between the ages of 22 months and 14 1/2 years, they can change in a matter of weeks. If I don’t see one of them for a month or so, they might grow an inch or talk differently or add words to their vocabulary or just do that dreadful thing called growing. I’ve seen that in Elijah this summer. He has grown much taller, and he doesn’t look like a boy anymore. He looks like a teenager. Which he is. My go-to word for these situations is gaahhh.
I’m reading Shauna Niequist’s new book Present over Perfect and love her writing. I also just finished a book a friend recommended called The Spirituality of the Cross by Gene E. Veith, and I was blessed and challenged by it. I’m about 1/4 of the way through Kristin Hannah’s Nightingale and am hoping it will grab me soon. I have talked to so many people who loved this book, people whose recommendations I trust, and so far it’s good, but not compelling. If any of you have read it, does it reach a point where you can’t put it down? I love those kinds of books, where you’re inwardly plotting as you’re loading the dishwasher or writing out bills, for a time when you can sit down and grab that riveting book again.
Have any of you been watching the Olympics? I have not watched one second of them. I am almost ashamed to admit that, but I am just so bored stiff about sports. I don’t know if growing up the daughter of a high school basketball coach did that to me or what. I enjoyed sports in high school; I played basketball myself in GAA (Girls Athletic Association), I played softball, tennis, volleyball, badminton, and I loved to swim. But tell me there’s a football game on TV or the Olympics are starting, and I’m sure to find anything else to do.
Today will be a blessed day at home for me. No foster care appointments, no tennis lesson for Elijah (although I don’t mind driving for that), no prescriptions to pick up or groceries to buy. I’ll probably don my baggy black sweat pants and an old paint-spattered black t-shirt, and scuff around in my Acorn slippers all day. Dinner is already made — hallelujah! — since I made a huge pot of homemade spaghetti yesterday and simmered it on the stove most of the day. This morning when I got up (in the dark) and headed down the hall to the kitchen, I could still smell the garlic in the air from yesterday’s cooking.
Speaking of garlic in the air, here’s a great air freshener I use. An online friend named Jill told me about it, and I love it. It doesn’t have a bunch of chemicals in it, and it smells clean and cheery. Yes, I think something can smell cheery. 🙂
I’m alternately chafing and praying about something right now. I was asked to be the speaker at our Community Bible Study leader’s retreat this fall. And they asked me to tailor my (possibly three) speaking times on the life of Corrie ten Boom. I think this was because of the study on Corrie’s book The Hiding Place I held in my home earlier this summer.
My initial response was willingness, along with gratitude at having been asked. I promised to pray about it, and starting asking for guidance and confirmation from the Lord, and I also began taking some notes as thoughts came to me. But then as always happens, I started fretting and thinking there is no way I can do this. I am 58 and much of my audience will be much younger…what could I possibly say to keep their attention and impart something lasting to their hearts? I am too tired for this. I am unqualified or disqualified or too this or not enough that….gahhhh.
So last night before bed I wrote in my journal about all of this, and decided to stop taking notes and just pray. Just keep lifting this possibility up to the Lord and try to listen to what He impresses on my heart.
The topic (the life of the Ten Boom family) would bless anyone. Whether or not I can do it remains to be seen. I’ll keep praying.
We sure miss Edith around here. Millie still acts like she’s unsure, and wonders what happened. I have Edith’s ashes in a container near Michael’s clothes in the closet, and when the air is crisp and dry and the leaves are blazing with color, we will hold our little ceremony and spread Edith’s ashes over Michael’s grave.
It has been 549 days since I have seen my husband. That is way too long. It seems absolutely too hard and too sad some days. My friend Vicki is a year behind me in her grief journey (she lost her husband to a disease caused by Agent Orange too) and she told me recently that she’s functioning pretty well, but is always about 30 seconds away from tears. Oh, how I understand that. I have felt God’s grace under-girding me and I do not grieve as one who has no hope (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). But all I need to do is hear a song on the radio, look at the shirts hanging in the closet, prepare a meal Michael loved, see a TV show he watched, sing a hymn he boomed, or see whitecaps on Lake Superior (which he called “sheep on the Lake!”), and my eyes fill with tears and I’m overwhelmed with how much I miss him.
Sara and I were laughing at breakfast recently at the memory of how Michael sang love songs to me. If he heard a song on the radio with any line he thought pertained to me (or us), he would turn toward me, gaze at me with those huge eyes, and sing it to me loud.
And for my last little bit of fascinating Friday trivia, I have a new toilet. There was a really fancy, dual flush, space-age shaped Neptune toilet in our master bathroom when we bought this house in May of 2012. Here’s a picture of it.
Well, this expensive toilet stopped flushing properly, and for weeks we had to use a pitcher of water to get it to empty. I ordered new innards from the Neptune company in Canada, and the plumber installed them and it made no difference. So I decided to buy a new toilet and get rid of Ms. Fancypants. The one I bought is a “comfort height” toilet, which means it’s 2 inches taller than a standard one. Which means relief for people with groaning knees. Which means me.
I told my daughter that you know you’re getting old when you get super excited about a new toilet. I felt like having an open house so people could come in and gaze at it, and rejoice with me. A toilet that flushes! A toilet easy on the knees! Come one, come all!
Well, I’m off to start my day. Thanks for stopping in… I hope your toilet is flushing and God’s grace is abounding to you.
May you have a very blessed and peaceful weekend,
My Hope Lives On
August 8, 2016 | My Jottings
It seems to me people are looking for hope. But that’s nothing terribly new, is it? With all that’s going on in our country’s presidential campaigns, I’ve heard people say they’ve just lost hope. I am gravely concerned as well, but when I think of the word “hopeless” I think more of times when I’ve been torn apart by worries for my children. I guess I’m selfish in that way, being more concerned for my own than for my country as a whole. Or at least being more moved to pray for those I love than I am for those in positions over me.
I also remember how hopeless I felt trying to care for Michael as he slipped further away from me into Lewy Body Dementia and Parkinson’s. Sometimes I feel despair about the struggles in my own life.
What is the main thing you might be feeling hopeless about?
I may not know what you’re wrestling with, and I might not even know who you are if you read here and don’t leave a comment. But I know there is hope for the one who places their trust in Jesus. No matter how long your situation has gone on, no matter how vehemently you’re being opposed, no matter how strong the addiction, how deep the depression…. I know there’s hope with God. And it doesn’t always matter that we don’t see anything happening. If we pray and trust Jesus, He promises that He is at work. And while we wait on Him, we encourage ourselves and others. And we declare His truths to ourselves.
I love this song by Andrew Peterson and thought I would share. There are a lot of people and situations that call us all to hopelessness these days, but the Lord isn’t one of them.
“Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.”
I think this song will fill your soul with hope….
In His great hope,
August 3, 2016 | My Jottings
I woke up this morning five minutes before the alarm was set to go off at 5:43. I reached over in the semidark and patted Millie, who was sleeping curled up in a circle on Michael’s side of the bed. I don’t just spring out of bed anymore like I used to. My knees are stiff and seem to have little knives stuck in them, every tiny bone in my feet shows up for roll call (“Ten hut!”… “First metatarsal! Present – SIR!”… “Fifth metatarsal! Present – SIR!”… “Proximal phalanges! We’re all present – SIR!”… “Navicular bone! Present – SIR!!”) and my dry eyes do their own sort of complaining that I’m making them perform so early in the morning. You’ve heard the trendy phrases like “Hey girl, fifty is the new thirty!” or “Sixty is the new forty!” I’ll jump on that bandwagon and offer my version: “Baby, fifty-eight is the new seventy-six!” Because for about fifteen minutes each morning, I could swear that’s how old I am.
Yesterday was the eighth and final week of the summer Bible study that meets at my place each year. A group of the dearest women have been gracing my home for about thirteen years now, and we finished up our study of Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place with a simple luncheon. We watched the last segment of the movie, discussed the last of our questions from the final two chapters of the unforgettable, truly life-changing book, and joined around the table for Cobb Salad, Spicy Grape Pasta Salad, slightly dry Lemon Bundt Cake, hearty Dakota Bread, and strong, real Dutch coffee. It felt bittersweet to me, as endings always do.
Sara whipped up a little centerpiece for us (although I wish I had thought to take a photo when the table was set, or even better, when everyone was gathered around it), and I put a little Delft windmill there because the Ten Boom family was from Holland.
I have come to love and treasure these women and what they bring into my home and our group just by their very presence. When one had to miss because of a child’s wedding or a trip to Canada or due to illness, the void was felt, and we prayed for them and asked Jesus to fill in that gap and to draw them near, in a way. Deb, Kristi, Kay, Dawn, Connie, Laurel, Fiona, Sharla and Sue shared such deep, encouraging and enlightening answers from their study each week. It felt like a feast as we sat in my smallish living room on Tuesday mornings, partaking of the beauty the Lord opened our eyes to. I love how the Lord indwells His people, and that very life in them brings different gifts and manifestations of His love and wisdom and power in individual ways. So it feels a bit sad and empty when our study comes to an end each year.
Aren’t these little cardinal salt and pepper shakers lovely? A thoughtful gift from my friend Kristi.
After the last hug was exchanged yesterday and I began to slowly put things away, the phone rang. It was our local veterinary clinic, letting me know that Edith’s ashes were ready to be picked up. Ah. Evidence of another ending.
Sara and I still get teary-eyed when we talk about our faithful little Schnauzer who has been gone for almost two weeks now. How she showed her love and loyalty to our family every day for almost fifteen years. I wonder how many humans can make that claim? That without fail, without insult or injury, without neglect or carelessness, they have loved and been completely loyal to their family every single day of their lives? God really did a wonderful thing when He created dogs, I think. Without words, they teach us.
Aha! The title of my first book has just come to me…
With Woofs We Are Taught.
We are planning a little funeral ceremony for Edith soon. We will spread her ashes on Michael’s grave, which we all agree is the perfect place for them.
Millie continues to act very subdued as she seems to notice Edith’s absence. She has no one to dominate now, no one to be jealous of, so she’s acting like a good dog, something relatively new for her. We’ve called her The Bad Seed for years now. Perhaps soon that can change to The Mediocre Seed. 🙂
This morning as I was reading from John, chapter 8, and then writing out my praise, thanks and prayers to Jesus, I glanced over at my bed and had to smile at this sight. Millie’s little schnauzery eyebrows peeking just over the top of the covers as she was settling in for her morning nap. That’s an awwww moment, don’t you think?
Now I’m heading to the kitchen for round two of cleanup after the luncheon yesterday. A better woman would have gotten it all done in one day, but I did half yesterday and will finish up today. If you’re wondering why I’m taking so long, see the above reference to fifty-eight being the new seventy-six.
The photo below is part of my kitchen this morning, the remaining evidence of the yesterday’s joy. I like that thought, that a mess can remind us that blessings just occurred. I love to putter around my home, and don’t mind picking up at all. I’ll put on a CD I’ll feel like singing to, put on my Birkenstocks so all those little bones in my feet stop calling cadence, and bring some order to the place.
I’m so grateful that while we live inside of this thing called time and must see the end of people and beasts and things we love, there is a day coming when those who are in Christ will step outside of time and enter eternity. No more endings. No more goodbyes.
If any of you get weary of endings, here’s a beautiful verse from Jeremiah 31 to meditate on today:
“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you and continued My faithfulness to you.”
God’s love is everlasting. It will never end. And His faithfulness will continue forever, and ever, and ever…..
I thank Him for that!
I have more to share about some of the lights that went on when we studied The Hiding Place, but I’ll save that for later and get to work.
Happy Wednesday to you!