Happy Plaid

October 30, 2012 | My Jottings

Sometimes the most surprising things make me happy.

Recently Michael and I had lunch at a favorite Vietnamese restaurant of ours, and when we were finished we strolled through the kitchen/cookware store in the same building. I don’t usually buy anything because I’ve spent the last several months getting rid of so many unneeded things in our home. But I love to behold beauty, and I always appreciate an innovative invention, and you’ll find both of those in most well-stocked kitchen shops.

After browsing, we were almost ready to walk out the door when I glanced at a pile of hand-woven table runners and dishtowels. I rarely find anything with both red and blue in it, but on this day I found a wonderful plaid table runner with the colors that make up my kitchen and dining room, and I bought it. It was inexpensive too. Before I even took my shoes off when we returned home, I put it on the table, and felt very happy about it. Plaid has always pleased me, and this plaid makes me downright chipper. I think that is proof enough that Scottish blood runs through my veins.

From a distance it looks like it has purple in it but it doesn’t. There’s cardinal red, deep blue, a little forest green, and some black, yellow and white. I know there’s probably a name to this plaid. I checked online to see what some of the most common Scottish and Irish tartans are, and it looks similar to a few I found. It reminds me of a MacLachlan or a MacDonald tartan, but it’s a bit less symmetrical than both of those.

I think I’ll call it the MacMerry tartan, until someone lets me know what its true clan name is.

There are a few other things that make me feel happy these days. Like the taste of hot chai tea on an afternoon when it’s close to freezing out and the wind is howling. Like the sound of the furnace going on at 5:00 in the morning, so that when I’m making breakfast and setting out meds, the chill is gone. Like waking from a deep sleep at 4:45 a.m. and the first conscious thought being of Jesus. Speaking of Jesus, His mercy makes me happy. I have needed His mercy every single day, and I’m old enough now to accept it gratefully, instead of wondering if it will run out, as I used to fret about when I was young.

My daughters’ voices make me happy. Seeing the whitecaps on Lake Superior today gave me a little thrill, and then I smiled to myself as I remembered that Michael always says they’re “sheep on the Lake!” It makes me happy to write down the things I’m grateful for, and to know that soon my gratitude journal will be completely full and I’ll be over the 2000 gift mark. It fills me with awe how transformative saying thank you to the Lord is when a dark mood is brooding.

It makes me happy to attend Community Bible Study and to sit with women young and old, plump and slight, poor and well-off, seekers and believers, Catholic and Baptist, Pentecostal and Lutheran, and let God’s Word speak to our thirsty souls. It makes me happy that almost every time I open the Bible for my own devotional time, the tears stream down my face.

Fresh flowers in the house make me happy. Here’s a closer shot of the white stocks on the table.

I am also sad about some things. Yes, I feel all this happiness in the midst of sadness, and it doesn’t feel crazy at all. It feels like life. I carry deep sorrows in my heart that I take to the Lord and try to leave at His feet. I know I’m not meant to carry them, but sometimes I just do. Don’t you relate? Aren’t all of our lives woven with many strands of grief, joy, hope, dreams, peace, disappointment, contentment, and sometimes plain happiness?

Maybe that’s why I like plaid. Maybe it reminds me on some deep level that the dark days and bright days of our lives can be woven together by God into something lovely. (I don’t really think that’s why I like plaid, though. I think I like it because I’m Irish/Scottish and my teeny, tiny, invisible DNA bagpipes are ever calling out to anything that comes from that part of the world.)  🙂

Lord, how thankful I am that you have preserved my life, given me a family, made yourself known to me. I give you praise for teaching me how to live with sorrow and happiness, how to trust you with one and exult in the other.

It makes me happy that God is not a quitter. I have told Him many times “Thank you for not giving up on me!” It makes me happy that He hears my prayers and knows the deepest wails of my heart, and can be trusted to answer in His way and in His time.

It makes me happy to think that a handful of people, friends, family, read this humble little blog. It surprises me that anyone cares about my thoughts and ramblings, and it delights me that I have found new friends here. Beloved friends.

What kinds of things make you happy? Thick socks? Werther’s Originals? Poetry? Falling leaves? Perry Como? Babies? Blogs? Books?

Or does plaid make you happy too?

I look forward to reading any comments, dear ones….


  1. Kay in UK says:

    Yet another tear-jerking post, Julie. Thankyou.
    What makes me happy? Cuddling my grandchildren (I just want to squeeze them so much!), knowing that I am so very blessed with a wonderful husband, winter sunshine, family, good friends – both near and far, reading your blog ( I know – that sounds so sycophantic, but it’s true!), Christian fellowship, two hymns in particular – ‘And Can It Be?’ & ‘Blessed Be Your Name’, puppies ;), white chocolate, the smell of Christmas cake baking spreading through the house(we’ll be doing that this week). And of course – being Cornish. We have our own tartan/plaid in Cornwall, here’s a link to show you our tartans: http://www.alanrichards.org/cornishtartan.htm
    When Louisa was little, I had a lovely little dress for her which had a black velvet bodice with a Cornish (national) tartan skirt. That always made me smile.
    I could list loads more ……. 🙂 Thank you, Lord!

  2. Just Julie says:

    Oh Kay…I loved reading some of the things that make you happy! Thank you. I enjoyed seeing the Cornish tartans too. Doesn’t it do a heart good to share happinesses with friends? Giving thanks for you today…xxoo

  3. Alan says:

    Hello Julie, this is Alan. I quite liked the idea of joining in with this game, so here’s my list …

    Cornish pasties, saffron cake, the smell of home-baking, (‘I see a theme here, don’t you?’ says Kay), when my wife cooks me a surprise meal, Christian fellowship, cuddling my wife, winding up my wife and making her blush (‘I might re-think my own list now!’ says Kay), solving practical problems, our home, music, being among my friends and family, marzipan. I also absolutely adore Nutella but Kay won’t let me have it in the house – diabetes!
    What would be on Michael’s list?

  4. Just Julie says:

    Alan, what a nice surprise to see your comments here on the blog! I am so glad to have a man visit and “weigh in,” so to speak. I just asked Michael for his list after reading yours to him. He smiled and very much liked hearing your list. Here’s what makes Michael happy: “beautiful sunrises and sunsets, our little puppies, fishing on some of Minnesota’s beautiful lakes, deer hunting, the smell of fallen leaves in autumn, being able to feel warm when properly dressed when it’s way below zero outside, ice fishing on frozen lakes in the winter, a sermon or teaching that hits home, and my muscles and joints not being stiff in the morning.”

  5. sue raimo says:

    Beautiful table – Plaid feels homey in a non- stuffy way.

    Some the things that make me happy:
    musical theater of almost any kind, snow globes and Christmas music, children smiling, children singing, finding a handwritten note in the mail, the smell of almost anything baking with cinnamon, nutmeg or cloves, loved ones gathered around the dinner table, coffee with friends, road trips (when someone else drives), holding my husband’s hand, Tasha Tudor illustrations, being with others who love Jesus, reading a book in my “cozy spot”.

  6. Just Julie says:

    I agree with you that plaid feels homey, Sue. All the things you mentioned make me happy too. It’s wonderful how many things there are to be happy about, even in the midst of the heaviness in the world and our lives. Thank you for being someone who makes me happy! xxoo

  7. Shari C. says:

    I love seeing how you are transforming your new house into “your home”. Love the plaid : )

  8. Just Julie says:

    Thank you for visiting, Shari… Xxoo

  9. Carrie says:

    What makes me happy: reading your blog as I always find a little tidbit – today a shared Scotch-Irish blood – that makes me think of you as a kindred spirit. I married an IA pig farmer but my heart still yearns for northern MN.

  10. Just Julie says:

    Hi Carrie! Thank you for leaving a comment. I am so pleased to meet a kindred spirit…where in MN are you from? A pig farmer’s wife…hmmm…by any chance do you read Ann Voskamp’s blog? She’s a pig farmer’s wife too. God bless you and thank you for stopping in, Carrie. xxoo

  11. Pat says:

    Loved this blog, Julie, and the picture accompanying it. I, too, am a big fan of plaid. What brings me pleasure – a good book, tea in a sturdy mug, my dogs, horses, a beautiful farm scene, the smell of country air, a dark night full of stars, bread baking (any kind of baking actually), the sounds of my kids’ laughter, a clean house, being with loved ones, anything Christmas – I could go on and on!

  12. Just Julie says:

    Everything you shared — I could add those to my list too, Pat! Except that I don’t have a horse. Even the sturdy mug part. 🙂 xxoo

  13. Carrie says:

    Yes, I read Ann Voskamp which is another thing we share! I grew up in St. Paul in a neighborhood called St. Anthony Park (U of M ag campus & the state fairgrounds border it on the east). My mother grew up in Hibbing and my grandpa started building a cabin on a lake in 1949 near McCarthy Beach State Park. My grandpa worked in the open pit mines. Lots of memories of leaving the city and heading up north to the lake to be with family. My parents also took us to the North Shore frequently.

  14. Just Julie says:

    What a rich Minnesotan heritage you have, Carrie. I can imagine that living in Iowa has its own perks, but you don’t have quite as many lakes and trees there, do you? 😉 God bless you! xxoo

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