2192 Days

February 9, 2021 | My Jottings

It has been six years since Michael left this earth. At the very time of this writing, six years ago I was waiting for the funeral home to come pick up the body of the man I had known and loved for over 33 years. His suffering from Agent Orange-induced Parkinson’s and Lewy Body Dementia was cruel. But he bore it with a patience and a submission to the Lord that still inspires me today, and makes me want to be like that.

I miss Michael’s grin, his huge, kind eyes. His rough hands, rubbing my ankles or clasped in prayer.

I miss how no project was too tough for him. He was willing to work at anything, and he threw his whole body and soul into whatever he was doing. Without ever complaining. Not one word of complaint in over 33 years, even if it was an outside job in 10 degrees below zero weather. That in itself is astounding.

I miss how when something really struck him as hilarious, he laughed so hard he shook silently and tears same out of the corners of his eyes. He laughed at himself, and wasn’t too proud to do something silly to make us howl.

I miss how animals instinctively knew he was trustworthy and gentle. He was a bird-whisperer, for sure.

I miss and admire his heart for the underdog, how all people had the same value in his eyes, and how he never thought he was above anyone else.

His lack of self-absorption was quite refreshing. He never wanted the spotlight and didn’t care a lot about what others thought of him.

Michael asked me to marry him before we ever met. He pursued me across the miles between Duluth, MN and Anaheim, CA, by writing letters and calling me for hours-long conversations every day for three months. Like most couples, we had some bumps in our road, but oh, what blessings have come to my life because Michael was mine, and I was his. I could write pages and chapters, maybe books, about the ways my life continues to be blessed because of my Michael.

I rarely stand in line at a grocery store without thinking of Michael. For some reason, he always thought waiting in line with our cart was a good place to wrap both arms around me in a big hug, plant a kiss on my cheek and whisper an I love you into my ear.

He became aware of the love of Jesus for him when he was thirty years old, dove headlong into that ocean, and never came out to dry off.

I’m so thankful for his beautiful life, and the unlikely way the Lord brought us together. Even though six years have passed and I’m happily remarried now, I don’t ever feel like I’m moving further and further away from Michael. On the contrary, I feel like each day brings me closer to him again, and thoughts of what he might be doing in heaven make me smile and yearn.

Friend, if you are reading this today, did you know Michael? What do you remember about him?

Father Dear

January 24, 2021 | My Jottings

Good Sunday afternoon to you, friends. I woke this morning to a freshly fallen three inches of snow, and it’s lovely. Especially since it’s above zero degrees, which is always a bonus in usually bone-chilling January.

After I got up in the dark and went down the hall, I turned on this little lamp in the hutch in the kitchen. I poured my cup of cold brew coffee with a little splash of Nutpods and a little splash of organic half and half, then I fed Old Millie the schnauzer and let her outside. She looked at the snow on the front deck like do I really have to put my warm little doggy feet in this again? After she came back in, I settled into my plaid chair in my bedroom to read, do my Community Bible Study lesson, to pray, and to cry. My husband Lloyd worries about this a little because he’s not accustomed to someone whose eyes brim with tears so many times in one day. I reassure him it’s pretty much who I am. If I sit down with my Bible and devotionals and journal, I will probably cry. Sometimes I can put my finger on what I’m weeping about, sometimes not. My soul just cries out to God in words I can’t express. If I don’t bring a handful of tissues with me during my quiet time in the morning, I’ll be getting up and down numerous times, so I try to be prepared because I refuse to blow my nose on my flannel nightgown. I also wrap my cold neck with a prayer shawl my daughter knitted for me years ago. I light a beeswax candle and turn on my bedroom fireplace. I have very soft music playing that helps elevate my thoughts and spirit.

We are spending thirty weeks in the Gospel of John this year in CBS, and I can’t remember when a study has been so needed and weighty for me. This morning, I camped on the lesson where Jesus washes His disciples’ feet before He goes to the cross. He calls these grown men “little children,” and I learned that this is the only time in the Gospels the Greek word for “little children” is used. I pictured Jesus calling me “little child” or “little daughter” and the tears came. Don’t we all hope that God will deal with us tenderly, that we will know without a doubt that we really are His precious child and that He speaks to us in a Fatherly way?

Then, one of the questions that followed was, “Has being able to call God Abba (Romans 8:15; Abba is the Aramaic term for ‘Daddy’) ever reassured you when you were frightened?”

I thought about that for a while. I don’t usually call God “Daddy.” I call Him Lord, or Heavenly Father, or I often speak the wondrous name of Jesus. This made me think about two people I’ve known who addressed God in a way that struck me.

One man was a friend of Michael’s years ago. He was a big, hulking guy with a beard, unruly shoulder-length hair, and piercing blue eyes. He had too many cats to count, lived by himself in a cabin, wore plaid flannel shirts, jeans with suspenders, and took a bath every Saturday night. He was a gentle giant who was humble, hardworking, and was always there to lend a hand, whistling cheerfully no matter how hard the labor. Michael loved and trusted him, and hired him to help with carpentry a lot. This man also loved Jesus and knew his Bible backwards and forwards. Decades ago he heard me talking to Michael (tearfully, of course) about someone who had wounded me. This person was a believer. Michael’s friend slowly shook his head from side to side after he overheard what I had shared, looked into my eyes and said, “That’s not Dad.” He called God Dad, and he was trying to help me see that God was not the author of what was being said to me. He didn’t condemn or judge the person who had hurt me, he didn’t say anything at all except those three words. And over the years I heard him repeatedly speak God’s name as “Dad,” and it touched my heart.

Michael and I used to be in a Bible study group called a cell group in a church we attended for many years. The people in the cell group were like family and we met weekly to study, pray, do fun things, and grow together spiritually. The oldest member of our group was named Arlene. She was in her eighties, a widow, was a tad bit quirky, and had the biggest smile ever. One time after church I stopped to chat with her and she told me her feet were hurting her. I remarked, “You need someone to give you a good foot massage.” Arlene’s eyes lit up and she replied, “Thank you! Can you come over this coming week!?” Uhhh, that’s not exactly what I had in mind, I thought. But I went to her house a few days later, which was jam-packed with interesting things, she made me a cup of tea, and I massaged her feet, ankles and calves with lotion for a good long time. The main thing I remember about Arlene is how she addressed God when she bowed her head to pray. She called Him “Father Dear.” And her voice would get softer and more intimate, like He was right there beside her, and she was speaking to the person she loved the most with her whole heart.

Dad. Father Dear. Abba. Daddy. I know that Jesus has invited us into that kind of loving familiarity with the Creator of the universe, but I have yet to settle upon that kind of a name when I speak to my heavenly Father.

When you pray, how do you address God?

You Are Invited

January 6, 2021 | My Jottings

Have any of you ever received a really special invitation? Some normal folks have been invited to the White House. I was invited once to be on the Oprah Winfrey show. I believe we receive other invitations by special delivery every single day — invitations to despair, to lose hope, to rely on ourselves, to fear. These invitations come to my house by the dozen, unbidden. They arrive by television, radio, or the newspaper, magazines, and sometimes the enemy even uses an unknowing friend’s words on the telephone to invite me to go to the dark places of fear and despair about what is going on in our world, or about the concerns I have in my own life, and in the lives of those I love. Often these unwelcome invitations come to me in the middle of the night when I’m trying to sleep. Do you sometimes feel your mind being lured to dark, fearful, doubting thoughts? Do you occasionally receive those nasty invitations too?  I have a bit of advice — throw them out. Don’t even open them up to see where the party is being held — just toss those invites in the trash and instead watch for the ones that come from a Heavenly sender. We are told by the Lord not to despair, not to lose hope, not to fear, and He doesn’t say “unless your country is on the brink of civil war,” then you can fear.  No.

We are to open up and RSVP to the prestigious invitations we receive from the Holy Spirit each day. There are many of them. Are we noticing them? I am blind to them way too often. rose+gold+foil+stamp+by+kathrynmurray.com (1)I’m asking the Lord to animate this in our imaginations — to help us open up our envelopes in our minds right now.

Picture this:  the envelope that is being delivered to you right now is of the finest, ancient parchment. The name and address on the front of the envelope are written in a fiery, blazing gold script. The golden letters seem to be pulsating. They spell out Julie, Susan, Diane, Nancy, Steve, Christy, Mark, Pat… your name is there. The letter is warm to the touch and has no stamp because it did not have to go through the United States postal system to reach us. If we turn it over we will see that it has a seal on the back of the envelope. A seal with an imprint of three overlapping images: a crown, a dove and a cross. And it isn’t sealed with wax, but with what appears to be dried blood. Inside is a living, powerful, life-giving, invitation that cannot be discarded — it requires a reply. You can try to drop it in the garbage but it will just reappear in your mailbox at another time, its presence insisting on a reply. You may answer yes or no to this invitation, but you cannot ignore it. Then after we receive and respond favorably to that one, fateful invitation that requests the honor of our presence in the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, we may be surprised to find that more invites keep coming. They have that same, golden, blazing calligraphy, that same seal on the back, only these invitations might say something like “The Almighty God of Heaven and Earth requests the pleasure of your company this morning at 6:00 a.m.” Or “The King of Kings and Lord of Lords requests your quiet trust in the matter of your husband today.” Or perhaps the invitation will be to obey Him in a certain area that we’ve avoided dealing with.

I can tell you some of the heavenly invitations I receive daily. “Julie, the Lord God Almighty invites you today to totally entrust your daughters to Him. Please reply. Yes or no.” If my reply to Him is no, I have walked away from the path of peace — my peace will not be flowing like a river. It will be more like a stagnant little pond. Another invitation He regularly sends to me reads something like this — “Your heavenly Father invites you to taste and see that He is good — that doing His will is better than food — that He is your portion.” I see that blazing invitation out of the corner of my eye about ten times a day, and it calls for a reply each time. They all do. Yes, or no. Confidence, or fear. Rest, or torment. Obedience, or rebellion. Freedom, or captivity. Peace, or chaos.

The goal of life is not the absence of pain and hardship, it’s the presence of glory. His glory in our lives, and our lives bringing glory to Him. Somewhere along the line the church has gotten the idea that the Lord wants more than anything else to relieve us from our pain and steer us clear of adversity, but that is not the Biblical model. He does relieve our pain, He does steer us away from adversity, but God is intent on purifying His people unto Himself, and He often uses adversity, and yes, pain, to accomplish His purposes in us. He did this with His own Son, who learned to be obedient unto the point of death. I want to desire to obey the Lord above all things. I want to be one of His children that brings Him pleasure and not grief. I know many of you feel the same way.

Oswald Chambers said “sin dulls our senses.” A more modern Bible teacher wrote, “Pain and hardship intensify our spiritual senses.” Two different authors, two different centuries, but I thought these phrases went beautifully together. Sin dulls our senses. Pain and hardship intensify our spiritual senses. We can see these two principles perfectly illustrated in the Bible time after time. Generations of sin had dulled the senses of the people of God — they failed to hear Him and obey Him anymore. They said no to His precious invitations. So in the Lord’s great, mysterious mercy, pain and hardship in the form of exilic captivity was one of the prescriptions He used to begin to turn them toward their Father again.

Jesus was the responsive Servant who was without sin. His senses were not dulled in the slightest — He heard from His Father and obeyed Him perfectly, all the way to the cross. What pleasure Jesus brought to His Father.

What is the Lord using in our lives right now to intensify our spiritual sensitivity to Him? Depending on what our response is, whatever it is we’re going through could be the very thing the Lord wants to use to teach us to obey Him more fully.

I believe even today we will be given an opportunity to RSVP to an invitation from the Lord. For those who have never said yes to His offer for salvation, He may ask for a reply again today. He’s relentless in His pursuit of our hearts. What a miracle that is.

For those who have already responded to that invite, we’ll still find Him beckoning in other areas of our lives. Those golden invitations with our names emblazoned on them will most certainly arrive.

I ask Him for the grace to help me respond to His leadings today.

Wednesday’s Word — Edition 145

December 30, 2020 | My Jottings

“The basic premise of religion– that if you live a good life, things will go well for you– is wrong. Jesus was the most morally upright person who ever lived, yet He had a life filled with the experience of poverty, rejection, injustice, and even torture.”

~~Tim Keller

Different Kinds of Gifts

December 26, 2020 | My Jottings

How was your Christmas, friend? There are more than a few of you whom I wish I could have spent some time with on Christmas day. I pictured you in your home, sipping on something warm, lights on the tree glowing, maybe a Christmas movie playing or some carols. Some food, some people, and some hope. I really hope you had hope. Speaking of music, here’s what I have on repeat right now, and my favorite song on this album is this choir’s rendition of Jesus Christ the Apple Tree.

We gathered at my house yesterday, but it was different. Most of you know that my son-in-law Chris had a kidney transplant in August, and is on many anti-rejection drugs. He basically has little or no immune system to fight anything off, and his medical team at Mayo Clinic has made it clear that getting COVID would be calamitous for him. So after a lot of considering and planning, where we would all wear masks, keep the windows in my house cracked, have all exhaust fans running (to keep fresh air circulating) and Chris would not eat in the same room as us, Chris decided not to take the risk. It made us sad to have him stay home, but it may have felt like a relief for him. We missed him a lot. So Sharon and their four kids came, Cullen with his girlfriend Carissa and Eleanor with her boyfriend Isaiah. And Carolyn and Jeremy came with their six children. And Sara and I were here of course. Lloyd was at home, choosing the same option Chris did because he has severely compromised lungs from his career, and cannot take one chance. The kids were pajama-clad, which I love. Person after person carried in large boxes with smaller wrapped boxes in them, and platters of food. We sat in my bedroom to open presents this year, something we’ve never done. But it’s bigger than my living room, and it worked fine. Then Sharon and their children left to go home, and the rest of us had a Christmas brunch of something everyone brought to share. Because it was abbreviated, it was different. But it was such a gift to have my whole family under my roof yesterday, minus one important member.

I made an egg/sausage/potato/cheese casserole I make every year. Sharon brought Creme Brulee French Toast, a wonderful relish tray with homemade ranch dressing, and a plate of Dairy Bars and M&M truffles. Carolyn brought bacon, a chopped Asian salad, and deviled eggs. We snacked all morning, played a fun drawing game (“using a minimum number of details, draw an owl…or a tapir…or a cockatiel”) and the results were chuckleworthy.

We watched two year-old Levi make the rounds of the house, play with Magformers and bring joy to everyone just due to his existence. Six year old Miriam carried around a new toy cell phone that delighted her, but made sounds no toymaker should ever put in a toy, Jeremy rightly stated.

My dear friend of forty-two years, Su, dropped off some beautiful gifts for me the other day, and here is one:

A Christmas card that when opened, springs forth a lovely little unfolded cardinal. I decided to put this on a round antique piano stool I keep by a chair in my bedroom for a little end table. And I don’t think I’ll put this card away. I love it.

I also received a beautiful cardinal mug in the mail from my dear friend Kay, a delightful surprise, and last night while watching Call the Midwife in my nightgown, I drank my tea in it.

A couple of days ago, my son-in-law Chris got a wonderful card in the mail. It had been forwarded to him by the Mayo Clinic, where he had his transplant. The card was a neatly handwritten note from Chris’s kidney donor. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wondered about this man — all we were told by the Mayo folks was that he was younger than Chris, and a large man, which was good since Chris is a large man. So a large kidney was desired, if possible. We had thought that Chris’s donor was somehow connected to the person in Madision, Wisconsin who received my kidney, because the four of us went into surgery on the same day, and because I donated to help Chris and couldn’t donate directly. We thought the young man who donated to Chris was doing it to help a relative or friend in Madison, but wasn’t a match. The Mayo Clinic (and other medical centers) have this paired donation thing down to a science, and it’s not unusual for up to 10-12 people to all be coordinated all across the country for transplants and donations, all on the same day. One person’s goes to this match in Denver, that person’s kidney goes to Los Angeles, that person’s goes to Charlotte, that person’s kidney is flown to Houston, and that one’s goes to Minneapolis, and so on. We knew we were part of a closed, four-person transplant operation.

Well. Chris’s donor introduced himself as a 28 year-old electrician in Amarillo, Texas, who decided to donate his kidney one day on his break at work. He was listening to a podcast called “Kind World” and the episode had some people who had donated kidneys and some who had waited for kidneys, sharing about their experiences. Just like that, Blaine (that’s the young man) went online to the National Kidney Registry, applied to be a donor, and the rest of the story is the miracle our family is now living. He was a Good Samaritan donor — someone who decided to give without having a friend or relative benefit.

Now, I know what is entailed in kidney donation, because I donated my left kidney (named Justine) on the same day Chris received Blaine’s. (Chris named his new kidney Magnus). It is no small thing to donate, while I wouldn’t say there is a lot of suffering. There are days’ worth of testing to undergo. Pelvic CT scans, kidney function tests, blood and urine tests like no one’s business, meetings with social workers and nephrologists. Chest x-rays, 18-hour continuous blood pressure monitoring. Then your case is brought before a transplant board and whether or not your kidney should be taken out of you and given to another is gravely decided upon, because not only do they want the recipient to have a good outcome, they want the donor to have a good outcome as well. Then once you are approved, you wait. You sometimes wait a long, long time. You wait to get the call that a recipient with your blood type and acceptable antibody matching has been found, and that a good kidney has been found for the person you are doing this for. And when they tell you on the phone that they want you and your son-in-law in Rochester within several days, you might say (as Chris did) “Holy mud.” Then you make preparations at home and with your job, and reserve a place to stay for your recovery after your donation, because you have to be monitored for a few days afterward. Once the time arrives, you have the dreaded brain-swabbing COVID test, another day of tests, admittance to a hospital within the Mayo system, and a vital organ is surgically removed from you by one of the best surgical teams in the world, and quickly flown to a waiting person who perhaps has been ill for a long time, praying for hope. Maybe their family has been worried and has cried out to God, like ours has for Chris.

So when I heard that Blaine decided to go through all of this just because he had a spare and figured someone could use it, I felt a little undone. I will wait until Chris writes him back, but I want to write to Blaine as well, to tell him how much his gift meant to all of us. Chris’s kidney from Blaine is better than a sibling’s would have been. The match is so incredible. Chris’s weekly, then monthly, blood tests have shown how compatible and powerful this 28 year-old kidney from Texas is. Magnus moved in, rolled up his sleeves, and got to work making things right for Chris, making red blood cells, getting rid of toxins that had built up, controlling his blood pressure, allowing him to get off medications he’d been taking for years, and giving his four children a father who was no longer in severe kidney failure.

Blaine from Amarillo…. there are no words. Thank you, thank you, thank you. God bless you, keep you, help you. God answer your prayers, make Himself real to you, give you back a hundred times what you have done for our family! Your gift was life-changing.

Do you have a spare kidney? Most of you do. Some of you might want to just go to this site and start the process of finding out if your spare could give some young children more years with their mom. Or give a wife a renewed chance with a beloved husband of many years. It could make sure a teacher keeps on teaching her students, or a nice neighbor can keep walking his dog. Do you know you don’t have to pay a penny of the cost of your donation? That you will be reimbursed for your travel, gas, meals, work missed? That you can receive a tax donation if you’re a donor? You never have to commit. You can go through the whole screening process and decide at the last minute that you don’t want to donate, and you’ll be respected and honored and never pressured. They gave me many opportunities to change my mind and I never felt pressured. I would do this again in a heartbeat, and have never once regretted my decision. My remaining kidney Verna is busy taking up the slack that Justine left, and statistics show that kidney donors do not have a lower life-expectancy because of their donation.

I have been waiting to hear from my recipient in Madison, Wisconsin. Is it a man or woman? Very old or closer to my age? Does he/she have children or grandchildren? I don’t need a big thank you, but I yearn to know more about the person who has Justine working hard for them now. I signed a release at the Mayo Clinic, giving my permission and email to my recipient and inviting their correspondence, but haven’t heard a peep. It has been almost five months — is it too soon to expect something? Might I never receive a note at all? Yes, that’s possible.

But now that Chris’s donor Blaine reversed the protocol and didn’t wait for Chris to write to him, I’m wondering if I can do the same, and send a note to my recipient, asking Mayo to forward it on?

What do you think? Should I wait a while longer? Should I take pen in hand and send my own note?

Well, just like I love Mondays, I love the day after Christmas. I love slowly puttering in my home, putting things away, cleaning the kitchen, making things orderly again. I threw in a load of laundry this morning at 5:00 a.m. after waking at 4:30. I finished Round One of cleaning the kitchen. I’ll be carrying boxes down to the garage to put in our recycler, will vacuum my bedroom, pay a few bills. I wrote a couple of thank you notes by my bedroom fireplace this morning while listening to the CD I linked to in the first part of this blog post. I worked on my CBS lesson, wrote in my gratitude journal, prayed for loved ones.

Was your Christmas a lot different this year? Or not? What was the highlight of your day?

And, do you know anyone who might consider giving a kidney? If so, please feel free to send them the link to this blog post if you think they might want to know more from someone’s personal experience. You can also search on the left top side of my blog, type in “kidney” and all the more detailed sharing about my kidney donation will come up.

God bless you all, and God bless Blaine from Amarillo,

Bathtub Musings

December 16, 2020 | My Jottings

Hello friends, and a happy Advent to you. I never grew up celebrating Advent, but now that I attend a liturgical church, I’m learning about some of the riches of ancient traditions. Advent is a time of waiting. Waiting in the dark, preparing our hearts for what Christmas really means. To me, Christmas means that Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, came into not just the darkness of the world, but my own deep darkness, to save me from my own wretchedness, show me His love, and put my feet on His path. I think part of the reason many of us might feel that let-down on Christmas afternoon, no matter how wonderful a time we’ve had, is that our culture drums into us that we are waiting for present opening, waiting for new toys, looking forward to a family meal, or whatever we make a big deal over on the 25th. And all of that is so special — who doesn’t enjoy seeing little children open their gifts and experiencing the happiness of having your family around your table? But I still have this sense of waiting, even on the 26th of December. I’m waiting for more transformation in my life, more grace to learn to love, which has not been my strength in life. I’m waiting to feel more of Jesus’s presence, waiting for the day when I might finally leave this sod and look upon the One who has been so patient and kind to me. Do you observe Advent in some way?

Now on to my towel. Years ago I published this old post.  I bought it for our master bathroom in another home, and kept seeing one face in the black and white designs. Some of you saw too. Well, I live in another house since that “Roar-schach” post went up, but I’m still displaying the towel. I have it hanging at the foot of my bathtub, and when I soak in the tub, I still see the same leonine face there. But now, after literally years of looking at this towel, I see other things too. Clear, detailed things! And if I turn the towel over (as it is pictured below) and the pattern is there in opposite colors, I see new things.

So for fun (as if you don’t have much to do during the Christmas season), I would love to know if you see what I see. Or if perhaps you see things I haven’t seen yet.

It’s the black and white hand towel.

Here’s what it looks like on the other side, and the face below was the one I mentioned in my long-ago post. Do you see him? I see Aslan the Lion, but he looks a bit concerned, and he has the tiniest crown on his head. And a tidy little Elizabethan ruff for a collar.

Now you can see the “negative” side of Aslan with the towel turned over. Same as above, just reversed. But…. since I turned it over and hung it, I see Paul McCartney (of Beatles fame) in a black decorated turban. He has a mask over the lower part of his face (because COVID), but those eyes and brows of his are right there and exactly him. Does anyone see Sir Paul below?

And now I’ve seen this too: a foreboding looking owl. Big hollow eyes, a tiny beak, a lace necklace over his chest, or maybe those are feathers, and very pointed ears. He’s a rotund owl. Do you see him below?

I see these things best when my glasses are off (and I’m legally blind in my right eye) and things are blurry. If you squint your eyes to blur things a bit you might be able to see Paul and the owl. And I see more than that, but will share another time.

Lastly, here’s what I see in my bedroom each night. I light my little faux fire, which has fairly realistic dancing flames, turn on my cardinal lights from my dear friend Sue Peterson, put on some soft music that plays out of the Bose speaker there, and enjoy some quiet time before bed.

I like to do my Community Bible Study lessons right here. I am pondering Advent right here. Praying for you in this spot, my friend.

Let me know what you see in the towel, and I hope your week is touched by God’s peace and joy!

My Freezer and My Father

November 20, 2020 | My Jottings

Hello friends. I love alliteration and know I take it a little too far sometimes, like in today’s post title. How are you all doing? I hope if you’re in another stay-at-home order, you’re coping, trying to find things to be thankful for, praying, learning to rest in God’s sovereignty. Because as silly and trite as this sounds to some, He is in control. Are we guaranteed pandemic-free lives? Giddy, happy times every day of our time here? Of course not. But we are promised some things that are pretty important, and one of them is if we put our whole trust in Jesus, He will give us rest and peace.

In our state (Minnesota), things are spiking here. Our governor has mandated that all restaurants, bars and fitness centers close for at least four weeks, and all schools are distance learning. No matter what people think about masks, we are wearing masks. Or at least I am. I talked to a wise Christian man who cares for vulnerable people not long ago and asked if he had felt jerked around by all the conflicting information. (“Masks protect. Masks are useless. Look at the science — masks do help. Look at the science — masks do nothing. Mostly only old people are dying. COVID is being listed on death certificates even when someone dies of another primary reason, skewing the data. This news agency is inflaming things, this one has the truth, this one is more neutral and reliable.”) My friend said that yes indeed, he and his wife and family had grappled with wondering who to believe, how to live during this time. And after a lot of prayer and contemplation he said, “If I get this wrong on the easy side, and behave as if this virus isn’t as dangerous as most say, and one person in my care contracts it and suffers, or worse, dies, it would be horrible. But if I err on the side that the virus could be worse than we think or are being told, and my family and our people are vigilant and more careful than is comfortable, chances are I will not regret that.”

That made sense to me. So I’m being careful, not going out much unless it’s on a drive or a walk, having my groceries delivered, and watching The Crown, which I love.

Because I have more time on my hands, I’ve been slowly going through my list of things I want to organize during this time. So far, I cleaned out my office closet and organized it, my toy closet (thanks to my granddaughter Margaret who helped me right after I came home from donating Justine, my left kidney), a kitchen hutch, my kitchen baking cupboard, and my under-sink bathroom cabinets.

I have wanted to get my freezer in order and have tried many times, but it never stays that way. It’s full of food, and we end up digging around to find things, and all attempts at keeping it organized have eventually failed. Until I saw a professional home organizer on Instagram – her account is @hellohappyhome. She’s so good! She posted a method of organizing freezer drawers I thought would work for me, and I ordered the containers from The Container Store and waited.

When they arrived, I took everything out of my freezer, and took a picture. You can see the coffee grounds that had spilled out of their bags years ago, and some sad frozen raspberries. That middle divider is part of the freezer and can slide to the left or the right. The little round thing you see in the bottom left corner is a baking soda freezer deodorizer, which I removed.

I cleaned out the coffee and berries. Here’s a picture of one of the multi-purpose bins I bought:

For my size freezer drawer, six of these bendable plastic bins fit. See how promising this looks already? You know you’re getting old when things like this make you so happy you could skip around if you didn’t have a knee replacement.

The next photo is what my freezer drawer looks like now. One of the bins holds frozen vegetables. The one in front of it holds frozen fruit. The one in front of that holds our nuts. We eat a handful of nuts every single day, and since they have so much oil in them that could turn rancid, I’ve always kept them in the freezer.

Another bin holds bread products, mostly Sprouted Grain Ezekiel English Muffins that I love for breakfast sometimes, with a honeycrisp apple. In front of the bread bin is a meat/protein bin. There is some frozen shrimp, chicken and sausage there. The bin in front of that has grass fed ground beef, and my favorite breakfast sausage — chicken and sage sausage made by Applegate.

There is a smaller, shallower drawer above this one, and you can see containers with red lids in the photo below. I have coffee, baking yeast, frozen cauliflower pizza crusts and a few other things there — all nicely organized.

This freezer drawer has stayed organized for weeks now, and I know it always will, because finally, Everything. Has. A. Home. No digging around. No buying something because you didn’t know you already had some, buried in the bottom of the messy pile.

What do you think? How do you organize your freezer? If you’re interested in the bins I used, here’s the link. I used the medium sized.

Here’s an abrupt segue. (Have you ever noticed anyone using that word but spelling it segway? No.) From freezer organization to my father.

The other day after working in my office for hours, I happened upon a site where old high school yearbooks could be viewed online, page by page. It was free to view them, so of course I spent a long time looking through the old Covina High School yearbooks. I grew up in Covina, California, graduated from Covina High School in 1975, and my brothers Larry and Steve graduated in 1960 and 1965.

My father was a well-known basketball coach at my high school, and he taught and coached there from 1947 until he retired from coaching in 1974. A lot of people land on my blog after Googling Doc Sooter. Anyway, we had yearbooks in our house, but not from his earliest years at Covina High, so it was very good for me to sit and scroll through photos I’ve never seen of my dad.

He was 29 years old in this one, taken in 1949, and my brothers were 7 and 2 at the time. Look at those lapels! And that shirt collar.

This might be my favorite below, a headshot taken in 1952 when he was 32 years old. That hair! I see myself in this picture a little — the deep set eyes, the low brows. And I have my father’s ears.

Another picture I’d never seen, taken in the early 1950s before I was born:

I’m grateful that often the passage of time blurs memories a bit. I don’t want them blurred too much, but the way the harsh edges are softened can be a good thing. My dad made some choices that affected our family in ways some never recovered from. But he also worked hard, loved people (especially the underdog), listened well, remembered names and knew how to be a good friend, had a whip-smart mind, was the best grandpa who ever was, and he loved me. Perhaps one of the most remarkable gifts he gave me was loving my company. If I wanted to go with him somewhere, the answer was always yes. If I had questions, he had time. He told me and showed me that he loved me. And wonder of wonders, my dad was the son of a pastor who took me to Sunday School from the time I was three years old, where I heard about the love and power and mercy of Jesus Christ.

Honestly…. that changed everything.

More is More

November 9, 2020 | My Jottings

Have you heard the phrase “less is more?” I’ve heard it used when referring to minimalist decorating, about writing, and about decluttering and getting rid of excess possessions. And I usually agree with the idea that “less is more” and that fewer words, fewer items, can have a greater impact artistically and aesthetically.

Unless you consider my bedroom mantel.

My little fireplace mantel is a “more is more” sort of mantel, and I’m okay with that, for now.

I am continually decluttering and donating things, although pretty slowly. I have been told that my decorating is spare and minimalist, but I don’t quite see it that way. I don’t like a lot of visual clutter, but as you can see, one exception would be all the things I keep on the mantel.

Each thing means something to me, or is useful or sentimental. Well, there are a couple of things that aren’t that useful — I don’t usually light the candles, but visually they seem to add height or texture or volume in a place it’s needed. I think you can click on this photo to enlarge it. The print on the left was a gift form my daughter Sharon and quotes the song “Count Your Blessings” from the movie White Christmas. I’ve been literally counting my blessings in print for so many years now, I’m not sure how I would go for very long without this practice. I come from a family with depression and mental instability, and I was not exempt from this. Writing down my gratitude to God I believe has changed my brain chemistry.

The fox in the middle is astounding to me. My oldest grandchild Clara did this on a scratchboard with a scraping tool, pulling away tiny strokes of black until the fur and smile of the fox and the stars in the sky were revealed. Her talent is amazing, her heart so lovely.

The word board on the right is a gift from my daughter Sara, who knows I love words, love the Bible, and need reminders each day to calibrate my mind and path. I chose this verse from the ninetieth Psalm because I have squandered so many days and opportunities in my life, that I’m asking God to help me remember how quickly I’ll be gone, and to live more fully for Him.

The little wooden blocks were gifts from my daughter Carolyn, and I especially love the one on the right. I feel that above all else, I am a mother, and I want to be a better mom the older I get. I may not see my children as often as I did when they were growing up, but I certainly pray for them more, bring them to Jesus so often for every little thing they need, and hold their hearts and concerns so tenderly in my heart. It may sound cliche, but my daughters are truly woven into my very being.

The little black and white transferware plate is there because it’s the right size, is round to add visual disparity and interest, and because I am drawn to toile and transferware and don’t know why.

The cross on the left was a gift from my friend Vicki, and is quite intricate in its woodworked detail. Vicki has brought so many important things into my life and how we met was sort of miraculous — another story for another time.

The large round candle on the left was a gift from my dear friend Pat, a fellow SAG member. I love its container, the bear, and it reminds me of her. She is fun and smart and supportive, and so loving, and I’m reminded of her when I see it each day.

The Bose speaker on the doily isn’t necessarily pretty or sentimental, but I use it every single day. I have playlists on my phone and I don’t go a day without music. Right now I’m listening over and over to The Poor Clares of Arundel. My friend Lorrie in South Carolina recommended their music to me and I can’t get enough of it. It’s sacred, soothing, ancient and transcendent. It feels like my soul is being fed when this album is my background music all day.

Behind my Bose speaker is a Sequoia pine cone. I brought it home from the Sequoia National Forest last March when Lloyd and I visited California. Sequoias are the largest trees on earth. Some in California existed when Jesus walked the earth. They are resistant to disease. They have super thick bark, and depend on fires to regenerate. There are so many life lessons to be learned from a Sequoia, and I want to be like one — thick-skinned, fruitful in hard times, quiet, straight and true, resilient.

The little black remote is how I turn on the fire in my electric fireplace. It has a realistic flame, really puts out the heat when needed, and is so comforting when I sit in my plaid overstuffed chair to read and study and pray.

The little wooden cross on the right is a gift from my friend Penelope Wilcock in England. If you haven’t read her books, you must. Start with The Hawk and the Dove. You will be overwhelmed and blessed, and will want to give that book as a gift every time you can. The little cross was carved by nuns in England and fits perfectly in my hand; I sometimes hold it when I pray.

The black candles at the right I had on hand from years ago and I thought they added height to this little crowd of items. I plan to donate them someday.

And the cardinal? I have many cardinals which have been gifts from the most thoughtful friends over the years. If you don’t know why cardinals are so precious to me, you could click here to read a short semi-autobiographical children’s story I wrote about a cardinal years ago. Plus, some sort of color was needed in among all these black and white items, right?

I love Monday mornings. I write down all the things I need to get done on my to-do list/daily planner: do laundry (except my dryer died with a deafening, scraping scream yesterday), write a foster care report, finish my CBS lesson, run one errand, reconcile my bank statement with my checkbook ledger.

Next time I might share how Lloyd recently rescued a slug (not kidding), how Madge the Muskrat made eye contact with me and made my day, and how I’m doing with only one kidney, whose name by the way, is Verna. In which case, I’m hoping less is more.

 

 

A Few Days Up North

October 21, 2020 | My Jottings

Recently, to celebrate our one year anniversary, Lloyd and I spent a few days in Northern Minnesota, just a stone’s throw from the Canadian border. We went to the same place we stayed for our After Wedding Trip, except we stayed in a slightly larger cabin this time. Here’s a view of East Bearskin Lake from our cabin door. The first day was drizzly, but the wood stove in the living room warmed us up and we kept it stoked almost the whole time we were there. I’ve since wondered, how can 70 degrees from my forced-air furnace feel so unbearable, and 82 degrees from a steady, radiating woodfire feels so wonderful? I’m sure there’s a scientific answer to that.

There was a double swing and some Adirondacks on our dock, and I went down to read on the swing as the sky was clearing — you can see a little blue on the right of the photo below.

This is our cabin (Balsam Cabin, #4) from the dock. We were tucked away in the woods and could have stayed for much longer, if not for the toilet. This was an old cabin at a great resort that had been nicely remodeled, meaning they put new flooring down, new kitchen cabinets, new wood stove. And they tiled the tiny bathroom floor and put in a new toilet and sink, but they must have purchased the toilet at www.HobbitPotties dot com, because it was like using a mixing bowl. Soooo low to the floor (a challenge for someone with a knee replacement), soooo tiny of a seat circumference, so precarious a flusher. Lloyd and I laughed about it a lot, but by the time we headed home, I was surprised how much I was looking forward to seeing my own toilet in my own bathroom. How ridiculous is that?

No wi-fi, no televisions at this resort, hardly any noise. It was heaven for two introverts who love the beauty of outdoors.

We took a long hike one day, up, up, slowly up, toward Canada, on winding paths with lots of rocks. We stopped and smelled the white pine needles, the balsam too, and hoped to see a moose. Here’s the little map that showed the hiking trails available to us.

You can see the red star where we stood, and of course I wanted to head up the trail that led to the “Moose Pasture.”

This is Lloyd getting suited up, since it was chilly. We parked on the side of an old logging road and set out. I have walking poles and by the time we got back, I wished I had taken them. The big rocks sticking out of the paths at times made me feel unstable and I walked like an old lady.

Below you can see the type of path we were on for at least half the time. Lloyd rubbed my sore feet that night, God bless him please.

But the smell! Oh! It was like heaven. The autumn leaves on the ground, the dry air carrying the various evergreen fragrances everywhere, I could have just set up a camp chair, lifted my nose and sat and sniffed all the livelong day. I could have switched my vocation to Professional Pine Sniffer.

I thought these needles were interesting — like hundreds of tiny witches’ brooms hanging up waiting for their diminutive riders.

We saw zero moose. Others were posting pictures on Instagram from all up and down The Gunflint Trail that day, with moose and their babies crossing the road, bull moose browsing the low-hanging twigs of the forest. We saw blue jays, grey Canada jays, chickadees, woodpeckers, eagles, ruffed grouse, red squirrels and a bushy-tailed red fox, which were all so delightful anyway. Lloyd made a pot of chili at his cabin before we drove north, and we had that for dinner two nights in a row. He has always eaten chili over rice, so I made a batch of brown rice and we enjoyed it that way — very good! I made muesli for breakfast and we had grapes and Honeycrisp apples for snacks.

We read out loud to each other and are still thoroughly enjoying this book, about a couple who left their jobs in Chicago in the late 1950s and bought a run-down cabin off the Gunflint Trail, staying for sixteen years. He illustrated the books she wrote about their time in the forest. With a little online research, we were able to figure out what their address had been way back in the early 1960s, and we drove north to Gunflint Lake, driving down the little road they lived on so we could get a feel for what she was writing about.

Today as I type in my office, there is snow on the ground from an early storm that blew in yesterday. I like snow. I love Minnesota. But I would prefer if my snowstorms would come in early December, just in time to put us all in the Christmas mood (although this hasn’t worked for me for quite a few years). I am getting too old to be chipper about snow in October. I had to be out driving in it last night and it was slippery, and I thought to myself, “Ooooh yes, I remember this. And I think I’ll go see what the vrbo winter rentals in Florida look like.”

So I’m having a cup of tea with creamer made from PEA PROTEIN, because I took a food sensitivity test and it turns out I’m very highly reactive to milk and eggs. But that is another story for another day.

How are you? What is your weather like? What animals have you seen lately?

Thanks for stopping in,

One Year

October 5, 2020 | My Jottings

It seems surreal that Lloyd and I have been married a year already. One year ago today we were preparing for our Saturday morning wedding, and it was pouring rain. We were both calm and looking forward to the day, but also  surprised that we were getting married as older people after having lost our spouses to illness years before.

The best part of the day for us were the friends and family who loved and supported us with their presence. Many came from miles away to be with us, (my childhood friend Denel gets the prize for most miles traveled, as she came from California) and for us to walk down the aisle to this song, preceded by our children and grandchildren, and see our friends standing and smiling as we made our way, was a gift from the Lord.

And how can I not post a couple of photos of the spectacular situation that’s happening all around us right now?

I took a walk yesterday and couldn’t resist documenting the glory. The last picture has a huge bald eagles’ nest at the top of that pine tree. It’s home to two parents and a couple of juveniles who live a hop, skip and a jump from my home.

So much to give thanks for today,