Wednesday’s Word — Edition 152
February 23, 2022 | My Jottings
“I discovered the Sabbath isn’t about what is done or left undone as much as breathing in the goodness of God. The more I inhaled, the more I desired another long breath.”
A Fisher of Grandchildren
January 12, 2022 | My Jottings
Hello friends. How is your January going? Are things winding down from Christmas? Do you still have your tree up? Are you staying warm where you are?
My daughter Sara took our little tree down a couple of days after Christmas. I’ve always been in the put-it-up-early/take-it-down-right-after-Christmas camp, as I like to get things back to normal. I like the feel of a clean slate in the new year, mentally and environmentally, as much as is possible.
We are staying warm here in Northeastern Minnesota, but only because our furnaces run almost continually, since our temperatures have been in the teens below zero. Today it’s actually 30 degrees above, and if I could kick up my heels I most certainly would.
I have a couple of bird feeders in my yard. One is a clear little plastic contraption that hangs on my dining room window with large suction cups, and this time of year the chickadees are frequent visitors. We can see them an arm’s length away, just on the other side of the glass, and it’s a delight to watch them. They always take turns. Two or three will sit in the branches of pine greens Sara put in my three front flower boxes, and then in perfect timing, one chickadee will swoop in the very second the one who was just getting a seed flies out.
I noticed a lot of juncos in the yard last week, and they didn’t seem to be interested in the black sunflower seeds I keep out that attract so many other birds. So I took some of Phoebe the parakeet’s tiny seeds and arranged it all along the deck railing. It took a day and a half for the word to spread, but one junco must have told the others, because I’ve had as many as sixteen juncos on my deck, eating that seed like crazy. Do you have juncos where you live? Here’s what they look like if you’re not familiar:
Speaking of birds, Lloyd and I just completed our first puzzle of 2022. If anyone had told me two years ago that I would take up puzzling as a hobby I would have laughed — all my life I’ve hated jigsaw puzzles. Michael used to love them. His parents used to have one set up on a card table at their house at Christmas time, and whoever wanted to could sit and puzzle for a while. I tried a time or two, but searching for one piece in a thousand felt like torture to me. It was puzzling, indeed… why anyone would want to spend time looking for one tiny cardboard piece after another escaped me. Well, now I understand. Putting together a puzzle in a slow, quiet, contemplative way has become a new hobby. When he is in town (because he lives in the woods in a cabin one hour south of me) my husband Lloyd and I have a cup of coffee or tea, sometimes turn on some soft music, and work together in mostly companionable silence. If the puzzle isn’t pretty to look at, I’m not as enthusiastic about it. But if it’s interesting or beautiful, it’s time well spent to gaze at it and use my eyes and brain for hours on end.
My granddaughter Eleanor saw this puzzle below and asked her dad to bring her by to give it to me. She knows how meaningful cardinals are to me, and I was thrilled with the gift. To be remembered by a grandchild is no small thing. The puzzle below was 500 pieces and we usually do 1000, but it was so pleasant to work on. A lovely quilt, beautiful song birds… we loved putting it together.
And it’s getting close to egg-laying season for bald eagles in many parts of the country. I regularly check in on three nest cams. One is in Big Bear Lake, California, where Jackie and Shadow are adding sticks and fluff to their nest daily and the egg-watch has begun. Another live nest cam I watch is in Decorah, Iowa. Two babies successfully hatched last year and I got hours of enjoyment watching them from newly hatched to full-grown and learning how to hunt. The third nest I watch is in the Minneapolis area, three hours south of me, and I have seen an eagle pair roosting near the nest recently. The picture below was taken of my computer monitor when one of the eagles in Decorah stopped in after a snowfall to check on the nest.
The other morning in the dark right after I woke up, I was listening to my Pray As You Go app play the day’s Scripture reading. It was from the gospel of Mark, chapter 4, where Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee as Simon and Andrew were casting their nets for fish. Jesus said to them, “Come follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” They left their nets and followed, and the world changed forever.
Something welled up inside me at that moment as I was still nestled in my flannel sheets, and I sensed a strong call of sorts, and the words that formed in my mind were, “I will make you a fisher of grandchildren!” My eyes filled with tears and I whispered, “Yes Lord!”
And so I will be, as He gives me grace to love and pray.
As I age, my purpose in life becomes clearer as each day passes. I am to be a woman of prayer, lifting up my children and grandchildren continually. I have always struggled with being faithful in prayer, because frankly it’s hard to have a conversation with Someone I can’t see, and who speaks without a human voice. I have learned, and indeed am still learning, to hear His voice in the pages of Scripture, through circumstances He orchestrates, and through His glorious creation.
The more I slow down and pay attention to the work of His hands, the more I detect His words and ways. I look at Lake Superior and He speaks to me of how deep His mercy, How cleansing His blood. I look at the trees in the forests I’m surrounded by, and He reminds me, “Look up, Julie.” I consider the details of a single flower, and my mind goes tilt at the care He takes to lavish us with beauty. I read about atomic particles (which I don’t understand) and He affirms to me how nothing holds together without Him holding it together. I look at the Milky Way on a bitterly cold and clear night, and almost bow down when I try to wrap my mind around the fact that He breathed it into existence, that as vast as it seems, it’s tiny to Him. I look at a human cheek cell under a microscope with my granddaughter Louisa, and hope that she will learn to marvel at a God who thought the cell up, and that we are all thirty trillion living cells, cardiac cells and brain cells, skin cells and muscle cells and bone cells. All created by God, and not only is He all-powerful and staggeringly brilliant, but He loves us. And He proved it.
So I write my beautiful daughters’ names in my prayer journal. And the names of my dear sons-in-law. And my precious grandchildren’s names. I write them over and over and over, asking God to work His love and salvation and ways into their very beings. To speak to them, to draw them to His book so they can see Jesus, to nudge them to lift their heads and be awed by all He has done. I ask the Lord to be real to them, to be their delight and refuge. I ask Him to give them wholeness and joy in Christ. I ask for the same for myself. And I’ve asked that for you. The names of my friends and political leaders and neighbors and online friends and their loves, all grace the pages.
Why would I live, why would I be conceived and grow in my mother’s womb, why would my life have been saved from death many years ago, why would I reach an old age now, if not to love and pray for these I would give my life for?
Their interests interest me. Their sorrows pierce me. Their happiness makes me happy. When they are wounded, I almost die. I love their voices, their company, their eyes, their laughter, their very beings.
I am not a very good fast-er and pray-er, but I have a feeling that is ahead for me. The thought of it actually scares me a little, because food can be too important to me. But I’m willing, if the Lord will help me and strengthen me, take the veil from my eyes, give me His heart, and lead me further in this school of prayer.
I don’t want to give the impression that I’m some great prayer person. I don’t spend hours a day praying for those I love. I know people who are like that, and I’m alternately in awe of and repelled by them.
But I know I want to pray.
If you need prayer today, I will pray for you. Tell me in the comments what you would like the Lord to do, and I will take your heart’s cry to Him. If you want me to keep your name confidential, just say that when you leave your comment.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 Thessalonians 16-18.
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Thank you for stopping by today.
The Lord bless and keep you,
What Man Is This?
December 21, 2021 | My Jottings
A couple of weeks ago Lloyd and I drove 3 1/2 hours south to Stillwater, Minnesota, for a medical appointment for me. Since my appointment was a morning one, we drove down the afternoon before and checked in to the carriage house at a lovely Victorian inn by the St. Croix River. It was such a peaceful place to stay. We ordered Mexican food and Lloyd went to pick it up and brought it back so we could have dinner in our suite.
After a good night’s sleep, Lloyd dropped me off at the clinic and then returned to the inn to load up our things, and get the provided breakfast boxed up so we could enjoy it on the way home. Quiche, fresh fruit, and a baked hotdish of some sort with Bisquick and cheese and pesto.
The plan was to drive from Stillwater to Bruno, where Lloyd lives, drop him off at his cabin, and then I would continue on to Duluth, an hour north of Bruno. We stopped in a tiny town called Finlayson, MN to get gas on the way home. It’s in the middle of nowhere, and the gas station was old and I’d never been there before. As Lloyd got out to fill the Outback’s tank, I glanced to my left and gasped. About a stone’s throw away was a man unloading boxes from a truck. He was stacking them on a dolly, one by one, getting ready to deliver the goods inside the gas station. I grabbed my phone and started taking pictures of him immediately, and when he turned my way to go into the station, of course I stopped.
The reason I gasped and wanted to get some photos was because he was Michael’s identical twin. Not fraternal, not someone who looked like he could be a relative. His twin. His hair, his build, his profile, his glasses, the way he moved, his broad back, short legs. Even the way he was dressed was like Michael. An olive green sweater/jacket. Jeans. Work boots.
Here is the man in Finlayson, MN.
Here is a picture of Michael a couple of years before he died. I wish the photos were clearer.
As the man passed in front of my car to go into the station, I could see that his face wasn’t exactly like Michael’s, but almost. From the side, though, he was a true doppelgänger. Lloyd finished pumping the gas and got in the car, and I showed him the pictures and told him about The Man Who Would Be Michael. We waited until the man made his delivery and came back out to return to his truck. As he walked in front of us, he turned his head slightly toward me, smiled a small smile, and raised his hand in a quick wave.
A couple of days before this, Michael had been heavy on my mind and heart. We are approaching seven years without him, and it gives me so much happiness to think of what life in Heaven might be like for him now. Suffering over, beholding such beauty, knowing such peace, worshiping the Savior he loved…. all the things we try to conceive of with our minds, knowing how limited and anemic our imaginings of Heaven must be. Because of the verse in Hebrews chapter 12 which tells us we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, I had said out loud, “Michael, can you see us? Does the Lord allow you to watch, help, be involved in our lives at all?” Any Catholics reading this will have no trouble believing that could possibly be true. Most Protestants will think it’s not true. I myself have no idea, but the thought of it comforted me as I spoke to Michael in tears and loneliness.
Days later when I saw this man in Finlayson, I wondered what it could mean. I had never been to that gas station before. It’s hours from my home. Why did I see a man identical to Michael in almost every way, right after I had spoken to him as I never had before? Why were we there at exactly the same time he was, even though we didn’t really need gas that badly? Why did the man look at me, smile and wave? It could be coincidence, I know. But it still has me intrigued and on alert, wondering, pondering.
I texted the pictures of The Man Who Would Be Michael to a few friends — every one of them thought it was an old picture of Michael I was sending to them. Even his daughters had to look twice.
Whatever it means, it felt like a gift. I’m grateful to know there’s so much more going on aside from the things we see with our human eyes. Someday the veil will be drawn back completely, but for now, I’m content with little glimpses of God’s love.
Wednesday’s Word — Edition 151
December 15, 2021 | My Jottings
“I believe like a child that suffering will be healed and made up for, that all the humiliating absurdity of human contradictions will vanish like a pitiful mirage, like the despicable fabrication of the impotent and infinitely small Euclidean mind of man, that in the world’s finale, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice for all hearts, for the comforting of all resentments, for the atonement of all the crimes of humanity, of all the blood they’ve shed; that it will make it not only possible to forgive but to justify all that has happened.”
~~ Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamozov
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Gladys Light and the Hips
December 4, 2021 | My Jottings
Years ago our family attended an Assembly of God church called Glad Tidings. We were members there many years and raised our family going to services each Sunday and many Wednesday nights. I’m no longer a member there, but I have such wonderful memories. I taught Second Grade Sunday School, was involved in some women’s Bible studies, Michael and I belonged to a young couples’ cell group where the friendships we made were so cherished, and I remember many children’s Christmas programs in which my girls sang or wore lamb costumes. And who could forget the Harvest Festivals (because we didn’t do Halloween back then) where three year-old Sara won first prize for her Lazarus costume, which was simply toilet paper wound around and around and around her little self?
Our church’s custom was to have a Watch Night Service on New Year’s Eve, and the aim was to gather together to worship and pray as the clock turned over. When my girls were very young we didn’t go each year, but we were there a few times, staying up past our bedtime to be there. Several years the Watch Night Service included a talent show, and oh, how fun some of those were. There was always a wide variety of “talent,” ranging from a dear elder woman named Arlene who couldn’t sing, singing a falsetto of “I Love You Truly,” to a dad dressed in a tux, doing puppet/ventriloquism with a raw chicken, to lovely duets of hymns, piano solos, and skits put on by children. I think there were mime performances too.
One year in the mid-1990s, a group of seven women (me included) decided to put something together for the Glad Tidings Watch Night Talent Show. The movie Sister Act had been out for a while, and we chose the song “I Will Follow Him,” originally sung in the 1960s by Peggy March, but redone by the nuns in Sister Act as an anthem of love to their devotion to Jesus. Whoopi Goldberg was the fake nun who led the real nuns in their song, and even now as I’ve watched it back, I love it. What started out as a pop song was turned into a lively song of faith in the movie, about following Jesus wherever He would lead. How no other person could ever take His place in our hearts.
So. Our beautiful and kind pastor’s wife Kim was recruited, and even though she was more reserved, she was a good sport and agreed. The other six were Barb, Dawn, Kathleen, Joanne, Su and me. We knew it had to be a goofy performance, because we’d be so bad we wouldn’t want anyone taking us seriously. We decided to wear black stretch pants or leggings, padded grotesquely in the hips with towels or pillows (not that I needed any help in that area.) White blouses, hair in ponytails, red lipstick, and large Christmas ornaments for earrings. Like this, only much larger balls. And we all wore big sunglasses.
Our pastor’s wife Kim needed to stand out as our leader in some way since she would mouth the main vocals, so she wore a sequined knit turban on her head. She was front and center, the rest of us were behind and to the sides, the way a chevron of geese flies.
We thought we would do better if we played “I Will Follow Him” from Sister Act over the church’s sound system and lip-synched it rather than attempting to actually do our dance routine and use our own voices.
The whipped cream on top of this bizarre New Year’s Eve sundae was the large, sparkling disco ball we rented and hung from the ceiling in the church. And I guess the cherry on top of the whipped cream was our group’s name: Gladys Light and the Hips. So. Very. Appropriate. In every way.
The more we envisioned and practiced our fun number, the more we added to it. In hindsight I’m not sure I would ever hang a disco ball from a church ceiling again, but we were young and energetic then, and wanted to make people laugh and sing, and considering the raw chicken act, we didn’t think we were that far off course.
There was a good crowd on that New Year’s Eve Watch Night Service. Gladys Light and the Hips all got ready downstairs near the fellowship hall and we knew we had rehearsed our dance moves well.
We were introduced and took our places on stage with our heads bowed. The first part of the song begins slowly and reverently, and as Kim held a microphone and lip-synched dramatically, the rest of us took side steps and lifted our hands to the ceiling as we sang “I will follow Himmmmm.” We dipped low and scanned the ground at “there isn’t an ocean too deep” then raised our arms and gazed at the sky at “a mountain so high it could keep…. keep me away….away from His loooove.”
Then the music changes and the upbeat begins, and we sang and swayed and bobbed and did our best to do all our moves in unison, and well, the crowd (congregation?) went wild. People whooped and hollered and clapped their hands to the music, and of course that energized us and we gave it our all. Pillow-hips, ornament-ears, flailing arms and the whole bit.
The stage and the disco ball were lit; the other lights of the sanctuary were out, so when we looked out at the people as we performed, we could see it was crowded and lively, but we couldn’t see faces — just silhouettes.
Right around 20 seconds into the bee-bopping part of the song, I saw two people about half-way back in the church stand up abruptly, move sideways to the end of the pew in front of all the people seated, and quickly stride down the aisle and exit the church. Oh, do I remember their body language. It said, “We cannot take one more minute of this debauchery.” The two women who left were pillars of our church. A respected, godly widow and her servant-hearted, middle-aged unmarried daughter, both of whom I liked and admired. As we Hips twirled and sang I saw them depart in what I perceived as a sort of holy huff, and my heart sank. We had not wanted to offend anyone, and clearly we had.
After our song we got a standing ovation and thought it was the most fun we’d all had in a long time. What a memory we’d created. We found out soon after that Myra and her daughter Doreen had thought we were singing an old hymn, and desecrating it with our antics. When our pastor explained to them that it wasn’t a hymn at all, but just a pop song rewritten for the movie Sister Act, to express the love nuns can have for their Lord, I don’t think they changed their minds about our performance. I can certainly understand how thoughtless that must have seemed. I can’t say I would think any differently if I saw someone sing The Old Rugged Cross and treating it so lightly.
But, we told each other, we weren’t singing a hymn. We always looked back on that New Year’s Eve Watch Night Service with a bit of a wince, recalling those two silhouetted figures marching out of the sanctuary while we took our number to its finish.
The whole Watch Night Service was video-taped that night, and Gladys Light and the Hips were planning to get together in the New Year at someone’s house for snacks, fellowship, and to watch the talent show on the VHS tape. Before that could ever happen, we learned that someone had “accidentally” recorded something over the talent show, and our performance (and all the others) was lost forever.
Oh, what I would give to be able to show that video to my grandchildren now. They think I’m fairly stodgy and boring, and I’d love to see the looks on their faces as they gape at their grandma singing and dancing and having the time of her life.
Thanksgiving Eve Thoughts
November 24, 2021 | My Jottings
Oh, the gales of November are howling today. The sky is deep blue and cloudless, the trees are bending in the wind, and the chimes outside of my office sound like a blind person is furiously playing a discordant marimba. It’s cold enough now that our furnace runs non-stop, and that means I’d better soon retrieve the snow shovels from their corner in the garage and carry them to the entrances of the house.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and for the first time in years, I’m not roasting a turkey or hosting anyone in my cozy white corner house by the Lake. This year we are all driving over the river and through the woods to my daughter and son-in-law’s house. Chris and Sharon will roast the turkey and do the stuffing, corn, and the giant relish plate with her delicious homemade dip, set the table and let us all wander in and enjoy our holiday plopping. Carolyn and Jeremy will bring French silk pies, sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy, and six beloved children to add to Chris and Sharon’s cherished four. I will bring rolls, biscuits, some more rolls, cranberries, and a Thanksgiving anomaly — a huge green salad. I’m in charge of bringing something green, and in the past I’ve done roasted asparagus, Brussels sprouts or broccoli. This time, since everything we’ll eat will be warm and soft, I’m bringing cold and crunchy.
At this moment I’m alone in my house, which doesn’t happen very often. It’s divine. I love the hum of the heat coming through my floor registers, the glow of the sun going down through the bare crabapple trees on the west side of my yard, and the smell of clean white laundry that just dried in the laundry room around the corner from my office. I ordered food for dinner because I decided not to cook, and I might even put my feet up in my brown leather recliner later and watch something on television.
Speaking of that, have any of you watched the movie Wild Mountain Thyme with Emily Blunt? My dear friend Su recommended it to me a long time ago, but I didn’t want to pay $7.99 to watch. It finally dropped to $2.99 and I downloaded it a few nights ago, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Such rapid-fire, quirky conversation! Such breathtaking scenery as it was filmed in Ireland. I could easily have stepped through the TV screen and just moved to County Mayo in the blink of an eye.
Sara has been super-busy in nursing school, but took the time to deck out my three flower boxes on the front porch. She fills them with lush, fragrant pine boughs, sticks and twigs, huge pine cones, and oversized ornaments the size of cantaloupes. When the snow falls they look especially lovely.
I think we’ll put up our Christmas tree in a few days, and it will probably be our little one. I’ll put it on a table in the corner of the living room, and relive all the memories I have from the myriad ornaments I’ve collected over the decades. My mother’s orange and banana ornaments from the 1950s. My daughter Sharon’s orange juice can lid with the word JOY punched out with nails, my daughter Carolyn’s little stained glass ornament with her name painted on it, done at a birthday party when she was in elementary school. My daughter Sara’s colored Christmas tree, preserved in contact paper. Crocheted bells from the Glad Tidings church secretary, bead ornaments made by my friend Carey’s daughter Liz, a stuffed angel from my friend Sue P., and so many more. They’re all mostly red, gold and green, and the word I use each year to describe how our tree is decorated is festooned. There isn’t a spare bare inch left on our tree, and it looks so beautiful to us.
I was talking with a granddaughter recently and we were discussing Christmas movies. I think the two I look forward to watching the most this year are the animated version of A Christmas Carol with Jim Carrey (unbelievable stuff they do in that one) and the 1970 version of the same story called Scrooge, a musical with Albert Finney. I know all the songs by heart and sing them out loud and heartily when I watch it. What are your favorite Christmas movies? Is there something you watch every year? Can you believe that Lloyd had never watched It’s a Wonderful Life until last year, when I asked him to sit down and view it with me?
Here are a few things I don’t want to talk about, in person or here in print: how the virus is surging in our area, my ferritin levels, my intense need to get rid of half the stuff in my house on my slow quest to simplify, politics, supply chains, or how lonely it can be to be at home so much. It’s truly a good thing I’m an introvert and love this place.
And at the age of 64, I’m still learning how to pray. I pray in my own handwriting the most, in a prayer journal in the mornings, and I also pray prayers others have written, and I cry out to God from my heart with tears, and I pray the Jesus prayer sometimes. I pray along with the wonderful app Pray As You Go, I pray in silence, I pray when I listen to worship songs. But I still wonder…. how shall I pray? Jesus taught His disciples to pray, and I pray that prayer a lot, slowly, thinking of what each phrase means and meaning it in my heart. I pray lots of short prayers…. Help me Lord!! and Thank you Jesus!
I’m still in the school of prayer, not ever feeling like I’m quite doing it right. One thing I’ve become convinced of lately is, that I want to pray at least three times a day. I mean, stop what I’m doing and go to my room and have a short time of focused talking with the Lord. Morning, noon-ish and before bedtime sounds good to me. I’ve even set my phone to help me remember, and honestly on the days when I do that, my soul is more at peace. Even after the disciples had their lives and beliefs turned upside down by Jesus Christ, they still had set times they went to the temple to pray. Check out the third chapter of the book of Acts to read about Peter and John doing that. If they needed to do that, I think I might also.
I looked back in my prayer journal this morning and saw an answered prayer about my granddaughter Miriam. And one about my daughter Sara. And there have been many about Eleanor and Vivienne and my own children, and friends. I’m so grateful. But I’m still in elementary school when it comes to prayer. I want to be a woman of prayer before I die. I want to know my Savior’s voice.
Well, the sun has set and the wind has died down just a little bit. The mail was just delivered and Mildred the almost 16 year-old schnauzer has been fed. She sure totters and trembles in her old age and we know 2022 might well be the year we kiss her goodbye. I will be up with the dawn to bake and chop and toss and wrap, music playing on the dining room fireplace mantel as I do.
I pray that your Thanksgiving is a day you have even a small something to be grateful for. Whether you will be with family or friends or all alone, I ask the Lord who holds our breath in His hands to give you His peace and love. Thank you for stopping by.
October 18, 2021 | My Jottings
She wakes at 4:35 a.m. and is satisfied with that. If I go back to sleep, fine, if I don’t, this was a decent night’s sleep. She reaches over to the nightstand in the dark and feels for the little bottle of Systane eyedrops, peels her bone-dry upper eyelids from each eyeball, then squeezes two soothing drops into each eye.
She notices how dead quiet it is here in the woods, in this log cabin loft she calls The Tree House. Windows behind the king-sized bed, to the right of the bed, and across the small loft beyond the foot of the bed are filled with foliage and sky, prompting the name. Being in the middle of eighty wooded country acres means there are no nearby streetlights, businesses, headlights, or glowing windows from neighbor’s houses. At home near Lake Superior, even though her house is in a quiet neighborhood, occasional sirens can be heard, a streetlight stands and beams close, and semi-trucks can be heard heading south on I-35, two blocks away.
She puts on her glasses, pockets her dang phone, slips her toes into her Haflingers with the embroidered sheep on the tops, and eases her way down the precarious wooden steps in the dark. “Be careful,” he urges as he throws back the covers and sits up. She takes it one step at a time.
The sun is barely paling the sky over the trees of his woods. Near his recliner she checks the indoor/outdoor thermometer and calls up, “Thirty-six outside.”
“What is it in here?” he asks, and she peers again in the dim cabin living room and answers, “Sixty-three.” She clicks on the air source heat.
She pours some organic half and half in a large mug decorated with a cardinal pair, then pours cold brew over that. He comes downstairs and makes his own pot of hot coffee, turns on the floor lamp with the painted trout and angling gear on the shade, and they sit together on the love seat, ready to read.
It’s October, and an odd date, so that means she reads first. He leads on even days. Her reading is from the gospel of Mark, the account of the Zebedee brothers asking Jesus for special seating in heaven. After she reads the passage and the meditation, he takes out the smaller devotional and reads aloud from the book of Hebrews. Because of what Jesus did, God’s children can approach His throne of grace with confidence, to obtain the mercy needed every day, every moment.
They sit and look through the windows and see what’s left of the autumn leaves, and share quietly together about what confidently approaching the throne of grace really means. Not having to grovel and beg, not having to make an appointment and hoping the King would grant a short audience. Can He be so merciful, so welcoming?
They eat a simple breakfast. He likes bran flakes and Cheerios together in one bowl, with cranberries and chopped walnuts added, and pours milk and Madagascar vanilla kefir over it. She cuts up an apple, scoops a tablespoon of peanut butter onto her plate, and joins him at the table, where he has already put the cooked links of chicken and sage sausages they enjoy.
They watch the half dozen blue jays swooping to and fro outside. He clears the table and she says, “I’ll do the dishes. You made a nice dinner for us last night.” She puts on some jeans and a turtleneck and folds her flannel plaid nightgown and places it in her overnight bag on the glass case with the real stuffed pheasants in the dining room. He dons a hat and a heavy flannel shirt before heading out to put out food for the birds and deer that live in his woods. She plays some Celtic music from her dang phone, and washes the dishes while praying for some marriages on her heart.
The low autumn sun is streaming golden through the cabin windows and the remaining leaves on the birches near the pond rustle in a way that always reminds her of applause. “Aspen leaves are God’s sequins,” she read online recently and smiled, agreeing. And birch leaves too. The trees of the field will clap their hands….
She gathers her journal, her bold point pen that flows so smoothly and calligraphically, her CBS study of Daniel, and a book on the topic of rest for the believer, then feels for the button on the side of the loveseat that lifts her feet and legs up off the ground in comfort. She loves to settle in here, thinking and praying and reading and writing.
A couple of hours later, they both pull on socks and walking shoes, and head out into his woods, walking the trails he cut over twenty years ago when he moved to the Minnesota Northwoods after retirement. He knows she isn’t as steady on her feet lately because of a sudden and puzzling iron deficiency, and her wonky prosthetic knee. He retrieves two chest-high walking sticks he’s cut and sanded and holds them out to her with a smile. Each step they take is crackling and loud with the fallen oak, maple, poplar and birch leaves carpeting the ground up to their ankles. Chickadees flit and flutter across their path, and they pause to watch them here and there.
He points out the blueberry patches along the trail, long picked bare by wild turkeys, and probably a black bear or two. They stop to inspect hard mushrooms growing on the sides of trees, and bark growing over them. They find a place deeper in the woods where an old cabin foundation stands. Over a century ago who lived there? Further in is an old sink and some kind of metal headboard piled together and nearly covered over by brush growth. They walk by a giant white pine, long dead and stories high, slowly killed years ago by porcupines. He knows she doesn’t like to hear about animals suffering, but he tells her grimly that he shot the porcupine when he could finally catch it in its tree-crippling ways.
They come upon a mound of dirt half the size of a barrel. “Ants,” he mutters. He shows her things she would never have noticed on her own, and explains things he’s observed from living in the forest for almost a quarter of a century. He can see where bucks have scraped the trees, what a timber wolf has eaten by its (surprisingly huge) scat, which trees have unseen insects slowly destroying them, which raptors have been decreasing his red squirrel population.
They stroll into a clearing and she considers taking her cardigan off as the sun is warm and the sky cloudless and dark periwinkle. He points to a four foot long depression in the grass where a large deer had recently rested, and she sees the pronounced outline, curved on one end where its rump had been. A few strides further they see the deer droppings, so fresh the animal must be close by. Are they being watched and sniffed? Is there a twitching nose back in those trees, a white tail ready to raise an alarm?
By the time they walk a mile, she’s thirsty and looking forward to taking off her hiking shoes and SmartWool socks in the cabin. She drinks deeply of Lake Superior water, brought to his place in jugs from her house, as they both think it’s the best tasting water they’ve ever had. She reads a while with her feet up, then gets up to put some jasmine rice on to simmer while she cuts up all the ingredients for a grain bowl meal. Squash, green onions, chicken breasts, salsa verde, cotija, and seasonings. He sets the table and pours Fever Tree Ginger Beer for both of them, and they pray for their families before they tuck in.
The sun begins to sink behind the trees skirting his land and an autumnal chill seeps in. She wonders if it will dip into the thirties again tonight while they sleep in The Tree House. He does the dishes while she takes notes from a podcast she’s listening to for the second time. He nods his head as he listens too, and she writes down “Reticular Activating System” and “neurobics” in her journal, and decides to research these in the future.
Tomorrow morning she will pack her overnight bag and he will carry her things to the Outback, and they’ll hug and then wave wistfully to each other as she drives his long and winding driveway out to the county road which will lead to the highway that will take her home.
They’ve been married two years now, and have no plans to live together permanently. His home is here in these peaceful and glorious woods. He built it himself, and loves his land. Her home is near the shore of the largest freshwater lake in the world, close to her daughters and grandchildren, and she can’t imagine making a purposeful decision to change that.
They will talk on the phone right before they both go to sleep, she in her lovely oasis and he in his cozy tree house cabin loft.
Sometimes she dreams of her beloved husband Michael, gone from her for almost seven years. And he tells her of his infrequent dreams of Rosemarie, taken suddenly two months before Michael.
How and why certain lives, previously unknown to each other for decades, eventually meet and meander and intertwine so late in life, is still a mystery to them both.
A Little Fun
October 8, 2021 | My Jottings
Friday greetings to you, friends and family. I saw this circling around and haven’t done something like this for years. In times like these it doesn’t hurt to be a little light-hearted, does it? These are easy enough choices — I’ll share mine, and in the comments below, let me know yours:
Cake or pie? Cake — Duncan Hines Devil’s Food cake with Virginia Sooter’s peanut butter and chocolate frosting, to be exact. No white cake, but lemon and carrot will do too.
Coke or Pepsi? Pepsi, hands down. I can tell the difference blindfolded too. I probably have 3 glasses of Pepsi a year, though. I give my one kidney Verna lots and lots of water.
Comedies or dramas? Dramas.
Reading or listening? Reading, although I listen to an audiobook now and then.
Driving or passengering? I love to drive.
Sports events or theater events? Theater without a doubt, especially if my daughter Carolyn is in the play.
Chips or popcorn? Chips. Lightly salted potato, sometimes tortilla chips if I want my knees to ache.
Mountains or beaches? Mountains, with lots of trees.
Fine point pens or bold point? Bold.
Coffee or tea? Cold brew coffee with half and half in the mornings, tea in the afternoons.
Dogs or cats? Dogs and more dogs.
Birds or reptiles? Birds
Early mornings or late nights? Mornings for me. I haven’t seen a late night in a long time.
Firm beds or plush? Plush.
Hot weather or cold? I’d prefer fall weather, but I’d take cold over hot anyday.
A month in Ireland or a month in the Caribbean? Green, green and blarney.
A lively gathering with several folks, or one on one? One on one.
Idaho or Florida? Idaho.
North Carolina or Washington? North Carolina
California or Minnesota? I’m a Minnesotan to my marrow now.
How about you? You don’t have to answer all of these, but what are some of your preferences?
A day at home
October 2, 2021 | My Jottings
It’s almost my bedtime on this first Saturday night of my favorite month — October. The leaves are blazing and causing me to marvel as if I’ve never seen orange and yellow and crimson before. The only tiny problem with today is that it was super humid, and I just don’t think that’s right for October. We’ve had unusually tropical weather for months now, so we look forward to cool, dry air that makes us so invigorated we have to walk and cycle and put on turtlenecks.
I had plans and a few errands to run today, but ended up scrapping them. I have had a few sluggish days as my body is hopefully healing from a dark foray into iron-deficiency anemia and resulting symptoms, but this morning, I woke after a decent night’s sleep with a determination to get a lot of things done at home. I made a long to-do list before I went to bed last night and I’m feeling grateful that I crossed every task off except one. And there’s still time for that if I stay awake long enough.
I did two loads of wash, paid bills, balanced my checkbook and reconciled my account from the statement to the ledger, cleaned the kitchen, cut up a huge watermelon into planks and put them into containers in the fridge, washed out the kitchen trash container with hot soapy water, dealt with some recycling, cleaned the inside of my car out, did my Community Bible Study lesson (so good, on Daniel), put Millie out and brought her back in about seven times, got art supplies divided and ready for my granddaughters’ fall art class that began today, ordered groceries and put them away after they were delivered, wrote out two birthday cards and mailed them, wrote in my prayer journal, prayed, cooked grassfed beef and cut up a whole bunch of vegetables and made Harvest Soup, and after it cooled, put it in storage containers and put it in the fridge.
Now, I’m tired. And achy. Probably because I had corn chips yesterday, which 100% of the time make me feel like I’ve been beaten with a baseball bat the following day. So why isn’t that a deterrent, you ask? I am asking the same question.
I’ve started a wonderful book by Mary Marantz called Dirt — she’s a gifted writer and I highly recommend it.
Later this month Lloyd and I will celebrate our second wedding anniversary by driving up the North Shore of Lake Superior and staying in a wonderful place so close to the lake you could almost reach out and flick the frigid water if you weren’t on the second story. We hope to hike in the brilliant woods as long as I don’t eat any corn chips to poison myself and set my joints on fire beforehand. Each time we go to Grand Marais and the Gunflint Trail, I hope and pray we’ll see some moose. We see deer and foxes and other critters, even black bears, but so far no moose.
My three daughters are so busy with happy pursuits lately. My oldest daughter Sharon just signed a book deal with Penguin Random House and has to have it written by June of 2022. That will be a big undertaking, especially since she also hosts her own podcast (Sharon Says So) and that alone is a huge job. Sharon and Chris and family bought a new house and moved in recently — it’s set on 10 private, wooded acres and they love it. Just driving down their driveway feels like you have to breathe an exhale of peace. Their three dogs love it too. Rosy the chocolate lab dunks herself in their pond a few times a day, Lucy their mutt is the patroller of the property boundaries, and Molly, the tubby yellow lab (also known as Vicious Malicious) fearlessly runs to greet all delivery vehicles and people, hoping to make new friends.
My middle daughter Carolyn and her husband Jeremy and their family just moved into a different house too. Their place is a beautiful old brick mansion with a green tile roof and the most gorgeous floor to ceiling windows, set on a little over three heavily treed acres. The house was built in 1915 and sat empty for a few years, so a significant level of dilapidation has occurred, but that hasn’t daunted them. They are busy every day peeling old wallpaper, installing new toilets, tearing down cabinets, putting in working electrical outlets, and so much more. Carolyn is documenting it all on her TikTok account (which I’m not on, but I still look at it, and you can too if you like) under HomeSweetVictoria. There are lots of pictures on Instagram too. I’m so happy for both families who love their new homes.
My youngest daughter Sara has begun nursing school and is in the thick of difficult studying and tests and presentations, and she shares with me a lot of what she’s learning, which is mind-boggling. The things they are supposed to know already, after only five weeks of school, is pretty advanced. She also has two other jobs, so she’s occupied from early morning until late at night. I’m happy for Sara as she moves toward her career goals. She has lots of ideas about what kind of nursing she might want to pursue once she gets her RN.
I think about retirement once in a while, but I’m still not ready yet. I love my job and my foster care resident is happy living with me. She’s been with me for 13 years now. We do so well together and she has worked hard and made so much progress and come off of so many meds these past years. It’s wonderful to see her thrive.
I took this picture of my house the other day when I was coming home from Lloyd’s cabin in Bruno. Home. It has come to mean so much to me. I love my white corner house with views of Lake Superior from almost every room.
I have lived in 17 homes in my life, owned the last three of them, and hardly a day goes by when I’m not overcome with gratitude that I own this comfortable and well-built place. It was built in 1948 and the previous owners did a lot of renovations in the early 2000s that bless me every day. There isn’t much yard, but at this age (I just turned 64) I don’t want a big yard to think about mowing, or lots of places that need shoveling in the winter.
When I get up in the morning, and that seems to be earlier and earlier lately, I do several things. I light a beeswax candle in my bedroom, pad quietly down the hall to get my Stok cold brew coffee and my 20 ounce Yeti with water and ice, then return to my room. After I set my mugs down, I turn on a little quiet music, hunker down in my plaid chair, wrap my always-cold neck in a prayer shawl Sharon knitted for me years ago. I do my CBS lesson, pray for my family and friends, write out prayer requests, thoughts, dreams, scriptures and ideas in my beloved Leuchtturm, and prepare for the day. If I don’t have someplace to be on a given day, I might sit down in my chair around 5:30 a.m. and won’t be done until 7:00 or so. Not that I spend that much time praying, but it has become a vital and nourishing time for me that I hate to deviate from. I do skip when I have to, but the day never feels quite right if I begin without that time. My chair is placed in my bedroom on exactly the spot where Michael’s hospital bed was the week he was dying. It seems very sacred to me to sit in the same place where my husband left this earth to meet his Savior.
What are the things about your home that you like best? What would you change if you could? I love my view, my spacious bedroom that feels like an oasis, the deep bathtub, and my attached, heated garage. I would like more kitchen cabinet storage if it were possible, but that’s such a small thing.
I’m still slowly going through things, filling up bags to take to the Goodwill, and paring down at a glacial pace. Books are very difficult for me to sort through and donate — they feel like faithful friends who are very content living on my many bookshelves. It feels right and good for me to keep simplifying and getting rid of things I have too many of. I watched a short video recently of a professional organizer I like on Instagram, and she asked her followers how many towels they thought were needed in their homes? She suggested that only two towels per person are needed and I was shocked. I have towers of towels stacked and crammed in my bathroom closet. I went to that same closet after considering this, and decided three each was a better number for me, and I donated all the extra towels I’d been keeping for years. The space it freed up in my closet made me feel like I wanted to choose another area right away and do the same. Why did I think I needed twenty towels?
Well, this was a lot of random rambling on this Saturday night. I hope you are able to see some lovely fall colors where you are. I hope you have a good book to read, and that you have a place to call home you love. I pray you have a friend who is a soft place to land, and that the Lord reminds you of how deeply He loves you and how trustworthy He is. We need reminding, I think. I know I do.
September 17, 2021 | My Jottings
I read the quote below not long ago and it struck a chord so deep in me I felt it thrum for a long time. It’s from C.S. Lewis (of course, again), writing about how it felt to be without his wife Joy after her death.
“Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.”
And even after 6 1/2 years of being without Michael, I could revise the quote for my own feelings:
“His absence is like the sky, spread over everything.”
I am remarried to a man whose words and actions bless me at every turn, and I’m so grateful. But Michael’s absence still resounds, and I miss him.
I think about him and ask God to tell him things for me. I cry when I think of the last years of Michael’s suffering. I laugh with my foster gal who misses him too; she often recounts many funny memories. I still aspire to live as humbly as Michael did. Never do I praise the Lord without thinking of him, whose second language later in life was praise. I pray for Michael’s two daughters Buffy and Daphne and their families as often as I pray for my own daughers and their children and spouses. I have precious videos on my phone of Michael I still watch now and then.
I’m so glad that when we lose a beloved spouse we don’t “move on,” but we rather “move closer.” As I live out my days I don’t see myself getting further away from Michael, as if leaving him behind. I think of it instead as moving nearer to him — he is where I hope to be someday. Day by day I get closer to the time when I’ll see him again, and many other loved ones who died in the faith.
I hope you all have a wonderful weekend,