Venturing Out

April 1, 2016 | My Jottings

It’s still dark in the mornings when my iPhone alarm goes off on my nightstand, which I’m not crazy about, but I did notice a change this week: I can hear birds singing now. The robins have returned, along with the goldfinches. A couple of days ago I could hear rain hitting the roof when I woke, and the birds were chirping anyway. I can’t remember if I’ve ever noticed birds singing in the dark and the pouring rain, and I thought there was a message for my soul there. Are things dark? Sing to the Lord. Are there storms right above your house while other homes are in sunshine? Give the Lord your praise.

I will bless the Lord at all times;
    his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
    let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
    and let us exalt his name together!
Psalm 34:1-3.

I love that last verse. The thought of exalting God’s name with sparrows and cardinals and finches and chickadees makes me happy.

Yesterday I set out on a new venture. I attended my first day at The University for Seniors at UMD. (The University of Minnesota-Duluth). I loved it. Loved, loved it. All the things I had an inner niggling about turned out to be nothing. I was surprised at how well attended it was. You have to be over 50 to enroll, and there were lively old people everywhere. Now that I’m 58 my idea of “old people” has changed dramatically, so it was refreshing to see so many seniors of all shapes and sizes and hair colors and ages. I admired the folks I saw with walkers, getting out to “live and learn,” as the US motto says. People were friendly, curious, and welcoming.


My first class is called “Memory to Memoir” and I learned more about writing in those two hours than I can ever remember from the classes in my youth. What a fabulous instructor we have. She’s retired from teaching high school honors English and she was so encouraging and dynamic. I’m excited to begin my first informal assignment (there are no grades or tests at University for Seniors) this week, which is to write 1/2 page about a neighborhood I’ve lived in. We were encouraged to write more if we could….har har har.

The second class I took is called “Great Books” and 25 of us sat around a large rectangular table in a cheerful classroom with huge windows, discussing the first short story we read by Margaret Atwood, entitled “The Man from Mars.” Some people didn’t speak, most did. It was a fantastic discussion and I learned so much. Half the folks brought their lunch and ate it while the discussion went on, so I might do that next week, since I’m at UMD for five hours on my class day.

I’ve wrapped myself up in a healing/grieving cocoon for the last 417 days, and have spent many days quiet, reading, crying, praying, grieving, wailing, staring, resting, writing, praising, wondering, and trusting God with the remainder of my life. I still feel the need for quiet, rest and contemplation. My friend Carey would say that part of this is likely the adrenal exhaustion my body is healing from after the sorrow and struggle of Michael’s last years. I believe that.

And I still do a mental fist pump and say a vigorous inner “Yessss!” when I look at my calendar and see a blank day, completely free of any appointments. I still cry every single day as soon as I have one thought about my beloved Michael. Even now just typing that sentence brings tears. What is he doing right now? Does God allow him to see us, to cheer us on like the “great cloud of witnesses?” Sara and I like to imagine that whatever he’s doing involves birds, building, and praising Jesus, but I know that our minds can’t conceive of how magnificent life is for him now. Our anemic ideas about heaven will be exposed someday and I look forward with hope to being bowled over by what Jesus has prepared for those that love Him. And my husband sure loved Him. One of my frequent prayers is, “Lord, help me to love you more!”

Today I will grocery shop, buy some concert tickets for one of my Fosters and her boyfriend (the Beach Boys and the Temptations are coming to town), and start on my essay about my old neighborhood.

Have a nice weekend, dear friends and family….


  1. Helen in Switzerland says:

    Hi Julie, it was lovely to read about your new adventure – what fun. I would love to do something similar – but here you have to be 60 and of course I have no time because of work….but one day i will be following in your footsteps. I hope this marks the beginning of a whole new part of your life Julie and that it will bring you much happiness!
    Much love from Switzerland, Helen xx

  2. Just Julie says:

    I can picture that when you retire from working outside the home, you will be so active and creative and vibrant, Helen. Not that you’re not all those things now…. 🙂 You’ll probably be one of the instructors when you do the after-60 education! Hugs to you today, dear friend… xoxo

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