Writing in the morning dark

January 7, 2016 | My Jottings

Last night I took my two Fosters out to dinner and we used an Olive Garden gift card I had received for Christmas. The gals had Chicken Alfredo and Lasagna, and I had the Chicken Marsala. By the time we got home and put our leftovers in the fridge, let the dogs out and turned on a fire in the dining room fireplace, it had begun to snow outside. I stood and watched from the kitchen window, looking toward the streetlight across the street and down aways, and was happy to see big, fluffy flakes blowing around. It snowed about an inch or two, but it’s a light, powdery snow, easy to shovel, and right before I went to bed around 10:00 p.m., I let the dogs out one more time (such high-maintenance pooches — always wanting to potty outside!) and then shoveled off the deck in a couple of minutes.

When I can be outside on a winter night in my flannel nightgown and slippers, with no coat, hat or socks, and it feels brisk and refreshing, then I know it’s at least 26 degrees out. Photo-on-1-7-16-at-6.47-AM-300x200 (1)My internal thermometer tells me so. When it’s below 20 degrees, I feel the chill seep deep in less than a minute and don’t watch and wait for the dogs on the deck but from inside the house. If the temperatures are close to zero or even below it (as is predicted for this Sunday — 10 below — gahhh) I might go outside to hurry the dogs down the deck steps so they won’t lollygag and end up with painful feet, but the bitter cold brings aching pain in seconds and I can’t get back inside fast enough.

I’m a homebody anyway, but there’s nothing like a northeastern Minnesota winter to underscore that tendency. Since Michael died on February 9th, I have cocooned myself as much as possible in this home I’m so grateful for, to heal, to ponder, to insulate, to cry, possibly even to prepare. I’m not sure what I’m preparing for, but I feel like there’s something. Maybe a trip abroad? Maybe the writing of a children’s book? Maybe my own death? We never know how long we’ll have, and I think when you lose a loved one, mortality stops being a hunched, shadowy figure darting from bush to bush in your peripheral vision, and instead walks up those front steps, rings the doorbell and offers its hand in a bold hello. And it’s not scary.

Two things make death not scary for me: Michael’s death, and Jesus. The ways the Lord beautifully tended to our family, and to His beloved Michael, during the final week of Michael’s life, forever changed how I think about the process of dying. I do realize that not everyone gets to experience what Michael did, but I hope I learned a deeper level of trust in the Lord for when my own time comes. And pretty much the whole Bible points to how God dealt with the problem of death (and in Genesis it became a huge problem right away) and His answer was, by the time the New Testament was penned, Jesus. Writing this makes me think of Fernando Ortega’s song “Give Me Jesus,” especially the lyrics, “and when I come to die, give me Jesus.” If you haven’t heard it, you’ll be blessed to listen, right here. I asked my friend Lorna to sing this song at Michael’s funeral.

I’m reading a book right now I think I can safely recommend, even though I’m only in the second chapter. One of my eleven readers, Nancy, mentioned it in a recent comment she left. It’s called Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Deibler Rose, and it’s already stirring my soul.

I want my soul to be stirred, yet this past year I have done all I can to hole myself up so my soul is not stirred. Maybe that’s not the most accurate way to put it. Maybe I want my soul to be stirred, but my life to stand still for a while, which of course is foolish. I need to start moving again. My grief and inactivity have added pounds to my already ample frame, and my joints never let me forget it. This thought came to me the other day: I buried my husband and am now trying to bury myself as well. Not literally bury in a grave, but am I trying to wrap and hide myself from all that life still offers? If so, why? I have no idea. If I knew the answer to that I probably wouldn’t have written the last paragraph.

The sun hasn’t come up yet, but I have a hot bath drawn (with my favorite mild bubbles from a splash of Amway’s LOC) and several things on my to-do list today. Grocery shopping, foster report writing and mailing, laundry folding, my Community Bible Study lesson, prescriptions to pick up for my gals, and if I can reach to the depths for a shred of self-control and discipline, a walk.

What do you have planned for today? Or tomorrow? What are you reading right now? Are you preparing for something too?


  1. Kay says:

    Perhaps Julie, instead of thinking that you’ve been burying yourself, it could be that you’ve been building a warm, comforting, safe cocoon. This time of hibernation has been soothing and healing.
    And now it’s time to emerge and start living life in abundance again as Jesus taught us.
    I pray God will bless and direct your steps as you move onwards to finish the race.
    Sending lots of love xxx

  2. Just Julie says:

    Thank you for the alternative outlook, and the loving encouragement, dear Kay. Hugs for you and Alan… xoxo

  3. Nancy says:

    I’m reading a letter from my friend’s pastor. Rev. Joe. He’s always inspiring Your experience of the weather reminded me of it and his experience in “Minnesnowtah”

    Dear Members and Friends,

    Everything is relative, isn’t it? Amazing to me that all of the weather reports give today’s temperatures and then remind us of how much above or below average that day’s statistics are, what and when the record high and low were for that same day in history, etc.

    So, this week, we all were hit with the “coldest temperatures since March”. As everyone else complained about how cold it was I kept saying to myself and others who would listen, “After living in the upper Midwest for 30 years, this is warm.” While serving churches in WI, I could always count on at least one full week of temperatures 30 below zero, usually around the third week of January. By then everyone was so fatigued by the constant cold, meetings were cancelled and no one went anywhere except necessary like work and the grocery store.

    Then I moved from” Minnesnowtah” to Arizona. Folks asked me how I could stand that. I’d respond, “an extreme is an extreme. In Minnesota we go from heated house to heated car to heated office. In AZ we go from air conditioned house to air conditioned car to air conditioned office. What’s the difference?”

    Well, the difference is either what you are used to or what you are willing to put up with. Some folks prefer cold, others prefer hot. It is, after all, relative, isn’t it? Relative to what you prefer, what you are used to, and what you can or cannot do about it.

    When I attended a small, liberal arts college in the hills of Pennsylvania in the 60’s during the beginning of the Viet Nam war, I was known as one of the campus liberal radicals because of my pacifist beliefs. Upon graduation I went to a seminary filled with students avoiding the draft who spent most of their nonacademic time protesting the war and blocking traffic on the main thoroughfare between Chicago and the suburbs. I was labelled a traditional conservative for my same views! Had I changed? No. My environment changed and so what I believed and how folks perceived me was determined by the culture I was in and not by what I believed.

    A wise pastor I had during my high school years was very fond of J. B. Phillips version of the New Testament. I can still remember him emphatically quoting Romans 12:2 from Phillips in a sermon: “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold.”

    My life experiences which have taken me all over the country in different settings have taught me much about the theory of relativity, as it were. The 1970’s motivational speaker, Morris Massey, made a lot of sense to me when he wrote, “What you are is where you were when.” See, it’s all relative!

    Perhaps all my placements of where I was when in my family, my college, my seminary, my churches, my different places I’ve lived have all contributed to my understanding of others and why I am so tolerant (to an extent). I’m grateful for all that others have shown and taught me by their thoughts, deeds and actions. It has kept me humble and open to others. So, when I meet closed minded, non-trusting, hateful others, I quietly pray, thanking God, for all the opportunities I’ve been given and live in hope that someday, somehow, those individuals will be given the same opportunities I’ve been given to put things in perspective.

    See you in church,

    Rev Joe

  4. Just Julie says:

    Yes, Minnesnowta is apt, except for the last two winters, Nancy. I am hoping for a lot more snow. Not the bitter January cold that Rev. Joe mentioned, but piles of snow. I enjoyed reading Reverend Joe’s letter and thank you for typing it out for us. What a wonderful way to face those who are difficult – to quietly pray and thank God for what we’ve been given. And to pray for those people too. Very easy in theory. Ha. God bless your weekend, dear Nancy. xoxo

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