10 Things I Learned This Winter

1. Snow days aren’t as much fun when there are no kids at home. One of my supreme joys in life was going into my teenagers’ bedrooms and whispering, “No school today!” It’s wonderful to be the bearer of such good tidings. We all loved an excuse to spend the day in pjs and bask in the unexpected day off. No more. Snow days and school cancellations don’t make my heart sing anymore. I have to get dressed and go to work anyway.

2. Speaking of snow days, we’ve had 9 so far this winter. And counting.

3. “Channel 3000 Call for Action” are magic words. After three months without a refrigerator, seven service calls, four new compressors and one new motherboard, we played the ultimate trump card and called the consumer advocate. When the bigwigs at the big box store caught wind of that, we got a big check in the mail. The refrigerator saga is finally over.

4. Somebody had a brilliant marketing idea. On Valentine’s Day, there was a mysterious pink envelope in the mailbox with my name on it. PB and I had agreed to not get each other anything this year. Flowers just end up dying. Candy just gets eaten. Cards are fine, but somebody else wrote those schmaltzy words. I must admit, my eyes lit up a little bit when I saw the card in the mystery envelope.

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The small print reveals the ulterior motive. But, hey, Lorenzo Caine wants me back!

5. Looking for a swimming suit in February is like trying to find snow boots in July. Supply is limited. Even if you live near the “Waterpark Capital of the World”, surprisingly enough. There was not one bathing suit in the outlet mall. Thankfully, one other store had three models to choose from, one of which was in my size — which made my decision easy.

6. It’s possible to read the Bible from cover to cover in 60 days. I started on December 20th and crossed the finish line on February 17th. I felt a bit out of breath and wondered if speed reading the Good Book had been a good idea after all. Now I’m so glad I did it. Like flying over the Grand Canyon, it was a majestic view of God’s grand story. What hit me most was the stark difference between the Old and New Testament. When Jesus came on the scene, I fell in love with Him. He was so drastically different from the God of the Old Testament with all the fire and smoke and thunder and lightning. Jesus was such a surprise and I wanted to clap and cheer for Him. He is the best part.

7. Desperate times call for desperate measures. During that week long sub-zero cold snap in January, four grands were staying at our house. It was too cold to send them out to play in the snow, so I brought the snow in. It was a hit. Bonus: I got the kitchen floor washed. (Double bonus: There is a stockpile of snowballs in the freezer, waiting for a summer snowball fight.)

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8. A day of rest is still a good idea. Our physical bodies and our souls need regular periods of rest. Thank goodness we don’t have to follow the “39 Categories of Sabbath Rules” anymore. No carrying (not even a needle), no burning (don’t turn on the lights), no tearing paper (including toilet paper), no writing, erasing, or tying knots. No eyebrow plucking and no slaughtering of any living creatures (mosquitoes included). No opening umbrellas and no makeup allowed. And that’s just a smidgen of the five pages of rules. Sabbath was a lot of work. Jesus set things straight — “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

9. Christmas should be in January. My daughter made a good case for this on her recent Instagram post. October has Halloween and November has Thanksgiving. Then we should all take a break and get cozy during December. Instead of losing our minds because of winter in January, let’s do Christmas! Then carry on with the rest of the year. Credit for this brilliant idea goes to Anna. Who’s with her?

10. I heard birds singing this morning. Actual birds. Actually singing. They are starting to feel it in their tiny bones — spring is closer than we think. May we all have the faith of birds and be sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not yet see.

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10 Things I Learned This Fall

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1. The Byrd’s stole King Solomon’s poem for their hit song “Turn, Turn, Turn” in 1965. Other than the added lyrics, “turn, turn, turn,” the words are straight out of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. I wonder if all those flower children knew they were quoting the Bible. Studying Solomon this fall has been a fascinating look at wisdom and folly. And how they both can reside inside a human being at the same time.

2. Kindness is still alive and well in the world. PB and I watched “The Kindness Diaries” this fall — a Netflix series that records Leon Logothetis’ travels around the world. He takes no money with him and relies entirely on the kindness of others for his food, gas and lodging. What a pleasant surprise to find something uplifting but not cheesy (sorry all you Hallmark channel lovers) on the television. Kindness doesn’t make for a sensational headline, but our hearts are starved for it.

3. Roasting is magic. Put any old vegetable in the oven at 450 degrees for 15-20 minutes and it is transformed. Ever since listening to The Lazy Genius spell out the dos and don’ts of roasting, PB and I have upped our veggie intake dramatically. I have a friend who also is genius when it comes to roasting tomatoes. I tried her method — in this case, putting halved tomatoes in the oven overnight at 250 degrees — and then freezing them. Oh my goodness gracious. Chili and goulash this winter will taste extra good.

4. MVP. Need I say more? The last time we played baseball in October, I was expecting my first baby. She’s 35. The Milwaukee Brewers exceeded all expectations and gave us a thrill this fall. Christian Yelich was National League MVP, and did it without any arrogance or swagger. I was ready to hit “send” and buy World Series tickets, but, alas, it was not to be. Next year.

5. In preparation for our winter women’s Bible study, I’ve been trying to figure out what Sabbath means for believers in our time. To Sabbath, or not to Sabbath? Can “Sabbath” be a verb? Didn’t Jesus set us free from the law? Is rest biblical? So many questions. We’ll have seven weeks to dig for answers.

6. There’s more than one way to shoot a buck. On opening day of deer hunting season, PB got his fluorescent orange out of the mothballs, trekked into the back yard, and found himself face to face with a buck stomping the ground with his front hoof. Happily, my man was ready and loaded and got off a great shot. With his camera. He enjoyed his time in the woods and I enjoyed not having to deal with a dead animal.

7. I might move to Iceland. A friend alerted me to the lovely Icelandic tradition of “Jolabokaflod” or “The Christmas Book Flood”. Every Christmas Eve, books are exchanged and then Icelanders spend the rest of the night in bed reading and eating chocolate. Iceland publishes more books per capita than any other country. The 4 hours of daylight in December probably has something to do with that. Okay, I might not move to Iceland, but how about a Book Flood right here in the USA?

8. It’s possible to host 25 people for Thanksgiving dinner without a working refrigerator. It helps if the temperature on the back porch is below 40 degrees. Our two-year old fridge went on the fritz back on Oct. 26. Three repair appointments and two compressors later, we are still waiting to move the butter and Cream Soda off the porch steps. All I want for Christmas is a working refrigerator.

9. I like opera. Kind of. If I know someone in the chorus. Our daughter was in a performance with the Madison Opera this fall and I’m still not sure what the storyline was all about, but the staging and the costumes and the music were glorious.

10. Our fair town made national headlines this fall. The good people of Baraboo are picking up the pieces and moving toward healing the hurts from all sides. I learned first-hand the power of the national media to swoop into a town and destroy everything in its wake for the sake of a story. PB and I are learning to be careful when exposing ourselves to social media and national news. When we start feeling anxious, less is better.

In the words of Solomon:
“Get the truth and never sell it;
also get wisdom, discipline, and good judgment.”
Proverbs 23:23

hello winter

10 Things I Learned This Summer

1. Taking a break is a good idea. Summer is a good time to throw the routine out the window and ease up on all of my self-imposed assignments. Summer needs to be about napping in a hammock and roasting marshmallows and picking Kentucky Wonder beans in the garden. I always hope that by the time fall rolls around I will be like a racehorse, ready to bust out of the gates and run like the wind.

2. Taking a break is a bad idea. It’s hard to get the creative juices flowing again after a long hiatus. In truth, I feel less like a racehorse and more like Fred Flintstone, feet running in place as I try to get a car made out of rock moving again.

3. PB and I have found our vacation groove: put a few things in a suitcase, grab a podcast-loaded Ipod and start driving. This foray into spontaneity is so much fun for me and PB gets to decide which roads to take. We heard a trombone trio concert at Interlocken, biked around an island, went to Canada for 20 minutes, watched the fish at Kitch-iti-kipi, and ate a pasty in the U.P. We ended the week with a sunset in Door County.

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4. The Brewers can’t win when we are at Miller Park. Even when they are ahead in the 9th inning. All five games we attended this summer ended up in the loss column. No more Brewer games for us.

5. Ninety years of life calls for a celebration. PB’s mom turned 90 in July and the extended family showed up to help her blow out those candles. She is the matriarch of our clan and it was a joy to hear the the kids, the grands and the great-grands sing a boisterous “Happy Birthday” in her honor. I hope I can be a nonagenarian someday. Only 32 more years to go.

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6. Noah’s Ark was big. Really big. We went with a group to The Ark Encounter in Kentucky and saw it for ourselves. This amazing boat was built according to measurements given in Genesis and it was impressive. The detail, the quality of workmanship, the presentation, the buffet — all spectacular.

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7. Talent abounds in the next generation. The Family Talent Show on Family Weekend was quite entertaining. Hudson showed us his skateboarding moves, Eli played the first level of Mario Brothers for us, Ella gave a dramatic recitation and danced, Evie sang a very special song with her daddy, and Charlie cheered everyone on. The littles jumped around and looked cute.

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8. Our two pound baby girl proved Psalm 46:5 true. “God is within her, she will not fall.” Ember Blake made the happy trip from NICU to home, giving us all something to rejoice in and marvel at. She is over 10 pounds now and rewarding us all with smiles and coos.

9. Solomon was wise but not very smart. I’ve been digging into this man’s life to prepare for our fall women’s Bible study and he will give us a lot to talk about. Still trying to figure out how the wisest man to ever live ended up with 700 wives.

10. I’m not ready to quit. This summer, I spent some time thinking about what to do with “a small drop of ink”. This blog has been going since February 2010 and I felt ready to put it to rest. Then one day I noticed that of the 17 people who visited the site, five were from Great Britain, three were from Singapore, two were from Sweden and one was from the United Arab Emirates. My eyes went to the prayer I have on my desk:

“Help me to please You with what I write.
Give me a message that impacts lives for the Kingdom.
Put wings to my words and send them to whoever needs to know about Jesus.”

What better way to let words fly around the globe than to put them on the internet? As unsavory as social media can be, there is a good side too. So I’ll keep putting words out there and trust the Holy Spirit to give them wings.

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10 Things I Learned This Spring

1. Sometimes we skip spring. There was a winter storm on April 18 followed by several days of unseasonably cool temps. Then there was maybe a week of legitimate spring weather followed by a stretch of 90 degree days. Winter moved right into summer, it seems.

2. The Lenten journey was especially meaningful for me this year. Ash Wednesday collided with Valentine’s Day. Holy Week collided with Spring Break. Easter Sunday collided with April Fool’s Day. All that colliding made me feel the force of impact. I wrote in my journal, “This is Holy Week and I must stay with You, Jesus. Watch with You. See what my sin has done to You. Weep. I feel sorry for those who skip Lent and drop in on Easter Sunday. I want to come to Resurrection Day exhausted, and beside myself with relief. I want to see You through tears of woeful grief that turn into tears of wild joy. I want to stand in the shadow of Your death until there is no more death, but only life coming from the tomb.”

3. Every season needs its own soundtrack. This spring I stumbled onto Andrew Peterson’s CD “Resurrection Letters, Vol. 1”. The song “Is He Worthy?” gives me goosebumps. Every. Single. Time. Why have I never heard of this guy before? Not only is he a prolific and creative musician, he has also written a series of fantasy/adventure books and runs an online community fostering “spiritual formation through music, story and art”. Be still my beating heart.

4. Back when the temps were still in the 30’s and the ground was still too hard to dig in and baseball games hadn’t started yet, I did the most spring-y thing I could think of: I cleaned a closet. That undeniable desire to spring-clean starts rising up in me as winter winds down. It all began with a drawer in the kitchen, continued with the bathroom cupboard and then I tackled the messiest closet in the house.

5. If Andrew Peterson provided the soundtrack to my spring, then John Eldredge supplied the words in his book, “Beautiful Outlaw: A Dangerous Book About a Scandalous Savior”. The way he wrapped up his book, wrapped right back around to our “Abide With Me” theme for Lent. “Jesus has no intention of letting you become whole apart from his moment-to-moment presence and life within you. You are still a branch in desperate need of a Vine.”

6. Noah was on the Ark for 370 days. So many new things came to light in our Women’s Bible study on Noah. The Sunday school version leaves out a whole bunch. One of the people I am most looking forward to talking to in heaven is Mrs. Noah. The Biblical account focuses on Mr. Noah, but you and I both know who was doing most of the work on that boat.

7. Opening Day of baseball season should be a national holiday. PB and I went to the Brewer’s home opener in April and loved everything about it — except the final score. One of the reasons I love baseball season is because I get texts like this from my son at 1:29 a.m.: “Please tell me you saw that 9th inning go down.”

8. Working with a team is way better than working solo on something as big as VBS. My heart was singing praises as twenty people gathered around the table and divvied up all the responsibilities involved in pulling off Vacation Bible School. It’s so much more fun this way. And PB doesn’t have to make all my visions become reality single-handedly. He also doesn’t have to deal with a cranky, stressed-out wife. Blessings all around!

9. My enchantment with the Enneagram personality profile was heightened when I discovered Ryan O’Neal’s songs for each of the nine Enneagram types. His work is depth and artistry at its best. If this doesn’t make you tear up, then you’re not a type 1:
“Now I have learned my lesson;
The price of this so-called perfection is everything.
I’ve spent my whole life searching desperately
To find out grace requires nothing of me.”

10. The biggest and best news of the spring was the unexpected arrival of our 9th grandchild. She was twelve weeks early and just over 2 pounds. As May comes to a close, she has joined the 4 pound club! Once she gets the breathing-sucking-swallowing thing down, she will get to move out of NICU. For now, we are so thankful for nurses and doctors who know just what to do to keep a miniature human’s heart beating and lungs breathing. Ember Blake, welcome to the world. You have already changed it for the better.

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10 Things I Learned This Winter

Winter is my 4th favorite season, so I’m not going to be too sad to see this one in the books. I’m ready to come out of hibernation and see a springtime world again. I’m sure the daffodils and tulips are starting to rumble underground. It won’t be long!

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I know.
It might be a bit early to bid winter adieu.
There will be the inevitable March snowstorms.
I know.

Here are some things I learned this winter:

1. When there’s not enough snow on the ground, too much frigid air, and not enough toilet flushing, sewer pipes can freeze. It was evident we had a big problem 10 minutes before 14 people arrived for dinner. This is the first time I’ve welcomed guests to my home with the greeting, “We have no working toilets.”

2. Water pipes can also freeze under said conditions.

3. Excellence is uncommon, except when top athletes from around the world come together for two weeks. We tuned in to the Olympics almost every night to watch the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. I can’t imagine four years of training for a four minute race. That’s some kind of dedication, even if it does culminate in a gold medal and a picture on a Wheaties box.

4. It’s no fun being a statistic. I was one of the 34 million Americans who got Influenza A this winter. And no, I did not get the flu shot. In fact, the day before I came down with it, I bragged about never getting the flu. On the bright side, I wrote a devotional booklet while I was languishing on the couch. Don’t even know how that happened.

5. Influenza couldn’t keep me away from “Hamilton”. I was on the mend by the time we drove to Chicago to see this amazing show, but I did sneak in a bottle of Robitussin cough suppressant and took a swig between acts.  Our generous kids gave us the tickets for Christmas. When they were little, the kids gave us trinkets from the Dollar Store. I like having adult children.

6. When Ash Wednesday collides with Valentine’s Day it seems significant. While it is true that “from dust we are and to dust we will return” (Genesis 3:19), it is also true that we are most beloved dust.

7. I’m not giving up anything for Lent this year. Instead, I’m eating one prune every day for 40 days to remind myself that He is the vine and I am a branch and branches need pruning. I pop one in my mouth and pray, “Lord, come and thin out the dead underbrush and the fruitless growth that saps energy but produces nothing. Remove even the good things to make room for better things. I trust Your pruning hand.”

8. Quote of the season: “I must write, not because I feel I have anything to give. Not because being an artist comes first — it doesn’t. Not because it matters to anyone else what I say — that has no bearing on it at all. But simply because the thread will not be strong without that strand.” Anne Morrow Lindbergh

9. PB’s side of the family has some interesting characters. I’ve done lots of research on my family tree, so I decided to turn my attention to his side. It seems PB’s great-great uncle was a good friend of Wild Bill Hickok and was in the saloon with Wild Bill when he was shot (the only time Hickok sat in a saloon playing cards with his back to the door). In 1879, Great-Great Uncle John helped bury Wild Bill in the Deadwood, South Dakota cemetery. So the story goes.

10. “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.” (Heb. 12:28) I need to be reminded of this when the world starts shaking. If I’m going to stay steady amid tremors of tragedy and waves of worry, I need to hang on to what is unshakable.

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10 Things I Learned This Fall

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1. I used to plan my kids’ birthday parties, but now they plan mine. It’s part of the wonder of having adult children and I love it so much. They gave me a birthday breakfast party with the original six. All around the table they went, saying what they appreciated about me. The verse, “Her children arise and call her blessed” kept going through my mind. This was the highlight of my autumn.

2. Legos are still awesome. I spent a week sorting out the gazillions of small plastic bits and pieces in September. (Read about it here.) Then, in October, I played with them. I impressed my four year old grands by building a car according to plans that were in the Lego Plans notebook. All the pieces were easily found because they were all sorted so nicely. It was the most satisfying feeling! When I am old and living in a retirement center, don’t bring me jigsaw puzzles or coloring books. Just bring me Legos.

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3. I still need lullabies. After hearing Christy Nockels lead worship at the Abundance Conference, her CD “Be Held: Lullabies for the Beloved” has been on repeat. The songs are a balm to my soul.

4. I miss Aaron Rodgers. It’s too bad that a Vikings player had to slam #12’s collarbone to the ground and ruin the Packers’ season. Having the star QB out sure has exposed weaknesses in the team. That’s the danger of depending on one strong leader to carry everybody else. It doesn’t work on or off the gridiron.

5. I had leftover pizza for lunch on Thanksgiving Day. That was weird. On Saturday, 37 people came for dinner. That was more like it. Even if we host the big family gathering on the weekend again next year, I’ve got to have somebody over to eat leftovers and watch the parade with me on Thursday.

6. We found our new show. This is the time of year PB and I look for a TV series as we hunker down by the roaring fireplace. “A Chef’s Life” (PBS) was mentioned on a podcast I listened to and we are hooked. Episodes are only 24 minutes, so it’s not a huge time commitment. I really like Vivian. Ben needs some work. But we’re only on season 2.

7. Fall has my favorite smells. Every season has it’s own distinct scents and sounds, but it’s hard to beat pumpkin candles, wood smoke and turkey on the grill. The best sound of fall is the crunch of leaves on a woodsy trail.

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8. Quote of the month: “The number one thing that has to be cultivated, fought for, protected, defended, is your union with God. Not just your faith in Him, although that’s important. Not just your belief in Him, although that’s crucial. But your actual vine-and-branch union with God.” John Eldredge

9. It takes 15 minutes to read the entire book of Philippians, but it’s taking us 15 weeks to dig deep into Paul’s letter. I’m sure I could keep going for 15 years and still find treasure there. “Don’t worry about anything. Instead, pray about everything.” (Phil. 4:6) Is it really possible to not worry about anything? Is it possible to pray about everything? Isn’t it worth a try?

10. I didn’t do Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday or Giving Tuesday. I may or may not have taken part in Sofa Sunday. After church, of course.

hello winter

10 Things I Learned This Summer

Well, hello there.

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I’ve been gone for awhile,

but I’m back now.

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Wanna get back together?

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Oh good!

Here we go.

10 Things I Learned This Summer

1. I keep forgetting how big the world is. Somehow I begin to believe that the 50 mile radius around my house is The World. Thankfully, PB drags me out of that circle from time to time. It’s such a relief to see long highways and tall mountains and wide rivers and not be in charge of any of it. Which reminds me that I’m not in charge of my 50 mile radius, either.

2. PB and I have turned into 18 people. Four kids, four spouses and eight grands came for a weekend in July. It was remarkably sane and entertaining and free of melt-downs. We even got a picture with all 36 eyes open and looking toward the camera. Glory!

3. When an extended family hasn’t had a reunion for 45 years, name tags are required. I met a whole generation of new cousins and marveled at the fact that I have graduated to the older generation. Thanks to a lot of planning and hard work by the senior cousins, it was a fantastic day. This was my contribution:

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4. Potatoes can grow in a garbage can. I had my doubts, but PB saw it on Pinterest and set out to prove it could be done. He planted 4 potato chunks in June and in August we dug out a whole bucket full of spuds.

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5. You can go to Missouri and back in one day. Macon, Missouri to be exact. If you leave at 6:00 a.m., you will arrive around 1:00 p.m. Then you can grab a bite to eat at Sonic, go to the theater and watch a two hour play, give the leading lady (who is your talented niece) a hug, hop back in the car, fill up the gas tank, buy a bag of cheese popcorn and a bottle of grape pop and get home at 11:30 p.m. Ask me how I know.

6. Quote of the month: “We assume that what we see is all there is, and that’s rarely all there is to it. We assume that people who do things easily, do things because it’s easy. And that’s not true. They do things easily because they work so hard to do them well, and they put in the time and energy and the grit to get good at it.” Crystal Evans Hurst

7. We are officially a “pour-over” household. Gone is the Keurig coffeemaker from our kitchen counter. Gone are all those expensive, little plastic K-cups. Gone is the water reservoir with gross deposits all over it. Gone is the steaming cup of coffee in less that 45 seconds. Gone are all the fun flavors to try. We are free.

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8. Maybe I should have lived in the 1920s. This summer, I have been transcribing pages and pages of letters and diaries that a cousin wrote in 1927 while on tour with the Circuit Chautauqua. Marjorie was a virtuoso violinist, but I only knew her as a crotchety spinster who wasn’t very fun to visit. Maybe she just missed the good old days. Much more to come on this.

9. Thirty-eight years is a long time, but not really. PB and I have been married 38 years, which is a feat in itself. I’m not easy to live with. I still remake the bed and reload the dishwasher the “right” way. But it has flown by in record time. I doubt if we’ll have 38 more, but you never know. If he can keep making the bed wrong until he’s 98 and I can keep reloading the dishwasher until I’m 95, then we’ll have something to celebrate.

10. I wish I could take all the Bible study ladies on a field trip to Philippi this September. That’s probably not going to happen, although I did check on the price of an airline ticket to Macedonia (about $1300 roundtrip). So we’re just going to have to dive into the letter that Paul wrote to some of his favorite people, the Philippians. I’m looking forward to going deep in study with some of my favorite people too.

hello september