10 Things I Learned in January

As much as I love the start of a new year, I don’t mind waving bye-bye to January. It’s cold. It’s dreary. It’s too soon to think about digging in the dirt. The fun holidays have passed. However, I do like sitting by the fire with a book on a winter’s night so it’s not all bad.

Here are a few things I learned (or re-learned) in January.

1. Spending a whole week in isolation wasn’t as much fun as I thought it would be. One morning in January I tested positive, so I packed up a boxful of books and left PB at the parsonage and went to the house in the woods. After four days of feeling miserable, I perked up and expected to relish hours of quiet. What a surprise to find I missed people, especially PB. He seemed to fair much better, enjoying control of the TV remote way too much. Never again. Next time, we get sick together.

2. We’ve given away the same $75 nine times. Back in 2014, PB and I loaned Costa Rican Juan Vicente $75 through Kiva, a nonprofit organization that helps people in underprivileged areas get a business going through crowd funding. Juan needed fertilizer for his coffee crop. When he paid his loan back, we sent it out again — this time to Soelia in Columbia. She needed a cow. The same $75 keeps making the rounds: Farilia in Haiti, Yesinia in Nicaragua, Grace in Kenya, Reynaldo in Peru, Tigran in Armenia, Nelly in Kenya. Nelly is a single mom who needs to buy some milk cans so she can sell the milk from her cow. Best $75 I’ve ever spent.

3. Trees can live without people, but people can’t live without trees. I’ve been reading a lot about trees this month. They are much more amazing than I ever imagined. Author Matthew Sleeth points out that trees provide the oxygen our lungs need to breath. What we didn’t know until recently, is that God created our lungs to look like trees.

“Have you ever looked at an image of the bronchial tubes and branches of a lung? A cast of our respiratory ‘tree’ is indistinguishable from the shape of a bare oak tree. Yet for almost all of human history, we hadn’t a clue that we are actually breathing trees.” (Reforesting Faith, Matthew Sleeth) 

4. Green velvet is not my style. We are storing a couch for our son in our living room. It is mid-century modern and did I mention it is covered in green velvet? Nothing about this piece of furniture appeals to me. I tried to cover it with a white blanket, but the green still showed. Lately, I’ve been looking at it a little differently as I’ve had two people walk into our house and offer big money for the “awesome” sofa.

5. I can paint. Back in 7th grade, we had the choice to either go to art class or skip it and go to study hall. I chose study hall. Mrs. Z was relieved. My stick men didn’t even look like sticks. It was clear I didn’t have the gift. Fifty some years later, I’m rethinking that snap judgment. A group of ladies gathered for a fun afternoon with canvas and paint. I surprised myself. My moon looked like a moon. My hill looked like a hill. My trees even looked kind of like trees, with sticks. Maybe there’s hope for me yet.

6. My word for the year is a doozy. “Hesed” is a Hebrew word that is basically inexpressible and untranslatable. The best we can do in English is “lovingkindness”, but that doesn’t really come close. Tim Keller says hesed is “the steadfast love of a covenant God who cares for us, not because we are perfect but because He is.” Michael Card spent ten years studying this word and this is his definition: “When the person from whom I have a right to expect nothing, gives me everything.” Gotta think about that for a while — like maybe a year.

7. Speaking of Michael Card, he has an album called “To the Kindness of God”. After writing a book about hesed, he wrote nine songs about hesed. Go listen to “That Kind of Love”. I mean it. Go do it.

8. Losing hurts worse than winning feels good. The Packers lost yet another playoff game to the 49ers. This was supposed to be “the” year. Oh well. I refuse to allow 11 men who make millions of dollars running around on a field affect my level of happiness. I choose to focus on the 11 little people who run around in my house from time to time. That’s a whole other level of happiness.

9. The word “retirement” feels weird coming out of my mouth. PB announced his coming retirement to our congregation and he only choked up a few times. The process has begun. It’s the right decision but it feels monumental, scary and a little exciting.

10. Jesus used the word “love” 29 times in His final message to the disciples, as recorded in John’s gospel. I think they got the point. I hope we do, too.

10 Things I Learned About Prayer in 2021

When the calendar page flips open to December, I start a long, slow reflection back on the year. What worked? What didn’t work? Did I learn anything? Have I grown?

My word for 2021 was “ask”, which I took as an invitation to explore prayer. It’s been lovely to spend a whole year focusing on one topic, allowing it time to soak into my heart and soul. The extended time seemed unhurried, more like a leisurely stroll with a friend. It gave God a chance to straighten me out on some misconceptions and fill me up with practical truth. Here are some things I learned:

1. A year isn’t long enough to explore prayer. Neither is a lifetime, of course. Prayer isn’t something to master or figure out. There’s no code to crack or formula to follow. I want to keep growing and learning in this area, so I plan to continually have a book on the subject in my TBR pile. Here are two I’m looking forward to reading in 2022.

2. The old dead guys have written the best books on prayer, but contemporary authors are providing some great resources. The stack in the photo below are some of the books I’ve read this year on the topic. I heartily recommend them.

3. I am in a very different place at the end of this year than I expected to be in January 2021. My neat and tidy prayer lists and tabbed categories and boxes to check fell by the wayside. I’ve loosened my grip on controlled formulas and rigid routines. Even though my word was “ask”, I find myself twelve months later asking less and enjoying time with God more.

4. Many years ago, someone told me that my prayers for healing for a loved one weren’t answered because of my lack of faith. That put me in a tailspin for a while, until a more mature believer put their arms around me and gave wise counsel. I still have some residual angst about prayer and faith, so I loved Ole Hallesby’s thoughts: “The essence of faith is to come to Christ. You have more faith than you think you have if you have faith enough to pray.” The simple act of opening my heart’s door to Jesus and giving Him access to my helplessness is enough. I do not need to muster up some kind of fake confidence in order to help God secure an answer. He does not need my help, simply access.

5. I’ve learned that there are bigger things to pray for than Uncle John’s bum knee and Aunt Susie’s sore shoulder. Allistair Begg points out that praying for health issues is rare — almost non-existent — in the Bible. Paul’s prayers for other people were on another level. He prayed for the eyes of their hearts to be opened, he prayed for their love to abound more and more, he prayed for his friends to be filled with spiritual wisdom and understanding. I’ll continue to bring physical needs to the Lord in prayer, but I’m learning to also pray for Uncle John and Aunt Susie to know Christ and the power of His resurrection.

6. “Be with…” is the lamest prayer there is. I’ve stopped saying, “Be with her, be with him, be with us.” For one thing, it’s unimaginative and unambitious. For another thing, Jesus’ last words before ascending were, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” “It’s a bit of a waste to make the sum total of my prayer for people the request that Jesus would do what he already said he’d do, and has already started doing.” (Begg) No more “be with” prayers!

7. The book of Psalms is where it’s at when it comes to prayer. Eugene Peterson recommends a daily dose of psalms on a regular rotation. He goes so far as to say the Psalms are necessary to the praying life of every believer. “They are God’s gift to train us in prayer that is comprehensive and honest.” Martin Luther put it like this: “Whoever has begun to pray the Psalter seriously and regularly will soon give a vacation to other little devotional prayers and say, ‘Ah, there is not the juice, the strength, the passion, the fire which I find in the Psalter.'” O Lord, I want to pray juicy prayers, strong and passionate prayers, prayers with some heat. So I will pray the Psalms.

8. There is something beautiful about praying the same prayers that saints down through the centuries have whispered. When my own words fail me, I fall back on the language of ancient liturgy and Puritan preachers. I’ve memorized the Compline, a nighttime prayer, and find that it’s a good way to end the day. As I put my head on the pillow and shut off my light, I know that people all over the world are joining me.

Keep watch, dear Lord,
with those who work, or watch, or weep this night,
and give your angels charge over those who sleep.
Tend the sick, Lord Christ;
give rest to the weary, bless the dying,
soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted,
shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.

(From “Prayers in the Night”, Tish Harrison Warren)

9. I had narrowly defined prayer as me talking to God. Once I ran through my list of prayer requests, I was off and running into the day. But there’s more. I’m learning to pause for a few minutes and say, “What do you think about this, God?” and then actually listen. I had also narrowly defined prayer as personal time between me and God. But many of the Psalms are undeniably intended for corporate worship. “Come let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture.” (Ps. 95:6-7) Lots of plurals there. Sounds like we’re supposed to pray with one another.

10. I will end the year with the same request I started it with: “Teach me to pray.”

Pray until you can pray;
pray to be helped to pray
and do not give up praying because you cannot pray.
For it is when you think you cannot pray,
that is when you are praying.

Other helpful resources:
The Daily Prayer on Wild At Heart app, John Eldredge
Prayer in a Noisy World, podcast by Valerie Woerner
Lectio 365 app, 24/7 Prayer
In The Lord I Take Refuge podcast, Dane Ortland
Hidden Streams podcast, Chad Bird

10 Things I Learned in January


1. Sitting in the back pew changes everything. On the first day of 2017, I didn’t have any responsibilities in the worship service, so I sat in the third row from the back instead of my usual third row from the front. I could barely see PB from back there. He couldn’t find me in the crowd. I think it knocked the whole congregation off-kilter.

2. I was the lucky recipient of a month’s worth of free bagels from Panera. One free bagel every day in January! Except Panera is 9.2 miles away and it costs $1.64 in gas to drive there and if I bring PB along, I end up spending another $5. I begged them to give me 31 bagels and be done with it, but that’s not what the marketers had in mind. Plus, 31 cinnamon crunch bagels with honey walnut cream cheese = 15,810 calories. I settled for five free bagels. (You do the math.)

3. Quote of the month: “A good journey begins with knowing where you are and being willing to go somewhere else.” (Richard Rohr) 

4. Going to the movies on a Tuesday is a cheap date in Madison. We went to see La La Land and happened upon “$5 Tuesdays” and free popcorn for signing up to be a member (at no cost). It made me want to tap dance down the theater aisle.

5. This year’s Bible Reading Plan is forcing me to slow way down and squeeze out every morsel. Two verses a day makes for a fun treasure hunt.

6. It’s not a good idea to watch two TV series at the same time. Especially when the same actor is in both shows. Rufus Sewell is messing with me. He’s a good guy in one show and a bad guy in the other. I keep getting his roles mixed up and I’m confused as to why a cruel Nazi commander is in 1830’s England and why a kind, Victorian gentleman shows up in 1962 post war America. Like I said, it’s confusing.

7. Once upon a time, my son was the lead screamer in a screaming rock band. Today, he can sing every song from every Disney princess movie, acting out scenes with his very own 3 year old princess. Flynn Rider has nothin’ on a real live Prince Daddy.

8. Sometimes The Message version nails it. John the Baptist’s statement, “He must become greater, I must become less” is powerful. But Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase paints a picture: “This is the assigned moment for Him to move into the center, while I slip off to the sidelines.” I’ve noticed lately that there’s lots of room on the sidelines.

9. Wintry weather has wreaked havoc on Wednesday nights. We’ve had to cancel church events twice this month. However, PB had a funeral on the day of a snowstorm. And babies were born regardless of the weather. So I guess it’s safe to say that birth and death aren’t called off for inclement weather.

10. Way back when we had four little faces sitting around our homeschooling table, we started the day off with prayer. We prayed for our family, friends, and leaders. We prayed for our state and federal representatives, our governor and our president. We prayed for Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. Then there were no more little faces around the table. But I continued to pray for George W. Bush and Barack Obama. I didn’t vote for all of these presidents, but I prayed for each one. I’m not gonna stop now. In fact, I may even pick it up a bit. May God shed His grace on us.


10 Things I Read Last Year

In December, I learned to be quiet. That’s all.

So instead of 10 things I learned in December, here is a list of 10 things I read in 2016. I collect quotes like some people collect antique dishes or shoes or shot glasses. Here’s a peek at some good quotes from my reading year.


1. “Some days I am not sure if my faith is riddled with doubt or whether, graciously, my doubt is riddled with faith…I doubt; I am uncertain; I am restless; prone to wander. And yet glimmers of holy keep interrupting my gaze.” Lauren Winner, Still: Notes On a Mid-Faith Crisis

2. “The library was a little old shabby place. Francie thought it was beautiful. The feeling she had about it was as good as the feeling she had about church. She liked the combined smell of worn leather bindings, library paste and freshly inked stamping pads better than she liked the smell of burning incense at high mass.” Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

3. “Right theology is ultimately hospitality that lives broken right open — with your time and your space and your heart. Every day you can do one thing that you wish you could do for everyone.” Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way

4. “If you want to really tick people off, just bring up the word Jesus… Say Jesus and people either get happy, or they get mad. They either smile, or a cloud comes over their faces…No other name has such potency. Not Clinton, not Gandhi, not Thatcher, not Lennon.” Carolyn Weber, Surprised by Oxford: A Memoir

5. “I have spent so much of my believing life trying to chain myself to a rock in order to prove my love to Jesus that I may have missed the chance to be chained to Jesus instead… Maybe I’ve missed the point all along. Maybe being chained to Jesus doesn’t involve a chain at all.” Micha Boyett, Found: A Story of Questions, Grace and Everyday Prayer

6. “Time doesn’t stop. Your life doesn’t stop and wait until you get ready to start living it.” Wendell Berry, Hannah Coulter

7. “The ordinary activities I find most compatible with contemplation are walking, baking bread, and doing laundry.” Kathleen Norris, The Quotidian Mysteries

8. “Courage is not something that you already have that makes you brave when the tough times start. Courage is what you earn when you’ve been through the tough times and you discover they aren’t so tough after all.” Malcolm Gladwell, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants

9. “Had God pulled me from Adam’s rib and placed me naked in the garden, the story would be no different. Let’s not blame Eve anymore. If she hadn’t eaten the fruit it most certainly would have been me. I would have eaten it again and again, and then I would have given you a bite.” Amber C. Hains, Wild in the Hollow: On Chasing Desire and Finding the Broken Way Home

10. “It seems that God arranged the most humiliating circumstances possible for his entrance, as if to avoid any charge of favoritism.” Philip Yancey, as quoted in Watch For the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas

What’s in store for 2017? How about a little more Wendell Berry? I must have been a very good girl this year. Tell me, what book are you reading to start 2017?



10 Things I Learned in November

1. If I live to be 81 years old, I will see six more presidential elections. Lord, have mercy.

2. Inspiration comes from unexpected places. I received a word of encouragement from my daughter’s husband’s mother’s sister’s husband and it was enough to keep me going.

3. Evie is getting a brother in April! It took me a while, but eventually I caught on when I realized everyone was wearing blue one Friday night. The grand score is back to even: boys – 4, girls – 4.

4. If you would have told me five years ago that I would be staying up until midnight cheering on the Chicago Cubs in the seventh game of the World Series, I wouldn’t have believed it. Never say never.

5. On October 4, 1991, I was issued a passport. It expired on October 3, 2001 with no stamps decorating its pages. I am reapplying for a new passport even though I have no plans to go anywhere. My hair looks ridiculous in that ’91 photo.

6. Good gravy is the cornerstone of a successful Thanksgiving dinner. PB grew up with a dad who was a gravy connoisseur, a gravy grandmaster, a gravy guru. So I rolled up my sleeves and roasted, simmered, and whisked. Five hours later, I had a gravy that PB declared “the best I’ve ever tasted”. Grandpa O would have been proud.

7. Hebrews had a word for me this month. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2) I can’t begin to count how many times I whispered to myself this month, “eyes on Jesus, eyes on Jesus”.

8. There’s nothing cuter than watching a four year old muster up his courage to play the “Pie in the Face” game. Unless it’s watching him get a handful of whipped cream in the nose. I hope the four year old reminded his parents that they both offered him a dollar to stick his adorable face in the line of fire.

9. Convincing middle school boys to dress up like angels for the Christmas program is challenging, even if they are the archangels Michael and Gabriel. I’m scouring Pinterest for manly angel costume ideas. Flaming swords might win them over.

10. Advent is a respite this year. I’m eager to enter into a quieter season. More praying and singing, less talking and wrangling. More candles and music, less TV and Facebook. More glory to God in the highest, more peace on earth, more goodwill. It’s time to treasure up some things and ponder them in our hearts.


10 Things I Learned in October


1. I think March should be shorter and October should be longer. How about we transfer a few soggy, slushy spring days to golden, gorgeous fall?

2. Old shoe friends are dear. We had a visit this month from a friend who was in college with PB and stood up in our wedding. We haven’t seen him in ten years, but our friendship is comfortable and easy, like an old shoe. There was lots of reminiscing mixed in with sharing current struggles and hopes. These two college boys have stayed the course and served the Lord well. And they’re not done.

3. The Church is not dead. PB and I spent a day in Chicago with 1700 people who gathered to worship and pray for the future of our denomination. As we were cruising down the interstate that morning, I watched the sun rise and I was filled with hope. As we declared our “amen” with one voice, I was filled with grateful optimism. As we drove back home that night, I was filled with awe at how much Christ loves His Bride, the Church.

4. I always cry at weddings. While most guests watch the bride as she comes down the aisle, I prefer to keep my eye on the groom. If he is at all emotional, I’m a goner. If the father of the bride says, “Her mother and I” with a crack in his voice, I’m digging for a tissue. And if my son is a groomsman standing up with his buddies, I’m a puddle.

5. Ruby is getting a sister! Our daughter found out that her March baby will be a girl, balancing the scale in their family (2 boys, 2 girls), but upsetting the equilibrium in our grand total (3 boys, 4 girls).

6. Planting bulbs in October is an act of faith. For the first time in my life, I stuck some bulbs in the cold autumn ground, thanks to a friend who offered to help. I don’t understand how those hard knobs can survive winter under a layer of dirt and leaves. And snow and ice. And subzero temperatures. It’s hard to believe there’s a flower in there, willing to wait in the dark for months — something God alone can see.

7. Adult children are good teachers. I used to write down cute things my kids said. Now I write down their wise words. This month a blog post by my daughter taught me a much needed lesson. Sometimes when it feels like the world is falling to pieces, I need to remember, “It’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place.”

8. Wendell Berry is my new favorite author. I read “Hannah Coulter” this summer and just finished “That Distant Land”. I borrowed one title from the library and the other from a friend. The characters in his books have become such good friends of mine that I need them in my house. I rarely purchase a book AFTER reading it, but Nathan and Burlie and Wheeler and Lyda simply must live on my shelf, near enough to visit every so often.

9. Sometimes a person needs an apple cider donut, especially in October. Last week, I was that person. I went to all three grocery stores nearby, the bakery downtown and the apple orchard down the road, but there was not one apple cider donut within a ten mile radius. Obviously, the craving hasn’t let up. Please, someone find me an apple cider donut.

10. Quote of the month, from “That Distant Land”: “Boys,” he said, “all I want is a good day and a long row.” May we recognize the days we are given as good and the long rows a blessing.


Bonus! Cute kids in Halloween costumes! Couldn’t resist.





10 Things I Learned in September

1. My great-great grandparents came to Baraboo in 1851. I came to Baraboo in 2004. Although time separated us by 153 years, their homestead was less than a mile from where we now live. We went to pay them a call one afternoon, but nobody was home.


2. The PBS series “Poldark” is based on a set of 12 novels, each of which is over 400 pages long. The twelfth and final installment has 704 pages. Be still, my beating heart. I think I’ve found my new calling in life.

3. I will never think of the nursery rhyme “Humpty Dumpty” in the same way again after hearing Tony Evans’ version during the “Cry Out!” prayer night.

4. We met some of our new neighbors. PB put up a trail cam in our two acres of woods. Lots of little critters have been walking the trail in our backyard and posing for the camera. One big critter ambled by, causing PB to consider bringing the florescent orange out of the mothballs. 


5. We are in the “one-gallon-of-milk-a-week” stage of life. It doesn’t seem that long ago when we were in the “one-gallon-of-milk-a-day”phase.

6. The flannelgraph in my 1st grade Sunday school class might have been wrong. I clearly remember Jonah being swallowed by a whale. As I recall, that flannel fish was smiling and blowing water out of its spout. Jonah was on his knees, praying in that whale’s belly. Except the word “whale” isn’t in the book of Jonah.

7. Every house should have a brightly painted front door. My sister just got back from a trip to Cornwall, England, and she said every church and most every house had a cheery front entrance. What a lovely idea.


8. I can’t resist taking personality profiles. The Enneagram uses a nine category system to understand personality types. I am a “1”. Just for fun, I signed up to receive an email every day with guidance for my type. I love it  when I get one like this: “You need to allow yourself to relax. A therapeutic massage would be extremely beneficial for you.” Oh yeah. I don’t love it so much when the message is like this: “Try not to deteriorate down into being too harsh and critical of others.” Ouch.

9. Hibernation is setting in early this year. I already have the down comforter on the bed, the tea bags stocked and the firewood piled. I have a feeling it’s going to be a long winter.

10. This quote from “Severe Mercy” by Sheldon Vanauken seems especially true this month: “We seem unable to get used to time. We are always amazed at it — how fast it goes, how slowly it goes, how much of it is gone. Where, we cry, has the time gone? We aren’t adapted to it, not at home in it. If that is so, it may appear as a proof, or at least a powerful suggestion, that eternity exists and is our home.”


10 Things I Learned in August

1. Stepping away from the internet for a month was not the end of the world. August is indeed the Sunday of summer. It’s been a nice Sabbath rest.

2. Family Weekend was a good idea. Last year we tried Family Week. We’re learning what works for a gathering of ten adults along with six kiddos under the age of four. The huge totes full of Legos and dress up clothes came out of storage and were a hit with adults and kids alike.

3. I miss the little pink chair. And the Mickey Mouse plates and the sippy cups. I miss the footsteps coming up the stairs every morning. But I’m happy Evie has her very own purple bedroom in her very own house. The nest is empty again. Maybe for good this time.

4. Quote of the month: “Do you want what you want badly enough to arrange your life for it?” Ruth Haley Barton

5. The Morris’s and the Biddick’s came to America on the same ship. I came across this bombshell as I was doing some family history research. The Morris’s were my mom’s ancestors. The Biddick’s were my dad’s great grandparents. In 1850 they boarded the ship “Belle” in Padstow, Cornwall, England, not knowing that 96 years later there would be a marriage connecting the two families — my mom and dad. How cool is that?

6. Olympians are freaks of nature. I can’t imagine training for four years to run a thirty second race or perform a five second vault. PB and I did enjoy the view from our easy chairs, though. The swimming, gymnastics and track events were thrilling. I just wish there could have been more coverage of the ping-pong, badminton and sailing competitions.

7. Spending a week in the woods is good for the soul. PB and I went up north and looked at tall trees, stood in cool shoreline water and breathed deep of fresh forest air. We also ate giant caramel pecan sweet rolls, tapped our toes to a surprise jazz concert and took a nap every afternoon. That’s how to restore a soul.

8. Jesus was a master storyteller. I read through the parables this month. I just wish we could hear the intonation of His voice and see the look on His face as we read these stories. Were they told with a smile or a raised eyebrow? Was there a softness or an edge in His voice? The Apostle John said that the world doesn’t have enough room for all the books that could be written about the things Jesus said and did. But I’m sure heaven does. Someday we’ll hear the stories in His own voice and see the twinkle in His eye.

9. I would drive across town for a free cup of coffee. A new convenience store opened up and they are offering free coffee for a few days, along with lots of other promotions such as $1 worth of free gas, which is about three tablespoons. I figured if I drive a few miles to get the free coffee but use the squirt of free gas, I’m still ahead. I simply cannot turn down anything free. Except puppies and kittens.

10. Jonah is an Old Testament book that really packs a wallop. We are going to take a good long look at the book of Jonah this fall. I’m excited to get back with my Bible study ladies next week! We are going to engage our hearts and minds like never before in the 48 verses that make up this crazy story.

goodbye august

10 Things I Learned in June


june july

1. If I hadn’t picked out the name “Nonnie”, I’m pretty sure my grandma-name would be “Peaches”. I had my daughter ask Hud Bud, “What is one word you think of when you think of Nonnie?” His answer was, “Peaches”. He does love to eat my frozen peaches.

2. My Facebook post, “The peach truck is in town today” got more comments than cute pics of grands. I felt a little like Winthrop Paroo singing, “The Wells Fargo Wagon is a-comin’ down the street…” I bought 50 pounds of Georgia sunshine. Soon I’ll be up to my elbows in sticky juice. I’ve got to do it — Hud Bud is counting on me. (See #1) (I’ll try not to mention peaches in all 10 Things.)

3. I spent June in the book of Psalms. Psalm 65 was especially meaningful and full of lovely phrases in the Common English version. “To You even silence is praise.” “We are filled full.” “You calm the noise of the nations.” “You make the gateways of morning and evening sing for joy.” And my favorite: “Thy paths drop fatness.” It’s delightful to read the same thing in different versions and see what pops. The KJV won the prize with “Thy paths drop fatness.” Goodness gracious.

4. PB has been adding a funny phrase at the end his thinking-out-loud idea sessions. Sometimes it sounds like a sincere request, other times it seems more like a double-dare to counter his ingenuity. It’s a strong wallop of an ending, intending to scare me off from throwing a wet towel on the idea, I suppose. “What do you think of that?” he says. Except it sounds more like “Whuduya think of THAT?”

5. I have decided what will be engraved on PB’s gravestone. (See #4.)

6. Someone has a list with my name on the top. I met a friend for lunch and soon after we sat down in a quaint booth, she pulled out her Notes app on her phone. She had a “Dinah” list — all the things she’s been wanting to ask me or pick my brain about. Having my very own list on her phone was a compliment of the highest order.

7. Binge watching a TV series is fun, once in a great while. PB and I watched the entire first season of “Poldark” in three nights. The PBS series is set in Cornwall, England in the late 1700s. PB was hooked after episode one. I was hooked after the opening panoramic scene of ocean waves crashing against the cliffs. My ancestors came from Cornwall and I kept looking for my great-great-great-grandparents Matthew and Mary Biddick from Trewince Farm at St. Issey Parish to show up on screen.

8. Gathering people on the back porch is an old-fashioned thing to do, and should be brought back. We had 22 people on our porch one night this month, eating cookies and drinking lemonade and telling stories. It reminded me of the Acts 2 church that met in each other’s homes, shared simple food with gladness and praised God together.

9. Quote of the month: “So be wise, because the world needs more wisdom. And if you cannot be wise, pretend to be someone who is wise, and then just behave like they would.”  From a keynote graduation speech given by Neil Gaiman.

10. I am sad when June comes to a close. June is so full of summer while there is still lots of summer to come. Once July hits, there is a quiet panic in the background of my mind, whispering, “The rest of summer will fly by and you can’t stop it.” And I begin to get edgy about what I need to prepare for fall. I am deliberately putting off the panic until August. Let’s enjoy July.

10 Things I Learned In May

1. My half birthday is May 1st. I have always wished I had a spring birthday. It’s such a happy time of year with flowers and warm sunshine and the promise of three months of summer to follow. As I get older, celebrating half birthdays sounds like it should be a thing.

2. Inviting six women to come and sit around a table for a meal is an extraordinary way to spend an evening. I followed the If:Gathering idea of six women, two hours and four questions. What Nika Maples said is true: “If you enter a meal with others, you enter at one level of relationship and you leave the meal at another, deeper level of relationship.” I can’t wait to do it again.

3. Spurgeon’s quote of the month: “Certain people must always have sweets and comforts, but God’s wise children do not wish for these in undue measure. Daily bread we ask for, not daily sugar.”

4. PB can’t keep a secret from me and I’m secretly happy about that. He outdid himself by planning a fantastic surprise, and then promptly told me the surprise. It only took about two minutes to get this one out of him. He bought tickets to see James Taylor live in concert. “Whenever I see your smiling face I have to smile myself because I love you, yes, I do.”

5. PB knows how to milk something for all its worth. As a result of #4 above, every time he exasperated me over the last month, he would smile and say, “James Taylor”.

6. We have entered into a new phase of parenting. On Mother’s Day weekend, my oldest daughter invited me out to breakfast and she picked up the tab. And left the tip. It was strange and wonderful. Adult children grow up to be lovely friends.

7. If I could go back and live in another time, I think I’d want to experience Jerusalem in 33 A.D. I read the book of Acts this month and those days of the early church must have been amazing. They were trying to figure out how to do this thing called church. No denominations, no programs, no church growth strategies. They just followed the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Huh.

8. Flat Jesus is catching on quickly. We handed out laminated cutouts of Jesus to everybody at church and challenged folks to take Jesus with them wherever they go this summer. They were instructed to take a picture of their travels with Flat Jesus (a la Flat Stanley) and already we have photos pouring in. So far, He’s been to Seattle, Colorado, a preschool show and tell, Disneyworld, a soccer game and a gospel music fest. And summer hasn’t even started.

9. I’m a happy, tired Nonnie. We just spent five days with several different combinations of our six grands. There’s nothing like hearing the sweet voice of a three year old calling out “Nonnie” at 5:00 a.m. I expect I’ll wake up at 5:00 a.m. tomorrow morning and miss hearing that little voice. Then I’ll say a prayer for all the parents of little ones and sleep awhile longer.

10. Three days at a writer’s retreat gave me a lot to think about. I’m still doing a lot of thinking. Hopefully soon I’ll be doing a lot of writing.