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Winter Berries at Sunset

Winter Berries at Sunset

I’m taking a cue from Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy and Katie at Cakes, Tea and Dreams and asking the question, “What’s saving my life right now?” I love this discipline of focusing on the positive things, as little as they may seem.

This verse comes to mind:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)

This one, too:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)

Here are some of the things that I am thankful for, or, that are saving my life, this winter:

  • Lighting candles. I bought a couple of brass candlesticks in November and lit tapers every time I had friends over during the holidays and burned through several candles. I light them when I’m home alone, too. The glow from just two candles can fill an evening with comfort and warmth.
Candles are meant to be lit.

Candles are meant to be lit.

  • Hosting family and friends. In December, I hosted a Christmas party for my small group, a Lessons and Carols service, dinner and movie nights, Christmas Eve with my parents, brother, sister-in-law, and six-year-old niece. In January, I hosted a pizza and game night, spent an afternoon watching movies with my niece, and hosted my small group. I love having people over and I love making memories in my little house.
Late night pie

Late night pie

Morning at home

Morning at home

  • Lavender Body Butter. Minnesota winters are dry, resulting in extremely dry skin. My hands  I bought a jar of this body butter at a roadside stand on the Old Mission Peninsula while on vacation in Traverse City, Michigan two summers ago and it was well worth it. I’m sensitive to harsh chemicals and fragrances, and lotions tend to make my skin drier. This body butter is fabulous. On my desk at work, I keep a bar of hard lotion that my mom made from many of the same ingredients.
  • Hot Chocolate. I love coffee and tea, both. But this winter I rediscovered my childhood love: hot chocolate. I gave Smitten Kitchen’s Decadent Hot Chocolate Mix to my coworkers last Christmas, and made some for myself as well. I have savored many marshmallow-topped mugs this winter.
Cuppa Hot Chocolate

Cuppa Hot Chocolate

  • 5ft inf. I don’t know how or when I discovered this website and Instagram feed, but I’m sure glad I did. The cheerful and creative arrangements of flowers and objects are like Vitamin D for my soul.
  • Sunsets. A couple weeks ago, I noticed that the sun set after I got off work. That is a hopeful sign indeed. The darkest days are past and spring isn’t far off. While winter is lovely, I savor the little signs of warmer and brighter days ahead.
The sun sets after 5 pm!

The sun sets after 5 pm!

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100 Years

Earlier this year, I stopped at the local used bookstore on my lunch break. As I scanned the shelves in the back room of that shabby, ivy-covered brick building by the railroad tracks, a title caught my eye: A Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie.

A Diary of Private Prayer

A couple of years ago, when Andrew Peterson wrote about the book on The Rabbit Room, I bought an old edition. I had never seen the book anywhere else, up until that afternoon in the bookshop. I slipped it from its snug spot on the shelf, turned it over in my hands, and inhaled the dusty scent. It was the same edition. I lifted the cover to read this inscription:

Inscription

What?! It looked like my Grandma Lorraine’s handwriting, and she lived in Minneapolis in 1967… I have since confirmed with my dad and two aunts that, surely enough, it is my grandma’s handwriting!

Grandma Stewart

Lately, I’ve been reading her autobiography. When she was in her 70s and couldn’t sleep, she sat at her typewriter and composed a 31-page memoir. I read this today: “The Lord really works in mysterious ways.” Indeed!

Grandma Car

Today is her 100th birthday. She died a little over 18 years ago, shortly after I turned 16, but her legacy lives on. I have a lot to thank her for, not the least of which is a godly heritage–and a love of books!

Grandma and Grandpa Kopp

Happy 100 years, Grandma! I love you!

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I woke up earlier than I might have on a Monday off so I could get pricked with a needle. Once I can prove that I’m tuberculosis-free, I’ll be able to start volunteering at a local nursing home. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for, oh, about six years… It only took a sermon or two* to encourage me to finally act on it! I’m looking forward to getting to know four or five different residents who most likely don’t have regular visitors.

Afterwards, I picked up coffee at one of the locally owned shops downtown. Their featured artist is a good friend of mine, so it was fun to see her work displayed throughout the space! One of the prints for sale is a piece I commissioned her to create when I moved into Cheery Hill. (I have the original!)

Then, on a whim, I drove to a nearby town to peruse the book section of their antique shop. I came away with a few treasures, including an early edition of one of my favorite childhood books, The Good Master by Kate Seredy. My friend Kim introduced me to it when we were in fourth grade and we took turns checking it out from the school library. That is, until it appeared in the Scholastic book order form. I’m looking forward to reading it again, after all these years.

I spent the afternoon with my cousin Heidi and sweet Baby Archer, who is now more than two weeks old. Tomorrow is his due date!

Speaking of cousins, my cousin Ken launched a Kickstarter project last week. He’s an amazingly talented musician and composer and he’s hoping to be able to record some of his chamber compositions. Check out his page!

I spent last Friday evening playing Puerto Rico with friends. I think this was the first time I’ve played (and finished) a game with five players/teams. It took three hours! I can’t say enough about this game – it’s so much fun. Throughout the game, there’s no clear winner; you actually don’t know who won until the game is done and the victory points are totaled. I was surprised on two different occasions how close I was to winning. I was even more surprised on Friday to find out that, despite feeling far behind for most of the game, I won! (My strategy: Hospice House + Construction Hut + Factory + 4 quarries + a large tobacco crop with some corn and indigo for diversity. I already know this exact strategy won’t work for the next game…)

This is the outro to Jenny & Tyler’s latest album, Open Your Doors. I love it!

*The sermons, in particular, were Stirred Up / The Time is Now and Should I Not Be Concerned? / A Divine Interruption.

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Last month I made my first (and perhaps last) foray into the world of online estate auctions.

My 94-year-old neighbor, Esther, finally went to be with the Lord last April. I say finally because every time we talked, she’d tell me that she wished she could just die. At first, I was shocked by the sheer morbidity of that confession; it seemed sacrilegious. (I’ve since come to understand that what she was feeling is common.)

When I received word that she had died, I was sad that I had lost the best first neighbor a girl could ask for. But I was also happy for Esther, for I’m sure she had a joyful reunion. I had always thought that she had a youthful spirit, and I’m sure she was glad to be free of the aging body that had given her so much trouble toward the end.

Esther and her husband were childless, and had only a nephew and a niece. So the house sat practically untouched all summer. I met her nephew George on a crisp October afternoon, along with two auctioneers from Wisconsin. They were planning on selling the house and the contents via an online auction. George gave me a tour of the house while recalling stories of childhood visits with his aunt and uncle.

They had great taste, and their house was an homage to mid-century style. So, when the auction went live, I bid on several pieces of furniture. (For those unfamiliar with this kind of auction, they sometimes group several items into one lot.) In the end, I won an end table, two chairs, a floor lamp, shelf, couch, entertainment unit, stereo, record player, and a lot of knickknacks and miscellaneous stuff. (I really only wanted the end table, two chairs and couch.)

The pick-up was a couple of weeks ago. With only a three-hour window in which to claim items, the house was buzzing with activity. I’m pretty sure that I was the only one there that day that actually knew Esther. My dad and I had both taken the afternoon off to move furniture. (Thanks, Dad! Also, thanks to the lady who helped out with moving the couch!)

After everything was moved into my garage, I started going through the stuff. Some things were destined for the garbage can, but there were some little treasures among the junk. I mean, who can resist a dog made out of golf balls with a tee for a tail? Or his and hers bowling trophies from 1963? Or a small wooden duck carved by Esther’s husband? Or a green ceramic elephant?

Here are a few photos of my new acquisitions:

A John Van Koert design for Drexel circa the 1950s.

A Drexel end table (or nightstand) designed by John Van Koert, circa the 1950s.

This green chair is a perfect addition to the library. It inspired an evening of cleaning and organizing. Now I actually want to spend time in here!

This green chair is a perfect addition to the library. It inspired an evening of cleaning and organizing. Now I actually want to spend time in here!

If you can believe it, all of these books were stacked on the floor in my library... I still want a larger bookshelf down the road, but this is sure better than books piled on the floor!

If you can believe it, all of these books were stacked on the floor in my library… I still want a larger bookshelf down the road, but this is sure better than books piled on the floor! (Those are the his and hers bowling trophies used as bookends.)

Of course, the real treasure next door was Esther, and these new additions will always remind me of her. 🙂

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November Joys

There’s nothing quite like cuddling up with a good book after a long day…

Wool socks to keep those toes nice and cozy…

Red cups have made their return!

A glorious November sunrise!

Ever yellow trees? 😉

The season’s first snowfall – November 12th!

Dashwood wants to help with my crochet project – fingerless gloves!

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