Contact Me

If you enjoy my blog and would like to contact me, you may reach me at this email:

Some of my stories are published in:
A Cup of Comfort Devotional for Mothers and Daughters (Adams Media, 2009)
Chicken Soup: What I Learned from the Dog (2009)
Love is a Flame (Bethany House, 2010)
Extraordinary answers to Prayer (Guideposts, 2010)
Love is a Verb (Bethany House, 2011)
Big Dreams from Small Spaces (Group Publishing, 2012)

Monday, November 30, 2009

Christmas Images

When I was a child, one of the greatest lessons in patience was the slow march through the fall school semester: cool, then cooler weather and shorter days. School crafts marked the special calendar events of fall, leading up to that most joyous time, Christmas.

Some time in the middle of December my mother would select a six-foot-something tree and my father would lug the fir into the house and set it up in our ancient, slightly rusted tree stand.
We decorated our Christmas tree with a few well-crafted homemade ornaments and lots of Hallmark specials. I used to explore each bough, trying to decide where I'd most like to sit if I were one of the snowmen or bear or angel ornaments.

We weren't great artists so each tree never went beyond anything but ordinary looking. Didn't matter. It was the emotion evoked by pulling the box of ornaments out of storage, unwrapping each ornament and enjoying the memory of past Christmases. "Last year Mr. Snowman sat near the top of the tree, facing the fireplace," I told my sister. "This year let's put him by the sofa."

One of my favorite ornaments was a large orb with a hand-painted picture of the wisemen and their camels. The indigo sky was illuminated by the brightness of the star and we children knew that those wisemen or kings were being guided toward a very important destination: the baby Jesus.
The picture filled me with a sweet yearning I couldn't even define. I looked at it every day and thought about that night two thousand years ago. It must have been an incredibly important event because so many ornaments, decorations and paintings, done by so many different artists, show the same thing.

Inspired by those artists, my child-mind formed its own pictures of that event. Those craftsmen and women, over the ages, whether motivated by faith or economic need, helped introduce a young child to the awe and wonder of God clothed in humanity.

"We three kings of Orient are: bearing gifts, we traverse afar;
Field and fountain, moor and mountain, following yonder star.
Star of wonder, star of light, star with royal beauty bright,
westward leading, still proceeding, guide us to Thy perfect light."(John H. Hopkins Jr.)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Belly Up

I shopped yesterday for last minute groceries needed for all of my traditional dishes that I'll serve my family on Thanksgiving. The Safeway was mobbed --as one might expect on the day prior to Turkey Day -- with moms and older couples picking up their last-minute items, too. Carissa was my helper today; we divided the list in half and each went in search of our designated goodies.
Afterward, a quick trip to Hallmark for nice dinner napkins and then down to Lower Stanley Village for drive-through Taco Bell. Well, I rationalized, the fridge and the freezer are both stuffed with the turkey, the green-bean casserole, my mother's fancy raspberry jello mold, fancy devilled eggs (Bruce's favorite) sweet potato pie, brie cheese and onion dip, a gallon of cider, twelve-packs of Fresca, Dr. Pepper and Diet Coke (caffeine free). And there's more coming. Oh, much more. Because Danielle is a good cook and she's bringing homemade bread and the desserts, as well. And the dishes are all washed and ready for serving and I don't want to wash another mixing bowl, skillet, or utensils.
So, the day before Thanksgiving we load our stomachs with chalupas, burritos and tacos and wash them down with Diet Cokes.
Our tummies are full.
In fact, my tummy is always full after a meal.
I eat three full-bellied meals each day.
I include plenty of protein, carbohydrates, fats, and vegies and fruits.
It is an understatement to say that I am well-nourished.
And just in case I'm missing some key nutrient, I also swallow tons of vitamin supplements.
The day after my family and I feast, Bruce and I will go down to Longmont's Our Center to help prepare food to be served at lunch for some of the town's neediest.
On Thursday I will be grateful.
On Friday (at the Our Center) I will be even more grateful to God for the richness of his blessings to me.
That same day I will mail off a check to World Vision for our sponsored child and an additional check to buy 5 ducks, two chickens, and aid to help rescue a young girl from prostitution in some terrible place where girls are not loved.
And I will be reminded again that those people who need the ducks, or the girl who needs to not be a prostitute anymore could have been me. God loves those people just as much as he loves me. Why in the world am I so blessed?
I don't understand. I probably never will.
But God has blessed me and I would like to turn that blessing around. Hopefully I'll be able to keep buying more chickens and ducks and helping little girls escape horror.
Because I'm very grateful. Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, God!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Why Can't We Be Friends?

Nina isn't charismatic.
Few people even know her since she's nearly a recluse.
She's a creature of habit down to the food she eats,when and how much, her afternoon naps, her daily toilet, including the fastidious care of her nails, and the time she spends just looking out the window at life.
She's a vain thing, always washing her face, like she thinks one speck of dust or dirt would mar her perfect look. Like anyone's going to see her anyway.

I got to know her four years ago. Call me crazy, but one day I invited her to come and live with me. She didn't seem to have anywhere else to go and I'm such a pushover.

You would think that in four year's time I'd have made some progress with her.
After all, I'm a pretty social person. I love to entertain. And with all the kids and parents who come each week for music lessons, you'd think she'd follow my lead and gain some social skills.

It's very hard being the only person Nina connects with. If I dare go away with my husband for a weekend she whines and carries on for days. Bruce warned me that she'd be like that but I wouldn't listen.
We introduced her to Tidus, a very handsome fellow. He likes lots of the same things. Even looks like her except he's got darker hair.
He took one look at her and fell in love.
Nina hated him right off.
But that charmer, he set right about to woo her. I thought it was hopeless and I told him so. But Tidus wouldn't listen to my pessimism.
Each day he made his tender advances, only to be met with a sharp rebuff.
He wouldn't give up. He was smitten.
I don't know why Tidus loved Nina with her nasty personality, snobbish, unsociable, selfish, self-absorbed nature.
I only took her in out of a sense of duty.
But Tidus. . .
One day Nina responded to Tidus' sweet nature. Just a little thing, really. She let him sit nearby.
Days later, more signs of the first tentative steps toward a relationship. Like the unfolding of a rosebud, Nina began to trust Tidus enough to let him into her sad, self-absorbed world.
What I could not do in four years, Tidus did in just a few weeks of persistent, gentle, daily reminders of his attention.

I thought about it this morning. How our natures are bent, perhaps distorted by harsh memories, abandonments, insensitivities.
God never forces Himself on us. Patiently, over time He reminds us how He longs to be close. How He yearns to draw us tenderly into His arms, soothe our hurts, calm our hearts, encourage, counsel, say "I love you."
Nina loves Tidus now. I see it clearly every day as a blur of gray stripes, and black and white fur streak by my office chair and my slippered feet. Claws retracted, rolling and wrestling, chasing and swatting, meowing and purring.

This is what Tidus longed for: someone to share his toys, his sense of adventure, the world of chair legs, cushions, and birds just outside the window.

God longs for us in the same way: to partake in His sense of adventure, to share His enjoyment of created things, to sense His pleasure when we say "I love You," back.
I'm so glad we're friends.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

June's Norwegian Meatballs

Many of you read my last post on the passing of my dear Aunt June. Besides begin a wonderful singer, she also spread a great table for the holidays. I remember her long dining room table laden with Turkey, Ham, pickled herring, boller (dumplings), julekake, and especially glogg.
She served her Norwegian meatballs with a rich brown sauce. I think of her every time I make them.
Here's the recipe:

3/4 Ib lean ground beef
1/4 Ib ground pork
1 cup toasted bread crumbs
one egg
one onion, minced
1 tsp salt and a pinch pepper
1/8 tsp nutmeg
3 T. butter
1/2 cup cream

Soak bread crumbs in cream. Add all ingredients except butter. Form into one inch balls; slowly brown in butter, add sauce and keep warm till serving.

2 cups cold water
2 T. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 or 3 T. Wilsons BV sauce

Dissolve flour in water. Add seasonings, BV sauce and butter. Bring to boil, stirring constantly. When thick and bubbling, turn down and simmer 30 minutes.

I am so grateful for my mother and father, my aunts and uncles, for our shared heritage of Scandinavian roots, for my grandparent's safe passage to America, their years of struggle and triumph through poverty, war and illness.Their stories, their traditions, their foods, their songs are alive in my heart. Thank you, God, for family.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Forging Links

My favorite aunt, June, aged 87, just passed away. She was the spunky little blonde who passed herself off as "old enough" so she could sing in San Francisco night clubs during the Depression. My Norwegian immigrant Grandpapa, Oluv Nicolaisen had had a stroke and died, leaving Nana and her eight children to work odd jobs, trying to pay the rent and buy food.

I've always thought Aunt June's life would make a great novel: beautiful girl lies about her tender age so she can sing in night clubs and bring home money to help her ailing, older sister afford doctors and medicines.
Ailing sister eventually died of tuberculosis. June met tall, dark and handsome Uncle John, the love of her life, and they settled into an upper middle-class life across the bay, raised four kids and helped Nana live comfortably till the end of her days.

Aunt June had none of the leg-ups that I, her niece, had.
I had parents who, coming out of that great Depression, scrimped so that I could have my music lessons. The government provided me with a nice low-interest loan. That, accompanied with a sizeable scholarship, parent aid, and work-study enabled me to attend one of the best music schools in the nation. And when I got a paycheck from one of my music gigs I didn't have to place it into the family earnings pool.

I don't know if I would have had the grit and determination to stand up, night after night, and sing in smoke-filled, raucous beer halls, having to fend off tipsy men, listening to off-color remarks.

Of course, Uncle John took her away from all of that. World War II ended. My dad and uncles returned to civilian life and tried to put horrific war memories away. The prosperous fifties arrived and all of us baby-boomer cousins were born.

At sixteen, I started taking voice lessons with Aunt June. I remember standing in the crook of her big grand piano while she sat in front of the keyboard, trying to play scales fast enough to keep up with my agile voice. Unlike me, she'd never had the opportunity to take piano lessons. She helped me prepare for for my first important audition and came to my first important performance.

My uncle Bobby said, "You're just like June."
But I knew I wasn't.
I was soft and timid, sheltered by a kind, self-sacrificing father,
pushed by an ambitious mother.
I don't know why God, in His grace, placed me at this time in eternity,
instead of those hard, un-aided, if-you don't work-you-don't-eat days.
May I never take for granted the gifts and opportunities afforded to my generation of women.
May I always carry with me the memory of my favorite Aunt June.
I'll miss you, Auntie.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Brighter Colors

Back in 1986 I hurt my neck. The doctor gave me muscle relaxants and a neck brace and told me to take it easy.
Yeah, right. Take it easy. He said "Don't drive, don't lift anything more than five pounds, don't play the piano or do anything where you have to move your neck."

I had a husband, a kindergartner and a toddler at the time, and a full plate of life.

Most of my activies came to a screaming halt.
Bruce stepped up his household help. Friends, friends and more friends came to clean, do laundry, take the kids for whole afternoons so I could rest.
I felt so useless.
Depression oozed into my brain.
Worse yet, after months, the pain was so unrelenting that I began to consider suicide.
The Lord, in His incredible grace, reached down to me at my darkest hour and gave me a powerful glimpse of His never-ending loving presence.
He gave me healing. Not instantly, but over time, as I learned to cling to His Word He removed the despair.
The neck? Well, that injury is always reminding me that there will come a day when God will wipe away my tears.

Depression is horrible; I wouldn't wish it on anyone.
But, emerging from that dark pit -as if my world had just had a good rain and the dust and grit of the season has been washed away -I see, hear and feel in colors only guessed at in my former life.
The touch of a baby bunny's fur, the sound of my child's laughter, sunshine draping my head, the dappling of light through the maple leaves, my husband's face.

It's been twenty three years. Each year I am more and more delighted by the simple gifts that God so graciously places in my lap. Life is God's first gift.

Psalm 40 1-3: "I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God."

Monday, November 9, 2009

Wee Me

I went to my doctor for my usual check up. The nurse wrote in her chart that I'm 5 foot. I told her in no uncertain words that I'm 5 foot and one inch. ( I must've slumped when she measured me.) She shrugged, smiled condescendingly and left the chart un-amended.

I'm middle-aged; you'd think I'd have come to terms with my very tiny stature. But it seems to bother me now more than ever.

When I was a young thing, people use to call it cute, my being so little. ('Course I only weighed a hundred pounds then.)
Tall guys used to lean their elbows on my shoulder and chuckle.
My mom used to pat me on the head and say, "You're just like your Aunt June."
Grandmommy said, "good things come in little packages."

The condescension didn't bother me so much then.

But now that I'm old and not nearly so cute (or slender) I would like some tradeoff,
some compensation.

I've been married for thirty years. . . successfully, happily
Raised three great kids
Efficiently run a home
Operated a home business
Studied, meditated, discussed, taught, applied scripture
Been a friend
Served in multiple capacities in church
Taught in public, private schools and colleges
Thought, examined, pried, delved, pondered, discussed, wondered
Written devotionals, articles, books

That ought to be worth something, surely.

My husband, God bless him, is of average height, which is to say, that he's nearly a foot taller than I am. He puts things away in the kitchen. Short people, you know where I'm going with this.
One day I caught him in the act. I said, "now, would you just hunker down to my level, shorten your arms about six inches, and then try to reach that glass that you just pushed way to the back of the cupboard."

Later that day I had to use the step stool three times to retrieve seldom-used items for a special dinner. "Why, oh why, did God make me so little?" I lamented to my husband.
He came over and hugged me and said, "He made you little just for me."
And that, of course, was God speaking through my husband.
"I made you little just for me."

Zaccheus was a wee little man. But because of his short stature he climbed a sycamore tree. Because he was in the sycamore tree the Lord noticed him. . . noticed his unstoppable desire to see Jesus. His shortness gave him a special opportunity to spend time with the Messiah.
Jesus must have known that this man hungered to hear truth, longed to speak with Him.
Small in stature, that Zaccheus
but mighty in his quest to know God.

Whatever people see when they look at me. am I:
short with pettiness, jealousy, selfishness, unkindness?
Or am I
Tall with a heart that rejoices over God's grace and His purposes for me in this world?
Oh, I want to be this kind of tall.
God, please make me Tall.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Who do I Thank?

Some years back, I was a guest at a family's Thanksgiving celebration. Just before the meal was served, the hostess instructed us each to share one thing we were thankful for this season.

Most of the family shared things like being thankful for, "good health," "getting a good job," "passing my algebra mid-term."

No acknowledgement of God as the giver of these blessings. Hmmm.

The meal was great and I really enjoyed spending time with the family. Just before leaving I thanked the host and hostess for their hospitality and stepped out into the frosty November night air.

I thought about it the next day: does thankfulness count when you receive a gift but don't bother to thank the giver? Since I received something, someone must have been involved in giving me that something.

If you gave somebody a gift, how would you feel if the recipient just walked away and said, "I'm so thankful," but never acknowledged you?

The phrase, "Thank you," has two words: "Thank" and "you." It's actually an abbreviated form of "thanks be to you."

I hope we, as a nation, never forget to acknowledge God as the Great Giver. We are the thankers, but He is the Thankee.

"Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices
Who wondrous things hath done, in Whom His world rejoices.
Who, from our mothers' arms hath blessed us on our way
with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today." (Nun Danket, Rinkart/Cruger)

Monday, November 2, 2009

What's a bulwark?

"A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing. . . "

You know how you've sung certain songs or hymns for years?
Then one day you look at the text and you say, "What on this blessed green earth is a bulwark?"
I kind of knew, given the context, what a bulwark is.
But, honestly, if someone asked me to define bulwark and use it in a sentence, could I?
How about "constrained"
or "girded"?
And what's the difference between "cherubim" and "seraphim"?

There's a comfort to singing or speaking these words. They fit within the context of church or religion, or worship. We understand, by faith and tradition that "bulwark" or "girded" are acceptable words to use, even if we can't quite explain their meaning.

"Bulwark" is defined in the dictionary as a defensive wall, especially of earth, a rampart.

But what if you looked up "bulwark" and suddenly discovered that the comforting word you've been singing in the old hymn, "A Might Fortress is our God" is now defined as. . .
bulwark: a thin, transparent film of plastic used to provide a buffer from the wind.


Now how mighty is God when He merely shelters you from wind, but not from fire, arrows, bullets or an army?

Words are evolving. Words like "freedom" or "tolerance" or "respect." There are many others.
Their new definitions may or may not yet be included in your dictionary.
But ask your children to define words commonly used in their social studies classes and you may get a surprise.

Thank God "bulwark" is still a defensive wall, able to hold back the enemy.
And God is still mighty in "A Mighty Fortress."