Sunday, December 19, 2010

Favorite Christmas Memory

As a Mom I often felt like Mary in the year 1985 because many times I had to watch my son suffer. But here is a happy memory from that time. And it's a favorite Christmas memory. Let me know what's yours.

December 25th, 1985 we arrived around nine at Lakeland Nursing Home with song sheets and home-made gifts and cards. It had been our custom for more than ten years, since our children were toddlers, to visit residents in the quiet of Christmas morning even though we didn’t have family there. Wayne and I wanted our four to experience the joy of ministering to others. But in 1985 our eighteen-year-old son David had overslept. He’d been treated for lymphoma since October, was mobile, but fragile. We left him home in bed.

As we worked our way down from the top floor, I’ll never forget stepping from the elevator and seeing David with a semi-circle of silver haired ladies listening attentively to his reading of the Night Before Christmas. He’d driven over late rather than miss. I paused as my mother’s heart took a leap, then closed my eyes and prayed, Lord may our precious son’s life continue. The very next week David was hit by a drunk driver while jogging and his leg was shattered. It would seem our prayers had not been answered, but we clung to faith.

After several leg surgeries with cancer raging through David’s body, a new experimental procedure at UW-Madison Hospital, bone marrow transplant, was suggested and ultimately succeeded.

David and his wife, Kathy and their six-year-old twins, Joshua and Anna, will soon visit us from Florida and Christmas morning we’ll be at another nursing home with his brother Dan and wife, Stephanie, to continue our legacy of bringing Christmas joy to God’s precious elderly. We’ll celebrate Jesus, for in Him, and through Him all things are possible.

Blessed Christmas everyone!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Friendship Thoughts Then and Now

I recently attended my high school reunion - class of 1960. Renewing friendships was deeply satisfying. Coincidentally, soon after returning I began teaching a weekly Total Health Class in Gurnee, IL to eleven awesome, home-schooled high school students. (One, my grandson DJ, is how I got involved with these great young people.) Our text book covers four areas of health: physical, mental, social and spiritual. I reflected on how pleased I was that social health was included because I never gave it a thought in my high school days.

To emphasize social health for my enthusiastic, diligent students and in honor of my reunion I drew a cloak on the dry erase board making designs on it using the letters in their names. “Look around class,” I said. “Some of your fellow students may be lifelong friends, others will be a tiny part of your cloak design but all the people you interact with become part of the fabric you wear throughout life. Sometimes you pick the people who impact you; others enter through circumstances. A cloak with holes is no good and one without design isn’t nearly as lovely. Bottom line is relationships matter so take care of the ones you want to keep strong. Some need minimal care; others more careful attention and they’re well worth it. Treasure friendship! When I’ve gone through tough times, how I’ve appreciated having friends come alongside me and help me. And what a privilege to be on the giving end helping others.”

Next we studied the eleven systems of the body. I loved having my students consider these intricate structures we carry around every day some of which perform without our direct supervision. (When did you last tell your heart to pump?) In their notebooks my students are recording some fascinating numbers: 206 bones in the human body. 600 muscles in the body. Millions of nerve cells. Man, wo-man, amazing dynamos! We’re created on purpose for unique purposes and relationships are part of how our life purpose is accomplished.

A Woman’s Guide: 52 Ways to Choose Happiness and Fulfillment has a helpful chapter on developing friendships and understanding the levels of friendship. You can download it free from my website Have a grace-packed day, my friend.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My Yes Brought Great Joy

Today I’m sharing the heart-wrenching article I wrote 19 years ago when I began to totally trust God for the first time. "MY YES BROUGHT GREAT JOY" appeared in Billy Graham’s Decision Magazine (Circulation 400,000 who hopefully were encouraged by its theme.)

“After the birth of our third child my husband, Wayne, and I had received medical advice not to have any more children. But here I was, pregnant again.

Depression engulfed me. Emotionally I faced the possibility of two horrible outcomes: If hemorrhaging occurred, as it had during my third pregnancy, and I was unable to receive immediate Cesarean surgery and transfusions, the baby and I would both die.

Another fear was that this newly forming life might be destroyed within my womb by my own antibodies because of previous RH blood factor complications. If this baby should need a total blood transfusion at birth, the baby's brain could be damaged during the difficult transfusion process. Clearly my own health and the mental and physical health of the baby were at risk.

Then there 'was my emerging career. I was ready for the world beyond the home. I was reluctant to interrupt my beginnings of college courses and part-time teaching.

For me the most significant argument of all against this pregnancy was our three children; I knew that I didn't want to leave them motherless! I began to consider seriously an option-abortion.

But one question. kept on disturbing me. Was this pregnancy an accident, or was it the hand of God directing my life? If this turmoil inside me were the result of my deepening relationship with God, I felt betrayed and cried out, 'God, just how involved are You in my life?'

The words in Psalm 23 spoke to me of a personal God who shelters his own: "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me" (Psalm 23:4, KJV). Would God protect me? Was he part of this?

One evening my neighbor, Judy, came over to visit. I shared my deep fears and confusion with her. 'Judy, I have to know if things really do happen for a purpose-if God is in control of all aspects of our lives. Or do we humans just make mistakes that result in accidents?'

I knew what I wanted to believe, but was it true? Judy listened thoughtfully, bounced ideas back and forth with me, then asked, 'What does Wayne think you should do?'

I told her that Wayne was as concerned as I was but that he would not choose an abortion for me. He had told me that the final decision was mine. That night I fell asleep with the question of whether to have an abortion foremost in my thoughts.

The next day I awoke knowing what I would do! Perhaps my friend had prayed; I knew that Wayne had prayed. With quietness and confidence I chose to place my trust in God. If it were time for me to die, I would; if I would have to rear a brain-damaged child, I could. I would not destroy this new life within me! As for my "career," it wasn't worth the life of our child.

On March 27; 1972, Daniel Thomas was born. He was named Daniel after that great man of God whose trust in God never failed, and Thomas for his mother who'd had to overcome doubt before she could fully trust.

Daniel's birth was premature, an emergency Cesarean section, but miraculously he did not need a total blood transfusion.

Daniel, God's great gift, is precious beyond words! Far from being brain-damaged, Daniel today is a bright student and an excellent athlete.

Looking back, the interruption in my career was brief and barely noticeable from the perspective of a lifetime. How can I compare that to the life of my son?

Watching Dan mature has been all the more treasured because of this decision that had meant his life or death. I do not question the loving intervention of God in my life."


[That's Dan shown in the picture above with his Dad at Wayne's birthday this year .]

Trusting God is a major theme in my mystery novel, Directive 99.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Advice for Learners 2010

I've always though a new school year was exciting and filled with potential. This is the advice I sent via letter to our six-year-old twins as they started school last week. I think it contains wisdom for adults in new situations, too.

"Dear Anna and Joshua,

Grandpa and Grandma are proud of you starting first grade. School is lots of fun - you get to meet new friends and learn new things.

Here are some things we’d like you to remember:

Look at your teacher and listen when she talks. Obey her rules with a cheerful smile and don’t be grumpy when you have to do something.

If you have a question or need help ask. If at first you don’t understand how to do something, it’s okay, sometimes you need to try several times before you can do something new, like riding your bicycle, remember? And sometimes your brain needs to hear things often, before the new idea gets stuck in it well. Be patient with yourself.

Look for children to be kind to. Check if someone seems to be left out and include them. Even if other children are sometimes naughty, you be good. However, if someone is rude or unkind you don’t need to play with them until they improve their behavior.

You may want to keep this letter and read it from time to time to remind you of these things. Especially always remember God and your family loves you.


Grandma and Grandpa"

Learning is a joy and a privilege. What are you inspired to learn this fall? I encourage you to make it happen!

You won't find a children's fantasy mystery book that's more fun or has better life lessons for boys and girls ages eight and up than Adventures of Tommy Smurlee.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Pottery Class and God

Yesterday I finished the last of my six-session pottery class. What a privilege to participate in the creation of eleven objets d'art (?). I’m in awe of those who create with their hands. Is this how a plumber feels when he brings water lines to kitchens and bathrooms in new homes, or an electrician who works with God’s amazing power to bring light where there has been none?

My new friend Laura, who dug garden plants and made pies with me for a Fontana Garden Club scholarship fund-raiser event, suggested I’d like pottery-making. Same principle as pies, except instead of rolling a crust, you actually use a wooden rolling pin to flatten the clay and then imprint it with shapes and form it into platters and bowls. My husband, Wayne, thought this would be better, too, because he always eats my pies, and there’d be no calorie danger with decorative art.

I’d read the Scripture about God being the potter of our lives, but had no idea it was such a rich analogy. Isaiah 64:8 “Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”

You can “throw” on the wheel too, although I felt like the wheel was throwing me and I was holding on for dear life when I got it spinning at maximum speed. The importance of centering the clay first spoke clearly of how our lives must be centered in Christ before we can accomplish anything of value. Centering is not easy, but nothing happens without clay being centered first. Over and over I had to reshape my glob – the way of centering is pushing down and pressing in at the same time. Isn’t that what God does to me when I need shaping and need it again and again?

Theological principles abounded in the art room: Don’t be afraid, just try. It’s necessary to continually use water –keep the clay wet enough, drizzle it with a small sponge. Where am I without Your living water O Lord? Just enough pressure, not too much or the pot will collapse. I tried the wheel several times, and then made the rolling pin my method of preference, although I hope to master the wheel some day.

After rolling and shaping comes the glazing. What a wild process that is! The colors that are painted on with a brush or sponge are nothing like the gorgeous shades that come out of the fire! In fact they’re rather ugly. Nothing looks like it will be after it’s put in the fire.

Using multiple layers and different colors seems to produce the most exciting effect. Lord, isn’t that true of our lives too when they’re enriched by many experiences? Our instructor’s wise advice went something like this: I can’t tell you what to make, do whatever you think. We all did, and found creativity within us that worked. When I saw my first piece after it came out of the glaze and remembered I’d painted on chalky looking shades of almond and thick, crackly forest green I exclaimed to Betsy: “It’s a miracle!” My platter was a shiny, vibrant green with shades of gold forming the veins on my leaves. She laughed and said, “That’s just what happens.”

God, isn’t that just what happens when you push and pull on us and allow life to smash us up a bit, then you glaze us and set us in your furnace? And voila, out comes beauty shaped by the Creator’s hand, each of us unlike any other person around.

What a visible experience for me of the Lord's amazing workmanship. I praise Him for equipping me to participate in my little acts of creation. I shaped platters for each of my married children, which may end up in closets displayed only during my visits, but that's okay. I made birds, flower holders, riz-a-ma-tiz’s (yes, that’s my new word meaning thing-a-ma-jugs) for my garden, and bowls and platters in every color. Every single piece was a total experiment. How fun it was having no idea when I began shaping the clay what it would be. Often the way the clay rolled out suggested it’s ultimate function, but sometimes I just twisted and patted and pushed and pulled it a bit until it found a design.

The whole process is fraught with emotional danger. You can never become too attached to any piece because it could crack and fall apart in the kiln and not even make it through the first firing so it can be glazed. The second firing was no less risky. Lord, is that how You feel when you watch us live out our lives with our self-will running rampant? Jeremiah 18:4
says “But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him."

It was exhausting work at times. Those pieces of clay are heavy, the work is messy, and clean-up is a process in itself, but I’m thrilled to have done it and learned lessons I’ll never forget. Now I need to build a shelf so I can see what God and I did – for without His Creative giftedness within me, without the 54 bones He placed in perfect functioning order in my hands, not to mention the brain cells, and the intricate bio-chemical process of vision, none of this could have happened. What a Creator, what a fun experience. Thanks, Laura, my sculptor friend, and Betsey, my instructor.

If you haven't already done so, read Directive 99 with its powerful life messages. Only God, our potter, has the right to end the life of a person, only he knows when the shaping of the clay is complete. I’m humbled and amazed at the response e-mails I've received from readers. This one came in today from a couple in Southern Illinois while I was writing this: "My husband just finished your book and loved it. It’s on my list to read now. Alice"

(The picture above shows me in the center making pies with friends Claudia and Norma.)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Spiritual, just not religious?

Have you ever heard anyone say I’m spiritual, just not religious? I had a conversation like that with a person recently who took pride in having a faith that’s neutral, passionless. He described it as a firm belief in an undefined, generic God Who doesn’t impact personal life.

It seems to me that a vague belief in a Creator who is powerless to impact one’s daily reality is like having a treasure chest in the middle of your living room where you can walk around and admire the construction of the box, yet never open the lid and experience the treasures within.

I value the treasures of God and wouldn’t live my daily life as I do without them. Like assurance of the love of God that makes it possible to be an outrageous lover of all God’s people, enemies included. Like the supreme trust that enables me to live with joyous self-abandon, because God has ultimate control. I like the excitement of each new day anticipating the challenges and wonders God has planned. The deeper I dig into God’s Treasurebox the more there is: sweet comfort when I hurt, hope when I’ve walked into a place of blackness and supernatural energy when mine is depleted. And when I see a scene like this while driving through the Carolinas I gulp, He's amazed me again.

By the way, I don’t consider myself religious either. Something about the word reminds me of the Pharisees of Jesus’ day – men who walked about preaching to others the externals, legalities of faith, without having the internals straight. The character, Jennifer, in my new novel, Directive 99, is like this. Her spirituality was surface without substance. She served others without joyous heart affection until God got her full attention. (For more info on Directive 99 visit my website Personally, I prefer the descriptive words a Jesus truster or an unabashed God lover.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Treasuring the Elderly

Here's my new book baby launched this week - a mystery thriller that includes murder, kidnapping, two love stories and a message about protecting the elderly among us.

I’m not sure how my love affair with older people began. Perhaps it was having interesting grandparents. Maybe it was my wonderful carpenters in their 80’s whose workmanship more than compensated for the fact that their work pace was slower.

I do know it was sharpened by the word of God which reminds us to respect the living treasures of wisdom we have among us. Leviticus 19:32 "Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the LORD."

In a church I visited last week while vacationing in St. Petersburg, FL, I encountered Ann – 88 years young sitting next to me in her spiffy pill box hat dressed to the nines. Of course, I had to chat with her afterwards. Angel Ann I immediately nicknamed her in my mind– what a sweet face, joy spilled from her eyes as she shared how she washes and irons the church altar linens every week and has performed this service in various parishes for sixty-two years.

After we exchanged names Ann promised to write me a letter if I gave her my address, because writing letters was something she liked to do, but “Sit down when you read it, because I write long letters.” I told her about my current writing and she promised to pray for me every day, promptly adding my name to the list she carried in her purse on a big card. Getting a quick glance at the paper, I estimated about fifty names already on it.

Ann reminded me of Kathryn in my new novel, Directive 99, a resident of a futuristic government run life centre for the elderly. Here greedy officials introduce a plan to euthanize them in incrementally lower ages because the economy no longer can handle the burden of their expense. My Kathryn, vibrant and alert, performed her part-time work as an antique jewelry appraiser and was a beloved family member to her nieces and nephews, but she would be among the first to die.

I’ve studied current population data and prevalent myths (I’ll present them in depth in the future), but beware of false dogma. What God creates he provides for (unless the greed of man snatches it away.) We need not destroy the elderly to advance our personal lifestyle. The time is coming when euthanasia very well may be presented as a viable choice. It’s not - not ever.

If you like suspense, a love story, and a fast-paced novel with a moral message, I encourage you to get your hands on Directive 99, available through Amazon or Barnes and Noble stores or my website:

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Normal Day

How I treasure a normal day. Life changes in a second when suddenly normal is gone.

You remember the moment forever when you learn of the physical illness or death of a loved one. It’s like your chest is being compressed as terror floods your mind. You want to yell, stop, this can’t be happening, but your gasp is silent as it should be, if it is a family member or friend dealing with their own shock and needing every ounce of support and encouragement you can give, but it’s enormously difficult.

The disruption of normal happened to my husband and I the Monday after Thanksgiving when he returned from a pre-op physical and announced the EKG revealed a heart abnormality. A week filled with stress tests and echocardiogram and cardiologist visits spun by in dizzying speed. Until we heard no alarm, heart’s okay, but the tumor found during a colonoscopy was to take two days in UW. Madison Hospital to eradicate. If there’s a sweeter word in the English language than benign I can’t think what it is.

Where was God in all this? I felt like a tightrope walker holding two poles, Christ and the Holy Spirit, and a magnetic beacon, God the Father, drawing me forward. The Scripture verse that sustained me, for I surely needed strengthening, was given me by phone from a dear friend the next day. You may laugh when you read this or perhaps consider me dotty, but I embraced “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, rejoice. Let your gentleness be evident to all (I really needed this because I become very assertive when a loved one of mine must maneuver the medical maze.) And then this next section is a gem, “The Lord is near.” Followed by “Do not be anxious about anything, but present your requests to God with petitions and thanksgiving and the peace of God which passes all understanding will be yours in Christ Jesus.” (Phillipians 4: 6-10)

Not only did I read this, I printed out three copies – one for my purse, one for my bedside, and one in case I lost either of the other two. I memorized it and meditated on it. If ever Scripture was a sword, this was for me.

Now again I’m savoring normal days, but taking longer to dwell over the joy of a shared trip to the store or lingering while we wat breakfast together instead of zipping off. Rejoice? You can be sure we do, with hearts of gratefulness.

If you or a loved one faces the terror of cancer or heart disease, may I suggest requesting a copy of Triumphing Over Cancer, a manual I wrote to help patients after being thumped by our own eighteen year old son’s cancer followed by his being hit by a drunk driver. There is a fundamental flaw in the name it, claim it prototype of God, but there is total truth in a God whose love is measureless and whose strength of grace is steel in His hands and ours.

I wouldn’t, couldn’t, walk through the devastation of concern for a loved one without Him. The manual, Triumphing Over Cancer, will do more than two or three greeting cards. Order it at the website or e-mail me direct at