Saturday, December 31, 2016

Things I've been learning in 2016

The new year will soon be here, and it’s a great time to reflect on lessons learned this past year. Here is a sampling:

A long-held dream can become reality. 

My goal was to write 50 words a day as a way to make progress on the huge undertaking of writing a book. After two years in the making, Life, Love and Loss was published in April, and I am overjoyed with the sense of accomplishment and the wonderful feedback from many who have been inspired by it. 

Love means letting go.

Things can change in an instant and we can never take them for granted. I lost a friend in January, buried my faithful furry companion in March, and walked with several others who experienced a significant loss. I’ve learned to be grateful for the time we had together and to treasure each moment as if it might be the last.

I can adapt.

My workplace transitioned through huge change this year. But there are new people to work with, new disciplines to learn and new opportunities to pursue. I’m learning to better adapt and go with the flow. 

My perception is not always reality.

It’s not accurate to take limited information and run with it. There is more to the story than the side that I see. Before accepting a conclusion, it is better to open dialog. I thought I was being phased out of my job, but I learned it was not true at all.

Discipline is surprisingly good.

I took the Whole Life Challenge and did things I didn’t particularly want to do (exercise more, pass up carbs and sweets, drink more water and get eight hours of sleep). I was pleased to learn that the way I take care of my body is directly related to fewer aches, improved wellbeing, greater energy levels and better-fitting clothes! 

God still loves to answer prayers.

I thank God for many prayers answered in 2016: improved relationships, better decisions, healed bodies and minds, trouble averted, opportunities given, and the continued blessings of friendships, old and new. God loves with an everlasting love. The impossible becomes possible when I abide in Him.

The possibilities are endless.

Prayers are always needed for wise government, peace in war-torn places, the spread of the gospel and homes for the homeless. The world needs solutions to humanitarian issues. Real change begins with prayer. I am a world changer, right where God has placed me.

Gratefulness is amazingly fulfilling.

Gratefulness trains me to look for the positive among the negative. It flips my view, and gets me out of places I could become stuck. Rather than focusing on the dark details, I can be a light that shines in the darkness. My light gets brighter as I thank and praise God for all He has done, and believe in all He is still doing! I’m determined to head into 2017 in a spirit of gratefulness, amazement and worship.

How about you? What were your most inspirational moments in 2016? What have you celebrated? What have you learned from the most difficult days? How are you better today than you were last January?

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Spirit of Christmas

T raveling to be together or
H osting guests,
I ncluding those less fortunate in our preparations;
S erving, giving, doing for others.

W onderful spreads of special foods,
E ating, feasting, celebrating!

P reparing room to
R eflect
O n the Reason for the Season.
C arols and singing…
L ittle children anticipating…
A ngels announcing
I mportant news: holy birth of the long-awaited
M essiah.


E xtraordinary,
M agnificent,
M erciful God who loves us so much
A nd sent His only Son so that
N o one need perish. All He asks is that we
U nderstand His precious gift is free…
E ternity with Him,
L ife for all who believe.

I nspiring awe, impossible to keep quiet,
S haring the good news with all.

G od has come… in the form of a baby… and we’re
O verjoyed…
D o not fear.

W e will walk with Him, abide
I n Him,
T rust in
H im… for all we need.

U nlocking the mystery of all history… Jesus Christ has come,
S avior of the world!


Thursday, December 8, 2016

8 Amazing Promises from Romans 8

As the beauty of the season begins to unfold, I'm in Romans 8, finding several amazing promises around why Jesus came to earth. The interpretations I share have come from reading various versions (NIV, Voice, Message and Phillips). In each of these, Paul's language is richly expressive -- as I'm sure it was in the original text.

1 - There is no condemnation for those who are walking with Jesus. If we've accepted Christ and are doing our best to abide in Him, there's no reason for us to be blaming, guilting or shaming ourselves for any past mistakes.

2 - Since the law wasn't enough, God made things more personal by sending His son to take on the human condition and live among us. Jesus freely took it on, humbling Himself as a helpless baby, limiting Himself to an earthly body to do what needed to be done to set us free from sin.

3 - Then, God sent His Spirit to indwell us, inspire us and intercede for us. What could be more helpful? We are adopted into God's family and get to call Him our daddy.

4 -  That also means we become heirs to all the treasures of His glorious inheritance. With that, God placed within us a deep and abiding hope to experience the true freedom that will be ours one day. In fact, all of creation is practically on tiptoe to see what is to come! We yearn and long for the day when all will be made right, once and for all.

5 -  While we wait as patiently as possible for that day, this time of enduring does not diminish us. No, we are enlarged in the waiting! When the waiting gets hard, the enduring gets long and there are no words, His Spirit prays on our behalf in groans too profound for words.

6 - Meanwhile, we can rest in the knowledge that God works in and through all things to orchestrate good, right and beautiful out of pain, ugliness and ashes.

7 - Paul begins to summarize: If God is for us, who can be against? Who would even try? What would be the point? We have an overwhelming victory in Him.

8 - God is totally for us -- backing us with the full force of the Holy Trinity, in love. He hasn't missed a detail. Nothing can separate us from the love of God... Absolutely nothing.

Heavenly Father, you offer us a love that is beyond anything we've ever known. It is difficult to grasp. Please open our eyes that we may see, our minds that we may believe and our hearts that we may fully receive all that you have given us.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Finding great riches

Step into the shoes of someone finding great riches: A surprising find, an unexpected check, maybe even a fabulous sale. I can imagine the excitement about receiving something more – even much more – than I was looking for. That is a great description and a wonderful way to think about scripture. I have been rolling that thought around for several days, since reading this verse:
I will rejoice in following your statutes like one rejoices in finding great riches. (Psalm 119:14)

Rather than thinking about God’s Word as restrictive, the psalmist finds pure joy in following God’s gracious guidance. Whoever wrote Psalm 119 (presumably David) took a great deal of time of examining the Word and reflecting on many different ways to express appreciation for it. He meditates on it, seeks it, trusts it, obeys it, delights in it, keeps it, hopes in it, follows it, dwells in it and ponders it.
This psalm – the longest one – is thoughtfully written as an acrostic, using each of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, in order. Eight stanzas are devoted to each letter. A beautiful poetic work. It centers on exalting the written revelation of God, taking joy in His Word. All but a few of the 176 verses follow that same pattern. In it, the scriptures are referred to as God’s Word, His law, statutes, precepts, commandments, testimonies, judgments, decrees or promises.
 “This wonderful psalm helps us to wonder at the immensity of Scripture,” said Charles Spurgeon. “From its keeping to one subject it helps us to adore the unity of Scripture, for it is but one. Yet, from the many turns it gives to the same thought, it helps to see the variety of Scripture… Its variety is that of a kaleidoscope: from a few objects a boundless variation is produced. In the kaleidoscope you look once, and there is a strangely beautiful form. You shift the glass a very little and another shape, equally delicate and beautiful, is before your eyes. So it is here.”

How rich we would be if we could treasure the Bible that way – to dwell in it and let it make its home in us. What a gift we have been given. Let’s read it, remember it, reflect on it, rejoice in it…!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The woods: Good for the soul

I’ve enjoyed numerous hikes in national parks, woodland preserves and rustic forests. While we know physical activity is good for us, exercising outside in nature goes above and beyond. When I’ve had a mentally exhausting day, there’s no better medicine than to head for the woods to take a hike.

I love the quiet. I very much appreciate the time to be unplugged from electronics and the beck and call of the next “to do.” Every step through crunching leaves is therapy. Whether stepping on spongy earth or crackling twigs, it’s like holy ground to me. I see the intricate pattern in the tiny mosses on decaying stumps, and the dainty ferns filling the forest floor. I smell that woodsy goodness and the world feels right again. 

As I plod along the trail, the worries slowly roll off. I make my way to the crest of a hill and a new view opens up. Much like the one I can receive when I cast all my cares on Him… the One who provides for every living creature… the One who designed this perfect, self-sustaining ecosystem… the One who gave the squirrels a place to play and assigned every bird a different voice and a new song. When the sunlight streams through the canopy highlighting dozens of amazing colors, I find a new peace.

For a lovely hour, I can forget about the ways of the chaotic world and walk through a sanctuary created by God, letting every gentle breeze caress me, allowing every critter's chirp and chatter to minister. Sometimes I have the sudden joy of seeing other wildlife, like a deer, eagle or great blue heron.

To me it’s no surprise that exercising outside in nature helps clear our heads, increase creativity and focus, recharge us and build our self-esteem. I fully believe God designed it that way.

Friday, September 30, 2016


Recently, I started wearing a bracelet with five simple letters...

A performer I once heard thought of the word as an acronym for "Feel As If There's Hope."

When I mentioned that to Ted, he disagreed because faith is not a feeling. According to Hebrews 11, "faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see."

After all, it was by faith Abel brought a better sacrifice, Noah built an ark, Moses' parents hid their baby from the king, Abraham took Isaac up the mountain, and Rahab welcomed the spies. By faith the people crossed the Red Sea on dry land, the army marched around Jericho until the walls fell, and Abraham and Sarah had a child in their old age. Examples abound in this chapter about how faith carried the believers through difficult and even unheard of things.

In the same way, my own faith has inspired and carried me through many difficult and amazing things. I can recall many situations that completely changed -- even overnight -- when I held onto my faith.

Paul says in a letter to the Corinthians that "we live by faith, not by sight" and "we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen." We may not see it, we may not feel it, and we may not even be able to put it into words, but when we have faith in God, the most incredible things can happen. Faith in God changes everything.

So, how would I define faith? My acronym would be this:


Saturday, September 3, 2016

Peter abides - part 2

As a disciple of Jesus, Peter spent a great deal of time with Him, and they had many conversations not recorded. (How I would love to hear more...!) After Jesus died, rose and went to the Father, Peter was passionate about keeping Jesus' memory alive. He writes his letters from the perspective of one who walked with the living God and one who wants to portray Him as accurately as possible.

Here's a continuation of 1 Peter 1, in my own interpretation:

10 Prophets took great care in bringing such an important message...

11 with great reverence, prayer and searching to know when and how these things would unfold.

12 This was not self-serving, but the Holy Spirit's message coming through. A great mystery!

13 Get ready -- seriously, intentionally focused -- and ready for knowing Jesus more fully when He returns.

14 Abide in Jesus, not in the world, now that you know better.

15 In all your ways, strive to be like Him -- Holy!

16 Early scriptures (Leviticus) commanded holiness.

17 Remember this life is only temporary and God is sovereign; Lord over all. Live your days in awe of that and expectant of what is to come.

18 No amount of treasures or riches or works could do for you what God has done

19 with the precious blood of Jesus, freely given for all.

20 This was planned from the beginning of time but only recently revealed.

21 God gave us a real-life human example before our eyes to increase our faith.

22 So, love deeply as Jesus did.

23 We are born again in new hope; true children of God.

24 This world, our bodies and all that we now see is temporary

25 but the promise of God stands for eternity!

Dear Lord, help us live our lives in reverent awe of what you have done. Let us not become complacent or satisfied in this world, but let us live in the light of eternity with expectant hope of all you have promised. Even now, you are equipping us for this higher calling of being holy, like you are.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Peter abides - part 1

Since Peter walked with Jesus when He was on earth, it's special to hear from him, a personal friend to Jesus. He, too, would be a good mentor in learning how to abide in Jesus. I read 1 Peter 1 with that perspective and put it in my own language:

Part 1

1 Peter is proud to be called a follower; it's his closest association, his highest credential in writing this letter. He addresses his audience with an inclusive tone

2 but especially addresses God's chosen/elect that God knew from the beginning of time. The Holy Trinity was there from the beginning. (What a privilege to be called!) Peter gives a rich greeting and blessing. (How eloquent with words this fisherman has become!)

3 Knowing the Son helps us know the Father. Peter has seen Him and walked with Him. We have new birth and living hope in Him

4 and a protected inheritance, set aside waiting for us.

5 We are protected and preserved, too, until we can one day all be together in Heaven.

6 This is the joyful hope we have even though some days are dark and difficult. The road may seem long now, but ...

7 ... there is purpose in these trials. They refine our faith, make us better and stronger, more like Jesus, bringing all glory and honor and praise to God. (The pain will be worth it all!)

8 Peter gives a good definition of faith here -- we are loving and believing in what we do not see, having great joy while we wait.

9 We practice abiding in Him now; because we'll abide in Him forever -- there is much more to come! be continued.

Lord, thank you for giving us letters from Peter, someone who lived with you, ate with you, traveled with you, had numerous meaningful conversations with you. Through his eye witness, we can learn more about you. Help us to put into practice what we've heard from him. Let us please you by living with joyful hope.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Live Deeply

This morning I enjoyed some precious time soaking in God’s Word while the rain soaked into our thirsty lawn and gardens.

I was reading John’s letters. Here is a disciple who walked with Jesus – God incarnate – while He was on the earth. He proudly proclaims he is “the one Jesus loved.” (Can’t we all proclaim that?) John walked with Him, he knew Him well, now he writes with passion about how we can “live deeply in Christ.” How blessed we are to read the words of a close comrade to Christ. If anyone knew how to abide, it would be John.
“Here’s how we can be sure that we know God in the right way,” John says. “Keep his commandments. If someone claims, ‘I know Him well,’ but doesn’t keep His commandments, he’s obviously a liar. His life doesn’t match his words. But the one who keeps God’s words is the person in whom we see God’s mature love. This is the only way to be sure we’re in God. Anyone who claims to be intimate with God ought to live the same kind of life Jesus lived.” (1 John 2 MSG)
John reminds us that our sins are forgiven in Christ, the burden’s been lifted. We need to now walk in the light, as nearly and completely as we can. “Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father,” he says. “The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out – but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.”

Dear Lord, thank you for preserving the words of John for us. Today I want your words to live deeply in me so that I can live deeply in you. Help me to hold fast to them and follow them. You are light and there is no darkness in you. Light my way so I can walk in your light. 

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Video on Life, Love and Loss

Life, Love and Loss was published just a little more than 100 days ago. Writing and publishing our story has opened many doors to wonderful conversations and blessings. I have a couple of book readings and signings scheduled, and my church produced a wonderful video to help spread the word about the book. (If you've already read it, you'll see photos from some of the adventures mentioned):

Every single day since its release, I've heard from someone who has read the book. I've received many comments on the sweet love story, the message of hope, and the vulnerability in sharing so deep.

Some readers devoured the story in less than a week, then read it again more slowly a second time. A few book-study groups are reading it together. Some readers are just getting through it as a 90-day devotional, appreciating the questions to ponder each day.

Every day I'm still amazed at what God has orchestrated. God knew that the process of writing, rewriting and rearranging was what I needed to progress through the grief. Examining the story at so many angles and sifting it carefully to re-tell it has been tremendously helpful. The healing continues as I talk with others who have immersed themselves in the pages.

Thank you, God, for more lavish provisions. Thank you for so many friends along the journey.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Special people in our journey

Abiding in Jesus is continually turning the controls over, trusting Him and doing the next thing He impresses on me. It's leaving enough margin to listen, to watch and to be sensitive to the details. It's taming the distractions because they may well be the enemy's best weapon against hearing God's voice in my life.

Since I launched Life, Love and Loss in April, I've still been involved with the book every single day. Each day I get to hear stories of how it has inspired people and even changes in their lives. Thank you, Lord! And, I am still working on getting copies out to thank some special people for their roles in our journey.

Recently, I brought a copy to the wise and wonderful oncologist who treated Ted for the 12 years of his cancer. Since I am not a patient I could not book time on his calendar, so it required stopping by his office on a couple of occasions to find him available.

He came out to meet me and immediately shook my hand, saying he was just mentioning Ted. Seeing him the first time without Ted, I almost cried. He was always there in the lowest points to offer a new solution. He sorted out the mess in 2011 (p. 156), he was the one Ted asked for during the longest night of our lives (p. 204) and he gave me wisdom in a very difficult decision (p. 228).

During a long illness, the doctor and his nurses become like family. After losing Ted, I also felt a sense of loss in no longer being connected to these people, so it brought great satisfaction to my heart to talk with him again and give him the book.

He was animated as usual, and surprised that I had written a book. I thanked him once more for all his wonderful care that had improved Ted's quality of life for many more years. We chatted a while about Ted's fighting spirit and good nature. A handshake and two big hugs later, it had been a great visit!

During that visit, I found that Ted's "favorite nurse" (p. 200) was no longer there, so I did a little detective work and had a friend reach out and ask her to contact me. We met last week so I could give her a book. She had tears in her eyes to think she had touched our lives and that I still thought of her.

"Ted was an inspiration and a fighter. He never complained," she said. I thanked her for her good care on the long days of treatment, along with her patience and cheerfulness creating the positive atmosphere we so appreciated. (We became Facebook friends, connected as family once again!)

God, thank you for these dear people and the role they played in our lives. Thank you for giving me the book that has meant so much to me and is now touching others. We give you all the glory, honor, thanks and praise. Thank you for teaching us to abide in you.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Hearts open, senses engaged

We were drinking rich coffee from heavy ceramic mugs, my fingers tracing the deep grooves of the Old Rittenhouse monogram. Ted and I had received a generous wedding gift certificate from friends or we likely would not have enjoyed this extraordinary weekend at the renowned historical inn. 

From our elegant table near the window, we were bathed in warm sunlight as we perused breakfast menus. We were in the ambience of the north, where my sweetheart and I felt right at home.

We had arrived in the evening, and snow was falling so heavily that we swished and swerved as we climbed the steep roads of Bayfield. The Victorian inn perched on a hill with the large wrap-around porch welcomed us and the aroma of burning logs tantalized as we checked in. What a blessing to have a weekend to ourselves tucked away in this winter wonderland!

I was admiring the ornate woodwork, vintage wallpaper and stained-glass accents forming prisms of color on the linen and lace tablecloths when a basket of hearty bran muffins and delicate pastries appeared before us. I looked in Ted’s smiling eyes as the server topped off our coffee. Everything was exquisite – the food, the service, the location, being here with my honey and the potential of a new day spreading before us.

We would delight in seeing a pileated woodpecker hammering away in a tree near the front walkway. We’d bundle up in our warmest layers and hike the craggy, windswept shores of Lake Superior to explore the mysterious ice caves. We would marvel at the beauty in God’s creation, so remote it could easily be missed if we weren’t attentive. Together, we lived life with our hearts open wide and all our senses engaged.

I hold my warm mug in both hands now and sip from that memory once again.

Ted’s been gone for more than three years and my love for him surges strong with this latent memory that came to life today. I miss the man who dreamed up these wonderful adventures, the man who held my hand through the thick and thin of life, and who could caress the depths of my soul with his dancing blue eyes.

He inspires me, still, to be fully engaged with life, to take the time to see the details. God’s loving handiwork is all around to explore and appreciate. In each and every day, our Loving Father places people and purpose and great potential. Will you see it today?

Will we live with hearts open and senses fully engaged? Will we smell the coffee, feel the breezes and read the opportunities that today brings?

Father, we open our hearts to you and all that you have for us. May we never miss the beauty of the relationships and opportunities you place before us today. 

Friday, June 10, 2016

When we worry

Some events this week pulled me down. Prayer requests from friends brought more sad news. My heart was overwhelmed.

We all experience that place, sometimes. Worry slurps us in, darkness threatens and sadness takes hold. Our troubles loom larger than life. It’s hard to stay focused and take the next step.

When we worry, we are in essence saying these things are bigger than God. They are not! They may seem so at the moment, but then I recall the big picture. I remember our Loving Father, His character and His promises.

He’s the One who created all things intricate and beautiful … the One who works all things together for good … the One who is all powerful and knows our concerns even before we speak.

Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).

When we worry, we are not focused on God, but on our own troubles. We feel the pain but we don’t have to stay there. These things are temporary – no matter how gloomy it seems. Our response can be to draw close to God and depend on Him. God is not limited in any way. He can breathe the word and change any situation. He wants us to focus our eyes on Him, walk with Him, trust in Him. Abide in Him through everything.

Many times I have been in a place WAY OVER MY HEAD. What do I do? Where do I start? My stomach clenches in a knot and my tears flow. But then I turn my eyes to Him with a simple prayer: “Dear God, help me.” My faith is in Him.

“God, this is way bigger than I can handle. But I am never alone. You are a Father of great love. I am your precious child and you know my needs. You comfort me, strengthen me, give me hope and direction. Show me a solution. Nudge me the way I need to go. I bring you my five loaves and two fish (all that I have) and that is enough because you multiply my efforts. I am inadequate but you are more than adequate.

Dear friends, whatever is on your heart … harsh words spoken, relationships broken, finances lacking, health failing, demands mounting or confusion abounding … He is near and He is Lord. Surrender it all.

Dear God, thank you that there is no trouble too big for you. You are already at work changing, redeeming, restoring because we trust in You.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? ...(Matt. 6:25-34).

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Vinedresser

As I sit under the shelter of a profusely blossoming crab tree, I reflect on John 15:

Jesus said, “I am the true Vine and my Father is the Vinedresser.”

I notice that means the Son is completely submitted to the Father, modeling the way for us to do the same. The Father cuts off every branch that doesn’t bear fruit, and every branch that does bear fruit gets pruned so that it can bear even more.

Yes, trimming the long, unruly branches will direct more nutrients into the parts that remain. Just like pulling the creeping charlie from my gardens will give more room for real flowers to grow. It would take over everywhere if left unchecked!

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you,” He says. “No branch can bear fruit by itself.”

When I tried to find my own happiness, I found only a shallow, mediocre version of the life I have now connected to Jesus. I had eventually realized my own navigation was sadly lacking, so I came back to where true life and nourishment is freely given. Where all good things originate in plentiful measure.

The blooms of the crab tree are prolific. This beautiful tree is a reflection of the Father’s glory. He smiles to see His disciples growing and thriving. Those who choose to put Him first and rely on His influence more than any other will be like a fruit tree on the best fertilizer. They will have everything they need to flourish. They will be sweet, fragrant and full of life.

A call to remain connected isn't to restrict freedom, but to offer true freedom and joy. Abiding in the Vine, staying close to our Creator, will bring out the best possible version of ourselves.

Dear God, I need to be focused on you and not any imitation of what life might be. Help me stay connected, listening and following. I want the thriving life that only you can give.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Written on our hearts

Thirteen years ago, Ted and I were still dating and writing daily emails about the Bible chapter we had each read separately. We eagerly looked forward to these emails. Sharing our thoughts brought greater perspective. We found that we often commented on the same points but expressed different ideas. This reinforced our like-mindedness and also helped us appreciate our differences.

Now, these emails are like mini Bible studies. What a treasure it is to still "study with Ted."

On May 13, we were reading Hebrews 8 in the Message.

First, here are some of the observations I emailed to Ted:

The new covenant is not on paper or chiseled on tablets. It's inside of us -- God carved it on the lining of our hearts (a very intimate place). We can get to know God firsthand by being forgiven, by living the example set by Jesus with the prompting of the Holy Spirit, by accepting a personal relationship.

I'm glad God is so personal with us. He invites us to intimacy with Him. He gives us everything we need, and even dwells right within us. What commitment! Where the tablets were cold and impersonal, there is nothing impersonal about the new covenant.

I remember being allowed to borrow something special of my mom's or dad's. How good it felt to be trusted with it. I could treasure that feeling and the luxury of the item all day. It brought intimacy and made me know that they loved me. (I don't even remember the items, just the feeling.) We are trusted with God's most precious gifts every day. How blessed we are to have His lavish love!

Here is what Ted wrote to me:

Our priest isn't before God, He's beside God because He is God. He doesn't offer sacrifices, He is the sacrifice. He is the full picture of what Moses got a glimpse. Jesus is part of a plan that really works. The author may be quoting from Jeremiah 31 about the new covenant.

This covenant isn't on tablets of stone or paper but written in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. I'll be their God, they'll be my people. What beautiful words. We are His people and the sheep of His pasture (Ps. 100). Those who had no mercy will be shown mercy and those who were not my people will be my people. What mercy to be chosen by God.

They will know firsthand, everyone. Not by a cloud or thundering or indirectly -- but clearly; we saw him and beheld His glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father. Boy, this sure is a better way! We have to be careful  not to neglect the new way God has given us. This relationship in His blood needs to be maintained for us to enjoy its benefits.

I'm so glad we can do it together," Ted had written. He signed this one, "You are ever in my thoughts. Lovingly yours, Ted."

God, I am so thankful you want to be so intimate with us. Thank you for writing your covenant on our hearts. I am also very grateful Ted and I chose to write emails and that these emails have been preserved. You knew then how much these would mean to me now.

More stories about our emailing is included in Life, Love and Loss.

Join in this study by adding your observations in the comments below.

Sunday, May 1, 2016


Three years ago, I was hours from saying my final goodbye to Ted. I was calling the kids home one final time. The tears now come easy as I reflect on everything leading up to May 2, 2013. My heart remembers the pain of losing such a vitally important part of my life.

Of course I yearn for the adventurous life I had with him, my best friend ever. I long to go back to the way things were, when I felt so loved, so happy and purposeful. The days of camping, traveling, hiking, laughing and worshiping God together through all of it.

There were times, in the early days of grief, I thought the best part of my life was over. I couldn’t imagine doing more than “existing” for the rest of my days without Ted. On the other hand, sometimes I felt I could live out my years basking in the great memories until I see him again in Heaven. But that would be to live in the shadow of what was, and not to experience the fullness of what is yet to be in God's design.

Because of God’s strength poured into my weakness, today I am standing and enjoying  fullness in life again. I have rich purpose with our five kids going in five lively directions. Yesterday, I was surrounded by our five beautiful grandchildren, with the legacy of their grandfather living on in each of them.

My tears turn to joy when I recall how great God has been to me through the journey. The difficult times have made me better acquainted with the ways God speaks individually to me. I have walked with Him more intentionally, more desperately, more completely. I could not have gotten here another way. I am thrilled with what God has done and what He is doing. God continues to open doors and give me new purpose.

Writing my book, Life, Love and Loss, has been a tremendous source of healing. When I penned its first words in June 2014, there were tears of grief. As the structure formed and the momentum grew, they turned into happy tears.

And now, I have tears of incredible joy as I daily hear feedback on what sharing our story is doing for others. All those hours behind the computer, piecing together many fragments, choosing the words best suited to embody our story, have finally produced fruit that is encouraging others.

Abiding in Jesus is everything. Apart from Him I can do nothing.

Gracious God, I’m so thankful that you gave me the life with Ted, and now have given me new purpose in sharing our story! I pray for others who are in a difficult spot. Lord, I know that you can redeem it all.  

Pictured in the foreground is the magnolia memorial tree from my siblings; and in the background, the hundreds of daffodils Ted and I planted in summer 2012 that began opening for me May 2, 2013.

For a copy of the book, please connect with me (my favorite way!) or you can purchase online at

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Observations of a new author


That is a wonderful word to me. Something I've been aspiring to... forever.

Now it's been a week since I held the first real copies of my book in my hands--truly satisfying. Here's some of what I'm feeling and learning:

  1. Wow. All those hours behind the computer for two years have produced fruit. It feels good to have poured my soul into this very worthwhile project.
  2. The hours writing were so therapeutic.
  3. Whenever I didn't know how to proceed, God opened the door to what would be next. After I took the first steps, the momentum carried me. 
  4. My fears (which caused me to procrastinate) were unfounded. Abiding is the answer.
  5. I wish I'd had the courage to do this earlier, yet I know the timing is right now. It took years to cultivate the skills, live the story and step back for perspective. Honestly, I would not have taken the time away from being with Ted, so when could I have written a book?
  6. I've felt new bonding with those I've involved in the project. What great people God has blessed me with.
  7. How great it is to connect with people again after spending so much time at a keyboard. I'm going to enjoy the relationships along the way.
  8. So many have given heartwarming feedback already and told me how it has helped or changed them. It is truly a treasure to be used by God this way. 
  9. I didn't know I worked with so many Christians. This experience has enhanced relationships around me already. 
  10. I finally know what I'm supposed to be doing. (More of this. There is confirmation all around.)

Even now as I sit down to reflect and write, "It is Well with My Soul" is playing on my radio. It was one of Ted's favorite hymns (we chose it for his funeral). I know Ted is pleased with this accomplishment. Oh, it certainly is well with my soul, too!

Thank you, thank you, thank you, God, for where you have taken me. I love you with all my heart.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Bursting with Potential

God has given gifts to each of us, waiting to be fanned into flame. It takes effort on our part, and it's key to stay connected to Him to bear fruit.

I believe God looks at each one of us like this bursting milkweed pod. We are filled with potential, and every seed that makes its way to fertile ground can bear fruit. Staying connected to Him brings the nourishment for those seeds.

Abiding in Him is keeping that margin of time, even in the busiest of seasons, to read from His Word, to listen for the way He is speaking into my life. I never want to miss those sweet words!

In 2009 I felt the Holy Spirit impress upon me that I needed to share my thoughts on journaling at the next Women's Breakaway. Public speaker, me? No way! But after I said yes I became very excited and passionate about it! He called and then He equipped.

I never would have imagined that now, seven years later, I will be at the Breakaway again -- sharing my story and the book that I have written! Praise God, this is an incredible dream come true for me. I have always, always wanted to write a book.

I want to give all the glory, honor and praise to God for all He has done. He has brought me here! Click the tab above for more information about my book, Life, Love and Loss.

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for giving me a passion and a purpose and giving me everything I've needed as I trusted you step by step. 

Is there something God has been prompting you to do but you have been afraid? I know the feeling, but I'm so glad I trusted God and did the next thing. What unmet potential is living inside of you?

Friday, March 11, 2016

Faithful companionship

My heart was heavy as I left the plush garden island of Kauai to come home. In the land of brown and sticks again, I was relieved to see the snow had melted and the temperatures were unseasonably warm. I hurried home with one thing on my mind.

My little dog Nikki had been sick when I'd left and had only gotten worse, despite more medical interventions. I prayed for her quick recovery, but my daughter reported the poor thing was still struggling to breathe. Then I prayed she'd last until I came home so I could hold her once more. 

Anyone who has loved a dog knows about the difficult decision we were facing. Is she going to recover or am I only prolonging her suffering? But she was 15... by any standard, a good life for a dog. She had been my faithful companion for all these years, as the kids were growing, leaving the house one by one, then as the grandkids were born and the family was becoming larger at each gathering.

Then when Ted passed away, she was my 8-pound sidekick through the loneliest of times, making sure I always had companionship and unconditional love. Whether I was gone all day or only a few minutes, she delivered her happy greeting with the same attentiveness and energy.

Now I was walking around the backyard with her in my arms, telling her how much I appreciated all our times together. I told her she would be going to a special place where she could run and play again, unencumbered by illness. I suggested she find Ted if she could, and that he would certainly relate to the stress of not being able to breathe. 

My tears were falling on her and she sighed some sweet sighs in response. I heard a cardinal singing, "pretty, pretty, pretty." I looked around but could not locate it at first.

Again I heard, "pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty..." I looked up and saw a male cardinal sitting in the tree above, looking down directly on us. It reminded me of how some people say a sighting of a cardinal signifies the presence of a lost loved one. 

I imagined it might be Ted saying, "Sweetheart, let her go. I'll look after her now. She'll be in good hands."

* * *

Nikki has crossed the bridge to a new life, whatever that may be. We are missing her sweet presence but holding onto some dear memories.

P.S. It's more than mere coincidence that I'd been reading Heaven by Randy Alcorn for several months and just recently came upon page 395 discussing whether or not we will see animals in Heaven. Alcorn believes we will:

"Adam, Noah, and Jesus are the three heads of the three Earths. When Adam was created, God surrounded him with animals. When Noah was delivered from the flood, God surrounded him with animals. When Jesus was born, God surrounded him with animals. When Jesus establishes the renewed Earth, with renewed men and women, don't you think he'll surround himself with renewed animals?"

Thank you, God, for all the years we've had Nikki to love. Thank you, especially, that she was my companion these last years without Ted.

Cardinal photo by Mitch Stimpson. Used with permission.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Feeling blessed

Does it get any better than this?

Walking the beach in the morning, reflecting on God's great love. I have even a better taste of what Heaven might be like. 

I feel the warm ocean breezes, hear the sounds of the waves lapping and the morning song of tropical birds.

Flowers are blooming everywhere, even in March. I swam with the bright blue and yellow fish--what a thrill!

My heart is at peace. It is well with my soul.

It is a reminder to me of abiding in Jesus. When we trust Him, He provides all that we need, and so much more. By letting go of my expectations, I have found His better way.

Who am I that He would bless me like this?

"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him." (1 Cor. 2:9) I always thought this verse referred to Heaven. Now I see it also refers to Heaven on earth for those who trust in Him.

Thank you, Lord. I am blessed.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Stepping into a lifelong dream

As I listen for God’s direction in my life, He often stretches me to a point it is not comfortable, but He knows it is for my good.

This happened to me in 2009. As I sat in an audience in Chilton, WI, I felt the prompting to offer myself as a speaker for the next year’s event. Whoa. Me? No way. I’m happy doing the behind-the-scenes work and being able to edit before I make things public. But I sensed a persistence that wasn’t my own, so I knew I was answering the Holy Spirit. As soon as I made the commitment, I felt such peace. (I’ve found that the feelings often come after.)

Then, for several months, I excitedly prepared for that engagement, gleaning all the best I could share with the audience and distilling it down to the right size again. Gleaning and distilling, gleaning and distilling. I lived and breathed for that upcoming presentation. I think I was so excited because it was something I knew I needed to do. Not of my own making, but something God wanted me to do.

Flash forward and I have now done that for several years. And, guess what? That same process of gleaning and distilling is what I recently used to write a book. Yes! I have wanted to almost all my life! God was preparing me and giving me practice and I didn't even know it. By taking that step of obedience then, I was one step closer to accomplishing a lifelong dream.

After Ted went to be with the Lord on May 2, 2013, my unfinished business of writing a book was calling to me. I did the hard work of grief for several months, then I started on the book in June 2014. I made myself a goal of writing at least 50 words a day, every day, so that I could work it into my already-full schedule. They were baby steps, but I was consistently inching forward.

Now, 21 months later, I am thrilled to have a manuscript that will soon become a book! How can I even express how excited and fulfilled I am to be in this place? In the process of writing and learning what to do next, God gave me purpose and brought healing. I began the project weeping and completed it rejoicing!

There have been (and still are) many steps along the way that are intimidating. I have never done this. It’s exciting and scary at the same time, and many excuses and doubts have crossed my mind. But I put aside those fears and step out in faith.

As I look back, I see how God has provided everything I’ve needed, exactly when I’ve needed it. (In fact, that's what the book is about.) Many wonderful people have shared their knowledge and encouraged me along the way. By following Him, one baby step and then another, I’m abiding on the Vine, and He is bringing a huge project to fruition.

I will once again be speaking at the Women’s Breakaway, on April 9, and hope to have the printed books in hand. Zach Westerman (my son) designed the cover.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, dear God! ... for knowing I needed a push, and for knowing everything I've needed along the way. It’s a tremendous blessing to step into a lifelong dream.

Do you have a baby step you know you need to take? 

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

Friday, February 12, 2016

Full of His glory

This morning, I'm celebrating the glory of the Lord and all He has shown me. 

The heavens, earth and all creation are full of His glory. We can see it if we take a moment to look. Being in the beauty of nature makes that clear.

Who sculpted the hills, the ridges and the valleys? Who filled the lakes and rivers? Who hung the stars? Who painted the clouds so many hues at sunrise? Who told the squirrels to make nests high in the trees? Who made the ducks to swim when the lake is nearly fully frozen?

Lord, I love the house where you live, the place where your glory dwells. Psalm 26:8
I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and glory. Psalm 63:2
Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name. Psalm 96:8.

How are you seeing His glory today? How are you reflecting it?