In the Bleak Midwinter


Mom with Eliza, her great-granddaughter.  One of her favorite photos.


I’ve just returned from a most marvelous trip to Paris, France, coupled with a week-long river cruise from Paris to Normandy and back.  A highlight of the trip was our journey to Omaha Beach, where American troops suffered great losses as they stormed the Normandy beaches on June 6, 1944.  This year was the 75th anniversary of this significant event.

I’ve always wanted to go on a river cruise and WWII, D-Day and Omaha Beach have always been of interest to me.  Mostly because my mom and dad were teenagers during that time–with dad in the air force and mom a Rosie the Riveter at Douglas Aircraft in Oklahoma City.  Dad was a radio operator and mom built parapacks for the C-47 and was a riveter in the tail cone section of the C-54.

Yesterday, when I returned from my trip, I went to visit mom in her facility.  I showed her pictures of Paris and talked about the war museum there that featured many artifacts and pictures of the WWII effort.  I shared a picture I had taken of soldier supplies–to which she commented that these were the exact supplies she had included in the parapacks she had worked on (supplies parachuted in to our soldiers on the battlefield).

I showed her pictures of a Rosie the Riviter, a montage of D-Day soldiers and parachuters and airmen. I shared my pictures and reactions to walking along Omaha Beach and my visit to the American cemetery, which included singing the national anthem while facing the thousands of tombstones.  Then I handed her a tiny box filled with Omaha Beach sand that I had impulsively scooped up and placed inside my jacket pocket.  She cried–because she remembered.

I’ve titled this post after the song, “In the Bleak Midwinter.”  I love this song because I love the piano and the violin–and because it reminds me of my mom.  It’s sad and poignant–but also beautiful.  Most of you reading this post probably don’t know this, but my mom is in the later stages of Alzheimer’s–a journey neither of us expected.

She’s in a good place with excellent care. She’s found a way to be content. In her mind she’s living in a school, where she’s a teacher–and the other residents are her former students. She knows all of you by name and is comforted that you are there in the facility with her. My brother, Dan, is there, too, she thinks, as are her friends and relatives from Baldwin. She recognizes me, but doesn’t remember that I am her daughter. We’re friends and she appreciates the fact that I come to visit.

She still has some days that are good.  And yesterday was one of them.  Those are the days when she remembers.

I’ve attached the song “In the Bleak Midwinter” if you’d like to listen to it.  I want you to know, however:  as hard as this season is for my mom, there are also moments of beauty and joy along this journey.



In the Bleak Midwinter




The Piano Teacher


I was out walking this morning listening to one of my favorite playlists (a medley of piano music) on my iphone.  I’m trying to build up my strength and stamina before I leave for a river cruise with lots of walking through the French countryside and Paris!  I’m so excited!

As I’m listening to the music, my thoughts drift back to my childhood.  Specifically, to my experience with piano lessons and my old piano teacher.

I grew up in a wonderful small Wisconsin town (less than 2000 people).  My dad was a barber and my mom was a homemaker (back then, that’s what you called a woman who stayed home to raise the children).  Although we didn’t have much money, my parents decided I should take piano lessons.

They bought an old second- possibly third- or even fourth-hand piano that was totally out of tune and had several piano keys that were missing.  And with that piano, I began my lessons.  I don’t remember the name of the piano teacher, but I do remember that she had no fingers.  Seriously.  She played the piano beautifully with just her knuckles.

Well, I wasn’t a very good student.  Mostly, because I wouldn’t practice.  And when she would ask me during each lesson, “Did you practice this week?”  I would fib and say “Yes, I did.”   She has gracious, kind, patient, and polished.  And she never shamed me or challenged the truth of my statement.  As a result, I thought I had fooled her.

After a year of failed lessons, she finally shared with my parents that it might be best if I quit lessons and move on to other things.  They agreed, I did and eventually I graduated from high school and left my small hometown for college, with very few return visits.

I never did learn to play the piano–and I regret that very much.  And surprisingly, as I grew older, piano music became a definite favorite.

Many years after I left my hometown, my dad asked me to come back for my grandfather’s funeral.  I did and saw people I loved and had missed–former teachers, former friends, close relatives.  It was wonderful to see everyone again.

At the end of the funeral services, my dad brought a woman over to me that I didn’t recognize and he said, “I bet you remember who this is!”  I didn’t, but I reached for her hand anyway and said “It’s really wonderful to see you again.”

And as soon as I held her hand, I knew who she was.  I looked her in the eyes and I teared up.  I told her I was sorry for how badly I had behaved as her wayward student. And how much I now loved piano music!  She smiled and said, “That’s all I ever wanted, and I’m really glad to heard that.”

After all those years, still gracious and kind and patient and polished.  I’m so glad I had a chance to have that encounter and conversation.





IMG_1294 (1)

Monday night, I was serving dinner at a church event when a young boy, around 7 or 8, came to the window.

I asked, “What would you like to eat tonight young man?  A hot dog, cheeseburger, maybe a bowl of vegetable soup?”

He smiled sweetly and said, “I’d like a hot dog, please.”

“Good choice,” I said.  “On a bun?”  He smiled at me again and nodded yes.

When I handed him a plate with the hot dog on a bun, he said to me in the most charming, endearing way, “You look very beautiful tonight.”

I was surprised and pleasantly pleased. “Well thank you,” I said, “That’s very sweet.”  I think I may have even puffed up a bit!  But then he looked me in the eye deadpan and quite seriously and said, “April Fool’s.”

I had to laugh. “YOU are a stinker,” I said.  And he laughed, too.  Then he told me it’s his birthday next week and I said, “It’s my birthday in a couple of weeks, too.”  He flashed me a smile as he headed to a table.

We’re now fast friends! And I can’t wait to hear what he has to say next week!

Lesson learned:  Watch out for April Fool’s Day!






IMG_2152 2


My grandson is in puppy love.  He’s 7 and so is she.  Lilly is her name and he says she gives him goosebumps.

This all came about because we were watching the movie Goosebumps the other night and I asked Iain and my 5-year-old granddaughter if they knew what goosebumps were.  Iain said he did.  And that’s when he revealed his tender feelings.

I love spending time with my grandchildren (who doesn’t?)—they’re two great kids.  Delightful, articulate, and they make me laugh.

I love listening to them. Their stories, their perceptions, their deep thoughts.  Everything they have to say.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all spent time listening to the children in our  lives—grandchildren, neighbor children, nieces, nephews?  They have a clarity, a simple wisdom that we can easily overlook if we don’t.  They have endless energy and the most positive glass-overflowing way of looking at things.  They are good for our souls.

I’m not sure what all goes into the reasons why being a grandparent is so amazingly joyful.  All of the above probably, plus their enthusiasm and honesty and the fact that we can appreciate these attributes now that we are older and wiser.  And then there’s this:  They LOVE us!  Unconditionally!

Whatever the reasons, being a grandparent is wonderful and powerful.  And it lifts our spirits.  Because a grandchild’s (or any child’s) love is a pure and beautiful thing!


artistic blossom bright clouds

Photo by Pixabay on

A friend of mine asked at lunch last week why I haven’t written anything on my blog for many months.  I told her I had felt the nudge to write a couple of times, but just didn’t feel up to it.  Well, today I do.  And so I’m writing this blog for my friend, who like me, is beyond her twenties, but still appreciates and is practicing love.

I’ve discovered a song that is becoming one of my new favorites.  It’s by Ed Sheeran and it’s called Thinking Out Loud.  It’s a beautiful love story between two young people (in their early twenties).  The man in love is telling his wife or girlfriend that their love will endure forever–all the way into their 70s.  Now for those of us close to or already in our seventies, that makes us smile!

He goes on, though her legs may fail and he loses his hair and their memories fade, their love will still prevail.  And then, what I really love about the song is this lyric–your soul can never grow old, it’s ever green.

I see this love in the facility where my 93-year-old mother resides.  I see it in a friend in her 80s who has fallen in love again years after her husband has passed away.  I see this love on Facebook when my friends post anniversary photos and messages of powerful affection to their long-time spouses.  Love of any kind makes us glow!

So here’s the song:

Love is real and love is powerful.

So today and every day, love a spouse, love a friend, love a neighbor–

and may your soul remain ever green!


Live Your Faith


Several years ago, my brother Dan introduced me to a pastor of a church in Charlotte, North Carolina. Since then, I’ve listened regularly to his Sunday sermons online. This Sunday’s sermon caused me to do some thinking.

What is it that is so much on your mind? he asked.  What is it that you are always talking about?  His point: What you’re thinking about, what you’re talking about, says something about who you are and possibly even how you are living out your Faith.

As Followers of Christ, we are called to see the good. We are to be His hands and feet. I’m not always successful at seeing the good each day, or representing His ways as well as I would like. And I was reminded of that as I listened to the pastor’s message.

The image above is on my desktop. It’s the first thing I see each morning as I sign on to my computer. Well this morning, I saw this image differently. Walk in His Light—that’s what it seemed to be saying to me. Walk in His strength. Walk in Faith. Walk and talk like the believer you are—the believer you were meant to be.

So here’s what I took away from the North Carolina pastor’s message. I want to think about the good.  To not belittle or denigrate anyone because of their politics or their beliefs. To say something nice. Something gentle. To show my neighbor love and grace.

My mother used to tell me stories about my father’s Aunt Minnie (she took my father in at the age of 3 after his mother died in a fire).

Aunt Minnie never said anything about anybody that was unkind or ungracious. She saw the good and walked humbly yet boldly with her Lord. She lived her Faith. What a legacy. What an example.

I want to be Aunt Minnie. I want to surround myself with all the Aunt Minnie’s that God graciously sends my way. I want to live my Faith.





Helgi loved bright colors.


My 91-year-old mother lives in a supervised independent living facility just down the road a bit from where I live. It’s a beautiful place with beautiful people—both those who live there and those who work there. One side of the facility is assisted living–for those who need extra support and help.

I feel great joy when I visit with my mother and the many residents who reside there. There’s Joyce, who sits near the front entrance in the beautiful lobby, who takes my hand each time I come into the building, with a ready smile. There are hugs from Roy and his wife Pat, Susie, Art (a gem of a person), just to name a few. And Helgi.

Helgi was born in Czechoslovakia. Her grandparents perished in a concentration camp during the German Occupation. But Helgi and her mother were fortunate. They escaped to London, where they survived the bombings of that city during WWII. She and her mother eventually reconnected with her father, who had immigrated to America several years earlier. Helgi eventually married, was a nurse, and outlived all of her family. She was a beautiful lady.

I say was—because three days ago Helgi left this world.

I knew she wasn’t feeling well and I had planned on stopping to see her. Helgi was a woman of Faith. And I felt a deep desire to sit and pray with her. Except, I didn’t. I got busy with other things. Unfortunately, we all do that—even those of us who are His Followers.

It was two days ago that I finally stopped by Helgi’s apartment—and it was empty. Someone said she had moved to the assisted living side of the facility. So I walked the halls looking for her name outside each assisted living apartment. Finally, when I couldn’t find her, I went to the front desk.

They know me there. I come to see my mother almost every day. When I asked about Helgi, they said, “She died yesterday afternoon.”

I couldn’t help myself. I got emotional, choking out these words, “But I had hoped to sit down and pray with her. The Lord was nudging me, and I didn’t listen. I should have. I’m so sorry.” The receptionist looked at me with kind and tearful eyes, “I know,” she said.

It’s only been a few days and I’m still feeling the loss of a friend. The missed opportunity to spend time with someone transitioning from this world to the next saddens me still. And I am reminded of the blessings we receive when we listen to the nudges of the Lord.

I hope to be a better listener the next time.




“God is still speaking. Today I will be quiet and listen. Whether through the Bible, others with whom I share my faith journey, or the world around me, God is still speaking to me. I want to be sure to listen.”

A recent posting from one of my Facebook friends.


The last time I saw him would have been about 5 or 6 years ago. A good man—a gentle giant. He was our personal handyman, so to speak. He grew up in the home of a skilled woodworker who had his own carpentry/cabinetry business. Simon learned his father’s trade at an early age—and he became a gifted, meticulous craftsman.

We hired Simon to rebuild our kitchen, to remove tiles and refinish our floors with hardwood, to add custom crown molding throughout our house. He became like family and even brought his young son Sebastian with him to our home. Sebastian would sit quietly and play with his toy cars and planes as his father worked. He was just 3 years old then, smart, articulate, precious.

But then we lost contact with Simon. We sold our home and moved to another city.

About 3 years ago, Ron and I decided to make some cosmetic changes to the inside of the new home we were building. And we tried to get in touch with Simon. We called his cell phone but his number had been disconnected.

We called the only other person we knew who also knew Simon and asked how we could reach him. The response we got was “Simon is not reachable.” It was a mystery. And we worried that Simon might be ill—or something worse.

Then a remarkable thing happened about a month ago. We had dinner at the home of one of our former neighbors who lived next door to us. We stepped outside into their yard and met the couple who now lives in our previous home. They invited us to come and look inside.

As we walked from room to room, they stopped in the kitchen and showed us a problem with their cabinets. A guest had accidentally damaged the wood on several of the doors and the new owners asked if we could help them find the cabinetmaker to do the repairs.

So I tried once more to locate Simon. This time I googled his name—and discovered that he was incarcerated.

I was shocked and deeply troubled. This shy, gentle man was now in prison. I couldn’t stop thinking about him, his wife and his son Sebastian who would now be about eight years old. How does an eight-year-old boy deal with having a father who is in prison? How can his wife be coping? What must Simon be going through?

Call it a prompting, a nudge, a whisper, like my Facebook friend who posted the message at the beginning of this blog, I believe that God does speak to us, to me—sometimes in the form of nudging or prompting, and yes, sometimes in the events and circumstances that are placed before us.

This past week, I was tidying up the church sanctuary—going through the pews, replenishing offering envelopes and prayer request cards. About half way through the rows, I felt a nudging to fill out a prayer request card for Simon.

I stopped what I was doing, pulled out a card and pen and wrote, “Prayers for Simon who is in prison.” I carried the card with me until I finished my work in the sanctuary, then left the card in the hands of our pastor as he greeted me in the office.

Last night, in an email to the Prayer Warriors team in our church, I saw my prayer request for Simon, modified to read “Pray for Simon, a prison inmate who needs to stay strong.” God’s touch, I am absolutely certain!

Today, I was nudged once more to write this blog and ask for my readers’ prayers as well.

“Remember those in prison as if you were together (in prison) with them…”  Hebrews 13:3

Please pray for Simon today as though you were there in prison with him.  Pray for him to stay strong.

There is power in the prayers of the Faithful.



The Lady Across the Hall


I just got home a couple of days ago from a 4-day stay in the hospital—a surprise attack of diverticulitis. I didn’t see it coming—and I had no idea, until now, how serious diverticulitis disease can be. I’m grateful we caught it early and that serious dosages of antibiotics are resolving the issue.

I must admit there were times during the 4 days in the hospital that I was worried—anxious even. And I failed to do the one thing I do routinely several times each day—turn to the Lord in prayer. I’d start a prayer, but just couldn’t finish or follow through.

One night, the lady across the hall from me was having a very difficult time. She had come into the hospital that day from a nursing home—alone, afraid, confused, and needing a lot of attention.

The nursing staff did their best to address her issues, but honestly, with all the running to and from her room throughout the night, they began to grow weary.

It was difficult for me to sleep with all the ruckus and it would have been easy to become frustrated or annoyed by the disruptions, but I felt for the woman. I thought about my own 91-year-old mother. What if she were in trouble, alone, confused, and frightened—and in a hospital.

And I began to pray in a way I wasn’t able to for the past two days. I prayed for this woman who needed comfort and help.

Routinely, in the morning, when the staff’s shift is over, the evening nurse comes by to introduce the next nurse who will be taking his or her place for the day.

Well, the next morning, there were two nurses instead of one assigned to our unit—with one nurse dedicated to the woman across the hall. I could hear this kind, experienced nurse talking to the elderly woman. She had obviously been trained to work with the elderly and/or difficult patients. Her presence, concern, kindness and patience had a calming effect on the distraught older woman.

I wept. Because I was touched by what the hospital and the Lord had done for her.

I quickly turned in prayer to the Lord and thanked Him for sending someone to comfort this dear lady. And I was reminded once again of His Great Love and Boundless Compassion. Do I believe in the power of prayer?  Absolutely!  And it was my blessing to see His Hand at work.

The Beggar


DSC00499 (2)

Inside the Forbidden City

In 2007, the year before the 2008 Olympics, I made my 12th business trip to China. I was blessed with the privilege of traveling to many wonderful countries in my work—Germany, China, India. I even went to Africa.

Beijing is one of my favorite cities and whenever I was there, I always visited the Forbidden City—where the emperors of China once lived many years ago.

There’s a small fee to get inside the walls of the ancient city—and it was there in line to buy my ticket that I had an experience that forever touched my heart.

While I was waiting in the long, long line to buy my pass, I saw a tiny, emaciated, one-legged beggar using a crooked tree branch as his crutch—standing right beside me.

He didn’t say a word, just stood there, eyes focused on the ground. And when I stepped forward as the line moved, so did he. I admit I felt a bit uncomfortable, and I ignored him.

When I finally reached the front of the line and made my purchase, I turned around and almost knocked him over. He whispered, “One dollar. Just one dollar. Please.”

I was surprised he could speak English. But I was even more surprised by his humble nature, his sad eyes, and the sincereness of his request.

I gave him what he asked for—just one dollar. To which he didn’t say a word—he just slowly limped away.

I entered the gates to the inner city and walked around as a tourist for about 3 hours. When it came time to leave, I walked out through the same gate that I had entered.

And there he stood. And when he saw me, he looked me in the eyes and simply bowed his head. A silent gesture of thanks.

His presence was unexpected. His humble gesture touched my heart. I looked back at him and nodded my head in return—and once again, he hobbled away.

Later that night as I sat alone in my hotel room, I thought, why didn’t I give him more?

Well, the next year, the year of the Olympics, I was in China once again—this time a few weeks after the event was over. I went back to the Forbidden City, hoping to see the beggar. He wasn’t there.

China, in an effort to “clean up” their streets for the Olympics, had removed/relocated all of the beggars.  I’m not really sure where they went. All I know is this: There were no beggars anywhere to be found.

I had so wanted to see him again. And the fact that I didn’t, honestly, troubles me still. He gave me so much more than I came close to giving him.

At the time, I wasn’t yet a follower of Jesus. But I am a follower now.

I sometimes wish I could return to that moment—and do more. Be kinder, more respectful, give him a hug—I’m not sure what.

But one thing is certain for me after all these years: I’m grateful that I’m here now with a heart that is eager to help and a Lord who nudges me to reach out.

It’s not always about giving money; sometimes it’s sharing a smile or a moment of one’s time—chatting with a lonely nursing home resident or thanking a check-out clerk at the grocery store who seems to be having a difficult day.

My hope is that every time God presents an opportunity to love a neighbor in the days to come, these words will continue to stir my heart:

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Matthew 25: 35-40

May God bless you with the opportunity to reach out and selflessly help someone in need.