So Long, Farewell….

Hi Everyone –

Well, I have some news.  I have decided to close this blog, and my Back Bedroom blog, and start over with a new one.  Most of you who have been following me know that of late I have been struggling with what direction I think God wants my life to go. I think I finally have my answer, or at least the beginning of it.

I have found in the last 6 months that I really enjoy writing, but maintaining two blogs is too hard.  I barely have time to write in one, much less two.  I also noticed that I often struggle with content.  One blog is spiritual, the other more of a mish mash of random thoughts and ideas – I thought this would give me a good basis for many topics, but it had the opposite affect.  It was hard to narrow it down, and then writing became overwhelming.

So, after much prayer, advice, deliberation, more prayer and lots of whining to anyone who would listen, I determined I need to write about what I know, and what I am passionate about.  Wow.  Shocker.  Isn’t that the first thing I learned in Writing 101?

I am going to cut to the chase here, and avoid having you read thru the piles of my past angst.  I believe God wants me to focus on my passion for fitness, having fun outdoors, and helping women (including myself) have better body images.  I also believe he wants me to center on being spiritually and emotionally fit as all three are tied together, and on sharing my faith journey.

So there you have it – I am closing this blog and my Back Bedroom blog, and starting a new one.

You can find my new blog here:  Brick House.  I hope you visit, and if you followed any of my old blogs, I thank you, and I hope you will follow my new one as well. 

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YOLO 07-29-2012

After weeks of no rain – finally the heavens opened, with a double rainbow at the end.

Last week, I posted my first YOLO list, in an effort to remind myself of my many blessings, and make a concerted effort to approach each day with an open mind and a good attitude.  I am happy to report that the week was a rousing success!  Amazing how much better my day went when I started it in prayer, and then a reminder to watch for God’s presence during the day.

One thing to note about my YOLO ideology.  It isn’t so much to throw caution to the wind and bungee jump off a short bridge using a long rope.  It’s more to remind myself that every day is a gift, and that every second of every day should be appreciated and cherished, even if it involves losing a Packers game, or worse yet, losing a Packers game to the Vikings.

On that note, here are this weeks observations.

1.  Getting my hair colored and cut.  For you ladies out there, you know how awesome this is.  Not only do you look and feel fabulous when you are done, you also get to chat and gossip with your hairdresser.  Added bonus – my hairdresser is my daughter.  🙂

2.  Corebar HIT – last week I posted about rollerblading with my friend Shari.  One of the things we talked about was an exercise class her co-worker took called Corebar HIT, at a place called Reality Fitness in DePere.  It sounded intense, but we work out quite a bit and are in decent shape, so we decided it give it a go.  Well, holy cats.  By the end of the class my water bottle was bone dry and I had puddles of sweat under my feet.   We are definitely going again!

3.  Packers training season started.  ‘Nuf said.

I went with my friend Dawn (definitely a ‘lifer’), to go see our friend Rosemary’s artwork at a local gallery showing. Both friends started as co-workers. This was my favorite painting of Rosemary’s!

4.  Even though some days I am not the happiest camper about what I do for a living, I realized this week how many really, truly good friends I have made at my place of employment.  Some of them are ‘lifers’ – friends I will always be friends with, no matter where any of us go.  There is something to be said for that.

5.  We moved into reading Isaiah in our 3×5 Club.  Not that I am such a fan of the prophets – they had the unpleasant jobs of telling Israel that they were going someplace where carrying a hand-basket was required.  However, Isaiah is chock full of messianic references and I always get a bit of a thrill when I run across them.

Oh yes, I am “that” person, taking my own picture with my bike.

6.  50 mile bike ride on Saturday, with the end result of having over 500 miles now on my bike.  I am in total bike geekdom over this!  Love, love, love my Cannondale!

7.  Wednesday morning prayer meetings at McDonald’s.  You never know when being public about your faith will help someone.

8.  The start of the Olympics!!  I love the Olympics!  And perhaps “love” is one of those over-used words, so perhaps I truly only really really really really like the Olympics.  Regardless, I will be spending my time this week watching men and women compete at the highest level, showcasing years of training and dedication to their sport.

9.  That moment at work, when I realized we wouldn’t make a shipment for an important customer, and I didn’t let it steal my joy.

10.  The pure bliss of wandering the rows and rows of books at the library.

Okay, I could go on, but I think this is long enough!  Until next week!


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Can You Hear Me Now?

I’m a planner.  I like to know what’s going on ahead of time.   I don’t like having too much going on either because I like to have a little wiggle room in case something changes.  Just the other night I asked Dave if he had anything he wanted to do this weekend because I’m trying to plan my two days off.  I want to get a long bike ride in and I want to have time for church and I want to write and maybe go to the beach.  And of course there are chores like groceries and laundry and bathrooms but let’s be honest-we all know I will avoid those like the plague.

I need a laundry super hero!

God plans too.

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  – Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

Unfortunately, He doesn’t always include me in the details.  The scripture is kind of vague too, isn’t it?  Shouldn’t God be giving me an itinerary or something?

While I was pondering my “old comfy shoe” issue from my previous post, and the fact that I had no idea what, if anything, I should do, I was reminded of a scripture I used to pray morning, night and any time in between that I needed it.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.  – Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV

It was about 20 years ago, and involved the first couple of times my depression flared up – something that started as postpartum after the birth of my son, and progressed to episodes of major depression as the years went on.  I remember pinning my hopes on this scripture – that God was actually listening to me and that some day I would feel ‘normal’ again.   And God did direct my paths, but I had to be patient.  In the meantime, he gave me loving family and friends for support, a good doctor and a fantastic husband who never gave up on me.

So, now here I am, hopping from one spiritual foot to the other, wondering when oh when was God going to share His plans for me, because I’m not getting any younger here.  But that stupid shoe analogy is on the other foot, as I realized that I am doing NONE of what this scripture says, and in reality it’s God looking at me saying, “Hello?  McFly?

My planner…

Am I trusting in Him?  No.  Am I only thinking with my own understanding?  Totally.  Am I submitting to Him?  Hardly.  I’m not even listening to him.  Instead, I am pounding on His door, demanding that He tell me what’s going on, yammering so loudly that I couldn’t hear Him if I wanted to.  Funny, I just read a very good blog post about listening – it fit so well it was like getting a crack on the head, à la Tommy Boy.

I began thinking – am I ready, truly ready, for whatever plans God has for me?  Committed?  Because what if I hate His plans?  What if they are painful?  What if it’s not something I would ever choose to go thru on my own?  Bottom line, can I give this over to God, and trust that He will do what is best for me even if I hate it?

God’s planner…

And that, I believe, is what He is waiting for.

Stay tuned.


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You Can’t Take It With You

So now I hate life because everything done here under the sun is so irrational.  Everything is meaningless, like chasing the wind.  I am disgusted that I must leave the fruits of my hard work to others.  And who can tell whether my successors will be wise or foolish?  And yet they will control everything I have gained by my skill and hard work.  How meaningless!

So I turned in despair from hard work.  It was not the answer to my search for satisfaction in this life.   For though I do my work with wisdom, knowledge and skill, I must leave everything I gain to people who haven’t worked to earn it.  This is not only foolish, but highly unfair.  So what do people get for all of their hard work?  Their days of labor are filled with pain and grief; even at night they cannot rest.  It is utterly meaningless. – Ecclesiastes 2:17-23

First of all, the writer of the first 6 chapters of Ecclesiastes is not a happy guy.  This part of the book is pretty much an essay in futility.  However, I can relate some days to the whole “glass is half empty” aspect.  Office politics, sales goals, and deadlines don’t add much to my spiritual life, and I am left wondering why I work so hard.

Of course, having an income is nice.  I like having a roof over my head and food in my refrigerator (too much food sometimes – or at least too much of the wrong food).  A car to drive and clothes to wear – also nice.  Certainly others can appreciate the fact that I am not walking around naked.

Plus, I am completely replaceable.  Someone else can be hired to do what I do.  I do not have any talents that can’t be found in anyone else.  I’m not one of a kind.  Or am I?

Corporately, I am a minute spec of a large snow drift.  Biblically and spiritually, I am a snowflake – unique (I have friends that could probably expound for days on my “unique” qualities).

The…snowflake…didn’t fall far from this tree.

I have been with my current employer for 12 years.  The benefits are good, I have a lot of friends there, and I am good at what I do.  It’s a comfortable old shoe.  And even though a new shoe would solve the problems on no support and holes in my soul, I would have to go thru the process of breaking in the new ones.  I might get blisters or be in worse pain than I am now.  And then what do I do?

According to our friend in Ecclesiastes, death comes to us all.  I have between zero seconds and about 40-ish years left.  And while I am banking on an afterlife of biblical proportions, I also want to make good use of the time left on this earth, and not have it feel like futility.

What say you?  Would you stay with your comfy old shoes?  Or start shoe shopping?


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When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, “I used everything you gave me”. – Erma Bombeck

In light of recent events, including the death of a close family friend and the Colorado shootings, I have decided to make a weekly post of blessings, good deeds, joys, and accomplishments, where I see God in the midst of our lives.  I’m calling this the “You Only Live Once” weekly posting, in honor of Ecclesiastes, the current book I am in right now in my 3×5 readings.

I guess I want to stop whining and take responsibility for my happiness.  I want to focus on starting my day with prayer and a good attitude, even if it’s Monday.  I want to use the rest of my moments in joy and gratitude, whether I am doing laundry or laying on the beach.  I want to love God, and the people He put in my life, more completely and fully, each and every day.

On that note, here are this weeks observations.

1.  Fields of alfalfa on Sportsman’s Road bike route.  I was huffing and puffing, dying on the uphill climb in 90 degree heat when my nose ran into a wall of sweet smelling clover.  I had to stop and snap this picture to remind me of God’s rejuvenating spirit in times of struggle.

2.  A person I love dearly made a comment during the week about trees being so happy with the recent rain that they were ‘waving’ at her on her way to work.  This made me smile all day.

3.  On Saturday, I got to spend a few hours rollerblading with my good friend, Shari.  We ended up going about 14 miles, not really thinking that much about it because we were so busy talking.  Considering it was our first time rollerblading this year, I’m pretty impressed with both of us.

4.  Church in the park – my church held service today in the park.  We had a nice breeze coming thru and Pastor Dave had a fun sermon about God’s golf game.  Best treat was the vacation bible school kids’ musical performance.

5.  Dave and I went to Elkhart Lake for swimming and hanging out in the sun for the afternoon.  I was in the house, hemming and hawing about what I wanted to do for the day, and Dave swooped in and saved me from my indecision.  Yay!

Forgive the brevity – creating this post was a last minute thought after a day spent in the sun (and Son).  I am a little tired, and it’s past my bedtime.  I will have more next week!

Until then!


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Crazy Love

“Eye of God” Nebula. Also called the Helix Nebula

I have been reading Francis Chan‘s book, Crazy Love, for the second time.  It was a hard book for me to wrap my head around the first time, although what I thought was the initial concept was easy enough.  However, the book is more about finding our own ‘crazy love’ for God, and not so much about God’s ‘crazy love’ for us.  Indeed, it’s a book that made me evaluate my life and my current relationship with God.

The first time I read it, it was with a lenten study group last spring.  Because our study group was only 6 weeks, we pretty much breezed thru it, as much as one can breeze thru self-evaluation and spiritual focus.  I found it uncomfortable and challenging, and felt I had not spent enough time studying the book, how I felt, and what I thought God wanted me to take from it.  I am hoping my second read will give me more understanding of what Francis Chan is trying to say, and improving my own somewhat constrained relationship with God.

However, here I sit 4 weeks later, stuck on the 3rd page of Chapter 1.  A little background:  On page 2 of Chapter 1, Francis Chan encourages his reader to view his Awe Factor of God video, which I did.  It takes you from a mountain range on earth, out into space, gradually going out 100 million light years, in order to give you the sense of how big the universe (and God) is, and how small we really are in the order of things.  On page 3, he goes on to describe the intricacies of certain insects and that the average elm tree has 6 million leaves on it.  6 MILLION.  Pause.

That’s a whole lotta leaves

I went outside then and looked at our poplar tree in the backyard.  How many leaves?  Multiplied by how many trees?  All the trees in my neighborhood x all the trees in my town x all the trees in our county x all the trees in Wisconsin…it was like seeing all of the galaxies from the end of Francis Chan’s video.  I was fascinated.  Driving down the road, I would see a tree and think “galaxy”.

The Hydrangea Star Cluster

And then I began going in reverse.  Not just trees – but bushes, shells on a beach, grass, sand, algae spores, water molecules…I was reminded of a book I read once called Mister God, This Is Anna by Sydney Hopkins.  In it, the main character Anna says “…Mister God didn’t at all mind making himself small. People thought that Mister God was very big, and that’s where they made a big mistake. Obviously Mister God could be any size he wanted to be.  “If he couldn’t be little, how could he know what it’s like to be a lady-bird?””

Galaxies of sand and stone. And maybe a black hole?

I can’t look at anything now without seeing galaxies, each one building on the other.  Alone, a water molecule is just a molecule, but multiplied, it becomes a drop, and multiplied drops become an ocean.

“After all, Mister God did not have only one point of view but an infinity of viewing points…”.  – Anna in Mister God, This Is Anna.

God is not just majestic, alpha and omnipotent, like the awe we feel when looking at Hubble telescope photos or when reading Revelation 4.  He is also meek, omega and frail, like a baby born in a manger or a man nailed to a cross.  From miniscule to gargantuan, all things are based on the pattern of God, and He has absolute power on both ends.

Our own Milky Way

Hmmm.  Wasn’t quite expecting to end up here when I started.  I was mostly fascinated with the whole “everything is a galaxy” thing.  So where does this leave me?  I don’t know yet.  I do know that I am in awe and reverence of Him, not so much because of how big He is, but because of how small He can choose to be, and that no box I build for Him can contain Him.  Proverbs 1:7 says “Fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.”  I guess I start there.

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Working Faith

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. – James 2:18 ESV

My uncle, Father Jim Conard, has spent the majority of his adult life as a Maryknoll Missionary in Tanzania, Africa.  I think he has been there well over 50 years now, as he has celebrated his 82nd birthday this year.  For the last 30 plus years, he has been the pastor of the Kowak Parish in Musoma.  While there, he has built the Kowak Secondary Girls School, upgraded and built the hospital and health center, and many additional chapels for outlying villages.  You can read more about his life’s work here: Kowak Parish.

Right now he is home for the summer, spending his days watching the Brewers and trying to catch up with family and medical visits.  However, Maryknoll has lay missionaries out in the field as well, and we recently received a letter from one of them stationed at Father Jim’s mission.  Her name is Vikki, and she is 71 years old.  Her letter speaks volumes about the conditions in Africa, and the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  I thought I would share her letter and photos.  I hope it touches you as much as it touched me.

Dear Family and Friends,  Typed June 18, 2012

As of June 14th I have been here at Kowak Mission for 3 months and it is past time for my second global message! I am now comfortably settled in my two-bedroom duplex and am happy to report that I can take hot showers (it gets cold here located on the foothills of Rorya Mountain); boil and filter my drinking water; have gotten rid of the unwanted creatures around my house; I’ve planted some small shrubs and flowers in my courtyard; increased my variety of food stuffs for better health and eating enjoyment; increased my Swahili vocabulary by volumes; made many friends at the mission and school; am now know by the multitudes of friendly children as Bebe (Grandmother) Vikki; am the cheerleader for our girls softball teams; and lead a fairly active social life and am getting acquainted in the rural areas thanks to my missioner colleague Tom! Glad to say, still time for quiet reflection and no more malaria! That’s all I need to say about me! All in all I’m very happy to be here, enjoy my work assignments, and am content.

Now that I have been here awhile and gotten better acquainted I am finding Kowak Mission grounds and services are much larger and busier than I had any idea. I want to describe our site to give you an idea of the place I now call home. Our hospital and clinic are a blessing to so many people in the rural community for many miles around, as well as, offering employment in a region where there are no jobs to be found. Our hospital staff totals 40, with an additional 40 employees, which includes 24 teachers, working at the girl’s boarding school; also 32 men and women are employed as domestics, guards, building maintenance and grounds employees for the mission at large. Girls from families of differing economic levels attend our four-year boarding school from far and wide due to our reputation of offering a good education. Since obtaining a 4-year grant from a Netherlands’ NGO, we have added four mobile clinics a week going out into the rural areas to treat children under 5-years and pregnant women. Without our medicines many of these children would receive no health care at all and some would die. This is the grant that I am involved in as the financial person. Going out to these rural areas and meeting the mothers and interacting with the children is one of my greatest blessings being here.

Our hospital has 30 beds in each of the women’s and men’s wards; a large children’s ward and a smaller pediatric ward; a pre-natal and recovery area (just today I visited a woman in this ward who was having her 11th child and boy was she in pain! After delivery patients stay overnight before leaving; last month there were 54 live births); an isolation ward for patients with cholera and TB; an operating theatre (one of a kind in this area); a large

Father Jim outside the Health Center

pharmacy; a small area for babies who need IV treatment mostly for malaria (I hate seeing the IV’s plugged into their small heads!); plus the usual medical records and administration offices and nurse’s stations. We offer a small area for visiting families to cook food for their relatives as we are not able to offer food service. There is a place for them to do laundry and toilets for their use. The past several weeks we have had surveyors and visitors to assess our property and proposed project plans for constructing a 50-bed ward for children and we are so hopeful that this project will be funded…we pray so as it is badly needed. Our children’s ward is overflowing! Currently, we have a lower number of patients, about 54 in the hospital now, but the numbers can get up into the 90’s at times, so it is good to have a break now and then.

Outbuildings consists of the CTC (HIV/AIDS) clinic where I work three days a week, serving on average 45-65 HIV positive persons, and an enclosed area nearby where educational talks are given by staff; a stone building next door with a lab, post-natal education and space for staff to cook and serve patients ugi porridge after they have been seen by Sr. Reetha at the clinic. There is a separate building provided for the hospital resident M.D. and C.O. to meet with patients; a financial building where I also work; an administrative office and reception hall; a number of toilets around the property; my duplex and a small house for the doctor, and a house for a Polish couple who are volunteer missionaries like Tom and myself (Alex and Barbara are the very first Polish missionary

Outpatient and Lab building

couple to ever serve in any country-they are in their 60’s); and Fr. Jim is just now completing the construction of three more duplexes for nurses and families, which brings our total free housing for hospital staff available for 28 families. It takes a lot of electricity, water, good management and infrastructure to maintain this very productive and viable mission site. Also, there are 13 vehicles that need to be maintained; an ambulance, a lorry, SUV’s, cars, a tractor, and many pick-up trucks; we don’t have a problem with transportation!

Elsewhere on the mission grounds there is a large house where Fr. Jim, a Maryknoll priest who manages everything, Fr. Valance, the associate priest, and Tom live, with offices, meeting and visitor rooms, and a number of bedrooms; various carpentry and machinery shops; detached kitchen; a huge beautiful church where mass is offered every day; a convent and grounds for the 5 Indian sisters who run the hospital and clinic; and an enclosed compound area of duplexes set aside for 4 sisters and their staff who assist at our girl’s boarding school. The boarding school grounds are huge as they accommodate up to 500 girls with many classrooms, labs, play grounds, bath houses, 3 dining rooms, kitchens, staff rooms, administrative offices, livestock pens, as well as providing free housing in 14 duplexes for up to 28 teachers with families on the grounds, so you can imagine what that takes in terms of buildings, water storage, electricity and upkeep! There are cows on the school grounds for milk and meat, and the mission has a grinding mill which is open to the community for a small charge. Every Thursday I join the teachers for chai and mandazi (tea and donuts) and volunteer my time at the school working with Tom doing whatever is needed that day, if anything. I am concerned and interested in education from my past background of supervising eight schools in Kibera slum in Nairobi, so am enjoying my time at the school.

By now you should have a good mental picture of my physical “home”. Day and night we have pikipiki’s (motorcycles-local transport) bringing and taking people to and fro, lots of activity, many visitors of patients and families of staff, and an abundance of kids! Our grounds are well lit during the night and we have a number of guards on-site. I might mention that we have dozens of varieties of tall trees and flowering shrubs all over our grounds; lovely well-tended planted areas, and in a couple of months our many jacaranda trees will be in full brilliant purple bloom! They are a beautiful sight to behold and I have several overlooking my courtyard, so in time will have purple “snow” covering the ground.

With all of that said I will add something about my work with several short reflections I hope you will enjoy reading and take to heart.

CTC (Care Treatment Center-HIV/AIDS Clinic) REFLECTIONS – June 13, 2012 – Children’s Day
HIV/AIDS touches the innocent, and not so innocent, of all ages and brings sorrow to people who do not always understand what they have brought into their families and their own lives and the ultimate consequences. I feel compassion, but it’s the sick little children that especially touch my heart. I continually lament over the question: What chance do these little ones have for a normal life, if any life at all! Day after day I see them leaning into their mothers’ arms, coughing, looking sickly, many malnourished with sores; me clicking away at my computer as I enter HIV/AIDS data from their files, data that never should be! Here are a few of my reflections from this day; you will find these children in the group photo attached to this email, other than the older boy I mention.

  • Walking to the CTC clinic I noticed a malnourished skin and bones little girl slowly and purposely walking alone along the path to the clinic, so I join her reaching out my hand for her to take, which most children will do, wanting to give her some strength, but she continued on like a zombie, not even looking at me as if unaware, even to her surroundings; me wondering who she belonged to and why is she alone. I follow behind her to make sure she can climb the three steps at the clinic entrance, which she barely made with great effort, but she was very determined! I noticed her skeletal body, the thin arms, bloated belly, and sadly how her chest bones looked like a wash board, all ribbed and grooved where they were exposed by her torn blouse. I wanted so badly to comfort her, but found her a place on a bench to wait; later an adult woman claimed her who was already in the clinic. I wondered if she had been left behind because she was so slow.  When the group photo was taken of some of the HIV/AIDS children she had enough energy to cry and I wanted to join her. (She is the one crying in the blue tee-shirt; she  received supplemental food as well as HIV medicines-all the children received 2 kilos of rice as well)
  • While walking outside the clinic to take a break, a mother and her little son were near me, so I greeted them as I often like to do with the little ones; I love to touch them on the head and hold their little hands, there is something very loving and reassuring to both of us. As I held the little fellows hand I could feel his sweet disposition; then his mother bent down to him and whispered something; he smiled at me and in very clear English, and to my delighted surprise, he said “Thank you very much” with the biggest smile. Of course, I exclaimed over his achievement to the joy of the three of us. Not all is so sad, there are many moments of unexpected joy and laughter. (He is wearing a crème/gray shirt pushing up his sleeve-I believe he is slightly mentally retarded which made this encounter all the more precious)
  • The babies have not yet learned to walk, so were placed sitting on the ground for the group picture, not all so happily; they not knowing their little innocent bodies will be plied with HIV/AIDS drugs simply because they were born! (Our region has the highest percentage rate of mothers passing on HIV to her baby at birth. Also, we get babies who were raped so they need treatment as well, some up to one year for preventative measures if no treatment is started within 3 days, otherwise treatment is for a week)
  • A little older girl about twelve sits with her family waiting her turn hoping I will notice and take their picture. Not to disappoint, I speak to her and notice her big pretty brown eyes and glancing down see that her right hand and arm lying in her lap are shriveled and useless. She is fortunate, she has a family with her, and most especially a loving father concerned for her; yet a double whammy as it turns out she is the HIV/AIDS patient of the three children. (Her attentive father is standing behind her, she wearing the brown/crème stripped dress-he is much older than his wife which is not uncommon-there is a local man who has a compound of 21 wives of varying ages-I can’t imagine how many children he must have! I know he is “rich” with lots and lots of cows!)
  • What hope does the rag-tag boy of eighteen have, who showed up without an appointment at the clinic this day, for a normal life lived? He’s stage III, with only one more stage to go…before he will be no more. (Once most Africans in the rural reach Stage IV their chances of survival are slim due to lack of proper food and poor health care. (The TZ Ministry of Health and Social Welfare have started a campaign of circumcising males from babies on up and hope to do 44,000-yep!-in 6 months and are using our hospital staff and venue in this region-my thought, could this ever happen in America-hah! I am told new studies show this could make a difference in lowering HIV/AIDS percentages – sure hope that’s true!)
  • I noticed a vigilant father accompanying his obviously dear daughter; she all bright in a pair of red flannel pajamas; he was all smiles and pleasantries as he gathered up her medicines and asked me to take their photo, which I did; she was shy and told me her name was Nancy. Later, after they had enjoyed a cup of ugi porridge, a treat for all patients, they were ready to leave. I spied them just as he was ready to peddle off on his bicycle, Nancy riding side saddle, a typical means of transport in these rural areas. A delightful picture indeed! (We are trying to inspire father’s to take more of a role in their children’s lives so were pleased several father’s came with their children; Sr. Reetha’s educational talks are bearing fruit!)

COMMENTS: On this day we served fifty patients; nineteen were children with HIV/AIDS, ages ranging from 2 to 10; Statistics: 8 were Stage II; 10 were Stage III; and 1 Stage IV. Also, I am not sure how many babies we served as I didn’t keep track. Our goal is to have our younger patients come all at the same time once a month for educational talks and for parents to lend support to each other, as well as needed treatment. This was our first Children’s Day, so many were not scheduled yet. In the past our positive children used to come with their positive parent(s) and would be treated at the same time, but we could not spend as much time focusing on the children and their needs, other than treatment. We think this new plan will work out to the benefit of both the children and their parents.
There really isn’t anything the sisters can do for these people living with HIV/AIDS to help lessen their burdens and challenges that they face for themselves and their families other than give them the best health care they are able and provide the needed medicines and supplemental food; but, the one thing I CAN DO, is treat them with respect and concern, offering them a moment in time of communicating as human beings by sharing smiles, touching or a loving glance, each of us knowing what is not spoken. I find this to be a satisfying way to spend my time which fulfills my need to serve through sharing fellowship and love; to be acknowledged and accepted by these brave and strong people – it is quite humbling and wonderful.
Please pray for all health care workers as it is not an easy job and in some cases they put their own health at risk. To Love is to Create, so let us all work together toward a common goal, Creating a better and peaceful World for ourselves and our dear ones – Love one Another!  Many blessings and thanks for taking the time to read and reflect upon my long missive.
Love and Peace,

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Experiments in Psalms

Last January, our pastor, Rev. David Kalas, introduced a program for the year called the 3×5 Club.  This program is designed to help you read the bible in a year.  The meaning behind 3×5 is that you read 3 chapters every day except Sunday, on which you read 5.  In order to encourage us, he developed this fantastic web site (see link on the right) and teaches a class each month based on the readings.

I have read the bible front to back purposefully once as a young woman, and most of it at least once more in the last 22 years, some of it several times over.  The old testament is tough sometimes – reading all of the ‘begats’ and trying to understand the blood and violence of the early Hebrew nation.  However, I do love the history.  The stories of the judges and the early kings fascinate me, and I often wish I could go to Israel to see the biblical archeological sites.  I will, someday.

Anyway, we are reading Psalms right now, and our class tonight was dedicated to this lyrical book.  While I normally find these classes interesting and informative, tonight I was suffering from a really long weekend of extensive activity (Bellin Run, kayaking, Tour De World biking event), so mid way thru the class I was struggling to keep my eyes open.  Towards the end of the class, Pastor Dave began talking about Hebrew poetry, and examples of it in the Psalms.  That perked me right back up, and I listened intently as he described the various forms.

One of the forms he talked about involved using the first letter of the alphabet for each line or stanza.  We don’t notice this in our English translations because the affected Psalms were written based on the Hebrew alphabet.  He went on to say how the Psalms are also prayers, encompassing every emotion from joyous thanksgiving to requests for vengeance and death, and that the early Hebrews often used imagery in their prayers, something we no longer do.

Intrigued, I thought I would like to try my hand at crafting some modern day psalms, using imagery and Hebrew poetry forms.  I decided to use the alphabetical form first, and came up with most of this first attempt while I walked the dogs after I got home. I am not a great poet so bear with me, and realize that the letter X is very hard to incorporate :).  Although written tonight and not 3000 years ago, it’s not exactly ‘modern’, in that it does not reference modern day events or images.

I hope you like it.  Feel free to add your own Psalms in the comments if you like!

Apple, O Lord-



Delicious apple of your


Freely you have

Granted Grace.

Holy is Your name.

Infuse us with


Keep us close,



Never leave us!


Prince of Peace,

Quench our wars.



Touch our hearts and

Usurp the evil.


Wondrous!  Even

Xerxes bowed to

You, Babylon defeated.

Zealously we worship!

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I know today is supposed to be about me.  Or…moms in general.  But really, it’s about you.  From the moment I first found out I was pregnant with you, it has been about you.

Your Dad and I laid awake that first night, nervously talking about our future.  Where we should live.  If I should keep my job.  Where we wanted you to go to school.  Every decision from that moment on was no longer about what was best for us as a couple, but what was best for us as a family.

When you were only a centimeter long, you had already changed what I ate, what I drank and how much I slept.  I quit smoking, not for my health, but for yours.

Because of you, we went back to church, worried about food additives, read parenting books, bought life insurance, created a will, bought MORE life insurance, moved to a better neighborhood, bought a bigger car, got rid of the evil cat, put all of our medicine where you couldn’t reach it (until you were about 2 and started climbing), stopped drinking alcohol, put child latches on all of the cupboards and covers on all of the outlets, got Pepper, a hamster, hermit crabs, Milo, Rocky, Midnight and the horrible disgusting rats.

You. Changed. Everything.  But especially me.

So many times, you hear in speeches or read in sappy stories about how “My parents made me who I am today”.  So seldom, however, do you hear about how children changed their parents, and made them into different people as well.

When you both were little, and whining for the millionth time about something completely ridiculous, I won’t lie and say I may not have wished for you to grow up.  That I may not have always appreciated little hands and little voices.  I can honestly say though, that this is the only regret I have of being a parent:  The regret of knowing that I could have been a better one.

And now you are both grown (or almost so) into amazing, smart, funny, loving, generous beautiful adult souls.  You are responsible, contributing members of society, hard working and learning the “cost of toilet paper”, as my own mother used to say when talking about the responsibilities of being an adult.  I am thrilled and proud that you grew up exactly as I had hoped – to be determined enough, strong enough, and confident enough to be independent.

But there is more that I hope you have learned, and it is this:

At the end of the day, what matters most is the people you love, the people you come home to each night.  It’s not how much money you make or what you do for a living.  It’s not how much education you have or who you know in high circles.  It’s not the conquering victories or the humiliating defeats.  It is your family.  Your friends.  Your loved ones.

The people who stick with you when you are happy or sad.  Angry or bad.  Succeeding or failing.  Poor or rich.  Sick or healthy.  Living or dying.  The ones who wipe your nose when you are sick.  The ones you celebrate birthdays with.  The ones you drive to the emergency room at 2am.  The ones who hold your hands so you don’t choke someone.  The ones you change your plans for.  The ones you change your mind for.  The ones you love without condition.  And they love you back.

When you were little, the best gift your Dad and I tried to give you was our love.  And you gave it right back to us, pressed down and overflowing.  And that is truly how you changed me and made me who I am today.  A mom, who cherishes and loves you, without rules or conditions, thrilled and proud to celebrate you, just for being you, on this Mother’s Day and all the days in between.

May God bless you and keep you all of your days.

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Dinosaurs and Pelicans

I came home from work today, kind of in a muddle.  It had been a long week,  my sense of God seemingly absent.  I had just finished up a book study on Francis Chan’s Crazy Love last week and it had opened up some pretty intense discussions and feelings, so this disconnection felt odd and out of place.

Anyway, by the time I got home, I decided I didn’t want to waste the rest of the sun, which has been hiding all week.  I ate a quick dinner and then grabbed my Townie and went for a ride.  While riding, I thought about how distant I felt from God.  I tried to think of times during the week where maybe I saw Him at work and while I am sure He had been very busy, I hadn’t been in the right frame of mind to notice.

As I mulled this over, I saw a group of about five pelicans pass over me.  My heart skipped a beat.  The late evening sun shone off their wings and it thrilled me to see them.  I love these large birds, and it makes me smile every spring when they return.  They hang out in front of the dam, the roiling water like a pelican playground, huddling on the few rocks that jut out, while others bob and toss in the river.

Pelicans on the Fox

I really can’t tell you why I am so attracted to them.  Maybe because it seems so odd to have pelicans in Wisconsin.  Or because I just like big birds, like sandhill cranes, eagles and herons.  Or because they remind me of dinosaurs.  And God.

When my son was little, he had a fascination for dinosaurs and the Jurassic Park movies.  My daughter did as well, but she dressed her dinosaurs in Barbie clothes and they went out on dates with Chuck the Red Eyed Dinosaur.  My son’s dinosaurs were man eaters, tromping thru the living room, messily eating plastic Jurassic Park figurines and crushing their dinosaur catching equipped jeeps.  We watched the movie so many times that my husband and I will still find our selves randomly saying “SHOOT HER!  SHOOT HER!” while wandering around the house.

In the first movie, the main character, Dr. Alan Grant, discusses often how dinosaurs are more like birds than reptiles – not really a comforting thought when the ‘bird’ is 30 feet tall.  At the end of the movie, when they are all escaping in the helicopter, they pass by a flock of pelicans, and you know he is thinking again about the likeness, and how our present day birds may well be dinosaur descendants.  I find it all fascinating and it brings out the wonder of creation in me, where some things just can’t be totally explained and answers just lead to more questions.

And this is where my pelican sighting lead me to God.  Because I had no explanation for why God created dinosaurs.  Or birds.  Or me.  I could try to guess, but who can guess the mind of God?  I could try to hypothesize or explain it with science or the bible, but where does God’s or my purpose fit in?  I could choose to believe God doesn’t exist, which would explain some things, but my life’s experiences fairly scream of His existence, so then what?

Today, it turned out to be a happy muddle to be in, because the lines of communication with God that I unconsciously blocked flared open when I started to question Him.  Suddenly, I was seeing Him in the sun shining off the wings of a pelican circling over the Fox, in the red flit of the cardinal in the branches and the white puff of a rabbit tail disappearing in the brush.  And then I was seeing him anew, in the faces of the people I passed, hearing His voice in the lilt of their conversations, feeling the wind of His fingers stroke thru my hair.

I didn’t have any more answers, but it no longer mattered.  The week fell away as I pedaled back home, racing God to my doorstep.

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