Friday, December 31, 2004


We have given Maddy, age 4, a rudimentary overview of the birds and the bees. Don’t look at us; she asked! But that was months ago. So it took me aback yesterday in the car, when she suddenly piped up:

‘’I have lots of babies in my tummy and they’re just seeds and they’re pounding to get out!!!’’

Hmmm. Maybe my New Year’s Resolution should be to get her an age-appropriate book about where babies come from. On the other hand, having given birth four times, I can attest that ‘’pounding to get out’’ is a rather apt description of childbirth.

The year 2005 is pounding to get out, too. Farewell, 2004. Hello, baby new year. May it be a blessed one for you and yours.


Prayer request: Our three older daughters will be out and about tonight, ringing in the new year. Father, place a special hedge of protection around them and help them make good judgments that are pleasing to You, as they ring in the new year, and always. (Proverbs 16:20)

Thursday, December 30, 2004


We gave a kooky Christmas present to our three older girls: a makeup lesson with a licensed aesthetician. She has opened her own shop and has a line of excellent makeup private-label manufactured for her out of New York.

She was very skilled and impressive as she discussed with each young woman her particular skin-care needs and went over how to apply the various potions and powders.

We joked that we had taken ‘’before’’ pictures of the gorillas at the zoo, and would compare them with ‘’after’’ pictures of the girls in their beautiful new ‘’looks.’’

I learned a lot, too. Nooooo, you don’t start eye shadow in the corner above your eye and work out; that puts the boldest color on the inside, which, in terms of aesthetics, is bass-ackwards.

Noooo, unless you want to look like Queen Nefertiti, you don’t put on eyeliner with a pencil and form a line; you ‘’tap’’ dark powder with a tiny, angled brush along the base of your lashes.

I have developed a little rosacea, a red discoloration, on my cheek, compliments of my Irish heritage. She applied a very pleasant ‘’peel,’’ or cleanser, advised me on makeup cover-ups, and pointed out that alcohol and spicy foods will make the reddish color more noticeable. Dang!

I decided she was the most knowledgeable person in the world about all kinds of beauty problems. So I asked her, ‘’What can you do about chapped lips?’’

Maybe she was getting tired of all my questions. She replied breezily, ‘’Chapstick!’’


Prayer request: A longtime nurse, the mother of our aesthetician friend, has cancer, and it has spread into her hip. She’s on a new form of chemo and her family is surrounding her with encouragement and love. Father, we lift up each and every time Your faithful servant has comforted a patient and made them feel better. We ask the same blessing for her, in Jesus’ Name. (Romans 6:22)

Wednesday, December 29, 2004


We were driving along and I was rejoicing because Maddy, 4 1/2, had gone to the library, the drugstore, the grocery store and the post office without a single tantrum or difficulty.

Not only that, but when I turned on the radio, there was a talk show on my favorite Christian music station, so I searched up and down the FM dial for some music. Maddy didn’t like the soft rock, nor the country-western . . . but when it got to a very high falutin’ classical station with an orchestra playing something formal and snazzy by Beethoven, she asked me to stop.

‘’Wow!’’ I thought to myself. ‘’She’s growing up! She’s come a long way from the ‘Barney’ theme song.’’

After a few blocks, though, I looked in my rear-view mirror. Her tongue was slashing wildly from one corner of her mouth to the other, then up and down, then twisting in madcap fashion.

‘’Maddy! WHAT are you DOING?’’

‘’Tongue dancing!’’

Oh, of course! Like on PBS. . . .


Prayer request: We lift our hearts in prayer for the tsunami victims in South Asia. Lord, may there be an even bigger wave of help, money and love from the Christian community. May our response flood their hearts with the love of Jesus, and bring them to safe, dry, higher ground with You. Help us to witness that even in great calamity, Jehovah-shammah – God is there. (Ezekiel 48:35)

Tuesday, December 28, 2004


Beautiful gifts were given at our baby shower yesterday. There was a precious little cowgirl outfit complete with red leather boots. There were the softest fleece blankets and the cutest set of scrapbooks, some classic alphabet blocks and a sweet little jewelry box.

But my favorite gifts were two humorous ones that GOT REAL:

1. A bib with the message, ‘’CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?’’

2. A custom-made diaper wipes dispenser, only instead of diaper wipes popping out of the top, there was a roll of dollar bills, taped end to end. Now, that’s my idea of a nursery essential!


Prayer request: There’s a young soldier named Jesse on the battlefield in Fallujah whose mother is the very beloved babysitter of one of my young relatives. Lord, grant Your supernatural protection and reassurance to Jesse and bring him home safely, just as his mother protects and cares for my great-niece Taylor. (2 Corinthians 4:6)

Monday, December 27, 2004


The guests just left after a baby shower and luncheon at our house. My neighbor Sharon and I and the seven daughters we have between us put it on for our dear friend and neighbor, Jessie Runty Sievers, and her six-week-old Christmas angel, Jaci Jean.

Sharon and I made a good team: she borrowed the glass cup trays and I borrowed Mom’s linen napkins. She made the salad and the muffins and I made the chicken artichoke casserole. She brought the hazelnut coffee and I made my famous peach tea.

She and her girls tied the silverware inside the folded napkins with pink pinpoint ribbon secured by a pink diaper pin. I and my girls set up two tables for 10 with pink roses, greenery, baby pretties, and a real conversation-starter centerpiece – a ‘’diaper cake’’ made by my mom some 25 years ago for long-forgotten baby shower. She literally rolled up white cloth diapers in the shape of a layer cake and pinned on bows and silk flowers. Tiny baby socks were balled up to look like sweetheart roses on top. It was cuteness plus.

Everything was going smoothly until I decided to walk the real cake around to show the ladies how pretty it was. It was an authentic French ‘’buche de Noel,’’ a Yule log cake. My eldest daughter works at a French restaurant on her college breaks, and they made it for me. The dark fudge frosting was striated just like tree bark; lighter chocolate on the ‘’limbs’’ looked just like fresh-cut wood. Inside was a spiral cake with real whipping cream. We’re talking beaucoup deluxe.

Well, I had it on a crystal cake plate on a doily, and had just turned from the table to cut it and serve it, when I bumped something and the cake slid ominously to the left. The table full of ladies gasped! But luckily, I’m what they call ‘’stacked’’ . . . and my bust kept it from sliding off onto somebody’s lap or the floor.

My co-hostess quipped: ‘’Bust de Noel!!!’’

It was a beautiful party, and lots of fun. But I guarantee you, that’s all anyone will remember from the whole thing.


Prayer request: On a sad note, we are mourning two people today. One is the 20-year-old son of a dear friend’s friend, killed in a car wreck. Send peace and comfort, Lord, to Connor’s family, especially his twin brother. The other was my father-in-law’s childhood best friend, Larry Donarico, a former Omahan now of San Diego. He fought his cancer as best he could, but it was very advanced when it was discovered. Lord, send Your peace to his family and friends as well. These two souls lived abundant lives and will be remembered with love. (John 10:10)

Sunday, December 26, 2004


And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.
-- Matthew 18:5

We have six adorable, itty bitty cousins in our family. So naturally, the piece de resistance of our Christmas celebration was a nativity pageant starring them.

Baby Paisley was a serene Baby Jesus, wrapped in swaddling Baby Gap and laying in an old hula skirt in her infant seat, the closest we could come to hay in a manger.

Simon, 1, was a lamb, though his floppy ears looked a lot like a bunny costume. But he couldn’t be the ox, because the hat with the ox horns was so enormous it covered up his face.

Jackson was thrilled to be the donkey, because the ‘’costume’’ was a donkey headband from the cartoon favorite, ‘’Shrek.’’

Christian was a multicultural shepherd in his Mexican poncho, a soft-shoe cane for a shepherd’s crook, and a headdress from a cast-off scarf with a pink ponytail pouf as the headband.

Carolyn was regal in a beat-up but golden turban from our ‘’Aladdin’’ phase. She carried a plastic shoebox full of costume jewelry that had belonged to my very beloved and much-missed Grammie Miller.

Our own little Maddy was radiant in her golden pipe-cleaner halo and feathery wings, tripping over the donkey’s long tail, too shy to proclaim the good tidings of great joy.

But we all got the point. And I think they did, too. All ages did.

Our teenage daughter Eden worked the lights -- a strobe, for the Star of Bethlehem -- and a newcomer to our family by marriage, 10-year-old Ashleigh, sang a solo from her voice recital. The candlelight revealed glittering tears in many eyes.

As the grand finale, I relished the simple joy of playing ‘’Away in a Manger’’ on the piano that had belonged to my other beloved and much-missed grandmother, while the voices of my loved ones blended softly in the old, familiar tune.

When the last note trailed off, there was a moment of silence -- one of those holy moments in every family’s life in which nothing else is needed and everyone feels wholeness and peace.

Will the children remember it? Maybe not the way we do, but that’s part of the fun. I got a humorous reminder of how kids see Christmas a little differently than we grown-ups do in an email from a relative.

My husband’s Uncle Jack has a namesake grandson named Jack in the Twin Cities. He is 3. Grandpa picked up Jack for a Christmas Eve service presided over by his grandmother, a pastor in a gracious old downtown church. Jack was tubbed and scrubbed, hair wet-combed, with a new outfit on. He had been so excited, he skipped nap.

Let Uncle Jack tell it:

‘’Jack was in awe of the light and large space and all the people and music as we found our seats on the aisle where we could clearly see the manger scene. Jack was wide-eyed throughout, sitting on my lap or standing when we sang. He nodded when I pointed things out to him. But he uttered not a sound throughout the entire service. He asked for not one toy or a handful of Rice Chex or Cheerios. He was focused like a laser on the goings-on up front.

‘’Jack, for a 3-year-old, paid close attention, for Grandma was speaking. Later, as part of the service, Jack, with my hand in his, took a small child's blanket to the manger as a symbol of giving. We returned to our seats, his eyes shyly cast downward.

‘’At the end of the service we helped set up for the next service. Jack helped carry out the lamb from the manger scene. I took a picture of Jack with Grandma in front of the altar flowers. We said our goodbyes and ‘Merry Christmas!’, bundled up against the cold, and off we went. We pointed out to each other the many homes with strings of colored lights as we returned home.

‘’After some period of silence, I asked, ‘Jack, what did you enjoy most about the Christmas service?’

He thought for a minute. then said honestly but with joy in his voice:

"The ceiling fans!’’


Praise report: Special Christmas blessings to all who served in so many ways this holiday season: the singers, the musicians, the cooks, the gift-givers, the house cleaners, the party organizers, the prayer warriors, the baby cuddlers, the ones who made the less fortunate their priority . . . all of them reflected the Light from Your eyes, Lord Jesus. We thank You for Your Holy Spirit Who will keep that Light shining all year long. (Luke 2:32)

Friday, December 24, 2004


For unto us a child is born,
unto us a son is given:
and the government shall be upon his shoulder:
and his name shall be called
The mighty God,
The everlasting Father,
The Prince of Peace.

-- Isaiah 9:6

We can give our children no greater gift than the knowledge of the real gift of Christmas — saving faith and eternal life. May that truth fill your stocking and the space under your tree, and your dinner plate, and most of all, your heart.

With every good wish to you and yours,


Thursday, December 23, 2004


It was a Black Banana Defense Maneuver. I always put black bananas in the freezer to use in baking later. I’m too cheap to throw them away. Plus, I really like banana bread.

Well, with my female relatives coming over for Christmas, I didn’t want them to spot the black bananas in the freezer and tease me. So I made two loaves of banana bread late last night. In my haste, I just chopped up the frozen banana flesh and mixed it in.

Well, it was too much moisture in the dough. Both loaves rose magnificently and looked great cooling on the counter. . . but then fell flat in the night.

This morning, it looked like a reindeer had plunged one hoof into each of the twin loaves. At least, that’s what I’m going to tell Maddy.

Santa may get something besides cookies on his plate . . . that is, if it lasts that long, and banana bread rarely does around here.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004


I’m stuck with a couple of rather uncommon, store-bought Japanese and Asian treats that I bought for our daughter’s Foreign Language Club caroling party and didn’t end up serving. I’m debating whether to foist them off on my family this Christmas. They aren’t your typical sugar plums.

Here’s what the package says about the KangQuan dried dates, for example, and I quote exactly:

‘’Jinsi date, renamed as Xian (celestial) date, stays joied by its fibre when it issnoped. The pulp is tasty, deliciouse andendiess aftertaste.

‘’It is proven by morden science research that Jinsi date contains richly 18 kinds of amino acids, trace elements, calcivm, phosphorus, iron andmany kinds of vitamins needed by human body. Its content is 700mg/100g, 100 times higher than apple’s. It is known as ‘the living vitamin ball.’

‘’’KangQuan’ Brand, jinsi date, made of Jinsi date, sugar and jujube flower honey, is really a highgrade, nutritious and tonic delicacy. It is lie fallow food for ladies, children and the old people.’’

Should I set out these “Living Vitamin Balls’’ next to the Hershey’s Kisses? Those are what ‘’morden science’’ calls ‘’Living Fat Pills.’’

It could work!


Prayer request: We pray for the life and health of Connor, a 20-year-old son of a dear friend’s friend. He was in an ice-related traffic accident night before last, and was in a coma at last report. Lord Jesus, spare him and heal him with Your mighty Hand. Use this crisis to draw his parents, twin brother, and other loved ones closer to You, for Your glory. (Deuteronomy 31:6)

Prayer request: Safety, Father, for the trip home of young Scott, the adorable son of my good friend, driving up from southern Missouri for a Christmas with his peeps. Grant him favor and wise guidance for his next step in meeting his career and educational goals. (Proverbs 12:2a)

Tuesday, December 21, 2004


I love every Christmas card, but as a writer, the ones I love the most are the ones that come with good stories. This one was from my hubby’s Uncle Jack in St. Paul, Minn.:

This past year, they had their floors sanded and refinished. In the process, they found a treasure trove of wacky stuff under a large, low radiator. In the 40 years they’ve lived there, plenty of interesting objects have rolled under there.

The list is long, but my favorites include a dented ping-pong ball, a hand from ‘’Mr. Potato Head,’’ a play quarter with Calvin Coolidge on it, a scrap of newspaper with TV listings for shows like ‘’Marcus Welby’’ and ‘’The Gong Show,’’ Jack’s father’s five-part screwdriver set that Jack misplaced decades ago. . .

. . . and last, but certainly not least, the temperature-control knob off their window air conditioner. ‘’No more needle-nose pliers next summer!’’ Jack rejoiced.

The simple things, at Christmastime as in life, are simply the best.


Prayer request: A sensitive friend was at her doctor’s and noticed his usually wonderful bedside manner was sub-par. As he was gathering the x-rays to leave, she asked if she could pray for him. He said, ‘’Sure.’’ She prayed that the Lord would give him help with whatever burden it was that he was carrying, allow him some down time to rest, and that he would have the strength and stamina to go the distance with whatever was on his mind. He looked up and said, "My mom has just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It can be operated on, but I have spent every minute today between patients talking to the people at Johns Hopkins where they do this type of surgery to make plans for me to take her there.’’ Her name is Kathleen. Father, we join in spirit to pray for healing for the mother of this wonderful healer, in Jesus’ Name. Blessings for the patient who helped him refocus on the greatest Rx there is -- You. (Matthew 11:28,29)

Monday, December 20, 2004


There’s been a lot of bad news lately for the anti-God crowd. Woo hoo! To wit:

-- World-famous atheist Antony Flew, at age 81, suddenly reversed a lifetime of assertion that there is no God to conclude that, well, on second thought, after all . . . there is. The British philosopher has written and spoken atheistic dogma for more than 50 years, especially about how life began. Now he says, ‘’It has become inordinately difficult even to begin to think about constituting a naturalistic theory of the evolution of that first reproducing organism.’’ No! Duh! Great ammo to attack ‘’evolution only’’ dogma and censorship in science classrooms.

-- Along the same lines, an article that asserts that evolution can’t possibly have originated all the new biological forms in the Cambrian Explosion recorded in the fossils passed peer review and was published in a science journal, Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. The article presented the theory of intelligent design as an alternative to evolutionary theory. All hell broke loose, excuse the expression, and the evolutionists now want intelligent design banned from science journals. They don’t want to debate evolution; they just want to censor all the evidence that shows it can’t be so, and keep people from spreading the word that everything is so wonderfully complex, there has to have been a supernatural origin to all of life. Is there any place in science for censorship? Methinks nada. Hey! If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!

-- A Korean woman paralyzed for 20 years is now able to walk, thanks to a treatment derived from adult stem cells collected from umbilical cord blood. That’s so far beyond any practical applications from embryonic stem cells, or those from aborted babies, that it debunks the glassy-eyed drive for big bucks for embryonic stem cells, such as the big wad of taxpayer cash voted for it in California recently. They’ll rue the day, all right. Stem cells from umbilical cords. fat and other body parts are absolutely ethical for medical research and treatment, and A-OK by God. Meanwhile, creating itty bitty humans and destroying them are obviously not, and haven’t done squat to truly advance medicine the way adult stem cells have. This development ought to shut up the other side, and it’s about time.


Prayer request: Maddy ‘’frow’ed up’’ over the weekend and has been feeling mildly flu-y for the past week. She’s better today. Thank You, God! I call upon Your promises now and pray a for hedge of protection around my loved ones to keep sickness away so that we can enjoy Christmas to the max. (Psalm 50:15)

Sunday, December 19, 2004


For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.
— Luke 19:10

When I was little I had a fuzzy toy kitten named ‘’Pinky.’’ We were inseparable. Because I was weird, I chewed off half her fur. She was unsightly. I adored her.

My husband had a little panda bear, ‘’Tony,’’ stuffed with straw. He crackled under his head when he used him as a pillow. He, too, was humble but beloved.

Our oldest daughter Jordan has a ‘’Tony,’’ too. He has been torn apart and patched together, barfed upon, and dropped from a car. She’s 21, yet Tony still has the place of prominence on her bed.

These are not love objects. These are loved ones.

That’s how it was with Jenna and her Snuffleufagus.

Jenna is our dear friend and All-State softball pitcher. She’s a teammate of our daughter Eden, whose loved ones are a homely bear named ‘’Bonkey’’ and a tattered rag, ‘’Bankie.’’

Back before Jenna got so tough on the mound that opposing batters got knock-kneed facing her, she was a sweet little blonde girl with a constant companion, ‘’Alice.’’

The toy was plain and brown, but cuddly and a good listener, the younger sister of Snuffleufagus, the woolly mammoth on Sesame Street.

One year, close to Christmas, Jenna got to go shopping with her dad. They went to the Crossroads Mall in midtown Omaha, the busiest place around.

Jenna tucked Alice under her arm, and hauled her from store to store. She remembers cradling her on the kiddie couch at Sears, watching TV while her dad shopped nearby.

They got home, and you guessed it. Where was Alice?

They rushed back and retraced their steps. They checked everywhere in the mall. EVERYWHERE!

No Alice.

They left their phone number with every merchant, and walked dejectedly back to their car. Jenna would face bedtime without Alice for the first time in her young life.

She tried to be big about it. ‘’Maybe some OTHER little girl found her who really, really needs a friend.’’

But her father saw that she had great, big tears in her eyes.

Surely anyone who found Alice would throw her away as a cast-off, a piece of junk. The situation seemed hopeless.

Somehow, Jenna got to sleep, but it was a battle. Somehow, she got through the days without Alice, but she was listless and quiet.

Then it was Christmas Eve. Jenna’s father knew that all the toys in the world from Santa wouldn’t add up to what Alice meant to his little girl. The stores would be closing soon. So he fought traffic to the mall, parked in what seemed like New Jersey, put his head down into the cold December wind, and braved the teeming hordes in the cacophony of the mall.

And he found Alice in the Lost and Found box at Sears.

Next morning, when Jenna came downstairs and beheld what was tucked in her stocking, she got great, big tears in her eyes again . . . because Santa had brought Alice back.

Reunited, and it feels so good! That night, hugging Alice, Jenna fell asleep in a flash, smiling blissfully.

When she goes off to college next fall, no doubt Alice will have the place of honor in her dorm room.

Friends, together forever.

Now, to me, that’s the Christmas story in a nutshell:

Someone precious is lost. A father acts. What was lost is found. There is joy. There is peace. There is hope. Together, forever.

This Christmas, ask yourself: are you in the place you want to be? Or are you lost?

Someone came, that first Christmas, to look for you. He’s still here. You may be a little worse for wear and look like nothing special to most everybody else. You may be weird and missing half your hair. Doesn’t matter. Done a lot of bad stuff? Doesn’t matter.

To Him, you are priceless and much beloved. You are a living Snuffleufagus. He wants you to be His, forever.

Let Him find you, this Christmas. You’ll find joy, peace, hope and love. Wrapped in His tender, holy arms, you’ll sleep in heavenly peace.


Prayer request: All those mourning a loved one this Christmas deserve special prayer and consideration. We lift up Janet, Steve, Diane, Caleb, Craig, Shelly, Pat, Jenny, Norma and so many others for Your sweetest mercies and comforts, Lord Jesus. Sustain them, and remind them that someday, they’ll see them again and feel the joy of Christmas morning a thousand times over. (Ephesians 3:20)

Saturday, December 18, 2004


They’re putting the finishing touches on a new performing arts center in downtown Omaha that is said to rival L.A.’s fabulous new Disney center in the way of 21st Century acoustics and so forth.

But will they have potties right offstage? That’s the key to successful performances.

We learned this at Maddy’s Christmas dance recital, which was just about the cutest thing you ever saw. The sign language finale brought tears to our eyes as the little ones ‘’signed’’ the song about belief from The Polar Express, swaying and gesturing beautifully, and ending with hugs.

The eight little Rudolphs in their paper antlers and painted noses were all lined up, ready to begin the show, when suddenly, one of them -- I’ll just let you GUESS -- said, “I have to go potty!’’

Exit, stage right. An instant later, most of the REST of them followed.

After a decent interval, they all took their places again. The harried dance teacher, who’s also very sweet and hilarious, looked out over the audience full of grandmas and grandpas, moms, dads and siblings, and asked drolly:

‘’Does anybody ELSE have to go?’’


Praise report: We heard a funny flapping noise under our car last night on the way to a holiday party. We stopped and looked, but could see nothing wrong. We partied and drove home on the city’s busiest highway, pretty late. Well, this morning, the left rear tire is flatter than a pancake, but the car is sitting harmlessly in the garage. We must have run over a nail. Thank You, Father, for protecting us, and literally letting the air out of our tire in the least stressful way. (Psalm 115:12)

Friday, December 17, 2004


Maddy went off to preschool this morning. I rushed to the discount store to try to find black dress shoes in her size for the Christmas program and dance recital this afternoon.

Too late, we had discovered that her Sunday School shoes only fit about 90 percent of her feet. Growth spurt, you know.

Well, I got to the shoe aisle, and it looked as though a herd of shoe-buying caribou had stampeded through it. Racks were nearly empty and errant shoes were laying hither and thither. There were lots of big, clunky black boots -- for little girls? -- and lots of petal pink ones, and brown sandals, but nothing in between, and no little black ones. I ‘bout blew a gasket.

Oh, no! I would be thrown into the Dungeon of Lousy Mothers -- those who had sent their darlings onstage for a Christmas program all decked out in Christmas gear EXCEPT for those telltale, beat-up, everyday sneakers.

Then, suddenly, my eyes focused on the very back of the very bottom rack. There was a small green box . . . and inside was an adorable little pair of black ballet slippers with a black flower on the toe and a little strap. Perfect! And just her size! For under 10 bucks!

Thank you, Christmas elves. I’m grateful that my Personal Shopper in heaven above sent you into Inventory to save my bacon once again.


Prayer request: May the shining faces and sweet voices of the little children in Christmas programs in schools and churches all over the Earth warm hearts and turn them to You, O Christmas Child. (Luke 1:32)

Thursday, December 16, 2004


Maddy never ceases to amaze me. I was minding my own business in the kitchen when she hurtled in and demanded:

‘’Mom? Are you afraid of pterodactyls?’’

It’s just not an issue I’ve dealt with lately. ‘’No. I don’t think so. Are you?’’

‘’No!’’ she replied, forcefully. ‘’If I see one, I’m going to say, ‘BAD Pterodactyl!’’’

Yeah. He’ll be pterrified.


Prayer request: Bring healing to the neck, back, knees and head of our friend and computer whiz John. Lord, he seeks to know Your purpose in allowing that 7,000-pound truck to run that stop sign and up-end his world two months ago. We know You are sovereign, and You will use this trial to help John and glorify Yourself. But man . . . he feels like he’s been hit by a truck! Be with him, Lord Jesus. (Hebrews 10:35,36)

Wednesday, December 15, 2004


A single dad we know was driving along with his beautiful teenage daughter. She noticed that he had a particularly long and gross nose hair.

‘’Dad, you have to pull that out right now! It’s disgusting!’’

‘’No, I can’t. I’m driving. If you want it out of there, you’ll have to pull it yourself.’’

‘’Pull it mySELF? Yuck! Gross!!!’’

But she couldn’t stand it one more instant. So she reached toward the offending follicle.

Just then, he ‘’farmer blew’’ – ejected material from his nostrils forcefully without benefit of tissue. Luckily, he missed her hand, but the point was made and memorably so.

Girls have to learn: Dear Old Dad can never be GQ if they don’t want to be . . . only GQewwwwww!!!


Praise report: A friend’s brother-in-law, Jim, emerged from emergency eye surgery with flying colors Tuesday after a staple accidentally went in to his eye in an on-the-job accident. Doctors were very upbeat that he wouldn’t lose even partial sight, but the challenge will be for this very active man to lay flat for three weeks to make sure it ‘’takes.’’ Thank You, Father, for the great outcome for this young husband and father of two. Help him see the wisdom of following doctor’s orders to preserve his precious sight, and to see Your provision and care through it all. (Rev. 3:18)

Tuesday, December 14, 2004


Maddy, 4, has been having a lot of trouble lately falling asleep. She has an overactive ‘’’magination,’’ and keeps thinking about monsters lurking in her closet and so forth.

She comes and wakes me up and I have to spray ‘’monster spray’’ into the closet, on her blinds and under her bed. The ‘’monster spray’’ is scented like Christmas spice, so it’s a nice, homey touch. But I’m still losing sleep over invisible critters she keeps thinking up.

‘’Oh, Mommy,’’ Maddy lamented. ‘’Why did God make me talk so much in my head?’’

Good question. I might have a word with Him in MY head about that.


Prayer request: Hand surgery for a friend named Rich had unexpected complications. The bone was infected and a tendon transfer didn’t work. Now his lovely wife, luckily a nurse, has to clean out and repack the icky-looking wound every day with diligence, or he literally may not be able to . . . get a grip. So it’s very serious, for a mechanic, and will be a trial for them for several months to come. We pray for successful healing for Rich. Meanwhile, his wife is battling rotator cuff pain. We pray, Lord Jesus, for a treatment for her to alleviate some of the pain and buy her several months of time so he can heal before she tends to herself. (Psalm 37:7a)

Monday, December 13, 2004


Nothing like being bested by a 4-year-old to recalibrate one’s self-esteem.

We were rushing to put on Maddy’s shoes and socks to get her to a birthday party when I misspoke. I said, ‘’Put on your s’oes and shocks.’’

She retorted, ‘’My Susan shocks? What are my Susan shocks . . . Susan?’’

She collapsed in laughter. It’s highest humor when a child has an opportunity to call a parent by the first name.

So then we did a tongue-twister, and she beat me, hands down. Can you say this three times without sloshing?

Shoes, socks, shoes . . .

Shoes, socks, shoes . . .

Shoes, socks, shoes . . .



Praise report: I am thankful that my beloved made it home safely from his hunting trip last night in the high winds, hauling his new Rhino ATV on a trailer. I am grateful for a husband who’s coordinated enough to strap that machine on securely. All I’d know to use is duct tape. Thank You, Lord, for my manly man and the angels who watch over him. (2 Chronicles 32:7)

Sunday, December 12, 2004


And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works. . . .
-- Hebrews 10:24

Once upon a time, there was a blonde princess who was sweet and true, and wanted a life of love and joy. By and by, she married her prince. They had two little princelings. Life was good.

But she wasn’t like other princesses. She cooked and cleaned and scrimped and saved, because her prince wasn’t rich. They thought it was important that she stay home to focus fully on the princelings.

So she did. They lived simply. They went without a lot of things, although you’d never know it.

Meanwhile, there was another princess born to the same family. But she wanted to live like a real princess. She didn’t like cooking and cleaning, and especially not scrimping and saving. She married her prince, too. But he was rich.

On top of that, this princess embarked on a professional career. She studied and worked and rose to the top in her realm.

Through the years, no princelings ever came along, and the domestic arts somehow escaped her. Her lifestyle was exciting and elegant, though, from her city condominium to jet-setting vacations.

Overall, she was happy. But she, too, went without some things.

Sadly, over the years, a wall of ice built up between these sisters. It seems their mother, the queen, pitted them against each other in subtle ways.

She’d mention to the homemaker sister that her executive sister had just gotten a fabulous new car or some bling-bling. Then she’d mention to the executive that her sister’s sons were the sweetest, smartest, most beautiful children in the world, and were making her so happy to be a grandmother.

See? The wicked queen made both princesses bite the poison apple of jealousy.

Years would go by and they wouldn’t get together except at Christmas. Their gifts for each other were cautious and impersonal. Don’t offend, but don’t get too close. There was a stiffness, a reserve.

Then, one Christmas season not long ago, they were talking on the phone. The homemaker princess asked the career princess what she might give her for Christmas.

‘’Oh, how about a batch of Snowdrop Cookies?’’ the rich professional snapped. ‘’You know, the ones where you roll the ball of chocolate dough in powdered sugar? I’ve been too busy to bake cookies for years, but they’re my favorite. They remind me of Christmases in our childhood.’’

The poor princess was insulted. Yeah, right. Like, that’s an order?!? Like, that’s all I can afford?!? Like, I can take time out of MY schedule to bake for YOU because YOU’RE so BUSY?!? I’m not your maid! Make them yourself! Bah, humbug!

Days passed. Things were hustle-bustle. The homemaker princess wasn’t thinking about anything in particular when she pulled out her huge, long recipe file . . .

. . . and it flipped right open to the ‘’Snowdrop Cookies’’ card.

She got tingles.

She has a relationship with Someone who has a habit of nudging her to do the right thing, no matter what.

She smiled. She yielded. And baked up a batch of pretty ones, and mailed them that day.

Then she got a call. Her sister was all choked up.

‘’I can’t believe you actually made those for me! My favorite! Nobody’s done anything so nice for me in I don’t know how long.’’

‘’Well, I love you and I want you to be happy.’’

There was a pause. Then a gush of emotion:

‘’It’s been a long time since anybody’s said that to me, too. Oh, Honey, I love you, too! I can’t wait to see you this Christmas!’’

Like favorite cookies melt in your mouth, the ice melted.

And so the real fairy tale began: a tale of two sisters, starting over, with love and joy and mutual respect. You guessed it: and they all lived happily ever after.

And who do you think cooked it all up? That’s right: the heavenly Baker, with another one of His recipes for reconciliation . . . which, by the way, are His favorite . . . because they taste so sweet.


Prayer request: An old friend and singing mate, Sue, has lost her husband to a sudden, raging cancer. Jeff was a wonderful and talented man, making a successful career out of doing voiceovers for advertising and so forth. The oldest of their four children just started college at Vassar. Sue is heartbroken. Holy Spirit, come into her heart and shine the light of the assurance of the resurrection into the darkness of her sudden widowhood, and draw her and her children closer to You. (2 Corinthians 5:1)

Saturday, December 11, 2004


Sometimes when I send an email to someone who has an actual paying job in an actual professional office, but they aren’t in, their fancy-pants computer sends me an ‘’Automatic Reply – Out of the Office’’ notice.

I’m impressed. I don’t have anything cool like that. When I’m busy or out of town, I just don’t reply to emails for a while.

But a friend sent these sample ‘’Out of the Office’’ messages, and now I’m eager to get my own in place, so I can play the V.I.P.

Take your pick:

I am out of the office. Please be patient. Your mail will be deleted in the order in which it was received.

Hi. I’m thinking about what you just sent me. Please wait by your PC for my response.

I will be out of the office for the next two weeks for medical reasons. Upon my return, email will no longer by accepted by ‘’Steve.’’ Instead, send messages to ‘’Loretta.’’


Prayer request: The adage, ‘’Out of sight, out of mind,’’ is totally untrue at Christmastime. I have several friends and loved ones who are suffering the loss of someone important in their lives and this is their first Christmas without them. Holy Spirit, come to them and refocus them on what they’ve gained, not what they’ve lost. Fill their hearts with the Christmas spirit, which is the spirit of Jesus Christ and His promise of eternal reunion -- Christmas forever with the ones we love. (Psalm 117:2)

Friday, December 10, 2004


My daughter was cracking up over my senility. I was trying to remember the name of the upcoming Jim Carrey movie:

‘’A Whole Bunch of Bad Things in a Row’’?

Nooooo. She corrected me with pity. It’s ‘’A Series of Unfortunate Events.’’


Prayer request: A sweetheart of a friend named Bonnie has detected some distance and misunderstanding in her relationship with her new daughter-in-law. She wants to be close and loving, and doesn’t know how to go about improving the relationship. Father, You are the great Reconciler, and You know both of their hearts. We pray for bridges to be built, for Your glory, especially at Christmastime. (2 Corinthians 5:18)

Thursday, December 09, 2004


I was reading a news story to our 17-year-old daughter Eden. An Iowa woman was charged with various crimes in a 10-hour rampage against her roommate of 12 years.

She reportedly ransacked the woman’s home, set it on fire, and burnt several outbuildings to the ground. She threw a VCR, telephones, coats and other household items into a bonfire, and even poisoned and killed her dog.

Losses were estimated at more than $200,000.

Eden murmured, ‘’Boy. Talk about PMS!’’


Prayer request: Set your Hand against infection in the hand of my good friend Rich, Father God. It’s a wowser, but You’re the healer! We praise You for the nursing skills of his lovely wife Penny. Keep her strong and sane as she cares for him so they can go forward with their lives, hand in hand. (Psalm 103:3)

Wednesday, December 08, 2004


What some people won’t do for attention. It seems the Denver police department found 12 guys and 12 gals to pose, buck naked, for a 2005 calendar.

Not only that, but they’ve put these officers’ pictures up on the Internet!

Oh, the nerve of these people! How disgusting! It’s a sad commentary on our society.

If you feel you must see it for yourself:


Prayer request: Quite seriously, now, Lord, we are all concerned about the wave of pornography attacking our nation right now. It is not a laughing matter. Each of us can probably name at least one person struggling with that destructive addiction. It hurts marriages and family life, wastes time, and even leads to violence. The Internet just makes smut easier to obtain, even for children and teens. We pray in the Name of Jesus that their eyes would turn away from these unGodly images, toward the things that are better for their souls. Be careful, little eyes, what you see! (Proverbs 4:25)

Tuesday, December 07, 2004


Maddy’s little buddy is having a birthday party, and she was determined to get her a unicorn, since she had enjoyed playing with Maddy’s so much. We had trekked through a couple of stores with no luck, and then, voila! There was a beautiful blue one. We snapped it up.

I came home and talked on the phone to a friend who works in retail, who suddenly shrieked. It seems the underwire of her bra had poinged out of place and was sticking out in front of her . . .

. . . like a unicorn horn!

Saaaaaay . . . wardrobe malfunction, the hottest fashion innovation!

Dec. 7 is Pearl Harbor Day. We remember. God bless our troops, past, present and future.


Prayer request: Peace, comfort and rest for our next-door neighbor, Norma, whose husband of 51 years has died after a long, debilitating illness. She has been so faithful to her wedding vows, in her loving care for him all these years. Oh, Father, bless her efforts and sustain her through these days of widowhood, reminding her that she will see him again, and hear You say ‘’well done, good and faithful servant.’’ (Matthew 25:21)

Monday, December 06, 2004


Last night, we were supposed to host a caroling party for the French, Spanish and Japanese clubs of our high school. Our daughter offered our house because (1) we have a piano to practice all the weird foreign-language lyrics, (2) it would force us to decorate for Christmas on time, and (3) everybody would bring special, homemade desserts, so there’d be something good in this house to eat for a change.

But it was pouring rain. Nobody felt like singing ‘’Jingle Umbrellas’’ outside in any language. So we postponed it.

However, we couldn’t get a hold of three students, who showed up anyway. They cheerfully went home to await next weekend’s rescheduled event.

One boy was holding a box of storebought doughnuts, and said he was glad for the postponement. ‘’It’ll give me another chance to make a pie,’’ he said. ‘’The one I made kind of fell through.’’

Fell through?

‘’Well, my family ate it,’’ he said.


Prayer request: Today marks the birthdays of the two gentleman callers of our two older daughters, one in North Carolina and one in Nebraska. What a coincidence! Lord, thank You for the respect and attention that Franco and Jeff are paying our girls. Bless their studies. Continue to pack their characters with all the good things of life. Draw them to Yourself, Lord Jesus, as they enter manhood. May they be ‘’accepted in the beloved.’’ (Ephesians 1:6)

Sunday, December 05, 2004


Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you as though some strange thing happened unto you. . . .
-- 1 Peter 4:12

I saw him at the office Christmas party. He was bald, holding himself up with one hand on a cane, the other clinging to the bar. His hands were so skinny, they looked twice as long as normal. His face was puffed up like the Pillsbury Dough Boy.

It was Bob. He has cancer. I didn’t know.

Over the years, I’ve loved get-togethers with my husband’s co-workers, and Bob has always been a favorite. He’s what they call a ‘’go-er,’’ the life of the party.

And now here he was, on chemo, with a big purple blotch on the back of his big hand to prove it.

But I looked deep into his eyes -- and there I saw it. That twinkle. That strut.

‘’I’m going to beat this,’’ he told me. ‘’I’ve got it beat in my chest and now I’m going to beat it in my leg. I thought it was bad, when I first found out. But it’s not. I have faith. This is not going to be what gets me.’’

We both grinned, and embraced. He’s right. It won’t. With that faith, nothing can.

That’s the way it is with trials and tribulations. You live through them, and look back, and wonder why you worried quite so much. Things are rarely as bad as they seem.

For instance, there’s an internet story going around about a lady found sitting in her car outside a grocery store, holding her hands to her head in terror. It seems she heard a gun go off, and thought she’d been shot in the head.

She was holding in her brains ‘til help arrived.

But it wasn’t her brains. It was dough. A biscuit container had popped open in the heat of the car, and splattered the back of her head.

She thought it was bad. Very bad. But it wasn’t. It was dough.

I can relate. Once, I was convinced our daughter had scarletina, a form of scarlet fever. They had sent a letter home from school that it was going around. The next day, she had a whole bunch of little red dots on her skin. I called the pediatrician asking for medication and instructions for quarantine.

They made me bring her in. The nurse took one look. The dots were on her neck, wrists and ankles.

The nurse told me gently, ‘’Those are chigger bites.’’

The light broke. We HAD been raking pine needles the other evening. It HAD been buggy.

Ohhhhhh. Nevvvvvver mind.

Another time, a friend and I got broadsided by a drunken driver. She was driving. The collision threw her into my lap. At first, she wasn’t breathing. They rushed her into the ambulance and started cutting off her clothes. Bones were swelling up out of her flesh. Everything on the left side of her body seemed to be broken.

In contrast, I seemed to be unhurt. But how could that be?

I felt myself, to see if I had any bones poking out. My hands ended on the top of my head . . . where I felt a creepy, viscous goop.

Oh, my God!

My head’s cracked open like a melon, and I didn’t even know it!




But I looked closer, under the streetlight. Hunhhh?

I tasted it.

Chocolate! It was my Wendy’s Frostee! I’d been holding it when the guy hit us.

I thought I was hurt baaaaad. But it was only Frostee.

Only Frostee, only chigger bites, only dough. And in Bob’s case, only cancer.

If you have faith and can hang in there through trials, even the Big C, you find that nothing is ever as bad as it seems. And nothing is ever going to be able to ‘’get’’ you after all.

Because if you have faith in the One who promises to see us through everything, always, no matter what, for all time, you’ve already been ‘’gotten’’ . . . chigger bites, chocolate hairdos, dough-for-brains, and all.


Praise report: Father God, You give gifts to each of us for the benefit of all of us. We are pleased that Chad Sievers, the son-in-law of our close friends, has been named an Academic All-American for the 2004 football season. He’s the first Cornhusker to earn that honor in years. What an accomplishment! Best of all, Chad is a strong Christian who always gives all the glory and credit to You. What a role model for young people . . . and us fogies, too, for that matter. Thank You, Jesus, for this distinction for a deserving young man. (Matthew 7:20)

Saturday, December 04, 2004


Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns has been named U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, and Nebraskans are proud. But I’m sad he won’t be around in case ‘’The Vagina Monologues’’ comes around again.

You remember that controversial play: it stars a female body part in what many people consider an offensive and indecent way. It has a lot of content on lesbianism, masturbation, sex and other themes that you just don’t associate with wholesome femininity, much less fine and uplifting art.

Now, Gov. Johanns grew up on a dairy farm. A few years ago, he distinguished himself in responding to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, who wanted him to dump milk as our official state beverage, presumably because milking cows hurts them. (Believe me, I’ve been a nursing mother, and milking is what you do so you DON’T hurt.)

Anyway, Johanns wrote back saying that dairy farming is a $168 million annual industry in Nebraska, providing lots of jobs, and that he had about as much use for PETA’s idea as teats on a boar. Or something more politely gubernatorial than that.

That next week, ‘’Vagina Monologues’’ came to Omaha, and I wanted Gov. Johanns to preside over a fun little protest outside the theater. It would celebrate another female body part, or several of them: the mammaries, the oft-overlooked but nutritionally key spigot in the great circle of life.

Nobody thinks mammary glands are controversial. At least, not in proper context. Everybody is for milk. It’s a natural!

I thought we should get a permit to herd several dozen big, beautiful dairy cows outside the theatre where ‘’Vagina’’ was playing.

They could . . . you know . . . moo, and do whatever . . . to boldly register the feelings of down-to-earth, G-rated Nebraskans about the play, and maybe steal its thunder and so forth.

And Gov. Johanns could give kids milking demonstrations, so that they’ll see how cool mammary glands really are. And we could all hold hands and sing, “Thanks for the Mammaries” . . . and have the annual meeting of the Nebraska chapter of La Leche League, with a whole bunch of nursing mothers with their babies in those handy-dandy slings.

Best of all, Gov. Johanns could sport a milk moustache. Now, THAT would be ‘’art.’’

Oh, well. Maybe next time . . . in his new town, Washington, D.C.


Prayer request: As I put out our beloved Christmas decorations this weekend, I pray that our family will keep Jesus as the center of attention now more than ever. I read about a family with a tradition on Christmas morning of everybody kneeling, praying, and singing ‘’Happy Birthday’’ in front of their miniature nativity before they rush in and start opening presents. Lord, help us create a few actions like that to keep our focus right. (Luke 2)

Friday, December 03, 2004


It’s Friday. OK? That’s why I’m suggesting this. And if you are looking at one of these and your boss or your spouse or your minister (!) catches you, remember: YOU DIDN’T HEAR ABOUT THIS FROM ME!!!

Go to to the ‘’Top Rated’’ section and click on the Doughboy one.

Remember . . . you don’t know WHERE you heard about these.



Prayer request: A beloved grandmother named Bette is ill, and much to her distress, was only well enough to be with her family for about an hour on Thanksgiving. Lord Jesus, bring Your Holy Spirit into the hearts of her family to give her a double dose of love and attention this holiday season. Make her family her strength and her song, just like You. (Isaiah 12:2)

Thursday, December 02, 2004


I’m not the brightest bulb in the candleabra, and I’ve been told I’m not operating with a full fuse box, but at least now I know I come by it naturally.

Went to see my darling Uncle Dave yesterday with my Mom. He’s pretty much a shut-in, on oxygen, because of emphysema. We had a lovely visit and I remarked on his treadmill.

‘’Did you get that fixed?’’ Mom inquired.

He nodded sheepishly.

‘’You don’t want to talk about it, do you?’’ They’ve been siblings for more than 75 years. They know each other by now.

Finally, he told on himself. It seems he got so frustrated that he couldn’t fix it himself that he was willing to quietly pay someone out of the phone book an exorbitant $95, plus materials, to come and take a look at it.

That fellow tried and tried, but couldn’t make it work. Finally, he discovered that not enough power was coming out of the outlet into which it was plugged. My uncle needed an electrician, not a machine-fixer.

Fine. But he still had time left on his $95. So as long as the fellow was there, could he look at the back-up oxygen machine? It wasn’t working, either, and Uncle Dave had spent a lot of time trying to fix it, too.

After quite a while fiddling with that machine, the fellow finally decided to check the outlet. It, too, was putting out only wussie power.

Eureka! He fled to the set of lightswitches in the nearby hall . . . and flipped on the one that nobody ever knew what it was for.

Lights flashed! Both machines whirred to life! Both problems solved!

And Uncle Dave was left shaking his head over paying $95 . . . for WATT?!?!?!


Prayer request: We lift up the family of Jeralee, a beloved mother of two daughters who died last week after a nine-year battle with breast cancer. We’re thankful for the years you gave her, Lord, and pray for peace and comfort for her family. Let them know You’re with them. (2 Thessalonians 3:16)

Wednesday, December 01, 2004


Speaking of celebrity encounters: a friend’s son was in a high-school marching band in fabulous Council Bluffs, Iowa. One year, the band was invited to march in a Christmas parade in Hollywood. They took a lot of first places in various categories and it was a real good time.

During the trip, Scott and two of his friends, in crisp uniform, waited at the hotel elevator to go up to their room. The elevator doors opened. There were two very rough-looking men inside, attired in leather, and looking as if they’d been ‘’rode hard and put away wet.’’

The three Iowa boys were silent, feeling uneasy. Finally, one of the men spoke to them in an English accent, ‘’So . . . you boys always dress like that?’’

The boys laughed and told them why they were in Hollywood. The light bulbs finally went on: the man who first spoke was Mick Jagger, and the other was Keith Richards.

They chatted. Then the rock stars said goodbye and wished them well, as they stepped off on their floor and vanished . . . like a rolling stone.


Prayer request: Blessings and praise to You, Lord, for the life of our darling Eden Elizabeth, who turns 17 today. May she always remember that she came to us as Your loving gift, batteries not included and not needed, since she’s Holy Spirit-powered for all eternity. (Matthew 6:33)