Monday, July 31, 2006


Signs along the roads are always so darned bossy and negative. You know:





So I was pleased to see this kinder, gentler sign along a turning lane near our destination in northern Georgia last week:


Should make a copy and put it up in my home. It’s not a bad philosophy of life!

Sunday, July 30, 2006




As the hart panteth after the water brooks,
so panteth my soul after thee, O God.
-- Psalm 42:1

Like most middle-aged married couples, we’re still teammates, on the same playbook page, still expecting to cross over the end zone of life together, spike the ball, and do an exuberant waggle.

But lately, we’d been outyarded and outgained by the cares and stresses of life. Our helmets were dented, our jerseys were torn, and our shoelaces were untied.

Don’t worry: there was no unnecessary roughness, no late hits, no talk in the huddle about The Big D -- Divorce. We had simply hit midlife: time to tweak the game plan, retape our sore spots, and get some spiritual Gatorade.

So last week, we staggered into a special kind of locker room for a halftime pep talk from some gifted coaches.

It was a Christian-based marriage workshop with several other couples at a mountain retreat in northern Georgia. It was stupendous – life-changing – and it involved lots of Southern cooking, from sweet tea to cream pie. Ahhhh! We came out of the experience more in love with each other and with God than ever before.

But before we got there, I was petrified. I sat in our hotel room in northern Atlanta, alone in the early evening quiet under rain-threatening skies.

God! Oh, God! What was I getting myself in to? Couldn’t we just do this on the phone? My throat tightened with anxiety.

Would they make me spill my guts? Would they think I was a rotten wife? Would they tsk-tsk? Worse: would they laugh?

I started to freak out. How could these complete strangers understand us, if we couldn’t?

My spouse came into the room. I’m not proud of it, but I began to cry.

The view from our fourth-story window was a dense, green swamp. A scummy pond meandered through thick bushes and stunted trees. The water was clear in a few places, and there were gorgeous white lilies here and there. But overall, it was a tangled, dense, sticky, swampy mess.

Just like our marriage.

I cried some more. We were stuck. Where was the way out? Even if we could see it, could we get there? Or would one or both of us stay stuck, struggling and thrashing?

Before our eyes, a beautiful doe appeared out of nowhere. She picked her way past the bushes to the water’s edge, lowering her graceful neck and delicately drinking from the pond. I held my breath, as if I would scare her away.

The humidity gave way to a gentle rain. Plop! Plop! The little ripples in the pond . . . the peace and stillness all around . . . the beauty of the deer . . . and slowly, I relaxed. Just as suddenly, with a flick of her white flag-like tail, she was gone.

A white flag: just like the one I needed to wave. Let go . . . and let God.

She hadn’t gotten mired. She hadn’t made a scene. She just got what she needed, and moved on.

So would we. God had brought us this far. He would see us through.

Fear and confusion were no match for our love and our Lord’s desire to lead us out of the swamp of midlife marital “stuff.” He’d restore the joy and fulfillment He’d planned for us from the moment we spoke our vows before His altar.

And that’s exactly what happened. The swamp is behind us now. We’re in the clear.

The retreat grounds were crawling with deer, and that put me at ease right off the bat. Those “strangers” were so loving, understanding and insightful, they helped us see how we were missing the mark, yet left us feeling good about ourselves and our marriage, better than we have in years. Confusion is gone; hope and excitement are back.

We went in there like lowdown swamp rats. We left feeling like an intrepid buck and a graceful doe.

That’s what happens when you trust the One who holds marriage so “deer” . . . and guides you along the trail, every step of the way. †


Miles For Mali Update

Goal: Raise $5,600 and collect 5,600 miles of walking, running, biking and swimming in 56 days to help build a much-needed maternity hospital in Mali, Africa.

Fourth week’s report: 24 miles walked, $469 raised. Still ‘way, ‘way behind schedule, but getting ready to lean into the tape. Won’t you help? Deadline: Aug. 20.

Please consider sponsoring me for $1 a day, to help bring decent medical care to nearly-destitute women and children in West Africa. If you can’t spare $56, I understand, and God bless you. But if you can . . . woo hoo! God will honor your commitment, and I’ll sing your praises to Him.

Please send checks made out to Christ Community Church to:
Susan Williams, P.O. Box 995, Elkhorn, NE 68022.
Donations tax-deductible; you will receive a letter for your files. THANK YOU!!!

Learn more at: or

Friday, July 21, 2006


See you Aug. 1. Happy summer!

Thursday, July 20, 2006


I parked in a midtown strip shopping mall the other day in front of a store next to my destination. I did a double take over a seeming contradiction between a store sign and the display in the front window.

It was a bridal shop, and there was a lovely wedding gown and veil on the mannequin.

The problem was, the sign painted on the glass to the side read:


Talk about a specialty store!?! Nahh. They just happen to have both kinds of apparel, for brides and mothers-to-be. Or maybe both at the same time. You know that old kiddie song: “Here comes the bride . . . all fat and wide. . . .”

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Grandma served as pet sitter for her small granddaughter’s guinea pig only after ascertaining that the coloration of the guinea pig was fairly common. That’s in case it kicked the bucket while under her care and she had to rush out to every pet store in town to find a dead ringer; otherwise the kid might be scarred for life by the tragedy of premature furry demise.

Everything seemed to be in order for the pet-sitting job, including a full page of instructions in formal script type befitting the solemnity of the task at hand.

But one thing went wrong: the heavy, 30-gallon aquarium that was the guinea pig’s domain had been placed on a table in the spare room. The edges were mighty high off the ground. But the guinea pig’s owners were long gone by the time the diminutive grandma tried to feed it and clean its W.C.

She could dump the alfalfa, gourmet seeds, and little orange wedge in there all right, but she couldn’t reach her arm inside deeply enough to clean up the leavings. It wouldn’t do, at her age, to stand on a stepstool and risk a fall.

So she used her heirloom soup ladle – the only tool with a long enough handle to do the job.

She made sure to emphasize this ingenuity when the guinea pig’s owners arrived home, adding coyly, “Oh, and I’ve made some soup to send home with you, too.”

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


My family will never let me live it down. We were driving in northern Minnesota past a large forest of narrowly-spaced, towering pine trees. You know the kind: tall, skinny trunks all the way up to the top 25% or so, and then dark green pine boughs up high. Makes for the kind of a dense, dark forest it’d be hard to hike through if your diet wasn’t working.

Well, I waxed rhapsodic about the beauty of that scene. “Look at Nature!” I exclaimed to my beloved and our four kids. “Look how perfect it is! The same kind of trees crowd together to make a uniform height and maximize the growing space above and underneath.”

Silence in the car. “Uh. . .” my beloved responded, finally, with great tact, “noooooo, the fact that the trees are all exactly the same height and spaced exactly that far apart is evidence that they were planted that way. It’s a tree farm.”

Silence . . . then RIOTOUS LAUGHTER!!! Mommy goofed again!!!

What made it really sting was, a few days later on a lovely wilderness golf course with emerald-green fairways cut into old woods, our third and sassiest daughter waxed rhapsodic herself:

“Look, Mom! Look how Nature just HAPPENED to conform into a beautiful 18-hole golf course here! Rolling meadows with no trees were perfect for the fairways, and small sand pits formed right next to circular meadows with the shortest grass of all! Isn’t Nature wonderful?”

Riotous laughter from the other golfers. Heyyy! Isn’t the best thing about Nature that it’s mostly QUIET?!?!

Monday, July 17, 2006


We just got back from a family vacation, where the fun included shopping at the Mall of America in Minneapolis. We stopped at the food court for a quick meal. I stepped up to place our order.

The clerk repeated everything I said as he punched it into the computer. He had a lisp.

“Cheeseburger, hold the pickles,” I ordered. “Cheethburger, no pickleth” he repeated.

“Side salad with ranch dressing.” “Thide thalad with ranch drething.”

“Chicken fingers” . . . “chicken fingerth.”

“Sierra Mist” . . . “Thierra Mitht.”

This went on and on. Everything we ordered had s’s in it. I was afraid the young man was going to get upset, or think I was making fun of him. I mean, you couldn’t have put more sibilance into words if you tried.

But when the order was complete, he gave me a warm smile and a quick wink. I was so glad: “hold the pickleth, hold the lettuth, thepethial orderth don’t upthet uth. . . .”

Sunday, July 09, 2006




The way of a fool
is right in his own eyes:
but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.
-- Proverbs 12:15

Didn’t I clamber all over hill and dale at kiddie camp, and never got poison ivy?

Didn’t I hike all over the back trails of northern Minnesota picking blueberries, and fishing along the creepiest, crawliest, back-woods shores?

Didn’t I cavort at “woodsies” out in the boondocks in college, and on camping trips, and while gardening? Haven’t I spent more than my share of time in the “cabbage” of the deep rough on golf courses near and far?

And in all that time, I never got poison ivy, or its evil twins, poison oak and poison sumac. Never! Others itched . . . but I remained Dermatologically Unprovoked.

Until last week, that is. Oooh! I got it . . . BAD!

The red-speckled undersides of my arms look like the Tattooed Lady! From ankle to knee, it looks like I got in a knifefight with a near-sighted midget. I even had it on the tips of my ears and down both sides of my neck, apparently from fussing with my hair.

It’s my own darn fault. I knew there was poison ivy among the weeds around those grand old cottonwoods ringing our neighborhood pond. A neighbor had to be hospitalized with an extreme allergic reaction after a workday down there; my beloved had gotten a touch of it, and it wasn’t fun.

But I was immune! I was SuperWeeder!

Hundreds of people were coming there for our neighborhood’s annual fireworks show. That’s why I wanted to weed under the trees, even though people wouldn’t even get there ‘til it was too dark to see.

But my perfectionistic streak forced me to ignore these warnings, and go down there and spruce things up.

Did I wear long sleeves and long pants? Nah. It was hot!

Did I let my rake and other garden tools make the contact? Nah. I got right in to the piles, scooped ‘em up and stuffed ‘em into bags. Hey! I HAD on GLOVES!

I threw my work clothes immediately into the washing machine, and took a sudsy shower. No spots! No itching!

Next day, I strutted around, the intrepid garden Goliath.

But at 3 a.m., I awakened with RAGING VOLCANOS ERUPTING FROM THE CROOKS OF MY ELBOWS DOWN TO MY WRISTS! Before my eyes, ominous pinnacles of pink skin peaked, then oozed, and transformed my bed into Camp Itchipoogottascratchit.

I made a beeline for the Caladryl lotion. Better! Kind of!

Two hours later, the volcanos were back, this time on my legs. I woke up like a contortionist, my body shaped into the letter “O,” my nails scratching my ankles into a bloody pulp. Then new volcanos erupted on my arms. Back and forth it went.

Call your doctor, friends advised. Nah. He’ll get really mad.

Instead, I got online and started reading the scariest and most confusing amateur medical advice imaginable. Rub 100% Clorox on it with a washcloth until it burns.

No, Clorox will scar – use brake cleaner!

No, that hurts too much. Apply a thick coat of white shoe polish!

No, just take a shower in the hottest water you can stand, to literally scald your skin so it can’t feel any more. Bite down on a rolled-up washcloth when you really “get cooking.”

No! Cold water! That’s the ticket! With Fels Naptha laundry soap.

No, no, no. You put 20 tea bags in a hot bath, soak for 20 minutes, pat yourself dry, and blow-dry yourself on the highest setting. Talk about hot air!

My favorite advice was to use alcohol. Not on your itchy, owie skin – but to drink yourself into blissful unconsciousness. If you’re conked out, you won’t scratch.

A week’s gone by, and the volcanos have finally calmed down. Now I just look scabby and icky.

It would have been sooooooo simple to heed the warnings, and not even go around known poison ivy in the first place.

Simple . . . smart . . . and so out of character. But if it’s the way to stay out of Camp Itchipoogottascratchit, maybe I’ll wise up at last. †


Miles For Mali Update

Goal: Raise $5,600 and collect 5,600 miles of walking, running, biking and swimming in 56 days to help build a much-needed maternity hospital in Mali, Africa.

Second week’s report: 14 miles walked, $273 raised from people in Nebraska, Missouri and Pennsylvania. Still ‘way, ‘way behind schedule, dollar-wise. But still planning to meet it!

Renewing the challenge, far and wide: why not sponsor me for $1 a day, to help bring decent medical care to nearly-destitute women and children in West Africa? If you can’t sacrifice $56, I understand, and God bless you. But if you can . . . woo hoo! God will honor your commitment, and I’ll sing your praises to Him.

Please send checks made out to Christ Community Church to:
Susan Williams, P.O. Box 995, Elkhorn, NE 68022. Deadline: Aug. 20.
Donations tax-deductible; you will receive a letter for your files. THANK YOU!!!

Learn more at: or

Saturday, July 08, 2006


My beloved and I are on a walking program. It’s a great time to reconnect while enjoying the great outdoors. Except that it can also reveal that one’s spouse is deranged, odd and totally whacked out.

Or at least, I THOUGHT he was, when he started exclaiming what a GREAT idea “pods” were, how well they worked for “storage,” and how he’d been noticing them around town.

Pods? There were seed pods hanging from a nearby tree as we walked by. I peered at them as I listened to him rave about them. “Storage”? Of seeds? Whaaaat? Was he losing his mind, going on and on about pods? I wish I had a picture of my face, screwed up in confusion, next to his, rapt with enthusiasm.

Was this his idea of some kind of a prayer, thanking God for one of His designs in nature? Was he mixed up and thinking of iPods? Or had he been SMOKING pods and losing brain cells rapidly? Had he suddenly become a . . . “pod head”?

Then I finally saw what he was talking about: two large storage boxes, labeled “PODS,” sat alongside a remodeling project going on, one house over from the tree with the seed pods.

The storage pods held the homeowner’s furniture and stuff while the remodeling was going on as an on-site solution. Ohhhh. THAT’S what he meant by pods being “a great idea for storage.”

You knew it was coming. I said, “Pod’n me.”

Friday, July 07, 2006


Our driveway looked like a three-ring circus of machinery, as my husband had hooked 1) our broken-down lawn tractor onto 2) our ATV’s winch to pull it up the ramp onto 3) our trailer attached to 4) our pickup truck.

My job was to sit in the ATV and run the remote control for the winch, which was supposed to pull the tractor right up the ramp onto the trailer. All I had to do, literally, was lift a finger.

But twice in a row, mysteriously, when I operated the winch, it just pulled ME in the ATV toward the TRACTOR.

Actually, it was good for my self-esteem: maybe I’m not so heavy after all. . . .

My husband adjusted this, and tried that. Finally, he asked in afterthought, “You DO have your FOOT on the brake, DON’T you?!?!?!”

Oops. I acted nonchalant. But once I made that little change, the ATV stayed braced, and the winch pulled the tractor right up the ramp as fine as you please.

He knew . . . he just KNEW . . . that he’d better not say anything . . . be a mensch, not a grinch, and don’t make your wench flinch while running a winch. . . .

Thursday, July 06, 2006


Heard about a middle-aged menace at a lakeside community near our town who was out boating while drunk. He reportedly ran his speedboat aground onto a beach at about 40 mph, horrifyingly near some kids and a dock.

The homeowner called police first, and the lake association president next. The drunken captain was ticketed for B.U.I. – Boating Under the Influence (of alcohol). He was banned from boating on that lake ever again.

Except . . . he was right back at it on the Fourth of July.

When homeowners confronted him, he had an amazing excuse. “Oh, that was another boat,” the culprit explained. “I’ve got a new boat now.”

If it’d been me, I’d have gotten . . . stern . . . and set sail to his . . . rudder.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


An avid hunter in our neighborhood is teaching a bow-hunting class. He went all out and got realistic, life-size targets of a deer, a bear, an antelope and a big-horn sheep. He set them up in the neighborhood park in a place that he thought was ‘way out of the way of everybody else.

There were about 20 men gathered around him, getting ready to try shooting at the targets, when all of a sudden, off in the distance, here came a woman. She was sneaking up on the deer target with a body language that signaled she was excited and delighted. Slowly, carefully, sneakily . . . she came closer and closer, and that deer stayed perfectly still!

Finally, the woman stood straight up and put her hands on hips. She had finally realized WHY the deer stayed so still.

It might not have been so bad, except that she finally saw the men and heard 20 outbursts of very loud, very hysterical laughter. Her expression could only be described as . . . a deer in the headlights.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


A thought-provoking multimedia presentation for Independence Day. Have a bang-up Fourth!

Monday, July 03, 2006


Here’s a lovely tribute to our country:

Sunday, July 02, 2006


Make a joyful noise unto the Lord,
all the earth: make a loud noise,
and rejoice, and sing praise.
-- Psalm 98:4

We used to live close to a big park where there’s always a huge Fourth of July fireworks show. We loved strolling over there as dusk was falling, and getting back home before most others had even reached their cars.

‘Course, the fireworks were so close and so loud, we’d get home and find the dog cowering in the bathtub, ears pinned back, all shook up.

It was about the same with our small children. We tried to explain the connection between Independence Day, the Revolutionary War, the Star Spangled Banner, celebrating freedom, and fireworks. But the significance was . . . ahem . . . over their heads.

No wonder. What fireworks represent -- rockets’ red glare and bombs bursting in air -- isn’t exactly the stuff of Sesame Street. Fireworks aren’t really for kids, anyway: they’re for those old enough to take fierce pride in the passions of freedom and the struggles that have preserved this God-given land. Struggles that, yes, have been noisy.

But one year, it got so loud, we had to leave the fireworks show early. They had introduced those big, big ones. You know them: you see the white ball flash high in the sky, and one heartbeat later, the world goes


. . . and boy, it’s a thrill. Except for little kids.

Our NeeNee, about 2, maxed out at the first big one. She leapt into my arms, burying her little blonde bowl-cut in my chest, nearly strangling me with her frightened hug.

“Oh, Mommy, Mommy,” she moaned. “The firecracks! The youd ones make my ears cry!”

She started to wail. It spread to her sisters. We high-tailed it out there, watching the show over our shoulders as we carried the sobbing children home.

But, you know, freedom isn’t quiet. It’s anything but. From the wars fought to win it, to the babble of the marketplace of ideas in our free society, freedom is a cacophony. Obtaining it in the first place is hard. Preserving it for ourselves and others can be chaotic. It’s scary. People get hurt. People get killed.

That’s the price of it. That’s the reality.

But oh, the fruits of freedom: being able to say what you think . . . worship as you please . . . elect leaders whose decisions affect your life . . . to protest and dissent as well as cheer and applaud.

You can live a quiet life in a peaceful country, alert but unafraid, thanks to the sweat and sacrifice of the generations of brave folks who earned it for you, in the noise that gives birth to liberty.

That’s worth more than a sedate prayer, as at Thanksgiving, or a sweet song, like a birthday party. That’s worth a


. . . or maybe 76 of them, in a row.

I’m sure the muskets were “youd” at Concord and Lexington and Bunker Hill.

The naval cannonball fire must have been deafening over Lake Erie in the War of 1812.

Thundering cavalry at Bull Run and Gettysburg . . . the early machine guns in the Argonne Forest of World War I . . . the hellish assaults of D-Day and Iowa Jima, not to mention Hiroshima and Nagasaki . . . those were all “youd,” too.

And the bombs that won Inchon in Korea . . . the choppers and air raids over Vietnam . . . the thundering jets of Desert Storm . . . the enormous engines of the B-52’s and sizzling F-18’s over Afghanistan . . . the laser whoosh of the cruise missiles and explosions of the minefields of Iraq . . . all these were “youd,” indeed.

But thank God for the noise. Thank God for the joy we have in our blessings, represented by the loud and colorful fireworks going up all over our country right now.

Yes, fireworks make your ears cry.

And your heart sing.

God bless America . . . say it “youd.” †


Miles For Mali Update

Goal: Raise $5,600 and collect 5,600 miles of walking, running, biking and swimming in 56 days to help build a much-needed maternity hospital in Mali, Africa.

First week’s report: seven miles walked, $156 raised from people in Nebraska, Missouri and Pennsylvania. Thanks, guys! Much appreciated, and I’ll be praying for you and yours as I walk.

Eek, though! We have a long way to go. But I’m excited, because I have some plans for multiplying the receipts that I think will work. And I know kind and giving hearts are out there and are going to come through for the women and children of Mali:

Though thy beginning was small, yet thy latter end should greatly increase. – Job 8:7

Won’t you sponsor me for a dollar a day? Give up a candy bar or a cup of coffee each day so that women in Mali won’t die in childbirth as often, and their kids will have a better chance to live past age 5? Since I’m walking 56 miles, a dollar a day comes to $56 over eight weeks. Think back on childbirth experiences you or a loved one had, and decide if you want to express your gratitude for the blessings of good medical care by helping to provide it for the poorest of the poor in West Africa.

Please send checks made out to Christ Community Church to:
Susan Williams, P.O. Box 995, Elkhorn, NE 68022. Deadline: Aug. 20.
Donations tax-deductible; you will receive a letter for your files. THANK YOU!!!

Learn more at: or

Saturday, July 01, 2006


Click on this link, scroll down to the photo, and click to see and hear an amazing video that involves Diet Coke and Mentos. If you’re . . . bubbly about America, you’ll love this: