Wednesday, December 22, 2010


I don't believe that Jesus Christ was born on December 25. I believe that if you did a little historical snooping, you'd find that that date probably isn't anywhere close. However, I do believe in Jesus. I do believe He was born… sometime, and that there is probably a really good reason why we don't know the exact date.

It's not the date that’s important anyway-- it's the event. Isn't it amazing how just the thought of a little baby, wrapped in simply cloth and asleep in a hewn-out trough compels us to be more courteous and thoughtful over 2,000 years later?

In remembering His birth, hopefully, I will remember His life. Jesus not only toddled, He walked on water; His mother fed him. He fed thousands; As a baby, He cried when He was in need. As an adult, He prayed; As an infant, He snuggled on his dad's lap. As a man, children snuggled on his; As a baby he needed. As a Savior, He gave; As a child, He played hide & seek. As God, He doesn't.

His birth was a miracle. His life was a challenge. His death was a triumph. Jesus is to be celebrated on all three counts, not simply one day a year, but everyday… with joy!

Blessed Christmas, dear ones…


Thursday, December 16, 2010


PHOTO CAPTION: 2Pops & Granny Jane last summer with two of their great-granddaughters, Paisly & Zella.

We survived the big snowstorm last weekend. Lots of scary moments in the car traveling back from a friend’s wedding in IL, but we finally made it home safe and sound. When we walked through the door, never had a homecoming been so sweet. The house was warm, air tight and welcoming. Of course the fact that our car got stuck in the driveway and we had to trek through waist-high drifts to make it to the front door, made it all the sweeter.


We are in the season of Homecoming. Whether we travel there physically or just in our minds, we will go there. We can’t help it. This year the physical homecoming is at our house. Today, we pick my folks up from the Chicago airport. Then come Christmas Eve our house will become even noisier when the three kids, wives and the six grandchildren bound through the door. Ahh, homecoming.

And, then there is the homecoming in my mind. I will look at my grown sons and see only little guys who once delighted in dipping pretzels in chocolate and who helped pick our Christmas trees at some lot followed by a trip to the donut shop. Our tradition was to decorate the tree while eating donuts and drinking chocolate milk.

I will look at my folks and see them younger. I will remember eating Christmas dinner on the picnic table dressed in shorts (I was raised in Florida) and the excitement of Christmas mornings with my aunts, uncles and a whole slew of cousins.

Homecomings. Then and now. I will pray that yours will be as loved-filled as God meant them to be… because boy, oh boy, does He have a great one planned for us someday. Until then, may we enjoy the blessings of now…

Love you, friends.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010


PHOTO CAPTION: Me & Murphy walking on a beach on Lake Michigan.

I think most of you know that I was raised in Pinellas Park, Florida. I’m no stranger to beaches. I love them. I love everything about them. The walking on the warm sand is like getting a foot massage at one of the best spas. Floating on your back in the salt water as the waves lull you to sleep is the most relaxed you’ll ever get. Watching sand crabs dart in and out is a treat. And, in my day, we would find starfish and sand dollars galore as we walked ankle deep down the shore. Yep, I know beaches.

However, this past week while Gary and I were decompressing in Sister Bay, the beach there threw me a new experience. Snow! I have never been walking on a beach while it was snowing. Being from Florida, you can understand why. What an odd sensation. Think of spaghetti with chocolate sauce. Or brats in your rice pudding. It was two very different sensations at once. And, I had to smile. God knows how to get my attention.

You see, Gary and I have just lived in a world of two sensations. The world of cancer with all its ugly stuff like open wounds, infections, and pain. And, the world of caring and hope where people who love you rally around and lavish their good thoughts, their prayers, their support and time on you in abundance. It was the most horrible of experiences and the most sublime of experiences.

It’s dawned on me that’s how God works best. When something bad happens we wonder where God is. But if you’re paying attention, you will find that He is everywhere in that experience. With the bad, He brings the most thrilling comfort and hope. Sort of like taking a walk in freezing weather, and then you look up and find that you are on this most glorious beach surrounded by great beauty.

I’d be curious to hear from you about your snow/beach experiences if you’d care to share. I’ll talk to you next week.



Monday, December 6, 2010

Praying Together- A big deal

Two guys who are always on my prayer list-
Gary (Papa) and sweet grandson, Cormac

Monday, December 6, 2010-

I promised I’d write more often, so how’s twice a week sound? That will be my goal. But, you’ve got to promise to check in with me and leave me your thoughts from time to time, okay?

Well, we’re back home. Seven days in Door County is probably as close to heaven as we’ll be able to get while still here on this lovely earth. We spent a lot of time doing nothing in particular, but we were very serious about it. Lots of extra sleep. Lots of extra reading. And, lots of unhurried conversation. But one of my favorite times was one evening after supper; we huddled on the couch and prayed out loud together. We’ve done that more lately for obvious reasons. The shadow of death can do that to a couple. When one of you goes through a serious illness, it can do one of two things. Pull you apart or bring you together. We chose the latter. And prayer was a big part of what kept us close, kept us informed as to what the other was thinking or scared about. But also, one of the things we found out it that praying out loud together isn’t always easy. I never feel more vulnerable to my partner as when he is listening in on my conversation with God. I tell God things I don’t always tell my husband, but if he’s listening, then the cats out of the bag. He finds out how fearful I am, or what has been hurting me, or that maybe he isn’t the only thing/person on my mind. And, likewise.

If you haven’t prayed with someone you love lately, then I highly recommend it. I was shy at first when we started our prayer the other night. It felt a little awkward, a little forced. But then all of that fell away as my heart opened little by little to reveal what was in there—the good, bad and somewhat ugly at times. You see, I am not always this perfect little preacher’s wife you see spitted shined on Sunday mornings. I can get pretty ragged around the edges, truly. Dark spots of ugly are constantly trying to waylay me. But the other night, clasping the big, strong hands of my husband, I confessed and came clean about some of that. Gary squeezed my hand. God nodded and smiled as only a knowing Father can do.

How about you? What have your experiences been when you’ve let your guard down and prayed out loud with another? I’d love to hear about them.

Blessings, dear ones… until the next time.


Friday, December 3, 2010


PHOTO CAPTION: October 2010- The hubs, me and our twin granddaughters, Isamae & Kasia.

December 3, 2010

Okay, so I just may be the worst blogger ever to take up space on the invisible internet airwaves, which I completely don’t understand how they work, by the way. I’m still trying to figure out the radio and TV, and yes, I couldn’t record a show off of TV if you paid me. Let’s see, I haven’t blogged since April. Yep, I’m the worst.

However, just because I haven’t blogged in a coon’s age doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing. I have and not particular on a subject I ever saw me blogging about—cancer. Melanoma to be exact. Well, actually atypical cellular blue nevus that had metastasized into a rare form of melanoma. Never heard of it? Me either. But now I’m an expert.

For those of you who did not keep up with the Clevelands on, let me quickly review. In March, my husband, Gary, had his yearly physical. Once again he asked the doc to take a look at the knot that had risen on his ankle. He’d had this knot for about seven years, but the last two years, it had started to grow into a small planet. To make a long story short, after three months of biopsies, etc., we were finally sent to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN to have them try and figure out what was going on. Turns out it was Stage three melanoma. And, the cancer had spread to his lymph nodes in his groin. I’m going to skip a whole lot, the bottom line is that Gary just finished his last radiation treatment a couple of weeks ago and all appears to be well. We’ll go back to Mayo in January for another PET scan just to check up on things. We’ll probably be making this trip to Mayo every three months for a while.

I had been working on my third book when all of this started. But, as soon as we began what Gary called his “medical mystery tour”, all writing on the book stopped. I couldn’t get my brain to work in that direction, so I became the family chronicler of the tour. We received lovely, touching messages from friends and family all over the country—even some from out of the country. I can’t tell you how those thoughts and prayers from others sustained us during those first awful months. Plus, we have an awesome family of God’s people that we worship with every week, who took care of us in all the important ways. I’ve truly been made aware of how holy a ‘ministry of presence’ can be.

Going through something like this has taught us many lessons and revealed more to us about our faithful God and ourselves than anything else could. I’ll be blogging about some of those enlightenments as I go along. I’ll try my best to blog a little more regularly, if you promise to stop by and visit a little more regularly. Deal?

I’ll go for now, but not before I tell you where I am right now—one of my favorite places in the world. Door County. Sister Bay to be precise. Gary and I have been here all week to celebrate the end of radiation and the beginning of what comes next for us. And…I’ve finished writing my third book while here. More about that later as well.

Thanks for stopping by. I’ll keep in touch…. I promise.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Book Launch in North Carolina!

As I write this, I am once again in North Carolina. This past Saturday (April 10), we had a book launch at Dr. Johnson’s home church. It was a glorious day that began with a book signing at a local bookstore, a lunch of southern barbeque, and then a reception hosted by Mount Sinai Missionary Baptist Church. As the fellowship room began to fill up in the basement of this historic church, I had an overwhelming feeling of coming full circle. The book, MAN FROM MACEDONIA: MY LIFE OF SERVICE, STRUGGLE, FAITH AND HOPE, began in that building in a small classroom four years ago. On March 18, 2006. Aaron Johnson and I sat in that classroom as we began the interview process that would eventually turn into the book.

I really don’t know how many people came on Saturday, but the house was full and books were sold. But the most important thing is that a man who has given his entire life to others was honored for that life as friends, former colleagues and family filed by in front of our table to obtain a signed copy of Aaron’s life chronicles. Hugs, tears, smiles and precious memories filled the hall. I was honored to be a part of this sweet reunion and celebration.

I think it’s safe now to confess a fear I had during the three years it took to write MAN FROM MACEONIA. My friends, Dennis and Debbie Walsh, had flown me into North Carolina. It is this couple who brought us together. The Walshes knew Aaron’s story and they wanted me to tell it. So, that day in March as I walked up the steps of Mount Sinai to meet Dr. Johnson something suddenly dawned on me as I opened the door and was greeted by this tall, distinguished gray-haired African-American man—I wasn’t black! I wasn’t male. How could I, this middle-aged, white woman tell the story of a black man with any authenticity at all?

Well, we forged forward with both us secretly wondering how this was going to work. What I can tell you now, four years later, is that our pairing was a God-thing. He put us together. He made it work. He knew way more than we did what needed to happen.
Of course as the book release date got closer, my old doubts started to resurface. What would the black community think of the book and it’s writer? Would they resent that one of their hero's story wasn’t being told by one of their own? Would the fact that I’m white keep some from buying or reading the book?

Silly me! God handled that as well. Actually, as I watched the members of Mount Sinai Church respond to the book on Saturday and to me and to Aaron, my skin color was as much a non-issue as his. As they embraced their gentle pastor, they embraced me as well.

The book tells a story that is bigger than both of us really. It’s Aaron’s story, but as he says, “It’s everybody’s story, really.” It continues to be a tale about faithfulness…God’s faithfulness to His people... all of his people.

I hope you get a chance to read MAN FROM MACEDONIA soon. It has changed my life and introduced me to an authentic hero. I pray it will do the same for you.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Be Still...

A couple of week ago I found myself in Sister Bay, Wisconsin, a little resort village in the heart of Door County. Some dear friends own a vacation home there and graciously allow me to set up shop when I need to get some writing done. I got a lot of rewriting done and a jump-start on my new novel. It was heavenly.

My pup, Murphy, was with me, a 13-week-old furry ball who is in training to be my writing companion. I have visions of him lying in my lap one day or at my feet all cozied up while I transfer profound words from my soul to the page. I imagine him encouraging me with a wag of the tail or a gentle lick to my face when I struggle over my prose. Right now though, all he really wants to do is chew on my toes.

Besides writing, I used my time there to wrestle a bit with God. You see I was feeling a distance from Him that wasn’t comfortable with. He hadn’t gone anywhere, but I seemed to have gone AWOL. I didn’t like how I’d been behaving lately. There was something about it that embarrassed me and puzzled me. I allowed things to come out of my mouth that shouldn’t. Harsh words. Thoughtless words. Uncaring words. They lingered in my mouth like raw eggs. Who is this person? I didn’t know her. And, I didn’t like her much.

Have you ever been surprised by your actions or words? Have you ever reacted or done something that seemed so out or character from who you believe yourself to be? You’re convince that your body has been taken over by someone as nauseous as that Cruella DeVil, the bad lady who wanted to slaughter all those lovely Dalmatian puppies to make herself a fur coat, Well, that would’ve be me. Nope, Murphy didn’t need to fear for his life. His little hide wouldn’t make much of a coat for a Barbie doll, much less some one as big as me. However, I’d lost my way just as sure as Ms. DeVil did when she ordered the deaths of those 101 precious Dalmatians.

God loves me. He’s forgiven me. But He wants me to be better than this. I needed Him to show me the way back. So, that week as I wrote, I also took some time out to listen. I was still and awaited. And, when I felt His hand on my shoulder, I felt the DeVil in me sling away under His holy touch. It was a good week.

“Be still and know that I am God…”

Monday, February 1, 2010

Putting The Book To Bed

Last week I had a little ceremony to participate in. It was a quiet ceremony attended by only me.
I finished writing, MAN FROM MACEDONIA, MY LIFE OF SERVICE, STRUGGLE, FAITH & HOPE at the end of the summer. The book is at the printers and hopefully by the end of the month, I will be holding the finished product in my hand, yet in my office, I still had my files out and my ‘storyboard’ up on the wall.

With all the editing that had to be done from manuscript to galley, I kept the storyboard up and my files at the ready—just in case. And I’m glad I did, because during the editing process, I needed to go back several times and check a fact or two. When you write a book that spans several decades, let me tell, you have lots of notes and files and photos and interviews and timelines and… the list goes on. And, when your story intertwines with historical events that are very well documented, you need to have your resources on hand, at all times.

But, that’s all done now. So, the very last act for me, as the writer of this project was to pack it all away. It was the putting the horse out to pasture, or the putting the baby to bed ceremony. With the packing and labeling of storage boxes and the taking down of my Post-it Note storyboard, this project came to an official end.

Tears flowed a bit as I looked over my wall. The section headings, once only vague ideas that, three-years ago, were only written in my head, are now forever recorded on the pages of the book. File folders with marker scratchings all over them and stuffed with news clippings, photos, and timelines are now bedded down in two storage boxes taped shut.

My wall is once again empty and needs a fresh coat of paint, by the way. But my file drawer is not. Already about, five or six folders are laying on the bottom, as research has begun on the new book., a novel this time. In fact, eight chapters are already written. I even woke in the middle of the night last night trying to figure out a plot twist. And so it begins.

MAN should be out and available by the end of February. I hope you buy a copy and enjoy meeting a remarkable man. I certainly enjoyed introducing him to you. But now, I have a mystery to solve and a new character to flesh out. And, I’m sure it won’t be long before my wall will be covered in Post its once again. How else will I figure out how a police dog ends up in a graveyard by himself one spooky night? Gotta go, I’ve a new package of bright blue sticky notes to crack open.

Monday, January 18, 2010


I am most pleased and honored to announce that the book I have been working on for the past three years is about to have its day. On February 15, 2010, MAN FROM MACEDONIA- MY LIFE OF SERVICE, STRUGGLE, FAITH AND HOPE should be available for purchase online. Look for it on or on the official webpage at The book should be available at selected bookstores not long after.

This collaborative non-fiction has been a labor of love. Dr. Aaron Johnson invited me into his life and trusted me with his story- a story that inspires and challenges anyone struggling to live their faith out loud.

Team MFM is currently working on scheduling book signings and speaker events for both me and Aaron. If you would like to invite us to your event, please feel free to contact me through this blog. We'd love to share this story with you.

Stay tuned. There's more to come...