Dropped Tail Pipe and Muffler

Monday, May 27, 1957

Dearest John,

Monday morning and I am not getting a thing done—sorta let down after yesterday. After reading your letter and hearing about your visit to the Millers, we decided that we would go down for a visit. So Sunday afternoon we ate our dinner then drove down and got back here in time for church. [Sunday evening service] Ed Dillon Jr. had the pulpit yesterday. [Plymouth Brethren share the pulpit between local and visiting preachers] We got to all the morning services, too. So it was a full day for us, and we were all too tired to get up this morning. For all that I am getting done, I would have done better to stay in bed.

This afternoon we (or I) go to the doctor and Mrs. Wolcott is going to take care of the two boys for me. The boys right away asked if they could take “Stories for Children” along to play on her record player and I said that they could.

Winne wants to drive down to commencement on Friday night and then drive right back right after that. If I can work it out I will come along—and leave the children here. That way I will be back in time to get things ready here for the recital on Saturday and straightened out for Sunday. But judging from past weeks, so much can happen in a few days that I am not counting on coming until I am on my way. We’ll not get there much ahead of time, so it will be a short sight of you, which will not be easy. But knowing that you’ll be home Sunday will help.

Yesterday we must have dropped the tail pipe and muffler along the road somewhere. I was careful not to drive above my regular 45 [mph] so as not to have oil trouble, etc. But on the way home the car began to sound horrible. And is it terrible now. I thought of taking it in to Don and Arnold’s but didn’t know if that was a job you would want to do or not, so I’ll stick close to home after today and wait until you get here, unless I hear from you to go ahead and get it done.

There are several of the young people that really need special help and prayer. I feel that that is a ministry I could do and am not doing and so far am certainly just wishing that I would; but haven’t the back bone to buckle down to business in intercessory prayer.

Miserably windy cold day today. I should make a fire, but I keep hoping it will warm enough so that I don’t have to do it.

Dave told me to get the youngsters’ registrations in to camp this year as someone in the meeting is going to pay for them, so I must do that today. They surprise me and are rather reluctant to want to go. They had hoped that we would be there for the whole time, but unless more buildings get finished that is out for at least the first of the season. Rain again most of Saturday at the lake so not much building could get done. It rained here in the afternoon – just when the parade for Michigan Week was to begin. They went on with it, bands playing away in a downpour. I took the youngsters in for it; we sat in the car to watch.

Well, I will close and make an effort to get things straightened out here before I go to town. When problems come up like the car, and a few others, I feel so helpless in knowing what is best to do—and how glad I will be to have you home. Like Jimmy says, “Daddy can fix anything.” But it is not primarily a handy man that I need here. To have your love and fellowship in person will be appreciated more than ever after these months. And still I must marvel at the way the Lord has worked things out this winter and taken care of us.

Always yours, Nellie

P.S. Jimmy and his questions. “Do we have ragged clothing?”
“The shirt you have on now is, but most things are good.” (I thought someone at Millers had said something. I don’t know how he wore that one there.) “Why?”
“Well, our teacher says, God said our clothes are filthy rags.”
So, I tried to explain that.
This morning – “How can we give our money to the Lord?”
“By giving it to people working for the Lord like Aunt Betty or Mert and Jane.”
“Well, how do they reach up to the Lord?”
More explanations. One thing is sure – Jimmy thinks.


Taxes and a raccoon 3-1-57

Wed. morning 2-27-57

This letter is like some my mother writes – all confused as to order.

I promised to take the youngsters to see the wrestling meet tonight at the gym at 4:00. They have been after me to see Dick [Bunce] wrestle all winder. He is still undefeated. I’m sure that I have no interest in going, but will take them.

Duncan Reid is to be at prayer meeting tonight – I think I’ll take the children upstairs for that part of the meeting.

Now I had better get to my washing – a huge one again, but I did get caught up with the ironing yesterday. Winter again this morning. Jimmy is so disappointed as he surely wants to have spring here.

[Thursday 3-1-57?]
The mailman came early again today – maybe he has a new schedule? Before I was out to the mailbox he was on his way. So I’ll answer your nice long letter and put it in with what I had already written.

Sweetheart, don’t feel badly about not writing every day. You just aren’t made that way, because when you do write you tell so many details and include so much that I surely don’t feel neglected. And while I do love to get letters, I have learned to wait, and I don’t want you to feel like it is a chore you must do. And sometimes when I don’t get a letter I just pick up the last one you wrote and reread it and am happy again. I do appreciate having so many details of your work and problems because I don’t want these long periods of separation to draw us apart as far as interests are concerned.

Once more about the dog. The first day and a half around here he seemed very friendly and the children petted him. It was only after Fluff stayed indoors for a whole day that he became cross and frustrated. It took us by surprise. As far as using anything like a hammer [???], I doubt that even you could have done that. I’ve decided that a police dog isn’t to be fooled with when cross. We are keeping Fluff on a chain now, and does she feel persecuted. Walks around outside so dejected.

I got the income [tax] forms, and the only deductions they list are contributions, interest, taxes, medical and dental. Child care. Casualty losses, and misc. Evidently there is another form we would have to get if we wanted to figure everything and not take the flat $600 for each member, and with our size family, I doubt if they are necessary. There is an instruction book available and I will try to get a hold of it. I want to get things done so that when you get home we can get this taken care of.

It will be good to see you on the 10th, a week sooner, and I’m not going to tell the children yet so in case you will be speaking they will not be disappointed. We had rather reconciled ourselves to the 22nd, because I was sure that you would try that, if possible. As I wrote before, I love to see you, but more and more I realize how hard it is for you and it keeps you from producing your best at school.

Sunday morning while we were at the breakfast table, Fluff started barking like she was in a frenzy. I was afraid to look, thinking the dog would be back. How we all laughed when we saw Sandy Bogan’s pet raccoon crawling up the inside of the screen door and looking in the window! By the time we got that taken home, we missed the morning meeting [Lord’s Supper, a communion service] and only got to preaching [second service]. In my own mind I’m not persuaded about the effectiveness of taking all the children by myself to the morning meeting. But I made up my mind to do it, and the first morning you are gone, I missed.

My prayer life has sadly suffered. When I started feeling sick, I started neglecting that, and now I must go back and start where I left off. But that is like writing letters: the longer you put it off, the harder it is to write. But I will pray for Bob.

Brian’s Mother’s Day Prayer


Heavenly Father,

There are bleak moments in our life when it feels as if the world has pitted itself against us. We grow unthankful and our hearts lose hope. It’s usually at these times our mothers give us breakfast and tell us to snap out of it, and we are forced to rejoice at how good we have it.

Father, we can’t thank You enough for the impact and example our mothers have had on us over the years. Their industry, faithfulness, love, discipline, and unworldly care should give us pause to consider there’s more to the story than meets the eye. You have a majestic plan, and in this plan is redemption, and at the forefront of this battle are our mothers.

We can’t pray enough, Father, for protection of our mothers in their role as helpmate and guide. Give them patience and grace in what sometimes may feel like combat in raising their young ones.

Bless the work of their hands in their homes and bring prosperity upon their many endeavors. We as sons, daughters and fathers are forever indebted for Your design of the family and how it beautifully reflects Your kingdom and character.

Bless our mothers who give of themselves completely and selflessly. May we honor them with our love and respect. “Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.”

In Christ’s name,



* In our church we regularly pray for our families and for the nations of the earth. Yesterday Brian, a young dad himself, prayed this prayer for mothers. He gave me permission to share it with you.

Here and Everywhere Adored


Thanksgiving Doxology

O Lord we thank Thee for this food,
For every blessing, every good;
For earthly sustenance and love,
Bestowed on us from heaven above.

Be present at our table, Lord.
Be here and everywhere adored.
Thy children bless and grant that we
May feast in paradise with Thee.

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow.
Praise Him all creatures here below.
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host.
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

All that happens becomes bread to nourish,
soap to cleanse,
fire to purify,
a chisel to carve heavenly creatures.

~ Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Gratitude bestows reverence,
allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies –
those transcendent moments of awe
that change forever
how we experience life and the world.

~ John Milton

I would maintain
that thanks are the highest form of thought,
and that gratitude
is happiness doubled by wonder.

~ G. K. Chesterton

Happy Thanksgiving!

originally published 11/25/2008

Nae the Best, Nae the Worst

I had to push myself –more than once–to read this book.  I saw the cover (cheesy, I thought) and anticipated 703 pages of semi-cheesy writing.  But I love Scotland; I love Columba; I love Iona.  So I gave it a shot and was pleasantly surprised.  The Fields of Bannockburn roams through the history of Scotland in four sections: Columba coming to Iona; Kenneth mac Alpin uniting the Picts and Scots; Queen Margaret and her work of reformation; and William Wallace at Stirling Bridge / Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn.

Donna Fletcher Crow weaves the historical stories around a modern tale of three college students and their friend, storyteller Hamish MacBain.  While I dinna find Mary, Gareth and Brad’s story compelling, I enjoyed the way fiction can bring ancient history to life.  The inner thoughts of the main Scottish characters seemed anachronistic at times, but not so much that I had to stop reading.

There are several ancient prayers incorporated into the story. For example,

The blessing of God be on you,
The blessing of Christ be on you,
The blessing of the Spirit be on you.
O giver of the sweet honey,
O giver of the sour cheese,
O giver of the Bread of Life and Living Water,
Be with us by day,
Be with us by night,
Be with us for Thy service.

What really excites me is the author’s website, particularly the section My Life As a Reader

I had an ideal childhood for a reader. I was an only child, living on a farm. I would take a book out to the middle of the alfalfa field in front of our house, lay down flat and revel in the fact that God was the only person in the whole universe who knew where I was.    

My reading life has always gone by passions, finding a writer I loved, reading everything he or she (usually she) wrote, then feeling absolutely bereft when I came to the end. Much the same feeling as having a child leave for college, I later learned. My passions have included Norah Lofts, D. E. Stevenson, Mary Stewart, Rumer Godden, Elizabeth Goudge and Elswyth Thane with whom I carried on a delightful correspondence just before she died and I began writing professionally.

Donna Fletcher Crow, a former teacher of English literature, lists her most influential authors as Jane Austen, Dorothy L. Sayers, Barbara Pym, P.D. James, and Susan Howatch.  With a list like that, I’d say she is credentialed.

If gardening is your passion, visit Donna’s garden in Boise, Idaho.  A delightful meandering through links brought this great discovery:  The Plot Thickens, a blog devoted to novelists and their garden spots. 


Our baby Noah has pneumonia.  Noah is three weeks old today.

We had an excellent visit with Carson and Taryn and Noah which culminated in worship Sunday morning and lunch at The Cedars, my favorite Seattle restaurant (Indian/Mediterranean food).  As the day progressed Noah’s breathing became more labored.  After x-rays and blood tests, he was diagnosed with a mild case of pneumonia and admitted to the hospital for a few days. 

We didn’t know as we listened to a sermon on I Peter 1:3-9 that God was preparing us for a trial.  But what better words to have ringing in your ears in a moment of crisis than:

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.

Please pray for Noah’s healing and for Carson’s strength and leadership and especially, my dear friends, — especially for Taryn.  It is so hard for new moms when their baby suffers.

From the Lutheran Book of Prayer (I’ve prayed this prayer several times in the past years.  I especially appreciate the second section.):

For a Member of the Family in Danger

O God, our ever present Help in trouble,
we beseech Thee to be with us in this hour of danger and distress.
Keep us calm, confident, trustful.
Thou art with us.
See us through this trying hour.
Let us not doubt that Thou canst help to the uttermost.
O Lord, we put all our trust in Thee.

Thy will be done, O God.
Let it be a gracious will and grant us grace to believe that all is well for time and eternity.
Today we look through a glass, darkly, but there is no darkness around Thy throne.
Even in these anxious moments we praise Thee, because we put all our trust in Thee.

O Lord, uphold us.
Do not forsake us.
Look upon us in mercy and forgive us our sins.

Strengthen our faith.
Give us courage.
Keep us calm and composed.
Bring peace to our souls.
Protect our loved one and, above all, preserve us all in Thy grace
now and forevermore, for the sake of our Redeemer,
Christ Jesus, our Lord.


**UPDATE** After an uneventful day, Noah and his parents are planning on one more night in the hospital.  Things look good and, Lord willing, they will come home tomorrow.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for your prayers.

Someone You Love Will Get Cancer

Or have a heart attack.  Or a stroke.  Someday one of us will be diagnosed. 

I’m not trying to bring in the new year with doom and gloom.  I’m not instilling fear. The point is, we need to prepare our minds before the crisis

We used to listen occasionally to James Montgomery Boice preach, late Sunday nights as we lay in bed in the dark.  His voice was deeper than the ocean and full of gravel.  That voice! I honestly pictured a huge black man like James Earl Jones.  The first time I saw a picture of Boice I about choked.  He was as white bread as could be!  Where did that voice come from?
Curt and I will never forget hearing Pastor James Montgomery Boice’s announcement that he had been diagnosed with liver cancer in 2000.  We were driving in the car and I can remember reaching over to turn up the volume of the radio.  I can see the very farm we passed on our right when I heard these words. 

Boice’s response has been my model–the definitive practical application of the sovereignty of God. Over the years I have searched (and found) the text of his talk.  I’m writing this post so I have a quick way to find it when it is needed. 

The entire text is here.

A relevant question, I guess, when you pray is, pray for what? Should you pray for a miracle? Well, you’re free to do that, of course. My general impression is that the God who is able to do miracles—and he certainly can—is also able to keep you from getting the problem in the first place. So although miracles do happen, they’re rare by definition. A miracle has to be an unusual thing. […]

If I were to reflect on what goes on theologically here, there are two things I would stress. One is the sovereignty of God. That’s not novel. We have talked about the sovereignty of God here forever. God is in charge. When things like this come into our lives, they are not accidental. It’s not as if God somehow forgot what was going on, and something bad slipped by. […]

Everything he [God] does is good. And what Romans 12, verses1 and 2, says is that we have the opportunity by the renewal of our minds—that is, how we think about these things—actually to prove what God’s will is. And then it says, “His good, pleasing, and perfect will.” Is that good, pleasing, and perfect to God? Yes, of course, but the point of it is that it’s good, pleasing, and perfect to us. If God does something in your life, would you change it? If you’d change it, you’d make it worse. It wouldn’t be as good. So that’s the way we want to accept it and move forward, and who knows what God will do?

Boice died a little more than a month after he said these words.  Wow.  Thank you, Lord God, for your servant, James Montgomery Boice.

Please pray for my friend Sonya who mentioned in the comments that her husband was diagnosed with cancer in 2008.

Related post:  After the Diagnosis

Great with Child(ren)

Having two births imminent colors, textures and illuminates this Advent season. 

I have great respect for the complexity and fragility of human life, and never take a healthy birth for granted.  I’ve thought more this year of Mary, awkward with baby, traveling to Bethlehem.  There is no way she could find a comfortable position on or off a donkey.  Really, how would she even get on a donkey? Her first birth, away from family, in a strange place, questionable hygiene, Joseph at her side.  They were not what one would call, in the parlance of medical speak, favorable conditions.

My Oregon daughter-in-law has been in labor through the night.  I am waiting to hear an update. 

Today is her due date.  Tomorrow is my Washington daughter-in-law’s due date.  Deep, cleansing breaths!!

I love the Lutheran Book of Prayer with its section “Prayers for Special Occasions in the Family Circle or in the Life of the Individual.”  In this section is a prayer Of a Woman with Child

O Great God, heavenly Father,
Thou art Creator and Preserver of life.
Marvelous are Thy works.

I magnify Thy holy name for having blessed me.
In humility I appear before Thee
with petitions for my unborn child and myself.
Thou, O heavenly Counselor and Helper,
knowest our needs.
Keep away from us what might be harmful,
and daily bestow health and strength.
Guide me through Thy Holy Spirit
that I may constantly be mindful of my privilege
and my responsibility as a mother.

At all times let me place my trust in Thee
and Thy fatherly care,
knowing that from generation to generation
Thy mercy is upon those that fear Thee.
Grant that, relying on Jesus,
my dear Redeemer,
and His glorious sacrifice,
I may face the future calmly,
and in quiet happiness.
I ask all this in His name.

Prayer for Monday Morning

We need Your help and Your grace
as we are again returning to our daily task.

Grant us true faithfulness in the performance of our calling.

Guard us me against becoming selfish, careless,
and slovenly in the pursuance of our daily work…

Feed us with food convenient for us
and teach us to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.

Grant us that godliness and contentment
without which there can be no true happiness,
let us walk through the things temporal
that we may not lose the things eternal.

For Jesus’ sake.

 ~ adapted from the Lutheran Book of Prayer