Archive for the Personal

Sunday, December 21st, 2014

46 years


Forty-six years. That’s a long time of God demonstrating his faithfulness and goodness.


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Monday, December 15th, 2014


IMG_2214Nineteen years ago today, we were in the lounge outside the library in the old church building–sitting, standing, pacing, sitting again, standing again–waiting for the door to open for the entry of our daughter into our family.

That was a day that changed our lives. We can’t imagine life without our Talitha.

In the evening, I leaned over her crib and for the first of hundreds of times sang her hymn to her.

Children of the heav’nly Father
Safely in His bosom gather;
Nestling bird nor star in Heaven
Such a refuge e’er was given.

God His own doth tend and nourish;
In His holy courts they flourish;
From all evil things He spares them;
In His mighty arms He bears them.

Neither life nor death shall ever
From the Lord His children sever;
Unto them His grace He showeth,
And their sorrows all He knoweth.

Though He giveth or He taketh,
God His children ne’er forsaketh;
His the loving purpose solely
To preserve them pure and holy.

Praise the Lord in joyful numbers:
Your Protector never slumbers.
At the will of your Defender
Ev’ry foeman must surrender.

“God sets the solitary in a home” (Psalm 68:6).

Thank you, Father.


The series that tells our adoption story begins here.

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Thursday, November 27th, 2014

The Thanksgiving gateway



Thanksgiving Day is winding down. This year I’ve thought of Thanksgiving as the gateway thrown open to Advent, which is the pathway to our celebration of Jesus’ birth among us–Jesus, who through his life, death, and resurrection is for us the way the truth and the life–our greatest cause of thanksgiving.

This year, as is often true, the first day of Advent falls on the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend. Then for the next four weeks, it’s as if we’re re-enacting, remembering the thousands of years God’s people were anticipating and longing for the coming of God’s salvation, for Jesus. That’s what advent means — coming. (Read the rest at Desiring God’s blog page, including some thoughts about Advent candles).

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Saturday, March 8th, 2014

Is proofreading a sin?

Today is National Proofreading Day.

I’m a pretty good proofreader, though I’m not sure that’s good. I get way too much pleasure in discovering other people’s imperfections.

But maybe that’s my problem, because here are just two examples of what happens when there’s no proofreader.

burpless or burp less


First, here’s the bottle of capsules I would  buy because it’s least expensive. But really! I don’t want to just burp less. I want to be burpless.


Second, lest we think that’s no big deal, Mr. Adrian Monk warns of the corrupting, irreversible generational affect:

“I’ve never understood why Bill is short for William,” interjected Stottlemeyer. “Where does the B come from?”
“Why is Bob short for Robert,” I said. “Where does that B come from?”
“Misspellings that went uncorrected and, as a result, went on to contaminate the entire English language,” Monk said. “Let that be a warning to us all on the importance of proofreading.”

Today is National Proofreading Day. Proofreaders, keep your hearts pure and minimize your glee as you wield your slashing red pens. Readers, go find a proofreader to hug.

(And if you discover any errors in this post, keep it to yourself. I dish it out better than I take it.)


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Monday, November 25th, 2013

Best Christmas trees around

Running to treeschristmas tree farm


If a driver on Washington Pike has a second to take his eyes off the narrow curving road, at the intersection with Childs Road, he’ll see acres of finely trimmed Christmas trees.

That’s just one of the rolling fields of House Mountain Christmas Tree Farm, begun in the early 1990s by my uncle and aunt, Zach and Norma Henry. This video and article from early November, when people were already starting to come to Childs Road to cut their own trees, give an idea of some of the connection and memories that make the farm so much more than just a business.

Some people even make 2-day journeys to get their trees. One year 2 families from the same county in Mississippi showed up in the same field, neither knowing the other was coming.

Beginning this Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, Aunt Norma will have free cookies, hot cider, and hot chocolate out  for tree shoppers at:

6300 Childs Road, Corryton, Tennessee, 865-687-0324

(Note: Google maps is wacky on this one. On Google, you need to search 6280 Childs Road–that puts you at what’s really 6300. Other maps may be correct.) Childs road isn’t long; look for the big red mailbox on the north side of the road–or just follow the other cars to the most beautiful trees around.

If you’re in the neighborhood (or wanting an enjoyable drive), stop by and Aunt Norma will point you in the right direction for the tree you want. Pick up a saw, pick out a tree, cut it down, and come back to pay for it and enjoy the goodies. Tell her her favorite niece Noël sent you. Maybe that will get you a couple of extra cookies.

Weekends, just down the road, in the field near Washington Pike and Childs Road, there’ll be a tent where I’ll have out some items for sale: hand-knitted cotton dishcloths, decorative eyeglass chains, and Christmas star ornaments. Ask Aunt Norma how to get there.


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Monday, November 11th, 2013

Praying and waiting — Mary is there

mary olson

Our niece, Mary, works at the Bethel International School in Tacloban City on the Island of Leyte in the Philippines. Tacloban was at the point of Typhoon Haiyan’s landfall this past weekend.

We prayed and waited as the typhoon approached and then hit and swept its way through the city and across the island. Then we prayed and waited for word from or about Mary and her colleagues. (Photo: Mary on right, with some fellow teachers.)

In roundabout ways, Mary’s parents received the good news that Mary and her coworkers are safe. We are giving thanks for that. But all around them is destruction:   “All school buildings heavily damaged and most things used to make a school function lost. Hopes for miraculous reopening in January.”

Bethel International School

Bethel International School

Bethel, after Typhoon Haiyan

Bethel, after Typhoon Haiyan









News reports and pictures & pleas from survivors give us here some small idea of how bleak the devastation is and how vast the death toll–10,000 or more. That is Mary’s neighborhood, her city, her friends, her school children. I’m imagining Mary doing everything she can to help her neighbors, but with few resources.

tacloban_destructionThere is a way we can help Mary and her coworkers be Jesus’ hands there. Bethel International School is part of Converge Philippines, an affiliate of  Converge Worldwide, our denomination. Converge has created the Tacloban/Philippines Typhoon Fund.

I am thankful there are numerous excellent relief organizations. But I commend the Converge Typhoon Fund in particular this time, because “funds will be disbursed by our Philippines missionaries in consultation with Converge Philippines president Ildefonso Alfafara,”  and “churches and pastors there are already delivering food, water and other vital supplies. Our co-laborers are well positioned to serve as relief centers and deliver a gospel message.” Mary is one of those co-laborers.

We continue to pray and wait, to hear how God is working.

Lord, please protect Mary’s emotions, her spirit, her health, her strength, and her faith.

Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

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Saturday, October 12th, 2013

We have no more children who are children

As of yesterday, our last child who was a child crossed the line into official adulthood. I love you, my beautiful daughter.

talitha 2 months


























talitha 5 months


Talitha 2 years

















Talitha 4 years






















talitha in hammock chair













whole family














j-n-trp portrait























jp, np, talitha - 2009


talitha bday



















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Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

Latecomer to Narnia

c s lewis

2 October 2013: The audio of my presentation is available online now.


Last weekend Desiring God held its 2013  National Conference–The Romantic Rationalist: God, Life, and Imagination in the Work of C.S. Lewis. Friday afternoon was filled with 10-minute Small Talks. I used my slot to think out loud about my introduction to Narnia and the effect in my life.


I’m the oldest of 10 children. Of course, in a household that size, there were plenty of responsibilities for all of us kids. Any one of us standing still with empty hands was a target for the dreaded, “Oh, you’re not doing anything. . .” followed by something to do.

Fortunately for me, it was understood that homework was a priority. That became my retreat—not mainly for doing homework which I finished quickly, but for reading. My fat, boring history book was a cover—literally—for the library book of the day, and the skirt of my chair was the screen to hide my contraband pleasure shoved hurriedly under the chair when I heard parental footsteps headed my way.

From the time I could read, I did. I can still tell you most of my favorite books from the library shelf at the back of each grade’s classroom in our country grammar school—The Little Girl with Seven Names . . . Little Lord Fauntleroy . . . Caddie Woodlawn—stories I could sit down and enjoy again today. They must have been good books, because as Lewis said,

A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.

But no Narnia. I hadn’t heard of C. S. Lewis or Narnia. God was saving me from Narnia. The hour had not yet come. I think that at that time, I would have gulped down each Narnia story at one sitting and then raced on to something new.

Then came the day in 1965 when Narnia’s hour was drawing nigh. I stood on one side of a door, and waved goodbye to my parents and brothers and sisters. Then I turned and walked through that open portal and disappeared from their sight and was transported—not quite instantly—from the Atlanta airport to O’Hare—my first ever flight.

There in college, I entered a world I had never known—a story I had never lived. Almost all the characters were close to my age. Once in a while, I heard my parents’ distant voices calling into my fantasy world, mediated faintly through an invisible agent whose magic incantation was “number please” (no dial phones yet in my small hometown and phone numbers of just 3 or 4 digits). They were far away.

But in my every day story? I wrote the plot. Yes, there were class schedules and professors, but I chose when, where, how, and whether to obey. I was free.

My problem, though I didn’t realize it, was that I didn’t know who I was in this new story and what role I played. I didn’t know what character I was.

I fell without much thought—and certainly no effort—into being Peter Pan. I reveled in this life. Fun. Friends. Freedom. No responsibility. My motto was “I don’t want to grow up.” I thought that was cute.

So, for example, if the night is sweltering and there’s cool water spraying up right there in the center of the campus lawn, why not dance with friends in the fountain—until the oldest college trustee hobbles up and ends it furiously, “What are you? A bunch of existentialists?”

Francis Schaeffer had been on campus one of the first weeks of my freshman year. The main thing I took away from his daily chapel messages was that he was the first person I’d seen in real life wearing knickers, and that when other people would have said pseudo-intellectualism (if they even used that word), he said suede-o-intellectualism. I had pretty much no idea what he was talking about, except that existentialism—whatever that was—was not good. I didn’t realize until later that Peter Pan could be the poster boy for existentialism.

(By the way, if you want to know one of the big differences between me and my husband, here’s a good place to mention it. I hadn’t met Johnny yet, but he probably really dug what Dr. Schaeffer was saying.)

But what I dig—then and now—is stories. Stories speak to me. My mind stays with me when I’m hearing a good story. I learn so much from stories—about God, life, people, places, relationships.

And now Narnia’s hour was upon me. At Wheaton, the sainted name of C S Lewis hovered in the air. People spoke casually about Narnia as if that was where they’d vacationed last summer.

If this were fiction, I’d tell you about the earth-shaking moment when I turned the first page of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Truth is, I don’t remember actual reading the Narnia books. What I do remember vividly are particular moments in the stories and what happened to me and in me afterward.

Just recently, I was chatting with one of our 8-year-old grandsons about the difference between adults acting like children in a good way—childlikeness—or in a stupid way—childishness.

For me, the most memorable moment in Lewis is a picture of that difference. Here’s the setting: Aslan humiliated, slaughtered. . . Susan and Lucy grief-stricken at the impossible. But then:

There, shining in the sunrise, larger than they had seen him before, shaking his mane. . . stood Aslan himself.

The awesome, mighty, living Aslan invites them to climb up high onto his back. And here’s my quote:

It was such a romp as no one has ever had except in Narnia; and whether it was more like playing with a thunderstorm or playing with a kitten Lucy could never make up her mind.

There it is: childlikeness at its best. A romp like a child, yes. Playing like a child, yes. Playing as with a kitten like a child, yes.  A lion as playful and soft as a kitten, but at the same time a kitten as perilous as a thunderstorm—“Of course he’s not safe, but he’s good.”

I wasn’t changed overnight, but I began to trade Peter Pan for Lucy. I understood Lucy, and she was the kind of person I wanted to be—With all the best traits of a child—brave, loyal, curious, truthful.

But not perfect, and so Lewis’s Lucy made me look at myself through clearer eyes. In Prince Caspian, when she sees Aslan, but the other children don’t, when she can’t persuade them to go toward Aslan, I say, “NO! Lucy! Don’t follow them. Go to Aslan!” And yet, I wonder, What would I have done?

Narnia was one of God’s good tools, turning me from childishness toward the desire to be childlike.  The kind of child that can enter the kingdom of heaven.

That led me toward imagination. Imagination is childlike and Narnia opened my heart’s eyes to imagination—not make-believe, but imagination. My second favorite Lewis scene is Narnia’s creation in The Magician’s Nephew. It’s a long and glorious chapter. Here’s just one small part:

A voice had begun to sing. . . . Its lower notes were deep enough to be the voice of the earth herself. . . . It was beyond comparison, the most beautiful sound [Digory] had ever heard.

Then two wonders happened at the same moment. One was that the voice was suddenly joined by other voices; more voices than you could possibly count. . . . The blackness overhead, all at once, was blazing with stars. . . . The new stars and the new voices began at exactly the same time. . . . You would have felt quite certain . . . that it was the stars themselves which were singing, and that it was the First Voice, the deep one, which had made them appear and made them sing.

Sometime after reading that, I walked along a Wheaton street one dusky evening. Peering through the twilight into the next block, I saw a regal collie—one of my favorite kinds of dogs. As I came closer, the collie melted back to what it really was—a pile of golden autumn leaves.

Ashes to ashes. But in between is life. Leaves to leaves. But in between, my imagination was wakened to see a glorious Narnian creature. I could hear more and see more.

The last most memorable scene in my top-3 came when I traveled to Perelandra, the planet that hadn’t yet experienced sin. Ransom is wandering alone through an Eden-like forest of unimaginably luscious fruit.

As he let the empty [fruit] fall from his hand and was about to pluck a second one, it came into his head that he was now neither hungry nor thirsty. . . . What desire would turn from so much deliciousness? But for whatever cause, it appeared to him better not to taste again. Perhaps the experience had been so complete that repetition would be a vulgarity—like asking to hear the same symphony twice in a day.

Why do I remember this passage? I don’t know. Maybe because the thought was so foreign—not to take a second helping of a glorious taste? Maybe because I was grasped by the idea of something so perfect?

And that’s a good place to end—with perfection—where God means to take his people. He uses many means to get us there. And for me, Lewis’s fiction has been pictures, tastes, experiences that are shadows of what is to come.


The DG National Conference main sessions all are available free online in a choice of video or audio only.

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Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

Hope and the dream

When I posted the video of Noah’s story yesterday, I didn’t realize that today would be the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream.”

If you haven’t listened to Dr.King’s speech yet today–or even if you have–I hope you’ll take a minute to hear it from the mouths of hundreds of young people who are living and learning that a person’s character is not measured by the color of his or her skin. The video is especially moving to me because our Talitha attended Hope Academy for several years and  here we see young men and women who were children with her then.

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Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

One story

silhouette child jumpsilhouette boat

Last weekend was a special time for me with family– in-laws, cousins, nieces, nephews, children, grandchildren. Next weekend is the Labor Day holiday.

That means it’s time to turn my eyes to the fall. And that means Together for Adoption 2013 is just around the corner with 6 general sessions, 60 workshops, 50 exhibitors–all there because of One Story. That’s “the story of God the Father forming his family from every tribe, language, people, and nation,” as young Noah’s wisdom reminds us in this video:

I’ll be in Louisville blogging the event Friday and Saturday, October 4-5. I’ll also be there for the Preconference events Thursday, October 3.

It’s a good time to register. I hope you’ll be there and look me up.

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Saturday, June 15th, 2013

Hidden art in a hayfield


The long walk to the mailbox yesterday evening was pointless if letters  The Hidden Art of Homemakingwere the only goal. But it was far from fruitless from Edith Schaeffer’s outlook of taking pleasure in the everyday beauty around you.

Almost hidden in the hayfield were a couple of stalks of bright orange butterfly weed in the neighborhood of lots of delicate fleabane. At least, I think that’s what those wildflowers are called. Tell me if I’m wrong.

Whatever they’re called, they brighten our breakfast table.

There’s lots more about our new place where we’re living this year at my travel blog–Tell Me When to Pack.

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Sunday, May 12th, 2013

Dear birth mother on Mothers Day

johnny, noel, talitha



A few years ago, I wrote several posts about our adoption story. (They start here.) So you’ve heard from me, and I hope you’ve realized our gratitude to God for bringing Talitha to us and us to Talitha.

What you might not have heard yet is Talitha’s own heart.

This morning, she got tired of waiting for me to finish sleeping late and slipped onto the bed beside me with a kiss and a perfectly chosen card, and even better, her own thoughtful note written inside.

Later this afternoon, she sat on the living room floor leaning against the sofa where her daddy was sitting. She was intent on something she was writing on her computer.

Only later, when I opened my own computer, did I realize what she’d done. I went straight up to her room to hug her and thank her.

I suspect that some of you are birth mothers whose children are in another family now. This has been a hard day for you. I pray you might receive Talitha’s words of love and thanks as if they had been written directly to you.

Dear Birth Mother,
I have no idea what you are doing right now or even where you are. But know, you are on my heart, especially today. Today I celebrate not just one mother, but two. Two mothers who have been there for me in different ways. One has nurtured and taken care of me since I was 2 months and the other is you. . . .

(read the rest of Talitha’s post)

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