A Red Face and then some!

There we are in the photo below, looking respectable and entirely clergy family-ish, right? Okay, so I didn’t realize I had my hand inside the pastor’s shirt, but hey, no big deal. Though we don’t always succeed, Jeff and I try to maintain some level of propriety. But sometimes the ol’ red face is destined to win.

Last Monday, Jeff and I drove to Show Low , where he had some business. I had business, too–shopping. A lovely little royalty check had recently come in, and I needed a couple of items of clothing. While Jeff went off to do his thing, I marched straight for JC Penney’s and the clothing section.

After picking out a pair of trousers, I also saw some dresses that appealed to me. They looked just right for church, and they were my size, too. I picked out two or three of them and went into the dressing room. Alas, the manufacturer had cut those silly dresses much, much too small. Short of a miracle, I wouldn’t be wearing those dresses to church.

My ego had had enough. I packed up my purse and the trousers that still needed to be checked out, hung my jacket over my arm, and gathered the dresses to take back to the return rack. A clerk stepped forward to assist me when I left the dressing room, and we chatted for a moment.

I realized Jeff had probably finished his business already and was waiting at the appointed restaurant. I flew out of the store and trotted across the parking lot toward it. Halfway there, I felt something flutter against my leg. I looked down and saw–gasp!–SALES TAGS! I’d left the store with the trousers lying over my arm along with my jacket.

Had I paid for them? Nope. I’d simply walked out with them. I felt sick, and, to be honest, I even considered just going to my car to avoid the embarrassment of what I knew I needed to do. But could I ever wear the pants later, knowing they were stolen, however accidently? Not a chance. And I needed them.

So back I went, worrying every step of the way that someone would jump out from between two cars and yell, “Thief! I saw what you did!”

Once inside the store, I nearly ran down other customers in my rush to the checkout. Even there, I could have just kept my mouth shut, paid for the pants, and no one would have been the wiser.

They say confession is good for the soul, and maybe it is true. Anyway, I couldn’t help blurting out my tale of accidental larceny to the two women behind the counter. They thought it was  funny to begin with, and when I told them I was a minister’s wife, they thought it was even funnier. They regaled me with similar stories and certainly did their best to make me feel better.

But all the way back across the parking lot, I kept thinking one thing: What if someone had seen me leave the store with those trousers? What if a store security person had apprehended me? What could I possibly have said?

“Yes, I stole them, but I didn’t mean to?” Oh, right. I’d draped my jacket over the pants as if to conceal them. No one would have believed me. I wouldn’t have believed me, either, for that matter. I’d have been charged with shop lifting and probably convicted as well.

I shook my head and groaned every few steps all the way to the restaurant.

“What’s wrong?” Jeff asked when I got there. “Why is your face all red?”

“You’ll never believe what just happened,” I began…..


At Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore near Munising, MI

At Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore near Munising, MI



Out West for Reals

Another Resident of the Real West

Another Resident of the Real West

Sometimes I forget where I live.

Like everyone else, I get busy with church and garden, meetings and work, and I forget that I live in the place my Midwestern parents always called “out West.”

And then something reminds me. The other day, for example, driving home to my ordinary neighborhood, I saw some folks standing out in their yard, talking with a friend who’d ridden up on his horse–cowboy hat, boots and all. He wasn’t acting like a cowboy–he actually was one.  Out West for reals.

This morning I went out in my yard for something, and there was our first daffodil of the season. On February 12. Dorothy, I thought, you are simply not in Kansas anymore!

About a week ago, Jeff and I drove out to see the Little Falls of the Colorado River. It isn’t normally very impressive, but this time, it was fantastic because we’d had a good bit of rain and water was plunging over the rocks, roaring like Niagara Falls. Oh, yeah. Seasonal rivers, from torrents to trickles depending on the time of year. Out West for reals.

Great Falls of the Little Colorado River, muddy brown as chocolate milk!

Great Falls of the Little Colorado River, muddy brown as chocolate milk!

And on our way home, we saw a little herd of sheep, grazing, which could of course happen anywhere in the country, except that these sheep were not fenced in. They happened to be on Navajo land, where free grazing is quite common (see steer, above). I didn’t envy them what they were eating, but they looked happy, healthy, and content.

Sheep with lambs, munching on desert plants.

Sheep with lambs, munching on desert plants.

And as we were leaving that area, we looked across the high desert to see the San Francisco Peaks in the distance, one of the sacred corners of Navajo lands. Out west for reals. How glad I felt to remember where I live once again!

San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff, AZ

San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff, AZ

The Squirrel Season

One Day's Harvest

One Day’s Harvest

Oops–does my title sound as if I’m hunting for squirrels? I promise that’s not the case, but I am imitating the activity of the squirrels right now. Translation? My garden is coming in in full force. Winter is not far behind, so I’m trying to store up as much food as I can for that time when nothing grows. Just like the Midwestern squirrels I used to watch as a child–I’m getting ready for the days ahead.

It may very well be stubbornness–or something even less flattering–that has caused me to move to one of the driest and least hospitable places for growing crops in the entire Southwest and then take up gardening. But I never had time to do it before. Now I do, and the garden has rewarded us generously.

I love to see pretty jars of canned food lined up in a storage cupboard or on a countertop. You can’t beat the flavor of the fresh tomatoes, corn, and potatoes you harvest at 4:30 and serve at 5 pm. My freezer bulges with loaves of zucchini bread and bags of home grown pumpkin for our Thanksgiving pies. This year, I discovered that our warm Arizona garage is the perfect place to dry herbs, too, so this year’s dill dip will be made with our own dill. It’s kind of fun to be a squirrel after all!

My favorite produce this year came from a peach tree my son Joe and I planted three summers ago. At the time it was not much more than a stick that barely reached our shoulders. This year, despite a late frost that nipped most of the blossoms, the tree (now higher than my head) produced a total of three lush, delicious peaches. Next year, I tell myself, will be the bumper crop. Provided the frost doesn’t get too aggressive, of course.

Our church organist tells me the apples are ready at her house, and we can have all we want. Applesauce, apple butter, apple pie filling–yum! You’ll find me in the kitchen again this week, making like a squirrel. Come on over–I have a peeler with your name on it!

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Fresh-Dried Dill, Sage, Rosemary, and Parsley. No Thyme, sorry.

Fresh-Dried Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Dill. No Thyme, sorry.

First Peaches from a Tree we Planted Ourselves. A red-letter day!

First Peaches from the Tree We Planted Ourselves. A red-letter day!



Valentine’s Party at our House. You can tell that folks want to eat, not have their photos taken! We had a very nice time visiting and playing a few games.

New Happenings in Holbrook


We’ve been here long enough now to see community events repeat themselves, which is fun for us.

  • On Friday night, we participated in Jeff’s big Kiwanis event of the year, Quiz Night. He brought the idea from Guam, and it went really well last year. I notice people this year were referring to it as the “annual” quiz night, even though it only happened once before. People seem to like having a contest that isn’t athletic in nature, just for the change. We rounded up 26 or 27 teams of six people each this year, including two teams from our church. My team tied for second place but unfortunately didn’t get the right answer to our run-off question, so we were officially listed as Third Place. Anyway, we had a fascinating night trying to figure out the answers to our Arizona-themed questions and we donated the prize of $25 per person to Peace Lutheran Church! A picture of us is above.
  • I’m having  bit of trouble with my new blog, which focuses on gardening in this impossibly dry area where we live. I hear from people that they sign up to follow it, but never receive their notices of it being published. It’s a BlogSpot blog, so if you know anything about them, feel free to write and tell me how to do it better! (http://gardeninginnorthernarizona.Blogspot.com)
  • We’ve had baptisms lately–two young adults in the last two weeks. John Perez, who is a guest of Bread of Life Mission down the street from our church, requested baptism after our new members’ classes. He is about 23 and has been making his way alone in the world since he was in his early teens. His spiritual growth has been very rapid since coming here. Emily Eavenson was baptized on Sunday, which also happened to be her 16th birthday. She took the decision very seriously and spent a good bit of time with Jeff, asking questions and discussing their answers. But she was ready on Sunday and embraced her new life in Christ with great enthusiasm. It’s fun to see this sort of spiritual development among our younger people.


  • I got some good news this past Saturday. There’s a new store going in here in Holbrook called the “Tractor Supply Store,” which sells all sorts of things for farm and ranch life. I’ve spent about two weeks helping folks fill out on-line applications for this new business. On Saturday, I spoke with the manager, who told me he’d hired three of my candidates! I get very wrapped up in the lives of people who come into my lab for assistance, so I was just plain delighted to hear of these new jobs for ‘my’ folks.
  • One of the women from my lab, who comes in to do schoolwork for an on-line course she is taking, has been urging me to come and see a basketball game here in town. Her son plays and is quite skillful. So, on Friday night, Jeff and I went to see our first basketball game in something like 15 years! The last time I went to games regularly was back in high school, and there are numerous rule changes and other differences from that long-ago time. What a good time it was to see the wonderfully athletic and energetic striving of the home team! And we won, which made it an especially exciting experience. The team out here looks different from the Midwestern teams we grew up cheering for–more Native American and Hispanic kids playing, more Native American and Hispanic parents in the bleachers. But there is the same desire to stand up and shout for your team. We’ll probably go again–it was fun.
  • Jeff’s out of town at the moment, appearing as a witness in a court hearing–something he doesn’t enjoy doing at all. He’ll be back tomorrow and undoubtedly will be happy to get home!
  • I went out to trim some raspberry bushes in the side yard, and sure enough, there are little buds breaking out where the lateral branches will eventually be. I wish I could tell the plants to wait a while, but they’re apparently tired of winter, too.
  • We’ve been feeding birds this winter, hanging the feeder on the same hook as the hummingbird feeder of the summer months. It happens to be right outside our dining room window, and what a show those birds do put on!

Whatever is occupying your winter, I hope you are enjoying it! Blessings from Holbrook!


New Every Morning


You know the quotation from Lamentations (it may be the only one you know from Lamentations, if you’re like me!) about God’s compassions being new every morning? The verses conclude “great is thy faithfulness.” Here’s a little story about the truth of those verses.

The last half of 2013, while personally happy for Jeff and me, made us a little nervous. We’d hoped for more growth at church, more people in the pews on Sunday mornings, more involvement in Bible Study, more hearts open to learning. We love each one of our wonderful members, whose faithfulness has been steadfast in the extreme, I need to point out. Their sacrifice for their church has been a model. But I think some of them were also wondering if this was going to work! A former student of Jeff’s from NAU said to him a while ago “What are you doing here in a place like this?” which didn’t build his confidence, though it was meant lovingly. Satan was obviously working overtime to discourage us.

Peace Lutheran has grown, of course–just very slowly. I’m not bragging to say that this has never happened before in Jeff’s ministry, just stating a fact: it simply hasn’t. We know many of the reasons why churches here are slow to grow–the size and stability of the town, with little movement in and out taking place, the preponderance of the LDS membership locally, and so on. But growth’s been so slow as to be worrisome at times. We’ve had to abandon our modest vision for church growth in favor of trusting that God had the ultimate and best vision. Wouldn’t you think that would be an automatic mindset, given the years we’ve worked in the Kingdom? But it wasn’t. We needed to learn–really learn, not just in theory–a lesson in trust ourselves.

And recently, several things have happened in our own hearts. We’ve come to trust more deeply than ever before that high growth or not, our congregation will be fine, and we will be fine in it. As we’ve trusted more completely and left Peace’s growth or lack of it in God’s mighty hands, we noticed something curious happening. The numbers began to go up just a little. Some more folks began to attend from the community. Because Jeff conducts Saturday night chapel there, the numbers of folks from Bread of Life Mission has also risen, just a little. I can’t help but see the connection with God’s lessons in trust.

We realized also what a blessing it is to have small numbers, but the chance to go deep with members who wish to grow. My hyperactive (in a good way) husband plenty to do here between church, Kiwanis, and the Chamber of Commerce. I have a job I love at the library and a garden that could feed three times as many people as it feeds now. We love living in Holbrook, which may not be the most beautiful town in Northern Arizona, but which is certainly one of the friendliest. Optimism replaced concern in our hearts. Numbers began regularly swelling into the 30’s and sometimes even 40’s instead of the 20’s (Could 30+ people be called a “swell? Or at least a faithful insect bite?)

Last Sunday, we took in new members, whose pictures are above (I hope none of you is in the Witness Protection Program!). Just a few new members, not dozens. But they’re sincere, earnest Christians, whose faith will strengthen Peace Lutheran and build up the family of faith here. For the next two weeks, we have an adult baptism each Sunday. And those will also be sincere commitments, a fact which delights us. We’re hopeful again, but we’re letting God write the script, not trying to take the pen from His hands to write our own. We needed to learn this lesson, and I’m grateful that he took the time to teach us. Indeed, His compassions are new every morning!


Who’s that Knocking at my Door?

ImagePicture this: it’s late on Christmas eve, and the last of the expected family members have just arrived. In the midst of our hugs and laughter, the doorbell rings. We pull open the door, wondering who would have the audacity to come at this late hour, on this special night. Outside the door in heavy fleece and Green Bay Packer cap stands our son from Guam, Andrew. He wasn’t expected to make it back half-way around the world, but he’d taken some vacation from work, spent some time with friends in Texas, and then got to Holbrook on Christmas Eve. After the tears and the welcome embraces, I asked my daughter if she had known he was coming. “We all knew except you and Dad. We couldn’t wait for him to get here!” What a welcome surprise he was! Other than our sadly-missed granddaughter, Kayla, who was in Washington, we were all together for Christmas. What a gift!

But another surprise would add to the joy of Christmas dinner the next day. Matt and Arlene announced their intention to marry within the next year! Every face at the table reflected happiness at the announcement, none more so than Matt and Arlene themselves.

Our new daughter-to-be was born in the Philippines, the eldest child in a large and beautiful family. She’s lived in the US her whole adult life, is an engineer by training, and works at Chase with Matt, though in different areas. To our delight, she’s an active Christian with a tremendous heart for others. And she’s fun–enthusiastic, smart, and up for anything. This couple realize they aren’t children any more, and they both know how fortunate they are to have found one another. We know, too, and are so pleased by their relationship. We’re looking forward to a wedding soon. You can see the happy couple in the photo below.


And finally, the Johnson clan is shown below:


Hope all your Christmas surprises were good ones, too–and Happy New Year!