Posts Tagged ‘Arizona’

Sometimes You Just Can’t Win at Camping

Jeff and I have adopted camping as our favorite hobby to do together–it is inexpensive, plus Arizona and our sister states nearby have wonderful places to visit. Okay, so it’s only February, but according to the weather forecast the temperature in the south of the state would be in the 80’s during the day and the 50’s at night. We set out with optimism for Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. It’s a fairly long drive–perhaps six hours. But we had a book on tape and all seemed well.

Organ Pipe is an international biosphere reserve because of its unique desert conditions. It actually receives a reasonable amount of rain, so it is a fairly green desert habitat. The plants are much closer together than is usual for a desert. The mountains in the background provide a lovely contrast.

And that’s pretty much where the good luck stopped. The temperatures were in the sixties daytime and at

The shy cactus hiding behind the bushes in the foreground is an Organ Pipe Cactus

The shy cactus hiding behind the bushes in the foreground is an Organ Pipe Cactus

night–well, the desert can be mighty cold at night, as we can now verify via personal experience. I brought some nice meals to make at the site, but we managed to forget our camp stove. I decided to take some pictures and found I’d left my memory card in the computer at home and had only the miniscule internal memory. Jeff found a map of a potentially lovely 16 mile drive, which turned out to be 36 miles of the nicest scenery and worst roads in Arizona instead. And the next morning, we had a flat tire, compliments of the rough road.

We finally gave up a day early and came home, stopping in Flagstaff on the way home to see “McFarland, USA,” which was a wonderful triumph-of-the-human-spirit type movie.

And we needed to be reminded that the human spirit can triumph about that time! Anyway, here are a few photos we managed to keep on the camera.


Beautiful Desert Scene

Beautiful Desert Scene

Saguaro Army

Saguaro Army







Saguaro Cacti against a mountain backdrop

Saguaro Cacti against a mountain backdrop


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!

garden 016

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!


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!

The Library on Route 66

ImageImageThe advertisement appeared in the newspaper a few months ago for a Job Help Instructor at our local library. Well, I didn’t know what a Job Help Instructor would do, but teaching is something I know about, so I applied. I didn’t really expect to get the job, but if there was anywhere in Holbrook I would enjoy working, I knew it was the library.

Ours is not an enormous library. It’s not the best one I’ve ever been in, I suppose. But it’s so much, much better than I would have expected for a town of 5,000 people that it delights me whenever I step inside the doors. I’ve always loved the staff there, who go out of their way to be pleasant and will do anything they can for their clients. The library director  (shown above) is talented, creative, and amazingly competent. What she manages to do on our shoestring budget should be studied by the federal government as a model for careful management!

Anyway, I got the job. Turns out that no one else bothered to apply, so I’ve spent the last few months learning to be a job help instructor. What that means is, I’m stationed in the library’s computer lab to assist clients who don’t have computers at home, or don’t know how to do things like write resumes, compose cover letters, apply for jobs on-line, etc. My work is strictly one-on-one for these tasks, and I enjoy it enormously. I love the library atmosphere, and my colleagues are every bit as much fun to work with as I expected. Lots of students come to the lab, too, which allows me to be in contact with young people again, something which a former teacher really misses.

Of course, there is a down side. To say that my technological competence is “limited” would be to flatter myself. But I’m the person on hand in the lab, so when people have problems with technology, I’m the one who gets the questions. I’m much more competent now than I was a few months ago, and I expect to be even better by the time my one-year, grant funded job is finished next summer.  When it is slow in the lab, I get to work at the circulation desk, where–I’ll just be honest here–I’m mostly useless. But my co-workers are cheerful about correcting my mistakes and explaining procedures over and over.  Even though I’m relegated to handling the simplest tasks, I love greeting people who come in and spotting new books I can’t wait to read. 

 I’ve retired a couple of times already from various teaching jobs. I may never have another actual paid position again when this one ends. But if so, what a blessing it is to finish up my working career at the Library on Route 66! Be sure to come in and see us if you’re ever in Holbrook.

A Glorious Spring Garden

San Diego Botanical Garden 108  If you are a gardener, like I am, this is a roller coaster time of year. One day it’s snowy and bitter, the next it’s a balmy 65 degrees and spring pretends to have arrived. A gardener can’t plant anything yet and it’s too early to start seeds for transplants. About all you can do is water on warm days–not a very interesting task. Ugh! Hurry up, Spring!

My kind husband took me with him while he attended a meeting in San Diego last week. I explored a huge garden center there and looked at all the plants I’d like to have that would last about 20 monutes in our climate. I stayed in the room one morning and read a novel. But one day I decided to brave the California freeways and go to the San Diego Botanical Garden. I’m not a very confident driver, but I longed to be in a garden that was already up and growing.

What a delightful place it turned out to be! All by myself, I wandered through from tropical bamboo to desert succulents, thankful to see the bright colors and smell the living earth. Birds appeared to be having a convention of some kind there, and the air rang with their calls. Mm-m-m. Just what I needed. There’s an old poem that concludes “You are nearer God’s heart in a garden than anywhere else on earth.” It felt true to me that day in San Diego.

I thought I’d post a few photos from that garden, just in case you need a taste of spring, too.

What a color!

Both desert and tropical plants and flowers are featured here. What colors!

San Diego Botanical Garden 090San Diego Botanical Garden 093

San Diego Botanical Garden 037



If You’re Hopi and You Know it…

entrance to the festival

entrance to the festival

Lots of Christmas excitement in Holbrook lately. We had the Festival of Trees, in which each organization in town put up a Christmas Tree with the theme of “Arizona History.” If you lived in our state, you’d be very aware that 2012 is our 100th anniversary of statehood. Arizona came into the Union on Feb. 14 of 1912, so the theme makes sense. I particularly liked the “tree” below, which is a large tumbleweed, all decorated with lights. That’s certainly true Arizona! The next night was our big parade, during which we all go downtown and freeze our fingers and toes in the high desert December evening while watching and applauding the lighted floats. We had a great time there, and my favorite float was one from a reservation school nearby. The float itself was just built on the back of a pick-up truck, but the fun came with a gaggle of little children with angel halos and white t-shirts, walking behind the pick-up with their chaperones, singing “If you’re Hopi and you know it, clap your hands!” This from the same folks who brought us the famous motto of a few years back, “Don’t worry, be Hopi!” Yes, you may groan, but small town life out West has humor, if not too much else, going for it! I’m glad to be here.Tumbleweed Tree

Tumbleweed Tree