Thursday, April 5, 2012


Anyone who’s been to my house anytime from spring through fall knows that I love to garden. When we moved here six years ago, my flowerbed space was filled with waist-high weeds (which would be shoulder-high on most of you!) Though it was hard to envision what could be, I knew I had to start by pulling all those weeds. It was an impossible task, but since when did I, Super Garden Woman, give in to impossibility? I donned my cape (er, I mean my dust mask) and braved the dangers of hay fever to bring some order to the jungle. It took a couple of years, but by the second year I had more flowers blooming than weeds, and thus deemed the project a success.

Now, you can start a flower garden from seeds, or from having a disobedient car that won’t drive past a nursery without turning in, but the best way to increase your blooms is by cross-pollination. That doesn’t mean that you frown at your flowers and scare them into producing more, but that the pollen from one plant is transferred to a different plant. Flowers are sexual beings, and the male pollen on the anther of one flower needs to be moved to the female stigma of another flower. This is necessary in the fertilization process of flowers.

So how does this happen? It doesn't take a moonlit night or quiet, romantic music. Sometimes the force of the wind can carry the pollen from one flower to another. God also designed it so that butterflies, bees, hummingbirds, and even flies are involved in the process, though they don't even realize it. They're just busy going about their normal, daily routine of trying to get food. In their quest for their favorite nectar buried within the flower, they unintentionally rub against the pollen-producing stamen, getting pollen stuck to their body. By moving on to another flower, a portion of the pollen rubs off their body and onto the next plant's stigma. It makes for new, strong flowers.

At this time of year, with Easter on Sunday, our thoughts naturally focus on the cross. As Christians, we realize that it is central to our belief in the saving power of Christ. The cross and resurrection are what brings us salvation, freedom from the power of sin, and the assurance of spending eternity in heaven. But we're not supposed to keep that news to ourselves--we need to have cross-pollination. The truth we have must be carried to another person in order for the gospel to spread.

Just as pollen can be spread by a gentle breeze, so too can the word of God be spread by the Holy Spirit, which is often represented by wind in the Bible. But God also uses us to carry out His rooting of a new life in another person. Just like the insects He uses to fertilize different plants, we may be going about our daily routine, not aware of how God is using us. As we feed on the nectar of the Word of God, we can’t help but have it “stick” to us. As we interact with other people around us, God’s love, peace, joy, etc. also rub off on them. We are pollinating other people with the power of the cross, fertilizing the work God is doing in their lives. 

So the next time you’re out working in your garden and you see a big bumble bee cruising in and out of flowers or notice pollen floating in the air, just remember that God has called you to be a cross-pollinator too. The message of the cross of Christ is the life-giving pollen for our world.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Book Review of Exposed

Exposed, by Ashley Weis, is unlike any Christian novel you’ve ever read.

First, there’s the subject matter—pornography and the effect it has on women whose husbands become involved in viewing the material, as well as the women who “star” in the projects. The novel changes point-of-view with each chapter, alternating between a Christian wife and a young woman involved in the industry.

Then there’s the language used in the book. Don’t get me wrong—there’s no cursing or use of profanity, but there are words that are nitty-gritty and don’t usually make an appearance in a Christian novel. However, they are necessary to the plot, and are not used in a vulgar manner. It’s realistic writing.

Exposed exposes the secrets that some people try to hide for their whole life. It shows how easy it is for vulnerable young women to become enslaved to this lifestyle. The tension and deep hurt that pornography brings to a marriage is shown. This is something many women can identify with.

The chapters are short, which means one always has the time to read at least one more! The writing is tight and descriptive. Ms. Weis has tackled an extremely difficult subject with much realism, grace, and hope. I highly recommend this novel, and hope she continues to write many others.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Series of "It Could Have Been Worse" Events

Late Sunday afternoon I looked forward to fixing dinner for some good friends who were coming over for dinner and games. No matter what we eat, and whether we play Hand and Foot, Five Crowns, or Rummikub, the four of us always have a fun time together.

I poured a bit of oil in the frying pan and set it on the stove to heat before browning the chicken breasts. Then it struck me--it was time for a new profile picture for my Facebook. So back to the other end of the house I went to find John and ask him to be my photographer. He gladly obliged and spent probably five minutes snapping away.

Suddenly, the blaring belch of the smoke alarm roared through the house. I ran down the hall toward the kitchen.

Black smoke churned in the corners of the living room. I yelled, "I've got a fire!" and heard John running behind me as I entered the kitchen. Flames danced against the blackened backdrop of the frying pan. I used a towel to pull it from the element, and the flame burned out.

We threw open every window in the house and I ran around like a mad woman, flailing a towel and trying to push the smoke out the windows. John got fans started.

We surveyed the damage to the stove.

What a stupid thing I did, right? Turning the stove on and forgetting about it a minute later is not something I want to start doing!

But let me tell you about my husband's reaction. He is such a sweet man of God. He didn't yell at me or even raise his voice, nor did he call me any names. No anger at all, at least that I could see. I, of course, was apologizing all over the place as I tried to drive the smoke out of the house. He graciously helped clean up the immediate mess. We got the blackened wall above the stove cleaned up, and evaluated the damage. John got on line and figured it would be over $200 to replace the melted knobs,bubbled display, etc.

We managed to get things aired out enough to not poison our guests when they arrived. I served a delicious dinner, in spite of the accident and adrenalin of an hour earlier.

Then I went to make coffee to accompany dessert. The first pot started burbbling part way through its cycle, and we ended up with grounds in the finished product. Threw it out. Made a second pot. It not only burbbled, but overflowed, running down the cabinets, which appropriately had a coffee stain applied at the factory!

It seemed that everything I touched fell apart that evening. No one wanted to take a chance of being on my team for games that night!

The next day I went to Walmart to pick up the $138 monthly prescription that I have to pay for out of pocket. When I unpacked the bags at home I couldn't find the medicine. John and I searched all over, including my car. I called the store, but no one had turned it in.

I was heartsick. Not only had my mistake the day before cost us around $200, but now I was adding a $138 mistake to it. I didn't know how we were going to cover these unexpected costs, as at my age, I'm much too old to make money standing on a street corner!

An hour later the pharmacy called to inform me my bag of medicine had just been turned in to them. Praise the Lord! And John checked things out on the computer and found he could get replacement parts for the stove for just under $100. What an answer to prayer it was to have God take care of situations I'd created for myself.

(Just last week I had lost my Blue Tooth and had no idea where it could be. I did the usual search of my car, purses, and jacket pockets. Between my mom and John, they decided he should check the car again, and sure enough, he found it between the seats.)

I've tried to figure out why I'm suddenly "losing it." Is it just from getting a bit older? (No, I'm too young to get older!) Not enough sleep? (No, I'm sleeping well.)

Then I realized that for the past thirteen months I've been under a lot of stress due to various family situations. I've never felt the need to cry about the pain caused by these bad decisions made by others. It's not like I'm stuffing it inside, as I talk freely to friends about what's going on. But for some reason the tears won't come. I've decided the stress is coming out in my brain cells--that I'm losing them!

So I'll try to cope by paying extra attention to the things I'm doing, knowing that my mind can easily wander. I know the Lord will take me through even this, though I certainly look forward to the time when things settle down, perhaps by the end of summer.

Meanwhile, Christina told me I should go see a therapist. "It would be a lot cheaper in the long run, Mom!"

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Feed the Birds, Tuppence a Bag

Don't I wish that it only cost a tuppence for bird food as it did when Mary Poppins was around! Where is that gal when you need her?

Spring has definitely taken up residence here in Western Oregon. We always have birds that stay over the winter and don't head south to Arizona with the other wimps, but it's so nice to see the return of those that have been gone.

Only problem? They're eating me out of house and nest! I have four different types of feeders hanging along the eaves of my porch, and it's almost a full-time job to keep them filled. A beautiful pair of doves spends hours a day browsing along the patio edge, nibbling on leftovers the finches, nuthatches, chickadees, juncos, pine siskins, and others are scattering from the feeders.

Today I reached a new level. I'm not sure if it's a high or a low--you'll have to tell me. The "sock" that the finches love to eat from was spilling seed. When I checked it, I saw that some little finch, badly in need of a manicure, had torn holes in the netting of the sock. So, as the Bird Woman of Ashberry Lane I felt called upon to take my needle and thread out there and do a little sock darning. (Like I asked, high or low?!) Yes, I know the easy solution is to simply buy a new sock, but I'm not going to town until tomorrow and I didn't want the bird buffet to be lacking anything today.

Reminds me of the wonderful verse in Matthew 6:26 where Jesus says, "Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?"

Or as The Message puts it, "Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds."

Careless in the care of God--what a great way to live!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Feelin' Groovy

Several decades ago, when I was a teen, one of the cool sayings was “groovy.” If I remember right, it originated with the surfing community. But even we landlubbers used it. “Look at that cute guy over there—he’s so groovy.” (Nowadays the term would be applied to me, but only when talking about the deeply etched lines on my face!) Groovy connoted fun and youth, a carefree time of life.

I’ve recently reconnected with feelin’ groovy. I attended a recent writers conference and the key-note speaker, Robin Jones Gunn, talked of the necessity of a schedule. Since I don’t work outside the home, it’s easy for me to think I have all the time in the world. Yes, I have a writing project I need to work on, but first Iread the newspaper. Answer e-mails. Check Facebook. Get a cup of coffee. Look through a magazine. Wander over to Facebook again. Before I realize it, I’ve frittered the day away and have little to show for it. I needed to find my groove.

I contrasted two words in the dictionary—groove and rut. I tend to think of them as being very similar, and it’s true. Some of their definitions could be interchangeable. But in reading through the possible meanings of both words, I believe groove carries a more positive connotation.

Groove is defined by Webster as “a situation suited to one’s abilities or interests; top form.” (I find it interesting that groove is squeezed between groomsman and grope!) Rut, on the other hand, is “a monotonous routine.”

We talk about cars driven on a rutted road, trapped and unable to go anywhere but in the predetermined tracks. We get in a rut when it comes to cooking, making only the simple meals we always turn to, afraid of trying new recipes. Our relationships can get in a rut when we only hang out with the same people all the time, or do the same ol’ activities with our families. Let’s try something new. Jump out of the rut and into a groove!

How much better to live in a situation designed for our unique abilities and interests, where we can work in top form. Where there is a purpose to what we do, rather than just existence and going through the motions, frustrated with the emptiness of life.

Jesus (if He spoke in the words of The Message) says, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

He’s telling us to get out of the rut and into the groove—the unforced rhythms of grace. So next time you see me, feel free to ask if I’m bogged down in a rut or feelin’ groovy. (And while you’re at it, get me some of that expensive wrinkle cream!)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Oregon Sunshine

These past four days have felt and looked like spring. Birds jostle one another for the best spot on the bird feeder, kind of like when you show up at Olive Garden without being able to make a reservation. Bird songs from the surrounding fir trees are a beautiful accompaniment to the blue sky and sunshine. (Yes, I said sunshine!) Bulbs are poking their joyous heads up to take a look at their surroundings.

And people feel the difference too. Yesterday the grandkids were outside on their bikes and skateboards, with "Angel" learning how to go down our steep driveway from the upstairs house to our downstairs house on her tricycle. Then the three of them headed down to the lower meadow to play Hide-n-Seek with the cat. Christina even got away from her computer and mowed the lawn.

Enjoy these glimpses of happy faces in the Oregon sunshine. We'll savor it while we have it, as we're aware we usually get one last snowstorm in March.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Review of The Pastor's Wife, by Jennifer AlLee

This friendly, smiling face belongs to Jennifer AlLee,
author of The Pastor's Wife, which was published by
Abingdon Press this month. I first met her on line, then in person at an ACFW conference. I remember her excitement when she was able to post what her book cover would look like. And no wonder--it's a beautiful cover! I love the way the "i" in "Wife" was supplanted by a church steeple, foretelling the feelings of Maura, the pastor's wife in the story. I'm a former pastor's wife, so was immediately drawn to the title.

Jennifer, can you give us a little preview of The Pastor’s Wife?

Maura Sullivan never thought she’d see Granger, Ohio, again. But when circumstances force her to return, she must face all the disappointments she tried so hard to leave behind; a husband that ignored her, a congregation she couldn’t please, and a God who took away everything she ever loved.Nick Shepherd had put the past behind him. At least he thought he had, until the day his estranged wife walked back into town. Intending only to help Maura through her crisis of faith, Nick discovers his feeling for her never died. Now, he must face the mistakes he made and find a way to give and receive forgiveness.

As God works in both their lives, Nick and Maura start to believe they can repair their broken relationship and reunite as man and wife. But Maura has one more thing to tell Nick before they can move forward. It’s the thing that finally drove her to leave six years earlier, and the one thing that can destroy the fragile trust they’ve managed to rebuild.

What made you want to write this book?

I served as a church secretary for many years which definitely gave me a unique perspective on the lives of a pastoral family. I worked at two different churches. One was a large denominational church, the other much smaller and non-denominational. But the lives of the pastors were quite similar. There’s always another meeting to go to, or one more person that needs counseling. People feel very possessive about their pastors. This usually manifests itself in positive ways, but sometimes it crosses a line. You have to watch out for that. And the pastoral family faces challenges no one really thinks about. They basically live in a glass house and are expected to be active members of every church activity, whether they’re interested in it or not.

When I was working on the original concept for this novel, I thought about the pastors’ wives I’ve known over the years. They’ve handled themselves with amazing grace under pressure. But what if another woman couldn’t? What if a young woman thinks she knows what she’s getting into, but the reality of losing who she is and becoming a “pastor’s wife” is more than she can handle? What if some other tragedy pushes her over the edge? Would she run? And what would happen if she had to return to the scene of her heartbreak years later? All those questions eventually became The Pastor’s Wife.

You grew up in Hollywood. How did that happen?

My grandparents met on the vaudeville circuit. Grandma was a dancer and my grandfather was a concert violinist from Hungary: Duci deKerekjarto (how’s that for a last name?) Duci immigrated to make his mark in Hollywood, which is how our family ended up there. He remained friends with another Hungarian performer, a Shakespearean actor named Bela Lugosi. (Yes, the original Dracula.) Bela died before I was born, but my mom remembers sitting on his lap and calling him Uncle Bela.

My own minor brush with fame came on the day I was born. Michael Landon Jr. and I were in the same hospital nursery in neighboring bassinets. My Aunt Karen nearly passed out when she realized proud father Michael Sr. was standing at the window next to her!

Thanks for stopping by, Jennifer! The Pastor's Wife is an entertaining read, full of clean romance and restoration. It might even give you a new appreciation for what your pastor and his wife face!

Jennifer's next scheduled blog tours can be found at:

Christine Cain - http://liztolsma.blogspot.comFebruary 17 - D'Ann Mateer/Five Bazillion and One - http://fivebazillionandone.blogspot.comFebruary 19 - Miralee Ferrell - www.miraleeferrell.comFebruary 20 - Edwina Cowgill/Musings of Edwina - http://musingsofedwina.blogspot.comFebruary 22 - Pam Meyers/A Writer’s Journey - http://www.pammeyerswrites.blogspot.comFebruary 23 - Debra Vogts/Country at Heart - http://deborahvogts.blogspot.comFebruary 24 - Ane Mulligan/Novel Journey - http://www.noveljourney.blogspot.comFebruary 25 - Christa Allan - 26 - Peg Phifer/Sips 'n' Cups Cafe - http://www.sipsncupscafe.comFebruary 27 - Jeannie Campbell/The Character Therapist -

Contact Jennifer in cyberspace:
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You can purchase The Pastor's Wife online at: - -