We each have a life story, penned without ink, read by the people around us. Who's writing your story?

Sunday, December 22, 2013


Wise men, yet seeking,
Traverse a path
Lit by a single star,
Dim and obscure in the murky dusk.

Making their way, slow and unsure,
Their wondering eyes
Behold the brightening star
As the darkness deepens.

They can only follow.

Their quest? A child, a king.
Each footfall brings them closer.
Could it be,
This is the very pathway to God.?

Yet the starlight fades 
Bringing confusion, uncertainty,
Making the way unclear.
Where is He?

As last the question gives way to destiny.
A word, given long before by God Himself,
Brings joy.
The road, once again,

My heart, seeking still
Oftentimes travels a dusky passage,
Dim and obscure.
And though I, too, pursue the Son of God,
The way seems shrouded in gloomy shadows.
Where is He?

Just as the regal seekers of old,
I find God's very words
A lamp.
A lamp that makes my way sure.
For as my darkness deepens,
My eyes became attracted
To His light.

I can only follow.

Today, I join them,
These that are called wise.
Together, we journey, coming ever closer.
Together, we eagerly await the moment of worship.
Together, we ponder God's Divine Mystery.
Together, we walk this path.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Back to Bethlehem

It's been over four months since my mom slipped into the presence of the Lord. This will be our first Christmas without her. She loved Christmas . . . the decorations, the lights, the smell of freshly baked cookies, and all the preparations for our traditional roast beef dinner. For years she read "The Grinch" from a 1962 issue of Woman's Day to the grandchildren. She also dressed them up in bathrobes and scarves and Dad's flannel shirts so they could act out the Christmas story while one of the adults narrated with Scripture. Together, my parents made every effort to point the family to the birth of the Savior of the world. 

Several years ago now, Mom wrote a short piece first published in Mature Living (December 2002). Christian Devotions has published it during December 2013. I think you'll enjoy every word! "Back to Bethlehem" by Lillian M. Ewert

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

White Lights on a Thorn Bush


Africa's darkness
Pushed aside
As foreign hands
Take a simple manger
From hut to hut.

Passing seasons bring 
Transformed drumbeats
And fearless smiles of freedom
As Emmanuel Himself
Shines in forgiven hearts.


Little children's memories reach
Past empty stockings and their mother's quiet tears
Across the ocean
To scenes of family gatherings and roast beef dinners
Where snowflakes and tinsel dance and sparkle.

And in the African night
Their foreign voices sing
The old familiar carols
With a string of white lights on a thorn bush
To celebrate the arrival of the Light of the World.

This poem is dedicated to my sister and her family who went to Tanzania, East Africa to share the gospel with the Datoog people in June 1997. That first December 25th, they took a small nativity of Christ from hut to hut and read the Christmas narrative prepared with their language helper. For the first time, this village heard the story of Jesus. Over the years, a church and school were established.

I also want to dedicate these words to missionaries all over the world who feel a little homesick over the holidays. May God give you His grace as you faithfully serve the "Light of the World."

Friday, November 29, 2013

On the Heels of Thanksgiving: Black Friday Reflections

Okay, I admit it. I joined all the other brave shoppers on Black Friday. My youngest daughter and I left the house at 9:30 a.m. and headed out to seek our fortune. Best bargain of the day? Boots regularly $84.99 for $19.99. The busiest store? Kohl's. Swarms of people made it almost impossible to even try on the boots! The longest wait in line to check out? Thirty minutes. The hardest place to find a parking place? The underground lot at the Steamtown Mall. We had a good time, joking about the craziness we found ourselves a part of, trying not to lose each other in the crowds.

But we had more on our minds than finding bargains. We also purchased gifts for a brother and sister whose mom's prison sentence won't allow her to give her children gifts. Parents in prison can participate by signing a card for each child in their family. This card, in turn, is given to individuals who desire to help these forgotten children in a tangible way. When the pastor announced this opportunity at church, our daughter jumped at the chance to help. She used the money she earned herself without a second thought.

Maybe this is what Christmas is all about.

Yet, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, shopping, and all the sales competition seem to cause Thanksgiving to fade from our attention so quickly. Before the day's end, we're on to the next thing, wading through holiday trappings to get there. As we anticipate the Babe in the Manger, I hope to carry a thankful heart with me, to "enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations" (Psalm 100:4, 5).

Let's bring the spirit of Thanksgiving into the Christmas season. "Thanks be unto God for His indescribable gift" (2 Corinthians 9:15).

What are your Black Friday reflections?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Mall Stories, Grace Stories

Almost every day, I find myself at the mall. Compulsive shopper? Hardly. I'm there because my dad has to walk. After triple bypass surgery in October, his recovery depends on it. I'm his chauffeur until eight weeks post-op.

Every day, it's the same. We begin our laps outside JCPenney, turn right toward Sears, then pass Old Navy as we head toward Macy's at the opposite end. After about three laps, we find a bench before going around another two or three times. On our "forced marches," as my dad says with a twinkle in his eye, we see the same people. The old guy fast asleep in a chair over his crossword puzzle, the out-of-a-movie cleaning lady with her hair pulled to the top of an expressionless face, the Hickory Farms salesgirl offering free samples, the Bath Fitter salesman pacing in circles around his display. We see walkers, grandfathers wheeling strollers, security guards walking their beats, and sometimes, older couples strolling arm in arm. We wonder about the stories behind the people we see.

On Veteran's Day, after our laps, we went to Applebee's, also at the mall. Veterans received a free meal that day. Dad served in the Navy on the USS Tarawa in the late 1950s. As we entered the restaurant, the Stars and Stripes graced the window. Five flags hung on the wall representing the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard. Tears welled up in my eyes as I watched an elderly veteran hobble in with a cane. Others, filled with pride and memories, crowded the lobby. The manager went from table to table to thank them for their service. I felt proud to be there with my dad.

We both tend to be on the quiet side, but in between the comfortable silences on our route, he tells me my sister called or a friend stopped by with meatballs and pasta. I describe my latest writing project and update him on my kids. Today, as we sat on a bench, he talked about missing my mom and the upcoming holidays without her. I squeezed his hand as emotion choked us both.

Dad begins his cardiac rehab on Monday, so our days at the mall are numbered, but they hold a special place in my heart - and I think in Dad's, too. Last week, he said, "Maybe after I'm driving again, we can meet at the mall to walk." Maybe we can.

It seems to me that real life is a little like our time at the mall. We go by the same places and see the same people every day. Sometimes we find a special event to enjoy or we meet a new friend. As our life stories intersect with the stories of those around us, I hope we will make a difference . . . "faithfully administering God's grace" (1 Peter 4:10).

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Just Say No?

At any given moment, our usually happy, two-year-old grandson, Ty, can be heard yelling, “Nooo.”  Funny thing is, sometimes at the same he’s saying “no,” he’s using sign language to say “yes.” Two little words, all mixed up.
I have a hunch that toddlers aren’t the only ones who are conflicted about “yes” and “no.”

“Just say no” sounds so simple. It’s like saying, “Just sign here,” or, “Just click there.”  Easy, enough. But what does that signature stand for? What are the implications of one easy click? Can one “just say no” alter a life?

I have the privilege of joining Catapult Magazine's current discussion on the topic, "Just Say No." Read the rest of the story at https://www.catapultmagazine.com/just-say-no/feature/the-tug-of-yes-and-no

What's your "yes" and "no" story?

Monday, November 11, 2013


Sweet Sixteen. How did sixteen years slip by so quickly? I'm not sure, but this birthday needed a celebration. So, with a little brainstorming, our daughter and I came up with a plan to celebrate with a few of her girlfriends.

What teenager doesn't want to take great photos to post on facebook or share with family and friends? So . . . on the appointed day, we asked each guest to bring a camera. Kim, our photographer friend (PS Impressions Photography), gave some tips on how to take a good photo. She talked about lighting and how to work with shadows. She discussed balance and the law of thirds. She also gave some insight into viewpoint or perspective. "Choose one subject," she challenged the girls, "and take four photos from different perspectives. Rather than just shooting from eye-level, consider photographing from the side, from the back, from high above, from ground level, from far away or close up. Be creative. See what you can do."

And they did!

After a trip to the local drug store to develop each one's photos, the girls gathered around our dining room table. Each used an 11 x 14 inch canvas, paints, ribbon, buttons, etc. to create a background for their four prints. What a diversity of finished products! Each one captured her subject from various perspectives with wonderful creativity.

I think the way we view life is a little like those four photos. The same "subject" or circumstance can be seen in various ways, depending on our perspective. Will we look through the lens of gratefulness or drudgery?  Will we work to see the positive or settle for the negative? Can we intentionally view our life stories from another angle? A higher perspective, even on the days when everything looks grim?

The next time I take a picture, I want to remember what I learned about photos--and perspective. Elisabeth Elliot wrote, "The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances" (Keep a Quiet Heart, page 20).

What's your perspective?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

More Than Sisters

Labor Day, 1964 - Sarah & Barbara, ages 6 and 3
How did you relate with your siblings as a child? And now?

My Uncle Ed recently gave me an envelope of old photos I hadn't seen before. I don't have many pictures of me as a little girl, so as you can imagine, I treasure every one. I think this one is my favorite. 

Here I am, the big sister. Protective. Reassuring. I would always look out for my little sis. 

And now, we're in our fifties, both grandmothers. I'm still the big sister, I guess. But in reality, the years between us have disappeared. Though separated by miles and life experience, we're still two girls walking hand in hand, leaning on each other, reassuring each other, praying for each other.

Recent photo ( by Kim Passetti)
It seems we've partnered more the last few years as our parents have gotten older. Our sweet mom battled ovarian cancer for nearly two years before she slipped away from us. We miss her in different and similar ways all at once. Our strong dad just had triple bypass surgery. Our commitment to care for both of them has brought us together more often. I'm the daughter who lives nearby, drives the six miles almost daily to check in, and makes the calls or runs the errands. Barb, on the other hand, takes the train or plane all the way from Indiana to stay around the clock for several weeks at a time. 

We're as united as the photos show. I'm grateful for all Barb has meant to me over the years. I admire her commitment, her faith, her love for God's Word, her sweet spirit, and her willingness to sacrifice. I'm glad we look out for each other . . .

We're more than sisters. We're friends.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Perspectives On Aging

So, how do you feel about getting older?

As a child, I loved birthdays. I felt special all day long. My parents retold the stories surrounding my birth, and I never tired of hearing them. I realize now that they gifted me with much more than stories. They let me know how much they loved and valued me as a member of the family. I treasure those memories now.

Back then, I looked forward to getting older. Imagine! 

Recently we visited the home of a young couple. As we pulled into the driveway, the yellow house, the almost-finished barn, the garden patch, and the laughter of children all told a story. A story that brought out the melancholy side of me. I felt a bit wistful.

I remember when two little girls laughed and played inside our picket fence, when the tooth fairy stopped by on a regular basis, when young scientists littered the kitchen table with their projects. Young and strong, my husband and I worked hard to live out our dreams. 

How the years slip by . . .

We're not so young and strong anymore. Life has given us ample blessings to be sure, but realism has pushed our young idealism  to the side. With a lesser confidence, I find myself looking back and hoping we've pleased God in one way or another.

And in the midst of my unsettledness, I run across these words:
The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree . . . Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; They shall be fresh and flourishing, to declare that the Lord is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him (Psalm 92:12-15).
It seems God's perspective on aging is a bit different than mine. While I'm not exactly "old," I have added mother-in-law and grandma to my list of names. "Bear fruit in old age . . . fresh and flourishing" brings my focus around to look forward with expectation. Perhaps to be a voice of experience to "declare that the Lord is upright," that He is a rock, an anchor of hope no matter where our life stories lead us.

I want to bring this promise with me as the years go by. How about you?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Day in the ICU Waiting Room

Today, I’m in the ICU waiting room at one of our local hospitals. I’ve been here for about five hours so far. My dad had triple-bypass surgery. I’m waiting to see him. 

This all came about rather suddenly. I took Dad to the ER Sunday night with left arm pain and chest discomfort. Nothing too bad. It came and went. Dad’s in good shape. He swims a half mile several times a week, takes care of his home, mows the lawn, does the yard work. He never smoked. How could he have three blockages?

My only sibling lives in Indiana. She wanted to be here today but decided she could help even more by coming to stay with him around the clock once he comes home. My mom, after a two-year battle with cancer, passed away two months ago.

So today, I rode the elevator to the second floor alone. 

I felt okay about it. I’m not one to ask people to rearrange their schedules. Besides, I had an article to finish writing and a good book to read. I knew many faithful friends were praying. After giving my dad a kiss and a squeeze (and fighting back a few tears), I found my assigned spot, prayed for the docs and for my dad, and got to work.

After an hour or two, I looked up to find a smiling face in the doorway. A dear friend came—on her only day off—to sit with me. It was wonderful to see her. Time flew as we caught up over hot drinks and granola bars. We laughed together, talked about our kids, and wondered about what the future held for both of us. Before she left, we prayed together. A sweet time in the midst of crisis. 

I’m still waiting, yet it’s been a grace-filled day.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Saturday Exchange

clean water for dirty
white rags for gray

cluttered for space
littered for swept

dusty for shine
smudges for bright

early zip for "I'm zapped"


"I never could have done what I have done without the habits of 
punctuality, order, and diligence, without the determination 
to concentrate myself on one subject at a time."
Charles Dickens
I never could have done what I have done without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence, without the determination to concentrate myself on one subject at a time.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/c/charlesdic121515.html#iGx2Af3Z0PdT0O3u.99I never
I never could have done what I have done without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence, without the determination to concentrate myself on one subject at a time.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/c/charlesdic121515.html#iGx2Af3Z0PdT0O3u.99
I never could have done what I have done without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence, without the determination to concentrate myself on one subject at a time.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/c/charlesdic121515.html#iGx2Af3Z0PdT0O3u.99

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Windows of the Soul

What gifts have meant the most to you? Why?

To me, a gift is more than the essence of tissue paper and ribbon or the element of surprise. A thoughtful gift reflects the giver and his initiative to make a meaningful connection, to share something of himself, always with the benefit of the receiver in mind.

In September 2010, my mom penned some words inside a little book, her birthday gift to me.
She gave me two gifts, really. Her words of affirmation written in the flyleaf, which I treasure more than ever now that she's gone. And the words of Ken Gire in his book, Windows of the Soul.

It's not only what Mr. Gire writes, but how he writes that had my attention from the start. His chapters have nudged me to pause, to take the time to open my eyes, to see beyond the obvious. "Windows of the soul is where God finds us, or where we find Him . . . . He comes to us where we are, speaks to us in our own language, calls us by our name" (page 236).

Mom, through sharing an author she enjoyed, gave me a precious gift, a shared experience. It's a nice feeling to know she and I have read the same words, some of them over and over. Like this story:
Today I [went] to the tracks to pick up a small joy unclaimed from my childhood.
I put a line of pennies on the polished rail and returned later to find them all thin as aspen leaves. I palmed them all the way back to my office, looking at them with such childlike delight I almost stepped in a mud puddle . . . .

No matter how defaced the coin, I could still tell it was a penny. I could tell by the copper color and the round shape and by the faint outline of Lincoln's face that somehow survived the train (page 228).
Sometimes I feel like those pennies, don't you? Flattened by circumstances, grief, and loss, "thin as aspen leaves." Yet no matter how "defaced" I find myself, I pray people will still be able to recognize the outline of God's image and the In-God-We-Trust reality of my faith.

Someday, like my mom, our "faith shall be sight." The ultimate gift, wouldn't you say?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Day After

Every Sunday, 8:00 a.m. will always have a hallowed place in my heart. Each week I will make it a point to glance at the clock . . . and remember. Remember my wonderful mother who enriched every day of my life in a myriad of ways. 

Sunday, August 11 at 8:00 a.m. marked the day Mom stepped into heaven after a long and weary journey with cancer. Finally home. In the words of David Phelps:
No more night; no more pain;
No more tears, never crying again.
Praises to the great I AM!
  We will live in the light of the risen Lamb!
Friends and family came from Illinois, Georgia, Indiana, New York, Missouri, and Pennsylvania. They brought with them words of comfort. They told stories of how Mom touched their lives. They pressed hope into our hearts with their hugs. Local friends dropped off food. Pastors prayed with us. Many cried with us.

Over forty family members gathered at the cemetery on that cloudless Thursday. Each one quietly placed a flower on the casket, signifying their final good-byes. I'll always remember the spontaneous verses of "Amazing Grace" sung by a family who has experienced the story of God's grace over multiple generations.

But when the last notes die away and loved ones have waved their tearful farewells, what then? What does a family do the day after the services, the cemetery, the formal observances?

Sometimes I think God whispers ideas into our hearts.

At 10:00 a.m. on Friday, ten of us (including little Ty) descended on my parents' home with garden tools, rakes, knee pads, and lunch. Under my dad's direction, we  pulled weeds, trimmed plants, and cut grass. Dad had kept up the yard well during my mom's illness, but the weeds seemed to take advantage of his preoccupation the last couple months of her life. In less than two hours, the flower beds and yard my mom loved so much looked immaculate. Dad looked more than pleased.

Something else happened as we worked in the sunshine. We found a sweet solace in our togetherness. We shared a common cause, a united commitment of loyalty that drew us closer. Perhaps our quiet conversations between the flowering bushes or the visible improvements somehow eased the heaviness. Working together and then sharing lunch in the back yard generated hope, and we all felt a little better. 

As we enter the new normal, we already have have some good memories. I think Mom would have liked our idea, too.

What has helped you and your family in seasons of grief?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Remembering Mom: Lillian Marie Ewert May 30, 1936 - August 11, 2013

You gather a handful of seed, God’s seed, and scatter it wide.
You purposely plant; you carefully cultivate.

Some seed falls among rocks,
          Some amidst thorny patches
          Or on the hardened roadside.
But, by faith, you dip into God’s seed basket again and again.
Often the seed lands on good ground—with promise of harvest.

In time, misty shoots and sun-drenched leaves of faith
          Begin their journey upward.
Tightly closed buds burst
          Into fragrant bright blossoms
          And the ripening fruit of the Spirit.

In the seasons of His choosing, the breath of God
          Carries your handfuls far beyond this field,
          Past the ground you see
          To soils beyond your human reach.

Near and far, God gives the increase.

With gratefulness,
          I tend the garden
          You planted in my heart.

*Based on the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13
Mom with her girls, Barb and Sarah, Easter 2013