Who I Am

Lessons from a Lifetime

Writer

I began writing stories as soon as I realized I could put words together—at perhaps 7 or 8. At age 10 or so, I spent my spare time carefully copying my stories into the black-and-white marbled notebooks of the day. They were westerns, based on the comic books and movies which filled the rest of my spare time.

By the time I graduated from college, my dream was dead—killed by years of literature studies and a course in “creative writing” taught by someone who really didn’t know what creativity or writing was.

Years later, my parents were moving from the house I grew up in and asked me to “clean out my stuff.” Embarrassed by the crudity of my childish efforts, sure my muse had died, I took a deep breath and threw all those marbled notebooks into the trash. I still regret it.

For the muse hadn’t died, after all.

First, I had a volunteer job which involved writing letters. Lots of them. I learned to write on the typewriter…a handy skill when computers came along. Then I put a quarterly newsletter together. And loved it!

When I lost that job, I turned to writing small pieces for my church’s newsletter. Then doing the whole thing. Next, my pastor encouraged me to go to a Christian writer’s conference where I learned what I should have learned 20 years earlier. At last, I had found my niche and my calling.

But God’s timing is perfect: in those 20 years, I had also learned a lot that I could write about.

My first article was published in 1982. Since then, I’ve had hundreds of publications in (mostly Christian) magazines. I began writing my weekly column for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle in 1985.

When you write a weekly column, the first couple of years are easy. After that, you must go deeper and farther afield for stories and ideas. By now, faithful readers could probably tell you more about my life than I can. But always there is a theme, a moral, a point.

And that’s the point.

Wife

My husband and I have come a long way from a young couple who met at a college in Pennsylvania. We married over 50 years ago, right after graduation, sharing a dream of the West.

We took off for the mountains we’d dreamed of—in his Nash Rambler station wagon with far too many miles on it, packed full of camping equipment–including his 7x7 Boy Scout tent with an Indian head painted on the side—and $300 in our pockets.

Oh, we had adventures—lots of them—but we got clear to Oregon and back to upstate New York where he was going to graduate school in the fall. We were flat broke, but happy. It was the trip which formed our lives.

After finishing his degree, my husband went to work for the space program, which ambitious scientists and engineers did in the 60’s. It was there he found his work and his calling. Our lives involved another stint in school–U of Montana, where our love for the West was cemented–and then a move to Erie, Pennsylvania, where the job was.

In 1978, we decided to create our own job, came to Bozeman, Montana and started a high tech company. That is a whole saga on its own, as anyone who’s tried it knows. Eventually, his company found its feet and its niche, doing business all over the world, enabling us to go places and see things we never dreamed of.

He was able to sell his company and retire in 2011.

Mother

Of all the things I’ve done during my rather long lifetime, being a mother was and is the most important.

Over the years, I have become what writer Ann Voskamp calls “a velveteen mama”—one worn thin with the rubs and scars of many crises and mistakes—but well-loved and loving anyhow.

I have had the joy of watching my two sons marry Montana girls and grow into middle-aged men with children of their own who share our western outdoor tradition—riding horses, skiing, hunting, hiking.

They are also growing into the faith we all share, which delights this mama’s heart.

Three of our four grandchildren live here in Bozeman so we’ve been able to watch their soccer, basketball, volleyball games, school programs—and done lots of chauffeuring.  The fourth lives in Boise, Idaho—a place to which our car knows the way all by itself.

I try not to tell too many stories about my family but they do sneak in every now and then.

Christ Follower

I came to my Christian faith step by step, the way lasting lessons are learned.

I grew up in my mother’s Christian Science church. By the time I was in college, I had some serious questions about their teachings. But, unlike many students today, my questions led me into a more orthodox Christian faith instead of away from it.

Going to church was such a part of the culture of the late 50’s that the girls on my freshman dorm floor decided we would attend every church in town until we found one we liked. The liturgy of the Lutheran church was strange and overwhelming to me that first Sunday. I wanted to run out of the service…until the pastor opened his mouth.

He preached to the Big Questions we wrestled with: who am I? Why am I here? What does God want with my life? I was hooked enough to memorize the liturgy long before I understood or assented to it.

During the winter of that freshman year, when the bloom wore off the rose of my shiny new college life, those sermons became my lifeline.  The faith they opened to me has been present ever since—through the ups and downs of married life, raising children, cross-country moves, and everything else.

I married in the faith and raised my children in it. It is my joy to watch my grandchildren growing into it, as well. And, yes, my church family is still Lutheran.

But following Christ has never been a road-to-Damascus, lightning-bolt-from-heaven thing for me. My faith ripened slowly over the years, like a friendship blooming into love…nurtured and encouraged by many pastors and teachers who continued the learning and growth that first pastor started.

I hope what I’ve learned along the way will likewise help and encourage you.

Why I Write

I began writing stories as soon as I discovered I could put words together—probably second grade or so. Early applause from my teachers lit the flame.

My childhood was spent in the world of story—books, comics, movies—and stories I created myself. I still love books. I always have one on my lap and several more stacked up and waiting.

My favorite genre is a well-written historical novel. Give me a sympathetic, rounded main character, an interesting plot and I’ll follow you anywhere, learning about another era as I go. I soon realized, however, that, while I love to read fiction, it’s not my gift.

It took me a while longer to understand that essays are my talent…and that I can use that gift for God’s glory. Like all good fruit, it’s taken a while to ripen.

My goal now has become to share what I know, what I’ve learned and am learning, in the way I can do it best: the written word. I want to reveal the God I have come to know: the One Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Years ago, I had the privilege of visiting the museum of the Book of Kells at Trinity College, Dublin, in Ireland.  It was slow, quiet morning when I could drink it all in to my heart’s content. I was delighted to find a poem written by a ninth century monk who compared his work to that of his cat, Pangur Ban, while hunting mice. It ended:

‘Gainst the wall he sets his eye
Full and fierce and sharp and sly,
‘Gainst the wall of knowledge, I
All my little wisdom try.
Practice every day has made
Pangur perfect in his trade.
I get wisdom, day and night
Turning darkness into light.
(Translated from the Old Irish by Robin Flower)

“Darkness into (God’s) light:”  That was the poet’s commission – his goal.

It’s mine, too.