The power of a volunteer


Gardening is good for the soul. This year, it has been both challenging and rewarding – but isn’t it every year? We’ve had a lot of rain, producing abundant crops. And weeds.

From one little seed.

From one little seed.

The thing I have learned this year is what volunteer plants can do. While mowing early this summer, I found a little plant growing in the yard near the back step. Since it seemed like a scrappy little thing – and I figured it must be watermelon – I couldn’t bring myself to mow it off, so I cut all around it and let the little plant grow.

And grow it did!

It turned out to be a canteloupe. This is a single plant that grew from one little seed that fell in the grass last fall. At last count, there were 10 canteloupe growing on it. I’ve already harvested one and it was delicious.

Patty pan squach

White patty pan squash. They taste great grilled or fixed in the microwave with a little butter.

Something unusual also sprouted from the compost pile. It turned out to be patty pan squash. I got some from the University Extension garden last fall. It’s a yummy little squash that is also adorable.

Never again will I doubt the value of a volunteer!

Saving June for January



Sweet peas and raspberry brambles growing together in the backyard.

The long, hazy days between summer solstice and the Fourth of July – aren’t they just the best.

The raspberry crop is exceptional this year, thanks to abundant rainfall. With an old ice cream bucket slipped over my elbow, I’ve been picking piles of them. The overflow has been packed in containers and preserved in the freezer.

Always, the date is carefully penned on the lid.

berry 2

Setting a little bit aside.

Some day deep into winter, I’ll pull it out of the freezer and think about June 25. A day when I was preparing for the future.

I’ll remember a soft summer night when the fireflies twinkled and I walked barefoot through the grass to pick raspberries.

And smile because of a small slice of June saved for January.


The mail comes through



Pony Express rider delivers the mail mochilla

The mail arrived in St. Joseph from Sacramento on Saturday. The annual re-ride of the Pony Express route left California on June11. Riders carried the mochilla filed with 65 pounds of mail around the clock, retracing the route the riders took in 1860.

The last riders galloped over the Missouri River on U.S. Highway 36 with a police escort on Saturday. Those of us waiting at the Patee House Museum cheered as they rode up the hill. It really was something to imagine that mail bag traveling on horseback all the way across the country. For that first trip 154 years ago, I can understand why the people were amazed.

Gary Chilcote, right, the curator of the Patee House Musuem.

Gary Chilcote, right, the curator of the Patee House Musuem, with the riders after they arrived in St. Joseph.

Just about everyone had a camera on Saturday. Fans young and old crowded around the riders, asking about their trip and petting the horses.


Opening the mail.





Last year, I got to see the send off from St. Joseph headed West. This year, I got to see the opening of the mail pouch. Actual letters were carried on the route, wrapped in duct tape to keep dry. I met one woman who saw the sendoff in Sacramento, then discovered she would be visiting a friend in Kansas when the re-ride would reach St. Joseph, so she came to see the ceremony.

The annual re-ride has lasted a lot longer than the original Pony Express. I don’t think we’ll ever get tired seeing the mail come through.



The Civil War and A Quilt Shop


I’m on vacation this week! Things started off with a bang – sort of – on Saturday.100_2211
A couple of friends and I went to a Civil War reenactment at Kingston, Mo. It was rainy morning and by the time we got there, the battle had been rained out. We visited the campground and a few displays, but it was a pretty soggy affair.

Then, we went to the Missouri Star Quilt Co. in Hamilton, Mo. This is a fascinating story about how a family-run start up has transformed a small town. Hamilton is the birthplace of J.C. Penney – the man who founded the retail chain. One of the several quilt shops is located in the old Penney’s store.

IMAG0969We especially enjoyed visiting the shop filled with reproduction fabrics, including those from the Civil War era.

No surprise that the day also involved chocolate milk shakes and long conversations.

This vacation is already shaping up pretty good!

~ Susan


Be a pepper


True – my word for 2014 – has been impressed upon my heart in many ways so far this year. I’ve found myself thirsty for The Word. Often in the evening, I’ll open my Bible to find what is the truth in a world of shifting values. Scripture has been encouraging and convicting.


Some of the old dried peppers, then new life on a dead plant.

And it’s made me fascinated by this chili pepper.

I wrote about how I moved this plant inside this fall and enjoyed its bright red chilis into the deep of winter. Along about March, the leaves shriveled and died. The peppers dried out. Spiders started building cobwebs over it. All well; it lasted longer than I thought it would.

No need to keep around a dead plant, so I set the pot out on the porch. It was also about this time that I came to terms with some personal disappointments. The little chili had come to symbolize defying the odds, so when it died, it seemed a fitting way to bury that hope and move on.

This spring was especially cold. It might have even snowed on that tropical pepper. But spring finally arrived and with great joy, I gathered new flowers and went out to the porch to make a fresh, bright beginning. When I reached to uproot the dead pepper stalk, I stopped short.

It was alive. A little green leaf sprouted from the bottom.

And I’ve been noticing how God makes it clear that in order for something to live, it must first die.

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels – a plentiful harvest of new lives.” John 12:24

Paul said, “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” Galatians 2:20

“Since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him.” Romans 6:8

There is no resurrection until there is a crucifixion. This makes me really uncomfortable. I’d rather talk about “surrendering” my will to God, or “committing” my dreams to him, or “offering” my life. But this dying business takes it to a whole new level.

Still, God says to die.

And then truly live, because Jesus – who is himself truth – said he came to give life. I want new life, but I’m still coming to terms with how I am to die to my self and my desires. But this chili pepper gives me hope that God loves to defy the odds.

My hope is that I can be a born again pepper.

Grandma’s lemon cake


lemonadeYesterday, I wore a floral print top to church – in honor of my Grandma Violet’s birthday.

Grandma loved bright colors and floral prints. (I inherited her sense of style, just ask my sisters.) And she loved having us all over for her birthday, which often fell on Mother’s Day as it did this year, to enjoy her delicious cooking and sit on the patio and enjoy her flowers.

Chatting with my sister yesterday, she mentioned it was her turn to take treats to Sunday school, so she made Grandma’s lemon cake in honor of her birthday. Several people in the class said their grandma made that cake, too!

It’s a simple and delicious dessert that tastes just like a sunny spring day.

Grandma’s Lemon Cake

1 lemon cake mix
1/3 c. oil
3 eggs

1/3 c. frozen orange juice concentrate
1 c. powdered sugar

Bake cake mix according to directions. Mix orange juice and powdered sugar for glaze. While cake is still warm, poke lots and lots of holes in it with a fork. Pour the glaze over the top. It tastes best to prepare the night before and let it get really moist. I’ve also used pre-made orange juice and it works just as well.

Rocking my floral prints, Grandma style.

Rocking my floral prints, Grandma style.

When I grow up, I want to be Louis L’Amour


My brother Dave gave Dad a treasure trove this Christmas – a grocery sack filled with paperback Westerns.

The picture of Louis L'Amour on the back of every book in that sack.

The picture of Louis L’Amour on the back of every book in that sack.

Like flies around honey, we swarmed over those books, trading book reports and literary opinions. I helped myself to a few Louis L’Amour titles. As I read one, I realized why so much of my idle youth was spent dodging desperadoes and chasing gunslingers through the pages of a paperback. Man, that guy is a good storyteller! And he was a prolific writer. Last year, I re-read another classic I loved - Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey. I picked up a very interesting piece of news at the American Christian Fiction Writers conference in Indianapolis last year. I met with an agent who told me Westerns were coming back in popularity. So there’s this idea in my head… Susie-4022-EditPSThis week as bloggers we’re to answer the question, “When did you know you wanted to write?” Growing up in a family that goes through books by the sackful, I don’t think I can pin that down. But I can say I have a fresh itch to write a Western that Dad and Dave would enjoy reading. Maybe one Christmas, I’ll put that book in a paper sack and give it them. ~



Back at the BSU and looking forward


The BSU house at Northwest Missouri State in Maryville, Mo.

Baptist Student Union – BSU – had a tremendous impact on my college experience. The friends made there, the truths discovered and the fun times shared continue to affect my life.

Last week, the BSU at Northwest Missouri State University invited the alumni to attend the annual senior night. Campus minister Jason Yarnell and his wife Karen were in BSU when I was in college, so I was delighted to visit and show support for their ministry as well as to encourage the graduates.

It was so much fun to hang out with my old college roommate and other friends from college. Seeing Jason and Karen minister so sincerely was inspiring. I was especially touched to see some young adults who I had known as very small children now active in a college ministry.

Graduating seniors shared their testimonies. One young man is Northwest’s first graduate with a degree in nanoscience. A young woman will enter the mission field. Another graduate testified he is led to serve through his work at an amusement park. A woman with a degree in agriculture will be working on the family farm. Others will be teachers and business workers and a few are still on the job search.

How well I remember those scary moments at the end of college where the future seemed like a big open-ended question mark. I am encouraged to see these BSU alumni heading out to diverse fields to carry the light of God’s truth through their careers.

I am looking forward to hearing the testimonies they have to share 20 years from now.


My faith may be on life support but ‘God’s Not Dead’


By some miracle, our local theater is showing God’s Not Dead. A friend and I went to see it this weekend.God's

I would recommend this movie which depicts a college student’s attempt to stand for his faith against a philosophy professor, then the impact his decision has on others. The movie itself moved kind of slow with a plot based mostly on dialogue. The ending, however, was well worth it. Our whole theater joined the Newsboys in singing “God’s Not Dead.”

Much more than a night at the show, my faith needed a shot in the arm. No big crisis, or even anything that anyone else would notice. Just those discouraging things that make me question if it’s worth it to keep trying.

I needed to hear shouted from the big screen in stereo surround sound, that even if it feels like my dreams have breathed their last, “God’s not dead!”

I needed to stand in the moonlight of my backyard at 11 p.m. and see that even though I feel alone, the “heavens declare the glory of God.”

I needed to learn from my Sunday school teacher yesterday that even when my prayers go unanswered, to “keep on praying” (Romans 12:12) and to remember that “his ways are not our ways.” (Isaiah 55:8)

As I write, this latest release from the Newsboys came on the radio. This Easter, no matter what else, I believe.

When writers get together


The Called To Write Conference this past weekend proved to be every bit as enjoyable and inspiring as I expected – and even more! Connecting with the Pages From Stages crew – all of us except Cherie – was as fun as always.Many other writers have become friends that I get to catch up with each year.

See more photos here on Facebook.

Julane and Kathy celebrate

We celebrated writing successes for Kathy Gronau and Julane Hiebert with sparkling juice.

Called To write Conference

Julane getting ready to open a session. She and the rest of the committee do an outstanding job.


Called to Write conference

This is my favorite photo from the weekend. Look at all the ways it shows writers connecting and building friendships.

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