Tempted to give up on Lent

[Blog Post Rerun from 2011]

Long ago, I gave up giving up for Lent. Don’t get me wrong; I know that fasting and self-denial are profound spiritual disciplines. I also know that I did it wrong. My weak attempts at giving up during Lent ended up reduced to a 40-day weight loss program.

About the same time I gave up giving up for Lent, I was introduced to the idea of taking on during Lent. For example, adding more time for Bible reading. This approach fits me better.

This year, though, I was tempted to skip Lent altogether. It has felt like Lent ever since October when I was laid off. I wanted to skip over Lent and skip on to Easter.

Then I was blessed with the invitation to write a Living Lutheran blog post on Matthew 4:1–11, the story of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness. As I studied the text, I marveled how God’s word offers sustenance for a hungry heart.

Jesus resists temptation remembering the scripture he knows by heart: “One does not live by bread alone,” (Deuteronomy 8:3). “Do not put the Lord your God to the test” (Deuteronomy 6:16). “Serve only [God]” (Deuteronomy 6:13). The text demonstrates the difference between “memorized” and “known by heart” when Jesus resists the tempter’s use of Psalm 91:12.

I closed my eyes to remember the scripture I know by heart, including John 3:16–17 and Psalm 23, which my heart sings as “Shepherd me, O God” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship 780). I opened my eyes to hungrily reread all the texts for the day and the suggested hymns, too. I realized what I needed to add during these 40 days. I need to bring home my Sunday and Wednesday church bulletins and study–engage–the scripture and hymn texts. I trust this journey will add to what I know by heart.

Sue Edison-Swift
March 8, 2011

Posted in Devotion, Lent | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2018 Epiphany Letter

Last year, which felt like a decade shoved into 365 days, wasn’t all bad. We share our highlights, below. At the end of the post, find a slide show of a few of our favorite pictures from 2017.


On December 2, we adopted Sam-the-Dog. About 18-months old, he’s a full-grown, 54-pound adolescent. A likely mix of Shepherd, Rottweiler and Husky, Sam is a herder, not a guard dog. He rarely barks, preferring to vocalize, sounding a bit like a whale. He was a stray, so we don’t know his back story. It took a couple of days for Sam to be comfortable with soft things: carpet, dog beds, his designated couch, and toys. Audrey—the family friend and vet who brought Hank-the-Dog to Annie and Sean—watched the videos of Sam meeting all of us, including Hank, and liked what she saw. Her advice and counsel during these first weeks of transition have made all the difference. Sam starts obedience classes on 1/10. Right now, Sam assumes the answer to any request is “sit.”

The Resistance

We participated in Decorah’s Women’s March, March for Science, Immigration rights rally, a pop-up demonstration for healthcare, and a candlelight vigil after the madness of Charlottesville. Paul leads the Indivisible Northeast Iowa Immigration & Refugees issue group and serves as ELCA Northeastern Iowa Synod Chair of AMMPARO, advocating for migrant minors and their families. Sue participated in a powerful six-week, faith-based, community reflection on White Privilege. Before key votes, we participate in the futile exercise of contacting our representatives.


Festivities abound, including Laura [Ingalls Wilder] Days in nearby Burr Oak, Decorah’s Nordic Fest, Luther College festival worship services during Homecoming weekend and for the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, and the Christmas at Luther concert. We attended the wedding of Annamarie Murphy Andrews, our goddaughter, and Ross Hellenbrand. Enjoyed visits from Laurel Hensel, Craig and Gina Edison and their girls, Keith and Nancy Edison and Chuck and Ruth Werth. This summer, Menzi, a Luther Student from Swaziland, stayed with us for a month. Five Luther students joined us for Thanksgiving. Such fun. Often, even ordinary days feel celebratory. One magical summer night, we sat on the front porch with Walter and Sally, eating ice cream cones and watching fireflies. Such goodness.

Church and Song

Sue sings in the choir at First Lutheran and Paul records Sunday worship for a weekly cable broadcast. Sue is also a member of Northern Lights, a 63-member women’s choral group.


 We referred to our lower level as the Family Suite, as it includes a bedroom set up with twin beds, a bathroom and a sitting area with a fold-out couch. Sally came up with a better name: Family Sweetness. With the Edison-Albrights in Decorah, we have a lot of family sweetness. We have a standing date for Sunday Brunch. Walter (6, in Kindergarten), Sally (4, in pre-K) and Hank enjoy short and extended stays with us. We’ve fully claimed the joys and responsibilities of being Umma & Baba.


 This year marks Paul’s 30th anniversary at the ELCA Churchwide Office. Wow. Sue is doing freelance and contract work. In 2017, she served six weeks as part-time, interim administrative-assistant for Luther College Ministries. Eighteen years after her last Triennial as a Women of the ELCA staff person, Sue was happy for the contract to help with communication during the Triennial Convention and Gathering in Minneapolis. It.was.awesome.


We get by with a lot of help from dear ones like you. Wishing you and yours every good thing.

Posted in Christmas, Edison-Albright, Edison-Swift, Family, New Year, Sam-the-Dog | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sam’s Photo Session

The Edison-Albrights, including Hank-the-Dog, were visiting, so we asked for help taking a picture with Sam-the-Dog. Eight photos illustrate how it went. Click on the photo to enlarge it.

1. Trying to get Sam (far left) to sit between us for a picture, Hank jumps up to show Sam how it’s done.

2. For a moment we had both dogs between us. Sam near Paul, Hank near Sue.

3. Then both dogs bailed.

4. Yea! Sam’s in position. Look at Annie, Sam!

5. Sean tries to get Sam’s attention with a treat. He gets Hank’s attention.

6. While Sam ignores the treat, Hank (below) is focused on it.

7. Sam wonders what Hank is doing. Hank keeps his eyes on the [treat] prize.

8. We gave up on the over-the-couch shot and Annie captured this one.

Hi, I’m Sam.

Posted in Family, Sam-the-Dog | Tagged , | Leave a comment


Paul and I adopted Sam-the-Dog from the wonderful Human Society of Northeast Iowa (HSNEI) in Decorah, on Saturday, December 2, 2017. He was named Sam at the Shelter, being a “found” dog no one claimed. So, we don’t know a lot about Sam’s past, other than he wasn’t neutered as a puppy. We’re guessing he had a spartan environment, as he had to warm up to soft things, for example, dog beds, the designated dog couch (we keep it covered), and carpet.

Sam (AKA Sam-o, Sammy, Little Bear, and Love Muffin) is estimated to be 18 months old. He looks like a mix of German Shepherd, Rottweiler, and some smaller breed (maybe Husky?), as he’s “just” 54 lbs. and is medium height. He has a thick, fluffy coat which will likely “blow” once or twice a year: that’s when he’ll do a massive shed for a week or two. Oh, boy.

Since a pet of ours is a pet of the Edison-Albrights and vice versa, everyone was involved in the decision. Paul and I met Sam, then Sean and Annie, then Hank-the-Dog had a meet, then all of us, including the kids. Dr. Auntie Audrey, the family friend and vet who brought Hank into our lives, studied the Continue reading

Posted in Family, Sam-the-Dog, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

“All Anew” is a way of life, not an event

Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee

The day before Leymah Gbowee addressed 3,300 participants attending the Tenth Triennial Gathering, July 14, she took time for a conversation over a cup of green tea.

Gbowee, a Lutheran from Monrovia, Liberia, led the interfaith movement of prayerful and persistent women credited with bringing peace to her civil-war torn country. She explained why, even as a Nobel Laureate, she continues to be a friend to Women of the ELCA.

“First, I am a Lutheran, a Christian,” said Gbowee. “I am the daughter of every institution that claims Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our world.

“Second, I have a history with Women of the ELCA. Before I was known, before the Nobel, they supported me in my personal and professional development,” she said. “Four women helped pay my undergraduate tuition and ELCA leadership scholarships bridged the financial gap for my graduate studies.

“Finally, my mother always told me, ‘ingratitude is a sin.’ For that reason, if I can possibly make it, when the church calls me, I will definitely be there.”

Holding on to hope 

The conversation turned to the topic of hope. How does Gbowee stay so hopeful, so positive?

“Hope is something I must hold on to in this world of pessimism and injustice,” she said. “Then I see the young people I engage with in my new life, who despite everything still believe in the future. They still fight for justice, believe in justice. Then I remember, ‘who am I to give up hope when these people are not?’”

Continue reading

Posted in Global, Women, Women of the ELCA | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

From your baby book


Paul, Sue and baby Annie with the book "Growing Up Free: Raising Your Child in the 80s"

March 28, 1981
(You are 10 weeks old)

Dearest Anne,

When we look down on your precious face, we are filled with many hopes and dreams for you.

We hope you will be a happy and loving person who will use her talents and skills to the fullest. We hope you will come to know and like yourself and those around you. We hope you will care for your body, mind and soul–respecting the life God gave you.

You are surrounded by lots of love, little Annie. All that love and care comes with an obligation to be all you can be. It is a tall order, but you have your whole life to work on it.

We’re looking forward to watching you grow and helping you develop. You have made us very happy, darling–have a wonderful future.

Love, Mom and Dad

2017 note: Happy birthday, Annie, we are so proud of you.


Posted in Family, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Thanksgiving present

Annie pictured with Marj Leegard, her "appended grandma," in 2005.

Annie pictured with Marj Leegard, her “appended grandma,” in 2005.

In her “Pass the Thanksgiving” essay,* the late, great Marj Leegard gave sage advice for enjoying the holiday for what it is, not what it used to be, not what it could be.

“Memories have a way of bundling together every good thing about many Thanksgivings, many holidays,” reminded Leegard. So “when we live in the reality of this celebration … nothing seems as perfect as it was then.” She offered four strategies for opening the gifts of Thanksgiving present.

  1. See through the eyes of a child. The older we are, the more likely we are to see the “empty chairs” around the Thanksgiving table, and miss loved ones separated by death, geography or other reasons. Children accept “this is the day, these are the people.”
  2. Share stories. “Fill those empty chairs with wonderful memories.” For example, I remember my mother and grandmother by telling the story of Grandma’s dishes.
  3. Accept the day with joy. Choose to be happy with what is. “If I have one kind of pie,” Leegard wrote, “I’ll smile and say, ‘I believe I’ll have apple.'”
  4. Pass the blessings. Each of us can find a way to “pass [God’s] blessings along this Thanksgiving.” We can give thanks for God’s good gifts. We can generously give and gratefully receive.

*”Pass the Thanksgiving” by Marj Leegard first appeared in the November 1998 issue of Lutheran Woman Today (now Gather magazine). Leegard joined the great cloud of witnesses in 2010.

Posted in Devotion, Thanksgiving, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Straight Scoop on Donating after a Disaster

Chennai, India (1/15/05). Indian Ocean shortly after the South Asia Tsunami. Photo by Sue Edison-Swift/ELCA

For some reason you are motivated to help after a disaster, nearby or far away, natural or human caused. Thank you. The need is great. The first thing you need to do, though, is think.

Think about how you can be of most help. Think about what is best for the survivors of the disaster and not what is best for you.

This likely means

  1.  Donate money, not things, to the reputable non-profit, disaster-response organization in a position to do good in a good way without getting in the way. For me, that means the American Red Cross, Lutheran Disaster Response, and Lutheran World Relief.
  2. If you live in an area outside the disaster zone, donate things (clothing, toys, food) to your local non-profit organization. Or hold a garage sale and give the proceeds to the reputable non-profit, disaster response organization of your choice.
  3. If you live inside the disaster zone, and are in a position to help, look and listen, keeping in mind you should first do no harm. Share your chain saw or wet vac, if you know how to use it, but don’t get in the way of emergency personnel and other first responders.
  4. Volunteer, as you are able, when and only when volunteers are requested. Volunteers are especially appreciated during the long recovery stage.

In the immediate aftermath of a disaster, well-meaning people can get in the way and do more harm than good. To avoid this, see #1. Also,

  • Never send used things (clothes, toys) to a disaster zone.
  • Be hesitant to donate new things (clothes, toys, school supplies) after a disaster. Make sure there is a distribution plan in place. See #2.
  • If it’s important to you to give something tangible, consider giving gift cards to a business with many locations in the affected area.

Thanks for caring,
Sue (8/25/2016)

Sue Edison-Swift raised money for Lutheran Disaster Response (ELCA) between 2003-2009, which included the South Asia Tsunami and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Posted in Disaster Response, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Decorah Chapter

front of houseOn August 17, we’ll move out of our home in Watertown, Wisconsin. On September 1 we’ll take possession of our new home in Decorah, Iowa. The Graebel moving van will pull-up sometime between September 2 and 10.

Why are we selling a home we lived in for just two years? This spring, Annie was called to be a campus pastor at Luther College in Decorah. This means we’d be four hours away from Walter and Sally instead of 2.25. For funsies, we put our house up for sale to see what would happen. We accepted an offer from a couple who went through the first day. The sale was contingent on our buyers’ buyers’ buyers closing on their home, so we are relieved it is all working out.

Having a hot housing market is fun as sellers and not so much fun as buyers. Beginning Father’s Day weekend, we made multiple trips to Decorah, each time determined to claim an address. We made three unsuccessful offers. We developed new respect for our Watertown house.

In the process, we fell in love with Decorah and had overwhelming experiences of home and community. Jenine Jordahl, who was a churchwide board member of Women of the ELCA when Sue was on staff, opened her home to us. We stayed with her during our house-hunting trips and will stay with her the two- or three-weeks between houses. Such generous hospitality! Twice Sue was moved to tears while visiting First Lutheran, where the Edison-Albrights and Edison-Swifts will soon be members. Muriel at Decorah Bank & Trust. Mark (the elder and the younger) and Kerbie at A.J. Petersburg Insurance and Realty. Karen and Jeff with Thrivent. Kathy, who took our coop membership, and it turns out, is on the church council at First. Jutta who did research for us. Rich and Linda, whose home we didn’t buy, and Mike, who worked with us as we explored building a new home.

When we were about to break the budget and build, Mark Lovelace, our Realtor, told us a house was coming on the market that seemed perfect for us. We put our search on hold for maybe 10 days. When it finally listed, Annie, mid-move, was in Decorah. She and Mark went through the house, giving Paul and me a video tour. It IS perfect for us. We immediately offered list price and crossed our fingers.

Because Annie and Sean were mid-move, Walter and Sally were staying with us. Mark called with the news that our offer was accepted while we were riding on the East Troy vintage electric train. Yippie Skippy! Whew!

About our new house: It was built in 2008 by a quality builder we met during our house-hunting trips. Three bedrooms, 2.75 baths, two-car heated garage, finished basement. The spectacular sun room (all those windows in the front of the house) will serve as Paul’s full-time office and Sue’s part-time office. The kitchen is a dream—including the elusive gas range. Everything essential is on the main level.

Best of all is the location. We think it is two blocks down to town (coffee shops, restaurants, the Coop), one block UP to First Lutheran, two blocks UP to Phelps Park, one block down to the middle school (grades 3-8), and one block over to the Court House where Nordic Fest activities are centered.

E-As at home in Decorah

BTW, Annie and Sean found their home in one weekend. Their friends in Stevens Point have friends in Decorah who have friends who were selling their home “by owner.” Walter and Sally stayed with us during for eight days during the move—the hottest days of the summer thus far. Annie starts at Luther on August 15. Sean will continue working for Sentry Insurance, now as a telecommuter.

We are so looking forward to the Decorah chapter of our lives. You are welcome, very welcome, to visit.

Sue Edison-Swift8/4/2016

Posted in Decorah, Edison-Albright, Family, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Things: A mother’s lesson

dishesWhen my mother was young, maybe 11 or 12, her family’s farmhouse burned to the ground. Mom, along with her mom, dad, and baby sister, Sally, got out with their lives and a basket of clean clothes.

It was the Depression. You didn’t go to the store and buy new. Neighbors were kind and shared the household items they could spare. For years, this is what they used.

After WWII, economic times were better. My mother and her mother were shopping at Gimbels department store in Milwaukee. They came across a discontinued set of china–a service for 16, with bowls and plates of assorted sizes. Dishes. Dishes that matched. Dishes that would do justice to the bountiful holiday meals that came out of Grandma’s kitchen.

The complete set with service pieces was on sale for $25. Grandma put $5 down. She and mom went home to spend the summer dressing chickens to come up with the balance due.

Continue reading

Posted in Christmas, Devotion, Easter, Family, Thanksgiving | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

A future with hope

DSCN0335, photo by Sue Edison-Swift, 2004

Kagemulo’s smile in this picture is misleading. She smiled upon seeing the video just taken during a visit to her home outside of Bukoba, Tanzania. Kagemulo had never before seen a picture of herself.

Indeed, Kagemulo said, “I cry all the time.” Three of her four sons are dead, and the fourth has advanced AIDS. Kagemulo cares for her son in her home, is the guardian for his two children, and is the guardian for two other grandchildren orphaned by AIDS.

Continue reading

Posted in Devotion, Global | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment