Fat Tuesday is the New Year’s Eve of Lent. Many faithful believers are having one last hurrah before “giving up” (chocolate, Facebook) or “adding on” (mid-week worship, devotional walking) during the 40-day journey with Jesus to the cross. Some of the faithful know Sundays are “little Easters” and don’t count; pass the chocolate, please.

I confess that I no longer make Lenten resolutions. Instead of practicing willingness, these commitments tempt me to prove willpower. Instead of embracing the opportunity for deeper discipleship, I am tempted to resent the doing or the not doing. I am tempted to reduce a spiritual discipline to a six-week diet plan.

There’s good news for the likes of me in Mark 1:9-15, the Gospel lesson for February 26, 2012, the first Sunday in Lent. Continue reading

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Our hyphenated year: 2018 in pictures

Christmas and New Year’s blessings to you!

Browse below, or click here (bit.ly/2018esphotos) to see the photos. For even more pictures click here. Continue reading

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On butterfly wings

This post combines the text from Resurrection Reminder,” my article in the April 2011 issue of Lutheran Woman Today, now Gather magazine, with photos and videos of monarch caterpillars and butterflies.Sue

Butterflies are symbols of Christ’s resurrection.  I know why.

After a worship service two summers ago, I claimed my first Monarch Ministry kit: a “days old” Monarch caterpillar in a Dairy Queen cup habitat, a snack bag of cut-up milkweed leaves (a monarch caterpillar’s only food), and a sheet of instructions.  I peered into the DQ cup to meet my caterpillar.  “Humph,” said a boy with a caterpillar twice as big as mine, “your caterpillar is tiny.”

“Yes,” I said, just a bit offended for my little one; “it’s tiny and mighty.”  With that, my caterpillar had a name, “Tiny Mighty,” T.M. for short.

T.M. spent his first day with me happily nibbling a hole in a piece of milkweed leaf.

The next day T.M. didn’t eat. That evening I left a new, fresh leaf.  In the morning it was left untouched. Not one nibble.

I went back to my sheet of instructions, and read “Occasionally, the caterpillar roams away from the leaf for a day or so.  It needs to rest and shed its skin.”  Still, I fretted.  Life is so fragile. Continue reading

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“It takes a least three months to know what kind of dog you got,” reminded family friend and vet Audrey Gale-Dyer, as she virtually accompanied us through Sam-the-Dog’s transition from shelter to our home.

It’s been three months. So now we know, we got a good dog. You’re a good dog, Sammy, yes you are.

Sam loves his teddy.

We sent in Sam’s cheek swab for a doggy DNA analysis, because he seemed like a dog you can’t judge by looks. For example, he looks like a small German Shepherd but doesn’t have an ounce of guard-dog in him. Turns out Sam is mostly Lab (37%) plus Husky (12.5%), German Shepherd (12.5%), and Collie (12.5%), with 25% unidentified “mixed breed.” It’s a good mix. It’s Sam. Continue reading

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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.

Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

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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

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“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

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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.


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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.

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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/ELCAFor 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 a 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.

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