The Privilege of a “Get To”


But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (I John 3:17, ESV)

When I was growing up, I had a list of “get tos” that brought me a lot of happiness. According to the English stack exchange, a “get to” is an opportunity, a positive experience enabled by another person or life situation. “I get to go to Cedar Point again” was a favorite summer proclamation. Also topping the list were “I get to play in the marching band” and “I get to pick out a new bike for my birthday.”  Just the anticipation of these “get tos” brought a quickening in my heart and a smile to my face.

Disregarding possible grammar infractions, I’ve been saying get to on a regular basis, and for good reason. I get to spend more time with my wonderful daughter, extra-special son-in-law, and five sweet little grandchildren in Minnesota. This “get to” presently trumps all others.  And I couldn’t be more delighted.

Sadly, a lot of folks aren’t getting a whole lot of “get tos” these days. Click on a news site or pick up the paper and you’ll find humankind, locally and globally, struggling just to get basic needs met. The current climate of food insecurity and impoverished third world families is beyond comprehension. These realities hit me hard while engaging in what I thought would be a carefree activity: picking berries at a family farm.

I had intended to spend a little morning quiet time with God in a field of raspberry bushes and relax under blue skies. I was feeling happy and free because I got to do something just for me. But that something quickly dissipated. Clouds were forming and the threat of rain hung in the air. Raspberries were too pricey so I chose strawberries, and the young man helping me find my picking lane wanted to chat.

Significantly unusual about this summer activity were my companions in the field. In past outings, I worked alongside people who were similar to me: mostly white, Americans, some Moms with kids, some women my age, and a few men that were available for a leisurely outing. This time I was berry picking at a migrant farm. I was the only woman in the field, the only white American in the field, and obviously the only white American woman that was in the field because she “got to.”

My talkative helper, Danie, was an eighteen year old on a work visa from South Africa. A little probe about his choice to live in Minnesota encouraged Danie to share openly. This particular Midwest farm allowed him to gain more skills in his specific agricultural interests.  Danie explained that because of discrimination, it was imperative to seek work elsewhere to pay for university classes in South Africa where he planned to study farming. “It goes like this,” Danie continued, “the black man is the first in line for a job, then the black woman, then the white man, then the white woman.”

Curious to learn more, I wondered aloud about the presence of gun violence in his country. Danie lamented the unresolved problem of men getting shot while working in the fields. He bemoaned the fact that “the shooters don’t even take anything, they just murder.” I listened quietly, painfully aware of my ignorance in matters of South African socio-political current events. (And this was Danie’s story. I wanted to hear from his heart and personal perspective.)

A reel from my own country’s discouraging news flashed in my mind. Highlighted frames of our society’s immigration issues, discrimination, poverty, and violence played out on my screen.  How ironic that Danie left his own conflicted people group to travel nine thousand miles for an agricultural experience in yet another troubled land. Our verbal exchange of experiences uncovered a commonly shared pain.

On a lighter note, when I asked him how he liked America, he blurted out, “I’ve never seen a store as big as Wal-Mart!” I smiled, but inwardly cringed, and mumbled something into a clump of strawberries about Americans liking their stuff. Changing the subject, I asked about getting settled here.

Moving into a building with several others was hard at first for Danie. Sharing two stoves and one shower created tension among the men. Danie said they “eventually worked it out, we agree to ninety second showers, and now we’re all doing better.”  His fellow workers included three other South Africans, a few Croations, and several Mexicans. I thought to myself that considering all the cultural differences and language barriers, doing better was a great accomplishment. Danie felt he was a fortunate laborer since this work was a short term commitment. He would be going home soon to family life and a college education.

As we talked, thunder started to rumble and raindrops began to fall. I was able to get in a few more questions while filling my pail of strawberries. My earlier grumblings about losing out on Me Time faded. I urged Danie to share more about migrant life.

His crew began their day in the fields at 5 am. and finished about 10 pm. Raincoats were available and weather was not a deterrent.  I glanced at the men hunched over the fruit, and remembered the Mexican children in my elementary music classes years ago who traveled to Northwest Ohio so their parents could pick tomatoes. I felt sorry for the boys and girls who left my classroom in a few short months for farms farther south. Making friends was difficult enough when their skin color didn’t match those of fellow students. But to move from school to school had to be disorienting at the very least. I had so many questions. Where did the children go after school while their Moms and Dads toiled on the farms? Would enough money be made in the fields to truly feed their families when they got back home? Did these folks have any fun together at all, or was life one dreary day after another?

A harder rain forced my thoughts back to the present and urged me to finish my conversation and hop into the car. Danie instructed me to back out of the fields because the road forward was quickly becoming a mud pit. While guiding my Subaru with the use of a rear view camera, I thought about how a well-equipped vehicle is yet another taken for granted get-to privilege.

I drove to the stand to pay for my berries as the rain on the windshield mirrored the wetness on my cheeks. Tears fell for people who spend their days stooping over a patch of fruit, for people who leave their homes in order to put food on their tables, and for families who move their kids on a continual basis.

In a row of strawberries, my get-to life bumped into a have-to world.  Humbled by my privilege, my heart opened a little wider to the tired and poor. God took me to a new place I had not planned to get to.

Compared to most of the world’s inhabitants, my life overflows with time to do what I choose, good health, and more than enough money. Spending these resources to be with each of my long distance children will always be my greatest get-to privilege.

And yet . . .  I wonder if a morning in a migrant field will alter my spending habits.

 If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need . .  .









Beans, Beans, and Blessings

I’ve been vegetable gardening for a few years now, but still consider myself a novice. So when my backyard bed overflows with food, I shake my head in disbelief. My pole beans just keep on a-comin’!

Here’s part of this morning’s bounty~


Before harvesting my next batch, I stopped for a coffee break and a little breakfast. Last night’s blackberry cobbler suffices for a morning meal, right? To my dismay, the only coffee beans I had on hand were a dark roast which neither Jim or I prefer. Fortunately, I knew some of my colleagues would enjoy this blend, so I ground up the beans to take to the office this morning for a little coffee bean treat.

But what’s cobbler without coffee? I ignored my dirt smudged hands and crazy morning hair and jumped in the car to a favorite drive-thru. I ordered my usual, reached out the window with my money, and received an unexpected gift. “Your order is paid for,” remarked the cashier. “The woman ahead of you took care of it.”

This is the second time this has happened to me this year. My eyes were misty as I waved to this generous person and yelled thank you. I told her I should have ordered more! She and I shared a good laugh before we went our separate ways.

I’m writing this quickly, without editing and re-writes, (which is probably quite obvious) because I want to share about tender, little, loving things. Once again, our daily headline news brings a wrench to the gut and extreme disappointment.

Today I choose to bring joy.

Coffee, anyone?


For the record, my favorite coffee is Goldberry Ethiopia Yirgacheffe. But Mickey D’s works in a pinch.




Lentil Vegetable Chili

Got tomatoes? Use fresh or frozen from last season for a large batch of this vegetarian chili. I froze several pounds of Romas, which are my favorite variety because they create a thicker tomato sauce. Just cut off the stems before you put them in freezer bags.


16 ounces of chunky tomato sauce
3 cups of homemade vegetable stock
2 cups of dry lentils
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 large carrots, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. of chili powder
1 tsp. of chipotle chili chili pepper
1 tsp. of cumin
1 tablespoon of honey
1 cup of frozen corn

1. Put tomato sauce, vegetable stock and lentils in a stock pot. Heat to boiling, then simmer for about 20 minutes or until lentils are soft.
2. Heat a skillet with 1/8 of a cup of vegetable stock. Add onion, garlic, carrots, and bell pepper. Cook on medium low until onion and carrots are tender. Add a splash of liquid if vegetables begin to stick.
3. Add spices to skillet. Simmer for several minutes. Remove bay leaf.

4. Add skillet mixture to stock pot. Stir in frozen corn and honey. Simmer for several minutes.



Super easy. Healthy, tasty, and filling!



Two-Way Oven Roasted “Sun-Dried” Tomatoes


Are you growing cherry tomatoes this summer? These little gems are great to dice up for salads or grab for a quick snack. But if you’re getting a bit bored with eating them raw, try “sun-dried.”  



ready for the oven


Recipe #1 For the Fridge~

cherry tomatoes
fresh or dried basil
fresh or dried rosemary
parchment paper


1. Preheat oven at 200 degrees.
2. Cut tomatoes in half. Place on baking pans lined with parchment paper.
3. Chop herbs and sprinkle on tomatoes. Grind or shake some pepper over them.
4. Roast tomates for 2 hours or more if you want them a bit “leathery.”
5. Let tomatoes cool. Place in air tight containers. Refrigerate.

My roasted cherry tomatoes after 2 hours. Bake longer if you like them chewier.




My perennial lovage is flourishing this season so I’m going to add it with the other herbs when I roast the cherry tomatoes. Lovage tastes a bit like celery and is also a nice touch in tomato sauces.


Recipe #2 For the Freezer~ (thanks to my friend, Cindy Edwards)

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Follow steps 2 and 3 in the first recipe above. Cindy also drizzles a little olive oil over them.
  3. Roast in oven for 40 minutes.
  4. Turn up oven to 400 degrees. Roast for 20 more minutes.
  5. Turn off the oven and leave tomatoes in for 10 minutes.
  6. Take tomatoes out of the oven. Cool. Place in freezer bags and put in freezer.

Oven Roasted “Sun-Dried” Cherry Tomatoes taste wonderful on pizzas (Cindy says you can put the frozen ones right on the pizza before baking), in sandwiches, or pureed with your homemade tomato sauce. If you’ve never grown cherry tomatoes,  you might add a few plants to your garden. They are super easy to grow! 




Updated 1980’s Fireplace


My good friend, Wende Lance, suggested we whitewash our fireplace although she knew my husband Jim didn’t want more work added to our fixer upper. Another special friend, Aubrey Bates, thought that a German shmear on our brick might look really sharp. Jim thought the natural 1980’s orangey brick looked just fine, thank you.

It took me about six months to convince Jim to try something different with the fireplace and another couple to get up the courage to actually do something. We figured if worse came to worse, we could paint the whole thing a solid white. But I really wanted a washed effect. And the textured wallpaper stripped, and the plastic panelling down, and the stained carpetting ripped up. So what was one more project?!

Our family room at the end of a long day of moving boxes~
(Thank you, Jeff and Kelly Franks and my Sunday School class.)

Lovely, eh?

Below is a snapshot of the original fireplace next to the fireplace with one coat of whitewash. The first coat was very watered down. I figured I could always add a second coat, but couldn’t go back once I committed.  I definitely was encouraged by the difference one coat made!

Coat number two. I still wasn’t convinced, but Jim was warming up to it!

I watered down the paint again, brushed on a third coat, and got the whitewash look that I envisioned. Here are a couple close-ups of the final product.

The look for summer~



I think I’ll paint the candlestick a darker color.


And the “big picture~”

“We’ve come a long way, baby!”


White wash: 50 percent white chalk paint, 50 percent water
Brush: round chalk paint brush
Third coat: add 50 percent more water to make a ratio of 3 parts water, 1 part paint
Brass fireplace trim: spray paint with flat black spray paint
Accent wall: Sherwin Williams “Peppercorn”












Freezer Tomatoes for Sauce and Chili


Last season, tomatoes in our community garden went CRAZY.  So we canned them, made sauce to give away, begged strangers to take our tomatoes, donated them to food pantries, and froze pounds of Romas and Big Boys. I found an easy way to freeze tomatoes and prepare them for sauce, so they did not go to waste!




Freezing tomatoes:
Put 6-8 whole tomatoes in Ziploc bags. Do not peel. You can remove the stems and core them before freezing if you desire. I cut off the stems, but save getting rid of any unwanted core when chopping the frozen tomatoes for sauce. I use mostly Romas, which do not need to be cored.

IMG_2608 2
Oh, I froze my overflow of jalapeños peppers as well and used them all winter!


Peeling tomatoes:
Put on a full kettle of water to boil. Place about 10 frozen tomatoes in a colander. Pour boiling water over the tomatoes until you see the skins split. This will take about ten seconds or so. Slip skins off the tomatoes. That’s it! The skins slide right off.

Freezer Tomato Sauce


4 1 gallon plastic freezer bags (i.e. Ziploc) of whole tomatoes
boiling water
vegetable stock
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 large yellow onions, finely chopped
2 bell peppers, finely chopped
3 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
4 stalks of celery, finely chopped

For a spicy Mexican sauce:
Try 1 tsp. of cayenne pepper, a few pinches of red pepper flakes, 1 tsp. of chili powder, 1/2 tsp. of chipotle chili pepper seasoning and 1 tsp. of cumin. Taste as you add in spices, adjusting the amount to get the flavor you like.

For an Italian flavored sauce:
Chop up some fresh lovage (tastes like celery), oregano, chives, and basil leaves. Add a bay leaf. If you don’t have fresh, try 2 teaspoons each of dried oregano, chives, and basil. Just add and taste, adjusting to get the flavor you like.


1. Roughly chop peeled tomatoes. Put in large stock pot.
2. Heat a few splashes of vegetable stock in large pan. Add garlic, onions, peppers, and   celery. Cook on medium low until soft.
3. Add veggies to tomatoes in stock pot.
4. Add herbs and spices.
5. Simmer sauce on low for four hours. The longer you simmer it, the thicker it will get.
6. Sauce will be chunky. Use an immersion blender or regular blender if you like a smooth sauce.

Spicy Black Bean Chili


4 cups of chunky freezer sauce
1 cup homemade vegetable, turkey, or chicken stock (I use homemade vegetable stock.)
4 cups of cooked black beans. (I like to prepare them in my Instant Pot.)


  1. Put sauce in stock pot. Add liquid stock.
  2. Bring to boil.
  3. Turn heat to low. Stir in black beans and simmer for twenty minutes.
  4. Serve in a bowl with a dollop of sour cream, Greek yogurt, or cashew cream.





My church planted a community garden to build relationships with folks in our community, bless our neighborhood with fresh produce, and adopt some families that struggle with food insecurity. One unexpected personal gift is new friends that are nurturing and encouraging me as I lead our garden ministry. Sandy and LuAnn are two of my new garden “sisters” that gave me this sweet little devotional.



A little peek on the inside~ a perfect garden metaphor























Quirky and Quotidian


Poet and author Kathleen Norris is my favorite non-fiction female writer. Her work never fails to enhance my spiritual reflection. Norris is probably best known for her New York Times bestseller, “The Cloister Walk,” which recounts her six month experience as an oblate in a Benedictine monastery.

My own abbreviated yet sacred time at the monastery in St. Joseph, Minnesota nudged me to delve more into Norris’s adaption of Benedictine practice in the  mundane, i.e. quotidian reality of everyday.  Norris’s The Quotidian Mysteries Laundry, Liturgy, and “Women’s Work,” (take note that women’s work is in italices), turned out to be a meaningful follow-up to The Cloister Walk and her psycho-spiritual offering, Acedia and Me.  The Quotidian Mysteries weaves Benedictine thought with Norris’s intimate accounts of meeting Christ in the dailiness of homemaking, warding off a lethargic depression and ennui named acedia. Historically, acedia represented a fourth century  monk’s “noon day demon,” the stealer of joy and contentment in the rhythm of cooking, cleaning, and serving others. Hence Norris’s encouraging nod to a sanctifying liturgy in laundry and other repetitve, household tasks.

Norris writes:

The Bible is full of evidence that God’s attention is indeed fixed on the little things. But this is not because God is a Great Cosmic Cop, eager to catch us in minor transgression, but simply because God loves us–loves us so much that the divine presence is revealed even in the meaningless workings of daily life. It is in the ordinary, the here-and-now, that God asks us to recognize that the creation is indeed refreshed like dew-laden grass that is “renewed in the morng” (Ps 90:5), or to put it in more personal and also theological terms, “our inner nature is being renewed every day” (2 Cor 4:16). Seen in this light, what strikes many modern readers as the ludicrous attention to detail in the book of Leviticus, involving God in the minutiae of daily life–all the cooking and cleaning of a peoples domestice life–might be revsioned as the very love of God. A God who cares so much as to desire to be present to us in everything we do.

When we moved to our new home, I determined that our space would project an aesthically pleasing simplicity, even during the “meaningless workings of daily life” at the washer and dryer. Unfortunately, the layout was just plain quirky. Thanks to a multi-level floor plan, our living room closet floor joists literally hang from the ceiling of the second level laundry area, jutting awkwardly into the room. I appreciate that the previous owner enclosed these supports with a useful peg board. But I don’t know how many times I’ve hit my head on the corner of this “box” while retreiving clothes from the dryer. While I obviously couldn’t move this annoying structure, I could pretty up the room and make it more functional.

My Quirky Laundry Room: Before and After

Here’s a pic from the previous owner and the pegboard “box.”


Now my laundry room is a serene space. I added cheap yet cute curtains from Wal-Mart, hooks to hang book and grocery bags, and a little planning center on the opposite wall that I painted yellow.


And around the corner of the “box”~

I hung a few personal items as well. This is a scripture verse sent to me one Christmas from my son, Brian.

Planning center with a Walt Whitman poem and illustration my daughter, Christy, made in elementary school~ (I save everything.)


Norris muses in The Quotidian Mysteries, “But the daily we have always with us.” In the tedium of laundry and all that’s quotidian, may we recognize the ever constant presence of a loving God.