Archive | December 2011

A Year-End Conversation with My Dog, Abbey

[Copied from my first blog. Originally posted on December 26, 2011.]

So, Abbey, as you look back over 2011, have there been any significant changes in your life?

     I guess the most significant change in my life is that I’ve changed my attitude toward sneaking out for a walk. I know it makes you and Mim worry whenever I go out by myself, so I decided I don’t need to worry you. I can be just as happy inside with my Grandmas petting me as I can be outside following Gary Gopher’s scent to yet another gopher hole. Occasionally I lapse back into my old attitude and slip out the door, but not very often. How about you? Did you make any changes in your life in 2011?

     Well, yes, I did. I tried to make one significant change on January 1, 2011. I committed to read and write every day in the journaling version of the Jesus Calling devotional book by Sarah Young.

Were you successful? Did you read and write every day? And, did it make any difference in your life?

To answer your last question first, I’d say yes. The common theme of the daily devotions in Jesus Calling is to be constantly aware that God loves me and is right beside me every day. To be reminded of Jesus being right there to help me with whatever comes my way every single day was very helpful in increasing my awareness of God’s presence with me. It’s definitely an attitude changer. In answer to your other question, did I read and write every single day? Not quite. A few days I couldn’t get to it early in the morning, and sometimes I got to it later in the day, sometimes I didn’t. I also got tired of writing my thoughts in response to the reading for the day. I probably won’t do a journaling devotional again. But I’ll definitely commit to reading from another daily devotional book next year.

I sometimes wish I could read, especially when I see you and Mim get so excited about something you’re reading. But I guess God has given us different gifts. You don’t get to sit next to your favorite people and feel them petting you in silence for hours at a time.

I sometimes wish I could just sit still for a long time like you, but there seem to always be things I need to do. One of the new things I started doing in 2011 is playing the piano for the women’s worship service in the County Jail. In February I started playing the piano in jail twice a month. Last week when I was there, we had to wait about 15 minutes after the service was over before a guard came to escort the women back to their cell block. While we were waiting one of the women asked me if I knew the song, “Dona Nobis Pacem.” I said that I’d heard it, but I didn’t have the music for it. I suggested that we go to the piano together and I’d try to pick it out with her singing it. After we did that song, other women joined us and a spontaneous Christmas Carol Sing-along broke out. It was so much fun!

That sounds like fun. I wish I could have gone with you. I bet some of those women would have liked to pet me. We work together pretty well. Why don’t you ask the chaplain if I can come along next time?

     I don’t think that would be approved, Abbey. They’re pretty strict in the jail. I have a hard enough time getting a songbook past the guards. I’m sure I couldn’t bring a dog along. But you’re right, we do work together well. This blog is a perfect example of that. I started writing this blog in April. That’s one of the best new things I did in 2011. I have fun writing almost every Monday morning to share some reflections with all the friends of Whispering Winds Retreat Haven. But occasionally, I have a hard time figuring out what to write about. And without fail, whenever that happens, you jump right in and help me write it. Thanks, Abbey, I really appreciate your help.

     You’re welcome. I like to write, too. That’s one of my favorite new things of 2011. Do you think we should start any new things in 2012?

     I have a suggestion for you, Abbey. How would you like to commit to not stealing any more food off the kitchen counter? That kringle you stole from the counter yesterday was not good for you, and Mim and I and the Grandmas really wanted to eat it ourselves. We would have given you a taste. Why did you take the whole thing?

     Oh, was that kringle ever good! I couldn’t really help myself. Once I took the first bite, I knew I had to eat it all. I’m not sure I’m really sorry that I did it. I am sorry that there wasn’t any more for you, but I’m really glad I got to eat it, too. I’m not sure about making any New Year’s resolutions about something like that.

     Well, you have a few days before New Year’s Day. Just think about it… And, thanks again for your help in writing this blog.

You’re welcome. My pleasure. I’m glad we had this little talk. It’s good to think back over last year to think about the changes we’ve made in our lives. Maybe we should have another talk about things we might want do do next year. I’ll start thinking about that.

2 comments (0 new) | Add a New Comment
1. Diane Iverson | December 26, 2011 at 03:59 PM EST [ delete ]

What a great blog reminding us how special our nonhuman friends are to us! Abbey sounds alot like a dog we once had – his name was Toma and we got him as a puppy and he lived to be 18 1/2 years old. Toma got into everything, especially food, and after Toma was gone, I vowed that all dogs we adopted would have to be adult dogs and not puppies, who are much more mischiveous. Happy New Year to you both and Mim too. See you at church, Diane

2. Beth Mickelson | December 27, 2011 at 02:47 PM EST [ delete ]


This is such a wonderful \”end of the year\” blog. Your blogs have meant so much and I continue to get such pleasure in reading them. Thank you so much for this gift. You have a God given talent in your desire and ability to write so very well. I will continue to look forward to you stories and thoughts in 2012.

God’s Love Made Visible

[Copied from first blog. Originally posted December 19, 2011.]

I experienced another God-wink last week. It was Thursday afternoon and I was in the county jail to play the piano for the women’s worship service. There were nine of us sitting in a circle in the chapel – the chaplain, myself, and seven inmates. After we read the Scriptures for the day, we went around the circle, each woman telling us what today’s readings meant to her, or sharing whatever else was on her mind.

When it was my turn, I talked about the wonderful Christmas Carol Sing-along we had had at Whispering Winds the previous Sunday afternoon. I described what it was like to have a group of 21 people gathered together at our retreat house, singing Christmas carols for a couple hours, and enjoying the anticipation of once again celebrating the birth of the Christ Child and God’s love for us.

One of the women asked me several questions about what Whispering Winds is like, and then asked me if I knew about another retreat center not far from Madison. At first I said no, that I didn’t. But then, as she described it, I realized she was talking about my niece’s home. My niece and her husband have a remodeled farmhouse and a large beautifully landscaped yard that they use for various church groups and youth camping events. My niece and her husband are foster parents and have adopted three of the children they have cared for. One of them is this woman’s son. All nine of us sitting around the circle were amazed at this God-wink – the what a small world it is discovery.

This woman has been in and out of jail several times over the past ten years. When she saw how lovingly my niece and her husband cared for children in their home, and when she learned that they were willing to adopt her son, she made one of the toughest decisions of her life. She decided to forfeit her parental rights so that her son could become their son. She knew that she would not be able to care for him for the next year or two while she served time in prison. She loved her son so much that she wanted what would be best for him, even if it meant sacrificing her parental rights.

She asked me to be sure to tell my niece that we met, and to let them know how thankful she is that they have adopted her son, and that they are letting her still be involved in his life. She is hoping to be able to send them all a Christmas card this week.

When I talked with my niece about this God-wink she said God’s ability to put pieces together is truly amazing. She said that they have been praying for God’s protection for her. She has a wonderful heart, but keeps getting pulled back into trouble, despite her best intentions.

We are now in the fourth week of Advent. The theme for this week is love. Can you imagine a love so great that a mother would give up her parental rights for the good of the child? Or, can you imagine a God who loves us so much that He gave His Son for us? As the Bible says, Faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. [I Corinthians 13:13 NRSV]

Once again, God’s love is made visible in jail.

4 comments (0 new) | Add a New Comment
1. Mardelle Burrowes | December 19, 2011 at 10:39 AM EST [ delete ]

Oh my, what a beautiful connection you made! I love God winks.

2. Joan Gunderman | December 19, 2011 at 11:13 AM EST [ delete ]

What a wonderful wink! We’ve had similar feelings as your niece about Adam’s and Mary’s birth parents. Such courage it took to make the decisions they did. And such a perfect illustration for this week of Advent. Thanks, Marian. — JG

3. Bonita L. Fredel | December 20, 2011 at 12:17 AM EST [ delete ]

Perhaps there are times when people live in prisons not made of blocks and bars but conditions and circumstances. I certainly feel that way at times. That is when I really rejoice about receiving a God wink. It warms my spirt and frees me to love.

4. RuthAnn | December 20, 2011 at 01:23 AM EST [ delete ]

Marian, your words always give my heart a lift. What a blessed ministry you have.

Alphabet Stories

[Copied from old blog. Originally posted December 12, 2011.]

     Do you remember learning the alphabet song? I remember figuring out that it’s the same tune as “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” It was a good song to learn, because it helped me memorize the letters of the alphabet and the order they came in. I can remember taking a test in second grade where we had to write out the whole alphabet with all the letters in the right order. For some reason, the only way I could remember the order for “L M N O P” was to sing them. So I sang that part of the song in my mind. Then, when I had written all the letters down, I sang the whole song in my mind to be sure I was right. Music helped me learn the alphabet.

Some people learned the alphabet from alphabet story books, with each page of the book having a picture of something that began with that letter – A with an Apple, B with a Baseball Bat, C with a Cat, and so on.

I recently came upon a new kind of alphabet book. A very good friend of mine, Marilyn Huebel, wrote the book, Bringing Hope to Life:  26 Ways to Change the World You Live in. Author Gregory F. Augustine Pierce writes in the book’s foreword, Marilyn Huebel’s beautiful little book is about … how to begin building the kingdom of God in our own lives and in the lives of those we touch. It is about reconciliation and hope and love, from A to Z. She doesn’t use many words. An image here. A metaphor there. A quote from someone famous. A verse from Scripture. Her vignettes are meant to encourage us to think again about how we should and could be building the kingdom of God in our daily lives… As you read through these twenty-six reflections (enough for a month if you rest on Sundays!), I hope you are inspired by the author’s simple message of personal challenge and her ability to inspire specific actions within the course of your daily routines.

The A entry is Ad Libbing. B is for Boxes. C is for Cubicle LifeX is X Marks the Spot. Y is You Wash, I’ll Dry. Z is Zebras, Dolphins, and Ferns, Oh My! Each entry is a two or three page reflection, ending with a question that asks how you can change something in your world that will begin to bring about the “Kingdom of God” by your own actions today.

Bringing Hope to Life:  26 Ways to Change the World You Live in (Copyright © 2011 by Vesper Society, published by ACTA Publications, Chicago) is a little book (173 pages, about 5 inches square) that’s fun to read and think about. You may never think about ad libbing, boxes, and cubicle life in the same way again. Or about each letter of the alphabet. Maybe the book will inspire you to create your own alphabet book.

The book is available directly from the publisher ( as well as on ( A nice Christmas present for anyone who enjoys easy-to-read but thoughtful books.

2 comments (0 new) | Add a New Comment
1. Marilyn | December 13, 2011 at 08:23 AM EST [ delete ]

While in the book F is for Fill in the Blank, it is also for Friendship. Marian and I have been friends since our college days and it is a relationship I cherish. One things friends do is Share. I so appreciate her sharing her kind words about my book with you, that I’ll extend the sharing and offer her readers a 20% Friends and Family discount. If you order from the publisher, ( simply enter the code BHTL0412 when prompted.

I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it and that something on the page brings hope to your corner of the world.

Marilyn Huebel

2. Marian | December 13, 2011 at 11:52 AM EST [ delete ]

Thanks, Marilyn, for offering the generous discount to readers of my blog. If I ever write an alphabet book, I’m sure “F” will be for friends!

Christmas Music Memories

[Copied from first blog. Originally posted on December 5, 2011.]

When I was in first grade, I remember the Methodist and Presbyterian kids got together in church for something. I don’t remember any of the details, except one. We sang my favorite Christmas song, Away in a Manger – but it wasn’t the right tune! How disappointing. I blamed the Presbyterians. And to this day, in my mind, the Kirkpatrick tune is the Presbyterian tune, and the Murray tune is the right one.

In fourth grade music class, we learned to sing some new Christmas carols that we all had heard on the radio, but we hadn’t sung them before because they weren’t in the church hymnals. Everyone’s favorite was O Holy Night. We had music class once a week, and every week between Thanksgiving and Christmas someone asked if we could sing O Holy Night. The first music class after Christmas vacation, my friend Dennis requested that song again. There was an immediate uprising in the class. You aren’t supposed to sing Christmas songs after Christmas! And we didn’t. That’s when I learned the absolute rules of the secular Christmas season. Fortunately, not all churches follow those rules. And, at home now, I let myself play Christmas music throughout the twelve days of Christmas, sometimes even a little longer.

I started thinking about all those memories when I started to compile a songbook for us to use next Sunday afternoon [December 11, 2011] for the Whispering Winds Christmas Carol Sing. I decided to include a mix of Advent Carols, Christmas Carols, and a few secular Christmas songs. I wanted to limit myself to about 50 songs in total – not that we’ll sing all 50, but I wanted to provide a nice selection to choose from. It amazed me how hard it is to limit myself to 50. The flyers that have been posted to announce the sing-along say, “Sing all your favorites.” I guess they should really say, “Sing all Marian’s favorites,” because that’s what will be in the songbook. But even that’s not true, because I couldn’t include all my favorites without doubling the size of the songbook.

Songs in the ADVENT section of the songbook range from O Come, O Come, Emmanuel from medieval times to Emmanuel, the contemporary praise song. The lively Soon and Very Soon is included. One of the newest songs is Like a Child – the lovely song that Mim sang in our church the first Sunday of Advent. No one will probably choose that song to sing on Sunday afternoon, because not many people know it, but it has become one of my top favorites – so it’s in the book.

The CHRISTMAS CAROL section of the songbook includes 26 old favorites, including both versions of Away in a Manger (just in case any Presbyterians come to the Sing-along). Some of the other titles are:

O Come All Ye Faithful
Joy to the World
The First Noel,
Angels We Have Heard on High
It Came upon the Midnight Clear
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
What Child is This
Silent Night
O Holy Night
O Little Town of Bethlehem
Still, Still, Still
There’s a Song in the Air
The Birthday of a King
I Wonder as I Wander

…I wish I had space to list all 26 songs here. If you’re like me, as you read each title, the tune of that song starts playing in your mind, and you smile as you think about the song itself – or about some associations you have with the song. Think about Silent Night. Do you hear the tune? Do you remember all the words? What memories come to mind? Are you smiling?

Just for fun, I decided to include a few secular Christmas songs in the book:

Over the River and through the Woods
Frosty the Snowman
Jingle Bells
White Christmas

… I did NOT include Santa Baby or any of the other songs that I don’t like that seem to always be on the radio.

Hope you can join us Sunday afternoon, December 11, starting at 2:00. I could have used today’s blog to write about all the Christmas cookies we’ll bake this week for all of us to eat after singing up an appetite – sugar cookies, krumkake, berliner kranse, coffee cookies, date balls, spritz, pecan lady fingers, candy cane cookies, peppermint chocolate chip cookies, mocha double chocolate cookies – but I wanted to whet your appetite for singing first. (It’s beginning to sound a lot like Christmas, and it’s beginning to smell a lot like Christmas, too!)

3 comments (0 new) | Add a New Comment
1. Nancy K. | December 05, 2011 at 04:34 PM EST [ delete ]

What a blessing that day will be too! I hope our voices hold out, because the songs mentioned here are awsome!

Christmas Peace!

2. Judy p | December 07, 2011 at 02:23 PM EST [ delete ]

I would like to have you play the 2 tunes ,Away in a Manger so I can hear the difference………also hope that Mim will have her voice back to be able to sing Like a Child for us.

Looking forward to coming and will bring my friend Don….he will love this also………thank you..

3. Marian | December 08, 2011 at 10:35 AM EST [ delete ]

Glad you and Don will be joining us on Sunday. I’ll be happy to play both tunes to \”Away in a Manger.\” I’ve asked Mim to save her voice for Sunday. I hope she can sing some descants on top of our carols. We’ll see…

A New Year – A New Blog

One of my goals for 2011 was to start a blog on the Whispering Winds website. Last April, I started a blog the easiest way I knew how, by using the blog add-on in Network Solutions’ website builder, the “easy-to-use” tool I had originally used to build my website. The blog worked, but not very well. My experience with using this very basic blogging software prompted me to set another goal – to come up with a better blogging solution before the end of 2011. With just a few days left in the year, I decided to jump into WordPress, a highly recommended blogging service.

This is it. I’m learning by trial and error, so I’m sure the appearance and functionality of the blog will change as I learn what I’m doing. If anyone has tips that might shorten my learning curve, please share them with me.

Meanwhile, here goes…