Today is Quinn’s birthday, which brings her Facebook wall to life with well wishes. This is especially affirming for the mother who brought her into the world, though I can’t really take credit for much of what she has become.

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Who could have known the impact one family would have on her growth as a person, all the stories and quotes that would come out of the years she nannied for the Hansons. James was still an infant when she showed up at their door on the other side of Grand Rapids, Michigan. James has two siblings, so Quinn gained confidence over time in caring for babies/kids and keeping house.

She was invited on several Hanson family vacations to exotic places, to work but also as part of the family. I think that’s where she caught the travel bug she’s never been able to shake.

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Quinn always, always shared the Hansons with me—the kids of course, but especially their mama, Kathy.

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Kathy, Quinn, and I remain three-way soul sisters, except I’m left out when it comes to celebrating a birthday today. Kathy shared this picture on Quinn’s “wall” today, their shared day of birth. And yes, that is James!

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new church for the colonias

Redemption Gateway, a church in Arizona that has broken ground for its own campus, raised enough funds from their own congregation to build a church down in the colonias near Juarez, Mexico.


When the Andersons and others from Redemption built a house in March, they vanned over to the site for this picture.


Last week another team went back to help build the church. Each project begins this way: team joining hands in prayer around the freshly poured foundation.

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Several posted pictures of the work in progress, but I saved this one because, well, Juan Carlos!

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And this one because, well, Quinn!


The fundraising included enough funds to buy chairs.

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Later that night the community and the workers gathered in the new church called Mi Esperanza “My Hope.”

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Jesús interpreted for the Americans. Quinn shared something the pastor said that night at this church’s first service. “God is not stopping for nothing.”

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last prom


You can hardly blame me for wanting to show off such beauty.


I’m struggling to choose the right descriptor. Gorgeous? Exquisite? Sensational? Breathtaking? Her mom chose “stunning” when she texted the pictures of Marissa and Kaden.


The cool part: What you see is what you get. Stunning girl through and through. (Her other grandma thinks so too!)

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thanksgiving in april

Tilikum Camp and Retreat Center holds many wonderful memories for us and our family. So it was no hardship to drive just outside Newberg to participate in “Thanksgiving in April,” a small event to thank a room full of people for their support and involvement in Tilikum’s ministry.

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My participation involved sitting and reading in the car by this peaceful lake while Mauri set up his simple arrangement for leading a few songs.

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When it was time to join him inside I took the longcut to take in my surroundings.

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I wondered if he would miss me if I just took this path instead.

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Or if I sat here for a spell. Hmmm. There’s room for him here; maybe he’d just come out and sit with me where the people weren’t.

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But I set my dreaming aside and walked toward the smell of sage dressing. Did I mention the event was called “Thanksgiving in April”? I quickly took a picture of this remarkable bread before I sliced into it. You’ll just have to imagine all the other from-scratch offerings because I was thoroughly engaged in moving food from my plate to my mouth.

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Between the meal and the meeting I stood at this window remembering . . .


. . . when we posed for wedding pictures with John and Erin.


And I took this memorable shot.

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This is Dennis Littlefield, Tilikum executive director, updating and visioncasting.

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You know this guy. He’s the reason we were invited to this gathering. (Note shiny new boots!)

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Gary Fawver, former executive director, points to the big swing out yonder. He was sharing from his collection of “kid” quotes. This particular story was about three kids at the swing. One asked another if he thought Jesus would like the swing or if he would be scared. The third was sure Jesus wouldn’t like it at all. “It would make his dress fly up!”

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Ken Vanden Hoek had Tilikum stories too, and after we were dismissed,

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everyone went home with a gift bag, which I’m going to go open right now.

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the real carl m. nill

It would take several volumes to describe my dad. But if I had to condense it to one page, I’d simply share this letter.

Carl Nill to Ben Carlson

“Sharon Carlson, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer.” That would be me. A very important position, you can tell. I never was assigned a task, but Carl Nill sure had big ideas I feel certain are being fully realized in his heavenly work environment.

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two hours

My toddler-watching services were needed today for only two hours while parents and Will went to teacher conferences.

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It was perfect outside weather, so outside was where Lincoln and I spent the entire two hours (except for a diaper change). The can of tennis balls I took with me was the only entertainment we added to whatever the backyard offered. His mama will need some Spray’n’Wash on laundry day, but dirt is a sign of boy having fun.

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Will (and parents) returned with a good preschool report, and I got to stay long enough to watch him show me how he can make an M for Macy.

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the taylors

My friend Donna posted a link on Facebook about her aunt Margaret that caught my amazed interest. It was one of those small-world moments when about 20 years ago Donna mentioned her familial connection to the Ken Taylor family. I befriended Donna through my casual freelance work with Barclay Press.

I quickly found the time to watch the video about Margaret Taylor’s 100th birthday. So much of it carried me back to my Wheaton childhood. I remember my first day of kindergarten when Martha Taylor, my age, was skipped to first grade because she already knew how to read. I remember my mother’s response when she noticed Margaret Taylor’s ill-fitting clothes, indicating yet another Taylor on the way. I remember my high school years when my favorite Taylor, Pete, a year younger, waited for me at the end of our driveway to walk the rest of the way to the bus stop together. We flirted with romance but never seriously. Still, I loved him and left snacks on his windowsill when his heart developed something scary that prevented him from attending school. Around that same time I was asked to proofread galleys for a new book, The Living Letters, by Ken Taylor, which eventually became The Living Bible.

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There were eventually ten Taylor children (that’s Pete on the far right, Martha on top left) and part of my mother’s judgment of the parents was how intimately she knew their lacking resources to support “as many as God chooses to give us.”

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I could have advised the researchers on their story facts because I know this is not the hotel in Winona Lake where the Taylor family lived while Ken commuted to Moody every week. Yes, it was called the Garfield, by my goodness, that picture is way off.

1947-Winona Lake, IN Garfield Hotel

This is actually the Garfield Hotel, and I know because my dad owned it back in the day. He took pity on the Taylor family’s situation and allowed them to live in four unheated rooms, rent free for eight months. (That’s me on the left, in my mother’s arms.) I took pity on Margaret’s plight when the video story described her under the hotel dealing with a water leak when she was nearly full term, but I also felt defensive for my dad, whose good nature and desire to help out makes him sound like an irresponsible landlord. It’s OK; he’s enjoying his reward as we speak. But at the time, he was back in Wheaton, searching for a house for the Taylors to buy in Wheaton with no money down.

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The video does not credit my dad with finding this tiny home just down the street from ours, which is how/why I became an adjunct part of the story.

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In fact, in his autobiography Ken credits another Realtor for locating the property.

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I guess we’ll just let Ken and Carl duke it out on the other side of the pearly gates. It’s for sure I’m not going to fret over that minutia.

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I’m happy to hold on to my own memories of this accomplished family (and this car).


Margaret Taylor deserves laud and honor for living 100 feast-or-famine years.

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