Monday, November 19, 2018

Receiving

December 2018

Even before the jack-o-lanterns were blown out and the Halloween candy was put on sale, the Christmas retail wars began.  Free shipping and deep discounts became available  immediately.  In some stores, Black Friday sales were offered before the end of October.  Yikes!  
Christmas is all about giving!  It’s our opportunity to tell family and friends we love and appreciate them by the giving of a gift.  Plus, admit it, there is a certain amount of pride a person feels in being able to snag a real bargain  during this frenzied shopping season.  I’m sure it’s good for the economy, too, and we need to be supportive of that, right?  Off we go, cutting coupons, searching online to compare prices, waiting in long lines for deep discounts at Walmart or Target or Costco.  Maybe you’re a DYI person who finds yourself knitting, quilting, sewing or baking up a storm at this time of year.  Good for you!
Often times I find myself annoyed by this early emphasis on Christmas shopping.  It makes me feel like I’m already “behind” on my plans and responsibilities.  Just let me eat turkey and count my blessings first.  Then I can begin to think about what the best Christmas gift might be.  
Maybe I need to go back to the original  reason for Christmas to discover the best gift. Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, the Son of God. Maybe I need to look for the best gift ideas in the Bible as opposed to the catalogues.  Jesus’ birth is the first Gift of Christmas.  He is God’s gift to us showing us how much he loves us.  We did nothing to earn this gift.  It is truly an offering from God which he hopes we will humbly accept.  We Minnesotans are not always good at accepting gifts.  We feel self-conscious or undeserving.  We might push it away or give it back, not wanting  to appear needy or greedy.  God’s gift of love is one he wants us to embrace, allowing it to change the way we live.  It will overflow in our hearts, spilling out to others in our  lives.  

Does that mean I should skip shopping?  I love the spirit of giving.  Can I get it done early, like the retail stores are encouraging me to do, leaving December for a focus on Jesus?  I want to visit Bethlehem with the shepherds to see the  baby in the manger, recognizing him as God’s gift of love and accepting that gift in my heart.  To experience the meaning of Christmas is to  learn the importance of graciously receiving God’s love.  This year I want to make Christmas a time of humbly receiving not a time of pride in what I’m giving.  We all know the cliché, “It’s better to give than to receive.”  Maybe we need to turn it around for Christmas.  Embrace that baby Jesus and let him grow in your heart all year!  

Monday, October 22, 2018

Uff Da!

Ever since I was a young girl I looked forward to going to Sweden.  My beloved grandfather, Erick Nordeen,  came from Sweden in the early nineteen hundreds at age 19.   My paternal great grandparents, Alex and Anna Bjorklund, emigrated from Sweden to a farm near Princeton in the 1880s.  Although there was never much talk about it, I always wondered why my ancestors left their country and members of their family to come here.  Grandpa Nordeen knew he would never return to his homeland.  It was an expensive, long and difficult journey.  He had done it once and that was enough.  This was his home now.  He did, however, make a few comments about “home” on occasion.  If we took him to Duluth to enjoy the scenery along the North Shore or drove through rural farmlands he would quietly nod his head and say, “Just like home.  Just like home.”
Now it was my turn to travel across the ocean to Scandinavia.  My family and I visited the mountains and fjords of Norway and the beautiful city of Copenhagen.  Touring Sweden was the most meaningful for me.  Before leaving for our trip I tried to discover why so many Swedish families left home for a land they knew little about.  My grandparents never talked about their struggles.  I read “The Emigrants”  by Wilhelm  Moberg and joined ancestry.com to learn more about my family.  Farms in Sweden had become so small, as they divided them again and again to hand them down to family members, that a family could not survive on them any longer.  The church of Sweden was so controlling  that individuals were ex-communicated  for any differing opinions.  Perhaps these were part of the decision to leave.  America offered a better chance for  happiness and Minnesota felt like home.  It was sad to leave family.  The travel and transition was difficult.  In spite of it all, they were thankful to be here.
Sweden was lovely.  The small farms were well kept, dotted with red barns and red farm houses.  The rolling hills were planted with grains and hay mixtures that we would recognize in our own farm fields.  Rocky outcroppings left by the glaciers thousands of years ago and lakes, surrounded by pines and birch, dotted the countryside.  Stockholm  and the archipelago on it’s eastern edge were picturesque.  It reminded me of Duluth and Lake Superior.  Now, here I was in Sweden, wanting to say, as my grandfather did in Minnesota, “Just like home.  Just like home.”  

This Thanksgiving, as I reflect on the Pilgrims’ emigration to America, I will have a new appreciation for the courage of these people who left the known and came to the unknown and for the depth of thankfulness for their new life here.  After surviving the first year in America, with the help of the Native Americans, they were not rich and they did not live in fancy houses.  They were in a difficult situation but they were thankful.  We’re blessed to have a national day that celebrates the importance of being thankful.  Blessings to you as you celebrate this year!  


Saturday, April 14, 2018


SUMMER OPPORTUNITIES




There is so much to do and so little time!  That’s how we feel at the end of our school year.  At Preschool we always go out with a BANG!  Half of our students will be graduating from our school and be off to their various school districts for kindergarten.  We will miss them but we know they are well prepared for the next step.  We will celebrate that progress plus the accomplishments of our younger students in the month of May.  During our last month of school  we will have many visitors including Paxton Schmidt’s dad, Philip, who will demonstrate throwing pots (He is a potter.  Had you worried didn’t I?) and teach the four year olds how to create their own pots with real potter’s clay.  The New Brighton Police and Fire Fighters will visit all of our classes this month as will Julie Philbrook the Safety Educator from Hennepin County Medical Center.  
  We like to get out a bit in the spring.  Our four year olds will be spending a morning at Silverwood Park  where the staff there will provide a program about birds and print  making.  The three year olds will be taking a school bus for a morning at Como Park Zoo.  The animals are exciting to see but the real thrill is the ride on the bus!  
Knowing that spring is bound to show up soon, our students have been planting seeds and making plans to get out in our Preschool Garden.  Our students plant the garden each spring to grow food for the Ralph Reeder Food Shelf.  Our Summer Session class and volunteer families care for the garden all summer, watering and pulling weeds.  In the fall broccoli, carrots, potatoes, beets and zucchini  are harvested by our students and donated to the food shelf.  Planting and caring for our garden is one way we can give back to our community!  

      SUMMER SESSION
We say good-bye to our school year students in May but that leads us to the opening of our Summer Session.  We want to keep the learning going and the fun happening as long as possible!  Your 3-4-5 year olds can join us on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings from 9:00-11:30, June 12 through July 19 for science, gardening, outdoor games, stories, music, a bike rodeo and much more.  During Salem’s VBS week we will join in some of the exciting activities planned for all the Bible School kids!  We don’t want to miss out on anything. ( We will not meet the week of the 4th of July.)  The cost of this program is $237 for five weeks of fun.  To register email Pam Carlson, pam@salemcovpreschool.com We would love to have you join us!
As you stroll through the church yard this summer make sure to check out our garden and perhaps snip a small bouquet of flowers to take home!


Saturday, March 24, 2018

APRIL2018
A BUCKET LIST VACATION

Do you have a bucket list of places you would like to go before you’re too old to go anymore?  Sweden has always been on my list, probably because my maternal grandfather immigrated from there when he was 19.  I knew him well and loved him dearly.  We lived above him and Grandma in a duplex until I was two.  They babysat my siblings and me often as we grew older.  Although Grandpa often said the scenery along the North Shore was “just like home” he never talked about his life before coming to the United States.  I never thought to ask.  He died when I was in junior high. 
All my grandparents, on both sides of the family, are from Sweden, most of them second generation.  At Christmas my husband and I received the DNA testing from Ancestry as a gift from our children.  We were excited about this because we have decided to go to Sweden this summer.  So, we spit in the tube provided and mailed it off.  I did notice there  was a disclaimer on the web site reminding everyone that we need to be prepared to possibly find out connections we didn’t want to know about.  Hummmm.  My results were not surprising, mostly Scandinavian with a touch of Finnish/Russian (what?) and a tiny sprinkle of northern European.  Since then I’ve been filling in my family tree on-line.  As I have been looking at the regions  of Sweden most of the family came from I have begun wondering why they left and how they chose Minnesota for their new home.  Why didn’t I ask my Grandpa all these questions?  Did he know he would never go back to Sweden or see his family members left behind?  During the 1800s there were millions of Swedes who left Sweden for America.  Many of them came to Minnesota to farm.  That is what they knew how to do and land was available.  The Swedes created Swedish communities where they were comfortable.  They could speak their native tongue to others as they learned English.  They could comfortably share their Swedish customs with their neighbors.   
Immigrating might have been easier in the rural communities than in the Minneapolis and St. Paul area.  In the city the Swedes looked like most other light skinned  Europeans but when they started saying “Uff dah” or “You betcha”  they might have stood out from the rest.  Or maybe it was the herring and lutefisk that made them unusual.  On a more serious note, life was not easy for these new immigrants who were looking for a better life for themselves and their children.
Not knowing the stories that brought my family members to the Wyanett/Karmel area and to Minneapolis I have turned to Vilhelm Moberg’s book, “The Emigrants,” for some possible answers.  This is the story of the southern Swedes who emigrated to Minnesota in the 1800s.  Although I haven’t finished the book which is the first of a trilogy, it is clear that life was extremely difficult for these people in Sweden and there didn’t seem to be any hope of life getting easier in the future.   Saying good-bye to family and friends and heading off on a long unknown voyage to a strange country was scary.  These people were courageous!  I try to put myself in their situation and I can’t imagine doing what they had the courage to do!
There has been so much talk about immigrants and their families in the news lately.  I am not one to say how you should feel toward them and the predicament they are in.  However, I find myself understanding them more then before.  I feel good about the fact that we have a country others see as a safe and potentially prosperous place for them to live and raise a family.  I understand that this is a courageous thing for them to do.  Their journey becomes a more personal journey for me now that I have looked into my grandparents lives.  Uff dah!  This is complex!  Lord, give us wisdom and help us understand!

                                                       

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

MARCH 2018
SAYING GOODBYE

Many of you who have been at Salem for a few years may know that I am a horse person.  I had a horse, Indy, who was a big part of my life outside of school.  I rode him and drove him hitched to wagons and sleighs.  He was a big Shire but he was gentle and trustworthy.  On February 2nd I had to put my buddy down because of a sudden intestinal emergency.  Standing in the equine clinic, looking into his big brown eyes and hearing the vet say that his kidneys were failing and his heart was being affected made my heart sink.  There were really no choices that would reverse this condition.  He was dying.  I had to make the decision to put him down.  I stayed with Indy until the end so he would not be alone with strangers.  I said goodbye and took a snip of mane to keep in a shadow box with his picture.  When I left the clinic I felt crushed and strangely isolated.  He was my only horse and now he was gone.  Was I going to loose my connection to all horse activities?  Would I be able to contribute to the horse and carriage club I belonged to?  Would I be able to keep in touch with my equine friends and the other horses I have helped train and drive?  I felt alone.
Shortly after I lost my big buddy my friend  from the farm where I boarded Indy recognized my dilemma.  She kindly said she felt like I had become part of their family and I should come out as often as I wanted to and continue to work with the other Shires they owned.  They would continue to need help bringing the horses to club events.  There would be times when they needed “horse sitters” if they wanted to travel.  I began to feel a sense of relief.  I was   not alone.  Perhaps I still had a purpose in the equine world.
Not meaning to sound trite, but this experience, happening at the beginning of Lent, has given me a new perspective on how Jesus’s friends and family may have felt after his crucifixion.  This person that meant everything to them and gave purpose and meaning to their lives was suddenly dying before their eyes and there was nothing they could do to reverse it.  They must have felt isolated.  The focus of their lives was gone.  What would they do now?
When God closes a door he opens a window!  Alleluia!  Christ was raised from the dead and He appeared to his disciples to remind them that they continued to have a purpose in this world.  He was sending them out to spread the Word of God to all the world and they would not go out alone.  Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to walk with them.  Once again they had purpose and direction in their lives.  What a wonderful feeling.  

We are all part of God’s family.  Lent is a time for us to feel sorrowful as we recall Jesus’ death.  My recent experience has reminded me of how deep this emotion can be.  In contrast, we will come to the resurrection on Easter morning experiencing true joy as we witness Jesus, raised from the dead, giving us hope and purpose for our lives.  We are not alone. Jesus wants us to join with others in witnessing to the love of God throughout the world.  Thank you, God, for Easter!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

SEEING IS BELIEVING

Knowing that I am a preschool teacher it is no surprise that I love picture books.  
While others are reading historical novels, theology or science fiction I am enjoying the rhyming words, fantasy and illustrations found in short stories by authors such as Jan Brett, Mary Ann Richmond and Ezra Jack Keats.  While the text is simple, some would say very basic, the details are often in the illustrations for the reader to discover on his own.  In an adult book one can skim the pages and come away with the gist of the story.  If you read a picture book you must s-l-o-w down and scan the illustrations for the details of the story.  Jan Brett’s book, “The Mitten” is a good example.  This is a story about a boy, Nicki, whose grandmother reluctantly knit him a pair of white mittens.  She feared that if Nicki dropped one of his mittens he would not find it in the snow.  Sure enough, Nicki unknowingly did drop one of his mittens in the snow.  One by one, various forest animals found the mitten and crawled in to stay warm.  Although the text does not tell us, as the pages of the story are turned the artwork shows us Nicki dropping the mitten, playing in the snow with only one mitten and finally discovering he is missing one mitten.  Unknown to Nicki, eight animals crawled into the mitten as it laid in the snow, stretching it to many times it’s original size.  The last visitor, a mouse, caused the bear to sneeze and all the animals exploded out of the mitten which then flew into the air.  Only in the pictures do we see the animals sprawled out on the forest floor.  At last we see Nicki spying his mitten, grabbing it and running home to show grandmother that he still has his mittens.   The last page of the story is wordless.  We see grandmother holding the mittens, one small and one very large, in her hand with a questioning look on her face.  Nicki is sitting by the fire with his back to grandmother.  The reader is left wondering if either of them ever learned of the animal adventure in the forest.
Looking for the details …….that is something we can do from the moment we wake each day until the time we fall in bed at night.  When our feet touch the floor and we greet the day we should be awake to the world around us.  Although the frustrations and difficulties we encounter daily can dominate our thoughts we can see God’s constant presence as we look for the positive details around us.  That snow is heavy to shovel but the beauty of the snowflake is amazing.  A colleague’s  comment is degrading but we know we are one of God’s children, loved just as we are.  When a smile comes our way, when we taste hot coffee in the morning,  when a cardinal comes to the feeder or a squirrel performs a gymnastic feat to get to that same feeder we know God is there wanting us to smile and see Him in our day.  He loves us!  Seeing is believing.  Look for signs of his love all day and teach your children to look.  Believe in God’s love.  It is real! .  When we are quiet and watching, God finds an opportunity to speak to us or point out the answers to our prayers.  

A couple years ago I was challenged by a Face Book friend to name three blessings at the end of each day for a week. What a blessing it was to end each day looking back at all the positive events of the day.  God was present in my day, whether I looked for signs of it or not.  It was up to me to see the details and thank him for his love.  I challenge you to end your day naming at least three blessings.  It will help you see your day in a different, more positive way.