Oh, boy.

Instead of a trip, we decided to welcome a new puppy into the household in honor of our upcoming 25th anniversary. Nothing says celebratory relaxation like a baby dog, right? He’s an adorable, 6 pound, eight week old bundle of unrelenting day time energy.

I forgot what it was like to have such innocent, oblivious, curiousness at my feet. Dandy is a literal ankle-biter with needle teeth. He slides, tumbles, chases toys, and chews anything within his reach. We baby proofed the house, and still, Dandy will find the dust bunny behind the desk, the plant branch that hangs just within his reach, and the electrical cord you thought he couldn’t get to. That little piece of paper you were too lazy to pick up and throw in the trash? Problem solved. Dandy will eat it!

Feeding time is a juggling act. Dandy is still in survival mode and thinks he must rush to the food and water dish, or he won’t get any. Puppy food is not appealing to our older dog Chanse’s discerning palate, but Dandy not only loves his food but also gobbles the crumbs Chanse leaves on his plate. We must feed them separately to avoid tummy problems and anxiety attacks.

What goes in must come out, and Dandy is a good little eliminator. He goes when he wakes up, after eating, after drinking, after playing, after a nap, and sometimes after he comes in from going outside. He gets lots of praise when he eliminates outside, and a loud “NO!” and hand clap that startled him midstream the few times he’s forgotten the proper location for that sort of thing. He’s very young, and we are confident he will get it. He’s a Border Collie/Poodle mix, both known for their intelligence, so it’s only a matter of time when we can trust Dandy to do his duty calling appropriately.

Dandy shines as a night sleeper. I play a YouTube audio of calming music developed specifically to comfort puppies in their new home. The first night, Dandy cried for under ten minutes and slept the rest of the night until 7 AM. The second night he whimpered a little when I put him in his crate, and then I didn’t hear a peep from him until 7 AM again. In the morning, he bursts out of the crate like a horse out of the gate, jumping and twirling all the way to the back door. I’m so thankful he sleeps so I can sleep, too, or I don’t know how I’d keep up with him. The young will keep you young!


I’m feeling so blessed. Tired, but blessed.


Photographed by Tamra Witt. Artwork by Poiema Cards.

Her world was hanging by a sliver of hope that in three days, her will to survive would overcome her desire to leave all she ever knew behind.

Her friend put French braids in her hair to keep it out of her face while she drank the thick black liquid that would soak up the solution to her problems, she thought.

It was 1997 and sounds of the Super Bowl were blaring throughout the ER as everyone cheered on the local team with hopes of a win.

While the city celebrated, she spent three days crying inconsolably. The staff couldn’t work with her in her state of complete sorrow. She wondered where her hope was. Did she not deserve to have hope? It all seemed so pointless.

Her friend brought some clothes from the thrift store, so she had something to wear besides what she wore to the hospital. The “pastor” from church brought a carton of cigarettes. She thought how ironic. Did the Holy Spirit lead her to do that? Her parents called.

When she had rested enough to clear her head, she was able to plan. Writing out each step, she detailed what she would do and who she would call in case of another slip on the upward slope of life. Part of her plan was to find a new church and get serious. Her plan was her hope.

Sitting on the “smoking patio” filled with people in different stages of pain, a man walked by in his hospital gown and farted loudly right in front of her face. “Is this not my life?”, she thought. She tried to act like she didn’t hear it until she noticed a woman across the room stifling a laugh. As they caught each other’s eyes, the dam burst, and the inconsolable tears turned to uncontrollable laughter. They laughed so much it was starting to bother those who weren’t in on the “joke”, and they couldn’t explain because the man who caused all the ruckus was obliviously sitting there smoking his cigarette.
She and her new friend exchanged phone numbers.

The next day the sun was shining, and the air was crisp and clear. She hugged her friend, laughed some more, and with her plan in hand, went home.

“The LORD your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing”. Zephaniah 3:17


Have you gardening enthusiasts ever had a plant that you gave up on because it wasn’t thriving and didn’t look like it had much of a chance? My plant was a cauliflower.

It was back in 1991. We lived in a house in Southeast Denver, an older neighborhood of 1950’s cookie-cutter homes that had nice big yards for playing kids, barbeques, and gardens. We had a huge vegetable garden in the back with an herb garden, strawberry bed, dwarf cherry tree, and raspberry bushes. In the side yard, I had a cutting garden where I had planted several varieties of annual and perennial flowers for the birds, butterflies, and me! I loved digging in the dirt and seeing what I could grow in the arid Colorado climate that is so different from Iowa, where I grew up.

This particular year I had decided to try growing celery and cauliflower. The celery took too much room in the garden as each plant needed a “mound” to be upright so the stalks could develop safely from the sun and elements. So I needed to find a place for the cauliflower, which also required ample space. I found the perfect space in the cutting garden behind the lilac bush, and I made sure the lighting fit the requirements and gave them plenty of food and water. I babied those plants until mid-summer when I realized I had miscalculated my time for planting because they were not holding up under the summer heat. They were “cool” weather plants….duh. I let them go; no more water or food for them while I concentrated on nurturing the celery.

Skip ahead two months to September. It had been a little cool but nothing too uncomfortable. Most of the garden was spent, having been harvested already. One particular day, it was rainy, and I was feeling melancholy. I had been sober almost a year, and that said, recovery is not easy. Seeing one’s self and life with a clear head and humbling evaluation could depress anyone. I hadn’t yet obtained the gift of gratitude, so sadly, I was wallowing.

My cutting garden was visible from the kitchen window, and I stood there in tears for quite a while, just watching the rainfall and the birds eating at the bird feeder. After a while, the rain turned to sleet and then snow, and not a light one either. It was coming down heavily and was quickly covering everything in a white blanket. As I stood there watching, I told God, “I want to die, but I’m too scared, it’s up to you….would you please just send down a big bolt of lightning and take me out?”. (My dramatic flair is at its best when I’m sad. What can I say!?!)

I gazed out the window at the birds. They flew about, to the feeder, up to the bush, down to the ground, hopping in the snow. There were bird scratches all over the…wait a minute. What……no. I tore out the front door and around the house to the cutting garden and behind the lilac bush, covered in snow with just a small patch visible, was the biggest, most beautiful, white cauliflower I had ever seen! 

How could it be? I had completely forgotten it was even there and hadn’t given it any attention for weeks. I saw its huge leaves growing, but how could I pass by it several times a week without noticing its perfect white head? I was amazed at its beauty. It was huge, about the size of honeydew melon, and pure white with no blemishes. 

The only reason I saw it that day, camouflaged with snow, was because I was at that window, focused and praying to God and ready to receive His answer. I recognized that, and because of it, my mood was lifted immediately by His grace.

What a gift! I thanked God for opening my eyes and giving me the tastiest, most succulent cauliflower I had ever eaten for dinner that evening. I had a new perspective and appreciation for the creativity of the Lord’s answers to prayer, and even for what might be an example of His gentle sense of humor.

God is so good!

A cauliflower recipe Mom submitted to the family cookbook, circa 2007. Enjoy!

Psalm 66:18-20

 If I had not confessed the sin in my heart,

 the Lord would not have listened.

 But God did listen!

 He paid attention to my prayer.

 Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer

 or withdraw his unfailing love from me.


I remember when Mom bought a set of World Book Encyclopedias from the door-to-door salesman. Back then, the salesmen drove from farm to farm selling their goods. I’m sure making a sale was like a big bonus to them to go along with the cookies and coffee offered.

Mom wanted to go to school to be a librarian in her younger years, but she didn’t have that opportunity. So she made sure we had books to read at home. In addition to scouring the encyclopedia for information about anything you wanted to know about everything near and far, I had a stack of “Little Golden Books” from the Five and Dime store and a subscription to Highlights magazine, which from its first publication in 1946, was the “gold standard” periodical for children. School Scholastic book sales were like a candy store. When we moved to town, our house was down the block from the library, and Mom made sure I had a library card. I was raised to love books.

Oddly enough, I struggled with reading at first and was in the “special group”. It seems like learning didn’t come easily to me, but it was like a breath of fresh air when the words fit together, and it clicked. Finally, I could share Mom’s love of reading, and the opportunities for exploration seemed endless.

Technology replaced encyclopedias, and now we can be world explorers and armchair experts with the internet at our fingertips. What could be better for the bibliophile, right?

Truthfully, it’s more important now than ever to discern the multitude of information we have at our disposal. As the volume of information increases, the temptation is to cut corners and accept the first communication as truth. First place isn’t always best or correct.

Bethany Hamilton was a Christian 13 year old surfer who suffered the loss of her left arm from a shark attack. It almost ended her aspirations to continue surfing professionally. She made a comeback after a period of soul searching and training with modifications to her surfboard and eventually earned 5th place in the National Scholastic Surf Association finals. Today, her story is an inspiration to others and an encouragement to “never give up”. Her 5th place win was a 1st place accomplishment.

Exploration calls for digging much deeper than the surface, and truth be told, I still would rather explore in the pages of a book than on a keyboard.

The simple inherit folly, but the prudent are crowned with knowledge. Proverbs 14:18


Photo by Tamra Witt

“Intention” is a passive word. It hasn’t happened yet because “intention” is still in the planning stage of a final goal or thought, and there is no guarantee of completion. Like a promise, intentions rely upon the integrity that forms them, and when virtue is lacking, plans fall through. We can try with good intentions, but if there was no proper planning or focused resolve, or the heart wasn’t involved in covering all the bases with love, all the good intentions will fly out the window. I know I’ve had many good intentions stare at me from outside the window panes over the years.

A pastor I know often said he didn’t want to hear his children say they would try to do something because “trying” gave them a ready excuse for failing with half-hearted effort. If your intentions are sincere, you will use all you have at your disposal and within yourself to achieve a good outcome, and you will call on the Lord to instill love into your intention if it is His will to see your plan through.

We always think our intentions are good, but God knows our hearts even when we can’t see what motivates us. He knows and is ready to lift the veil. It takes courage to see clearly and submit to God’s will readily.

What are your intentions today? Are you ready for God to reveal your heart?

Go to Him!

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12


Photography by Tamra Witt

Parents have been told for decades that children need to be kept busy to keep them out of trouble and enable them to live happy, healthy lives. It seems as if we now have generations of people who have never learned to relish the quiet stillness that God requires for a relationship with Him. 

Instead of leaning on the Lord in prayer and stillness, we stay busy to try and drown out the worries of the world. Without His loving comfort and guidance, we strive to fend for ourselves in a frustrating and exhausting cycle of “Do” that never ends. The noise can be deafeningly destructive.

Be still.  

Pick a time. Turn off the radio, tv, and computer and find a comfy chair. Praise God in gratitude and lay your worries at the foot of the cross. Intercede for others and seek His sovereign direction. Pray and listen.

Be still. 

Carve out time to embrace Jesus every day, and life will take a more meaningful turn for the better despite what is happening around you and in the world. The joy you’ve been searching for in the noise of busy occupation is about to become a reality in the quiet stillness of love.

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! Psalm 46:10

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7


What is the difference between a person not wearing a mask because it makes them uncomfortable or they don’t believe it’s necessary, and people who drink alcohol in the presence of a recovering alcoholic because “it’s not my problem”? Both scenarios involve vulnerable people who have legitimate, potentially life-threatening, medical concerns and yet, one group is regarded as selfish for not caring about other people while others see it as acceptable to expect the recovering person to be responsible for their own wellbeing without placing limitations on their lifestyle.

The point is we have no way of knowing the medical issues of other people. They may look perfectly normal on the outside but suffer on the inside. If we require special care for the welfare of some, then the few deserve the same consideration whether we like it or not, always being mindful we can’t know what the person across from us is facing.

There are an awful lot of people throwing errant stones out there. Pick them up.

Build a bridge.


Someone asked how my husband and I met.

When I met my husband, I was conducting a personal social experiment. We both worked in a retail service establishment, a custom framing shop, and I wanted to see how people treated me if I changed how I looked. So I took a month off from wearing any hint of makeup. It may seem trivial, but it was a daring change for me at the time, to be in public in the raw.

Some people did treat me differently; women seemed friendlier, and men less attentive. I don’t know if my looks or how I interacted with people in an exposed state caused the change, but maybe I perceived them differently because I saw myself through the eyes of vulnerability. I do know one thing. I learned the personality shines regardless of your appearance because the human heart transcends the physical. In time, I simply forgot I didn’t have my mask on!

We are all getting older every day. Someday the young ones now will be old, and the old will be gone, and it happens a lot faster than ever imagined. In a society that treasures temporal aesthetics, it is never too early or late to learn to treat each other with kindness, dignity, and respect. Anything else can be like a dagger to the spirit of an already insecure soul.

My husband passed the test.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” — 2 Corinthians 4:16


Great Grandma Burley holding my brother.

Are there any other closet wood sniffers here?

I love the smell of wood. It was one of the benefits of being a custom picture framer. Now and then, I would cut into some cheap wood that stunk to high heaven, but the smells of pine, cedar, and most other woods are comforting and pleasant.

Ever walk into a place, and the scent reminds you of grandma’s old house? It’s not unpleasant, just a kind of characteristic, musty, lived-in smell. It’s nostalgic, and immediately reminds me of sitting on Great-Grandma Burley’s ancient rug that covered an old solid wood floor in the living room of a house that had a turret and an upstairs porch. There were geraniums in the window. I’m eating molasses cookies and playing with her toys, which was a shoe box full of wooden thread spools. It was a quieter time of innocence.

The reason I’m bringing this up was yesterday we went to the hardware store, and I was caught in the lumber section sniffing wood.

I won’t apologize.

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