The White Hurricane

“Is that what they’re calling Donald Trump?”  That’s the question my husband asked me when I announced the title of this week’s post!  “No!” I replied, “It’s the Blizzard of 78!”  We’ve called it the Blizzard of 78 for the last 39 years. I discovered the title “White Hurricane” as I was reading some historical accounts today.  Remembering the year of the “rare severe blizzard”, so named by the National Weather Service, has never been a problem for me.  It was my senior year of high school in Upper Sandusky (please reference Where I Come From).

What I hadn’t remembered as well was how little snowfall we actually got.  It’s pretty amazing that somewhere between 5 and 10 inches could have covered vehicles and drifted to rooftops, but it did.

The day before the monstrous storm was unseasonably warm and rainy, not unlike this January has been, but during the evening, we were warned that a blizzard was coming.  A snow day was always welcome, but this time the break from school didn’t end until we had missed 18 days, causing my graduation to be delayed.

You can read about the meteorological significance of the weather system’s combination of extremely low barometric readings, super strong winds, significant snow, and deadly cold temperatures in this National Weather Service account. 

51 people died in Ohio, not from traffic accidents, but from being stranded in cars, trying to walk to safety, or in their homes with no heat.  Roads and highways including I75 and the Ohio Turnpike were closed, and helicopters and snowmobiles were employed to aid endangered motorists.

My family fared pretty well during the two day storm.  When the blizzard began early in the morning of January 26, we were all at home and able to stay put.  At some point, we lost electricity, but  it wasn’t much of a concern until evening approached.  That’s when Mom, my two sisters, my brother and I chose one room to sleep in, made beds on the floor, and gathered candles to use as long as we were awake.  Before nightfall, though, our telephone rang, surprising us since we assumed we did not have phone service.  On the other end was Jean Mylet, a neighbor whose daughter was in my class.  Noticing that the lights didn’t come on in the houses across the street from theirs, they were offering lodging for the night.  We somewhat reluctantly bundled up head to toe, gathered up our makeshift beds, and headed out the front door.

The next part of our adventure is what stands out in my mind as well as my  mom’s.  The five of us had difficulty making it down the front steps, which seemed nonexistent under the drifted snow.  With our cumbersome clothing and loaded arms, we braced against the wind and took one step at a time where we thought the sidewalk was, passing only 3 houses and crossing the street to arrive at a warm, well-lit home where we ate together and played games through the evening.

When I asked Mom about her memories of The Blizzard, she recalled that while most businesses and offices remained closed, the Wyandot County Courthouse where she worked reopened shortly after the storm passed.  As the only clerk of the probate court office living in town, she was called upon to walk the several icy blocks to man an office with few to no visitors.

My husband lived in Seneca county on his family’s farm and remembers making his way with his dad from the house to the barn to check on their livestock before dark.  Entering the drafty structure, they quickly spotted the pigs circled together to keep warm, but the cattle were nowhere in sight.  Suddenly, what looked like snow drifts began to move as the cows stood up!  Ohio farmers took a hard hit from the storm with $73 million lost in livestock and property according to the National Weather Service.

During our lifetimes, we have endured other bitterly cold days in Ohio and have certainly seen heavier snowfalls. The four winters that we weathered in Minot, North Dakota, in the early nineties were pretty severe, with snow coming in October and not leaving until April and 50 below zero wind chills occurring on a fairly regular basis.  However, when the White Hurricane took its time driving snow into drifts and sending temperatures plummeting, it froze a memory into our minds that has become the legendary Blizzard of 78.

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In Perfect Step

On these cold, damp January days in Ohio, I get most of my exercise at our mall, usually walking side by side with my husband up and down the corridors at a pretty good clip.  But yesterday my schedule only allowed for me to walk alone while he was at work. As I was putting in my laps, passing meandering patrons and fellow mall-walkers, one particular couple caught my eye.

Husband and wife, probably in their 70s, came around a corner at a brisk pace, not just side by side, but arm in arm.  I was amazed to witness them moving with elbows locked and perfectly in perfect step with each other!  Right – left – right – left.  I couldn’t take my eyes off of them as they passed.  It was poetry in motion, and I now wonder if they might be dancing partners who move with graceful precision across the floor.

My first encounter with The Couple in Perfect Step happened only an hour after I had been preparing to lead a women’s Bible study session about the Fruit of the Spirit.  During that evening’s class, I planned to include a verse that says “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galations 5:25)  Right before my eyes was an extraordinary picture of what I imagine that can look like.

The Spirit referred to is the third part of the Holy Trinity of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, who comes to reside in the person who trusts Jesus for eternal life.  The fruit that this relationship produces is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  By relationship, I mean acknowledging the presence and authority of God the Holy Spirit in every area of life, and that means focusing on where He wants to lead, as well as when and how fast we are to move.

I envisioned myself with my smaller, weaker arm linked securely with his strong one, moving in perfect step through the day, trusting his lead.

With joy, I told the group of women about The Couple in Perfect Step to encourage them to link elbows with the Holy Spirit, walk in step with Him, and bear the fruit that is uniquely Christian.

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On the Twelfth Day of Christmas

As each day passes, I notice fewer and fewer decorations and lights.  Our own Christmas tree will be disassembled and stored in the next day or so. Less gradual was the abrupt change in the song play list at our mall from every version of “White Christmas” ever recorded to “Cheeseburger in Paradise” (I kid you not).  And it’s getting hard to find a cookie or piece of Christmas candy in my house.  I am especially sad that my Pfeffernusse cookies are  gone.

So, on this January 6, the Twelfth Day of Christmas, I’ve decided to share some of my favorite cookies and carols with you.  Think of it as a late Christmas gift, or an early one if you wish.

I made Peppernuts, the English translation of the German recipe, for the first time in December.  I found the recipe in a magazine I had laying around and decided to give it a try. I couldn’t help but notice the similarity of the word Pfeffernusse to my maiden name, Pfeiffer, however, the cookies don’t seem to have been a tradition for my relatives.  They do share many of the spices of my Grandma Pfeiffer’s molasses cookies which are still a family favorite, but they also contain cardamom, ground almonds and, yes, white pepper.  I enjoyed making these crunchy bite-sized cookies and found that I couldn’t eat just one. The flavorful treats stay fresh longer  than most cookies, and I’ve loved grabbing a handful for a snack.  Do they really have to be a seasonal thing?  I don’t think so.  Here is the Pfeffernusse recipe that I used.

Although it’s January 6, I confess that I listened to a disc of Christmas music today.  When I stashed the rest of my seasonal CDs away this week, I couldn’t bear to put my newest one out of sight and out of mind just yet.  Fernando Ortega’s CHRISTMAS SONGS album was such a breath of fresh air compared to the many tired renditions of carols that fill the season.  The beautiful instrumentation and thoughtful treatment of the lyrics brought out deeper appreciation for the true reason we celebrate. Some may not approve of setting a beloved carol to a new melody, but I found Ortega’s rendition of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” to be quite special.  It’s upbeat and hopeful sounding all the way through the last verse.  And the truth of that verse is not constrained to December or outdated 2,017 years after Christ was born of Mary.

How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in.





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5 Surprising Ways That I Have Grown in the Last Year

During the days between Christmas and January 2nd, I found myself wanting to hold onto the past year.  The holiday season had been full of music, gift giving, and time with family and friends.  The emotional and spiritual mountaintop of Christmas followed by my husband’s birthday and the opening of 2017 were followed by a bit of a letdown.  Life would get back to normal and I felt a little sad.

As the sun set on January 2nd, I hadn’t  made peace with the passage of time and had not made a single New Year’s Resolution.  That’s when the Lord began reminding me of some  things that happened in 2016.  I  jotted down a list of 5 personal accomplishments that were nowhere on the horizon as January began a year ago.

  1. Last January I decided to play the piano that sits silently in our living room.  Using my bit of training and a book of “Kids Songs” left behind by our kids, I played for a few minutes each day.  In February, I plunked out an imperfect performance of Happy Birthday to Eric.  By spring, I could play songs from The Wizard of Oz. The daily practice dwindled through the year, but on December 31, I successfully played Happy Birthday to Dave.
  2. In March, while God was leading me to offer a women’s Bible study on the book of James, I was surprised by the desire and ability to memorize the entire 5 chapters of James!  I could name a poor memory as one of my weaknesses, so I was thrilled to gradually learn the verses and be able to recite the entire book by summer.
  3. In June, my future daughter-in-law invited me to join her mother and sister as they picked out her wedding gown.  I was so touched by the fact that they included me.  It was a joy to watch her model gowns until one of them brought tears to her eyes and I cried along with the three of them.
  4. During August, I was enjoying summer while anticipating  ministry and volunteer activities resuming in the Fall. I asked God if there was anything new that he wanted me to do, and thoughts of beginning a blog began to stir in my heart.  I listed a dozen possible topics and found on-line instructions on how to set up a blog.  I wondered whether it would be difficult to find time to write each week and whether I would enjoy the process of preparing each post.  So far, it has been a joy to seek guidance from the Lord, to think about the best ways to express my thoughts, and to hear that folks appreciate  Thoughts Collected by Lisa.
  5. On December 11, the idea came to me to invite the neighbors who surround me over for a Christmas lunch. I usually talk myself out of such ideas, but this time I immediately contacted the three ladies and found that we could meet that Friday.  It was the first time the four of us were together to enjoy conversation and a meal.  As they were leaving, someone said, “We should make this a tradition.”

In thinking about these 5 Surprising Ways That I Have Grown in the Last Year and wanting to continue to grow this  year, I realize that it is not about me resolving to do more or do better.  It is about continuing to play the piano, to write, and to grow relationships, while being attentive to new opportunities.

I want to look back on 2017 and see that I’m living an abundant life, using the gifts God has given me and blessing people.  Not knowing exactly what that will look like, I resolve to keep my eyes and ears open to how the Lord wants me to live each day.  After all, 365 days lived well will add up to a Happy New Year.

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