6105 Abbott Avenue had only, one and three quarter bathrooms.  A family of six, we four girls shared the ‘main’ bath.  The infamous ‘pink shirt’ picture of the Mitchell girls:

When we moved to 6105, Wendy and I were in high school,  Jennifer was in junior high and Pam attended elementary school.  I never remember our bathroom door ever being closed.

Mother scrubbed its’ tan tile floor every Friday, and washed the rug.  Two lightbulbs, hidden behind a frosted glass cover, hung above the mirrored medicine cabinet.  Maybe that was all the light a room only 5 x 7 feet needed.   The white porcelain sink wasn’t even a pedestal sink but a bowl attached to the wall, with no storage or shelving underneath.  A bar of gold Dial soap sat in a silver metal dish screwed into the wall above the sink. The white bathtub might have had tile surrounding it at one time, or it had been replaced with a plastic insert.

The space would be ripe for an HGTV makeover today.  Yet we were content with it.  Even with four girls, I can’t remember the small medicine cabinet overflowing with bottles of beauty ointments, or any of the stereotypical fights with girls banging on the door, “It’s my turn!  Get out!”

The one extra feature it had was a mysterious small oak door in the wall beside the toilet.  Guests would always ask, “What’s that?”  A clever builder designed the door for convenience.  It was a laundry chute that led to a large wicker basket in the basement below, near the washer and dryer.  All Mother’s grandchildren at one time or another used the chute as a toy.  It was fun to open the door and make matchbox cars disappear.

That bathroom taught me, before I was married,  a lesson about the rigors of married life.  While on a family vacation in Ocean City, New Jersey, Dad had to fly back to Edina to work for a couple of weeks.  He offered to wallpaper the bathroom for my mother.  Unfortunately, he also picked out the wallpaper: a very 60’s looking turquoise and brown daisy pattern.  When my mother got home and saw it, she was horrified.  But, she never repapered that bathroom.

I learned another lesson there: take every opportunity to enrich your life.  Mother wasn’t a professional musician, but she played the piano.  Her baby grand sat in the living room.


She appreciated the beautiful things in life, and as a born teacher, found ways to instill a love for beauty in her children.  When we lived at 6105, Mother loved taking us to the Edina library, a separate city library in those days.  Besides books, they loaned out framed art prints for free, on a monthly basis.  So Mother joyfully hung her choice for the month in that bathroom, over the laundry chute door.

I can’t remember any of those masterpieces now,  but on occasion I’ll see a painting that I recognize from that bathroom classroom.  Having no photo, memory has to paint the picture of that special place, down the hall, second door on the right.



We biked into the church parking lot this Sunday morning.  I was so happy to be back at church that my eyes filled with tears.

I’ve been having flashbacks of Duane’s medical residency, forty years ago, during these last months of lockdown.  We had moved to Rochester, Minnesota, where we knew no one.  Duane was on call at the hospital every third night, leaving me alone at home.  That July, I realized the normal routines of life would be gone for three years.  The natural rhythm of workweek/weekend disappeared.  Friday night movie dates, over.  We used to go to church together on Sunday mornings.  Now I went alone.

I was pregnant, too, so technically not alone.  I found a job at the County Clerk’s office processing passports and marriage licenses.  A  kind couple at  the church I attended started a Bible study for new mothers soon after Mike was born.  Even though I was new to the church, the ladies held a baby shower for me.  I went home with a car full of presents, from other young mothers who hardly knew me.

For Duane and I, being part of a healthy church has been a top priority.  We’ve moved a lot in our forty three years of marriage.  Wherever we settled, we searched for a good church.  A place where people who follow Jesus gather.

I remember the couple who taught our Sunday School class when Duane was in residency, Herb and Fran Reigler.  They tried anonymously, to pay for our car repair bill when the motor froze.  Where ever we’ve moved, we’ve met more people like them:  the friends who visited the juvenile jail with us to share their lives with incarcerated kids.  Jeanne always remembered each child’s birthday with a card. Our Sunday morning team who planned and led a worship program for kids.  The high school kids who babysat the kids of young parents so they could get together.  The friends who have listened to our family emergencies and prayed for us, and asked us, “How’s it going?”  These are people who care about others.

Over the last weeks, unable to go to church on Sunday mornings, I miss my Christian friends.  We’re different ages, in different ‘life seasons’ with different callings and backgrounds.  But my Christian friends share two characteristics that attract me: gentleness and grace.  Over the years, we’ve shared the good, bad and ugly of life.

When something comes up on a Monday morning, or whenever life crashes into my plans, I  think, “I’ll be able to share this with my friends at church.”  It comforts me to know they’re praying for me. I’ve seen circumstances change in ways I couldn’t make happen myself.  These aren’t just nice people, they’re people who’ve made the choice to believe God exists and that he cares about us.  And so, we  care about each other.

On the old  British show “All Creatures Great and Small”, two veterinarians were discussing the hard lives of their patients, the farmers of northern England.

“They have sheer stubborn pride and refuse to quit, in spite of the frightening day to day realities they face.  They’re a breed apart.  They possess that exceptional quality of the unbreakable human spirit.”

In the next scene, James, one of the vets, is sitting at the kitchen table of the farm family whose cows needed his healing.  The farmer’s wife kindly asks James if he would like a cup of tea and a piece of pie.  Her son, hardly twelve, breezes through the room.

“I’m off to check on the cows for Dad,”  he announces as he goes out the door.

“Where’s your husband?”  James asks.

“He’s in hospital,”  the wife answers.

“Is it serious?”  James looks shocked, as he had just seen him a week ago, and farmers can’t afford to go to hospital.

“Well… it’s not looking hopeful,”  she says quietly.  Set in 1937, before present day medical treatments, death was not uncommon for illnesses we shrug off today.

I’ve been meditating on that ‘unbreakable human spirit,’ pictured so poignantly in that farm family.

When ‘the going gets tough, the tough get going,’ goes the old motto, and in these present days my ‘unbreakable human spirit,’ can feel fragile.  I used to turn on the news each morning, to catch the local weather.  Not anymore;  I’d have to endure hearing the newscasters spouting the latest Covid stats.  So I make other choices, which take time to consider.  The constant ‘considering how to spend the time’ and being forced out of life’s habits and routines, is, in itself, exhausting.

I try to surround myself with inspiration.  Winston Churchill’s speeches can do that. The epitome of moral courage, he determined to survive against Hitler.  In response to the idea of surrender to Hitler, Churchill stated, ““If this long island story of ours is to end at last, let it end only when each of us lies choking in his own blood upon the ground.”    

I try to copy his resolve.  Lately, I also  remember that Churchill spent much of the war taking hot baths and drinking heavily.

The greatest hardship of quarantine for me has been the loss of the Sunday morning church experience.  Zoom and internet services can’t fill the void.  My mainstay, beyond faith in God, is  being able to get together with people who love God.   I go to church on Sundays with expectancy.  A  serendipitous Energy pervades those gatherings, that begin out in the parking lot when we arrive, because we often meet there first.   Surprising encounters happen in hallways and the lobby.  The carefully planned services restore my spirit’s perspective.  Through music, prayers and spoken truth I’m changed and strengthened.  Something I didn’t expect but came looking for is found.

It’s the one morning out of seven where the focus is God’s community, not me.   I’m reminded of important things I knew but forgot.  Being with other Christians, God’s kingdom comes alive. The ideas I hear may propel me to a new choice or a new habit.  Or something to eliminate from my life.  This morning I learned about a summer Bible study to join.

If the human spirit is ‘unbreakable’ or we’re stronger than we feel at times, it’s only because God is the one who supplies the love and strength that we need to make it.  He designed us to live in relationship with him through our relationships with others.

I was thrilled and thankful to be with my church family this Sunday.  We met at 8 a.m. outside, in our shady parking lot.  Being the middle of June, no one  expected the cool Florida breeze that floated around us, scattering the Pastors music and sermon notes.   We sat on lawn chairs or blankets we brought, with our children at our feet.   We joined in Communion with each other.

In the last weeks, as our county has begun a careful Reopening,  some of the New Normals have been a disappointment.  Store shelves still have empty spaces..  Libraries and restaurants aren’t their usual selves.

But this Sunday morning’s gathering, thoughtfully planned with wisdom, began my week with the same life-giving joy as every other Sunday.  As always, God’s glory shines in his people.


“I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters. I will praise you among your assembled people.”       -Psalm 22:22.

“The world is a perfectly safe place to be as long as you are in the Kingdom of God.”  – Dallas Willard








I didn’t want to see “1917” because I have two sons, and for a mother, realistic war movies are really horror movies.  I see all kinds of movies but not horror movies.   But with everyone talking about the amazing cinematography, the ‘Best Picture’ nomination, and some of my girlfriends (also moms) seeing it, I decided, bracing myself, that I would go.

Also, Duane and I toured the WWI battlefield in Ypres, Belgium, on a cold rainy June day a few years ago.  We marched around mounds that were once trenches filled with mud soaked soldiers, and saw the fields where some of the millions of horses died.  The opening scenes of 1917 exactly reproduced that landscape of hell.  I watched with eyes squinting to not feel the full impact of the brutality of that war.

Two soldiers are on a mission to reach a major with a life saving message, was what I understood the film was about, without anyone giving away the ending.  I debated whether it would be a story of heroes or a story of the hopelessness of war; the first always inspires me, the second I can do without.

It won the Oscar for best cinematography because the visuals, like a bombed out town lit in the dark by fires and flares,  were amazing.  It was up for best picture because in the details of the story man is portrayed in his humanity: good and evil.  It was a story of two sons; each had pictures of their mother safely tucked inside their uniforms. Was one picture hidden in his small Bible?  One of the soldiers is desperate to find and see his brother.  In meeting a convoy of soldiers, an officer warns, “Be sure to give your message in front of others.  War makes men too eager to fight.”

I often wonder where a film gets its story.  The more fascinating ones are usually based in reality.  Most inspiring, In the end credit, Sam Mendes honors his grandfather, Alfred Mendes with his full military title, as the basis for the idea of “1917.”  We need to share our family stories.

My grandfather, Andrew Telford, served in the Canadian Army in France in WWI.  He had become a Christian the previous year and spent time preaching the Good News, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will have eternal life,” to men who were going off to die.  They respected him; enough that they asked him to keep their gambling money safe in his Bible.

Five stars.



In June 2019 we sold our house with a pool and moved to the condo that had been our ‘beach place’.  We wanted to simplify life.  We turn 65 in 2020. 

Duane was still taking care of kids at North Pinellas Children’s.  We were loving our small group and friends at church.  I planned to continue serving in BSF.  And the mailings from Medicare arrived on a daily basis.

I loved our condo at the beach. Yet now when we were living here full time and friends smiled, “Aren’t you living the dream?!” I didn’t feel like it.  Maybe it was the mess of the first weeks, but even after the floor was done and closets installed and filled, the unease remained. As I looked out at spectacular sunsets from the bedroom window, instead of marveling at the beauty, the unspoken idea that this might be our last place made me feel sad.  Life felt smaller, which had nothing to do with square footage.

Duane and I talked about what God’s future plans for us would be.  His friends were starting to retire, and that was making him think about what he wanted 

to do.   Duane knew from little things I said, that I was struggling with the change to full time life at the beach.  We asked our friends to pray for us.  

In December, our daughter-in-law Elizabeth mentioned enjoying listening to Carey Nieuwhof’s leadership  podcast.  On a Monday night, while Duane was watching football (again!), I listened to Carey’s 2 hour interview with Gordon MacDonald. He authored the bestsellers “Ordering Your Private World” and “Reordering Your Broken World.”  His thoughts about his life and marriage when he was in his 60s were so inspiring I urged Duane to listen.  We listened to their conversation three times. 

We started talking.  We spent hours asking each other questions about what we expected in the next few years.  We said the things we had been thinking but were afraid to say.  We went to sleep past our bedtime and then woke up in the morning with another fresh idea.  

In 1975, when we began dating at Wheaton, Gordon MacDonald had taught a Special Services week at Wheaton, on “Relationships.”  His ‘appearance’ now, with pivotal insights, was a ‘nice touch,’ God.

We had been looking to God for a new opportunity.  That wasn’t happening.  The only possibly new idea was starting a young couples group at church.  I wasn’t sure how we would do that, since our condo wasn’t too far for us but too far for some.   

“Have you had any answer to prayer about your future plans?”  asked one of the ladies in my BSF group, when we got together after the Christmas break.

She knew we were praying for direction, even with a specific, “We’d like to know what to do by January 1.”  

One morning at BSF, in a hallway conversation, a mom of one of Duane’s patients mentioned how often his work had been a ministry to their family.  It wasn’t the first time I’d heard that.  Then, a few weeks later, a favorite uncle, now 80, counseled, “The years I worked from 65 to 75 were some of my best.”

We kept searching, as January 1 came and went.

“The LORD directs the steps of the godly.  He delights in every detail of their lives.”  Psalm 37:23

“I’m hesitant about living full time at the beach,”  It felt good to confess to a friend.  A little scary, too, as I didn’t have an easy solution.  She wasn’t a bit shocked.  She told me she and her husband, who had downsized, were considering adding on. 

“You need more room, too.  You and Duane like having people over.”

“He’ll flip out,”  I answered.  

She just smiled.  “I’ll pray for your conversations.”

A few Wednesdays ago, on one of those rare, empty of time constraints, open afternoons, we plunged into talking more specifically about what we’re doing, and where and how.   We talked about the size and location of our condo, church ministry plans, and Duane’s work.  

Duane didn’t flip out.  Instead, we figured out new ways to meet our goals.  Age wise, we’re five years shy of seventy, but still in excellent health and love being actively involved with work, friends, church and family.    

Last Sunday afternoon, we visited an Open House at a two bedroom villa (no maintenance!), near work and church.   I could see us hosting friends for dinner in the spacious dining room.  Within a few days, we were under contract.  We’ll keep the beach condo, but  split our time, as we were doing before.  Duane loves his patients at North Pinellas Children’s, and plans to keep on working.  Thursday afternoon we’re meeting with our pastor about a small group opportunity.

We’re ignoring the number 65, with gratitude that we do have our health and Duane has a flexible job.    

I’m glad we’re not dead yet.  

Thank you for praying for us.


We Will Dance

     -Steven Curtis Chapman

I’ve watched the sunrise in your eyes

And I’ve seen the tears fall like the rain

You’ve seen me fight so brave and strong

You’ve held my hand when I’m afraid

We’ve watched the seasons come and go

We’ll see them come and go again

But in winter’s chill, or summer’s breeze

One thing will not be changin’

We will dance

When the sun is shining

In the pouring rain

We’ll spin and we’ll sway

And we will dance

When the gentle breeze

Becomes a hurricane

The music will play

And I’ll take your hand

And hold you close to me

And we will dance

Sometimes it’s hard to hold you tight

Sometimes we feel so far apart

Sometimes we dance as one

And feel the beating of each others hearts

Some days the dance is slow and sweet

Some days we’re bouncing off the walls

No matter how this world may turn

Our love will keep us from fallin’

And we will dance

When the sun is shining

In the pouring rain

We’ll spin and we’ll sway

And we will dance

When the gentle breeze

Becomes a hurricane

The music will play

And I’ll take your hand

And hold you close to me

And we will dance

The music will play

And I’ll hold you close

And I won’t let you go

Even when our steps

Grow weak and slow

Still I’ll take your hand

And hold you close to me

And we, will dance


I couldn’t imagine where Mother could be.

She had come to help Duane and I a few days after Mike was born.  The living room was picked up and empty.  Mother wasn’t in the kitchen.  Mike was sleeping in his crib in one of the bedrooms, a rare but quiet moment.  I was resting in our bedroom.  We owned one old car, which Duane had driven to St. Mary’s hospital where he was on call.

So where was Mother?  The only thing our 2 bedroom condo lacked was a laundry room.  Our small building housed two washers and dryers in a multipurpose room on the ground floor.  Whenever I wanted to do a load of wash, I had to climb down our front steps, and follow the sidewalk around to the back to find its door.  It wasn’t too inconvenient when it had been just Duane and I.

Now we had a baby.  Between spit up and poop, each day four or five onesies needed to get washed. Mike was born in February in Minnesota.  Deep snow surrounded our home.  Zero degrees was the high temperature for the day.

“Maybe Mother’s doing wash,”  I thought.  It could be the only other place she could be.  I threw on my coat and opened our front door.  Icy air blew in.  Packed, dirty snow clung to treads on the flight of stairs that led to the salted sidewalk.  We hadn’t seen the pavement for months.   I headed for the laundry room, careful not to slip, as the frosty air pushed through my coat.  Before I got to the door,  I saw Mother through the window of the laundry room.

Her Bible lay open on top of the washing machine.  She leaned over the pages and I could see her lips moving.

She had found a private place to meet with God.

Mother loved her home.  But Mother was not a fan of cooking; did the dusting and vacuuming with stoic duty; couldn’t sew on a button, and arranged furniture and hung pictures with the support of her close friends.

However, Mother’s laundry room was her kingdom where she reigned in glory.  And it wasn’t because that place could be featured in ‘House Beautiful.’  At 6105 Abbott Avenue, the washer and dryer sat next to an iron laundry tub in the basement.  Mother had spruced it up with a room size braided rug.  An ironing board remained perpetually set up, across from the washer and dryer, perpendicular to a 5 x 7 foot mirror that hung on painted cinderblock walls.  Like Solomon’s Temple,  casement windows at the ceiling allowed rays of sunshine to sometimes fall into Mother’s corner realm.   It wasn’t a room; it was an area that also held the furnace, Dad’s workbench, and a section Dad divided with steel rebars from work into a bedroom for me.  We painted the rebars, behind the headboard, in primary colors.

A pile of ready to iron items lay perpetually on the left side of the iron:  a cotton blouse, or skirt, or her linen dresser cloth, edged with scallops.  At Thanksgiving and Christmas, the stack of never ending ironing contained white linen tablecloths. Mother, unconcerned with most household details, was meticulous about laundry.  She would stand and wait at the dryer to take an article of clothing out at just the right time, so she didn’t have to iron it if it wasn’t necessary.

There was no radio or TV to entertain Mother as she ironed, which is why, from my scant observations,  I believe she used it as a place to pray.  Mother could talk and iron at the same time.  I remember Mother told me about the Facts of Life as she ironed, when I was in fifth grade.   It was Mother’s Conference Room.  I don’t remember seeing Mother’s Bible in that laundry… part of the basement.  Mother had a study upstairs where she kept her Bibles and books.

Mother’s prayer life was a secret, except for that time I caught her in my laundry room after Mike was born.  Or when I peeked into her bedroom one morning.  Dad had left for work and she was on her knees in front of the brown chair, with her Bible open.  And, I heard her once mention that Joan Jonswold, her BSF class Administrator, routinely met with her on Tuesday mornings in the broom closet at church before her lecture, to pray.

Then there were the prayer cards.  When most of Mother’s ten grandchildren were school age, each fall she began a prayer contest with them.  She sent them each a letter, asking them how she could pray for them for the year.  In the envelope, she included a stamped and addressed postcard.  She wanted it to be easy for them to reply.

“The first grandchild to send the letter back will receive five dollars.”  Either her grandchildren were young or in that day it was a worthwhile amount.  Each year, she received the cards back.  At family holidays, the kids would crow and argue about who won that year.

The last year of Mother’s life, in September she, as usual, sent out the letter and prayer postcards.  The prize money had grown to 10 dollars.  Then Mother fell and broke her hip.  After hip replacement, Mother spent weeks in a nursing care center.  The Parkinsons she battled quietly had weakened her ability to bounce back quickly.  Her life’s focus was her grandchildren’s prayer postcards.

“Did you check the mail today?”  Mother would ask on our daily visits.  One by one, the prayer postcards arrived.  One day three came.  Then another week passed, with no postcards.  I didn’t want to get involved in a system that had operated smoothly between Mother and her grandchildren for years without my help.  But Mother’s birthday was coming October 25 and there were three missing postcards.  At that time, to be fair, one of Mother’s grandchildren was living in China.

The China postcard arrived.  Mother rejoiced.  There wasn’t much that excited her those days, when she was laying in a bed, too weak to hold her Bible, with a strange roommate in the double room, formica furniture jammed around the bed.

I was in a moral dilemma.  Should I call those grandchildren and demand they get their postcards in the mail?

I didn’t have to.  The cards arrived.

After Mother died, in her manila folders we found the years of prayer cards she cherished.  We didn’t read them, but set each grandchild’s cards under their name card at Mother’s memorial luncheon.

While meditating on Mother’s dominion over the washer, dryer and ironing board this week, the words to one of her favorite hymns, ‘How Tedious and Tasteless the Hours” crept into my mind.

‘How tedious and tasteless the hours When Jesus no longer I see!  Sweet prospects, sweet birds and sweet flow’rs, Have all lost their sweetness to me.  The midsummer sun shines but dim,  The fields strive in vain to look gay; But when I am happy in Him December’s as pleasant as May.

Content with beholding His face, my all to His pleasure resigned; No changes of season or place, Would make any change in my mind.  While blessed with a sense of his love, A palace a toy would appear; And prisons would palaces prove, If Jesus would dwell with me there.’

-John Newton (yes that John Newton)


“Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath..”   Psalm 116:2


In Spain, every building had windows with Juliet balconies.  A Juliet balcony is a ‘half balcony’ outside a window, like the one where Juliet stood when Romeo wooed her from the ground.

“Just like unit 508,”  I remembered.

In April, before our May trip, we heard that our dream unit at Driftwood Sands was going to go on the market.  We owned a beautiful unit, but this one, on the top floor, directly faced the Gulf.   Two of the bedrooms overlooked the pool, with  Juliet balconies.

“Make an offer!”  our realtor friend enthusiastically prompted.  “Let the owner know you want it.  I know two other friends who are interested, too.  It won’t last.”

We’re shy.  Her advice sounded too pushy.  But we had seen inside 508.  A workman had invited us to peek in while he was making a repair.   We quickly walked through, as nervous as two undercover spies.

“What’d you think?”  Duane asked me, once safely back in our own unit, 307.

“It’s perfect for us,”  I answered.  I had ‘that’ feeling.   I had had it before when we had bought a house: a peaceful excitement that this would be perfect for us.  I wondered what Duane thought.

“I agree,”  he nodded.

That meant something.  Duane doesn’t like to move.

We try to specifically pray about every detail of life.  Especially houses.  It becomes a home.   Our place to talk, share dinners, watch old World War II movies, make and eat chocolate chip cookies, tell about our day, laugh, cry, and care for each other.

We also consider our home a place to share with our family and friends.  When house hunting, we look for a spot big enough for our extension dining room table, a living room big enough to host our small group, and a cozy guest bedroom.  Unit 508 made the cut.  We dug out the owner’s email address.

“Do you think this sounds right?”  Duane asked, reading aloud his carefully worded email regarding our interest in 508.   His finger hovered over the ‘send’ button.  Then he pushed it.

A week passed, with no response.  People are busy.  We kept praying about it.  Then Duane sent the same offer in a text.  A few more days went by.  We were going to Spain, leaving the country, in another week.

Maybe the sale of 508 was just a rumor.

“I’m so disappointed,”  I said to Duane.  “When we both have that feeling, and keep praying, I think it’s what God has for us.”

A few days later, Duane called the owner.

“You’re talking to Kevin!?”  I whispered, while he was on the phone.  I was in shock.  Duane doesn’t like to bother anyone.

“Yes, we’re thinking about selling,”  Duane had put Kevin on speaker.  “I’ll get back to you.”

We were thrilled.  It wasn’t a rumor, after all.  Days and more days passed.

In 2017 we had bought and remodeled a condo at Driftwood Sands.  Our dream at that time was that this would be a weekend place for us, and our family.  Mike and Elizabeth bought it with us.  Jeff and Heather, in Jacksonville, weren’t too far away to come for weekends.  We imagined family times of fun there.

For the next two years, Duane and I enjoyed it mostly by ourselves.  Our kids and their kids had busy lives of their own.

Before April, with our plans for Spain all set, we decided it was time to downsize to one place.  Sell the house.  We didn’t want to care for a pool.  Or climb on ladders to trim bushes.  We owned more square feet than we needed.   We listed our house in Oldsmar for sale.

We left for Spain, wondering if we would be moving to 307, or 508 when we got home.   We liked 307, but we loved 508.  The floor plan would work better for us as full time residents.  The configuration of the master bedroom and bathroom was better.  The kitchen was bigger.

508 had more light.  I love the light that shines in windows. At the same amount of square feet as 307. 508 had bigger windows and a direct view of the Gulf of Mexico in the master bedroom.


It was good to be in Spain in May.  I thought of 508, with it’s Juliet balconies, every time I saw one.  But Kevin hadn’t called back, so I figured we would be moving to 307 when we got home.  Except, Duane and I had both had that sense that God planned 508 for us.  Usually I start mentally arranging furniture and picking out wall colors before a move.  But without being sure of where we were going, I couldn’t dream.

We continued to ask God where he wanted us to be.   When we arrived home at the end of May, we signed the papers on a contract to sell our house at the end of June.  That same week I overheard a Board meeting at our condo say,

“So and so is making an offer on 508, but the wife doesn’t want to sell.”

Every day the dream of living in unit 508 drifted farther away.  Busy with packing and putting some things in storage, we kept getting ready to move to 307.  We began to plan how to make our beach condo our new home.   We made trips to IKEA to buy storage units so we could fit the items that sparked joy, thank you Marie Kondo, into 307.

It was just that 307 didn’t seem exactly right.  It was hard not to complain to God.

“We thought you wanted us to have unit 508!”

I read the verse, “Lead me in the right path, O LORD, or my enemies will conquer me.  Make your way plain for me to follow.”  (Psalm 5:8)  In the past, when we had moved, I was so excited for our next place, all my thoughts were focused on how I was going to nest in the new digs.  Moving was fun.  Now I wondered if we were doing the right thing.  Or maybe our timing was off.  Maybe God wanted us to wait to move until we knew we could buy 508.

“Maybe the buyers will back out of our house contract,”  I reasoned, “Then that will be a sign from God that we shouldn’t sell our house and move to 307.”

But the house passed inspection.  The house appraised at the right price.  The process for the house sale moved continuously forward as steadily as the minutes on a clock .  God kept pushing us into 307.  Packing continued as each day and week passed.  I kept my Bitty Baby doll, because even when my granddaughters don’t play with her, she brings me joy.

Then one Sunday morning I woke up to see Duane, beside me,  listening to a message on his iPhone.

“What’s that?”  I asked with my head still on the pillow.

“It’s Kevin,”  he answered.  “He’s offering to sell us 508.  Are we still interested?”

“Yes!”  I threw off the covers.

We met Kevin and Amy at 508 that afternoon, and by Monday night had signed a contract to close on the unit August 1.

Yesterday Duane and I walked into our new adventure.  We’re both excited.  We’re thinking about new flooring, and I’m considering which white to paint the walls.

“What’s the difference?”  Duane teases.  He knows the truth.  There are a gazillion whites and then there’s different brands of paint with varying amounts of pigments to choose.  So many decisions.

How to make the right one?  Pray and plan, plan and pray.   In one of mother’s notebooks she had written Psalm 16:3, “Commit your actions to the LORD, and your plans will succeed.”  Caveat:  There’s a line in the movie “Gone With The Wind” that comes to mind at times when I ask God for something.  Mammy, with down to earth wisdom, harrumphs to one of Scarlett’s numerous selfish desires, “Askin’ ain’t gettin’!”  Often God does say no.  Or wait.  Or yes.  God’s mysterious at times.  Looking back, a year from now, we’ll better understand why he’s placed us in 508.

After weeks that turned into several months of confusion and doubts, the path ahead seems… filled with more praying and planning.  Our new condo is top floor closest to the beach on the right side. The fainter rainbow in the picture points onto our bedroom.



For the first time, I cried as I drove away from a house.  On Friday June 28, we sold 4851 Cross Pointe, our address since October 31, 2005.  A long time record for us.

Our first home:  a third floor one bedroom apartment in, as Pam said, “the poverty section” of Broadview, Illinois.  Duane was in medical school.

When Duane graduated, we couldn’t wait to move.  We bought our first condo, in Rochester, Minnesota.  Two bedrooms, with new carpeting and no cockroaches! Unit ‘D’, was the second floor left half of the building on Viking Drive.

Mike, then Jeff’s first home.

Duane graduated from the Mayo Clinic Pediatric residency, and we moved to Milwaukee for two years to serve the Indian population with the Public Health Service.  We rented a duplex for the temporary assignment.

In July 1984 Duane joined Southdale Pediatrics in Edina.  We bought our first house at 7209 West Shore Drive.  I painted the kitchen cupboards white.  We tiled the countertops.  Ripped out the perfect condition olive green carpet because olive is a horrible shade of green and hardwood floors hid underneath.

After a few years, I dreamed of fixing up a house on Lake Cornelia, a few blocks away.  I biked or walked past potential homes in that neighborhood regularly.  One day a “For Sale” sign was posted outside a painted white brick rambler.  I happily ditched the house on West Shore.   We moved less than a mile away to 6700 Cornelia.


I’d never seen pink plush carpet in a kitchen.  It’s ugly, but soft on bare feet.  The pink stove was from the 50’s (I should have kept that),  Pink boomerang formica covered the countertops.  The dark cupboards had to go, too.

I got tennis elbow stripping the brown oak, then stained them white.  We chiseled out the Mexican tile in the great room and replaced that and the pink carpet with hardwood.

Minnesota winters pushed us into a new dream:  Florida.  We prayed and planned over our new stairway to heaven for over a year.  In January 1995, I joyfully shoved my dirty down coat in a garbage can at the Minneapolis airport before we flew south.  The pool house we bought in Clearwater was Party Central.    Jack Piquette surrounded by the church youth group.

Then Mike and Jeff graduated from high school and went to Wheaton.  We were ready for peaceful sunsets overlooking the beach and gulf.   We sold the house and bought a 15th floor condo on Sand Key.

After three years, we understood the real estate maxim:  “If you have to ask if it’s too far, it’s too far.”  We moved back ‘into town’ to a 2 bedroom villa on a quiet street overlooking a lagoon in Oldsmar.

Then Mike and Jeff got married, and my parents moved to Florida.  Our family was growing.  I thought we needed another bedroom, a pool, and more garage space for Duane’s bikes.  Duane wasn’t sure. “We’re not moving unless we see the perfect house on the perfect lot.”  We prayed for several months, and asked a realtor to keep her eyes open for us.

When we walked into 4851, we knew immediately.  The windows admitted more than sunshine.  They highlighted a sparkling pool.  Beyond that, oak trees framed a lagoon and golf course.   We signed a contract that day.

4851 needed work.  The pool was edged in black and white tiles.

The owner chose black countertops in the master bathroom to complement the yellow walls?

We replaced all the black countertops, painted every room, and refinished the pool.  It was the perfect house for us.  The right size for the days it was just Duane and I, with room to expand for family and friends.

Then Ethan, Addi, Sophie and Henry arrived.  Whenever they burst in the front door, our home became as festive as Joseph’s coat of many colors.

Baby days with a crib, stocks of diapers and naps.


Dinners at the kitchen table with telephone books on folding chairs, melamine plates, and spilled milk.

Cartoon watching instead of naps so Nana could have a break.

4851 threw its arms around more family.  Nieces.


Grandparents, aunts and uncles.

We stayed put almost fourteen years.   Was that because 4851 was prettier than our other houses?  It wasn’t.  Or because of the great times with family and friends?   Our other houses were filled with family and friends.  The house on West Shore Drive.

The house on Cornelia Drive.

Our condo on Sand Key was a great family gathering place.

In my surprising new reticence about our move to our condo on Indian Rocks Beach, I fell into the story of Jacob.

Last Wednesday afternoon I stood at the kitchen counter of our condo, alone, after leaving 4851 for the last time.  I had spent the previous three days cleaning the house for the final ‘walk through’ before the closing.   I started to cry.  Duane was at the office.  His place of employment hasn’t changed.  Mine has.  I missed that house.  The light shining through the new window we had recently added.

But I missed more than pretty lighting.   I miss my parents, who enjoyed the house with us.


I’m still grieving that loss.  Truth be told, and the truth is always our best friend, the grandchildren and Mike and Jeff and their families are growing up and away, too.   Addi’s in a Science Olympiad now, Ethan swims on a team, and Sophie flings her body over all kinds of bars and beams in a busy gymnastics schedule.  Henry’s just plain busy.  A distance  replaces those early grand parenting days when the grandkids were with us often.

“Occasionally, weep deeply over the life you hoped would be.  Grieve the losses.  Then wash your face.  Trust God and embrace the life you have.”  – John Piper

God stepped in to comfort me.  For ‘some reason’, I started reading about Jacob’s life in Genesis.  For the first time, I realized that when Jacob ran to Laban’s house, it was a long distance.  A big move, away from family.  Jacob never saw his mother again.  In a time of fear and loss, God spoke to Jacob.

“At the top of the stairway stood the LORD, and he said, “I am the LORD, the God of your grandfather Abraham and the God of your father, Isaac.  The ground you are lying on belongs to you.  I am giving it to you and your descendants… all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants.  What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go.”  Genesis 28: 13-15

“Surely the LORD is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!”   Jacob said.

Jacob hadn’t asked God for anything, but there was God, reaching out to him with good promises.

I remember meeting Jacob in a Bible Study Fellowship class at Christ Presbyterian Church when we moved to the house on West Shore Drive.  It was my first year in BSF. We were studying Genesis.  I was blown away when we got to chapter 32, where Jacob wrestles with the Angel of God.

“… Jacob was all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break.  When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket.  Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!”   But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

And God did bless him. (verse 29)

Sharing Night, at the end of the  BSF year,  is an opportunity for whoever would like, to briefly tell what has been most meaningful to them during the study.  With heart pounding, I stood up in front of  the class of four hundred women, gathered in the sanctuary.

“Jacob’s words, “I will not let You go until you bless me,” is the kind of faith in God I want to have.”  That idea, a desire for God’s blessing, is what I still want, all these years, and houses, later.  In seasons of loss.  Or new beginnings.

God’s blessing means I have his approval, no matter what challenges face me.   And when Jacob was 130 (!), God told him to move again.    “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt…I will go with you …. and I will bring you back again.”   Genesis 46:3

In our new home, some mornings I wake with a disoriented jolt, wondering,  “Which bedroom am I in?”  Today, after daily phone calls to the delivery service, Duane’s Wall Street Journal finally found its way to our door.

God is here, in all our changes, at 2618 Gulf Boulevard, unit 307, just as he was at 4851.


Until August 1.  Then we move to unit 508, in the same building.  But that’s another story…


“… And Jacob named the place Bethel (which means ‘house of God’) because God had spoken to him there.”

-Genesis 35:15

“Jacob always had an unquenchable desire for God’s blessing.  Blessing enables, enhances, and enriches life.  Blessing is issued publicly by a benefactor and provides power for prosperity and success….All blessings have their source in God’s love.”        from the NLT Study Bible notes, “Blessing.”

“The LORD did not set his heart on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other nations, for you were the smallest of nations!  Rather, it was simply that the LORD loves you, and he was keeping the oath he had sworn to your ancestors.  That is why the LORD rescued you with such a strong hand from your slavery and from the oppressive hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt.”  Deuteronomy 7:7-8





That’s me in the khaki trench coat at Victoria Station in London.  One hand raised in the air, the other grasps the red and green suitcases, both carry on.  We travel light.

When I graduated from high school, my parents’ gift was a suitcase.  The message wasn’t, “We don’t love you anymore, get out!”  Mother and Dad were being practical.  I was going away to college.  But the pastel blue Samsonite luggage also urged,  “Time to move forward.”

Two years ago Duane and I bought a condo in Indian Rocks Beach, thinking the condo would be a great family gathering place, and in the back of our minds, maybe thought about retiring there.  We’ve loved it!  We’re here all the time.

“Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”   – Ferris Bueller

As we consider Ferris’ wisdom,  we’re wondering why we own a condo and a house.   So Duane suggested, yes, Duane, not me, the usual instigator of moving to a new place, “Maybe we should sell the house and move to the condo.”

I’ve always been thrilled to move to a new place.  It’s the fun of  painting on a blank canvas, creating a new nest. Ecclesiastes 3, the chapter on the different times or seasons of life, calls it,  “a time for the gathering of stones.”  Build something.

But for the first time in my life, I’m hesitant.  I’m usually “the cockeyed optimist,” like Nellie in “South Pacific.”  Even Nellie, who confidently sings, “I’m a dope for that thing called hope,” also later sings wistfully:

“…wonder how I’d feel, living on an island (actual lyric ‘hillside’), gazing at an ocean beautiful and still.”

One reason I may be hesitant for this move is that ‘downsizing,’ at 64 years of age, may be our last intentional move.  Death, the enemy, looms.  Maybe some people our age stay in their houses to prove that death is not around the corner.

The second half of Ecclesiastes 3:5 describes a “time for scattering of stones.”  All the stuff we’ve accumulated in 64 years has ties to memories.   Much would have to go in order to live in a 1200 square foot condo.

I’m re-reading Marie Kondo’s book, “the life changing magic of tidying up.”  It thrilled me, a person whose life motto is, “Let’s Get Organized,”  two years ago when it was first published.  According to Marie, Duane and I start by answering the question, “What does your ideal lifestyle look like?”

My ideal lifestyle would be to live in a no maintenance condo, decorated in an ‘old’ Ocean City vibe.  Views of the sky from every window.   A pine dinner table small enough when it’s just Duane and I, but with leaves we can add when family and friends visit.  A desk, so I can continue my present writing project:  “Andy Telford, A Twentieth Century Caleb.”  I’m collecting and studying his sermons, letters and books.

A place close enough for Duane to keep working and close, still, to our church, Clearwater Community.  Our condo in Indian Rocks Beach has that potential.

Marie Kondo’s major point is that we need to know what we’re aiming for.  It’s a creative challenge to put a dream for the vague ‘something better’ into a specific reality.  The next step:  item by item, figuring out what to keep for the new dream and which things go.  The hardest belongings for me to shed are the ones that have sentimental ties.  Things like Jeffrey’s Sleepytime Care Bear, an item I’ve carted from closet to closet for 30 years.   Marie’s book helped with that, too.

“When you come across something hard to discard… reassess the role it plays in your life.  Every object has a different role to play.  You’ll be surprised at how many of the things you possess have already fulfilled their role.  Acknowledge their contribution and let them go with gratitude.”

Let them go.  “…a time to scatter stones.”   As I walk through the living room and kitchen of our house in my bare feet, the wood floors feel cool and smooth.  I look around at the walls I painted, myself, Benjamin Moore’s OC19, Sandpearl.  Some of the memories are sad.  I remember cleaning blood out of the white carpet in the guest bedroom when Dad visited because the heart medicine he had to take meant the slightest bump dripped red.

Yet most memories are happy: the family parties, quiet nights watching TV together, the grandchildren playing in the pool.

The light shining across the bed from the new window in the bedroom.

The memories won’t go away, just because I don’t own the object anymore, according to Marie.  And Mother’s quote, “It’s people, not things” reinforces Marie’s truth.

My sister Pam and husband Greg downsized into 1200 square feet a few years ago.  That’s when her design business took off.  Freed from the burdens of  stuff, they were able to focus their energy on activities that were most meaningful to them.

That inspires me.  Time to focus on new beginnings.

We’re still not exact in the timing of our move. We continue to ask God for wisdom.  In the stacks of my grandfather’s letters I found a sermon about how safe we are in God’s hands.  That truth brings security.

The hazy path ahead beckons.

“Life moves pretty fast…”  Ferris said.    A counselor once told us that in our 60’s we should make plans about where we intended to live.

“Once you’re in your 70’s it’ll be difficult physically to make a change.”

We’ve started packing, with a plan to travel light.

“It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance.  He went without knowing where he was going.  And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith – for he was like a foreigner, living out of a suitcase.”  Hebrews 11: 8-9 (Jill Rommel translation)




“I found one!” I shouted to Duane.

A letter my grandmother, May Telford, wrote, dated November 9, 1934, fell out of the soft as velvet manila envelope Uncle Paul had sent me.

I was eager to find May’s letters.  Pastor Archie McGilvary,  my grandfather’s biographer, introduced me to them in his pages on Andy’s colorful life.

“Among the young people in the Bible church at Bronte, was an attractive girl by the name of May Clifford.  All during the years of service in WWI Andy wrote to her faithfully.   When he was at Moody Bible Institute they continued to exchange letters.  When he went to South America the mail routes were kept busy with their letters.”  (May, white blouse with thin black bow, seated at Andy’s right in the center of the picture ‘leaving for South America, 1922.’)

Archie continued: “May’s oldest daughter in Philadelphia, Marian, has those letters.  They would make interesting reading and could be the basis for another book!”

Marian died two years ago, and my mother Ruth four years ago, so I’d been harassing her younger brothers, Tommy and Paul,  “Where are they?!!”  No one could find them.  This letter was not one of those, penned between 1917-1924, the year Andy and May married.  The letter Paul sent was written during their second pastorate in Ottawa, Canada, to their friends at their first church in Three Rivers, Michigan.  I was elated to receive it, like an orphan discovering her biological mother.

I held the yellowing pages in my hands, the same pages that May had held in her hands 85 years ago, and began reading, stopping on page 8:

“…Mrs. Gintzler will be lonesome after living so long in Three Rivers –  I know how it goes.  But in our work  one soon becomes engrossed in the new work  and people.”

In our work.  Andy and May.  (in their first pastorate, Three Rivers)

Archie’s book, “A Twentieth Century Caleb,”  describing Andy Telford’s conversion and ministry, doesn’t contain many paragraphs about May.

“Mrs. May Telford was the ideal preacher’s wife.  No matter the occasion or circumstances, she was never perturbed or upset.  She had a sweet, calm, placid disposition that always steadied the family.

 The home was a bee hive of activity with no end of visitors and guests, some of whom arrived unexpectedly and unannounced.  It was a regular thing on a Sunday morning after service for Andy to invite people over for dinner, even though Mrs. Telford knew nothing of the plans.”

A few paragraphs aren’t enough for one of God’s warriors, Erie May Telford.  2 Samuel 23 lists the names and specific accomplishments of the thirty ‘mighty men’ who fought alongside David.  The chapter reminds us that God ‘delights in every detail’ of his faithful follower’s lives.  (Psalm 37:23)  The heart of Andy’s ministry was May.

I began investigating May’s story.  Her name, itself, was a surprise: legally,  ‘Erie May.’


Erie May Clifford and her fraternal twin, Sadie, were born in Oakville, Canada, March 25, 1900 to Patrick and Erie Elizabeth Clifford.  May’s grandfather had died in Lake Erie in 1899 which would explain her unusual name.  I never heard anyone call her “Erie May”  in my life.

Andy and May married on July 31, 1924, in Bronte, Canada.  Andy planned to take May back to South America with him  for mission work after the wedding. (Groom Andy and bride May seated in front of the large wedding gathering.)

  Her friends gave her this little card, as a parting gift, showing the ship they would sail across the ocean.

Inside a poem read:

“Come join us as we pray.  On the day we say, For we now must send A dear mutual friend Very far away- ‘Our Andy’s Own May…”

However, May didn’t pass the mission’s physical.  They had to cancel their plans.  Andy took a pastorate in Three Rivers, Michigan.  May became a pastor’s wife.  Marian and Ruth were born there, in 1926 and 1929, American citizens.

In 1932 Andy, May and family moved back to Canada, to Ottawa to build, literally and spiritually, the Metropolitan Tabernacle on Bank Street.  Paul was born in 1934 and Tommy in 1936.  They were Canadian citizens, like their parents.

In addition to pastoring,  Andy traveled to speak at Bible Conferences around Canada and the northeast United States. May accompanied him on these trips to  Maranatha, Gull Lake, Sandy Cove, Pinebrook, and so many others.

This introduced Andy and May to friendships with other Christian pastors and leaders.  Andy was invited to become the pastor of Berachah Church in Philadelphia.

May wrote on the back of this picture:  “Dad – with new Buick Church gave him on our arrival in Philadelphia – Sept. ’43”

May’s life centered on home and family.  Most evenings of the week,  Andy was out teaching.  On Mondays he taught at Washington Bible College, in D.C.  He rode the train, arriving home at midnight.  Tuesday and Wednesday he taught at Philadelphia College of the Bible.  Friday nights he led a popular Bible class at church.  Andy graced the pulpits at youth rallies on Saturdays.  Sundays: church.  Andy spent mornings, from 8 til noon, in his study.  After lunch, he did yard and garden work.  He and May both loved flowers and gardens.

May was independent, a trait cultivated during  seven years of separation and letter writing in their courtship.  May was intelligent.  As a pastor’s wife, May taught a ladies’ Bible class each Sunday morning and was on the board of Regions Beyond Missions Union.   Her letter from Ottawa shows a confident spiritual maturity:

“I am going to the ladies’ prayer meeting this afternoon.  We have it every Wednesday.  We are always sorry to hear things are not going so well at the Bible Church (in Bronte).  Pat (her brother) thought things were pretty bad.  He doesn’t say much about where the blame lies.  Andy has his opinion of course.  But I think all are to blame.  Mr. G. may have his faults, who hasn’t.  But I don’t think the people are doing their part either.  We are all so fond of our own way.”

Andy and May were a team, but not mirror images of each other.  Andy had grown up a farmer.  May was a lady.

At Camp Manor, an annual summer Bible conference outside Philadelphia, May drew the line.  Conference guests stayed in cream colored canvas tents in the woods in Lancaster.    The first time May arrived at Camp Manor, she stayed for the morning and afternoon meetings, then told Andy he needed to take her the bus so she could go home.  May was no camper.

Every week Andy wrote a letter to May’s twin sister’s husband, Roy, also a pastor.  A  July 1959 letter, illustrates more differences:

“Dear Roy:

Here I am in Ocean City (N.J.) sitting at the door of our apartment just two blocks from the Ocean.  I preached at Berachah in the morning – then in the afternoon May and I drove down here.  We had supper here and I preached last night.  I am here all week.

May bought a new bathing suit – so she is all set for the “Water Pool.”  And the price of that Modern Bathing Suit.  I remember when we could have bought a cow for what she paid for it.   We could have bred the cow – she would have had a calf and then milked her for 7 months and made a little profit.  This high-priced bathing suit, I am afraid will go down in price and finally be a total loss – These women sure can spend.  I haven’t bought a pocket handkerchief for over a year.”

Andy and May shared the unique challenges of parents in ministry.  In the first part of the century,  God came first and the family second.   He and May took God seriously, and believed Andy’s packed schedule of Bible teaching honored God.   I’m trying to find a nice way to explain why their children, especially Paul and Tommy, were not Sunday School poster children.  May was on the front lines, often alone.

Andy’s Mother’s Day sermon notes of 1949 are really a tribute to May’s parenting.  “Proverbs 31:28.  Theme: “Your Mother.”  Of all the lives that endear themselves to the hearts of boys and girls, none stand above the one who gave them birth – their mother.  Before I am through I will show you how a child with a Christ loving mother is part way on the road to heaven when he starts the journey of life.  In true Motherhood we see:

“She never raised her voice or yelled at us,”  I heard Uncle Paul remark, with a shade of awe.  My Dad often said the same thing, adding, “She was a saint.”  He had lived in the Telford home and witnessed Paul and Tommy’s shenanigans, legal and illegal.  Like the time… no.  I won’t go there.

Even Marian, very social, and Ruth, worried them.  At age 18, my mother met and fell in love with my Dad.  Allan Mitchell, five years older, just released from the British Marines, wasn’t  interested in spiritual things.  They had met when  Allan and his parents had moved into the Telford home’s  third floor apartment.  Allan’s father Ralph was a pastor friend of Andy’s.  They needed a place to stay while he began a ministry in America.

Looking back, knowing my parent’s great marriage,  I can’t imagine what the problem was.  To Andy and May, it  was like a wolf stealing from the cradle.

Ruth and her parents leave their home on December 16, 1950, for the wedding!

Andy and May’s family grew.   They doted on their nine grandchildren: Andy, and Stephen (in the bow ties), Wendy, me, Jennifer (in the candy cane dresses), David (tie) and Susan (on May’s knee), and Brenda (leaning against May)  and Tommy (in Aunt Nancy’s arms).   Pam, grandchild #10, arrived two years after May died.  I’m the one leaning on my grandfather’s knee.  I’m still leaning on my grandfather.

We called May, “MomMom.”  I regret not being able to remember her voice.  I was only nine when she died.  Also, she didn’t talk a lot.  Andy, aside from the pulpit, was fairly quiet, too.  But I can still hear his confident, “Our Father,” as he leaned over the dining room table to give the blessing over Sunday dinners.   How MomMom taught a ladies’ Bible class that morning, attended the service,  then laid out a full roast beef meal for us and whichever missionary friends happened to be in town, is a miracle of time management.  And pressure cookers, which she used with skill.  After dinner we cousins were ‘excused’ from the table to play in their basement, which had a linoleum tile shuffleboard court floor.  We also liked to put on shows for them.

May died of a heart attack, August 11, 1964.  She and Andy were at Fair Haven Bible Conference, where Andy was the speaker.  A friend, Margaret, later wrote a letter to the Telfords about her afternoon at May’s bedside:

“…I thought the family would like to know what their mother said to me as I sat with her in her cabin:

“When Andy comes back from dinner I think he better get the doctor,”  May closed her eyes for a few moments, then she wanted to tell me all about her family.  I can hear her talking about Tommy, Paul, and their cars, Ruth and her nice home, new drapes and carpet, also Marian and her children, and how she liked to be with Andy, as she called you, at the conference.  When I’m at home, I’m alone.”

The Sunday after May died, two verses and a poem, “Unto Myself,”  were printed on the back of the church bulletin.

Erie May Telford was not well known, never earned a paycheck or even drove a car.  Uncle Tommy told me she had once attempted to steer Andy’s maroon Buick into the garage, but scratched the whole side of it.  That was the end of that.  Driving, money, or fame  weren’t things that meant anything to her anyway.

Her interest was Andy.  His weekly letters to Roy always mention her:

“Just a line while  May is getting breakfast for the ‘gang’ here at home, and also while she is getting dinner ready for 21.  The Propst family (all 9 of them) will join us…’

“May and I have just returned from my Bible class in Ephrata…”

“May and I attended a banquet last night…”

“May and I have just returned from ‘Old Mills Bible Conference…”

“…May went with me…”

The poem May cherished, “Unto Myself” states,  “…The end is sweet, tho’ bitter be the way…”   At the time of her death, age 64,  daughter Marian was in a difficult marriage.  Things looked rosier in my family; Dad was now the Sunday School Superintendent and Mother taught a College Age Bible class.  Paul and Tommy, married, with kids, were struggling to find their vocations.  Paul, who loved cars, went to vocational school, then Bible college and eventually Dallas Seminary.  He worked a day job and taught Bible classes at his church, but it was a long road.  Tommy drove a bus for the city of Philadelphia.  It wasn’t until after his mother died that he became a full time missions teacher and author, with United World Missions.

“If anyone ever needed anything, they would talk to Mother,”  Tommy said.    “The Christian life is all about relationships, and she was a master at it.”

I keep picking up May’s letter, addressed to “Dear Friends in Michigan.”  It’s mine now.

“… Well I didn’t get very far with my letter.  I don’t have much time for writing …  Two ladies came in after prayer meeting, one to see Paul (the new baby), the other to tell me her love life …

Pat (her brother) was here yesterday.  I think he was undecided whether or not to go back to Michigan.  I think he has a wonderful work there, some conversions of middle aged people.  Two men have gone to Bible school.  But Pat is worried about money.  He gets enough to live on but not to think of getting married.  I guess it looks hopeless … I tell him the Lord can undertake for him, it would be wrong for him to leave the work.

Andy is as busy as ever, every minute seems to be occupied.  He is teaching Ecclesiastes at Bible Study Friday night.  It is very good.  We have wonderful crowds…”

Erie May Telford, one of God’s Mighty Women.


“The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle.  All will share alike.”  I Samuel 30:24




Archie McGilvary, Andy’s lifelong friend, scrawled Andy’s life story of faith in Jesus Christ on pages of spiral notebook paper.  He titled it, “A Twentieth Century Caleb” because like Caleb, when pastor and Bible teacher Andy Telford was 85 years old, in 1980,  he was  “…still wholeheartedly following the Lord.”  (Joshua 14:10 – 14)

Andy Telford was not born into a Christian home, although his parents were good people.  But that’s not enough.

Archie’s notes begin:

“On January 8, 1881,  Thomas Telford and Rose Clark were united in marriage in Ballymena, Ireland.  The wedding ceremony was one of simplicity in every detail.

Life was rough and rugged for the young couple.  Thomas felt the urge to go west and seek his fortune in the new world, in Canada.  They settled on a farm on the north shore of Lake Ontario near Bronte.

Thomas and Rose had five children; four boys and a girl.  They lived frugally.  There was little social life in the home.   Mr. Telford was a strict disciplinarian.  He wouldn’t know the meaning of the word, but he saw to it that his children obeyed his every word.   Through the years, the Telfords took in 16  orphan children from the Barnardo Home in Toronto.  Thomas never allowed anyone to smoke, drink, play cards or to participate in any of the ‘ways of the world.’  Unnecessary chores were prohibited on the farm on Sundays.  He believed that if such things were permitted in his home, that the judgment of God would fall upon them for indulging in such sins.

Of their five children, a set of twins, Hugh and Andrew, were born, in 1895.  Without the pursuit of pleasure and frivolous pastimes, the main activity on the Telford farm was work and lots of it.  The twin boys worked hard, filling many a long day behind a plough.

There were Bibles in the home, but nobody ever read them, and grace was never spoken at the table.  Rose did have her children recite the Lord’s Prayer at bedtime.  They attended the Appleby School and were taught by the same teacher.   The 10 Commandments were painted on the wall behind the teacher’s desk.   Every Friday at noon, the students would stand at attention and quote them.

Andy  started school at the age of 7 and stopped at age 13.  For six years he faithfully quoted the Decalogue.  He knew what they meant; they were instilled in his mind and heart.  He had a deep sense of guilt whenever he did something wrong.  Each night he would kneel at his bedside and say the Lord’s Prayer.  He had a comforting feeling that this was a kind of covering for his sin, but the next day he would go about his work and repeat his lying and cheating.

Although Andy had very little schooling, he had great ability in handling the various jobs on a farm.  He was hired as a foreman to direct the business of a large farm of 1,000 acres, with 50 workers.  It was his responsibility to make the assignments of the work to be done each day and then drive over that acreage to see that all the work was cared for.  He enjoyed it.

In 1917,  Andy and his twin Hughie bought a horse, and a month later, Andy went back to see the man he purchased it from.  He was not home that evening, but his wife and her mother, visiting from Toronto, were.

During the visit, Andy said something about another man; that he was no good.  The lady from Toronto said to him, “What’s your name?”

“I’m Andy Telford.”

“Don’t you know, young man, that none of us are any good?”

He said to himself,  “She doesn’t know me.  I don’t smoke, drink, play cards or run around.  I say the Lord’s Prayer every night.  I think I’m pretty good.”

He said to the lady, “Can you prove that?”

She went into her room and brought out a Bible, opening it to Romans 3:10.  Putting her finger on the verse she said, “Can you read that?”

He said, “Yes.”  And read,  “There is none righteous, no not one.”  He closed the Book and handed it back to her.

“I guess you’re right.”

As he left the home that night she said, “I’ll be praying for you.”

On Thursday night  Andy had to go to the blacksmith’s shop to get some work done.  The shop was located in Bronte about 3 miles from where he lived.  The blacksmith was a Christian man.  He told Andy he was going to the Prayer Meeting over at the Baptist church.  It was a small church seating about 60 or 70 people.  He invited Andy to go with him.  That night there was an older man visiting from Toronto.  He brought a devotional message.  During the course of his remarks he mentioned the passing of his wife.  After the meeting was over, Andy went to him and expressed his sympathy at the loss of his wife and companion.

The man said to him, “Do you attend Sunday School here?”

Andy said, “No,” and explained to him about all the work they had to do on the farm.  They had 30 grazing cattle and every Sunday morning they had to salt those cattle.  Then on another farm they had a number of horses that had to be attended to in the afternoon.

The man replied, “Well, that really isn’t important.  I want to ask you another question, Do you know that you are a sinner?”

At the age of 22,  Andy bowed his head and began to cry, at the consequences of his sin.  The Christian gentleman asked Andy if he had a Bible.

“Yes I do.”

“Then go home and read John chapter 5 verse 24 and I’ll pray for you.  What’s your address?”

Burdened with his sin and guilt, he went out behind the church and sobbed his heart out.  He was so broken up that he was ashamed to go back to the blacksmith’s shop where he had tied his horse.  He finally got control of himself.   He let the horse walk all the way home that night and sobbed from the depths of his heart, “O God, I’m bad, I want to be good.”  That’s all he knew.  No one had ever talked to him about Christ or Christianity or the Bible in all his life.  He had never heard a gospel sermon, but he knew he was not right before God.

That Saturday he received a letter from the man who had spoken to him at the Baptist church.

“Dear Andy,

I was pleased to meet you last night and the more so when I found that you wanted to settle matters with God.  In Jesus Christ alone can this be done. “There is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)  Read John 5:24 and Romans 3:9 to the close of the chapter and ask God to show you the great meaning for yourself.

May you have the greatest possession; the pardon and promise of God.  Do not fail to confess Him before men.  Read Romans 10:17.  I have been a follower of Christ 53 years.  There is real fighting but sure victory and the promised presence of Christ.

I will never forget you and will pray for you.

Yours in the mercy of Christ,

E. Hooper”

All day Andy pondered the contents of that letter.  Sunday  morning he decided that the question must be settled once and for all.

Taking the letter and a Bible he went upstairs to his bedroom and locked the door.  Spreading the letter before him, he opened the Bible to  John 5:24.

“I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life.  They will never be condemned for their sins, but have already passed from death into life.”

He turned to Romans 3, reading from verse 9 till the end of the chapter.

“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.  Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous.  He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.  For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin.  People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood… he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.”  (vs.23 – 26)

He knelt beside a chair and gave his heart and life to Jesus Christ.

He believed the Word of God.  The burden of his sin was gone.  Joy filled his soul.  He went downstairs and went out behind the barn and met a neighbor.  The neighbor asked, “Good morning, Andy.  How are you?”

There was his first opportunity to confess Christ.  “I’m fine.  I’ve just been saved, born again up in my bedroom.”

The neighbor said, “Well, I only hope that you’ll hold out.”

“Hold out?  I’ve just fallen in!  I’ve been born again!”

With a heart overflowing with the love of God, he began to cry tears of gratitude.

Thrilled with the certainty of his conversion, late on that same night, he got up and headed his horse and the buggy into Bronte.  He just had to tell some folks what had happened to him.

The first home he went to was the Town Magistrate.   Andy told him how the sentence of death had been lifted and how a guilty sinner had been pardoned.

The next midnight call was the blacksmith’s house.  He must have rejoiced , even at that late hour, to know that his invitation to a prayer meeting had played some part in the salvation of Andy Telford.

By now it was 1:30 a.m.  There was one more call to make.  He made his way over to the Post Office and wakened the Post Master.  As the Post Master heard the pounding on his door he must have wondered what great emergency had happened in  town.  No better news ever came in the mail than the good news of the Gospel.  It had brought another soul to the Savior.  The Post Master attended the little Methodist church.  Andy asked him if he could come to his Sunday School next Sunday afternoon and tell the boys and girls about his conversion.  This experience brought joy to his heart.

On Thursday night Andy went to the Prayer Meeting at the Baptist church and told his story.  Those early days of his new found life as a Christian were filled with the joy and blessing of witnessing for his Lord.  He faithfully attended the prayer meetings and services at the Baptist church.

He invited some of the young people at church to help him share the Gospel on a street corner in the center of town.  When he arrived at the arranged spot after the service, no one was there.   Undaunted, Andy stood alone and proclaimed the Good News to all the church members as they wended their way home from the churches.

Witnessing to strangers is one thing, but doing so in the home is another matter.   Even here, Andy wasn’t ashamed.

Later that week, a Salvation Army officer from Hamilton visited the Telford farm.   In the past, Andy’s father had given contributions to the work of the Salvation Army.  On this particular day the officer said to Thomas, “Mr. Telford, are you a Christian?”

“No, but my boy Andy is!  He reads his Bible, prays and says grace at the table.”

Archie’s story about his friend Andy, will continue … in another chapter.  (Bride and groom Andy and Erie May, seated, behind them, Thomas, sister ? and twin brother Hugh.)


After I read Archie’s story to my Uncle Tommy, named after his grandfather Thomas, he added the following:


“When I was grown up, Dad took me back to the farm where he had grown up in Bronte to visit his twin brother Hugh.  Dad wanted to share the Gospel, one more time, with Hugh, now in poor health.  It was a cordial visit, including lunch and a tour around the old farmhouse.  As we were walking down the front steps, Dad said to his brother,

“Hughie, God loves us and sent his Son to take our sin away, to forgive us and give us eternal life.  He’s given me a grand gift and I want that for you, too.”

Hugh mumbled something about not needing that.

“Well it was good to see you, Hugh,”  Dad said, with a warm handshake.  It was the last time he saw his brother.

“Thanks for showing us around,”  I said.   “Take it easy.”

Dad and I turned and walked back down the farmhouse path to the front gate.

It was the only time I saw Dad cry.”

                                                         “Oh the joy of those whose sins are forgiven.”  Psalm 32



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