Finding Friends & Hatching Plans

A toy train and a baby doll. That’s what these brother and sister pairs are exchanging with each other.

My Bible Book 1948, page 32
My Bible Book, 1948   ( 32)

Trading is fun among friends, no matter what their size. Big or little, old or young – most people like to exchange gifts, conversation, sometimes even big ideas.

It is a giant leap from tots trading toys to literary giants exchanging thoughts, but the principle is the same and so are the benefits.

C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, both scholars at Oxford University fired one another’s imaginations in a small group called The Inklings. Both yearned to write science fiction with faith and morality as a central theme. Legend has it that “they literally tossed a coin to decide who would write a book on space travel versus time travel.” Though their early attempts were not completely successful, C. S. Lewis went on to pen The Chronicles of Narnia, and J. R. R. Tolkien wrote the Lord of the Rings series. Generations since then have enjoyed the fantasy of Tolkien’s hobbits and elves of Middle-earth and Lewis’ charming children and Narnian nymphs.


Their haunt? Frequently The Rabbit Room, a snug space tucked away in the Eagle and Child pub, Oxford, where a roaring fire, animated conversation and pipe smoke fueled their imaginations. At least twice weekly these brilliant minds hatched plans for plots and both nurtured and challenged one another’s brain children.

The Eagle and Child - Tuesday morning meeting place of the Inklings including Lewis and Tolkien
The Eagle and Child – Tuesday morning meeting place of the Inklings with Lewis and Tolkien

* * *

Christiane Northrup, M. D. a frequent PBS-TV presenter, promotes friendship as one of the paths to glorious agelessness. A sub-topic on her website exhorts women of all ages to cultivate varied friendships that she dubs “tribes” of friends. Though I never thought of my friend groups as tribes, I do recognize various kinds of friends I’ve been privileged to know at various times and places in my life.

Church Friends

4 friends party hars

Writer Friends

Standing: Janet Givens, Kathy Pooler, Marian Beaman Seated: Shirley Showalter, Joan Rough
Standing: Writers Janet Givens, Kathy Pooler, Marian Beaman
Seated: Shirley Showalter, Joan Rough at Chincoteague Island, February 2015

Colleagues at Florida State College in Jacksonville

FSCJ English faculty women, friends and former colleagues
Retired FSCJ English faculty women, friends who lunch

Friends at the Gym (They’re bashful!)


Friends from Eastern Mennonite College

Other room-mates and friends: Our name tags imprinted with college yearbook photos.
Other room-mates and friends: Our name tags imprinted with college yearbook photos.

Even sisters can be friends!



My friendship with Verna Mohler Colliver is one I’ve maintained since college days as room-mates at Eastern Mennonite College (now University). I caught up with Verna at our last college reunion.

My college room-mate Verna Mohler Colliver and me
My college room-mate Verna Mohler Colliver and me at EMU Homecoming, 2013


Since the reunion, Verna and I have exchanged photos and slides of ourselves as beginning teachers at Lancaster Mennonite School in the 1960s. Indeed, she helped me hatch a plan to reflect on those early years in our careers by providing some photo “fuel” for two upcoming blog posts. That’s what friends do. And I appreciate it too!

As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

Proverbs 27:17    King James Version



Do you have “tribes” of friends? Do you see them often? How do you keep your friendship(s) alive?



Purple Passages with a Pop of Pink, March 2015 edition


“Is the spring coming?” he said. “What is it like?

“It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine . . .  ~  Frances Hodgson Burnett, author of The Secret Garden

Tulip magnolia tree in our neighborhood just about to bloom in Florida, early February
Tulip magnolia tree in our neighborhood just about to hit full bloom in Florida, early February   ~  Sunshine, no rain in sight

[in Just-] a poem by e. e. cummings, (his name usually shown in lower case letters) who is known for odd spacing and made-up words like “mud-luscious” and “puddle-wonderful” so evocative of the squooshiness that follows the winter thaw. This British poet clumped together some of the names and other words he uses, just like mud on your shoes in springtime. Remember all that? Here are the first nine lines.

spring          when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman

whistles          far          and wee

and eddieandbill come

running from marbles and

piracies and it’s

when the world is puddle-wonderful



The only thing that keeps a man going is energy. And what is energy but liking life?   Louis Auchincloss, A World of Profit


C.S. Lewis wrote, “Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.”


The wee Longenecker girls wore mittens because it was cold in Pennsylvania until near the end of March. These are the mittens I remember my sisters Janice wearing. Jean probably inherited them when her hands grew big enough. Somehow I recall a string of woven yarn attaching the mittens under the coat so the little girls wouldn’t lose their mittens. Mittens actually do keep little hands warmer than gloves would – body heat from all four fingers and thumb is trapped inside the glove just like this. . .


. . . which reminds me of the Mother Goose nursery rhyme about the Three Little Kittens. You can probably hear the sing-song sound of the phrases as you read this tale.


In the verses which follow, the kittens put on their mittens, then get them dirty, are scolded by their mother, inducing them to wash their mittens, even hanging them out to dry. In the final verse, Mother Cat compliments her kitties while teaching them a lesson in scavenging for their dinner:

“What, washed your mittens, then you’re good kittens,
But I smell a rat close by.”
“Meow, meow, meow,
We smell a rat close by.”

Your turn! This is a free-for-all post. Add your thoughts or quotes on spring, energy, miracles, mittens – or something else.
Coming next: Grandmother Kayaks Solo from Maine to Guatemala. Why?

Purple Passages and a Laugh: May 2014 Edition

Miracles & Problems



Uncertainty & Faith

The opposite of doubt is not faith. It’s certainty. Faith based on certainty is no faith at all.      Anne Lamott

Embrace the present. Uncertainty is no excuse for paralysis. Do not wait for good to happen for yourself in order to do good for others.     Leymah Gbowee

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.     

Hebrews 11:1   NIV


Tea and Books

You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me. C. S. Lewis



Mothers & Mother’s Day  

This year has celebrated its 100th anniversary in America

Mother jivving to "Turn Your Radio on and Listen to the Music in the Air"
Mother jiving to “Turn Your Radio on and Listen to the Music in the Air” on my iPod

A mother’s happiness is like a beacon, lighting up the future but reflected also on the past in the guise of fond memories.

Honore de Balzac

I am sure that if the mothers of various nations could meet, there would be no more wars.

 E. M. Forster

Roses and Love Life


I once had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalogue: no good in a bed, but fine up against a wall.        Eleanor Roosevelt

Laughter is carbonated holiness. 
― Anne Lamott

*  *  *

Add a quote or comment on one you’ve read. Please do!

And you can be sure I’ll join the conversation.

(Coming next: “Where the Magic Happens” showcasing author Mary Gottschalk)

Thanksgiving Collection I

We have a winner! The winner of Valerie Weaver-Zercher’s Thrill of the Chaste: The Allure of Amish Romance Novels is . . .

Gwen Witmer

Congratulations, Gwen – happy reading!

The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth by Jennie A. Brownscombe (1914) Courtesy Wikipedia
The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth by Jennie A. Brownscombe (1914)        Courtesy Wikipedia


A holiday celebrated primarily in the United States and Canada, Thanksgiving invites us to pause and give thanks as we pray, that mysterious communication between one’s heart and the mind of God. Writer C. S. Lewis declares his attitude before prayer: “The prayer preceding all prayers is “May it be the real I who speaks.” British author W. H. Auden expresses the mystery of prayer in a haiku: “He has never seen God, / but once or twice, he believes / he has heard Him,” quoted in The New Yorker, November 14, 2011.  And the British author John Baillie implores of God as he prays:

Let me use disappointment as material for patience.

Let me use success as material for thankfulness.

Let me use trouble as material for perseverance.

Let me use danger as material for courage.

Let me use reproach as material for long-suffering.

Let me use praise as material for humility.

Let me use pleasures as material for temperance.

Let me use pain as material for endurance.

Children in our church’s 2-year-old class learn that prayer is talking to God, and then they do just that when they clasp their fat, little fingers as they sing “God is great, and God is good” before snack time:

SSpraying Hands

“Keeping company with God” is the title of Part One of Philip Yancey’s book with the arresting title Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? He discusses also the language of prayer and the dilemmas of prayer including what one should pray for, the enigma of unanswered prayer, and “un-prayed answers.” (220)  Ah, the mystery of talking to God.


Lately I decided to cheer myself up by reviewing the bounty of God’s blessings. When the machinery of life goes awry–the doctor has a dire report, the car breaks down, a friend misunderstands–how can it be that I overlook divine intervention? My memory for blessing is so limited, and so I record evidences of God’s faithfulness:



Over the years, in fact since 1984, I have accumulated prayer cards, some printed with typewriter ribbon and later ones two-sided and computer generated. Most of what is on the card are names of family and friends who need help, but sometimes there is a condition humanly unsolvable that I pray God will remedy. The cards are speckled with dates recording what I regard as answers to prayer.


How soon we forget. How necessary to remember!

Denise Levertov, from Sands of the Well, expresses with clarity the “quiet mystery” of communication between God and [wo]man in two stanzas of “Primary Wonder” (vimeo):

Days pass when I forget the mystery.

Problems insoluble and problems offering

their own ignored solutions

jostle for my attention, they crowd its antechamber along with a host of diversions, my courtiers, wearing

their colored clothes; cap and bells.

                                              And then

once more the quiet mystery is present to me, the throng’s clamor recedes; the mystery that there is anything, anything at all, let alone cosmos, joy, memory, everything, rather than void: and that, O Lord, Creator, Hallowed One, you still,

hour by hour sustain it.

How do you practice gratitude?

During this Thanksgiving season do you have a story, long treasured in the family or a newly minted one to share? We’re ready to listen!