Saturday, June 16, 2018

My Dad Is My Hero

Although my 96-year-old father lives 3,000 miles away, he is always with me, a presence I carry in my heart and life not only on Father's Day but every day. When I look through my photo albums, I find pictures of my Daddy that remind me of the relationship we have shared all throughout my life and what he has taught me about God and about living.


Daddy lifting me up on his shoulders when I was little (2) is a visual reminder of the way God, my Heavenly Father, carries me in my weakness.

Daddy escorting me to a special event, opening the car door for me, teaching me by deeds as well as words how to expect a young man to treat me, reminds me that God has shown His love for me by sending His own Son to die for my sins and show me the way to live an abundant life.

Daddy always ready to listen to my woes and pray aloud for me illustrates how the Spirit himself prays for me and how Jesus intercedes to the Father for me.

Daddy walking me down the aisle on my wedding day (7) helps me understand that God has sent His Holy Spirit to prepare me for that great Marriage of the Lamb in heaven.


Daddy extending compassion and forgiveness to a friend who had hurt him deeply taught me how to forgive and reminds me that my Heavenly Father forgives my sin and still desires my friendship even when I have failed Him.

Daddy running out to meet me when I come to visit demonstrates how my Heavenly Father longs for me to fellowship with Him.

Daddy's voice calling me on the phone to ask how I am doing and his words of endearment and encouragement let me know how much he loves me--an earthly picture of God's love for me.

God is our heavenly Abba Father. The word Abba is a term of endearment like "Daddy." Perhaps you didn't have an earthly daddy who was there for you to kiss away your tears and pain, to take pleasure in your accomplishments, to welcome you home, but your Heavenly Abba Father does all this and more. Regardless of the connotation the term "Daddy" holds for you, I pray that as you celebrate this Father's Day, you will find in God and His never-failing love your Abba Father.

Because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our heats, prompting us to call out, "Abba, Father"...You are his child. Galatians 4:6-7 (New Living Translation)

You are His beloved child!

To listen to a podcast interview of me, go to my website, www.annaleeconti.com to connect.




Thursday, June 7, 2018

Seeing Tomorrow from Today

In 1908, Gustav Nyseter, a young Norwegian Pentecostal, told his mother, "The Lord will send me to the 'ends of the earth'" (Acts 1:8). At first, that meant Africa or China or India to him, but gradually, a new scene emerged: ice and snow and Eskimos.

While on an evangelistic tour through Central Norway, he met an attractive blonde, a Bible teacher, who caught his eye as no one else ever had. Laura too sensed an underlying conviction that she would be going to the "ends of the earth." They soon realized they were meant for each other.

In the spring of 1921, the couple left Norway for Alaska--to them, the "end of the earth." They could only speak Norwegian and had no idea what lay before them or even where they were to end their journey.

Sailing west from Norway to England, across the North Atlantic to Canada, across Canada by train to Prince Rupert, British Columbia, they boarded an Alaska-bound ship and reached Ketchikan, in Southeast Alaska. There, they felt drawn to the Alaskan natives tribes--Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian--and thought that perhaps they had reached their destination. But the Lord led them on.

White Pass & Yukon Route Railway
Following the Inside Passage, they sailed on to Skagway, the Gateway to the Klondike gold fields of the Yukon at the turn of the twentieth century. Interestingly, there they briefly crossed paths with my grandparents, Charles and Florence Personeus, pioneer missionaries to Alaska, as they traveled to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, on the narrow-gauge White Pass & Yukon Railway.

At Whitehorse, the Nyseters boarded a wood-burning stern wheeler, a barge-like vessel with a flat bottom, to traverse Alaska via the Yukon River to Dawson City, to the Alaska border, to Fort Yukon just along the Arctic Circle--where they made their first contact with Alaska Eskimos--to St. Michael near the mouth of the Yukon River on the west coast of Alaska. There, they settled for the winter.

They thought they had reached the "earth's farthest end." But the Lord had said "ends."

Image result for long is the yukon riverIn the spring, a stocky Swede arrived and challenged the Nyseters to go with him over to Siberia to preach Christ to the Eskimos there. They would sail to the Diomede Islands--two tiny rocky islands in the Bering Straits between Alaska's Seward Peninsula and Russian Siberia, about 40 miles midway between the U. S. and Siberian coasts--where east literally meets west, the two "ends of the earth."

Lying on either side of the International Dateline, where you can look at tomorrow from today are the Diomede Islands. Little Diomede, population less than 100, belongs to the U. S. Two miles away, Big Diomede, with even fewer people, belongs to Russia. Yet, the inhabitants had close communication and even intermarried.

Icebound for 9 to 10 months out of the year, cut off from the outside world, accessible only by boat at that time, with no trees, the steep rocky islands did not lend themselves to much vegetation of any kind, only a few wild berries in summer. The food supply came from the fickle ocean--whales, seals, and migratory birds.

Steeped in superstition and witchcraft, the Diomeders needed the gospel. The witch doctor ruled supreme. After a successful whale hunt, the whole village, including the missionaries, was forced to cease from all labor for 4 days in  honor of the spirit of the whale that had been taken.
Image result for little diomede island
Little Diomede on left and Big Diomede on right; International Dateline between
Courtesy Google.com
American Little Diomede was to be the site from which the mission to the Siberian Eskimos would be launched. Traveling by small sailing vessels or by native umiaks (large skin boats), Gustav made contacts with the Siberian Eskimos. (These were the last missionary contacts before they were cut off by the Iron Curtain.)

Gustav and Laura built a tiny house above ground, but the cold wind drove the heat from it. When the outside temperature was 34 degrees below zero, the room temperature stood around 4 degrees above zero. During the winter, they added rooms for storage built of ice block bricks, but these melted in the spring. Their house, measuring 12 feet by 15 feet, often  housed at least 6 weather-bound people all winter.

Because of the lack of building supplies, Eskimo homes were dug out of the earth, covered over with skins and planks hand-hewn from driftwood. The entire house measured, on average, 10 feet square, smaller than a small living room in one of our homes. To enter, they crawled on all fours. 

A seal or walrus oil lamp provided light as well as heat for cooking. Frozen chunks of whale blubber were burned to heat the tiny dwelling in winter. The entire family lived, cooked, ate, slept, tanned hides, and sewed clothing on the floor.

The largest house served as a gathering place for the village, where the Nyseters could hold services, which were often interrupted when villagers would begin to play cards in the middle of their meetings.

During the Nyseters' seventh winter on Little Diomede, Laura began to suffer digestive problems, pain, vomiting, difficulty breathing, and weakness. No health care was available on the island, and they were cut off from the mainland by the winter ice floes. After suffering for about 3 months, she died.

Eskimo friends made a coffin and after the funeral, they carried it up the steep, rocky hillside where they wedged it under a pile of small rocks next to the grave of their only child, Ruth, who had died at age 2. Heartbroken, but  with peace only the Lord can give, Gustav returned to Norway that summer when the ice melted sufficiently for the Coast Guard boat to come and take him to the mainland.

Image result for little diomede
Little Diomede, Alaska, today
Courtesy Google.com
One summer, a half century later, Agnes Rodli visited Little Diomede to gain a feel for the island as she  translated Gustav and Laura's story. Flying in a three passenger ski plane, they landed in the Bering Strait. Small frame houses looked like boxes stacked in disarray upon the steep ragged hillside. Farther up the hill stood a white cross.

The next day, she and a few villagers climbed the steep, rugged hillside, being careful that their feet didn't slip off the rocks and get wedged in deep crevices cutting into the core of the mountain. Weathered grave markers leaned awkwardly, were broken, or toppled over. But one cross had defied every storm that beat against it.

"Gales up to a 100 miles per hour can make the strongest buildings tremble," she remarked. "Why has this cross stood so long?"

"Because," an old-timer explained, "Mr. Nyseter preserved the wood by first saturating it with oil. It went to the heart, preserving every fiber."

The marker could not be secured in the meager surface layer of soil on the mountainside, but Gustav found a way, He nailed the upright bean to the headboard of the pine coffin and placed huge stones against it for added support.

"When we want to line up something in the village," the local resident added," we can line it up with the cross because it still stand absolutely true."

Clearly visible to lonely outposts on Big Diomede too, it has stood through the years of Soviet domination as a silent witness to the faith of those who loved not their lives unto death.

As Agnes Rodli concludes in the Epilogue to Strait Gate:

Image result for little diomede island
Cross on hillside on Little Diomede Island
The message is simple. There stands yet another cross of far greater significance than the one on Diomede, for time can never alter it. Anointed with the oil of the Holy Spirit, anchored in the supreme sacrifice paid at Calvary, that cross holds absolutely true. It stands at the entrance of the strait gate, the gate that leads to salvation and eternal life.

Let us line up our lives with the Cross. Time can never alter its absolute truth. It is the only way to eternal life. Let us anchor our lives to the Cross. It is life's only source of truth and constancy. Let us allow the oil of the Holy Spirit to saturate our lives with His preserving power.

Many have given their lives so that we may live in freedom. God calls us to be a LIVING sacrifice (Romans 12:1)--to pour out our lives so that others may come to spiritual life, just as the Nyseters did, to live a consistent lifestyle that is an effective witness for Jesus, to "be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks a reason for the hope that is in you" (1 Peter 3:15).

Are we willing to die to ourselves so that others may have freedom in Christ? When we see tomorrow from today, we realize that in the light of eternity with Christ, it will be worth all we sacrifice in this fleeting life for the sake of spreading the gospel.


NOTE: The above is condensed from the book, Strait Gate, by Agnes Rodli, published by Winepress
Publishers, 1999. Agnes Rodli was my longtime friend and mentor. She gave me an autographed copy, which I have read several times because of the impact it has had on me. I highly recommend her books.

Author Agnes Rodli expands on a book originally written in Norwegian by Gustav Nyseter who went with his wife to Alaska in the early 1920's. It is high adventure of two fledgling missionaries learning how to live and minister in the far north.

Agnes Rodli, a daughter of Norwegian immigrants, attended Bethany Bible College in Santa Cruz, California, and the University of Alaska in Fairbanks where she majored in journalism. Her missionary career covered a span of years in close contact with northern native cultures. Besides her experience in manuscript preparation at International Correspondence Institute in Brussels, she has published numerous magazine articles. Both of her books, North of Heaven and Alone in My Kayak, portray village life in Alaska.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Heroes of the Faith

On Monday, we honored those who gave their lives for our country. Today, I'd like to honor some Heroes of the Faith, my heroes who set a Christian example as godly role models for my life:

  • My parents, grandparents, and uncles and aunts, who were missionaries around the world and introduced me to Christ at my earliest age, modeled godly living, practical Christianity, and Christian service, and taught me how to pray and trust God in all the circumstances of my life.
  • My Sunday school teachers and Christian public schoolteachers who nurtured my Christian life.
  • My pastors who cared for me spiritually as a shepherd cares for  his sheep.
  • My first college dorm mother, Mrs. Hollowell, who challenged us asking, "When are you going to start being what you'd like to become?"
  • Godly mentors like Agnes Rodli, author and missionary to Alaska and the Eskimos, who prayed for me when I suffered repeated nightmares while my husband, Bob, was in Vietnam--and they ceased!
Image result for strait gate: a norse saga - missionAnd I want to tell you a story of a little-known Norwegian couple who are heroes of the faith I have never met, but as I read their story in Strait Gate, by Agnes Rodli, I was challenged and learned lessons I think can benefit all of us.

In 1908, Gustav Nyseter, a young Norwegian Pentecostal, told his mother, "The Lord will send me to the 'ends of the earth.'" To him, that meant Africa or China or India, but gradually, a new scene emerged: ice and snow and Eskimos.

While on an evangelistic tour through Central Norway, he met an attractive blonde, a Bible teacher, who caught his eye as no one else ever had. Laura too sensed an underlying conviction that she would be going to the "ends of the earth." They soon realized they were meant for each other.

In the spring of 1921, the couple left Norway for Alaska. They could only speak Norwegian and had no idea what lay before them or even where they were to end their journey.

Sailing west from Norway to England, across the North Atlantic to Canada, across Canada by train to Prince Rupert, British Columbia, they boarded an Alaska-bound ship and reached Ketchikan, in Southeast Alaska. There, they felt drawn to the Alaskan natives tribes--Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian--and thought that perhaps they had reached their destination. But the Lord led them on.

White Pass & Yukon Route Railway
Following the Inside Passage, they sailed on to Skagway, the Gateway to the Klondike gold fields of the Yukon at the turn of the twentieth century. Interestingly, there they briefly crossed paths with my grandparents, Charles and Florence Personeus, pioneer missionaries to Alaska, as they traveled to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, on the narrow-gauge White Pass & Yukon Railway.

At Whitehorse, the Nyseters boarded a wood-burning stern wheeler, a barge-like vessel with a flat bottom, to traverse Alaska via the Yukon River to Dawson City, to the Alaska border, to Fort Yukon just along the Arctic Circle--where they made their first contact with Alaska Eskimos--to St. Michael near the mouth of the Yukon River on the west coast of Alaska. There, they settled for the winter.

They thought they had reached the "earth's farthest end." But the Lord had said "ends."

In the spring, a stocky Swede arrived and challenged the Nyseters to go with him over to Siberia to preach Christ to the Eskimos there. They would sail to the Diomede Islands--two tiny rocky islands in the Bering Straits between Alaska's Seward Peninsula and Russian Siberia, about 40 miles midway between the U. S. and Siberian coasts. Lying on either side of the International Dateline, where you can look at tomorrow from today, Little Diomede, population less than 100, belonging to the U. S., and two miles away, lies Big Diomede, belonging to Russia, with even fewer people. Yet, the inhabitants had close communication and even intermarried.
Image result for little diomede
The Diomede Islands in the Bering Strait
Courtesy www.Britanica.com
Icebound for 9 to 10 months out of the year, cut off from the outside world, accessible only by boat, with no trees, the steep rocky islands did not lend themselves to much vegetation of any kind, only a few wild berries in summer. The food supply came from the fickle ocean--whales, seals, and migratory birds.

Steeped in superstition and witchcraft, the Diomeders needed the gospel. The witch doctor ruled supreme. After a successful whale hunt, the whole village, including the missionaries, was forced to cease from all labor for 4 days in  honor of the spirit of the whale that had been taken.

American Little Diomede was to be the site from which the mission to the Siberian Eskimos would be launched.

Because of the lack of building supplies, Eskimo homes were dug out of the earth, covered over with skins and planks hand-hewn from driftwood. The entire house measured, on average, 10 feet square, smaller than a small living room in one of our homes. To enter, they crawled on all fours. 

A seal or walrus oil lamp provided light as well as heat for cooking. Frozen chunks of whale blubber were burned to heat the tiny dwelling in winter. The entire family lived, cooked, ate, slept, tanned hides, and sewed clothing on the floor.

The largest house served as a gathering place for the village, where the Nyseters could hold services, which were often interrupted when villagers would begin to play cards in the middle of their meetings.

Gustav and Laura built a tiny house above ground, but the cold wind drove the heat from it. When the outside temperature was 34 degrees below zero, the room temperature stood around 4 degrees above zero. During the winter, they added rooms for storage built of ice block bricks, but these melted in the spring. Their house, measuring 12 feet by 15 feet, often  housed at least 6 weather-bound people all winter.

Traveling by small sailing vessels or by native umiaks (large skin boats), Gustav made contacts with the Siberian Eskimos. These were the last missionary contacts before they were cut off by the Iron Curtain.

During the Nyseters' seventh winter on Little Diomede, Laura began to suffer digestive problems, pain, vomiting, difficulty breathing, and weakness. No health care was available on the island, and they were cut off from the mainland by the winter ice floes. After suffering for about 3 months, she died.

Eskimo friends made a coffin and after the funeral, they carried it up the steep, rocky hillside where they wedged it under a pile of small rocks next to the grave of their only child, Ruth, who had died at age 2. Heartbroken, but  with peace only the Lord can give, Gustav returned to Norway that summer when the ice melted sufficiently for the Coast Guard boat to come and take him to the mainland.

Image result for little diomede
Little Diomede, Alaska, today
Courtesy Google.com
A half century later, Agnes Rodli visited Little Diomede to gain a feel for the island as she  translated Gustav and Laura's story. Flying in a three passenger ski plane, they landed in the Bering Strait. Small frame houses looked like boxes stacked in disarray upon the steep ragged hillside. Farther up the hill stood a white cross.

The next day, she and a few villagers climbed the steep, rugged hillside, being careful that their feet didn't slip off the rocks and get wedged in deep crevices cutting into the core of the mountain. Weathered grave markers leaned awkwardly, were broken, or toppled over. But one cross had defied every storm that beat against it.

"Gales up to a 100 miles per hour can make the strongest buildings tremble," she remarked. "Why has this cross stood so long?"

"Because," an old-timer explained, "Mr. Nyseter preserved the wood by first saturating it with oil. It went to the heart, preserving every fiber."

The marker could not be secured in the meager surface layer of soil on the mountainside, but Gustav found a way, He nailed the upright bean to the headboard of the pine coffin and placed huge stones against it for added support.

"When we want to line up something in the village," the local resident added," we can line it up with the cross because it still stand absolutely true."

In winter, its white stands out against the snow; in summer, against the greens; in spring and fall, against the browns and grays. Clearly visible to lonely outposts on Big Diomede too, it has stood through the years of Soviet domination as a silent witness to the faith of those who loved not their lives unto death.

As Agnes Rodli concludes in the Epilogue to Strait Gate: "The message is simple. There stands yet another cross of far greater significance than the one on Diomede, for time can never alter it. Anointed with the oil of the Holy Spirit, anchored in the supreme sacrifice paid at Calvary, that cross holds absolutely true. It stands at the entrance of the strait gate, the gate that leads to salvation and eternal life."

Let us line up our lives with the Cross. Time can never alter its absolute truth. It is the only way to eternal life. Let us anchor our lives to the Cross. It is life's only source of truth and constancy. Let us allow the oil of the Holy Spirit to saturate our lives with His preserving power.

Many have given their lives so that we may live in freedom. God calls us to be a LIVING sacrifice (Romans 12:1)--to pour out our lives so that others may come to spiritual life, just as the Nyseters did, to live a consistent lifestyle that is an effective witness for Jesus, to "be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks a reason for the hope that is in you" (1 Peter 3:15).

Are we willing to die to ourselves so that others may have freedom in Christ? Will we be heroes of the faith?


NOTE: The above is condensed from the book, Strait Gate, by Agnes Rodli, published by Winepress Publishers, 1999. Agnes Rodli was my longtime friend and mentor. She gave me an autographed copy, which I have read several times because of the impact it has had on me. I highly recommend her books.

Author Agnes Rodli expands on a book originally written in Norwegian by Gustav Nyseter who went with his wife to Alaska in the early 1920's. It is high adventure of two fledgling missionaries learning how to live and minister in the far north.

Agnes Rodli, a daughter of Norwegian immigrants, attended Bethany Bible College in Santa Cruz, California, and the University of Alaska in Fairbanks where she majored in journalism. Her missionary career covered a span of years in close contact with northern native cultures. Besides her experience in manuscript preparation at International Correspondence Institute in Brussels, she has published numerous magazine articles. Both of her books, North of Heaven and Alone in My Kayak, portray village life in Alaska.


Thursday, May 24, 2018

Reflections on Memorial Day

Our picture on front page of the Fairbanks newspaper
Tuesday, May 22, my husband, Bob, and I celebrated 51 years since we graduated from the University of Alaska Fairbanks with our bachelor of arts degrees. Since he minored in military science (ROTC), he also received his commission as a second lieutenant in the United States Army that day. We got married a few weeks later.

Bob received his commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the
United States Army on May 22, 1967
The Vietnam War was at its height. Expecting him to be sent immediately to the war zone after additional training, we were thrilled when he received orders to go to Germany. After a year there (1968), the orders I'd been dreading came through. After attending another training school, he was being sent to Vietnam.

I burst into tears at the news. Of course, when I married Bob, I knew he planned to make the Army a career.

"This is what I signed up for," he said.That didn't make me feel better, though. All I  could see was the long, empty year ahead.

My friends told me to pray that he wouldn't have to go, but I couldn't. I knew he had to go.

Six months later, the day before our second wedding anniversary, we kissed goodbye at the airport in Anchorage, Alaska, where I would live while he was gone.

It was a long year! We'd never even dreamed then of the internet, FaceTime, or Skype. All we had was what we now call "snail mail." At least we didn't have to use stamps with APO addresses. Before he left, we'd promised to write to each other every day. And we did. That promise even saved his life. Looking back, we realized that even though we were separated, we grew closer together as we wrote our deepest thoughts and feelings.
Bob in Vietnam in 1969-70
Bob experienced many close calls, which I wrote about in a previous blog post, A Vietnam Veterans Memories. He took satisfaction in knowing I was safe at home while he was gone, but I was nearly killed in a serious car accident in Alaska a few months after he left. I still suffer from damage done to my neck.

We met in Hawaii for R & R in February. Saying goodbye that time was almost harder. Finally, he arrived home safe and sound on May 30, Memorial Day, 1970, the only officer from his advisory unit to come home alive. A year later, Memorial Day was changed from May 30 to the last Monday of May, but we still celebrate his safe return every year.

After his experiences in Vietnam, Bob began to feel the Lord leading him to go into the ministry. After 22 years of pastoring, Bob began having breathing problems. The Friday before Memorial
Day, he had a heart catheterization. He needed a triple bypass surgery, which was scheduled for the  day after Memorial Day--exactly 30 years after returning home safely from Vietnam.

We thank God for the amazing advancements in medical science that saved his life this time. In open heart surgery, they stop your heart and essentially bring you from death back to life over the next few days.

Eventually, he had to have a second open heart surgery to replace his mitral valve and later had a  defibrillator implanted. The VA has determined that his heart disease and diabetes is a direct result of exposure to Agent Orange in the fields of Vietnam, so they now provide his health care. And we now live just two miles from Castle Point VA Hospital. Isn't it amazing how God directs our paths and places us right where we need to be even before we realize it?

NOTE: You may have noticed that I didn't post a blog last week. The mobile home park along the I-84 corridor where we live took a direct hit from a macroburst with wind speeds of 110 mph, part of a huge storm system that spawned several tornadoes too in the Mid-Hudson Valley region of New York State.

Common sight throughout our area since macroburst on May 15.
This is a road near us that we travel frequently.
Courtesy Central Hudson

Common sight in our area since macroburst on May 15
Courtesy poughkeepsiejournal.com
The National Weather Service describes a macroburst as a thunderstorm downdraft affecting an area at least 2.5 miles wide with peak winds lasting 5 to 20 minutes. The macroburst is a straight-line wind phenomena not associated with rotation used to differentiate from tornadic winds. Macrobursts can produce as much if not more damage as tornadoes due to the size and scope of a macroburst.

Our power was knocked out from Tuesday afternoon to Friday night, and we had no internet, cable, or landline telephone until Sunday evening. Schools were closed for the rest of that week. Many homes were damaged by falling trees.

The storm was scary, but all we lost was the contents of our freezer and refrigerator due to the power outage. With so many trees down across roadways and no traffic lights working, traffic just crawled for several days. We read that 191 electric poles were destroyed and had to be replaced. We continue to hear the buzz of chainsaws and tree shredders.

Repairing the storm damage
Courtesy poughkeepsiejournal.com
A power substation very close to the school where our son teaches in the Town of Newburgh was destroyed by a tornado, so Newburgh was without power too. Additional tornadoes touched down in the Town of Wappingers, in Putnam County to our south, and in Saugerties to our north. One man driving home from work in Sullivan County to our west took a photograph of a tornado in the distance only to discover when he arrived home that it had destroyed his house.

Work crews are still cleaning up around the area, removing huge toppled trees. Homes in our park will require thousands of dollars in repairs. God certainly protected us, for which we are truly grateful.

We personally have much to be thankful for this Memorial Day as we remember those who gave their all for their country. And Bob recalls the faces and lives of his comrades in arms who didn't make it back.








Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Master Sculptor

Every summer, my husband and I go west to visit my now 96-year-old father in Washington State. We usually drive so we can visit other family and friends along the way. Colorado and Utah display amazing scenic land formations.
I-70 runs through San Rafael Swell  Courtesy Google.com
In southern Utah the landscape is covered with arches, monoliths, mesas, and mounds--all in various stages of erosion. The rapid recession of the waters of Noah's Flood carved out a spectacular landscape, and the ensuing centuries of wind and water have further sculpted the multi-colored sandstone of the San Rafael Swell  into rock formations with  names such as Joe and His Dog, Double Arch, Balanced Rock, Sheep, Three Gossips, and many more names the images suggested to the imaginative observers.

Joe and His Dog Courtesy Google.com
That rugged landscape is characterized by two factors: it is always changing, and each feature is unique. Transformations are occurring because the environment is continually subjected to weathering. The hot summer sun, rushing rivulets from rainstorms, moisture caught in crevices freezing and thawing are important tools in designing these natural rock sculptures.

Here I am at San Rafael Swell 
These awesome natural works of art remind me of the work of God in the lives of people. Patiently, lovingly, He shapes every small detail to give aesthetic worth in His Kingdom. Just like those geographical formations, our lives too are constantly changing. God uses the tools of time and stress and experiences to refine the shape of our lives. As we submit to our Master Sculptor, He molds our attitudes and our wills to His. We can have confidence in Him that He will exert the stresses needed to best sculpt us into vessels of honor.

Even more impressive than all the arches and monoliths of Utah are the hearts and lives shaped by God's loving, skillful, unchanging hand. And like Creation, our lives will declare the glory of God and portray His character. Instead of dwelling on the past, we can look forward to what we are becoming. We have been set apart for God, and His Holy Spirit is transforming each of us into a work of beauty that will reflect His character.

How is God sculpting you today?


Thursday, May 3, 2018

Meet Kristina Michelsen of the Alaska Waters Trilogy

Last week I introduced you to Norman Pedersen. Today, I'd like you to meet the love of his life.

Nordland Bunad such as Kristina would have worn
Courtesy Google.com
Hello! I'm Kristina Michelsen. I have been living with my Uncle Jon and Aunt Marta ever since I lost my parents. When my mother died ten years ago, my grief-stricken father, left me with his older brother and joined the Navy. He was lost at sea five years later.

Aunt Marta and Uncle Jon love me like their own daughter. I know having me in their home helps to fill the void left in their hearts and lives by the loss of their only son in a skiing accident. Our shared sorrow and mutual sympathy have welded a strong attachment.

I love to sing and play the piano. My uncle has been so good to provide lessons for me with the best music teacher in Narvik. At parties, my friend Freida, her cousin Henrik, who plays the violin, and I often play and sing together.

When Norman Pedersen moved to Narvik two years ago, we met in church. I was attracted to his rugged good looks and adventure-loving ways. But our mutual sorrow over the loss of both parents at so young an age drew us together in a bond I share with no one else. We also enjoy skiing, ice skating, and boating.

Norman's sister, Alma Kobbevik, has been like a wise big sister to me. Long before I met Norman, she took me under her wing. She is the one who introduced me to our loving Heavenly Father, who, unlike an earthly father, will never leave me and will never die.

When she announced that she and her husband, Tennes, were going to America, I tried to be happy for them. I know they struggle financially in spite of their hard work on their tiny farm. But in reality, I feel like I'm losing another loved one.

Alma told me Norman is sweet on me. If so, he's been too shy to declare it. I worry about him, though. He faces so many dangers at sea. Tennes's father and brother were lost at sea, as was my father. Yet, Norman thinks "religion" is just for women and children. I pray for him continually.

Norman says he wants to stay in Narvik and be a fisherman like Ole Aarstad, who hired him as a deckhand on his boat, the Viking. Having Norman here will make losing Alma more bearable, but I fear that Norman, with his love for adventure, will change his mind and follow Alma to America.

Will Norman go to America? Will Kristina wait for him? Read the rest of their story in A Star to Steer By.











Thursday, April 26, 2018

Meet Norman Pedersen from my Alaskan Waters Trilogy

Allow me to introduce another character from my Alaskan Waters Trilogy:

Hi, I'm Norman Pedersen. I am the younger son of a wealthy Norwegian family in Oslo at the turn of the twentieth century. As is the custom, my eldest brother, Arne, inherited the family estate when my parents died when I was but a youngster.

Arne's overbearing wife made life miserable for my sister, Alma, and me. When she married Tennes against Arne's wishes and moved up north to Narvik, I ran away and joined them. They live a simple life on his farm, but they love me and are happy to share what they have with me.

Northern Norway (Narvik in center) Courtesy Google.com
I'm so glad I took the leap. Ya! In church I met the girl of my dreams. Kristina! Her golden hair frames a fair face with rosy cheeks and pearly white teeth that sparkle between sweet, smiling lips that need no lipstick. And her eyes are as vivid a blue as the fjord that spreads out at the feet of Narvik.

How I have missed her these past months while working on board the Viking shipping salted and dried codfish from the Lofoten Islands to Bergen, one of the foremost fish markets of the world.

From January to April, fishing boats from Narvik follow the cod migration to their spawning grounds among the many islands of the Vesteralens--four large islands of the Lofoten group, with smaller ones between that trail off into the Norwegian Sea like a gigantic backbone from northern Norway's broken coast. I hired on as deckhand to the Viking's crew.

Narvik, Norway Courtesy Google.com
The long summer days are finally over. As much as I love the sea, all I can think of right now is seeing Kristina. As I stand at the bow, rope in hand, ready to jump to the dock as soon as the Viking nudges into its mooring in the harbor at Narvik, I pull up my collar against the chill Arctic winds that sweep up the fjord.

Something catches the sunlight and flashes out a miniature beacon from the bluff overlooking the docks. I glance up and spot a girl buffeted about by the stiff breeze, her dark skirt billowing out behind her as she gazes across the water. I know it's Kristina. She always wears her mother's large silver brooch at the throat of her shirtwaist. I hope she's looking for me.

My heart swells in anticipation of being with Kristina again after my long season at sea. In spite of the biting wind, I warm at the thought of kissing her. Maybe this time I'll get up the nerve.

But what can I offer her? She's accustomed to all the comforts her wealthy uncle/guardian provides. I have no property, no house, and no opportunity to purchase land even if I had the money. There just isn't enough land to go around. Unless you are the eldest son, you inherit nothing.

Alma and Tennes are talking about selling their tiny farm and going to America, the Land of Opportunity. But I don't even have enough money to buy their farm. And it's too small to make a profit. They scarcely get by even with my contribution now that I have a job.

Maybe I should go to America too. No! How could I ever leave Kristina?

   
Norman's story comes to life in Book Two, A Star to Steer By, in my Alaskan Waters Trilogy. These books are available in paperback and e-book. To learn more about them, check out my website, www.annaleeconti.com.


Thursday, April 19, 2018

Meet Evie Parker from Till the Storm Passes By

Allow me to introduce to you the heroine of Till the Storm Passes By, the first book in my Alaskan Waters trilogy.

Hello! My name is Evie Parker. I teach fourth grade in Jamestown on Conanicut Island in Rhode Island, where I grew up. Since I'm not married, I still live with my parents, Louise and Jack Parker. My father owns a hotel on the waterfront overlooking Narragansett Bay toward Newport. He's rarely home except to sleep.

Beavertail State Park, RI Courtesy Google.com
My favorite place to get away to ponder my life is Beavertail Lighthouse (for more about Beavertail, click here) just a few miles from our house. The ocean surrounds it on three sides. Sitting on the rocks and watching the waves break soothes my mind and soul. I'd love to take you there.

Waves Breaking at Beavertail Courtesy Google.com
By way of introduction, allow me to show you the prologue to the book I'm writing to my darling baby girl, Kristina Louise.

"As I hold you in my arms and breathe in your sweetness, I feel great joy and pride. Whenever I tuck you into your crib, I pray we will enjoy a long and wonderful life together. No mother or daughter is ever prepared for anything else, but because of what has happened to me, I know the worst can happen.

"That's why I am writing this story. I want you to know me and the story of my life even if I were to be suddenly taken from you, as my mother was. How I have wished she had done the same for me! It would have spared me much anguish.

"My growing up years seemed mundane and uneventful except for a recurring nightmare that traumatized my childhood, so I will begin my tale with the first sign of the gathering storm that would alter my life forever."

"Mommy! Mommy! Wake up!" a little girl screams. But the woman on the beach lies cold and wet and still.

I awake with a start. A profound sense of loss sucks the breath from my lungs. My heart throbs and my head pounds. My throat is parched, yet I shiver in my sweat-damp nightgown. I press my hands to my cheeks and find them wet with tears.

"Why now?" I moan. I haven't had this nightmare in years. I thought I'd outgrown it along with my fear of the dark and the bogeyman.

What does my dream mean? Who is the woman I call "Mommy"? She doesn't look at all like my mother. Maybe I had the dream again because I'm worried about her. She's not been well, but she refuses to see the doctor.

Trying not to disturb her, I slip out of the house and walk to Carr Elementary School where I teach fourth grade. My best friend, Jean, who also teaches at my school, tries to help me figure out what the nightmare means, but that evening at choir practice where I play the piano for church, my boyfriend, Carl, reminds me of my father when he just laughs it off.

My father is distant, harsh, and uncaring. I don't want to marry a man like him. Everyone says Carl is a dream catch--ambitious, good-looking, and popular. For the first time, I begin to wonder if I really want to marry Carl.

An early spring blizzard and a deathbed confession settle the matter. Although it scares me to death to travel so far in 1953, I decide to fly all the way to Juneau in the Territory of Alaska to unravel a past shrouded in mystery.

A plane Evie flew on in 1953 Courtesy Google.com
I invite you to come along with me as I search for answers, but let me warn you, we will face many storms along the way. I often wonder if I will be ever able to forgive and find true love.

Read Evie's story in Till the Storm Passes By,  Book One in my Alaskan Waters Trilogy, available in paperback and e-book, all readers--Kindle, Nook, iTunes, etc. For more information about my books, see my website: www.annaleeconti.com.



Thursday, April 12, 2018

Meet Violet Channing from Beside Still Waters

Allow me to introduce you to Violet Channing, heroine of my latest book, Beside Still Waters.

Hello! My name is Violet Channing. Orphaned at a young age, I find myself tossed about by life’s turbulent waters when my Aunt Mabel who raised me dies.

I always wanted to be a teacher, but my education was cut short by the untimely death of my Uncle Chester. He made poor business decisions, and as a result, my aunt lost their large Victorian house in a wealthy neighborhood to the creditors at his death.

In order to support us, I had to quit normal school at the age of 18 and take the only job I could find for an unskilled woman in 1915 Boston as a seamstress in a ramshackle wooden garment factory. With its accumulated dust and lint, it was a tinderbox. Fire is my greatest fear.

My wages only afforded Aunt Mabel and me a cold-water flat in a dirty tenement with stark chimneys that belched soot-ladened air. When Aunt Mabel got sick, we couldn’t afford a doctor.

“It’s just a cold,” she said. But when she began to cough up blood, I quit taking a lunch to work so we could pay his fee.

“Consumption,” he told Aunt Mabel. “Keep warm and rest.” Then, he called me aside. “There’s nothing I can do for her. Her lungs are too far gone. She probably only has a few weeks.”

Heartsick, I quit my job to take care of her.


Now, she’s gone, and I have to figure out what to do with my future. I can’t bear to go back to that firetrap of a factory.

At the corner grocery, I buy a few necessities and a copy of the Boston Globe with the last of my money. In the corner of the Classifieds, an ad catches my eye: “WANTED: a young lady to be a companion and tutor to a sick child.”

I read the fine print. No teaching credentials required. Room and board provided. Can this be the answer? Before I grow fainthearted, I pen an application and mail if off to the address.

A week later, I receive a cream-colored envelope addressed to me in a feminine hand. Excitement pulses through me as I withdraw the note, which requests that I come for an interview on Saturday at one o’clock in the afternoon.

Laying aside my mourning clothes, I dress carefully in my best, though slightly out of fashion, outfit. At the address, a three-story brick house in Cambridge, a gracious lady invites me in. Over tea and snickerdoodles, a treat I hadn’t enjoyed since my uncle died, Mrs. Henderson describes the job.

Her granddaughter, Jenny, is recovering from rheumatic fever. Her mother has died, and the girl’s father needs a nanny and tutor for her as he has to be away frequently on his job as a railroad engineer.

The job offer sounds too good to be true until she tells me where they live—in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory!

Uncle Chester had regaled Aunt Mabel and me with his reading of Robert Service’s “The Cremation of Sam McGee.” All I know about the Yukon is that it is wild and frigid. Do I have the courage to go there?

Will I be jumping from a city firetrap 
into frozen wilderness icebox?

I think of my shabby apartment. I have nothing to keep me here, but will I be jumping from a city firetrap into frozen wilderness icebox? I decide to take the leap.

Vanderbilt Reef in Lynn Canal in Southeast Alaska
Sailing up the Inside Passage of Alaska on my way to Whitehorse, I fall in love with a dashing Yukon riverboat captain. But do we live happily ever after? That’s a secret revealed only in Beside Still Waters.

I hope you enjoyed meeting Violet. Visit my website at www.annaleeconti.com to learn more about Beside Still Waters, Book 3, as well as the other historical Christian novels in my Alaska Waters Trilogy.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Never Give Up!

 Although there are several versions, I love this poem by an unknown author:

Two frogs fell into a can of cream--or so I've heard it told;
The sides of the can were shiny and steep. The cream was deep and cold.
"Oh, what's the use?" said No. 1, "'tis fate--no help's around--
"Goodbye, my friend! Goodbye, sad world!" And weeping still, he drowned.

But No. 2 of sterner stuff, dog-paddled in surprise,
The while he wiped his creamy face and dried his creamy eyes.
"I'll swim awhile, at least," he said--or so it has been said--
"It wouldn't really help the world if one more frog was dead."
An hour or two he kicked and swam--not once he stopped to mutter,
But kicked and swam, and swam and kicked, then hopped out, via butter.

How many times are we tempted to give up when troubles come our way. But let's follow the advice of the Apostle Paul in Galatians 6:9:


Many discouraged Christians have given up not knowing that success was just around the corner. So like Frog No. 2, even though the situation looks hopeless, don't give up.

I read recently of a person who was fired from her job. Instead of getting depressed, she used the job loss to spur her on to a complete change of vocation, and she became quite successful.

I too have had that experience. While my husband was in seminary, I lost a job which we needed to cover our living expenses. But the Lord provided another employment opportunity that led me into writing, which has become my life-long vocation.

My Grandma Personeus, pioneer missionary to Alaska for 65 years, taught me to spell "disappointments" as "His appointments." Experience has proven her right.

Are you facing a disappointment? Are you discouraged? Don't give up. Continue to do what is right and good. God has promised you "will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time."


I experienced many disappointments along the way to getting my first book, Frontiers of Faith, published. With perseverance, I finally succeeded. Visit my website to see more about my books.



Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Christian's D-Day

As Good Friday and Easter approach, my thoughts turn to an event in history that illustrates of the significance of Calvary:

On June 6, 1944, Allied forces under the command of General Eisenhower surprised Hitler's armies by invading the Continent across the English Channel. That day changed the course of history.


By nightfall, 156,000 Allied soldiers were on the ground in Normandy and had established the beachhead. The way was opened that day for another million troops to enter Europe by July 1. Although Germany did not surrender until nearly a year later on May 7, 1945, and there were many more casualties during that time than for any other period of the war, the outcome of World War II was determined on D-Day. It was only a matter of time until the war was over.


The death of our Lord Jesus Christ in Jerusalem on the cross at Calvary is the Christian's D-Day. By His death, He invaded the territory Satan usurped in the Garden of Eden, and the outcome of the battle against sin and Satan was decided that day when Jesus cried, "It is finished!"

Until Christ returns to earth, we are still in the battle, but the outcome is certain. We win!

A number of years after the surrender of the Japanese that ended World War II, a handful of Japanese soldiers were discovered on a remote island in the Pacific. They had not heard that the war was over. They thought they were still fighting.

One of my favorite songs written by Bill and Gloria Gaither is "It Is Finished!" It compares the battles raging in many hearts to being prisoners of war:

But in my heart the battle was still raging;
Not all prisoners of war had come home.
They were battlefields of my own making.
I didn't know that the war had been won.

Are you still struggling in "battlefields of your own making"? Has Satan made you his "prisoner of war"?

To you, I declare the good news: I've read the end of the Book. Because of Christ's sacrifice, good wins over evil. "It is finished!"

Christ has already won the battle against the devil, sin, death, sickness, and evil when He invaded this earth with the power of His divine love and was "pierced for our transgressions" and "was crushed for our iniquities." He took the "punishment for our peace" when He died on the Cross for our sins, and "by His wounds we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5). 


He arose victorious over the grave. He has completed the work of salvation. The victory is ours for the claiming. We can do nothing to earn it. It is a free gift paid in full on Calvary. By faith, we accept His gift and serve Him in glad response.

It is only a matter of time until "every knee will bow...and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord" (Philippians 2:10-11). The only thing left for us to decide is which side we are on.

Are we living today like we know the battle is finished and the victory is ours?

(Photos courtesy Google.com)





Thursday, March 22, 2018

Encourage Each Other

Flying into Pelican Courtesy Google.com
When I was a child, my maternal grandparents, the C. C. Personeuses, built and pastored the only church in the tiny fishing village of Pelican on Chichagof Island in Southeastern Alaska. The only way in and out of that town was by boat or by small amphibious airplane.

Born in 1888, my grandmother had learned to travel by automobile, train, and boats large and small in her lifetime, but flying over the mountains and the sea in a tiny airplane that took off and landed on the water tested her faith.

Alaska Coastal Airlines in Juneau c. 1953, where my dad was boss of cargo 1948-1958
Courtesy Google.com
When I was about 4 years old, my family flew in from Juneau for a visit. When they returned home, I stayed on for a longer visit. When it was time for me to fly home, my father, who worked for Alaska Coastal Airlines, the seaplanes that serviced Pelican, sent word that he had arranged for me to sit in the copilot's seat for the return trip so I wouldn't be alone.

Flying over the mountains into Pelican (lower left corner)
Courtesy Google.com
As my grandmother watched me board that Grumman Goose, the Lord spoke to her heart. "If that child can trust her father enough to get on that plane, then why can't you trust Me, your Heavenly Father, enough to see that you fly safely too?"

From that day forward, my grandmother flew back and forth  from Pelican to Juneau and across the United States many times in planes both large and small without fear.

In Romans 1:12, the Apostle Paul describes how the faith of the Christians in Rome encouraged his faith:

That you and I may be mutually encouraged 
by each other's faith.

In the same way, my grandmother's faith encouraged me many times throughout my life to trust the Lord just as she did. In this instance, my own childlike faith helped her conquer her reluctance to fly.

God's plan for each of His children is that we encourage each other in this walk of faith. Our walk with the Lord can be twice as strong when join with others of like precious faith. 

Who encourages you in your walk with the Lord? Who do you encourage?  


For more encouraging stories of living by faith, see my book, Frontiers of Faith, the Story of Charles C. and Florence Personeus, Pioneer Missionaries to Alaska, "The Last Frontier," 1917-1982, available on my website, www.annaleeconti.com.


You may also enjoy reading my Alaskan Waters trilogy set in Alaska where I grew up in the fifties and sixties. Available in e-book for all e-readers and in trade paperback also on my website.