Thursday, June 27, 2019

How to Start Being What You'd Like to Become

When I was a freshman at Seattle Pacific College (now University) in 1963-64, our dorm mother, Mrs. Marie Hollowell, often held meetings with us girls in her apartment. I'll never forget what she said at one such meeting:

"When are you going to start being 
what you'd like to become?"

The Cousart & Personeus Family in Pelican Parsonage
(I am front right of my brother & sister. My parents are on left.
Grandma & Grandpa in center.
Uncle Byron & Aunt Marjory Personeus on right.)
As I heard those words, I thought of my Grandma Personeus. She was my role model. My brother, sister, and I had spent nearly every summer of my grade school years with her and Grandpa in Pelican, a tiny fishing village on a large island in Southeast Alaska.

Pelican in 1953
Having young children night and day for three months is not easy when you are in your sixties, yet I could not recall Grandma ever speaking harshly or impatiently to any of us. She was always up and fixing breakfast when we got up in the morning and was the last one to go to sleep at night. After we were in bed, she wrote letters until the wee hours to keep up her correspondence with hundreds of people around the world in her beautiful schoolgirl handwriting. She was the sweetest person I knew, and she loved us and all the other children in town unconditionally.

The church in Pelican built by my family in 1948
I thought about all the older women I had known. Some were sweet, and some were crotchety. Oh, they were good people, but no one was as consistently loving and kind as Grandma. I decided I'd like to become a sweet little old lady like her. 

As I recalled the stories Grandma had told us about her childhood, I realized she had not had an easy life. Her father was demanding, strict, and harsh. 

One time, she was bitten by a beetle that took a small chunk out of her nose. As children will, she kept picking at the scab so that it was not healing. Her father scolded her and promised to spank her if she did it again. 

The next morning she awoke to discover that her rough-textured nightgown had scratched the scab off. At the breakfast table her father noticed and told her to go to her room and await the promised punishment.

A very sensitive child, she was so terrified of her father that when she tried to explain what  had  happened, she trembled so hard she couldn't speak coherently. Sobbing, all she could utter was, "My gruff gright grown scratched it off!"

Her mother had to intervene and explain what she was trying to say.

As children, we thought that story was funny, and that is how she told it, laughing at her twisted words. But thinking about it as an adult, I could see that it showed how much she feared  her father.

The eighth of eleven living children (two others had died in infancy), she was allowed to only complete the first eight grades, although she loved school and longed to go to high school. When her older brothers and sisters left home to be missionaries, Their father disowned and disinherited them for not doing what he wanted them to do. Grandma was forced to leave school and take over their chores of printing and distributing the newspaper her father wrote and published.

Grandma & Grandpa Personeus in 1959
When Grandma left home at the age of 21 to study for the missionfield, she too was disowned and disinherited. She was not allowed to return to the family home again. 

By the time I  went to college, she and Grandpa had spent nearly 50 years as missionaries in Southeast Alaska, living by faith under often less than favorable living conditions, but she never complained. She had survived many serious falls on ice and snow as well as several life-threatening illnesses, but she didn't let those hardships deter her from her mission, caring for the sick and taking in orphaned children, cleaning and washing clothes on a washboard.

As I  pondered what made her different from so many others, I realized that she had allowed the trials of her life to make her better not bitter. She loved the Lord, communing with Him daily and continually putting the needs of others ahead of her own. She unselfishly served people out of love. Children and young people enjoyed being with her, listening to her stories of their early days in Alaska.  She often told us,

"The way spell true J-O-Y is to put 
Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself last."

My observations showed me that no one becomes like Grandma Personeus just by growing old. We become what we have practiced throughout our lives. Those who love and serve others in spite of their own difficulties grow sweeter, and people love to be around them. Those who think only of themselves grow even more selfish, and and people tend to avoid them.

As a freshman girl, I determined to become a sweet little old lady. That's been my life's goal. I've striven to that end. I'm old now, and I'm not completely there yet, but I'm still working on what I'd like to become--to be like Grandma, and to be like Jesus.

Are you becoming what you'd like to become? What do you need to change today?

To read more about the Personeuses, visit my website,, where you can order my book, Frontiers of Faith, the story of Charles C. and Florence Personeus, Pioneer Missionaries to Alaska, "The Last Frontier," 1917-1982, directly from the publisher.

The Personeuses are the inspiration for my Alaskan Waters Trilogy, a set of inspirational novels based on true stories they told. (The Penningtons in my fiction stories are based on the Personeuses.) They are also available from my website.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Are You Flourishing?

The Kittitas Valley (with irrigation) where my parents have lived since 1980 (North Cascades in distance)
When I visit my family in Central Washington State each summer, I am struck by the effects of irrigation. Without it, the landscape is a desert with only dusty-looking sagebrush, sand, and rocks. Wherever there are irrigation ditches, tall, green trees flourish.

Land between the Kittitas and Yakima Valleys without irrigation
The primary industry of that region is the production of fruit: orchards of luscious apples, peaches, pears, apricots, prunes, cherries cover the hillsides everywhere, made possible by irrigation. My brother and two nieces have spent many years working in the fruit industry in the Yakima Valley.

In fact, about 11 billion apples are grown and handpicked in Washington State every year. According to the Washington Apple Commission: "If you put all of the Washington State apples picked in a year side-by-side, they would circle the earth 29 times."

My niece in one of their orchards
Not only is Washington the nation's largest producer of apples, it holds the largest market share of  red raspberries. Washington leads the nation in the production of twelve agricultural commodities:

Red raspberries, 90.5 percent of U.S. production
Hops, 79.3 percent
Spearmint Oil, 75 percent
Wrinkled seed peas. 70.4 percent
Apples, 71.7 percent
Grapes, Concord, 55.1 percent
Grapes, Niagara, 35.9 percent
Sweet cherries, 62.3 percent
Pears, 45.6 percent
Green peas, processing, 32.4 percent
Carrots (2011), 30.6 percent
Sweet corn, processing (2011), 29 percent

The land also abounds with wide fields of timothy grass (hay), wheat, alfalfa, corn, potatoes, carrots, peas, sunflowers, etc. And irrigation makes it all possible.

The words of Psalm One immediately come to my mind. It describes the righteous as being "like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatsoever he does prospers" (vv. 2, 3, NIV).

And Proverbs 11:30 says, "The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life," and couples that with the thought that "he who wins souls is wise." 

In 1 Peter 3:15, we find two aspects of soul winning: (1) living the lifestyle that attracts people to ask you to give the reason for the hope that you have; and (2) the continual preparedness to win souls when the opportunity arises.

To be soul winners, we must walk our talk!

Without water, trees do not flourish. Without Christ, we are dead in trespasses and sin. 

One of the symbols of the Holy Spirit in the Bible is water. Just as water is necessary for physical life, so the "washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior" (Titus 3:5-6, NIV) is the means of our spiritual life and vitality. In order to win souls, we must first be "trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified" (Isaiah 61:3b, NKJV).

The Holy Spirit wants to grow the fruit of the Spirit in us: love, joy, peace, longsuffering [patience], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Galatians 5:22, 23). Only then will we be effective soul winners.

Are we trees of righteousness? Are we flourishing? Are people attracted to Jesus in us?

O Holy Spirit, bathe us, refresh us, and renew us in His love and power!    

Books by AnnaLee Conti (click name to read more about her books)


Thursday, June 13, 2019

The Everlasting Arms

One of the joys my husband, Bob, experienced as a pastor was dedicating babies to the Lord.

My husband dedicating a baby to the Lord
 Just as Mary and Joseph brought the infant Jesus to the Temple to present Him to the Lord (see Luke 2:22), parents in our churches bring their youngsters at an early age to dedicate them to the Lord, promising to raise them "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." The church agrees to provide spiritual assistance through godly counsel, Christian education, and the fellowship of believers.

When the parents would place their child in Bob's arms for the prayer, the infant would usually rest quietly against his broad chest soothed by the full, resonant tones of his baritone voice.

One Sunday, however, as Bob prayed, the fussing baby began to wail and flail his arms and legs and would not be comforted. Bob just held him securely and kept right on praying. He felt bad for the embarrassed parents and frustrated that he had been unable to comfort the child.

After the service, a godly grandma in our congregation sought him out. "Oh, Pastor, what a beautiful dedication!"

Shocked, my husband listened as she continued, "As you were praying, I thought of how God always holds us in His arms. Sometimes life throws a lot of bad stuff at us and we struggle and fuss and squall. But in spite of that, God keeps on holding us securely in His strong arms."

Dottie Rambo wrote a beautiful song during a time when she was going through hard trials and God reminded her that she was held securely in God's strong arms of love, Sheltered in the Arms of God. (Click title to listen to her story and the song she wrote.) What a blessing this song has been to many! Often it is in the hard things God proves to us who He is and what He can do.

I love the promise God made through Moses in his final farewell to the Children of Israel in Deuteronomy 33:27, 

"The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms."

For more than seventy years, those arms have never failed me. 

When you go through trials and troubles, remember that God's arms are everlasting. They never fail. As someone once wrote, "With God behind you and His arms beneath you, you can face whatever lies ahead." 

Books by AnnaLee Conti (Click here for more information)

Friday, June 7, 2019

Fear of the Dark

My grandparents, Charles & Florence Personeus
Pelican Church with attached parsonage (left) in the Fifties

As a child, when I visited my grandparents in Pelican, Alaska, each summer, my bed was in a huge room above the church sanctuary. To get to it, I had to climb two flights of stairs and then a few more steps and turn left into the dark room. There was no light switch on the wall. It took all the courage I could muster to run to the center of that room, heart pounding, and fling my hands high over my head until I located the single cord to pull to turn on the overhead light. The light quickly dispelled my fear.

I don't know why I was so afraid. I wasn't usually afraid of the dark. But going into that dark room spooked me.

Isn't that like our fear of the unknown?

We are unsure of what lurks in the future. We imagine so many things that MAY happen--poverty, sickness, loss of loved ones, and the list can go on and on. We die a thousand deaths from fear of what tomorrow may bring.

In Matthew 6: 25-34, Jesus warned His disciples about worrying over the future. Essentially, He reminded them that God takes care of the birds and the flowers of the field. "Are you not of more value than they are?" He asked.

Then He told them that people seek after food, drink, and clothing, but their Heavenly Father knows they need these things.

In other words, sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Here are some of my favorite quotes about worry:

"Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its troubles. It empties today of its strength." 
--Corrie ten Boom

"Worry is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere."
--Erma Bombeck

“There is a great difference between worry and concern. A worried person sees a problem, and a concerned person solves a problem.” -- Harold Stephen

“When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.”
– Winston Churchill

“Worry a little bit every day and in a lifetime you will lose a couple of years. If something is wrong, fix it if you can. But train yourself not to worry. Worry never fixes anything.”
– Mary Hemingway

I find comfort in the song written by Ira Stanphill, "I Don't Know About Tomorrow." When I find fear creeping in, I sing those words and worry must flee.

Books by AnnaLee Conti