Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

ordinary grace

I read this book yesterday and could hardly put it down.  It’s beautifully written and it gave me a lot to think about.  Here’s the review from Goodreads:

From New York Times bestselling author William Kent Krueger comes a brilliant new novel about a young man, a small town, and murder in the summer of 1961.

New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. The Twins were playing their debut season, ice-cold root beers were at the ready at Halderson’s Drug Store soda counter, and Hot Stuff comic books were a mainstay on every barbershop magazine rack. It was a time of innocence and hope for a country with a new, young president. But for thirteen-year-old Frank Drum it was a summer in which death assumed many forms.

When tragedy unexpectedly comes to call on his family, which includes his Methodist minister father, his passionate, artistic mother, Juilliard-bound older sister, and wise-beyond-his years kid brother, Frank finds himself thrust into an adult world full of secrets, lies, adultery, and betrayal.

On the surface, Ordinary Grace is the story of the murder of a beautiful young woman, a beloved daughter and sister. At heart, it’s the story of what that tragedy does to a boy, his family, and ultimately the fabric of the small town in which he lives. Told from Frank’s perspective forty years after that fateful summer, it is a moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God.

At the end of the story, in the epilogue, Frank says this:

“I’m a teacher of history in a high school in Saint Paul and what I know from my studies and from my life is that there is no such thing as a true event. We know dates and times and locations and participants but accounts of what happened depend upon the perspective from which the event is viewed.”

To that I might add, those accounts also depend on the perspective of the person by whom the event was recorded.  I’ve been reading dozens of histories of people, ancestors and their neighbors this last week.  I’m realizing more and more that the person who records history owns that story, or that history.  They have control over what is remembered or even known by others years later.  It’s sometimes a frightening thought, to someone, like me, who writes every day.  I want to get it right without too much of my own slant, but I’m afraid that’s impossible.  I am slant.  So I need to get myself right.

I also loved this closing paragraph of the novel:

“We turn, three men bound by love, by history, by circumstance, and most certainly by the awful grace of God, and together walk a narrow lane where headstones press close all around, reminding me gently of Warren Redstone’s parting wisdom, which I understand now. The dead are never far from us. They’re in our hearts and on our minds and in the end all that separates us from them is a single breath, one final puff of air.”

I feel my beloved family members near, they are just one puff of air away.

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“Even until fifty and nine years had passed away.” 4 Nephi 1:6

Ann Lewis Mission.jpg4 Nephi 1:6 
And thus did the thirty and eighth year pass away, and also the thirty and ninth, and forty and first, and the forty and second, yea, even until forty and nine years had passed away, and also the fifty and first, and the fifty and second; yea, and even until fifty and nine years had passed away.

I recently read this verse in the Book of Mormon and thought, “well that just about sums up my life to this point!”  Today I stand on the outer edge of my 5th decade.  Tomorrow I’ll be 60 years old.  I can hardly comprehend the thought of it, although I’ve been trying to get used to the idea of it for the last several months.  I just haven’t been able to embrace that number.  Sixty is Old.  I am not Old.  I’m going to have to figure this one out.

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Days for Girls Work is a Blessing to So Many!

It has been a joy to step back into our Days for Girls work here in Orem since our return in July.  Every Thursday we gather at Building Q here in Orem (585 East 1200 North) from 10:00 until 2:00.  Women (and a few men) come from far and wide to help us make and assemble hygiene kits.  This week some of our missionaries joined in the fun.  Oh, what a gift they give as they #LightTheWorld!2018-12-6 (1)2018-12-6 (2)2018-12-6 (3)2018-12-6 (4)Melissa Clark and Wendy Barton tirelessly keep the work moving forward.2018-11-28 (14)

This week Anna Monson, a BYU student came to film what we were doing.  Take a look at her video and explanation of Days for Girls.  She did a great job:

We also go on the road from time to time.  This week another of our missionaries invited her Spanish Ward in Provo to join in the fun and help:2018-12-5 DfG Hna Pons Provo Ward (3)2018-12-5 DfG Hna Pons Provo Ward (6)2018-12-5 DfG Hna Pons Provo Ward (7)We assembled more than 500 kits this week.  This is work I am grateful for!

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The Dedication of the BYU Engineering Building and our Son Aaron, the Engineer

2018-12-4 BYU Engineering Bldg (1)We were invited today to attend the dedication of the new Engineering Building at BYU.  Our son, Aaron is a 3rd year Mechanical Engineering student, and he spends a good deal of time in that building.  Elder Bednar spoke and gave a beautiful dedicatory prayer.2018-12-4 BYU Engineering bldg2018-12-4 (2)This quote was in the program:

“Redemption from the ills of the world is dependent on our ability to understand the laws of the universe and to live in conformity therewith. . . . Sin, inefficiency, and disease are merely manifestations of ignorance. The overcoming of these is the triumph of education and the vindication of the power of intelligence.” –Franklin S. Harris at his inauguration as BYU president in 1921

2018-12-4 BYU Engineering Bldg (2)

As he talked about the old coming down and new buildings being constructed, Elder Bednar said, “I pray we always will remember those who have gone before.”  I remembered classes I had in the old Eyring Science Building, which still stands right next to this building.  I loved learning about physical sciences–physics, astronomy and chemistry.  I typed papers and reports on my new electric typewriter that had a correcting ribbon.  Our highest technology then pales compared to what I saw today.

After the dedication, Aaron took us on a tour of this incredible building.2018-12-4 (7)This last year his classes have included Electrical Engineering, Differential Equations, Computing & Numerical Methods, Computer Aided Design, Modeling, Mechatronics, System Dynamic Modeling, Manufacturing Processes and Statistics for Engineers.  Holy Cow, I don’t even know what most of those things are!

Right now he’s working on a semester-long project building a robot. 2018-12-4 (9)

2018-12-4 (12)2018-12-4 (11)Here’s where the robots are tested.  They pick up or shoot balls into specific places.  I’m sure there is a more technical way to describe that!2018-12-4 (13)Here are robot parts and pieces from all the students working on this:2018-12-4 (15)It was amazing to walk through the floors and see all the labs and work areas for students.  Everyone was busy, as this semester is coming to an end and projects are due.  I’m proud of Aaron and his good mind and heart.  He loves what he’s studying and he’s an excellent student.2018-12-4 (16)

The Daily Universe reported, “The building’s construction was possible with the help of $85 million, 100 percent funded by more than 17,000 donors, according to the dedication program.  The building took 27 months to construct and has been operational for three months. It has five floors and is 180,000 square feet total, while the engineering research laboratory has two floors and is 20,000 square feet total.  A feature exclusive to the new building includes Harvey’s Cafe — named in honor of Harvey Fletcher, the first dean of the College of Engineering. The innovation floor also includes prototyping facilities, entrepreneurship infrastructure, student club commons and project labs. Team rooms provide students with a place for collaborative study, and an engineering research laboratory includes access to two wind tunnels, a water tunnel, engine test facilities and combustion reactors.”

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Bringing Home the Tree!

Photo0281Growing up in Reedley, CA, we always went to a Christmas Tree Farm to cut a fresh tree.  It was always the beginning of the holiday season.   I think these photos were taken around 1972 or 1973 when I was in Jr High.  Photo0284This weekend we went to pick out a tree here in Orem.  We found a perfect one that wasn’t clipped and trimmed to perfection.  The branches were left natural, just the way we like it.2018-12-1 (4).JPGThe process of bringing the tree home hasn’t changed much.2018-12-1 (6)2018-12-1 (7)2018-12-1 (8)Tonight as the snow dusted our world, we were cozy inside, lighting our little world as we remember Jesus Christ, the true source of Light.  I am so grateful for Him!2018-12-2 (4).JPG2018-12-2 (8)May we all feel His peace and love this Christmas season!2018-12-2 (9)

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Places Planted in My Heart

There are two places foreign to my feet, but home to my soul.  These two lands are far from where I grew up, or from where I live now, but in both, I feel so at home, I can hardly believe they are not my home.

I love Germany and the land of my ancestral fathers and mothers.  I love the language, the food, the people, and the farmlands where my grandparents and everyone before them labored.  I feel I’ve come home when I visit there.

Here are the vineyards that have been in my family for centuries:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My other home away from home is on the other side of the world.  It’s in Africa.  I have just returned from 2 weeks in Mali, West Africa with my people there.   For some reason, God plucked me out of my comfortable world in 1981 and sent me to Africa.  I lived in South Africa for 18 months, then Nigeria for almost 3 years.  I couldn’t get enough of that land and those people.  They became my own.  I’ve not been able to keep away for long since then–there is always a corner of Africa in my heart and my soul always longs to be there.

Something pulls and draws me to that home away from home.  I return every opportunity I get.  It’s interesting to me to feel so at home there when I don’t speak the local languages and I can’t eat all the local foods and it’s so hot and dry and dirty and hard, in many ways, to live there.  The water isn’t clean.  The living conditions aren’t always comfortable.  The sweat and heat sap my energy and my feet are always dirty, but I LOVE being there.  I love the smell of the bush, the sun on my face and I love inhaling the hot dry air.  I love the weathered skin of the elderly and the hopeful eyes of the young.  I love the contrasting colors–the bright batik prints against beautiful dark skin tones.  I love just about everything about being in Africa.

Let me share this love with you.  Here are a few photos taken on this last trip.2018-11-12 Mali AL (4)2018-11-13 Mali (19)2018-11-13 Mali AL (12)2018-11-13 Mali AL (45)2018-11-13 Mali AL (51)2018-11-13 Mali AL (100)2018-11-13 Mali AL (250)2018-11-13 Mali AL (255)2018-11-13 Mali AL (276)2018-11-13 Mali AL (288)2018-11-13 Mali AL (303)2018-11-13 Mali AL (347)2018-11-13 Mali AL (351)2018-11-13 Mali AL (371)2018-11-14 Mali (25)2018-11-13 Mali AL (398)2018-11-13 Mali AL (400)2018-11-14 Mali (17)2018-11-14 Mali AL (2)2018-11-14 Mali AL (6)2018-11-14 Mali AL (51)2018-11-14 Mali AL (57)2018-11-14 Mali AL (67)2018-11-14 Mali AL (111)2018-11-14 Mali AL (230)2018-11-14 Mali AL (239)2018-11-14 Mali AL (274)2018-11-14 Mali AL (284)2018-11-14 Mali AL (291)2018-11-14 Mali AL (301)2018-11-14 Mali AL (328)2018-11-14 Mali AL (344)2018-11-15 Mali (3)2018-11-15 Mali (21)2018-11-15 Mali (40)2018-11-15 Mali (60)2018-11-15 Mali (78)2018-11-15 Mali (95)2018-11-15 Mali AL (9)2018-11-15 Mali AL (20)2018-11-15 Mali AL (33)2018-11-15 Mali AL (39)2018-11-15 Mali AL (56)2018-11-15 Mali AL (103)2018-11-15 Mali AL (105)2018-11-15 Mali AL (173)2018-11-15 Mali AL (197)2018-11-15 Mali AL (209)2018-11-15 Mali AL (219)2018-11-15 Mali AL (254)2018-11-15 Mali AL (281)2018-11-15 Mali AL (293)2018-11-15 Mali AL (299)2018-11-16 Mali (6)2018-11-16 Mali (49)2018-11-16 Mali (56)2018-11-16 Mali (63)2018-11-16 Mali (70)2018-11-17 Mali (55)2018-11-17 Mali (71)2018-11-18 Mali (57)2018-11-19 Mali (52)2018-11-19 Mali (56)2018-11-19 Mali (42)2018-11-12 Mali AL (24)

2018-11-19 Mali AL (129)2018-11-19 Mali AL (168)2018-11-19 Mali AL (186)2018-11-19 Mali AL (198)2018-11-19 Mali AL (226)2018-11-19 Mali AL (238)

The medical expedition part of the trip:2018-11-19 Mali (32)2018-11-22 Mali (57)2018-11-19 Mali AL (10)2018-11-19 Mali AL (36)2018-11-19 Mali AL (84)2018-11-19 Mali AL (103)2018-11-19 Mali AL (106)2018-11-20 Mali (17)2018-11-20 Mali (27)2018-11-20 Mali (33)2018-11-20 Mali (35)2018-11-20 Mali AL (32)2018-11-20 Mali AL (65)2018-11-21 Mali (5)2018-11-21 Mali (6)2018-11-21 Mali (16)2018-11-22 Mali (3)2018-11-22 Mali (43)2018-11-23 Mali (11)2018-11-23 Mali (12)Our beds:2018-11-23 Mali (15)Our translators:2018-11-23 Mali (26)

I hope it won’t be long before we return again.  I am already missing these friends and this land, where my heart seems to be planted.


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Tomorrow we fly!


Tomorrow I return to Africa, my other home!

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