Monthly Archives: October 2009

my Montana dream…

for “Montana” and for pilgrims everywhere who dare to dream it…


Wanderlust. That desire in each one of us to roam and to move beyond the current boundaries that cradle us in order to explore the wild unknown with carefree abandon. A search brought about because of an underlying “stirring of the soul” for something better … something purer. More peace and more pleasure.

I’ve thought about my “wanderlust” this morning. I didn’t mean to, but through an e-mail to my friend, Kristen, I was reminded about a piece I wrote over thirteen years ago. A season in my life when I was a single mother of two young sons dreaming about better days—a better time when all would be “right” within my soul. Those dreams always landed me in one place—


I’ve never been there, but there is something about its vastness, its wide-open spaces and “heart of the land” kind of living, that unsettles me; stirring something within me, creating a hunger deep within my soul for something more. I no longer dream a great deal about moving to Montana, but the unsettled feelings? The stirring in my heart for something better, some soil beyond the current earth that supports my feet?

Well, it’s still there. It still flames, and one day soon, I’m going to get to my “Montana.” I believe its boundaries are closer to me than I might realize, thus strengthening my passion for my crossing over. Perhaps you understand something about “Montana’s pull.” If so, then I offer you a piece of my writing history to stir your own imagination and wanderlust for something better.

It’s not great writing, but it was my heart’s writing in 1996. Still is, and I suppose that makes it great all on its own.



MY MONTANA DREAM {written in 1996}

If I could move to Montana, I would. Life would be different there.

In Montana there would be plenty of space for me to be me. In Montana, I wouldn’t worry about wearing make-up or if my car was dirty or if my English was perfect. Jeans and flannel shirts would fill my wardrobe making me a “good fit” with the locals.

If I could move to Montana, I would buy the boys and me a cabin on the plains. It would have a warm kitchen where the sound of boiling water and the sight of tea bag would greet me each morning. Pancakes would start our day and cocoa would rock us to sleep at night. The light from the fireplace would warm our spirits and give us atmosphere for our nightly adventures within the pages of books. The three of us would crawl up on the couch with grandma Killian’s quilt and fight for the warmth and love of its cover.

In my Montana home, each of us would have our own hiding place. I would choose the attic room as my escape. In this place of escape I would hold myself captive. I would create new adventures on paper. I would search out the true meaning of my journey on this earth.

I could do that in Montana because in Montana, there is plenty of room for the search.

If I could move to Montana, I would own a pick-up truck. I would take my truck to the market whenever I needed food or just some company. I would park in my spot and visit the local meeting place, full of sojourners like myself, who understand the beauty of the simple life we share in Montana. I would stop at the post office to collect my remembrances from days gone by, and I would send out some new memories for those who’ve never been to my Montana.

If I could move to Montana, I would find a country church where I could sing my songs on Sunday mornings. I would voice the endless love of Jesus to everyone within earshot. In Montana, I could sing with great resolve and strength because the soil there is strong, vibrant, full of hearty livin’ and earthy understanding. The windows of my church would be open and the hills would dance to the delight of the message. In Montana, everything living could hear my voice.

In Montana … everything would understand why I had to sing.

When Christmas came to Montana, the boys and I would venture to our back yard and cut the chosen Christmas tree. We’d make decorations out of materials we’d found during our annual pilgrimage in Montana, and when we needed a break, we’d sit around the tree and drink more cocoa. We’d hang our stockings on the fireplace, and we’d listen to our favorite holiday music. We’d have lots of friends over to celebrate the season. We’d take our truck into town to see the lights and visit the stores.

If I could move to Montana, I’d learn to love more. Montana would be a good place for the three of us to learn about love. To learn about acceptance—accepting life and others and what it means to be accepted. We’d love so much that hate would never enter our home.

In Montana, I’d learn to love animals. In Montana, there are enough animals to love.

If I could move to Montana, I wouldn’t worry about “things” as much. In Montana, I would raise my boys to be “real.” In Montana, I would get healthy. In Montana, life would be simple. In Montana, dreams would be within reach.

If I could move to Montana, I would. But I live in Kentucky.

In Kentucky, there are no flannel shirts. There is no truck. There is no attic room, or no small country church. The Christmas tree will be bought at the grocery store, and I’ll never own an animal.

I may not ever live in Montana. But in my mind, I go there quite often. I hold onto Grandma’s quilt and dream my dreams for a more peaceful time.

Perhaps you understand. Perhaps we all have times where we long to be in Montana. Perhaps Montana is not big enough for all of us dreamers.

So, I will sing my songs in Kentucky. And maybe, just maybe, the wind will carry my songs over the miles to my long awaited Montana home. And they will wait for me there until I have the strength to make the journey myself.



Maybe today.

As always, sweet friends, God’s peace for the journey … wherever your feet are walking this weekend. I love you.



Copyright © October 2009 – Elaine Olsen

on leaving the "wilderness"…

on leaving the "wilderness"…

We’ve just put God’s punctuation mark on our fall Bible study. I thought you’d like to see some of the sweet faces that shared the last seven weeks with me. Truly, they are more than I deserve–God’s gift to me in this season of my life. As we leave the “wilderness,” we do so knowing that we leave with God’s peace and blessing and promise to walk the next steps with us.

It’s my joy to do “real” life with these sisters, face-to-face. I look forward to a spring’s reconvening of the saints. Same time; same place; same fellowship; same God! Keep to it sisters. I love you!

PS: Don’t forget about Heidi’s “candle in the dark” giveaway. Click here to visit and to bless a missionary.

a Sunday’s better…

9:10 AM. Wal-Mart. Check-out line. This morning. Sunday morning.

I didn’t want to be there. I try and avoid Sundays and Wal-Mart, but when my children informed me that today was the day they’d be packing their Samaritan’s Purse, Christmas shoeboxes during the Sunday School hour, well, what’s a mother to do?

I tried scrounging through drawers and all the places where I sometimes stash “extras”—left-over goodies for spare occasions requiring a quick gift. Somehow, I didn’t think the children in the remote villages of Africa would appreciate scented candles and bath salts while their friends were unwrapping toy cars, balls, and bubble gum. So after a brief “interior” debate with myself regarding a trip to Wal-Mart prior to Sunday worship, I loaded the kids in the van for the one-mile trip down the road.

Having a Wal-Mart close by is a great convenience for this mom, especially on a day when she doesn’t want her kids (umm… the preacher’s kids) to be the only ones not participating in the Christmas mission project. We quickly loaded our arms with some dollar goodies and made our way to the “express lane.” One of the advantages of going to Wal-Mart on a Sunday morning (if there could be an advantage) is that the crowds are sparse and the “express” check-out really lives up to its billing.

The cashier scanned my items and was bagging them when I noticed another Sunday shopper in line behind us. He wasn’t buying toys for shoeboxes. He was buying a black belt to go with his black suit and shiny tie—a pretty clear give-away that he was headed somewhere requiring more than the typical sweats and t-shirts of the other shoppers I’d seen. Not one for “quiet” check-out experiences, I took a chance on the fact that he was heading to church, and said…

“Would you look at this kids … here’s a man needing a new belt for church.”

“Yes, ma’am, I’ve got to give Sunday my best.”

“Of course you do; I’d certainly hate for you to lose your britches during worship!”

He chuckled; we small talked a bit more, and on my way out the door, I shouted back to him…

“Enjoy your Jesus today.”

“Back at you, ma’am. Back at you.”

We parted with smiles and as friends, knowing that we shared some common ground on this Sunday morning. At Wal-Mart. At 9:10 AM. In a check-out line. On a day when we shouldn’t have been worried about such inconveniences, yet a day when we both made a decision to give God our best.

Not our left-overs. Not scented candles when toys would be better. Not a frayed piece of leather when some fresh rawhide would look better … serve better … present itself better because Sundays are intended for our better.

I’ve been thinking about that “better” for the better part of the day; it has both annoyed me and delighted me.

Annoyed me because, in many ways, I think we’ve gotten away from “better” on Sundays. It seems as if “good enough” and second-rate has become the accepted norm rather than the exception. When did that happen? When did we first decide to trade in our “best” as it pertains to our worship for a watered down approach to the process? When did “raggedy and rumpled” replace “spit and polish”? Why is it we don’t bring our “better” to worship on Sundays?

Delighted me because, in many ways, I realize I don’t hold the answers to it all. What I deem “better” is somewhat relative—a personal application regarding my expectations for the Lord’s Day and how I think it should be approached, should be absorbed, should be celebrated, should be revered. I can tell you that in my thinking about Sundays, there is little room for a Wal-Mart run. Still and yet, I’m delighted by the fact that I’m not bound by legalism, but a bit bothered that I’m not—

bound to something better. Some way of “doing” the Sabbath better that exceeds the world’s view of a Sunday’s worth.

As I stood with my young children this morning in the front pew singing “How Great Thou Art,” tears filled my eyes and stung my heart. My arms cradled their shoulders as I watched each one of them run their fingers along the stanzas of the hymn, trying their best to keep up with the pace of the piano. We’ve been working on this for a long season … this learning of how to sing a hymn from an actual hymnal and how to join our voices in unison with the other congregants who’ve come to worship. It may sound a bit rustic, a bit perfunctory to some of you, but it seemed to me that they were giving God their best … “doing” their best to understand this tradition of church worship that I hold dear, and one that I fear will soon be obsolete.

While standing there, I also thought about him. My new Wal-Mart friend standing somewhere in a church of his own in another part of town, wearing his new belt and worshipping the same God as me. I imagined his worship being a bit different from mine, but his heart? Perhaps more similar to mine than the world would imagine. A heart that was willing to make a pit-stop prior to worship in order to “give Sunday his best.”

To give Jesus his best. Not because he had to, but rather because he wanted to. Because somewhere in his past, at some point in his “growing up” years, someone took the time to teach him about Sundays and about giving Sundays something more than his “good enough.”

God is worthy of more than our “good enough’s,” friends. Worthy of more than our disheveled approach to approaching his presence. Certainly, God invites us to come as we are to the throne of grace, knowing that his grace is the only worthy covering for our sin-stained hearts. But when our “coming as we are” is based on our laziness rather than on our desire for holiness, then we’ve missed the mark. We’ve misunderstood the hugeness of the “Who” it is we’ve come to worship. If we really “got” that, then I imagine our check-out lines would be filled with our endeavoring to give God our best.

Annoyed and delighted. That’s where I am in the matter of worship. Wanting to do better, realizing that my better could never be enough to match the honor and glory my Father deserves. I’m going to work on this, this week. Would you be willing to do the same? To examine your worship and your Sundays and your “giving it your best” before the heart of our Father? If we truly want to live better, than we must be willing to examine our hearts further. Otherwise, we meld into a Christian cultural norm that no longer stands out, but rather blends in with a world that was never intended to serve as our norm.

Enjoy your Jesus this week. And should your feet find their place in a check-out line, take time to notice the people around you. To speak to the people around you. To give them some of your time, your conversation, your laughter, your prayers. The kingdom of God happens there just as much as it does in our pews. Perhaps even more so. As always…

peace for the journey,

post signature

Copyright © October 2009 – Elaine Olsen


Photo courtesy of Susan Hood

For all of God’s missionaries, at home and abroad, who carry his candle to dispel the world’s darkness.


“If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” (Psalm 139:11-12).

We overslept this morning. The alarm didn’t ring because the alarm wasn’t set. 6:15 AM came and went with nary a nod of acknowledgement from my household. 7:30 fared better. By 7:30, we were all awake. And had it not been for one thing, I imagine we might still be sleeping.


The culprit behind our reprimand … our notice … our awareness that a new day has been gloriously granted to us, despite our willingness to forego the fanfare.

Try as we may, we cannot escape light’s grip. We can pull the blinds and draw the curtains so as to diminish its brilliance, but we cannot eliminate its arrival. Light simply and profoundly comes.

To awaken us from our slumber.
To rouse us from our laziness.
To raise us up from our lying down.
To stir our spirits toward action.
To heighten our awareness.
To warm us from the chill of a night’s embrace.
To free us from the confines of our covers.
To gift us with the beauty of a new day.
To remind us that not even the darkest shade of night is permanent.

Light comes to bear witness to the illumination of God’s presence in our lives. Darkness isn’t safe from the penetration of God’s candle—God’s flicker of hope. There is no darkness that comes to us that doesn’t carry its contrast in close proximity. Light always harbors in the shadows of a night’s pause, readying itself for a grand and sacred interruption into the darkness.

And lest we think there are days when “light” forgets to come—days when light decides to “take a pass” regarding its purpose—there hasn’t been a day since the beginning of time when “light” didn’t shine its witness. Not one. Light may seem hidden, removed and obscured from our visioning, but light is ever-present because light is the living characteristic of a living Creator who lives in our every day. He cannot be separated from his creation, and he never “takes a pass” on his days.

Light follows God wherever he goes. And today, he goes where you go. Where I go. Where my kids go and where his saints go. Even where the sinners go. Why? Because for light to be light, for light to shine its worth and harbor the full spectrum of its truthful meaning, it must be available in the darkest of nights to the darkest of souls.

I’m not one who believes that light is selective in its appearing, is choosy and is particular about where it shines. And while it is true that “God is light and in him there is no darkness at all,” (see 1 John 1:5) the greater truth is that God’s light has come to dispel that very darkness; to replace the night’s isolation with the witness of a day’s illumination.

Even the darkest of nights is as light to Jesus Christ. Only he is able to mediate his way through the lingering depth of a night’s pause to light a candle in honor of a new day … a new way … a new heart … a new forever.

Fourteen years ago, my light—Jesus Christ—traveled the depth of a night’s long lingering in order to interrupt my darkness with the flicker of his sustaining truth. That single candle of hope carried to me in the “dark night of my soul” now burns with the flaming intensity of a miracle. Had God not arrived in my life at that moment, had he allowed the sun a longer season of slumber, I’m pretty sure that the darkness would have been my continuing consumption.

But like my morning this morning, I could not escape light’s grip. For a long season I’d been pulling down the shades in hopes of hiding my sin and of keeping the Son’s brilliance from illuminating my darkness, but my darkness was as light to Jesus. My darkness was the navigational GPS he used to get to me. God found me in my slumber and invited me to the arrival and hope of a new day.

I’m so glad that I had the good sense to wipe away the sleep from my eyes in order to pay attention to the light in his. I’m so thankful that Light didn’t “take a pass” on my darkness but, instead, chose to walk the length and breadth of my sin in order to flame a candle in my honor.

Arise and shine, fellow pilgrims, for your Light has come. May the candle he lights in your honor this day be the fueling behind your future flames, the likes of which this world has never seen. Burn brightly with God’s truth and God’s witness this weekend. What a privilege to carry my candle alongside yours. As always…

peace for the journey,


PS: Go visit my friend, Heidi (click here), to learn about an upcoming opportunity to spread the light of Jesus into the far corners of our world.

Now, go light your world…

sacred preservation…

sacred preservation…

I was fully prepared to write another post today, a post that God has graciously allowed me to tuck away for a season; maybe forever. Today he gave me a “pass” on something. Today his favor has come to me and my household in tangible measure, and I am humbled and grateful for his notice.

This is my man.

He is my strength and has been my able arms over the past week. We’ve created a beautiful home together. When God gave me Billy, he gave me a portion of heavenly grace—love as love was meant to be received. I’ve never known a better earthly love. Sure, my parents love me unconditionally. Parents do that, at least they should. But when another human being makes the choice to love unconditionally, well, that’s the stuff of earth’s movement, of hell’s frustration, and of heaven’s notice.

Our love has deepened over the past week; I look forward to more seasons with my man. To marking our grey hairs together and our ills and aches as well. I love you, Billy.

These are my children.

They are the reason behind my pressing on and pressing in to Jesus. The more I know him, the more I’m able to give him to them. They deserve my faithful pursuit of God. They are and will continue to be the recipients of my earnest chase and capture of the Divine. I love you, Nick, Colton, Jadon, and Amelia.

And you, blog readers, you are my friends. I have no doubts that the peace I’ve known over the past week has come to me in large part through the prayers of the saints. You are those saints. You know who you are. I called upon you for prayer, and your prayers have been felt … been heard and been answered.

Today I got a “pass” from God, and that is enough for me. Day to day living with Jesus is all that is required of us. Not tomorrow; not next week, but this very moment we hold in our hands. God reserves the right to all of those moments, no matter their length of earthly time.

When I awoke in the early morning hours, God impressed upon me a few words that I would like to share with you as I close. I thought them profound, even before I got my “pass.” I still think that to be the case…

“It doesn’t matter how long God chooses to preserve my earthly life. What matters is how I choose to preserve him in the earthly life I’ve been given.”

Preserve him well this week, and I will do the same. Nothing in this life, and I mean nothing, is worth losing the flavor of Jesus in us, on us, through us, all around us. Nothing. Tend to his divine preservation within your heart this day, knowing that the aroma you spread has the capacity to shake the foundations of hell. In doing so, the heavens sing their refrain, as our Father bends low for a listen. As always…

peace for the journey~


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