Their Tales Still Surprised Me

In my last post, “Sequence and Surprise,” I told “A Tale of Two Houses in One City” — our experience of moving from our first Fort Wayne home into what we hope will be our final home before our eternal home. Lord willing, no more moving!

“Lord willing” is an important qualification. It’s a planning perspective that takes into account my responsibility within the reality that ultimately, I am not in control. Life is neither random nor fixed. “Lord willing” is the perspective of walking by faith.

While we were involved in a move consuming six months, we witnessed amazing and surprising events,  in the lives of some people dear to us. I mentioned them by name in the previous post and now I want to describe some of those surprises and the impact of these people and events on me.

The dear ones: Cousin Sherrie. Paul Haney. Mike and Loretta (Mick and Lilly). Jayne and Jeff Olson.

My husband, Paul, and I became very close to Cousin Sherrie when we lived in Arizona. (Her mother and my father were siblings. Sherrie is 9 1/2 years older than I and had moved to Arizona years before.) Sherrie was our only relative in Arizona, so we became very important to each other during those eleven years. She’d visit us in Prescott Valley and we’d visit her in Glendale (a suburb of Phoenix). Paul was her handyman. She and I became close friends. What is fascinating to me is that she and Paul developed a vibrant relationship.

At Jason and Helen’s last house, in Findlay, Ohio, with seven of their eight grandchildren taken in 1958. I’m the youngest in this picture, sitting on Grandma’s lap. Sherrie stands directly behind me.*

The three of us would sit around her dining room table, eating her delicious meals, talking, praying, reading Scripture, and singing. We’d process whatever we were going through, ask each other questions, laugh with each other, hug and cry. Sherrie loved to visit us at our home in Quailwood Meadows, a planned community in Prescott Valley.




Paul and Sherrie at Sherrie’s house in Glendale, AZ. Sherrie had a stack of reading glasses. Paul is wearing another pair of her red readers.

Sherrie and me in 2015 at the Prescott Rodeo, the world’s oldest, continuous rodeo. What excitement!
























Mike and Loretta (Mick and Lilly) moved to Quailwood two years after we moved there. We met them at the community center and became good friends. They were from Rhode Island. Their eastern accent gave them charm. After Paul retired from Air Traffic Control, he became their painter, painting the interior of their home. He’d stay hours longer at their house because they always got into long conversations, and Loretta would make these fantastic meals for him (and me too).


Mike and Loretta moved to The Villages in Florida in December, 2019. Paul moved their belongings and car for them, traveling across country in a Penske truck towing their car. Paul returned to Fort Wayne, but then Paul and I together drove to Florida in January to help them settle in. Paul painted the interior of their new house, and I helped Loretta decorate it. Our friendship deepened.

Mike, Loretta, and Paul at a park in The Villages, Florida.

Paul is painting the interior of Mike and Loretta’s new home in The Villages in January 2020.



Transformations at Mike and Loretta’s new home.










Then, cousin Sherrie decided to move back to Ohio to be near her sister, other family members, and old friends. Yes, Paul moved Sherrie. For months they poured over plans, researched, discussed options, and finally, just this last June, Paul flew out to Phoenix to help with the final packing and to pack the rented truck, driving the truck and towing her vehicle to her new home in Findlay, Ohio.

The selling of Sherrie’s home, the move, and the purchase of the new home went surprisingly smoothly, but of course involving a huge expenditure of thought and energy. Sherrie loves the Lord and shares Jesus with everyone. In Findlay, she jumped into connecting with old friends and family members. Her joy delighted us all.

I talked with Sherrie on Saturday morning, December 11. She had a cough, but was worried about her niece in the Cleveland area who was fighting Covid and her sister who has a bad knee. The following Saturday we heard that Sherrie had Covid and was in the hospital. No one could visit her. We prayed and we prayed. We talked with Sherrie twice the following week on the phone. The Lord took her home on Wednesday morning, December 23.

The night before, she talked with us on the phone for nine minutes. She said it had been a rough day, that she had had a CAT scan and the doctor said her lungs were only working at ten percent. She was tired of trying to breathe. She was open for a miracle, but was ready to go home to Jesus. Paul prayed with her and we cried. I am surprised at how clear her voice and mind were that evening. Heaven is the ultimate miracle, so we rejoice for her. But the hard part is the temporary separation. “She went without us!” My sister exclaimed, quoting my daughter, Amanda, who as a 3 1/2 year old said this when I told her that her Grandma Thomas had gone to heaven. “She went without us!”

While we shouldn’t be surprised, we were. We are. We are adjusting.

Loretta doesn’t call Mike “Mike.” He is “Michael.”  They moved to Florida to be closer to one of their daughters because Michael had developed Alzheimer’s disease. Mike was getting weaker but was getting along. In December he was in the hospital and then a rehab facility for several weeks. He died quietly on December 30. He did not have Covid; he just became weaker and weaker. The nurse asked him, “Michael, would you like something to eat?” “No,” he replied, and dropped his head and passed away. We trust: “absent from the body means present with the Lord.”

The Lord is present in all of this. The Lord is present in all our circumstances, in all our days, in all our breaths. The word, “spirit,” means breath or wind (from the Greek, “pneuma” from which we get the word, pneumonia). Breath is life. The Lord is our life. Sherrie and Michael are helping me to understand this more clearly, quite specifically!

Covid is an attention-getting school teacher, teaching us “to number our days.” Growing older does this too. We are not in ultimate control, but we make choices constantly. What does it mean “to number our days”? Here are a few insights. For a starter, to number our days means:

  1. To make the most of each day: focus on what is truly valuable.
  2. To see the eternal in the temporal: daily mundane duties have eternal value because they shape our character (all we can take to heaven), and because fulfilling our duties (plainly or creatively) is how we serve the people we love (who are of eternal value).

Sherrie and Michael cannot add to or adjust their stories. Their stories are recorded. Their stories teach and strengthen me.

That takes us to the story of Paul Haney, another person I listed in my previous post to tell you about.  Last year Paul inspired me. In my next post, I will write about him as well as the impact of Jayne Russell and Jeff Olson. Jayne’s joyful tenacity has inspired me.

You may not know my Sherrie, Mike and Loretta, Paul, Jayne, and Jeff. But you have yours. This reminds me that you and I are somebody’s Sherrie, Mike, or Loretta….

We’re constantly learning from others and others are learning from us. Humbling.

Lord, help us to number our days, knowing every passing day contains eternal value.

Psalm 90:12 

“So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”


Sherrie singing in her church’s Christmas choir concert. She was highly involved in church music for decades.


Paul and Sherrie when we were walking on the square in downtown Prescott. Here, we are in one of the western stores. Don’t they look, well, western?!














**I’m still hoping to start a podcast this year. Our move delayed the plan. I’d love to have your prayers concerning this project!! Thank you!!





Categories: Moving, Spiritual Growth | Tags: | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Their Tales Still Surprised Me

  1. Appreciated all the things you said about Michael and me. Feeling kind of lonely and depressed without him after having been together for so many years.

    • Karen Thomas Olsen

      Thank you for responding, Loretta! We love you and look forward to seeing you soon! We are praying that the Lord will comfort your heart in many quiet and small ways and in His own creative ways. We know you are aware of His presence with you. Keep talking to Him and reading His Word. Lord willing, we’ll be knocking on your door around the beginning of February (after our granddaughter is born)!

  2. Shirley Tamplin

    As you said, we need to make the most of each day. We, too, have lost loved ones, Christian friends, neighbors and classmates. My mind says, “Shirley, are you wasting time? Is there something you should be doin? ” Then, I think of how God tells us to rest; we don’t always have to be working. Prayer has become so precious to me lately, and I find that most of my resting is pondering on my relationship with my Heavenly Father. I’m so sorry for your losses, Dear Friend. God, the great I Am is the finally authority. Thank you Father for our lives here on earth and use us for Your glory!!

    • Karen Thomas Olsen

      Thank you, Shirley for your sweet insight and encouragement. Your words are comforting. So, you are telling us that resting in God, pondering on our relationship with our Heavenly Father is enough. It pleases our Father and makes a quiet moment something of eternal value.
      You have experienced many losses in recent months. May the Lord’s comfort be your balm, as it is ours.
      Write again sometime! We’d love to enjoy more of your wisdom!

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