Archives for : April2016

A Winter Thaw

Hope for the Journey:



A Winter Thaw is an excerpt from my book An Upside-Down Heart.  This is a chapter of hope and transformation. I looked up the word transformation on my dictionary to get a more complete overview of its meaning. A qualitative change, the conversion of one, complete change in character or condition, and the act of changing in form or shape or appearance. Let me hear your journey of transformation. I can be reached at:


Chapter 20 – A Winter Thaw

By Mary Zigan

Out of the blue one day Don said, “Hon, what do you think.  Should we scale down?”

We had been empty-nesters for quite some time and were ready for a townhome.  We enjoyed going to open houses on Sunday afternoons, checking out the northwest suburbs of the Twin Cities, but it didn’t take long to see that the homes were totally out of our price range.  One day my son, Randy, now back working in the area said, “Ma, find a lot and I’ll build a house for you and Don.”

My sister Sharon, who lives in Cambridge, sold real estate at the time, and found us a lot within the city limits of that small town of 5,000 residents.  Randy came to look at the lot and gave his approval.  He and Jill were expecting our granddaughter at the time, and with construction in the dead of winter being slow-to-nothing, Randy was happy to have the work.

As a designer, I was excited to think about executing the plans for a brand-new home.  My mind danced with creative possibilities, yet there was reservation.

Randy and his father, Waldo, worked together in construction.  If we hired Randy, we knew his father would be a part of the building project.  This would be the first time since our divorce that I would be working close-range with him.

When I saw Waldo at gatherings for birthdays and events relating to our kids, I would be courteous.  But was I ready for this much togetherness?  The day our divorce was final, Waldo and I had met for coffee.  I told him I didn’t believe in divorce, but we both agreed the relationship was over. Yet twenty years later we would be working together.

I wanted to manage the day-to-day decisions on our home both inside and out, and I did.  Construction began in November of 1993 and was completed in January of 1994.   The winter became historic as the fifth coldest on record in Minnesota.  The temperatures remained bitterly cold during the entire building project. Waldo, Randy, Don, and I would typically go to town for lunch during the three month process of building and have soup together.  It became clear that it was more than soup for the body; the fellowship was warming our souls, and especially my soul. Old resentments, like icicles in a winter thaw, were melting away.  To my surprise, our working relationship had become amicable.

Move-in day on South Vine Street the thermometer dipped to 38 degrees below zero.  There was no standing around.

As the months rolled along, I loved purchasing furnishings for the interior of our brand-new home, but was wrestling with the question of whether this was really a place where I belonged.  Could I survive in this small town with no Kohls, no Target, no Walmart?   Not even a Goodwill store.

Don and I kept one foot in the City for a while by driving to Arden Hills every Sunday morning to the church we had attended for ten years.  We were both reluctant to sever all ties to the Twin Cities.

It took me a while to find my niche in Cambridge.  I’m not the coffee-klatch-ing type, and I’m not good at small talk.  I longed for conversations with the locals, where I would get to know my new community and what mattered to the people who lived there. However, bondage from my past continued to nag at me. As much as I longed for new relationships, the lie that I was defective often hampered that from happening.

Bondage does not respond to common sense, logic, or clear thinking.  AA would call this “insanity,” which they define as “continuing to do the same things over and over and expecting a different outcome.”

I knew the pattern of running back to my closest friend, food, just reinforced the lie ‘See how defective you are’ and would keep me from really engaging in life.

I was in a new town, but could I start new?

Release came one night in my restlessness.  I clearly heard in my spirit, “You have the characteristics, training, and availability I need to touch others.  There is a place for you in the world that only you can fill.  Accept this truth by faith, Mary.  You are not forgotten or left behind.” 

I could hardly believe what I was hearing, because I had been feeling so displaced.  Yet I was profoundly encouraged by this message and tucked the treasured promise deep within my heart.

Matt and Julie Woodley had just moved into our neighborhood.  Matt was the pastor of Cambridge United Methodist Church (CUMC) and wanted to get to know his neighbors.   After a couple of visits to our home, he invited us to visit CUMC, and we did.   We were encouraged when he said, “I don’t know if CUMC is for you, but what I do know is that you could be a catalyst for worship renewal if you came.”

This excited me!  The drive to the City for church every Sunday was getting old.  So we became members, and we realized it was a good fit for us.

Another unexpected surprise about living in Cambridge sneaked up on me when I learned that pastors and lay leaders in various churches in the community were embracing the Freedom in Christ material.  Dr. Neil T. Anderson had written two books called Victory over the Darkness and The Bondage Breaker, both of which I had read with great eagerness.  I had a yearning to be part of a ministry that could help me gain my freedom as a Christian.

Freedom is an interesting word.  There are freedoms from.  I wanted freedom from anger and bitterness.  And there are freedoms to.  I wanted freedom to love and forgive.

Going through “The Seven Steps of Freedom in Christ” in an appointment with two kind women was something I looked forward to. I went through the material twice, because deception and negative thoughts kept going through my mind.  I would ask myself, “How can I get free by just saying these words?  I was to learn that these were not just words, they were declarations of Truth. I learned that my identity is not based on what has happened to me in the past, or what other people think of me, or what will happen to me in the future.

Most changes in perception are gradual, as they were for Don and me. Most of us grow to embrace an idea, a person, or new concept over a period of time. But Don and I were diligent and kept reading the Freedom in Christ materials, particularly the step on forgiveness.  Neither of us wanted to hold onto bitterness and un-forgiveness from our past. My heart was turning, and Cambridge became a marking place for both Don and me. We once and for all claimed our new identity in Christ and laid down our regrets and past pain.

Freedom to forgive is a wonderful thing!

An excerpt from Dr. Neil T. Anderson’s book, Helping Others Find Freedom in Christ makes this truth very clear:

Because human life is lived according to what we believe, this essential truth of who we are in Christ is tremendously important. Our attitudes, responses and reactions to the circumstances of life are determined by our conscious or subconscious self-perceptions. No one can consistently behave in a way that is inconsistent with how he perceives himself to be.

This truth was beginning to turn my heart right-side up.






Quinoa & Vegetables Recipe

Ah…Spring! Time to toss off the old and spring into the new. If you are like me it is time to transition the wardrobe, get a new hair cut…and dig for recipes with veggies and a lighter touch. This recipe packs a punch of goodness in flavor and texture. I think you will enjoy!


Quinoa with Roasted Vegetables and Arugula


Ingredients                                                                                        Yield: 4-6 servings                                                                                               

1 cup quinoa or whole wheat cous cous, uncooked

3 cloves garlic, minced

4 tablespoons butter

1/2 red onion, peeled and cut into large chunks

1 large sweet potato cut into medium chunks

2 large carrots, peeled, halved, and cut into 1-inch pieces

2 large parsnips, peeled, halved, and cut into 1-inch pieces

Salt and pepper to taste

4 tablespoons pine nuts

6 ounces baby arugula leaves

1 cup Parmesan shavings, divided




Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Prepare quinoa according to package directions. In a small skillet over medium-low heat, melt the butter with the garlic. Turn off the heat and allow it to sit for 5 minutes.

Arrange the vegetables on a large baking sheet with sides. Pour over half of the melted garlic butter, sprinkle on salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Roast the vegetables for 35 to 40 minutes, tossing occasionally, until they’re nice and deep golden brown. Remove them from the oven and set them aside to cool slightly.

Add the pine nuts to the same skillet over low heat and toast them for 5 to 7 minutes, tossing occasionally, until light golden brown. Set aside.

Place cooked quinoa in a large bowl. Toss in the roasted vegetables and half the Parmesan shavings. Squeeze lemon in the remaining melted garlic butter and add to roasted vegetables. Toss in the arugula (it will wilt slightly) and the pine nuts, then sprinkle the rest of the Parmesan on top.

~ Mary Z.

We in the Midwest…


Quips and Quotes . . .

Speaking of transitions . . .

Those of us who live in the Midwest do not take changing of a new season lightly. We really spring into “spring!”  Though it is only March 30th as I write this blog post for April, my deck chairs have been washed and ready. I wait for the pansies that are shivering in the cold to bloom and show off the beauty and hope of new life.  Change is good! Our hearts are stirred to look ahead.

These quotes from others are good reminders:

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of those talents left, and could say, “I used everything you gave me.”                 ~ Erma Bombeck


If you can’t change your fate, change your attitude. ~ Amy Tan


Try not to be a man of success, but rather become a person of value.

 ~ Albert Einstein

Spring is the time of plans and projects.    ~ Leo Tolstoy


Spring is God’s way of saying, “One more time!”  ~ Robert Orben


You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.

                                                                      ~ C. S. Lewis

REMEMBER . . .Change is inevitable—except from a vending machine.                                          ~ Robert C. Gallagher



Reflections on Special Needs Kids

Spring is a time of transitions . . .

A time for fresh starts, new enthusiasm, a time when all things seem possible . . .

From cold frozen ground and gray skies, suddenly new life springs:  tulips and daffodils and crocuses, trees sprouting tiny leaves of the most beautiful shade of green. . .

Life is filled with of transitions, some of them welcome, long-anticipated, joyful.

Others, well, not so joyful


Since April is Autism Awareness Month, here’s a reflection of a sad surprise that turned out to be a terrific blessing.


Talk about a major transition . . .

My Grandson is Autistic

By Sharon Sheppard

My daughter was sobbing on the phone so hard I could barely make out what she was saying.

“I took Aaron in for his two-year checkup today,” she blurted out between gasps, “and the pediatrician says he needs to be tested for autism.”        My heart plummeted.

Aaron had started talking at eight and a half months.  A genius for sure, we thought.

Then he quit talking at two.  Could be a hearing problem, we rationalized.

Not so.

Twenty years ago autism was a big scary deal.  It still is.

But back then it wasn’t as common as it is now, and there weren’t nearly so many good therapies for treating it.

Talk about a major life transition!  This one brought huge changes for every member in the family.  And even if the child is lucky enough to graduate from high school someday, parental responsibilities still don’t stop there.

Having a child with a disability is like having a grief that keeps on giving.

When friends are bragging about their child being in the “gifted” program at school, your child may be in the lowest reading group and spending hours in therapy.

Each new milestone the child doesn’t reach at the same time as his peers reinforces the grief.  It’s the death of one more dream these parents once had for their child.

While your friend’s teen is shopping for a prom dress and touting her high SAT test scores and college scholarships, your child may be longing for a friend—just one.

Parents of special needs children love their kids just as much as the rest of us love ours.  Maybe more.  They are willing to go without almost anything to be able to afford therapy and expensive medications.  And while their friends go to Disneyland or on cruises, parents of special needs children scrimp along on one income so one spouse can stay home full time with their child. It’s no wonder that disabilities take a serious toll on marriages.

But parents of special needs children are proud of their kids, too. Just not for the same things as parents of typically-developing children.  One day an autistic child may speak a word, and it’s the right one for the occasion.

And the parents will shed tears of joy.

One day not too long after my grandson had been diagnosed with autism, I

was talking on the phone with my daughter, who said, “It hasn’t been all bad, you know.”

“What’s good about it?” I asked.

“I might never have known the meaning of unconditional love if I hadn’t had Aaron,” she replied.

What a blessing!  What a remarkable gift!

I, for one, am proud to be the grandmother of this delightful young man who is now a college student—fun and funny and smart.  (Yes, he did learn to talk all over again, and he hasn’t stopped talking since!) He has been a tremendous source of joy to me.

April is Autism Awareness Month.  If you know of a family that has a child with autism, give them the gift of empathy.  Bring a meal to their home.  If it’s feasible, offer to care for their child to give the parents a night out. Teach your children to befriend children with autism or other special needs.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”  Matt. 5:7 (NIV)

For more information about autism, check out:


















20 yrs ago, it was a very big scary deal

Repetitive actions, obsessions, retreating into his own world

A grief that keeps on giving