Category Archives: Minnesota Nice

Minnesota Nice: Let’s Go Fly a Kite!


You know how, when you anticipate sharing an experience with your children, you build it up in your mind? You picture the joy on their faces. You imagine the wonder and delight. You think, “This is the stuff memories are made of.”

And then, you actually do that memory-making thing. And most of the time, it doesn’t quite match up with beautiful picture you created in your mind. For example, you definitely did not picture this much weeping and whining and wailing, or this many dollars flying out of your wallet. I have been there, fellow memory-makers. It can be rough.

The upside is, when the vision and the reality do match up, it is even sweeter. Such was the case last weekend, when the Cumings family attended The Fourteenth Annual Prairie Winds Kite Fly!

It sounded whimsical. It sounded magical. It sounded like a fun, inexpensive family outing on a beautiful (and windy) fall day. And guess what? It was. It really was! Continue reading

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Minnesota Nice: Butterfield Threshing Bee

train waiting

Waiting for the train. Look at that lean of anticipation!

I was mostly in it for the train ride.

Sure, I love tractors and steam engines as much as the next person (Pro Trip: Depending, of course, on how much the next person loves them), but it was the promise of a train ride in the park that convinced me to load the kids in the car and head over to Butterfield for the 50th annual Butterfield threshing bee.

Well, the train ride exceeded my expectations. For seventy-five cents each, we got to hang out in the depot, tell the ticket taker our imaginary destination (Zoe chose Unicornia), ride through a tunnel, and take in the sights and sounds of the bee. I bought enough tickets for two rides and we loved each one.

But there was so much more: Continue reading

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Filed under All in the Family, Minnesota Nice, Taste and See

Say it with Lefse

lefse balls

The bulletin announcement says 8 AM, but some of them arrive at 6.

They measure and mix. They stir and roll. They flip and fold and weigh and pack and freeze. They are careful and patient and precise, but there is artistry and beauty to their work, too. Many of them remember their parents and grandparents practicing this art on a cook stove, not an electric griddle.

Every Tuesday and Wednesday for three weeks, they are here. When all is said and done, they have made about 300 pounds of lefse for the Nordic Bazaar. (Plus an untold number of pounds of “mistakes” that we are forced to enjoy with our coffee in the middle of each work day.) Continue reading


Filed under Minnesota Nice, Taste and See


Unidentified woman in Sarasota reading about winter storms up North

It was a blisteringly hot, humid day in 1993. But Mrs. Artabasy’s teeth chattered as she wrapped a beach towel around her shoulders, shivered dramatically, looked at a classroom full of stunned and sweaty seventh graders, and said, “I’m freezing.”

She was one of the kookiest, quirkiest teachers I ever had. (Pro Tip: And also one of the most beloved.) She crafted music shows in which her students sang and danced to the Beatles and Billy Joel and loved doing it. And on a miserably muggy day, she showed us how to keep cool: fake it.

We all practiced shivering. We all said, “Brrrrrr.” And, you know what? It almost worked for a minute.

Today is another hot and humid and just plain gross day in the Midwest. I believe there are three perfectly sensible responses: Continue reading

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Filed under Marvelous Miscellany, Minnesota Nice

God on the Loose

Photo Credit: Erin Kuehl, Associate in Ministry extraordinaire.

Last week I got to join ten youth from our congregation for the tail end of their Teens in Mission week at Green Lake Bible Camp.

I was there for them–to spend some time with them, to support them, to help drive them back to St. James–but it was pretty great for me, too. Even though I was only there overnight, and even though I went to bed way too late (Pro Tip: S’mores by the lake are always worth staying up for), I came home feeling refreshed and renewed.

It wasn’t just the time I spent gazing at and wading in beautiful Green Lake. (Although that was not bad, either.) It was the time I spent with my people. Every camp staff person I met told me how wonderful these kids are. I already knew this, but after spending a little more time with them, I really, really know it. Continue reading


Filed under Ministry Matters, Minnesota Nice, Thankful Hearts

Minnesota Nice: Odin

First of all: how can you not love a town named Odin? (Pro Tip: You simply cannot.)

This town of 106 is just south of Saint James. It’s home to the Odin Craft Mill–a wonderful event that runs twice a year and is probably a lot more fun if you don’t bring your very active daughter. If you do bring her, you should at least avoid giving her a wooden magic wand and then taking her to the Christmas ornament room. Not that I am speaking from personal experience at all.


Odin Grocery and Cafe, 2015.

Continue reading


Filed under All in the Family, Minnesota Nice

Minnesota Nice: Schmidt’s Bakery

Men making donuts at the Sugar Crest Donuts Company in Portland, Oregon

When we moved to Saint James, we bought the very first house our realtor showed us.

There was really no question. Despite the retro carpet, the wallpaper everywhere, and the lack of central air, Mike and I immediately fell in love.

Besides the house itself (a 104-year-old beauty), I liked the location. I liked that there were sidewalks on both sides. I liked that there were kids in the neighborhood. And I liked that it was a short walk to church, the library, and . . . Schmidt’s Bakery. Continue reading

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My Kind of Town

litchfield family photo

August 2014: A family photo with the Litchfield sign, just like I always wanted. You may notice that some family members are happier about this than others.

“You have to be open to the call of the whole church.”

That’s a thing they tell you before you start seminary. It means, “You have to be willing to go where the Spirit sends you, even if the Spirit sends you somewhere really tiny or really far away.” Also, the Spirit works through people–candidacy committees, call committees, synod staff members. These people do not and cannot always get it right.

When I started seminary, I was sure  I knew where the church would call me: right back to urban ministry, maybe even right back to my beloved Milwaukee. When I finished seminary, I knew that I just wanted to be a pastor. The where was not as important as the what.

Even so, I was a little stunned to end up in Litchfield, MN, population 6800. (For a little context, the population of my high school was 3200.) But I loved life in Litchfield and ministry in the two country churches I was called to serve. I began to see that in the context of southwestern Minnesota, Litchfield was a pretty big small town.

But: “I’ll never go anywhere smaller than Litchfield,” I said.

You know where this is going, right? Continue reading


Filed under Minnesota Nice, Never Had I Ever

Savoring Summer’s End

Yesterday was one of the nicest days we’ve had all summer.  So in addition to our St. Cloud shopping, Zoe and I hit the playground and splash pad at Lake George:

Perfect day, perfect setting.  Lovely, easy, fun, free.  I can’t believe it took me until the middle of August to make this trip.

In many ways, the end of the summer doesn’t mean much for our family yet.  Zoe’s preschool schedule won’t change.  I’ll have confirmation class and a few more Bible study groups instead of softball games and Vacation Bible School.  Zoe has already started asking God to send the snow, so clearly she is not melancholy about summer’s short shelf life.

But . . . summer time.  When the living is easy.  When you throw a few things in your beach bag and dash out the door without worrying whether the roads will be icy.  When you spend a perfect morning pushing your daughter on a swing, feeling the mist from the splash pad cool your sun-warmed face.  When you beat the heat with a cool treat from Dairy Queen, cooling yourself from the inside out.

Savor it, friends.  Eat your ice cream slowly and linger a moment longer on your beach towel.

Before we know it, we’ll be singing along with Dar Williams:

What summer joys are you savoring this month?


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Minnesota Nice: Calf Fiend Cafe

You know you’re in rural Minnesota when . . .

The name of the coffee and sandwich shop is a dairy-related pun.

As you may know, I love puns.  And coffee.  And sandwiches.  So, it’s no surprise that Calf Fiend Cafe in Redwood Falls is my new favorite place for lunch.

A friend and I stopped there yesterday on our way to a meeting.  It was our first visit (RWF is an hour and a half from Litch), but we immediately fell in love with the place.

The homemade bread (molasses multi grain yesterday).

The friendly server (and bread baker) with the finely waxed handlebar mustache.

The giant paper mache calf cavorting in front of the pastry case.

The homemade bread.  (Seriously, it was so good we bought extra to take home instead of having dessert.  Although, full disclosure: when I say “instead of dessert”, I of course mean, “instead of having a cookie and the Dairy Queen treats we had on the way home from the meeting).

Truly, the Calf Fiend Cafe is a gem.  If you are a Minnesota reader, you should go there.  In fact, call me up and we can go together.  We can hit Ramsey Park to see the Falls and the zoo, and maybe the aquatic center after lunch.  It will be calffiendtastic.

What’s your favorite place for lunch?

P.S. I borrowed these photos from Calf Fiend Cafe’s Facebook page.  Visit them there and see a few more!


Filed under Minnesota Nice, Taste and See