Roxane B. Salonen
BISMARCK, N.D. — Jewel Hecker has seen some deep-down lows. At one point in her life of addiction, she says, things had gotten so bad she was living like character Matt Foley from "Saturday Night Live," "in a van down by the river." Other times, Jewel says, she would find a tent and camp out with her boyfriend, or a cheap hotel room to live in for a while. They weren't below stealing if necessary. Scars she's collected reveal how addiction and abuse can erode the soul.
FARGO — While living in Amarillo, Texas, in 2015, Paul Braun hoped to raise funds for area youth and his local Knights of Columbus council by inviting Christian musician Matt Maher to perform a concert there. Though Maher's crew was receptive, logistics pulled the plug on the Amarillo gig. "You owe me one," Braun told them. After he began work the following year for the Fargo Diocese, Amarillo's loss became Fargo's gain. Maher's performance at the Fargo Scheel's Arena Aug. 12 will mark his second touch-down in North Dakota, following a Bismarck concert in 2015.
When my friend from New York came to Fargo recently with her youngest three boys on their way to Glacier National Park, it was a given our time together would be short. Road construction and rush-hour traffic factors further pushed their hoped-for arrival behind. By the time they pulled into our driveway, the sun was dropping low. I knew the brevity of the visit would only allow our travel-worn guests enough time to lay down their weary heads for the night, before an early-rise morning. But as they inched their way closer to Fargo, a plan began percolating.
WAHPETON, N.D. — The diamond jubilee for Sister Margaret Mary reflects that "diamonds" are truly rare. The occasion highlighting the Carmelite's 60 years as a cloistered nun point to a simple but extraordinary life of prayer, labor, living with grace in community, and singularly seeking God. Though she entered Carmel of Mary monastery at 18, Ottilia Sticka first heard the invitation in eighth grade. "The Lord gave me an inspiration to be a contemplative nun."
FARGO — When Peter Mehl checked his blood pressure shortly after arriving in the Ukraine on May 11, something seemed off. "He had me take mine, because he wasn't sure it was reading right," recounts his wife, Jill, co-founder of Russian Harvest Ministries, a Christian outreach the local couple founded 25 years ago. It would be their last conversation. Just as Jill turned away to check her own blood pressure, Peter stood up, and collapsed. An autopsy showed the 61-year-old died instantly.
Recently, my 17-year-old daughter, two of her good friends, their mothers, and I embarked on a trip to Chicago that turned truly unforgettable, in every way, as Nat King Cole once sang. Our journey had been planned around the wildly popular, modern, rap musical "Hamilton," based on Alexander Hamilton's dramatic, historically-significant life.
FARGO — When Billy Graham came to town in June 1987, Wayne Hoglund was already a Christian, but he was intrigued by meeting someone he considered a hero. "It was exciting. There was electricity in the air, and it was a holy moment," Hoglund says. "A lot of people went forward, and all those lives changed in some way." His father was one who went up for the altar call. "That was an answer to prayer," says Hoglund, who was 33 at the time, and one of many trained counselors there to assist those with questions.
"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."
FARGO — From an early age, Susan Vitalis began grappling with God's purpose for her life. She was only a sophomore when she gave a student chapel talk at Oak Grove High School, where her father was the campus pastor, posing questions about life. On Sunday, May 28, she'll return to her former school to give a commencement address to graduating seniors, sharing what she's learned since her own youthful time there.
This past Mother's Day, I found myself fondly reflecting on my first Mother's Day. That day, some 22 years ago, I received a beautiful bouquet of flowers from my husband, with a handwritten note: "Happy Mother's Day." It was the first time I'd been called a mom, and a moment I've held close ever since. I'd only learned of my first pregnancy a few weeks earlier, and was still settling into the idea that in just a few months, my life would be rearranged around a small human being.