Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Stolpe Star December 2014

Christmas Again, Already?
Ever notice how adults often fuss about how quickly Christmas comes around, as though an extra week in December would help us be ready? and children fuss about how long it takes to get to Christmas as though subtracting a week from December would make waiting easier?
Despite the denigration of Christmas letters as brag-sheets, we enjoy the annual catch-up with friends and family, and send The Stolpe Star as our way of affirming the wonderful relationships we have had with so many people over the years.
But even more than the family news, we want to extend to each of you our greetings and prayers for a Merry Christmas. May you find that contemplating the birth of Jesus each year never gets old but renews your spirit again.
Norm and Candy Stolpe
Helen Doris Stolpe
We were able to see Norm’s Mom in August when we traveled to the Midwest. Her health and strength had been declining since Norm’s Dad died in 2007 and accelerated the last couple of years. We all knew this would be our last visit, which we found deeply satisfying rather than depressing. Besides time with Mom, we had good conversation with Norm’s sister Elaine and her husband Max to thank them for their years of on-site care for her and to prepare for her departure.

She left us in peace in the early morning hours of September 30 (Norm’s 68th birthday), content with a full life devoted to Jesus without regrets, unresolved relationships or unfulfilled dreams.
The Family Gathers
We took a couple of weeks off between Norm’s interim pastorates with 1st Christian Church of Odessa, TX and Highlands Christian Church in Dallas, TX. We flew to Milwaukee and had quality time with Rachel and David, Sam and Elizabeth as we used their home as basecamp and their car for transportation to visit Candy’s Dad in Minneapolis and Norm’s Mom in Batavia, IL.
Leanne, Jon, Erik, Sam, Candy, Norm, Elizabeth, Isaac, Hannah, David, Rachel
The banner behind us was done by Tim Botts, an artist I knew during my Wheaton days. It says, "Enter His Gates with Thanksgiving" which we all thought was appropriate for my Mom as we gathered for her memorial service at Evangel Baptist Church in Wheaton

In October we were back in Illinois for Mom’s memorial service with Erik, David and his family and Jon and his family and had a potent bonding time. Norm’s sister Elaine had all of her children and most of her grandchildren there as well. We got to see dear friends from our years in Illinois too.
Moving On
After 2 years for interim pastorates in Midwest City, OK and Odessa, TX, we are happy to be back in our Dallas home and serving Highlands Christian Church.
Erik’s career is also taking an important turn. His musical opportunities are expanding, and he has gone back to food service with Rusty Taco, with prospects of advancement.
Contact Us

Norm: 214-793-5224

Candy: 214-793-2572

Friday, October 10, 2014

In Memory of H. Doris Stolpe

I had arranged for two Sundays off between interim pastorates in August 2014. Candy and I flew to Milwaukee for several enjoyable days with Rachel and David, Sam and Elizabeth. We borrowed one of their cars to make short trips to Minneapolis to see Candy’s Dad and to Batavia (about 50 miles west of Chicago) to see my Mom. She had been weakening for some time, and we suspected this might be the last time we would see her, which turned out to be true.

Mom joined the glorious company of the saints in light on September 30, my 68th birthday. My sister, Elaine, had been staying with her for several days. Her daughter Helen came from Madison, WI to give her mother a bit of a break, as did our daughter-in-law Rachel who went down from Milwaukee for an overnight. Helen was with her grandmother in the early hours of the morning when she died. The family gathered to remember her and to connect well with each other.
Candy, Jon, Erik, David, Norman

Isaac, Jon, Sam, Erik, David, Norman

Hannah, Elizabeth, Rachel, Leanne, Candy

When I was growing up I always thought of my mother as a stay-at-home Mom. In retrospect, I realize she was a work-from-home Mom. Having worked for a classy custom dress shop in San Francisco after high school until getting married 9 years later, she was an accomplished seamstress. She made custom clothes for a clientele who wanted unique, quality clothes. They came to the house with patterns, fabrics and specifications. They returned for fittings as the clothes took shape.
Family lore is that Grandpa Erikson rescued this rocker from the trash. We still have it, and some of our grandchildren have sat in it.
When I was in high school and college, she turned her sewing skills to making tents and sails for boats for the boys’ (Christian Service Brigade) group at church. She made two custom winter jackets for me, the second of which I wore for many years in Minnesota and Illinois.

Mom confirmed what my grandmother told me several times. Mom had skipped two grades and graduated from high school at 16. The principal of Oakland High School thought she should go to college and was sure a scholarship could be found. However, my grandfather couldn’t quite grasp his daughter going to college when 8th grade was as far as anyone else had gotten. He couldn’t understand skipping grades; you had to take them in order. And he couldn’t understand or accept that someone else would pay for her to go to college.
Mom had made her own wedding dress, which she didn't get to wear until 9 months after the wedding since Dad shipped to Okinawa in March, ahead of their planned June wedding. They married in Tacoma, WA, but had a reception in Oakland, CA in January after Dad's return from Navy duty. 
I sometimes wonder what she might have done had she gone to college, but that didn’t keep her from becoming a wise, learned woman. As our daughter-in-law observed several times, no matter who else was there, Mom was always the smartest person in the room.

Though eminently practical and not given to luxury or extravagance, she was game for adventures that the rest of the family drew her into. We camped in many places in Northern California and a few farther flung sites. I remember well climbing Mt. Lassen the summer between my 5th and 6th grades. We cut our camping trip a day short when she had to break the ice on the water bucket to fix breakfast.

That year was a turning point for her and our family. In the fall she contracted meningitis and was in isolation at the county hospital for some time. She came home just before Christmas but wasn’t up to our usual celebrations. Mom and Dad apologized to my sister and me, but we were just happy to have her home and on the mend. All of my other childhood Christmas memories blur together, but that is the one that stands out in my mind. Her rheumatoid arthritis erupted soon after.

She was a woman of great and quite sophisticated faith. Her Bible knowledge was second to none, and she taught Bible Study Fellowship for many years (having been trained by BSF founder Wetherill Johnson herself). But she did not passively accept pious or naïve theology, and I think I learned from her how to think theologically in the spaces between Scripture and life.

During my high school years, one of the most distinct images I have of Mom is her sitting at one end of the dining room table (that had been hand made by her father) typing my school papers on a small, portable Smith-Corona manual typewriter. I sat at the other end hand writing. Besides deciphering handwriting, correcting spelling and grammar, she challenged my logic, which I’m sure improved my grades at least a half-step. These sessions seemed often to go late into the night.

My Dad’s work schedule at Albert Brown Mortuary varied considerably, and my sister and I rarely had the same school schedule. Mom always prepared breakfast for us and ate with each of us, taking her breakfast in two or three small courses. She did have a schedule of what she fixed for breakfast each day of the week (which I have conveniently forgotten), which made breakfast predictable for us and simplified preparation for her.

Mom and Dad were quite a team. Once our daughter-in-law Rachel videoed them washing dishes in perfect coordination. Mom washed, and Dad dried and put them in the cupboard in the tiny efficiency kitchen in their independent living apartment at Holmstadt. No speaking, no bumping, but reaching over, under and around each other as though choreographed. By working together they were able to stay in independent living quite a bit longer than other couples with similar limitations.

After Dad died she struggled, not only with the difficulties of physical decline, but with maintaining a sense of purpose in life. After Dad died, when she went from assisted living to skilled care at the Michaelson Health Center, she took her sewing machine. She made a few clothes for herself and mended to other residents and staff. When she had to give that up, she felt useless and questioned why God kept her around since she wasn’t accomplishing anything. During her active years, prayer had been vigorous. One day I suggested that God might be keeping her around to pray for the rest of us. She lamented that with her mental faculties slipping she had a hard time concentrating enough to pray.

Once she passed 90, Mom frequently said to me, “Nobody else in this family had to live this long, why do I have to?” While I believe that even a desire to pray is prayer, I don’t really have an answer to Mom’s question. I do know that even as she was fading before our eyes, all of us were enriched by every visit and phone conversation (even the ones when she was very confused). 

At about 90 she was talking about being ready to leave this life to be with Jesus. She expressed thanks for the full richness of her life, for the relationships with family and friends, for the opportunities she had had to serve. Then she said to me, “The only thing I haven’t done is die, and I’m ready to find out what that’s like.” While she was very realistic about death, for her personally, it was not something to dread but was her next great adventure.
Joe Bayly was a good friend who mentored me in the early years of my career. His book "View from the Hearse" tells what he learned when death claimed his children. He knew whereof he spoke and wrote. When his heart would not restart after bypass surgery, he took this great adventure, but I still find it difficult to grasp a world without him and without my parents.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Signposts and Milestones

Mt. Shasta by Robert Wood
While Yosemite always held a magical power for me (I know I'm hardly alone in that), I didn't get there very often or get to explore many of its special places. For a host of reasons, I got to and was more familiar with the lesser known mountains of Northern California and the Redwood Coast (redwood trees are also magical). Mt. Shasta symbolized much of that part of California for me. I had ambitions of one day climbing Mt. Shasta. I bought a USGS topo map and read a number of trail and route guides. But it never happened. At this point in my life I'm releasing a lot of unfulfilled youthful ambitions, not with grief or regret but with gratitude and joy at the paths on which my journey with Jesus has taken me that I could never have imagined growing up. This Robert Wood print of Mt. Shasta hung in my parents' living room for many years and symbolized for me both my memories and ambitions of those younger days. It has now come to our house but does not have a real place of its own. After mentioning it on Facebook this morning, I wanted a little deeper reflection and more enduring record, so am adding it to my blog.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Son Jon Publishes Book

Our son Jon Stolpe just published his first book "On Track." You can learn about and order it at Of course, we are proud of him and hope his book is a big success. He has been blogging for some time and would welcome new readers at