Bicycle Built for Two


It’s a good friendship. An E4 and an O6. That’s a Petty Officer third class and a Captain. They were

also neighbors. Norm and Pastor Russ. Neighbors that met riding bicycles on passable blacktop roads. Russ lived about a mile and a half away from Norm and once in a while, they would go for a ‘spin’. There was another huge difference between them as Russ was a category 2 racer and Norm just liked to ride.

One unremarkable day, Russ was riding alone and met a very pretty and friendly bicycle rider. She was riding nearby and as Russ was married to Debra and a pastor, he was safe to ride with for a bit.

Not long afterwards, he mentioned to Norm about this gal. “She runs a lakeside camp nearby, it’s called Whispering Pines. Pretty good cyclist too!” Norm, as a usual bachelor, was intrigued. He knew where the camp was and began thinking about Russ’s discovery. Just by ‘chance’ a real woman with a job! Obviously fit. Russ said she was ‘pretty’ He strongly considered calling the camp. Why not?

Meanwhile, the bicycle riding gal, Julie, was out in Washington state at a conference. She was at a local bar near the Canadian border and the bartender, Margaret, was gregarious and asked Julie where she was from. Julie told her where the she was from and the bartender, casually wiping down the bar said, “where in Trade Lake do you live?” What! No one knows that dinky little township! Margaret replied, “My grandparents lived in Trade Lake” They had a few things to talk about then. Margaret, incredibly enough, was an old friend of Norm’s and gave Julie his phone number. Julie put it in her wallet and when she returned to Whispering pines, tossed that piece of paper into a drawer in her office. A wooden holding device to eventually have it’s contents put into a round holding device standing on the floor nearby—the trash.

On a particularly perfect day for cycling, Norm decided to call the camp and asked for the director. He gave his name and mentioned his friend Russ He also stated that he and Russ rode a lot together and asked if Julie would like to ride sometime. “It’s that Guy! The friend of that bartender way out west!” Julie consulted the head cook who was her entrusted friend. “why not? Sounds safe, a pastors friend”

So Julie told Norm OK, and he, being mostly clueless but aware that neutral territory was not her place nor his. He suggested they ride their bicycles towards one another on county road M and they could meet that way. Norm saw Julie coming towards him, uphill and riding strong. He waited for her, watching her technique. Pretty good climber. They did a short 50 mile ride and Norm asked her out to eat afterwards. Little Mexico,a great local restaurant with homemade guacamole and chips. Good Mexican beer too. Julie’s cook said: “why not?” And so she went. This time Norm drove his Volvo.

The dear cook had some chocolate cake for their dessert when Norm dropped Julie off. Many enjoyable rides later, some of them with pastor Russ, that this whole thing was a put-up job.

Sometime later when Norm’s old friend, Margaret, the bartender, got in touch. Norm told her the delightful sequence and then she added one more fact. The exact place on County road M where Norm and Julie met, was right at the driveway where Margaret’s Grandparent’s had lived. As the story has been told many times, Norm always says; gosh, what a coincidence! God’s handiwork.

Julie continued managing the camp until another director was chosen for the job. She moved in to Norm’s farm and they played house for a time. They also began working at 7 pines lodge nearby. Fresh caught brook trout. Also a mystery dinner. All the guests became suspects in the mystery murder and Norm and Julie played the hosts. Of course. Out of the blue at home, Julie proposed to Norm and it seemed to make a lot of sense to them both.

They were married and the wedding was a fabulous affair. The square dance band that Norm played in (Duck for the Oyster} came to help with the music as well as Bill Hinkley and Judy Larson. Their wedding was at 7 pines. It was also known as the resort that US presidents went fly fishing at. A Real log lodge with a stream house that straddled the trout stream. It was Norm and Julies wedding night at the stream house. The running water made bathroom breaks occur often. It was worth it.

Norm’s mom drove up in her Buick convertible to attend. She almost left in the beginning of the ceremony with the excuse that her dog needed her at home. She stayed. It was obvious that something was going on with her mind. Dementia. Her dad had the same issue and died not long afterwards of the onset. Mom was still living in her third home in Bryn Mawr Minneapolis.

After a few years went by and their two children were growing and Norm and Julie’s farmhouse was rebuilt to double it’s original size. (right before Bjorn, their first born arrived) Norm’s Mom agreed to help finance the huge mound system that was needed for the ‘upgrade’ to their home.

Norm’s mother was fading and Norm drove down at least every week to help her out. Managing the bills and looking after things. Not too long afterwards , they moved Mom up to their area into a nursing home. Julie had an old pastor friend agree to come up to talk to Norm’s Mom. She died that night and pastor Barry came up anyway and spent hours with Norm at the kitchen table. “Mere Christianity” was referred to a lot and Norm brought up other religions and his early family attendance at a Christian Science church in Minneapolis. “What about you? What do you think about all this?” It was a very important Question. Norm had a bit the think about.

Barry’s church, a Congregational one, agreed to do the funeral with a meal and even light a candle every Sunday for a week or two. No charge.

Soon thereafter, Norm had a life changing experience at Russ’ church (Russ was in the Navy as a chaplain then). A Christmas cantata was offered and Norm reluctantly said he would go. Of course, Bjorn in his Jammies, was up on the choirs risers jut before the concert! The Holy spirit overcame Norm as the choir was singing ‘Mary did you know’. A man in the choir began reciting the words of the song and those words changed Norm’ Life. “It’s all true! He is creator of all things. Somebody had to do it! Random evolution never made sense anyway! Pastor Barry says He loves me!”

Their marriage began to grow a bit then as Julie was already a believer in Jesus. It was good news to her as well. Sometimes that story still brings tears to Norm. You know the feeling. Words began to fall short and it’s hard to speak them without the tears.

The whole family began attending Pastor Barry’s church near Amery but with the two boys, it was hard to go 80 miles round trip every Sunday. There was a ministry even further away at Lake Elmo, it was an automotive repair ministry (God’s grease monkeys) and Norm continued to be a volunteer there. His Volvo was filled with food while he was working and it was pretty good. At a sweet corn feed at a local church, Norm and Julie met Pastor Roger Inoway and the relation with Grace Baptist began.

The family began attending Grace Baptist in Grantsburg and eventually they started a successful food ministry there. The monthly event was named Feed My Sheep. It was coupled with the automotive ministry. Grace Garage. The food ministry was a bright spot for Norm and Julie as they got to minister and pray for the people waiting in an adjacent room. They were waiting to be called to get in line for the food distribution. People still comment to the two of them about those prayers and some healing that occurred.

News came that the camp, Whispering Pines was in need of a temporary manager while it was up for sale. Julie and Norm stepped into that position and soon after, two pastors showed up on motorcycles at the camp. They expressed interest in buying it! Perfect. Keep the camp Christian owned and run. A good vision for certain.

There was a quick transition to those pastors church with the blessing of the Grantsburg leadership. Back south of Highway 8 again! The family fit in well and eventually became the worship team there. They were licensed as Pastors but weren’t installed. When the two Pastors they were hoping would buy the camp didn’t. The camp was sold to a real estate developer and after a neighborhood fight about loosing the beautiful Methodist camp to a developer, it was developed into high end lake homes (½ mile of lake shore went with the camp) It was time to find a church closer to home and after dreaming together about their next move, both Norm and Julie got the same named local pastor. The church seemed appropriate and it is only a few miles away. You may have noticed that a lot of what is called ‘Church Hopping’ occurred for them. It wasn’t that at all. It was Church Hoping and being led by the Lord. About five years at each house of worship was average.

It’s a hard life at times and the whole family had many challenges from both Norm and Julies pasts. They are still together and praising the Lord and his way of loving them. Our Lord does not have a plan. He is plan. Now they listen to Him and they follow His Words. The Lord speaks quietly and they are getting better at listening.

They sang and played songs to Him and about Him, writing a few of those songs as well. It’s better than the bar band, and Norm is not even required to wear a cowboy hat. They did move church again to a refurbished bar that Norm played with the country western band. It is now a new life about 30 miles away. Norm occasionally plays Viola and the Mandolin there. He does wear his faith on his sleeve however. This story catches a bit of attention to unbelievers. It still catches Norm and Julies attention around May 23rd as well. Their anniversary day.

Lately they have become associated with a mega church about 50 miles away BUT have a viewing satellite church in Grantsburg that streams in the services. There is a call from their leadership to be on a prayer team at the main church campus for Norm right now. Who can tell the leading of the Lord? Jesus guides as he provides and that is challenging and exciting too.

It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

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