–and wish her a happy birthday.
My cell phone rang a few weeks ago during this pandemic, and I was surprised to hear my friend Ann Loken’s voice. It was so bright and lively. “Hello, Becky, this is Ann Loken. I’m just calling to check on you and your family.”
What a gift—and yet not a surprise. You see, Ann and I have been friends since she joined Gloria Dei as a charter member with her husband, Palmer, back in 1984. He was a retired Lutheran pastor, and she was a nurse at Sioux Valley Hospital. As we chatted, she was clearly interested in our health, our family, and coming plans. In response, I asked her about all those things as well, but in true Ann fashion, she had a way of steering the conversation back to me. That is Ann—ever shining a light on those around her—it’s been her style for 95 years.
One word to describe Ann is “teacher.” Her words are rich and often woven with scripture. She is a woman of faith who spent much of her life studying God’s word. Active in Bible Study Fellowship and other groups, she told me she recently completed going through the Bible for the ninth time.
Ann will turn 95 on April 28th, 2020. She is the proud mother of five children and many grands and greats. Sadly, she lost her oldest son, John, in September to Parkinson’s disease. You may know her family, who are also a part of Gloria Dei—her daughter and son-in-law—Joan and Al Berdahl, and her grandson John, his wife, Tamme, and children Tommy and Anabel. Ann has lived at Sunnycrest Village for several years, and I know many of us miss seeing her at church. In fact, back in January her family and friends were discussing birthday celebration plans for something at Gloria Dei in April. It would have included all of you, a favorite choir anthem, and of course, cake. Sadly, one more event that didn’t get to happen.
In lieu of a piece of birthday cake after Sunday worship, let me offer up words from Ann that she has shared with me this past year through her writing and a pre-pandemic visit to her home. This is a cake with eight pieces—in her favorite flavor, simple white cake. Eat every piece and let it feed your soul. There will even be enough leftovers to share—Ann would want you to do that.
- “I’ve never really preached to my children, I’ve shared with them.”
- “God speaks to us in the daytime and at night He sings to us.” based on Psalm 42:8.
- With her brown eyes sparkling, she quotes 1 John 3: “See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!”
- Words that she and Palmer lived by from Joshua: “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15
- She finds God’s promise in the sparrows described in the gospel of Matthew: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.” Matthew 10:29
- She delights in the promises of the Old Testament prophets. “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.” Isaiah 65:24
- One of her favorite hymns is “Be Thou My Vision.” She shared this pearl: “If we use the word ‘I” too much, we lose the vision.”
- And finally, Ann’s simple message to all of us: “Be the beloved person that God has made you to be.”
There, eight pieces of “cake” shared by Ann, blessed and baked into her and those around her for the past 95 years by a gracious and loving God.
We all say a grateful, “Happy Birthday, Ann!”