A Family with a mission: a book review by Katie Bumgardner on: First We Have Coffee
First We Have Coffee is written by Margaret Jensen, the oldest daughter in a Norwegian family living in America. Her father is a preacher devoted to his calling and her mother is the never-failing rock upon which her siblings and herself depend. If you like stories about making do and helping others; this book is for you. I think it is a great book and encourage you to read it. It has many amusing stories about Margaret’s childhood along with stories of God’s grace and love to her family. The Tweten children, Margaret, Grace, Gordon, Doris, Joyce, and Jeanelle, were blessed with loving parents. Margaret reminisces that to her and her siblings, “Mama never slept.” She says “what a comfort, waking in the night to the sound of the treadle sewing machine and Papa preaching sermons to the dark or practicing his English.” Throughout the week while Papa retreated to his study Mama and the children did their respective duties. Monday was washing day; Tuesday they ironed; Wednesday Mama mended; Thursday they visited, taking soup to those who needed it; Friday they baked; and Saturday the house was cleansed in preparation for Sunday. Though Papa may not have seemed very caring he loved his family in a quiet sacrificial way; once Margaret came home to find a piano in the living room, Papa wanted her to take lessons. So she took lessons. Later she found out he had sold some of his precious books to buy it. As a pastor’s family they were not rich – in fact, they always had to make do or do without. Mama was forever making over dresses and cutting out bruised spots in apples so they would still have pie. Once she had acquired some cherries and was rejoicing at the thought of her first cherry pie ever baked in the house when she came into the kitchen and found Margaret and her friends standing around the empty bowl in which the cherries had been. Her oldest daughter had let all her friends sample the delicacy she found on the counter until they were gone! But though they did not often have extra the Tweten family trusted in the Lord and relied on His grace to tide them through until Papa’s next paycheck came. When Christmas came around for this Norwegian family they did not look forward to having family or friends over, they prepared for time with the lonely single men who had left their homes and came to earn money like many men at the time. Papa would go down to the railroad and invite them in; Mama made sure they were warm, well fed, and had at least one Christmas gift. The children looked forward ot having the men over and enjoyed the time they spent singing and making music with all the instruments they brought. How different this is from our Christmases today! Would you welcome strangers in to share Christmas with you? Would you unknowingly sacrifice your gifts so these poor lonely men would receive something? This was normal for the Tweten family though, and many sick or needy people were welcomed in; Margaret once imagined that “heaven was a place with your own bed.” She and her siblings gave up their beds and slept on the many quilts their mother had made from scraps. Papa never refused someone a lodging place and Mama baked pies in the afternoon; in case anyone should drop by for tea! When Margaret went off to college to train to be a nurse she saw much less of her parents but her esteem for them grew. As the children got married and had grandchildren, and family members died, Margaret continues her story of Mama’s household and her children’s devotedness to their parents- and then just Mama, when Papa went to meet his Lord. The book ends at Mama’s funeral, but her legacy is carried on. This book is full of mirth and yet it teaches valuable lessons. I hope that this review has made you decide to discover more about this family and read First We Have Coffee, a book in which the Lord and His calling comes first, then the Twetens love for each other, and finally their Norwegian traditions, including coffee and sugar cubes!