Tulip Time Festival: It’s All in the Timing…or Is It?

One of the many joys of living in this area is our almost annual trek to Holland’s Tulip Time Festival, which is usually the week before Mother’s Day.  This year it’s May 6-14, 2017.During the festival, Holland, Michigan, which is 30 miles south of Grand Rapids, is glowing with 6 million tulips, as well as a potpourri of other beautiful spring flowers. However, this year the weather has been unusually warm, and the tulips are almost all blooming right now, so we decided to visit last Sunday afternoon (which was April 23—two weeks before the festivities are to begin). The weather was perfect, and so were the gardens. The only down side is that there are vast fences around the flower beds at Windmill Island Gardens  to keep out the deer, who consider tasty tulips fine dining. It will be sad enough that the flowers will be past their prime for the festival, but if the caretakers were to take down the fences now (which they won’t), there would be nothing but leaves for the masters!  😦(Oh, but there would still be daffodils, because they’re poisonous.)Of course, there are all sorts of fun things to do at the festival!There’s a wonderful parade, a marathon, Dutch dancing, a carnival,
an arts and crafts fair, music and great food… So, the festival will still be worth visiting. However, if your first love (among such earthly loves) is spring flowers, I’d recommend going ASAP! The weather forecast is pretty bad, so you might have to consult your favorite weather station for some prognostication, but sooner will be better than later!

Festivals are fun, but they’re pretty insignificant compared to some of the weightier matters of life, like school and career choices, whom you’ll marry
(if you marry) and where to live. Are you facing a challenging decision? Timing is critical! However, it’s not always easy to figure out the correct timing. When it comes to festivals, you can consult the weather man and your friends, but when it comes to the big decisions of life, may I encourage you to consult the only One who knows you perfectly and who knows the future as well as He knows the past and present? God knows “all about it.” He knows all about everything, in fact, and He can give you the wisdom you need to make the right decision, if you’ll only ask.  Thus saith the Lord the maker thereof, the Lord that formed it, to establish it; the Lord is his name; Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” (Jeremiah 33:2-3).

Not Shock, but Cultural Surprises in Asia via Haiku

Alan and I had a lot of wonderful experiences in Asia, many of which were surprisingly pleasant (such as green tea ice cream),a few that we pretty much all disliked (such as silkworms), and many that were very different but turned out well even though they weren’t at all what we were expecting!I was constantly struck by the beauty of South Korea and the immaculately manicured cities in Japan. Just for fun, I wrote a few haikus commemorating some of the cultural surprises.

On Asian Restrooms   (Yes, this is a bathroom…in the Seoul Tower) Such fancy bathrooms!  Soap on bars and heated seats, But—don’t stand on them!
(In some rural areas, you squat over a hole in the floor. Twenty-two years ago,
I rode a train where the toilet was a hole in the floor emptying onto the track! Times have really changed since then! Now some restrooms are ultra modern, with music, heated seats, and several types of special wash and dry options!!)

On Asian Cuisine  The food looked so strange  I was afraid I would not  Like it, but I did!

On Asia’s Beautiful Flowers  Flowers overhead,  Underfoot and all around.  Asian majesty.

On Pets  Everywhere you go There are pampered pets in tow Like happy children.

But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:34; may we embrace each other all over the world, even in areas where others seem strange!).

Beauty in our Backyard: Amen to Aman Park!

We moved from Michigan’s northern peninsula about 24 years ago, and one of the lingering memories I’ve cherished
is that of northern spring woods carpeted with trillium and wildflowers. Actually, we have a sprinkling of trillium in my backyard, but nothing like the gauze of white that drapes the hillsides near Fayette in the Upper Peninsula, so I’ve harbored a pensive ambition to return some spring just to feast my eyes on the wildflowers that bloom there. Therefore, I could hardly believe my eyes after church last Sunday when some friends showed me photos of the woods filled with trillium at Aman Park, which is just off Lake Michigan Dr. only about 10 miles east of downtown GR.In all the years we’ve lived here, I’d never stopped by to check out this park!  Talk about a deplorable lack of curiosity! (Well, I’d been curious a few times, but never enough to do anything about it!) Susan and I decided to go hiking there.It was S.O. beautiful! The little ridges of the woods seemed sprinkled with frost. Not only are the trillium in bloom, there are wonderful patches of Virginia bluebells and delicate hepatica, wild phlox, vinca minor, and violets. If you live in the area, love wildflowers, and have a couple of hours free in the next few days, consider visiting. It’s free. 🙂But, take a photo of the map on your cell phone for reference, because the trails are very poorly marked. The red (“Interpretative Trail” aka “B”) is only 1.5 miles long but gives you a wonderful experience  of peaceful trails through mazes of flowers.  I laughed with joy, but I also laughed at myself. In 24 years, I’d longed to drive hundreds of miles north (which I never did) rather than figuring out if there were any woods filled with trillium right here! I wonder, is there anything you’re missing and wishing for from days gone by? You might not be able to find exactly the same thing where you are,
but how about doing a little research? Perhaps like me, you’ll find some unexpected and wonderful opportunities
very close to home. In fact, it may be that heaven is closer than you think.Whom have I in heaven but thee?
and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee
” (Psalm 73:25).

(All these photos were taken on April 24, 2017 at Aman Park. If you miss it this year but want to try next year, they seem to bloom about the time the daffodils have peaked and the tulips are starting to bloom, which I’m guessing would be true anywhere trillium grows. Look online…you might have woodlands filled with wildflowers wherever you are!)

If I’m Absent in Body for Awhile…

Well, joy of joys, another baby has been born into this world, and happily this one is mine…or at least the daughter of my son and his wife!       Elanor has come to stay with Dan, Brianna, and Sameul. She looks a lot like Daniel did when he was a newborn; dark hair and C.U.T.E.! She’s our sixteenth grandbaby! If I don’t post as regularly for the next few weeks, know that even though I may be absent in body, I will continue to pray for you, as I hope you do for me.

Also, I’ve not really gone to heaven (may feel a little like it…), but I’m probably smiling broadly, rocking a baby or humming in the kitchen whilst preparing a meal (or snack). It’s a great joy to be a grandma…and so much easier than being the mama!  Now that Brianna’s back home, if Sammy needs a little firm love, I’ll have a backup! (Takes all the pain out of parenting. 🙂  )A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world” (John 16:21).

 

Rise Up, My Love (231): Beautiful Mt. Carmel—Yesterday and Today جبل مار إلياس הַר הַכַּרְמֶל

Song of Solomon 7:5 “Thine head upon thee is like Carmel, and the hair of thine head like purple; the king is held in the galleries.” At last Solomon completes his song of delight. He has praised each aspect of his wife’s precious body from toe to tip, and as his eyes feast on the sight of her blessed head crowned by billows of flowing black hair, he stands transfixed.   His heart has found its resting place in the regal beauty of her face! “Thine head upon thee is like Carmel.” Carmel, from the Hebrew karmel meaning “God’s vineyard,” is an area of lush vegetation “always considered to be one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in Palestine, rich with verdant growth and beautiful from every direction. As Solomon viewed the head of his beloved, he saw the beauty and uniqueness of Carmel.”* Carmel is not only impressive because of its lush vegetation, it is important because of its location. Carmel is a limestone mountain range that extends like a spine from the Mediterranean Sea to the southeast for about thirteen miles, dividing the Palestinian coastal plain into the plains of Accho, Sharon, and Philistia. At their peak, the mountains attain a height of 1,791 feet, but according to Merrill Tenny, the most spectacular area is the northwest promontory, which stands 470’ above the Mediterranean Sea.**            Today, the modern city of Haifa has grown up the slopes of Carmel.   But three thousand years ago, when the Song of Solomon was written, it was on the slopes of these lush mountains that Nabal grazed his immense herds of three thousand sheep and one thousand goats (I Samuel 25:2). Nabal’s widow Abigail married David, who was (of course) Solomon’s father, so David would have become the owner of these vast possessions, and Solomon would have developed a special appreciation for the grandeur of this fertile area. (In fact, they may have become his personal possession at some point, because in I Chronicles 26:10 it mentions that King Uzziah had husbandmen and vine dressers in Carmel.)   The top of Carmel’s magnificent promontory jutted out over the Mediterranean Sea, and it was from this vantage point that the prophet Elijah sent his servant to “Go up now, look toward the sea” (I Kings 18:43) while he was waiting for the Lord to send rain to the famished land of Israel. It was on the top of this mountain that Elijah held his contest with Ahab and the four hundred prophets of Baal (I Kings 18:19). Carmel was famous throughout Palestine for its lush fertility and beauty, and it was used repeatedly by the prophets as a symbol of Israel’s best, which would wither in judgment (Isaiah 33:9, Amos 1:2; 9:3) but would blossom again during the millennial reign of Christ (Isaiah 35:2; Jeremiah 50:19).   Twice Carmel is touchingly referred to as the Lord’s personal possession—“his Carmel”— which the Lord would defend from enemy attacks (2 Kings 19:23; Isaiah 37:24). In Jeremiah 46:18, it was foretold that Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest over Egypt would be as glorious and prominent as Carmel’s impressive promontory over the Mediterranean Sea. With these rich threads of historical background in mind, it is easy to understand what an expansive compliment Solomon wove into his tapestry of praise.   “Thine head upon thee is like Carmel, and the hair of thine head like purple,” is a simile that said to the ancient world, “Your head crowns your body like the glorious cliffs of Carmel which stand with regal splendor even above the grandeur of the sea. Your hair—so full and free— cascades down from your head like the verdant lushness that flows from the most fertile mountainsides in our country. Your head stands like Carmel—dwelling place of prophets…showcase for God’s victory over false idols…symbol of all that is fertile and pure and lovely. Your head is like Carmel—(spiritually: fertile with his Word!)… a showcase for his victories…regal with his grace.  Oh precious Savior, we pray that you would make these visions of your Bride a reality in our individual hearts and lives. How wonderful it is to know that someday we will be presented to you, without spot or wrinkle, as your glorious Bride!

* Paige Patterson, Song of Solomon ( Chicago:  Moody, 1986), 106.
** Merrill C. Tenny, ed. The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Corp., 1977), Vol.1, 755.

(I took all these photos on a birthday trip to Israel several years ago, except the one of me, of course! My husband took the last one.  🙂  )

Gourmet Dressing and Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

There are lots of awesome-sounding recipes for stuffed mushrooms out there, but I was looking for a vegetarian recipe that might cater to my son’s Lenten fast of “no meat,” and I didn’t see anything that looked completely veggie and still really awesome. That’s when it occurred to me to look in my fridge. What was there? I still had the remains of some gourmet dressing and gravy, although the turkey and mashed potatoes from our dinner party the other day had already disappeared. Shall I? I wondered. In truth, I’m forever experimenting with recipes, but not all of my experiments are successes. Did I tell you about the time I pureed some leftover fajitas to make chicken fajita soup after my son’s oral surgery? It turned out like baby food, and my husband couldn’t get past the look to even figure out that the flavor was still just fine! He stuck out his tongue and turned the bowl over on the table. (Well, he pretended to, although he didn’t really). He ate chips and cheese that night… At any rate, I thought I’d try using the leftover stuffing, and if it failed, I’d just not mention it. However, it passed inspection by both my culinary connoisseur husband (for whom a major priority in travel is experiencing great, new food), and my twenty-something son, whose appetite is still  hale and hearty. Of course, it starts with really great stuffing:

Really Great Stuffing 
(
serves 6-12)

Sauté the following (one at a time) until tender with 1/4 c. butter:
1 smallish onion3-4 stalks chopped celery (about 1.5 cups)  (Don’t add the leaves until you add the final seasonings, so they stay green)1/2 yellow (or red) pepper
2 tablespoons fresh garlic4 oz. sliced mushrooms
1 small can sliced water chestnuts  (Of course, you can leave out any of the above ingredients that you don’t like; it’s all about flavor and personal taste.)

Once all the veggies are tender, add:
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon sage
1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt (I use Lawry’s, but whatever you like works)
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon basil
1/4 teaspoon oregano
The celery leaves. (You can also add 1/2 teaspoon of celery seeds if you like.)

Stir thoroughly, and then add:
1/4 c. (1/2 stick) butter (I didn’t say this was going to be fat-free 🙂  )
1/2 cup rolled oats (secret ingredient I learned from my brother-in-law; holds everything together nicely)
12 oz. stuffing mix (Or, you can make your own by cubing dried bread…if it’s not moldy.  🙂  If you make your own, you might need more seasoning. Test it.)
2-3 cups turkey broth (or broth from whatever meat you’re roasting; enough to make everything damp).

Heat and stir lightly until everything is moist, then scoop into a covered baking dish and pop in the oven at about 350° (or whatever temperature you’re using for your roast) for an hour (or less if the temp. is higher. A half an hour could work; check it to make sure it’s browning but not burning. The dressing is in the center of this picture.)

From there, it’s not hard to make first-rate stuffed mushrooms!

First-Rate Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
(Serves 4)

1. Wash 4 Portobello mushroom caps and place them in a large frying pan.
2. Sauté with 1/4 cup butter on both sides until starting to brown. Turn off heat.
3. Mix 2-3 cups of leftover stuffing (or whatever you have left) with
1 cup gravy (or howmuchever you have left) and
4 ounces grated pepper jack cheese (or whatever you have on hand). (Also, if you have leftover turkey and are not intentionally trying to avoid meat, a little chopped turkey would definitely add to the flavor and protein content.)
4. Heat the dressing, gravy, and cheese in a separate pan until they’re starting to mix well. (Gravy runny and being absorbed, but the cheese doesn’t have to be completely melted.)
5. Ladle the stuffing into (and on top of) the caps (gill side up).
6.  Add 1/4 cup water (or just enough water to keep the mushrooms from burning; they should be producing their own juice at this point, but you can add a little more water if needed).
7. Top liberally with grated cheese (I used cheddar, because that’s what I had)
8. Cook with the skillet lid on, at very low heat, for about 10 minutes, or until everything is well steamed and the cheese is melted.
9.  Serve immediately with a few of your favorite sides. (You could also serve it in a bun like a hamburger, but it would probably take both hands to handle it.)

I will praise the name of God with a song,
and will magnify him with thanksgiving
” (Psalm 69:30).

 

 

 

Hope for All Seasons; Friends for All Time

Is it fair to have a three-point “message” this morning? I probably shouldn’t,
but there are three ideas burning a hole in my brain: 1. Please extend yourself in love to widows and widowers
(who are often more lonely than widows, since men sometimes aren’t quite as connected to their kids and grandchildren). 2. There’s a new book that just came out, Hope for All Seasons,
and I’d like to recommend it. 3. I never cease to marvel at how connected we all really are,
although most of the time we probably have no clue!

              Okay, for any of you who have time to hear the longer version… #1. Since coming to our new church, we’ve made a lot of new friends. One teaches our Sunday school class sometimes, and not only do we appreciate his excellent teaching, he lost his wife to breast cancer a couple of years ago (just after we started going to our Sunday school class), so we’ve had a special heart to pray for him and invite him over a bit. (We have several close friends who live far away and have lost their mate, and we know how deeply lonely they are!) #2. At any rate, over the course of getting to know Jay, we realized that his wife was Julie Ackerman Link, who wrote for Our Daily Bread, a daily devotional ministry that has been a part of my life for 50 years (and where several of our kids worked during summers). Posthumously, Discovery House has just released a book of 150 of her devotionals called, Hope for All Seasons, which is now available online and through Christian bookstores. I’ve ordered a copy and am really looking forward to reading it, because I love her writing and heart. She was also the person who started the writers’ group I attend, although (sadly) I joined after she was gone. #3. Last time Jay was over for dinner, we realized we also had a college connection. Bob Jones University was our alma mater! Jay is enough younger than I am so that we weren’t students at the same time, but he mentioned having an older sister my age, and once he told me her name, I realized we’d actually been very good friends! In fact, we were “society sisters!” (At B.J.U. “societies” were comparable to sororities and fraternities.) Sadly, his sister recently passed away with cancer, so I won’t be able to renew that friendship here on earth, but she was a real “kindred spirit” 45 years ago, and it was such a revelation to realize our interconnectedness. I’m guessing that for all of us—if we only knew—we’d discover multiple connections with friends and family members within a 30-mile radius of our home. We probably pass people on the street or in stores who are actually friends with whom we’ve lost contact, or distant relatives, or related to people we know and love. I suppose in this life, we’ll never fully know “who’s who,”  but won’t it be a delight in heaven to explore all the relationships we have with one another? And, don’t forget: All believers are brothers and sisters in Christ and children of God. What fun…and what a family reunion there will be someday!

“Sing the Wondrous Love of Jesus”

“Sing the wondrous love of Jesus,
sing His mercy and His grace;
in the mansions bright and blessed,
He’ll prepare for us a place.

“When we all get to heaven,
what a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus,
we’ll sing and shout the victory.”  (—E.E. Hewitt, 1898, public domain)

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).

*If you’d like to learn more about Our Daily Bread, you can access it here:
http://bible-guide.org/free.php?seed=our%20daily%20bread