You Never Know Who You’ll Meet in Washington, So Let’s Go: Together 2016

President Obama in Washington D.C.If you could meet anybody you wanted to in Washington D.C., who would it be? Out for lunchGuess who came in to the restaurant while my “little sister” Lizzie was out with some girl friends a few weeks ago? Uh huh! The Pres just happened to walk in!

Washington D.C. Naitonal Cherry Blossom Festival 3 That might be even more unique and exciting than seeing the cherry blossom festival, but actually, I believe there’s something even better than either that’s coming up this summer: “Together 2016.” Hillsong Outcry 4.19.2016While Alan and I were at Outcry a couple of weeks ago, there was a young man who came out on the stage to invite everyone to meet him at the National Mall this summer on July 16. 12375044_10153334041351247_6018210484951187046_oThat young man is staying with Lizzie and Chuck this year in D.C. while working with a huge network of people who are praying for a million people to meet together at the mall.  “Together 2016 is the day our generation will meet on the National Mall to come together around Jesus in unified prayer, worship, and a call for catalytic change. We’re coming together with as many people as possible who believe Jesus changes everything.” Wouldn’t you love to be there? I would! Flowering TreeAll sorts of people will be there: Hillsong United, Ravi Zacharias, Francis Chan, and on and on. But, best of all, I believe we’ll all meet God there, and that will be even more glorious than meeting the President of the United States! Are you in?

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

(The first three pictures are used by permission of Elizabeth, who just happened to be in the right place at the right time to see President Obama. The picture of Mike is used by his permission, and the “Together 2016” video is from Facebook. If you’re interested, please check out their Face Book page for more details and helpful contact information.)

Washington D.C.’s Cherry Blossom Festival 2017…I Wanna Go!

Kathi and Liz in ChicagoI was the baby in my family, but for the past nearly 50 years, Lizzie has been like the little sister I always begged my mom for. She’s somewhere between flesh and blood and a BBF buddy, and over the years, we’ve spent countless hours sharing happy times and propping each other during hard times. I’m a fan! Liz and Chuck with Washington Monument in BackgroundRecently, Lizzie and her husband moved to Washington D. C., so when Alan had to attend a conference there, you can bet I was overjoyed  to keep him company and hang out with Lizzie for a few days.

Mt. Vernon, VAAlthough I was there before the cherry blossom festival, we had a great time
and saw some wonderful museums (which I hope to share in the next few days),Lady and cherry blossoms Washington D.C. but the pictures Lizzie posted from the National Cherry Blossom Festival
just a few weeks later made me drool! Cherry Blossoms in Washington D.C.Next year, the festival is March 20-April 16, 2017,
and I’m already dreaming about going! Washington Monument. Cherry Blossom FestivalI’ve read that there are three National Park Service locations:
on the Washington Monument grounds,Monticello VA seen through cherry blossoms around the tidal basin in West Potomac Park, Washington D.C. Naitonal Cherry Blossom Festivaland in East Potomac Park, which is also known as Hains Point. Cherry Blossom Festival with Family 1988It occurs to me that it’s been nearly 30 years Capitol with Cherry Blossoms 1988since Alan and I took our family to the National Cherry Blossom Festival Washington D.C. Cherry Blossom Festival 1988…back in 1988 just a couple of months before Stephen was born. girls-with-cherry-blossoms Kyoto JapanThe last two years Alan and I were in Asia enjoying our grandchildrenTemple near Kiyomizu-dera Kyotojpg and taking in the cherry blossom festivals there, Washington D.C. Naitonal Cherry Blossom Festival 2and I somehow forgot about the fact
that we have gorgeous cherry blossom festivals right here in America. Cherry Blossoms. National Cherry Blossom Festival Washington D.C.I wonder, did any of you grow up with Christian roots and a blossoming faith…Kiyomizu Temple- Kiyomizu-dera buddhist-temple in Japan with Cherry Blossomsbut have now spent so many years searching for
wisdom, meaning, peace and beauty kyoto-city-scape-cherry-blossomsin the writings of other religions and cultural experiences that you’ve forgottenMourning Dove in our cherry tree April 2016 about the wisdom, meaning, peace, and beauty that can be found right at home? Mourning Doves in our cherry Tree 4.28.16“Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16)

(Thank you to Elizabeth for all the beautiful pictures of the cherry blossoms in Washington D.C. this spring! The rest are mine, and I took the photos of the mourning doves out my window.)

Rise Up, My Love (184): The Mouth of Our Beloved

Orange GladiolaSong of Solomon 5:16 “His mouth is most sweet.” Eskimos may rub noses, and in some cultures lovers may flutter their eyelashes together, but sooner or later all lovers kiss! There is just something irresistible about the mouth of the one you love. After the bride extols the beauty of her husband from head to toe, she returns to gaze—and praise—that which is the sweetest of all: his mouth. Pastries at Princess Tea Party 4.8.15It is as if she were savoring exquisite pastries, tasting here and there…the smoothness of the custard filling, the tang of fruit, the tenderness of the sponge cake…but saving the very best—the dark chocolatey frosting— for last! Have you ever watched two people who are in love…or perhaps you’re in love right now…or remember the longing you first felt for your mate before you married. You drink in his eyes, but after you’re satisfied that love is written there, your eyes begin to wander. You soak up his smile, his countenance, his hair and cheek lines. When you’re sitting across the table, you find yourself studying his hands and the shape of his finger nails, and when he’s standing you notice his build and the manly way he walks and carries himself. But, sooner or later, as you are more and more attracted to him, you find yourself drawn to his mouth. At first you’re just so intent on what he’s saying that you study his mouth to make sure you don’t miss the slightest word or intonation. But then, all of a sudden, you realize that you’re noticing the lip line…the color, the shape, the fullness and suppleness…pretty soon you can hardly keep your eyes off his lips. You just wish he’d stop talking…or maybe he already has. Your eyes meet, your heart stops, your cheeks turn to flame, you’re drawn irresistibly together… For almost every girl who ever lived it’s the moment she’s been waiting for—that wonderful kiss by Prince Charming that wakens her (who’s been a Sleeping Beauty) from her loveless sleep. White Pink OrchidAnd it’s no wonder, for in a very real sense, it is often the first kiss that awakens the dreamy-eyed daughter of Eve to passion. For centuries, the first kiss was to be reserved for the altar…or at least as part of accepting a marriage proposal. How kissing has become such a carelessly given and thoughtlessly abused part of society is beyond me, because it is like taking precious pearls and throwing them in the mud. Pearls set in SilverPearls were meant to be treasured and framed by silver clasps… enjoyed singly…or strung together by the golden chains of love. But, true pearls, like true love, are extremely costly. You might give a cheap string of imitation pearl beads to a casual friend, but you would give a string of shining, genuine pearls only to someone you felt you would love forever. Don’t give away—or accept—cheap imitations. What’s the difference between a plastic bead and a gleaming pearl? The plastic bead is made quickly and cheaply. The pearl develops over years of patient endurance…waiting, watching, exercising longsuffering love. The true pearl is mature, godly love. The next time you consider kissing someone, ask yourself, “Is this person offering me a pearl, or a bead? Am I offering this person a pearl, or a bead?” “But I’m so tired of waiting,” I hear people lament…faithful Christians whose hearts ache and long for someone with whom to share genuine love. Have you ever heard the story about the little girl who had a string of beads she loved? One day, after her father returned from a long business trip, he sat her on his lap by the fireplace and asked her if she would be willing to let him have her beads. Because she loved him so dearly, she nodded soberly and placed them in his hands. In a flash, he threw them into the fire. The little girl shrieked in agony, thinking he had destroyed her most prized possession, but then her father pulled a lovely little velvet box out of his pocket and gave it to her. Set of PearlsTo her utter amazement and joy, the box contained a string of glowing pearls. Are we willing to give our beads to the Lord? Are we willing to wait for him to give us genuine pearls? Truly, he himself is the Pearl of greatest price. Are we willing to gaze into his eyes of love and study his mouth until we discover that “his mouth is most sweet”? There is none sweeter!

Springtime Blossoms at Meijer Gardens

Flowering Almond in Japanese Garden at Meijer GardenSpringtime is in full bloom at Meijer Gardens, Magnolia Blossom at Meijer Gardenand it’s all I can do to keep from running over there every sunny afternoonBlue Hydrengea Meijer Garden 4.23.16 to see what’s new.Japanese Garden Early Spring at Meijer GardenThis is the first year for spring blossoms in the new Japanese Garden,Water and azaleas at Meijer Gardenand they are a delight, Cherry Blossoms Meijer Garden 4.23.16although the trees are young, Cherry Blossoms in Japanese Garden at Meijer Gardenso they’re like frilly little girls Prayers on Trees during Seoul's Cherry Blossom Festivalcompared to the glory of cherry blossom festivals in Asia. Meijer Garden 4.23.16Still, I think the 158-acre Meijer GardensMejier Garden Foyer Flowers is by far the most colorful and artistic botanical park available in Michigan,Azalea. Purple at Meijer Gardenand I never tire of breathing in all the beauty. Spring Flower Arrangement Meijer Garden 4.23.16We’ve been members since the park opened in 1995, Daffodils and children at Meijer Gardenand by 2005, Wiki rumor has it that The Wall Street Journal wrote, Yellow fringed orchid Meijer Garden 4.23.16“There’s nothing quite like Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park Long Island Buddha Sculpture in Japanese Garden at Meijer Gardenthis side of the Kroller-Muller Museum and Sculpture Park in The Netherlands.”DaVinci's Horse Meijer Garden 4.23.16 That seems a bit grandiose, although it may be true. Orange Tulips Meijer Garden 4.23.16Also, since I haven’t been everywhere in the world, Orchids. Purple and white at Meijer GardenI can neither verify nor discredit the claim Bridge in Japanese Garden at Meijer Gardenthat in 2009 it was listed as one of the top “30 must-see museums in the world.” Spring Flower arrangements at Mejier GardenOn the other hand, Muted Spangle Butterfly Meijer GardenI don’t doubt that it’s one of Michigan’s top tourist attractions, Magnolias blooming in Japanese Garden at Meijer Gardenor that it hosts more than 650,000 visitors every year. Tulips in the Children's Garden Meijer Garden 4.23.16And, every time I visit Woodland Path decked with spring flowers at Meijer Gardenmy mind is always filled up with new visions of beauty to treasure. Golden Daffodils Meijer Garden 4.23.16The pleasure I find in Meijer GardensHyacinths Pink and Bluereminds me the joy I experience in meditating on the Bible,Tulipa dasystemon Meijer Garden 4.23.16and I just keep running back to see what’s new
(or, at least how the Bible speaks to me in a new way).Orchids dangling at Meijer GardenHowever, I also know that the grandiose claims I make Haiku in Japanese Garden at Meijer Garden 4.23.16about the Bible being God’s Word and 100% true may seem suspect. Yellow Orchid Meijer Garden 4.23.16If you doubt that the Bible contains the words of life,Grecian Windflower at Meijer Garden I encourage you to delve into it for yourself. Swan nesting at Mejier GardenMay you experience the rebirth of your spirit Pink Hydrengea Meijer Garden 4.23.16and find springtime blossoming in your soul.Magnolia Meijer Garden 4.23.16Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:67-68).

Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital 2016 Gala: Two Kinds of Suffering

With friends at DeVos Children's Hospital 2016 GalaReducing pain and suffering in our children is such a worthy goal
that I felt honored to be among those who gathered to support
the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Foundation’s annual fundraiser. 2016 DeVos Children's Hospital GalaIn fact, a record-breaking 1,720 people attended and raised 1.2 million
for this year’s special project,2016 DeVos Children's Hospital President Bob Connorswhich is focusing on pain relief and palliative care for children. Filet Mignon with Maitake Mushrooms at DeVos Children's Hospital 2016 GalaThe food was gourmet, Table Centerpiece at DeVos Children's Hospital 2016 Galaand the ambience classic, Poster at DeVos Children's Hospital 2016 Galabut the testimonies of those who had been helped brought tears to my eyes.Micropreemie on thanksgiving-day-2014 I couldn’t help but think back to our own dear grandson, Samuel,
who was in this hospital’s NICU just last year. Father and Son doing spring yardworkHis has been a wonderful story of survival and thrival.Look Mom no hands! (In fact, he’s just become a true walker this week!) Posters from 2016 DeVos Children's HospitalHowever, the pain and suffering he endured now seems as nothing compared to what terminally ill children and their families face for the rest of their lives. Baby in the garden standing by himselfWhat Samuel endured was but for a little while:
“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). 2016 DeVos Children's Hospital 3The families of terminally ill children face the grim reality of a life
that often has nothing to look forward to but increasing pain and eventual death.Mike and Sue Jandernoa at DeVos Hospital's 2016 GalaCould there be a verdict any harder to bear? 2016 DeVos Children's Hospital Gala 3I guess only one, and that would be facing death
with no prospects for resurrection life. Richard Breon CEO of Spectrum Hospital in GRI am thankful for every compassionate person
who helps relieve pain and suffering in children, Enjoying dinner at DeVos Children's Hospital 2016 Galabut I hope the caregivers are also able to offer hope for the life that is to come.Dan Gaydou at DeVos Children's Hospital 2016 Gala “Suffering” has two meanings: “to experience pain” and “to allow.”
Jesus taught us, “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me:
for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14).DeVos Children's Hospital 2016 Gala 7 I hope we are never guilty of being like the disciples of Christ,
who actually hindered the little children who were trying to come to Jesus.2016 DeVos Children's Hospital Gala 2 As we care for the little ones in our lives, may we be among those who joyfully bring them to Jesus, so that whether healthy or ill,
they will know the blessing of a future bright with the hope of eternal life.

 Children helped throughout world by DeVos Children's HospitalAnd I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.” (Revelation 21:3-5)

(All of these photos were taken at the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital 2016 Gala last weekend, except for the photos of my grandson, which were all taken by my sweet daughter-in-law. Thanks, Brianna!)

Two Dozen Reasons for Believing that Spring’s Coming

Sun reflecting off lakeWhen Alan and I woke up this morning, it was 37° out, Spring Failing to Installand I remembered seeing  this clever Facebook sign a few days ago. Fox SquirrelSo, is spring going to load or not?? Quiet Reflections in a spring swampThankfully, it’s a gorgeous, sunshiny morning, and when I went outside Deer at edge of our woods I found ever so many reasons for believing that spring is on its way. Flowering QuinceFor our mutual encouragement,
I’ve paired some bright thoughts about spring with the photographs:
Mink by our dock“Despite the forecast, live like it’s spring.”
—Lilly PulitzerGold Finch“Spring won’t let me stay in this house any longer!
I must get out and breathe the air deeply again.”—Gustav MahlerTiny Buds opening in rain“Is the spring coming?” he said. “What is it like?”…
“It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine…”
—Rances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden  Great Blue Heron on our dock“In the Spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours.” —Mark Twain  Racoon on the waterfront“When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest. The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits. People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.”
—Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast   Wild Rose Budding“An optimist is the human personification of spring.”—Susan J. Bissonette  PrimrosesNo winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.”—Hal Borland Wisteria Budding“You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming.”
—Vladimir Nobokov, MaryLily of the Valley“The sun just touched the morning;
The morning, happy thing,
Supposed that he had come to dwell,
And life would be all spring.”
—Emily DickinsonForsythia“She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbor:
‘Winter is dead’.”
—A.A. Milne, When We Were Very Young  Nectarine Blossoms“The beautiful spring came; and when Nature resumes her loveliness,
the human soul is apt to revive also.” —Harriet Ann Jacobs  Canada Goose and Great Blue Heron on lake“It was such a spring day as breathes into a man an ineffable yearning, a painful sweetness, a longing that makes him stand motionless, looking at the leaves or grass, and fling out his arms to embrace he knows not what.”
—John Galsworthy, The Forsyte Saga
Cherry Tree in Bloom“What a strange thing!
to be alive
beneath cherry blossoms.”
—Kobayashi Issa, Poems  Trillium“Every spring is the only spring, a perpetual astonishment.”—Ellis Peters  Great Blue Heron“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.”
—Ann Breadstreet, The Works of Anne Bradstreet  Kayak beside lake“I suppose the best kind of spring morning is the best weather God has to offer.” —Dodie Smith, I Capture the CastleRed-winged Blackbird singing in Cherry Tree“Because the birdsong might be pretty,
But it’s not for you they sing,
And if you think my winter is too cold,
You don’t deserve my spring.”
—Erin Hanson   Tom Turkey showing for for the girls“If people did not love one another, I really don’t see what use there would be in having any spring.” —Victor Hugo, Les Miserables
(This is Tom Turkey showing off for the girls.)
Red-winged Blackbird“It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want—oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!” —Mark Twain  Daffodil“Always it’s Spring and everyone’s in love and flowers pick themselves.”
—E.E. Cummings, 100 Selected Poems  Canada Geese with Goslings“Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love!”
—Sitting Bull  Wood ducks by dock“Nostalgia in reverse, the longing for yet another strange land, grew especially strong in spring.” —Pablo Neruda  Cherry Blossoms“For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.” —Isaiah 61:11  Wild Blackberries Budding“While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” —Genesis 8:22Nuthatch on railing




Applying for ArtPrize (AGAIN!) and the Venues of Life

MuralIt’s time to apply for an ArtPrize 2016 venue. Unfortunately (for me, fortunate for most), Grand Rapid’s international ArtPrize competition has zoomed to popularity and in just 8 years has become “the most attended public art event on the planet” (according to The Art Newspaper). It’s also featured by the New York Times in their article on “52 Places to Go in 2016,” where Grand Rapids is listed as #20. Why so popular? For one thing, ArtPrize offers the planet’s largest cash prizes: $500,000, and that in itself attracts about as many attendees along with thousands of applicants. For another thing (and I quote the ArtPrize homepage), “It’s unorthodox, highly disruptive, and undeniably intriguing to the art world and the public alike.” Sigh. Given its popularity and the competition, will I find any venue that will be willing to host my collage, unknown and unproven as I am? Last year, in my naivety, I thought all you had to do was apply and you’d get in. Since I knew exactly where I wanted to be, I only applied there and then promptly left for a “Grand Southeastern Asia” cruise. Big mistake! The unwatched pot did not boil. 😦   I am really hoping this second time will be the charm, but I’m also more humble and a lot less picky now and have applied to half a dozen venues…actually, almost every venue I think might have a space large enough to handle a mural thirty-three feet long and almost seven feet high.Quirky People. EpcotThe struggle to find a venue at ArtPrize for my oversized mural gives me empathy for all the valiant young men out there who are trying to woo and win a bride…or don’t people even do that anymore? It’s hard to be vulnerable, isn’t it? And, if we’re honest, most of us are very unique and quirky, so it’s hard to find a good fit…not only for artwork, but for marriage work, for work work, and for home work. It’s so hard to give it everything we’ve got and fail, isn’t it? And yet, if I’m honest, I pretty much do that everyday. How many days do I fulfill even the small, simple goals that I set for myself, like eating and exercising properly? It reminds me of the scripture from Matthew 25:21, “His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” Perhaps I should work harder at the little things in my life, which I can and should control, and prayerfully leave the big circumstances—which are beyond my control—to the loving discretion of God.

Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass” (Psalm 37:4-5).