Is it True that “Everything is Possible”?

everything-is-possible“A life without fear is a life without limits” (Jen Bricker). Have you ever heard of Nick Vujicic or Jen Bricker? I’d never heard of Jen Bricker before I read her book, Everything is Possible, which was just released last week, but she really does give me the feeling that with God, everything is possible…at least everything that God calls us to!  jen-bricker-with-her-adopted-brothersBorn without legs, Jen was abandoned by her parents at birth. Thankfully, an incredibly nurturing family adopted her and brought her up to love God and embrace her life and her body, learning to overcome what most of us would consider impossible barriers to become what she is today: an aerialist, a motivational speaker, an author, and best of all, a joyful, healthy individual who has turned her liability into an asset and lives an incredibly rich, fascinating, and fruitful life! jen-bricker-performingEverything is Possible has made me re-evaluate the way I look at challenges. If Jen could overcome huge physical, emotional, and spiritual obstacles without legs, it makes me realize that I’m a wimp by comparison. If you’re down in the dumps about your life problems, take a break to be inspired by Jen’s life story, then get to work realizing your dreams. As Jesus taught us:  “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luke 18:27).   jen-brickerA few of my favorite quotes from Jen’s book:

“As we try new things, we discover how strong we are and realize the only limits are the ones we impose on ourselves.”

“Our physical presence is only part of who we are as human beings. What’s inside is just as important, and maybe more so.”

“You too have talents, gifts, and abilities (I like to think of them as your personal superpowers) you were born with that are unique to you…The beauty of how God made us it that we don’t have to be jealous of someone else’s superpowers, because they weren’t meant for us. This one thing I would tell you to keep in your back pocket at all times: know that you are significant, you do matter, and what you have to offer is powerful.”

“God shows us the opportunities and puts them in our path, but we have to be strong enough to grab them and then hold on for all our worth.”

“I’ve learned that the more I surrender and let God take care of things, the better off I am. I get out of my own way, I get out of His way, and then I let Him do His work….My dreams are laughable when compared with God’s plans for my life! His gifts, ideas, and blessings are so much bigger and better than anything I could possible imagine!”

“CAN’T is a 4-letter word.”

“I finally realized something: God didn’t owe me an explanation. Sometimes He’s simply protecting us, and we have to trust that there is a lesson to be learned.”

“Sometimes you have to be your own hero. What I mean by that is that you have to fight for what you believe in and for what you want to happen.”

Anyway, Everything is Possible has a treasury of inspirational ideas on how to overcome what appear to be tragic circumstances. It also gave me many insights into how to interact with those who have body shapes different from the norm.  Baker Book House has graciously given me an extra copy to give away, so if you’re interested in reading the book, I’ll give it to the first person to contact me via this blog, email, or Facebook. If you have a story to share about yourself or someone you know that might benefit us, please add it in the comment box. Thanks!!

Rise Up, My Love (205): Clear as the Sun

i-want-to-walk-in-the-light-as-he-is-in-the-light-please-pray-for-me-and-if-youll-tell-me-i-will-pray-for-you-tooSong of Solomon 6:10 “Clear as the sun.” What a challenge! As I study this magnificent book, I am acutely aware of two things: first, Solomon is writing about a real person; and second, in a deeper sense, the Lord is picturing his bride. For my part, I am striving to become like this treasure of a wife to my earthly husband and like the beloved bride to my heavenly Lord. When I come to a description like this one, I stand in awe. How could anyone truly have a countenance “clear as the sun?” …even granted that the sun isn’t perfectly pure in God’s sight? sun-behind-kids-at-ludington-state-park Think of the sun. To the naked eye, it looks like a perfectly round, perfectly pure, golden globe. The sun is the monarch of the sky; it has been commonly worshiped around the world by heathen as “queen of the heavens” because its energy is the source of heat and light for our whole earth, and without that amazing radiance, we are told that life could not exist. hot-sun-setting-on-mediterranean-seaThe sun shines with an intensity that will blind anyone who dares to meet her gaze or attempts to stare her down. The sun appears to be perfectly clear and perfectly constant. Since time began, the sun has been rising and setting with perfect regularity, marking the times and seasons. Let’s take all these characteristics of the sun and imagine what Solomon might have meant when he described his wife as “clear as the sun.”sunshine-in-alaska-fjord To have a countenance like the sun would be to have a countenance that is transparent, pure, constant, brilliant, and life giving. “Clear”…transparent—a woman who has nothing to hide…who is without guile, deceit, or hypocrisy…who has no hidden agenda and no secret plans to manipulate her husband or those around her. What a worthy goal for women (and all of us who are believers)! winter-sun-on-rose-hipsPure—no taint of sin…no tarnish of covetousness…of wishing for what is someone else’s…be it husband, personal qualities, or possessions. No heart of envy or propensity for idolatry, rebellion, or dishonesty. What wouldn’t a husband give to have such a virtuous, trustworthy wife? Constant—steady as the sun…always warm (hot!), always bright, always clear, always there. sun-burst-behind-cloudsThe sun doesn’t run away and hide; it never refuses to shine; it is not fickle….here today and gone tomorrow. No, it is the weather changing on the earth that makes us unable to receive the sunlight when clouds arise and the world turns; it is not the sun that changes her mood! chestnut-trees-in-bloom-at-kensington-park-londonOh, that as women we (and all of people) might be as constant as the sun, always there, always steady, always burning with incredible heat. Brilliant—not just existent…not just there…not only constant but brilliant…beautiful, full of wisdom, understanding, compassion, and the incredible heat of unfailing love—the reflection of the Lord’s glory. Does such a woman exist? But, wouldn’t you like to be such a woman? I would!

Asian Stir Fry (Stephen’s “Best Effort”)

asian-stir-fryMaking Asian cuisine is a true art form, and my son Stephen has mastered it way better than I have. In fact, his dishes rival any I’ve eaten at P.F. Chang’s or anywhere else. Much of the secret is in the sauce (which Stephen always makes from scratch), but if you don’t have several hours to prep, there are some excellent commercial sauces, and never underestimate the value of sesame oil and soy sauce in a pinch.

I’ve learned a lot from watching Stephen, and I notice that he: #1. Makes the sauce first (often marinating the meat in part of it for a few hours), #2 Chops all the veggies, #3. Starts the stir fry in a hot wok with sesame oil by cooking the meat until done. He totally removes the meat at that point and then #4. Begins stir-frying all the vegetables, starting with the most dense and gradually adding those that require less cooking to become tender, which is how his vegetables end up cooked to perfection and still colorful. Last of all, he #5. Adds the meat back in, just to reheat it, along with any seeds or nuts. This way everything is hot but has great texture.

You’ve probably been to Asian restaurants where you can pick your own meat, vegetables and nuts, and sauces. If you’ve not added any Asian dishes to your home cuisine yet, here are a few of the most commonly used options to get you started:

Meats: beef, chicken, pork, shrimp, tofu

Vegetables: pea pods, onions, garlic, carrots, green onions, mushrooms, peppers, bok choy, bean sprouts, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, string beans, asparagus,  miniature corn on the cobs, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts (last three found canned in Asian section of stores)

Nuts: cashews, almonds, peanuts, sesame seeds, poppy seeds

Spices: ginger root (peeled and sliced very thin), basil, lemongrass, garlic, cloves, tumeric, cinnamon, cilantro, hot chilies, cumin, coriander, curry 

Sauces: Hoisin, soy, plum, curry, peanut, brown, coconut, oyster, fish, etc.  (I buy prepared sauces from the store, although I sometimes add a can of coconut milk or a few tablespoons of peanut butter because I love the peanut and coconut taste points.)

The real joy in making stir-fries for yourself is that you can develop recipes from scratch that will often mimic your favorite restaurant meals for a fraction of the cost. Also, if you’re trying to lose (or maintain) weight, you can skip the rice or other starches without depriving yourself of fantastic flavor. And, once you’ve experimented for a while, you might get to the point where you actually prefer your own cooking! I’m not that good yet when it comes to Asian cuisine, but I’d take Stephen’s “best effort” (so named from an old family joke) over P.F. Chang’s any day!  (Ya, but what about the Great Wall of Chocolate???  Well…I’m on a diet!)

All the days of the afflicted are evil: but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast. Better is little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble therewith” Proverbs 15:15-16).

ArtPrize 8: Just Where is the Rising of the Sun?

the-more-you-sweat-in-practice-the-less-you-bleed-in-battle-artprize-8-kathryn-w-armstrongArtPrize 8 is off and running! I’ve had several friends wander into the Holiday Inn without realizing that my mural is there, so let me give you the details in case you’re in GR and planning to go to ArtPrize, because I’d love to see you and I’d hate to miss you! My entry is titled “From the Rising of the Sun” and is being displayed at the Holiday Inn at 310 Pearl St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504.

gerald-r-ford-museumIt’s opposite the Gerald Ford Museum, van-andel-museum-center-jpgacross the street from the Van Andel (Grand Rapids Public Museum), devos-learning-centerand kitty corner from Ah-Nab-Awen Park.

grand-riverIt’s just across the river (0.2 miles) from the Amway Grand, so it’s at the cross roads to some of the best art in town. It’s also just 0.4 miles from Grand Rapids Art Museum, 0.5 miles from the B.O.B. (Grand Rapids’ “Big Old Building), and 0.6 miles from DeVos Place, so it’s super convenient for the most popular venues! arriving-at-the-holiday-inn     Whether you go in the front or back entrance,  you’ll see half the mural.artprize-8-front-lobby-mural-at-holiday-inn “January through June” is at the front entrance, and “June through December” is at the back entrance. Using 400 of my favorite  photographs from around the world, I’ve created a collage trying to tell the story of life on Planet Earth through the seasons of one year and one lifetime. artprize-mural-summer-to-winterHere’s my “Artist Statement: “The top row reminds us of the universal constants we all experience: the glorious sun and moon, rising and setting with comforting precision. Row two showcases another global experience, the beauty of flowers, which can be found everywhere around the globe. Row three highlights the experience of fauna through the seasons. Row four looks more closely at how the flora and individual homes are affected by seasonal changes, using photographs from our cozy “Tanglewood Cottage” here in Grand Rapids. Row five takes an intimate look into one person and one family (mine) through the seasons of one year and one lifetime, but my hope is that it resonates with the emotions and cultural experiences of everyone who views it: birth, growth, adulthood, marriage (or family life; I know some never marry), new life and enjoying grandchildren, growing older, and finally, in the December of life, walking into a sea of clouds on the mountain top, looking hopefully to a glorious future life after we leave Planet Earth.january-of-the-year-artprize-8The lower half of the mural is arranged in ten collages, each comprised of twenty photographs from around the world on a particular theme that compliments the season above.”   artprize-8-from-the-rising-of-the-sunThis is my hope and prayer for the mural: “From the rising of the sun on the day we take our first breath until we walk into life’s sunset, I hope the beauty of our world lifts our hearts to praise the One who created us and provided such a glorious home.” friends-stopping-by-to-see-from-the-rising-of-the-sun-mural-artprize-8I have a booklet with notes on each photograph for anybody who comes and would like to know more detail, although if I’m there when you come, I can answer questions! I’d really love to see you if you come, and if you leave me a message in the comment box or on Facebook (message works too), I’ll try to make sure I’m there when you come! I’ve been going about 10:00-5:00 Monday-Friday every day, but I’ll be less regular on weekends due to family responsibilities and fun, although I’ll still be there at times, so please don’t be shy! It’s a real highlight of my day when friends drop by!

from-the-rising-of-the-sun-mural-artprize-8“From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same,
the Lord’s name is to be praised” (Psalm 113:3).

God Knows I Won’t Be Fat Again

god-knows-i-wont-be-fat-againHappy First Day of Autumn to you! Got any good plans for this fall? I’m just finishing a 40-day diet of “no desserts or starches.” However, I’m very motivated to keep eating right because I still have quite a way to go, and so I’ve been working hard developing my fall strategy. “They” say it takes 30 days to establish a new habit, so I am hopeful. However, I’m not as dogmatic in my hope as the author of the book I just read, God Knows I Won’t be Fat Again. For one thing, even though I’ve lost ten pounds, I still need to lose another fifteen or more, so I wouldn’t want to be presumptuous. However, I did enjoy reading the success story written by the daughter of one of our former pastors, who managed to eat addictively to 340 pounds and then eventually lose back to 130 pounds. The book was written 35 years ago, so I’d be interested to know how she’s doing today, but I hope her title was right!

I appreciated Karen Wise’s honesty about what it was like to be so fat…the stares and rude comments from little children…the lack of self-esteem and the deep need to feel loved. There were a lot of lessons in the book about how to support people who are addicted…and how to get back on the right track if your life is out of balance in some area, since a lack of self-discipline can manifest in many different ways, not just food. As he father told her, “For every ounce of talent there must be an ounce of self discipline.” Without it, our potential goes to waste.

Here are a few tips from Karen’s life struggles:

1. Take responsibility for our own failure. If I’m overweight (which I am), I  have no one to blame but myself. I ate the food. For instance, my husband has a great metabolism and can eat whatever he wants, but that’s no excuse for my eating whatever I want! (If I worked as hard as he does and was as stressed as he is, I might not have a weight problem either.) Whatever our excuses, we need to  recognize that they’re just excuses and take charge of what and how much we eat. Name the sin for what it is: Gluttony!

2. If you have a child or friend with a weight problem, support them! Cheer them on when they make wise choices, and don’t tempt them with unhealthy ones. Don’t say, “Oh, just a little taste won’t hurt.” It might. Notice if they’ve lost weight and mention that they’re looking good. Don’t be jealous if they start looking slimmer than you; let their weight loss inspire you to lose weight too!

3. Don’t use diet pills. Karen wrote, “I did take them at various times in my life, but they sent me higher than a kite and I became immune to them after several weeks. A lot of people I know have gotten hooked on the energy kick they give and have suffered deep depression when they have quit taking them” (p. 126). This was verified in my research too. For better or worse, the best way is simply eating well and less.

4. Find contentment in who you are. Karen felt like a failure, became depressed, felt incapable of overcoming her problems, and used food as an escape (like most addicts). For her, the tension between being all thought she should and could be versus the drive to throw it all overboard and be what she wanted to be was overwhelming. It took her years to stop running away from God and start asking Him for help instead. Thankfully, as we all know who’ve turned to Him, God never says “No” to those who ask for mercy and help. For those who struggle with “fitting in,” I loved this insight: “The funny thing is, I still don’t really fit into every place and with everybody in the Christian world. But I have found I don’t want to be a ‘complete fitter’ anyway. I would rather fit snugly into that special niche God has for me, reaching those people I can reach and having the ministry God has planned for me.”

So, on I go with my quest for good nutrition and a healthier weight, and I hope you’re moving forward too if there’s some area of your life where you’re conscious of a need to improve. May we exercise self-discipline and lean on God for help. Here’s to lives that are healthier, more fruitful, and happier! 🙂

The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble;
and he knoweth them that trust in him
” (Nahum 1:7).

The Birthday Club Previews ArtPrize 8…Including my Entry

from-the-rising-of-the-sun-mural-at-the-holiday-innYesterday our birthday club met to celebrate my birthday, knowing that once ArtPrize 8 begins tomorrow, I won’t have a minute to catch a breath until it’s all over. Besides, we wanted to celebrate my entry, which is at the Holiday Inn. singing-at-vans-pastriesBut, first the girls had a wonderful surprise for me! vans-pastriesWe stopped at Van’s Pastries, vans-pastry-shopwhere they have an old-fashioned hymn sing to begin the week
every Monday morning at 9:00! standing-in-the-doorway-of-vans-pastries-to-singWhat fun! It was so crowded that we had to stand in the doorway,
and more folks just kept coming.

hymn-sing-at-vans-pastries To start the day praising the Lord brightened my scan more than five cups of coffee could have, and we even got to catch up with a dear friend, “Uncle Charlie,” now retired from Children’s Bible Hour. kathryn-w-armstrongs-artprize-8-muralSecond stop was to check out my ArtPrize Entry, titled “From the Rising of the Sun,” based on Psalm 113:3, “From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same, the LORD’s name is to be praised.”

from-the-rising-of-the-sun-second-halfI still need to finish up with the lighting and various other projects,
but hopefully everything will be in order for the official start tomorrow morning.sunshine-snack-along-the-grand-river By then, it was time to stop for “Elevensies,” and the girls picnicking-along-the-grand-river—knowing I’m on a diet—made the most magnificent banana/egg pancakes
with fruit, nuts, and coconut cream topping! It was amazing and tasted great! banana-egg-pancakes-with-fruitIn fact, I’ll make a separate post to share the recipe when I get a chance! public-museum-of-grand-rapidsAfter our respite by the Grand River, we headed out to see what else we could see of the ArtPrize pieces that are already installed. color-me-orangeOf course, with 1,453 entries at 171 venues, we barely scratched the surface, devos-hall-conference-centerbut we had fun, and I now know there’s a lot of excellent competition! migration-of-monarach-butterflies-sculptureWe could have spent all day (had we had the leisure), marie-catribs-in-grand-rapidsbut our last stop (before ending at my house for a prayer time) was a late lunch at Marie Catrib’s, where there’s always a great selection of veggie dishes.choosing-dishes-at-marie-catribs We all chose the “Choose 3 Salads” option, pick-3-veggie-lunchand I came home inspired with some new ideas
for how to eat light and still ‘licious! enjoying-lunch-at-marie-catribsI have to say, it’s great to have friends who are so supportive, not only of what I’m trying to do (like ArtPrize), but what I’m trying not to do (like overeat). elevensies-along-the-grand-riverThank you, Lord, for faithful friends! I want to be a faithful friend too.quote-by-martin-luther-king“A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17).

Rise Up, My Love (204): Fair as the Moon

Full Moon Black SkySong of Solomon 6:10 “Fair as the moon.” Ah, what author could not write a volume on these words? The moon, glowing beacon of the night to light the way for all weary travelers still in search of home and rest. The moon, enchantress of lovers, crowning the diadem of heaven like a silver jewel…casting lavish moonbeams down on all in love’s embrace. european-castleHas there ever been a time in your life when you’ve seen the full moon rising that your breath hasn’t caught in your throat in wonder at the moon’s size and beauty? When the harvest moon is low on the horizon—so huge and orange, looking even larger than the sun—don’t you stop and marvel? Could that enormous orb of light really be the moon?  blue-full-moonThe Hebrew word translated moon in this verse means “milky one” or “milky white.” This particular word is only used twice in the Scripture and both times in conjunction with the sun, although the moon is referred to many times throughout the Old and New Testaments. The moon was ordained by God to rule by night (Psalm 136:9) and to be established as a faithful witness in heaven (Psalm 89:37) to mark seasons and times.  newish-moonThe moon is so transcendently beautiful and awe-inspiring that the Bible had to warn people against the temptation to worship the sun or moon (Job 31:26), and the Bible reminds us that even the moon and stars are not pure in God’s eyes (Job 25:5). The moon plays a significant role in prophecies concerning the end times from Isaiah to Revelation: “The sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine” (Isaiah 13:10; see also Ecclesiastes 12:2). “Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed” (Isaiah 24:23). “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come” (Joel 2:31). “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light…” (Matthew 24:29). “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come” (Acts 2:20). “And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood” (Revelation 6:12). However, it appears that after the Lord has overcome evil on earth, the sun and moon will be more glorious than ever. Isaiah prophesies: “The light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the Lord bindeth up the breach of his people, and healeth the stroke of their wound” (Isaiah 30:26). reflections-of-moon-and-sunHowever, at the end of time the moon will no longer be needed. The moon—fair guardian of the night—reflecting the glory of the sun for those who could not see it, will be “out of a job!” In Revelation 21:23 we catch a glimpse of the New Jerusalem as the curtain closes on time and eternity begins: “And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.” full-moon-behind-treesAh, beloved, as the bride of Christ, we are to be as “fair as the moon…” the milky white one always seen in conjunction with the sun…not perfectly pure, but a glowing reflection of the Son for all who are groping in the darkness and cannot see the Light. “Fair as the moon” with a uniqueness, beauty, and usefulness all our own. “There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon” (I Corinthians 15:41). We are not the Son; we are mere reflections of him, but we still have a glory and beauty and purpose in this dark world which will not end until the Son overcomes evil for time and eternity, and reveals himself as the light of heaven! Why did the Lord leave us on earth after our salvation? For one thing, so that we could be as fair as the moon!  waxing-moonHere is one last mystery to ponder. It is from the blessing of Joseph given in Deuteronomy 33:13-14, “Blessed of the Lord be his land, for the precious things of heaven…and for the precious fruits brought forth by the sun, and for the precious things put forth by the moon.” What are “the precious things put forth by the moon?” Meditate on that phrase. What are the precious things that we can put forth for the benefit of those who are still in search of home and rest in the bosom of Jesus? Dear Lord, please open our eyes so that we may put forth precious things and be “as fair as the moon.”