Orchard Beach State Park

Last summer we bought a motor home.

It’s become our home away from home…a wonderful, miniature, movable cottage.

This weekend we took our cottage to Orchard Beach, a picturesque state park nestled in a grove of maples on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan.

On the way, we stopped in Ludington at the House of Flavors for their great Friday night fish fry (and fab. sundaes).

It was evening when we arrived, so we headed down to the beach for a beautiful walk in the pastel sunset.

Everywhere we go, Stephen expresses his inner passion for life with some uninhibited articulations of joy!

We spent Saturday morning hiking for a couple of hours along the pristine lake shore.

After lunch and a snooze, we meandered along the Manistee River walk.

What a splendid day for walking!

And, a splendid evening for roasting hot dogs, toasting s’mores, and sharing around the fire!

“Thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel: In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15)

Thank you, Lord, for your beautiful creation and for the refreshment that comes from resting in You.

Lilies Among Thorns

Lilies of the valley emerging from the barren tangle of weeds by our swamp

For the last several years, I’ve had the joy of teaching the Song of Solomon to the ladies down at our local rescue mission. The passage I was working on for this lesson was “As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters” (Song 2:2) I had to tread carefully around the road crew and huge machinery engaged in redoing the street in front of the mission just to get inside, but once there, I learned that the Ladies’ Day Ministry has been canceled indefinitely as an executive board decision due to lack of funds in this economic downturn. The mission is still reaching out to the homeless and carrying on their long-term discipling ministry for those who get saved and want to live there for a year or two to get de-toxed (since most are involved in drugs/alcohol addictions) and receive spiritual and vocational training so they can reintegrate into society and get  jobs. This is crucial, because it’s really hard for the homeless and ex-cons to make it otherwise. For instance, one of the guys from our care group has been mentoring an ex-con for over a year. Our church even helped him get started in an apartment, etc. Unfortunately, the guy didn’t have enough motivation to keep trying to get a job (which is very hard in MI right now), and he eventually resorted to overt shoplifting, got himself arrested, and landed back in jail last week. He may actually prefer jail to the insecurities and difficulties of life on his own, or at least our friend who is mentoring him (and the guys’ parents) have some thoughts about that possibility. The man also has some chronic mental problems and seems to be an incurable thief. What can you do? Maybe when he gets back out, we can get him into a discipleship program down at the mission if he’d go!

I am totally on board with our local rescue mission, but I’m sorry they no longer have the resources to reach out to the poor in the surrounding community. Our ladies’ day ministry began on Wednesdays at 11:00 with an hour of worship and teaching and then a free luncheon and an opportunity for the women to select  3 (I think) pieces of clothing each week. I will miss being a part of the lives of our local women, who truly are like lilies trying to bloom in a very thorny world.

“I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys” (Song 2:1)

This is what it looks like inside my home…away from the swamp!  I was struck by the thought that so many people throughout the world are struggling terribly, like the little lilies of the valley growing up in the wild…so different from the lilies and roses that are tended in my garden.  What can I do to help? What’s the next step in my journey?

Joel’s Golden Birthday and Fathers’ Day

June 19th was Joel’s 19th birthday…his “golden birthday!”

I can’t tell you what a joy Joel is to Alan and me! He’s truly, truly awesome!

In truth, Alan and I have been blessed “above all we could ask or think” with our kids…natural born and in-laws!

We spent a very happy day…mostly around home just enjoying the MI family who could come to help celebrate.

Our lilies are in full bloom now! It’s so pretty.

On Sunday, after church, we gathered again for Alan’s Father’s Day party. Carl arrived (after a celebration with his own dad and family), and Brianna and Daniel left to go honor her dad.

Those of us who could took a trip with Alan over to enjoy the boardwalks and beaches of Grand Haven.

We had a very happy father on our hands!

Thank you, heavenly Father, for allowing us the joy of having earthly families. May our love for our own children only make our love for you deeper as we ponder your unfathomable love for us!

Aren’t you glad that even if we don’t have earthly fathers living, or any earthly children, we can still have God for our father and be a part of the family of God?! I sure am!

Weekend High Lights

This is the third weekend in a row where we experienced major ups and downs in our lives. Last weekend, the big birthday party I’d planned for Alan’s friends at the hospital ended up being preempted by the funeral of a very elderly but very faithful board member/foundation supporter of his hospital. This past Friday was the funeral of his 89-year-old cousin and WW II vet (who had worked as a radio-control officer all the way through the war, including the Battle of the Bulge). Each week, there have also been wonderful “Ups” too, though! Now,  you may have doubts about whether or not a wedding where this was the cake-top decoration was an upper or a downer…

In fact, it was a very happy wedding for Jeremy and Annie! They just happened to meet at L.S.S.U. in the police training program. As it turns out, they are both sharp-shooters! Jeremy (who grew up at our chapel and was an invaluable worker on our youth mission trips over the years), has taken a position with the state police in Wyoming, so it was a bitter-sweet day! We will miss them, but I’m sure they’ll be appreciated out in the “wild west!”

Sunday (after a couple of weeks of mad scramble to try to get the house in semi-decent shape), we had Stephen’s graduation open house.

The open house was hugely fun!

Good food is sort of a must…but

one of the special parts for me was seeing Stephen so much enjoy not only the young people, but the adults who came to greet him!

(Of course, who wouldn’t enjoy talking to such lovely ladies??)

This left Joel in charge of keeping the volley ball court fun

and the swimming pool!

Lots of the  kids cooled down in the pool.

I even got to spend a wonderful afternoon talking to various friends, thanks to the faithful help of Cindi, Rhonda, Steve, Brian, and especially Susan (far right), who spent her entire time working in the kitchen!

We were all very tired and happy after it was all over last night!

However, not too tired! Cindi, Susan, and I have a “birthday club,” and this morning we took Susan out for breakfast to the Omelet Shop…

and for a stroll along the Grand River…ending up with tea, frozen bananas, and presents.

What a privilege and joy it is to have such precious friends. I’m so grateful for my husband and kids, for our church family, and for dear sisters in Christ!

“A friend loves at all times.”

Mackinac Magic: Lilac Festival 2010

For Alan’s 60th birthday, we took him up to Mackinac Island’s Lilac Festival on June 5th

The main street was filled with shops, bikes, horse carriages, and happy tourists!

It was cloudy the night we arrived, and the top of the Big Mac was hidden in the clouds!

The gulls were VERY friendly and waiting in line for possible handouts!

When you arrive on the island, you feel like you’ve left the rest of the world behind!

Because there are no cars, it feels like you’re back in 1892 or something!

Everything is so beautiful and  genteel!

Peaceful and serene…

Alan says it’s second only to Fort Wilderness in Disney as his favorite get-away!

He really splurged this time and got LOTS of fudge to celebrate his birthday!

Besides thousands of lilacs in bloom…there were hundreds of other varieties of flowers too, such as these giant peonies.

…and brilliant orange poppies!

We saw vista after vista of restful water and woodland scenes as we biked around the island.

And we spent a long, blissful time meandering through gardens.

If you want a refreshing day away from the hustle and bustle of life, try Mackinac Island on a sunny summer day!

“Now unto Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

(Ephesians 3:20-21)

Memorial Day Weekend: Funeral, Shower, Open House

Saturday was the deeply touching funeral for the Larman’s baby who only lived for 3 days. I videoed the service and helped with the luncheon. Somehow you just want to be able to do more.

Sunday I went to Chicago for Jessie’s baby shower.  Lizzie has been my “little sister” for the past 40+ years, and her niece, Jess, went to China with me 15 years ago. Jessica and Mike are doing just great. Mike will finish his Master’s degree just a couple of weeks before their first baby is due in August.

The Lang aunts and uncles brought them many wonderful gifts, and Jessie’s little nieces, Lydia and Monica, helped open the presents.

Monday our family attended the graduation open house for Elena F. and Tricia M…best of friends and daughters of two of my best friends!

It was yet another evening of great food…

And great fellowship!

Alan and I are studying in the book of Job together right now, and one of my favorite verses, which repeated itself over and over in my heart this past weekend, was:

“The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”