Big C Little c

I think cancer is one of the most frightening diagnoses possible. People talk about the “Big C” and blood runs cold. Once you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, it’s like getting a death threat in the mail or having somebody sue you. For years and years it hangs over your head: Whether or not it actually kills you, it impacts the rest of your life and is always in the back (or front) of your mind.Even finding a lump somewhere it shouldn’t be just about freezes us. Alan’s sister is having testing done on one of her lungs. She may be fine or have a treatable problem, but just the thought that she might have cancer sends us into an emotional tailspin and makes it hard to concentrate on anything else!Last night we had the extremely rare privilege of sharing dinner with some dear friends. Tom is just in the recovery process from a successful (so far, praise God) stem cell transplant. He’s still house-bound and can only have a few very special visitors. I feel like we won the lotto that we were able to be with them last night.

Why? Because in Tom and Lynn’s life, the truly Big C is Christ! They just radiate the love of God in their lives and know that they are safe in His hands. Whether by life or by death, God will be praised and exalted in their lives. Amen!

May the quiet assurance of God’s sovereignty over the affairs of man and the knowledge that he loves us and cares for us—that he will be with us in all the storms of our lives, give us peace and comfort…not only if we’re facing cancer, but in every insecurity and specter of disaster that is engulfing us or may lie ahead.

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21

Maranatha: Summer Breakaway

Susan asked Sunday if there was any chance I could go with her to the ladies’ summer retreat at Maranatha. I rarely ever indulge myself, and it meant rescheduling two appointments, but I was fighting anxiety over Alan’s upcoming PSA test (first since his radiation) as well as a very dear relative’s new-found mass in her right lung…so—YES! I decided to “breakaway” and go for it!There are 900 seats in Maranatha’s tabernacle, and 950 ladies registered for the conference, so there was quite a traffic jam when we arrived just 15 minutes before the opening session. Happily, some friends had a couple of seats open by them, so we flurried in just in time and settled in for a fabulous day!After some rousing music where we learned to yodel (as a very lively icebreaker) as well as worshiping together with hymns and choruses, we were taught throughout the day in several hour-long sessions by Nancy Leigh DeMoss, who took us through a wonderful meditation on Psalm 46. I’ve tried for two days to get the time to summarize it for you, but that’s apparently not going to happen. I will tell you that she can be heard daily on Moody’s “Revive Our Hearts” radio program, and I can see why she is so highly regarded.At lunch, Susan and I “just happened” to sit next to a lady from Texas, who—as it turned out—is the mother of one of the guys in our chapel family! Small world, and lots of fun! 🙂We also enjoyed visiting with a group of gals from our churchand lots of friends from various contexts while we strolled along their Lake Michigan beachfront during the lunch break.In the afternoon, Gracia Burnham shared her story with us. While Gracia and her husband Martin were serving as missionaries in the Philippines, they were kidnapped by Muslim terrorists and held for over a year in the jungles. Gracia’s book, In the Presence of My Enemies, became a NY Times best seller, and I bought the book because I was so impressed by her account, not only of her struggle to survive physically, but of her journey through bitterness and anger into learning to love and forgive. Only God can change our hearts so that we can truly “love our enemies.” Amen? Well, at least I know that only God could do such a miracle in my life.

In all, I was so glad I “broke away” for the day. I didn’t even know it, but it was just what I needed!

“Be still and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)

All On a Golden Afternoon

Do you ever feel like Alice in Wonderland enjoying a wonderful day…all on a golden afternoon? Sunday is our “day of rest,” and it starts with sunshine flooding through our curtains to wake us up for church! Andy’s message was excellent, as per usual. As Alan says, “I like Andy’s messages. He teaches the Scripture and dispels a lot of error.” Amen. 🙂I guess every family is different in how they interpret the idea of rest, but for us, it often includes a leisurely boat ride and a long, relaxing swim in the lake or pool Whatever else…it almost ALWAYS includes a nap!And, here I pause to point out that Davy is our Sun Kat King! Note how he religiously seeks out the sunny spot for napping, no matter how hot the day may be!After a good, long nap, we have “tea time” and then spend time reading, playing music, or other relaxing enterprises. If we’re lucky, we get to spend some time getting caught up with our Michigan-based kids (like Daniel and Brianna, who were home this weekend for a wedding), and we often get to skype with some of our out-of-state kids and grand kids, too!By the time sun sets, we are often feeling very rested and ready to face the new week!Thank you, Lord, for giving us a day of rest!

“From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same the LORD’s name is to be praised” (Psalm 113:3).

“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)

When Someone You Love was Abused

Don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Cec Murphy or not, but I met him at a writers’ conference a couple of years ago and have read several of his books since. A few days ago I got invited to a pilot seminar where he was speaking at Res Life Church in Grand Haven in conjunction with Dawn Jones and Shelly Beach. I jumped at the chance, even though it meant getting permission to miss the worship team practice at our chapel this morning. I was really glad I went and learned a LOT, which I won’t try to recap here except to say that 1 in 3 women have been sexually abused in this country, and it looks like the 1 in 6 figure that used to be reported by men is getting to be closer to the 1 in 3-4 figure as more and more men are opening up to what happened in their childhood. I bought Cec’s book (pictured above and which can be ordered from Amazon), and When A Woman You Love Has Been Abused (authored by Dawn Jones) is coming out in 2012. If you have been abused, live with someone who has, or love someone who has…think about reading this book. If the statistics are close…pretty much all of us are in this group, whether or not we’re aware of it.  Although the conference I attended was a trial run, they’re planning to have another seminar in Grand Rapids on Saturday, October 8 at a location TBA. If you’re interested, I’d be happy to send you information when I know more, offer to meet and share what I’m learning, listen to your story, pray with you, or whatever.

Along this line, I’ve been to GRTS looking at their M.A. degree in counseling again. I got accepted 2 years ago but didn’t go when Stephen needed extra money to transfer to MSU. I’ve got another application in my hand and have talked to the admissions folks again. If you think of me, please pray for me to make a wise decision. It would take me about 5 years to finish a 3-year degree (by going part time), and another 2-4 years to complete the 3,000 hours of supervised practice needed to obtain my independent license. In addition to the financial investment, that would make me nearly 70, and I suspect Alan would be about ready to retire by then. I’m not sure if it makes sense to spend the next 9 years trying to get licensed to be a professional counselor, but it would certainly be an interesting way to spend 9 years! Plan B (or A) is to continue trying to write, which I’ve been doing for years, although thus far have never gotten a book published! 🙂  As always in my life, the real question on my mind is: “Lord, what would you have me to do?”

“For all things are yours; Whether…the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are you’re; and ye are Christ’s’ and Christ is God’s.” (I Corinthians 3:22-23)

How Hot is Hot?

When you come home from a church shower at 9:00 pm and it’s still 90° out, you know it’s hot in Michigan. Temperatures have been soaring to over 100°s in lots of areas, but I think Texas bakes the cake, based on these reports:

A buddy out of Longview, Texas  said he’d killed a mosquito that was carrying a canteen.
A man in Dime Box, Texas  said the chicken farmers were giving the chickens crushed ice to keep them from laying hard-boiled eggs.
In Lake Palestine, Texas they caught a 20-lb catfish that had ticks on it! 
This week, in Bryan, Texas a pine tree was seen bribing a dog.
It’s so dry in Texas that the Baptists are starting to baptize by sprinkling, the Methodists are using wet-wipes, the Presbyterians are giving out rain-checks, and the Catholics, Episcopalians, and Lutherans have joined forces and are all praying for the wine to turn back into water!
Now THAT’s what you call HOT and DRY!    🙂

“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22)  

Hawaii Five-O for Four-A

Last summer while we were busy keeping cool in the pool,Michael was busy being a poster boy for the army…drilling teeth while dodging mortar attacks in the simmering Saharan sandbox of Iraq.So, it seems nothing less than poetic justice that this summer Michael is swimming with sea turtlesdigging in the sand with his daughtersand chasing rainbows with his wife in Hawaii, where he’s been transferred to begin a two-year dental residency program (during which time he can’t be deployed again)! 🙂As Mary Louise Roberts (World War II nurse) says of experience in a war zone: “I wouldn’t trade it for a million dollars but I wouldn’t give you two cents for another day of it”  (The Greatest Generation, p. 178). I’m so, so grateful that Michael made it safely home, and I’m likewise thrilled that he’s enjoying this time of rest in Hawaii Five-O (= 50th state) for his Four-A family!

May we all find hope in knowing that God often eventually delivers us from trials and gives us times of deep refreshment!

“The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.” (Psalm 34:7)

“Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103: 1-2)

The Giant’s Causeway: Northern Ireland’s Most Popular Tourist Attraction

So, finally life has calmed down enough to tell you more about our adventures in the British Isles. Our next stop was the Giant’s Causeway, an incredible natural wonder made from about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns thought to be the result of an ancient volcanic eruption.Some of the columns are as much as 40 feet high!The columns all have 4-8 sides, although most are hexagonal.

This World Heritage Site stretches along three miles of Northern Ireland’s coast, forming a stairway from the foot of the cliffs that disappears into the Irish Sea.Legend has it  that an Irish Giant, named Finn McCool built the causeway so he could walk to Scotland and woo the girl he loved. In fact, there is a  counterpart to this spectacular formation in Fingal’s Cave on the isle of Staffa, Scotland…so maybe the tale is true.On the other hand, when I went to check it out on that most eminent of resources, Wikipedia :), I was informed that the legend is really about a gigantic Irish warrior named Fionn mac Cumhaill who built the causeway to fight his Scottish counterpart enemy, Benandonner.What is this world coming too, that we can’t keep our own stories straight?(I hope you’re noticing just how vast this formation is as you watch Stephen and Joel picking their way along like nimble billy goats.)

At any rate, being an incurable romantic, I favor the story we heard while in Ireland, and it made me think of our precious Lord Jesus, who made a way across the chasm of sin separating us from God and conquered evil in order to woo and win us all (“whosoever” is willing) as his bride! (This story is TRUE, and I have it straight from the world’s most eminent resource: the Bible. 🙂 )

“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1)

“O worship the King, all glorious above,
O gratefully sing His power and His love;
Our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days,
Pavilioned in splendor, and girded with praise.”

-Robert Grant

Freak Wind Kills Father of Six

Last week the kids and I noticed that it got extremely dark mid morning, and even though there wasn’t a tornado warning, we retreated to the basement waiting for the storm to pass. Little did we know that at that exact time the wind actually blew over a large maple tree across the street from where Alan was working, smashing in a garage and killing a young father who was just shooing his six children and wife inside away from the threatening weather.

The tragedy immediately brought to mind the terrible wind storm some years back that left 600,000 people out of power in southwest Michigan (including our family) and knocked over about 20 mature trees in a straight path through our woods as well as bringing down a giant tree that landed (literally) inches away from the bedroom windows where Kathy (upstairs) and our three oldest sons (downstairs) were sleeping. That storm left the indelible understanding in my brain that disaster can strike anyone unexpectedly at any moment! “Time and chance happens to them all” (Ecclesiastes 9:11).

News accounts this week mentioned that the family are members at Resurrection Life Church, and that their faith has been sustaining them amidst this incomprehensible tragedy, most importantly—the knowledge that their dad was saved by faith in Christ and is now in heaven—the secure final home for all who repent of their sins and accept Christ’s free gift of salvation. I can think of no greater comfort for someone who has lost a loved one. And yet, it’s hard to imagine life without father. The dad was 38. When Alan and I were 38, we also had six kids about the ages of theirs. It could have been us. Why them?Tragedy is like that. It leaves us bewildered, and I think in this world we are often left with no obvious answer to the events that occur around us. I do know that God desires us to trust Him even though we can’t understand Him. I hope that as I experience more of the disasters of life I can react like this amazing family.

“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him..

He also shall be my salvation” (Job 13:15-16).

Blueberry Blur

This has been a crazy summer! Usually we pick cherries at the end of June and blueberries at the beginning of  August, but this year we were still enjoying our cherries when we noticed that our favorite pick-your-own place, Blueberry Hill, had opened for business.It seems like just a blink of time since Grace and the girls were visiting and we took them to pick blueberries last summer!This summer it was “just” the four of us: Alan, Stephen, Joel, and me.No little Eowyn to help! 😦And, no little Nycteris to sit and eat up the profits. 😦Should I admit that we ate at Kozak’s again?But, this time we didn’t have Grace and the girls for company!Still, it was an absolutely wonderful day. We ended (as usual) with blueberries for dessert, and I made another coffee cake just slopping over with blueberries for breakfast this morning.I don’t know if anybody’s looking for yet another recipe for blueberry coffee cake, but I call mine “Blueberry Blitz” and it goes like this:

Prepare a boxed white cake mix for baking, but reduce the water to 1/4 cup

Spread one quart of fresh blueberries over the top

Spread a crumbly topping made from a stick of butter, 1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup of flour, and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon over the top

Add randomly over the top an 8 oz. bar of cream cheese, cut up into bit-sized chunks

Bake at 375° for 40-50 minutes (depending on how reliable the temp. is in your oven and  how thoroughly baked you like your cakes).When it’s done, it will be golden brown around the edges and still a bit soggy in the middle, but we sort of like the melt-in-your-mouth blur.

It makes me think of the melt-in-your-mouth blur of memories that occur from years of happy family traditions like picking blueberries. I miss having little children. I miss having grandchildren this year with whom to pick. But you know what? I am so, so incredibly blessed to still have two sons at home who are so much fun!

I hope you’re still enjoying some happy family traditions, and I hope you keep enjoying them…through all the years of tears and bickering that come with little children, and even into old(er) age when the kids are grown and gone. I hope Alan and I still pick blueberries even if the time comes that we’re completely kid-less, and if one of us dies in 10-20 years…I hope we call up a friend or two and keep enjoying the simple pleasures of life with them. I wish the same for all of us: a blur of happy memories from years of good traditions.

“Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them.”

Ecclesiastes 12:1

The Picnic Pops: “Classical Fireworks”

One of the many things I love about living in GR is how convenient it is to enjoy all the “fun stuff,” like the Picnic Pops at Cannonsburg. I think the last time we went was the first year they occurred…some 17 years ago. That night it was (literally) 95° and our kids were ages 3-18. Most of them spent the night seeking shelter in the air-conditioned concession area to get away from the heat and mosquitoes. It’s taken us all this time to get back to trying the Picnic Pops again.Okay, so actually this time it was at the invitation of some dear friends. We were able to sit AT A TABLE with chairs 🙂 and ate a lovely picnic dinner while enjoying the symphony’s totally captivating program, complete with David Lockington’s inimitable introductory commentaries to each piece, including several selections from Bizet’s Carmen, etc. etc. and ending with Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture and fireworks against a full-moonlit sky! WOW! If it hadn’t been for the invitation of Bob and Sue, I wonder how long (if ever?) it would have taken Alan and me to try the Picnic Pops again after our dismal experience 17 years ago. And, that got me to thinking about all the people in the world who’ve had a dismal experience with Christianity somewhere along the line. The problem wasn’t with the symphony when the kids were little…it was the heat and mosquitoes…the toddlers, the timing, physical discomforts, etc. If you had a bad experience with Christianity, it was probably not Christ, it was more like annoyances related to the church or people. May I be the first to invite you to try again? You might find that—to your great delight—you have a wonderful experience this time. I pray that you do!

“O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusts in him.”

(Psalm 34:8)