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)

A Cherry-Pickin’ Good Time!

“Summertime, and the livin’ is easy…”Well, even those of us who are working diligently for a living need to take a break every so often just for fun!The birds and squirrels eat all the cherries on our two trees before they really get ripe, but every July we go to a local orchard and pick a bucket of succulent black cherries.Not only is it just plain fun to climb way up high in trees and pick handfuls of plump, beautiful cherries…it saves a lot of money too! Robinette’s only charges $1.75 per pound, whereas they are usually $4-$6 per pound in the stores.After we return from our trek, we always celebrate by swimming with a floating bowl of cherries. 🙂

So, the next time you are tempted to just fall asleep after you’ve finished dinner and the funny papers…consider heading to your local orchard to pick fresh fruit for some summer fun with your family!

“O LORD, how manifold are thy works? In wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.” (Psalm 33:5)

P.J. Hoffmaster Heat Wave

I love Michigan state parks, don’t you? I love the new system for residents: for just ten bucks everybody and their dog can come play at the beach any time they please. Last Sunday afternoon it was in the upper 80°s and muggy after church…a perfect day to relax at the beach.Of course, in our family “relaxing” is synonymous with “space and quiet,” so we had to hike down the shore a ways. But that’s easy. Michigan has more coastline than the eastern seaboard between Maine and Florida! Besides, Stephen wanted to fly his kite without infringing on anybody else’s peace and quiet. With a light breeze blowing, it was the perfect day for playing with his stunt kite.Joel had a lot of fun flying the kite too!And without the usual number of kids wanting turns…I even got to fly it!

It is so much fun!Afterwards we went to “you know who’s”for you know what!It seems like our favorite things just never get old!

“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting thou art God” (Psalm 90:2),

Seven Murdered in GR: The Scarlet and the Black

In the worst mass murder of GR history, a man with an almost 20-year history of criminal behavior committed suicide after killing two ex-girlfriends, various in-laws, and his own 12-year-old daughter on July 7th. I know nothing of this man’s early history, but particularly in light of my last post on “A Blue Rose,” it made me think even more about the importance of reaching out to those who are troubled and/or in trouble…hopefully before it’s too late and disaster strikes.Over the weekend, we watched a 1983 video called The Scarlet and the Black that I highly recommend. It’s based on the  true story of Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, a Vatican priest during the Nazi occupation of Rome whose incredible compassion and valor saved thousands of Jews and Allied POWs. O’Flaherty’s  heroism was no less breathtaking than Robin Hood’s, and the story has a very powerful ending that speaks eloquently of the love and mercy of God as lived out by this man of unusual faith…a man who modeled the love of Christ, and whose saintly life left me awestruck and inspired. Oh, that the love of God might touch all our lives and make us instruments of His peace in a very troubled world.

“But I say unto you, ‘Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.'”  (Matthew 5:44)

A Blue Rose

Here is a beautiful story that someone forwarded to me on the net. As one whose husband works all day in the mental health field, it particularly touched me!A Blue Rose

Having four visiting family members, my wife was very busy, so I offered to go to the store for her to get some needed items, which included light bulbs, paper towels, trash bags, detergent and Clorox. So off I went.

I scurried around the store, gathered up my goodies and headed for the checkout counter, only to be blocked in the narrow aisle by a young man who appeared to be about sixteen-years-old. I wasn’t in a hurry, so I patiently waited for the boy to realize that I was there. This was when he waved his hands excitedly in the air and declared in a loud voice, “Mommy, I’m over here.”

It was obvious now, he was mentally challenged and also startled as he turned and saw me standing so close to him, waiting to squeeze by. His eyes widened and surprise exploded on his face as I said, “Hey Buddy, what’s your name?”

“My name is Denny and I’m shopping with my mother,” he responded proudly.
“Wow,” I said, “that’s a cool name; I wish my name was Denny, but my name is Steve.”
“Steve, like Stevarino?” he asked.  “Yes,” I answered. “How old are you Denny?”
“How old am I now, Mommy?” he asked his mother as she slowly came over from the next aisle.

“You’re fifteen-years-old Denny; now be a good boy and let the man pass by.”

I acknowledged her and continued to talk to Denny for several more minutes about summer, bicycles and school. I watched his brown eyes dance with excitement, because he was the center of someone’s attention. He then abruptly turned and headed toward the toy section.

Denny’s mom had a puzzled look on her face and thanked me for taking the time to talk with her son. She told me that most people wouldn’t even look at him, much less talk to him.

I told her that it was my pleasure and then I said something I have no idea where it came from, other than by the prompting of the Holy Spirit. I told her that there are plenty of red, yellow, and pink roses in God’s Garden; however, “Blue Roses” are very rare and should be appreciated for their beauty and distinctiveness. You see, Denny is a Blue Rose and if someone doesn’t stop and smell that rose with their heart and touch that rose with their kindness, then they’ve missed a blessing from God.

She was silent for a second, then with a tear in her eye she asked, “Who are you?”

Without thinking I said, “Oh, I’m probably just a dandelion, but I sure love living in God’s garden.”

She reached out, squeezed my hand and said, “God bless you!” and then I had tears in my eyes.

May I suggest, the next time you see a BLUE ROSE, don’t turn your head and walk off. Take the time to smile and say Hello. Why? Because, by the grace of GOD, this mother or father could be you. This could be your child, grandchild, niece or nephew. What a difference a moment can mean to that person or their family.
From an old dandelion!  Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Leave the rest to God.