The Miracle of A Baby: ‘Til Shiloh Comes Home

Those of you who go to “the chapel” with me know all about Deb’s tiny baby, Shiloh, who was born on October 17 when Deb was only 29 weeks along.We all been praying like mad for this tiny little human, complete, but rather a lightweight for starting the boxing match of life: she weighed in at only 1 pound, 13 oz.Would she even survive? It was really touch-and-go at first.She had many, many ups and downs, and Deb spent weeks kneeling on pins and needles (figuratively, of course!), but yesterday little Shiloh reached a happy milestone! She’s doubled in weight and it looks like she has every hope of not only surviving, but being perfectly normal! Isn’t that fabulous? I’m sure Deb won’t rest very well until Shiloh comes home, but praise God, it looks like she’ll be coming!

If any of you have a few minutes, there is a phenomenal video made by a Yale professor, Alexander Tsiaras (author of From Conception to Birth: A Life Unfolds), showing the development of a baby in the womb. With four daughters expecting babies right now, it was particularly touching to me to watch. Truly, a baby is a baby from the moment of conception! It’s such a miracle to see how God “knits” us together in the womb…and to experience the miracle of tiny baby actually surviving and thriving! May God bless all women who conceive. Let them be the joyful mother of their children!

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Psalm 139:13-14

The Singing Dentist

While my son Daniel and his wife Brianna were home for Thanksgiving, Brianna told me such a cute story about Daniel that I decided to pass it on. Daniel is going to be in their church’s Christmas musical. I was very pleased to hear about it but a little surprised because, although Dan does drum at their church, he hasn’t done much public singing since his college days. So, Brianna explained what happened. Apparently, when someone comes in for dental work who seems particularly distressed or a discouraged, Daniel will occasionally offer to sing to the patients to cheer them up, and it actually does help them relax! Isn’t that sweet?

Anyway, a doctor who works at the same community health center and is involved in the music ministry at Daniel’s church overheard Dan singing not long ago and asked if he’d be willing to sing in their musical. Don’t ‘cha love it?


“O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.”

Psalm 95:1

The Dead Sea is Drop-Dead Gorgeous!

We lived on a vibrant river full of waterfalls chasing their way to Lake Superior when our kids were little. Someone had badly misnamed these crystal cascades as “The Dead River.”I think the same thing must have happened with whoever named the Dead Sea, because it’s one of the most beautiful bodies of water I’ve ever seen!I think it’s called the Dead Sea because it has no outlet and is about 33% salt…and therefore no plant or animal life can flourish. But, if  you’re like me, it’s actually very pleasant to swim where you can see right down to the bottom and don’t have to worry about sharing space with critters or sinister-looking vines and seaweed.It’s also 1388′ below sea level on its surface and goes down another 1237′ to hit bottom, making it the lowest elevation on earth and the deepest hypersaline lake in the world. Add to this that it’s in the Middle East, and you have an amazingly pleasant place to swim in the fall!

Of course, we were just two of over a million tourists who come to Israeli resorts to enjoy the amazing pleasure and healing properties of this incredible mineral sea bath.The real trick in bathing is not learning to swim, but learning to balance!In fact, it’s impossible to sink! Alan and I imagined paddling our way over to Jordan (just 11 miles across the water), knowing that we couldn’t really drown if we tried!However, we didn’t have all day, and we had lots of fun to try…like a mud bath! (Actually this isn’t us, it’s another couple who were trying out the mud.)Notice that the shoreline looks like a bit of snow has fallen…In fact, the shore is covered in tiny grains of salt!Well, our glorious afternoon went by all too quickly!Before the afternoon got away, we just “had” to enjoy everything…including the refreshing but warm salt water poolsand the heated mineral pools that made me imagine how it must be to be a baby in the womb! By the end of the day, we were truly and totally relaxed! 🙂Since coming home, I’ve thought of so many spiritual parallels concerning the Dead Sea. Just a few:

1. Christianity by reputation in the world is rather “dead” and unattractive, but in reality, the exact opposite is true! But, you have to come to Christ to discover the beauty of the life he offers.

2. Jesus calls us to be salt and light…healing and balm to those around us. The Dead Sea is LOW…as believers we need to be lowly too (as in humble), just as Jesus was.

3. The Dead Sea is relatively close to the equator and therefore warm. We’d do well to be close to our Center, our Creator, to keep warm and balanced.

4. People come from all over the world to enjoy the healing influences of the Dead Sea, but they come to resorts. Is my home an attractive and hospitable resort where people are welcome to come?

“Ye are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13)

Good News for Black Friday

Did you find some great bargains today? Actually, I’m shop-avoidant, so I don’t know if I’ve ever shopped on Black Friday before, but Alan sent me on an errand to Home Depot, and Brianna offered to go along…and I discovered that shopping with somebody, even on Black Friday, can be fun!

I also wanted to share a bit of good news that I heard on the radio today on a “John Tish (sp?)” show. Of 100,000 people surveyed in the U.S., 43% of married people reported being “very happy” which was 20% higher than what singles reported. They say that men profit more from marriage than women, reporting more sleep, better food, and less drinking and smoking “because they have someone looking after them who cares about them.” That made me feel happy! Beyond that, two other  things that make people feel “happy” are having jobs and regular attendance at church or synagogue services. Sounds good to me!

Then, this same fellow went on to provide 3 tips for how to get a date (in case you’re in that single group looking for somebody). #1. Ask on Wednesday, which is the day when most people are making their weekend plans. #2. Be specific about what you want to do…name of restaurant and maybe even a menu item you’ve been interested in trying (as one example of the point, which is that you create more interest when you’re vivid). #3. Go casual on the first date, because it’s less of a commitment and less intimidating. He said to save the 5-star restaurant for your first anniversary!

Thought that, just in case you’re bedraggled from your great day of shopping, you’d like to hear a little good news. Of course, the best news for me is always that God loves us: “By day the LORD commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me” (Psalm 42:8)

The Thankful Game

Well, almost! Dan and Brianna had turkey at the DeLeeuw’s at lunch time, so I served stress-free duck and wild rice for dinner and put the turkey in the freezer to serve at Christmas when all the kids are home. It seemed pretty strange to have only six around the table tonight, but we lit a candle and had a very cozy time playing our “I’m thankful for…” game as always. Actually, Jon and Linda had skyped with us earlier and shared their blessings with us too. Linda looks just great with a basketball under her blouse. Alan tried to show off his stomach too, but none of us thought he could really win the belly-size competition!So, now the kids are in the midst of a hot game of Rook, and I thought Alan would want to toddle off to bed, but he’s decided to read his email, so I brought my computer into the living room so I could enjoy watching all my wonderful kids and reflect on God’s marvelous kindness to me over this past year. Beyond my glorious Lord and the joy of his love, I am thankful for the love of my precious family. I am especially thankful for the way Alan has come through his surgery and radiation treatments and how well he feels. I am incredibly thankful for my seven kids; I’ve been totally crazy about all of them since they were born, and I can’t tell you how much I’ve also enjoyed their mates (and all the new in-laws-in-laws) and children…and now the hopes of four more joining the family in 2012. I’m also deeply thankful for both Alan’s and my brothers and sisters and their kids, cousins, and all the fun of sharing life with them. Having a church family here in GR is also truly a heaven-sent privilege and a constant source of encouragement and blessing. No wonder the Lord tells us to love God first and then to love others. Is there anything that means more to us than those we love?

Happy Thanksgiving to you. The Lord has put it on my heart to pray for everyone who reads this little blog as well as anyone who happens to find it through a random word search. A cyber friendship isn’t nearly as deep as a two-way real live friendship, but I am thankful for each person whose life intersects with mine in a positive way. Thanks for sharing the pilgrimage of life with me. Please know that I would love to hear more from you any time!  May God bless you, and I hope you’ve had a truly happy day of thanksgiving and celebration.

“Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Praise Him all creatures here below.

Praise Him above ye heavenly host.

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”


Every Thanksgiving morning we have a special service at our chapel where we share some of the wonderful blessings of God in our lives over the past year, and every evening after our family has dinner together, we sit around in a circle and share within our family.What things make you most thankful? For me, I think the greatest source of joy is always the same: I’m so thankful that God loves me (and the whole world) and sent His son to die for me (and the whole world) so that anyone who believes can be reconciled to God and enjoy eternal life. I’m thankful for my wonderful family, friends, and countless material blessings, but nothing compares to the peace deep down in my soul that comes from being loved by God and feeling the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life.

“Praise ye the LORD. O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good, for his mercy endures forever.” Psalm 106:1

“This world is not my home I’m just a passing through.
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door,
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.
Oh Lord you know I have no friend like you.
If heaven’s not my home then Lord what will I do?
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door,
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore!”  (Jim Reeves)

Do You Pick to be Good?

Last summer, my son Daniel was at a wedding rehearsal dinner where he sat next to the child who was going to be the ring bearer. The little fellow looked up at Daniel and said very earnestly, “Do you pick to be good?” although he said it so fast and in such a high-pitched little voice that Daniel couldn’t understand what he was asking. After getting the youngster to repeat the question, Dan still couldn’t understand him. Brianna, who was sitting near, overheard the question and understood what the child was asking, and so she said to Daniel, “Just say yes.”

However, Daniel didn’t feel he could honestly answer a question without understanding what it was, and so he asked the little chap to repeat the question one more time…slowly. Finally, Dan understood that the boy was asking, “Do you choose to do right?”

“Ah! Yes, I do!” Daniel answered. “And, do you pick to be good?”

“Yes!” the little boy answered happily.

That simple, sincere question had such a profound impact on Daniel that he has felt inspired by it ever since, and he shared the account with the congregation at Calvary Baptist last Sunday. It reminded me of the young boy who gave his bread and fish with Jesus; he only had a little, but he shared it all, and the Lord used his “picking to be good” to touch thousands of lives!

I am so thankful that both the little boy and my son “pick to be good.” I “pick to be good” too. How about you?

“But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”

Hebrews 13:16

The Changing of the Guard

Joanie was 70, but such a young 70! It hardly seems possible that she’s gone. Here we are sitting with her on her porch swing in Charleston, S.C. just a few years ago. Joanie was Alan’s first cousin and notoriously spunky and full of life.  We were totally shocked when she was diagnosed with lung cancer just a few months ago and deeply saddened to learn Thursday morning that she had passed away. We will miss her sorely! Furthermore, she is the first blood-cousin that we’ve lost on either side of the family (other than two who seemed tragically too young from 10-20 years ago), and so we feel acutely that this is just the first of our generation to “go the way of all flesh.” We have transitioned from weddings to funerals among our age group. 😦Have you noticed how therapeutic it is to have children? Kathy and Carl closed on their new house Friday, so Saturday Alan, Joel, and I went to Plymouth to help them paint the bedrooms and clear a downed tree from their back yard.Nothing like the joy of helping your kids prepare a “nest” for their baby to come to help focus your heart and thoughts on life and happiness rather than death and sorrow!Sunday was Daniel’s 26th birthday, so we headed to Battle Creek and enjoyed visiting their new church where we got a special surprise! Dan and Brianna had been asked by the pastor to share their testimonies (their spiritual life walk). Brianna got saved when she was 5 and Danny at 3, and they’re both spent their lives loving the Lord and walking in His ways. They are so sweet and special. What a joy and privilege to be their parents! 🙂Brianna made a wonderful dinner and one of her famous carrot cakes for dessert. They also showed us the house they’ve put an offer in on and may buy soon. The kids are really growing up…are grown up, really! This morning it occurred to me that we have pretty much passed the torch on to our kids at this point, and we will spend much of our remaining years cheering them on. We aren’t the “older” generation any more. We are the “oldest” generation! Kinda scary, but true. I hope we can learn to grow old gracefully!

“O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days: let me know how fleeting I am!”

Psalm 39:4

“What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”

Psalm 34:12-14

Not Without My Daughter

Not long ago, Alan and I watched a frightening true story about a young woman who lives in Grand Rapids and works at Pine Rest. Her name is Mahtob, and she is the daughter of Betty Mahmoody. Betty married an Iranian doctor while he was a resident in the upper part of Michigan. After graduating, the couple took their daughter for a two-week visit to Iran, but to her horror, Betty quickly realized that her husband decided to keep the family in Iran…but in an unbearably oppressive situation where she  and her daughter felt like virtual prisoners!

Alan and I had been invited to Traverse City to hear Betty tell her story last year but had been unable to go. However, I discovered that it had been made into a movie (a 1991 production starring Sally Fields and Albert Molena), and so we rented the video. I highly recommend it, although it was particularly terrifying to me as a Michigander married to a physician who had been also been a resident in 1984. Did we ever meet them at a party or conference? How many people might we know who are living in fear and oppression, either in this country or somewhere else?

I think we need to keep our eyes and hearts open to those around us. There are probably people who need our love and support living closer to us than we realize!

“Learn to do well; seek judgment; relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.”

Isaiah 1:17

First Day of Hunting Season

November 15th—the much celebrated first day of deer hunting season here in Michigan. The day dawned with a beautiful veil of mist hanging over our lake.It promises to be a clear day! To all you happy hunters—I hope you’re safe, take great pleasure in being outdoors, and bag your dream deer.
I hear there’s been great moose hunting this year, too, so watch out!

“But I will sing of thy power; yea, I will sing aloud of thy mercy in the morning: for thou hast been my defense and refuge in the day of my trouble.”

Psalm 59:16