Grand Rapids is a truly great place to raise a family. It’s been a 3-time winner of “All-American City” by the National Civic League and has recently been rated in the top 10 cities for “America’s Safest Cities” in terms of insurance risks. But even with 1.3 million people in the metro area, I’d definitely label it as vanilla ice cream. It’s got all the right ingredients to be great, but there’s not a lot to distinguish it. (Of course, vanilla is Alan’s favorite, so—as he would say—who needs any more distinction than “just perfect”?) To me, the biggest exception is Meijer Gardens, which is probably the Midwest’s premier outdoor sculpture collection and they host the largest temporary butterfly exhibit in the U.S. during March and April, where some 6,000 butterflies “bloom” in their conservatory.And so, it made perfect sense that Cindi and I should surprise Susan with a trip to Meijer for our Birthday Club outing in her honor. (They wondered if I could say we went to Hawaii for the day using this picture. What do you think??)We started with a Mediterranean picnic under the pavilion near the entrance to the park, and then we sat on a blanket for a couple of hours catching up on family news.In fact, we talked so long that we no longer had time to do everything, so we gave up walking through the sculpture park, looking at the new exhibit, or enjoying the children’s garden, and decided just to tour the conservatory and stroll around the lake.Cindi thought that no matter what else we did, we really needed to smell all the orchids and each choose which orchids we liked the best. There were so many from which to choose, and most of them were delicately fragrant, but I knew right away which one I loved the best! How about you? Which one do you think you’d choose as your favorite? After wandering through the conservatory to soak in all the beauty and peace we took a walk outside to soak in all the beauty and peace there too! We’ve had a family membership to Meijer Gardens for many years,but for some reason, I never noticed before how many gorgeous irises they have! Have you ever noticed how, when you love someone, suddenly everything reminds you of that person? I must be in love with Baby Iris!But, you may not want to spend all day looking at irises, especially since there all sorts of wonderful flowers and sights along the nature trail. Susan reminded us: “Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses!”I live close to Meijer Gardens, and our woods are full of wild roses in bloom right now too. I often think that what God provides for us in nature is just as wonderful as what we work so hard to produce in our gardens, don’t you think?Well, the afternoon was over way too quickly, and we had to hurry for our last stop: ice cream for dessert! Susan said it was the perfect ending to her party. 🙂I hope you treasure your friends. My father’s marriage advice to Alan and me was this: “Go out together every week! Even if you don’t have a nickle to split an ice cream cone (and 40 years ago, you could almost do that), go for a walk around the block. Never stop having fun together.” Amen to that one! May we all enjoy our friends…today and every day!
“A man [or woman, or child] who has friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).