Magical Firsts for Miss Iris

Waiting for the BoatWhile we were at Disney, we all got to enjoy some pretty amazing, magical firstsBoat Ridewith little Miss Iris, who is (daughter) Kathy and Carl’s 11-month-old daughter.Boat to the ContemporaryIris really enjoyed her maiden voyage on a boat…all the way across Bay Lake to  Contemporarythe Contemporary Resort. Although we stay at the Fort Wilderness Campground, Contemporary Strollwe always take some time to go “resort hopping,” just to stroll around all theMonorailbeautiful, park-like resort grounds, using the monorail system to skip from Monorail Ride Grand Floridianone gorgeous resort to the next. Iris definitely enjoyed her first monorail ride,  Lunch at the Polynesianbut she relished her first lunch at the Polynesian even more, especially since she Polynesian Ducklingsfound some new friends to share her lunch with her: It was her very first chance  Watching Ducklingsto Make Way for Ducklings…at least real, live ducklings! But, poor Miss Iris….Kaluia Cakeby the time the rest of us were ready for an elegant dessert of cake and coffee,Sleeping Through DessertIris had fallen soundly asleep in her Baby Bjorn (definitely not a first for that),Chocolate Fondue Kona Cafeand so we had to eat without her. (But, I assure you, we would have shared. 🙂 ) Wilderness LodgeAnother awesome first for Iris was our trip to the Wilderness Lodge. Pileated Woodpecker. Carl J. copyCarl captured his first closeup of North America’s largest (Piliated) woodpecker. Bald EagleBack at Fort Wilderness we all shared a first: watching a bald eagle fishing right Beachin' Itin front of us. Iris wasn’t too impressed; she was much more interested in  Sandplaying with sand, but it was the first time she didn’t like having sandy hands! HorseThere seem to be no end to exciting “first times” at Fort Wilderness, like Ponieschecking out the great big horses and the pretty, little snowy-white ponies.First pineconeThere are first pine cones to feel,Hummingbirdhummingbirds to watch (and photograph…a first good opportunity for me!),Spanish Mossand a first try at pulling apart Spanish Moss!SplashingThere was a great time first-splashing at the kiddie pool, and then it started toCatching Raindrops rain for real, so there was a first time marveling at raindrops falling from the sky.Magical Day at the KingdomAnd last, but not least, was little Miss Iris’s first trip to the Magic Kingdom. Magic Kingdom BoatThere was the long, somewhat intimidating ride on a big boat to get there. 11 DumboThere was an exciting first ride on Dumbo. Can elephants really fly?!TrainThere was a fascinating first ride on a train. How’s it work?11 PoohThere were stories to live out, Drumsmusic to make, and all the time…learning, learning, learning! You could just see Disney Sun hat the little wheels in her brain spinning round and round and round!

Iris on Small WorldI’m convinced the Lord wants us to be like Iris. He’s taking us on an amazing trip through life, and I think he wants us to take in all the magical firsts of life just like a child: staying as close as possible to our Source of Comfort, being willing to go along (most of the time), watching, learning, imitating, experimenting, being filled with awe, and being willing to experience everything He provides for us.At Disney Surely God loves us even much more dearly that we love our little ones, so shouldn’t we trust Him to take us through all the magical firsts of this life… through time and into eternity?

“And he [Jesus] said, ‘Truly I say to you, except you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven'” (Matthew 18:3).

Vacation Bliss…for Most of Us

Nationalgrandparentsday.comAlan had to attend a conference, but it worked out that Kathy’s family and I -2

could join him. What a joy to spend some time together in a snug cabin-4tucked away at the Fort Wilderness Campground! Alan and I also took-3a side trip to the beach to build sandcastles on the afternoon after he finished his conference, although the poor guy ended up having to fly home a day early due to unexpected work needs at the hospital. 😦  It’s great to be needed…but it would be lovely not being needed when one is trying to get rested up a bit! IrisIris and I will miss him, but you can see that I’ve been having lots of fun! Hopefully I’ll have more stories to share with you soon!

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name!”

Hidden Away…Eynsham Village

01Here is my beloved youngest son, Joel, loyally attending me even after Alan and 02Stephen had given out for the day and evening shadows were growing long. It 03was our last night in the country, & we’d seen everything listed in the guidebooks 04noteworthy in the area…the famous towns of the Cotswolds, Blenheim Palace,05the world-famous University at Oxford, Christ Church Cathedral, the Eagle and 23Child Restaurant, Stratford-upon-Avon, and even a Shakespearean play.06What was left, and why go in search of Eynsham…a tiny village so insignificant 08that it wasn’t discussed in the guidebooks…or even listed in the index?09As a matter of fact, Eynsham is in West Oxfordshire and one of the Cotswold10villages. It has existed since the Bronze Age and has a fascinating history…11but because it’s off the “beaten path,” it was totally devoid of tourists and felt12as peaceful and serene as a village untouched for hundreds of years!07 The thatched roofs were more authentic-looking than Anne Hathaway’s house,13 and the flowers as pristine14and fragrant as any growing in the country gardens at Stow-on-the-Wold.18The stone cottages were just as honey-colored and the gardens just as tidy.

15Why, I wondered, wasn’t Eynsham famous and crowded with tourists too?16I really don’t know. Maybe the townsfolk would like to keep their community 17hidden away. Maybe they don’t want fame! Maybe they’d rather not be bothered19 with thousands of gawking tourists day in and day out. Maybe they’d like to get 21 lots of attention, but for some reason, they just don’t. It made me think of my22youngest son, who is a truly authentic and magnificent person but has at times 24 felt overlooked. I’m sure we all feel that way from time to time—at school, at 20 work, or when we feel lonely. I was caught by this phrase: “To the glory of God.”25If we do all that we do “to the glory of God,” then nothing will go unnoticed or unappreciated. May an audience of One be enough to make us bloom radiantly!

P.S.—As an after thought, I wonder if we sometimes overlook people who are truly wonderful simply because they don’t promote themselves…might be time to start looking around a bit more carefully! 🙂

“Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God” (Romans 15:7).

Beth Moore’s “Mercy Triumphs”: The Book of James

Beth MooreEvery time I listen to Beth Moore, she makes me laugh, touches me to tears with her stories, and always leaves me feeling uplifted. I think our ladies’ Bible study has done almost every last one of Beth Moore’s Bible studies sometime during Mercy Triumphsthe past 20 years. This week, we just finished her latest study, called Mercy Triumphs, on the life of James (the brother of Jesus) and the book of James in Starrythe Bible. Beth definitely has a way with words, and as I reviewed my scribbled notes from the margins of my workbook, I thought some of her quotables would Snowflakesbe worth sharing with you…coupled with my latest attempt at using my macro lens on some of the billions of snowflakes that are blanketing our backyard at the Spikeymoment. Please excuse the pictures where they aren’t crystal clear…I will get better over time (hopefully). Also,  please excuse me if the quotes aren’t always completely word perfect. They’re as close as my secretarial skills allow, but I’m afraid those are unlikely to improve much over time!  🙂

Magical“Don’t try to grace yourself out of obedience; if you don’t do it, then you don’t believe it.” Flowers... “Joy is your birthright in Christ. Through pure obedience we reclaim our joy.” Pretty“God will reboot your hard drive. Healing goes from our mind to our body. If we’re in bondage, we have unbelief. We live out what we believe. We can break free by faith.”  Melting “Heap up all the broken pieces of life and give them to God. This is wholeness…’You can have the whole thing, Lord…please fix me!'” Edge “God will take our pains and turn them into passion. You can live with pain more than purposelessness.” Breathtaking “Trust God with your anguish, and he will birth something precious in you.”  Clear“Moral of the story: Want to teach? Prepare to apologize a lot.” Leaf and Square cut “Pride is the graveyard of the believer, but insecurity is the psych. ward.” Single “Our culture is mass producing narcissists. It you’re not fighting it, you’re doing it. Yield to God but stand against sin.” Perfect “There’s just no high like the Most High!”  Winter impressions “There is rarely nothing you can do. Being still and knowing He is God is a long shot from nothing. Trusting in a God you cannot see is a long shot from nothing…holding your tongue…being patient…counting it all joy…submitting…confessing sin…resting in Christ…and hear this one really loudly:  praying is a long shot from nothing.” Ferns “How to have a healthy soul: 1. Lose the victim mentality 2. When you’re feeling powerless, don’t let anyone tell you there’s nothing you can do. 3. LIVE LIFE WITH GOD.” Jewels “If we’re willing, God is our song when we are happy, our escape when we are tempted, our hope when we’re despairing, our joy in tribulation, our strength in weakness, and our immortality in dying. Ultimately, He Himself is our health.”Yes “Our sufferings etch engraved invitations to intimate places with God.” Splashy “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” Pretty but blurry “Impression without expression causes depression.” Alone “Immunity from community means no ministry.” Bejeweled Clump “If a person doesn’t want to get well, stop trying to help.” Delicate“If your help isn’t helping, then stop helping. The best help sometimes is to stop trying to help.” Veiled layers “If you’re going to err, err on the side of mercy.”  Rorschach“Have solid—but generous—boundaries.”Lovely too

We’re going to be starting another 12-week study this week, and I’d love for you to join us if you live in the GR area and have some discretionary time in your daily schedule. If you’re interested, please let me know, & I can give you details!White crystals

Just like the billions of snowflakes that fall—all unique and beautiful—God showers us with countless good and perfect gifts from above. They all come down from the Father of Lights, who never changes or even shows a hint of turning away from his love for us! (Thoughts based on James 1:17) However,  I’m thankful that His gifts and purposes are eternal and don’t melt like the snowflakes!

Rise Up, My Love (17): On Drawing and Being Drawn by Love

Knowing Jesus.comSong of Solomon 1:4 “Draw me, we will run after thee.”  This is the bride speaking, asking her lover to draw her to himself, with the understanding that if he will draw her, not only she…but her companions…will be drawn to pursue him. From the New Testament, we know that this is exactly the process of God’s work in our lives. It is God who draws us. Jesus said, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him” (John 6:44). calvarie copyWhat draws us to Jesus?  He said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32; this happened when Christ was “lifted up” on the cross). We are drawn to Christ as we understand the depth of his sacrificial love for us, and then this love motivates us to love others (2 Cor. 5:14).cranach_sr_overspeligevrouw copyIn Christ’s perfect example, we see another key for anyone who longs to draw another person towards himself (or herself). Draw her with “cords of love” (Hosea 11:4)… acts of kindness. When I was eight, I understood that a cute classmate liked me because he lobbed snowballs in my direction after school every day. Playful expressions of interest are pleasant at any age, but deep down every female is looking for a male who will honor, protect, and cherish her. What seems appealing at eight can be irritating at eighteen and totally inappropriate at twenty-eight. Grow up. Be mature! If you want a lover, love her. We all need a hero like Christ, who laid down his life for us. Be a hero.

How do we attract others? By treating them with honor and respect. By seeing and meeting their needs. By providing for them…sometimes even before they realize what they’ll need. If you’re looking for a spouse (or—of course—it’s appropriate for all of us at all times to try to) be magnetically good, and you will be almost impossible to resist! I’ll tell you, the night a woman ran a red light andCarl and Kathy totaled Carl’s car was the night I decided Carl could marry my daughter. You know why? Because this young man’s first thought was to reach over and protect Kathy from the impact…to get her out of the car…to make sure she was alright. I never heard him say an unkind or angry word against the woman who hit them (and was totally at fault). And you know what? Carl is a great husband! He Kathy and Carlgenuinely loves her, and he is genuinely kind. Definitely magnetic attraction!

“Draw me, we will run after thee.” So, the bride asks the groom to draw her, and having been drawn, she willingly pursues him. One of my husband’s favorite lines is from a Dudley Do Right cartoon, where the heroic Canadian Mountie’s girlfriend, Nell, captures the “bad guys” by getting them to follow her into the Royal Canadian Mounted Police camp. When asked if the men “Put up quite a Dudley DoRight

fight, did they?” her response is, “Oh, no, they seemed to come willingly!” Isn’t it true that if we are attracted enough to someone, we will just about follow that 220px-Dwight_D._Eisenhower,_official_photo_portrait,_May_29,_1959person anywhere? American President Dwight Eisenhower was famous for his philosophy on how to get troops to follow him: “It’s easier to pull a rope than to push it.” If you are are an attractive person and a good leader—if you are drawing near to God yourself—then you will find that others will naturally follow you in your pursuit of God.jezus_verschijning copyGod draws us to himself, and then we find ourselves desiring to be drawn nearer. “Draw nigh unto my soul, and redeem it,” we cry out to God (Psalm 69:18). “Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you,” comes the reply (James 4:8). Our spirit calls back, “It is good for me to draw near to God“ (Psalm 73:28). “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience” (Heb. 10:22).duccio_maesta_samvrouw copyOur verse says, “Draw me, we will run after thee.” Notice the transition from singular to plural…from “me” to “we.” The testimony from Scripture resounds, “It is good for me to draw near…Let us draw near…” After we have been drawn to Christ, we will pursue him ourselves, but we will also draw others to pursue him with us.Jesus ComfortingAre you drawing close to God? A.W. Tozer wrote a classic book called The Pursuit of God, which really helped me and has encouraged countless people in their search for a closer walk with Jesus. A beautiful song by Kelly Carpenter called “Draw Me Close,” has the refrain, “You’re all I want. You’re all I’ve ever needed.”  As we draw nearer to God, we discover that he has been very near to us all the time. May we experience God in our lives as a comforting presence as warm and close as a comforter wrapped snugly around us on a cold winter’s night.

The Armstrong Archives (17): Flu, Car Troubles, and Thieves

AlanTuesday, March 23, 1976   The flu is such a miserable thing to have…seems like it’s gone across the whole country this year. Aaron and I (and Alan too?) are down with a little something, though just head colds and sore throats so far. Alan has an exam next Wednesday, so I’ve even sacrificed kissing him in the hopes that he doesn’t catch my bug! 🙂

 Aaron is sitting on the floor beside me now contentedly banging a pie tin. Old Truly Drooley crabbed for a week, and then on St. Patrick’s Day he promptly popped out two teeth, of which he is extremely proud. Now he bites covers, shirts, curtains, necks, or whatever is available, very like a puppy with an old slipper. He has also mastered the art of rolling from tummy to back and plays a new game with his dad. Alan places him face down, Aaron rolls over, Alan kisses his tummy and tickles him, then flips him back on his stomach, and Aaron promptly rolls back for more! He will roll over 20+ times until he’s really too tired to roll. In fact, we have to be careful not to tire him because he’ll get frustrated and cry if he runs out of steam!

Monday was “doctor day;” Aaron got a shot in the old leg and an oral polio vaccine. He really howled for a couple of minutes but then quieted down and really didn’t let it slow him down any, although last night he had a little fever and today seems to have a little of my cold.

Tuesday evening, March 30, 1976   Well, it’s been a pretty eventful week! Alan has studied constantly for his upcoming exam tomorrow. Aaron and I have finally won over our colds and are starting to make a comeback. (He’d been waking up 3-5 times nightly and driving me nuts!) The refrigerator has smelled so awful that I can’t think of words to describe the odor, even though I’ve cleaned it three times, and Alan even took it partly apart so I could clean every bit of it. We can’t imagine what’s causing the odor! The car’s been overheating when we drive more than a few miles or over 35 mph. Alan got a new thermostat and a new hose, but it still hasn’t come around, so this weekend he’s going to have to do major surgery on it!

And last, but by no means least, two kids robbed our downstairs neighbors. Alan and I were both home when it happened but didn’t catch the kids in the house, although we heard noises and saw the kids outside. It’s a long story, but Alan and I suspect that the two boys (ages 13-14) must be selling Kevin (9) drugs, or at least that’s the only way all the pieces of the puzzle fit together.

Abishai: A Dog for All Seasons

abishaiWhen we brought Abishai home ten almost 10 years ago, we were told that mostCuddlingGerman shepherds only live about 6-8 years (so large their hips often give out),skiingbut I really wanted Joel to have a dog, and I knew that in 6 years Joel would Leadinglikely be graduating from college, and so I thought it might work out just fine.InspectingAbishai persevered through many of the kids graduating and leaving home, andBeggingdespite turning into a 125-pound giant, he’s adjusted to the grand kids just fine.ListeningHe’s even taken in Kathy’s husband, Carl, and knows he’s one of the pack! AttendingNow that the kids are gone, it’s up to me to make sure he gets walked every day,Frighteningbut not only do I love his company, I am especially glad for the company!ChasingHe mostly chases rabbits and deer, but he killed a coon one night, and once I had Disappearingto rescue a deer he’d downed. (Did you know a deer can scream like a person?)GuardingI do feel safe with Abby around. Nobody accidentally comes inside our fence. 🙂MV5BMjA4NDM1MDI4OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzAyMTU0MQ@@._V1._SY317_CR3,0,214,317_Have you ever seen the fabulous 1966 movie based on the life of Sir Thomas More, the heroic Man for all Seasons who stood against Henry VIII to defend biblical principles back in sixteenth-century England? Well, I like to think of FollowingAbishai (lovingly nicknamed “Abby”) as our dog for all seasons!SniffingIn honor of his tenth birthday, I would like to give a salute to Abishai and allConcentratingfaithful, loyal dogs who stick by their families through the thick and thins of life. Looking AheadI learn many things from watching Abby: “Walk in the light.”PosingBe attentive.WaitingWait patiently on my Master. Looking BackKeep asking if it’s time to move on…and if so, which way to go. SkatingAnd, never stop following, even when it’s getting very cold and dark!

“Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children” (Ephesians 5:1)

Some NOT Oh So ShAbBy Sayings by Debbie

01 I don’t know if any of you are a fan of Debbie Reynolds, but as a little girl I 02 thought she was pretty marvelous. I was mesmerized by Singin’ in the Rain and03 pretty much hoped my true love would drop out of the sky someday 05 after watching Tammy and the Bachelor. After I grew up and gave up on any06 attempt at a claim to fame, I really lost track of her until the other day when my08 niece re-posted one of her cute sayings from her Facebook page, called “Oh So 07ShAbBy Sayings by Debbie.” I was so charmed that I looked through her site and09 picked out a few favorites to share with you. Did you know that Debbie 10Reynolds is now in her 80’s and still starring in movies? She first signed11a contract at age 16 and has had an active career spanning more than six12 decades. In fact, she played the role of a grandma in One for the Money (which 13 I haven’t seen) that just came out in 2012! I’m impressed. I’ve also14 enjoyed looking at her Facebook page, and I appreciated her sense of15humor and what she shares. Way to go, Debbie! Wouldn’t you love to have such a16long and healthy life? I’d definitely like to be able to be singin’ in the rain at 80!

I don’t really know anything about Debbie Reynold’s personal life…what she believes or what she’s like today. If you do, I’d love to hear about it, so please share! However, I do know that God sometimes blesses those who love him with long life:

“Because he loves me, says the LORD, I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” (Psalm 91:14-16)

The River Thames and Eynsham Lock

Talbot InnHave you ever had a meander along the River Thames? I had not, and so when I read that the Talbot Inn had originally been a wharf along the Thames, I was 05intrigued, and all the more so when that our room was named “Eynsham Lock.”07Alan was too tired for another adventure, but I prevailed upon my two sons to11 join me in a jaunt across the pastureland behind the inn in search of the illusive10 Eynsham Lock. This was particularly exciting to me, since I grew up in Sault Ste.09Marie, Michigan, soo2 where the mighty “Soo Locks”* were a constant source of interest each summer. 13I was curious about how the lock worked, and (as always) in the 25mood for an evening (or morning, or afternoon) constitutional! I had never seen14an old-fashioned “pound” lock that could be manually operated by boaters at will15and found the whole idea of house boats and river cruising fascinating. 12What would it be like to live a week, a month, a year…or a lifetime on a boat,16plying along some scenic river? I’ve heard of people doing this, but I wondered…17how do they support themselves? Are they all independently wealthy? Or, do19 some wealthy people just own house boats and take them out from time to time

21 the way Americans own sailboats, RV’s, and yachts? I tried to imagine what it might be like, but the Lord has made me so content that it didn’t really seem that appealing…although I’m sure it would be wonderful fun for a while, and I suspect those who enjoy such a life style love it dearly.  Alan and I went to the RV20show in GR last weekend, and we both came away with a happy consensus: Let’s just be content and thankful for what we have: a car and two pairs of sturdy legs!Heathrow 3It’s a fabulous privilege to be able to travel, and I am a fan of all sorts of transportation, but I also love variety, so I’m glad I can fly to far away places andHeathrow 2 then walk a few miles. “A taste is as good as a feast,” my mother used to say, and I’ve noticed feeling that way too. As we walked along the bank, this is what we saw overhead…the sky streaked with contrails from the many jets at HeathrowHeathrow 1International Airport. Definitely time to move on to our next adventure: London!

But oh, how I hated to give up the pastoral setting of rural England. So, before we ended the evening,  Joel indulged me in one last Pooh-Bearian expotition…a walking quest to find Eynsham Village.

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servants, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Exodus 20:17).

“But covet earnestly the best gifts…” (I Corinthians 12:31, just before Paul launched into his treatise on love, which is “the greatest gift”  🙂 )

*Picture of Soo Locks from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ website.