Monthly Archives: March 2013

Rise Up, My Love (26): Consider the Beauty of Holiness

Lily, Easter1:10 “Thy cheeks are comely with rows of jewels, thy neck with chains of gold.”  Some newer versions of the Bible start a new paragraph here, although the King James (along with many older versions) does not. Either way, the context leads one to imagine that either literally or figuratively (or perhaps both), the wife has actually entered into pastoral life, seeking to know her husband by following in the footsteps of those who’ve gone before her, and her husband praised her for her efforts. If we read this verse as a continuation of the husband’s commendation, then it almost seems that the bridegroom is trying to reassure his wife. (And, if we’re thinking in spiritual terms: God is trying to reassure those who follow him faithfully.) Bejeweled horse I can almost hear this young wife protesting, “How am I like a horse? Pharaoh’s horses are gleaming white!  They’re gorgeously arrayed with jeweled harnesses and reigns woven in golden embroidery.  I am worn right out and don’t look the least bit glamorous.”  It is as if the bride is looking through the eyes of despair at her flesh. Necklace of jade, pearls, and goldHer husband reassures her through the eyes of faith, looking at her spirit and visualizing her inner beauty. No, she is not wearing a jeweled harness like Pharaoh’s chariot horses, because she’s not a horse who needs a harness and bit to force her!  She is his bride, following him freely in love!  To the bridegroom, her cheeks are beautifully adorned, harnessed, as it were, by the mind of Christ, and richly jeweled with such precious gems as humility, mercy, love, and unity (Philippians 2).  The bride does not need reigns to direct her!  Spiritually, her neck is bright with the golden chains of Christ’s constraining love, and she turns in response to his loving desires, so tuned to him that she can read and respond to his eyes alone. “I will guide thee with mine eye. Be not as the horse”  (Psalm 32:8-9). Oh, that we could be so tuned to our Lord’s will, and to our husbands!

1:11 “We will make thee borders of gold with studs of silver.” What does that mean? Perhaps at this point the bridegroom encouraged his exhausted bride to give up her work for the day and come home for dinner.  He had tested and proved her devotion, and now he planned to reward her. And, what was her reward to be? “Borders of gold with studs of silver.”  One can almost hear the bride lamenting, “But look at me, I’m a mess!  I’m so tired and dirty that I don’t even feel like eating! And, I don’t have anything to wear!”  I suspect that there are a few gallant husbands out there who have come home and tried to express their love and appreciation for their wives, maybe even inviting them out for dinner just to reward them for working so hard…only to find their wives refusing! It’s as if they can’t or won’t hear. Many brides are so critical of themselves…so frustrated by the way they look…and totally overwhelmed by responsibilities and the needs of their little ones. For whatever reasons, they condemn themselves and therefore can’t believe their husbands could possibly find them attractive. They’re often too tired to even enjoy life and intimacy with their husbands! Isn’t that true of our relationship with the Lord as well? We judge ourselves so sternly—against the standard of perfection—and find ourselves miserably wanting.  Jesus comes to us in tenderness, trying to express his infinite love and encourage us, and we refuse to listen!  We listen to the condemnation of our own hearts and the accusations of the devil rather than the wooings of our lover!  How foolish.  What a lack of trust and love! May we listen with hearing ears and believing hearts to the comforting whispers of the Holy Spirit. God loves us. He’s aware of our efforts. He wants us to rest in His love and abide in Him…come home for a “dinner” of fellowship! This is Easter Morning, March 31, 2013. Can we take some time today and simply enjoy communion with our Savior, who died and rose again to rescue us from sin and death…just because He loves us so incredibly much!Lily, Easter 2“Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (Luke 12:27).

(*Picture of horse from internet, although I couldn’t find copyright information.)

The Armstrong Archives (26): Happy Thanksgiving!

218Thanksgiving, 1976  Well, we moved again, and I’m writing to you from the 10th floor of a campus housing project. Where would we be without our annual house cleaning and reorganizing moving program? It always seems a little uprooting at first, but we’re really happy in our new home; there are lots more friends and romping spaces! Aaron has a new playmate, too, named Sara Nagy, who is exactly one week and six hours older than he. When they go for walks together, they race and jabber and run into each other –it’s great. Due to the nature of our building (all graduate and professional students) there are many other wives at home with small children, and every Friday night we have an hour-long get together for them all. It is really a cross-cultural group too. So far I’ve met women from Jordan, Kenya, India, Japan, Denmark, Thailand, and Nigeria, and I’m sure other countries are represented in the group too. I love it.

Alan has bee unusually busy of late, but I think the academic pressures will let up after his next exam (the Monday after Thanksgiving). He has started a Bible study group at school and is super excited about it as the kids involved are really enjoying the chance for fellowship and sharing. He has also begun working with the Stockade program at our church, which is something like Boy Scouts with a Christian emphasis. (He just learned this week—among other things—how to use a wristwatch like a compass. Point the hour hand toward the sun. Divide the number of degrees in half that is formed by the acute angle of the hour and minute hands. An imaginary line drawn outward from that point should point toward the south. Pretty heat, eh?)

The golden age of industry and imitation has arrived in the life of our little guy. He has “gotta get going” all the time! He has learned to push chairs around to climb higher, and desktops or counter spaces are no longer safe. He has discovered the mechanical switch too and has really let the power go to his head. Click, click, click, click. Off goes the alarm clock, on goes the flash light, off with the kitchen light, off with the vacuum sweeper. Let’s see, son, we are supposed to be cleaning the house…He does help a lot though, much in vain but some real. When dinner’s ready I send him off with his bib and he will go and knock at Alan’s door to call him, then climb up in his high chair. He feeds himself with spoon or fork (refuses to eat without them in fact unless he’s too hungry to be sophisticated) and tries to wash up his place with a cloth after supper’s over.

That is just about the end of his truly useful advancements. He has a passion for imitation and goes so far as to try to aid us in bathing and dressing ourselves! He about died of jealousy until he got his own toothbrush, and he scrubs his eight teeth faithfully while we brush ours. Dish duty is his real specialty, and he nearly always pushes up a chair to climb up and “help.” Conveniently, there is a tiny drawer to the left of the sink which is full of small kitchen treasures, and he plays with his own gadgets when he tires of splashing. I now understand why it takes housewives so long to get anything done! He also likes to “sort” laundry, sweep, or follow Alan around if he’s using a screwdriver or other fascinating tool.

The final landmark of recent vintage is the introduction of family devotions. After his bath, Alan reads him a paragraph-long Bible story from a picture book. Without a doubt he doesn’t understand the story, but he dearly loves to have us read to him! He turns the pages, and he has learned to fold his hands and sit quietly. Sometimes when Alan announces that it’s time to pray, he leans his head against one arm, but I suspect (though we’ve never checked) he doesn’t close his eyes. The bedtime ritual is very important to him, as I discovered one night when I hurriedly tried to put him to bed while entertaining company. I tried to snuggle him in my arms to nurse without his story, but he wouldn’t have it! He wriggled down and ran over to the chest where we keep his book! Everything must be done “decently and in order.”

My latest projects include recovering an old chair, candying fruit for fruitcakes, and applying for general admission to graduate school here. I dug out some old library books—Luther’s Catechism and the New England Primer included, and I’ve begun preparing materials to use in training Aaron. Since we don’t indulge in T.V., I’ve promised myself to teach Aaron more than he would learn on Sesame Street. That’s a pretty big order, so I’m starting to study well in advance. I also find a little time for personal interest studies and am very happy as a homemaker.

Well, “gotta get going” is at my knee begging for a little attention! Happy Thanksgiving.

 [Note on back of Thanksgiving family letter]

Hi!

Am I ever getting behind on my correspondence! Alan is keeping resolute to the end that he can’t go home. I guess the next trip will be around December 23-24th.

It looks like getting a B.A. in education would be just about as arduous as getting a Ph.D. at this point (well, not really), since I haven’t had any education courses or student teaching and am from an unaccredited school with semester rather than quarter hours. Of course, my real interest is in clinical psychology, and if I went back to school, that would be the place to go.

I’ve started getting up at 3:30 am with Alan and studying, so now I’m just as tired as he is and not so depressed when all he wants to do is eat and sleep! Not only do I get more done, I become a little more empathetic.

Well, time to take Aaron to the Children’s Library for a book of poems!

Love, K, A, and Aa

PS—I talked to a child psychiatrist who has a clinic in N.Y.C. for an hour while she waited for her plane the other day. She kept telling me what an “amazing” child Aaron is and what “marvelous” coordination he has. Of course, I ate it right up. Didn’t tell anyone else, but thought the grandparents could stand to hear that someone else thinks their grandson is pretty special!

Judah Blue’s Hawaii

Judah's first BdayJudah Cerulean (“Blue”) just celebrated his first birthday two days ago. I can’t 295497_941392057698_1305708164_ntell you too much about him except that he’s running around everywhere, 537651_939723007488_177600027_nbabbles quite earnestly, and tries to grab the computer screen when we’re 555278_939723706088_145546828_nskyping. Grace’s sister and brother-in-law have been visiting this month, and I 313312_941393010788_539842616_n think her nephew and his wife will be coming next month. I know that Alan and I 549912_941395271258_749905172_nare going back in June for Michael’s graduation, and then they leave for their 602685_941396663468_1492321114_nnext assignment. All told, everyone in our family got to visit them at some point, 225476_941395959878_733227399_nand I think they never lacked for company their entire tour of duty. Amidst all 581879_939692269088_1925702427_nthe hustle and bustle of life, little Judah was born on a golden afternoon, Kaena Pointsurrounded by blue Hawaiian oceans and sunny skies. He’s been on the move  644448_939703057468_2017276234_nwith family and friends ever since, and it looks to me like he’s had a perfectly 598956_939703541498_1455773026_n wonderful first year. Last year at this time, Alan and I were visiting. In fact, we DSCN4280got to attend their church’s Easter services with them…celebrating Judah’s new DSCN4296life, the resurrection life of Christ, and the resurrection life that He offers to any 64776_10100692915518547_1686226680_nand all who want forgiveness for their sins and a life transformed by resurrection420217_939702728128_2008899293_n power and love. Thank you, Jesus, for rising again, for saving all who call on 644421_939721869768_193270644_nyou—including me—and for giving us this sweet little baby, Judah Blue!DSCN4193“And now, little children, abide in him [Jesus]; that, when he shall appear, we        may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.”                 (1 John 2:28)

(First picture by Brisha Poata Te’o, others by Michael, Grace, Brianna, Daniel. Only three are mine.)

My Track Record from the Long Winter

TireWhile Michigan was busy trying to set records for snowfall this winter, I contented myself by trying to identify a record number of tracks in the snowfalls! Here is what (I think) that I found, but if for any reason you believe I’ve mis-identified a set of tracks, please let me know, since I’m hoping this might be helpful for others too. Obviously, the first one we all know: tire tracks! Then…

DeerDeer tracks have cloven hooves, are somewhat oval in shape & 2.5-3″ in length.Deer trailThis is what a deer trail looks like close up.Deer crossing lakeDeer walk in a relatively straight line (as you can see from this trail across our lake), as do members of the feline and canine families. AbbyHere are my German shepherd, Abishai’s prints: They are somewhat elongated, have 4 toes, and there’s always a touch of his tail dragging.Deer Beside Dog Dog prints are in the range of 2.25-4″ long usually. Here you can see Abby walking to the right of a trail left by a deer.FoxRed fox tracks are somewhat smaller (2-2.5 “), rounder, and usually leave a more distinct X-shape in the middle. We have a fox in our woods, but we don’t see him often, so I was excited to find his tracks one day!CatCats have four round toes (no claws), and a triangular-shaped heel pad. They leave a very small footprint, only about 1.9.” Bobcat?I wonder if this could possibly be a bobcat track, although they’re not common around here. Based on its size, roundness, and the shape of its heel pad, I’m not sure what else it could be, but correct me if I’m wrong and you know what it is.Bird tracksI don’t even try to distinguish song bird tracks, but they make patterns like this.BirdIndividually, most song birds’ tracks look like this.TurkeyWe have a flock of wild turkeys that roam our woods. I always think of their tracks as pointing, the opposite direction from the way they’re going.Rabbit and RainRabbits, squirrels, and mice all typically have tracks that appear in sets of 4. Rabbit hoppingHere you see a rabbit hopping, and then he took off in a run when Abby saw him!Rabbit runningCotton-tail rabbit prints look like tiny human shoes to me: no claws Rabbit "snowshoes"and only about 1″ in their front feet and 4″ in their hind feet. Rabbit little front, bigger backIf often looks like the longer print are “in front,” but it’s really that the rabbit jumps forward so that the back feet land not far from where the front feet were. Rabbit RestingThis bunny was at rest until he took off in a flash to avoid Abby! Rabbit with PelletsWe have oodles of rabbits, and where there are rabbits, there are usually pellets. Rabbit and HumanThere are almost always rabbit tracks along the road, criss-crossing the road, and skirting along the edge of the fields and through the woods.SquirrelSquirrel tracks have clear claw prints, are rounder and a little smaller (1.5-2.25″).Squirrel all pawsThey have 4 clawed toes on their front and five on their hind legs. Mouse, deer,Here are deer prints with tiny mouse prints running through. The little white- White-footed mousefooted mouse have feet that are only 0.25″ in front and 0.75″ in back! Mouse trailMice leave straight trials that go in and out of snowbanks and lead to tiny holes! Meadow Vole RunHowever, if you see a squiggly line in a field, you’re more likely seeing the trail of Vole Runthe meadow vole. They create crazy patterns called “vole runs,”Abby with volesand Abby can never figure out what to make of such capricious creatures! Muskrat 2Now on to some tracks that are less common. Muskrats have 4 long, spreading Muskrattoes and leave almost V-shaped footprints. The are aquatic mammals, so if you Muskrat 3live near water and see footprints like these, you’re probably tracking a muskrat.Skunk 2The stripped skunk has 5 more rounded toes. The back paws are 1.5″ long andSkunkthe same length but wider and have five sharp claws to protect themselves (not that they need it with all their smell power)! Possom TracksOpossums are another critter with very different front and back paws.  The front paw is 1.75″ long and leaves a 5-point star design, whereas the back paw is about 2″ long with three very long and one short toe. Weasel with Mouse It seemed all too fitting to find 4-toed, 1″ weasel tracks next to tiny mouse tracks and near a hole into the ground. I don’t know if the mouse made it or not! 🙂 WoodchuckOur friendly (or not so friendly) woodchuck has a nice, broad 2″ front paw print IMG_7106 with four spreading toes and a slightly larger 5-toed back foot. Boot

Last of all, are human footprints. This is my boot with Yak Trax to keep me from slipping on the ice. I hope you have fun trying to identify tracks in the snow, and I hope this helps give you some ideas for what you might be seeing. I also hope you take delight in the marvelous diversity in our world and the wonders that God has created for us to enjoy!

“And God created…every living creature that moves…and God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:21).

The Last Enemy: Preparing to Win the Fight of Your Life

True confession: I am terrified by the very thought of babysitting. I don’t know if it’s PTSD from feeling emotionally abandoned during my childbearing years, or if it was from never babysitting as a kid (since my dad outbid the $.50 per hour rate for babysitters 50 years ago by paying me $.60 per hour to grade papers for him)…or…I just have a personality defect and find the thought of being the captive audience for a two-year-old more stressful than sitting in a dental chair.01However, yesterday I managed a timid foray out of my comfort zone to spend the day with this radiant and wonderful family! I’ve known Emily’s parents since childhood…used to work out with Emily’s mom when she was expecting Em’s older brother, rejoiced in Emily’s birth, and have followed her growth for years.02And so, when I heard that Emily had broken her arm, had a flooded basement, and needed help so she could be with her mom during a surgery in Ann Arbor…03well, my love overcame my fears, and I rose to the occasion (by grace ye are  13saved)! Besides, these three red-headed adorables are being homeschooled, so  04 what’s so hard about that? After 7 kids and 25 years of homeschooling, you’d 05think I could watch some especially well-mannered children for one day, right? 06True fact: I survived. No, I more than survived. The kids were truly gracious little07 hostesses and took great care of me all day. In fact, they played as sweetly as my 08 daughter, Kathy Kris, when she was little, and it made me sorry that I somehow 09                 hadn’t managed to have six daughters as well as six sons! The Last EnemyI’m just finishing this book, which I’d taken with me when I babysat (not that I read much, but I take a book with me everywhere). The idea of understanding death from a Christian perspective is very much on my heart these days, not only because of Emily’s mother’s surgery, but because I literally have over a half a dozen close friends around the country who are currently grappling with serious cancer issues, and because this Friday Alan’s sister would have been celebrating her 68th birthday had she not died of cancer last Mothers’ Day. If you or any of your loved ones are facing the issues of death and dying, I recommend this book very highly. It’s not a gloss-over-the-issue-with-platitudes sort of work. Dr. Wittmer looks Death straight in the eye, wrestles with the issues, and shares insights and hope from the scripture. Death is our enemy, but for the believer, death has been conquered by Christ, and it is via the final surrender to death that we begin to experience unfettered, real, eternal life.

10 We may be terrified by the very prospect of death, but we don’t need to be.11 I’m not suggesting that death is a piece of cake, 14but I truly believe the Lord used the challenge of babysitting as an object lesson. 12When the crises of life and death come, God will give us the grace to  venture out 15of our comfort zone, and when it’s time to say goodbye to this life, I believe we will leave secure in the sense of God’s goodness and grace, and all will be well.

“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?…But thanks be to God, which gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”                                (1 Corinthians 15:55,57)

The Victoria and Albert: “Greatest Decorative-Arts Museum in the World”

01Every time we go to London we find some amazing new treasure that we’d never 02seen before. This time it was the Victoria and Albert Museum. It has the largest 03collection of Renaissance sculpture outside of Italy and the greatest collection of Indian ArtIndian art outside India. There are fascinating Chinese and Japanese galleries, Dresssuites of furniture, a superb dress collection and an outstanding display of IMG_2777musical instruments. ArchitectureThe V&A has also opened 15 modern galleries that explain Glove the development of British design from the 16th to the 20th centuries using over Great Bed of Ware 3,000 exhibits. “The Great Bed of Ware” from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night 05resides here, as well as the wedding suite of James II. One of the most incredible Henry VIII galleries (at least to me) holds “Fakes and Forgeries,” some of which seem to 04exceed the quality of the old masters that the forgers imitated! There are a trio of IMG_2986galleries dedicated to British landscapes featuring such fabulous painters as IMG_2917Turner and Constable. And on, and on! Really, for anyone interested in any form 08of art, not only painting and sculpture, but metallurgy, Pulpitcarpentry and furniture,Tapestry weaving and tapestries, Tiles ceramic tiles,  Embroideryembroideries,07 glassware, stained glass stained glass,  Plateexquisite dishware, jewelryjewelry… 06if you enjoy beauty imagined by the human brain & fashioned by human hands, 09 please take the time to visit the “V&A” if you get to London!

“You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for you have created all things, and for your pleasure they are and were created.”    (Revelation 4:11)

“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist” (Colossians 1:16-17).

The Snow Is always Deeper on the Northern Side of the State

27So, I repent of complaining about spring taking so long to come to lower 22Michigan, because—as you can see from these pictures I took last weekend—28the snowbanks at the opposite end of our state in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, 30still conjure up thoughts of northern Alaska to me. 31(Although I promise you that all these pictures were just taken this past weekend 20while Alan and I were taking a little nostalgia tour of our old home town.) 01Sault Ste. Marie is a beautiful place to visit anytime, although I love fall the best. 14I grew up in a little house on Dillon St., but we did something very special this 05 time: We stayed at the Ojibway, a historic hotel overlooking the the Soo Locks 03 and famed for hosting the “CaChoo Club” and some notable guests.02The Ojibway is now owned by Ramada but still retains it’s 1930’s ambiance, and 06they include a lovely complimentary breakfast in their sunny dining room. 04Our room was charming and the bed comfy…definitely a pleasant stay. 10Our room overlooked the Soo Locks and Brady Park, and after we checked out, 11 we took a stroll through the park, as we have done hundreds of times over the 13 years. When we were kids, we used to sit in the crook of that tree on the left and 09watch the tourists passing by. Forty-five+ years later, we’re the tourists! 12My mother helped found the People-to-People organization nearly 50 years ago, and this gate from Japan in Brady Park was a gift from their “sister city.”15I used to have to walk up Easterday Hill every day on my way home from school. 32In those days, there were no steps and we sometimes had to pull ourselves up 29using the railings to keep us from sliding back down in the icy winter weather! 17We picked up Milt and Faye for lunch. They are like second parents to Alan. 18Alan grew up with their son, Larry, & he later worked with Milt at his dad’s shop.19(I hope you’re noticing the incredibly high snowbanks in these pictures!) 26 Milt and Faye have been a great source of inspiration to us over the years!     (This is a picture from the wall by their front door…and they really live this out!)21We stopped at “Cozy’s” for some of their famous whitefish & sour cream/chives  french fries. I’ll tell you, there’s no whitefish like Lake Superior fresh-caught! 16Oh, and I mustn’t forget to tell you about the great dinner we had the night before with Alan’s cousin, Jim, and his sweet wife, Gladys. 08What a blessing it was to head north for the weekend, even though they’ve had a 23

brutal winter and the snowbanks were unbelievably high! Next time I’m tempted to complain about the late spring in lower Michigan—or whatever challenge I’m dealing with—will you remind me that the snows are deeper elsewhere? I, for one, am glad I’m not on the other side of the fence, and I hope you are too!

“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as you have: for He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’.”      (Hebrews 13:5)