Iris Meets Her Baby Brother

Processed with VSCOcam with b1 presetKathy and Carl finally had their baby last weekend! His name is Oliver Owen. IMG_5217Oliver took much longer than expected coming, so Iris and Curious George had time to join us for our morning devotional time. IMG_5220In fact, they were so good that we all went to Tim Horton’s for some breakfast. IMG_5225“Timmy Bits” are Iris’ favorite, and she’s pretty much a two-fisted eater! IMG_5227After what seemed like pretty close to an eternity (you know… a few hours), IMG_5230 Iris had her first touch of her very own baby brother! IMG_5231She responded exactly the same way my son Aaron responded to his baby brother a generation ago. Iris plopped right down and wanted to hold him! IMG_5232 I suspect that’s also the way most every toddler responds to “his/her” new baby! IMG_5235“I wanna hold ‘im IMG_5234and hug him! IMG_5237Well, I wasn’t trying to make him cry! IMG_5242He has a nose just like mine! IMG_5243He has a tongue too, just like me! IMG_5244He has eyes just like me too! See how they sparkle!IMG_5239Why can’t I touch his eyes? IMG_5246I can touch his ears? IMG_5247Can I touch his hair? IMG_5249He’s so cute. You did good, Mom. I think he’s a keeper! IMG_5258Let’s give Grandma a turn.IMG_5266She can hold him for a little bit. IMG_5267Okay, Grandpa! Now it’s your turn. IMG_5272I’ll help you Grandpa. Did you see his hair? IMG_5281I think he’s the cutest thing around since me! IMG_5282Do you suppose we should give Dad and Mom a turn too? IMG_5285Life is going to be just fine, especially as long as I’m still in the middle!” IMG_5298Goodnight, sweet little Oliver! We’re so glad you’ve come to join our family! IMG_5295Well, I guess it’s time to go home. Oliver’s getting awfully sleepy. IMG_5297May you sleep in heavenly peace!

“The name Oliver refers of course to olives, a symbol of peace (olive branches) and prosperity (olive trees).” “The biblical olive tree symbolizes fruitfulness and beauty and dignity. ‘Extending an olive branch’ signifies an offer of peace.”

“But I am like an olive tree
flourishing in the house of God;
I trust in God’s unfailing love
for ever and ever.
 For what you have done I will always praise you
in the presence of your faithful people.
And I will hope in your name,
for your name is good.”
 Psalm 52: 8-9


Rise Up, My Love (52): When Do the Birds Sing?

Dan.Gold Finch? copySong of Solomon 2:12 “The time of the singing of birds is come.”  Singing birds speak of the joy, hope, and the blessed anticipation of fruitfulness. The king calls his beloved forth with a second blessing…not only the delight of flowers, but the joy of singing.  Flowers signify art; birds express music. Flowers adorn the ground with beauty; birds fill the sky with song.  Both flowers and birds are used as examples by our Lord of the Father’s special care. “Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them.  Are ye not much better than they?” (Matthew 6:26). Our heavenly bridegroom bids us follow him, not only because he has overcome the barriers of our past, but because he will provide for our every need in the present.  The flowers are arrayed more beautifully than Solomon; the birds are fed from the Father’s hand.  “Having food and raiment let us be therewith content (I Timothy 6:8). What need have we of more? Blackbird, red-wingedAnd yet, our Lord promises more—not more physically, but more spiritually—the hope of fruitfulness! This song of songs sings of the song of birds…but of what do the birds sing? When is the time of the singing of birds? It is not really in the summer.  In the summer, birds are too busy caring for their young.  Oh, in the north woods one can be awakened from sleep with the predawn praise of gold finches or the alarm clock racket of the crows, and one can be soothed in the evening by the haunting melody of the vesper thrush, but during the day, the robins are hard at work pulling up worms to fill the mouths of their hungry babies, and in the evening the swallows are busily swooping across the lakes in search of insects to take back to their nests. No, the time of singing is not in the summer. Swan leaving lake copyThe time of singing is not in the fall.  In the autumn there is an urgency about bird calls…a shrillness…a warning.  As the flocks of migratory birds darken the Birds, migrating copysky, it is the sound of calling each other on that can be heard.  It is not the time of singing, it is the time of military mustering and marching as they flee before the winter winds. Cardinal copyThe time of singing is not in the winter.  In the time of snows, most birds fly away to warmer refuges, leaving only a hollow silence and the wailing wind in their wake.  In the snowy regions of North America, the only voices heard often in the winter are the screeching jays, the rat-a-tat-tat of the nuthatch hammering his way down a tree in search of grubs, or the plaintive cries of the chickadees Cardinal, Female copyand chirping calls of sparrows. The birds fluff out their feathers and tuck their heads under their wings, shivering against the cold much like the hurried commuter, who pulls his collar up around his neck while filling his gas tank and tenses against the storm. No, neither man nor bird feels like singing in the grip of winter’s blast! Geese on frozen lakeThe time of the singing of the birds is not even early spring.  In early spring, the geese arrive and sit silently on our frozen lake, waiting for one of the warm Geese on melting lakesprings under the surface to melt its way up and meet the sun warming its way down until at last there is a pool of open water again.  One by one, the flocks of birds pass through…the purple martins, the grosbeaks, the Baltimore orioles. Soon the birds return in pairs to stay…those who nested in the area last summer: blue.heron_.lake_ copythe pair of great blue herons to the cat tails on the lake, the cardinals into the Robin, April 12, 2012willow which overhangs our waterfront, the robins to their nest over the “Welcome” sign by our front door, and the grebes and wood ducks…the geese   176 copyand swans return to the water’s marshy edge to nest. In late winter and early spring, the birds return and recuperate. Wood ducks in Rain, April 20, 2012The time of the singing of birds is late spring, after “the rain is over and gone,” and the reason the birds sing is for joy of love. “The time of the singing of birds” is the time of serenading…the time of proclaiming true love…the time of proposals.  Most birds mate for life, and in the spring, young birds sing to woo and win their mates.  Hopefully, already mated birds sing for joy, praising God for their wonderful mate and nest!  Hopefully, already married people do the same! Robin in lilac bush, April 19, 2012The time of the singing of birds is perhaps the time of greatest exuberance and freedom. Warmth, beauty, love, joy, excited anticipation! “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.”  Come with me and enter into the joy of the resurrection life.  Come away with me and fill your eyes with beauty and your The Ducks copyears with music. Come away with me to the promise of love and our future fruitfulness together.  Leave behind everything that would tie you down, and come away with me!  Oh, how our hearts should overflow with love and our lips overflow with song in praise of the altogether lovely One who has called us to come away with him! Black bird, red-winged April 26, 2012

(*The first picture was used by permission of my friend, Dan A.)

The Armstrong Archives (52): Which Field of Medicine…and Where?

Playground at DeRoyJuly 25, 1978  It’s going to be a magnificent day, so I thought housework should be done as quickly as possible so the boys and I can enjoy being outside. They’re still asleep, but Alan has already left for work. He gets all his meals free this month and has to leave so early that we don’t try waking the kids up for a family breakfast as is our usual custom. Alan really likes anesthesiology; in fact, he is considering it as one serious option for a residency program. We spend most of our thought time trying to figure out what he ought to do for the next how-many-ever years, remembering that “the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord,” and greatly desiring that this will be true of us. My role is to pray and be ready to accept anything…and be a bounce board. As wife and mother, nothing will change too drastically no matter where we go or what he does. However, there is really a vast difference in the quality of life between the various fields of medicine. So, what are our values, priorities, etc.?!! The ends of the spectrum are roughly G.P—surgeon, and practicing in Dafter—missionary to anywhere. Obviously, where we practice will have some influence on what type of preparation Alan needs. We would love to live in the Soo, but we don’t want to be selfish either, and there are certainly places where doctors and Christians are more scarce than they are at home.

Well, anyway, that’s our current thought problem. In the flesh, there is nothing I would enjoy more than building a little house back at the McKiddies’ farm and rearing a bunch of kids and a big garden, enjoying the relative peace and security of the quiet North and the friendship of family and the lovely people there. However, that might not be the most useful investment of my time. Both of us love being together and enjoying family. Alan chafes a little under the saddle of such long hours and such a consuming career of service, but he is prepared to do it. If he is going to work time and a half or better for the rest of his life, though, it should be doing what is both satisfying and as interesting as possible, and he doesn’t really know what his greatest interest is yet. None of this would bother us were it not the season to be applying for residencies. But, ‘tis the season! IMG_4234We enjoyed a lovely week. Friday we went on a double date to Windsor with Keith VanOsterhout and Marji Barber. Keith has just changed radically since he started dating Marji…I like t think it’s the influence of a good woman! He just floats around and is becoming much more sociable and happy! Anyway, Saturday night he proposed to her, and Sunday night he came over to tell us all about it and get some advice (advice?!), and Monday Marji called to tell us a second-by-second report. It is so much fun to be in on such a special happening. Plus we get to do some “remember-whening” to ourselves and realize how much we’ve grown since we were anticipating marriage. We are just extremely happy to be married and want to thank all four of you again for all your faithful years of parenting! IMG_4923Saturday was a Sunday school picnic. Alan’s still a bit sore from playing ball but just loved the chance for some good, hard exercise. Aaron and Michael really ate up the chance to play with all the other kids. Jim Watson, our teacher, teasingly observed [while watching Michael chasing and kicking a big ball], “I think Michael must already be saved, he’s just happy all the time.” He is too, almost always. Michael is so winsome that Aaron has taken a bit of a turn towards being jealous, especially since Michael is starting to walk and is right at a good age for getting attention. We are trying extra hard to notice and appreciate Aaron. Big brothers have an awful lot expected of them!

August 1, 1978  First, I’d better beg your indulgence for writing with Michael on my lap, because he’s contesting my exclusive use of the keyboard. gk [doubtless from Michael]We’ve had quite a busy week, highlighted by our high school’s ten-year reunion. It was really fun to see all the kids again—many of whom seemed to have changed very little—and all of the various reproductions thereof. I was surprised to see that most of us have just continued to grow along the same lines…a bit fuller (the adult frame physically, emotionally, and spiritually), but really very few radical changes in character or personality.

I took the boys to the Belle Isle Children’s Zoo with a friend and her little girl. It is a zoo built on the themes of Mother Goose rhymes and full of baby animals. Aaron has always loved animals, and Michael was absolutely in his glory with the baby goats that attempted to eat the plastic seat of his stroller. They have a special area where you can buy baby bottles full of milk to feed the baby goats. We got three bottles, which lasted just second because the kids were right ready for a morning snack. I always thought it was a joke to think the billy goats ate clothing, but they went right after Aaron’s shirt! IMG_4930Our neighbor Bill came for dinner one night just before his wife and daughter returned from visiting the grandparents in Scotland. They’ve been our neighbors ever since we moved in, and Aaron has gotten to be such good friends with their nine-year-old daughter that I’ve had several people ask about his “sister.” They’re moving to Texas next month, which will be quite a loss for us, and even more so since Bill has recently become an avid student of the Scriptures. He comes from a Lutheran/Jehovah Witness background and is just now trying to figure out what the Bible really says. He’s forever asking questions and bringing up verses concerning doctrines that Alan and I have accepted for years without studying recently, such as the trinity, deity of Christ, eschatology, etc. It has been really exciting to study, search, and review with him, and it also strengthens our own knowledge. [Eventually, their whole family came to Christ. We have continued our friendship to this day. Bill is now a biochemistry professor in Tennessee, and the Lord eventually blessed them with three other children, much to Janice’s great delight! She had feared that Cheryl Ann would be an only child!]

One day Alan and I attended a “Financial Planning Seminar” which was simply excellent. It dealt with insurance, wills, credit, debt, etc. from the Biblical perspective. Of course one day barely scratched the surface, but it really gave us some helpful insights in so many areas where we had had questions—why term insurance, how to avoid probate, why have a will, should everything be joint—just ask us, we’re experts. HA! HA! One of the most exciting aspects was their emphasis on budgeting and how to do it. We’re working on that now and will meet with an ex-economics professor who’s working with the organization on Friday. July 2012Well, the boys are hot to get outside. It’s a gorgeous, cloudless morning. [I couldn’t find a picture from that time, so I’m using this one of Aaron with two of his sons from July, 2012 when they were just about the same ages as Aaron and Michael were in 1978! :)] Alan’s doing radiology this month and has the best hours he will have in his entire medical career, I’m sure: 8:30-4:30 Monday through Friday with no weekends. As for the ongoing guessing game of what he’ll do next year…after spending the weekend in the Soo and seeing their grave need for family practitioners, today he is back to considering being a family practice doctor. We already have a Christian friend who has expressed interest in going into such a practice with him, so who knows, maybe this will settle it. He’s so good with people (my very blind and prejudiced opinion I realize), that I think he would be well suited to primary care work. Who knows? Hopefully, we will by next April anyway!

Fan Fare

IMG_3995If you’re looking for a way to cool down your hot toddler, you might like fanfare. IMG_3996   I think Kathy read about it online somewhere, and it’s a great hit with Iris. IMG_3997Stick your fan under a blanket and turn in on!  It makes a small wind tunnel.IMG_4001What Iris instinctively tries to do is try to grab at the covers…IMG_4002but what she’s supposed to do is crawl underneath and revel in the breeze. IMG_4004Iris really wanted me to come play with herIMG_4005because it’s S.O.  M.U.C.H.  F.U.N.!! IMG_4008Kathy manned the fan to keep Iris safe, and I joined in the fun. IMG_4015Lots of room for rolling about! IMG_4009She wanted Kathy to play with us too, but Kathy had her hands full! IMG_4013However, Iris and I were as cool as cucumbers and loved the refreshing wind! IMG_4011

Thank you, heavenly father, for sending the refreshing wind of the Holy Spirit to comfort us when we’re hot and tired! Iris is such a picture of me! I may instinctively try to help control circumstances, and I pretty much always wish for a friend to join me, but what God really wants for me is to “climb under the cover” of his wings and just revel in the comfort of his love, cooled and restored by the ministry of his Holy Spirit blowing like a gentle wind over my soul.IMG_5235Are you enjoying the presence of God’s Holy Spirit in your life? Have you become a child by faith in Christ and a part of the spiritual “kingdom of God”? Are you “under the covers” of his love and reveling in his care?  When Nicodemus sought out Jesus one night long ago, “Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, You must be born again. The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you don not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.'” (John 3:3-8 ESV)

Someone New is Coming!

Baby ShoesKathy is now past her due date. I don’t how soon young Mr. J. will arrive, img_2139 but Kathy’s more than ready, and so are Iris and George! img_2178Iris is crazy about Curious George, and what’s not to love? IMG_3982She also loves going to the park IMG_3983and playing with her doting family, who all adore her. 🙂 img_2144As you might imagine, I’m just dying to go play with her and meet her new baby brother! Iris all ChocolatySo bring on the fun! And, if you don’t hear from me very regularly for a while… you’ll know why!

“How excellent is your loving kindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of your wings” (Psalm 36:7).

(Kathryn let me use her 3 pictures of Iris and Curious George)

Autumn Arising

IMG_5177It is officially autumn again, and I am so thankful to be alive to experience it! DSCN6286God painted another study in pastels just before the sun rose this morning. IMG_5181I ran outside with my camera and noticed the waning moon still high in the sky. IMG_5120Abby’s fur was beaded with dew and his warm breath reminded me that Alan and I would no longer be swimming around the lake. Tonight we’ll kayak.DSCN6304Like the sun arising, so autumn is arising—Sunrise on lake copynot only on our lake, but in my heart! I will turn 63 next week…that’s definitely the fall of life. It’s the time when we start falling too…slowing down, our vigor abating like a waning moon… and inevitably we’re deteriorating. Alan and I have way too many friends who are sick and struggling with illness right now. DSCN6292 I stopped to pray and waited until the last whispers of pink surrendered to blue. IMG_5141I love our lake. It’s so peaceful. But, there’s always something happening, too! IMG_5147Usually the great blue herons are pretty tolerant of the mallards, IMG_5154 copybut not this morning! IMG_4952In fact, the waterfowl are all skiddish…I think practicing up for their migration. Wood DucksBrightly colored wood ducks fed among the lily pads…but at a safe distance. Bur-marigold (Bidens cernua) copy Lemon-colored bur marigolds brightened the marshy water’s edge…right beneath my feet. 🙂loosestrife copyThe last of the loose strife delighted my eyes. I could have lingered forever! IMG_5078Ah, but Abby had been patiently waiting all this time for his morning walk. IMG_5109 2It was a perfect misty, moisty morning today…so like early autumn! Robin singing at dawn 9.25.13A robin was bursting with song high up in the top of a dead ash tree, Woodpecker 9.25.13and a little downy woodpecker worked tirelessly drilling out grubs near the top of an old snag above the swamp. IMG_4968Deer crossed the lane behind us after they thought we were gone,IMG_4873and Canada geese grazed peacefully in the grassy field. All was well. All is well.Goldenrod and bee copyExcept maybe for the bee on this goldenrod. He appeared to be too cold to move. Asters, Purple Fall copyHere and there the road was sprinkled with  bright purple asters Flea Bane   copyand cheery white flea bane. Flax, Blue copyEven some delicate blue flax were still blooming…well past their summer blush. IMG_5001

I marveled at God’s creative genius in the sunrise and the waning moon, the waking lake and woods, the birds and bees and flowers and trees…but there was a little wistful sadness in my heart until I came upon these cherry-red rose hips. I know wild roses burst into glory when June is bustin’ out all over, but they are still beautiful and fruitful in the fall. After all, you can’t make rose hip tea until autumn. So, even though autumn is arising in my life, I can be fruitful in ways that I couldn’t before. Autumn is a beautiful time, and I’m so glad to be alive to enjoy another autumn!

“They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, ‘The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him’.” (Psalm 92:14-15 NIV)

The Romance of Northern Europe (6): Cruising Fjords in the Baltic Sea

IMG_0016One of my favorite joys in cruising is just that: cruising! IMG_0043Cruising through the fjords along the coast of Norway was especially enchanting. IMG_0020We weren’t in rugged mountain areas like we’ve seen in New Zealand and AlaskaIMG_0025 but lollygagged through gentler fjords IMG_0048filled with islands IMG_0023and dotted with homes. IMG_0035On this particular cruise of Northern Europe, we only had two days “At Sea” IMG_0062where we traveled throughout the day without ever reaching a port. IMG_0024On those days, we were filled with fresh sea breezes from the rising of the sun IMG_0086unto the going down of the same…until the sun set in lilac and golden splendor.IMG_0030Alan and I spent a lot of time walking & soaking up the views during days at sea.IMG_0058Our captain gave great commentary and would tell people just where to look IMG_0074and what they might be seeing that would be of special interest. IMG_0029I probably should have kept a journal with notes IMG_0036so I could give you more details on what we saw. IMG_0045But, alas, my eyes were so full of wonder IMG_0034at IMG_0084all IMG_0089theIMG_0096fascinating townsIMG_0052and remote, romantic islands, IMG_0041that I failed to retain much specific information to share, IMG_0066although I hope you’re able to enjoy my “Impressions of Norway.” IMG_0057I will say that cruising through the Baltic Sea— IMG_0068especially through the fjords of Norway—was an experience I’ll always treasure. IMG_0038It’s an adventure I would happily repeat. But, if I ever get to go again, I’d like to sail up the northern coast of Norway to some of the more wild, remote fjords. IMG_0093“From the rising of the sun to the going down of the same the LORD’s name is to be praised” (Psalm 113:3).