Happy Halloween and Such!

1376695_10151653021446863_1417268956_n Did I tell you that my oldest son (who was working for Twitter) is now working for Face Book? Aaron went to work today looking like this. One of the comments he got after posting his picture was, “Saving the world one line of bad code at a time.” 🙂487583_10201806759884821_110694578_nSo, Happy Halloween to you! For the first time in my remembered history, there were no pumpkins carved at our house! In fact, our son Daniel has invited us over for a party at his house tonight, but I don’t think Alan and I are even going to dress up. Hmmm. What’s wrong with this picture?  We’re either getting too busy, too old, or too lazy…and probably some of each! Meanwhile, I’m getting some vicarious enjoyment out of the festivities of our grandchildren.1404873_10201723427864156_1116821384_o I really do love Face Book (even apart from Aaron’s working there.) After all, how else could I see an up-to-the-minute attempt by my youngest grandson to carve his first jack-o-lantern? (Hope he didn’t stab himself!) DSCN8449Thankfully, Alan and I do get to spend a little time with Kathy and Carl’s daughter! Last week we went to visit…and ya…we had to hit a cider mill. After considering, I decided the cashiers probably weren’t sick and witchy…DSCN8466                            and the donuts were pretty much close to perfect DSCN8509                  even if Iris couldn’t resist giving most of hers to the ducks, img_2388                                and poor little Oliver didn’t get a single bite! 1378502_10151758264323227_324411385_nDid I tell you that I’ve decided to try to enter ArtPrize this coming year? I’ve been going crazy trying to get the first stage of the project launched, so if I don’t post very regularly between now and mid-January, know it’s because I’m having way too much fun trying to be artistic, traveling, helping out with a new grand baby due in November, and sponsoring Christmas for our family this year! But, I will continue to be praying daily for every person who reads my blog, asking God to bless you and draw you (and me) ever nearer to Himself, and I’ll still doubtless be posting as often as I can (like next Wednesday for the Beth Moore contest for sure). Meanwhile, may we each be trusting in the Lord, remembering that “Faithful is he who calls you, who also will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

Beth Moore Book Contest

DSCN8794Living Proof Ministries has honored me with an invitation to read and review Beth Moore’s 2013 publication on prayer, and they’ve even given me an extra copy for a “giveaway” on my blog. Whispers of Hope (10 weeks of devotional prayer)  arrived at my house yesterday, and I’ve been thinking about how to make my blog post most beneficial for all of us. SO, here’s what I propose: I will read the book by next Wednesday (Lord willing) and publish a review, including a few of my favorite quotes from Whispers of Hope. I will also invite you to respond to the post by sharing one/some of your favorite Beth Moore quotes from any other book of hers that you may have read in the past. I will give people 2 weeks to respond. After the closing date of the contest, I will have an independent group of 3 people vote on which response they consider the “best” (wisest, truest, most impacting). Then, I’ll post the winner in the comment box and also contact the winner to ask for his/her mailing address. Sound like fun? I hope so! I’m looking forward to reading the 2013 edition of Whispers of Hope, and I’m also excited about hearing all the bits of wisdom you’ve gleaned! Hope you’ll join me next Wednesday so we can encourage each other in our faith. 🙂

“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Happy Tenth Anniversary Birthday Club!

DSCN8721It’s hard to believe that Cindi, Susan, and I have celebrated (without a single DSCN8780miss) one another’s birthdays for the past 10 years! Yesterday was my 10th year DSCN8751of being honored with a “surprise” birthday party, and it really came at just the DSCN8701perfect time to cheer me up after losing Abishai. Susan picked me up but DSCN8704wouldn’t tell me where we were going until we arrived at the “English Cottage” DSCN8703 tea house, where they say that every cup is “tealightful!” Indeed it was. 🙂 DSCN8706When we arrived, the table was already set for a fabulous tea party! DSCN8713The hostess, Cynthia Wedge, serves the teas in her own home, and at our DSCN8718request, she shared lots of good tips about how to brew the perfect cups of tea DSCN8715and shared a plethora of interesting historical background info concerning the DSCN8727 farming and production of fine teas. Each of us could choose 2 different flavors, DSCN8709& the pots were big enough to share, so that we ended up tasting 6 unique teas. DSCN8710Of course, there were all sorts of traditional treats to eat as well. After a cup of acorn squash soup, we enjoyed lemon poppy seed bread and cranberry orange scones served with lemon curd, clotted cream, and orange marmalade. DSCN8712Next was a savory assortment of open-faced cucumber sandwiches, chicken salad on croissants, ham, swiss and goat cheese roll ups, and mustard eggs made from a recipe common during the time of Jane Austen. (Cynthia is a researcher!) DSCN8722

Just in case we weren’t full (and of course, we all were), there was a flourless chocolate torte as an encore dessert. I’m not sure if that was also traditional, but it was superb! It made opening presents slowly almost mandatory: one bite of cake, one present…rest. Repeat! Presents are always an explosion of clever little gifts the girls have found over the course of the year and something extra that’s very special! This year I was given enough to buy a whole bag of Cynthia’s special teas: black, green, white, and oolong…all with very specific directions for how make the perfect cup. (For instance, did you know that white teas should not be doused into boiling water? They need slightly cooler temperatures and longer to brew.) So, next time you come over, just ask and I’ll make you a cup of hopefully superb tea! Meanwhile, if you want, you can call Cynthia at 616-970-3853 and let her know you’re coming over tonight (literally, that’s as in October 22, 2013) for her tea-tasting party! She said you’re all invited. 🙂

DSCN8733Well, after all that fabulous food, we decided to go over to Meijer Garden DSCN8738 and see if we could walk off a few calories while taking in the “Shattered Glass” DSCN8740exhibit. I am always so impressed with the beauty and creativity of people! DSCN8744Artists take lumps of glass and turn them into exquisite masterpieces. DSCN8742They take tiny bits of shattered glass and create beautiful, fascinating designs. DSCN8775Ah, and what a joy it is that God does the same thing for us! DSCN8749He takes us as lumps of clay and spends our life times working on us!DSCN8792Maybe someday Susan, Cindi, and I will be as fragrant as these orchids!

“But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand” (Isaiah 64:8).

The End of an Era

Abby KWAI know that the loss of a pet pales to near nothingness in comparison to the pain suffered by my loved ones who are struggling with the loss of mates and their own health, loss of children, miscarriages, and more, but still losing a faithful pet who has been a loving part of your family for many years is also sad. When my Nephew Matt’s family lost their beloved cat not long ago, I felt very empathetic, remembering how much it’s pained me to lose pets. And then, my Niece Andrea’s family lost David, their faithful dog that pre-dated all of their six kids, and that was doubly sad for me personally, because our families have been so close, and IMG_5512we’ve all loved David for many years. But, to lose Abishai 10 days later was a shock! (This picture was taken Oct. 2 on my birthday walk with Ab.) Abby had Joel with Abbybeen a part of just about every family activity for nearly 11 years, and I can hardly ever remember a time being outside when Abby wasn’t right beside me, joining in the fun…or trying to. Alan had been warning me for months that Abby was getting old and wouldn’t last forever, and I knew it, but I just didn’t want to think about it! He was starting to develop a bad hip and other old age issues, but…what’s new with that? Don’t we all get old and have health issues Family Walk with Abbyeventually? So, when I took him to the vet for his yearly round of immunizations Monday, I was feeling encouraged that he might make it through the winter, or at least until Christmas to see all our (23) kids and grand kids one last time. Even though he didn’t seem very interested in eating on Friday before Alan and I left to visit with Kathy’s family for the weekend, I never dreamed he’d be gone by the early hours of Sunday morning. Joel and Stephen watched over him Saturday, hand feeding him and bringing him water. Stephen even held Abby for a little while because he seemed weak, but still…I think we all just thought he was sick and would recover. However, during the wee hours of Sunday morning, he passed out of this life in his sleep. Very sad indeed. DSCN8698 After church Sunday, Stephen and Joel dug him a grave, and later they made a delicious supper for Alan and me when we arrived home. After dinner, Alan andIMG_6590 the guys laid him to rest between our lake and our home, which he’d guarded and loved so well. Alan prayed a sweet benediction, and our two sons left to go back to grad school in their respective nearby cities. Bless my precious sons! IMG_6594Saturday night before we went to sleep, for whatever reason, I turned to Psalm 91 and read it through while Alan was in the shower. Five minutes later, Alan came to our bedroom and volunteered to read me a psalm before we went to sleep. I said that would be great! He turned to Psalm 91. After he read it, I asked him why he’d chosen that particular psalm, and he said he didn’t know, it just seemed like the right psalm. Feeling the Lord lead me to hear Psalm 91 twice made me stop and wonder just what He was preparing me for. I think it was to know that God himself is all I need in the way of shelter and protection, and that is true for each of us who put our trust in Him: “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God: in him will I trust” (Psalm 91:1-2). The whole psalm is beautiful is you have enough time to read it! IMG_6598I’ve had people ask me if I think “all dogs go to heaven” or “no dogs go to heaven.” Truly, I think that’s one of those many mysteries that aren’t specifically addressed in scripture, but I do believe that Romans 8:19-22 leaves some room for hope that the entire creation will “be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” and seem to be waiting for the redemption of their bodies too. Meanwhile, God calls us to be busy about our Father’s business: the mission of sharing His wonderful love and mercy, His saving forgiveness, and how He’s working our lives—the good news—with a world experiencing so much of sadness and death. IMG_6595

“He shall cover thee with is feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler” (Psalm 91:4).

Rise Up, My Love (56): Appealing to our Senses

IMG_6574Song of Solomon 2:13 “…and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell.” In Israel, the vine and the fig tree were symbols of prosperity, but during the time of Solomon, they were more than symbols—their abundant existence characterized the entire nation: “And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, from Dan even to Beer-sheba, all the days of Solomon” (I Kings 4:25).  Solomon was called the “King of Peace” and his reign marked the Golden Age of Israel, the zenith of her prosperity.  It was this king, at this time, who called his bride out to join him with the tantalizing fragrance of figs and grape blossoms.  She would have no need of her home, for the Prince of Peace would protect her. She would have no fear of famishing on the journey, for the aroma of figs and grapes… food and drink… filled the land.  Similarly, our Prince of Peace will care for us, “For he is our peace, who…came and preached peace to you which were afar off” (Ephesians 2:14,17).  We need not fear famishing on our spiritual journey, for Jesus said, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:48) and the living water: “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life”(John 4:14). IMG_6544Have you ever wondered how our beloved sustained and nourished himself while on earth? What was the spiritual food upon which Jesus feasted? “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish His work” (John 4:34). Do you find yourself spiritually exhausted from the pressures of this life? Are you burning out like a shooting star against the endless, black abyss of universal need? Even the incarnate God did not try to single-handedly conquer the world of physical needs while He lived on earth as a man.  He had one purpose and goal: to “be about his Father’s business” (Luke 2:49), to do his Father’s will moment by moment.  We, too, will find that as we traverse our beloved’s kingdom, hand in hand with him, we will be invigorated by doing our Father’s will and finishing his work.  May this be our meat and drink as it was Christ’s, on whom we feed and in whom we abide (John 6:54; John 15:5)! DSCN83532:13 “…the vines with the tender grape give a good smell.” Yes, her beloved tantalized her with that which delighted her senses… “a good smell.”  Have you ever been awakened in the morning by the aroma of freshly brewed coffee…and DSCN8349maybe even some bacon and eggs sizzling on the stove? Do you remember how it energized you to climb out of bed—maybe on a cold winter morning—instead of rolling over and pulling the covers up around your head? Did you ever have the privilege of camping as a child where you woke up to the heavenly fragrance of IMG_8241pancakes for breakfast (or burgers for supper)? Do you recall scampering out in a hurry out to see “what’s cookin’?!”  Is there anything more appealing than bursting into the kitchen after school to track down that awesome smell?…Yes!  Rhubarb Pie 02.23.13 copyFresh pie with ice cream!  Just what I thought! Or, what about the delectable scent that greets you after church when you open the front door?.Ummm! Pot roast and potatoes…reassuring you that you did indeed remember to set the timer on the oven before you left home! DSCN8674Is it wrong to enjoy the wonderful things that appeal to our senses?  Absolutely not!  God has given us “richly all things to enjoy” (I Timothy 6:17). Notice how King Solomon appealed to all five senses as he called his bride out to join him: the flowers to gather, delighting her eyes with beauty and her hands with their delicate textures; the joyous songs of the birds to tune her ears; the perfumed scent of spicy figs and blossoming grapes to quicken her step and make her mouth water.  “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.” He appealed to her first out of love, then by reason, and lastly by her senses.  His kingdom was one of great prosperity and beauty for her to enjoy…so why not come and partake of the treasured stores he had prepared for her pleasure?

To me, this is the perfect answer to the warning in I John 2:15-17: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world, If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.  And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doth the will of God abideth for ever.”

Our divine Provider has created the world and given us “all things richly to enjoy.” When appreciated as his gifts and used fully, but in accordance with his will, the beauties of nature and God’s natural order bring complete satisfaction: “The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it” (Proverbs 10:22). God specifically warns us against hypocritical asceticism—trying to obtain spiritual perfection through rigorous self-denial and discipline rather than through surrendering to the guidance and control of the Holy Spirit—in such passages as I Timothy 4:3 and Colossians 2:18-23.  God does not want us to live a life “forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats”… “touch not; taste not; handle not.”

The Armstrong Archives (56): Aaron Becomes Baby Michael’s Protector

DSCN6039Tuesday, September 19, 1978  The kids [3 and 1; these are the only pictures I could find, but they’re from much earlier] are sleeping in this morning. Small wonder, after Aaron woke up four times during the night. (Michael is a better sleeper than Aaron! Can you believe it?!) Aaron has begun the stage of fearfulness; he’s beginning to comprehend what danger is all about. Suddenly he wants a night light: he won’t even look at strangers (and sometimes our friends); he won’t tackle big slides or other types of challenging playground equipment that used to delight him; and he wakes up at night and scurries in to see if we’re still in bed…and willing to rock him back to sleep. DSCN6043There is also a corresponding brighter side to this new revelation of his. He is becoming Michael’s protector and overseer. He’s very perceptive about what might be harmful to Michael, and if our little one strays close to the top of a stairway or attempts to play with an electrical outlet, Aaron shepherds him right away, warning, “No, no, Mikey, that’s dangerous!” As Aaron appreciates pain more, he is also becoming distinctly kinder and gentler. He still plays pretty roughly with Michael, but only under circumstances of extreme jealousy does he intentionally try to push him over or make him cry. In fact, he has become so responsible in this area that I let him “baby sit” for an occasional two-minute period while I run down the hall to check the wash. Aaron gets quite alarmed if Michael cries and usually tells me (correctly) just what’s wrong and what to do about it: “Mikey wants out of he car sear Mama. Nurse him!”

And glory of glories, the boys are beginning to play together. The other day I washed the lunch dishes, made baked beans and deviled eggs, and had half packed a picnic before they gave out. Aaron was well trained by his neighbor friend, Cheryl Ann, last year, and now he’s teaching Michael to play the same types of games he learned. Michael fits naturally into the little brother roll and is generally delighted by everything Aaron does. It was interesting to watch Michael yesterday when I babysat for a girl just about his age. She was a couple of months older and about twice as big (although I think a lot of it was just feminine roundness 🙂 ). He was after her all day, followed her around, tried (successfully when I wasn’t looking) to take toys and crackers away, and jabbered at her. I couldn’t believe my docile little fellow would be so aggressive around a strange girl. How much was androgens and how much training, I don’t know, but it was quite an eye-opener to me! He was every bit as spunky as Aaron used to be with his playmate Sara. IMG_6576It’s been a busy week, although right now I can’t remember anything. Friday we double dated with Keith and Marji for dinner and a long talk about residencies (Keith and Alan are both seniors in search of a residency), and about their wedding plans. We were up until midnight…you know how these “young” couples hate to take time out to sleep…but it’s all so exciting! Saturday morning we took Liz Lang (who’s now a sophomore at Michigan) on a picnic along Huron River Drive. The honeybees were swarming, so we finally had to retreat to the car to eat. We dropped her off at the opening Michigan football game (Alan’s tongue was hanging out) and went up to Kensington to hike their nature trails. It was a IMG_0495perfectly clear, 75° day. Aaron ran the whole way, never even asking to be held, and stopped to inspect every brook, snail, berry, flower, butterfly, twig…I see it’s time to dig out some field guides, binoculars, and magnifying glasses. [I’m not sure, but this might be the time he also inspected a discarded can of beer and drank a few of the last few drops before we could catch up with him and tell him “Yukky!”] Last week’s booty of library books included stories on butterflies, weather, crickets, and duck migrations (among others). What excites me is his thirst for understanding—and his ability to actually absorb material! I’ve narrowed down my goals in teaching right now to: all about God, and all about nature. “Narrowed” was a joke, but I do want to expose him to as much of life as possible using Philippians 4:8 as my guiding boundary: “Whatsoever things are true…honest… just…pure…lovely…of good report…if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, thing on these things.”DSCN8438[Enclosed is a pink sheet of paper with lots of diligent scribbles in various colors on both sides. I’m thinking it was made by both boys, since Aaron usually brings his creations to me and gives them specific titles!]DSCN8377Tuesday, October 31, 1978  Sorry to worry you. We had a great vacation. There was a postal strike in Canada, among other things…none of which were legitimate. I should have called you as soon as we got back to Detroit. How was your trip to Gary? Were the leaves gorgeous? We got to see the leaves turn again in Canada, and then this past weekend in southern Michigan! DSCN8355We have just been flying since we left the Soo. That lunch you packed us could have won first prize at a 4-H fair! We didn’t eat in a restaurant the whole two days! Just picnicked and loved every minute of it. We had a fantastic time in Bayfield [Ontario]. I’ll write more details next week. Everything is fine here. Thanks for the vacation! [This was probably the vacation where Aaron discovered “grammasgum.” We never chewed gum, but Grandma Alma often did, and she always kept some packages of Wrigley’s Doublemint gum in one of her kitchen drawers. Aaron noticed, and so of course he wanted some…and whatever Aaron wanted, Grandma would give him (pretty much standard for all good grandmas…so beware)! At any rate, after we left, Aaron would often ask us if he could have some more “grammasgum.” It didn’t take too long to figure out what he wanted: more of Grandma’s gum! For years, all chewing gum was called grammasgum at our house.] DSCN8358

Three Cedars Farm…Finding a Happy Place!

IMG_5353While we were visiting Kathy and Carl, they took us on an outing in the country. DSCN6477I was going to add “for some fresh air and sunshine,” but really—it was raining, DSCN6489  and although there are many wonderful things about farms, IMG_5357 most aren’t notable for their divine scents. DSCN6484However, Three Cedars Farm is very exceptional in pretty much every way. DSCN6481Not only are there all sorts of delicious soap and candy smells wafting throughDSCN6610 the air in their country store and ’round about, DSCN6493they sell fresh, homemade donuts DSCN6495 and cider at the “Donut Hut,” which makes the whole farm smell like DSCN6604warm cinnamon sugar & sweet apple juice. It’s definitely a happy place to visit!DSCN6487 So, we scampered through the raindrops, DSCN6488 hurried into the Donut Hut, DSCN6491 and got in line to bag a bag of our own! DSCN6506Have you ever noticed how it always seems to happen when you take kids out, DSCN6507that by the time you find a table and get all settled in, divide up the food DSCN6513and are just about ready to savor your repast with time of quiet togetherness…DSCN6509that at that exact moment your beloved toddler is already completely done DSCN6516and refuses to have anything to do with sitting quietly at the table anymore?!! DSCN6517Bless Carl! Daddy to the rescue! DSCN6518Carl and I decided to take Iris outside so Alan, Kathy Kris, and Oliver could rest. DSCN6520Of course, Iris wanted to get washed up first! “Clean hands and a clean heart!” 🙂 DSCN6618Three Cedars Farm has all sorts of fun things to do besides eating donuts! DSCN6523However, because it was raining, we opted to skip the playground DSCN6569and let Iris enjoy viewing all the farm animals from her warm, dry perch DSCN6555in Daddy’s arms under his big red umbrella. DSCN6533The animals were in pens decorated around themes of favored children’s stories. DSCN6540Here are Peter Cottontail and his sisters playing in a village of tiny houses. DSCN6571On the front of each pen is a place where you can push a button to hear a story. DSCN6566   This pen tells the story of Henny Penny, the little red hen. DSCN6546Due to the rain, all of Mary’s little lambs not only followed her to schoolDSCN6547but decided to hole up inside the school house, DSCN6549and the three little pigs DSCN6550were taking a safe snooze inside their snug brick home. DSCN6525Fortunately for us, the three billy goats gruff were curious fellows DSCN6528who could be tempted to come out for something to eat! DSCN6591While Carl fed the goats, DSCN6592Iris got to pet them…the crowning touch on a happy outing! DSCN6616Before we left, we stopped at the cutest bathroom I’ve ever seen! DSCN6615One stall was occupied, but the rest were available. Aren’t they clever? DSCN6613Kathy says the farm is owned and operated by a Christian family, & I believe it!DSCN6478So much is free for the delight of all, and it’s a very happy place!  DSCN6602So, if you’re looking for a happy place to spend a few hours this fall DSCN6575(and you’re not too far from southeast Michigan), consider Three Cedars Farm!

It occurs to me that it’s not the weather, and it’s not really our circumstances that “make” us happy or sad. I think it’s more about love in our hearts—loving God and loving one another. May our hearts be filled with love…and as they say:                                                        “Happy Fall, Ya All!”

“He that handles a matter wisely shall find good: and whosoever trusts the LORD, happy is he” (Proverbs 16:20).