The Armstrong Archives (61): Love, Joy, Peace, and Temperature

 Monday, January 8, 1979  Alan is at work and Aaron is having a hard time going to sleep. Aaron and I were talking about the fruits of the Holy Spirit working in our hearts (Galatians 5:19-22). There are nine listed, and we talked about what they meant. Then I asked him if he could tell me what some of them were. “I know, Mama! Love, joy, peace…and temperature!” (“Temperance” is a pretty hard word to say when you’re three!)

Another milestone for Aaron! He’s sleeping all night without diapers. I can still remember riding on Dad’s shoulders to the bathroom in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom! I got Aaron up twice last night. Can you remember how you went about potty training and the timing, Mom? I would like to train Michael younger if he’s comfortably able to learn.

Speaking of Michael, he’s following right in Aaron’s footsteps. Just when the paddle was getting cold in the closet (Aaron doesn’t need it very often these days), Michael’s beginning to assert himself in aggressive and willful ways. What? Our angel? Fortunately I have Aaron to remind me that kids do improve if I persevere…and I have myself to remind me that kids never get perfect, however. I need the wisdom of God for this task of child rearing!

Monday, January 15, 1979  It got down to —10° this morning, and the windows were covered with a crust of ice just about thick enough for a snowball fight. Winter! Remembering that the virtuous woman “bringeth her food from afar,” I ventured out to the Eastern Market during quite a snowfall, blessed by Alan’s playful, “If you get stuck, call Triple A or somebody else…anybody but me!” Men! Of course, I wasn’t working twelve-hour midnight shifts delivering babies all last week either. So, what’ the bottom line? I am responsible for me.

Aaron’s started composing songs lately. One of his greatest loves has always been music, so we encourage him whenever he begins a new stage of development. His first song had one line: “the angels are internal,” which he would sing over and over with various melodies. (Whether that is related to “immortal,” “eternal,” or his father’s proposed specialization in internal medicine I cannot tell. I do not hold myself responsible for all my son’s theological persuasions.) Since that time, he has begun using his lyrical abilities for more worldly goals, such as the other night when he had strict warnings that there were to be no bedtime snacks for a certain boy who did not eat a good dinner, “Oh, there once was a boy who wanted a snack, a snack wack sack lack snacky.” Or Sunday afternoon while the rest of us were trying to snooze: “I wish Mama and Daddy would get up, up, up and take Mikey and me to church lurch burch.” What do you think? Shall I try to get him in on some tutoring from his Uncle Ralph?

Michael’s getting bigger and more vocal but still speaks very little. However, he is refining the art of nonverbal communication and can usually get across whatever is on his mind. He loves to tackle anyone who’s in a fairly comfortable or stationary position, and I often think of the verse, “Where two or three are gathered together…there is Michael in the midst of them” (rephrased). I will be peacefully sewing a button on a shirt. It would take just a minute to do it—but Aaron wants to help. Why not? He has to learn sometime, right? So up he climbs on my knee to help. (He’s getting pretty good, too.) Michael, as if by E.S.P., speeds into the living room (he could have been playing by himself in the bedroom and still sense that Aaron had joined me). Up on the chair, across the table, up, up, up, DIVE! I have about 55 seconds to figure out what’s going on and clear the deck of anything sharp that might hurt him. I don’t know. I get after him for such misdemeanors, but I feel sorry for him too. He doesn’t want to miss out on any of the action, and who can blame a guy for that?

Actually, the boys taught me an important lesson about independence not too long ago. I was trying to wash the walls. So was Aaron. So was Michael. So, soapy rags in hand, we were all giving the wall a marvelous bath. Things were going fine until I needed to use a chair to reach the top. Pretty soon Aaron wanted to stand on the chair too, and of course do did Michael. Three chairs and three people began inhibiting progress, especially since what they really wanted was to be on my chair washing the exact same spot I was washing. That put progress almost to a standstill. And then I said to myself, “Do I do that to Alan?” I realized that a lot of the mutual enterprises in our marriage were limiting our total productivity as a unit because of duplication. The greater the role diversification, the greater the output. Of course this requires a real unity of hearts and goals, and a lot of trust and love. But, for example, I have totally given over the finances to Alan (except when he asks for consultation). I only buy what he tells me to buy (or assigned categories, like groceries, etc.). It’s working beautifully, in lots of areas. It’s a pretty new concept, so we’re just now working out the crinkles, but it’s exciting to us.

Happy Thanksgiving Thoughts

319651_2721901608099_1273852229_33211519_276887991_nThis greeting is a year old…sent last year by a friend who’s a missionary, but I kept it all year to share with you today, because I just love it. Thank you, Carl!Mr. Rogers by yler CardAnd, while I’m in the sharing mood, let me share a couple more ideas. My son Stephen called yesterday. He’s coming home for Thanksgiving break and wanted to know if I’d like him to make dinner for us tonight. YES! Isn’t he a gem? And, my daughter-in-law, Brianna, offered to bring a sweet potato casserole to help out with Thanksgiving Dinner. YUM! I hope if you’re a kid, you’ll help your mom make dinner tomorrow too! 🙂 Helen KellerOn Thanksgiving, we usual play our “Thankful” game after dinner…sitting around in a circle with a candle lit, we take turns mentioning the things we’re especially thankful for from the past year. To me, the most beautiful thing in the universe is love…definitely something felt in the depths of our hearts!Angel in Cloud:Twila Talentino(The above picture was shared by Twila T., I believe from her home in FL.) My prayer for you this coming weekend is that the angel of love (whom I believe to be no less than God himself) will bless your Thanksgiving celebration with love, joy, peace and an abundance of goodness. Truly, God is love, and He loves us!

“O give thanks unto the God of heaven: for his mercy endures forever.”       (Psalm 136:26)

Give Thanks

Give thanks with a grateful heart,
Give thanks to the Holy One
Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son.

And now let the weak say, “I am strong”
Let the poor say, “I am rich
Because of what the Lord has done for us… Give thanks.” (Henry Smith, 1978)

Rise Up, My Love (60): More on Trying to Understand the Mind of God

Sunrise 10.11.13  copy 2Song of Solomon 2:14.  Chapter 2:14-17 has a beautiful spiritual counterpart in Psalm 34:3-9. If you have a few minutes, please read both passages before continuing on with our text here.

…Notice the feelings of David in his relationship with the Lord as it parallels the experience of Solomon and his bride, and of us in our walk with Christ.

“O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.  I sought the Lord” (by faith climbed the secret stairs of access), “and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” (The Lord pursued and tenderly drew me into the safety of his love.) “They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed.” (The bride turns her face to her beloved and finds freedom in intimacy.) “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.” (He enables us to wrestle with and overcome insidious problems.) “O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in Him.” (The bride finds blissful contentment in her beloved. “He feedeth among the lilies.”) “O fear the Lord, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him.” (The bride invites unbridled enjoyment of their love…nothing is withheld, nothing lacking.)

Perhaps we might consider the effect of responding to the Lord’s plea in verse fourteen before considering his request in verse fifteen.  “…in the secret places of the stairs, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.” What is it in the secret places of access and intimacy with God that would make us turn our faces away?  Is it what our Lord reveals to us that leaves us afraid to look? “I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places” (Isaiah 45:3); “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Dueteronomy 29:29). His secrets are great treasures, and the effect is that we should reverence and obey him. DSCF1149 copyI believe the secret riches are revelations of himself and his love for us…to be able to understand things from God’s perspective. What is the cry of our hearts? “That I may know him!” (Philippians 3:10). What is the mystery Paul longed to pass on to the Church?  That we “may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:18-19).

Why does God want us to “let me see thy face”?  So that we may gaze upon him.  So that we may look into his eyes of love and know him…understand him…become intimate with him…speak to him…understand the mystery of the ages… recognize and embrace his perfect love! DSCN8748 copyWhat makes us afraid when we look into his eyes?  I think it is the darkness and lack of love in our own hearts!  We know how unworthy and impure our own hearts are, and we are ashamed to have him see into us!  But, what does he say?  “Sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.” He does not condemn us for our lack; he loves us so wondrously that he finds any glimmer of devotion “comely.” All he asks is for us to look! Sun copyAnd, what is the effect of responding to his tender plea? Oh the transformation that takes place as we gaze upon our King of Beauty!  “They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed.”  For all who seek, find.  All who look are lightened, and those who dare to gaze upon the face of infinite love will find their eyes blinded to all else…their faces shining like Moses’…glowing like the city set on a hill…blazing with his holy radiance. DSCF6676 copy

The Armstrong Archives (60): Reflections on Christmas and Love, 1978

Nycteris with PresentThursday, December 28, 1978  Thanks for your letter, Mom! We’re all really enjoying our Christmas presents too. Alan looks very handsome in his new grey sweater, and he wears it all the time. (The weather has been fiercely cold the last few days: 0° and below.) Aaron’s new World magazine arrived. It’s exciting to see his growth in a year. I remember the first issue—he could repeat the words and answer “Yes/No” questions about the stories. This time I could read all the captions undiluted, and after telling the stories once (we had to read the whole magazine in one sitting), he brought the magazine into the kitchen and told the stories back to me (some), with amazing detail. How the kids change in one year!

Alan and both boys are sick again. I was up eleven times the other night and I lost track last night…not wanting to feel too sorry for myself. Actually, I’m very thankful to have been well most all winter and feel sorry for my three guys, who’ve just been sick an awful lot.

We got in several social engagements before everybody caught the flu, however. Friday we double-dated with Keith and Marji, who are getting married in ten days. They have become good friends—a friendship I hope lasts even after school. Sunday we went to Port Huron to see Larry and Kari Hembroff and Larry’s brother Ron’s family. The six of our kids had a ball—and so did we. I also enjoyed a short visit with Dan and Mary Ellen York via phone Tuesday. Dan is a Christian PhD candidate at Rosemead Graduate School of Psychology in Los Angeles (where I wanted to go and was accepted to go…although Alan and I got married instead). Dan and I were colleagues at Central. They expressed disappointment over the lack of interest their families had in sharing with each other or building relationships. It made me appreciative again of the relationships you have fostered with us!

Well, nursemaid duties will begin soon! Alan’s working OB/Gyn this month. He’s distressed by the number of illegitimate babies and young girls who are totally unprepared for birth among the Afro-American welfare teenagers here. Frightened fifteen-year-old girls with their moms for moral support. It’s a sad, sad situation. Childbirth was a challenge for me even surrounded by all the unusual securities I enjoy. I can’t imagine trying (having) to face everything totally alone and with the cold, inhumane distain of most of the attending staff…

Aaron just called to me again. He is pretty feverish and congested. A little trouble breathing (asthma), poor fellow! It may take all week to finish this letter…

Well, thanks again for everything. It was a whirlwind trip but so nice! I always learn so much from being around you and was impressed again with two of your obviously outstanding virtues: Mom’s marvelous capacity for sacrificial love, and Dad’s unusual clarity of thought and ability to understand ideas. I am absolutely sincere. I don’t know anyone (human) who has loved me as well as Mom or who has been as willing and able to communicate with me as Dad. For all that I’m extremely grateful!

That is not to minimize my appreciation for Alan—who’s also giving me all the love and understanding he’s got to give—and it’s a lot. Our relationship is really intense and profoundly intimate. I guess the uniqueness of marriage is in the depth and breadth of experience rather than in the quality so much. Quality and capacity seem inevitable linked to correctly responding to life’s experiences rather than—?—(I don’t know what else), so that the quality we give to our heirs is better than that which we have for ourselves. I also think all good gifts are the Lord’s blessings…primarily His sovereign graciousness, but also for obedience .

It struck me a couple of months ago that I loved Aaron more purely and understood him better than I did Alan, which troubled me up until just now. Why couldn’t—why shouldn’t—I feel that way about Alan? I know part of the answer, maybe… that Aaron doesn’t really reach back. What he knows, he knows very well, but he has a capacity for understanding so limited by his own short existence. It’s pretty much a one-way street, like God reaching down to man. Another thing has to do with expectations. If I expected as much from Alan as I do from Aaron—wouldn’t I be pleased?! If I expected nothing—I’d be overwhelmed. I’m going to concentrate on expecting…not what the law requires, which is perfection, but what grace allows, which is nothing.

This vacation I gave a friend (of your age) a small gift that cost $1.00. She cried when she opened it. She expected nothing! I received so many wonderful things and never once cried.

You know what gifts touched me the most? The Bible-verse note cards from Mom, and Dad saying at breakfast “Teach me something that’s important to you.”

You guys are the greatest! Thanks for everything.

Love, Me and Us IMG_6586[When I can’t find pictures to illustrate these memoirs, I’m use pictures from recent times…like nature scenes from around our home or pictures from happy times today. The first picture was of my grand daughter Nycteris last Christmas, and the one above was taken of Alan with Kathy’s two little ones a few weeks ago… who definitely bring back memories from 1978 when we had two toddlers!]

Dan’s Happy 28th (or 29th?) Birthday…Sung in Three Languages

“Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.” ~Oliver Wendall Holmes IMG_6796

I’ve been dedicating every spare minute to my ArtPrize project and have felt so inspired that it hasn’t been hard to get up, even though Alan and I both woke at 3:30 am Sunday and Monday in Budapest and still have been waking up at 3:30 am Eastern Standard Time (6 hours earlier than Central European time). I think this morning we were finally able to stay in bed until 5:30 am, thanks to last night’s rather late visit to help Daniel celebrate his 28th birthday. Our evening started with a visit to H.I.S. (Health Intervention Services), a Christian medicalDSCN9144 ministry reaching out to the uninsured in the greater Grand Rapids area, where Daniel is now working half time. H.I.S. recently completed some major renovations and had an open house to let everyone see their progress!DSCN9147 I am very excited about all the good work they’re doing to help our community. Daniel invited me to consider doing some volunteer dental assisting for him DSCN9148 there, so I’ve got an application and am praying about the possibility. Perhaps I’m not too old a dog to learn a few new tricks…at least I hope not! 🙂 DSCN9164After the open house, we went over to Dan and Brianna’s for a birthday party. Lois, their exchange student from Sweden, called her mom to get their family recipe for a special fried rice dish, which she and Brianna prepared. If it says anything about how good it was, I think we all had about 3 servings! It was great. DSCN9168Brianna also treated Daniel (and the rest of us) to one of our family favorites: a Dutch chocolate torte cake from Arnie’s Bakery. It’s pretty much chocolate on DSCN9174chocolate on chocolate with cream filling and is better than any cake I can bake! DSCN9173  After singing “Happy Birthday to you” in English, Lois and Oh sang for us too! DSCN9171           Lois sang in Swedish, where they have a completely different tune, DSCN9169 and then Oh sang to us in South Korean, where the tune is the same (but of course, the words sound very different)! Oh mentioned that in South Korea, your first birthday is the day you are born, since they reckon age from conception. So, according to Korean tradition, Daniel would be 29 rather than 28! That is touching to me; Koreans understand the obvious: A baby is a unique human being from the moment of conception and doesn’t change in essence just because s/he starts breathing air. And I, for one, am very, very happy that Daniel started breathing air 28 years ago!

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well… Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” (Psalm 139:13-14;16)

Steve Jobs

MV5BMTM5NTQ3MTYxN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODE2Nzk3OQ@@._V1_SX214_Usually I’m the last one to see new movies, but on the way home from Budapest Monday my computer eventually ran out of battery power, and so I watched a fascinating biographical drama about Steve Jobs. JOBS is a 2-hour, PG-13 movie tracing 40 years of Steve Job’s career. He started as a pot-smoking, loose living hippie from my era and over the course of his life became one of the most revered men in the world through his genius at developing Apple computers, i-pods, and i-phones.

Watching JOBS has given me a lot of empathy for the difficulty of my oldest son’s work environment as a software developer. Brilliance and innovation, needed yesterday and delivered today, seems to be the norm when you get near the top of the computer world. Did I mention that Aaron has now moved from Twitter to Facebook? I might have to break down and watch The Social Network next…

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24)