What If your Kid Doesn’t Want to March in his Graduation?

Dream!Have you ever tried to cram all your favorite experiences of a certain area into one glorious outing to share with loved ones? Large Anchor Despite our best efforts at persuasion, Joel put his foot down and resolutely refused to let us spend this past weekend attending his graduation festivities.Old-fashioned telephone On the other hand, he was quite enthusiastic about exploring Leelanau Peninsula, so we opted for a family adventure rather than honoring him with all the due pomp and circumstance that he deserved.Summer Sun and Clouds We escaped the summer heat of GR at the first moment we could spring everybody on Friday, but we had a short leash because we needed to be back  The CommunitySaturday night in time for Stephen to serve as worship leader at his church Sunday morning. Leelanau PeninsulaMy goal was to share all of the “best of the best” experiences in the Leelanau area that Alan and I had enjoyed over the years into one compact 30-hour mini vacation! (This map’s in the wrong language, but it shows just where we visited.)Planter of Flowers Tough assignment, and I ultimately failed, but that’s only because there are just too many wonderful places to see…and definitely too many yummy places to eat! Stone Waters Inn. Belaire, MIBut, this is what we did: We spent the night in the Victorian Suite Stone Waters Inn at the Stone Waters Inn, a charming hotel along the Grass River in Bellaire, Stone Waters Inn. Grass Rive, MIwhich is a tiny resort community you’ve probably never heard of, Torch Lake Evening but it’s next door to Torch Lake, which you may have heard of, being Michigan’s Torch Lakelongest inland lake, Michigan’s second-largest lake, and once described by the Torch Lake BeachNational Geographic as the world’s third-most beautiful lake! The DocksideWe stopped for dinner at The Dockside, on the shores of Torch Lake, and then Alden, MIdrove up to the tiny village of Alden, on the east side of Torch Lake, for some of Higgens Ice Creamthe north country’s best ice cream. For instance, I had a “single,” which was one scoop of “Traverse City Cherry Chocolate” topped with a scoop of “Sleeping Bear HIggens Ice Cream ConeDune Hugs” ice cream in a waffle cone dipped with chocolate and Butterfingers crunch. What? That’s a “single?” Does anybody ever order a double? Mrs. Pete'sThe next morning we stopped by “Mrs. Pete’s,” where they’ve been serving up Mrs. Pete's Restaurantfirst-rate home-cooked breakfasts and lunches for nearly 40 years! Sleeping Bear DunesThus fortified, we made a bee line to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Climbing Sleeping Bear Dunesand summarily raced (the kids) or huffed and puffed (the aging parents) to the View from top of Sleeping Bear Dunestop for some glorious views of northern Michigan’s restful lake country. Running Down Sleeping Bear DunesI didn’t time us, but going up was in minutes & going down seemed just seconds!Glen Arbor's Cherry RepublicFrom there, our plan had been to head straight to Glen Arbor’s Cherry Republic Cherry Republic producefor some amazing Traverse City cherry pie and ice cream as our Elevensies treat, Pop's on Icebut we were still full from our killer-good cherry-pecan pancake (etc.) breakfast, Cherry Republic Store so we had to content ourselves by just admiring all things cherry and delicious! MI chairOh, but there was more to do. So much more! After a short break, we drove to  Leland Leland (built by the Ottawa Indians along the Leland River), where we stopped  Leland Falls  at “Rick’s (American) Cafe” for a fabulous lunch of fresh, fresh fish! Leelanau LighthouseAfter lunch, we made it to Leelanau State Park at the tip of Leelanau Peninsula. Leelanau State ParkWe took a short hike along the rocky shoreline of Lake Michigan, Grand Traverse Lighthouseexplored the area around the Grand Traverse Lighthouse, Light at Granc Traverse Lighthouseand toured their little museum. (They even have a fog horn you can blow!) Northport, MIOn our way home, we stopped in Northport to take in the Sailboat on Grand Traverse Bayquiet beauty of Grand Traverse Bay, with its soothing blues Clear, deep water on Grand Traverse Bayand crystal, turquoise waters. (This is looking into about 12 feet of water.) WIld RosesWe’d planned to stop at Boone’s Long Lake Inn at Sutton’s Bay for dinner, Dock A in Northport, MI but nobody was hungry yet, so we high-tailed it downstate as far as Cadillac, Hermann's European Cafe. Hermannwhere we stopped at Hermann’s European Cafe. (This is Hermann from Vienna.)Red Snapper copyHermann has an international reputation and makes incredibly gourmet dishes, Sauerbraten copyincluding some of the best German food we’ve ever tasted outside Germany! Leelanau PeninsulaNow the point of my tale (besides giving you a lovely overview of Leelanau), Smoked Pork Loinis to point out difference in taste and sensibilities. When I’m trying to honor Mussels copysomeone I love, it’s so easy to think of what I’d like…which might be totally Chocolate Torte with Vanilla Sauce copydifferent from what that person would actually like. May I (we) learn to love IMG_9212others in the ways that seem most meaningful to them! And frankly, after all was Smoke Fish Not Tobacco copy said and done, I think we all had a whole lot more fun doing it “Joel’s way.”

“Love…does not insist on its own way” (1 Corinthians 13:5).

Rise Up, My Love (91): Oh for the Eyes of a Dove!

Pigeon in FlightSong of Solomon 4:1 “Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair…” Thus Solomon begins a sonnet of high praise for his bride’s many-faceted beauties. This praise is not to make her proud, but to encourage her, so that she will see in herself the beauties bestowed on her by her gracious Creator. The husband’s delight in his wife’s beauty is natural and good, just as our Lord looked upon all his creation, “and, behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Don’t be afraid to drink in your wife’s attractiveness and allow yourself to overflow in praises for her. It won’t make her proud; it will make her secure and happy.

A+C's Wedding“Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair…” What does our Lord see in us? The first sonnet is a sevenfold description of those who have totally abandoned themselves to Christ’s love. Just as in the references given to the “seven” churches and “seven” spirits of Revelation 1:4, the number seven speaks of heavenly completeness and perfection. The bride, like the Bride of Christ, was in everything “enriched by him” so that she was lacking in “no gift” (I Corinthians 1:4-7). As the bridegroom beholds her, he declares that she is altogether lovely and completely desirable to him. The repetition of the exclamation seems to double the strength of his judgment. It’s as if he says, “I see you, and you are beautiful—exquisitely beautiful!”

In chapter three, the bride describes her husband’s cavalcade coming to receive her and then focuses in on the details, exulting at last in her kingly husband. In chapter four, the bridegroom beholds his bride in her entirety, then focuses in on the individual features which  especially delight him. Let’s consider the sevenfold beauties found in the one in whom our Lord delights.Mourning Doves copySong of Solomon 4:1 “Thou hast dove’s eyes within thy locks.” Dove’s eyes…what are they like? It’s not the color that’s attractive—God has made beautiful eyes in a myriad of shades—but it is the quality of expression found in the eyes. Oliver Matthew 10:10 says to be as harmless as doves. The eyes of the bride, abandoned to her bridegroom, glow with an unassuming ardor that shows no trace of shadow. Her eyes are clear and guileless, soft and tender, warm and inviting. Melting eyes. Shining eyes. Open eyes. MichaelIt is said that the eyes are the gateway of the heart and a sure indication of the soul’s state. As Adam and Eve hid from God in the garden, so a man or woman will not meet the intense gaze of someone whom they have offended or with whom they feel no desire for fellowship. Broken communion is first experienced by the look in the eye. DanielOn the other hand, love is the purest desire of the heart, and it can be seen in the eyes of the loved one. Eyes express love, pity, compassion, joy, peace, desire… Steve Toasting Marshmallow copy all the emotions of the heart come flooding out the eye gate, and those who would hide their feelings hide their eyes. Eyes speak volumes that lips sometimes cannot voice. Baby EyesIn Luke 11:34 we are told that, “The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness.” Dove’s eyes are single eyes, harmless eyes, eyes that are full of light and love and grace with no trace of darkness. Without hypocrisy, without guilt, without shame, without fear. These are the eyes of the beloved bride, as she beholds her glorious bridegroom and reflects his radiance. She is like the full moon glowing with irresistible beauty and romance. Wouldn’t you love to have eyes like that—no barriers or burdens, just pure, uninterrupted love and desire? “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). If we truly want unbroken communion with God and our spouses, I believe the first step is in developing a pure heart. How do we do that?  “Seeing you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently” (1 Peter 1:22). I think it starts by obeying the Truth…consistently…not just when we want to, but all the time. Aaron and Carlie


The Armstrong Archives (91): The Highs and Lows of Residency Grind

Alan and Kids at DaytonaSaturday, August 23, 1980 We made it down to Daytona in a record twenty-four hours! I had twenty-eight hours of tapes to keep the fans content, and Jonny Brown Bear played on our laps or sat in his car seat. [This was in the days before mandatory seat belt laws.] You’ve just got to come with us one of these days. It’s absolutely spectacular. The water’s about 85°, and the waves just roll in—not too high though, because the boys even enjoy it. The weather’s perfect too. Alan says the only thing better than counting clouds is lying on the beach where there aren’t any clouds! This morning we caught a whole bucket full of sand crabs, then let them go. Yesterday a seven-foot hammerhead shark was sited, so no one could swim in the ocean for about one hour. Aaron with "Cupper"Tuesday, September 16, 1980 Back to the grind of residency! Alan has another busy week—93 hours scheduled—but the rest of us are just comfortably too busy! There’s a teachers’ strike going on, so all the neighbor children are still around. The kids hold “play school’ sessions and are actually teaching Aaron to sound out words, add, subtract, etc. He loves it!

This weekend was Alan’s one time off for the month. We went on two picnics—one for all the house staff (residents) and wives, and one for all the medicine department people. We played volleyball and softball, etc. and really had fun. Aaron and Michael found friends to play with and climbed trees, etc. They were so content that for the first time, we didn’t have to do anything but make sure they were safe. How quickly the stages pass!

The boys and I made a dozen cupcakes tonight that were devoured by a dozen neighbor children before they completely cooled! We have a good bunch of neighbors, and they all play together well.

Saturday, November 8, 1980 Thanks again for letting us visit last weekend, and for the scrumptious dinner. I hope you didn’t catch the plague from us! A & M are just about all better, and Jon has only a little cough hanging on. We’re all doing just fine. I’m cleaning cupboards and trying to do some fall housecleaning. It seems hopeless to keep things clean and straight, but I wouldn’t trade my little jokers for all the peace and quiet in the world! Michael with "Di"Friday, November 14, 1980 Hi! I just rocked all three urchins to sleep. They are so sweet when they’re sound asleep—like little fluff balls in their winter pajamas. And, Jonathan let me rock him too for about the first time! He used to always want to lie down and be patted, but lately he’s been complaining when I rock the boys…I think he’s decided he wants equal time!

Alan is in the CCU (coronary care unit) this month and working incredibly long hours. I’ve stopped counting because it discourages me, but he seems to be rarely home! However, he has been really happy and playful when he is home, so we’ve been thriving well.

I should explain that Alan cannot take time off any time he pleases. He applies in the spring for the following year; his vacations can only be in two-week segments either the 4-18th or the 18-3rd of a month. Once he gets his schedule in June, he is “locked in” so to speak and can’t take any other time off. In December he will get probably two or three days off, but they have to be on a weekend or on Christmas Day. He will try to get his call schedule, etc., as easy as possible for the days you’re here, but he dos not have any options to take any other days off. If he’d wanted time off for Christmas, he would have had to have applied last spring to be on an “elective” (the only time he can take a vacation) now!

The boys and I have been having a BALL lately. Aaron’s been studying photography. We’ve tried over a dozen new recipes from a kid’s cookbook out of the library; Michael’s started washing dishes too! We’ve planted an eggshell garden and are learning some piano and ballet!

Wednesday, November 19, 1980 Aaron and Michael are downstairs giggling, and Jon is on the bed practicing rolls and chewing on a cat with a jingling bell. It’s supposed to be rest time, but I seem to be the only one resting. At least the boys aren’t fighting! They are getting along quite well these days…I hope it keeps up until your visit—or forever!

Monday, November 24, 1980  Alan has just been working incredibly long hours this month. I will be glad when he’s “just” working on the wards in December. His brother, Terry, is planning to arrive this Wednesday and stay about a week. We are all excited about that, although Michael really would rather have Cindi Lou (Terry’s dog). You wouldn’t believe how Jonny has started scooting around. He’ll be into everything by the time you get here. Daddy, will you please bring your harmonica?

Tuesday, December 2, 1980 Terry just left a couple of hours ago, and the kids are in bed (though not asleep). Alan’s on call, as usual! I will certainly be ready for our Christmas vacation when you come to visit! We had a really super time with Terry. The kids had colds, so we didn’t do much but sit around and visit—which was just what Alan needed, and Terry is on the run so much that he didn’t mind. He went to the hospital with Alan one day, and on Sunday afternoon they took a walk in Kensington Park. We had Thanksgiving on Sunday (since Alan was on call on Thanksgiving), but we’ll have to have turkey for Christmas too so you don’t miss out too much. KathiIt’s discouraging to see how often one or the other of the boys has been sick since the cold weather came. I sure hope they’re all on a “well” streak December 23-28th! The first day Terry was here we went on a long hike, and the next day the noses were running. Sigh. It makes me feel a little cooped up, because I’m always the one who ends up staying at home with them.

Jonathan is now crawling and pulling himself to a stand on handy furniture. Fortunately, he hasn’t mastered the art of climbing up legs yet, so you may be safe. I think he is starting to lose a wee bit of his baby fat too and take on a more svelte form. And, he absolutely loves to bang on the piano when we all sing together.


So Now What?

DSCN7550Last night Alan and I went to a reception to welcome the first nine residents who are entering the new psychiatric residency program at Pine Rest. This is the thrilling culmination of several years of visionary planning and countless hours of work by Alan and others at Pine Rest, and so I was really excited to share the wonderful news with you. However, when I called Alan to clarify a few points, he was not at all sure what might be appropriate to share and was quite sure I should not post pictures from the reception (doctor confidentiality and all that, even though all the new residents are lovely people and the reception was delightful), so I reluctantly scraped that idea. (This picture was from a fundraiser we attended last fall, not last night’s event.) DSCN3030The other blog project I’d been working on was an update on Kathy and Carl, who were visiting last week. Carl recently went to Israel, working on the film crew for his church, and I wanted to share a bit of the story of his adventures. However, almost all the pictures of him were taken by others (since he was busy with video production), and so it seemed only right to get his friends’ permission first…which I haven’t obtained yet.  So, I’m stymied there too. 561191_449826181704617_1019988838_nUsually on Friday mornings I’m assisting my son Daniel at his dental clinic, so I write something quick and light…fun passed along to me from friends…but this morning—with extra time—I imagined trying to do something more serious.Medical Joke    However, I am reminded again that cartoons and posters are a great way to 1904142_10152168044079086_1042622182_n    brighten up your day, and passing along helpful tips from others can be very Crime Stopper       worthwhile…maybe even more needed than what I might have shared. FROM "Jesus Loves You" Photos   So, if you’re feeling frustrated because you’re not able to do what you thought Today...you should be doing today, I hope both you and I will find fulfillment in seeking
and finding His will, not ours: “As for God, his way is perfect” (Psalm 18:30).

“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”
(Matthew 6:10)

A Few of My Favorite Birds (7): …or Not: The Schisters

Brown-headed cowbird 2The more I study birds, the more they remind me of people. Birds have  species-wide characteristics that are distinctive, but as individuals they also have unique personalities, just like humans. In the human realm, it’s no longer Male Brown-headed Cowbirdconsidered politically correct to characterize Native Americans as stoic or the French as gourmet cooks, and heaven forbid if someone should characterize women as more emotionally sensitive or men as more physically capable! Cowbird and Woodpecker Still, if you’ll indulge me, I’m beginning to see some community stereotypes
developing in my own backyard,DSCN3584 and I think it’s high time to expose my neighborhood schisters: the brown-headed cowbirds. (See him lurking in the shadows of my bird feeder above?)IMG_9101First, let me describe these fine fellows so you can recognize them. The males are a handsome, iridescent blackish-blue with a brown head, about 7 inches long and quite unmistakable.5.4.13 The females, though similar in size and shape, took me ages to recognize because there’s practically nothing to identify them! They are brownish-grey and totally Female Brown-headed Cowbirdnondescript. But, herein lies their strength! They don’t stand out, and nobody notices them. This makes it all the easier for them to trick other birds. Female Cowbird. Nondescript                                                     And, what is their dirty trick? Brown-headed cowbird in Cherry Tree copy Cowbirds are nomadic by nature and never really settle down. They arrive in March or April and leave in fall flocks to winter in Mexico. These birds were originally known to follow herds of bison and later cattle across the Great Plains Male Cowbird eating seedsof America, eating the insects and seeds flushed from the ground as the cattle grazed along. Hence, the name “cowbird,” although they’ve also been dubbed “lazy birds” because they don’t bother to build nests or rear their young. Robin NestInstead, these devious birds (considered parasitic) plop their eggs into the carefully constructed nests of unsuspecting song birds. The eggs are greyish-white with brown markings, need only about 10-13 days of incubation, Eastern_Phoebe-nest-Brown-headed-Cowbird-egg*often hatching before the other nestlings and are usually bigger than their songbird counterparts, demanding more food and fledging first, after only 10-11 days. One female has been known to produce up to 40 eggs over a 2-month Mother Robin 05.17.06season for two years.  Now, many birds reject these strange eggs, either pushing them out of the nest, burying them under layers of nesting material or even IMG_9095abandoning the nest completely. However, despite losing some 97% of the female cowbird’s eggs each season, enough kindly songbirds rear the cowbird Robin babies in nestyoung** (usually to the detriment of their own brood, which are normally smaller and less demanding) so that 3% of the eggs become fledglings and survive… which is actually enough to double the cowbird population in 8 years!Brown-headed Cowbird. 5.10.13JPGDespite various programs and attempts to remove cowbird eggs from songbird nests, an alarming number of songbirds are becoming endangered by the Brown-headed Cowbird*deception of these schisters. I leave to you the burden of drawing parallels and praying over appropriate solutions in the world of people, but I dare say one Female Brown-headed Cowbirdobvious one is to be on the lookout for cowbirds who want to invade your nest, even if they look harmless and unassuming.Female Cowbird B-H

“Beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day” (Deuteronomy 8:11). Brown-headed Cowbird 5.7.13“Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.”
(Philippians 3:2)

[* Picture of eggs in a nest from Wikipedia; **Picture of 2 robin babies: kindly shared by my friend, Marilyn Collier. Thank you!]


Highlighting Bright Hope

Joel's Bio as an AuthorShortly after posting about my son Joel on Monday, I got a response from a dear friend whom I’ve known since childhood who lost her daughter just four months ago—a beautiful, godly mother of four who’d been named for my sister & had helped care for my father…a tragedy that’ll never make sense this side of heaven. Bright Hope So, I sent my extra copy of Bright Hope to her, but it occurred to me that there may be others who need the comfort and wisdom of Lu’s grief memoir, so today I want to share just a little bit about LuAnne De Vries, grief, and Bright Hope. Reason for WritingWhy did LuAnne write her story? As a way of reaching out to others who grieve. Through her own struggles, she found  wisdom and comfort, and her desire is to share what she found with others who may be searching and in great pain.ForwardEven the forward gives some wise counsel for those who are grieving: The grief journey globally affects every facet of our lives and is uniquely personal. When we’re suffering with grief, we need the support of others, but at the deepest level, no one else here on earth can completely enter into our pain, so it’s very lonely. Part 1

The beginning of the book offers a open look into the tender heart of grief. Lu's kidsLuAnne had four sons and then adopted a darling baby daughter who came under the protective wing of the entire household! Everybody loved Mandy. The first part of the book gives an honest look through the rear view window into the storms and heartaches of LuAnne’s early life. Bright Hope is not a book with pat answers for hard questions. It’s a book than wrestles with all the crushing disappointments of life but still clings to faith: “So, is the saying true, ‘God doesn’t give us more than we can handle’? I don’t have the answer to that question. Only faith lets us believe there is a purpose, even though we may sail through life wondering, ‘What next?’ There will always be storms in life.” Part 2                                                    In the second part of the book, Mandy LuAnne tells the story of her daughter: her vibrant life, her sudden, tragic death, Visiting Hours                            and the crushing impact of Mandy’s death on Lu. TearsIn this section, LuAnne shares some of the scripture verses, poems, journaling
and email notes that emerged from trying to process her grief. Part 3         In Part 3, Luanne reflects on her long, slow journey toward recovery
…things she learned, little treasures of wisdom that spoke to her,  Moving Forward                 the faith that anchored her soul and helped her move forward, Comfort   and ideas for how to understand and offer comfort to others who are grieving. Lu's Family Today                Today, LuAnne is a vibrant survivor with a beautiful, big family Lu with Grand Kids             and lots of adorable grand children who keep her happy and busy. Going OnBut, does that mean that everything is fine again? When I asked LuAnne how she was doing today, she responded: “People believe time heals—it does NOT. It’s a pain you learn to live with and call out to God often to get you through it another day. But I do focus on my blessings and go from there.” Synopsis of Bright Hope   I’m sure that in life we never really forget our past with its joys and sorrows, Lu with Mandy     but we can learn how to honor our past without letting it crush our present Joy Anyway                                         or destroy any hope for future joy. Bright HopeI think for all of us, part of the secret to surviving grief and heartache is in ministering to others, just as LuAnne is doing. She’s trying to reach out with her book, and if you’re in deep pain over the loss of a loved one, you might want to reach back! 

(If you’re interested, you can order a copy of her book from Amazon below:)


(All the pictures and photo messages are from her book and/or her Facebook page, used by permission.)


The World’s All-Time Most Popular Travel Destination

 St. Thomas 2011What do you think this would be? Have I got a surprise for you…or maybe not. Child on couchThink about it logically. What is the destination to which the people in your own family are most often willing to travel? Eowyn at the Leaning Tower According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization,M+E at Eifle Tower the most visited country is France. The National Gallery. LondonAccording to Business World, London is the most visited foreign city in the world at 16.8 million visitors in 2013. New York City at Night (Actually, NYC topped the chart at 53 million, but only 10.9 million were from foreign countries.) EpcotMost of us would think it’s some place like Epcot CenterCinderella's Castleor Disney World (which is the # 1 Tourist Attraction with an admission fee).Playing with Baby. Noah's Ark Here it is Travel Tuesday, and I’m thinking about what I want to write.Learning to swim Last week when it was time to write my “Travel Tuesday” blog, I missed posting at all because, well…because I was just too busy! Playing in the poolKathy and Carl were visiting with Iris and Oliver last week, and on Tuesday morning, just about the time they had to leave,Meiijer Garden Carleen arrived with her four! (Aaron had to be in CA with Facebook during that time, so he couldn’t come.) Family Dinner So, as I began to think about how to find time to write a post that dayCatherine's Palace copy (which I’d intended to write on the Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia), Taking picturesI decided to put it off for a week in order to talk about the world’s most photographed Instruction on kayaking and truly MOST popular, all-time favorite travel destination. Kids on kayak Most kids figure it out really fast. Children looking out window Have you figured out what it is?  Yup,  it’s Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Right?Goslings on lawn Best B’n’B in the world (or at least our geese think so). 🙂 Enjoying Dinner Somebody needs to inform the statisticians that they’ve overlooked the obvious! Home on LakeIsn’t that so often true in life? We overlook the profound significance of the commonplace—the beauty of light and the warmth of love—that are right in front of our eyes. “No matter how humble, there’s no place like home.” Amen.  Jonathan. Manhattan Times Square in NYC is one of the most visited places on earth, but many locals say it’s a waste of time. Really? I think it’s incredible. It teems with life & energy!Rowboating Still, there’s something I love much more than glitzy city lights…my family.Stand up Paddleboard (SUP) Don’t you love your family even more than the amazing places you visit? I mean, ya…we all have our ups and downs, but don’t you spend more time going to see your family than any other “travel destination?” Airplane in SunI hope so! If not, I hope 2014 is the year you make the effort to visit
The World’s All-Time Truly Most Popular Tourist DestinationSunset, Stephen playing And, it is my prayer that if you go—even if it’s really, really hard—you’ll come home really, really glad you you made the effort!

“Honor thy father and thy mother, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” (Deuteronomy 5:16).


Bright Hope for Joel…and All of Us

IMG_9027                               Last weekend we celebrated Joel’s 23rd birthday, 338 copy      and although most of the time Joel is not one to draw attention to himself, DSCN2873       he did graciously grant me permission to write a bit of update about him. DSCN3492This coming weekend we’ll be celebrating his completion of an M.A. in literature from WMU, where he maintained a 4.0 and received the English Graduate Research and Creative Scholarship Award. This fall, we’ll be losing him to DSCN3495Boston, where he’ll begin a 5-year PhD program in literature with a full-ride scholarship at Northeastern University. Besides all this, he’s found a solid Christian community for housing and fellowship. Need I say? I’m totally delighted with and for him. I wouldn’t want it “any other way.”  HOWEVER…IMG_9019In all this happiness, there’s a bit of  déja vu tugging at my heart. Aaron (my oldest) is fifteen years older than Joel (my youngest), and it was just 15 years ago that Aaron accepted a job in Boston. BOSTON? Yes, the same city that offered opportunity for my oldest is now providing opportunity for my youngest. When Aaron left, it was the first departure for any of our kids. (Well, Aaron had been in graduate school at U.M. for 5 years, but we still considered that our house was 333 copyhis house.) There is something deeply emotional about having your oldest move literally halfway across the country, but Aaron survived, adjusted well, and grew. All this helps as I consider the upcoming loss of Joel, which—if possible—seems like an even more traumatic and personally difficult adjustment for good. joel-and-lu Some of you may remember a couple of years ago when a lady from Iowa, Lu DeVries, hired Joel to help her write a grief memoir about her daughter Mandy’s sudden death. The book is called Bright Hope, and it’s filled with the story of Lu’s spiritual journey in dealing with this tragic loss. Still, the book shines with overcoming faith and the consolations of Christ amidst the suffering: God intends all things for good, even our most painful experiences and separations.IMG_9022As Joel was cleaning out his apartment, he gave me a number of items to take to our local rescue mission, and among them was an extra copy of Bright Hope. I was going to take it to the mission, but then I thought I’d offer it first to any of you who are dealing with a painful loss and might find comfort in this book. If so, please let me know with a comment here or face book, or email me, and I’ll send the copy to you. Joel artsy pictureMeanwhile, I am struggling to cope with this bright hope for Joel’s future! At  such times, I often remind myself of Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” Thank you, Lord, for the assurance that despite the painful adjustments and changes in life, you are intending everything for our growth in goodness and godliness, that we might become more like you! Joel ArmstrongMay You bless and keep Joel, and all young graduates who are heading out into the world to grow and become all that You want them to be. And, may You bless those of us parents (and widows and widowers) on the late end of life who are dealing with the losses of loved ones, declining health, and the need to downsize our lives. May we take courage in the confidence that You are the Alpha and Omega who has always loved us. You will be with our children, and You will be your children…  forever. Thank You for offering the bright hope of eternal life to the whole world!

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).


Rise Up, My Love (90): Crowned with a Garland

Arellano,_Juan_de_~_Garland_of_Flowers_with_Landscape,_1652,_oil_on_canvas,_Museo_del_Prado_at_MadridSong of Solomon 3:11. “Go forth, O ye daughters of Zion, and behold king Solomon with the crown wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals, and in the day of the gladness of his heart.”

Go forth, daughters of Zion…those who claim the name of the God of Israel and dwell in his city…go forth and see the royal procession bearing the king and his bride! See the crown upon his bead, and rejoice in his rejoicing! This crown was apparently not a symbol of his power, but it was the marriage crown, a garland of flowers and greens tied together with ribbons that was always worn as part of the marriage celebration until the time of Vespusian.* The joy was in his marriage: in the public and permanent union of his bride with himself.

Notice how perfectly parallel this presentation is with our relationship to our Lord: we are united with him by the rebirth, but we are not publicly and everlastingly reigning with him until by faith we leave our “honeymoon cottage” (where he has dwelt in our hearts and prepared us for service) and abandon ourselves to him, ever after sitting at his side, attending his will. So often readers puzzle over the early chapters of the Song of Solomon, recognizing that the official marriage celebration is portrayed at the end of chapter three, but troubled by the obvious marriage relationship preceding this section. There is no conflict here when we understand the spiritual foreshadowing. We are joined to Christ the minute he takes us into his chambers…the minute we enter into him as our refuge and salvation. But, we begin to enjoy the life of victory when we abandon ourselves completely to him and join him in the royal chariot of total consecration and surrender.

“Go forth, O ye daughters of Zion, and behold King Solomon…” This sounds as if the royal cavalcade has descended the mountainside and is entering the royal palace. The bride is calling out for all the women to come and see the glory of their Lord and King! What a day of celebrating.

“Come and see the glory of the Lord, come behold the Lamb. Come and see the mercies of the Lord, falling down before Him.” (Lenny LaBlanc)

But, between the marriage celebration of Solomon and the final coronation of the Lamb in Revelation, there was another presentation and crowning of the king which must never be forgotten. The “daughters of Zion…” and the “daughters of Jerusalem” are addressed as such only a handful of times in Scripture outside of the Song of Solomon. Two parallel passages strike our hearts through like darts. In Zechariah 9:9 we read, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, thy King cometh unto thee: He is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” When the Lord Jesus presented himself as the lowly King of Salvation, Pilate robed him in purple and crowned him with thorns. “Behold your King!” he shouted, but the chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:14-15).

The “daughters of Jerusalem” were addressed as such only once outside of the Song of Solomon, and it was by Christ on his way to the crucifixion: “Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children…” (Luke 23:28). Why did the daughters of Jerusalem weep? Because their Lord was being crowned with thorns and killed. Why were the daughters of Jerusalem to rejoice in the Song of Solomon? Because their Lord was being crowned with flowers and married. Giovanni Stanchi Dei Fiori - Opere - Prezzi e stimeWhat a contrast between, “Come and see the glory of the Lord!” and, “When I survey the wondrous cross, on which the Prince of Glory died…” It is only as we drink in the cup of his suffering and the crown of thorns that we are able to rejoice in the crown of flowers that will adorn him at the marriage supper of the Lamb.

O joy to grasp by faith the end from the beginning! What hope it gives us as we survey the misery of our fallen world. Jesus, who authored the Scriptures, knew that he would be crowned again as a greater than Solomon, not with thorns, but with everlasting glory. The first Adam lost all in choosing his wife before God; the second Adam gave all to redeem his wife back to God. Rejoice, O daughters of Zion, behold Jesus, “the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:12). Behold your King!

(* Carr, G. Lloyd. The Song of Solomon: An Introduction and Commentary. Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1984, p. 551.)

(Pictures of garlands from Wikipedia)



The Armstrong Archives (90): Tornado-force Winds

Sunday, July 20, 1980  The weather’s been hot and muggy lately. You should see our garden now! The summer squash, tomatoes, and corn have taken over everything. I have one cantaloupe in the front that has lots of blossoms and mingles in with my flowers. Aaron and Michael are very attentive. I hope things turn out well!

We’ve had a super round of lunch company. Since Alan’s always too tired to socialize by the time he’s worked such long hours, we do most of our entertaining during the day. We had the Grieshabers (Linda and Mel—our neighbors) one day, and Andrew and Michelle Zissler (and kids) after Bible study. Linda G. had us over for lunch and to play in their kiddy pool Friday. Sue Valk took us on a picnic to a new park one day last week too, which was really fun.

Alan had Saturday off, so Friday night after he got off work at 8:30 pm we went to Kalamazoo and spent the night. Alan took Aaron [4] to breakfast while Michael [2] and I watched Baby Jon, and then I got to take Michael out! Michael was in his glory! He ordered “oatey” with cream, and a glass of milk (out of all the options!). He sat on my lap and was a gem the whole time. We spent the morning swimming in the pool, and later (after we had to leave the motel) we went to Warren Dunes State Park and climbed the huge dunes, watched hang gliders, stuck our toes in Lake Michigan, and ate popcorn and cotton candy. It was GREAT!Storm Clouds Rolling InThursday, July 24, 1980 We had one of the biggest storms last Wednesday that I’ve ever been in: winds up to 100 mph, hail, and lightening. The whole sky turned beer-bottle green—then black as night. Alan was working, but I Approaching Stormtook the kids to the basement, and we sat under a table quite a while. Window panes were blown out and trees uprooted everywhere. We had no personal damage done to our house, although an 80’ tree fell over and killed a little boy in his living room. Some people lost electricity 4-5 days, and our phone didn’t work for a day. I saw one stretch of sidewalk sticking straight up in the air about six feet high where a tree had blown over and the roots pulled up the concrete. Storm Front Moving InPeople were out helping direct traffic—no stoplights on many main streets. The worst thing was the tree damage. Several streets were totally impassable and most you had to “pick your way” to get through. It was very awesome [as in: I stand in awe of such displays of raw power]!*Tree blown down by stormFriday night we had a picnic supper for the teens (six) who helped with the Five-Day Club. That was quite an experience! I think we may try to start a Good News Club this fall. Saturday morning we went to Pt. Pelee National Park in Ontario, and Sunday after church we discovered a beautiful state park about thirty-five miles away on Lake Erie. Alan has been working really horrible hours this month. I hope August gets better!Point PeleePS—Aaron got some roller skates from a neighbor and is learning to skate. Jon [4 months] now “creeps” all over is crib!Point Pelee National Park[* It’s interesting to me how often something in my present day life mirrors life from the past. Just last Wednesday (June 18, 2014—34 years later), Aaron’s family was visiting when we had a horrendous storm that took out our power and left debris everywhere. We were just driving home from the zoo (thus, the pictures from the car window…during the storm in 1980 I didn’t stop to take any pictures!) and managed to scuttle down to the basement before the heaviest rain and wind blew through. Lots of damage in this storm too…one tree came down right behind our cars in the driveway, although as far as I know, no one was harmed here in GR. Sadly, there were more than a dozen twisters around the country with heavy  flooding and damage in other states.]