Haikus from Asia for April’s NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writers Month)

Cherry Festival Soyosan Mt.In honor of April being National Poetry Month, I’ve written a series of hiakus commemorating our visit to South Korea and Japan last April during their cherry blossom festival. We went primarily to visit our son Michael and his family, but we were delighted and awestruck by the beauty and cultural diversity (and similarities) in Asia! The first set of hiakus recall our visit to Soyosan Mountain, which is famous for it’s bubbling streams and waterfalls, although there had been a drought before we visited and the riverbed was almost dry.

Soyosan Mt.#1.  Soyosan MountainSoyosan Mountain PathDressed in cherry blossom frills Cherry Blossom Festival Soyosan Mt.You are beautiful!

Soyosan Mountain#2.  Rocky river bed Dried up waterfallDry…waiting for monsoon rains, Soyosan StreamWill you sing again?

Sun Behind Cherry Blossoms#3.   Sun and sky above, Hillside Soyosan Mt.Earth and flowers here below. Magnolias and Cherry BlossomsWhich is more lovely?

 “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2).

Singapore’s Beloved Leader; Lee Kuan Yew’s Beloved Singapore

Lee_Kuan_YewIn case you (like me) are not totally current on contemporary world history, let me share with you what I’ve learned recently concerning Lee Kuan Yew and his beloved country, Singapore, highlighted by pictures I took of Singapore on the day of their beloved leader’s death. Landing in Singapore Although we didn’t know it at the time, Alan and I were touching down in Singapore on an Airbus 380 (the world’s largest class of jet) at 3:18 am. Monday morning, March 23…at exactly the same time that Singapore’s revered 91-year-old statesman, Lee Kuan Yew, was expiring nearby after an extended battle with pneumonia. Singapore Waterfront Alan and I felt greatly privileged to visit Singapore during their time of mourning, while the entire world reflects on the life of this “legendary figure in Asia” (UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon) and “ true giant of history” (Barack Obama), who is almost unique in the world for his accomplishment: “Lee personally shaped Singapore in a way that few people have any nation” (UK Prime Minister David Cameron). Lee_Hsien-Loong As the current Prime Minister (his son), Lee Hsien Loong acknowledged, “He fought for our independence, built a nation where there was none, and made us proud to be Singaporeans. We won’t see another man like him.” Little India Flower MarketIn brief, Lee Kuan Yew (an ethnic Chinese, Cambridge-trained lawyer) became the Prime Minister of Singapore in 1959 at a time when the tiny island city-state nation (which even today is only 5.3 million people and 714 sq. kilometers [the size of Chicago] at the bottom of the Malay Peninsula…quite a bit of which was built by buying dirt from Indonesia!) was a British territory embroiled in polyglot strife and without natural resources. Merlion Park Through visionary leadership, Lee led the nation to independence from both Great Britain and Malaysia and transformed the tiny Third World country into First World status during his 31-year tenure. Singapore from Swishotel For more than 50 years, Lee has been one of the most influential statesmen in Southeast Asia, and he is greatly beloved by his people. As our travel guide shared, Lee Kuan Yew is regarded as the “Father of Singapore.” She explained, “He ruled with an iron hand, but we loved him because he turned our country around; he made us hard-working, clean-living, and prosperous. He made us what we are today.” Thian Hock Keng Temple She went on to explain that Singapore has no tolerance for drugs, laziness, or capital crimes, which are punishable by being beaten with a bamboo cane, hanging, or shooting by a firing squad. Therefore, there is extremely little crime and less than 2% unemployment. Government welfare assistance is only for the elderly, infirm, or mentally disabled. Singapore Harbor Singapore now vies with Hong Kong for the world’s busiest harbor! The nation has become even more prosperous than either Great Britain or America (per capita). The more our tour guide explained, the more I marveled that any one person could, by merit of his wise and charismatic leadership, so utterly and quickly transform an entire nation! National Orchid Garden. SingaporeTo me, Lee Kuan Yew is perhaps the current world’s most apt (albeit imperfect and limited) foreshadowing of Christ, who is promised to return some day, rule with “a rod of iron” (Revelation 2:7), and restore, not just 714 km, but the entire world to it’s original splendor as a garden home of peace, beauty, and righteousness. I can’t wait! However, God tells us to “occupy until I come,” and I believe that means he wants all of us to be working just as hard as we can to make this world a better and more beautiful place, just like the Singaporeans,  Singapore. Our Gardenwho have taken up the challenge: “Let’s make Singapore our garden.” I applaud the people of Singapore, but would also like to challenge the rest of us: “Let’s make this world our garden.” May God’s kingdom come and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven!Orchids around Fountain

“And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away, and he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.” (The Bible, Revelation 21:3-7)

(I took all these pictures in Singapore on the day of Lee Kuan Yew’s death, except the two portraits of Lee Kuan Yew and Lee Hsien Loong, which are from Wikipedia.)

Bless Your Baby (Fourth Week)

  1. Following the LightLooking at the light“Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world: Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’”
    John 8:12 (NIV)

PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for being the light of the world and the light of my life! Please become the light of Baby’s life too. May we walk in the light, as you are in the light, and enjoy fellowship with other believers. Thank you that if we walk in the light of faith in Christ, then your blood will cleanse us from all sin (I John 1:3,7).

THOUGHT: Lights fascinate. Use soft lights to attract Baby’s attention.

ACTIVITY: Never shine a bright light into your child’s eyes, but you can hold up a shiny object like a nightlight. Put it several feet in front of Baby’s face until Baby sees it. Then, very slowly, move it in various directions, letting Baby’s gaze follow. You can do the same thing with your finger or by holding up a teddy bear or other interesting object, such as a multicolored party favor or even a stick wrapped in shiny aluminum foil. (These are only toys for Baby to see, not handle!) Try standing about one foot away at first, but then move slowly backward and see if Baby’s eyes can follow you. Try moving the object very slowly up over Baby’s head and down towards Baby’s feet, from side to side in a 180° arc, and then closer and further away, between about six inches and five feet. Within a few weeks, Baby will be able to follow you easily with her eyes.

  1. Becoming a Proficient NurserAndrea and Baby“The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: that if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:8 (NIV)

PRAYER: Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the milk of your Word, the Bible, which teaches us how to be saved and grow in our faith. Our access to your word is as abundant as a mother’s milk gushing out. Help us never to take your word for granted or spit it out the way Baby sometimes spits out a nipple! May our drive to take in the Bible be as strong as Baby’s persistent cries when he needs milk, and may we grow as rapidly as our little one!

THOUGHT: If your baby is a sleepy nurser, try rubbing his feet and hands, jiggling him, or singing bright songs. If he’s a chowhound…well, just be thankful!

ACTIVITY: You can make a game out of nipple chasing. If Baby accidentally lets go of the nipple, gently take your breast and rub it against his cheek until he finds it again. If he’s playing with you by spitting it out, take your breast and gently bop him on the nose with it, then move it a little out of the way so he has to search to get it back. Keep chow time light-hearted and happy!

  1. Loving Those Who Love UsNewborn visiting with Auntie“We love him, because he first loved us.”
    1 John 4:19

PRAYER: Abba Father, thank you for loving us first. Thank you for all the love you poured out on me before I even knew you existed. As I pour my life into Baby, help me to consider your sacrifices for me. May I grow to love you more deeply, and may Baby come to understand both my love for her and your infinite love for us. Also, please help us share your wonderful love with those around us!

THOUGHT: Truly, being a parent is a tough job! When you find yourself exhausted, frustrated, and impatient, take a minute to consider how hard it must have been for your mom to take care of you, too! Have you thanked her lately? Despite the failures of those who reared us, it’s good to be grateful for the many sacrifices they made so we could survive and have a home.

ACTIVITY: Being with other people is tremendously stimulating for Baby. Affection from friends who are healthy and kind is a mutual blessing, so share love generously! Most importantly, intentionally make opportunities for Baby to interact with her relatives and close family friends. Start making plans for a trip “back home” in the next few months if you can. Baby will get lots of hugs and affirmation just for existing, and you will bring great joy into the lives of those who helped care for you during your youth.

  1. Friendly Smiles Smiles for Grandma“A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
    Proverbs 18:24 (NKJV)

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, help us to be true friends: first of all to you, by loving and following you faithfully; second of all to one another in our family, making our home a haven of peace and friendship; and finally to all those around us in the world outside our home.

THOUGHT: Is protecting Baby an activity? Absolutely! You can tell when Baby has had enough handling: he gets fretful and whiney. Doubtless Baby feels totally at home and secure with you, but he will not relax as completely when he’s with someone who’s not a member of his immediate family, and he will have a definite time limit for his ability to smile and enjoy company, especially if they are actively engaging him.

ACTIVITY: When Baby needs “Quiet Time,” but isn’t sleepy, then snuggling him on your lap or cradling him in a front pack is a great way to let him see what’s going on without having to directly engage anyone. My kids love the new “moby wraps,” but there are lots of great products out there, or you could make your own with a long piece of cloth. However you do it, find a way to let Baby rest when he’s done being friendly and needs a break…but make sure he can rest in a way that’s comfortable and doesn’t strain your back!

  1. Balding and Cradle Cap
    Asleep sitting up!“Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving: sing praises on the harp to our God, who covers the heavens with clouds, who prepares rain for the earth, who makes grass to grow on the mountains.”

Psalm 147:7-8, NKJV

PRAYER: Dear Creator, thank you for the clouds and rain; thank you for the grass that grows on the mountains and the hair that grows on Baby’s head! Help me to take care of my child through every change—both normal and abnormal. Guide us into the ways of wisdom and health.

THOUGHT: A common problem in babies is “cradle cap” (seborrheic dermatitis). It appears as thick, yellowish scales on their heads (or other skin surfaces) and is not dangerous, contagious, or the result of bad hygiene, although it looks unpleasant. If you notice cradle cap on your infant, you can try brushing her hair several times daily with a soft-bristled baby brush to loosen the scales, washing daily with mild baby shampoo, and massages to improve circulation, but be sure to discuss treatments with your doctor.

ACTIVITY: Massaging Baby’s head is both pleasant and helpful, whether or not Baby has a skin problem. Use a soft, circular motion with just the tips of your fingers moving in small circles all around Baby’s head and down the back of her neck. Although cradle cap is not normal, balding is! Almost all babies lose at least some of their downy hair, but more often than not it grows back rather quickly.

  1. Hungry Babies and Sore NipplesNewborn playing with fingers 2.15“The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season.”
    Psalms 145:15

PRAYER: Dear Lord and Master, thank you for inviting us to come boldly to the throne of grace to obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need! Thank you for hearing my cries and faithfully giving me what I need when you know it’s best. Help me to heal when I’m sick and still be able to care tenderly and patiently for Baby, even as you care for me with such compassionate affection.

THOUGHT: Debates over “how often” aside, babies need to nurse when they’re hungry. The amount of time between feedings has more to do with how much they drank at the last feeding, how active they’ve been, and how fast they’re growing. You can’t spoil babies by letting them nurse whenever they’re hungry, but you may dishearten a hungry child by delaying feedings. Patience in a child is better learned by waiting for pleasures—not necessities!

ACTIVITY: If your nipples are sore from over-nursing, there are ointments to help. Also, try to lengthen the time between feedings a little by making sure you allow Baby to nurse fully on both sides. Between nursings, use a pacifier, a bottle of warm water, or a ride in something that bounces gently or swings. Try distracting Baby with lovely music. Appeal to all Baby’s senses: touching, hearing, seeing, and smelling as well as tasting.

  1. Learning to SleepGJ Newborn“I will lie down and sleep in peace: for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.”
    Psalm 4:8

PRAYER: Dear Father of Mercies, thank you for living in a country where there is safety. Even more importantly, thank you for being our true refuge and strength. Thank you that you are our hiding place and the keeper of our souls. Thank you that we can lie down and sleep in peace because you are watching over us. May we always rest in peace because we are resting in your love.

THOUGHT: The less Baby disrupts the comfort and routines of those around her, the happier everyone will be. Daniel, our fifth-born, got so used to activity that he had trouble napping in his crib! When he got tired and really fussy late in the afternoon, I found that the easiest way to get him to sleep was to tuck him into his baby car seat and plunk him down in the middle of the kitchen right where he could watch me fixing dinner and the kids bouncing around everywhere!

ACTIVITY: To help develop Baby’s flexibility, try laying her down for a nap in an unusual (but still safe and warm) place when she is already asleep or nearly so. Help her learn to sleep in various settings and with natural levels of light and sound. Babies can learn to sleep with light and the continuation of routine (but not boisterous) activities, so don’t “baby” your baby too much! Flexibility is a great quality, and you can help her learn.

Prologue to my ArtPrize 2015 Journey: Yes, I’m Going to Enter!

Sunrise. 9.19.13jpgSome of you who know me well may remember how inspired I felt by the sunrise over Grand Rapids on the first day of ArtPrize back in 2013. Sunrise reflected in lake That day, my post described the sunrise as God’s ArtPrize entry, which triggered a desire in me to enter ArtPrize in 2014 with something to honor the glorious displays of God’s creativity from around the world. Sunrise on our lake After working like a beaver to prepare an entry, I discovered in the spring of 2014 that Michael and Grace were preparing for an even more special entry…the entry of their fourth child into this world come September! So, that became our family’s ArtPrize 2014 entry. 🙂paladinDuring nearly the exact dates of ArtPrize 2014, I was in South Korea enjoying the unique and wonderful privilege of being “Nana!” in their family during the birth of my grandson Paladin. No mistaking the timing on that one, so it occurred to me that the Lord must have more to teach me and perhaps a few more pictures to give me before entering. As it stands today, I am preparing to enter a mural of 400 pictures from around the world entitled “From the Rising of the Sun unto the going down of the same the Lord’s Name is to be Praised” (Psalm 113:3). NYC Skyline 1.1.2003As exciting as this project is to me, it will be a lot of work (as you might imagine), and so if—despite my best efforts—there are times when I’m not as constant in blogging, or post at irregular hours, please know that I am trying to walk by faith, which may or may not always allow for a timely post each day over the next 7 months, although I’ll be trying to do so, and I definitely hope to always keep up with weekly Bless Your Baby and Rise Up, My Love posts. Osorno Volcano.May be done?jpg There will also be blogs about ArtPrize progress (since I’ll be too excited to refrain), and I would appreciate your prayers if the Lord brings this outreach to mind. There will be thousands of people who come to ArtPrize, and I would love it if every person’s heart is lifted to praise our great Creator during their visit!

If for any reason you’re interested, here’s the link to the post about God’s Artprize 2013 entry: https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2013/09/19/art-prize-2013-gods-entry-sunrise-over-grand-rapids/

and here’s the link to the post about the Armstrongs’ ArtPrize 2014 entry: https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2014/10/09/the-armstrongs-2014-artprize-entry/ Sunrise. Dock in lake

A Few of My Favorite Birds (31): Timid Little Titmice?

Tufted Titmouse Fluffed up in coldNo fair-weather friend, the little songbird known as the tufted titmouse Nuthatch rainy fall day is a year-round resident of lower Michigan (where I live) & much of Eastern U.S. Tufted Titmouse in tree 3.13.15Even though they’re one of the few birds with distinct head crests (hence the name “tufted”), don’t be tempted to confuse them with female cardinals,  Female cardinal 2who are a good third larger and have brown with red-tinged feathers as well as very prominent orange beaks.Rainy Fall DayHowever, like cardinals, they can lower their crests so that they don’t show,  Rain-drenched Titmouse 11.6.13which seems to happen most often when they’re wet, Tufted Titmouse with seed; crest down anxious, or in a hurry….and that seems to be much of the time! Tufted Titmouse Back 1.15.10Unlike cardinals, the little tufted titmouse has completely grey upper parts, Underside of tufted titmouse white underparts with just a touch of rust color on the flanks,Profile of Titmouse at Bird Feeder  bright black eyes, a short, black beak, and black markings above the beak.  Titmice. Two at feederThe males and females are indistinguishable in size and coloring, Two tufted titmice at feederand like most birds, they are devoted mates and parents. Tufted Titmouse Singing 2.20.15All during mating season, titmice have a clear, whistling chant they useTufted Titmouse singing in tree 3.13.15to call their mates that sounds like, “Peter, peter, peter!…Here, here, here!” Tufted Titmouse 5.13.14They tend to nest in old woodpecker holes or other small tree cavities, and one rather charming aspect of the couple’s relationship is that during the month Titmouse in a Cherry Tree 5.13.14while the female incubates and broods over the young, the male will feed her, but he often gives a cheery call so she’ll come out of the hole to pick up her lunch! Tufted Titmouse in tree. Cold 2.20.15Although the titmouse’s favorite diet is primarily animal rather than vegetable, Tufted Titmouse eating seeds 2.20.15they are inordinately fond of sunflower seeds Tufted Titmouse +1.15.10 and definitely enjoy feasting at or under our feeder. However…Back of tufted titmouseunlike many birds, who will sit contentedly and gorge at the feeder until full,  Tufted titmouse on railingtufted titmice wait patiently for their turn on a railing or nearby tree, Tufted Titmouse 6.28.12 back feathers and when they perceive that the road is clear, Tufted Titmouse+ 6.28.12. Singing they swoop in, Face and under wing Tufted Titmouse 5.13.14 grab a single seed (a sunflower if they can find one fast enough), and thenTufted Titmouse 6.28.12 with food  retreat to a safe distance before cracking it open and devouring its contents. Tufted Titmouse 6.28.12 Dancing 1Their unusual timidity about feeding seems strange, because many bird-lovers think of them as brash, feisty little fellows. Titmouse in flight They are brazen enough to pull hairs right out of small mammals in order to line their nests, so why are they so unable to relax at our feeder? Tufted Titmouse 6.28.12 2Come to think of it, how can we be bold about some things but so antsy about others? A peck here and a bite there…why not sit and feast at the Lord’s table on the Word of God until we’re fully satisfied?Tufted Titmouse+ 9.18.14

I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it…Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways!…He should have fed them also with the finest of the wheat: and with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee.”
(Psalm 81: 10,13,16)

Are You into Fitness or Fitn’ess?

FitnessHow’s it going? Are any of you with me on this spring training jaunt? I’ve been trying hard, but it ain’t easy (as my father, the English professor, was wont to quip). My life has been more irregular than ever, and I’m not perfectly sure the scale I’m using this morning is accurate, which gives me increased empathy for Maggie, who won’t even be able to buy a scale until her income tax return returns, and Ruth and Bonnie, who travel for a living.  And, what about new moms? Talk about an impossible time to exercise! New moms struggle just to find enough time to sleep and brush their teeth!

There are times when it’s simply not possible to exercise like we know we need to be doing. What then? Well, we can still be wise about choosing what goes into our mouths, right? I’m determined that my spring training program will include fitness over fitn’ess…and I hope you do too!

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31, NIV)

The Theory of Everything: Grappling with the Universe

The Theory of Everything MovieThe Theory of Everything is a 2014 dramatized version of the life of Stephen Hawking—who has one of the most brilliant scientific minds since Einstein—and his wife, Jane (Wilde) Hawking. Stephen Hawking It’s rare to have a movie produced during a celebrity’s lifetime that is both accurate (not perfectly, but in essence) and approved, but The Theory of Everything was so carefully researched and crafted that Stephen Hawking not only approved the movie, he even allowed the producer to use his actual voice synthesizer, making people feel like they were seeing the real Stephen Hawking act! Felicity Jones Furthermore, his wife Jane remarked that Felicity Jones (who played Jane’s part) had done a masterful job of learning even her mannerisms and speech patterns. The Theory of EverythingI definitely recommend The Theory of Everything, although it’s absolutely heart-breaking to watch the struggles of a young couple trying to live a life of triumph in the midst of tragedy. Falling in love Stephen was first diagnosed with ALS as a young graduate student at Cambridge University, and despite having a prognosis of only 2-3 years to live, Jane Wilde fell in love and married him! The Theory of Everything marriage In an interview, Jane recalled: “We had this very strong sense at the time that our generation lived anyway under this most awful nuclear cloud—that with a four-minute warning the world itself could likely end. That made us feel above all that we had to do our bit, that we had to follow an idealistic course in life. That may seem naive now, but that was exactly the spirit in which Stephen and I set out in the Sixties – to make the most of whatever gifts were given to us.” Jane Hawking, Stephen Hawking's first wife, at Theory of Everything PremiereI have to confess that by the end of the movie it was really Jane that I most admired…for her faith, her fidelity, and her amazing strength of character for sticking it out as well as she did with a man who was so unable to provide for her physically or even emotionally. At one point, Jane reflected in her memoirs that she was left living in her own “black hole” of loneliness. stephen-hawkingHawking always preferred to be regarded as “a scientist first, popular science writer second, and, in all the ways that matter, a normal human being with the same desires, drives, dreams, and ambitions as the next person.” I believe this is utterly true of all humans, regardless of their physical appearance or disabilities. I remember a dear paraplegic friend in college, who once confided that the highest compliment he ever felt (from an emotional standpoint) was the day some of his friends forgot that he wouldn’t be able to dance. Oh, for the grace to see others the way God does, looking on the heart rather than outward appearances (1 Samuel 16:7). The Theory of EverythingThe movie’s title refers to Hawking’s endless obsession with trying to find a single equation that could explain all existence by uniting the four fundamental forces of nature (as he sees them): the strong force, the weak force, gravity, and the electromagnetic force. He also tried to find a mathematical way to rewind time and understand the beginning of the universe: “Here, time stops. You’ve reached the true beginning of everything. There is no previous time in which the universe could have had a cause. It spontaneously created itself in the Big Bang…I had controversially shown the laws of nature suggest there is no need for a creator or God. The universe just came into existence all by itself.”   I have no clue how he jumps from point A to B in his reasoning, because to me God’s speaking the world into existence coincides perfectly with the Big Bang Theory. However, I know that either believing in a first cause or not believing is a faith principle. Atheists also believe, they just believe there is no God. We all believe something; we just choose what we will believe based on our opinions about the evidence and our personal desire to live by our own direction vs. that of Another.NASA-Can-Stop-Looking-for-Black-Holes-Says-Stephen-Hawking-2Plagued constantly by the slow but unrelenting progression of his disease,  Stephen Hawking wrote in 2006 (more than 40 years after his predicted death): “The victim should have the right to end his life, if he wants. But I think it would be a great mistake. However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there’s life, there is hope.”  How true, and he is such an inspiring example to the rest of the world in this! The-Theory-of-Everything I know that Stephen Hawking will never read my blog, but I would like to encourage Stephen in his quest to find—not the illusion of knowledge—but true knowledge, which will answer the riddle of how the universe began and give not only hope while life shall last on this earth, but hope of a glorious future that includes perfect health and an infinity to explore the fascinations of the universe!

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10).