Category Archives: Activities in the Greater Grand Rapids Area

Chocolate Lovers Deal of the Century

“The only thing better than a good friend is a good friend with chocolate.”Okay, so I interrupt my tales of our Mediterranean cruise to notify all chocolate lovers within the Realm of Meijer that the sale of the century is occurring this week. I went to our local Meijer to buy supplies for my son Joel’s birthday dinner yesterday and discovered that they were selling Nestle chocolate chips for $1 per 12-oz bag (10-oz dark or bittersweet) and the 11th bag is free. This is better than any sale I can ever remember…including Christmas promos, where $2 per bag is considered rock bottom pricing. Dare I admit that I spent $60 for a lifetime supply of chocolate? Does it help that I saved $13o.74 and the chips won’t expire for 1.5 years? That’s $1.35 per pound for milk chocolate and $1.44 for dark or bittersweet chocolate. If your family isn’t crazy about chocolate, then forget I said anything, but if your family password is “chocolate on the face” (as is ours, since Alan was sure that anyone who knocked on our bedroom door would be his child if they had chocolate on their face), and if you live where there is a Meijer store nearby, then you might want to consider investing in a little (or a lot) of chocolate this week. Just sayin’…

Of course, there’s something way, way better than a best of all chocolate sale, and that’s taking advantage of the sale on eternal life, ongoing but for a limited time only, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

Have you accepted the gift of eternal life that is found only in Jesus Christ? He is the Pearl of Great Price, worth searching for with all your heart until you find Him…and worth giving up everything else in order to embrace Him as your own!

 

Is Anything Better than The House of Flavors?

Do you—like me—just love ice cream?  Did you know there’s a Guinness-world-record-breaking creamery
right here in Southwest Michigan? There’s nothing quite so luxurious on a hot summer day
as a scrumpdelicious ice cream treat, is there?

Homemade ice cream is probably the very best (or at least the most fun to make), but for everyday yumminess, I keep some of our local dairy’s “homemade” vanilla in the freezer for my hubby, who has been known to have an ice cream attack any time of day or night and any time of year.
However, our all-time favorite creamery is in Ludington at the House of Flavors, and we always stop in if we’re nearby!
The House of Flavors has been in the business for over 66 years, and they produce an astonishing 25 million gallons of ice cream annually!
They call themselves the Ice Cream Capital of Michigan, and with good cause! Last year I wrote about being there when they attempted to set a new record for the world’s longest ice cream dessert (which I shared about here):   https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2016/06/14/i-think-we-just-ate-part-of-the-worlds-longest-sundae-and-it-was-yummy/ .  

 

 

Their attempt

was a great success, 

and now the House of Flavors 

is really on the map,  so to speak!
However, they’re not just good at making amazing flavors of ice cream!
They have a full menu of inexpensive and delicious breakfasts,
 and they always have a turkey roasting on a spit (which you can almost see in the center of this photo) for their fantastic turkey dinners, 
which they serve throughout the year! 
We’ve been coming since our kids were little, and our all-time favorite treat is a round of turkey dinners but a shared “Original Pig’s Dinner.”   This one was made from four scoops of ice cream with names like Michigan Potholes, Bear Claws, Eskimo Kisses, and Tennessee Toffee, but you get to choose whatever you want…plus four toppings of your choice and whipped cream with cherries on top.Needless to say, nobody leaves the House of Flavors feeling hungry!

I know of a place even more satisfying and fulfilling than the House of Flavors.  It’s the place of quiet rest when we place our trust in the Lord and abide safely under His wings, secure in the knowledge that no matter what is going on in the world around us, God’s “got ‘ya covered!” Literally. Spiritually and physically. We can rest in the knowledge that He loves us, and like a loving father, He’s looking out for us.                      In a world of choices, I pray you will choose “the best!”   Our God exceeds anything in the Guinness Book of World Records. What other God is perfect in love, kindness, mercy, grace, wisdom, justice, and goodness? Who else is all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful, and all-present? What other religion teaches that God loves us even when we fail and has made a way to be reconciled to Him through the blood of a sacrificial lamb (Jesus)?  If you’ve never learned to love and trust this great God, I pray that you will put the past behind you and reach out to him in faith. As Jesus taught, “how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not” (Matthew 23:37).   May today be the day you join in the fellowship of those who are trusting God! How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.  They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures. For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.” (Psalm 36:7-9)

(I took all the photos in and around the House of Flavors recently, except for the ones taken a year ago on June 11, 2016… the day they broke the world’s record for longest ice cream dessert!)


Big Sable Lighthouse…and Michigan’s 128 other Lighthouses!

Did you know that there are 129 lighthouses in Michigan?  There are 42 on Lake Superior, 43 on Lake Huron, and 44 on Lake Michigan. We’ve seen dozens of them.  (I would have said “most” until I realized just how many there really are).  No two are alike; each is unique, and all of them are picturesque.  Our local favorite is the Grand Haven Lighthouse, which is being totally refurbished and will include a museum when it’s completed.  Did you know that the Big Bay Point Lighthouse on Lake Superior
just north of Marquette also runs a bed and breakfast?* Wouldn’t it be fun to stay at a lighthouse?  Actually, quite a few of the lighthouses have conservancies to help care for them where you can volunteer for a two-week stint in the summer
serving as a host and giving tours.  While we were at Ludington State Park recently,   we visited the Big Sable Lighthouse.  We climbed the stairs to the top   for spectacular views of the Lake Michigan Coastline,  visited their museum and gift shop, watched a video,
and heard tales about rescues and shipwrecks.   Seeing a list of all the ships that have sunk in Lake Michigan
made me appreciate lighthouses even more!  Thousands have shipwrecked and lost their lives because they had no light
to guide them safely through the storms.  Spiritually, God calls us to be like lighthouses to draw others toward Him. 

God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (1 John 1:5-7).   Are you walking in the light? Can others see the light of God’s presence in you?

“Rescue the Perishing”
Refrain: “Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save.” (~from Fanny Crosby’s hymn, “Rescue the Perishing,” 1869…in the era when hundreds of lighthouses were being built!)

  1. Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
    Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave;
    Weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen,
    Tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save.
  2. Though they are slighting Him, still He is waiting,
    Waiting the penitent child to receive;
    Plead with them earnestly, plead with them gently;
    He will forgive if they only believe.
  3. Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter,
    Feelings lie buried that grace can restore;
    Touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness,
    Chords that were broken will vibrate once more.
  4. Rescue the perishing, duty demands it;
    Strength for thy labor the Lord will provide;
    Back to the narrow way patiently win them;
    Tell the poor wand’rer a Savior has died.

(* Photo of Big Bay Point Lighthouse from their website; I took the rest.)

Lovely Ludington: My Favorite Lower Michigan State Park

If you live in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, and you’re looking for something really special to do on a weekend, consider visiting Ludington State Park.  We went camping there last weekend, but frankly, if you want to camp at one of their 350+ sites (plus 10 more for backpackers),  you need to get your reservations about 6 months in advance, because the campgrounds fill up soooo fast! Still, it’s a great place to visit, if only for the day.                                                   What makes it so special?                             Well, its beauty, its size, and its variety for starters.  Ludington State Park encompasses 5,300 acres of forest, sand dunes, and water,       including a two-mile stretch of Lake Michigan’s pristine, sandy shoreline.  There are over 21 miles of marked hiking trails (also cross-country skiing, canoeing, and bike trails, including some lovely paved pathways that are handicap accessible). In summer, Lake Michigan waves and fresh water make for refreshing swimming, and if it’s too bracing for your taste, Lake Hamlin is usually warmer and appeals to swimmers and boaters. (This photo was taken last summer.) Although it was too cold this past weekend, hot days are also perfect for tubing down the Big Sable River to Lake Michigan.               There is always a lot of wildlife, including good fishing! We saw deer (can you see the doe peeking out?), wild turkeys, a big, fat racoon (who scared some neighboring campers), and many colorful birds.  The campsites are heavy with the scent of pines and the comforting sounds of water and birds. When I closed my eyes, I had to think twice. Was this real, or was it just a new recording of music for relaxation?  Thankfully, at Ludington State Park, the soothing sounds of nature are real! Do you have any recordings of music meant to help you relax? We do, and we love them! Distant thunder, dripping rain, waves lapping and rolling, the haunting melody of the evening thrush…spring peepers. Of everything that is music to my ears, I think the sound that lulls me to sleep most peacefully is that still, small voice within me—God’s Holy Spirit—singing to me I am loved by God. He loves you too! I hope you know that and find peace and rest in His love!

The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)

Do You Know His Name?

Okay, so this might sound a little crazy, but it really happened, so I’m going to tell you! Yesterday there were so many family members visiting my lifelong buddy while her husband was having surgery that she suggested I come later in the day after the surgery was over, thinking it might be more restful to go out for dinner together after the company was gone. She texted me a map and the room number, and away I went, bearing a beautifully crafted, stem-entwined pink and white azalea tree as a gift. Because the gift was a bit heavy, I stopped at the reception desk just to double check where to go.

The receptionist cocked her head and knit her eyebrows. “I’m sorry, but there’s no one here by that name.”

“There has to be!” I pleaded. “He had surgery this morning, and his wife said he’s doing great, is through recovery, and is in his room.”

She studied her computer thoughtfully. “How do you spell his last name? One “n” or two?”

I spelled out his name again. Surely they couldn’t have lost track of him!

“Are you sure he’s at this hospital?”

“Well yes, I believe so. I know the surgery was going to be done at Spectrum…”

“Yes, but there’s the Butterworth campus and the Blodgett campus. Let me check and see if he might be somewhere else.” She took several minutes and even put in a call to someone. “Sorry,” she sighed. “We simply don’t have anyone by that name. We do have a patient with the same last name, but not one with the same first name. Could your friend have a different name from what you’re used to calling him?” I can’t give you any information unless you know the right name.

I thought hard. I had been friends with Tom’s wife for 55 years. I’d been at their wedding. The four of us had visited back and forth for the past 45+ years. We triple-dated with them and another couple almost every month. Was it possible that I didn’t really know this man’s real name?

Long story short, I was finally able to produce enough information on address, age, etc. that they took pity on me and were able to suggest I try the same room number at a different hospital…even though they still were not allowed to tell me his name!

I knocked timidly on the door and was amazed to hear Tom answer, as loud and strong as ever: “Come in!” I thought he’d be semi-conscious and miserable, but he was sitting up, smiling and cracking jokes with his wife and two sisters. Incredible! This guy just had major surgery for cancer, and (as Alan said happily that evening) he was already “holding court.” Praise God! Tom says he believes it was the prayers of the saints lifted up to God that raised him up so fast. Amen!

As I reflected on this experience last night, it made me think of Jesus, who was raised from the dead by God and “holding court” at a time when no one ever dreamed that such an amazing recovery was possible! Miracles never cease!

It also occurred to me that—just like my surprise at not knowing Tom’s first name—many people probably think they know Jesus without really knowing “the right” name to gain access to him. Jesus  himself taught us: “Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out” (Luke 13:26-28).

Just as I went to the wrong hospital (even though I was convinced I was at the right hospital), many people believe you get to heaven by being good, but that’s not really what God tells us in the Scripture. God warns, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, ESV).

But, what is “that name?” Is it Jesus? Is it Christ? What’s His name?

Just as the receptionist wouldn’t tell me how to find Tom without my knowing his true first name, neither can we gain access to Jesus and entrance to heaven without knowing Jesus’s true “first” name. Do you know what it is? Would you like to know?

The title by which we must know him is not just “Jesus,” a religious leader who existed 2017 years ago, or as “Christ,” who was the promised Messiah of God. The title by which we gain access to both the Father God and his Son, is Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, as we learn in 2 Peter 1:10-11, “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”

What is it that we must do? We must repent of our sins, surrendering to Jesus as the Lordthe master—of our lives and trusting him as our one and only Savior from sin. Have you done that? If so, the Bible says you are “born again,” a new creation and spiritual babe…a sibling of the Son of God and a child of the Father God, with full rights to his everlasting kingdom and his home in heaven! Do you know his name?

But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18).

Tulip Time Festival: It’s All in the Timing…or Is It?

One of the many joys of living in this area is our almost annual trek to Holland’s Tulip Time Festival, which is usually the week before Mother’s Day.  This year it’s May 6-14, 2017.During the festival, Holland, Michigan, which is 30 miles south of Grand Rapids, is glowing with 6 million tulips, as well as a potpourri of other beautiful spring flowers. However, this year the weather has been unusually warm, and the tulips are almost all blooming right now, so we decided to visit last Sunday afternoon (which was April 23—two weeks before the festivities are to begin). The weather was perfect, and so were the gardens. The only down side is that there are vast fences around the flower beds at Windmill Island Gardens  to keep out the deer, who consider tasty tulips fine dining. It will be sad enough that the flowers will be past their prime for the festival, but if the caretakers were to take down the fences now (which they won’t), there would be nothing but leaves for the masters!  😦(Oh, but there would still be daffodils, because they’re poisonous.)Of course, there are all sorts of fun things to do at the festival!There’s a wonderful parade, a marathon, Dutch dancing, a carnival,
an arts and crafts fair, music and great food… So, the festival will still be worth visiting. However, if your first love (among such earthly loves) is spring flowers, I’d recommend going ASAP! The weather forecast is pretty bad, so you might have to consult your favorite weather station for some prognostication, but sooner will be better than later!

Festivals are fun, but they’re pretty insignificant compared to some of the weightier matters of life, like school and career choices, whom you’ll marry
(if you marry) and where to live. Are you facing a challenging decision? Timing is critical! However, it’s not always easy to figure out the correct timing. When it comes to festivals, you can consult the weather man and your friends, but when it comes to the big decisions of life, may I encourage you to consult the only One who knows you perfectly and who knows the future as well as He knows the past and present? God knows “all about it.” He knows all about everything, in fact, and He can give you the wisdom you need to make the right decision, if you’ll only ask.  Thus saith the Lord the maker thereof, the Lord that formed it, to establish it; the Lord is his name; Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” (Jeremiah 33:2-3).

Beauty in our Backyard: Amen to Aman Park!

We moved from Michigan’s northern peninsula about 24 years ago, and one of the lingering memories I’ve cherished
is that of northern spring woods carpeted with trillium and wildflowers. Actually, we have a sprinkling of trillium in my backyard, but nothing like the gauze of white that drapes the hillsides near Fayette in the Upper Peninsula, so I’ve harbored a pensive ambition to return some spring just to feast my eyes on the wildflowers that bloom there. Therefore, I could hardly believe my eyes after church last Sunday when some friends showed me photos of the woods filled with trillium at Aman Park, which is just off Lake Michigan Dr. only about 10 miles east of downtown GR.In all the years we’ve lived here, I’d never stopped by to check out this park!  Talk about a deplorable lack of curiosity! (Well, I’d been curious a few times, but never enough to do anything about it!) Susan and I decided to go hiking there.It was S.O. beautiful! The little ridges of the woods seemed sprinkled with frost. Not only are the trillium in bloom, there are wonderful patches of Virginia bluebells and delicate hepatica, wild phlox, vinca minor, and violets. If you live in the area, love wildflowers, and have a couple of hours free in the next few days, consider visiting. It’s free. 🙂But, take a photo of the map on your cell phone for reference, because the trails are very poorly marked. The red (“Interpretative Trail” aka “B”) is only 1.5 miles long but gives you a wonderful experience  of peaceful trails through mazes of flowers.  I laughed with joy, but I also laughed at myself. In 24 years, I’d longed to drive hundreds of miles north (which I never did) rather than figuring out if there were any woods filled with trillium right here! I wonder, is there anything you’re missing and wishing for from days gone by? You might not be able to find exactly the same thing where you are,
but how about doing a little research? Perhaps like me, you’ll find some unexpected and wonderful opportunities
very close to home. In fact, it may be that heaven is closer than you think.Whom have I in heaven but thee?
and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee
” (Psalm 73:25).

(All these photos were taken on April 24, 2017 at Aman Park. If you miss it this year but want to try next year, they seem to bloom about the time the daffodils have peaked and the tulips are starting to bloom, which I’m guessing would be true anywhere trillium grows. Look online…you might have woodlands filled with wildflowers wherever you are!)