Here is a list of ideas that you may have already thought of, but I hope maybe one or two will be novel and helpful for you if you or your family have some extra time on your hands. Many of them would work just as well for adults as for children:
Write stories or poems, keep a journal about this “special” time at home
Coloring, drawing, painting
Origami; all sorts of YouTubes on how to paint, draw, etc.
Free printable coloring pages can be found by googling a subject such as “large format, free printable images of cats” (or whatever else)
YouTubes on animals and plants
Skype with friends and/or cousins
Free online course on typing for children
Organize your very own “homeschool!”
Make a star chart for your kids: make bed, brush teeth, pick up room, memory verse
Subjects each day? Devotions, prayer, and memory work
Memory work: Bible verses, poetry, songs
Games: treasure hunts, variety shows, share memories from years gone by; look at photo albums and tell stories about what you remember from past holidays or family vacations
Read books aloud or to one another (let kids draw while listening)
Check out these sources for reading materials: Revival.com
Hoopla library app
Cooking together; pass along recipes to one another
Nature hunts around yard. Google what you find
Color a picture and then cut it into about 20-30 pieces to make a puzzle
Bird stories (I have written a bunch on Summer Setting under “A Few of My Favorite Birds”)
Make cards or write e-cards to elderly friends and family
Picnic in unusual place around house
Build fort with blankets or sheets
Math practice: use playing cards, dominoes, cooking
Let kids use exercise machine while watching videos
Air Force Exercises: look online and help kids exercise together as a family
Music class: what have you got? Learn instruments, make up and share songs
Tell stories: Have one person start and go around the room taking turns adding
“Art for Kids Hub”: lots of resources for artwork
Kids’ programs that can be found online:
Adam’s Answers (You Tubes made by a friend from Grand Rapids)
Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
I wrote about Frankenmuth eight years ago as a sort of “Christmas Present” event, where Alan and I enjoyed the Christmasy ambience of this historic German community, complete with an afternoon of shopping at Bronner’s, the world’s largest Christmas store, which houses over 50,000 gifts in an area nearly the size of two football field.
I’m sure I’ll write about Frankenmuth again as a “Christmas Future” event, because Frankenmuth now sports two waterpark hotels where several of my children and their children love splashing around for a weekend on adrenaline-pumping rides like the Super Loop Speed Slide or the Tantrum Twist Raft Ride (or . . . the warm kiddy pools). 🙂
Today, however, I want to write about my “Christmas Past,” outing last week with the Birthday Club, where we concentrated more on the historical aspects of this charming village, which has even more to offer than great food, shops, and joy rides.
Just a few historical “fun facts” for would-be tourists! There are absolutely NO parking meters anywhere in town, so parking (where available) is totally free! How’s that for German hospitality? Also, the oldest neon sign in Michigan stands in front of Zehnders (which is also probably the oldest, most famous restaurant in Michigan).
Frankenmuth is also home to Michigan’s oldest continuously operating woolen mill.
This was the first stop on our list of tours, although faaaaar from the last!
The Frankenmuth Woolen Mill has been in operation for 125 years.
Anyone can still have their own sheep’s wool cleaned, carded, and batted!
Even though it’s a working mill, they have windows where you can observe some of the processes when they work.
Also, if you call ahead, they will arrange personal tours for groups of ten or more.
However, if you don’t have ten in your party or don’t come at the right time, there is a constantly running, short but very informative video that explains the process, and the clerks are hospitable and willing to answer questions.
As you might imagine, the store is full of wonderfully pleasant woolen products . . .
and other fun stuff, sure to make you smile! (Susan made us pose for this one! 🙂 )
There is also a historical museum, although it was closed the day we were there.
All the shops were open, though, including this fabulous old fashioned market that seemed straight out of my childhood, complete with a big pickle barrel. Huge dill pickles are sold for $.49 or a whole gallon for only $7.00!
For those of you who long for a day to experience the past in all it’s present glory, Frankenmuth is hard to beat!
Another fantastic shop is the Cheese Haus, which brought back memories of Alan and my visit to Edam in the Netherlands a couple of years ago . . . a wonderful store full of amazing cheeses, many of which can be sampled on the spot! (Tourist alert: Come hungry to Frankenmuth and pace yourself!!)
Of course, the culinary highlight of the day was experiencing one of the city’s historically tastabulous chicken dinners. Frankenmuth has two restaurants that were begun over 160 years ago by two German brothers. They have identical menus.
The first and most famous is Zehnders, which was just announced as one of 6 recipients of 2020 James Beard Foundation America’s Classics Award. Zehnders seats 1,500 in their ten dining rooms. It was one of 10 largest restaurants in America in the 1980’s, and I believe it still has the largest seating capacity of any restaurant in Michigan, serving about a million chicken dinners annually.
However, in honor of Susan (who has German roots) and me (who has a German daughter-in-law), Cindi opted to eat at the brother restaurant right across the street, where everything is just as wonderful, albeit with Bavarian ambience rather than Zehnder’s colonial American decor.
Needless to say, we were totally charmed and completely pleased by our dining experience at the Bavarian Inn!
If you go to Frankenmuth, be sure to walk around to the side of the Bavarian Inn in time to see the wonderful glockenspiel and hear the 10-minute performance about the Pied Piper.
Although it’s done in a rather cheerful manner, the moral of the story is somber and clear:
Pay those to whom payment is due, be fair, and don’t lie, or you will be very sorry in the end!
Well, like so many travel posts, this one is way too long already, but I want to encourage you to save time for one more historical site if you visit Frankenmuth.
This utterly charming community was begun by fifteen German Lutherans who had a heart to share the gospel with the Chippewa Indians in this area (back in 1845).
Across the street from the present day church, there is a replica of the original church.
Except during services, visitors are welcome to ring two ancient “church bells in the forest!”
There is also a fascinating cemetery filled with gravestones and expressions of faith.
This historic church is alive and well today, open to the public and sharing the Gospel!
To Susan, Cindi, and me, it was the crowning touch to a completely warm and wonderful day!
I cannot read Jesus’ admonition to enter the “strait gate” without thinking of “every man” from Pilgrim’s Progress.
This man was so burdened by what he’d read in the Book that he left his hometown in search of the Celestial City.
However, he quickly discovered that he had to enter through a special gate before he could find the narrow path that would actually lead him to the great city.
In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus explained it this way, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Have you found and entered the Strait Gate that leads to heaven?
In Pilgrim’s Progress, a man named Evangelist points “every man” to the gate where he can be relieved from his burden.
But, it’s a difficult climb to get to the gate, and along the way, he meets a man named Obstinate, who refuses to make the climb, choosing rather to attempt reaching the Celestial City by traveling one of the many easier, wider, less restrictive paths.
This part of the story is very sad, of course, because no one can actually get to the Celestial City unless they are willing to pass through the Strait Gate first. It’s not that the gate is hard to find, or that people won’t be allowed in after they find it. All they have to do is knock, and the gate door will be opened, but most people are too proud to ask, and so they wander off trying to find some other way across the chasm of death to everlasting life.
My father became a believer shortly before he died, but for most of his life, he preferred quoting this poem:
Invictus —William Ernest Henley, 1875
“Out of the night that covers me, Black as the pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be For my unconquerable soul.
“In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeonings of chance My head is bloody, but unbowed.
“Beyond this place of wrath and tears Looms but the Horror of the shade, And yet the menace of the years Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.
“It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”
It is with great relief and joy I can share with you that just a few years before he died, my father decided to enter in through the Strait Gate, drop his burden of sin at the foot of the cross, and begin his journey to the Celestial City. As his youngest daughter, and the one who had the privilege of pilgriming beside him during those last years, I observed that he was a much more peaceful, pleasant companion after he gave up trying to be the captain of his own soul.
Is your head still “bloody, but unbowed”? If so, will you bow your head today and let Jesus forgive your sins and heal your heart? Will you join with the millions of us who are pilgrims on the narrow road that leads to life everlasting? Don’t be angry with God! He loves us. He provided a way for us to be reconciled to him through the blood of Christ. He offers eternal life for “whosoever will” believe. Will you take him at his word and begin your journey through the Strait Gate to the Celestial City?
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17).
Text for today’s meditation: Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.“
It’s terrifying to face the evils of society. Incredibly painful. Gut-wrenching. We’d rather not even think about it.
However, the battle between good and evil rages whether or not we’re willing to acknowledge it or engage in the battle.
Blind eyes and hard hearts allowed the horrors of the death camps where millions of Jews were exterminated during World War 2. Deaf ears and love of comfort allowed the terrors of black slavery that existed before the Civil War in the U.S.
We like to think that we’d all be abolitionists if we’d lived during the 1800’s . . . but would we?
Harriet is a powerful look into the lives and times of slavery in pre-Civil War America, and I wish everyone would take the time to watch it, even if it makes us wince and lose some sleep.
Harriet recounts the true story of one of America’s bravest women: Harriet Tubman. She was born around 1822 as a slave; she died in 1913 at about age 91 and was an amazing example of courage, faith, self-sacrifice, and compassion.
As a small child, Harriet was beaten every time the white baby she was tending would cry. She recalled being beaten 5 times before breakfast one morning!
Much of her life as portrayed in the 2019 story is consistent with history (with the usual literary license and compacting of some historical events).
It is true that Harriet rescued 70 slaves in 13 expeditions and advised many more.
She usually left on Saturday evenings during winter to avoid detection, because notices about runaway slaves wouldn’t be printed until Monday, and plantation owners didn’t like going outside in the cold to search for themselves.
Harriet experienced visions directing her, which she attributed to God. She was deeply Christian. She really did pray for God to kill her evil master, who died suddenly a week later! (She later expressed ambivalence about her prayer after her cruel master died.)
Nicknamed “Moses” for her God-inspired ability to lead people to freedom, Harriet never lost a single soul: “I was conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say – I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger” (Wiki).
During the Civil War, Harriet worked as a nurse and made pies and rootbeer in the evenings to sell so she could support herself.
She also worked as a spy and map maker, and she was one of few women in American history to ever lead an armed assault during war—along the Combahee River, where 750 slaves were freed.
As an elderly woman, Harriet needed surgery to relieve pain from the childhood head injury she had received, but instead of using anesthesia, she chose to bite down on a bullet, as she’d seen Civil War soldiers do while having their limbs amputated! She was one tough lady!
In honoring Harriet Tubman when her biography was written, the famous abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, wrote this: “The difference between us is very marked. Most that I have done and suffered in the service of our cause has been in public, and I have received much encouragement at every step of the way. You, on the other hand, have labored in a private way. I have wrought in the day – you in the night. … The midnight sky and the silent stars have been the witnesses of your devotion to freedom and of your heroism. Excepting John Brown – of sacred memory – I know of no one who has willingly encountered more perils and hardships to serve our enslaved people than you have.”
If you watch Harriet and lose sleep the way I have, I would like to encourage you to start praying about what you might be able to do to help stop slavery, because slavery is not just an artifact of history. Slavery is very much an alive and evil ongoing issue. In fact, human trafficking is the fastest growing “enterprise” in the world today. Thursday I want to share some information about present day slavery and one avenue for helping fight it.
“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).
Here’s a story on trying to be thrifty that will make you laugh, shared by Brenda, who has been my Anne-of-Green-Gables style “bosom friend” since childhood.
As a quick introduction, Brenda and I met on the first day of eighth grade and have been close ever since.
It was a bittersweet day indeed when Brenda married Tom and “left me!” However, after twenty-five years of marriage, we ended up in the same community and have been able to resume our steadfast friendship for this past twenty-five years! We were over to their home for a delicious Moroccan dinner recently, and the story behind the meal was so funny that I asked her if she’d be willing to write it up to share with you. Because—if you are at all like me—you will resonate with the idea of how often we spend money trying to be thrifty! Here it is:
I started with the best of intentions.
I’m not sure when this project took on a life on its own, but it did. It was like a snowball rolling downhill gathering speed and becoming bigger. How did having a dinner party for close friends end up with an international cooking experience that involved new equipment, new spices and new cooking methods?
It started innocently enough. I was going to make Candy Cane coffee cakes for Christmas gift giving. I needed cherries and dried apricots for my baking project. The first step on the path was buying my apricots at Costco where a 3-pound package of apricots sells for the same amount as a one-pound package at my local grocery store. As I look back, this is the point where the snowball started rolling downhill. Imperceptibly at first, but slowly and steadily it got bigger. I had bought that big bag of apricots trying to be a cost-conscious person.
After I had finished making and distributing many candy cane coffee cakes, I still had 2 pounds of apricots remaining. I needed to find a way to use them up, since I didn’t want to waste them. I’m a cost-conscious consumer, after all.
I was going to be hosting a dinner party for friends after Christmas, so this was the perfect time to try something new. I began looking for a main dish recipe that included dried apricots. I found one easily online. Lamb and Apricot Tagine. A dish from Morocco that used several cups of apricots.
I decided that this was a perfect recipe to treat my friends coming to the dinner party. We had eaten together at a Mediterranean restaurant, so I knew they were up for adventure in this type of cuisine. What a great way to impress them while being a cost-conscious consumer.
The recipe said the Lamb and Apricot Tagine was cooked in a traditional Moroccan dish called a tagine. This clay pot allowed slow cooking that continually steamed the food with a domed lid. I could almost smell the dish cooking as I read the recipe and the cook’s comments. The recipe also included instructions for cooking in an Instant Pot, which I have, but that couldn’t be as tasty as using a dish that had been used for hundreds of years in the Middle East, could it?
After researching sources for a tagine, I found that World Market had them and with an after-Christmas discount, I was able to buy one for under $30. Not too bad but slightly more than I wanted to spend. However, the price was much higher on Amazon, so again, I felt like I was being a cost-conscious consumer.
I began to gather the ingredients. The lamb for the recipe meant a trip to an international market. I learned a lesson here-lamb is not a cost-effective meat to use. Then I needed saffron threads. I found these at the International Market after much searching. I asked the clerk and found they keep saffron in a locked cabinet behind the counter, which tells you the value of the spice.
On the advice of my chef son, I also ordered some saffron from Amazon who was happy to deliver a small amount of the spice. Saffron is really the thread-like parts of a crocus flower that grows in the Mediterranean area. The most expensive spice in the world by weight but luckily, I only needed a very small amount.
On the positive side, the use of a tagine on an electric stove requires a diffuser to keep the heat from directly touching the tagine. Fortunately, I have a gas stove and could bypass the diffuser by keeping the heat very low.
As I began planning for the dinner party, I realized the tagine would not hold enough ingredients to feed six people. I was going to have to make two batches of the recipe which would require six hours of cooking. But as often happens, the day of the dinner party, I didn’t have six hours. My daughter and family had decided to come for a visit from Ohio and left just a few hours before the dinner. Necessity stepped in, and I had to cook one batch in the tagine and one in the Instant Pot.
When my guests arrived, I shared the whole story of the dinner menu that had spiraled out of control. I placed two dishes of the lamb and apricots on the table and asked them to compare and decide which method was tastier. They felt the results were very similar, and that possibly the Instant Pot version was slightly more tender.
Lesson learned: Either don’t buy large quantities to save money or go with the flow and be open to new experiences to broaden yourself. I’m going to go with the latter. We’ve tasted new food, learned how to cook with a tagine and found that the new method (Instant Pot) may be as good as the method used for several thousand years.
But now I need to get a recipe book that features Moroccan cooking so I can make more meals in my tagine. So, I may not be done with my cooking adventure yet. After all, I’m a cost-conscious consumer.
“And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God” (Ecclesiastes 3:13).
Want to snuggle up and watch a heart-warming true story about an incredible dog who was named the most heroic dog in history by Time magazine in 2011? This cold winter weather is perfect for staying inside and being glad we’re not actually out in the blizzards of Alaska back in the winter of 1925, when the event actually occurred.
Togo was released at the end of 2019 and has all the dog prints of a true Disney classic: a PG rating, 8.2 on IMDb, great acting, stunning cinematography from Alaska, and full of suspense, courage, and love.
It’s a remarkable story about Togo, a sickly, undersized husky pup with an oversized ability to get into mischief, the heart of a true survivor, and a passion for his master. Willem Dafoe does a masterful job portraying Leonhard Seppala, the stubborn Norwegian who had to balance love for his wife with his professional wisdom as a musher, where wrong decisions can end in death for both the master and his dogs.
The challenge? To bring serum from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska during the worst winter in twenty years during weather too dangerous for flights. Why? Because a diphtheria epidemic was threatening to wipe out most of the area’s people.
Nome, Alaska, is just 2 degrees south of the Arctic Circle and is located on the southern coast of Seward Peninsula at Norton Sound along the Bering Sea. Today, there are fewer than 4,000 living in Nome, but due to people lingering after the gold rush at the turn of the century, in 1925 the little outpost of Nome was the largest town in Northern Alaska.
In order to carry the serum across 674 miles from Nenana (where the serum had been transported via train from Anchorage) to Nome, more than twenty teams using over 100 huskies were organized, and the event was widely broadcast as the “Great Race of Mercy.”
Many of us have watched the movie Balto. This movie immortalized the lead dog who ran the last 31 miles to bring the serum into Nome, but Leonhard (which means “lion-heart”) Seppala and his faithful dog Togo ran the penultimate race: 264 miles, sometimes enduring temperatures of —30°F. with wind chills making it feel like —85°F.!! Until this movie came out, Leonhard and Togo were pretty much the unsung and forgotten heroes.
The race was not for glory, it was for good, and the most magnificent message for me was watching the love, resolve, and reward for the couple who risked everything to save their community. It was unbelievable to me that they didn’t get the praise and glory they deserved, but I think that is more often true in this life than we will ever know. I am reminded of Solomon’s wisdom in Ecclesiastes 9:11, where he laments: “I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”
In our personal pilgrimages through life, few of us are asked to do terribly dangerous and risky things, but all of us are asked to run our race faithfully, for good, and not for glory! But, there is a promise in the example of Jesus, who ran the race before us for joy and for love of God.
May we run our races as doggedly as Togo . . . and like Togo, to please the One we love!
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto 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 12:1-2).
“His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew 25:21).
(Disney’s version of the story runs very close to the reality, although they had a somewhat abbreviated, “happily-ever-after” style ending. If you want to read more of the thrilling [scary] details, there’s an excellent Wikipedia article listed below.)
Ever hear the story of the schooner Ben Flint? Well, it’s just one of many inspiring tales of heroism and heartache recounted in the Trumans’ book about the Big Sable Point Coast Guard Station on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, not too far from where we live. I’ll share the story of the Ben Flint, and if you’re interested in curling up on a cold winter’s night to read more remarkable accounts of bravery and self-sacrifice, details are at the end. Here’s their first tale:
Back in the autumn of 1870, the two-masted ship Ben Flint left Manistee, Michigan, bound for Chicago, fully loaded with lumber. Ten miles off shore, the Ben Flint was caught in a gale and started taking on water. Around ten p.m. the schooner filled with water and rolled over on its side. As the vessel went over, a passenger, Patrick McCuin, fell overboard and drowned. Captain Thomas Roberts and his crew of eight clung desperately to the portion of the rigging above water.
The ship drifted until about one a.m., when the vessel ran aground approximately four miles north of Grande Pointe au Sable Lighthouse. As the Ben Flint struck the lake bottom, it righted, but split open. All of the men then tried to make themselves secure in the rigging, but they remained exposed to the bitterly cold wind and frigid drenching of the waves. At the beginning of the storm, Captain Roberts had thrown off his coat in order to work more easily, and he died from hypothermia at daylight.
When the Grande Pointe au Sable lighthouse keeper, Alonzo W. Hyde, spotted the wreck from the tower, he recognized the dire need. In their frozen and exhausted state, the crew could not survive a swim to shore through the tumultuous waves. The telephone had not yet been invented, and going for help would take too long. Keeper Hyde knew that he and the assistant light-keeper, his wife Elsa, were the only hope of rescue for the Ben Flint’s crew. They quickly loaded the lighthouse’s small boat onto a wagon, along with blankets and other supplies, and set off up the beach. Upon reaching the site of the wreck, the two of them launched their boat and managed to reach the stranded schooner. After multiple trips, they succeeded in bringing all of the men safely to shore.
The crew reached Manistee by wagon that evening. The account of the disaster in the Manistee Times said, “All unite in praise of the kindness and heroism of the lighthouse keeper and his lady. But for their efforts, others and perhaps all would have perished.”
(My friend Grace Truman serves as president of S.O.S. Vermilion, a nonprofit organization working to preserve an 1876 U.S. Life-Saving Service station on Lake Superior near Whitefish Point. If you are interested in what they’re doing, the website is sosvermilion.org. Grace, her husband, and their son also wrote the book Storms and Sand: A Story of Shipwrecks and the Big Sable Point Coast Guard Station. It tells the true stories of rescues made by the men of the U.S. Life-Saving Service/Coast Guard at the Big Sable Point station near Ludington. If anyone wants to order a copy, email email@example.com. The list price is $29.95, but you can get a special price of $20.00 with free shipping and tax included, if you mention “Summer Setting.” Thank you, Grace, for sharing this record of courage and valor! May we be inspired to respond as bravely in emergencies should the need arise, and may we be quick to share with others that Jesus can save!)
“Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses” (Psalm 107:13).
The Lighthouse (—Ronny and Kenny Hinson, 1970)
There’s a lighthouse on a hillside That overlooks life’s sea When I’m tossed, it sends out A light that I might see And the light that shines in darkness now Will safely lead me thru the night If it wasn’t for The Lighthouse My ship would sail no more.
Chorus: And I thank God for The Lighthouse Well, I owe my life to Him For Jesus is The Lighthouse And from the rocks I’ve seen He has shown a light all around me That I might clearly see If it wasn’t for The Lighthouse Tell me where would this ship be.
Ev’rybody that lives about me They said tear that lighthouse down ‘Cause the big ships they don’t sail this way anymore There’s no use of it standing ’round Then my mind goes back to that stormy night When just in time, I saw that light Yes that light from that old lighthouse That stands up there on the hill.