Category Archives: Aging and Retirement Issues

The English Inn: Can Imitations Exceed Originals?

My kids sometimes tease about the fact that the Birthday Club started out as a couple of hours in the afternoon for coffee and cake, over the years expanded to include lunch, and now (14 years later) has become a full day affair! In response, Cindi says we should try to make it sound slightly more legitimate by calling it “The Birthday Research Committee,” since we are always trying to find interesting new places to explore and often take our husbands or kids there later. And, of course—it’s fun to share my finds with any of you who live in the area!  🙂So, after our hike along the Grand River, and in keeping with our river theme, we stopped for lunch at The English Inn in Eaton Rapids, also on the Grand River. If you’re ever wishing you could go for a romantic getaway to jolly old England without having to fly across the Atlantic, have I ever got a deal for you! The English Inn is not only a first-class restaurant, it’s also a beautifully updated Bed’n’Breakfast where you can get a  quaint room starting at $115 per night (which is admittedly a lot, but that’s a lot less than flying to England).  This 90-year-old classic Tudor Revival home was first built for Irving Reuter, who was the general manager of the Oldsmobile Corporation and one of the first ten to invest in General Motors.Today, it’s been expanded to include a banquet hall that can facilitate wedding receptions for up to 250 guests, although the original mansion has been completely renovated and filled with elegant period pieces.           Since 1991, it’s been listed in the State Registry of Historic Sites. We were running late and feared we’d miss out on lunch, since they only serve until 1:30 pm, but Cindi called, and they very graciously remained open to serve us, even though we were their only customers at that late hour.            The food was exceptional, and all three of us were very pleased. I had the beef and rarebit and will definitely be trying to figure out how to imitate their great tenderloin tips and creamy rarebit! If possible, even better than the outstanding food was their impeccable hospitality. Our waiter assured us that we could linger as long as we wished over lunch (which we did!), told us all about the history of The English Inn, and then later toured us around, inviting us to meander through their extensive gardens.I read this about them: “As it once was during the Reuter’s tenure, fine dining and hospitality remain the order of the evening at The English Inn.” Absolutely! The English Inn is nestled along the Grand River and reminded me of a time our family stayed at The Talbot Inn along the River Thames near Oxford, England.If anything, I would say The English Inn is even more elegant and gracious, and it made me reflect on the possibility of an imitation becoming even more beautiful than an original. As a Christian, I will never come close to being as perfect and spiritually beautiful as Jesus, because He truly is God incarnate. But, it inspired me to work at becoming a more gracious and lovely imitation!

Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour” (Ephesians 5:1-2).

Like a River Glorious
(—Frances R. Havergal, 1876)

  1. Like a river glorious is God’s perfect peace,
    Over all victorious, in its bright increase;
    Perfect, yet it floweth fuller every day,
    Perfect, yet it groweth deeper all the way.

    • Refrain:
      Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest
      Finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest.
  2. Hidden in the hollow of His blessed hand,
    Never foe can follow, never traitor stand;
    Not a surge of worry, not a shade of care,
    Not a blast of hurry touch the spirit there.
  3. Every joy or trial falleth from above,
    Traced upon our dial by the Sun of Love;
    We may trust Him fully, all for us to do;
    They who trust Him wholly find Him wholly true.

Birthday Pains…and Pleasures!

June is always bustin’ out all over with birthdays. Earlier this month, my daughter-in-law had to miss out completely on our birthday party for her because both her kids were so sick, but today I want to relate an especially happy tale about one of our Birthday Club adventures that succeeded.Susan, Cindi, and I had a perfectly wonderful day celebrating Susan’s birthday, so I want to encourage young parents with the thought that by the time your kids are grown, your birthdays might become remarkably fun…

   and possibly even relaxing! We started with an initial fortification of fruit, coffee, tea, and some amazing donuts from the new Donut Conspiracy shop on E. Beltline that (is overpriced but) has really delicious and decadent donuts with clever names like “Rehab.”We continued our rehab with a fantastically soothing hike on the Ledges Trail, a remote area of the Grand River in Fitzgerald Park (near Grand Ledge, MI). Ledges Trail meanders along the Grand River for about 3/4 mile  down to Island Park (built on “Second Island”).  Island Park is sunny, breezy, non-buggy and handicap accessible. The trail is a little rougher, we’re all still good hikers, so we thoroughly enjoyed  our walk along the beautifully patterned “grand ledges” of sedimentary rock. It’s so lush and green it reminded us of Ireland, and we did use insect repellent, but none of us gotten bitten by mosquitoes. (Note: there was a lot of poison ivy beside the path, so if you hike it,
be careful
and consider wearing shoes and socks…or really watch your step!) The ledges are covered with powdery light green lichens
that make them look almost like they’ve been white-washed! They’re also adorned with delicate mosses, ferns, and liverworts,  some of which aren’t found anywhere else in Michigan’s lower peninsula. In fact, I felt very much like I was hiking along one
of the Upper Peninsula’s verdant wilderness trails! In 1888 a railroad trestle was built across the Grand River near the south boundary of Fitzgerald Park. Something echoed deep in our hearts as we heard the wail of a whistle
and watched a long train rumble past… …a tug that made us feel tied to 130 years of history and a time when
fugitive slaves were harbored in the caves en-route to Canada and freedom. Susan has a penchant for spiritual nurturing and motifs, so Cindi suggested a river theme for our outing. Perfect! Besides sharing all about our lives, we sang songs together. We also considered the significance of various verses and stories about rivers that flow through the scriptureand reflected on God’s goodness to us during this season of our lives.There is so much to be thankful for at every stage of life, and if you’re in the midst of child-rearing, I hope you’re able to enjoy the bustle. But, if you’re older (like we are), I hope you enjoy the peace and quiet too.It Is Well
(—Horatio Gates Spafford, 1873)

1 When peace like a river attendeth my way,
when sorrows like sea billows roll;
whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
“It is well, it is well with my soul.”

Refrain (may be sung after final stanza only):
It is well with my soul;
it is well, it is well with my soul.

2 Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
let this blest assurance control:
that Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
and has shed his own blood for my soul. Refrain

3 My sin oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
my sin, not in part, but the whole,
is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more;
praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul! Refrain

4 O Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
the clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
the trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend;
even so, it is well with my soul. Refrain

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” Psalm 1:1-3

(P.S.—Lest I make this sound too idyllic, I have to say that Susan is in the throes of helping plan a daughter’s wedding, so it’s not like she’s sitting poolside painting her toenails. I don’t think life is ever without challenges, but I do think there are times when life isn’t quite so demanding!)

Mackinac Island’s 70th Annual Lilac Festival Starts Today!

  Alan and I have been going to Mackinac Island together for over 50 years now, and I try to take him up every year for his birthday. This year the timing worked out to go last weekend, and the lilacs were just beginning to blossom out, so I’m sure it will be spectacular for this year’s       Lilac Festival, which begins today and lasts through Sunday, June 17th.Every day there are over a dozen events planned, and the whole festival culminates in a Grand Parade down Main Street on June 17th…
which also happens to be Father’s Day this year. The weather is predicted to be in the upper 60°s and sunnyish every day,        so if you can afford the time and money and live within driving distance,    it might make a marvelous place to visit this week or to celebrate Father’s Day!  M-185, the 8.2-mile highway circling Mackinac Island, Is (I think?) the only highway in America that doesn’t allow cars, although the quiet road is punctuated with the clippity-clop
of horse hooves now and then. Most years Alan and I walk around the island and bike around too, although over the years we’ve had to make a few compensations to offset the effects of aging. When we were young, we couldn’t afford to stay on the island
(not to mention we weren’t even married the first few years),so we’d just head over for a day, walking in the morning
and riding in the afternoon after a yummy picnic lunch. By our fifties, we could afford to stay overnight and eat at restaurants,
which gave us ample opportunities to rest up between excursions. This year (68th birthday), we noticed that after our 10+ miles of hiking         around the island, enjoying lunch,  walking around town, shopping, and meandering through the gardens at the Grand Hotel, we were too bushed to take a bike ride on the same day!Even worse, there is only one restroom, which is halfway around the island, so if you’ve got an aging bladder, don’t drink a lot of coffee or tea before heading out!Give your body a little time to digest and equilibrate  before your hike,
or you might find concentrating on conversation a little more challenging
at times as you journey to the site of the British Landing!  🙂Over the years, we’ve stayed at a number of different hotels. Many people have a favorite and always go back to the same place, but we love trying new places so often try some particularly good “special.” This year we stayed at the Harbour View Inn. The landscaping, room, and ambience were lovely! The continental breakfast was…adequate. However, unless we’re staying at the Grand, we do have a favorite lunch spot. We almost always have fish at the Village Inn, and the food is always excellent! Have I piqued your interest? It’s never too late to embark on a new adventure!

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)

(All photos were taken on Mackinac Island last Saturday, June 2, 2018.)

Faith of Our Fathers…and Other Inspiring Father Figures

Have you ever noticed how some people are larger than life? I remember when my spiritual big brother’s father passed away, he said having his father in his life had been like seeing a big mountain out the picture window every day…but on the day his father died, he felt like the mountain disappeared. I’m guessing that’s how Uncle Milt’s sons must have felt when their dad passed away last week. Do you remember my writing about “Filling Cinderella’s Slippers” a few weeks ago? That story recounted the life and loss of Milt’s beloved bride of almost 72 years, and within a few weeks of her death, he also graduated to glory. Diagnosis? Well, Larry (his son and Alan’s lifelong friend) told us that his dad died of a broken heart. Uncle Milton was amazing to everybody…and that included me. Just one example: One night thirty years ago while Alan was in medical school and we were poorer than church mice, Alan and I were trying to get home to the Soo from Detroit in our leprous old car. Our little Vega was so rundown that the windshield leaked and the heater was broken, so I’d wrap our two toddling boys up in blankets and hold them on my lap while we traveled. We had just enough gas money to get home and back with nothing to spare. (These were the days before seat belt laws or credit cards.) Our car died on the freeway, but Alan was able to get it to glide off the highway and near a gas station, where he called his dad. His dad was sick and couldn’t come get us, so Alan’s mom ran across the street to Milton and Faye. Milt drove all the way down to Saginaw to pick us up and drove us home through the night. He even went to work the next morning!! The church (which he helped build) was full; the pastor’s voice cracked, and there were lots of tears shed. To know him was to love him, and everybody in Dafter knew him! Milt was also a man of quiet faith, and I want to share just one more story. He was diagnosed with terminal cancer and told he wouldn’t live six months about 17 years ago. God miraculously  healed him! I know most people die when they have a terminal illness, but I also want you to know that sometimes God chooses to extend someone’s life miraculously, and God chose to do that for Uncle Milt. If anybody deserved some extra innings, I’d say he was one of them!  When Aunt Faye passed from this life to heaven, her kids sang “Blessed Assurance,” but this time Milt’s four sons and their beautiful brides sang “Faith of Our Fathers,” and one of his grand daughters signed “I Can Only Imagine.” Uncle Milt wasn’t my father…or Alan’s father. In fact, he’s not really even our uncle, but he was like an uncle to us and a most inspiring father figure. I hope everyone who knows  him or reads this also embraces faith in Jesus Christ, who died for our sins, and in whom we can have life eternal just by asking God to forgive us for our sins and save us through the blood of Christ! Uncle Milt and Aunt Faye are now in heaven together. I hope we all join them someday!!

Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:25-26)

Faith of Our Fathers
(—Frederick W. Faber, 1849, public domain)

  1. Faith of our fathers, living still,
    In spite of dungeon, fire, and sword;
    Oh, how our hearts beat high with joy
    Whene’er we hear that glorious Word!

    • Refrain:
      Faith of our fathers, holy faith!
      We will be true to thee till death.
  2. Our fathers, chained in prisons dark,
    Were still in heart and conscience free;
    How sweet would be their children’s fate,
    If they, like them, could die for thee!
  3. Faith of our fathers, we will strive
    To win all nations unto thee;
    And through the truth that comes from God,
    We all shall then be truly free.
  4. Faith of our fathers, we will love
    Both friend and foe in all our strife;
    And preach thee, too, as love knows how
    By kindly words and virtuous life.

How Are You Feeling About Growing Older?

Here is something that’s been going around on Facebook. I have no clue who originally wrote it, but it seems to resonate so well with the Baby Boomer set that I thought it might encourage my blogging buddies too! You don’t have to be really “old” like me to participate. Apparently anybody over 25 might feel “old,” so anybody’s welcome to add a photo or thought, and it doesn’t have to be limited to women. I’m thinking even men might feel a little insecure as you age, since growing older isn’t just a problem women have to grapple with!   If you can’t leave a photo in the comment box, send it to me via FB (Kathryn W. Armstrong) or email (kathrynwarmstrong@gmail.com) and I’ll make a post for us all! I also very much welcome any thoughts or encouragements you might have heard or learned on your own journey through life so far.

Here’s how it goes:

To all my female friends of “age”… Most of us are going through the next stage of our lives. We are at that age where we see the wrinkles… gray hair… extra pounds. Menopause has already shown up or just waiting around the corner. We see the pretty 25 year olds and sigh. But we were 25 too, just like they will one day be our age. What they bring to the table with their youth and zest for life, we bring with our wisdom, experience and good hearts. For all we’ve been through earning each gray hair… raising kids, bills and ills and whatever else life brought you/us over the 30s, 40’s, 50’s, & 60’s we are survivors… we are warriors… we are women. Like a classic car or fine wine. While our exterior may not be what it once was, it is traded for our spirit, our courage and our strength to enter this chapter of our lives with grace and pride for all we’ve been through and accomplished. Never feel bad about aging. It is a privilege denied to many. 🙏🏻
Ladies [and I’ll add: “Men”], I’ve just posted my photo above, and I challenge you to add your photo, age, and any bits of wisdom you’d like to contribute in the comment box below!                          My age is 67.

“Also when I am old and greyheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come” (Psalm 71:18).

Cec Murphy on Atalanta’s Excess Baggage

Ever since I listened to Cecil (Cec) Murphy speak at a writers’ conference about five years ago, I’ve been a fan, not just of his writing (which is excellent) but of his character and long life of fruitful ministry. He began with six years on the mission field in Kenya—about sixty years ago—and has never stopped working, even though he’s authored or co-authored more than 135 books and could be resting on his laurels (which would provide a very comfy cushion for sitting)!

Cec still puts out a weekly blog called Writer to Writer as well as a monthly newsletter. He is busy leaving as large a legacy to the glory of God as possible, and he’s definitely a mentor and inspiration to me.  I was particularly touched by his last newsletter so asked if I could share it with you. As always, he was gracious! Here it is:

Excess Baggage

As I stood in line at Delta’s baggage check-in, the agent said to the woman in front of me, “You’re nineteen pounds overweight. You’ll have to pay for the excess weight or take out some of the goods.”

The woman dropped out of line to repack and stuff items into her large purse.

As I watched, I thought of the excess luggage most of us carry—hurts, slights, betrayals, and rejections. We haven’t let them go, even though they weigh us down. For example, whenever someone mentions a person we haven’t forgiven, we feel a heaviness inside. Even anger.

Those thoughts reminded me of Greek mythology and Atalanta, the fleet-footed goddess. Her father, King Schoeneus, wanted her to marry, but she refused. Finally, she agreed to marry only if her suitor could outrun her in a footrace. If the challengers lost, they would be put to death. Many young men tried, lost the race—and their lives.

Hippomenes became the next suitor and asked the goddess Aphrodite for help. She gave him three golden apples.

The race began and Atalanta was soon twenty yards ahead. Hippomenes rolled one apple in front of her, and she stooped to pick it up. A little later, he rolled out the second and she grabbed it. And the third.

By then, Atalanta was so weighted down, Hippomenes passed her and won the race.

The story teaches us that we self-sabotage by holding on to “golden apples” of anger, resentment, and unforgiveness. They hinder by weighing us down in successfully running life’s race.

We know they’re there, and we know they hold us back. Even so, it’s not easy to cast off those hurt feelings and rejection. With God’s help and opening ourselves to individuals we trust, we can dispose of the things that weigh us down.For any of you who’d enjoy reading more, here’s the link to his blog: https://t.e2ma.net/message/yb7lv/yjxfi

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” (Hebrews 12:1).

Filling Cindarella’s Slippers

Wednesday Alan and I headed up “home” to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for the funeral of a beloved friend’s mother…perhaps the last of the older generation who has been a mentor and inspiration to me. When my family moved to Michigan from the west 57 years ago, I had 27 cousins, almost all of whom lived in Colorado where both my parents grew up. Within a few years, I had latched on to the family of my closest girlfriend, Brenda, and the family of one of my dearest guy friends, Larry, who was like a brother to me. Larry’s parents became “Aunt Faye” and “Uncle Milt,” helping ease my sense of loss over being so far from extended family. Milt and Faye were the type of people who had their arms open wide for anybody and everybody, so they never batted an eye!

Although I didn’t really see a lot of them over the years, I was definitely impressed by Faye’s gracious heart and sweet spirit. She was one of those very rare “virtuous women” eulogized in Proverbs 31. Faye had four sons, who all turned out great. I had six sons, who are still in the process of turning out, but I hope they end up as well as hers have! Her sons and their wives sang “Blessed Assurance” at the funeral, and I told Alan that I would like our seven (I also have one daughter!) and their spouses to sing “Blessed Assurance” at my funeral too! I love that song! It was the first song I ever sang as “special music” at our little church in the Soo after I became a Christian, and it reflects not only Faye’s life story, but mine as well!   Faye was 90 and in the midst of enjoying her 72nd year of marriage to Milt. No one is ever ready to lose their mom, but Faye was ready to join her Savior in heaven…along with her sister—as her oldest grandson surmised—so they could get busy making heaven even cleaner.  Her grandson made everybody laugh and cry more than I’ve ever seen at a funeral, and there was standing room only at the back of Hovie’s overflowing chapel. Even two of her caregivers came (which Alan says he’s never seen before), and the place was jammed. How often does that happen for somebody who’s 90?!! Anyway, it was very sad to lose her, but it was also a celebration of a beautiful life beautifully lived, and I left so inspired that I’ve got my funeral all planned out now! You think I’m kidding? I am not!  At any rate, I hope you are ready to die, and when I die, I hope people celebrate my life with the sense of peace and joy that undergirded all the sorrow flowing Wednesday. I would love to be remembered the way Faye was. One daughter-in-law mentioned how she made each of her sons feel special and loved. Another daughter-in-law mentioned how Faye made each of her daughter-in-laws feel totally loved and accepted. None of her sons could speak…which also speaks volumes to me about how much they loved her, because they are usually full of life and tales. 🙂  Isn’t that sweet? I guess if I want to die like Faye, I’d better work hard at living like Faye. She has beautiful, transparent slippers to fill!

        Blessed Assurance
(—Fanny Crosby, 1873)

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels descending bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, all is at rest;
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love…

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile” (Psalm 32:1-2).