Category Archives: Autobiography

Chasing Slow All The Way To Hawaii

chasing-slowErin Loechner is young. I am a senior citizen. Erin Loechner is a blogger with a fan base of over a million women. I have yet to have half a million people even view my blog and no “fan base” at all! Erin Loechner’s new book, Chasing Slow, just hit the market three weeks ago. I’ve never had a book hit the market! One thing we do have in common: She has no clue who I am, and I have no clue who she is…or at least that was true until I accepted the offer to read and review her book on my blog.

Chasing Slow arrived just before we left for Hawaii, and I chased slow all the way there and back, as the deadline is today! Do I recommend her book? Yes, for these people:

*Women who feel a lion roaring inside them or are feeling dizzy on their merry-go-round. (If this makes sense to you…you’re in.)

*Women who own a Millennial, love a Millennial, or would like to understand the pressures on this now largest living generation, born sometime between 1980 until 2000 or so. Millennials are a cohort of 75± million precious souls who are the major target of massive marketing efforts. They live in a world of cyber connection, averaging 250 friends on Facebook and a median of 50 phone texts per day. They tweet, instagram, pin, blog, linkin and are expected to measure their self worth on the yardstick of what the world-wide web deems perfection.

There’s the reason the “web” is called the “web.” It’s sticky and few escape. Erin found herself trapped in the vortex and has been trying to find her way out.

But it seemed impossibly hard, because she kept feeding the lion, and he was never satisfied. Feeding the lion? I grew up eating the Word and brushed my cut my teeth on 1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” Don’t feed the lion, resist the lion, and cast all your cares on God, who will care for you and deliver you from the lion (1 Peter 5:7-9; 2 Timothy 4:17). Sounds simple, but I know it’s hard. Nevertheless, it’s impossible to keep the lion fed. Both sooner and later he’ll just keep devouring you.

Feeling dizzy or empty? “Be still and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10). That works better than yoga, brambleberry lip stain, or a double chocolate latte with whipped cream. Seeking fame and fortune—which comes standard on most Millennials—isn’t the endgame of life. Love and connection with God, family and friends is. Erin’s struggle to figure that out will inspire you if you’re a Millennial and probably distress you if you’ve stayed out of the fast lane, but she’s a very entertaining, openhearted writer, and she salts her mismatched analogies with lots of pepper, so if you can keep from crying you’ll be laughing as you read along her wild ride Chasing Slow.

(P.S.—Tomorrow I want to tell you about a Hawaiian we met last week named Larry Rivera. He played with Elvis Presley back in the day but passed him forty years ago by chasing slow!)

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
(1 Corinthians 10:31, ESV)

My Twenty-nine Hour Day

napali-coast-kauai           Do you ever wish you could have a few more hours in your day? sailboats-on-napali-coast          I’ve caught myself thinking: “If I just had a few more hours, I could…lazy-river-at-grand-hyatt-kauai-resort-and-spaget all my work done, find time to exercise, be more thoughtful, eat better, have time to relax and play some music,” etc!  view-of-napali-coast-from-kaialau-lookout-kauai  Well, let me tell you what actually happened on the day my wish was granted. rooster-in-kauai-one-of-hundredsIt was January 21, unseasonably warm with a heavy fog draped across our window panes. Joel had Alan and me to the airport on time to catch our flight to Chicago, but our flight was delayed…once, twice…the third time was the charm. aerial-view-of-holland-and-lake-michiganWe left 2.5 hours late after re-booking our flights out of Chicago to Los Angeles. chicago-ohare-airportWe arrived in Chicago’s O’Hare needing a shuttle bus to the C terminal and no time for the lunch we were looking forward to at Manchu Wok. In fact, the shuttle bus required a 15-minute wait, so we arrived at our gate with just enough time to grab a bag lunch from the venue next door to the gate: McDonald’s. aerial-view-of-chicago-and                                                Better than nothing, right?! aerial-view-of-rocky-mountainsThe flight to Los Angeles was breath-taking. I was thrilled to have a window seat even after the last minute flight switch, since my chief delight on flights is sitting with my nose pressed against the window watching the world glide by beneath me. I wasn’t thrilled to be separated from Alan, and I was downright unthrilled when I discovered that the lovely couple sitting next to me wanted me to pull down my window blind so the light wouldn’t bother them while they worked on cross word puzzles and read.sleeping-seat-matesNevertheless, they eventually drifted off to sleep, and I resumed my watch, rationalizing my uncharitable behavior with the thought that my body was blocking enough of the light so they never stirred from their happy slumbers. aerial-view-of-grand-canyonHowever, it was increasingly hard to relax as the hours passed and I realized we were going to arrive at Los Angeles’ LAX at about exactly the time we needed to start boarding for our flight to Hawaii. “DOOMED!” I think they say. aerial-view-of-los-angelesAs soon as we landed, Alan and I caught each other’s eye to make sure we were both registering the same level of panic and joined the snail trail of passengers who seemed to take longer than forever to relocate and unload their overhead luggage. Wide-eyed, we raced up the landing dock and couldn’t believe our fortune! We landed at Gate 74 and our new flight was departing from Gate 76, just next door! We heaved a huge sigh of relief and waltzed from arrival gate to departure gate with ease and only some slight discomfort from not being able to access a restroom before boarding. Not to worry! We’d have six hours and twenty minutes before landing…definitely enough time to catch up with john. aerial-view-of-sunset-over-the-pacific-oceanWe flew directly into the sunset, its pastel glories blocked by the wing, and soon it was pitch black. We read. We slept. I ate another burger and fries (all the Mediterranean wraps are gone? Hmm…not surprising…) and felt rather ill from a double dose of barf burgers for lunch and dinner. I tried to read some more but was too listless to concentrate. I tried to sleep some more but couldn’t. By the time we arrived, it was only 8:30 pm Hawaiian Standard Time, but it was 1:30 am by EST (aka/ Armstrong body clock time). So far, the extra 1.5 hours on our 24-hour day hadn’t garnered us anything but grogginess.  kauai-sunset-with-palm-treesAn exhilarating 45-mph wind whipped up by the time we reached Lihue, Kauai, and the descent and landing were attended with jostling and jolting unlike anything I’ve experienced since riding Hollywood Studio’s Tower of Terror.  We all braced ourselves for a crash landing…which switched to giddy applause after we touched down and catapulted safely to a screeching halt.  grand-hyatt-kauai-resort-and-spaThe rest was a bit of a blur, but we did make it to the right spot to catch the right bus to the right car rental to dig out the right car and find our way to the right resort to check in and find our way through an incredible maze of hallways to the right room (600+ of them sprawling like a six-story serpent along the oceanfront). By the time we unpacked enough to bathe and climb into bed, it was midnight Hawaii time. “Whew!” Alan sighed as he flipped out the light. “What we needed was a day with about five fewer hours.” I couldn’t help but laugh. I finally got more hours in my day, but if anything I’d been more grouchy, exercised less, ate less carefully, had not relaxed, and had been too listless to get everything on my “wish list” accomplished! So, note to self (and friends): Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it!

waimea-canyon-lookout-kauaiMake me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight. Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness.
Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way.
” (Psalm 119:35-37)sunset-over-grand-hyatt-kauai-seawater-lagoon(All photos taken last week on a trip to Mayo Clinic’s Medical Update in Kauai.)

Merry Christmas!

alan-and-kathi-in-africaWill you forgive me for writing you a Christmas greeting online?summer-reunionI’ll try to make it relatively short and sweet (with lots of photos)!christmas-card-depicting-jesus-in-mangerI haven’t attempted sending Christmas cards for several yearschristmas-card-home-in-snowbut still love receiving cards, e-cards,refrigerator-full-of-photos-and-drawings and joyful photos and drawings—which go right up on our refrigerator.refrigerator-full-of-photos-and-drawings-2016Thank you to each dear person who has blessed our family in this way!tahquamenon-fallsAlan and I have had a memorably happy year
despite the fact that he’s working harder than ever.srping-bouquet-on-tableWe love living in Grand Rapids! eiffel-towerOf course, we also love touring with our kids, medical-meeting-in-hawaiimedical meetings in Hawaii,the-devils-pool-victoria-fallshanging out at the top of Victoria Falls, etc! mink-on-our-dockWe have no plans to retire any time soon, our-snowy-drivewayeven if does get pretty snowy around here, magnolia-blossomsand we’re acutely aware that every new day is a gift from God.couple-searching-for-christmas-treeConcerning Aaron’s family, Carlie pointed out off-to-school-oh-4-boysthat they are suddenly at a crucial new threshold with everyone out of diapers, speaking clearly and totally mobile. gingerbread-house-and-eager-eaters They’re having lots of fun adventures in California,canoe-trip-down-rogue-river although they’ve been very faithful about returning to visit, little-boy-in-canoeand we enjoyed a memorable canoe trip with them last fall. mike-and-grace-at-partnach-gorge-germanyMike’s family is living in Italy now, family-in-europewhere Christmas is foggy and neither white nor bright little-boy-with-ice-cream-cone-in-venice-italybut life is beautiful anyway.
family-playing-of-stand-up-paddleboard-supThey came home to visit us here at “Tanglewood Cottage” last summerfun-in-the-rvand then went on a U.P. road trip “in the RB” (aka/recreational vehicle)mackinac-island-waiting-for-the-ferry with “Papa and Nana.” playing-with-grand-son-at-the-big-boy-marquette-miSuper fun!three-sistersJon and Gerlinde welcomed their third daughter into their home last summer, riding-on-a-merry-go-roundand Nana and Grandpa (different families have different designations for us) beautiful-babywere able to visit during that most happy occasion! manito-park-spokane-waThey’ll be in Germany this Christmas with Gerlinde’s family. young-family-near-harbor-springs-miDaniel’s family lives here in GR, so we are blessed by getting to see thembaby-watching-youtube-dude-perfectnearly every week and watch while Samuel grows up right before our eyes.little-boy-walking-through-autumn-leavesWhat a special joy it is to have them living close by!
young-family-with-babyBrianna is expecting Baby #2 in April. I can hardly wait!

guys-having-fun-togetherStephen is home for the holidays between semesters at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, where he is working on a PhD in music history. He also plays part-time at a local church.  Joel decided to drop his graduate studies to take a position as assistant editor with Kregel Publishers here in GR. I can’t tell you how much fun it’s been having him back at home! He adds a dimension to life that I’d forgotten how much I missed until he came home again. “The more the merrier” and the more the emotionally richer too, I think!hiking-along-dead-river-falls-mi     Life for me is happiest when lived in community with other loved ones.sunshine-on-river-abstract In fact, I can’t imagine anything better than graduating to heaven one day, where I will share a “mansion” (abiding place) with all those who have become God’s children by faith in Jesus. I am hoping and praying I’ll see you all there!  boy-playing-in-water-in-sunshine                 Meanwhile, Merry Christmas! May you have a splendid 2017!

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:1-3)

From Depths We Rise Reviewed

from-depths-we-riseIf you’re ever tempted to feel sorry for yourself or bitter because your life is so hard, here’s medicine for your beleaguered soul, fresh off the press this October. Reading From Depths We Rise reminded me that life is never predictable, tragedy is almost universal at some point in our lives, and God doesn’t owe us anything. Still, like Job (and Sarah Rodriguez, who authored this memoir), God is worthy of our worship and trust.

Job declared his shocking faith thus: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15). How’s that for the antithesis of modern Americans, who argue that if God were good he’d order the universe according to our sensibilities and opinions? And yet, Job is lauded around the globe for his patience and held up as a model of integrity in the Bible. Similarly, I stand in awe of Sarah’s faith through a world of heartache, infertility, love found and lost, and love almost lost but ultimately found.

From Depths We Rise was hard to read but good to remember. I read it in spare moments between chatting with people while tending my ArtPrize entry. It was the perfect therapy for thinking I “should” win anything. Life is all about obeying God and leaving the results with Him. He doesn’t promise us any tangible rewards in this life for surrendering our lives to Him, but He does promise to bless us with far more precious intangibles: love, joy, peace, patience, faith, hope, self-control, gentleness, goodness…

Feeling disappointed? Feeling loss? Try reading Sarah’s amazing story of passion, prayer, anger, surrender, and joy as she learned to rise from the depths of sorrow and loss. May it inspire you to steadiness in faith as it has inspired me.

Tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:3-6).

Is it True that “Everything is Possible”?

everything-is-possible“A life without fear is a life without limits” (Jen Bricker). Have you ever heard of Nick Vujicic or Jen Bricker? I’d never heard of Jen Bricker before I read her book, Everything is Possible, which was just released last week, but she really does give me the feeling that with God, everything is possible…at least everything that God calls us to!  jen-bricker-with-her-adopted-brothersBorn without legs, Jen was abandoned by her parents at birth. Thankfully, an incredibly nurturing family adopted her and brought her up to love God and embrace her life and her body, learning to overcome what most of us would consider impossible barriers to become what she is today: an aerialist, a motivational speaker, an author, and best of all, a joyful, healthy individual who has turned her liability into an asset and lives an incredibly rich, fascinating, and fruitful life! jen-bricker-performingEverything is Possible has made me re-evaluate the way I look at challenges. If Jen could overcome huge physical, emotional, and spiritual obstacles without legs, it makes me realize that I’m a wimp by comparison. If you’re down in the dumps about your life problems, take a break to be inspired by Jen’s life story, then get to work realizing your dreams. As Jesus taught us:  “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luke 18:27).   jen-brickerA few of my favorite quotes from Jen’s book:

“As we try new things, we discover how strong we are and realize the only limits are the ones we impose on ourselves.”

“Our physical presence is only part of who we are as human beings. What’s inside is just as important, and maybe more so.”

“You too have talents, gifts, and abilities (I like to think of them as your personal superpowers) you were born with that are unique to you…The beauty of how God made us it that we don’t have to be jealous of someone else’s superpowers, because they weren’t meant for us. This one thing I would tell you to keep in your back pocket at all times: know that you are significant, you do matter, and what you have to offer is powerful.”

“God shows us the opportunities and puts them in our path, but we have to be strong enough to grab them and then hold on for all our worth.”

“I’ve learned that the more I surrender and let God take care of things, the better off I am. I get out of my own way, I get out of His way, and then I let Him do His work….My dreams are laughable when compared with God’s plans for my life! His gifts, ideas, and blessings are so much bigger and better than anything I could possible imagine!”

“CAN’T is a 4-letter word.”

“I finally realized something: God didn’t owe me an explanation. Sometimes He’s simply protecting us, and we have to trust that there is a lesson to be learned.”

“Sometimes you have to be your own hero. What I mean by that is that you have to fight for what you believe in and for what you want to happen.”

Anyway, Everything is Possible has a treasury of inspirational ideas on how to overcome what appear to be tragic circumstances. It also gave me many insights into how to interact with those who have body shapes different from the norm.  Baker Book House has graciously given me an extra copy to give away, so if you’re interested in reading the book, I’ll give it to the first person to contact me via this blog, email, or Facebook. If you have a story to share about yourself or someone you know that might benefit us, please add it in the comment box. Thanks!!

The Spider in my Eye

Mouse_spider. Wiki jpgFor two summers I saw a tiny set of Mickey Mouse ears in my right eye every time I’d swim on my back and look up at the bright blue sky. It was so tiny I figured an ophthalmologist wouldn’t be able to see it and would think I was just imagining things, and as it didn’t seem to change, I decided it probably wasn’t cancer. It wasn’t a “floater” because it didn’t move. Maybe the beginning of macular degeneration? At any rate, I figured if it ever changed shape, I’d go to the doctor.

And then, this summer, it had changed shape and looked like a tiny rectangle, so I made an appointment with an ophthalmologist for the end of July. However, the day came when I started seeing a bright light flash off and on at the peripheral edge of my right eye, and within a few hours I felt a sharp pain in my head, followed by a tarantula appearing in the upper right side of my visual field. Not good! Having heard stories of friends who’d had trouble with retinal tears, detachment, and blindness (and having Alan tell me the problem needed to be addressed urgently), I called the ophthalmologist’s office the next morning. Thankfully, after an examination, the doctor said I’d had a vitreous detachment but at present, no problem with the retina or macula. Older age setting in, but nothing too unusual. Whew! Interestingly, now I have a spider “floater,” but the tiny rectangle is gone, which the doctor presumes is the result of less pressure on the middle of my eye.

She warned me that I’d be particularly vulnerable for this coming month, so I should avoid jarring myself, bending over sharply, or bearing heavy weights. Umm…and this is my special Grandma Month! I remembered that just the day before, when the problem started, I’d decided to go jogging, and I’d also spent quite a bit of time picking up and carrying around one of my grand children! If I’d gone to the doctor earlier, she would doubtless have cautioned me against such activities, and I might (if I’d been wise) adjusted my life style and avoided the problem.

Do you ever try to self-diagnose your own problems? I think the older we get, the more we’re likely to try to ignore potential problems rather than address them, figuring that there aren’t good solutions available. However, may I encourage you to have things checked out with a savvy specialist as soon as you notice something amiss in your body? It’s true, even professionals may not be able to recognize or diagnose your problem immediately, but at least you’ve got a baseline and track set, so that if symptoms increase, you’ve got more points on your line for diagnosing problems. AND, you might get some helpful tips on how to manage yourself to minimize the possibility of further problems.

Also, what about spiritual problems and diseases? Ever try to self diagnose? If you’ve noticed the beginning of a spiritual problem—even a tiny one that you think no one else could see or understand—may I encourage you to turn to God, his Word, and a wise minister for some pastoral care and recommendations? Godly advice can help us diagnose our problems and avoid all sorts of behaviors that will increase our risk for spiritual disease and blindness.

Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14).

For full-blown spiritual problems, here’s some wise counsel from Ephesians 4:

17 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,

18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:

19 Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

20 But ye have not so learned Christ;

21 If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:

22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;

23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;

24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.

26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:

27 Neither give place to the devil.

28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.

29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:

32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

(Ephesians 4:17-32)

ArtPrize 2016 ala Notre Dame Cathedral: One Dream Has Come True

Rose Window in Notre Dame. Paris, FranceGuess what? Almost 3 years after initial inspiration, I signed a hosting agreement last night with the Holiday Inn on Pearl Street adjacent to the Grand Rapids Public Museum, so I’m now officially “in” for ArtPrize 2016! Votive candles burning in Notre Dame. Paris, FranceThose who know me well or have been patiently reading my blog will recognize that this represents a dream come true and the culmination of unending hours of contemplation, prayer, hard work, study, listening, submission, hard work, expense, prayer, research, prayer, frustration, hard work, submission, excitement, determination, prayer, soul-searching, anxiety, confusion, prayer, hard work…you get the picture! I would have added “ad nauseum” were it not something I felt like the Lord had inspired in the first place. P.A.S.S.I.O.N. Candles burning in Notre Dame. Paris, FranceSleepless nights. Distraction. Planning. Asking. Organizing. On my knees and on my face. Walking in the Spirit and wrestling with my flesh. Around, and around, and around in spiraling circles. Hope. Deferred hope. Hope again. Growth. Disappointment. Resignation. Hope. Then, the whole crazy cycle started over again for the third time this April when it was time to apply for ArtPrize 2016. Christ on the Cross in Notre Dame. Paris, FranceYou get the picture, and I’m sure you’ve experienced similar passions in your life—if not for a venue for ArtPrize, perhaps in wanting a particular spouse, a certain job or a particular home or car. As humans we all experience ardent hopes that something we desire deeply will become a reality. Candles and statue of Jesus in Notre Dame. Paris, FranceIn the process of praying about an ArtPrize venue, I was always acutely aware that whether or not I succeeded would be up to God ultimately, and that in the grand scheme of things, there were (are) innumerable things that I desire much more, such as the spiritual health and welfare of my loved ones and the world at large, peace on earth, and goodness to overcome evil. Inside the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, FranceWhat infinitesimal impact my ArtPrize entry might make on the relatively small population of people who will see it is less than a drop in the bucket of need and desire, but it is one of the things I feel like God has inspired me to pursue, and so I’ve been pursuing it with all the “heartily as unto the Lord” I can muster! Jesus with Peter walking on the water in Notre Dame. Paris, FranceDespite my calm assurance that God is in control, which provides  an ocean of peace in the depths of my being, I still struggle superficially, and I still find it thrilling when my prayers and hopes are granted. You too? Sarchophagus in Notre Dame. Paris, FranceI’ve prayed for some things over 50 years now, and perhaps I’ll go to my grave praying for others, but let’s keep praying and asking, for God’s glory and our good.Candles buring in Notre Dame. Paris, France 2

Hope deferred makes the heart sick: but when the desire comes,
it is a tree of life
” (Proverbs 13:12).Chestnuts bloomin in spring at Notre Dame Cathedral. Paris, France(I took all these photos in or of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, May 2016.)