Family Flock arriving!

One of the curious surprises of this summer has been watching four families of Canada geese rearing their families on our lake. In this first photo (if you can see well enough), you’ll notice one goose out in front with four other families coming along behind. One couple has five goslings; one pair has four goslings, and two pairs each have three goslings. I don’t know the facts, but they get along so well and travel as a group, so in my imagination, they are one big family.

The fascinating thing to me is that the family of geese are exactly representative of our four oldest children, all of whom live out of town, but all of whom are (or will be) visiting us this summer. One couple has 5, one couple has 4, and two couples each have 3 children. If I imagine Alan out in front, as the old patriarch, these geese are the perfect picture of our family!! It seems too exact to be coincidental, and so I watch them with even more interest than I might normally, wondering just what lessons the Lord might teach me.

Pair of Mute Swans

This is the first year in my memory that we have had so many Canada geese. For years, a pair of mute swans reigned supreme. They looked absolutely peaceful and regal, but in fact they were territorially challenged and wouldn’t share the lake with the geese, routinely driving them away as effectively as they could.

After twenty years of monarchy, the swans have died (I think), and none of their cygnets have come back with new mates, so the Canada geese are now free to claim summer campsites wherever they please on the lake. Similarly, here at Tanglewood Cottage, we’ve already had the pleasure of a visit from Aaron, his wife, and their four sons, so we’re off and running!

Our second son, Michael, and his family of five will be visiting too, and when they come, the house will ring with the voices of merry children . . . not unlike the sometimes boisterous calls of the geese on our lake!

Our third son’s family of three will be visiting too, so you can imagine the joyous chaos!

Our daughter, with her family of three, will visit a bit later, so we won’t be able to enjoy them all at exactly the same time, but we will definitely be experiencing a lot of action between now and the end of summer!

Favorite activities include swimming,

boating, campfires, fishing off the dock,

and exploring in the woods.

And, of course, a lot of good eating!

We’ll be exhausted by the time they leave,

but also completely disconsolate that they have to go!

If you have grandchildren, I’m sure you know what I mean! I used to feel like swarm of locusts or a tornado blowing through our parents’ homes when our seven kids were little and we visited. Still, Alan’s mother would write soon to say she hadn’t had the heart to wipe off the tiny fingerprints from her windows just yet. 🙂

I think with all the company, I may not be a very good correspondent blogger until the flocks have come and gone, but I’ll be treasuring up good memories to share, and I hope you’ll be storing up happy times . . . perhaps with your families too!

Enjoy these precious times with loved ones! If you’re young, help your parents, will you? If you’re old (like me), remember that children are of infinitely greater value than any material possession.

Whether you’re the grandparent, parent, or part of the youngest generation, let’s all pray for each other, determine to love each other no matter what, and take pleasure in all the chaotic ups and downs of sharing real life together!

I think time passes more quickly than we realize, and the time to love and invest in our kids is now. Today. This summer! This year. Life is fleeting, and before we know it, our kids will grow up and move away . . . or our grandchildren will grow up and not be able to visit because they have summer jobs.

I am so excited to have all four families coming to visit us this summer, and if I am very, very blessed, perhaps Alan and I will live long enough to have them all come again! But, if not, I want to make the most of every moment of this summer, and I hope you will too! God bless you!

How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God!
therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.”
(Psalm 36:7)

Have You Experienced Being Indivisible? How About Iraq?

If you are in the military, have a loved one in the military, or would like to get a little better appreciation for the sacrifices and challenges facing those who are giving their lives to protect our safety, then I want to encourage you to watch Indivisible. (By the way, I’m guessing the pressures and problems would be very similar for any military personnel from a democratic nation.)

Indivisible (2018) is based on the true story of Army Chaplain Darren Turner, who was deployed to Iraq back in 2007, fresh out of seminary and basic training.

This left his wife, Heather, alone at Fort Stewart to care for their three young children among the community of other women whose husbands were also deployed.

Every deployment is dangerous and gut-wrenchingly difficult, but Darren ended up supporting the Special Forces, which was sort of the hardest of the hard!

I have a son in the military who was deployed to Iraq, and I can vouch for the constant strain and fear that I battled as a mother, who spent many hours on her knees while he was gone.

Indivisible does a masterful job of relating the terrors and traumas of war. Will our loved one survive? Will he be injured? Will he recover?

Even if he survives, will he be able to overcome all the horrors of death and destruction that he’s experienced?

What about the wives who’ve been left behind, who are constantly plagued by an emotional roller coaster of worry while trying to be emotionally stable for their children?

For many families, life is never quite the same after living through a deployment, and trying to rebuild a strong marriage bond is more of a challenge than some marriages can handle.

The lessons that Darren and Heather learned (and have been willing to share) are critical for young couples who are serving in the military. I wish every person in the service or who has a loved one in military service would see this movie!

It’s raw. It’s real. It’s sad, but there’s also a message of hope for a light at the end of the tunnel of PTSD and broken hearts.

God made a way for Darren, Heather, and a bunch of brave young soldiers and their wives, and He can do the same for you.

No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13, NABRE).

Birthday Party. Birth Day Love

Dainty little girl!
Talks a blue streak; knows her mind,
Yet, she just turned two!

Shelley and I have a special appreciation for our shared grand children, because we prayed together, long and tearfully, for five years before Samuel was born. And then, Samuel was born frighteningly early, at 27.5 weeks as a micro-premie who spent his first 105 days in a neonatal intensive care unit. 😦 That kept us all on our knees for months and rejoicing ever since! Elanor—on the other hand—came without complications, but we don’t love her any less! She has been an unmitigated joy and keeps us amazed with her incredible vocabulary and dexterity.

Have you ever noticed how each child is precious and special . . . but for different reasons? As the youngest of five, I would sometimes worry about whether or not my mother loved me as much as my older brothers and sisters, and so I would ask her, “Who’s your favorite?” She would smile and say, “I don’t have a favorite! I love you all with all my heart!” I loved that and remembered her example as my own very different but all wonderful children were growing up.

I was so crazy about my firstborn that I secretly worried about whether or not I could ever love another child as much. But, without any effort on my part, I immediately “fell in love” with our second son the moment he was born, and the miracle continued with each child. I realized that what my mother had told me wasn’t just a sweet lie to make me feel good. It was true! Each child (and now grand child) is totally unique and lovable, but my love for them is so much deeper than any “because they are or do this or that!” I love them simply because they are mine. Period!

This inexplicable love of a mother for her children has helped me understand the love of God a little better. He created each of us, and He loves each of us, not because we are so clever or cute . . . or even good. (Despite our best efforts, our “good” isn’t really all that good!) Yes, God wants us to be wise and good, but He hangs in there with us through thick and thin not based on our being all he’d hoped we’d be, but because He loves us with an everlasting love. If you’re a parent, I hope you know what I’m talking about! Never give up. God never gives up! Accept his love! He’s waiting with open arms!

“13 Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted.14 But Zion said, The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me.15 Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.16 Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me” (Isaiah 49:13-16).

Have You Had a Breakthrough?

Last week, we were treated to one of the premiere showings of the newly released movie, Breakthrough.

It’s based on the true story of John Smith, a 14-year-old Missouri high schooler

who fell through the ice on Lake St. Louis back in January of 2015.

He was underwater for more than fifteen minutes before being rescued, but then he was declared dead at the hospital.

His mother, Joyce Smith, was unwilling to accept his death and started praying for God to bring him back to life even though he’d had no pulse for over an hour.

Miraculously, his pulse did return, although he was only given a 1% chance of making it through the night, and his pastor and parents were warned that because he had been brain-dead for so long, he would most likely be a vegetable if he did survive. His pastor, Jason Noble, brought a group of ministers in to pray over him that night.

You’ll have to watch the movie if you want to hear the end, but I guarantee it will make you laugh and cry, and you’ll be glad you watched.

Although Joyce Smith was a believer when the accident occurred, her son was not. What happened changed his life, and now John is not only a Christian, he’s excited about God! If you want to hear a few minutes more, there’s a short interview with the real John Smith (who was adopted from Guatemala) below:

https://www.foxnews.com/faith-values/god-still-does-the-impossible-the-incredible-true-story-behind-the-faith-based-film-breakthrough

Lisa Durupt (in the movie) at the L.A. Premiere Showing

What about you? Do you believe in God? Do you believe in miracles? Do you need a miracle? God doesn’t promise to do everything we ask, but He does promise to go with us through every trial and make all things work together for good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28). Why not entrust your life to Him, prayer for his help and guidance, and see what happens?

For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:24-28).

(Because I was watching the movie with a big group as part of a volunteer appreciation event hosted by Exalta Health, I didn’t take any photos, so these are all images I found online. I hope the makers of the movie don’t mind sharing!)

Melted Dreams

Sometimes all our dreams,
Like hollow chocolate, melt
And disappoint us!

It was the perfect day for an Easter egg hunt outside, and in less than 15 minutes Alan and I had distributed all the Easter eggs, candy, and chocolate rabbits—especially the chocolate rabbits (everybody’s favorite gift)—around our field.

Quick as a flash, our grandchildren flew around the field, gathering up all the surprises and treats.

However, to the children’s horror, two of the bunnies (which had been hiding in the sunshine) must have experienced green-house effect heat and melted down into little masses of mess! 😦

Isn’t this a picture of so many of our fondest dreams in life? We have such high hopes and work so hard preparing for the future.

We are eager and “do everything right” as best we know how, but suddenly something unexpected dashes our hopes for “the perfect” ending and turns our “high point” into a low point.

At times like this, I am reminded that every dream and ambition apart from seeking God is like a hollow Easter bunny that will not withstand the heat of life. Better to keep my eyes on the Lord and find my joy in Him! “Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God” (Psalm 146:5). “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee” (Psalm 73:25).

God’s Not Dead: A Light in the Darkness

Some movies are memorable because they dramatize historical events in unforgettable ways, some live on in our memories because they are so artistically produced, but some are compelling because they bring to life creative, new stories to reinforce ancient wisdom.To me, God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness fits into this last category. It’s a 2018, PG-rated film that is A+ in my book, despite receiving less than stellar critical reviews. The major theme concerns learning to balance “our rights” with love and forgiveness, but the film also deals with many issues of faith. The story (completely fictitious) revolves around a church, located on a university campus, which is accidentally burned down by a distraught student. Although I’ve not seen the previous movies, it’s the third of a series.  God’s Not Dead came out in 2014 and is based on Rice Broocks’ book, God’s Not Dead: Evidence for God in an Age of Uncertainty. The first film follows a Christian college student named Harper whose faith is challenged by a philosophy professor who believes God is just “a pre-scientific fiction.” There is also a God’s Not Dead 2 released in 2016 that continues the story. Both of the first two movies were well received by Christian audiences, so maybe I need to go back and view them! Alan and I definitely thought the third of this series was very worthwhile. The characters were likeable.The story was both tragic and heartwarming.There was some sweet romance. There were disagreements. There were tensions and troubles.There was good modeling for young people and admirably wise counsel about how to grow in faith and grace even in challenging settings.There was a good resolution with a (reasonably) happy ending. What’s not to love?I will say it took me a little while to get used to the minister’s struggle with bitterness, but then it occurred to me that forgiving others is challenging throughout life. So, even though it’s ugly to see, it’s real and needs to be explored. I’m also not exactly “up” on the teen scene, so it was a little hard to judge, but I’m guessing the movie was reasonably realistic in its depiction of campus life.That being said, I was glad to have watched God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness and will definitely watch for any sequels. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19).

Chicken Divan

“Chicken Divan” was one of my mother’s signature casseroles when I was growing up. It is truly delicious, but I took it for granted and for some reason never added it to my repertoire. Retrospectively, I wonder if that was because Mom so often made it for our family when we’d come to visit. I never much thought about it until the last time my first-born came to visit with his family. Now, perhaps it should be explained that as part of our home school, I taught all the kids to cook, and most of them (six of whom were sons) took to it like ducks to the water. To this day, they can all turn out gourmet dishes if they’re so inclined, although my four oldest sons are married to awesome cooks, so they don’t cook as often as they used to.

At any rate, rather than asking me to make Chicken Divan for him, Aaron asked if he could borrow Grandma’s recipe and make some Chicken Divan for all of us! Mom’s recipe was written out on one of those very worn 3X5 cards in her little recipe file, so I have no clue where she got it, but after studying a bit, I’ve learned that Chicken Divan (according to Wiki) was developed by Anthony Lagasi for the Divan Parisienne Restaurant in New York City in the early twentieth century (when my mother was young) and “remains one of the  most classic American casserole dishes today.” Who would have known? So, it wasn’t just my mother’s specialty dish, it’s a common casserole beloved by many! If you haven’t tried it or don’t have a favorite version of your own, here it is:

Classic Chicken Divan
(Makes about 12 servings, although some may want seconds!)

1. Cook until tender: 2  ten-oz. packages of  broccoli or 3 cups fresh broccoli (chopped)
2. Fry (separately) 6 chicken breasts, browned with a little butter, some chopped celery leaves, salt, pepper, and thyme, and then steam them until  they are cooked through. 3. Place the broccoli in the bottom of a 9X13 casserole pan and arrange the chicken on top. (At this point, I intervened a bit, because Grandma’s recipe really wasn’t very precise. You need to cube the chicken into bite-sized pieces after it’s cooked. Aaron, ever gracious and willing to accept suggestions, redid what you see above so that the chicken was spread evenly over the broccoli.)
4. Pour a sauce made from the following evenly over the top:
½ cup mayonnaise
2/3 cup milk
1 tsp. lemon juice
one can condensed cream of chicken soup
½ tsp. curry powder (or a little less)
5. Sprinkle one cup of bread crumbs over the top. Bake for 45 minutes in an oven preheated to 350°. Dot with American cheese and return to oven until the cheese has melted and is starting to brown.

Grandma would have recently celebrated her 104th birthday were she still alive! Isn’t it strange how we never forget and always miss those we love who’ve passed on? I am thankful she believed in Jesus as her savior, so even though Aaron and I won’t ever get to go over to her home for some more Chicken Divan, we will one day get to be with her in heaven!

“For he remembered that they were but flesh;
a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again” (Psalm 78:39).