Category Archives: Career Issues

Nana Time and Time Outs

I know that all grandparents thinks their grandchildren are the sweetest, most clever and most fun children in existence, proving their undying devotion by carrying around photos (mostly on their cell phones these days), and making smart remarks like, “If I’d known how much fun grandchildren were going to be, I’d have skipped being a parent the first time and just gone straight to being a grandparent.”  I assume that means that it’s much easier to “love ’em and leave ’em,” or—when a grandchild pitches a fit or needs a diaper change, you can hand them off to their parents…enjoying all the benefits without any of the responsibilities.  I’d been enjoying the luxury of such easy relationships with my grandchildren until the day after Baby Marius was born. That night, Grace spiked a fever, and the next day Michael took her to the hospital, where she remained for three days. Because the baby wasn’t born at the hospital, Grace didn’t end up in the Ob/Gen unit, so in order for Marius to be with Grace, Michael had to stay at the hospital with them to care for the baby.  This left me actually responsible—HOME ALONE— with the four older grandchildren. I hadn’t been completely responsible for four youngsters since my first four were kids, which was 35 years ago. (Well, even if I think about the youngest four of my seven, that was still 27 years ago.)  Here they are:  Eowyn is an angel. If it hadn’t been for Eowyn, life would have been very trying! She’s only 10, but she’s a tireless helper, knows where everything is and how all the family routines go.  She would read to the smaller kids and has such a gentle, kind spirit. Eowyn used to write me almost every day, but she’s started writing more serious stories, so she passed the baton (cell phone) to Nycteris, who has become my Foreign Correspondent, sends me notes and pictures, and helps me feel like Michael’s family isn’t so far away…even though they are! (For instance, she recently gave me a walking tour of their new home in Belgium!) Nycteris is also an able helper and was especially good with Paladin when I wasn’t sure how to handle him.  Judah is very sensitive and sweet. He’s a builder/engineer type, plays peacefully by himself for hours if left to his own devices (as did his father), and takes a lot of abuse from his little brother with way more patience than I would have, had I ever been an older brother!  Paladin will be wonderful, I am sure, but at age three, he was not at all with the program. Having a new baby, losing both his mother and father to the hospital, inheriting a Nana whom he’s only met a few times, having the house in a bit of an uproar as they were packing to move, trying to survive 98°heat every day and about the same in humidity… It was a big challenge for all of us, but for Paladin, it was almost more than he could handle. So, instead of tucking under my wing and enjoying his doting Nana, he decided to act out by throwing rocks at his sibs or attempting to beat them with sticks…or whatever.  Now, if there’s one thing I hate, it’s having to discipline, but I was afraid he was actually going to hurt the kids, so when he’d fly into a fit, I’d grab him and hold him on my lap until he settled down. I would say (as cheerfully as possible), “You must need a Nana Time Out!”  At first he would struggle and try to bite me to get away, but thankfully, he was small enough that I could hold him on my lap and avoid his teeth. In a few minutes, he’d settle right down, and after a hug and a kiss, we’d be friends, and he’d be calm.  After about the third tantrum, he stopped picking fights with the kids, and we all got along very well the rest of our time until Mike and Grace returned with Baby Marius…all fine and well!  Whew! It was just great to have them back and relax into chief helper and side kick rather than needing to parent the kids. It reminded me again just how exhausting and challenging it is to be a parent. God bless all you parents out there! Thank you for hanging in there 24/7 to love and guide your children!  Also, it made me appreciate what a good parent my heavenly Father is, who also holds me in his mighty arms. When I was young, he often had to hold me tight when I’d pitch a fit, although more often nowadays, I just curl up on his lap for comfort!

“The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” (Deuteronomy 33:27)

Unstoppable Enthusiasm

This summer we’ve had the privilege of seeing all our kids and grand children at some point. This is our third-born, Jonathan, who was kayaking out on our lake with his oldest daughter in the rain one morning. I just sat and smiled as I watched them from the window. There was no thunder or lightning, so it probably wasn’t very dangerous, but it was cold and windy. It reminded me of watching Jonathan and his brother Michael sitting in the pouring rain once at a Disney “Movie Under the Stars” night. We’d gone as a family to the Fort Wilderness campfire and to watch a Disney film on an outdoor screen—along with a big crowd of happy campers—but when it started to rain, almost everybody left to find cover back at their campsites, and the few stragglers who remained were huddling under the roof of the concession stand. As I watched Mike and Jon, sitting totally exposed, rain streaming off their hats, one of the other huddlers commented, “Look at those crazy kids!” Yep. I was lookin’!

I’m thankful for my crazy kids who do things that most people wouldn’t dream of doing. Jon (Dr. Armstrong) just started a new program at Moody Bible Institute last January called the Center for Global Theological Education, “CGTE” (referred to as “C-GATE”), with the mission of developing quality, college-level, Christian theological education in virtual reality classroom settings for anybody who wants it—worldwide—free of charge. Sound impossible? If I didn’t know Jonathan, I’d say “yes,” but knowing Jon, I just smile. And pray. If God be for it, who can stand against it?

And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” (Luke 18:27)

By the way, CGTE is already offering freeing virtual reality classes in a variety of biblical and theological topics. If your church would be interested in hosting one of these seminars, you may write Jonathan at jonathan.armstrong@moody.edu.

(P.S.—If you have extra time and would like to be a part of Jon’s ministry, please contact Jonathan. He’s hoping that CGTE will be one of the world’s most satisfying places for Christians to volunteer, and—of course—much of the work can be done remotely! If you want to check out what’s going on already, here’s the link to his website: https://aqueductproject.org/.)

 

Alan Celebrates 68 Years and 10 Years…and the First Graduation of Pine Rest’s New Psychiatric Residency Program

This past month has been super special for Alan and me.  Alan celebrated his 68th birthday as well as his 10th anniversary as CMO (chief medical officer) at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services here in Grand Rapids, which is one of the largest free-standing psychiatric hospitals in America (and I would like to think and do hope that it’s also one of the best). One of Alan’s greatest passions as CMO has been the development of a psychiatric residency program, and recently we were able to enjoy the fruit of all his labor (and that of countless others) by celebrating the graduation of the first class of residents who completed Pine Rest’s rigorous four-year program.For me personally, the most gratifying aspect of their residency is the huge number of people they’ve been able to help over these years.The residents are from all walks of life and faith (or non-faith), but there is an optional track of the program that integrates faith and practice, and Pine Rest is beginning to attract more doctors who are interested in the spiritual side of life. Not only is the program comprehensive in treating the whole person, it’s also academically excellent. Pine Rest has an awesome research program that is affiliated with Michigan State University, and these bright, young physicians are doing fantastic research.At the last Michigan Psychiatric Society meeting (which included other prestigious schools such as University of Michigan, etc.), five out of the six winners were all from Pine Rest! Dr. Bill Sanders, who’s the residency director, is not only a great psychiatrist, he’s a stellar teacher and a super personable guy whom everybody loves (including Alan and me). He took the time to reflect on each of the residents and honored them with beautiful tributes.He pointed out that the residents were really phenomenal and overcame huge obstacles to complete the program. (One young woman was from Eastern Europe, causing language and other challenges, and another young woman was rushed to the hospital to have a baby just after receiving her diploma!)In all, it was a wonderful night of celebration, but what impacted me the most was this insight from Bill’s remarks: “Emina helps us remember that if we look around the room at every single difference you can see- everything noticeable to your eye, from sex to skin tone to eye color to the size and shape-everything visible is the result of something less than one-tenth and a half percent of our genome makeup, but otherwise we are the same. The typical overall difference between the genomes of two individuals is estimated at 20 million base pairs (or 0.6% of the total of 3.2 billion base pairs). Essentially, confirming all the teachings of all the great witnesses from ancient times- that what we have in common is more important than our interests and differences. Emina reminds us that we live in a world where we will only be able to appreciate the differences if we embrace what we have in common and act on it. I hope and believe we all do that.”Isn’t that fantastic? “…what we have in common is more important than our interests and differences…we will only be able to appreciate the differences if we embrace what we have in common and act on it.” How true, and what great advice for each of us!

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

 

Learning to Fly and Living in Community

A pair of robins built a nest on the drain pipe under the eve right outside the window of our “tea room,” where we always eat in the summer. It’s been a special delight to watch them rearing their broods of chicks. The first of this summer’s batch fledged
while my son Joel and I were eating breakfast last week,  but one chick fell so fast I feared for the his life, although he must have done fine because there was no sign of the chick dead or alive on the ground. Then, several nights later,  I dreamed that I saw a mother and baby robin together silhouetted in the sun, and I woke up with the distinct sense
that the last two robins would fledge that day. I’m one of those people who seem to carry on a continual conversation with God, and such premonitions are rare but not totally unusual, so I decided that I would keep a very close eye on the two babies all day.  Just as the sun was coming up, the first baby took flight,and I really believe the Lord gave me the dream so I wouldn’t miss the spectacle! The last chick wasn’t at all sure about taking off. He perched on the edge of the nest, surveying possible flight paths. It was definitely a long way to the ground from his secure nest!  On the other hand there were lots of trees and bushes not too far away…About then Mom came by with a big, fat, juicy worm and Dad stopped in to give junior a little pep talk. Dad hopped into the nest and gave junior a little push toward the edge.  Baby was feeling a little ambivalent but took a few tentative steps out of the nest. The world was looking bright and beautiful, but the nest was looking very comfy…In fact, he thought it looked safer to have one foot in the nest and one foot out.In fact, after due consideration, the nest looked definitely safer than the world, so the fledgling perched on the edge of the nest and started praying
(or sleeping, I couldn’t tell which).  🙂  In a while, Mother Robin returned to talk things over with her fledgling again just as it was time for Joel and me to eat breakfast, so I had to give up watching.We didn’t get to see the baby’s first flight, but while we were eating,  we caught sight of the fledgling in the tree just outside our window! He had made a successful first flight, and his parents hadn’t lost track of him.In moments one of them was by the chick’s side with a yummy snack! In no time at all, the fledgling would be following his parents,
winging his way through the woodland world.

It’s graduation time as well as spring time, and I know several couples who have refused to let their kids come back home after their graduation (except to vacation). Some of these kids are flying, but some are really struggling financially, emotionally, and/or spiritually. Personally, my parents never “kicked” me out; they let me feel like their home was also my home until I married, which I thought was just perfect. I’ve always wanted my own children to feel the same sense of love and security.

My mother’s youngest brother (70 years ago) brought his bride home to the farm, where the couple lived throughout their lives, eventually caring for Grandma until she died. Alan had two uncles who never married and lived on their home farm throughout their lives too, eventually caring for Alan’s grandma until she died. What is it it about current American cultural expectations that make us think adult offspring shouldn’t enjoy the fellowship and security of family until they personally feel a compelling reason to leave?

If you’re an unmarried young adult with parents who are still happy to have you at home, please feel perfect liberty to remain with them until you personally want to leave. Don’t let social pressure drive you away from family! In the Old Testament, everybody lived in family groups!

Also, if you have adult sons or daughters who would enjoy living with you, why not let them? Share the wealth, share the expenses, share the work load, and also share the warmth and community that God intends for all humans to enjoy! Let’s parent like our heavenly Father, who never leaves us nor forsakes us!

He led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: So the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him. He made him ride on the high places of the earth, that he might eat the increase of the fields; and he made him to suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock” (Deuteronomy 32:10-13).

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).

Where Love Found Me

If you’re looking for a highly rated (IMDb 8.8) but watchable movie (PG-13) dealing with the problem of orphans in the world today, try Where Love Found Me.                   It’s  gut-wrenching tale about a photo journalist, Hudson,                            who tracks behind a policeman in the Philippines. Although Hudson starts out intent on making a name for himself, he ends up risking his life to protect a little band of orphans,              and in the process, exposes the problems of human trafficking.  Although Where Love Found Me was inspired by true events, it didn’t end with the usual postscript explaining what happened “afterward,” so I contacted David Bolt, the director and producer, who graciously filled in a few of the details.  The movie is true-to-life based on a compilation of stories, but it’s more historical fiction than a true docudrama.  David’s parents adopted from China after he was grown, and he was so inspired by their courage and joy that he wanted to start an orphanage in China. However, David was eventually redirected to a camp ministry that has worked really well. David started Bright Hope (Bring Me Hope.org), a ministry that has worked with hundreds of orphans (mostly in China), and they have been able to help some of the children find safe, adoptive homes in America.Where Love Found Me came out in 2016, but David told me it was more than seven years in the making! His hope is that people will be inspired by the movie.  According to Google, there over 150+ million orphans in the world today. If you’ve got the heart and energy to take in a child, consider adopting an orphan!  If you don’t know where to start, think about watching Where Love Found Me, and if that melts your heart (as it did mine), contact https://bringmehope.org/                What a worthwhile investment in sharing God’s love!

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).  Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy” (Psalm 82:3).

 

Baby Boomers Learning to Surf

Not long ago, Alan and I spent week in Hawaii on Waikiki Beach, but we weren’t really surfing those 30-foot waves that were rolling in on the North Shore. Alan attended the annual meeting for the American Association of Geriatric Psychiatrists. As part of his prep, he had to take a self-assessment to see how well informed he is concerning current trends in America, and he shared some of the interesting statistics with me. Those of us in our sixties (as Alan and I are) are surfing, but not on waves of water! We’re riding the crest of the tidal wave of Baby Boomers about to crash as a beach head here in America.   Did you know that some 10,000 Baby Boomers are passing age 65 every day now? Did you know that America now holds the record for the most centenarians in the world: 53,000 and counting?! America is producing sixty-one geriatric psychiatrists per year, which only fills 40% of the need. Who’s going to take care of us when we’re all demented?   Well, for one thing, we can be more pro-active in trying to take care of ourselves! According to current research, the most positive psychological predictors of successful aging include: “Resilience, optimism, personal mastery, coping self-efficacy, social engagement, spirituality and religiousity, and wisdom.” The single most valuable predictor of satisfaction is retirement is adequate social engagement (even trumping cognitive and financial issues).   A couple of psychiatrists at the meetings, who had retired after highly successful careers, were taken off guard by how quickly they went from being highly esteemed to feeling no longer valued by their professional colleagues. I’ve heard this so many times! I think it would be extremely wise for each of us, as we approach retirement (or even if you’ve already retired), to find a compelling avocation to pursue that will require us to continue being fruitful….giving, growing, and engaging with others socially and spiritually. Maybe, if we can continue working on areas of personal growth such as those listed above, and if we’re willing to pursue productivity even after we’ve retired, we’ll find that we can surf into old age with grace rather than being dashed to pieces under the crushing waves!

They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing” (Psalm 92:14).