Category Archives: Encouragements for Living

Did You Know We’ve All Been Born to Win?

I’ve spent this entire week discussing genealogies, but today I want to share  a wonderful (and at times heartbreaking) true story about a little boy who  was abandoned by his parents in South Africa and was taken in
by a very brave and godly black woman.  He had no clue what his genealogy was, but over the years,  he learned that every last one of us has been born to win!  Born to Win (the 2014 version from Union of South Africa)  shares what it’s like to grow up without parents,
trying to survive in a harsh world during the Apartheid,  when the police would rather a white child be an orphan
than grow up in a loving black family. While all his teammates were out having fun in college,
Leon was shoveling coal on a train to pay his way. Although Leon eventually married a beautiful model, he felt like such a loser on the inside that he almost ruined his marriage through alcohol abuse and neglect. Desperate for answers, his wife and daughter found help, but Leon was resistant. However, something terrible happened  that changed his life forever. Today, he’s doing something awesome. Wouldn’t you like to know what??! As it says on IMDb: Born to Win is “A true story of how God turns the hurt, frustration and emptiness of a man into hope, faith and victory
to inspire many to be the winners they were born to be.”  Do you ever feel like a loser? No pedigree; no special gifts or talents?
Terrible background or present circumstances that make your future seem dark? Take heart! God has a good plan for you! It may not be what you’d like, but it will bring honor and glory to God, and in the end, it will bring you joy as well!I’m sure Leon wouldn’t have chosen to have been abandoned by his parents, but he wouldn’t be where he’s at today
if he hadn’t come from where he’s come from. God has a special path and plan for each of us which is good, even though
much of the time we may feel confused and unsure about what’s happening.
TRUST HIM!But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.
(Matthew 19:30).

Know ye not that they which run in a race run all,
but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain
” (1 Corinthians 19:24).

All Quiet on the Western Front

Nine years ago on July 25, I was writing about it being
“all quiet on the western front” here at Tanglewood Cottage.   My daughter’s boyfriend was visiting, and my son Jonathan was visiting my son Michael’s family, who were stationed in Germany.  Nine years later, my daughter is married and has three lovely children. Jon is also married (to a girl he met in Germany!), and they also have three darling daughters! On this July 25 (yesterday), Jon’s family  arrived safely in Germany,
where they’re going to be spending the fall semester
while Jonathan is on sabbatical from Moody.  What a whirlwind this past month has been!  Alan and Jon drove a moving van cross-country  so they could store Jon and Linda’s household goods here in GR until they find some place in Chicago next winter. Linda and the girls flew here, and we’ve been having a grand time;  the house has been bubbling and bursting with life. Not only does Dan’s family live in town, and we have Joel living with us, our oldest son’s family (four boys) and my daughter’s family visited,  and even my “Little Sister” Lizzie came for a visit! However, last Monday I put the last of our visitors on planes heading East
and came home to an empty house.  (Thankfully, Alan and Joel still live here,
but they were at work when I came back home.)  Have you ever noticed how therapeutic work is?  I worked like a beaver washing mountains of bedding and linens, cleaning…putting away toys and books and puzzles…  legos and trains and balls.  All the lovely wildflower bouquets have wilted,
and the only remnant of my flower girls are a bunch of clovers!   The house is straightened and is slowly becoming tidy and clean,
but the silence is pretty much deafening!

I was thinking about how exhausted I would be by the end of each day, and my nightly chorus in response to Alan’s inquiry into my condition: “Oh, the old grey mare, she ain’t what she used to be!” My elderly mother, while living with us when my seven children were small, used to say sometimes, “I think I’d like to spend the afternoon with some old people.” It made me laugh (to myself, not at her), but now I understand!  Time flies! I wouldn’t trade a minute of such bursting life for a minute of rest, but I do know why the Lord created us so that we cease child bearing in our forties!  Are you exhausted and in the thick of family life? I truly do feel for you, but I hope you’re able to appreciate the beauty of exploding life and love.  When the “war” is over, it will be quiet—and that’s wonderful too…and the way God intends, I believe—but tranquility is also often a segue toward death.                                                                Life is sure messy,                                                                but life is good! Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox” (Proverbs 14:4)  “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them” (Ecclesiastes 12:1).

 

 

The Beauty of Little Flower Girls

One of the things I love about country living is there are always wildflowers free for the picking pretty much spring through fall, and I have two little grand daughters who have been keeping me in flowers!Almost every day they bring me flowers…even enough to adorn such things as cupcakes that we baked to take to our new neighbors! A couple of days ago the baby slept so poorly that we sent Mama back to bed for a tiny rest while the baby had her morning nap, and while she was sleeping, the girls and I decided to make some bouquets for Mama! We walked up and down the lane, and even past our garden down to the lake, and picked some of all the different flowers we could find, and then the girls took turns choosing flowers to put in the vases. I think it was one of the happiest morning activities we did all month, and after we finished arranging the flowers, the girls worked very hard at writing cards just to tell their mother how much they loved her! (No prompting; this was all their own idea!)Parenting is such hard work, but it’s also one of the world’s most rewarding occupations! After all, where else can you get a zillion enthusiastic hugs and “I love you!”s  every day? Praise God for children…and flowers!

But Jesus called them to him, saying, ‘Let the children come to me,
and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God
‘” (Luke 18:16).

 

Have You Ever Experienced a Season of Heartbreak?

I suppose there’s no one alive who hasn’t experienced a season of heartbreak at some point. Isn’t it a universal part of each human tapestry? Every person who has loved deeply has had to cope with loss. It might not be as traumatic as losing a child or experiencing divorce. It could be something as natural as losing an aged parent or parting with your adult children when they move out of your home for the joy of marriage, or to transfer locations in order to further their career.

Although Mark Karris’s book focuses mainly on the issues facing those who’ve experienced the heartache of a major breakup, the strategies for grieving well and overcoming heartache are helpful for anyone who’s feeling the pain of loss—or even for those of us trying to prepare for the inevitable future as we see loved ones (and ourselves!) aging. Mark’s objective was to “provide a powerful, life-giving resource that will help you not only survive your season of grief but also thrive and be transformed.” That, I thought, was a very lofty goal, and personally I felt he succeeded, at least in how his book impacted my life.

But, Mark was even more ambitious that that! He also aspired to finding “powerful practices to help me embrace grieving as a liberating spiritual discipline.” Wow! Come again? Is that possible? Actually, by the time I finished the book, I understood what he meant. I can’t say that I’m free from heartache as a result of being liberated by developing appropriate spiritual disciplines to deal with grief, but I can say that I understand the many principles and practices he taught, and it’s helped me explore areas of grief that were hidden in the crevices of my heart, forgotten but unhealed because I never knew what to do with them!

I intend to keep my copy of Season of Heartbreak as a reference book, knowing that in the years ahead I will inevitably experience my own intense seasons of grief, either as I pass through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, or as I watch loved ones passing on from this life to the next. However, I’m willing to lend you my copy if you’ll promise to return it! Otherwise, it’s available on Amazon, although if you’re willing to buy it from Kregel Publishers directly, then they don’t have to pay a commission to Amazon. The link is:

http://kregel.christianbook.com/season-heartbreak-healing-heart-brain-soul/mark-karris/9780825444715/pd/44471X

If you’ve experienced heartache and never really addressed it, or if you’re still actively feeling the sting of pain from the loss of love, please consider reading Mark’s book. As a family advocacy and support specialist for the United States Navy as well as an ordained pastor and licensed marriage and family therapist, Mark Karris has a wealth of experience in identifying the issues, and he’s done a masterful job of teaching strategies for coping and overcoming. He has insightful chapters with provocative titles like “In Need of Story Catchers,” “Forgive to Live,” “Holy Huddle,” and “A Theology of Suffering.” And…about a dozen more!

In ostensible theory, I chose this book because I have over a thousand young adults who follow my blog, and I thought it might be helpful for them. In experiential reality, the book opened my heart to some buried, unhealed griefs and helped me in my own spiritual journey. If you have a heart that’s still beating, it’s a worthy read!

“He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).

Manpower

It seemed like it should be a snap to get that last fastener hooked under the seat, but Linda spent about 15 minutes trying to get our three car seats fastened into the back seat of our car properly, and then I tried for another 5.  Where were our husbands when we needed them? (On the road, being heroes, of course, but sadly not at home at the moment.) How in the world do women without husbands manage?? Thankfully, I had a stroke of brilliance: Joel works just a few minutes from our home! I drove over, and in about 30 seconds, he was able to fasten the last latch for me…first try…no groaning, straining, or having Amelie grab our legs and try to help by adding her little 5-year-0ld frame on our side of the tug of war with the strap.  There are just a lot of things that men can do easily that a woman really can’t do!

Thanks to Joel’s rescue, we were able to take the girls to the cherry orchard for a lovely time picking cherries! I know there are also things that—no matter how much I stress and strain—I cannot do! But, God can!  Godpower is beyond manpower. Needing help? If you just can’t get it done “by self” (as my kids would say when they were little), why not ask God? He’s just a prayer away, and He promises to help us if we’ll ask!

Thou hast a mighty arm: strong is thy hand, and high is thy right hand.” (Psalm 89:13) 

PS—God doesn’t always give us everything we want, but He promises to give us what we need and to provide grace to accomplish his good and perfect will: “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

PSS—If you feel like God isn’t answering your prayers, you might also consider the condition of your heart: “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” (Psalm 66:18).

The Eagle’s Nest of Santorini and the Holy Chapel of Nektarios

Oia, on the Greek Isle of Santorini, is both an area and a village.  The village is known as “the eagle’s nest” because it sits 490 feet atop  the volcanic caldera formed by the Santorini Volcano “Thera”
(which erupted 3,600 years ago) and caused such a tsunami  that some believe it is the source of the mythology surrounding the legends of Atlantis.  Oia is also the oldest settlement in Santorini and one of two harbors.   Today, there are over 70 churches in the Oia area,  and I want to tell you about our visit to one of them:The Holy Chapel of St. Nektarios.  This lovely chapel is part of the Greek Orthodox “Prophet Elias Monastery,”  which was built in 1712 and dedicated to the Prophet Elijah.  The monastery was built at the top of Mount Prophet Elias
(the highest point on the island of Santorini, nearly 1900 feet), and it originally served as a fortress to protect the villages below. For the first 200 years, the monastery also served as an important source
of commerce and education,  although it eventually lost most of its commercial and political influence.  Today, the monks engage in meditation and in making
prints, candles, shoes, and wine.  The Holy Chapel of Nektarios also hosts collections
of rare, hand-written books and Byzantine icons.  Our guide took us there in time for a picnic lunch of roasted corn  in their lovely courtyard, which overlooks the entire island.  It was peaceful and calm, and the monks were gracious hosts.  It reminded me of the Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Michigan’s U.P., where we’ve often stopped at their Jam Pot Bakery for refreshments
(like muffins and thimble berry jam…
although in Santorini we snacked on sesame-covered peanuts and fruit drinks). Also, “our” monastery in Michigan is built on the shores of Lake Superior,  not on a mountain top in Greece surrounded by the Aegean Sea!  I did not hear the gospel while we were visiting, but standing on the top of the mountain in this inspiring setting, I remembered these words from the scripture:

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!” (Isaiah 52:7).

May all who know the good news proclaim it  from the mountaintops and valleys of our lives, whether we’re at home or abroad!

(All the photos were taken during our visit to Santorini while cruising a couple of weeks ago. What a gorgeous island! It has been used as the setting for numerous movies and listed among the world’s top islands by various sources, including BBC, U.S. News, and Travel + Leisure Magazine. In 2015,  Condé Nast Traveler listed it as #12 out of the top 20 islands in the world. Definitely worth a visit!)

 

An Unexpected Blessing at a Mackinac Island Church

No matter where in the world we go,
Alan and I like to fellowship in some church on Sunday morning if possible.  (If not, like we’re sitting in an airport or have no clue where there’s a church where they speak English, we watch our own church’s service online.)  In most American communities, there are usually at least two churches:
the local catholic church  and the local protestant church.

We are evangelical Christians (believing that people are saved by faith in Christ rather than by having enough “good works” to outbalance our “bad works” when we come to the judgment seat of God),  and so we always look for a churchwhere we hope this “gospel” (good news) will be preached.  (However, we did go to Notre Dame the last time we were in Paris, despite not knowing French or having much of a grip on the liturgy…at least we knew where it was!)   At any rate, I always think it’s good for my soul to learn about how other congregations worship the Lord,  and I also hope to be a blessing and encouragement to others as we share our faith together in corporate worship.              On Mackinac Island, there are several beautiful, old churches.  We were at a wedding held at St. Ann’s some years ago, which still makes me glow to remember.  The last few times we’ve been on Mackinac Island, we’ve gone to the Mackinac Bible Church, which meets in the theater of Mission Point Resort. We arrived a bit early and just happened to sit next to a sweet-looking couple. Moments into our chatting with them, we discovered that Nancy (the wife) and I both graduated from Bob Jones University and that her husband (a Harvard graduate) is now working in finance at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, where our son Jonathan and his family will soon be moving. This couple was so kind! Before (the very lively) service began, we exchanged emails, and they offered their home to Jon as a base for looking for housing, etc. etc. etc. Their gracious hospitality was totally overwhelming, and just knowing that there is a mature Christian couple in Chicago as a reference for them is so comforting (because—as a huge city with a bad reputation for crime—trying to find housing in Chicago will be a bit intimidating)!  Thank you, Lord, for this very special blessing! Only You could orchestrate such an unlikely meeting, but that’s the sort of amazing God You are!(The majority of photos were taken on Mackinac Island, but I did intersperse some of cathedrals and basilicas from Europe, where we were visiting last week. I hope to start writing about that trip next week! This last amazing photo is more of Bob Hardee’s creative genius at work. God bless you!)