Category Archives: Encouragements for Living

Grandma Alma’s Apple Pie

Last weekend we went apple picking at Robinette’s Orchard, and last night we went to Alan’s longest-standing and dearest friend’s home for a dinner party. Alan and Larry grew up across the street from each other, and they both loved Alan’s mother’s apple pies…which were famed throughout their little village. Early into our marriage, I asked my mother-in-law to teach me how to make apple pies. “Sure!” she responded cheerily. However, when I went to watch, I quickly realized that she did everything by look and didn’t measure anything. I practiced quite a bit, and Alan’s older brother was my best critic. “More sugar!” he’d announce.  “More butter!” Eventually, I got the hang of it, but Alma’s pies were magical. It was a sad day for us after she died and we found one last apple pie in the freezer, which we all shared in sober grief mingled with joy (because Alan and I knew she was with Jesus in heaven). From then on, I had to become the family pie lady, and I do still love to make pies, although I’m never quite sure they live up to her immortal gold standard!  To the best of my ability to measure it out, here’s her recipe, now passed on for posterity:

Grandma Alma’s Apple Pie

Preheat oven to 425°F.
Prepare the pastry for two pie crusts:

                                       2 Crusts for 1 Ten-inch Pie:
2 and 1/2 cups flour
2 sticks (1/4 pound each, or half a pound altogether) butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup very cold (refrigerated) water (more if needed)
Mix in blender until a soft ball forms (but then stop immediately, even if a few crumbs are left; it’s really important not to over-process the mixture). Set in refrigerator while making the filling so that it’s cold when you roll it out.

Apple Pie Filling:

6 large pie apples peeled, cored, and sliced (These are Macintosh, which was Alma’s favorite, although now there are a number of great pie apple varieties.)1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamonMix together until all the apple chunks are well coated.Divide the dough in half, and roll out one half between sheets of plastic wrap.
Peel off the top wrap, place dough in pie plate, and peel off second wrap. (Save plastic for top crust.) Fill the pie with the apple mixture. Don’t worry if it’s really high; be glad!  🙂 Slice up another stick of butter into thin pieces and dot the entire top of the pie.Repeat rolling out the dough with the second half and place over the top.  Seal the edges. If you’ve rolled it out thin enough, you’ll have enough to flute the edges. I didn’t this time. 😦  Sprinkle the top with a light coating of sugar and cinnamon, then bake for 20 minutes at 425°F. Reduce the temperature to 350°F and bake another 40 minutes. Cool on a rack and serve with vanilla ice cream, preferably while still warm! By the way, I am thankful for every day that I can enjoy such a wonderful feast as we shared last night, but there is a better feast coming in heaven, and as aging mortals, it becomes clearer to me every day that we need to be living with a profound appreciation for life and the gift of eternal life, which is offered to us in Christ. As a youth, I didn’t quite understand this verse: “It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:2). Now I think I understand. We will all die, so it is better to allow ourselves to mourn over the death of loved ones and turn in faith to God for salvation, then to simply enjoy a feast today with no thought of preparing for the next life.

Epic Changes

Over the past few months, we’ve experienced some epic changes, not only around our home, but in our family and at Alan’s office. I’ll work backwards, since the first epic change occurred at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services, where Alan works. After months of intensive planning and preparation, the entire hospital system (which is now one of the largest free-standing psychiatric hospitals in the U.S.) switched over their medical records to Epic Systems Corporation, a software company that holds the records for some 64% of all the patients in America. It was truly an “Epic” change…hugely expensive, hugely difficult, but also hopefully hugely helpful in better caring for their patients.  The second (although tiny) epic change was the addition of a new baby in our family! Little Marius joined Michael and Grace’s family at their villa in Italy in July. I was blessed to be with them during this precious time, made particularly epic for me because I ended up caring for their four older children solo for a few days…a first for me in my 12-year grandma-ing career. Grace ended up back in the hospital for several days (she is fine now), and in Italy they wouldn’t allow the baby to stay unless Michael also stayed to care for him!  The last epic change I’ll report (although there are still more) is happening as I write: the addition of a new sun room onto our home. Talk about digging and grubbing in the dirt! The view out the window is thrilling and intimidating…so much so that we gave up an opportunity to have our son Jon’s family visit for fear of their three little girls getting inadvertently injured by falling into the pit or being run over by some monstrous machine. One day there was such a thunderous impact from workers removing concrete abutments that a music box fell off the mantle inside! Lots of jolts and jars…concrete and mud sprayed all over our music gear in the basement when a plastic drape fell, etc! Beyond these changes for us, we have two close friends who are in epic battles with cancer right now…one friend who was in the hospital for three weeks, and another couple who needed to move from their (his) home of 60 years into a condo. It feels a little the earth is quaking under my feet, not just in my home, but in my heart!     How are you doing? Are you also experiencing epic changes in your life?  If so, may I comfort you with this prayer by Henri J.M. Nouwen? “Dear Lord, Today I thought of the words of Vincent van Gogh: ‘It is true there is an ebb and flow, but the sea remains the sea.’ You are the sea. Although I experience many ups and down in my emotions and often feel great shifts and changes in my inner life, you remain the same. Your sameness is not the sameness of a rock, but the sameness of a faithful lover. Out of your love I came to life, by your love I am sustained, and to your love I am always called back. There are days of sadness and days of joy; there are feelings of guilt and feelings of gratitude; there are moments of failure and moments of success; but all of them are embraced by your unwavering love. . . .”  “O Lord, sea of love and goodness, let me not fear too much the storms and winds of my daily life, and let me know there is ebb and flow but the sea remains the sea. Amen.” (—from A Cry for Mercy).Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength” (Isaiah 40:28-29). (I just spent 5 weeks in Europe, partly in Michael and Grace’s “castle in a cave,” and partly on a 3-week cruise of the North Sea, Iceland, and Norway. Hopefully, next week I’ll start recounting tales from these wonderful weeks of adventure! Meanwhile, God bless you! I pray for everyone who reads my blogs, that you will find all your needs met in God, our heavenly Father, and Jesus Christ, our Lord!)

Learning to Focus at Church

Did you enjoy your Labor Day break? Are you ready for all the activities of fall?
I love this super short video! My friend (Jane A.) posted it on her Face Book page a while back, but I want my blog friends who aren’t on FB to be able to see it too. Such good advice! If you don’t have a church home at this point, this fall might be the perfect time to start going again. Growth, healing, and love are done best in community…even though no community is perfect!

And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

P.S.—If you don’t have a church home and live in the Grand Rapids area, I’d love to have you visit our church, Calvary (on the Beltline). Let me know, and Alan and I can meet you there and introduce you to our Sunday school class if you have time! In big churches, being part of some smaller group—like a Sunday school class, the choir, or a life group—really helps a person feel a sense of belonging.

Under His Wings

There are three families of geese that have been camping out at Tanglewood Cottage this summer, and as you might guess, there are pros and cons to this situation.However, today I want to mention one of the sweet pros, which is that Canada geese are great parents and keep watchful eyes on their goslings. Whether their little ones are snuggled under their wings or resting beside them in the shade, I have never (and I mean never) seen the parents neglect their young. They are ever watchful, and ever concerned. They paddle all over the lake, but they stop by every morning for some breakfast                …and for some lunch…and for some dinner…rain or shine! On warm afternoons, they love to rest in the shade, and since I’m usually writing at my desk each afternoon, a couple of my favorite songs keep singing in my mind. The songs are about God, who is better than the best of all earthly parents, and the words so comforting that I want to share them with you:

Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings.” (Psalm 17:8)

Under His Wings
(William O. Cushing, 1896, public domain)

Under His wings I am safely abiding,
Though the night deepens and tempests are wild,
Still I can trust Him; I know He will keep me,
He has redeemed me, and I am His child.

Refrain:
Under His wings, under His wings,
Who from His love can sever?
Under His wings my soul shall abide,
Safely abide forever.

Under His wings, what a refuge in sorrow!
How the heart yearningly turns to His rest!
Often when earth has no balm for my healing,
There I find comfort, and there I am blessed.

Under His wings, oh, what precious enjoyment!
There will I hide till life’s trials are o’er;
Sheltered, protected, no evil can harm me,
Resting in Jesus, I’m safe evermore.

God Leads Us Along
(George A. Young, 1903, Public Domain)

  1. In shady, green pastures, so rich and so sweet,
    God leads His dear children along;
    Where the water’s cool flow bathes the weary one’s feet,
    God leads His dear children along.

    • Refrain:
      Some through the waters, some through the flood,
      Some through the fire, but all through the blood;
      Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song,
      In the night season and all the day long.
  2. Sometimes on the mount where the sun shines so bright,
    God leads His dear children along;
    Sometimes in the valley, in darkest of night,
    God leads His dear children along.
  3. Though sorrows befall us and Satan oppose,
    God leads His dear children along;
    Through grace we can conquer, defeat all our foes,
    God leads His dear children along.
  4. Away from the mire, and away from the clay,
    God leads His dear children along;
    Away up in glory, eternity’s day,
    God leads His dear children along.The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Psalm 23:1-3).

 

Born In China

Probably everybody who watches videos has already seen the captivating co-production between Disneynature and Shanghia Media Group entitled Born in China, but just in case you missed it (like I did, until on a recent trip),

Description: Cinematographer Justin Maguire filming golden snub-nosed monkeys.

I want to recommend it as a wonderfully warm and intimate, G-rated documentary that looks into the lives of several mothers and their cubs who were all born and bred in China…but whose stories are also an allegory for our own. The movie features four families in particular and their struggles to survive and thrive through the mysterious circle of life we all experience.

Born in China stars a giant panda bear, Ya Ya, and her little cub, Mei Mei. Mother pandas live in relative seclusion with their cubs for two years and develop incredibly tender, strong bonds with them, so I’m sure everyone sensed the anguish in Ya Ya’s heart as this helicopter-mom panda struggled to let her precious daughter become independent.  The second star is  a little golden monkey named Tao Tao, who is expected to be independent after the birth of his little sister…but before he’s really ready!  Tao Tao struggles to find himself, ends up joining “The Lost Boys” (a group of young male monkeys), and has to make some pretty tough decisions about whether or not he’s going to be a follower or a leader.            Ah, the difficulties of adolescence…and haven’t we all been there?!

               The third star is Dawa, a memerizingly beautiful snow leopard  who lives in the remote mountains of Tibet at altitudes of 14-16,000 feet, where very few animals can survive.  Dawa births twin cubs and has to grapple with trying to provide food for three in a desperate struggle against hardship and poverty. Sound familiar? Interwoven into the fabric of the story are scenes showcasing a herd of mountain antelope known as Chiru, who live on the Tibetan plateau. They are a “near threatened” species and represent the embodiment of all animal life that exists in the wilds of China (and the world).  And, last (but in some ways most rather than least) are cinemagic images of the magnificent red-crested cranes, perhaps the most spiritual animals in Chinese mythology. Roy Conli, the producer, pointed out in an interview that the director, Lu Chuan is one of China’s best: “His work has really been ground breaking…Great story sensibility; great love for his country…He was able to capture something that no westerner could do…We see a part of China so unique and beautiful that it will make people want to travel there.” So true! I’ve been there a couple of times, but I’m still daydreaming about visiting again!

Conli also said (and he almost seemed to have a catch in his voice, as if his comment was truly heart felt),”We have to let go of our kids and let them grow up.” As a mother with grown children who are winging their own ways through the world now, I found the movie profoundly moving! So, whether young or old, an adolescent trying to find your way, in the midst of rearing your own brood, or a member of the older generation learning to let go,  Born in China has some lessons for each of us! I hope you will watch it if you haven’t already. I know you’ll be blessed if you do! Have ye not known? have ye not heard? hath it not been told you from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in… To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth…Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Excerpts from Isaiah 40:21-31).

(All photos from or about Born in China.)

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)