Black and White Challenge

“Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow?” (Job 38:22)

My daughter-in-law Carlie tagged me in a Facebook challenge to post seven black and white photos in seven days with no explanation or words. At the time, my life was spinning too fast to take her up on it, but tomorrow the holiday festivities begin with the first family arriving, and between now and the New Year, we have high hopes of seeing all twelve of our children (counting our in-law kids) and eighteen grandchildren except those who live in Belgium. Therefore, my life is going to be even busier . . . possibly too busy to write my blog! So, I’m thinking to have a series of seven black and white photos that depict what life has been like over the past few weeks (albeit interrupted over the weekend with my usual recipe post on Saturday and a scripture meditation on Sunday). Perhaps over the Christmas to New Year week I can post a series of color photos that relate to our holidays and the joy of family (from another popular challenge going around Facebook these days called “Grandma”).

Because my heart is to share the Lord, I’m allowing myself one scripture verse caption for each photo, but I won’t indulge in any other explanations or words. Hope you enjoy!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (58): Give Up Your Doubts!

This has been a really difficult week. The father-in-law of one of my sons “died”—from our perspective here on earth, although I am confident that he has been safely birthed into heaven. As Tony said before he left, “I know where I’m going, and I know God does all things well. It’s just hard to get from here to there.” He is now there! How do I know? Because he believed: “I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Psalm 16:8-11). Tony found and walked the path of life, and now he is experiencing the fullness of joy and eternal pleasures of heaven.

Do you believe in heaven? Probably the most profound questions every person ponders while battling earth’s final headmaster go something like this: “Is there an afterlife? If there is, what’s it like? What will happen to me after I die?” Each of us has to grapple with these enigmas for ourselves. Atheists say there simply is no afterlife, but I’ve heard there are no atheists in foxholes, and I think the contractions we feel as the womb of death seeks to expel us must be more terrifying than any other experience on earth.

I don’t know what you believe about life after death, but may I share with you what the Bible teaches in case you don’t know or haven’t yet decided what to believe? Jesus taught that there is life after death, and that He, Himself, is the way to get to heaven after we die: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:25-26).

So simple, but not easy for adults who have spent their lives trying to be good and find their own way, often without even recognizing their need for a Savior. God gave us the Mosaic Law to test us, and without exception, we all fail. We are incapable of being perfect, of always making the right choices, or of always wanting to be good! Jesus came to earth as God incarnate (“in the flesh,” as a man), lived a sinless life, and died in our place as the perfect Lamb-of-God sacrifice. We don’t have to spend our lives trying to be good enough. We’ll never be “good enough,” but Jesus was. All God asks is that we acknowledge our sinfulness and accept Jesus as our Lord (“master”) and Savior, asking Him to make us new (“born again”—reborn spiritually as a child of God).

Where are you on your journey of faith? Do you believe in God? Do you believe in Jesus? Is it possible that you don’t want anybody becoming your “master” or telling you what to do? But, do you want to go to heaven? If so, please don’t doubt the goodness and love of God! Jesus won’t make you miserable if you surrender your heart to Him. He loves you! He wants you to live a holy (which will make you happy) life here on earth and live forever in heaven with Him.

Have you asked Jesus to become your Savior and Lord, and to bring you safely home to heaven when you die? Jesus wants us to stop worrying about this life—even the most basic aspects of how to provide for ourselves, like food and drink. Jesus invites us to accept his invitation and become part of his “bride,” his Church. Just as a man cares for his wife, Jesus will care for us if we’re willing to entrust our lives fully to him.

Are you still doubtful? Afraid? Too proud to open your eyes and see Love staring you in the face? Death will indeed search for and destroy our bodies, but even the final headmaster has a Master. . . the God of Love who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. If you’re not yet a believer, I beg you to give up your doubts and believe! If you are a believer—well, let’s encourage one another. Let’s not “be ye of doubtful mind” about anything. As we keep our hand in His, Jesus will take care of us, even on our deathbeds. He will provide for us, so that even though it’s the hardest thing on earth to get from here to there, we can have every confidence that we’ll be safely birthed from this life to the next!

Text for today’s meditation: Luke 12:23, “And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.”

(Photo credit: “Come Follow Me” was painted by Yongsung and used by permission of http://Havenlight.com)

Beautiful Birthday Week

This year, something unique happened for my birthday! My two older brothers came from California and New York City to help me celebrate. We had SO MUCH FUN! Included were a host of special opportunities, and right at the top was a mini-reunion with our sister over in the east side of the state!

Other highlights included a “day at the farm” with our niece’s family,

and a day with my daughter and her family,
including a tour of my son-in-law’s studio,

where he heads up the videography department at their church.

Rebecca Louise Law’s The Womb Exhibit at Meijer Garden

Back in GR, we took a trip to Meijer Garden— always captivating!

We visited Alan’s office and toured the campus
of Pine Rest Christian Hospital, where Alan works.

We took a trip to Robinettes for cider and donuts! (What would fall in Michigan be without a cider mill and donuts?). We also took a mini tour of the publishing house where our youngest son works as an editor.

One night, we went to Grand Haven for dinner
and a walk along the pier at sunset.

However, we didn’t know that evening was the night of the lighting ceremony for the new catwalk (after four years of construction). The place was jammed with well wishers. We enjoyed marching band music, a flyover, and fireworks,

but the end of the pier was blocked off, so we didn’t get in our quiet stroll.

Nevertheless, it was a very memorable evening
on an amazingly balmy night for autumn!

We toured Exalta, where my son Daniel is the dental director.

We also saw Daniel and Brianna’s new home,
with its wonderful backyard where the children can play!

The grand finale was my birthday party, complete with great big balloons

and a nerf gun war (sponsored by four-year-old grandson, Sammy).

Needless to say, it was the perfect way to celebrate my birthday! I’m just a little groggy and tired this week, but I wouldn’t have traded it for a trip to some exotic island! Thank you, Lord, for the great privilege and joy of family!!

For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (Ephesians 3:14-21).

The Armstrong Clan’s 500th Anniversary Gathering

Have you ever noticed there is more to do in life than will ever be done? No amount of prayerful planning and meticulous organization can align all the opportunities in such a way that we can be hither and yon at the proper moment to squeeze every last drop out of our lives’ orangey goodness!

I cannot watch over my grandson’s surgery across the state and still provide for my grand children here in GR while my daughter-in-law cares for her father’s medical needs.

Armstrongs in the Poppy Fields of Belgium

I couldn’t host my son’s family, coming home from Belgium to America, and still fly to Scotland to attend the 500th reunion of the Armstrong Clan, now, could I?

Marius’s First Birthday Party

Indeed, I could not. However, we had a splendid reunion of our “Armstrong Clan” right here in GR while the world-wide Armstrong Clan’s 500th Celebration was occurring!

Brother Terry at Milnholm Cross, Scotland

And, although Alan and I had to miss it, Alan’s brother and his wife were able to attend. So—I wanted to share just a little bit about the event.

Perhaps the world’s most famous Armstrong is Neil, First Man on the moon, so the events of the clan centered around the Armstrongs’ 500th anniversary generally, but also the 50th anniversary of the lunar takeoff, which was July 16, 2019.

The Common Riding in Langholm, Scotland

For over 900 years, there has been a tradition of “common riding” (groups of riders [raiders, really]) on horses riding along the border between Scotland and England during the summer months. Happily, this has turned into a non-raiding riding event for fun and has become one of Europe’s biggest equestrian spectacles!

Gilnockie Tower in Hollows, near Canonbie, Scotland,
built by John Armstrong 500 years ago

What I didn’t really understand when I married Alan was that I’d married into a wild band of “reivers” (“from the old Scottish word “to steal”)! Back in their hay day, it was said that to survive to thirty was an accomplishment and that no one walked along the border . . . they ran for their lives!

Sign explaining the Milnholm Cross

(However, lest I think poorly of our esteemed Armstrong heritage, my grandmother was a Kerr, who is also on the list of wild border clans, along with Nixon, Elliot, Scott, and a host of others!)

John Armstrong Memorial

Terry and Eileen explored the area and shared much of what they learned with us. The last famous reiver of the Armstrong Clan was John Armstrong, who owned Gilnockie Tower and was a fearsome raider, although in July of 1530 he was executed by the forces of King James V in an attempt to bring peace to the borderlands between Scotland and England.

Fifty years ago, Ted and Judy Armstrong revived the Armstrong Clan Association, and since that time, Gilnockie Tower has been restored and become the focal point for Armstrongs from around the world who are interested in DNA and genealogical research into their past.

Gilnockie Tower Common Room

I don’t know if you’re an Armstrong or have any Armstrong blood, but it has been fascinating and fun to learn a little bit more about our family heritage, and I’m guessing you might enjoy exploring yours too, if you ever get any spare time!

Terry at John Armstrong’s Grave Site

Terry and Eileen (and their faithful dog, Maggie) are retired and are able to enjoy some leisure time traveling through Europe and exploring their history. Talk about keeping fit and being a lifelong learner!

They’ve spent several years adventuring, and I have to say, I lick my chops when I read of their travels and see the gorgeous places they’ve visited!

The Neil Armstrong Tea

Still, I am content, even if we didn’t make it to the moon and back for tea in July! God is good. Life is good. As my father used to say (quoting Aldous Huxley from Brave New World): “You pays your money and you takes your choice.” Are you happy with the choices you’re making? I hope so! If not, you are the only one who can change your choices!!

Only One Life
(—Avis B. Christiansen and Merrill Dunlop)

“Only one life to offer
Jesus my Lord and King.
Only one tongue to praise Thee
And of Thy mercy sing (forever).
Only one heart’s devotion
Savior, O may it be
consecrated alone to Thy matchless glory,
Yielded fully to Thee.

“Only one life to offer
Take it dear Lord I pray.
Nothing from Thee withholding
Thy will I now obey.
Thou who hast freely given
Thine all in all for me
Claim this life for Thine own to be used My Savior
Ev’ry moment for Thee.”

And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

Little Samuel’s Wish Comes True

I’m wondering if our grandson Samuel is a bit of a budding prophet . . . maybe a little like his namesake from the Bible!

Last year, before his mother was pregnant, he asked her if she had a baby boy in her tummy named Alex (with whom Samuel planned to shoot hoops).

Brianna thought Sammy’s question was cute, but she did take note, and when she became pregnant soon afterward, it made us all wonder if the baby was going to be a boy . . . especially since Sammy had informed us all the his first younger sibling was going to be a girl . . . and she was!

Brianna and Daniel like to be surprised so don’t test for gender but rather wait until delivery to learn the good news!

Can you guess?

Samuel was right!

We are now celebrating the birth of our 18th grand child,
a beautiful baby boy.

Vision of Cornelius the Centurion by Gerbrand van den Eeckhout,
1664, Public Domain

Dan and Brianna have named him Cornelius both to honor Brianna’s grandfather and because the Cornelius in the Bible was a very honorable person who sought out God and opened the door to the gospel in Caesarea, where he became the first gentile convert to Christ.

However, Cornelius is going to go by the nickname “Neil”
(rather than “Cory” or whatever).

The New Neil Armstrong

We are all overjoyed with Baby Neil Armstrong and hope he lives up to the virtuous examples of those brave and godly men who’ve come before him.

Oh, and for the record, his mom and daddy blessed him with the middle name of “Alexander,” which means “Defender of the People,” so Sammy can call him “Alex” any time he wants!

We are all in love with our new grand child/son/nephew/cousin/little person!

May he grow up to be a man of great faith and courage, one who is full of good works and prayers and loves God and man.

May he walk in the Truth, defend the just, and live a long, fruitful life!

Baptism of Cornelius

“There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway . . . Then Peter went down to the men which were sent unto him from Cornelius; and said, Behold, I am he whom ye seek: what is the cause wherefore ye are come?22 And they said, Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned from God by an holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee . . .

34 “Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.36 The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:)37 That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached;38 How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.39 And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree:40 Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly;41 Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead.42 And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.43 To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” (The entire story can be found in Acts 10.)

God bless you, Baby Cornelius!

Home Along the Dead River Falls

Have you ever thought about the fact that some time may be your last time? When our children were little, we lived in a beautiful home on 50 acres of pristine woods that abutted the Dead River Falls in Marquette, Michigan.

Our six sons and little girl spent endless hours playing among the ferns and foliage in that somewhat paradisal setting, and so when we took our two oldest and their children on a Roots Tour of the Upper Peninsula last month, it was important to us (and them!) to hike their beloved Dead River Falls with their kids.

Foxgloves (from our old home), ferns, and a little boy

I had contracted a miserable cold and felt feverish that morning, so I slept until after noon while the kids took their hike, which broke my heart in a way, but I was too sick to participate. So . . . what are you going to do??

They didn’t want to disturb the present owners of our old home (with nine rambunctious children), so they parked along the power line (on property which had been taken away from us by “right of public domain” . . . so we felt justified in still using it) and retraced what had been a very common and extremely pleasurable hike.

Wild strawberries and wild blueberries ripening at the same time
in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

In the U.P. (Upper Peninsula of Michigan), it is so cold and the growing season so short that all the flowers and fruits that are going to grow have to grow quickly, and you can often find more than one crop of wild berries ripening at the same time!

Scrambling up steep rock faces along the Dead River Falls in Michigan

If you’re ever in the Marquette area, a half day adventure climbing the Dead River Falls is well worth the effort! According to “Great Lakes Waterfalls and Beyond,” this is “one of the best waterfall adventures in Michigan,” and I totally agree!

In a 0.7-mile stretch, the Dead River drops 90 feet on its way to Lake Superior, tumbling over a wonderful series of waterfalls.

Three of the waterfalls drop over 15 feet, but there are dozens of merry falls cascading down the rocky river bed.

Shortly after we moved to Marquette, Alan and I took a cruise of the Hawaiian Islands, and we felt like Maui’s “Seven Sacred Pools” were no more beautiful (albeit a great deal more well known)!

Seven Sacred Pools by Eric Chan, Wikipedia Commons

(In truth, it was very dry when we visited Maui, and just googling for images of the Seven Sacred Pools now, I see that when they are full they are bigger and more spectacular. Still, there aren’t as many waterfalls, and they are less cloistered, so I think thirty years later I still prefer the Dead River Falls!)

Kids examining a garter snake along the Dead River Falls

Besides, there are no snakes in Hawaii,
and what would a nature hike be without snakes?

(What, you say you’d like that??!?) 🙂

If you’d like to use your GPS to find the lower trailhead,
it’s located at: 46.56841N 87.47839W

Picnic Lunch along the Dead River Falls
(You have to wash up in the river afterward and pack out all your trash. It’s rustic!)

Before making the somewhat arduous trek back to the top of the falls, they stopped for a picnic lunch. Major Armstrong’s army skills and strength came in handy, as he packed and carried ALL the supplies for a scrumptious lunch (along with his youngest son in a front pack).

The Dead River Falls were such a magical part of the kids’ growing up years that I wrote a mystery story for them called The Dead River Diamonds. A GR publishing house expressed interest in it, although they wanted me to cut down the number of children from seven to four, which I couldn’t imagine doing! How could I ever “cut out” any of my kids? Maybe someday I will improve it and find a publishing house who will consider a mystery series based on a such an unfashionably large family. 🙂

Father, sons, and grand children along the Michigan’s Dead River Falls

I have every hope of returning to the Dead River Falls again some day, but as I write, I’m grieving with a young friend who just lost her precious husband, who is the age of my sons.

One of my sons dated her older sister when they were teens. It occurred to me that I may never live to hike the Dead River Falls again. In fact, my sons and even my grand sons may not live to hike the falls again—what a horrible thought!

Looking back, even long lives seem short; how much shorter those that end before their youthful beauty fades? “The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth” (Isaiah 40:6-7).

Family enjoying a day at the Dead River Falls in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

It is my earnest hope and prayer that my family—and everyone who reads this—will enjoy a long, healthy, active life. But, I have to ask: Are you as prepared to die as you are to live? “Make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:13-14). “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21). Are you saved? If you’re not sure, all you have to do is ask Christ to save you: “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed” (Romans 10:9-11).