Category Archives: Family News

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/.)

 

A Few of My Favorite German Dishes: Tantalizing Rouladen

We have been so blessed to have our son Jonathan and his family living a couple thousand miles closer to us than they have for the past seven years.           They now live in the Chicago area, which makes visiting so much easier!  This means we get to see them a lot more often, and not long ago Gerlinde sponsored an amazing German dinner! As a special gift, she let me choose exactly whatever I wanted, and I asked for four of my favorite German dishes that she makes so much better than what I’ve tasted anywhere else:                          Rouladen, German potato salad, and red cabbage                                             with apple strudel for desert.  I asked her if she’d share her recipes with us. She said some are family favorites, but she also (humbly) pointed out that most recipes are available on the internet. HOWEVER, I really the way she makes them, so she said she’d be willing to share.  During the Saturdays in August, I’m going to pass along to you four wonderful German recipes as demonstrated by Chef Gerlinde, her sous chef (Jon), her protégé, and her apprentice (Amélie).  I served as photographer so didn’t do anything but capture the magic and enjoy the fruit of all their labors! I hope you’ll enjoy this foray into authentic German cuisine as much as we did.   🙂

Golden Brown Rouladen
(serves 6+)

1. Fry until fully cooked:
12 oz. sliced bacon (chopped into small, bit-sized pieces), with
2 chopped onions; set aside to cool; drain off excess fat.
2. Buy (or pound and roll out) 1.5 pounds of thin-sliced flank steak (Or, order from your butcher; we apparently didn’t have any available, so Gerlinde and Amélie pounded and rolled them out by hand.)
3.  Add your favorite mustard (spread as thick as you like), a thick slice of your favorite pickle (we used German pickles) placed at one end,and a heaping tablespoon of fried bacon and onions. Add salt and pepper to taste,  then make the flank steak into a roll, starting with the pickle end. 4. Carefully tie up each roll with heavy thread, string, or toothpicks so they’re completely sealed (to keep the filling from coming out). This is an intensive, labor-of-love and process, but the result is superb!6. Fry the rouladen in oil until they’re crispy brown  and the steak is fully cooked. Take out of the pan for a few minutes.7. Add to the pan:
2.5 cups water
1 beef bouillon cube, stirring and scraping gently to help dissolve the bouillon cube and ensure nothing is sticking in the bottom of the pan.
8. Add the rolls back into the broth and simmer for an hour with the top on, or use a pressure cooker or instant pot if you prefer (which takes less time; Gerlinde used our pressure cooker). When they’ve simmered long enough, remove them onto a platter. Gerlinde wrapped her arm in a dish towel to keep the steam from burning her…a very clever trick, I thought! 9. Remove the strings by cutting with scissors and unwrapping. 10. Serve up your tantalizing rouladen and accept the compliments… they will have been well earned!!  🙂
She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens” (Proverbs 31:15. I know this verse is speaking of the “virtuous woman,” but that makes it all the more applicable to my dear daughter-in-law, because she is such a virtuous woman!)

I Have Sixteen Going on Seventeen…It’s Time to Think Babies!

If you love The Sound of Music as much as I do, then there are probably times when some of the musical’s lyrics pop into your head, and that’s what’s been playing in my brain for the past nine months, ever since my daughter-in-law Grace told me that she was pregnant. “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” is the song, but with slightly altered lyrics, because Alan and I have sixteen beautiful grandchildren and are now looking forward to a seventeenth very soon! Mike and Grace are expecting their fifth baby at the end of July. Grace’s mom graduated to glory when Grace was a young teenager, so I’ve had the special privilege of being first on call when they have a new baby. This means I will have been to Philadelphia, Germany, Hawaii, South Korea, and now Italy in the last 11 years! I am overjoyed, but as you might guess, this also means I won’t have time to write much for awhile. If I don’t post, or if I just post a photo and a few lines, know that I’m in my glory enjoying some of life’s best moments and may not have much to say until after Labor Day. I mean, not only Grace’s day of labor, but America’s Labor Day, which is September 3. Meanwhile, God bless you! May you continue with joy on your pilgrimage through this world. I will be trying to follow Jesus. I hope that is your aspiration as well!

But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children;  To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them”(Psalm 103:17-18).

(P.S.—My son, “Major Michael Armstrong” is not the one with bells ringing over his head. This photo was taken by the wife of the guy with the smooch! My son is really the man on the extreme right side of the photo, and it was taken at a recent graduation from yet another training program which will qualify him for possible promotion.)

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)

 

Meijer Garden: Tales About Being ABD and MIA

Did I tell you that our son, Stephen, recently became ABD? He’s been working on his PhD from Eastman School of Music in New York and recently passed his field exam, so now he’s completed all his class work and only has to write his dissertation. (Thus “ABD,” All But Dissertation completed.) Congratulations!This is a major cause for celebration, and while he was home taking a well earned break, we wandered all through the various venues of Meijer Garden.  No sooner had we returned home than I realized that one of my ear rings was MIA (missing in action). It was part of a set of gold fleur de lis from one of the french chateaus I’d visited with Stephen (and Alan and Joel) a few years ago, and although it wasn’t super expensive, it had a lot of sentimental value, so I was quite disappointed. However, it was too late to return that afternoon to search.I remembered walking in the Japanese Garden under a low-hanging bush that had caught my hair, and I’d tugged to get my hair loose. Could that be where it fell? But, if so, would I ever be able to find it again? If not, would anyone else ever see it? If they did, would they be inclined to turn it in…or keep it? I’ve heard that there are over 1,000 volunteers at Meijer Garden, and every one I’ve ever met has been sweet and pleasant, so it occurred to me that I should at least call the front desk and ask if they have a “Lost and Found,” and if so, to give them my name and number just in case anyone found it and turned it in.The lady who answered said she was almost done with her shift and could go out and look for me. I told her not to bother, but that I appreciated her offer, saying I’d come back first thing in the morning to look.However, before I could go searching the next morning, I got a call from the front desk, saying that my ear ring had been found and would be waiting for me! It made me think about the parable of the lost coin in the Bible (Luke 15), only in that story, the woman herself swept her house and looked everywhere until she found her lost coin, then wanted her friends to celebrate with her.In my experience, kind people came to my rescue! I asked if I could have the name and number of the person who had found the ear ring, but that sweet person (probably the volunteer?) had left no information. I couldn’t even thank them!Still, I want to thank all the 1,000+ volunteers at Meijer who help make it such a beautiful, warm, and welcoming place, and all the visitors who enjoy the gardens with care and integrity. I’m inspired! I’ll never be ABD, and I hope I’m never MIA, but if any of you are feeling MIA emotionally or spiritually, please contact someone (myself included!) to let them know you’re lost and would like to be found! Jesus is even better than a volunteer! Jesus is the good shepherd, who gave his life for lost sheep (people, like me), and if you call out to Him, He will rescue you and bring you safely home to heaven! As He taught, “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (John 10:16).

Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us
(Dorothy A. Thrupp, 1779-1847)

1. Savior, like a shepherd lead us,
much we need thy tender care;
in thy pleasant pastures feed us,
for our use thy folds prepare.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
Thou hast bought us, thine we are.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
Thou hast bought us, thine we are.

2. We are thine, thou dost befriend us,
be the guardian of our way;
keep thy flock, from sin defend us,
seek us when we go astray.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
Hear, O hear us when we pray.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
Hear, O hear us when we pray.

3. Thou hast promised to receive us,
poor and sinful though we be;
thou hast mercy to relieve us,
grace to cleanse and power to free.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
We will early turn to thee.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
We will early turn to thee.

4. Early let us seek thy favor,
early let us do thy will;
blessed Lord and only Savior,
with thy love our bosoms fill.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
Thou hast loved us, love us still.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
Thou hast loved us, love us still.

Faith of Our Fathers…and Other Inspiring Father Figures

Have you ever noticed how some people are larger than life? I remember when my spiritual big brother’s father passed away, he said having his father in his life had been like seeing a big mountain out the picture window every day…but on the day his father died, he felt like the mountain disappeared. I’m guessing that’s how Uncle Milt’s sons must have felt when their dad passed away last week. Do you remember my writing about “Filling Cinderella’s Slippers” a few weeks ago? That story recounted the life and loss of Milt’s beloved bride of almost 72 years, and within a few weeks of her death, he also graduated to glory. Diagnosis? Well, Larry (his son and Alan’s lifelong friend) told us that his dad died of a broken heart. Uncle Milton was amazing to everybody…and that included me. Just one example: One night thirty years ago while Alan was in medical school and we were poorer than church mice, Alan and I were trying to get home to the Soo from Detroit in our leprous old car. Our little Vega was so rundown that the windshield leaked and the heater was broken, so I’d wrap our two toddling boys up in blankets and hold them on my lap while we traveled. We had just enough gas money to get home and back with nothing to spare. (These were the days before seat belt laws or credit cards.) Our car died on the freeway, but Alan was able to get it to glide off the highway and near a gas station, where he called his dad. His dad was sick and couldn’t come get us, so Alan’s mom ran across the street to Milton and Faye. Milt drove all the way down to Saginaw to pick us up and drove us home through the night. He even went to work the next morning!! The church (which he helped build) was full; the pastor’s voice cracked, and there were lots of tears shed. To know him was to love him, and everybody in Dafter knew him! Milt was also a man of quiet faith, and I want to share just one more story. He was diagnosed with terminal cancer and told he wouldn’t live six months about 17 years ago. God miraculously  healed him! I know most people die when they have a terminal illness, but I also want you to know that sometimes God chooses to extend someone’s life miraculously, and God chose to do that for Uncle Milt. If anybody deserved some extra innings, I’d say he was one of them!  When Aunt Faye passed from this life to heaven, her kids sang “Blessed Assurance,” but this time Milt’s four sons and their beautiful brides sang “Faith of Our Fathers,” and one of his grand daughters signed “I Can Only Imagine.” Uncle Milt wasn’t my father…or Alan’s father. In fact, he’s not really even our uncle, but he was like an uncle to us and a most inspiring father figure. I hope everyone who knows  him or reads this also embraces faith in Jesus Christ, who died for our sins, and in whom we can have life eternal just by asking God to forgive us for our sins and save us through the blood of Christ! Uncle Milt and Aunt Faye are now in heaven together. I hope we all join them someday!!

Jesus said unto her, 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)

Faith of Our Fathers
(—Frederick W. Faber, 1849, public domain)

  1. Faith of our fathers, living still,
    In spite of dungeon, fire, and sword;
    Oh, how our hearts beat high with joy
    Whene’er we hear that glorious Word!

    • Refrain:
      Faith of our fathers, holy faith!
      We will be true to thee till death.
  2. Our fathers, chained in prisons dark,
    Were still in heart and conscience free;
    How sweet would be their children’s fate,
    If they, like them, could die for thee!
  3. Faith of our fathers, we will strive
    To win all nations unto thee;
    And through the truth that comes from God,
    We all shall then be truly free.
  4. Faith of our fathers, we will love
    Both friend and foe in all our strife;
    And preach thee, too, as love knows how
    By kindly words and virtuous life.

ArtFeast 6: Pleasure with a Purpose

         If  you live in Grand Rapids and enjoy art, I’d like to invite you to ArtFeast 6 this coming Thursday, May, 10th.It’s a fundraiser for Exalta Health, which is a ministry that provides health services for the uninsured in this area. Our son Daniel works as a dentist there, and it’s always a challenge to make ends meet, since they charge the patients 20% of the cost and try to absorb 80%…which can’t be done without help from donors!        ArtFeast is one of the ways they try to raise money and awareness. Local businessmen and other benefactors offer special events, products, and services for auction, and local artists gift them with craft and art projects.Everything will be auctioned off  Thursday night, some through a silent auction                    and others through a very lively time with an auctioneer.    The food is bountiful and beautiful—tables loaded with catered appetizers—and so far they’ve always been really gourmet.        Some of the artists who are particularly adept set up little studio areas             and work while the guests browse. The venue is always colorful, and there’s lively music. In all, it’s a really fun evening of mixing, meeting, and possibly shopping…all the while aware that you’re helping to care for the poor in the process!I’ve contributed four (framed, although they aren’t framed here) photos  of birds I see out my window during the four seasons of the year. So, come May 10 night if you can, and if you have a creative gift, let me know. Perhaps next year you could both attend and donate something!There are some prize-winning artists who donate too…paintings, pottery, flower arrangements, etc! Something for every taste!  🙂

Tickets are $75 at the door (which is mega bucks, but the last big fundraiser Alan and I attended charged $250 per ticket, so by comparison, this is moderate…and for a wonderful cause).    If you have a heart of compassion to help those less fortunate than you are, and if you enjoy art and good food, please join us next Thursday night at Aaltech Automotive Service, 3663 Broadmoor Ave. SE, Kentwood, MI 49546 between 5:30-8:30 pm.                                                      I’d love to see you there!He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered: the Lord is gracious and full of compassion” (Psalm 111:4).  For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land” (Deuteronomy 15:11).

P.S.—If you contribute one item, you can also sell anything else you want (for a 20% contribution to Exalta). It’s a good way to connect with people and get the word out about your own business too (if you have one; I don’t!).

P.S.S.—If you really want to come but can’t afford $75, please contact me; there are a few “scholarships” available!