Category Archives: Family News

The Signature of God

Our kitchen was a mess! After thirty years of wear and tear, the blue Formica counter tops were riddled with worn-through white polka dots, the drawers didn’t open properly, nor did the cupboards close properly. Our second-hard refrigerator needed to retire; I was resorting to lighting the stove with a propane lighter . . . you get the picture!  Thankfully, this happened just about the time the last of our seven kids grew up, allowing our submerged bank account to pop back to the surface and start swimming.  So, before we retire, we’ve decided to repair and update our home,  hoping we can live here for as long as possible before the winter of our lives sets in.        It took a lot longer than we ever imagined, but it’s now all finished!  Besides more cupboard space, my chief pleasure is working in a kitchen with colorful granite countertops.      The countertops are full of swirling colors, predominately blacks and whites                                      but also with sparkles of gold and copper                              plus tiny accents in yellows, pinks, and purples. They remind me of a lush, wild masterpiece by my favorite composer,
Tchaikovsky.                                   The counters are full of movement and surprises,                                           and they’re bursting with joy!                     Every time I look at the counters, I think about God.                                                      This is one of His designs!    What an amazing Creator, who has filled our world with unique treasures buried even deep in the earth!              Nowhere is there a predictably uniform pattern or straight line.                                                                  Except!                                          Ah, don’t you love exceptions?  In one small corner, there are two parallel purple lines that are totally unlike anything anywhere else. At first I thought they were possibly a stain or something that was drawn on afterward, but they are not. They are built out of the same purple grains that are interspersed throughout the slabs. Not long after our kitchen update was complete, our daughter-in-law Gerlinde’s parents visited with us. Christoph and Sarah live in Germany, although they spent many years on the mission field in Tanzania. Christoph—before becoming a missionary—studied art history, so he has a deep love both for God and for art! Christoph admired the countertops but also immediately spotted the one unusual regularity in the lower right-hand corner of our island slab.     “Ah!” he responded cheerfully, “This is where God has signed his painting!”But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:Not of works, lest any man should boast.10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:4-10).

Let’s Start at the Very Beginning

Happy New Year! I hope this is a year of many wonderful new beginnings for each of us. Have you made a few thoughtful goals or resolutions? I have, and I sincerely hope to be able to accomplish them. One easy one to share (but hard to do) is my goal of finishing the new addition to our home, then furnishing and decorating it . . .  and then getting rid of all the unnecessary leftover junk that’s been cluttering our basement since the kids grew up!

In that vein, I was sorting through some boxes of my father’s writings and notes.  I always thought he was a pretty staunch atheist until he was 86, when he had a change of heart and mind and entrusted his life to Christ as his Savior. Part of the constellation of beliefs he espoused up until about the year 2,000 A.D. was faith in evolution and the Big Bang Theory, so I was amazed to find this card in his file box:

I’m not exactly sure when he wrote that that note, but it was close to this one:I had heard the story that my father was a believer as a child but lost his faith in college . . . back in the 1930’s. For nearly seventy years, there was precious little evidence of faith in my father that any of us observed. And yet, tucked away in his file box of writing ideas were these little sparkles of faith! First, an acknowledgement that he wasn’t present at the beginning of time and space. “In the beginning”  . . . he wasn’t, but the Bible says that God was. To me, this is a humble recognition that it would be foolish for him to try to deny God’s existence. Second, a prayer asking God to help him accomplish His will, dated January 2, 1974. It has a stain from tape, and so I think it must have been a New Year’s resolution of sorts, placed??? somewhere in or on his office desk??? . . . written almost 30 years before he embraced the Gospel publicly.

This may not seem thrilling to you, but it is to me, because it tells me that the seeds of faith, planted in my father’s heart during early childhood, had lain dormant for many years but had never completely died. Have you been praying for a loved one for years and years without seeing visible fruit from those prayers? Please don’t stop!! I prayed every day for my dad for almost 40 years before he told me one day that he wanted Jesus too.

Or, perhaps somewhere in your own distant past, you believed in Jesus as your Lord and Savior but have since drifted away, thinking the world is such a mess that there must not be a God . . . or feeling that you, yourself, are so hopelessly messed up that if there is a God, He doesn’t care about you. Please turn back to God and ask Him to heal you. God does exist; He is not dead; He does care about you! However, it is possible that “your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). If so, I beg you to give up wanting your own way more than you want God. Repent of your sins, and believe in Jesus! He can—and will—save you! “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9, ESV).

Will you join me in starting this New Year with renewed faith and hope? Let’s start at the very beginning by embracing the love and mercy of God. Will you pray with me?

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen (Matthew 6:9-13).

The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm 14:1).

Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:24).

Merry Christmas 2018

Merry Christmas to all my dear friends!  This has been a year of joy for me, not because everything has always been easy—or even because everything went the way I’d hoped—but because I knew God was in it, and God is good. He loves us, and everything He gives us, He gives us for our good, and so that we will bring glory to Him! Bearing this in mind, I’m going to share the happy highlights and leave the lowlights right where they belong— in my prayer closet!  First, Alan and I have had a truly wonderful year in most ways. Alan still hasn’t retired, although he’s thinking he might in a couple of years.  Meanwhile, he’s working like a trooper, which gives me ample time to enjoy  family and friends as well as pursuing writing and photography.         We took a few big trips together: A full transit of the Panama Canal last winter, & a relaxing, fascinating trip to Iceland, Norway, and the North Sea last summer.   We also spent a week in Southern California with our oldest son and his family.                   Aaron and Carleen have four sons, who are really growing!                                         Aaron still works at LinkedIn,  and Carlie is busy helping with Classical Conversations, which is the homeschooling support system they use in conjunction with teaching their kids.     Gerlinde is also involved with home schooling and Classical Conversations. She and Jon (our son) moved to Chicago this year, where Jon continues teaching for Moody but is also busy developing and directing an innovative virtual reality system for higher Christian education called the Center for Global Theological Education.  Jon flies all over the country (and world) helping provide training for people in leadership positions within the Church global, but now that they live closer, we have the happy privilege of spending more time with Gerlinde and the girls while he’s away—something we couldn’t do when they lived on the West Coast! In July, I had the great joy of traveling to Italy to help out when Michael and Grace had their fifth child:                                                  A precious baby boy! Since then, they’ve moved to Belgium, where Michael serves as a major in the army and is the Dental Clinic Commander at his base. They home schooled until this fall, but now their two oldest have enrolled in public school and are busily trying to learn French so they can understand their lessons!  We have one daughter, whose husband directs the videography department of a mega church in the Detroit area. They have three children and are doing great, although she prefers privacy in public spaces, so I don’t share much about her (although I’d love to!). We are blessed with one married son who lives in Grand Rapids with his wife and two little ones.         Jon and Gerlinde bring their kids to visit often, which we love,  but it’s really a unique privilege to have one family living close enough to interact on a more constant and casual basis. Dan directs the dental clinic at Exalta Health, an outreach to the uninsured and underserved population,                        and Brianna is very busy with Sammy and Ellie,                                        who keep us totally charmed.                I’m just wondering what they’ll be like when they grow up!  Stephen is continuing work on his PhD in musicology from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. He is in a whirl of teaching and presenting at conferences, and I don’t get to see him as often as I’d like, but I’m thankful he’s healthy and productive.      Joel is working as an editor at Kregel Publications here in Grand Rapids.Alan and I feel extremely blessed that he has rejoined the “home team” during this season of his life (although we are praying for a wonderful wife for him). 🙂             Meanwhile, we’ve even enjoyed some travel adventures together! We now have 12 children (including in-law kids) and 17 grandchildren, and we  love each one of them with all our hearts!                           We’ve been privileged to keep up with our sibs,               enjoy close fellowship with our church and extended families,                      and have an amazing circle of friends in Grand Rapids,  which is the only community I’ve ever lived in where there are so many kindred spirits I can’t keep up with all of them!  Best of all, we have a God who is our Father, a Savior who is His Son, Jesus, and a Comforter and Guide, who is the blessed Holy Spirit.  Through faith in Christ, we have inherited eternal life, enjoy the fruits of His Spirit,and have become joint heirs with Jesus. Who could wish for more??  My prayer is that you are enjoying the blessings of being God’s child too.                 There is nothing in heaven or on earth any better than that!  “[Jesus] was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:9-13).

Lessons Learned from A Little Fishermen

While visiting with Aaron’s family in southern California, we took a picnic lunch to Rancho Palos Verdes and hiked the one-mile Abalone Cove Shoreline Park. The trail skitters easily down the  180-foot grassy bluffs, where we could explore the magnificent Pacific Ocean shoreline before climbing back up to Portuguese Point (in the distance) for more breath-taking vistas. From the top of Portuguese Point, Sacred Cove extends into the distance to Inspiration Point, with trails beckoning us to journey on, although I think they may be beyond the reaches of the 80-acre (public) ecological reserve    (and were definitely beyond the water and energy supplies of our little troop).    It was a perfect day, and we marveled at the fascinating geological formations.                              In fact, I could hardly take my eyes off of them!  Everywhere I looked, there was something eye catching (like coast sunflowers),     and I felt like a young child flitting from curiosity (prickly pear cacti) to beautiful curiosity! (This is a pepper tree, which we  don’t have in Michigan.)Reid, on the other hand, was a man on a mission! He hiked with his pole in hand, watching the horizon for the perfect fishing spot, and when he found what he thought was the ideal location, he set up shop.  While the rest of us examined the beach and tide pools, Reid kept his eye on the water.  Despite the absence of even one visible fish, he faithfully continued to cast out his line. Reid is a totally dedicated fisherman.      After we had to move on, he still carried his fishing pole happily by his side.  It made me smile, but it also inspired me! God calls us to follow him and be fishers of men. Like Reid, that means we have to keep our “pole” with us at all times (and to me that means the Bible or some type of tract with the gospel in it). We’ll never catch a fish if we aren’t prepared. Reid concentrated on casting out his line and wasn’t distracted by all the beautiful curiosities around him. How often I get taken up with scenic wonders and think more about drinking in the beauty than giving out the beautiful water of life!  I need to get my priorities straightened out, so that no matter where I am or what I’m doing, I am more aware and eager to share my perfect savior than my perfect view!  And, talk about perseverance! With not one fish in sight the entire time, Reid happily kept casting that line out. Wow!  He never seemed to give up hope, and he didn’t seem the least bit discouraged when it was time to leave. He’d done what he wanted to do.               I get discouraged and tired of trying sometimes. Do you? Furthermore, Reid didn’t seem to notice what anybody else was doing until his parents told him it was time to go, and I don’t think he even crossed his mind to wonder what the rest of us might be thinking about him.  He was a fisherman, and fisherman fish. Period! I’d like to be that kind of a fisher of men!  🙂                                                “And Jesus said to them,
‘Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men’
” (Mark 1:17).

Let It Be

As I write this morning, a tree service is removing six gorgeous, healthy maple trees from the front of our home. The whirring and whining of saws and chippers is grating.  The towering trees were here long before my family arrived twenty-five years ago, and to my way of thinking, they provide shade, privacy, and beauty. However, my husband sees them as a maintenance challenge and potential threat to the safety of the new addition he’s having built on our home,             so he overruled my protests and condemned the trees to death.  😦 It’s autumn, and leaves are falling, but I also noticed flecks of white drifting down on the balcony. I thought they were sympathetic snowflakes, but worse: they are tiny specks of the trees’ flesh and bones, silent reminders of the slaughter.  Sigh. I couldn’t help but notice a quiet prodding to practice the first lesson I learned from studying the commands of Jesus: “Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.” John obeyed Jesus, and I must “suffer” the mystery of losing these beloved trees. This is a very small loss compared to what many people are enduring today . . . and to what I’m sure I will endure as I continue to live in a world where death is the inevitable end of life on this planet. Nevertheless, I am feeling sad and struggling to “suffer it to be so now” with grace and patience.

The consolation to me is in knowing that “for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.” That is the good news! In bearing up patiently under what we cannot change, we are participating in the fulfillment of righteousness. I always use the King James Version (KJV) first, but I also read other translations in trying to understand passages of scripture, and I noticed that both the ESV (English Standard Version) and NIV (New International Version) translate Matthew 3:15 as “Let it be so now.” I was never a Beatles fan, but somewhere in the back of my brain I can hear the words “let it be” echoing solemnly beneath the grinding sound of trees becoming “Timber.” If Mother Mary shared those words of wisdom with the Beatles, she heard them first from Jesus!

“God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

“Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.”

Amen. (—Reinhold Niebuhr)

 

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)

No More Sixteen Going on Seventeen: Meet Number Seventeen!

Last Thursday I left off my tale at the point where my over-due daughter-in-law and I had just spent a marvelous day at Scrovegni Chapel in Padua (Padova, Italy) but had no clear memory of how to retrace our steps to find our car, wherever it had been parked on some side street with a name we couldn’t recall.

Truly, I attempt to practice the advice to “pray without ceasing,”  but normally there are many lapses. Not so this late afternoon! “Which way, Lord? Ah, I remember that shop. Now what? Which way did you say? Down there? Oh, yes, that patch of grass looks familiar. Thank you. Oooo… I don’t remember anything here…” About then Grace would remember something, and together the three of us (Grace and I, led by the Holy Spirit) slowly made our way back to the car.  Thank you, Father! Grace was super tired but still not having contractions, so we drove through quite a thunderstorm the forty miles back to Vincenza, where we were greeted by our family and this rain-drenched rose. We stopped briefly on our way home to buy some herbal teas and other homeopathic medicines the midwife suggested to stimulate contractions, and I picked up a tiramisu to thank the home team for letting us be gone all day. The night passed quietly, but just as we were getting ready to leave for church Sunday morning, Grace’s water broke, and eventually (with the help of two midwives and a lot of hard labor), their new baby was born at home. So, welcome to the family, Baby Marius Rive! His first name is in honor of the character, Marius Pontmercy, who is saved by Jean Valjean in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables and later marries Valjean’s daughter. Grace had just finished reading the book and felt that Marius was going to carry on his father-in-law’s legacy of grace and forgiveness. “Rive” is an ancient french word that means “river bank,” and Michael and Grace put the two names together as a blessing and prayer that Marius Rive will be like a river bank to channel God’s grace and forgiveness to others. Isn’t that beautiful?

Channels Only
(Mary E. Maxwell, 1900, Public Domain;
This song is a great favorite of our family)

  1. How I praise Thee, precious Savior,
    That Thy love laid hold of me;
    Thou hast saved and cleansed and filled me
    That I might Thy channel be.

    • Refrain:
      Channels only, blessed Master,
      But with all Thy wondrous pow’r
      Flowing through us, Thou canst use us
      Every day and every hour.
  2. Just a channel full of blessing,
    To the thirsty hearts around,
    To tell out Thy full salvation,
    All Thy loving message sound.
  3. Emptied that Thou shouldest fill me,
    A clean vessel in Thy hand;
    With no pow’r but as Thou givest
    Graciously with each command.
  4. Witnessing Thy pow’r to save me,
    Setting free from self and sin;
    Thou who bought me to possess me,
    In Thy fullness, Lord, come in.
  5. Jesus, fill now with Thy Spirit
    Hearts that full surrender know,
    That the streams of living water
    From our inner man may flow.

When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.” (Isaiah 41:17-19)

In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
(John 7:37-38).