Category Archives: Friendship

Thoughts on Love for Valentine’s Day

“The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing.” Blaise Pascalroses-and-liliesReady for some beautiful thoughts on love? Or, like Joseph Fink, do you think: “Valentine’s Day is a disaster. Any day that is designed to perfectly encapsulate something as messy and personal as two people in a romantic relationship would have to be.” Well, whether the quotes I’ve found strike you as funny, true, or overly idealistic, I was touched by all of them, and I hope that—whether or not you’re in a romantic relationship with someone today—these thoughts will cheer your spirit. Because, in all of them I found a kernel of truth that also expresses the way I experience God’s love. His love for us is greater than any human love, and the power of His love is the greatest positive energy for transformation in the universe!

“I know of only one duty, and that is to love.” Albert Camus

“If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.” A.A. Milne

“No matter how much time and space may come between us, I still feel you.” Ken Poirot

“Love is an afternoon of fishing when I’d sooner be at the ballet.
Love is eating burnt toast and lumpy gravy with a big smile.
Love is hearing the words ‘You’re beautiful’ as I fail to squeeze into my fat jeans.
Love is refusing to bring up the past, even if doing so would be a slam dunk to prove your point.
Love is your hand wiping away my tears, trying to erase streaks of mascara.
Love is the warm hug that extinguishes an argument.
Love is a humbly-uttered apology, even if not at fault.
Love is easy to recognize but so hard to define; however, I think it boils down to this…
Love is caring so much about the feelings of someone else, you sacrifice whatever it takes to help him or her feel better.
In other words, love is my heart being sensitive to yours.” Richelle E. Goodrich

“Where there is great love, there are always wishes.” Willa Cather (and for some of us, wishes turned to prayers)

“They invented hugs to let people know you love them without saying anything.” Bill Keane

“We’re most alive when we’re in love.” John Updike

“Love will find a way through paths where wolves fear to prey.” Lord Byron

“When you love someone all your saved up wishes start coming out.” Elizabeth Bowan

“Love is the ultimate no-calorie sweetener.” Richelle E. Goodrich

“Doubt thou the stars are fire,
Doubt that the sun doth move.
Doubt truth to be a liar,
But never doubt I love.” William Shakespeare (…and God!)

“So fall asleep love, loved by me…for I know love, I am loved by thee.” Robert Browning

“For ye will know not love, if ye knoweth not your God.” Henrietta Newton Martin

“In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.”
1 John 4:9-11 pink-tipped-rose-africa-copy


High Teas and Birthday Parties: Killing Three Birds with One Party

high-tea               Well, hopefully we didn’t really kill any birds, bees, or bodies, quichebut we really did have fun last week with our annual high tea, and I wanted to share recipes for a couple of high tea staples: cucumber sandwiches and scones. lettuce-wraps      But first, the story, since if there’s anything I love, it’s to repeat a good tale! candle-in-a-tea-cupAfter meeting for several years to spoil each other on our birthdays, Cindi, Susan, and I started feeling a bit guilty for not including our spouses somehow,birthday-cake-flourless-chocolate-torte since they were always working hard to make it possible for us to be “at home” moms who could celebrate birthdays together (now that our kids are grown up).birthday-cakeSo, we started the tradition of a winter high tea (given that the way to a husband’s heart is half through his stomach). birthday-partyRex and Steve’s birthdays are exactly one week apart, so it’s pretty easy to celebrate both their birthdays by scheduling the tea on the weekend in between! korean-beef-kabobsWe each bring two savory and two sweet offerings, drink many cups of tea, savor the sweetness of a leisurely evening together, and go home feeling quite happy. sesame-seedWhen I was a young bride, one of my mentors said her theory on marital contentment was, “Keep him jolly from a little too much eating and groggy from a little too much lovin’.” sharing-a-high-tea-together     In forty-three years, I haven’t found a reason to dispute her wisdom!  🙂

Here’s my recipe for cucumber sandwiches, which I’ve eaten at every high tea from the great Northwest’s Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC, to the Southeast’s Garden View Tea Room at the Grand Floridian in Disney…to London’s Harrod and on many a Princess cruise sailing in the deep blue seas of the world. If you’re going to have an authentic high tea, you really need cucumber sandwiches, and they’re about the easiest thing in the world to make!

cucumber-finger-sandwichesCucumber Finger Sandwiches

1 cucumber sliced very (key word) thin, preferably in a processor. I learned this secret from someone married to an Englishman: Press the cucumber slices gently between paper towels to remove the excess juice.

8  oz. well softened creamed cheese. Stir together gently (not in a food processor).

truffle-saltFlavor with a pinch each of truffle salt (okay, sea salt or table salt works too), pepper, garlic and onion powder (powder, not salt; be careful not to oversalt), basil, dill weed, and chives. Chill.

To serve, slice the crusts off plain white bread and prepare them, but don’t fill the sandwiches until the very last minute, because they’ll get soggy in no time if they sit around. Make up your sandwiches and cut them in half  just when you’re ready to serve them.

gluten-free-blueberry-sconesGluten-free Blueberry Scones

Scones with clotted cream and jams are another classic staple of high teas. Susan needs gluten-free options, so I made these with gluten-free flour, but you can make them exactly the same way using regular flour:

gluten-free-bisquick2 cups Bisquick (gluten-free or regular)
1/2 c. (1 stick) softened butter
3 eggs
1 T. milk

Blend in a mixer only until all the ingredients are mixed. Don’t overblend, or it will make them tough. Add 1 pint blueberries, stirring them in very gently by hand with a spoon. The mix will hardly stick to the blueberries, but it needs to be coarse or the scones will be too wet when they bake. Form into 12 balls (flour your hands if you need to) on a cookie sheet. Bake in an oven pre-heated to 350° for 20 minutes. Turn up the heat to 400° for 5 minutes or until just starting to turn a golden brown.  Serve warm with whipped cream and jams. (The classic term is “clotted” cream, but I make mine “clotted” by whipping it until it’s almost stiff…but not yet butter, and I add 1 T. sugar per cup of cream, but I’m a sugar hawk. You don’t have to do that.)

plate-of-finger-foods-at-high-teaThere is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labor. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God.” (Ecclesiastes 2:24)salami-and-pepper-roll-ups

 

Beauty and the Beast and the Nutcracker—Two Wonderful Tales

grand-rapid-ballet-company-programThis holiday season, Alan, Joel, and I have attended the musical, Beauty and the Beast, at Civic Theater and the ballet, The Nutcracker, at DeVos Hall. Both will be playing again this coming weekend, and if you live in the area (or probably any area where they’re being performed), I can recommend them as really delightful. gr-ballerina-jumpingOne thing that strikes me about plays and ballet is that even though the words and music usually remain constant, a new creative interpretation for the sets and choreography, and a different set of actors playing the roles, makes each year’s experience fresh and unique. tale-as-old-as-time-from-beauty-and-the-beastDid you know that “Beauty and the Beast” type tales exist from 4,000 years ago? Truly, the story of love transforming us from beast to beauty is a “tale as old as time.” clara-and-the-nutcracker-gr-balletIn The Nutcracker, little Clara dances with her heroic prince only in visions of the night, but in Beauty and the Beast (as the story goes), being genuinely loved by someone is what breaks the curse of our ugly selfishness and transforms us into something beautiful…not just in our dreams, but in the reality of our lives. winter-setting-in-disneys-beauty-and-the-beastDo you have a love that brings the best out of you and makes you into a better person? Whether or not you have a human love with whom you share such an inspirational relationship, there is Someone who loves you with an everlasting love. Jesus Christ, whose birth is celebrated this Christmas season, came to earth as “Immanuel” (“God with us). He was born, lived, and died in our place for our sins. Faith in Christ as our Savior is what transforms our hearts from the icy cold of selfishness to the irresistible warmth of true love. beauty-and-the-beast-love-story-disneyCan you feel the love tonight? If not, I pray you’ll open yourself up to living out a creative, new version of Beauty and the Beast where you and Christ are the protagonists. ballerinas-en-pointe-gr-ballet-coEver want to participate in a musical or a ballet? Here’s you big chance…no auditions necessary! God the Father as already invited you, and He is the best when it comes to artistic direction and set design! Also, the Holy Spirit is the best ever choreographer. Let Christ transform your life into a story of beauty and grace.

nutcrackers-available-at-meijerThe Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying,
Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love:
therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee
” (Jeremiah 31:3)point-shoes-gr-balletAnd let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us:
and establish thou the work of our hands upon us;
yea, the work of our hands establish thou it
” (Psalm 90:17).

(As no photos are allowed during professional performances, I took photos of The Nutcracker from our program and found pictures of Beauty and the Beast on line. If anyone is offended, please let me know and I’ll remove them.)

Let it Snow??

winter-wonderland-in-michiganAlthough it’s grey this morning, we had a foot of snow descend like shimmering stardust over the weekend, turning Michigan’s landscape into a winter wonderland. The moon reflecting off the snowdrifts made the night seem almost bright last night. Were it not for so many of my loved ones needing to travel, I’d say, “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!” deep-snowsHowever, it’s not just Alan commuting to work and my son Stephen needing to drive home from New York for Christmas vacation that’s on my mind. It’s my close friends who are commuting over an hour to Lansing because their father is dying…and my friends who are driving back and forth from northern Michigan, where their parents have just been admitted to an assisted living facility…my friend who is trying to recover from a broken hip, and my friend whose mom is in the hospital with a stroke. snowy-woodsLife is so beautiful, but life is also extremely painful and difficult, isn’t it? Even those of us who aren’t dealing with physical pain ourselves are hurting for those we love, because some of them are really suffering this holiday season. Losses. Loss of spouses. Loss of children. This week’s emphasis on the Advent Calendar is joy, and our pastor reminded us that joy can coexist with pain and suffering, not through denial of the pain, but through the joy of hope and the experience of love. snowy-evergreensI hope during this holiday season you’re able to experience love, hope, peace…and yes—JOY!— with those who are dear to you—even in the midst of life’s heartaches. The very best present is your presence with those who are suffering. I pray for all of us to reach out and touch others with joy this Christmas. ‘Tis the season!  christmas-bells

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.”
(—Lyrics by Isaac Watts, 1719; Music by George Frideric Handel)

 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).

Banana Crepes…Extraordinaire!

banana-pancake-dessertFor 40 days I was on a strict diet, eating only fruits, veggies, meat, and dairy products. It worked great, and I lost some weight as a bonus, although it made celebrating my birthday a little more tricky. banana-pancake-dessert-2Cindi and Susan were more than up for the challenge, however, and came up with a birthday dessert that looked and tasted totally yummy! Just in case any of you are looking for a nutritious way to have a spectacular gluten-free, dairy-free, pie-in-the-sky yummy treat, this is what they did:banana-pancakeThey made a stack of 4 banana pancakes. These were made from mashing 1 banana and two eggs together. That’s it! Well, the more pancakes you want, the more batter you need, but the ratio stays the same: 1 banana+2 eggs (for 4 pancakes they used 3 bananas and 6 eggs). You can also add a dash of cinnamon and a dash of vanilla if you want, but that’s not crucial.banana-pancake-flipThe batter looks something like crepe batter once it’s nicely whipped. They poured it out onto a hot, well buttered skillet, and let it brown until it bubbled.banana-pancake-brownedThen, they flipped them over and browned each banana cake until golden. Cindi and Susan made “whipped topping” from whipping coconut cream until frothy. It’s mildly sweet (and because I was on a sugar-free diet, it really tasted sweet). Each banana crepe was frosted with whipped coconut cream and then ladled with some type of fruit: fresh raspberries, blueberries, peaches, slivered almonds (or use whatever you love best). After the concoction was so loaded with fruits and nuts we weren’t sure how we’d ever  divide it up, we did…and it stayed pretty intact. banana-pancake-dessert-3It’s filling, but it didn’t make us feel overfull or sick, the way some extravagant desserts do. In fact, we felt delightfully virtuous in our decadence because it was made from “guilt-free” ingredients and was really quite nutritious!   🙂  What great friends to go to such bother to make a birthday treat I could eat!

A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
(Proverbs 17:17)

Resurrection Friendships

Finally, from the inkwell of Jane’s heart…schuler-books-chapbook-cafe-by-jane-andersonIn 1997 I started a new job. To be honest, when the recruiter called and told me I was ‘in’ at Steelcase, I thought I should ask him to check his notes because I was sure he had the wrong person. As it turned out, there was no case of mistaken identity, the job was mine.

It seems like ancient history, doesn’t it? But can we talk about that for a minute? Relationships from back then became lasting friendships that still touch my heart. Just for a minute, think about the threads of your past and how they have woven the pattern of who you are today. Some exquisitely beautiful and others look like the warped mistakes that they were. The pattern of your life.

It’s been over 20 years since I accepted that job and immersed myself in work and friendships. Today, I went to Chapbook Cafe at a local bookstore, where I was meeting with a group of new friends. As I pulled into the parking lot my heart felt like it was melting. You see, my thoughts were on the last time I sat at a table in the cafe as my dearest friend told me her doctor had just diagnosed melanoma and it looked terminal. I remember thinking how wrong that doctor was. Cathy was healthy, she took care of herself, and besides, I needed her at work. Cathy didn’t know it, but she was an answer to my prayer.

I’m not sure what deep source has caused it, but I have always felt out of place. I could have worked on the road crew or throwing luggage at the airport or stocking shelves or in the offices where work seemed to find me. I never seemed to fit. In my daily quiet time, I would plead my case to God and ask him to take me – a round peg, and put me in a round hole. Instead, he put me, a round peg, into a square hole – and you can only imagine how it felt to have my edges sheared off in trying to fit into that shape. OK – so maybe it was my way of looking at it. But in my prayers, I asked God over and over for a good friend at work. A friend about my age, a girl, not a guy, who shared my values, and, “Please, God, let her have a sense of humor because I need a friend to tell me when I’m being stupid and laugh about it with me.”

Cathy was that friend for me. We would make a rule that we would only go out to lunch once a week, then break all the rules and go three times or four times on really stressful weeks. Cathy was amazingly intelligent. If I had to pay for what I learned from her, I would still be paying off what I owed her. She was also wise, and that goes beyond smart. I know we become like who we hang out with. I hope that’s true because I admired the person Cathy was.

Cathy’s favorite place for lunch was Chapbook Cafe where she could indulge in a double mocha. After her passing, I couldn’t bring myself to go to Schuler’s Bookstore or the cafe, until today. When I ordered my latte it was with fond memories of my friend and the short two years I held her friendship close to my heart.

We don’t know how much time we have with people we love. If we lived 120 years, it wouldn’t be enough. Cathy and I shared the same values and the same interests, but the one thing we shared that is more important than any other thing between us, was faith in Jesus Christ. Psalm 40:16 says,”May all who search for you be filled with joy and gladness in you. May those who love your salvation repeatedly shout, ‘The Lord is great!'”

Today I am thankful for friendships that never fail. Most of all I am thankful for salvation that lasts forever and that I will see my friend again in heaven because she had faith in Jesus Christ and her home is eternal.

(Guest author: Jane Anderson. Thank you for crossing this sad barrier to join us; we’re blessed to have you! I’ve not been able to bring myself to go to a Biggby Coffee cafe since losing my partner in lattes to breast cancer a few years ago, so I empathize! More of Jane’s writing can be found at: http://bizcatalyst360.com/ or http://talkkindnesstome.com )

Rise Up, My Love (210): Tending our Shepherds

sheep-in-cotswold-englandSong of Solomon 6:11 “I went down into the garden of nuts to see the fruits of the valley, and to see whether the vine flourished, and the pomegranates budded.” So, the bride concerned herself with the possibilities for new fruit from the valley below, with the condition of the vine already established in the garden, and finally, with the budding pomegranates. What might the pomegranates represent? The pomegranates were considered the choicest fruit. Many scholars deride meditations which “spiritualize” everything, and certainly the meditations of one heart can only bring to light certain facets of the truth…not the whole…but perhaps just a tiny ray, the way shining a light on a diamond may shoot out a sparkle of blue or green to the watchful eye.

Earlier in this study, I mentioned reading one commentator who suggested that pomegranates might represent minds full of beautifully ordered thoughts about Christ and His Word. I don’t know if that’s right, but it certainly is one fitting possibility for this passage. What else might might be a fitting interpretation? The bride, eager to please her King, goes into the garden to see what the possibilities are for new fruit even beyond that which has already been brought into the garden and cultivated (unbelievers), but she is also careful to consider the fruit within the garden walls (believers), and even concerns herself with the choicest plants within the garden. What are those choicest fruits?  shepherd-in-tunisiaTo me, they are the special servants of God. I wonder, are we concerned for the needs of those who are God’s special, full time laborers? Those who spend their lives being concerned for our needs…toiling in our Lord’s vineyard day in and day out? Are we remembering to pray for them? Are we going out of our way to check on them and see what they need? Are we encouraging them, both through our speech (calls, letters, e-mails…) and our actions? Are we letting them know how much we appreciate all that they do? Are we blessing them with financial gifts as well? I remember attending a special prayer service once with a woman who confided that during the six years her husband was in the pastorate, their family had needed to be on welfare for three of those years because they literally were not paid enough to feed, clothe, and house their young family. Don’t think your pastor is overpaid! Check into it; maybe you can be the catalyst to see that your minister’s salary is at least equal to the average income of those in his flock.
ram-close-to-fenceFrankly, it’s my impression that only the wolves in sheep’s clothing are well paid, while the faithful workmen are thinking more of the needs of their flock and living on less than I’d think reasonable. What about the day to day hospitality and friendship which are like oil poured out to anoint the soul? When was the last time you invited your minister’s family over for dinner? When was the last time you hosted the missionaries who spoke at your church? When was the last time you made a point of thanking your pastor for his message, or at least some helpful insight that he shared?  discontented-black-sheepIf you find yourself disillusioned with your minister (or his wife), perhaps your relationship has deteriorated the way marriages often do as we enter into the “grind” years of learning how to love despite failure. At a time when my husband and I were quite discouraged with our marriage, we were challenged to try to find just one positive thing about our mate and praise that one good quality…as a daily exercise, each day thinking of something different to appreciate. At first I was so bitter that it was hard to think of anything positive, but gradually, as I began to pray about it, I began to look more on the bright side, and eventually my attitudes began to change. I realized how crabby and ungrateful I’d become, and how critical and unloving I was. We both began trying to love and encourage one another through praising that which was good, and eventually our sincere praise reinvigorated our relationship like water on a thirsty plant. Earnest prayer and sincere praise can transform a relationship! If you’re feeling critical and disgruntled with your pastor (or his family), please try this method of increasing your love for him, and your prayer and praise will be a healing balm to his soul.  petting-zoo-at-john-ball-parkSo, the beloved bride was concerned for every aspect of her beloved’s work, and so should we be. If we truly love our Lord, we will have hearts to care even for the pomegranates in our heavenly husband’s orchard! Dear Lord, as we see how carefully Solomon’s bride attended to every aspect of her husband’s work, please inspire and enable us to be equally attentive to every aspect of your ministry here on earth. Amen.sheep-in-meadow-cotwolds-england