Category Archives: Friendship

Monte Carlo Night: Great Fun for the Holidays…but…No Gambling or Drinking!

Anybody who thinks Sunday school is just for kids has never been to our Sunday school class! In a mega church like Calvary (with about 6000± attendees), it would be easy to get lost in the crowd, so you need to connect with a smaller group of people for friendship and fellowship. Midweek prayer meetings, care groups, life groups, youth groups, music groups…short circles…there are so many ways to engage with other people, but one of our favorites has always been via a Sunday school class. Our class, Heirs Together, has about 120 members and a wide age span, although I think we’re pretty close to the median age with a profile like most of the members, including a similar world view and deep faith although somewhat irregular attendance due to travel, family and health needs. The class has been hanging together for many years, and although the majority have probably been married for 35-50+ years, there is a growing population of singles. (Yes, we’re getting older!)  We have a monthly “event,” and last weekend it was a “Monte Carlo” game night which was super fun and perfect for getting to know people. Therefore, I want to pass it along to you in case you think it also sounds like fun. I’m hoping to try it out over Christmas break when we have many of our kids home, but it could also be used in any group of 8 or more.  I think our Monte Carlo Night was the brainchild of Ed Avink, who’s one of our class leaders and an architect. The only tricky part is that you need groups of 4 people to make it work, and probably at least 8 to make it work well. Here’s how to play: Either number people off into teams of 4 or let them gravitate naturally to a seat at any of the card tables you have set up. We had 17 tables of 4 people, but that’s way more than you need, and actually none of us got to play a hand with everybody.  To prepare, set up a room (or rooms) with one card table, four chairs, 4 score cards, a couple of pens, and a deck of cards on each table. Once people are settled:1. Have somebody at each table shuffle the cards.
2. Everybody takes a cut. The person with the highest card deals. Aces are high. If two people get the same card, then it goes by suit: Spades (highest), hearts, diamonds, and clubs (lowest) 3. Deal out all the cards by going from left to right around the circle. (Should end up with 13 cards per person.) It looks to me like it’s polite to wait until all the cards have been dealt before looking at your hand. 4. Play your hand according to the instructions on the game card. (Obviously, you could make up your own rules and number of hands. Fourteen hands took us close to three hours.) The person to the left of the dealer starts first, but after that, whoever has the highest card wins that “trick” and starts the next round.
5. After all the cards have been played, count your tricks (by team, with your partner being across the table from you) and record your score on your score sheet.  6. The tables are all numbered: 1-??? The two winners move on to the next highest-numbered table and play kitty-corner, so they have new partners for the next hand. The losers stay at the same table they were at but also change positions so that they are sitting kitty-corner and will each have a new partner
7. Play through all the hands.
8. Count up your final points.
9. The winner wins! At our Monte Carlo night, Dean won with some 2,100+ points. The next two tied at 1,900+. Alan and I were in the 1700 range, but some people ended up with 700+, so there’s a huge variation. I’m not sure if anybody needs to know who loses, but there was much admiration for our winner, so that was fun.  Nobody passed out a candy bar or anything as a prize, but everybody brought an appetizer, or a bottle of pop or juice to share, which worked out great, because sometimes you had to wait for the next table to finish before you could play again. Alan and I had several good opportunities for conversations with members of the class that we’d met but didn’t know very well, including one couple that we discovered were married just one month before us (both couples married nearly 46 years now) and had attended the same university, the same year, even living in the same married student housing, although we never met! Best of all, the next morning we learned that one of our newest members, who was widowed last January, shared that the night of our Monte Carlo game night was the night he would have celebrated his 51st anniversary, and he’d been dreading that day for weeks. He said going to the game night and enjoying everybody’s company had turned a terrible night into a blessing for him.  So, if you’re looking for a fun way to celebrate and reach out this holiday season, you might enjoy throwing a Monte Carlo Night! If you do, please let me know how it goes! Or, if you’re lonely and aren’t plugged into a good group for fellowship, let me know, and I’ll invite you to our Carol Sing coming up in December. You are also cordially invited to try out our Sunday school class. Not only is it warm and friendly, the teaching is excellent, and we pray for every request that’s given each week! Let me know, and I’ll tell you when and where . . . and introduce you to everybody! And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42).

Wedding Joys: The Soloist Who’s No Longer Solo!

Susan and Cindi have been two of my closest friends and prayer partners for the past 20 years, and through the years, we’ve watched with joy as our kids have grown up. Sarah (pictured above) was also in our Wednesday night Bible study group from the time she was a child and participated faithfully in our “Second Sunday” music ministry.
One by one many of our kids (now in their 20’s and 30’s) have married and started families of their own, but for some totally mysterious reason, Sarah never found her special someone, even though she was bright, lovely, and extremely gifted. I have a dear friend who was a bridesmaid multiple times before she became a bride (at age 42), so Susan, Cindi, and I continued to pray and hope for the right spouse! However, until recently, Sarah had been the pianist and soloist at ??? nearly a hundred weddings . . . but still living solo. 😦All that changed recently, and I was the happy videographer for the event! Because my two youngest are also still single, as well as many young adults who read this blog, I asked Sarah and Kyle if I could share a little bit of their journey for the encouragement of those of us who are still hoping, looking, waiting, and praying (for ourselves or our loved ones).

Here is what Sarah shared:   “Before Kyle and I met…

I had prayed and hoped for years that I would find a godly man to marry, but it wasn’t happening. I tried online dating many times and went on a few dates, but it always ended as a closed door, including some dangerous situations. It became somewhat of an addiction. I battled major insecurity, especially being in my 30’s and not yet pursued. Every time I was feeling that insecurity or loneliness, I would pop on a dating site, even if it was just to talk with a man. But it was only leaving me empty. There was a man from Chicago I dated for a couple months but I did not have peace. I said good bye to him on my 32nd birthday and it was the best thing I could’ve done even though I truly thought I would be single the rest of my life. There was a strange feeling of contentment and acceptance though. Surrender. If God wasn’t opening the door for me with all these men online, then I didn’t want to make it happen on my own and wind up in an awful situation. In all this I was in a BSF [Bible Study Fellowship] group that really was healing and challenging and drawing me closer to Jesus. BSF was not at Impact though [Sarah’s church], and after a year’s study, I went back to a life group with Impact so that I didn’t get disconnected there. That’s where Kyle came two months later.”

Meanwhile, this is what was happening in Kyle’s life: “Before Sarah and I met…

I was in a previous relationship with another woman. We were engaged to be married, but that soon would end due to the toxic/unhealthy relationship it was turning out to be. It was evident that God was not FIRST in my life let alone in my relationship with this woman. I believe He was attempting to grab my attention and save me from the hurt and pain I was spiraling toward. Through God’s grace, reckless love, and fierce pursuit for my life and soul, through my parents and other loved ones – I finally obtained the courage to do what I knew would be extremely hard and painful, yet the BEST thing I could. I had to part ways with her and choose God. So I did. 

I parted ways with her, and re-surrendered my life and future to God, placing Him first in my life, and seeking out His BEST for my life, regardless of what that looked like. I knew that no matter what, it would be much better than the struggles and hurt I was experiencing in that present moment. Following the break up, I had parted ways and even left Impact Church where I had been attending for a solid 3 years just to avoid seeing her. I continued going to church elsewhere but soon realized that my home was there at Impact, and something was missing in my life. I knew that is where I had formed roots, connections, friendships, and could access community at its core. I had to come back, WANTED to come back. So I did. 

I went back to Impact and Lifegroups, hungry for God and what He had in store for me there. Even though I was considered a familiar face to most of the Lifegroup members I was a new face to some. This included Sarah Main. We ended up going around the room introducing ourselves one particular day of Lifegroup to allow for everyone to become acquainted. We were told to state our name and what we did for an occupation. When it was my turn, I stated my name, “Kyle Stoltzfus…” followed by, “I am an automotive technician at M-43 Auto.” Sarah (a bit sarcastic, yet sincerely wondering…) then asked, “Can you fix a coolant leak?” I replied, “Yes, I can.”

I looked at her vehicle briefly after our Lifegroup meeting that day and suggested that she get it taken care of soon as there were other issues to address in addition to the coolant leak. She called my shop, made an appointment and notified me. I knew right away that the scheduled time was too far out given her issues, so I offered my personal assistance. We made a time sooner than the shop appointment and that evening, what could have, and probably should have, taken me only 30 minutes ended up turning into a 2 and a half hour time. We just talked, and talked, and talked, walking away both thinking, I have an interest to know more, and I like talking with the other. So conversation continued, which led to dating, which led to engagement, which led to our marriage, and where we are now…and ALL BY GOD’S GRACE AND WONDROUS LOVE FOR US.” Isn’t that a beautiful love story? At the reception, Kyle’s best friend shared that when he asked Kyle what he loved best about Sarah, Kyle said,” Sarah is the most godly young woman I know, and she always challenges me by her example to be more like Christ.” One of the unusual “hurdles” to overcome was the fact that Sarah is eight years older than Kyle. In this process, she learned that one of her great-grandmothers was eight years older than her grandfather (which had never occurred to her before)! So . . . she had to wait a while for Kyle to grow up! 🙂However, I don’t think you could ever tell there’s an age difference if you didn’t know, and look how beautifully “matched” they are…right down to the reddish glow of their hair! (Those are natural curls and natural color in Sarah’s hair.) Sarah has had a little time to think about her wedding, and she wanted to share:“A couple additional thoughts…

*Both of us came to a place of surrender before we met.
*Neither of us came to life group to ‘Find someone.’

“I have found that just because now that I have a man and am now married, the insecurity doesn’t just go away. That truly only is healed in Jesus, the only Shepherd and Father of my heart. My ultimate husband who was the one taking care of me those years of waiting. No person can fulfill the deepest heart needs. Only Christ. His way is best even when it doesn’t seem like it!”

Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.
(Psalm 27:14)

(All photos from Kyle and Sarah’s wedding, naturally, although the confetti, truck, and kiss-in-the-field shots are not mine, just used by permission.)

 

Learning to Focus at Church

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

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

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

Birthday Pains…and Pleasures!

June is always bustin’ out all over with birthdays. Earlier this month, my daughter-in-law had to miss out completely on our birthday party for her because both her kids were so sick, but today I want to relate an especially happy tale about one of our Birthday Club adventures that succeeded.Susan, Cindi, and I had a perfectly wonderful day celebrating Susan’s birthday, so I want to encourage young parents with the thought that by the time your kids are grown, your birthdays might become remarkably fun…

   and possibly even relaxing! We started with an initial fortification of fruit, coffee, tea, and some amazing donuts from the new Donut Conspiracy shop on E. Beltline that (is overpriced but) has really delicious and decadent donuts with clever names like “Rehab.”We continued our rehab with a fantastically soothing hike on the Ledges Trail, a remote area of the Grand River in Fitzgerald Park (near Grand Ledge, MI). Ledges Trail meanders along the Grand River for about 3/4 mile  down to Island Park (built on “Second Island”).  Island Park is sunny, breezy, non-buggy and handicap accessible. The trail is a little rougher, we’re all still good hikers, so we thoroughly enjoyed  our walk along the beautifully patterned “grand ledges” of sedimentary rock. It’s so lush and green it reminded us of Ireland, and we did use insect repellent, but none of us gotten bitten by mosquitoes. (Note: there was a lot of poison ivy beside the path, so if you hike it,
be careful
and consider wearing shoes and socks…or really watch your step!) The ledges are covered with powdery light green lichens
that make them look almost like they’ve been white-washed! They’re also adorned with delicate mosses, ferns, and liverworts,  some of which aren’t found anywhere else in Michigan’s lower peninsula. In fact, I felt very much like I was hiking along one
of the Upper Peninsula’s verdant wilderness trails! In 1888 a railroad trestle was built across the Grand River near the south boundary of Fitzgerald Park. Something echoed deep in our hearts as we heard the wail of a whistle
and watched a long train rumble past… …a tug that made us feel tied to 130 years of history and a time when
fugitive slaves were harbored in the caves en-route to Canada and freedom. Susan has a penchant for spiritual nurturing and motifs, so Cindi suggested a river theme for our outing. Perfect! Besides sharing all about our lives, we sang songs together. We also considered the significance of various verses and stories about rivers that flow through the scriptureand reflected on God’s goodness to us during this season of our lives.There is so much to be thankful for at every stage of life, and if you’re in the midst of child-rearing, I hope you’re able to enjoy the bustle. But, if you’re older (like we are), I hope you enjoy the peace and quiet too.It Is Well
(—Horatio Gates Spafford, 1873)

1 When peace like a river attendeth my way,
when sorrows like sea billows roll;
whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
“It is well, it is well with my soul.”

Refrain (may be sung after final stanza only):
It is well with my soul;
it is well, it is well with my soul.

2 Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
let this blest assurance control:
that Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
and has shed his own blood for my soul. Refrain

3 My sin oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
my sin, not in part, but the whole,
is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more;
praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul! Refrain

4 O Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
the clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
the trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend;
even so, it is well with my soul. Refrain

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” Psalm 1:1-3

(P.S.—Lest I make this sound too idyllic, I have to say that Susan is in the throes of helping plan a daughter’s wedding, so it’s not like she’s sitting poolside painting her toenails. I don’t think life is ever without challenges, but I do think there are times when life isn’t quite so demanding!)

Don’t Throw Treasures in the Trash!

I read recently about a masked thief in Denmark who broke into Copenhagen’s Cafe 33 and made off with a vodka bottle from a locked area, drank the vodka, and threw the empty bottle away. Because it was part of a 1,200 bottle collection and on loan from a Latvian car manufacturer, the store owner notified the police, who went in search of the empty bottle. Thankfully, the police found it and were able to retrieve the borrowed bottle from a  construction site in the area. Although the bottle was dented, the owner of Cafe 33, Brian Ingberg, was overjoyed to get it back, not only because it wasn’t his, but also because it was worth $1.3 million! The bottle had been fashioned from six pounds of silver and six pounds of gold crowned with a diamond-encrusted cap in the shape of a vintage car. Can you believe it? How did the thief fail to appreciate it’s beauty and value??

It made me stop and think about what I might be taking for granted or not appreciating properly, and the first thing that came to my mind is my husband. Hopefully, I’ll never drink him dry and throw him away, but he is a real prize, and I don’t always recognize his true value, which is far greater than silver and gold!

How about you? Got any family or friends who deserve more appreciation than you give them? What about our kids? Got any rebels who are driving you crazy?  When I am frustrated, I meditate on Luke 21:19, “In your patience possess ye your souls.” And, how about this one? “I. . .beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3).

Let’s treasure our treasures. May we never run them dry, throw them under a bus, or discard them as useless. God created each of us as a unique treasure. He “owns” us in a sense, and we are just on loan to one another. Let’s make sure that when the time comes to return our loved ones to God, we’ve protected them and cared for them.

Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not” (Malachi 3:16-18).

The Birthday Club Strikes Again

Happy Spring to you!! We celebrated spring and Cindi’s birthday yesterday, which was so much fun that I wanted to share right away in case any of you living in the GR area might be interested in going to the Sugarbush Festival at Blandford Nature Center tomorrow (March 24, 2018) where they’ll be making maple syrup, etc! Also, this coming week would be an ideal time to take your kids
to the Critter Barn in Zeeland, MI, during spring break because they have all sorts of babies being birthed,  and if you show up at feeding time,  they may even let you give the baby goats a bottle of warm milk!  (This may depend on how many children come.)  Of course, being our Birthday Club, we stopped at Sandy’s Donut House  for some of their famous donuts,  and we took a lunch break at El Aztecas Mexican Restaurant,  where they spontaneously blessed us with some festive fried ice cream and sang “Happy Birthday” when they found out we were celebrating Cindi’s birthday.  If you go to the Sugarbush Festival tomorrow,  dress warmly, because it’s only supposed to be a high of 39°F,  but there are lots of things to see outside and some lovely nature walks.  Also,  think about stopping at Sandy’s for a donut on your way, or maybe serving pancakes and syrup at home first, because there isn’t a pancake breakfast there. However, they did let us taste the syrup,
and you’ll be able to buy some yummy maple syrup cotton candy or other treats! If you decide to go the Critter House,  I’d recommend going in the next few weeks while the mothers are birthing,  and call ahead to see what time the next feeding will be.  Be sure to wear clothes you don’t mind getting a little warm milk on,
because even kids will be kids…but it’s well worth the spilled milk! I’d never in all my years fed a baby goat before, and it was so much fun!One of the things I love best about our Birthday Club (and about life), is that we’re never too old to try new things, experience new joys and find new beauties. Are you trying new adventures? Keep exploring! The world is full of good things!

The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord” (Psalm 33:5).

He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord” (Psalm 40:3).

Lenten Specials

Do you observe Lent by giving up something you normally love? This year, I gave up coffee, and my son Joel has given up meat. Actually, Joel and I both find the challenge and discipline good for us, because every time we miss these staples of our lives, it reminds us of all that Jesus gave up throughout his life! And, it makes us appreciate the amazing bounty that we usually enjoy.

Joel’s fast from meat for these few weeks before Lent also reminded me of when we were in India last fall. There were several occasions when beef was listed on the menu, but when I’d order it, the waiter would always come back and politely say that they had no beef that day. Our guide eventually explained that it was illegal to serve beef in India because cows are sacred, and so I soon resigned myself to enjoying chicken and pork for the duration…and a few unusual meats, like water buffalo (which tastes like very tough beef).

Therefore, it was with special joy that my eyes lit on a distant McDonald’s while we were at the airport in New Delhi waiting for our flight to Nepal. We scurried right up the stairs and to the far end of the waiting area, anticipating a Big Mac. Alas, even at McDonald’s there were no burgers to be had. They only served various sandwiches made from chicken or fish. We had to laugh…mostly at ourselves!

Why is it so hard to give up certain privileges and freedoms…even for a few weeks? It made me feel ashamed of myself for thinking I might “get away with” a juicy steak or burger while visiting a country where cows are considered holy. I don’t believe cows are sacred, but they do. Shouldn’t I be more than willing to curb my own appetites and pleasures for their sake? I think so!

 “But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend” (1 Corinthians 8:8-13, emphasis mine).

The Scripture teaches us this about Jesus Christ: “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:6-8).