“Walt, The Man Behind the Myth”

Family Vacation to Walt Disney’s “EPCOT.”

Trips camping down at Fort Wilderness in Disney World was the stuff of dreams for our kids growing up, so it was with great pleasure that Alan, Joel, and I were able to spend a week down there this spring with our son Jon’s young family, who’d never been there before.

Jon and Linda have three little girls, and everything was new, fun, and fascinating!

Jon is one of the most innovative people I know, and The Magic Kingdom has always been a source of inspiration to him because there’s such strong encouragement for people to pursue those sparks of imagination that come to each of us—if we’ll only stop to pay attention!

Epcot Center: Spring Garden Colors

Every park is creative, clean, and colorful.

Watching “Movies Under the Stars” at Fort Wilderness Campground

No matter where you look, there’s likely to be something delightful—and often surprising—right beside you!

Great White Heron perched on top of a table umbrella

If you’ve been to “the happiest place on earth,” you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Disney: The Man Behind the Myth

Although Jon is a theologian with a heart for spiritual life more than “fun,” there’s a lot to be learned from the life of Walt Disney.

He was without a doubt one of the world’s most influential innovators of the twentieth century.

If you’re ever looking for some insight into this legendary man, his daughter told Walt’s story in a warm and honoring biographical documentary back in 2001 (although we just watched it recently!).

Walt, the Man Behind the Myth is G-rated, family friendly, and well worth watching!

One of the most helpful things I’ve learned from Disney comes from his
“Five Lessons on staying motivated and bouncing back from failure:”


*Follow your heart
*Be grateful for failure and move forward
*Go all in
*Invest in knowledge
*Embrace self-delusion (because) delusion and extraordinary success go together

As a Christian, I might modify these a little, to say such things as “Follow the Holy Spirit’s leading” and “Embrace your calling,” but the ideas can all find roots in the Bible:

*Psalm 37:4, “Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” You have to know what’s in your heart, so don’t ignore it!

*Psalms 32, 51, and 138 (for instance), David praise God for his help to move forward in times of failure and need.

*Colossians 3:23, “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.” If that isn’t going “all in” I don’t know what is!

*Proverbs 18:15, “The heart of the prudent getteth knowledge; and the ear of the wise seeketh knowledge.” Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

*Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

Are you inspired? I am! 🙂

Spring Beauty All Around!

This is the time of year when everything bursts
into glorious song and bloom!

Every day there is something new and splendid popping up.

The rebirth of life in springtime is both
majestic and mysterious!

It seems like just a few weeks ago the geese were waiting impatiently
for water to open up.

And now, there are fuzzy goslings and ducklings
coming ashore for breakfast every morning here at Tanglewood Cottage!

Robins are busy rearing their broods,

and a parade of exquisite song birds (like this rose-breasted grosbeak)
come to our feeder every day!

This sassy Baltimore oriole, for some reason, even seems determined
to figure out a way to get inside and keeps attacking my window pane!

Turtles of all sizes and stripes emerge and sunbathe in our swamp.

This phenomenon isn’t just local, either!

Our grandchildren in Belgium found their forests
dotted with tiny woodland anemones

and later covered with bright bluebells!

Our California grandchildren discovered southern hills
covered with bright orange poppies,

and alive with glowing colors from all kinds of beautiful wildflowers!

Some might say this all happened by chance, but I read recently (in a very technical but nevertheless awesome book called Signature in the Cell by Stephen C. Meyer) that there’s not one chance in something like 10 to the 40,000th power that a DNA cell would develop by chance. In other words, even if the world is billions and billions of years old, it’s less likely that the squirrel breaking into my bird feeder spontaneously evolved over eons of time than it is that the bird feeder itself spontaneously evolved!

How did all this incredibly brilliant and intricate beauty come to be? I believe it was by “intelligent design,” not chance, and that the Mastermind behind the intelligent design is none other than our Almighty God! “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1, ESV).

There is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist” (1 Corinthians 8:6, ESV).

Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (Revelation 4:11, ESV).

“For the Beauty of the Earth”
(—Folliott Sandfor Pierpoint, 1864, Public Domain)

1 For the beauty of the earth,
for the glory of the skies,
for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies.

Refrain:
Christ, our Lord, to you we raise
this, our hymn of grateful praise.

2 For the wonder of each hour
of the day and of the night,
hill and vale and tree and flower,
sun and moon and stars of light, [Refrain ]

3 For the joy of human love,
brother, sister, parent, child,
friends on earth, and friends above,
for all gentle thoughts and mild, [Refrain]

4 For yourself, best gift divine,
to the world so freely given,
agent of God’s grand design:
peace on earth and joy in heaven. [Refrain]

(All photos taken this spring by myself or my kids. Happy Spring to you!!)

Birthday Party. Birth Day Love

Dainty little girl!
Talks a blue streak; knows her mind,
Yet, she just turned two!

Shelley and I have a special appreciation for our shared grand children, because we prayed together, long and tearfully, for five years before Samuel was born. And then, Samuel was born frighteningly early, at 27.5 weeks as a micro-premie who spent his first 105 days in a neonatal intensive care unit. 😦 That kept us all on our knees for months and rejoicing ever since! Elanor—on the other hand—came without complications, but we don’t love her any less! She has been an unmitigated joy and keeps us amazed with her incredible vocabulary and dexterity.

Have you ever noticed how each child is precious and special . . . but for different reasons? As the youngest of five, I would sometimes worry about whether or not my mother loved me as much as my older brothers and sisters, and so I would ask her, “Who’s your favorite?” She would smile and say, “I don’t have a favorite! I love you all with all my heart!” I loved that and remembered her example as my own very different but all wonderful children were growing up.

I was so crazy about my firstborn that I secretly worried about whether or not I could ever love another child as much. But, without any effort on my part, I immediately “fell in love” with our second son the moment he was born, and the miracle continued with each child. I realized that what my mother had told me wasn’t just a sweet lie to make me feel good. It was true! Each child (and now grand child) is totally unique and lovable, but my love for them is so much deeper than any “because they are or do this or that!” I love them simply because they are mine. Period!

This inexplicable love of a mother for her children has helped me understand the love of God a little better. He created each of us, and He loves each of us, not because we are so clever or cute . . . or even good. (Despite our best efforts, our “good” isn’t really all that good!) Yes, God wants us to be wise and good, but He hangs in there with us through thick and thin not based on our being all he’d hoped we’d be, but because He loves us with an everlasting love. If you’re a parent, I hope you know what I’m talking about! Never give up. God never gives up! Accept his love! He’s waiting with open arms!

“13 Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted.14 But Zion said, The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me.15 Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.16 Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me” (Isaiah 49:13-16).

Melted Dreams

Sometimes all our dreams,
Like hollow chocolate, melt
And disappoint us!

It was the perfect day for an Easter egg hunt outside, and in less than 15 minutes Alan and I had distributed all the Easter eggs, candy, and chocolate rabbits—especially the chocolate rabbits (everybody’s favorite gift)—around our field.

Quick as a flash, our grandchildren flew around the field, gathering up all the surprises and treats.

However, to the children’s horror, two of the bunnies (which had been hiding in the sunshine) must have experienced green-house effect heat and melted down into little masses of mess! 😦

Isn’t this a picture of so many of our fondest dreams in life? We have such high hopes and work so hard preparing for the future.

We are eager and “do everything right” as best we know how, but suddenly something unexpected dashes our hopes for “the perfect” ending and turns our “high point” into a low point.

At times like this, I am reminded that every dream and ambition apart from seeking God is like a hollow Easter bunny that will not withstand the heat of life. Better to keep my eyes on the Lord and find my joy in Him! “Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God” (Psalm 146:5). “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee” (Psalm 73:25).

Some Timely Tips for Doing Life with Your Adult Children

Do you (like me) find yourself wondering what you did wrong when you hear what one or another of  your adult children is thinking or doing? As would be obvious to all who are living through the honor of interacting with adult children (but perhaps not a no-brainer to young people): It’s actually a lot harder than it looks to be good parents to grown offspring, even really, really admirable grown offspring, like mine. Alan’s being the medical director of maybe the world’s largest Christian psychiatric hospital hasn’t really made us professionals either.

However, as we’ve been floundering our way through this stage of life, we came across a great resource that has significantly encouraged us, so I want to recommend it to you! We read it to each other while on our Southern Caribbean cruise these past two weeks, celebrating our 46th anniversary. Ever since, we’ve been ending our daily prayers for our kids with this mantra: “God, we release our children to your loving care and tender mercies” (from page 115).

Doing Life with Your Adult Children walks readers through the various cultural mindsets of the different generations (all five of them) sharing Planet Earth at this time, reminding us that “our job as parents is not to agree with all the values of our children’s culture but to have a greater understanding of how culture influences the way they think and act.” This has been a game changer for us. Up until now, we’ve wondered why our kids didn’t just naturally take on our values. Surprise! Faith in the Bible, love of country and family . . . even gender identity based on DNA is no longer the norm. Of kids brought up in church, some 60% will drift away in college, making lifestyle choices that would curl the hair of our parents and make our grandparents roll over in their graves.

Not to fear! Hold on. Keep being faithful to what you believe is right and good. More than half of our wandering children will come back to their roots and faith. Meanwhile, author Jim Burns offers all sorts of helpful insights into what’s going on, what the culture is teaching, and how to love your kids and grand kids in ways they can actually feel no matter what they believe. One of many principles (similar to Dr. Gary Smalley’s advice on how to treasure your spouse) is to treat your children and grandchildren with AWE: affection, warmth, and encouragement. Amen? No matter what your young adult is thinking or doing, every “child” (grown ones too) needs big doses of real, genuine, open-hearted love, the way our heavenly Father lavishes his love on us.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t set boundaries or allow our kids to struggle with the consequences of their choices. The book also gives some helpful suggestions for how to engage your “failure to launch” young adults and help them mature into responsible, independent adults. There are also tips on how to become better in-laws (such as “wear beige” . . . “keep your mouth shut and the welcome mat out”) and how to interact with your grandchildren in ways that will leave a legacy of love for them.

From the very beginning—which describes a scenario I’ll bet every couple has experienced—to Chapter 1: “You’re Fired!” (PRINCIPLE 1: YOUR ROLE AS THE PARENT MUST CHANGE) to the very end, laced with ideas for how to party down with your grand kids, the book kept us engaged and learning!

Interested? I actually had an advance copy, but the book is coming out March 26, 2019 and can be pre-ordered from Zondervan or Amazon online. If you buy it, I hope you appreciate it as much as we have! Parenting parents is a tough job!  🙂

Now also when I am old and greyheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come” (Psalm 71:18).

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).