Category Archives: Making choices

An Unexpected Blessing at a Mackinac Island Church

No matter where in the world we go,
Alan and I like to fellowship in some church on Sunday morning if possible.  (If not, like we’re sitting in an airport or have no clue where there’s a church where they speak English, we watch our own church’s service online.)  In most American communities, there are usually at least two churches:
the local catholic church  and the local protestant church.

We are evangelical Christians (believing that people are saved by faith in Christ rather than by having enough “good works” to outbalance our “bad works” when we come to the judgment seat of God),  and so we always look for a churchwhere we hope this “gospel” (good news) will be preached.  (However, we did go to Notre Dame the last time we were in Paris, despite not knowing French or having much of a grip on the liturgy…at least we knew where it was!)   At any rate, I always think it’s good for my soul to learn about how other congregations worship the Lord,  and I also hope to be a blessing and encouragement to others as we share our faith together in corporate worship.              On Mackinac Island, there are several beautiful, old churches.  We were at a wedding held at St. Ann’s some years ago, which still makes me glow to remember.  The last few times we’ve been on Mackinac Island, we’ve gone to the Mackinac Bible Church, which meets in the theater of Mission Point Resort. We arrived a bit early and just happened to sit next to a sweet-looking couple. Moments into our chatting with them, we discovered that Nancy (the wife) and I both graduated from Bob Jones University and that her husband (a Harvard graduate) is now working in finance at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, where our son Jonathan and his family will soon be moving. This couple was so kind! Before (the very lively) service began, we exchanged emails, and they offered their home to Jon as a base for looking for housing, etc. etc. etc. Their gracious hospitality was totally overwhelming, and just knowing that there is a mature Christian couple in Chicago as a reference for them is so comforting (because—as a huge city with a bad reputation for crime—trying to find housing in Chicago will be a bit intimidating)!  Thank you, Lord, for this very special blessing! Only You could orchestrate such an unlikely meeting, but that’s the sort of amazing God You are!(The majority of photos were taken on Mackinac Island, but I did intersperse some of cathedrals and basilicas from Europe, where we were visiting last week. I hope to start writing about that trip next week! This last amazing photo is more of Bob Hardee’s creative genius at work. God bless you!)

 

Morphing into Your Friends

Have you ever played with the phone app MRQSD that morphs your face with that of a friend’s? It takes the central part of both faces and swaps them out so your face is on your friend’s body. I’ve had a lot of fun with my kids and grand kids swapping faces! With my grand daughters, it looks strange but almost possible at times,                     but with my sons, the results of these games can get pretty bizarre! It reminds me of the suggestion I heard not long ago: “You should never enter into a relationship with someone you would not want to become.” While you may become involved with someone in order to help them (like the good Samaritan), I think this advice is really “right on” if you’re entering a relationship which could end in a marriage! The fact is, the more time we spend with someone, the more we will become like them!I love spending all the time I can with my family, but the one person in all the world I’d most like to become (or become like) is Jesus! Guess I’d better be spending all my time with Jesus, huh?! Thankfully, we can practice the presence of God with and within us 24/7! I’ve been working on this via a principle I learned from Optimizing Your Brain Fitness: “If you can see, then look. If you can look, then observe.” Focus. Attend. Concentrate. Sounds easy enough, but it certainly takes practice!

Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).

“O To Be Like Thee” (~Thomas O. Chisholm, 1897)

“O to be like Thee! blessed Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.

“O to be like Thee! O to be like Thee,
Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.”

 

Is Anything Better than The House of Flavors?

Do you—like me—just love ice cream?  Did you know there’s a Guinness-world-record-breaking creamery
right here in Southwest Michigan? There’s nothing quite so luxurious on a hot summer day
as a scrumpdelicious ice cream treat, is there?

Homemade ice cream is probably the very best (or at least the most fun to make), but for everyday yumminess, I keep some of our local dairy’s “homemade” vanilla in the freezer for my hubby, who has been known to have an ice cream attack any time of day or night and any time of year.
However, our all-time favorite creamery is in Ludington at the House of Flavors, and we always stop in if we’re nearby!
The House of Flavors has been in the business for over 66 years, and they produce an astonishing 25 million gallons of ice cream annually!
They call themselves the Ice Cream Capital of Michigan, and with good cause! Last year I wrote about being there when they attempted to set a new record for the world’s longest ice cream dessert (which I shared about here):   https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2016/06/14/i-think-we-just-ate-part-of-the-worlds-longest-sundae-and-it-was-yummy/ .  

 

 

Their attempt

was a great success, 

and now the House of Flavors 

is really on the map,  so to speak!
However, they’re not just good at making amazing flavors of ice cream!
They have a full menu of inexpensive and delicious breakfasts,
 and they always have a turkey roasting on a spit (which you can almost see in the center of this photo) for their fantastic turkey dinners, 
which they serve throughout the year! 
We’ve been coming since our kids were little, and our all-time favorite treat is a round of turkey dinners but a shared “Original Pig’s Dinner.”   This one was made from four scoops of ice cream with names like Michigan Potholes, Bear Claws, Eskimo Kisses, and Tennessee Toffee, but you get to choose whatever you want…plus four toppings of your choice and whipped cream with cherries on top.Needless to say, nobody leaves the House of Flavors feeling hungry!

I know of a place even more satisfying and fulfilling than the House of Flavors.  It’s the place of quiet rest when we place our trust in the Lord and abide safely under His wings, secure in the knowledge that no matter what is going on in the world around us, God’s “got ‘ya covered!” Literally. Spiritually and physically. We can rest in the knowledge that He loves us, and like a loving father, He’s looking out for us.                      In a world of choices, I pray you will choose “the best!”   Our God exceeds anything in the Guinness Book of World Records. What other God is perfect in love, kindness, mercy, grace, wisdom, justice, and goodness? Who else is all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful, and all-present? What other religion teaches that God loves us even when we fail and has made a way to be reconciled to Him through the blood of a sacrificial lamb (Jesus)?  If you’ve never learned to love and trust this great God, I pray that you will put the past behind you and reach out to him in faith. As Jesus taught, “how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not” (Matthew 23:37).   May today be the day you join in the fellowship of those who are trusting God! How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.  They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures. For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.” (Psalm 36:7-9)

(I took all the photos in and around the House of Flavors recently, except for the ones taken a year ago on June 11, 2016… the day they broke the world’s record for longest ice cream dessert!)


Quotable Quotes from Don’t Settle for Safe

Tired of shadowboxing with your past? Feel like you’ll never overcome your present circumstances? Looking for inspiration to move forward and unleash the potential greatness inside? Don’t Settle for Safe is a classic empowerment book, geared for women and based on the life of Sarah Jakes Roberts, who overcame a teenage pregnancy and a failed marriage. Today she is not only the mother of six, she’s a bestselling author and media personality who works alongside her husband, Toure Roberts, in a ministry to Hollywood artists and professionals at One Church LA.  Speaking of greatness, I’m going to give you a long list of my favorite quotes from her book interspersed with photos from America’s largest privately owned estate, the Biltmore.  If her thoughts are a home run for you, consider reading the entire book, which is fresh off the press! “Your power to overcome is in your willingness to not just anticipate but embrace the unpredictability of life.”  (I believe true empowerment comes from God, but when we embrace God, then we’re no longer afraid to embrace an unpredictable future.)           “Your present holds more promise than anything that used to be.”  “Growth is produced through sacrifice…the gift of growing requires letting go…Letting go is trusting that we can carry the lessons from our past in our heart without constantly replaying the pain in our head.” (Spiritual growth comes from “abiding in the Vine” [Jesus], which also requires a certain amount of letting go in trust.)                                                  “Excuses are comfort zones.” “Name your pain.”   “Instant gratification often results in long-term disappointment.”   “What are your weeds? What thoughts and behaviors are keeping you from enjoying the full beauty of the heart God has given you? Your willingness to seek them out [and repent of them*]  will transform your heart,  producing compassion and creating opportunities to extend grace to others. The only way to remove the weeds is to combat them with humility. The fruit of such examination is not constant shame; it’s simple humility and grace.”  “Our greatest accomplishment comes when we have the ability to master our soul.” “If we’re going to commit to achieving a positive outlook on things that once devastated us, we will have to believe that the worst things that happened to us have the potential to work for our benefit.” “The problem with our teenage years is that often our observations are valid, but our perspective is very limited. It’s not until we’re older that we begin to tap into the compassion necessary to learn from those observations.”  “The last thing you want is to create a life that has been built on fear.”  “Your freedom cannot be contingent on whether or not  you’re able to convince others to embark upon the journey with you. It’s up to you to follow the path that leads to your liberation. Freedom and peace can inspire change within your family.”  “Combining your work and faith with His plan for your life creates momentum that transforms everything that should have stopped you into fuel that propels you into a destiny far greater than you could have imagined.”  “Did you know that your obstacles were assigned by God?”  “Confidence in God’s plan helps us to draw the conclusion that if we did not receive something it is because we did not need it.” “Whether your family was perfectly constructed or undeniably fractured, the people in your life did the best they could. You may be thinking to yourself, Well, that wasn’t enough! I’m telling you it was. Some parents are dealing with insecurities so great that all they can do is self-sabotage anything or anyone that comes close to them. You have to come to a place where you forgive your parents for not providing everything you needed.”  “As a match needs friction to produce a flame, the challenges you’ve faced are the friction you need to produce a light that shines for the world to see.”  “When you have encounters with true friends, you feel both humbled and empowered to do what’s right. I know from experience, though that what we need is not always what we desire.”  “Loyalty based on your position is dangerous because the one constant promise of life is change…The best type of loyalty comes from a friend who is loyal to who you are.”  “Unforgiveness will transform you from a victim to a villain.” “Hurt people hurt people…our own pain blinds us from seeing others’ pain.”  “People who do bad things are not always evil; often they are broken.”  “Closure is never about another person. It is reconciliation with one’s self” (and I would add, “and with God”).  “This is who I am. This is where I’ve come from. I am evidence that broken crayons still color and there is still life inside of you.”  “After dropping fifteen pounds the first moth, it became clear that not only was I capable of losing weight, but I was also capable of taking control of my normal and creating something better.”  “Your life is the road map that will help other people avoid detours that delay on their road to manifesting a destiny greater than those moments that have ailed them. Don’t throw it away because you don’t like the marks that nave been made. Fold it neatly, tuck it away in your heart, and preserve its beauty because someone is going to need evidence that even lost people find their way home.”  “From the depths of your sorrow, God wants to manifest blessings that far outweigh any hurt you’ve experienced.”  “Regret robs you of the possibilities that exist in the present. You don’t get do overs in life because you don’t need them. You needed to mess up. You had to make those mistakes. Your heart had to be broken. You needed to lose your way.”  “Our greatest responsibility and challenge in the quest for higher thinking is daring to find light in our darkest situations.”  “When you begin to truly expect and trust the love of God, it significantly changes your paradigm. I want for you to live in a palace of expectations.” “I pray that this book reminds you in spite of what you’ve gone through that you are still lighter than darkness.”  “The first thing to understand about purpose is that it will always be rooted in service toward the betterment of humanity…Your purpose is the answer to a problem that plagues our world.”  “You must be willing to let go of the dream you have for your life so that He can give you His plans.”  “It is the mystery of your potential that makes it clear God’s thought are higher than ours.”  “God never takes away anything from us that He doesn’t return with interest.”  “We foolishly believe that the best way to safeguard our heart is to avoid setting high expectations. You cannot avoid disappointment by becoming comfortable with low expectations.”  “People who have been hurt cheat other people out of the sense of security that stabilizes a relationship.”  “The only way our love reaches perfection is through handing our heart over to God and asking Him to show us our fears. Don’t give another person permission to hold your heart unless you know their hands belong to God.”  “You should never enter into a relationship with someone you would not want to become.”  “I realized that my tomorrow held more promise than my past held pain.” “You’ll feel like an outcast, but it’s okay. Great people are never fully understood, just admired.”  “Find Him in everything you do. May every word out of your mouth be a reflection of Him. That’s how you will become a light that the world cannot diffuse. When your light burns for Him the world will have to take notice.”  “I’ve discovered that growth requires a discipline to do what most cannot because they are unwilling to risk discomfort. We stay in relationship that damage us, remain in positions that stifle us, and maintain mentalities that don’t progress us. I wanted to break the strongholds that exist when we experience negativity. And to challenge women to see the good that’s come from the most difficult experiences…We must each commit to constantly live life searching for the strength to face the vulnerabilities that make us uncomfortable to become unstoppable The only thing standing in your way right now is you.”Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).

*I am editorializing here

Wouldn’t You Like to Live an Oola Life??

One of my girlfriends forwarded me information on an opportunity to snag an early copy of Oola for Women: Find Balance in an Unbalanced World. Fifty bloggers out of over five hundred applicants were chosen to receive a free book in exchange for reviewing it on their blog, and I was one of the lucky ones! Frankly, at first I wasn’t sure it was going to be a very oola thing for me to do, but I was curious, and now I’m glad I went for it!

What’s “oola”? It’s getting to the place where you’re living your dream, as in “Oo la la! I love it!” How do you get there? Well, reading the book helps! Dave and Troy have made it as easy as 1,2,3…actually 7, then up to 21, and then back to 1. I can’t begin to share what took them 340 pages to explain, and I can’t begin to inspire you like the 42 vignettes written by women from all walks of life who’ve learned from their Oola ideas, but let me give you a taste, and if you like it, you might want to read the book for yourself.

Step One: Figure out your passion. What would your dream life look like?  If you could do anything, what would you do? If you could change just one thing that would most crucially improve your life, what would it be? You don’t have to know how to get there, you just have to figure out where you’d like to get to!

Step Two: Figure out where you’re at. Think GPS: You have to know where you are before you can figure out how to get where you want to go. In this book, Oola for Women (but skip thinking in terms of “for women,” because the book’s for everybody; it’s just that women do most of the shopping and reading, so if you want something to sell, say it’s for women), Dave and Troy help you understand your own life by walking you through the seven main priorities we almost universally experience: Fitness, finance, family, field (career), faith, friends, and fun (aka “The 7 F’s”).

Are you still with us? If you’re lost already, that’s fine, they guide you through thinking about each of the 7 F’s with definitions, explanations, and stories. Imagine living a balanced life as riding a bike with 7 spokes, each of the 7 “F” areas as one spoke of your wheel. If all 7 spokes are in tact, there’s air in the tire, the wheel is balanced, and the hub is strong (the HUB is critical: what’s the foundation of your life??), you’re in for a much smoother ride, even though life is always challenging.

After teaching you about the 7 areas of life that need to be balanced, the authors address 7 key areas that block progress (with tips for overcoming): Fear, guilt, anger, self-sabotage, laziness, envy, and focus, and then they move on to discuss 7 positive behaviors that will help accelerate your progress: Gratitude, love, discipline, integrity, passion, humility, and wisdom.

Step Three: Figure out your plan. The last section of the book has a series of simple questionnaires to help you figure out where your life is in and out of balance. With a visual to help you chart your path, they encourage you to write out (yes, by hand, not just in your head), 3 “S.M.A.R.T.” goals (specific, measurable, accountable, realistic, and time-based) for each of the 7 “F’s.” Warren Buffet recommends writing down 20 goals, crossing off all but your top 3, and then pursuing those. The Oola guys take it one step further, and encourage you to find your “#Oola One” goal, write it down, and go for it. committing to a S.M.A.R.T. goal with a time and date.

Sound like a plan? I liked it, and I’m on board with living life full out! Today is always a good time to get more excited about life and get moving! Personally, my life is fueled by passion for Christ, God is my Hub, and if I were choosing one word by which I believe the world can be changed it would be “Jesus” not “Oola,” but I do appreciate their enthusiasm and energy, and it definitely did motivate me to take inventory on my life, pray, and figure out my #Oola One goal! I’m going for it! Want to do the same?

“Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.” (Psalm 37:4-5)

Happy Ninth Anniversary, Summer Setting!

April 8 marked the ninth anniversary of my blog, Summer Setting, and it’s still one of the highlights of my daily life! Although my primary goal in writing is an attempt to be faithful to the calling I feel like God has given me, it’s been super rewarding and motivating to check in on my “Stats” page every once in a while. For instance, this past week people from over 60 countries looked at blog posts, and in the last 3 days Summer Setting was accessed over 1,300 times. That sounds like a lot to me, but given that I now have close to 2,000 followers, it also seemed like a curiously small number until I learned from WordPresses’ “Happiness Engineers” that their statistics don’t include any of the followers who have asked to have my posts sent directly to their email accounts every day, since they don’t have a tracking system to know who has opened those emails.

Now, you may be alarmed that I’d notice or care about “how many” people are interested in my blog, since ultimately whatever we do should be “heartily, as unto the Lord, and not unto men” (Colossians 3:23). You are right, and I should not be driven by human approval. However, the reason I’m passing this along to you is because it occurred to me that you might be a lot like me…trying hard in your own way to make a positive impact on your world without getting a lot of obvious response. However, beneath the surface, every good and right thing you do will add value to our world, whether or not anyone recognizes it, and it may be that there are more people who are being positively impacted than you realize. (Which is sadly also true when we make selfish, sinful choices.) Think of us as being blood cells in a body. As individuals, we have a minuscule role, but what we do affects many to most of the other cells in the body.

Feeling discouraged? If you’re a believer, know that Jesus is our “boss,” our Lord and Savior. If He’s smiling, that’s really all that matters. However, if He’s smiling, there are probably others who are feeling warmed by the sunshine as well, whether or not you can see them.

The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace” (Numbers 6:24-26).

The Horrible Truth about Deep Water Horizon and Deep Waters

Seven years ago, on April 20, 2010, Deepwater Horizon exploded into a firestorm that could be seen for 40 miles, resulting in the largest oil spill in U.S. history. Deepwater Horizon was an offshore drilling rig that had successfully drilled the deepest oil well in history (over 10,000 ft. deep) in the Gulf of Mexico just a few months earlier, and           on April 20th, the crew of 126 were hard at work testing the new well               at Macondo Prospect, forty-one miles off the coast of Louisiana. Deepwater Horizon cost almost a million dollars per day to operate with equipment and crew, and although there were issues with safety, the project was over a month behind schedule and overdue at a new site, so the decision makers decided to test the well before they were sure all the work was properly completed and all the concrete had time to cure.  The movie dramatizing this disaster is excellent and rated PG-13, but it is so graphic (and bad language) that I recommend it with caution. As one who’s inexperienced with the technical side of oil drilling, it was somewhat hard to follow what was happening, but the message was crystal clear: Often those who take the risks and make the decisions are not those who suffer the greatest consequences for their greed and irresponsible selfishness. Eleven men died, scores of men suffered, and the responsible companies ended up spending not millions —but billions—of dollars trying to recover and compensate for the damages. As we make important decisions, let’s remember that if we choose selfishly and unwisely, we’re not just going to hurt ourselves, we’re likely to do more damage than we could ever possibly imagine.  But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me. So I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lust: and they walked in their own counsels. Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways! (Psalm 81:11-13)