Happy Twelfth Anniversary, Summer Setting!

Once a year on the anniversary of my blog, I reminisce about the joy of writing and what’s happened over the past year. Technically, my anniversary was April 8th, but last month—as America lunged into the COVID pandemic—it seemed more appropriate to concentrate on trying to encourage others in the face of trials than to indulge in personal introspection. However, now that it’s May (and Cinco de Mayo to boot!), I would be very grateful if you’ll allow me the liberty of reflecting on my writing adventure, and I hope you will offer me some counsel as I wrestle with what the Lord may have in mind for my future.

One of my (unspoken until today) dreams for blogging has been to write until I have a million views and then perhaps try to write a book of devotionals. This past week, the 750,000-view mark came and went, so . . . three-fourths of the way to fulfilling this particular vision! Should the Lord see fit to bless my writing with readers at the current rate, that would theoretically make me mature enough to attempt a series of daily devotionals by 2023. However, COVID concerns have changed not only the world’s economic landscape, but my personal sense of how the Spirit may be leading me.

Instead of spending my days embroiled in joyful experiences with family and friends, traveling at home and abroad, I am spending my days enjoying a “sabbath rest” from life as usual. Alan is working virtually from home, giving him at least an extra hour (commute time) daily to invest in home projects. Instead of waiting until he retires, we’re starting the huge process of trying to unbury our basement from 27 years of family life here in GR, not to mention 44 years of parenting and 47 years of marriage. It is daunting, but exhilarating!

We are almost finished with four years’ worth of renovating our kitchen and adding an addition to accommodate our burgeoning family. We moved into our beloved but small “Tanglewood Cottage” with a young family of seven children. Today—with our children and grand children— we number thirty-two and counting, so the extra breathing room is a wonderful blessing. Now we have the happy task of expanding into the new space, finding and making accessible what we have, and throwing out the unwanted and unneeded extra “stuff” that’s gotten buried. Just a few “for instances” that might make you laugh or be aghast (depending on how good a housekeeper you are): I found one daughter-in-law’s wedding dress, my daughter’s master’s thesis, one son’s “Bod Book” (names and addresses of everybody at his school . . . from 1994), and THE WINNER: a box labeled “boys clothing.” We haven’t had “boys” small enough to pass down clothing for at least 15 years and probably longer! (To be honest, tied for THE LOSER are dead stink bugs and dust bunnies! 😦 )

All this to say, perhaps it’s time to expand, de-clutter, clean up, and reorganize my writing life as well. Alan and I have been trying to walk three miles each day, but just up and down our lane. Instead of glorious vistas from around the world, I’m drinking in minuscule changes in the flora and fauna! The cherry trees in blossom; the goslings and ducklings coming ashore, the weeds popping out. If the COVID pandemic keeps us all from venturing very far from home this coming year, I’m thinking about the possibility of writing daily devotionals starting January 1, 2021 based on “little things” (and maybe some of the grander graces of nature) that are common place and surround many of us. Would that be interesting to you?

If I head that direction, I would still have the rest of this year to finish my meditations on the commands of Christ, family recipes, world travel (which I hope has not ended forever but may be postponed for a year or so), and actively trying to review favored movies and books. To be transparent with you, these are the posts which to date have been the most read, so it might be a big change, although— as life has it and minds inevitably operate—I’m sure whatever I experience will find its way into my writing. But, what if I spend 2021 with more of a focus on learning spiritual lessons from nature? Would a closer look at the simple and common encourage us during our months of more confined living? I’m thinking about just one photo per day and basically one simple message, so shorter but hopefully not less worthwhile. That is the possibility I’ve been praying about lately, and if you read this blog and have an opinion about what might be most uplifting for you, I’d sincerely appreciate hearing what you think! Thanks!!

Where no counsel is, the people fall:
but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14).

When to Wed?? Unasked-for Advice from a Busy Body

A few weeks ago one of our young friends married his beloved bride in his living room with family and friends watching online . . . formal reception to follow . . . whenever we get through the COVID crisis!

We have another young friend who’s paid for deposits for their planned June 13 wedding, and now she’s anguishing over what to do. Should they wait and hope it all works out, or cut their losses now and just get married with the reception to follow?!?

If you’re thinking about getting married but wondering how and when, I’d like to recommend a really cute “feel good” movie called Winter Wedding (the 2017 version also called Wedding Wonderland). It’s about a young couple trying to figure out if they should wait for summer and her “dream” wedding venue or get married in the winter. Of course, there are all the issues of trying to please everybody else, but in the final analysis, the message was: “Do what you two (the couple) really want to do!”

This, I think, is sterling advice for any of you thinking about marriage sometime in the not-to-distant future! Of course, I’d better think so, ’cause that’s just what Alan and I did 47 years ago when our dream plans for an April Easter wedding (back in 1973) were falling through! If you’re interested in the details (which you probably aren’t), they are here:

https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2012/10/06/the-armstrong-archives-1-wedding-in-just-one-day/

Suffice it to say, we had a “Winter Wedding” (or a “Wonderland Wedding”) in just one day. It wasn’t nearly as glamorous as the wedding in the movie, but neither of us have ever been sorry we didn’t wait those extra two months. The plot of this film may seem ludicrous for some of you, but Alan and I just smiled at each other and held hands!

I will say, if you’re asking for my advice (which I know you’re not), “Ask God! Pray about it! He’ll know how to make your wedding just perfect!!” And, one other bit of unwanted advice from the Peanut Gallery that I’ve learned over the years: “Orchestrating your wedding truly is a challenge…but it seems like nothing compared to conducting the rest of your life! (if I may say so myself).” 🙂

His God instructs him and teaches him the right way. All this also comes from the Lord Almighty, whose plan is wonderful, whose wisdom is magnificent” (Isaiah 28:26&29 NIV).

When Pa Goes to Town

Ready for a zany poem about shopping? My father was the quintessential bargain hunter and was always coming home with at least a dozen of whatever was on sale at the Piggly Wiggly or Red Owl . . . along with unusual “new” taste sensations to expand our palates, like pickled kumquats, pig’s feet, or scrambled beef brain (I kid you not). “OOOOh, yukky!” 😦 With five children, Dad would dig deep into the bargain bins and day-old bakery supplies to keep us fed! A generation later, as a mother of seven (six strapping sons), I built on my father’s foundation and quantity shopping became a basic survival skill. Many a week, as I waltzed down the checkout lane with 7 gallons of milk and two baskets loaded to the brim, I would get a casual smile and, “Do you run a foster care home?”

At any rate, my oldest brother wrote this poem about my father, and in honor of April being GloPoWriMo (Global Poetry Writers Month) AND musing over my big COVID shopping-for-a-month spree a couple of days ago, I thought you might appreciate a bit of comic relief.

When Pa Goes to Town
(—Robert Ward, reflecting on our father’s shopping in the 1950’s;
Copyright 2019)

When Pa goes to town
All the grocers around
Go down in their basements and hide.
They cry and they scream,
And with eyes all agleam,
Lock the doors
So Pa can’t get inside.

But Pa with a glare
Like a buzzard’s cold stare
And nose like a beagle-sired bloodhound
Gets in where he can
And with swift-moving hand
Grabs all the bargains around.

Bread for a nickel,
Peaches a dime,
Dates for a quarter,
Pa’s having a time.

“I’ll take a dozen of those,
A gallon of that,
A gross of these,
Put the rest in my hat.”

Pa loads all his stores
On his trusty go-cart,
Cracks the whip to his kids,
And yells, “Do your part!”

Dad comes home with more stores
Than can fit through the doors.
He has yams and hams
And cans of canned Spams,
And musty old
Crusty old dates.

Ma in despair
Pulls the last of her hair
And muffles a fast-rising sob.
“You can try if you care
To fit more in there,
But the army says it’s an impossible job.

But Pa is not stopped,
Though some things are dropped.
He crams and pushes and groans.
And as the roof pops
And the second floor drops,
He returns for that special on dog bones.

She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar. She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens” (Proverbs 31:13-15). I know in most families the wife probably does most of the shopping, but my mother didn’t like to shop so my father took it on. They both taught school—Mom elementary and Dad college—so on school days, while my mother packed our lunches, my father made breakfast. Without a doubt, my mother was a virtuous woman, but looking back, I remember many ways in which my flamboyant and highly unconventional father was a good dad, too!

Ode to COVID Confinement

I cannot walk wherever I want, but I can walk.
I cannot talk with whomever I wish, but I can talk.
I cannot see whoever I want, but I can see.
I cannot do whatever I want, but I can be.
I cannot eat whatever I want, but I can eat.
I am confined in many ways, but life’s still sweet.

I cannot hug, but I can love.
I can’t do all I’m dreaming of.
I cannot touch, but I can keep.
I cannot guard, but I can sleep.
I cannot save, but I can pray.
Thank you, Father, for this day!

Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

(No, we’re not on vacation with our two youngest sons in Ireland this morning; I’m sheltering in place at home. But, I am very grateful to be alive and more or less well after significantly recovering from the flu or a light case of COVID-19)!

Christmas Cards

A friend from my writing group wrote this a few years ago but shared it with us recently, and she has graciously allowed me to pass it on to you:

It’s snowing on this Sunday afternoon in December as my husband and I enter the double doors of the nursing home where his mother lives. I had called ahead and reserved the “family room” for the three of us so that we would have privacy and space to spread out our project – her Christmas cards. Always one to send hand-written cards with kindly and concerned notes to her long list of friends, Mom is ninety years old and long past being able to “do her cards” on her own. So I’d purchased cards with two of her goals in mind: a Christian message and a rural theme, and one goal of mine: the cards must be pretty.

In our bag as we walk down the hallway is my purchase, a Christian-messaged card celebrating the birth of Christ into the world superimposed on a red barn in the countryside. The entire front of the card is covered in sparkling glitter. Also in the bag is her address book which is now in my care, pens, stamps, and a printed letter supposedly written by her telling her friends how she is – fine – busy with family and friends and grateful for God’s love and salvation. We are ready and we have a job to do!

As we push Mom’s wheelchair down the hall to the family room, we ask her if she’s had a good lunch. “I haven’t had any lunch.”

“No lunch? Are you hungry?”

“No, I’m not hungry.” We look at each other. The entire building is filled with the aromas of Sunday dinner.

We gather around a table in the private room, Rob and his mother side-by-side and facing me. We spread out our things. I open her address book to the first person, addressing and stamping the envelope while Rob opens the first card for her to sign. He leans in close to her, his right arm around the back of her chair, his left hand pointing to where she should sign. He watches her sign, folds her letter inside the card, and seals the envelope. We have begun. Soon we are in a pleasant rhythm. Address, stamp, sign, fold, seal. Sometimes Rob prods her along with, “Now, Mother, this is your nephew, so sign ‘Aunt Eileen,’” and she complies. Sometimes unprodded she writes Love, or I love you, before her name. Working down the list, we come to her college roommate, a “W.” “Oh, yes,” she said. “She married Edwin Wierach and they live in Grand Blanc.”

“Isn’t that the way it is?” I think to myself. “She can’t remember lunch, but she remembers her college roommate and the name of the man she married.”

It takes most of the afternoon to finish her cards. I feel victorious. It’s a precious time of walking down memory lane with our beloved ninety-year-old Mom. I’ve known her for close to 45 years and we have accomplished mountains of projects. Real projects, hard work. Recently, however, our times together usually involve a delivery of some sort or a conversation of superficial pleasantries or a trip to the doctor rather than meaningful labor. But today, this afternoon, our bag is filled with finished Christmas cards ready for the Post Office. Mom’s friends and relatives will once again receive greetings and love from her.

Sitting across from me my husband smiles, glitter flashing on his eyelashes, glitter around his mouth, glitter on his hands. Mom has the happy look of a job well done, glitter in her hair, on her blouse, winking on her cheek.

She is gone in August. This is our final project.

(I am adding this verse, not my friend, but isn’t this story an inspirational account of honoring parents? 🙂 “Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth” [Ephesians 6:2-3].)

Dealing with Tragic Loss

“All the world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming”—Helen Keller.

If you’re struggling with betrayal, abuse, or the loss of your spouse for any reason, you may be dreading the holidays rather than looking forward to them. Thanksgiving is just past, but we’re facing a month of holiday cheer that will be choked with tears for many lonely and hurting people, and if your heart is broken right now, I’d like to recommend He Left God Stayed. Annalee’s book records her journey from the devastation of being abandoned after twenty years of marriage to finding her way through the pain to wholeness . . . over the course of nearly twenty years, learning to lean on the everlasting arms of her Lord and God.

At first I read the book on the recommendation of a girlfriend who’s had a similar experience on the theory that it might be inspirational for any of my readers who are living through heartbreak, but I quickly realized this book is full of rich insights for all of us. Each chapter begins with some of her story but ends with “insights to grow by” and a prayer. I am not a fiction reader, but Annalee’s book became as fascinating to me as the page-turner mysteries that so engage my husband!

By the time I finished, I had been challenged in many areas personally, especially in reflecting on my own life, learning more about forgiveness, growing in submission to God, and desiring to be more compassionate as a Church toward those who’ve been abandoned. I’m not charismatic, but I appreciated reading about Annalee’s experiences. Her faith is sincere and her walk with God in many ways very like my own. Besides all that, I’ve ended up with three new books to read, based on insights she’s gleaned from them. It reminds me of the good ole days of grad school when every worthwhile research paper needed to end up providing new leads for further study!

To bless you with some bits of wisdom from her book, and possibly to whet your appetite for more, let me share a few favorite quotes:

“He [God] wanted to heal me and replace the anger with forgiveness, the fear with peace, and the shame with joy.”

“I needed to mature and respond, rather than react, to life’s circumstances. Learning to walk the road to wholeness was scary—it felt so unfamiliar.”

“The Holy Spirit wants to reveal the hidden things in our lives that keep us from being free to love and serve God with our whole being.”

“Praise is more spontaneous when things go right; but it is more precious when things go wrong” (—Author unknown).

“Praise was an important key to finding the life I’d longed for—a life free of fear, anger and shame.”

“When we are broken, we have to make a choice. Our way, or God’s way. We can turn our back on Him, or surrender everything to Him.”

“Brokenness is not the opposite of wholeness; it is the continuing precondition for it” (—Roberta Hestenes, quoted on p. 89).

“Forgiveness is not an option for a follower of Jesus Christ. If we fail to forgive, it affects our relationship with God and interferes with our spiritual growth . . . Forgiveness is for us. It’s to help us move forward and choose to live instead of staying stuck in the past with all of its pain.”

“Don’t be afraid of the future. God is already there” (—Bill Gothard).

“If you do God’s work, God’s way, God will provide” (—James Hudson Taylor).

“You have as much right to believe what you believe, as others have to believe what they believe” (Annalee’s mother).

“It’s everybody’s business if you sin. When you’re tempted to sin, ask yourself what it will cost you. . . It is your family’s business if you sin . . . It’s the church’s business . . . it’s the world’s business” (—Dr. Crabtree, speaking at Annalee’s ordination). He also said, “Allow God to interrupt your agenda with glorious surprises.”

From one of her prayers: “Help us to forgive those who have done evil acts against us and forgive those who weren’t able to protect us. Reveal to us those whom we need to forgive. We release anything from our past that would delay the bright future You have planned for us. Please give us the grace to walk in your ways and the courage to move forward in life.”

“My life was fuller than it would have been without the suffering . . . I had become what God intended for me to become. Instead of merely surviving, I had thrived. And so can you.”

“For your Maker is your Husband—the Lord Almighty is his name—the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth” (—Isaiah 54:5).

P.S. —He Left God Stayed is available on Amazon, but Annalee will send it to you at a discount if you contact here personally between now and December 8 at: rev.annalee.davis@gmail.com

Have You Found the Joy in They Call Me Mom!?

Do you ever find yourself trying to conjure up a smile while your kids are screaming and some little old lady pats you on the hand, smiling sweetly and trying to encourage you with, “Enjoy them while they’re young. Just remember: These are the best days of your life!”? If so, then next time try reaching for They Call Me Mom and a cup of coffee rather than rummaging around in your medicine cabinet for something to get rid of your headache.

They Call Me Mom is a heart-lifting, laughter-inciting look into the lives and loves of two every day moms* who wrestle with the same world of dirty diapers and vomit-scented tees that every young mom faces daily, and they’ve collaborated together to share with you their worst experiences and their best tips on how to survive and—even thrive! (Well, least . . . sometimes! I mean, let’s be honest, we’re never perfect, and our days don’t always end well, even if we are livin’ the dream. Right?)

Thankfully, Michelle and Bethany are open about sharing the ups and downs that come with living the dream of marriage and motherhood. Personally, I remember the days when I’d pray my way through sleepless nights with sick babies and start the mornings feeling like an explorer lost in Africa, trying to chop a path through the jungle, machete in hand and a trail of seven little ones behind. Life is never easy!

Nothing on earth quite so special as home and family!

Bethany Jett is the wife of a military man who gets regularly deployed. She is often left to parent her brood of boys alone so has lots of empathy and insights for single moms. Michelle Medlock Adams has two grown daughters and is starting that magical age of being a grandparent, so she can conclude with pleasure that—although every day is really the stuff of “the best day” and should be lived with joy and pleasure— grandparenting is also a new season of “best days.” Personally, I resonate with this too; I truly keep enjoying my children and grandchildren more and more as they (we all) continue to grow!

They Call Me Mom: 52 Encouraging Devotionals for Every MOMent

So, if you’re a young mom, or love a young mom, consider looking into this delightful book. Each devotional addresses some aspect of mothering, such as being called “supersleuth, mean mommy, cheerleader, worrywort, overprotective, beautiful, embarrassing, rainbow recorder” . . . and 44 other names delineating our job descriptions as mothers. Each devotional gives vignettes from both women, healing thoughts from the scripture as to what our loving Heavenly Father has to say about us (and to us), and then concludes with a short section of helpful strategies for solving problems.

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 6:33).

(*Yes, the authors are “every day mothers,” but they are also both successful authors who know how to write a good book! 🙂 )