Category Archives: Memoirs

My Twenty-nine Hour Day

napali-coast-kauai           Do you ever wish you could have a few more hours in your day? sailboats-on-napali-coast          I’ve caught myself thinking: “If I just had a few more hours, I could…lazy-river-at-grand-hyatt-kauai-resort-and-spaget all my work done, find time to exercise, be more thoughtful, eat better, have time to relax and play some music,” etc!  view-of-napali-coast-from-kaialau-lookout-kauai  Well, let me tell you what actually happened on the day my wish was granted. rooster-in-kauai-one-of-hundredsIt was January 21, unseasonably warm with a heavy fog draped across our window panes. Joel had Alan and me to the airport on time to catch our flight to Chicago, but our flight was delayed…once, twice…the third time was the charm. aerial-view-of-holland-and-lake-michiganWe left 2.5 hours late after re-booking our flights out of Chicago to Los Angeles. chicago-ohare-airportWe arrived in Chicago’s O’Hare needing a shuttle bus to the C terminal and no time for the lunch we were looking forward to at Manchu Wok. In fact, the shuttle bus required a 15-minute wait, so we arrived at our gate with just enough time to grab a bag lunch from the venue next door to the gate: McDonald’s. aerial-view-of-chicago-and                                                Better than nothing, right?! aerial-view-of-rocky-mountainsThe flight to Los Angeles was breath-taking. I was thrilled to have a window seat even after the last minute flight switch, since my chief delight on flights is sitting with my nose pressed against the window watching the world glide by beneath me. I wasn’t thrilled to be separated from Alan, and I was downright unthrilled when I discovered that the lovely couple sitting next to me wanted me to pull down my window blind so the light wouldn’t bother them while they worked on cross word puzzles and read.sleeping-seat-matesNevertheless, they eventually drifted off to sleep, and I resumed my watch, rationalizing my uncharitable behavior with the thought that my body was blocking enough of the light so they never stirred from their happy slumbers. aerial-view-of-grand-canyonHowever, it was increasingly hard to relax as the hours passed and I realized we were going to arrive at Los Angeles’ LAX at about exactly the time we needed to start boarding for our flight to Hawaii. “DOOMED!” I think they say. aerial-view-of-los-angelesAs soon as we landed, Alan and I caught each other’s eye to make sure we were both registering the same level of panic and joined the snail trail of passengers who seemed to take longer than forever to relocate and unload their overhead luggage. Wide-eyed, we raced up the landing dock and couldn’t believe our fortune! We landed at Gate 74 and our new flight was departing from Gate 76, just next door! We heaved a huge sigh of relief and waltzed from arrival gate to departure gate with ease and only some slight discomfort from not being able to access a restroom before boarding. Not to worry! We’d have six hours and twenty minutes before landing…definitely enough time to catch up with john. aerial-view-of-sunset-over-the-pacific-oceanWe flew directly into the sunset, its pastel glories blocked by the wing, and soon it was pitch black. We read. We slept. I ate another burger and fries (all the Mediterranean wraps are gone? Hmm…not surprising…) and felt rather ill from a double dose of barf burgers for lunch and dinner. I tried to read some more but was too listless to concentrate. I tried to sleep some more but couldn’t. By the time we arrived, it was only 8:30 pm Hawaiian Standard Time, but it was 1:30 am by EST (aka/ Armstrong body clock time). So far, the extra 1.5 hours on our 24-hour day hadn’t garnered us anything but grogginess.  kauai-sunset-with-palm-treesAn exhilarating 45-mph wind whipped up by the time we reached Lihue, Kauai, and the descent and landing were attended with jostling and jolting unlike anything I’ve experienced since riding Hollywood Studio’s Tower of Terror.  We all braced ourselves for a crash landing…which switched to giddy applause after we touched down and catapulted safely to a screeching halt.  grand-hyatt-kauai-resort-and-spaThe rest was a bit of a blur, but we did make it to the right spot to catch the right bus to the right car rental to dig out the right car and find our way to the right resort to check in and find our way through an incredible maze of hallways to the right room (600+ of them sprawling like a six-story serpent along the oceanfront). By the time we unpacked enough to bathe and climb into bed, it was midnight Hawaii time. “Whew!” Alan sighed as he flipped out the light. “What we needed was a day with about five fewer hours.” I couldn’t help but laugh. I finally got more hours in my day, but if anything I’d been more grouchy, exercised less, ate less carefully, had not relaxed, and had been too listless to get everything on my “wish list” accomplished! So, note to self (and friends): Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it!

waimea-canyon-lookout-kauaiMake me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight. Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness.
Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way.
” (Psalm 119:35-37)sunset-over-grand-hyatt-kauai-seawater-lagoon(All photos taken last week on a trip to Mayo Clinic’s Medical Update in Kauai.)

Taking a Dip In The Devil’s Pool and Enjoying the Loo with a View

waving-from-the-top-of-victoria-falls-at-the-edge-of-the-devils-poolToday I’m going to tell you about our thrilling adventure hanging out at the edge of the world’s largest waterfall, Victoria Falls, and swimming in the Devil’s Pool, although next Monday I’ll explain why I very strongly do not recommend it…not only for the obvious reasons you’ll notice today, but for one very un-obvious medical reason I only discovered after the fact. Even Alan, as a physician, hadn’t considered this tropical possibility when we made our decision to go! But, it was definitely one of those “adventure of a lifetime” sorts of events that we’ll never forget! hotel-in-livingstone-zimbabweFirst, we were staying in Zimbabwe, so we had to leave our comfy hotel and take a trip across the border into Zambia, which is a bit of an adventure in and of itself (but one that can’t be photographed).

group-waiting-at-royal-livingstone-hotel-for-boat-to-devils-pool      We met other adventurers at the Royal Livingstone Hotel, adventurer-waiting-to-go-to-the-devils-poolwhere we immediately noticed that the rest of the group were young adults
in the prime of life and fitness.
That was our first clue that we might be out of our depth!  🙂  livingstone-islandThe only way to access the Devil’s Pool is via Livingstone Island, and that’s mediated by the tour operator Tongabezi. Trips are expensive and sell out fast, view-of-devils-pool-and-victoria-falls-from-zambezi-national-park-zimbabwe-3so if you want to go, you need reservations ahead of time. In all fairness to Tongabezi, they have never lost a customer yet, and they’re very careful.
(Can you see people in the middle right in this picture? This is where we were.) boat-on-zambezi-river-to-take-us-to-livingstone-islandOur group were transported via a small motor craft on the Zambezi River,
which just ran a few people through the treacherous channels each time. boat-ride-to-livingstone-islandI’m told they are very careful to make sure there are no hippos or alligators deck-of-the-royal-livingstone-hotelroaming the water as they travel, although I did see some
just up the river from the deck of the hotel while we waited. david-livingstone-island-on-the-zambezi-riverOnce we all made it safely to Livingstone Island, we were taken on a short tour, changing-room-and-loo-with-a-view-livingstone-islandincluding the opportunity of using their unique “Loo with a View” bath house a-loo-with-a-view-on-livingstone-islandfor changing and to use the Loo (aka toilet). view-from-the-loo-with-a-view-zambezi-riverActually, it was only a three-sided loo, and it did have this pretty good view! welcome-drink-before-swimming-in-the-devils-poolAfter a welcoming (non-alcoholic) drink tent-on-livingstone-island-prepared-for-high-teawe were taken past the tent to let us know that a proper high tea
would be awaiting us after we’d accomplished our aquatic mission. view-of-victoria-falls-from-near-the-devils-poolNext, they walked us to the edge just to let us make sure we were “in” on this gig. approaching-the-edge-of-victoria-falls-zambiaAnyone who chickens out can stay and watch, but after paying good money,
I doubt many people take that option. david-livingstone-plague-angels-in-their-flight-over-victoria-fallsThere was also time to read a bit about David Livingstone and take a few photos.devils-pool-center(Devil’s Pool is behind the second rock to the right upper middle of this photo.)ropes-to-stop-people-who-sliipGetting to the pool was a bit of a challenge. These ropes are not to walk between; we had to walk and swim to the right of them, but the ropes offered two chances white-water-in-zambezi-on-was-to-devils-poolfor people who lost their balance or couldn’t swim against the current to catch a hold and pull themselves out rather than fall over the cliff. Reassuring, huh? waiting-for-our-turn-in-the-devils-pool-zambiaWith a little angst, we all made it to the edge, where we rested and waited. We had to experience the pool a few at a time so the tour guides could supervise us sitting-on-the-angels-armchair-in-the-devils-pooland take photos (since it’s the sort of thing everybody wanted to remember).   This little perch is called the Angel’s Armchair, and it’s a trick to stay on it!we-all-survived-the-devils-pool-victoria-fallsWe survived and felt quite brave (and relieved) once we were back on dry land!tea-party-in-tent-on-livingstone-island-devils-pool-zambiaTo celebrate, our hosts provided a lovely “high tea” (afternoon option).high-tea-party-at-livingstone-island-after-devils-pool-adventure We were extremely hungry and thirsty, so it was a most welcome treat!sunset-over-the-zambezi-river-with-steam-from-victoria-fallsOurs was the last tour of the day, so the sun was setting by the time we left.
I almost felt like God was smiling down on us.sunset-cruise-home-from-devils-pool-on-zambezi-riverIt turned out to be an amazing and most memorable trip! The Lord was gracious.view-of-devils-pool-and-victoria-falls-from-zambezi-national-park-zimbabwe-2Nevertheless, I wouldn’t do it again. Some chances aren’t worth taking. victoria-falls-along-the-zambezi-river-in-zambiaThe prudent sees danger and hides himself,
but the simple go on and suffer for it” (Proverbs 22:3).

Time Out from Politics…Have You Taken Time for an Autumn Retreat?

blue-water-writers-groupOur Blue Water Writers’ Group had their first ever fall retreat at my house last month, and we had such a grand time that we’ve already planned our next one. memoirsIn fact, I had so much fun personally that now I’m wishing everybody could cook up their own autumn retreat—if not for a group of like-minded friends who might need a concentrated time of productivity in their chosen field—meditationthen a personal retreat to focus on something that’s especially precious to you. brenda-bringing-a-basket-of-goodiesOur group shared breakfast together, had a three-hour “silent time” for writing, took an hour break for a brown-bag lunch together, and then went for another three-hour silent time for writing.

writers-retreatSome of us sat at a table together, writing-in-the-garden-roombut most found cozy corners or private areas where they could spread out quiet-retreatand work without any distractions whatsoever.preparing-to-be-a-spiritual-mentorAll of us felt like our time had been well spent.

deer-on-laneI know a number of you are caregivers and can’t even leave your homes to go anywhere for the day, but what about declaring your own private retreat? writer-at-workFor my son Michael’s birthday a couple of weeks ago, he asked for an “electronics-free day,” and he loved having his family enjoying life together with no computers, telephones, or other interruptions. It’s really okay to turn off your phone for a few hours (unless somebody’s life depends on it). writer-in-progressThink about it! If you can’t take a whole day off, maybe you could take a few hours off one evening. If you love taking a personal retreat as much as I enjoyed our writers’ retreat, I bet it will generate sequels!writing-historical-fiction

And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place,
and rest a while
” (Mark 6:31).

charylene-and-lisa(P.S.—Although we have all types of writing going on within our writers’ group, several of the women write devotionals, and I asked if they’d be willing to share with you. They’ve consented, so the posts on Wednesday through Friday this week will be guest-authored by these lovely ladies!)

From Depths We Rise Reviewed

from-depths-we-riseIf you’re ever tempted to feel sorry for yourself or bitter because your life is so hard, here’s medicine for your beleaguered soul, fresh off the press this October. Reading From Depths We Rise reminded me that life is never predictable, tragedy is almost universal at some point in our lives, and God doesn’t owe us anything. Still, like Job (and Sarah Rodriguez, who authored this memoir), God is worthy of our worship and trust.

Job declared his shocking faith thus: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15). How’s that for the antithesis of modern Americans, who argue that if God were good he’d order the universe according to our sensibilities and opinions? And yet, Job is lauded around the globe for his patience and held up as a model of integrity in the Bible. Similarly, I stand in awe of Sarah’s faith through a world of heartache, infertility, love found and lost, and love almost lost but ultimately found.

From Depths We Rise was hard to read but good to remember. I read it in spare moments between chatting with people while tending my ArtPrize entry. It was the perfect therapy for thinking I “should” win anything. Life is all about obeying God and leaving the results with Him. He doesn’t promise us any tangible rewards in this life for surrendering our lives to Him, but He does promise to bless us with far more precious intangibles: love, joy, peace, patience, faith, hope, self-control, gentleness, goodness…

Feeling disappointed? Feeling loss? Try reading Sarah’s amazing story of passion, prayer, anger, surrender, and joy as she learned to rise from the depths of sorrow and loss. May it inspire you to steadiness in faith as it has inspired me.

Tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:3-6).

Finding the Perfect Apartment in the Heart of Paris

paris-springIt was true, although it seemed too good to be true. But, there was one catch. strolling-in-paris-springtimeFirst of all, let me tell you about our apartment. view-along-the-seine-riverIt was just 31 £ per person for the 4 of us,the-river-seine a block from the Seine, notre-dame5 minutes from the Notre Dame, outside-the-louvre-museum-parisand only 15 from the Louvre and d’Orsay. crossaint-and-coffee-parisI feared it might be infested with cockroaches, but it wasn’t, breakfast-at-terressa-flat-parisand we discovered that “Terressa Flat” referred to the fact
that it was a flat with a terrace garden perfect for dining outside! rue-des-lombardsWhat I hadn’t realized was that “Rue des Lombards” is a very famous street,
full of nightlife and jazz clubs.rue-des-lombard-paris-by-night In fact, it was more crowded near midnight than it was in the mornings! paris-springSo, it was an ideal location for experiencing Paris,
but it was absolutely harrowing trying to access our apartment! paris-sightsFor a starter, our sons flew to Paris from Boston and NY,
arriving early the next morning at different times.

street-vendors-along-the-river-seineThe theory was that they would be able to drop off their luggage and pick up a key so they could spend the day exploring before Alan and I arrived about suppertime from Grand Rapids. The realities were that no one was available at the place of residence. No one received them, gave them a key, or offered to hold their luggage. In fact, no one even appeared to speak English or understand rudimentary French.  😦

picnicking-in-the-park-paris-srpingAfter hours of attempts to contact the owner, Stephen was able to communicate (in French…thankfully he’s knows some French) via email, and late in the afternoon he was able to meet “a friend” of the owner who gave him a key and wanted cash (which Stephen didn’t have) for payment. By then, Stephen and Joel had both missed a night’s sleep and were really tired. The man said they could stay, but that he’d return the next day for the rest of the payment.

rue-des-lombards-at-nightAlan and I had had a delayed flight (which is getting to be almost more usual than timely flights) and didn’t arrive until nightfall (long after Stephen and Joel were expecting us) after the taxi driver dropped us off several blocks away, pointing and gesticulating with untranslatable French phrases in the direction of a dark and very busy alley. We slowly mazed our way, dragging our luggage, to what we thought must be the door to our apartment above a very crowded street, but inside the door marked “8” were about 12 possible choices for apartments to ring, none descripted as “Terressa Flat.” One by one we pushed all of the buzzers, to no avail. I think perhaps none of them worked, but I know that the one for our apartment certainly did not, because neither son appeared. We tried calling, but our phones (despite having paid good money for the privilege) didn’t connect.

night-scene-rue-des-lombardWe tried asking help from a couple of sympathetic looking young people, but no one knew anything about that particular apartment and using their cell phones didn’t help make a connection. At long last, Stephen (who’d set his alarm for the occasion) came down to see if we’d arrived yet. Whew! We kissed our sons, kissed the floor, and flopped into bed. What a dreary and inauspicious beginning! However, our holiday in France turned out to be quite the opposite: It was marvelous and memorable!

door-for-our-apt-on-rue-des-lombards-in-parisI’ve thought a lot about how hard it was to get to Terressa Flat, but how much we loved it once we finally arrived. I’m betting heaven will be like that for some. springtime-in-parisIt sounds too good to be true, but it’s not. rue-des-lombards-at-night-2It’s not full of cockroaches (things we don’t like),
but it will be full of music and life. river-seine-on-a-sunny-spring-dayIt will be the perfect location…just down the street from the River of Life
and a place of worship…and close to our favorite attractions.
(For me, that’s going to be loved ones!)walking-along-the-seine-river-paris-springHowever, it may seem almost impossible to figure out how to get there, despite having a reservation. If you’re confused, please pray and ask for help.
(Feel free to ask me in the comment section.) walking-along-the-seine-riverIf you see somebody who looks confused and you understand the language,
reach out and help, will you?

the-river-seine-2And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him…And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” (Revelation 22:1-3;17)

Introducing our Newest Little Miracle from Heaven: Marie

Grandma holds MarieWednesday, I wrote about Miracles from Heaven, but I believe there are miracles happening around us every day if we just stop to think about it. One of those miracles is our fifteenth grandchild, who made her appearance early this month, and this morning I wanted to share just a little bit about her.

Riding the Merry-Go-Round in Spokane WAMarie made her appearance later than anticipated, so I’d already arrived at Jon and Linda’s home, giving me some very special bonding time with their two girls. Making peach pieWe’d taken a motor home trip with them last summer, so Biggest Sister was already excited to see me, but it took Almost Big Sister a bit of time to take me in. Choosing items from a menuFunny how positive you can feel about being accepted as an appropriate mother substitute when it comes time for bathroom toiletries, isn’t it?!  🙂Meeting Baby SisterAt any rate, we had a wonderful time anticipating the arrival,
and meeting little Marie was such a blessing and joy! Newborn sleepingShe’s as pretty as a picture and as sweet as sugar. In the parking lotJonathan brought us over for a first precious visit at the hospital,
and since it was the day before Mama and Marie could really come home, Choosing Donuts with Dadhe then sponsored a birth day party for us, complete with donuts,Birthday Donut one with a candle on top! Watching Doctor check babyWhat a miracle each new child is, don’t you think? Holding Baby sisterWe could never create a baby, and yet, without even knowing how,
babies grow within the womb and come to birth.Back to Sleep It never ceases to amaze me and fill my heart with joy. Life is such a gift! Daddy's girlsWith every child, I think God is saying, “I love you! I love this child.”Taking turns holding new baby“Love this child with me, will you?” Praise God for children!Mother and Newborn BabyLo, children are an heritage of the Lord:
and the fruit of the womb is his reward
” (Psalm 127:3).

ArtPrize 2016 ala Notre Dame Cathedral: One Dream Has Come True

Rose Window in Notre Dame. Paris, FranceGuess what? Almost 3 years after initial inspiration, I signed a hosting agreement last night with the Holiday Inn on Pearl Street adjacent to the Grand Rapids Public Museum, so I’m now officially “in” for ArtPrize 2016! Votive candles burning in Notre Dame. Paris, FranceThose who know me well or have been patiently reading my blog will recognize that this represents a dream come true and the culmination of unending hours of contemplation, prayer, hard work, study, listening, submission, hard work, expense, prayer, research, prayer, frustration, hard work, submission, excitement, determination, prayer, soul-searching, anxiety, confusion, prayer, hard work…you get the picture! I would have added “ad nauseum” were it not something I felt like the Lord had inspired in the first place. P.A.S.S.I.O.N. Candles burning in Notre Dame. Paris, FranceSleepless nights. Distraction. Planning. Asking. Organizing. On my knees and on my face. Walking in the Spirit and wrestling with my flesh. Around, and around, and around in spiraling circles. Hope. Deferred hope. Hope again. Growth. Disappointment. Resignation. Hope. Then, the whole crazy cycle started over again for the third time this April when it was time to apply for ArtPrize 2016. Christ on the Cross in Notre Dame. Paris, FranceYou get the picture, and I’m sure you’ve experienced similar passions in your life—if not for a venue for ArtPrize, perhaps in wanting a particular spouse, a certain job or a particular home or car. As humans we all experience ardent hopes that something we desire deeply will become a reality. Candles and statue of Jesus in Notre Dame. Paris, FranceIn the process of praying about an ArtPrize venue, I was always acutely aware that whether or not I succeeded would be up to God ultimately, and that in the grand scheme of things, there were (are) innumerable things that I desire much more, such as the spiritual health and welfare of my loved ones and the world at large, peace on earth, and goodness to overcome evil. Inside the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, FranceWhat infinitesimal impact my ArtPrize entry might make on the relatively small population of people who will see it is less than a drop in the bucket of need and desire, but it is one of the things I feel like God has inspired me to pursue, and so I’ve been pursuing it with all the “heartily as unto the Lord” I can muster! Jesus with Peter walking on the water in Notre Dame. Paris, FranceDespite my calm assurance that God is in control, which provides  an ocean of peace in the depths of my being, I still struggle superficially, and I still find it thrilling when my prayers and hopes are granted. You too? Sarchophagus in Notre Dame. Paris, FranceI’ve prayed for some things over 50 years now, and perhaps I’ll go to my grave praying for others, but let’s keep praying and asking, for God’s glory and our good.Candles buring in Notre Dame. Paris, France 2

Hope deferred makes the heart sick: but when the desire comes,
it is a tree of life
” (Proverbs 13:12).Chestnuts bloomin in spring at Notre Dame Cathedral. Paris, France(I took all these photos in or of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, May 2016.)