Category Archives: Memories

The Gift of Easters Past (…and Present and Future!)

Most of us have probably heard of “The Ghost of Christmas Past” from Dicken’s classic book, A Christmas Carol, and it’s in that spirit that I address the topic of past Easters in my life, although they’re more giftly than ghostly!                                           Easter was sweet but quiet this year. We enjoyed a lovely sunrise service centered around celebrating the resurrection of Christ and the incredible wonder of God’s delight in showing us mercy, but for the first time in forever, there were no colored Easter eggs or the fun of watching children have an Easter egg hunt, & I found myself feeling rather sad. What did you do yesterday? Did you have a happy or rather lonesome Easter?  To cheer myself up, I searched through my photos, relived some of the joys of Easters past (such as last year was with Jon’s family in Spokane, Washington), and wrote a few haikus to share with you from Easters past with Mike’s family. I hope these photos put a smile on your face and perhaps bring to mind happy Easters from your own Easters past.

On EasterResurrection Morn:   Dress up; worship; fellowship,   Hunt for Easter eggs.

On the Inevitable Messiness of Little ChildrenWhy is it each day  That after breakfast’s over  I need to bathe again?

On Asian Delights (Which also Delight Americans!)Ice cream, popsicles,  Cotton-candy stickiness…  Sometimes life is sweet.
(Yes, even if it’s “Green Tea Ice Cream.”)

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love” (Micah 7:18, ESV).  God loves us all!! I hope that no matter what your Easter Day was like, you’re cheered by this wonderful gift of Easter present and future: Jesus! Please accept God’s gift of love to you in Jesus!If you live in some part of the world where you don’t have access to the Bible, you may not have read the resurrection story from the Book of John, chapter 20, in the Bible, so I wanted to share it with you:

 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes.

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic,“Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.

Closed Doors

Carri and I used to be in the same small group (years ago), and she’s been writing poetry even longer (since she was twelve)! I hope some day she will publish a book of her poems, but in the meantime, she’s letting me share this evocative  poem about grief with you.


Title:  “Closed Doors”
Author: Carri Casserino
Date: 02/12/16

Grief came and sat next to me a time ago,
The death was hurtful and unexpected.
I sought God’s face in the midst of my pain,
And He looked at me, “Seek my way,” he said.So, I stumble around seeking answers,
And what I see are open doors.
Why? Is it not finished?, What are the reasons?
Will there ever be peace, hope and not war?As time moves along, I find I can close one door,
And then another, as I find an end to the thing
I do for you, my loved one, my heart.
Each closed door is progress to my grief vanishing.
So, as I find ways to say good-bye, I can close a door,
And this closing puts away my pain.
Surely there is peace somewhere, there is purpose,
As I look to God’s face for the end to my heart’s rain.But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him”  (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14).

(Carri allowed me to use the photo of herself and the radiant sunset. The rest are pictures I took last spring at Clos Luce Manor [french home of Leonardo da Vinci in his latter years] in the Loire River Valley of France.)

Get Me to the Church On Time…or On Line!

I have devout friends who never travel on the Sabbath in order to keep it holy and make sure they’re worshiping with their congregation at the appointed hour. I admire that, although Alan and I do not have such a firm conviction in that area. However, I strongly believe in “a day of rest” and the principle of consistency in corporate worship, so we often visit new churches wherever we are on Sunday. In Kauai, we enjoyed a church recommended to us by a friend who’d spent a summer there. It’s always enriching and a joy to share in new (and old) worship music, hear fresh perspectives on the scripture, and fellowship with believers we’ve never met before.* In South Africa, Alan and I had no clue where a good church might be, and so (thanks to the internet) we tuned in to our own church service at  http://calvarygr.org/sermons-resources/livestream-current-service/ . It’s not quite the same as singing along with thousands of other believers, but it’s still a great blessing! Last week was spring break, and we enjoyed some vacation time together combined with a medical meeting for Alan and a little family visiting time for me.  Our flight home was Sunday morning, but the timing worked out so that we could share a set of headphones at the airport and hear the best message I can ever remember on Romans 15:1, “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.” Pastor Jim told us that we have a moral obligation to bear patiently with the failings of those who are weak in faith and the sins they commit which cause us pain. Strong words and very challenging! I needed to hear that message.  So, may I share a simple encouragement? Whenever you’re on vacation (or at home!), don’t miss the opportunity for corporate worship, spiritual growth and communion with other believers. People need people! If you can’t make it to a church for some reason, try participating with some faithful church online. If your church doesn’t provide online services, I can heartily recommend ours—not as a “perfect” church, but as a church that does try to stay true to the teachings found in the Bible.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25, NIV)

(*I didn’t take any photos at the church in Kauai, but this is a photo of flowers and the handmade leis they gave us [and all visitors]!)

Struggling with the Ghost of Christmas Past?

christmas-tree-and-giftsI have friends in their 80s who just moved to an assisted living center. Christmas DinnerIt will be the first time in 60+ years that
they won’t be celebrating Christmas in their own home. 2015-opening-christmas-presentsWhat a sad thought that is to me! 😦2013-igloo I have a sister in her 70s who never married.skyping-for-christmasShe’s recovering from a bad bout of bronchitis2012-christmas-via-skypeand will have to celebrate Christmas all alone.2013-christmas-babiesI have a friend in his 60s who lost his wife not long ago to breast cancer.
They had no children.
2014-stuffed-pig-under-christmas-treeHis brother invited him over for Christmas,
but he’ll be returning to an empty house. christmas-2011Another friend just lost him mom and says that for the first time in 63 years
he’ll have no “home” to go to for Christmas. merry-christmas-morningAnother friend in his 40s who’s never married lost him mom three years ago, 12-30-12-christmas-dinnerbut his father has become so emotionally withdrawn and unwelcoming
that my friend doesn’t have the courage to even attempt a visit.brothers-with-reindeer-hornsI have three sons in their 30-40s who have wonderful wives and kidshappy-christmas-dinnerbut for various reasons none can make it home for Christmas this year. 2013-christmasI will miss them severely, and I think they’ll miss being home as well. 2013-quadrivium-2I have a friend in his 20s whose mom is just recovering
from a frightening stroke and hospitalization. 2013-family-photo-2He’ll be home for Christmas, but many of his siblings won’t be,
and that’s painful too. 2013-christmas-playing-on-iceAnd, the list goes on.

christmas-eve-joyI was talking to my sister yesterday, and she mentioned that she still dreams of going home for Christmas and remembers the carefree days when our family was all together and everyone had sparkling eyes.  2015-christmas-dinner-celebrationI realize that many people never even had the experience of a happy childood.christmas-princess-dressesI had a girl friend in college whose most graphic Christmas memory was looking through a neighbor’s window admiring their beautiful tree and presents…knowing that a dark house and a drunken father awaited her.

2015-christmas-family-disney-tripDo you dream of past Christmases
that were more exciting than your present circumstances? 2015-christmas-babyAlthough Alan and I are looking forward to celebrating with our Michigan kids on Monday, this Christmas Eve and Christmas Day we’ll only have one son.tiny-snowmen         Please don’t misunderstand. 2014-christmas-stephen-and-joel                I’m very grateful to have my dear husband and youngest son,

a-christmas-family-shot-2but it’s hard not to notice the contrast and feel a little nostalgic when your circumstances change and you can no longer enjoy the overflowing abundance that Christmas Past brings to mind. 2013-christmas-bundled-for-sleigh-rideIf you are struggling with the prospects of your Christmas Present feeling disappointing compared to the happiness you’ve experienced in the past, may I encourage you to look up?

2014-christmas-visit                God the Father is looking down, longing for your fellowship. 2013-christmas-exchange-studentsGod the Son, whose birth we celebrate, is at the Father’s right hand.
Can  you see Him there? 2015-christmas-funHe loves you with an everlasting love and longs for you to commune with Him. 2015-celebrating-christmasThe Ghost of Christmas Present can’t even begin to compare with
the Holy Ghost, who’s calling you to Himself. 2015-christmas-art-projectHave you figured this out yet?
2015-christmas-little-boy-and-big-bearIf you have no where else to go and no one else to talk to…Rejoice! God is here! opening-christmas-giftsTalk to Him. Worship Him. Know that He longs for you to accept the gift of His love this Christmas. “Oh come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!”

christmas-party-2That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full” (1 John 1:3-4).2015-christmas-opening-presentsPS—All these photos were taken of Christmases in the last five years, when our home was full of children, chaos, and overwhelming joy!

A Close Call: Five Tornadoes Touch Down in Grand Rapids

Trees DownLast Saturday our city’s emergency alarm system started to wail and our cell phones were abeep with warnings to take cover because a tornado had touched down and was heading our way. It was raining lightly, but the sky wasn’t dark with that threatening greenish glower I associate with a “tornado” sky.

Nevertheless, we sat quietly (and prayerfully) on chairs in our storage room and waited. Soon news came that more than one tornado had touched down, and the warning period was extended. It was hard to feel very frightened without external confirmation of what might be coming, but I’m one of those who hug the mountain side of the road, so I stayed downstairs until the “all clear” was given an hour later. Alan, on the other hand—exhausted from his morning’s outdoor work—decided to ignore the wailing and went upstairs to take a nap.  Grand Rapids Tornado Damage 2016 5In the cellar, I thought back to my first experience with a tornado, which occurred when I was about six. My family was visiting my grandmother’s farm on the vast prairies of eastern Colorado. I knew all about Dorothy and The Wizard of Oz, so when my uncles shouted that a twister was coming across the prairie heading straight for us, we all scrambled down into their dark, dank storage cellar…a place I’d never venture into uncompelled. That day, the twister missed our farm, and I felt very relieved that I hadn’t been carried off to somewhere over the rainbow (or worse).  Grand Rapids Tornado Damage 2016 6My latest experience with a tornado was reading a children’s book to my grandchildren last week…a book based on a true story about a little boy who lived in a trailer park, where a tornado turned his family’s trailer into a trail of bent metal while his baby sister was asleep in her crib. After the tornado passed, the family ran everywhere, desperately searching for any signs of their baby, and by a miracle of grace they found her still safely asleep in her crib at the edge of the local ball diamond!

Grand Rapids Tornado Damage 2016 11The GR tornadoes never struck our home, and our electricity didn’t even go out, so it almost seemed like a false alarm.Grand Rapids Tornado Damage 2016 9 It wasn’t until we went to church the next morning that I knew how close we’d come to being hit. Grand Rapids Tornado Damage 2016 1One of our friends said they heard on the weather station that a tornado had touched down just a mile from our house and was headed toward our lake. Grand Rapids Tornado Damage 2016 7For some reason, it lifted before it reached us. Thank you, Lord! Grand Rapids Tornado Damage 2016 8(Yes, I was praying, but I’ll bet a lot of people whose property was damaged
were also praying.) Grand Rapids Tornado Damage 2016 3Yesterday afternoon I drove through the area close to our home that had been impacted, and although there were trees down everywhere,
not a single home had been harmed. Grand Rapids Tornado Damage 2016 2In fact, in all five of the tornadoes, there had been mostly tree damage,
and not a single report of any person being injured!   🙂

Grand Rapids Tornado Damage 2016 4Our “friendly neighborhood tornado” had uprooted massive trees, but in the most precise way so that they fell into the streets, across yards, or over fields. It reminded me of a father who’d given his children a stern warning but hadn’t spanked them!  Grand Rapids Tornado Damage 2016I’ve had a swirl of thoughts since then. For one thing, we can’t always tell by present circumstances what the future will hold, but I think we’d be wise to listen to our authorities, and for me, the most authoritative source of information about our future is the Bible, which tells us how to prepare for the inevitability of of our physical body dying. For another thing, God’s ways are higher than ours, and we can’t really fathom what he’s doing or why he’s doing it. Like a tornado, God is a God of great power, but like the five tornadoes that hit GR over the weekend, God is also full of mercy. So often he protects us from the storms, but sometimes he takes us through the storms. Both ways, He is a God of love. He loves us, and he works all things together for our good. If only we could grasp that fully!  Grand Rapids Tornado Damage 2016 10And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:28-29).

Rise Up, My Love (198): The Business End

SS 198:08.07.16Song of Solomon 6:5-7 “Thy hair is as a flock of goats that appear from Gilead. Thy teeth are as a flock of sheep which go up from the washing, whereof every one beareth twins, and there is not one barren among them. As a piece of a pomegranate are thy temples within thy locks.” Could it be possible that Solomon repeats the compliments he paid her early in their marriage because he finds he had only understood them a little, but now he feels them much more intensely…as if the kernel of truth has sprouted into a full ear of understanding? For example: “A piece of pomegranate are thy temples within thy locks.” Is it the smooth, rosy exterior he’s referring to, or the lusciousness of the fruit within? Certainly the rind of the pomegranate is beautiful to see, but the visual enjoyment that comes from viewing the rind is not to be compared to the delight and satisfaction derived from feasting on the fruit which is hidden away within. So it is with the bride. Although her external appearance is lovely, what delights and satisfies most is that which is concealed deep within.

But, it is not simply physical satisfaction that the king is praising. Notice how carefully he avoids mentioning anything of a sexual nature in this passage. He demonstrates a tender understanding of his wife that is a perfect model for men of all ages. At this juncture—the restoration of their relationship after a separation of interests and extreme hardships (mid life crisis?)—the husband is intent on praising her face, not her form. Why? Because the wife needs to know that he loves her for whom she is—for her soul and spirit (as conveyed by her face)—not just for her body. One of the most ignominious insults my husband ever gave me was referring to my female parts as “the business end.” No amount of protested explanations from the world of mechanics or electronics could ameliorate the scandal of that comment, and even though now—many years later—I have some begrudging mental acknowledgement of the possibility that “the business end” might be a term used of receptors generically (on occasion, I still don’t find that in the dictionary today), I never completely forgot that affront to my feminine identity. As far as I was—and am—concerned, the “business end” of any woman is unequivocally her head!

On the morning I first wrote this section (years ago now), one of my teenage sons got into a mega discussion with his younger sister. He was arguing that anybody serious about serving the Lord shouldn’t marry, and one of his contentions was that “the only real reason guys marry is for legitimized sex, since they can get all their other needs met through other channels.” My daughter’s adamant response was: “If that’s all a guy wants out of a girl, then I’m never getting married!” Now, this particular son was known for provocative teasing from time to time, but a lifetime of their years since teendom hence, these two are both happily married, and I have no doubt but that they have expanded views on the subject.

Still, I am quite certain that all women—no matter how young or old—want to be loved and respected for whom they are, not simply for their bodies. This is what the husband conveyed through the subtle—though very significant— omission of any comment about his wife’s body below her face! He was saying: “I love you for your head…who you are, not just your body!” Could it be that he repeats these particular praises…and only these… because he wants to reassure her that she—and she alone—is the apple of his eye and the unique object of his affection? In the light of the next two verses, this seems a very likely possibility.

Washington D.C.’s Cherry Blossom Festival 2017…I Wanna Go!

Kathi and Liz in ChicagoI was the baby in my family, but for the past nearly 50 years, Lizzie has been like the little sister I always begged my mom for. She’s somewhere between flesh and blood and a BBF buddy, and over the years, we’ve spent countless hours sharing happy times and propping each other during hard times. I’m a fan! Liz and Chuck with Washington Monument in BackgroundRecently, Lizzie and her husband moved to Washington D. C., so when Alan had to attend a conference there, you can bet I was overjoyed  to keep him company and hang out with Lizzie for a few days.

Mt. Vernon, VAAlthough I was there before the cherry blossom festival, we had a great time
and saw some wonderful museums (which I hope to share in the next few days),Lady and cherry blossoms Washington D.C. but the pictures Lizzie posted from the National Cherry Blossom Festival
just a few weeks later made me drool! Cherry Blossoms in Washington D.C.Next year, the festival is March 20-April 16, 2017,
and I’m already dreaming about going! Washington Monument. Cherry Blossom FestivalI’ve read that there are three National Park Service locations:
on the Washington Monument grounds,Monticello VA seen through cherry blossoms around the tidal basin in West Potomac Park, Washington D.C. Naitonal Cherry Blossom Festivaland in East Potomac Park, which is also known as Hains Point. Cherry Blossom Festival with Family 1988It occurs to me that it’s been nearly 30 years Capitol with Cherry Blossoms 1988since Alan and I took our family to the National Cherry Blossom Festival Washington D.C. Cherry Blossom Festival 1988…back in 1988 just a couple of months before Stephen was born. girls-with-cherry-blossoms Kyoto JapanThe last two years Alan and I were in Asia enjoying our grandchildrenTemple near Kiyomizu-dera Kyotojpg and taking in the cherry blossom festivals there, Washington D.C. Naitonal Cherry Blossom Festival 2and I somehow forgot about the fact
that we have gorgeous cherry blossom festivals right here in America. Cherry Blossoms. National Cherry Blossom Festival Washington D.C.I wonder, did any of you grow up with Christian roots and a blossoming faith…Kiyomizu Temple- Kiyomizu-dera buddhist-temple in Japan with Cherry Blossomsbut have now spent so many years searching for
wisdom, meaning, peace and beauty kyoto-city-scape-cherry-blossomsin the writings of other religions and cultural experiences that you’ve forgottenMourning Dove in our cherry tree April 2016 about the wisdom, meaning, peace, and beauty that can be found right at home? Mourning Doves in our cherry Tree 4.28.16“Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16)

(Thank you to Elizabeth for all the beautiful pictures of the cherry blossoms in Washington D.C. this spring! The rest are mine, and I took the photos of the mourning doves out my window.)