Category Archives: Memories

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.)

It Was My War I’ll Remember it the Way I Want To!

It Was My WarWith a title like that, you know this book would be a fun read!

Lisa with her grandparentsI got interested because the author, Bill Sefton, just passed on to glory recently and his grand daughter is a dear friend of mine, so when I heard that this 90+year old Grand Rapids advertising maven had written a book about his experiences in World War 2 as a paratroop officer on D-Day, I was ready to read! Bill SeftonBill was just a kid when he joined the army, and he wrote about his experiences with such candor and contagious humor that I kept laughing right up until the war became deadly. Sefton was ever innovative, able to think on the run and land on his feet. Snapping TurtleTwo of my favorite stories were the time he caught and traded a big snapping turtle for some much-needed window bars to secure a jail he was guarding, and the time he convinced a naval supply officer to exchange a hedgehog (which would make such a perfect French mascot) for some crates of canned peaches. Bill and Beth SeftonBill survived the war, married a beautiful army nurse, and eventually settled in Grand Rapids, where he fathered ten children and developed the largest advertising business around. I’ve noticed that his book is now out of print and would cost somewhere between $74 and $200+ to buy, so I’m just going to share a few words of wisdom he learned from surviving the war (and life). I think these are sterling life lessons applicable for all of us. So, if you’ll permit me to quote:

“Morale and esprit de corps in a unit wax or wane in relation to the nature of experiences shared. If training is rigorous and challenging, troops feel good about their accomplishments. If it is undemanding and haphazardly conducted, they lose confidence in leaders, commanders, and themselves.”

“I learned never to underestimate the intelligence of my men. They will see through bluff and bluster, perceive and resent any cavalier attitude. They will respond favorably to discipline they consider consistent, fair, and pertinent. They will respect you in direct ratio to the consideration you exercise on their behalf.”

“The first time in combat is a traumatic experience. People you’ve never met are trying earnestly to kill you. The human tendency is to hug any cover available rather than expose yourself by returning fire. Only the intensity and effectiveness of previous training will modify that impulse.
When attacking enemy positions, audacity may well reduce your casualties. Hesitancy inevitably will increase them.”

“When your attack starts to falter and momentum hangs on your next decision, the only order to give is ‘Follow me!'”

“There is just one effective shield against the mental and emotional stresses of combat. It is the firm conviction that there is a Supreme Being who decides the extent of your survival. So you do your job to the best of your ability and let Him call the shots.”

“Most military principles of leadership applied in business enterprises as well. Maintain a positive attitude, assign attainable objectives and communicate the importance of accomplishing them, specify individual responsibilities and timing of reports on progress, praise successes in public and critique failures in private.”

Finally, Sefton finished with the “two most important lessons learned in combat. One is to thank God for every new day and to squeeze all possible juice out of it. The other is to keep forging ahead. It’s harder to hit a moving target.”Bill SeftonJudging from what I’ve read and heard, I believe Bill Sefton was a man of his word, and despite the tongue-in-cheek title, I think It Was My War I’ll Remember it the way I want to! is a very uplifting and reliable resource for those of us who want to learn more about survival in both war and peace!

“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. And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.” (Psalm 37:4-6)

Homespun Fun and Homemade Lemonade

Family DinnerWhen our third bouncing baby boy was born, Alan and I were encouraged by friends who playfully posited that heaven holds a special prize for parents of three sons. Small children sitting on cousin's feetIf that’s true, I’m pretty sure there might be an even bigger prize awaiting my firstborn son, Aaron, and his wife Carleen, who are now hard at work rearing their brood of four energizer bunny boys!

Folding LaundryWhen you have little boys, there are always mountains of laundry to do, Mother making dinnerand mountains of food to prepare, Mother reading bedtime storiesWith little ones, there are endless books to read, Child practicing pianolessons to teach, Father Son Chess gameand games to play. Small Boy helping Mother in KitchenEvery child needs his turn being mama’s little helper,Making Chocolate Chip Cookiesand—of course—even sons need to know the crucial aspects of survival,
such as how to bake chocolate chip cookies.    🙂  Playing with cousinWhen we visited last week,
I’m not sure if the kids ever held still except when they were asleep, Grandpa and Grandson playing chessand it kept us all totally occupied having fun with them. Little LeagueWe enjoyed Little League on Saturday morning, Family Hike in Californiaand hiking on Saturday afternoon.Sandlot hockeySunday morning we went to church.
(Well, there were a few minutes to spare before we had to leave.)Mother rounding up kids for church(And, when you have boys…
it’s especially hard to keep them clean until it’s time to leave for church!) Mother having tea breakI think there’s something to that old adage: “A man may work from sun to sun, but a woman’s work is never done.” At least, that’s the way I remember it.Older cousin playing with kidsSunday afternoon we went out for dinner with my brother’s family,
and we were all thankful for Jack, whose boundless teenage energy and expertise in high school wrestling was more than a match for his 4 little cousins!
(Thank you, Jack!) Lemon TreeOne of the special pleasures of living in California now is that Aaron and Carleen have intensely fragrant lemon and orange trees in their yard, Ripe lemon on treeso Alan wondered if he could have some fresh lemonade on Sunday afternoon. Picking LemonsThe two youngest boys helped me pick the ripest lemons, Making fresh lemonadeand then Aaron supervised making lemonade for his dad (and all of us). Squeezing lemonsMost all the boys took a turn squeezing out the tart juice.  Father making lemonade with kidsand it occurred to me that although each event was very memorable and fun…Little boy squeezing lemonsas a mother (and grandmother)… Making juice for lemonadeI was most touched by those activities where the family all worked together.Blue Potato Bush FlowerSince returning home, I’ve thought a lot about our wonderful visit White Calla Lilyand the purity and simplicity of homespun fun. Home Spun FunThank you, A+C, for all the love and energy you pour into making your home life such an abundant experience for your children!

Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life,
and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

(P.S.—Lemonade can be made lots of ways, but perhaps the easiest is to squeeze out whatever lemon juice you can get, add sugar until it’s sweet/tart to taste, and then add water and ice until it’s dilute enough. You really don’t even need to boil water and sugar to make syrup!)