COVID Cake

But now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna . . . and its taste was as the taste of cakes baked with oil” (Numbers 11:6,8 NASB). This is just like the coronavirus pandemic! We have nothing to do but stay at home. Yet, isn’t that what people normally long for? Who doesn’t like cake? Who doesn’t long to go home after work and rest? Just like the children of Israel spending 40 years in the wilderness with nothing to do but be together and follow the Lord, we’ve been handed an extended “shelter-at-home” mandate by our government, for our own protection, and for many that even includes some financial support from the government.

The Israelites had been slaving away in Egypt, but God delivered them and moved them back to Israel, even supernaturally providing food for them on their journey. I admit to chaffing a little like the Israelites, who remembered the fish, the cucumbers and melons, the onions and garlic. Manna tasted like the best of the best—the perfect food, yet the children of Israel got bored with the best! I remember the restaurants we used to attend, and the places we used to visit, and I miss the freedom to go here and there at will. Yes, sometimes I’m tempted to get a little bored with the best too.

However, what a blessed time this has been for Alan and me! True enough, we miss our children and grandchildren severely. We miss visiting with our friends and worshiping corporately with our church community . . . all provisions the Israelites were allowed during their wilderness wanderings. Still, we have had more time to work on our home and yard than we’ve had in (literally) years. We’ve been enjoying leisurely devotional times together and morning walks before breakfast. Instead of spending two weeks in Belgium visiting some of our kids, we’ve been spending hours and hours cleaning, sorting, organizing, and redeeming our basement after 27 years of neglect. We’ve been chopping down weedy trees and rooting out the poison ivy that’s been over running the flowers along our fence line. We’ve been working until we’re so sore we can hardly move or think anymore and then enjoying movies together in the evenings. What’s not to love about that? Shouldn’t we be delighted to be able to be at home with our family and relishing the “manna” of more free time to cherish one another?

Dear Father, I know that many, many people are suffering from COVID. Over 100,000 have died here in America, and most all of us are experiencing economic and social losses. However, there are still over 330,000,000 of us who have not gotten COVID. Thank you! For those of us who have not contracted COVID and are alive and well, help us to use this time to concentrate on learning more about loving You and loving one another. Help us appreciate the “manna” of time . . . the “sabbath rest” of being home. There are so many silver linings in this storm. Help us to look up and see them!

The rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, ‘Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.’ Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its appearance like that of bdellium. The people would go about and gather it and grind it between two millstones or beat it in the mortar, and boil it in the pot and make cakes with it; and its taste was as the taste of cakes baked with oil. When the dew fell on the camp at night, the manna would fall with it” (Numbers 11:4-9, NASB).

Trying to Keep Perspective

Have you seen this reminder of what life was like in America a hundred years ago? Yesterday, our governor announced that Michigan is going to be in lock-down for another two weeks, until May 28th. With most of the world, I was feeling a bit discouraged over being cooped up and distressed by the disruption of society as we’ve known and treasured it! Someone came up with this cogent reminder (below the cartoon), which I thought might be helpful to all of us as we struggle to keep biding our time:

“It’s a mess out there now . . . hard to discern between what’s a real threat and what is just simple panic and hysteria. For a small amount of perspective at this moment, imagine you were born in 1900.

On your 14th birthday, World War I starts, and it doesn’t end until your 18th birthday. 22 million people perish in that war. Later in the same year, a Spanish Flu epidemic hits the planet and runs until your 20th birthday. 50 million people die from it in those two years. Yes, 50 million. 
 
On your 29th birthday, the Great Depression begins. Unemployment hits 25%, the World GDP drops 27%. This era of economic ruin lasts until you are 33. America nearly collapses . . . along with the rest of the world.
 
When you turn 39, World War II starts. You aren’t even over the hill yet. And don’t try to catch your breath. On your 41st birthday, the United States is fully pulled into WWII. Between your 39th and 45th birthday, 75 million people perish in the war. 
 
Smallpox was epidemic until you were in your 40’s, as it killed 300 million people during your lifetime.  
 
When you are 50, the Korean War starts. 5 million perish. From your birth until you’re 55, you have to deal with the fear of polio epidemics each summer. You experience friends and family contracting polio and being paralyzed and/or dying.  
 
At 55, the Vietnam War begins and doesn’t end for 20 years. 4 million people perish in that conflict. During the Cold War, you live each day with the fear of nuclear annihilation. On your 62nd birthday you experience the Cuban Missile Crisis, a tipping point in the Cold War, when life on our planet—as we know it—almost ended. When you turn 75, the Vietnam War finally ends.

Think of everyone on the planet born in 1900. How did they endure all of that? When you were a kid in 1985, you didn’t think your 85-year-old grandparent understood how hard school was, or how mean that kid in your class was. Yet they survived through everything listed above. Perspective is an amazing art, refined and enlightening as time goes on. Let’s try and keep things in perspective. Your parents and/or grandparents were called to endure all of the above—you are called to stay home and sit on your  couch—probably worried about how to survive on a reduced income and how to get your unemployment check.”

(I don’t know the author, but I appreciated the straight talk! The cartoon was posted on Sarah Jaeschke’s Face Time Line—thanks for the laugh, Sarah. 🙂 Let’s endure patiently, and if we still have food and shelter, we have great cause for being thankful!)

And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful” (Colossians 3:15).

Be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:18-21).

Merry Christmas, 2019

Sitting by the fountain in the Soo Looks Park where we used to sit 50 years ago!

2019 has been an extremely happy year for our family for the most part, although not without some major sorrow and challenges! Alan has been feeling well and is continuing as the medical director at Pine Rest Christian Hospital. However, we will both turn 70 in 2020, so he’s beginning to think about retiring “at some point.” I’m guessing sometime this coming year, but he’s made no promises, so I’m not holding my breath! Besides, I’m happy as a clam writing and enjoying family, friends, community, and church life.

Aaron and Michael’s families joining us on a “Roots Tour”
in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Aaron and Carleen with their four boys continue to enjoy living in California, where Aaron is now a senior manager at LinkedIn. Carlie is still homeschooling, and the kids all seem to be thriving. They’ve been wonderful about visiting twice each year, for which I’m most grateful because it makes the distance seem not quite so far!

Michael and Grace’s family in Europe

Michael and Grace are now stationed in Belgium with their five children, so (very sadly) we don’t get to see them often, although they blessed us with a long, happy visit last summer. Michael has been promoted to “Major” Armstrong and works at the American/NATO dental clinics near Brussels, where they enjoy interacting with military personnel from 28 different countries! The children were enrolled in the Belgian public schools this fall (after previously home schooling), so they’re learning French and expanding their understanding of world culture.

Such a fun week with Jon and Gerlinde’s family at Disney!

Jonathan and Gerlinde are now living in Chicago, where (“Dr.”) Jonathan is a professor of biblical studies and directs the Center for Global Theological Education. Gerlinde is still homeschooling the children. We had an awesome trip to Disney camping with their family last spring and feel greatly privileged to see them pretty often now that they’re living so much closer than they used to! (Lived for seven years in Washington State.)

Daniel and Brianna with Samuel, Elanor, and Neil

Daniel and Brianna (like Jonathan and Kathryn) also now have three children, so Alan and I are the blessed “Papa” and “Nana” to eighteen grandchildren. Because Daniel and Brianna live in Grand Rapids, we get to see them the most often and delight in watching every little change! Right now, Nerf wars with Sammy and Play-Doh with Ellie are favorite games, whereas our new “Neil Armstrong” just likes to snuggle and coo! Daniel continues as the dental director at Exalta Health, a ministry in GR treating the medical, emotional, and spiritual needs of un or under-insured folks. Brianna’s father retired in May (in what seemed like perfect health) but was diagnosed with stage IV cancer in August. His 10 children, 6 in-laws, and 15 grandchildren were able to gather in time for his shocking demise, and he passed into eternal rest on the 21st of November. He has been terribly missed.

Stephen home for the Fourth of July and his birthday

Stephen is still hard at work on his PhD in musicology from Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. He has now completed all his classwork for his degree and is writing his dissertation. Thanks to a scholarship, he spent part of his summer studying in the U.K. Stephen has presented at twenty conferences over the past few years . . . all part of becoming competitive for the job market as (hopefully) a college professor in the next year or two.

Joel at his office

We have the great privilege of having our youngest son living with us at this time. He works as an associate editor at Kregel Publications and adds much joy to our home! He is also actively presenting at writers’ conferences and is constantly working on novels.

Joel teaching a seminar at my Blue Water Writers’ Group

Joel (as a special gift to me) has even shared a couple of his presentations with my writers’ group!

Some of our family gathered for a Fourth of July celebration

There is so much I could say, but I appreciate your taking time to read this much! All the kids and grandchildren are healthy, active in their churches, and growing in grace. The bottom line to me is that God has been amazingly merciful and kind to our family. I’ve been memorizing psalms this year, and Psalm 16 just speaks my heart:

Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust. O my soul, thou hast said unto the Lord, Thou art my Lord: my goodness extendeth not to thee; But to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight. Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god: their drink offerings of blood will I not offer, nor take up their names into my lips. The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage. I will bless the Lord, who hath given me counsel: my reins also instruct me in the night seasons. I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”

Thanksgiving Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father . . . Oh Lord, my Lord, how excellent is your name in all the earth!

Thank you for creating this indescribably majestic world as a home for people—for all people—every person who has ever lived, the ones born thousands of years ago, those who live today, and those who will be born in the future. People I know and love, and the billions I’ll never meet on this earth. Thank you for creating us to need each other. Thank you for telling us to love each other and take care of one another. Help me to be kind and learn how to love the way you love.

Thank you for the beauty of this earth. Thank you for creating the seas—awesome! Powerful. Mesmerizing. Throbbing with power. Teeming with life. Thank you for water in all its forms—warm, moist breezes in the spring and frozen stars of ice falling from heaven as winter sets in. For clouds and rain, for streams and rivers, for our tiny lake, and for lakes so huge they look like oceans. For brooks that gurgle, waterfalls that roar, and waves that pound and lull. I feel like I could sit forever beside the sea, just drinking in the scents and sights and sounds. Thank you for water. Water is life to me. Thank you for the Water of Life, too—Jesus . . . that fountain of eternal life you’ve caused to spring up within me.

Thank you for forming the dry land . . . the unending display of beauty in nature seen in the trees and flowers, and the unending parade of curious creatures. Thank you for the astounding variations in topography, the rocks and rifts. Mountains so remote most of us will never stand beneath their shadow. Trenches so deep we could never withstand the pressure of descending into them. Lava flows that would incinerate us instantly should we attempt to walk on them. Icy polar winds that would freeze us solid in minutes if we dared to face them unprotected. Lord, as frail humans, we can only stand in awe of your creation, and of You, the One who has created such splendor and power for us to contemplate, but who is infinitely greater than everything we can see in the world around us.

Thank you for the seemingly infinite sea of stars above us, too. I look up into the night sky and marvel. Finger play? With your fingers you made the moon and the stars? What must heaven be like? By day, we can see the sun, without which we would all die within hours. How like your Son, through whom all things consist and without which nothing would exist. He is the energy that holds all things together and keeps all things from collapsing! The sun: We can see it, and we can’t live without it, but we can’t look at it, because it’s so brilliant we will become blind if we dare to stare at it. How like You! The glory of your radiance makes it impossible to see You! And yet, you have given us Jesus, the express image of your person for us to behold. God in the flesh for us to have and to hold. God become man, who purged our sins by his own blood so that we could be reconciled to God.

Thank you for salvation—that whosoever will may come and receive eternal life as a free gift from your hand. Thank You for giving us your Word, the Word of God—a lamp to our feet and a light to our path to guide us through this life. Thank you for your Holy Spirit to brood over us and rebirth our spirits into new life so that we can see your kingdom, sense your presence, and experience your fellowship. Thank you for your Church and the communion of the saints. May your love flow through us to all those around us. May your kingdom come and your will be done all around the world, even as it is in heaven.

I love you, Lord! Thank you for life. Thank you for allowing me to enter your gates with thanksgiving and come into your courts with praise. May I bless your name and be thankful unto you for as long as I live, and into eternity—forever and ever! Amen.

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” (Hebrews 1:1-3).

Sources for Senior Discounts

One of my daughter-in-laws posted the following information to my FaceBook page, and I thought it might be helpful enough to pass along to all of you (although I know many of you are from other countries, and another many of you would be too young . . . although you might pass the information along to your parents 🙂 )! I haven’t taken time to confirm that all these sources are actually correct, but hey—if you frequent any of these businesses, you can always ask, right?! Here’s how the story goes:

“As I was waiting in line behind an older gentleman at Wendy’s recently, I heard him ask for his senior discount. The girl at the register apologized and charged him less. When I asked the man what the discount was, he told me that seniors over age 55 can get 10% off everything on the menu, every day. (But you need to ASK for your discount.)

“Being of ‘that’ age myself, I figured I might as well ask for the discount too.
This incident prompted me to do some research, and I came across a list of restaurants, supermarkets, department stores, travel deals and other types of offers giving various discounts with different age requirements. I was actually surprised to see how many there are and that some of them start at the young age of 50 . This list may not only be useful for you, but for your friends and family too.

Dunkin Donuts gives free coffee to people over 55 .
If you’re paying for a cup every day, you might want to start getting it for FREE.

YOU must ASK for your discount !

RESTAURANTS:
Applebee’s: 15% off with Golden Apple Card (60+)
Arby’s: 10% off ( 55 +)
Ben & Jerry’s: 10% off (60+)
Bennigan’s: discount varies by location (60+)
Bob’s Big Boy: discount varies by location (60+)
Boston Market: 10% off (65+)
Burger King: 10% off (60+)

Chick-Fil-A: 10% off or free small drink or coffee ( 55+)
Chili’s: 10% off ( 55+)
CiCi’s Pizza: 10% off (60+)
Denny’s: 10% off, 20% off for AARP members ( 55 +)
Dunkin’ Donuts: 10% off or free coffee ( 55+)
Einstein’s Bagels: 10% off baker’s dozen of bagels (60+)
Fuddrucker’s: 10% off any senior platter ( 55+)
Gatti’s Pizza: 10% off (60+)
Golden Corral: 10% off (60+)
Hardee’s: $0.33 beverages everyday (65+)
IHOP: 10% off ( 55+)
Jack in the Box: up to 20% off ( 55+)
KFC: free small drink with any meal ( 55+)
Krispy Kreme: 10% off ( 50+)
Long John Silver’s: various discounts at locations ( 55+)
McDonald’s: discounts on coffee everyday ( 55+)
Mrs. Fields: 10% off at participating locations (60+)
Shoney’s: 10% off
Sonic: 10% off or free beverage (60+)
Steak ‘n Shake: 10% off every Monday & Tuesday ( 50+)
Subway: 10% off (60+)
Sweet Tomatoes: 10% off (62+)
Taco Bell : 5% off; free beverages for seniors (65+)
TCBY: 10% off ( 55+)

Tea Room Cafe: 10% off ( 50+)
Village Inn: 10% off (60+)
Waffle House: 10% off every Monday (60+)
Wendy’s: 10% off ( 55 +)
Whataburger: 10% off (62+)
White Castle: 10% off (62+) This is for me … if I ever see one again.

RETAIL & APPAREL :
Banana Republic: 30% off ( 50 +)
Bealls: 20% off first Tuesday of each month ( 50 +)
Belk’s: 15% off first Tuesday of every month ( 55 +)
Big Lots: 30% off
Bon-Ton Department Stores: 15% off on senior discount days ( 55 +)
C.J. Banks: 10% off every Wednesday (50+)
Clarks : 10% off (62+)
Dress Barn: 20% off ( 55+)
Goodwill: 10% off one day a week (date varies by location)
Hallmark: 10% off one day a week (date varies by location)
Kmart: 40% off (Wednesdays only) ( 50+)
Kohl’s: 15% off (60+)
Modell’s Sporting Goods: 30% off
Rite Aid: 10% off on Tuesdays & 10% off prescriptions

Ross Stores: 10% off every Tuesday ( 55+)
The Salvation Army Thrift Stores: up to 50% off ( 55+)
Stein Mart: 20% off red dot/clearance items first Monday of every month ( 55 +)

GROCERY :
Albertson’s: 10% off first Wednesday of each month ( 55 +)
American Discount Stores: 10% off every Monday ( 50 +)
Compare Foods Supermarket: 10% off every Wednesday (60+)
DeCicco Family Markets: 5% off every Wednesday (60+)
Food Lion: 60% off every Monday (60+)
Fry’s Supermarket: free Fry’s VIP Club Membership & 10% off every Monday ( 55 +)
Great Valu Food Store: 5% off every Tuesday (60+)
Gristedes Supermarket: 10% off every Tuesday (60+)
Harris Teeter: 5% off every Tuesday (60+)
Hy-Vee: 5% off one day a week (date varies by location)
Kroger: 10% off (date varies by location)
Morton Williams Supermarket: 5% off every Tuesday (60+)
The Plant Shed: 10% off every Tuesday ( 50 +)
Publix: 15% off every Wednesday ( 55 +)
Rogers Marketplace: 5% off every Thursday (60+)
Uncle Guiseppe’s Marketplace: 15% off (62+)

TRAVEL :
Airlines:
Alaska Airlines: 50% off (65+)
American Airlines: various discounts for 50% off non-peak periods (Tuesdays – Thursdays) (62+)and up (call before booking for discount)
Continental Airlines: no initiation fee for Continental Presidents Club & special fares for select destinations
Southwest Airlines: various discounts for ages 65 and up (call before booking for discount)
United Airlines: various discounts for ages 65 and up (call before booking for discount)
U.S. Airways: various discounts for ages 65 and up (call before booking for discount)
Rail:
Amtrak: 15% off (62+)
Bus:
Greyhound: 15% off (62+)
Trailways Transportation System: various discounts for ages 50+

Car Rental:
Alamo Car Rental: up to 25% off for AARP members
Avis: up to 25% off for AARP members
Budget Rental Cars: 40% off; up to 50% off for AARP members ( 50+)

Dollar Rent-A-Car: 10% off ( 50+) Enterprise Rent-A-Car: 5% off for AARP members Hertz: up to 25% off for AARP members
National Rent-A-Car: up to 30% off for AARP members

Overnight Accommodations:
Holiday Inn: 20-40% off depending on location (62+)
Best Western: 40% off (55+)
Cambria Suites: 20%-30% off (60+)
Waldorf Astoria – NYC $5,000 off nightly rate for Presidential Suite (55 +)
Clarion Motels: 20%-30% off (60+)
Comfort Inn: 20%-30% off (60+)
Comfort Suites: 20%-30% off (60+)
Econo Lodge: 40% off (60+)
Hampton Inns & Suites: 40% off when booked 72 hours in advance
Hyatt Hotels: 25%-50% off (62+)
InterContinental Hotels Group: various discounts at all hotels (65+)
Mainstay Suites: 10% off with Mature Traveler’s Discount (50+); 20%-30% off (60+)
Marriott Hotels: 25% off (62+)
Motel 6: Stay Free Sunday nights (60+)
Myrtle Beach Resort: 30% off ( 55 +)
Quality Inn: 40%-50% off (60+)
Rodeway Inn: 20%-30% off (60+)
Sleep Inn: 40% off (60+)

ACTIVITIES & ENTERTAINMENT ;:
AMC Theaters: up to 30% off ( 55 +)
Bally Total Fitness: $100 off memberships (62+)
Busch Gardens Tampa, FL: $13 off one-day tickets ( 50 +)
Carmike Cinemas: 35% off (65+)
Cinemark/Century Theaters: up to 35% off
Massage Envy – NYC 20% off all “Happy Endings” (62 +)
U.S. National Parks: $10 lifetime pass; 50% off additional services including camping (62+)
Regal Cinemas: 50% off Ripley’s Believe it or Not: @ off one-day ticket ( 55 +)
SeaWorld, Orlando , FL : $3 off one-day tickets ( 50 +)

CELL PHONE DISCOUNTS :
AT&T: Special Senior Nation 200 Plan $19.99/month (65+)
Jitterbug: $10/month cell phone service ( 50 +)
Verizon Wireless: Verizon Nationwide 65 Plus Plan $29.99/month (65+).

MISCELLANEOUS:
Great Clips: $8 off hair cuts (60+)
Supercuts: $8 off haircuts (60+)

NOW, go out there and claim your discounts – – and remember — YOU must ASK for discount —- no ask, no discount.
I Know everyone knows someone over 50 please pass the one on!!!!!”

Now, back to me (Kathi) writing! If you know of any other places, please let us know. I’m thinking to just start asking, “Do you have any special discounts for senior citizens?” and see what they say. All of us “old folks” might be happily surprised! What a kindness to those who are older, most of whom are retired and on a fixed income! Thank you, all you who represent businesses that give special breaks to the elderly!

Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man,
and fear thy God: I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:32).

Gentle Rains

Another day of gentle rains! I want to publicly thank God for these wonderful rains, because I’ve been praying for them!

In the process of building an addition, our yard became a muddy mess! Alan carefully sowed grass seed everywhere, but every time we turned our backs, the geese would come and gobble up the profits! One of my daily tasks has become chasing the geese away so the grass has a chance to grow. (And then, I have to scatter more seed after they leave.) I feel like Disney’s little cocker spaniel, Lady!

A Tangle of Wild Grapes and Highbush Cranberry Blossoms

Our yard covers more than an acre, and to water the lawn with a hose and sprinkler would take more time, energy, and hose-length than we possess, so I’ve been asking the Lord to bless us with gentle rains to help the grass seed sprout and take root before it all gets washed away or eaten up.

Gray Dogwood, Cornus racemosa, growing wild along our Michigan woodland lane

God has been answering my prayers! We have had one of the most wonderfully cool springs I can ever remember, with the perfect blend of sunshine and soft showers!

The grass has taken root, and we’ve become hopeful that—short of a disastrous drought—the grass may flourish. Perhaps by next summer we will have enough soft grass to support both the grazing of geese and the romping of grand children!

Wild turkeys grazing in the meadow

Well, and enough for the wild turkeys too . . .

Doe and her young fawn grazing with the geese in our yard

And the deer, especially now that the herd
has a number of new fawns to feed!

Mock orange on a rainy morning

Working hard to plant and protect the grass, and praying for rain and sunshine—which only God can provide—reminds me of a greater task we’ve been given: that of sharing spiritual “seed” (the Word of God) with others. “My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass” (Dueteronomy 32:2).

Fragrant wild roses perfuming the misty morning air

God has been merciful and kind to me, and he will provide for you too if you’ll surrender your heart and will to Jesus. He calls each of us with a quiet, gentle voice that can only be heard in our hearts. “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

White-tailed fawn in our woods

Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great” (Psalm 18:35).

Growing Pains

This pretty much sums up my natural sentiment toward change. I’m a resistor. The whole problem must be never getting a good dose of Thomas Edison’s bright idea: “Discontent is the first necessity of progress.” 🙂

In fact, had not our 30-year-old wooden walkway become so rotten that it was a slipping hazard during every rain . . . and the cedar siding so rotten that both the birds and the bees were nesting in it (no joke) . . . well, maybe I could have protested that the status quo was quite comfy and good enough for me. But, it was not, and even I knew something had to be done. So, Silvio (who has pretty much remade our home at this point) ripped off the front porch, and the Big Dig began.

After lots of lively debate (which I tend to lose), there was considerable “vision creep” (as my husband calls it), and instead of a new porch, Alan thought a new sun room would be even nicer.

I can’t explain all the reasoning behind the decisions, but apparently for structural soundness, it made sense to put a basement underneath the sun room, and Silvio thought it might be a good idea to have more room to store our junk anyway.

Now, even I wasn’t dumb enough to fall for that idea, but it did occur to me that I would love more space for our kids and grandchildren (who now number 29 and often come to visit), and so with the carrot of a little guest apartment somewhere down the road, I gave in. That was over a year ago.

Renovation is always full of surprises. One of the first was learning that the old foundation for the porch was not just made from posts but out of huge concrete abutments that had to be broken off.

Every day I marveled at the powerful machinery and massive amount of work that had to take place. There wasn’t one chance in a million I would have had the know-how or muscle to do all the work.

Thankfully, we have a great builder whom I pretty much trust with my life at this point, but I’m sure he had many a headache trying to figure out everything and coordinate all the men and machinery.

There were constant setbacks over the months, and lots of “oops” moments, like the time all the draping in the basement (hung to keep concrete mud spray from showering our music gear and library) fell down while the men were working. That day, the main room in our basement was filled with something that reminded me of the volcanic ash spewing from Mt. St. Helen when it erupted back in 1980. Close friends who lived in Portland, Oregon (70 miles from the eruption) said their rain gutters became clogged with volcanic ash that turned to concrete when it rained. That’s just about the way I felt!!

Well, I won’t bore you with all the details, but suffice it to say, it was a long,

long,

long,

long,

painstaking process!

I’ve had a lot of time over the months to think about the impossibility of my ever being able to do what this huge team of guys did, and to think about my own life, which needs renovation too.

I am thankful for God (the master builder in my life), and his huge team (the Church) who work together helping me with the renovations I need. In a million years, I wouldn’t have the know-how or spiritual power to perfect myself. Would you? Do you resist change the way I do? Although I trust God with my life, I still find myself fussing and disagreeing from time to time. I wonder if I give Jesus headaches the way Silvio has had headaches from trying to get everything “just right.” 😦 🙂

At any rate, we’re far from done, and the grass is just beginning to grow,

but the sun room is finally finished, just in time for Alan’s birthday (today), so he’ll be able to sit in his new room tonight!

(Which, BTW, is a whole lot bigger than our cozy little living room!)

I can’t exactly tell you what Tanglewood Cottage will look like when all the renovations are done, but I can tell you—by faith—that it will be wonderful . . . just like I will be when I’m all finished (in heaven).

“End of Construction—Thank you for your patience.”

Like Billy Graham’s wife, I have every confidence that someday all the rotten boards and siding in my life will be replaced, and all the renovations will be complete. I will be like Jesus! If you give God your life, He’ll do the same for you! You might not turn out exactly like you were planning, but the net effect will be better than you could have imagined!

Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 5:15).

Spring Beauty All Around!

This is the time of year when everything bursts
into glorious song and bloom!

Every day there is something new and splendid popping up.

The rebirth of life in springtime is both
majestic and mysterious!

It seems like just a few weeks ago the geese were waiting impatiently
for water to open up.

And now, there are fuzzy goslings and ducklings
coming ashore for breakfast every morning here at Tanglewood Cottage!

Robins are busy rearing their broods,

and a parade of exquisite song birds (like this rose-breasted grosbeak)
come to our feeder every day!

This sassy Baltimore oriole, for some reason, even seems determined
to figure out a way to get inside and keeps attacking my window pane!

Turtles of all sizes and stripes emerge and sunbathe in our swamp.

This phenomenon isn’t just local, either!

Our grandchildren in Belgium found their forests
dotted with tiny woodland anemones

and later covered with bright bluebells!

Our California grandchildren discovered southern hills
covered with bright orange poppies,

and alive with glowing colors from all kinds of beautiful wildflowers!

Some might say this all happened by chance, but I read recently (in a very technical but nevertheless awesome book called Signature in the Cell by Stephen C. Meyer) that there’s not one chance in something like 10 to the 40,000th power that a DNA cell would develop by chance. In other words, even if the world is billions and billions of years old, it’s less likely that the squirrel breaking into my bird feeder spontaneously evolved over eons of time than it is that the bird feeder itself spontaneously evolved!

How did all this incredibly brilliant and intricate beauty come to be? I believe it was by “intelligent design,” not chance, and that the Mastermind behind the intelligent design is none other than our Almighty God! “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1, ESV).

There is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist” (1 Corinthians 8:6, ESV).

Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (Revelation 4:11, ESV).

“For the Beauty of the Earth”
(—Folliott Sandfor Pierpoint, 1864, Public Domain)

1 For the beauty of the earth,
for the glory of the skies,
for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies.

Refrain:
Christ, our Lord, to you we raise
this, our hymn of grateful praise.

2 For the wonder of each hour
of the day and of the night,
hill and vale and tree and flower,
sun and moon and stars of light, [Refrain ]

3 For the joy of human love,
brother, sister, parent, child,
friends on earth, and friends above,
for all gentle thoughts and mild, [Refrain]

4 For yourself, best gift divine,
to the world so freely given,
agent of God’s grand design:
peace on earth and joy in heaven. [Refrain]

(All photos taken this spring by myself or my kids. Happy Spring to you!!)

A Peaceful Heart (by Jane Anderson)

I once bought a greeting card that asked, “Ever have a day when everything went right?” Then inside, the answer: “Yea, me either.” So you’ll recognize my story. I was thinking about how this all happened a few years ago when everything started off on a smooth path then the switch flipped and things derailed. Surely you’ve had those days when life jumps off the track and you have to will yourself into a positive attitude to reclaim your joy. Are you with me here?

One morning I jumped out of bed with my “Yay! It’s going to be a great day!” eagerness. That lasted all of one hour when I remembered that I had to drive the truck. ERGH! (grumble) I don’t like driving the truck … but then I realized, “Hey! Get over it! At least you have an alternate vehicle.” Besides, as a reward I’ll treat myself to Starbucks before my appointment. Anticipation.  I was off and running again. OK I can handle this.

I drove up to Starbucks and checked the breadth of this Semi (exaggeration) I was driving and opted to park it and walk in rather than navigate the drive-thru.  Inside I got my latte, life is good. Outside, the truck has turned cranky on me and has now forgotten its role for today – to get me safely, and without incident, to my destination.  It won’t start. In fact, it won’t even try. Turn the key … nothing! Turn the key again … nothing! We could play this game all day, but I have an appointment. ERGH! (grumble) I can feel the joy needle slipping into the depleted zone.  Then I heard this voice in my head say, “Count it all joy”. Come on, Lord. You want me to find joy in this? Are you kidding me? I have to WALK a mile now.  Then God said, “Let’s try. Make it a game.  It’ll be fun. I challenge you to find 3 good things in this bad situation”.  Well alright, but I don’t really see what difference it makes. The stupid truck is still broken and I still have to walk a mile – on the busiest road in the area, and, oh look! The sprinklers, right on my path, are running full blast.  But OK.  Game on!

  1. As I was approaching the blasting sprinklers – they shut off. Really? Wow!
  2. I looked down and realized I had decided to wear flat shoes instead of dress-up heels. Huh. That was pretty cool.
  3. Instead of the normal oversized, overstuffed, spilling-out-of-the-top bag, all I had to carry was my purse and a folder.

I got to my appointment, all intact, not wet from sprinklers, no bumps, bruises, or wear and tear on my emotions. I even pulled out all the information I needed without needing to trek back to that cranky old truck. Relief! Thankful!

I enjoyed the latte on the trip past the now silent sprinklers, in my flat shoes, carrying only my purse in one hand and Starbucks in the other.  Balance is good, right? By the time I was at my destination (on time), joy was back. Did the game fix my truck? Not really, but it fixed me. I had to get the inside right, so the outside would come out right too.

Oh – and here’s the kicker. When my husband, said owner of cranky truck, went to pick it up later? It started right away! Really, God? Seriously? And to that, He reminded me that He has me in the palm of His hand and he teaches me what is best for me, when I need to learn it. (James 1:2 – Consider it pure joy ….)

That story is insignificant to the trauma in many lives, and I don’t pretend to minimize what you may be going through. Life is tough. I decided to tell that story because we all have to decide. Will what is happening now make me bitter or make me better? No matter what knocks you off track. No matter what your circumstances today. Seek joy. In this life, we have to look for the slivers of hope and glean as many positive fragments as we can so all those thoughts plant seeds of joy. Finding something good in our mess is the best survival mechanism. It isn’t easy. It’s worth it.

On days when nothing fits and life is broken, I read Philippians 4. Be joyful! Don’t be anxious about anything, but in every situation, with a thankful heart pray and ask God to take your burdens and your worries. The peace of God, which we humanly can’t understand, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Ask God to infuse your mind with thoughts of whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—thinking about such things will quiet your anxiety….. And the God of peace will be with you.

Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you” (Philippians 4:4-9).

This charming post was written by my friend Jane Anderson, who brings much joy and blessing into my life!  Jane is a Christ-follower who reads, writes, and lives encouragement as her ministry. If you’d like to read more of her writing, you can access her blog here:http://refininggrace.com

Casting Your Bread Upon the Waters

Over the years, I’ve felt led by the verse, “Freely ye have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8) when it comes to blogging and sharing photos, so whenever someone has asked my permission to use a picture, I’ve always given permission without charge. Of course, I appreciate it when they credit me (and give a link back to my blog if appropriate), but as long as they aren’t selling my work per se, I’m happy to share the gifts that God has given me—in this case the privilege and leisure to observe and record glimpses into God’s magnificent creation.

Over time, my photos have shown up in dozens of diverse venues. To name a few: posters for national parks, a book on Central Park, advertisements for state fairs and tourist sites, a video for carpet cleaner, the front cover for an Episcopalian magazine, a tee-shirt design, as part of a composer’s music video, to enlarge and print for use in various people’s private homes, as subject matter for a young artist’s painting, many times to illustrate the blogs of fellow writers, and most recently, to be used in a large-format sepia drawing to be displayed in a public building. I’ve even noticed (a bit to my dismay) that sometimes my photos are used without my permission. In particular, two have showed up as wall paper designs for sale in Greece! 🙂

I have also had many friends and family members who have allowed me to use their photos and other creative work on my blogs, and I am deeply grateful for each of these dear friends! Thank you, thank you, thank you!! However, I have recently been amazed and blessed by a gift from an extremely talented Korean artist, Yongsung Kim.

It all happened as I began diligently searching the internet for free images of the life of Christ to illustrate my new series (“Meditating on the Commands of Christ”) since I cannot go anywhere to take photographs of Jesus at this point and have no talent as an illustrator. I can find wonderful classical paintings of Jesus, but I was longing for some fresh, modern interpretations that might be more appealing to today’s generation and kept coming across paintings by Yongsung Kim that were so original and evocative that they’d take my breath away.

I found Yongsung Kim’s website but was reluctant to ask if I could use his pictures because his artistry is his living, but I also knew that I could never afford to pay him for the value of using of his paintings, since I am not generating any income.

However, I also knew that I have been happy to share what God has given me as a free blessing to others, and so I thought it might be worth asking him! Amazingly, he has given me permission to use his paintings on my blog as long as I credit him and don’t use them for commercial purposes.

So, a huge thank you to Yongsung Kim. I will be sure to credit him at the end of any blog where I use his paintings, and I’ll start right now with a link to his home page:https://www.foundationarts.com/yongsung-kim

“Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days” (Ecclesiastes 11:1).