Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

“At least I can’t die young anymore! Guess I can scratch that off my bucket list,” Brian grinned just before blowing out the candles on his birthday cake. Not that he really had dying young ON his bucket list, but he IS the oldest known survivor of his type of treatment for his particular type of cancer, which he was diagnosed with when he was only 27. (Very scary to me personally, because my youngest son was 27 yesterday.)

Brian never dreamed he’d make it to his 60th birthday (and frankly, I wasn’t so sure either), so it was with a sense of grateful joy and awe that our Birthday Club treated Brian to a very special birthday party yesterday!

Where to take him? That was easy! The day before he was born, his mother and father were at the John Ball Zoo, and his mom started having contractions, so Brian says he was “almost born at the zoo!”

Brian only visited the zoo once in his life, on his 10th birthday, and he remembered being fascinated by the antics of the otters. Since he hasn’t been back in 50 years, he thought visiting the zoo would be the perfect way to spend his day!

Of course, we wanted to see everything (and pretty much did), but—you know—like everybody, we wanted to make sure we saw “the lions,

the (sleeping? oh, no!) tigers
and (SLEEPING!! 😦 ) bears. Oh, no!”

But, there was no shortage of excitement and fun, including a few “firsts” for Brian, such as petting a goat

and taking a ride on a funicular. (Not sure they were on his bucket list as such, but he thoroughly enjoyed the new experiences!)

We also made a new friend: Herbie! Herbie is 34 and one of the oldest Magellanic penguins in captivity in the world. Herbie’s fur is almost all grey, and he seemed content to swim on the surface, but he was still swimming! It was a little hard not to miss some of the similarities between our new and old friends. Very touching.

Oh, but I wanted to tell you about how teamwork makes the dream work! In this photo, you see Susan in a wheel chair! She turned her ankle helping one of her daughters the day before our outing. Thankfully, her beloved husband took a day off work to help us get the dream team around!

An aphorism of their son-in-law, Seth’s (so we call it a Sethism), is that “teamwork makes the dream work.” I don’t know who said it first, so if you know, please let us know, but . . .isn’t this a clever truism?

And, isn’t God good!? Brian was never able to marry or have a family. His father died several years ago, and his mother passed away 23 weeks ago to the day. But, he has us. He has a family of brothers and sisters in Christ to love him and appreciate him. Brian is a real prayer warrior! He can’t travel much, but he never misses a prayer meeting via telephone for the church on Sunday morning, and he’s never missed a single Monday night prayer meeting for my son Jonathan’s ministry.

He’s knitted booties for all our grand kids, always smiles, and always says it’s too early to start complaining (although he could well have started 33 years ago).

I hope his story brightens your day. It certainly brightened ours!

God setteth the solitary in families: he bringeth out those which are bound with chains: but the rebellious dwell in a dry land” (Psalm 68:6).

Faith of Our Fathers…and Other Inspiring Father Figures

Have you ever noticed how some people are larger than life? I remember when my spiritual big brother’s father passed away, he said having his father in his life had been like seeing a big mountain out the picture window every day…but on the day his father died, he felt like the mountain disappeared. I’m guessing that’s how Uncle Milt’s sons must have felt when their dad passed away last week. Do you remember my writing about “Filling Cinderella’s Slippers” a few weeks ago? That story recounted the life and loss of Milt’s beloved bride of almost 72 years, and within a few weeks of her death, he also graduated to glory. Diagnosis? Well, Larry (his son and Alan’s lifelong friend) told us that his dad died of a broken heart. Uncle Milton was amazing to everybody…and that included me. Just one example: One night thirty years ago while Alan was in medical school and we were poorer than church mice, Alan and I were trying to get home to the Soo from Detroit in our leprous old car. Our little Vega was so rundown that the windshield leaked and the heater was broken, so I’d wrap our two toddling boys up in blankets and hold them on my lap while we traveled. We had just enough gas money to get home and back with nothing to spare. (These were the days before seat belt laws or credit cards.) Our car died on the freeway, but Alan was able to get it to glide off the highway and near a gas station, where he called his dad. His dad was sick and couldn’t come get us, so Alan’s mom ran across the street to Milton and Faye. Milt drove all the way down to Saginaw to pick us up and drove us home through the night. He even went to work the next morning!! The church (which he helped build) was full; the pastor’s voice cracked, and there were lots of tears shed. To know him was to love him, and everybody in Dafter knew him! Milt was also a man of quiet faith, and I want to share just one more story. He was diagnosed with terminal cancer and told he wouldn’t live six months about 17 years ago. God miraculously  healed him! I know most people die when they have a terminal illness, but I also want you to know that sometimes God chooses to extend someone’s life miraculously, and God chose to do that for Uncle Milt. If anybody deserved some extra innings, I’d say he was one of them!  When Aunt Faye passed from this life to heaven, her kids sang “Blessed Assurance,” but this time Milt’s four sons and their beautiful brides sang “Faith of Our Fathers,” and one of his grand daughters signed “I Can Only Imagine.” Uncle Milt wasn’t my father…or Alan’s father. In fact, he’s not really even our uncle, but he was like an uncle to us and a most inspiring father figure. I hope everyone who knows  him or reads this also embraces faith in Jesus Christ, who died for our sins, and in whom we can have life eternal just by asking God to forgive us for our sins and save us through the blood of Christ! Uncle Milt and Aunt Faye are now in heaven together. I hope we all join them someday!!

Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:25-26)

Faith of Our Fathers
(—Frederick W. Faber, 1849, public domain)

  1. Faith of our fathers, living still,
    In spite of dungeon, fire, and sword;
    Oh, how our hearts beat high with joy
    Whene’er we hear that glorious Word!

    • Refrain:
      Faith of our fathers, holy faith!
      We will be true to thee till death.
  2. Our fathers, chained in prisons dark,
    Were still in heart and conscience free;
    How sweet would be their children’s fate,
    If they, like them, could die for thee!
  3. Faith of our fathers, we will strive
    To win all nations unto thee;
    And through the truth that comes from God,
    We all shall then be truly free.
  4. Faith of our fathers, we will love
    Both friend and foe in all our strife;
    And preach thee, too, as love knows how
    By kindly words and virtuous life.

Filling Cindarella’s Slippers

Wednesday Alan and I headed up “home” to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for the funeral of a beloved friend’s mother…perhaps the last of the older generation who has been a mentor and inspiration to me. When my family moved to Michigan from the west 57 years ago, I had 27 cousins, almost all of whom lived in Colorado where both my parents grew up. Within a few years, I had latched on to the family of my closest girlfriend, Brenda, and the family of one of my dearest guy friends, Larry, who was like a brother to me. Larry’s parents became “Aunt Faye” and “Uncle Milt,” helping ease my sense of loss over being so far from extended family. Milt and Faye were the type of people who had their arms open wide for anybody and everybody, so they never batted an eye!

Although I didn’t really see a lot of them over the years, I was definitely impressed by Faye’s gracious heart and sweet spirit. She was one of those very rare “virtuous women” eulogized in Proverbs 31. Faye had four sons, who all turned out great. I had six sons, who are still in the process of turning out, but I hope they end up as well as hers have! Her sons and their wives sang “Blessed Assurance” at the funeral, and I told Alan that I would like our seven (I also have one daughter!) and their spouses to sing “Blessed Assurance” at my funeral too! I love that song! It was the first song I ever sang as “special music” at our little church in the Soo after I became a Christian, and it reflects not only Faye’s life story, but mine as well!   Faye was 90 and in the midst of enjoying her 72nd year of marriage to Milt. No one is ever ready to lose their mom, but Faye was ready to join her Savior in heaven…along with her sister—as her oldest grandson surmised—so they could get busy making heaven even cleaner.  Her grandson made everybody laugh and cry more than I’ve ever seen at a funeral, and there was standing room only at the back of Hovie’s overflowing chapel. Even two of her caregivers came (which Alan says he’s never seen before), and the place was jammed. How often does that happen for somebody who’s 90?!! Anyway, it was very sad to lose her, but it was also a celebration of a beautiful life beautifully lived, and I left so inspired that I’ve got my funeral all planned out now! You think I’m kidding? I am not!  At any rate, I hope you are ready to die, and when I die, I hope people celebrate my life with the sense of peace and joy that undergirded all the sorrow flowing Wednesday. I would love to be remembered the way Faye was. One daughter-in-law mentioned how she made each of her sons feel special and loved. Another daughter-in-law mentioned how Faye made each of her daughter-in-laws feel totally loved and accepted. None of her sons could speak…which also speaks volumes to me about how much they loved her, because they are usually full of life and tales. 🙂  Isn’t that sweet? I guess if I want to die like Faye, I’d better work hard at living like Faye. She has beautiful, transparent slippers to fill!

        Blessed Assurance
(—Fanny Crosby, 1873)

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels descending bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, all is at rest;
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love…

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile” (Psalm 32:1-2).

 

Ending Well and Getting a Fresh Start

        Our refrigerator has been sort of the epicenter of family and friend lore. If you’ve sent me a photo of your family in the last few years, it’s probably here! It also serves as a bulletin board and place to display the grand kids’ art work,             and when the children visit, they definitely check to see what’s up! Now, I should explain that we bought this refrigerator used 25 years ago when we first moved into Tanglewood Cottage, and it was definitely in need of replacing. Therefore, it was the first thing to be changed out.However, I have a whole section on  my blog dedicated to “The Pictures on my Fridge,” and every picture means a lot to me!  So, before I let them touch my refrigerator, I lovingly peeled off all the photos and placed them into a coffee table photo album to keep the memories alive! The shiny, new refrigerator (my first “new” frig in our 44 years of marriage) has made me stop and think about the coming year. 2018 will be a shiny, new year… full of possibilities, but without any pictures hanging on it yet. What shall we do? First of all, I certainly don’t want to neglect my family and friends, and I want to finish this year well with the loved ones who are depending on me here at home. Sadly (because I’m so limited and our kitchen is an updating disaster area for the time being), that means I won’t be doing much blogging between now and mid January, although I’ll try to keep my recipes and Song of Solomon meditations going (and anything else as time allows).

One of my girlfriends suggested that I re-post some of my earlier blogs that people seemed to enjoy a lot. That didn’t feel quite right to me, although if you’ve got some free time and are interested in any particular topic, everything I’ve written for the past almost 10 years is still recorded, and if you type a subject into the “Search” bar on the top right-hand corner of this blog, it will bring up posts that touch on that subject. I have to admit, though: The fact that I won’t be able to write much frustrates me and makes me feel like a failure! Does that ever happen to you? You have more to do than you think you “should,” so you feel like a flop? Take heart! God’s priorities are different from ours. He makes things much simpler than we do. God doesn’t measure success in productivity, but in living right and loving well: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8, ESV). If ye fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, ye do well” (James 2:8).

Meanwhile, I pray that God will bless and guide each of you during this holiday season. May you find joy in anticipating the good things God has in store for you this coming year, and may you fill up your days with fruitful service and a host of happy memories from loving well and being loved!

 

 

Beyond the Board to Break Through

(Written by my dear friend, Lisa…)

Do you have six seconds for a powerful object lesson?

My daughter passed the first part of her Black Belt test in Tae Kwon Do and broke through 2 boards with her elbow for the first time at the test. In practice, she hit the middle of the board but didn’t break through, leaving bruises but no broken boards. It’s tempting to focus on the center of the boards because if she aims too high or too low, the boards won’t break.   The object lesson for me came from her training. She was taught that she can’t focus on the boards but must focus beyond them at the man holding them. If she aims for his chest, instead of the boards, she will have enough momentum to break through.

It reminded me that in prayer, it is tempting to focus on the challenges that I’m praying about, but that is the equivalent of looking at the board. We need to look beyond the problems to God and seek His heart, trusting Him to break through. He holds the ‘boards’ and us in His hands, and He is able. So I want to remember to look beyond to board … to the Lord. In 2 Corinthians 9:8, it says that “God is able to make all grace abound to you so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

I appreciate the repetition: All. All. All. All. No exceptions. God is able!

So I say with confidence, I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure” (Psalm 16:7-9).

The Life of Bri

Every once in a while I meet someone so special that I just have to share about them. The life of Bri is extremely different from The Life of Pi (even though Bri does love pie), but to me—it’s much more heroic! Brian came into our family’s life when he and my son Daniel sat by each other in a college class; Daniel was the youngest student (14?) and Bri was the oldest (44?).

Since that time, Daniel has become a dentist and Brian earned his PhD in pharmacology, but to this day we’re all still good friends. About 10 years ago, Brian (“Bri”) brought a peach pie to our home for a potluck, and Alan was so delighted with it that Bri started a tradition of bringing us two peach pies every August when the peach crop ripened. And then, about three years ago, he didn’t come. I learned later that his father had passed away, leaving him as the sole care-giver for his very aged mother. He no longer had any time to make pies (or do much of anything fun, for that matter), and so I’ve started making a peach pie for Bri each August!

Yesterday he came over for this year’s edition. His mom (who’s now not only frail and can’t walk but is also becoming demented) was delighted to hear that he was going to visit “Mrs. Peaches” and asked if they could have the pie for supper. You bet!  🙂

The truly touching thing to me is to see Bri’s devotion to his mom. He’s put aside everything that he enjoys and said that his goal is to be successful in taking good care of his mom for as long as he can. This is the polar opposite of The Life of Pi, which was filled with adventures. The Life of Bri is filled with quiet unadventures.

(Maybe I should back up just a bit. Bri had cancer at age twenty-three, and although the radiation treatment cured him, he’s suffered a lot of side effects, like kidney failure, etc. He’s now lived longer than anyone who’s ever had the disease and treatment he underwent, but life is very challenging for him even without the added difficulties of trying to care for his infirm mother!)

I am in awe of those amazing people who give up everything to care for others. Bri is one; Maggie and her daughter Em are another duo, who are giving way above and beyond to keep their husband/father in their home, even though he’s lost virtually all ability to move from his neck down. To a lesser extent, but still heroic, is the devotion of every parent to their children and the devotion of every person who cares for others. Mother Teresa is one supreme example, and to me, Jesus is the ultimate example. He laid down his life so that anyone who believes in him may have forgiveness and eternal life! May God bless and encourage each one of you who is sacrificially loving others for their well-being! It’s a God-work!

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

“Oh! What a Crowd!!”

Have you ever been at the bedside of someone you loved when they passed from this earth to the next? I heard a wonderful story recently about the last words of a dear friend’s father. Sue shared this account while we were grieving the fresh loss of her father-in-law, who was also every bit a father to her. Sue’s father-in-law was very elderly and infirm by the time I knew him, so it was a special treat to hear stories from his life at his recent memorial service. He was a devoted husband, father and grandfather, a veteran, a hunter, and a stellar fisherman. Best of all, he was a man of faith and grace. It was fun to watch the slide show of his life and realize how much my friend’s husband looked like his father…and was like his father in many ways. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Bob without receiving a big, warm bear hug. He always has a mischievous grin too…like he’s just dreaming up how to tease Alan. Bob always makes you laugh!For example, Bob’s father graduated to glory just a few days before their family was scheduled to leave on a two-week vacation to the Caribbean, and one of his last jokes with his dad before he passed was that after all the years of Bob’s giving his father grief, his dad was going to get him back by dying at the wrong time and ruining Bob’s long-awaited family vacation. (He didn’t, BTW; he died at “the perfect” time!) If you are aghast by that kind of humor, know that this was not malicious teasing, this is a beautiful indication of how at peace Bob and his dad were with each other, and how deep and sure his father’s faith was that “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (gleaned but not quoted from 2 Corinthians 5:8). Bob and his dad had a rare and wonderful relationship! But, the story that has stayed with me the longest was Sue’s account of her father’s last words. He was also a man of deep faith in Christ, and Sue was with him when he passed into eternity. Here is her account: “My dad said (I’ll never forget it) ‘Oh!  What a crowd!’  He was not only smiling but also had a look of awe, and his voice had the sound of awe (something else I will never forget)!  I think it’s the awe that really hit me, like something I can’t even begin to imagine as hard as I try – but I know it’s good because it was said with awe and a smile!” “He didn’t pass away until the next day but was not responsive before or after he said those words.  A few minutes before he passed he suddenly opened his eyes (which hadn’t been open for a day and a half) and looked beyond me toward the wall. He moved his mouth like he was trying to say something, but of course, no sound came out as he was too weak.  Then he was gone.” Sue says that now heaven is more than a hope for her; heaven has become an exciting reality that she’s looking forward to, where she’ll be reunited with loved ones and home with Jesus forever!  How about you? Are you ready to meet Jesus in heaven?!Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

“Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth:
for I am God, and there is none else”
(Isaiah 45:22).