Learning to Fly and Living in Community

A pair of robins built a nest on the drain pipe under the eve right outside the window of our “tea room,” where we always eat in the summer. It’s been a special delight to watch them rearing their broods of chicks. The first of this summer’s batch fledged
while my son Joel and I were eating breakfast last week,  but one chick fell so fast I feared for the his life, although he must have done fine because there was no sign of the chick dead or alive on the ground. Then, several nights later,  I dreamed that I saw a mother and baby robin together silhouetted in the sun, and I woke up with the distinct sense
that the last two robins would fledge that day. I’m one of those people who seem to carry on a continual conversation with God, and such premonitions are rare but not totally unusual, so I decided that I would keep a very close eye on the two babies all day.  Just as the sun was coming up, the first baby took flight,and I really believe the Lord gave me the dream so I wouldn’t miss the spectacle! The last chick wasn’t at all sure about taking off. He perched on the edge of the nest, surveying possible flight paths. It was definitely a long way to the ground from his secure nest!  On the other hand there were lots of trees and bushes not too far away…About then Mom came by with a big, fat, juicy worm and Dad stopped in to give junior a little pep talk. Dad hopped into the nest and gave junior a little push toward the edge.  Baby was feeling a little ambivalent but took a few tentative steps out of the nest. The world was looking bright and beautiful, but the nest was looking very comfy…In fact, he thought it looked safer to have one foot in the nest and one foot out.In fact, after due consideration, the nest looked definitely safer than the world, so the fledgling perched on the edge of the nest and started praying
(or sleeping, I couldn’t tell which).  🙂  In a while, Mother Robin returned to talk things over with her fledgling again just as it was time for Joel and me to eat breakfast, so I had to give up watching.We didn’t get to see the baby’s first flight, but while we were eating,  we caught sight of the fledgling in the tree just outside our window! He had made a successful first flight, and his parents hadn’t lost track of him.In moments one of them was by the chick’s side with a yummy snack! In no time at all, the fledgling would be following his parents,
winging his way through the woodland world.

It’s graduation time as well as spring time, and I know several couples who have refused to let their kids come back home after their graduation (except to vacation). Some of these kids are flying, but some are really struggling financially, emotionally, and/or spiritually. Personally, my parents never “kicked” me out; they let me feel like their home was also my home until I married, which I thought was just perfect. I’ve always wanted my own children to feel the same sense of love and security.

My mother’s youngest brother (70 years ago) brought his bride home to the farm, where the couple lived throughout their lives, eventually caring for Grandma until she died. Alan had two uncles who never married and lived on their home farm throughout their lives too, eventually caring for Alan’s grandma until she died. What is it it about current American cultural expectations that make us think adult offspring shouldn’t enjoy the fellowship and security of family until they personally feel a compelling reason to leave?

If you’re an unmarried young adult with parents who are still happy to have you at home, please feel perfect liberty to remain with them until you personally want to leave. Don’t let social pressure drive you away from family! In the Old Testament, everybody lived in family groups!

Also, if you have adult sons or daughters who would enjoy living with you, why not let them? Share the wealth, share the expenses, share the work load, and also share the warmth and community that God intends for all humans to enjoy! Let’s parent like our heavenly Father, who never leaves us nor forsakes us!

He led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: So the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him. He made him ride on the high places of the earth, that he might eat the increase of the fields; and he made him to suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock” (Deuteronomy 32:10-13).

Rise Up, My Love (290): Whom Can We Trust with our Fruitful Fields?

Song of Solomon 8:12 “My vineyard, which is mine, is before me: thou, O Solomon, must have a thousand, and those that keep the fruit thereof two hundred.” So, Christ gives us everything, but what about Mrs. Solomon? How did the bride obtain her vineyard? Was it the vineyard she referred to in 1:6? “My mother’s children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept.” Did she come into her marriage with a prenuptial agreement that she could keep her own vineyard?   I doubt it! It was most likely not this vineyard at all, since no Israelite girl ever truly inherited her own land when she had brothers (as this verse and 8:1 would seem to indicate she had). In Bible times, women were treated almost like property, and whatever a wife had belonged to her husband. No. The Shulamite may have had a vineyard for which she was responsible as a girl, but the present vineyard, which is owned entirely by the bride, would not have been the same vineyard that she was required to tend as a child.   So, how would a bride obtain her own vineyard? It would have to have been a gift from King Solomon, probably as a reward for her delighting him. Perhaps it was for her willingness to follow him throughout the country (Song 2:10; 4:8). Perhaps it was because she invited him to walk through the fields and villages: “Let us see if the vine flourish, whether the tender grape appear…” (7:12). Perhaps it was because she favored him with fruits from the field and the passions of her heart (7:12-13).   Whatever the reasons, it reminds me of Proverbs 31:16, where it reports that the virtuous woman “considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.” This beautiful, virtuous wife had somehow obtained a vineyard, and it was flourishing. And, what was she doing with the profits? Spending them on herself? Investing them in more business enterprises? “Solomon must have a thousand, and those that keep the fruit thereof two hundred.” Not only was Solomon to receive as much profit as he would have had he retained ownership of the vineyard, the bride was going to see to it that those who tended the vineyard got their complete share too.   Would the bride receive any benefit from the vineyard for herself? The text doesn’t say, but her determination to act with noble charity reminds me of the well-known prescription for joy: “J-O-Y” comes from putting Jesus first, then Others, then You. The Bible is full of encouragements that those who sow good will reap not only joy (and that would be enough), but also abundance.   Consider these verses:

Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. He that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Galations 6:7-8).

Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

He which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully” (2 Corinthians 9:6).

“To him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward” (Proverbs 11:18).

These and many other verses from the Bible lead me to believe that the bride would have been amply repaid for her generous love and faith, despite the fact that she seemed to have no thoughts of remuneration for herself. She was thinking of others, and God always blesses for that.


Boston Cream Pie in a Pan and Boston Cream Pie Sundaes

One of Alan’s long-time favorite desserts for his birthday has been Boston Cream Pie, and over the years I’ve made a lot of them. However, I love the custard filling and tend to overfill the layers, so often the cake looks great until the first cut, and then the whole top layer starts to slide off and ends up looking like Sleeping Beauty’s birthday cake before it was baked. To compensate, I’ve developed a recipe that fits snugly in a 9X13″ baking pan and can’t really come apart at the seams!  Here’s how:  Bake a white cake (any you like, from scratch or mix, according to the directions), only pour the batter equally into two 9X13″ baking pans. If you have one pan that’s slightly smaller, so much the better…the smaller one can become your top layer.

Most cakes take 30-35 minutes to bake at 350,°  but test your cakes after 12 minutes. One of mine was done before the other, so I ended up baking one for 12 and the other for 15 minutes. They’re done when the middle springs back after a slight touch.

While the cake is baking, make the filling.Vanilla Custard filling:

Combine in a  two-quart sauce pan:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup corn starch.

Mix together thoroughly  until there are no lumps left, then add
3 eggs (both white and yokes) until the batter is smooth and completely mixed.
Next, add:
4 cups whole milk, stirring thoroughly with a whisk after each cup
1/8 teaspoon salt

Cook over low heat, stirring often and then constantly until it starts to bubble and thickens. Use the whisk to keep it smooth, but if you scrape the bottom and sides with a spatula every minute or so, it will keep the bottom and sides from browning. When it’s thickened, turn off the heat and add:
1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Whisk together thoroughly again and set aside to cool.  Once the cake is done, take it out and cool it (still in the pans) for about 10 minutes, or  until you can loosen the sides of the smaller of the two layers. Pour the warm custard over the bottom layer of cake. Carefully loosen all the edges of the second layer with a metal spatula, and when you can tell that even the bottom is loose, either flip the entire cake over on top of the bottom layer (which has been covered with custard) to make a second layer of cake, or flip the pan over on your hand and then flip your hand over the pan so that the second layer lands upright over the first layer.  If you can do this, you have a slightly rounded top to your cake, which is attractive, but if you miss, the cake might break into pieces. If the cake breaks up…not to worry! You can arrange the pieces on top, and after it’s all covered with frosting, you probably won’t be able to tell the difference, although you might want to add another 1/4+ cup milk to your frosting so that you can almost pour it on top rather than frosting it the traditional way. I haven’t tried this, but you might also be able to take the top layer out 1/2 at a time to make the switch easier.

How ever you do it, after you have the top layer securely in place over the bottom layer and the custard filling, let the whole thing cool while you make the frosting.

Whipped Chocolate-Chip Frosting

Microwave for 2 minutes:
2 cups chocolate chips in a bowl (can be milk, semi-sweet, or dark)

Meanwhile: in a mixing bowl, add:
1 stick (or 1/2 cup) soft butter
4 cups powdered sugar
Sprinkling of salt (about 1/16 teaspoon)
3/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Whip everything together in your mixer until it becomes a soft, fluffy frosting. Then, gently add the melted chocolate chips. If you want, you can stir the chocolate chips after they’ve been melted until they are smooth, or if you like the chocolate-chip-bit look, just add them in as they are. Some will be melted and some will still be a little chunky.

Ladle out the frosting and spread it carefully and evenly over the entire pan. It’s best served fresh and still slightly warm, but if you make it early (like the day before), it can also be stored in the refrigerator, although it must be room temperature when it’s eaten for full flavor. After the first serving, I store it in the refrigerator but bring it out 2-3 hours before serving it again. Hope you enjoy!P.S.—With the last six servings, I put them in sundae dishes with hot fudge sauce, a scoop of ice cream, and some whipped cream on top.        This is possibly a little decadent, but it was quite delicious that way!!

Sing praises to God, sing praises: sing praises unto our King, sing praises.” (Psalm 47:6)

Mackinac Island’s 70th Annual Lilac Festival Starts Today!

  Alan and I have been going to Mackinac Island together for over 50 years now, and I try to take him up every year for his birthday. This year the timing worked out to go last weekend, and the lilacs were just beginning to blossom out, so I’m sure it will be spectacular for this year’s       Lilac Festival, which begins today and lasts through Sunday, June 17th.Every day there are over a dozen events planned, and the whole festival culminates in a Grand Parade down Main Street on June 17th…
which also happens to be Father’s Day this year. The weather is predicted to be in the upper 60°s and sunnyish every day,        so if you can afford the time and money and live within driving distance,    it might make a marvelous place to visit this week or to celebrate Father’s Day!  M-185, the 8.2-mile highway circling Mackinac Island, Is (I think?) the only highway in America that doesn’t allow cars, although the quiet road is punctuated with the clippity-clop
of horse hooves now and then. Most years Alan and I walk around the island and bike around too, although over the years we’ve had to make a few compensations to offset the effects of aging. When we were young, we couldn’t afford to stay on the island
(not to mention we weren’t even married the first few years),so we’d just head over for a day, walking in the morning
and riding in the afternoon after a yummy picnic lunch. By our fifties, we could afford to stay overnight and eat at restaurants,
which gave us ample opportunities to rest up between excursions. This year (68th birthday), we noticed that after our 10+ miles of hiking         around the island, enjoying lunch,  walking around town, shopping, and meandering through the gardens at the Grand Hotel, we were too bushed to take a bike ride on the same day!Even worse, there is only one restroom, which is halfway around the island, so if you’ve got an aging bladder, don’t drink a lot of coffee or tea before heading out!Give your body a little time to digest and equilibrate  before your hike,
or you might find concentrating on conversation a little more challenging
at times as you journey to the site of the British Landing!  🙂Over the years, we’ve stayed at a number of different hotels. Many people have a favorite and always go back to the same place, but we love trying new places so often try some particularly good “special.” This year we stayed at the Harbour View Inn. The landscaping, room, and ambience were lovely! The continental breakfast was…adequate. However, unless we’re staying at the Grand, we do have a favorite lunch spot. We almost always have fish at the Village Inn, and the food is always excellent! Have I piqued your interest? It’s never too late to embark on a new adventure!

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)

(All photos were taken on Mackinac Island last Saturday, June 2, 2018.)

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.

Rise Up, My Love (289): Sharing Finances…Takes Trust as Well as Love

Song of Solomon 8:12 “My vineyard, which is mine, is before me: thou, O Solomon, must have a thousand, and those that keep the fruit thereof two hundred.” After explaining how the profit structure worked in the vineyards, the bride reveals her marvelous heart of devotion and love for her husband. First, she makes a point of the fact that she owns her own vineyard: “My vineyard, which is mine, is before me.” (In other words, she owns her own vineyard and can do whatever she wants with it.) But then—instead of keeping the profits—she insists on giving Solomon the entire profit that she would normally receive for herself, as well as generously paying those farmers who tended her vineyard.   Wow! Talk about amazing love and active faith! Pause to reflect for a few minutes on what this might mean for a husband and wife, and what this might model for us as the bride of Christ. As wives, do we show such devotion to our husbands that we freely entrust to them the benefits from our material possessions? (Before you get too excited husbands…two questions for you to consider: Are you so financially responsible that your wife does not feel compelled to try to provide for her own future? Do you exercise such unselfish love and wisdom in your financial decisions that your wife would want to entrust the management of her money to you?) If you can’t trust your prospective spouse with your money, then please don’t marry that person, because there are many areas that will mean even more to you than money! The ability to trust each other is absolutely critical to the stability of marriage.

To give what is ours to another always requires a great commitment of faith, love, and devotion. God calls us to give ourselves up to him completely. We respond to him out of love, but by faith we are also assured that he loves us even better than we love ourselves and will care for us even better than we can care for ourselves. It’s a win-win situation, and so it is also for the wife whose husband is truly loving her as Christ loves his bride (us).   As wives are to model the bride in her relationship to Christ, so we should ideally cast all our cares upon our husband (even our financial cares). Does that sound scary? I have a dear friend who married when she was almost forty, only finding “Mr. Right” some years after her father had died and left her a very large inheritance. When she married, she wondered whether or not to make a prenuptial agreement with her husband that would keep her inheritance strictly in her control (which had been her father’s desire, in order to protect his daughter from the possibility of marrying an unscrupulous man).

However, as an act of faith in her fiancé, and in the spirit of two becoming one, she chose to share everything with him. Do you think she made a noble choice? I do. We inherit “all spiritual blessings” in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). He gave everything and shares everything. In fact, the goal of Christ’s earthly life was to redeem a people who would become one with him and share his glory (John 17).

Christ gave all and desires all. In the spirit of displaying our love for Christ, we should give all and share all with our spouse as well. Two are to become one, as a picture on earth of what heaven will be like. Somehow…although we still struggle…it seems like it should be easy to have a perfect relationship with Christ, because he is the perfect “husband,” and everything we have came from him anyway. To whatever extent we and our mates are selfish instead of Christlike, to that extent it becomes more difficult to lay down our lives for one another, but this is exactly what God calls us to do.

On this earth, the husband and wife come together bringing completely independent and often very different gifts. However, the calling to love, give, and serve remains unchanged, so be very sure the person you marry is Mr. or Miss Right (not that they are perfect, but that they are truly the right person God wants for you). If you’re not sure, pray about it until you feel peace from the Lord one way or the other: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5).

Next to getting saved, marrying in the will and peace of God is the most important, life defining decision you’ll ever make! Of course, even the best marriages have some tough times. (Have you heard the joke that Mr.-Miss Right’s first name is “Always”?) Despite the difficulties, however, marriage provides an opportunity for the longest, most intimate, most satisfying relationship available on earth, so I hope if you’ve never been married, you may yet find your spouse of a lifetime!


Grilled Brats for Summer Served with Memorable Sides

Summer time is the perfect time to grill brats, but you may get tired of serving them with baked beans, chips and pickles, even though that’s standard picnic fare and always yummy. My daughter-in-law, Linda, sometimes mentions that it’s hard for her to think up sides for some of the more common dishes, so I thought that might be true for you too. If you’re looking for something different, how about trying a few of these options for sides?   *Chopped and added to sauteed red and green bell peppers
*Sauerkraut stewed with caraway seeds, apple chunks, bacon, and onions
*Fresh orange slices
*Pierogies stuffed with cheese or spinach*Grilled zucchini and summer squash
*Grilled egg plant
*Deviled eggs (recipe found here: https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2017/09/16/why-would-anyone-want-to-devil-an-egg/ )
If it’s cool out and you’re looking for warmth, here are a few sides that taste great:
*Spinach sauteed with bacon and onions
*Cold slaw (recipe here:  https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2016/10/01/a-love-affair-with-veggies-cold-slaw/ )Of course, they’re always great plain, or wrapped in a bun with mustard and onions. When we were in Cape Town, South Africa, we saw a shop where you could get hot dogs with 30 different types of condiments, so I think it’s fair to let your imagination run wild and make brats especially festive by offering all sorts of options! Who says brats can’t be gourmet party food? Well, it might not be a top choice for your first anniversary or hosting your boss, but there are few things any more savory than a hot brat and a cold lemonade on a balmy summer day! Happy summering!  🙂

But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee.” (Psalm 5:11)