Revisiting Youth

On our drivewayOn our roots tour, Jonathan wanted to show Gerlinde the house where we’d lived in Marquette (Michigan) for several years when he was a young boy. Dead River Falls Our home was nestled deep in the woods on 50 acres of land just overlooking the flood plain for the Dead River, and our property ended at the Dead River Falls. Autumn out our window There was something very magical about being so intimately connected to nature …even down to the foxes and bears that strolled past our windows…
(although that part was a bit scary). Playing on our pondBut, I think the wildness
—the haunting sounds of loons calling on our lake at night— Flowers and butterfly copy and the endless parade of wildflowers, made our Marquette days larger than life in our memories, and in our family lore.Driveway to our homeSo, we couldn’t resist driving in just to catch a glimpse of our home again.

Home in woodsThe man who lived there was extremely hospitable and allowed us to look inside, although he apologized for the condition of the house. They have several young kids, and it’s a big property to manage. I was deeply appreciative of his willingness to let us in, but I was (secretly) stunned by how much the house had changed in 20+ years. It made me feel very sad.  😦North WoodsConversely, the beautiful birch and maple forest carpeted in ferns seemed somehow untouched, as if in suspended animation. Only Jonathan is a man now, instead of a little boy, and it’s a joy to see him “all grown up” and thriving!  🙂Sled Run in the woodsBut, I have to say that revisiting our Marquette home made me really nostalgic. The life cycle of woodlands, if left undisturbed from human influence, seems so constant compared to the life cycle in us as humans! We are born, grow up, and die within “the twinkling of an eye”… so long looking forward …but so short looking back! May we be grateful for every day and every memory God gives us. Presque Isle Park“Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God…For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night…So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” (Psalm 90:1,2,4,12)

Forever Friends, Focus, and Fruitfulness

It is with a very heavy heart that I write this post. Nobody I know personally has died this week, and I’m not reflecting on the tragedy of the 9/11 attack on America from twelve years ago today.  Nothing that terrible, but Alan and I are leaving our “chapel family” for the past 18 years and moving to a different church. This has been a very difficult decision to make, and Alan has been thinking about it for many months, but he feels the need to move for the sake of his own spiritual growth, and as his wife, I feel the need to support whatever is best for him, since as long as the teaching is orthodox, I tend to be happy wherever. Nevertheless, I mourn, just like I’ve mourned every time we’ve moved. Something about change unsettles me. I’m happy to gain but not happy to lose, and there are inevitably losses with every gain, whether or not we consciously understand or acknowledge them. The clear loss to me is the fellowship of many dear friends that I’ve walked the pilgrim path with over the past years…so long that I’ve pretty much seen a generation of children grow up and start rearing their own families…and that’s the longest I’ve ever been in one community.IMG_4148Two of my closest friends at the chapel are Cindi and Susan. We have a “birthday club” together, and we get together with our spouses every so often. Cindi had us all over to celebrate Alan and my 40th anniversary earlier this year, and I wanted to do something to cheer up Susan and Steve (who lost both their [elderly] moms this summer)…and Rex and Cindi (who just installed their youngest in college a couple of days ago)… so I invited everybody over for an end-of-summer, IMG_4149kick-off-the fall picnic. Little did I know when we invited them over that Alan & I would need a some cheering up too! (Are you curious about what Steve’s eating? IMG_4147Crispy kale chips from Cindi and Rex’s farm share. If you’re wondering how to use up an abundance of kale: wash, coat gently and lightly with olive oil, spread in single layers on baking sheets, salt to taste, and bake until crisp. Talk about a yummy alternative to potato chips! Great appetizer. I think we ate them all. 🙂 ) IMG_4150At any rate, although the mood was much more sober than usual, it was truly therapeutic just being together. I am most thankful that we’re not leaving GR.IMG_4151 It’s hard enough moving to a different church without losing easy access to BFFs! (You can see from my lack of pictures that I wasn’t feeling very festive last night!) DSCN5699   After dinner we sent the couples off for just a bit to enjoy romantic boat rides. DSCN5696It made me think about how marriage is like “shoving off” with your spouse on a lifetime adventure. You really don’t know where all you’ll be going…but you know that as long as you “both shall live,” you’ll be together (God enabling). IMG_4060I was reflecting this morning on our lives in terms of focus and fruitfulness. In my own life, I’ve been focused on what’s close at hand (the goldenrod in this picture). The Lord must want me to focus on something “across the fence”…IMG_4060 2let’s say the wild, pink sweet peas. Quite different, but still lovely…and still okay. IMG_4064Or, maybe what he really wants me to focus on are the scarlet leaves turning in the background. I have no clue what God’s doing, but I’m willing and watching.IMG_4043      And, how about this one? Our woods is full of grapes and apples just now. IMG_4044 How should I be spending my time this year? What “fruit” does the Lord really want me to work more on producing…apples…or grapes? IMG_4045How about you? Are you experiencing change in your life? Loss? Upheaval? I hope as all of us launch into this new season, we trust completely in the Lord, knowing that he is with us no matter where we go. Truly, he is our first and foremost “best friend forever” who will guide our steps and direct our paths. Lord, please help us to trust you as our best friend forever, to focus on what you want us to see, and to abide in you—in Christ—the true Vine.

DSCN5697“If I ascend up into heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there will your hand lead me, and your right hand will hold me.” (Psalm 139:8-10)

Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman…Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, no more can you, except you abide in me.” (John 15:1, 4)

Starring Eowyn: Rewarded for Obedience

04Many of you may know that my second son, Michael, lives with his family in Hawaii. What most of you probably don’t know is that yesterday was his Eown's 5th Birthday partydaughter Eowyn’s fifth birthday! Eowyn was born on my father’s birthday…but some months after he died, so you can imagine the joy it is to me to have 01something so wonderful to celebrate on December 13th again! Sadly, we couldn’t make it to Hawaii (from Michigan) for the party, but Michael shared the pictures 08and my thoughtful daughter-in-law, Grace, made sure we got to skype so 07we could sing to Eowyn and hear all about her day! We also got to see her new gifts: loops for making potholders, a little house set (that we financed…our kids 02are super about letting us just send a check and buying things in our honor), and best of all, a new bow and arrow set! Pocahontas, here we come! 🙂05Since the kids have moved to Hawaii, they’re all learning how to surf. Michael 03and Grace are really getting into the swing of it, and the whole family loves water 06play so much that they’ve even bought Christmas wet suits for everybody to help keep them comfortable through the winter months, where the temperatures drop way down into the 70°s some days (poor dears!).Van's Triple Crown Surfing 2012Last weekend their family watched Sebastian Zietz win the $100,000 prize at the 2012 Vans Triple Crown surfing competition at Pipeline, North Shore, in Oahu, where the waves faces were more than 10 feet high (can be over 30′ in winter).09Being typical children, the kids only watch strangers for a little while but are 10much more interested in looking for seashells or digging in the sand. This particular day (although I have no pictures of the kids during the real event), Eowyn was busy digging in the sand but had wandered too close to the shoreline. Michael and Grace, with one eye on the girls and the other on the competition, Eowynnoticed that Eowyn had relocated to a spot too close to the water’s edge and was happily digging with her back to the surf, oblivious of the towering wall of water just seconds from crashing onto the shore. Michael called for her to come, and Pipelineshe jumped up and ran right to him. Mike said she wasn’t so close she’d been in danger of drowning, but she would have gotten tossed, tumbled, and drenched.

I’m sure we are in more danger than we ever realize sometimes. May our hearts be attuned to hear the Lord, and may we run straight to his arms when he calls!

“Doth not wisdom cry?…Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice to the sons of man…Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom: I am understanding; I have strength” (Proverbs 8:1,4,14)

Bubbles Burst But Bubbles Rose

This has been a pretty horrendous week. In the triple minus column were two accidents and two funerals. The worst was my oldest son, Aaron, who was hit by a car (driver’s fault) riding his bicycle home from work last Monday night. The lady in the car  was fine, but the impact threw Aaron into the lady’s windshield, gashed his back breaking off her side mirror, and landed him in the E.R. with an injured knee, sore arm, scratches and bruises, but miraculously, no broken neck, brain damage, or other deadly injury. I was also in an accident (my fault), where I failed to see a car coming behind a paint truck. I was totally blindsided and didn’t know she was there until she careened off the side of my front bumper. Her SUV flipped and blew out both the back and front windows before landing back upright. It was the worst car accident I’ve ever been in, but miraculously, both of us walked away without a scratch. Unbelievable! Thank you, Lord, for your amazing mercies to all four of us!

I also attended two funerals. One was the brother of a friend, and the brother was just 2 weeks older than I am. This man was an alcoholic and his family wasleft with great grief and pain. The other was a very elderly lady from our chapelwho was much loved by everybody and had earned the nickname “Bubbles.”Despite these frightening and very sad negatives, there were some happy positive events too. I helped a friend with her garage sale to raise money for the adoption of a little guy from Columbia, and she raised a lot of money! On Saturday, thesound guru from our chapel sponsored a surprise 60th birthday party for the power-point guru and even managed to get his family from Wisconsin to come!Our pastor and the head of our deacon board sponsored a great impersonation of Doug and Bob cracking jokes behind the scenes, and Andy noted their similarityto some other famous commentators. Here’s our pastor, who cheerfully endured such cracks (doubtless his idea) as: Doug: “Boy, I sure wish the messages were on TV.”   Bob: “Why?” Doug, “So then we could turn ’em off!” After the fun, therewas lots of good food(which I think is pretty much a part of most “family” gatherings, isn’t it?),and lots of good fellowship. Welcome to the 60’s Bob; they’re not so bad! 🙂It’s also ArtPrize in GR right now, an annual event that attracts about a half a million visitors and I believe has the biggest monetary prize of any art fair in the U.S. Alan’s hospital uses this opportunity to invite psychiatric residents to consider coming to GR after they’re through with school, and so Alan and I enjoyhelping host a gala event at the top of the GRAM (local art museum) each year.It’s a family event, & this year Daniel and Brianna joined us. The food was great,

and we always have a wonderful evening! Sunday we had friends from Virginia stop by for church and Sunday dinner, and our ladies’ Bible study has started up again. All 50 workbooks have already been claimed, and I think it’s going to be a great study on the book of James. (Not too late to join if you want!) I took a platter of goodies to our new neighbors, saw a beautiful buck on our lane (which has become my new facebook background now…) So, despite all the bubbles that burst, and there were bubbles of happiness too. The morning after Aaron’s accident, Reid (2) got up and decided on his own to set the table: “Daddy hurt, Mommy! I hewp!” Now, that cheers the hearts of parents and grandparents!And we mustn’t forget Bubbles! She rose and went to heaven. So, in the midst of all the ups and downers in life, I hope we all remember that even though some of our hopes and dreams burst like bubbles, if we’ve become the children of God through faith in Jesus Christ, we are like Bubbles, and we will rise when we die!

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:1,4).

No More Teenagers

I’m not sure which is more traumatic: the day your first child becomes a teenager, or the day your last child stops being a teenager. What do you think? Aaron hit his teen years before Joel was even born, but Aaron was definitely the “Rocky Road” flavor, and I remember writing a little poem about his being thirteen that ended, “More ups and downs in just one day than in all the years along the way!” Of course, I would never have traded him for a barrel of monkeys, but today I wouldn’t trade him for anything! He’s a great son! 🙂Joel, on the other hand, was always unbelievably sweet. Do you know how most babies get big enough to climb out of their crib and let you know they’re awake  by jumping on your head? Well, I would wake up and find Joel cuddled next to me but just quietly waiting for me to wake up. Unbelievable! Here’s a picture of him first thing on the morning of his 20th birthday. As you can see…he’s still quiet, thoughtful, and unbelievably sweet!Joel’s birthday was on Sunday, June 19th, but this year that was also Father’s Day, and beyond that, Uncle Terry and Aunt Eileen were arriving on Sunday afternoon too, so our “cozy commune” (the four of us still living at home) had a first celebration for Joel on Saturday.As soon as they could, the rest of the Michiganders arrived to help celebrate!Sunday after church we celebrated Father’s Dayand had a very lazy, happy afternoon swimming and boating.Our firstborn was born on my 25th birthday. It took 20 years for our lastborn’s birthday to fall on Alan’s “Father’s Day,” and guessing that we might not all make it another 20 years to see if it will happen again…we really relished the specialness of Alan and Joel being able to share their mutual holiday as our lastborn finished his teenage years! In fact, everything about it was J.P. (“Just Perfect,” as my dad used to say). 🙂

Alan and I felt like we couldn’t have asked for a happier day or a sweeter son. But, after all is said and done, we think it’s more traumatic for your lastborn to turn 20 than for your firstborn to turn 13. So, for any of you reading this who may still have children living at home with you: treasure your time! It passes, and every day—even with the tiredness and all the ups and downs—is precious!

“LORD, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations…For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night…O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil. Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children. And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us; and establish thou the work of our hands” (Psalm 90:1, 4, 14-17)