31 December 2011

Sunshine in my Soul...and in the sky

(A few delights from our day.)

Last night when my bread wasn't rising fast enough for me to knead it and get it baked before sundown, I thought I would roll it out and make breadsticks. To that end, I had it all smoothed out on the largest of all my tiny counter spaces, olive oil and herbs sprinkled over the top.

Just moments before I started the slices that would make the whole into bread sticks, my husband came in the room and said,

"Oh, are you making pizza?"

Well, no. I wasn't. But why not? It sounded good to me, too. And it has been a delicious edition to two meals now. And I think next time we make beans in the crock pot, I'll plop in a few whole potatoes so that we can have "baked" potatoes with our beans.

This morning at church a woman approached us. "Which one of you plays the piano well?" she asked.

It has been a while since I've heard this question much, but I'm about as accustomed to it as I am to drinking water or going for a walk. We both play the piano well, in fact, and yes, one of us could easily step in since you don't have a pianist today. Oh, yes, I suppose the other of us would be willing to help lead the singing as well.

No, we don't begrudge anyone, or think how bad they must be at planning ahead. I've been that planner on many occasions, desperate for someone, anyone, who could play, and I know well not only the feeling of being asked to help at the last minute, but also the great feeling of relief when someone says that beautiful word, YES.

I looked over the notebook she handed me. Just hymns. No problem. Then there was the one praise song--a little more modern and a little less easily in my fingers. I've played every hymn in the hymnal (try it sometime--it's great fun), but some of the newer ones in newer books...well, they're composed a little differently than four-part hymns according to the voice leading rules in counterpoint or the common practice era. (Enough said.)

In my mind, I read the music, singing and playing it silently. I do this several times before I realize I've played it before. Ten to fifteen years ago. With the pastor's wife at the electronic keyboard next to me. It's a nice song, and it's still floating around in my mind this afternoon:

"Blessed be the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come."

I've never had anybody ask me to fill in for a sermon, although sometimes I feel like I learn enough from my Bible study during the week to do it if necessary. They ask me to play the piano quite often, though, and I'm glad I can do what my hand finds to do to be useful, to let the congregation praise and pray together to the God I serve and love.

This afternoon, we'll do as our friend songleader suggested--get out in the sunshine. The rest of the week may bring snow and cold, so we'll take our forty degrees while we can have them. For the rest of the winter (as always, whether the weather outside is rain or shine), we'll be relying on the Sunshine in our souls for light.


If you're looking for good reading, we haven't been able to put Escape from Death down. We're like a couple of little kids...maybe just one more chapter?

14 December 2011

Storage Issues

I just filled our thirty-sixth jar with applesauce. Do you know how many jars we had room for in our cupboard? Nine. We still have about a bushel to cook and sauce. I would be lying if I told you I knew where I was going to put them all. That applies to the wonderful half-gallon jars of apple juice we did several weeks ago, too.

Can you feel my dilemma?

04 December 2011

Until the Work is Finished

Yesterday morning, I woke up late. You see, I had been up late, and the surest result of being up late is waking up late. It had been the Christmas concert, and the choral instructor had invited his graduate assistants over afterwards to celebrate and visit. We were tired, but we were glowing.

I knew we would not be on time for Sabbath school, but I wanted to finish the reading for our class nonetheless. We've been studying what it really means to gain an education, and I was not about to miss the reading titled "The Lifework."

"Success in any line demands a definite aim," I read. "Such an aim is set before the youth of today. The heaven-appointed purpose of giving the gospel to the world in this generation is the noblest that can appeal to any human being. It opens a field of effort to everyone whose heart Christ has touched."

(White, Ellen G. Education. Boise, ID: Pacific Press, 1903, 1952, p. 262.)

I continue on to read that no child, however unpromising he or she may appear, should be denied the best training and education that can be obtained, lest any would thus be prepared to do the work that God has set before them. However humble their work may seem, they may still reach many for the Savior.

I also read how to find the lifework. "To do our best in the work that lies nearest, to commit our ways to God, and to watch for the indications of His providence--these are rules that ensure safe guidance in the choice of an occupation." (White, 267.)

Later with our class, we discuss this most important endeavor of spreading the gospel. We see and say how we cannot share an experience in walking with God if we have not had it. We see that we have an urgent responsibility to all those around us. We see that those who have had experiences in sharing their faith need to train those who are new to the faith and new to the task to ensure success.

We see that when we are connected with the strength of God and filled with the Holy Spirit, we will never lose our strength. But if we do grow weary, we know where to turn for rest and renewal. (See Matthew 11:28-30, which also tells us that we renew our strength for renewed labor with Christ.)

When we go in to the sanctuary for the worship service, we see that our friend who led the discussion in Sabbath school will also be giving the sermon. And we are glad, for he is a deep thinker and a man of God.

He speaks of work, and how prior to being in the seminary, his job (not that of a pastor) was of the sort that you worked around the clock if necessary to get the job done on time. Maybe you even worked one hundred hours that week. Maybe you really enjoyed the company benefits, but the Blackberry they gave you also meant that you needed to reply to any e-mail that came through your phone within one or two minutes.

He took us to Isaiah chapter 6, where we read of Isaiah's calling. I've usually focused on Isaiah's willingness: "Here I am, send me." But this time he points out something that has NEVER sunk into my heart before. It's in verse 11. It's something Isaiah really wants to know. What has he really gotten into?

"Then said I, 'Lord, how long?' And He answered, 'Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate.'"

In other words, until the work is DONE. You can't stop working until the work is finished. Christ doesn't stop working until His work is finished, either. He completed His work on the cross, and just before He comes, He will have completed His work in the heavenly sanctuary. (But that's a whole different study. Feel free to ask me if you have questions about that!)

It's like our friend's former job. And it's like canning peaches or making grape juice. When the fruit is ripe, you get up, stay up, labor over it until it's all canned. You don't go to the beach for a swim while there are still ripe peaches waiting to be processed. If you do that, they'll perish before you can get them preserved.

The fruits are like people who don't know Jesus. If we don't labor over them, they might perish before they know their Savior, too.

Perhaps more than ever, that sank in for me yesterday. There are people I pray for--people who I want to see come to know Jesus and His saving power in their lives. I want them to gain the victory over the sins that so easily beset them.

But praying isn't enough. Don't get me wrong. The work CANNOT happen without prayer. Prayer, however, is not the whole work. There are other kinds of labor that have to happen. How do I know?

Well, Jesus Himself said so.

"And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, 'All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.' Amen." Matthew 28:18-20.

He sends all of us out to do this work. But He's not like the overbearing, demanding boss who's always looking over your shoulder. He promises to always be with us, and He assures us that He has all the power to accomplish the things He asks us to do.

Here I am, Lord, send me.

(There is more to share about these themes from my study and experience yesterday, which I hope to do soon. Now, however, I must eat breakfast and accomplish the last things on the list for this semester. May all my readers walk with the Lord today.)

25 November 2011

The Friday Night Table

For the first time in my Michigan home, I dug out Christmas decorations today. What better way to open Sabbath with my in-laws than to set a lovely blue table?

My guests are the only ones left in a long line of guests who came for my husband's graduate choral recital, which went brilliantly well on Monday night.

And I had a few moments to myself today, which hasn't happened in quite some time. I thought a spot of beauty was in order. With my ribbons and blue glass "rocks", saved from dorm room decorations in college, my sparkly snowflakes bought for my first tree on my first Christmas on my own, a couple ornaments from the collection my aunt gave us, and a few candles, my husband and guests decided it looked quite nice.

And this last one is for all of us fisher-folk in the family.

13 November 2011

10 November 2011

Memories of Summer

I don't think I will ever grow weary of the way summer abundance, squirreled away in my cupboards, makes winter warm and tastey. No matter how much work it is.

28 October 2011

Happy Sabbath, Mom

I'm not sure if it's genetic, or just part of the family culture. My grandmother loved barns. My mom loves barns (is it because they make her think of her mom, who she loved very much?). I love barns--because they make me think of those very special women in my life, AND because they have a country charm and beauty that just can't be surpassed.

I'm guessing my great (or great-great?) grandmother would have loved to have a barn the night she fought the wolves all night (they wanted to eat her dead cow...and she also wanted to eat her dead cow), but probably for a totally non-aesthetic reason. And I digress.

Dear Mom,

Thanks for the shoes. They're cute. Thanks again for the skirt you sent them to match, too. And my little niecelet and her mom already love the things you sent her.

Thanks for your constant prayers, support, creativity, and work for God. I know He uses you in you family and in your job. I know He'll bless your sermon tomorrow, too, and I'll be praying for you.

Barns may not be an official love language, but this one comes to you as a loving squeeze, from the little girl who not so long ago wore all the tiny little baby clothes you bought.


Cardinals and Travels

When we first visited Michigan and settled on a place to live--a little single-wide the perfect price for students that has been sold by friends to friends for several years--I couldn't believe the blessing showered on me. It was a Red Bud tree, my very favorite of all the flowering trees. Not only would there be on in my yard, but also two in the neighbor's yard. I'm surrounded!

When we moved in, it was nearing the end of summer, and our little Red Bud was green and thick with leaves. Little did I know that when the leaves fell off there would be a bird feeder hanging from its branches.

We were newly-weds, and as many couples probably do, we had LOTS of birdseed left over from the wedding. As it got colder, and there were fewer and fewer sources of food for birds, we began feeding what became quite a crowd. One guest in particular often caught our attention--a fat little cardinal who would sit at the bird feeder for very long periods of time.

Today as I sat on the couch and looked out our window, I was especially glad for our big flowering bush that has red berries for all the birds in the fall. That means we'll still have some visitors until we have time to get the bird feeder filled again. There was a cardinal in the bush this morning, and I can't help but wonder if he was one of the three tiny little birdlets that used to live in the nest right outside our kitchen window. (I took pictures of them, but through the window the really wiggly little birds didn't turn out so well.)

It seems there are blessings everywhere I turn, both large and small. Flowers in the spring, bird food in the fall, a good place for a nest--all of them things for the eye to enjoy, especially knowing that our heavenly Father even feeds the birds.

Today I'm also remembering some blessings experienced more than thirteen years ago, and they are almost a whole world away (literally) from the birds outside my window. Maybe I won't say much about it now, but if you're willing to visit YouTube for a few minutes, you'll get a hint at the experience I'm talking about.

Ok, and here's another hint: This is a very special lady whose family I have known since I was four years old. I shared the privilege of working with them on four different occasions in four different countries, in the effort of introducing people to the Savior.

20 October 2011

Immune Boosting Drink

Somehow it's the time of year when busy students come down with little sicknesses, and often keep coming to school with their colds in tow. I'm one of them. I don't have anything too major--just a little soarness in the throat. But I pulled out the big guns (in addition to a little extra sleep), and made my good friend's famous Immune Boosting Drink.

It's not for the faint of heart, but I promise that if you dare to try it next time you start to get sick, you will very likely actually think it tastes good. And your body will thank you. Here's the recipe.

6 lemons, juiced

6 cloves garlic

1/2 onion

thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger (or dump in some ground ginger if you don't have fresh)

1/2 c raw honey

1/2 t (or more) cayenne pepper

If you're like me, you'll blend it up and add enough water to make two quarts, drinking one quart before bed and one quart the next morning. If you're even braver like my husband, you'll leave out the honey, blend up everything else, and drink it straight, WITHOUT dilluting it at all.

11 October 2011

What to do Without Water

It's fall break, and we're enjoying a slow morning at home. I go to the sink to rinse my hands, mid-breakfast.

"Honey," I say, startled, "we have no water."

My thoughts: Welcome to life in a trailer park. Of course they didn't let us know ahead of time. We need to go to the office, if they're even open, and see what the deal is.

My husband's words: "Let's fix the toilet!"

He's right. It's a GREAT time to fix the toilet. We've been putting it off for weeks, not wanting to go to the trouble of turning our water off (because our toilets don't have their own shut-off valves--I know, not even the guy at Home Depot had heard of toilets without their own shut-off valves before). And now we're handed this opportunity. Don't we live a charmed life?

02 October 2011

Prophets and Kings

Many of my readers know this title as a book--a very good one--by a favorite author of mine, Ellen G. White.

Tonight, though, I'm thinking of this title as the name of my husband's intramural football team.

I know. You might think of all the negatives associated with "competitive sports." But when I think of this incredible group of guys, I remember how last year, when things were tight for us, they wouldn't let us pay for my husband's jersey. Then at the end of the season, they went together and bought a much-needed winter jacket for him.

From all different countries and academic disciplines, these guys love to get exercise. They love to be together, to pray together. They have great attitudes, and even though they win a lot of games, winning isn't the most important thing to them.

This year, as the flag football season approaches, they had many more guys wanting to play than they had room for. So three or four of them got together to decide how to run the team this fall. Aside from deciding who would be on the team, they wanted to take their regular prayer times to a new level:

"What if we go through a book together or something?"

They decided on a classic called Steps to Christ, and although the season hasn't officially started, they've already begun their group readings and sharing, many of them even posting their thoughts for all to see on Facebook.

Football isn't my thing. But as the season approaches, I'm delighted that my husband has such a great group of friends to spend time with, learning and growing together in character as they also get some much-needed physical exercise to balance out the rigor of academic studies. I'll probably even try to watch a game or two.

01 October 2011

Sabbath Blessings (So Far)

With my husband away for the evening (I was staying home to have a quiet, restful evening), I had more than an hour before sundown and the beginning of the Sabbath. Realizing that a Visa gift card we had expired yesterday, I attempted to spend the balance online. With that failing, I thought I walk up to the nearest store (we have only one car, and my husband had driven it to vespers where he was playing the piano) and buy a little fruit.

I walked over the bridge, and saw that the trees and the river looked something like the picture above. In the store, I found apples, spaghetti sauce, some bird seed. I thought I had a little left to spend, so I set out in search of tofu.

But instead of tofu, what should I find but half-gallon canning jars! Right then and there I knew I needed a cart! This size of canning jar is not quite easy to find in our little Michigan town and the surrounding area, and with plans to make apple juice in a week or two, I could not pass these up even though I knew I would need to spend more money than originally planned.

On my way back, I ran into another canning friend who I knew had been searching and searching for this particular kind of jar.

"They have half-gallon jars!" I gleefully announced, and we both went straight to them, loaded our carts, and went our separate ways.

I checked out, paying for everything including my four boxes of jars. Only as the bagger began loading everything back into my cart did I realize my dilemma.

"Oh, no! I didn't bring my car, and I don't know how to get everything home!" I blurted.

I stood there sheepishly wondering what I was going to do. I didn't see my fellow jar buyer anywhere in the near vicinity. My husband would be in the middle of practicing with the other musicians, so I couldn't call him. The bagger was telling me I could leave the jars at the store and come right back to get them. But he didn't understand. My car wasn't waiting for me at home. If I tried to walk home and back, it would take me at least four trips to get everything taken care of. And I couldn't even make one return trip before sundown.

I looked toward the store entrance right at the same moment that two musicians came through the door. Friends! I knew they would have come in at least one car if not one car each. I knew they would rescue me.

Sure enough, I waited for the one to finish her purchases. She drove me home, helped me carry in my boxes of jar-treasure. I sent her away with a plate of supper. And she laughed at me (well, with me, I suppose, since I was laughing at me too).

Then followed a quiet evening, with reading, conversations with my mom and one sister-in-law, a long warm bath. My husband came home to a tower of boxes beside the couch, and he was overjoyed to learn that we now had vessels for the apple juice we're longing to make.

And we've had other Sabbath blessings as the morning came and turned to afternoon:

  • Hearing voices of loved ones living continents away from me

  • Hearing voices read and share what they have learned from group Bible study

  • Hearing voices of husband and the choir he is in making music during the worship hour

  • Sitting with young friends while their parents and my husband sang in choir

  • Seeing the sunrise, and a cloudless sky

  • Seeing a cardinal in our bush, eating its berries

  • Seeing a friend from far away, who is here for a family visit as well as business

  • Feeling the warmth of the heater on my feet

  • Smelling food warming up in the oven, which we will also soon taste

  • Tasting barley crackers, sent to us from Mom in Oregon

30 September 2011

The Beauty of the Mind

My mom just posted a lovely article about memory. Especially focusing on things learned in childhood, she talks about how important it is to give children a pure and wonderful mental diet, teaching them to memorize the lessons of the Bible in word and song. The following are some thoughts that are running around in my mind in response to her article.

The things I memorized in childhood still stick with me. My husband and I both recited the fourth commandment the other day, in unison, without missing a word. It's not something I review on a regular basis. I hadn't read the words terribly recently. But unlike my upcoming recital repertoire, which I do review and attempt to engrave more deeply in my mind for hours every day, these words flowed easily off my tongue, instantly available, word for word.

I think there are a couple of reasons for that. One is that, as most of us realize these days, children's minds are especially efficient in memorizing and retaining information, perhaps partly because children love repetition as much as they do.

But perhaps there's another good reason. Bible verses, Sabbath school songs (or any hymns or spiritual songs) are all things that God has a big interest in helping us retain and retrieve when we have need of them. This is one memory tool that is available to every person at every age--even those who feel that their minds are slowing down.

In my own life, I've experienced many times the blessings of memory.

During two or so of my adult years, my Sabbath mornings were spent with the littlest children, playing the piano for their Sabbath school class. I hope they still remember the songs we taught them, and the lessons from the stories my friend told them every week. I do. They have come back to encourage me during quite a few trials, and have inspired hope and faith in my heart.

I've also worked on some memory projects of my own, and I'm well on my way to memorizing an entire book of the Bible (praise God who gives the wisdom for this endeavor!). I cannot even begin to count the times that this memory project has enriched my Bible study, both within the book I've been working with and in other books of the Bible. It has been an amazing journey to see how often the Bible interprets itself, and how often God gives me insights into His Word through my increasing familiarity with it.

I want to say one other thing about singing and memorizing: I know of few things that can bring my heart more courage than singing--OUT LOUD--words of faith in Jesus and praise to God my Creator and Redeemer. Try it out for yourself. It's hard to let Satan get you discouraged when you openly and outwardly give yourself to worship in song.

26 September 2011


Things get goofy in the music department sometimes. We work hard, we get tired, we don't know where to find the next source for our research projects. We sit down on the couches in the lounge for supper, and the conversations take interesting turns.

One classmate is particularly known for her quick wit. I asked her what price she found on Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach's Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments.

Keep in mind that this man has been dead for a very long time, and has absolutely no need of a monthly income. Also keep in mind that our copies in the library look like an equivalent could be found for a more than reasonable price.

So when she replies "FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS", I nearly faint.

And she sympathetically blurts out, "It's a good thing you ain't pregnant, 'cause if you were, you would have just had your baby right then."

Another classmate offers this explanation for the high price:

They printed the translation in Taiwan and had to ship it accross the ocean in a row boat. The high price for each copy sold pays the rowers.

Evidently used copies sell for a little cheaper, and now you have a glimpse into the true life a musician.

Pleasing God

I've been studying. Of course, my classes and exams call for a disciplined study. More important to me than any degree or class, however, is the study of the Bible.

Most recently, my course of study has taken me to several chapters in both the old and new Testaments that talk about judgments on nations. I've discovered that even when people or nations are rebellious, God gives space (or time) to repent (see Revelation 2:21 and Jeremiah chapter 18). The mercy and patience of God are beautifully depicted.

This morning, my study took me to Jeremiah 48:38, where it says this: "There shall be lamentation generally upon all the housetops of Moab, and in the streets thereof: for I have broken Moab like a vessel wherein is no pleasure, saith the LORD."

Several things immediately leaped out at me. I had seen this imagery before. If you dig out your concordance, you will find the imagery of a potter's vessel broken in Isaiah 30:14, Jeremiah 19:11, Revelation 2:27, as well as Psalm 2:8,9 (there might be more--these are just the ones I've studied so far).

But something in the description of the vessel this time caught my eye. There is no pleasure in it. What would cause me to be a vessel wherein there is pleasure? I wonder.

And almost immediately another text comes to mind, this time having more to to with a person in history than a nation.

"By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is [or exists], and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him." Hebrews 11:5, 6.

What did I learn here?

  • I can please God by having faith in Him, and believing the promises (and all the other parts) of His word.

  • While I might not immediately know exactly how to diligently seek Him, I can think of several ways to seek Him more diligently than I do now (including more time spent studying and even memorizing His word, diligently protecting my time for secret prayer, remembering Him throughout my busy days, and the like).

  • God is pleased and delighted when I exercise this faith and trust in Him.

  • Without this diligence, this faith in God my Creator and Redeemer, my life will have no purpose and might as well be broken like a potter's vessel. Which thought reminds me of this verse, these words of Christ: "Whosoever shall fall upon that Stone [meaning Himself] shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder." Luke 20:18.

May we all know only the brokenness that comes from falling upon Christ, and leaning upon Him for our total salvation, and not the crushing weight of being a vessel without pleasure and without faith in His righteousness, His blood shed and plead for us.

24 September 2011

More of Our Lives in Food

Today we are visiting with friends, the wife a Brazilian in the music department with us, the husband a graduate of the seminary from Rwanda.

Their Sabbath school begins at 11:00, so we are going for Sabbath breakfast, Sabbath school, the worship service, and lunch afterward around 2:00 p.m. We are bringing home-made grape juice, and pancake mix from our favorite recipe. I don't know when we've been invited over for breakfast before, and I'm quite looking forward to it.

This morning I'm remembering our other friends who picked grapes with us last week, planning to do their own canning for the very first time, which must have been an adventure for them. I'm also remembering the best Friend of all, our Savior, who promised not to drink any grape juice until we could drink it with Him when He comes to take us home.

I can't wait.

23 September 2011

Our {Recent} Lives in Food

Sabbath Lunches with Friends

A couple of weeks ago, we gleefully accepted an invitation to Sabbath lunch with some dear friends, the husband of Serbian descent in the seminary, the wife of regular American mix in the music department with us.

We discovered that it is the Serbian tradition to eat simply--a bowl of good, hearty soup preceding the meal. In this case, we had a delicious butternut squash soup, made with the obvious squash with a bit of onion (and maybe potato) cooked and blended together. The seasoning was simple as well, the vegetable stock, salt, and a few herbs enhancing but not overpowering the flavors of the vegetables. We've already experimented with recreating this item from the menu.

Hearty bread, a lovely rice casserole, a soy-bean hummus, and a tomato-cucumber salad completed the meal.

Once the food was settled in our bellies, we took a walk in the sunshine, greeted the neighbor kitty, leaped through the harvested corn fields, arriving back at their house to jabber the rest of the day away...until 10:00 p.m.!

Also recently, some friends came into our home for Sabbath lunch. Thanks to an academy classmate of mine, a basic meal of spagetti and garlic bread had a special and very delicious flair.

Food Preservation

You would understand, wouldn't you, the drive to pick as many bushels of grapes as possible in the one hour you have available, only to find that picking the grapes went much faster than juicing and canning? And the urge that came only a day and a half later, when the kitchen STILL wasn't cleaned up, to pick more the next weekend?

You'd also understand how glad we are that, as we used our last jar of applesauce this week (made from the apples pictured above), we have fall break coming up so that we can make at least as much applesauce as last year? And maybe even buy twice as many so that we can make our own apple juice as well? Even though we know it's tons of work?

The Bread of Heaven

Most of all, I hope you understand how it is that a person could be stuck in the same three chapters of Isaiah for about as many weeks, searching out other texts that illumine them and learning life lessons from them every morning and evening--what it means to have Bible study in your life that not only fills your spiritual hunger for TODAY, but also quickens your mind regarding the eternal truths of the great controversy between God and Satan.

08 September 2011

We had hardly been home for three days before we (translate I) made a long list entitled "things to accomplish before school starts". We had three weeks.

One item on it was to finish all my Alaska fishing posts. We are nearing the end of our third week back in school, and as you can see, my fishing posts aren't anywhere near complete! I do promise them someday, but I'm not going to guarantee when. As I told my mother the other day when she said it would be fun if I were on Facebook, "I hardly have time to clip my toenails, let alone join Facebook!"

Yes, I'm immersed in music and studies at present, and spent some time with the Bach French and English keyboard suites, as you might be able to tell from a miss-spelling on a little menu item on my list last week: "Yam/Suite Potato Fries". Or should that have been sweet potatoes instead?

But we did pick blueberries (as you can see from the photo) before school started, and managed a few other homey chores in the mix. And we're enjoying the beginnings of fall in Michigan--which reminds me that we need to call our lovely, faith-filled blueberry lady to see if her grape harvest is nearly ripe. Maybe she'll let us pick from the "thank-offering row", which is a different row every year and yet yields more than any of the other rows.

Though busy, the days are filled with delights:

  • The best husband ever

  • Excellent teachers

  • Friends new and old

  • A new niece

  • Tasty food

  • Amish country and farms

  • Piano lessons full of new insights into the physicality as well as musicality of being a pianist

  • A second year of Analytical Techniques, just for fun

  • New insights in the Bible after I asked God to help me understand

  • Cheerful, sturdy clothing

  • Our crockpot

  • Prayer time alone and with my husband

  • Feeling healthy and energetic

  • Getting more exercise

  • Starting the second year of the master's program instead of the first, and having many familiar things in life where last year at this time almost everything was unfamiliar

May God grant each of you, dear readers, the sweetest of His blessings this week.

02 August 2011

Who's the Brave One? Bristol Bay Journal Part 4

That first Sabbath afternoon, we go walking along a beach, one my husband remembers well from childhood. The bluffs above have a "new" owner, who happens to be there camping with his sister for the week. They are friendly, and don't mind our exploring.

"Run as fast as you can in that direction!" my husband shouts.

He and his brothers aren't afraid of much, so I am instantly suspicious about what may happen to me if I do. I answer that I'd rather not, but that I'd be happy to watch him do so, which he gleefully does.

Then he disappears (translate drops or falls) into a pit.

But the grass is tall and deep and pads things well, so he isn't hurt. I still meander at my pace, glad not to fall into any pits. I am not the brave one of the two of us.
Later, back on the boat, we call my sister-in-law, the pregnant one in a foreign country who has been getting used to all new things and even using words from a new language.

It's a new thing, this calling people from the F.V. Ingolf--the cell phone only came on board as a useful item last summer, but already we are basking in the connections this device allows us to make with the outside world.

As only sisters-in-law can do, she and I discuss the ins and outs of being a girl on the fishing boat: the bucket, the lack of showers, the close quarters and where-to-go-when-I-need-introvert-time sorts of issues.

"You're brave!" she concludes.

I disagree. She's the brave one. Every time I feel overwhelmed in life, whether on the boat or not, I think of her and all she does and is and feel sheepish that I could possibly allow my heart to be discouraged when I know she faces so much more, every day.
We start out of the harbor as the tide allows, which is somewhere in the middle of the night. I stir from my sleep, and wonder if I should wake up completely for this moment, this first for me. Then I decide I will need to have rested, and fall back asleep.

The water treats me well on the first day. It doesn't make too many waves, and I don't get sick. I learn a little of how to steer the boat (at least, I think perhaps I began learning this the first day, but the days do so run together), and I squiggle and curve a little around the bay.

I do not learn how to stop and start. Steering is enough of bravery for the first lesson.

29 July 2011

How to be Happy with a Day's Work

At the end of my day, there are things on the list that haven't been done yet. There are things that got crossed off the list, too. I sit near the window with the blinds open longer than usual, because as Sabbath deepens with the darkness at sunset, I hope against hope that the fireflies are still here. Sure enough, I get to see some, flying right accross my front porch. I love fireflies.

While my husband is at choir rehearsal, I read Psalm 92, the one titled "Psalm for the Sabbath." As the temptation to wish I had accomplished more today crosses my mind, I read about the best way to resist such futile thoughts:

"It is a good thing to give thanks unto the LORD, and to sing praises unto Thy name, O most High: to shew forth Thy lovingkindness in the morning, and Thy faithfulness every night, upon an instrument of ten strings, and upon the psaltery; upon the harp with a solemn sound. For Thou, LORD, hast made me glad through Thy work: I will triumph in the works of Thy hands." Psalm 92:1-4

I may not have done everything I meant to do. I may have made mistakes, and have things to repent of.

But that's the beauty of the gospel, of the robe of Christ's righteousness. At the end of the day, when I come before the throne to claim the merits of Jesus, I can look over the hours and the accomplishments and take His instead of mine. I can review what He did today in my life--the prayers He answered, the blessings He bestowed--and triumph in the work He did.

The choice seems clear.

Why wallow in my own inadequacies when I can triumph in the things Jesus did for me today, or in the things He created and sustains in the nature I see all around me? What better reason would there be to give thanks than these fireflies outside and this cleanest of hearts transplanted in me? Who wouldn't love the mind that thought to make a little flying bug that glows, and the heart that loved me so much that He died to save my life?

18 July 2011

All Things Familiar: Bristol Bay Journal Part 3

It's amazing to me, sitting there in church, how I am in this place for the first time, yet I know the preacher.

He used to visit my small Washington town, pop into my office, read my e-mail messages from afar. Now we're both visiting here, a familiar place to him but an unfamiliar place to me. He remembers me, remembers my parents when we chat and I tell him my maiden name, and I meet his lovely wife.

The deeper familiarity, however, is one I recognize in the message he shares that day: Christ's robe of righteousness, His blood shed for me, is both enough for my salvation, and my only salvation.

It's a meal I never tire of--the spiritual food of Christ and Him crucified, offering me nourishment and victory in every moment.

17 July 2011

The Last Shower: Bristol Bay Fishing Part 2

The morning comes before I need it to in Alaska, and night comes quite late. Sabbath, from sundown to sundown, runs from something like ten before midnight until the same time the next day. I don't remember exactly. And I don't know how early the sun comes up, but it's quite early. Since the night isn't terribly dark, I simply rely on my body's need for rest and not the darkness to put me to sleep that first night.

My body didn't fail me that night or any night following for as long as I was on the boat.

We all stir and rise--all four of us, these other three experienced fishermen and their inexperienced new arrival, who share these 32 feet one way and 12 feet the other way--and begin preparations for the day. I participate in Bible readings and prayer with various combinations of them at least twice before breakfast, and then realize that, if I am to keep my word and play the piano for church services this morning, I had better eat, shower, dress, and go.

But it's not that simple, and I begin planning my attack:

  1. Eat first. Husband just made breakfast, so take advantage of it.

  2. Collect Bible and purse to take with me to church, along with anything else I need from the boat. (Who wants to come all the way back down to the dock and climb over two other boats to get one little thing when a little efficiency might actually get me to the church on time?)

  3. Go to the van (the one that we drive) with father-in-law so that

  4. he can take me to the locker (which is also known as the van, but we don't drive it because it's just a big trailer that stores things in it all year, even when it's not fishing season). The locker isn't very far away--maybe five- to ten-minutes' walk--but at this point every minute counts. I also need father-in-law along because it's still only my first twenty-four hours out here, and I haven't proven that I can open the locker by myself. Or, more importantly, close and lock it again when I'm done gathering the clothes I would like to wear to church, along with my towel and toiletries for the shower.

  5. Take my shower at the PAF bathroom (this time, we decide the PAF is better for me than the community bath house because it's free and we don't need to grab the sack of quarters).

  6. Ride to church, play the piano. Husband will ride one of the bikes up the {smallish} hill to church when he is finished cleaning up breakfast as well as himself, and I will see him there.

There's only one slight interruption to my brilliant orchestration of the morning: Someone else is in the PAF shower stall when I arrive and need to get into it myself. No matter. I soon realize she is almost done, and as we trade spaces, she slipping out and I slipping in, we strike up a bit of conversation.

It's funny how quickly we have trained ourselves to find commonality between strangers. I don't remember how, but it's not long before we discover it. She's running late to church, too.

Does she need a ride? Well, yes. No, she doesn't recall meeting my family. She's set netting...we're drift. That must be why. No, really, I'll be done sooner than you can walk up the hill, and we'd be happy to give you a ride.

{I don't confess I'm the pianist, and Father-in-law coordinates the whole fishermen's service, so they're not likely to start without us anyway.}

I finish the shower, knowing it will likely be my last until the next Friday. Somehow it seems just like any other shower, but I know it won't be long until I will long for another just like it. Or maybe the next one should be longer. Yes, I think to myself, by this time tomorrow I won't feel like this last shower was long enough, lingered in enough.

We climb in the van, she and I in the back, and continue our common-ground investigation.

What do you do for the rest of the year, when you're not fishing? She a first-grade teacher, I a graduate school student in music.

Where? Oh, really? She must know such-and-such a man, who came and spoke for some events I helped coordinate before I went back to school. She does, and asks if I know her daughter and son-in-law who live in the same small Michigan town I do. I don't, but we determine we know some more people in common from said small town, and that she has connections in the small Washington town I used to live in.

She has been fishing six summers. I have only been in town since yesterday afternoon and I'll try out the fishing part by tomorrow. I wonder what keeps her coming back every year, but before I get a chance to ask, we are at church and I am whisked inside just in time to make arrangements with singer-classmate from college who happens to be fishing this summer to sing special music next Sabbath (perhaps a duet with choir-director husband?), walk to the electric keyboard, eye it suspiciously (that's how I always look at the electronic ones the first time), and begin playing.

14 July 2011

Landing in a New World: Bristol Bay Journal Part 1

My father-in-law booked my flight. He must have known which side of the plane would get the best views, and he made sure to get me a window seat not only on my flight to Anchorage, but also on the short jump over to Dillingham.

I had never seen so many little lakes before. I wondered if I could count them, but soon decided it would be more accurate to wait until some point after the second coming and simply ask God how many there were. Certainly He would remember. He'll probably even tell me each of their names.

Which made me wonder, since He calls each of the stars by name and we humans can't possibly know and name all the stars, if He gives things names in addition to the names we give them. Or before we give names to anything. Another thing to ask, I suppose. He let Adam name the animals, but I guess I don't know if God has His own names for Alaska's lakes.

The gentleman next to me is a dentist, on his first trip to Alaska for a fishing vacation. I am a music student, a vegetarian one, on my second trip to Alaska in general but my first trip to Bristol Bay for a commercial fishing venture with my husband and father-in-law.

They've put in quite a few seasons together, and the whole family is waiting with baited breath to see how I will take to fish and water. Will I get sea sick? Will the sight of all the dead fish make my stomach churn?

"Don't eat any fish," says my brother-in-law.

I'm startled. Did I hear him right? Really? This is his one recommendation?

"At least, not if you want to stay vegetarian. They'll taste so good you'll want to keep eating them."

I'm skeptical about this advice, but I don't intend to set about proving him wrong.

We land in Dillingham, get off the plane, follow the crowd across the runway, through a fence, and around to the front of the airport. It feels like a crowd, probably because everyone is waiting for baggage in a small space, and it takes some time before I can get close enough to find out if my bags landed with me. Meanwhile, the kind family friend who meets me at the airport figures out who I am, and we wait for luggage together.

The tide schedule has been nicely arranged so that the F.V. Ingolf will come into the harbor to meet me by early evening. Still, there is time to see the fish and game office and get introduced to a few more family friends before the fishermen deliver the day's catch and fill up with fuel.

When we get to the harbor, I meet my driver's nephew, who also happens to have been a high school classmate of mine. I decide this may be a new world, but it is still part of a rather small one. We park and get out, and my gracious hostess points toward the boat (otherwise, she knows, I may never find it on my own) and sends me down the dock to be reunited with my husband after nearly a week apart.

I stop at the row she indicated. They are about the third boat from the dock. I peer at each of three orange slickers, each with their backs to me. Which one is he? I ask myself, and after a moment of pondering, make my best guess and shout out my greetings. He turns, smiles, waves.

Good. Got it right.

I tour the boat, which doesn't take long. It's 32 feet in length--the longest regulations will allow for this activity. We get my bags, take them to the "locker", which is essentially like a semi trailer parked here to store fishing-season things year-round, and sort through what I will need on the boat and what I will leave on land for the week. I take enough pairs of socks to wear a new pair every day, just in case, even though I know I might wear the same pair all week as we work hard and sleep hard between sets of fish.

We get my fishing licenses and my Peter Pan hat, go to the grocery store, prepare for Sabbath. I will spend my first night and day on the boat in the harbor, and I find that although the sleeping quarters are quite efficient in their use of space and would probably make my mother feel rather closed in (good thing claustrophobia doesn't have to be inherited), they are cozy and well padded with sleeping bags. There's even enough room for my husband next to me.

13 July 2011

Five Memories

Thinking back over the school year, sorting through goals, piling themes around in my mind, weaving a few related ones together, a conversation with my piano teacher surfaces more than once, perhaps in more mental stacks than she imagined it would.

One stack, the obvious one, is what I call the "How in the world am I going to do this graduate school thing, recital and all, for another year?" pile. The other, the one even closer to my heart of hearts, is what I call the "How in the world am I going to get this whole book of the Bible stay in my mind for a lifetime?" pile. And somehow, her words ring true not just for school, but also for life.

When it comes to the music (the hour of it I've begun to learn in preparation for my graduate recital), I struggle to stay focused, play the details I know are there without getting distracted by other thoughts.

When it comes to the words (the Revelation, and now parts of Daniel, that I've quietly been tucking away inside myself for several years now), I struggle to review enough, keep them fresh, feel like they're ingrained to the point that I could honestly look you in the eye and tell you I've memorized a book of the Bible and be able to recite all its sentences and paragraphs to you at the drop of a hat.

How do I make a memory? One that really stays? One that I can communicate effectively and accurately to others around me when I need to or want to?

She gives me words, ideas about making memories. I write them down, feeling that I might otherwise forget them.

There are five kinds, she says. Five memories to build.

Most of the time, unless we force ourselves to exercise more of them, we might build two or three memories at most. She's right, I decide, because the more I think about what she says, I believe I use only two, and I figure out how those two without the others set me up for some of the fumbles I make in the recital hall.

These are they:

  1. Visual: what the music looks like in the score (on the page). Or, in memorizing Scripture, this would be what the words look like in my Bible.

  2. Visual: what the notes look like on the keyboard as I play them. Or, in memorizing Scripture, this might be the mental picture of what the words are describing.

  3. Aural: what the music sounds like. Or, what the words sound like aloud.

  4. Muscular: what the music feels like in my hands as I play it. Or, what the words feel like in my mouth as I speak them. (I know that might seem strange, but if you've ever sung formally, like in a choir, you generally begin to recognize not just how something sounds when it sounds good, but how it feels in your mouth and vocal chords when you sing it.)

  5. Theoretical: how the music (individual notes, chords, phrases, etc.) functions as it moves from one section to the next. Or, how the words string together to form phrases, sentences, verses, paragraphs, chapters, books...

Point being this: whether I'm working toward playing a recital or putting memory verses away for the long term, have I gone through the passage thinking specifically about sound? Is my visual memory built only on what the notes look like as my hands play them, or could I also "see" what they look like on the page and play them from memory as if I'm actually reading them from the score?

If I could turn one piano piece, or one verse of the Bible, into five different memories in my mind, wouldn't I increase my chances of reproducing it accurately? Even if I'm tired? Even if something in the moment distracts me?

It would cost me, to be sure--time, energy, mental exploration. But somehow it strikes me that the potential payoff would be well worth the effort.

21 June 2011

Bring what you have {not what you don't have} to Jesus

Maybe the whole crowd--the thousands gathered at Christ's feet--could see the waters of Galilee from their mountain perch. Drawn more to Him than to the water, more to Him than to lunch, more to Him than to supper, and as that mealtime approaches again on the third day, He knows when their hearts have had enough to digest for the present.

The Master of all trades, He calls the disciples to Himself, and turns from spoken food to thoughts of another kind of meal: The crowds don't have anything to eat. I have compassion on them. They are hungry. I can't send them away without food.

At this moment, the disciples get very realistic, logical, economical, reasonable. They don't have enough bread to feed a crowd of four thousand men, let alone all the women and children also in their midst.

Instead of asking whether they trust Him, whether they think He can do another miracle after everything they've already seen Him do, or where their faith is (although sometimes He asks that, too), Jesus responds with a basic, concrete question.

How many loaves do you have?

Seven. The answer, small, tiny, hardly significant, yet beautiful like a little wildflower, is also concrete.

You and I have heard this story a million times. I don't even need to tell you what happens next--how everyone gets their fill and there are leftovers.

But this time as I read, I noticed something. Maybe even the solution to my constant sense of inadequacy, the intense feeling that what I have to offer the world, my neighbor, my classmate, my friend, my husband, my God, is never going to be enough.

They bring the loaves--all seven of them--to Jesus. They bring the fishes--the few little ones--to Jesus.

I can't think of a way to shout this to you across the screen loudly enough. They don't take the little bits of food to the multitude, expecting any miracle. They work for Jesus, and they report directly to Him, bringing Him everything they have. They don't go looking for anything they don't have.

He asks what they have, and they bring it to Him. All of it. Not one disciple keeps back one of the little fish to snack on later if something doesn't work out. Everything goes into Jesus' {very capable} hands.

No one gets fed that day because of anything the disciples have or do. They get fed because Jesus blesses the food and multiplies it. It's simple food, but everyone has enough.

Did you ever wonder why He, who would have know how to make just exactly enough with no more and no less, made so many leftovers? From seven small loaves of bread to seven baskets full of them. And where did they find all the baskets?

I'll be honest. That boggles my mind. Such abundance, such bounty, from something that seemed like such nothingness.

Or did you ever wonder if you had anything of value to offer those around you? Whether your grasp of the gospel was enough to feed your hungering neighbor? Whether your energy was enough to give a bit of extra attention to the {husband, child, friend} who needs your {ears, helping hand, time, love}? Whether you ought to bother offer yourself, when you think others have more to give?

I wonder some of these things every day. And some days, I wonder all of them at once.

But today, thinking of how Jesus fed the multitude, I wonder if I should stop wondering these things. Maybe today I shouldn't offer scraps to everyone around me, or worry about everything I don't have to offer them.

Maybe I should use the energy and focus to gather up the scraps and bits and pieces, bringing them all to Jesus. And after He blesses and multipies them, handing them out to the crowds who really come to His feet and not mine anyway, maybe my biggest and most pressing wonder will be what He wants me to do with the baskets and baskets of leftovers there are at the end of the meal.

30 May 2011

Shedding Abroad

Of late, I have been thinking of where love comes from--the kind of love that I am supposed to have in the humility of Christ for souls, for people.

I'm not thinking of the people I naturally connect with, form deep bonds with right from the start, who bless me just by being in the room. No, not those. I'm thinking of the ones Jesus had to tell me to love. The ones who, sometimes or all the time, feel like my enemies, or worse yet, God's enemies.

Meanwhile, I keep chipping away at my long-term memory projects (I hope to post more about these soon), in this case the book of Daniel, one verse at a time. I come to chapter four, where king Nebuchadnezzar has another disturbing dream. He calls all the sorcerers in his kingdom, seeking some kind of interpretation for the dream.

None of them can help.

Just like last time, I think to myself. Why doesn't he call Daniel first, since at least this time he knows Daniel's God was the only one who could interpret the dream last time? Why does he fall so easily back to these vain babblers? He has had all the evidence a person could ask for--even seeing God rescue His followers from a fiery furnace--and yet he STILL goes back to the false gods for counsel? This man makes no sense.

Soon, of course, the king does call for Daniel, in this moment the king's one connection with the Most High. The last resort.

The thought strikes. How many times do I make the true God my last resort instead of my first one?

Daniel hears the dream. It's the huge tree, the strong tree, the tree that bears a lot of fruit and provides shelter for all the beasts and birds, the tree that is so tall it reaches to heaven and can be seen through the whole earth. Yet a God larger than the tree, the God of heaven, decrees that the tree should be cut down, and that Nebuchadnezzar (symbolized by this tree) would be like a wild beast for seven years, with no human capacity to reason.

And Daniel is the one who gets to tell the king this crazy, disparaging news. He pauses. The verse (Daniel 4:19) is long, and I have to take it in small sections to get it into my mind, into my memory.

"Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was astonied for one hour, and his thoughts troubled him. The king spake, and said, Let not the dream, or the interpretation thereof trouble thee. Belteshazzar answered and said, My lord, the dream be to them that hate thee, and the interpretation thereof to thine enemies."

At this slow-motion pace, the words sink in deeply, and I catch a glimpse of the astonished Daniel that in turn astonishes me.

Maybe it's the hour that it takes for Daniel to speak. Maybe it's the king's plea for him to speak combined with his attempt to assure Daniel that he is brave to hear the interpretation no matter how bad it is. Because I am sure he knows it's going to be bad.

Whatever it is, when Daniel wishes the dream on the king's enemies, I see it: the astounding love of Christ for an enemy. Who has more reason to hate the king than Daniel and his people, who have been torn from their homeland, who have seen the king destroy many of their people as well as the house of the true God?

Sure. I know this king has given Daniel position and honor and education. But Daniel still has every reason to be the one who hates this king. Does he realize that when he wishes, at least figuratively, this dream on those that hate the king, he could easily have been, except for this strange and godly love and forgiveness in his heart, wishing this dream, the seven years of beasthood, on himself?

Yet I see him there. Unable to speak for an hour. More overcome with his grief and astonishment for the king's heart and mind than by the embarrassment of standing before the expectant king without saying anything, not even speaking immediately to prove that the Most High God is the only one who can interpret the dream He has given.

They both know that already anyway, and the king can only take so much of this loving silence. He reaches out to comfort the heart that is breaking for him, and just before diving into the strange and heavy glimpse into Nebuchadnezzar's future, he expresses this soul-love for one who has shunned repeated invitations of grace.

Jesus said to love these enemies, but how did this happen in Daniel's heart? How can this happen in my heart? Can this happen in my heart?

Well, we know the answer to the second question right away: "With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26)

I turn to Romans 5:5, studied with my Sabbath school class a few weeks ago, where I find the answer: "...the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us."

This is how my heart gets love for souls. I cannot generate it. All I can do is see how empty my efforts are to obtain it and follow Christ's command, and ask by faith for the Holy Spirit, who is promised to me when I ask. And when He comes to my heart, one of the things He does there is give me Christ's love, filling my heart to overflowing.

This is righteousness by faith, new birth. This is the faith that lives and produces good fruit, good works, a deep love for even the enemies.

23 May 2011

Mowing the Lawn

The husband's research was long....and really high quality....and really time-consuming. And our poor grass got long, too....because wife didn't manage to make room in her schedule for that and didn't try very hard to make room, even though the rain and the sun gave the grass all the attention it could desire in two weeks' time.

I've mown plenty of lawn in my time, and somehow, having a husband these days, I basked in the knowing that he would do the chore as soon as all the citations were edited properly.

And now that he's tending the lawn, rejoicing in the research well done, the paper well written, he's reveling in the fresh air.

Since we have a small lawn, we opted for the small mower without motor, which means he hears the birds singing and the neighborhood children playing while he works. Relationships get caught up on, too--he manages phone calls to Grandma, Mom, Dad, leaving message for Twin. And receives calls from soon-to-be-missionary we get to visit with this weekend. (Yay!)

How he ever manages to call all those people in such a short time is beyond me--I would be talking for hours with each one. But his cup and theirs get filled, and I enjoy a quiet moment of writing before our moments together, walking by our river.

20 May 2011

A Sign of Success

Your husband has been outside editing his {30+ pages of} research paper and soaking up the sun while he works. You have been inside cooking and cleaning, preparing the home for Sabbath.

You know you're doing well with all your little jobs when he comes in and says, "I don't know how you can focus on anything else when that bread smells so good in here!"

17 May 2011


"No one can give place in his own heart and life for the stream of God's blessing to flow to others, without receiving in himself a rich reward. The hillsides and plains that furnish a channel for the mountain streams to reach the sea suffer no loss thereby. That which they give is repaid a hundredfold. For the stream that goes singing on its way leaves behind its gift of verdure and fruitfulness. The grass on its banks is a fresher green, the trees have a richer verdure, the flowers are more abundant. When the earth lies bare and brown under the summer's parching heat, a line of verdure marks the river's course; and the plain that opened her bosom to bear the mountain's treasure to the sea is clothed with freshness and beauty, a witness to the recompense that God's grace imparts to all who give themselves as a channel for its outflow to the world."

White, Ellen. Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing. 81-82.

15 May 2011

Family Worship

Recently, my husband and I attended the last vespers of the school year--we could hardly believe how fast the time had flown! But that is beside the point, because they had indeed saved one of the best topics for last. A brother and sister, both students at our university and renting a small house together, shared their testimony about family worship, which went something like the following.

They had been busy, squeezing every bit of life into every day, but missing something. One particularly busy morning, seminary student brother bounced into speech pathology student sister's bedroom, where she was frantically studying for an exam.

"Let's have family worship!" he said.

"I don't have time!" she replied.

Both siblings showing a bit of their strong personalities, sister eventually gave in and they had family worship. In fact, that morning they began having family worship together twice, I believe, every day, just as they had done in childhood with their parents.

They started noticing something: a line from the reading would give them needed strength for a trial; a snippet from a hymn sung together that morning would encourage their tired steps; the Lord blessed each with greater efficiency in their regular studies and tasks throughout the day.

The principles and ideas? A set time in the morning and evening that works well for all the members of the family. A set length of time, ensuring a non-rushed morning. Variety. Prayer--for each family member. Singing. Bible reading, or reading from another trusted book. Brief discussion of things read.

They also encouraged family members to have their own private devotional times before the beginning of family worship, and to have family worship before anyone leaves the house for the day.

Perhaps one of the most beautiful things of the presentation was that at the end of a concise presentation, they pretended we were not in the room, and had a family worship so that we could all, in our mixed group of singles, couples, and parents with children, see how they did it. And they applied the principle to everyone, saying that no matter what your life circumstances, it's important to connect daily with others, encouraging and building each other up.

Our couple-family has always had morning prayer together, and a wonderful evening worship. Since this vespers, we have filled out our morning prayer to a morning worship, complete with singing. What a blessing it has already been to our lives, and how grateful we are to be learning and practicing these principles early in our lives and marriage.

(Note: Something else we like to do, as shown in the above photo, is to take a little pocket Bible along on hikes and walks, and at a pretty stopping place, pause to reflect on our Creator and His words for us.)

(If you would like more ideas for family worship, you might reference, as the brother/sister team mentioned above did, a little book called Child Guidance, by Ellen White.)

13 May 2011

Five Affirmations Before Breakfast

We both know it. When I'm rushed in the morning, feeling that the whole day is gone before it has really begun and I'm already behind schedule, I'm not on my best behavior.

But even the knowing doesn't make it any more pleasant for either of us.

Yesterday was just such a morning. Behind again, the minutes slipping right through my fingers. I stepped into the shower, grateful for Husband's offer to whip up breakfast to help offset my tardiness, yet still feeling discouraged.

For once, at this moment, by the grace of God, I did something reasonable.

I prayed--after all, I had just given my Lord the whole day, and wasn't this too part of the day?

I remembered--because "we have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget how the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history." (E. G. White, Testimonies to Gospel Workers, p. 31) Last week when I felt discouraged, my feelings reflected no part of reality. It was easy to see it all in retrospect. Could that be true this morning as well?

I smiled--in spite of my stress the words at the bottom of a friend's e-mail came to mind: "Sometimes I believe in five impossible things before breakfast."

I thought--of my husband, to whom words carry great power to encourage or to tear down. What about five affirmations before breakfast? So what if I didn't feel affirming? Far from impossible, wouldn't that be a more pleasant path for both of us than speaking of all my worries before breakfast? Or at any part of the day?

I counted--with each delightful thing about my husband, said to him aloud, came the remembrance of another. And soon these selfless attempts to brighten his day's start, possible because of Jesus' selfless blood shed for me, brought sunshine to my morning as well.

09 January 2011

The Ice was All Around: More of the Frozen Lake

In many places, we could see that the ice was several feet thick. That being the case, of course we walked out on it to get a better view.

The ice formed balls. Farther out toward the water, these balls were not sealed together. But where we were, had been gradually frozen solid as the water washed over them and glued them together.

All this--the ice peaks in the distance, the massive ice berg on which we stood--had been formed in a week or less. When we visited exactly one week prior, the lake was not frozen at all.

All along the peaks at the edge between solid ice and flowing, smaller ice balls, the fury of the lake splashed up against the ice wall, and looked like a series of geysers along the ice line.

Another view of the sun, the gathering storm, the ice.

Testing the surface by throwing snow/ice boulders onto the new surface.

Out at the edge, some of the little ice bergs were still flowing with the waves before being washed in to meld themselves to the larger icy surface.

My handsome husband.

The spray was incredible. You can see in this photo that not only water, but also chunks of ice get swept up in the might of the waves.
Words, and even pictures, fail to describe the scene. I have never seen anything like this in all my life, and it's worth living through a Michigan winter just for that afternoon on the ice.