Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Swept off my feet!

Do you remember how I told you I am a substitute reader in the library over at Campau Elementary School? Well, today was the first day I was back there since our trip to Texas. I walked into Mrs. Ewings' 2nd grade class just after lunch today to tell her I would wait for her class upstairs in the library. The class was just filing in the room from outdoor lunch recess. Mrs. Ewing was still outside corraling children. Armani, a little shrimp of a boy, ran up to me shouting, "You're back! You're back!" and then he wrapped his arms around my legs and hoisted me around the room ... in the air! Off my feet! I was SO shocked and SO thankful that Mrs. Ewing was still outside and that only three other children were present to witness the amazing strength of this small boy (and my embarrassment) and I was SO afraid he would stumble and we would both go falling all over each other to the ground and that I would CRUSH him! I finally convinced him to put me down, only to have two other rather small people offer to carry me around the room as well. I assured them I was far too heavy for them, gathered my composure and hurried upstairs to the library ... where I am glad to report there were NO repeat performances of premature gallantry! I read our story with the children sitting around me, my feet planted firmly on the ground.

Saturday, April 26, 2008


I didn't notice until late in the day yesterday that I (along with all of you) had been tagged by Sabrina. We are all supposed to choose six words that sum us up today, a rather succinct sort of self-assessment! I will list the six words, but then I have to give explanation ~ I'm in a rambling kind of mood today, so I'm not sure it will be brief.

1. Thankful
2. Blessed
3. Discontented
4. Melancholy
5. Frustrated
6. Trusting

I'm thankful because God has blessed my life in tons of ways ~ materially and otherwise. I live in a nice house in a beautiful and safe neighborhood, drive a cute gas-efficient car, have an overly abundant wardrobe (especially shoes), have no financial indebtedness, etc. I enjoy excellent health, am rather happily married to Mr. Jones, have a blended family of six completely unique children (plus four interesting spouses), eight beautiful grandchildren, a wonderful variety of friends, Nana is safe and sound with Cookie ... so what's with numbers 3, 4 and 5?

Perhaps it's just been a mixed-up week ... my emotions have been everywhere ... something about Jesse being "home" from Iraq yet still being 1600 miles away from Grand Rapids. I struggled with this all week long ~ wanting to jump on a plane or train or bus and just go and see him! We've talked on the phone, and he is healthy and strong and good ... and I am thankful he is with Diana and the kids for his R & R. But I miss him and I miss his family. It's been almost a year now since any of them have been here to my house and I've been in tears all week about it! When I was with them back in March, Jesse was in Iraq! But those days I played with Emma, Chris and Matthew I felt such peace and a deep contentment ... like this was exactly what I was meant to do ... we didn't have to be doing anything special, nothing that cost any money ~ we just colored, made cutouts, read books, climbed on playground equipment ... and my grandma-heart was so FULL. Without them, I feel rather melancholy.

I want to make a difference in this world. Since I can't be a grandma here in Grand Rapids, I have been volunteering at various places and activities. But this week, two of those volunteer events were cancelled, last minute! And so I have a feeling of worthlessness ... and frustration.

It's just that I take seriously the words that Jesus spoke: "Much is required from those to whom much is given ..." (Luke 12:48) I know that He is looking for a "good return on His investment." And so, even though I am not gifted to be a teacher of the 3's over at Calvary Church, I've studied my lesson for tomorrow trusting that God will continue to work good things in me and through me, for His glory. Sorry about all the whining ...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Butterfly magic ... more pictures!

"God looked over all he had made,
and he saw that it was excellent in every way!"

I returned to Frederik Meijer Gardens this morning to get another look at the butterflies. There were so many different ones from the time I had been there before!

This beautiful blue one is called Morpho peleides. It flitters all over the place and when it lands, it almost immediately closes its wings, which are brown with eyespots ... really beautiful details, but annoying if you really want a picture of the wings open! I took zillions of pictures trying to just get one decent shot ... this is as good as it got for me! The two shots below are the blue butterflies with their wings closed ~ they are very beautiful then too, don't you think?

This is a tree nymph (below) and it is one of my favorites. I love the lines and patterns on the wings ... you can almost see through them ...
Below, there are a couple of Common Morphos (I think) with their wings closed sitting on a feeding dish.
I've been having a lot of trouble with uploading pictures tonight; but that's okay because everything around the house is on the blink as well ... the plumbing in the kitchen and main bathroom sinks went bizzerk and I've been mopping up significant water mixed in with orange peel and other assorted partially disposed food items. Mr. Jones is presently shopping for a plumbing SNAKE to see if he can solve the problem. Catch ya later!

P.S. It is now Wednesday afternoon. Our plumbing problem has been taken care of thanks to our in-house plumber and I've uploaded some more butterfly pictures. I had taken some over to Picnik to make prettier, but now I can't upload those here ~ I'm not sure why exactly, because it will allow me to do a FEW ... I'll just save the real pretty ones for greeting cards.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Delayed Easter thoughts ...

April 20, 2008 is Passover on the Jewish calendar and is actually celebrated this entire week. It usually corresponds more closely with when we celebrate Easter here in the west, but four weeks separate them this year. However, the Eastern Orthodox churches are celebrating Easter next Sunday, at the close of Passover.

I had intended to post some pictures during Easter week of our trip(s) to Israel, to share with you some pictures of the very places "the greatest story ever told" took place ... but we were on vacation Easter week (and the following weeks), on the road, and I just never had the opportunity. So I'll share them now.

The Third Night! There is a passage of Scripture that always bothered me from quite a young age ... "For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so I, the Son of Man, will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights." Matthew 12:40 This is Jesus talking! Three days and three nights?! I used to try and do the math, but I could never get it to work out ... and I was provoked because if Jesus said it, it was true ~ wasn't it? I just never noticed before that Jesus didn't claim to be DEAD three days and three nights ... He said he was "in the heart of the earth." I just always assumed that He was talking about being dead during that duration ...

The picture below (which I did copy from the internet) is of a dungeon, deep down in the earth, all the way down to bedrock. This dungeon was found underneath the excavated home of the high priest Caiaphas ~ remember him? Jesus was brought to his house and questioned the night he was arrested, that Thursday night so long ago. Read the account in Matthew 26:52-74. This is also where Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard and denied Christ three times. Chapter 26 of Matthew ends with Peter's denial and Chapter 27 begins with "Very early in the morning ..."
So where did Jesus spend the night that night ... it's possible he spent it right here in this dungeon ~ deep "in the heart of the earth." Look at it closely! There are holes in the stone that were used for chaining prisoners to suspend them just above the floor ~ and it's totally dark! Our tour group in 2001 was taken down here and all of the lights were turned out! Such blackness! One of the pastors read Psalm 22 by flashlight down in this hole in the ground.

"My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me? (verse 1)
... I am a worm and not a man.
I am scorned and despised by all!
Everyone who sees me mocks me.
They sneer and shake their heads saying
~ is this the one who relies on the Lord?
Then let the Lord save him!
If the Lord loves him so much,
let the Lord rescue him!
(verses 6-7)
My life is poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart is like wax, melting within me.
(verse 14)
My enemies surround me like a pack of dogs;
an evil gang closes in on me.
They have pierced my hands and feet ...
They divide my clothes among themselves
and throw dice for my garments.
(verse 16-18)

Perhaps this is the first of three nights Jesus spent in the heart of the earth ... he had not yet been crucified ... but he could have spent part of Thursday night right in this dungeon. Because Scripture says Jesus died on Friday and was buried and rose again on the dawn of Sunday morning ... that's only two nights ...

I know it's like splitting hairs, but it was a huge comfort to me to be in this place ... and terribly sobering to read the prophecies of Christ's suffering from Psalm 22 right there, down deep in the earth ... and think that perhaps, just maybe, my Savior agonized the last hours of his life in this cold dark place.

"He was crushed for our iniquities." This is a quote from Isaiah 53. I have always loved this chapter of Isaiah. Another translation puts it this way: "He was wounded and crushed for our sins." (verse 5). This passage took on a real visual meaning from our 2004 study trip to Israel.

The last Thursday Jesus was alive, he and his disciples walked over to the Mount of Olives to a garden where they hung out on a regular basis ... Scripture says so ... the Garden of Gethsemane! The Mount of Olives is just across the Kidron Valley from the city of Jerusalem and it's not a mountain like we think of a mountain ... it's actually a hill ... and guess what it was covered with? Olive trees (hence the name) ... and there are many olive trees that remain there even today.

We had a Bible study right inside this small garden up on the Mount of Olives ... overlooking the old city of Jerusalem ... it was so awesome to be there! Let me tell you what I found out about olive trees ... most of what I write here will be direct quotes from our teachers and guides, so I'm going to highlight it and post it in a different color so that you know it's not me talking here ... you all know I only have average intelligence, so I'm going to give proper credit to my teachers.

First of all, Josephus says when the Romans came and sacked Jerusalem (70 AD) they came up here and cut down every tree on the Mount of Olives, put all of it into the city, and burned everything down to the ground.


Olive production was central to the heart of Jewish economy ... and even their worship revolved around the production of oil from the olive. The picture below is of a machine ... it's called a "gethsemane" ~ it is an olive crush. The olives would be gathered, put in here, and some kind of animal or person would push the huge stone around, and it would crush the olives. Around it would go, until it made kind of a pulp. This pulp would be gathered up and placed in woven baskets.

The picture below is of an olive press. The crushed olives (pulp) would be placed into woven baskets and stacked and then put into this press where huge stones were tied and the weight of the stones would push hard against the baskets and drops of olive oil would come out into a basin below. There were many different pressings, the "virgin" one being the best one (just like today).
So what was the oil used for? In the early centuries, olive oil was essential for light. You needed it for your oil lamps in your home as well as the huge menorahs and the candlebras in the Temple. The best oil was used for this purpose.

On the Mount of Olives, there were olive crushes (gethsemanes) and caves for olive presses and olive production. This is where Jesus went to pray with his disciples. What does Scripture tell us happened that night in the garden? It tells us that Jesus agonized and sweat "great drops of blood." The image is right from the olive press ... Jesus was afflicted, a very heavy weight was on him, pressing him down. Matthew 26:38 quotes Jesus this way: "My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death."

Also, by what other name do we know Jesus? Christ! And what does the name "Christ" mean? Messiah, or anointed ... anointed with what? OIL is what kings were anointed with ... I now have so many visual pictures of what this means.

The place of the cross. Golgotha is the Hebrew word for skull. The word Calvary is the Greek equivalent. The picture below marks the place where Jesus was crucified. There is a huge church built over the site and it is perhaps the holiest site in all of Christianity, The Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The church was built in roughly 330-340 AD! It was built and destroyed many times through the centuries, although parts of it are the original structure. Five (or perhaps seven) major religious groups control this church: the Armenians, the Greek Orthodox, the Catholic Church, the Egyptian Coptics as well as Ethiopians and others ... sometimes many services are going on all at the same time in various chapels within the structure.

At the time of Jesus' death, this area was just outside the city wall. And according to Roman law a person had to be crucified outside the city on a main street, at eye level. So the pictures of Jesus on a cross up on a hill? According to Roman law ~ no way! It had to be on a busy street (which this was), on a main intersection next to a city gate (which this was) ...
Our entire group spent about a half hour at the site of the crucifixion ... it's way down underneath the structure of the church ... archeologists believe this was an old abandoned quarry in Jesus' day ... an appropriate place for Jewish execution, as well as a place where the Romans would bring people to be executed. The main road ran right past it.

We toured the entire church building and then were allowed to separate and explore the place for awhile. I wandered back down here and spent about 15 minutes all alone ... I will remember my time there for all of my life. This church has changed hands many times. When the Crusaders finally took control of it from the Arabs (in about the year 1100 AD) they made a deal. They made some changes to the building and restored parts of it that had been destroyed but because this was still Muslim, they made a deal with them. They gave the key to this place to two Arab families. To this very day, two Muslim families who live in the Old City of Jerusalem, still have the key to the door. Every morning at 4:00 a.m. they come here and open the door; and then the key changes hands to the other Muslim family and they close it at 7:00 p.m. It's a way of keeping peace among the various Christian groups that control the church! So the Arabs have the key to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and it is the very same key that was passed on by the Crusaders over 800 years ago!
The picture above is of the cupola in the main chapel area ...

The Empty Tomb. Pictured below is part of a tomb complex underneath the same church, a little walk from Calvary.

Archeologists have studied these tombs and have concluded they are first century tombs. It is very possible that this complex of tombs was where they laid the body of Jesus after he was crucified.
This picture of the door is from another site that folk speculate was possibly the burial site of Jesus ~ but archeologists say these tombs are actually second century BC ~ but I love the Scripture here from the angel on that first Easter morning. "Don't be afraid! he said. I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn't here! He has been raised from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying." Matthew 28: 5-6

I believe with all my heart that Jesus was crushed for the sin of every human being, took the punishment that should have been ours, was in the earth three days and three nights, and NOW LIVES ... I never ever get tired of hearing His story told again and again ...

"The poor will eat and be satisfied.
All who seek the LORD will praise him.
Their hearts will rejoice with
everlasting joy.
The whole earth will acknowledge the LORD and return to him.
People from every nation will bow down before him.
For the LORD is king! He rules all the nations.
Let the rich of the earth feast and worship.
Let all mortals ~ those born to die ~
bow down in his presence.
Future generations will also serve him.
Our children will hear about the wonders of the LORD.
His righteous acts will be told
to those yet unborn.
They will hear about everything he has done."

PSALM 22:26-31

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Church that changes the world ...

The theme at Calvary church for the past several months has been: "The Church that changes the world." This weekend was designated, "God loves Grand Rapids" and as a church, we were looking for community service projects to commit ourselves to. Our Sunday School class, as well as the entire church choir (100+ members) asked Urban Family Ministries if there was any work they needed us to do ...

We ended up being assigned to Camp Scott-E. What on earth is Camp Scott-E? It's one of those very cool stories that only God can accomplish for and through people. Years ago, this land was given to a church by a family who wanted to honor the death of their 3-month-old son (his name was Scott). A camp was built here and used for years and years, but then that particular church stopped growing and the camp fell into disuse. Anyway, it's a long story, but the folk who originally owned this piece of property, really wanted it to be used in the memory of their little son. So all of this land and everything on it has been given to Urban Family Ministries to use as they see fit!
Our group did some clearing of hiking paths and pruning dead trees ... here is Mr. Jones hard at work ...
This map of the camp shows the 83 acres of woods, nature trails, a spring-fed swimming hole, a large retreat center (in need of much work and repair) that has a barrack-type atmosphere divided in half with 30 bunks on each side separated by a huge gathering room, fireplace, bathrooms with showers, and kitchen. There are picnic shelters, an open outdoor chapel, playground, baseball diamond, a basketball court, and beautiful Tamarack Creek that winds its way here and there ...
By about 3:00 this afternoon, the Super Saturday kids arrived to have a look around the place, take some hikes in the woods, share a hotdog dinner, bonfire, and marshmallow roast.
Some of these children had never taken a walk in the woods before ... today was their very first experience outside in the wide-open space! I think some of them were completely overwhelmed.
About 150 children and leaders gathered in this open chapel area and sang some praise songs ...
Urban Family Ministries plans to do some day-camps and overnights ... they can actually do a four day, three-night deal but if they do a week-long camp, the State of Michigan comes in with endless camp regulations such as having to have an on-site nurse, etc. ~ along with much more stringent building and site codes that would take years to comply with before being able to use the facility. Calvary Church also has plans to use Camp Scott-E for weekend retreats. It was great to be part of the Church that changes the world today and to know that inter-city children will reap the benefit of our labor.
"You must love the LORD your God
with all your heart, all your soul,
all your strength, and all your mind.
And, you must love your neighbor
as yourself." Luke 10:27

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A band with no name ...

It was close to midnight before I returned home from the DAAC (Division Avenue Arts Cooperative) last night after listening to Dylan's band play. They were following two other bands playing downtown last night and Dylan thought it would be about 9:00 or 9:30 before they would be on. I was meeting a friend of mine there, and we decided it might be fun to hear all three groups. The DAAC is just an old store-front turned musical venue ... a long narrow standing-only dimly-lit kind of place ... no alcohol ... no food or drink of any kind ... small cover charge.
The first group, The Crooked Saints ... whew ... they were LOUD. I liked some of their sound, but I could distinguish very few lyrics; and the next band, Karl and I, was completely incompatible with anything I could figure out musically or otherwise ~ and so since I can't think of anything positive to say about it, I will just let it go! We decided to walk around downtown a little bit while those bands were playing ... otherwise, I'm not certain but what our hearing would have been forever impaired!
It was actually 10:20 (you can't trust musicians with time constraints) before Dylan's band played ... it's not actually Dylan's band ... he is just one member of this delightfully talented group of young folk ... who have NO NAME for their band! If you go back to the picture of the sign that was in front of the DAAC, you'll notice the two bands listed and then a blank line ... the blank line is Dylan's band. A few weeks ago, there was a talent type of contest at Calvin College, and this no-named band came in first place! They were awarded studio time to cut a demo-CD of one of their songs. I heard that cut last week and really liked it. But after listening to a few numbers from the first two groups, I was beginning to feel somewhat nervous about Dylan's band. One of the guys in Dylan's band actually played in the first two bands as well ...
This is Kelli, the lead female vocalist. I hope I spelled her name correctly. If she spells her name with a "y" at the end, it doesn't fit her personality at all. She needs an "i" at the end of her name! I'll try to describe her voice to you ... it floats ... and sometimes it's flittery ... and it reminds me of a beautiful butterfly dancing about ... completely enchanting. Kelli has a wonderful presence on stage and she really engages the audience. But then the entire group was that way! And so many instruments: trumpet, violin, mandolin, banjo, harmonica, tambourine, guitar, drums ... and they write this wonderful stuff ... I thought the whole thing rather bohemian (in the positive sense of that word).
Dylan plays bass guitar and claims he is the least talented member of the band. After observing Dylan last night, he appears to be a natural on the bass guitar ~ he has great rhythm and confidence on this instrument. And it's obvious to me that this group enjoys a special musical and personal comraderie ... they had such a great time performing together.
One fellow played guitar, sang lead, alternated between singing and playing the harmonica, while another guy played the guitar and tapped on the tambourine with his feet! There was even a number entitled, "The Train Song" and the audience was invited to make various train noises throughout. And during one number, we were shown how to rub our hands together to simulate the sound of lightly falling rain! The place was completely packed out last night and the crowd was so full of joy! I stood and watched it all and soaked in the happiness! It was a late night for me, but so worth it!

"Praise the LORD!
Praise God in his heavenly dwelling;
praise Him in his mighty heaven!
Praise Him for his mighty works;
praise His unequaled greatness!
Praise Him with a blast of the trumpet;
praise Him with the lyre and harp!
Praise Him with the tambourine and dancing;
praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes!
Praise Him with a clash of cymbals;
praise Him with loud clanging cymbals.
Let everything that lives sing praises to the LORD!
Praise the LORD!" PSALM 150

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

An anniversary of sorts ...

"If I ride on the wings of the morning,
if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
even there your hand will guide me,
and your strength will support me."
PSALM 139:9-10

One year ago this very date, I became a blogger! I had enjoyed reading my friend Marion's blog for close to a year, enjoyed her amazing literary talent, and completely envied the fact that she was able to photojournal her family's life. For a few weeks last year, I toyed around with trying to set up this blog, completely lost one in the process (forgot my passwords, etc.) and then finally settled into this format ...

It's been a fun year, and yes ~ I admit I am a blog addict! But any time I want to, day or night, I can click on to see what's new in my sister's life, or what Sabrina's family has been up to, or what to pray for about Nate and Trish, or take a little peak and see what Diana and the kids have been doing, or read the wonderful writing of Rachel, connect with my niece Shelley, hope to hear from Jesse, or just brouse the blogosphere! I'm so thankful for this small way to express our love for each other, aren't you?

P.S. The sea gull picture was taken while aboard the ferry crossing from Galveston Island to Port Bolivar, and the lighthouse is the Port Bolivar lighthouse.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Beautiful grandchildren ...

I was sorely missing my grandkiddos tonight and got to looking through the 3,000+ pictures we took on our spring Texas trip ... and then I clicked on to Picnik (a free photo editing program) to do some playing ... and just wanted to post a few for you to see. These are in no particular order, but since we visited Houston last, I thought I'd start with the Houston kids first ... Queenie Nia and her very funny brother Nathan ...

Here's the Austin bunch ... starting with Cutie Karis, rascal Jackson and our Livie, who avoids having her picture taken ... but I found one of her having fun in front of the camera!

And then moving to El Paso, here is my Emma Joy in her Easter dress, rough-and-tumble Christopher, and sweet Matthew ...

I just needed to do this tonight ... it was just exactly what my aching heart longed to see ... all of these precious faces!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Flying solo ...

A few months ago I scheduled an appointment with Shelly, a woman at church who is in charge of the children's ministry, Kingdom Kids, to see if perhaps there was an opportunity there to serve. It turned out that they needed a teacher for half of their 3's class ... and I was told I was an answer to prayer! I tried to explain to her that perhaps I wasn't quite what they were looking for ...

They graciously assigned a mentor to me (Pat) and she very kindly shared her lesson plans with me and let me bring "my 3's" over to "her 3's" for several weeks for the teaching portion of the class ... so that I could observe ... and learn ... and gain confidence ...

And then Mr. Jones and I left for Texas and were gone for three Sundays! When we returned home this week, I was instructed that it was time for me to test the waters and teach my 3's! I wish I could say that my response was a casual, "No big deal." But instead, I felt like I was back in my high school days, anticipating the first of three manditory speeches for speech class! My entire body felt sick ... physically, tangibly ILL ~ you know ~ shaky, dizzy, sweaty, nervous, nauteous ... !! I prepared my lesson, compared it with Pat's lesson plans, got my visuals ready, prayed (!), tried to memorize the verse and the key thought of the day ... and as we were driving to church this morning ... I thought I was going to be sick ... my nerves were shot! I was terrified! I'm serious. I am not afraid of the children. They are three years old! I can play, laugh, clean up after, care for, interact ... but teach? NO. See how the plane in the picture looks like it is going to CRASH AND BURN? That's EXACTLY what I felt like this morning!

I'M NOT A TEACHER! It simply is NOT a gift I have! The environment itself is rather intimidating. It's not like it was at my home church in Detroit that had tiny little curtained off rooms with a round table and four children. This is a large area with 10-15 children, high-school helpers, a curriculum to follow, worship songs to lead, a designated puppet to manipulate and bring into the lesson, a chair at the head of the class to sit in and TEACH ...

Well, I lived through it and so did everyone else. Honestly speaking, I didn't really fly solo. The high-school helpers who come each week are wonderfully capable kids who step up and do a great job. The woman who heads up our hallway offered to lead the worship songs (whew!) and then I did the lesson. I survived it, but it was a rather surreal experience ... I feel such relief that this morning is over ...

There is a play time before the lesson, and a small craft and snack time follows. Once the lesson was over, I had a great time! We had ten three-year-olds today ~ beautiful little children ...

Six weeks are left in the quarter, which is all I have committed to. Next week's lesson is the story of the stoning of Stephen (for three-year-olds?!) I'm hoping that if teaching 3's is what the Lord wants me to do, He'll help me to feel less stress about it ... otherwise, I think I will simply do what I know I am good at doing ... I am a far better stewardess than a pilot!