Sunday, January 31, 2010

Cousin love ...

You know how you have a special love for certain people in your life? Like the love for your children ~ which nothing can match ~ or say the love you have for your one and only sister ... or your grandchildren? Well, there are categories of folk in my life who I have a unique love for, that I can't compare with any other kind of love ... it's just how it is!

I actually have 18 cousins ... yes, 18! And each one of these cousins is on my father's side of the family. My mom was an only child whose own mother had died when she was 16. And then her father, my grandpa, died when I was about 9. I don't remember much about him at all. So really, we just had my father's side of the family ~ so there was my dad, and his four younger sisters and their families.

Growing up in Detroit, three of the families lived in the area ~ but two of them lived out of state. When they would come "home" it was always a real big happy occasion and we would get together over at my grandma's house on the other side of Detroit and do what cousins do ... play together, talk, interact, etc. As we got older and into our teens, the cousins nearest our own ages became special friends.
Yesterday, FIVE of my cousins that I never ever get to see were here in Grand Rapids. Their uncle Bob (on their dad's side of the family ... not a relative of mine) had gone home to be with Jesus rather unexpectedly. This uncle Bob was a member of the church I attend here in Grand Rapids and that's where his funeral was held yesterday. So my beautiful cousins were in town. I did know their uncle Bob, but not very well. However, I attended the funeral because I wanted to hug my cousins and give them my condolences.

So the picture above is my cousin Suz (on the left), who has just recently moved with her family to the state of Washington (near Spokane), and Beth (on the right) who lives in Madison, Wisconsin. Beth and I are about 18 months apart. She is a really wonderful person. But I am actually "closer" to Suz, who is more than four years younger than me. Suz and I are "kindred spirits" ... totally. I love her heart so much.
Here is Suz with HER cousin (not MY cousin) Bobby (son of the deceased), as well as Mary, the youngest of these five beautiful sisters. Mary and her husband and two boys live in Pennsylvania. Mary is a "take-charge" kind of girl and it's a blast to watch her do crowd control! And then with them below is Annie (the redhead in the middle) who lives in the Wheaton, IL area with her husband and two daughters. Annie is one of the nicest and funniest people I have ever ever met.
After the funeral reception, we all went out to dinner ... 23 of us ... in about 8 different vehicles with the women on cell phones trying to coordinate our location and destination ... at one point it reminded me of a scene out of "Mad Mad Mad Mad World" when all of the cars were chasing each other, etc. because we kept going to restaurants that were overflowing with waiting customers, with NO ROOM for us! We finally called ahead (duh) and were able to find a restaurant to accommodate us. We had such a good time together ~ sharing memories ~ catching up on news ~ laughing until we were screaming (!) ~ just being together.

I drove home last night FULL of incredible thankfulness and JOY ... a sense of well-being ~ of loving and being loved ~ refreshed and restored and just happy through and through! The only sad thought I had was that our 10 grandchildren live so far away from each other ~ and even though they are cousins, will likely never know each other very well or experience the joy of this cousin love ...

Friday, January 29, 2010

A temporary "fix"

After much research, my in-house computer guru (Mr. Jones) has figured out how to override the unwanted shutdown of my computer ... it's kind of a temporary solution to the problem. He still doesn't know what has caused this malfunction ~ but for now, I am at least able to use my computer ... amazing how computer-dependent I have become ...

Monday, January 25, 2010

My poor computer ...

My computer has been "sick" now for over a week. I get two different error messages before it completely shuts down in the middle of everything I'm working on. It's pretty frustrating, so I haven't done much with it all week. Mr. Jones is reading up on the error messages and trying to figure out a solution; but in the meantime, I am behind on e-mails, cannot work on photograph editing, can't make cards ... we certainly miss having our very own resident computer fix-it person (that would be Adam).

So I've been doing a lot of reading. I finished an early autobiography of C.S. Lewis: "Surprised by Joy." I really enjoyed it ... well, at least the parts I could understand! C.S. Lewis was classically educated and he uses lots and lots of literary and historical references that I am totally unfamiliar with! But other than that, I enjoyed reading about his life and his journey of faith.

I am now about halfway through "Mere Christianity," (C. S. Lewis) ~ which is farther than I've EVER gotten in this book. I used to get "stuck" in the preface (!) and then just give up and put the book away! But I decided to just skip the preface this time and begin with chapter one! I really appreciate his writing style, along with his logical and amazingly practical arguments for Christianity.

I've also been studying the book of Job (because I was assigned this book to teach to our preschoolers) and ... I can't wait until next Thursday! I have learned so much cool stuff to teach the kids!

And ... happily ... it is snowing tonight! The way I see it, as long as it is going to be miserably cold, and there is NO CHANCE of spring weather for at least 60+ days, it may as well be beautiful! Our snow has been dirty and ugly and melting for over a week now, so I am welcoming some clean fresh white stuff!

I've also been working on a small Valentine's box to be sent for each of our out-of-town families, but my efforts have been hampered because of my computer issues (I've already been "shut down" twice while trying to do this post!) ... I need to finish making cards for each and every grandchild!

Hopefully, Mr. Jones will find a cure soon ... that's all for now ... a "run time error" is surely just around the corner ...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Another Wednesday ...

It was a quiet and beautiful morning I woke up to ~ the sun was pushing its way through the gray sky and making it quite irresistible to stay inside! I decided to layer up and take my camera for a nice long walk and just "STOP! And consider the wonderful miracles of God!" Job 37.4
The intricate ice patterns are pretty amazing, aren't they? This is the prettiest place within walking distance from our house ~ Mr. Lyle's back property. We haven't had any new snow now for 10+ days ... so I even got brief glimpses of ... ground (!) I saw deer track and bunny trails, snow shoe prints, and heard the beautiful call of the birds.

I actually had a purpose in mind for my walk, other than just enjoying this beautiful winter morning. I have been curious for a long time to walk upstream and see where this creek leads ... so it was kind of an "adventure" for me to see if I could find out! It's actually quite a walk, and off the beaten path; but eventually, Scott Creek just runs right under US-131! (see picture below)
And on my way back through the woods ... I found this long-abandoned truck ... I'm not sure even Jesse could make this thing run again ~ but I suppose from looking at this picture, he can tell me the year and the model!

Mmmm. The fresh air was wonderful. The quiet was amazing. I am renewed!

And Nature, the old nurse, took
the Child upon her knee,
Saying, "Here is a storybook
Thy Father has written for thee."

"Come, wander with me," she said,
"Into regions yet untrod;
And read what is still unread
in the manuscripts of God."

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Nothing to boast about ...

"People need more than bread for their life; REAL LIFE comes by feeding on EVERY WORD of the LORD."
Deuteronomy 8:3
On our sister's retreat in early August, my sister Ruthanne shared with me that she had been memorizing certain Bible passages; in fact, she had successfully memorized SEVERAL entire books of the Bible. My sister and I share a lot in common actually. Both of us have absolutely NO SENSE of direction ~ in other words, we are ALWAYS LOST when we are driving (which is both hysterical and annoying at the same time!). We also have TERRIBLE memories! So when she told me about what she had been doing, I was really challenged to give this memorization thing an all-out effort.

I reached a milestone yesterday, so I thought I would share about it. The first two chapters of Ephesians are now firmly in place in my memory! I have had a lot of fun while working on this project, and I hope to continue on with chapter three ~ but I am taking a small break in order to memorize Philippians 2:5-11. Pastor Jim has asked us to memorize that passage as a congregation because he has been teaching about the humility of Christ, and having "the mind of Christ," and these verses in Philippians are so perfect for that.

So would you like to hear some statistics about Ephesians chapters one and two? Well, there are 23 verses (545 words) in chapter one, and 22 verses (596 words) in chapter two ... so 45 total verses, 1141 total words. The most effective means of memorization for ME was to write out the verse I was working on, and then write it again, and then again ... over and over with pencil and paper ...

It took 17 weeks to complete these two chapters ... little more than 2-3 verses per week. But that's what worked for me! I reviewed "old" verses on the weekends, trying to keep them in perspective, and I took most of the month of December off from memorizing. I just had too much else that was distracting me. And there were times when I was really discouraged and I would get stuck on a verse ... for days! I just COULD NOT remember the words. But the good part about getting stuck was that I got a chance to really really think over the meaning of that particular bothersome verse ... and God would always use that mental block to teach me something wonderful.

One of my favorite verses from these two chapters is Ephesians 1:10 ~ "And this is His plan: At the right time He will bring everything TOGETHER under the authority of Christ, everything in heaven and on earth." As well as vv 22-23 of chapter one ~ "And God has put all things under the authority of Christ, and he gave him this authority for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is filled by Christ, who fills EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE with His presence."

And I'll tell you something else ... when I sit down at the table with a blank piece of paper and my pencil and start writing out these chapters, or portions of them, I am filled with such peace and joy that is difficult for me to describe. I am no longer afraid of failing at this project, but am very thankful that the Lord has been with me and has blessed the effort ... I have nothing at all to boast about ... but I do have a greater confidence of God's presence in my life and I am so thankful for that.
"For the word of God is full of LIVING POWER.
It is sharper than the sharpest knife,
cutting deep into our innermost thoughts and desires.
It exposes us for what we really are.
Nothing in all creation can hide from Him.
Everything is naked and exposed before His eyes.
This is the God to whom we must explain all that we have done."
Hebrews 4:12-13

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Yesterday in Manistee

After adding a little bit of savings with some money I received for Christmas, I upgraded my camera a few days ago! I purchased a Canon Power Shot Sx120 IS. It has a 10X optical zoom along with 10.0 mega pixels. I like it very much! My other Canon Power Shot only had a 4X zoom. Plus, with this new camera, I can more easily regulate the shutter speed and do some continuous-frame shooting.

Since I had a brand new camera, I was kind of anxious to try it out! Grandpa Jones had his day filled up from start to finish yesterday with train stuff and choir practice ... so it was one of those days I had completely to myself. I decided to take a "vacation day" from all other activities and take a nice drive ... north! We've come through some nasty weather in the last few weeks, but the next few days were predicted to be dry and even a little bit warmer ~ who knows how long this dry and favorable weather pattern would last?

I decided to go to Manistee because ... well, you know my love of lighthouses! I really have taken enough pictures of Grand Haven's lighthouse to last me ... a long time ... in all kinds of weather and skies and seasons. I wanted to photograph Big Point Sable Lighthouse in the winter, but it's a two mile walk to that destination from the nearest parking lot. Two miles in Michigan cold ... and yesterday it was very windy. If I could have found a friend who did not have to go to work yesterday, or one who was healthy enough to walk the two miles, that's where I would have gone! Since I was traveling alone, I needed to pick a beautiful spot that was easily accessible and not too dangerous to go solo. Manistee is actually only just a minutes more than two hours from my house. Not a bad drive at all. Thankfully, it was 30 degrees, because the WIND was very very strong and it felt BITTERLY COLD! I was layered from head to toe ... I looked ridiculous! No one else was outside ... so I had the place to myself.
I did NOT walk to the end of the pier. This is as far as I went! I loved the ice-encased catwalk.
Since we had such a nice WARM November, Lake Michigan has not frozen over. Usually by now the ice is very far offshore. It was beautiful to see the waves crashing against the ice.
This is only the fourth time I have ever been to Manistee ... and NEVER during winter. It's amazingly beautiful ... but very bleak at the same time.
I had hoped for more a more interesting looking sky ... but it was total grey in Manistee yesterday the entire time I was there.
I spent about an hour on the north side taking pictures, and then I drove across the river to the south side. I did not see one other person outside!

I did walk to the end of this pier that has the blue handrails ...
Isn't the ice amazing looking?

I intended to stay until sunset, but with it being so overcast, I really didn't anticipate the sunset would have many colors to photograph. Instead, I left Manistee before dark and drove most of the way home while it was still light. I turned the heat on in my car full blast all the way home to thaw out my frozen toes and sang along with an old Michael Card CD at the top of my lungs (to keep myself awake). I'm thankful I was able to take this "vacation day" and was able to try out my new camera.

"If I dwell by the farthest oceans,
even there your hand will guide me,
and your strength will support me.
I could ask the darkness to hide me
and the LIGHT around me to become night ~
but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
Darkness and LIGHT are both alike to you."
PSALM 139:9-12

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Can you FEEL how cold it is?!!! Just thought I'd share these pictures to give you an idea! Brrrr!!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Hunkering down for the winter ...

We've been studying through Paul's first letter to the Corinthians as we worship on Sunday mornings at Calvary Church. I really really love this verse ... because it just says ... everything!

Another Christmas has come and gone. I haven't finished putting away our decorations yet. I'm holding onto the beauty of this season for as long as possible ... and I'm doing what I usually do this time of year ... I'm settling in for a long winter.

Other than a very occasional day-trip over to see the iciness of Lake Michigan, which is a completely awe-inspiring experience, I only take short little jaunts through our neighboring woods. The quiet is amazing. I really love it. I hope, sometime in the next month, to drive a little farther north ~ perhaps as far as Manistee ~ and just spend a day photographing winter in that location ...

What I typically do during these very cold months is ... read! And so I've finished a few good books this last week and have picked out several more to enjoy in the week to come. I usually read to escape, and I guess winter in Michigan is something lots of us like to get away from if we can ... but this year, I've decided to endeavor to read to LEARN ... at least a little bit more than what I've done in the past.

I recently finished Pastor Dobson's book, "The Year of Living Like Jesus." I loved this humble and very honest book about his journey of faith. I cried a lot as I read it. And I've learned a very simple prayer that is right from Scripture, that I have been praying a lot. I'm very thankful for it: "Lord Jesus Christ, be merciful to me, a sinner" which is what blind Bartimaeus prayed as he asked Jesus for healing. But I find this prayer just helps me focus on God's mercy for everyday circumstances ... the kind that I have trouble responding to with faith and hope and love.

Another book I recently read was, "C.S. Lewis: The Man Behind Narnia" by Beatrice Gormley. I had purchased it in the "slightly irregular" section of Eerdman's bookstore the last time I was there. What a wonderful biography about such a dear man! I learned a lot about him that I didn't know ... especially how he came to faith in Christ. And now, even though I have avoided reading it for years and years, I am going to tackle the book he is best known for, "Mere Christianity" and hope that I can get beyond my aversion to philosophy and apologetics and just ... LEARN!

But first, I have to finish reading "Pilgrim's Regress" (also by C.S. Lewis) because I am smack right in the middle of it and I can hardly put it down! This is the first book he wrote AFTER his conversion to Christianity and it is so well written! And I think, just for fun, I will re-read the entire Narnia series ... because I love children's literature!

And then after reading those, if it is STILL winter and we are STILL stuck inside in order to keep warm, I would like to read Victor Hugo's "Les Miserables" because ... I've never read it and I am interested in the time period and would like to compare it to the movie version.

Also, after taking the entire month of December OFF from memorizing Ephesians, I have returned to it ... backing up about six verses ... and have a new determination to continue that endeavor.

In-between reading, editing pictures and making cards, and planning our March trip to Texas, I'll be over at church volunteering with the children's ministry. I'm anxious to get started on studying to teach the story of Job to the MOPS preschool class, as well as Esther's story. Those are the two I have been assigned! I'm not sure I would have chosen those two particular stories, especially JOB, to teach to preschoolers ... but I am looking forward to researching each story and re-telling it for the children.

We're also looking forward to hosting our Super Bowl party over at the Jones Junction again this year. I love entertaining friends at our house, especially these dear friends that have become like family to us. Everyone will bring delicious food, and we'll enjoy another batch of homemade ice-cream and let everyone make their own sundaes ...

Grandpa Jones and I eat lots of simple meals during the winter ... homemade soups and yummy breads ... hot tea (for me) and hot chocolate (for Grandpa Jones) ... and layer up inside our rather cold house! And I guess that's what winter is for perhaps. Slowing down. Studying. Having friends over. Reading.
And anticipating ...

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The best of the rest ...

I want to show you an assortment of pictures from the last full day we were all together ~ Wednesday, December 30. Emily and Jeremiah spent a lot of the day with us because they knew it would be quite awhile before we would get to see them again. We really enjoyed their visit.

Our youngest grandson was the center of attention for most of us ... he is just so beautiful.
I was glad to see Olivia really enthused about reading her novel, "The Southern Storm." It's in a whole series of books she has been reading. She could hardly put it down! I've always said that reading was one of the greatest joys in life.

We took SO many photos of this beautiful boy ...
Olivia adored him too!

Jeremiah has a very easy-going personality. He is quick to laugh and he really loves to socialize. We just loved spending time with him.

An afternoon Winter walk with Olivia: While the little kids were napping, I grabbed Olivia for a nice walk ... in our amazing winter wonderland. I took her to my favorite place within walking distance!

Our destination was Mr. Lyle's place. I wanted to introduce Olivia to Dusty and Tuffy and let her feed them some carrots. Olivia loves horses as much as I do!
I love these pictures of Olivia ... isn't she a beautiful girl?

We fed an entire bag of carrots to Dusty. Poor Tuffy must not have felt well, because he stayed his distance ... perhaps he sensed how sick I had been and didn't want to be anywhere near me!

Later in the evening, all of us were treated to dinner over at Red Lobster ~ my very favorite restaurant. Emily and Jeremiah joined us too! I didn't take many pictures at the restaurant that turned out very well.
While we were waiting for our food to arrive, I took a little walk with Jackson and Karis to the front of the restaurant to look at the tank of lobsters. One of the waiters took one out and let us touch it. Jackson very very lightly touched its tail ... but Karis would not have anything to do with touching a lobster!
After we got home and tucked the little kiddos into bed, us big folk watched one of my favorite films. If you have never seen this adaptation of Victor Hugo's Les Miserables, you should! It is an amazing, sobering, challenging, convicting piece of historical fiction ... I loved sharing this story with our family!
Sabrina had packed most of everything up before bedtime the night before, so when morning came, we enjoyed breakfast together and then loaded up their van ...

... and watched them drive away ... leaving us with lots of nice memories of their Christmas visit. Olivia left us a "thank-you" message in the snow out front that Grandpa Jones tried to photograph, but didn't have the right angle. But the letter Olivia left me on my computer desk was beautifully written and is something I will always regard as a very special treasure.