Updated: Jan 3
As I write this blog entry, I am crammed in the very back of our family SUV. With four family vehicles and six adult drivers, it has been a very long time since anyone has had to be in this position. I’m squished but very content back here, thankful for a car full of kids and Scott’s excellent driving and navigational skills.
We’re headed to Paris for a couple of days of play and then we’ll close up the cabin for a spell until maple sugaring season in late February.
Scott and I are in the joyful throes of togetherness with all of our children. We have had a houseful and a heartful. We are so grateful to God for these special times. We’ve been falling into bed late, exhausted but enthused.
Snow fun in the front yard, from left, Jacob, Hailey, Bailey, Aaron, Bailey June, Bella and Dege
It has been a gradual transition, watching our four children launch into adulthood. Nine years ago as our first child prepared to leave, we were so distracted by the younger three that we had little time to be very sentimental. We are now on the runway for the final taxi as baby girl enters her final semester of high school.
The oldest and youngest Spry children. Bailey June (right) left home in 2013 and has not lived at home since. Here, she surprised Bella on December 12, by coming to Michigan from Hawai'i for Christmas.
I really want to finish this phase of my life--active mothering--well. Despite many failings, I know the Lord is my strength. He is my guide, my wisdom, my protection. To each of my children, who have forgiven me before, please forgive me when, in the past:
Bailey, I let fear steal my grace;
Jacob, I lost patience, allowing anger to lead;
Aaron, I failed to give the benefit of the doubt;
Bella, I didn’t listen well.
The Lord is good and his mercies never fail. Thank you, Abba/Father, for sending your Son—Immanuel/God With Us, to show us the the way to live and to take the punishment for our sin. Thank you for the beauty all around and within. Thank you for the hope of eternal shalom.
The words of one of my favorite hymns resonate in my heart as I consider the past, present and future. There is no greater hope.
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine
O, what a foretaste of glory divine
Heir of salvation, purchase of God
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood
This is my story, this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long
This is my story, this is my song
Praising my Savior all the day long
Perfect submission, all is at rest
I in my Savior am happy and blessed
Watching and waiting, looking above
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love
~ by Fanny Crosby
A Great Tragedy
The events of November 30, 2021, forever changed Oxford, Michigan. My sister and her family live in this community which has now experienced the awful trauma of a school shooting.
Hearts are grieving the terrible losses incurred by the evil actions of one young man. It’s gut-wrenching to consider and impossible not to ask “why". Horrifying as it is, I know that I am capable of such wickedness. We all are.
“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.” ― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago
May the families of Hana, Justin, Maddy and Tate, my sweet nephew Owen and Mati and all of the Oxford families touched by this great tragedy experience the peace that passes understanding.
At the end of of our joyful Christmas gathering my sister shared this poem she wrote. She gave me permission to share.
‘Twas The Day Before December
by Heather Leigh Hillary
‘Twas the day before December, when all through the school
Kids were heading to class, and then something cruel
The gunshots rung out in the halls before one
Some frozen in fear while others did run.
Students were locked down, confused in their rooms
While phone calls and text messages started to zoom
Active shooter in the school, could it be true?
If this isn't a test, then what should we do?
Armed with scissors, and text books, and the Nightlock,
Five minutes of horror soon turned to shock.
Away to the Meijer parents flew like a flash
Most prayers were answered while others were smashed.
The town was engulfed in sirens and cries
Above us we saw the greyest of skies.
The day turned to darkness and eventually night
And we learned that three souls had extinguished their light.
Eight more were wounded; some stable, some not,
We went to bed broken and praying a lot.
The next morning we found a fourth teen was gone,
And we wailed and we shouted at this horrible dawn.
We drew close together, we hugged as we mourned
Our faces had fallen, our lives were transformed.
And even as our worlds were ripping apart
Another's was saved by the gift of a heart.
For the ones who pulled through, we all were relieved
And we sprung into action, to take care of the grieved.
We gave money, took food, and even sent flowers
Acts of kindness really do have super powers.
There are t-shirts and stickers, ribbons and signs
Oxford Strong is a mantra for the toughest of times.
A strength from within us as we said goodbye
Repeating the question of "Why, dear God, why?"
There will be no good answer, the question must end
As we rise up together supporting our friends.
We didn't ask for this spotlight, we didn't ask for this pain
But now that we have it, what can we gain?
A little more patience, loads of love, and some grace
Meeting head on this huge challenge we face.
The days changed to weeks and a lifetime ago
As our town became covered in a blanket of snow.
It seemed nature was hugging us, keeping us warm
Shoring us up for the long winter storm.
Some people have asked if we're doing ok
Yes and no, no and yes, it depends on the day.
We will pick ourselves up, as Wildcats do
Dry our tears, crack a smile, a little laugh, too.
Christmas is coming, let there be joy
As we remember the lives of two girls and two boys.
Hana's laugh, Justin's smile, Madisyn's art
And kind, goofy Tate, competitive from the start.
They would want us to sing, they would want us to dance
They would want us to celebrate whenever given the chance.
So, let's raise our glasses in a heavenly toast
And pray for the families who are hurting the most.
Let's honor sweet Hana, Justin, Maddy, and Tate
We must always remember that love conquers hate.
The Hillary Family, from left (back row): Liam, Kevin, Heather, Jordyn, (front row): Owen, Ashton, Mati
"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think on these things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me, put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." Philippians 4:6-9
My sister-in-the-LORD, Betsy, and I regularly stand in front of a West Bloomfield abortion facility and pray for moms, dads, babies, abortion workers and the local community. This fall, as we read Psalm 119, we discussed the idea that the prophet Daniel may have been the author of this longest Psalm. We decided to individually read and meditate on the book of Daniel. She recommended a study guide, On the Way to the Future: Daniel’s Visions and the Believer’s Hope by Ray Stedman. I want to share a couple of passages that stood out to me, great reminders as we begin 2022.
“Prayer is not (as we tend to think) the means of getting God to do our bidding. Rather, prayer is the means by which we enlist ourselves in the thrilling activity of God and His angels in carrying out His agenda for the world. God eagerly desires our involvement in His eternal plans. He wants us to ask Him to do what He says He will do-and He often will not do it unless we ask Him. That’s why James says, 'You do not have because you do not ask.' (James 4:2). If you ask, God will do what He has promised.”
“Every nation and individual serves God. Some serve Him willingly-and some unwillingly. Even if a king renounces God ten times over, our God is sovereign. His eternal plan cannot fail. He works all events, all human choices, and all satanic chaos into His purposes. Nebuchadnezzar, Darius, Alexander, Caesar, Herod, Caiaphas, Pontius Pilate, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Saddam, Osama bin Laden-none of these people could resist the will of God. None could hinder His agenda. The purposes of God roll irresistibly through time and space, encompassing billions of lives, including yours and mine. The choice you and I must make is the choice between being willing tools in God's hands--or unwilling. We choose whether to receive the blessings of obedience-or the judgment that accompanies rebellion. The good news of Daniel is that God is alive and at work in the affairs of people and nations. Lions cannot consume us, the fiery furnace cannot scorch us, and tyrants cannot separate us from the love of King Jesus.”
And finally, one of the prophet Daniel's beautiful prayers:
“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and power belong to Him. He changes the times and seasons; He removes kings and establishes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals the deep and hidden things; He knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with Him.” Daniel 2:20-22
Good Tidings, Great JOY
"'Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.' And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'"
This Christmas season was punctuated by some very happy occasions in our family. I am grateful for the love we share, all glory to God. Here are some highlights of our joyful moments...
Bailey's arrival in town was also a big surprise for her cousin Jordyn, and just in time...
...to see Jordyn graduate, receiving her master's degree in social work from the University of Michigan
Bailey June's boyfriend Dege brought a whole lotta Aloha to the Spry home
We enjoyed a night on the town, skating at Campus Martius and dining in Greektown ~ Detroit
Hailey and Jacob celebrated their first wedding anniversary two days before joining us
Aaron and Jake lit up the foosball table
Lovely ladies, from left, Bella, Grandma Bonnie, Hailey, Bailey June with Gemma Jean, Bailey
Preparing for the talent show--Aaron on guitar and Jacob with vocals--enjoying a captive audience
Four tremendous gifts: 1.) five cords of hardwood 2.) and a log-splitter 3.) delivered to our driveway, all thanks to my generous cousin Donnie Ray and 4.) pictured from left, Jacob, Dege and Aaron splitting wood for three hours, sparing Scott's back and providing a surplus of fuel for winter fires...
We all enjoyed celebrating with Scott's mom and John--mules and billiards added to the merriment
Beautiful sisters, my mom and Aunt Margaret
My sister and her husband hosted a lovely Christmas Eve Eve celebration. After dinner and the talent show, Heather treated us to a Tik-Tok-inspired game with cash prizes. It was a big hit with everyone!
In Paris, pictured clockwise, a walk to the love tree on a sunny December day; Aaron made us a delicious venison stew in his new cast iron pot; botanist Bailey enjoyed exploring the Northern Michigan winter flora; Dege crafted a super-cool cribbage "board" out of an oak stump
Birch stand against a brilliant blue sky
Hangin' loose on a hike
A peculiar shower-head-shaped fungus on a dead birch tree
Dege and Bailey engaged in an intense game of checkers
And then there were three...Dege, Bailey and Bella vie for the title of spoons' champion
The Spry kids introduce Dege to a game of great focus and dexterity, ninja!
And the winner is...Jack-in-the-hammock! Jacob and Hailey's thoughtful gift to our spoiled feline
Blessings for a Meaningful 2022
Are you an active participant in a local Christian/Messiah community? Are you regularly thankful?
Resolve to be both of these in 2022. Watch this inspiring and truth-filled message from January 1, 2022, at Congregation Shema Yisrael which includes "Eight Things I Love About Messiah's Community" by Rabbi Loren Jacobs.
“In the Christian community thankfulness is just what it is anywhere else in the Christian life. Only he who gives thanks for little things receives the big things. We prevent God from giving us the great spiritual gifts He has in store for us, because we do not give thanks for daily gifts. We think we dare not be satisfied with the small measure of spiritual knowledge, experience, and love that has been given to us, and that we must constantly be looking forward eagerly for the highest good. Then we deplore the fact that we lack the deep certainty, the strong faith, and the rich experience that God has given to others, and we consider this lament to be pious. We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts. How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive from Him the little things? If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community