Getting Off the Beaten Path

My husband and I love to travel without any agenda other than heading in one direction.  As we travel we often get off the main highway and just follow a road wondering where it leads.  Or, we will pull off the interstate into what looks like just a “spot in the road” kind of place.

As new residents in the state of Michigan we are excited about the chance to follow new roads and see where they lead us.

Last week traveling west on one of the state routes that leads from our town, we took a side trip through the small village of Muir.  Driving through the downtown area it appeared time had passed this village by.  Most of the stores were empty and in need of paint and/or repair.  Thinking there was nothing here of interest, we turned a corner and found a hidden treasure.

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The Mother Church for the Disciples of Christ in the Grand River Valley.

Organized in 1856 in nearby Lyons, Michigan, the small congregation soon moved to the schoolhouse in Muir.  The small congregation grew quickly and in 1861 constructed a church building.

Considered the mother church for the Disciples of Christ denomination in the Grand River Valley, this is one of Michigan’s oldest Disciples of Christ congregations.

This single-story, rectangular wood-frame church is an excellent example of the Gothic  Revival Church.  Measuring 70 feet by 30 feet, each side has five Gothic windows.  They are so beautiful.

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One of the windows was dedicated in 1906 on the 50th anniversary of the church in memory of the founding pastor, Isaac Errett.

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The window on the left has an inscription dedicating the window in memory of their first pastor.

For these history lovers this was quite a find.  We love American history and have a large collection of biographies of American presidents.  We knew that President Garfield had been a minister before entering politics.  What a pleasant surprise to find that he had visited and ministered in this very church.  He apparently visited the area often and there are other spots in Michigan claiming a Garfield connection including the Garfield Inn in Port Austin.  This home has been made into a bed and breakfast and boasts that Garfield often visited here when it was owned by the Learned family.

He has been quoted as saying before giving his inauguration speech:

“I resign the highest office in the land to become President of the United States.”

Just six months later he died by an assassin’s bullet in September of 1881.

I found this copy of an article in the Detroit News published in 1930 telling the story of Garfield’s visit to the church in Muir.

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This church building is on both the state and national historic registers.  If we had not followed our spirit of adventure and turned off the main road we would have missed this period of history.

By not following the beaten path we have found many historical treasures like this as well as some beautiful parks, small lakes and other beauties of nature hidden from the main road.

So, when you travel, don’t be in too big a hurry to reach your destination.  Take some time and get off the beaten path.  You will be surprised at what you will find.

 

Giving Only What I Can Afford

In the Gospel of Mark Jesus pointed out to His disciples a widow woman who placed two little coins in the offering box in the Temple.  Compared to the much larger amounts they had seen others give earlier, her offering seemed like nothing.  Yet Jesus pointed out that they had given of their abundance while her offering consisted of all she had – a much greater sacrifice and gift.

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Jesus explained that the rich people had given “what they can easily afford” while she had given “her whole living.”

This has me thinking – do I only give what I can afford or do I give my all?

When we talk about giving in relationship to God, we usually think of money and in this instance it was money that was being discussed.  And certainly I have to admit when it comes to financial giving, I certainly use a lot of my income on myself.  As I look at my checkbook, I have to ask myself if I am only giving what I can easily afford to the work of God.

Giving financially to God is more than just giving to my local church, although it does include that.  But there are so many other areas where I need to share my abundance with others:

  • helping teachers and schools with supplies
  • buying shoes for children from families who are struggling financially
  • buying a meal for a homeless person
  • taking food to the local food pantry
  • many non-profit organizations like American Cancer Society, St Jude’s Hospital for Children, Wycliffe Bible Translators and the list goes on and on

My first thought is I do not have an abundance financially.  But I have to ask myself if I am only giving what I can easily afford.  Am I really making any personal sacrifices giving up things I don’t really need, only want, to help others whose finances are much less than mine.

But giving to God is much more than just giving of my finances.  There is my time and my talent.

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How much of my time do I spend doing things I want to do, things which will help me or my family?  How much of my time do I spend reaching out to others.

This was really brought home to me this past month.  We just moved to a new state.  Just a couple of days after moving in with boxes still everywhere our doorbell rang.  It was a neighbor coming over to say welcome.  My first thought was “how nice!”  I invited her in and we began getting acquainted.  After 30 minutes had passed and she showed no sign of leaving, I must confess I so wanted her to leave.  After all, I had boxes to unpack and a long, long list of things that must be taken care of when you move from one state to another:  new car title and license, new driver’s license, new car insurance,  and my list went on and on.

Finally she left and I told my husband I was worried that she would be a nuisance.  She was elderly and clearly lonely.  She also repeated herself several times.  I dreaded the time she might take up coming over to visit.

Then, I remembered what Jesus said and I felt the Spirit’s conviction as I realized I have an abundance of time.  My husband and I are both retired, we only have one daughter and her family living close by.  We have lots of time to enjoy.

So – will I be willing to give up some of my time – my abundance of time – to spend time with this neighbor – listening to the same story and showing interest as if it was the first time I had heard it?  Do I really need to spend all my time just doing what I like to do, just enjoying myself or do I need to give my all as Jesus would have me do?

So I have determined to visit this woman every week, to take an hour or two to sit and listen to her stories, to make her feel important to me.  To give out of my abundance.

 

 

 

 

Hello St Johns

Moving from an area with a population of over 380,000     to a small town of less than 8,000 is quite a change.

Last month my husband and I said goodbye to the Quad Cities.

Goodbye Quad Cities

We have spent this last month learning all about our new home in the middle part of Michigan (lower peninsula) – St Johns.

As someone who loves trees, the tree-lined streets are so beautiful, especially this time of year as the leaves all turn glorious colors of yellow, orange and red.  In the Quad Cities I could find areas of trees here and there but not like in St. Johns.  Just driving to the grocery store, Wal-Mart, the post office – there is no where I can go in the town without beauty all around me.

The town has such charm as historic, turn-of-the-century homes line many of the streets.  In the neighborhood where I live the houses are not set right on top of each other as they were in my old neighborhood.

While enjoying small town charm, friendly neighborhoods we are only 30 minutes from the capital, Lansing, so if I get too bored, there is the big city close by.

St Johns is surrounded by agriculturally rich land known for raising mint.   The growing of spearmint and peppermint is unique to this area, using the rich black soil that prevails. Mint farming began with a two-acre crop of peppermint in 1913. The county ranks first in the production of mint in Michigan, with approximately 5,000 acres of mint farmed. Each year the mint farming heritage is celebrated at the “St. Johns Mint Festival”. The Festival is a weekend long celebration of activities for all age groups which attracts over 60,000 people to the City.

For its size, St. Johns offers many amenities that enhance the quality of life for residents. “Points of pride” for City residents include:

  • Concert in the Park series of weekly musical performances in the summer
  • The historic Wilson Center Auditorium which hosts rock concerts, open-mic nights and theatrical productions throughout the year
  • Farm Market located in Court House Parking Lot during growing season
  • Old US Route 27 Motor Tour with classic cars

I also wondered if there would any really good places to eat.  THERE IS!

Main Street Cafe – great food and even great homemade pies – especially our favorite coconut cream pie.

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And the greatest thing is the friendliness.  Back home walking down the sidewalk everyone seemed to avoid making eye contact.  Sometimes I would smile and say hi.  Often the response I would get was “Did you just speak to me?  Are you some kind of nut?”

So great to walk down the sidewalk and everyone you meet smiles and says hi and might even stop and talk for awhile.

So – the verdict is in – I’m a happy resident of a small town – St. Johns, Michigan.

Goodbye Quad Cities

The past few weeks I have not written much or read my favorite blogs.  The first of the month we loaded up all our possessions and headed north to a small town in Michigan.

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We were moving from a fairly large metropolitan area.  Known as the Quad Cities.  the area is actually a collection of five cities located in Illinois and Iowa:  Bettendorf and Davenport in Iowa and Moline, East Moline and Rock Island located in Illinois.  Those five larger towns are surrounded by many smaller cities or villages.  We lived in a town just south of Rock Island – Milan.  You could drive from Milan through Rock Island, Moline, East Moline and then though smaller towns like Silvis and Carbon Cliff or Coal Valley without ever leaving a populated area.

The region has a population of 383,681 residents, per the most recent estimates. The region is spread across 170 square miles. There is a population density of 1,600 residents per square mile.

There are a lot of interesting places and people in the history of Quad Cities.

  •  Between Davenport and Rock Island is Arsenal Island, which houses the Rock Island Arsenal, the largest government-owned weapons manufacturer in the entire United States.  It is also home to a National Cemetery for veterans.  During the Civil War there was a prison on the island for Confederate solders and many are buried in an area set aside for prisoners who died while in that prison.

Inscription on the D.A.C. Monument.

  • A real-life Prohibition era mobster lived in Rock Island.  His life was the basis for a feature-length comic book, The Road to Perdition, which was later made into a movie of the same name.  Looney started with illegal gambling, bootleg liquor, prostitution and other illegal activities along the Mississippi River from Missouri to Wisconsin in the early 1900’s through the mid 1920’s.  His huge mansion in Rock Island still stands today.

 

looney

 

  • Ronald Reagan began his radio career at WOC in Davenport.
  • Walt Disney applied for his first job in Davenport… and was turned down.
  • Chiropractic medicine started in the Quad Cities also.  Daniel David Palmer began what he called magnetic healing in Davenport, Iowa.  He developed the theory that the basic cause of disease was misalignment of the bones in the body.  In 1897 he opened the Palmer School of Chiropractic in Davenport.  Today Palmer College of Chiropractic advertises itself as the first and largest chiropractic college in the country.

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  • The large agricultural equipment manufacturer also got its start in the Quad Cities.  Blacksmith John Deere, listened to local farmers near Grand Detour, Illinois that their plows which were designed for the sandy soil of eastern United States were not working in the thick prairie soil of the Midwest.  He designed a highly polished steel mold board and began making plows for the local farmers.   After ten years in Grand Detour, John Deere moved to Moline, Illinois which is located on the Mississippi River.  That location gave him water power and with the river great transportation options.  His factory quickly doubled production in this new location.  Today you cannot drive anywhere in Illinois side of the Quad Cities without seeing a John Deere factory, transportation lot or offices.

 

I will miss:

  • The Mississippi River.  For years I lived on the Illinois side of the Quad Cities but worked on the Iowa side crossing back and forth each day.  My husband and I often cross the river to shop at stores and eat at favorite restaurants on the Iowa side.
  • Whitey’s ice cream, Happy Joe’s pizza, Hungry Hobo, Rudy’s Tacos and Lagomarcino’s chocolate.
  • My Wednesday bible study pals.
  • Most of all, I have many friends I will miss.  But with Facebook and cell phones thankfully we can stay in touch.

It has been quite a change this month as I have moved to a small town – population approximately 8,000.  I was not sure how I would like moving to such a smaller place after living so long in the Quad Cities.

But I am loving it.  I will blog soon on life in a small town, but for now, after a month here I say “Goodbye Quad Cities.”

 

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Papa’s Waffles

I’m having waffles in the morning made by my husband.  I know that because our little granddaughter is spending the night with us and she always wants Papa’s waffles for breakfast.  When we go to bed she gives Papa her “cutie” smile and in her “cutie” voice she asks:  

Papa, will you fix waffles in the morning?

Of course he will.  He is such a pushover for that smile and that voice.

I love maple syrup with my waffles with lots and lots of butter.  But my granddaughter calls for grape jelly on her waffles.

After breakfast we will read some books.  And she will insist on reading a Bubble Guppies book.

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Her mother brought this book a few years ago for us to read together.  It is really more a “look and find”  book than a book to read.  She has long outgrown the book as she now reads chapter books well above her grade.

When she first started outgrowing the book she still liked us to do the “look and find” for fun.  I began to get tired of it and tried to encourage her to read other books more in line with her growing knowledge.

My protests became a game and now she always brings this book out with the other books she can read.  We have this conversation:

Me:  No, I am not reading that book again.

She:  Yes we are.

Me:  You are too big for this and I am sick and tired of it.

She:  Yes we are.

Me:  I hate this book

She:  Yes we are.

We argue back and forth until we are both laughing too much to even read.

When we downsized recently to move into a smaller house, I took a lot of her books that she had long outgrown to the local library and bought some new books.  But somehow I just could not give that book away.

I can see us when she is graduating from high school still arguing over reading that book.

Me:  You are graduating from high school.  It is time to quit reading this book.

She:  Yes we are.

Me:  I have done this for years and it’s time to stop.

She:  Yes we are.

Me:  I’m sick of this book.

She:  Yes we are.

And, of course, we will.

Underground Railroad History in Michigan

So excited!  As a lover of American history – both its good and its bad history – I have found that there is a wealth of history on the Underground Railroad in the state where I recently became a resident.

I recently wrote a couple of blogs about statues of African-Americans in the USA.

Crispus Attucks and the Boston Massacre Memorial  and

Denmark Vesey – Leader of Failed Rebellion

I knew there was a statute of Harriet Tubman in New York City.  This statute was dedicated in 2008 and is located on Frederick Douglass Boulevard.

Tubman

However, I was surprised to find out there is not one, but two statutes of Tubman in Michigan.  In researching information on these statutes, I discovered that Michigan was very much involved in the Underground Railroad.

Looking at the map of Michigan it is easy to see why this location would have been perfect for those trying to escape slavery and find freedom in Canada.  Surrounded by three of the Great Lakes – Michigan, Huron and Erie, Michigan’s eastern cities are only a short distance from Canada.

The first monument is a bronze statue of not only Tubman but local conductors of the Underground Railroad, Erastus and Sarah Hussey.  This statue in Battle Creek, Michigan depicts Tubman and the other two conductors leading a group of runaway slaves to safety.   Created in 1993 by sculptor Ed Dwight the W. K. Kellogg Foundation commissioned the work.

Tubman 2

The second statue of Tubman is in Ypsilanti, Michigan.  Located in Washtenaw County in Southeast Michigan there are numeous sites connected with the Underground Railroad.

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(Permission for use of this photograph of the sculpture is granted by sculptor Jane A. DeDecker, Loveland, Colorado.  The sculpture of Harriet Tubman was created in 1995 and is an Edition of 7 with one located near the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock Arkansas.)

 

Cass County in Southwest Michigan also offers many sites where the Underground Railroad was conducted by both free blacks and whites.  Slaves fleeing the South passed through Cass County, then on to Battle Creek and Detroit on their way to freedom in Canada.

So – what started as just wanting to see what statutes of African-Americans there were in the USA, I am excited to find I am near to a lot of history of the Underground Railroad.

Looks like I will be busy checking these sites out!  Can’t wait!

And, of course, I will be writing about these sites as I visit them.

Cancer Survivor

Now celebrating 16 years cancer free.  Every October as we observe Breast Cancer Awareness I still thank God that He heard my plea and has given me all these additional years.

Grandma's Ramblings

Laughing at how much I look like my Dad with my bald head! Laughing at how much I look like my Dad with my bald head!

This month I celebrate 12 years cancer free!  As I review the journal that I kept describing my first feelings as I heard that awful word “Cancer,”  I am so thankful to God that I am still here – a cancer survivor!

Day 1 – Cancer! A simple word describing a disease that other people get. Just a word. Until suddenly I hear the word as I get the results of my biopsy. Abruptly my whole world changes forever. Nothing will ever be the same again.

It all started when I found a lump in my left breast. Although I called and set up an appointment with my doctor, I told myself there was nothing to be concerned about. This would just be a benign tumor. Cancer would never happen to me! After examining me, my doctor assured me it…

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