Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 2 comments

Life has been really crazy around here lately, which made me appreciate our anniversary getaway all the more. My wonderful son works at a hotel in downtown Grand Rapids and this is the second year he has given me a night at the hotel (on the concierge level, no less) for both my birthday and Mother's Day. With our anniversary coinciding with the opening weekend of ArtPrize, I thought that was the ideal time to redeem my gift.

Our room was near the top of the building facing the river, so this is the view we woke up to every morning. Nice, yes?

We put on almost 7 miles walking around on Saturday, but as you can see we were none the worse for wear. Our hotel is the tallest one behind us.

Even if you're not an art aficionado, ArtPrize is still a great reason to visit Grand Rapids. Anyone can enter to compete, so there's a little bit of everything out there. What I think makes it fun is that anyone can vote (either online or with an app).  For the first round, which runs through October 4, you can vote for everything you like. The top twenty will be announced October 5, and for the remaining week of the competition you can vote for the one entry in each division you would like to see win the prize. 

As you will see, I tend to like the more traditional art. Here's a peek at some of the pieces that got my vote:

I'm especially drawn to works that look realistic, such as the watercolor, "Brothers in Arms,"

and this oil painting, "West Michigan Winter." Anything that looks like a photograph, but isn't, gets my vote.

"Take Note" was another painting I thought was particularly well done.

Mosaics are also very impressive to me, such as "Into the Autumn Woods."

Unfortunately, most of my photographs don't do justice to the art, but as you can see from the photo of the largest venue, DeVos Place Convention Center, the viewing areas (in this location on the second level) were sometimes narrow and the crowds last weekend were large.

I found "Run Wild," which is actually a 3-piece installation, to be interesting because it was constructed of bits of shoe leather.

"Gold Fever" was one of the sculptures made of found objects, 

as was "Dawn of Chimes." This photo was for Dude and Bubba, since Bubba loves dinosaurs and Dude is a fan of the minions.

Since we were having gorgeous weather, we grabbed lunch outside where we could enjoy some of the great architecture Grand Rapids has to offer.

This is only a portion of "Engulfed in Glass," which represents four seasons on the shoreline.

"The Wind" was on the river opposite from our hotel.

"The Moment, Nails Endured" is made almost entirely of nails. Surprisingly, this is the only one of the works I've shown you that hasn't shown up in the current "Top 25" list, probably because it was outside one of the smaller venues. If you go to ArtPrize you'll have to visit St. Mark's Episcopal Church and check it out.

Scattered throughout town are musicians of every stripe. The most unique we encountered was this one-man-band outside of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.

Of course, our favorite stop was to visit our newest grandson Karl, who made his grand entrance on Saturday morning. That makes 5 grandchildren for us, ages 3 and under! And for those of your familiar with Grand Rapids, yes, we walked there, uphill (both ways!)


[ Read More ]

Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 9 comments

I almost ran into a friend a while back - literally! She was walking out of a building as I was driving up to the door. It was obvious she didn't see me since she was looking in the opposite direction, so I stopped rather than run her over (I'm nice like that...) I rolled down my window to say, "Hi" but before I could utter a word she asked me the question I dreaded hearing that day...

"How are you?"

And I started crying.

Because, you see, I was having one of those days. 

One of those days when nothing seemed to be going right.

One of those days when I had more things to do than I had time to do them.

One of those days when I felt over-worked and under-appreciated.

One of those days when I what I had to do was not the thing I wanted to do.

One of those days when I realized I could devote every waking moment to one particular task for the rest of my life, and it would still never be enough.

One of those days when I was fighting to keep my equilibrium.

Have you been there? 

I was spent; it took every morsel of energy I could scrape up just to hold it together and carry on.

It was just at that precarious moment that I was asked, "How are you?"

My tears made it obvious that, even if I could have uttered the perfunctory reply, the truth was I wasn't fine.

Even on good days, one of my pet peeves is when "How are you?" is used as a greeting. Have you ever stopped to think that, as is implied by the question mark, it is a question? Shouldn't asking a question require us to stop to hear the answer? 

I don't think anyone means any harm when they use, "How are you?" as a greeting, have you ever considered that not everyone you greet is fine? That you may be speaking to someone who could desperately use a listening ear? Someone whose spirit is lifted by the hope that there is indeed someone who cares about how they're doing, only to have those hopes dashed as you keep on walking?

Maybe you've been in there.

Where your emotions are so close to the surface that being asked "How are you?" leads you to tears.

Where you were heartbroken to have someone walk away when you thought they were genuinely interested in your well-being.

Have you ever said you were fine when in reality you were anything but?

Though I try to avoid it, I've fallen on both sides of this issue, being the asker as well as the asked. 

There were times when I asked, "How are you?" without even considering the other person's state of mind.

There were times when I asked, "How are you?" while I was walking and never missed a step.

Are those actions loving? Do they honor the other person?

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. ~ Romans 12:10

Unfortunately, this dilemma is not unique to America. Thanks to our mission trips to Kenya, I can say the dreaded exchange in three languages:

     Habari?            Mzuri.
     Idhi nadi?         Adhi maber.
     How are you?   I'm fine.


I've declared war on the phrase, "How are you?"

Not only do I do my best to avoid saying it, I also avoid answering if the speaker is still moving. And do you know what? Most of the time, they don't even notice I didn't reply.

So, you may be thinking, what should you say when you want to greet someone?  May I suggest "Hello," or "Hi"? Or if that's seems too brief for you, how about saying, "It's good to see you"? No response required and no expectation that you're interested in any more of a conversation than that. 

Fortunately for me, that day my friend really did want to know how I was. 

Don't we all need friends like that? 

Will you be that friend to someone?


[ Read More ]

Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 7 comments

This past Monday my husband and I got a new cat. New to us, anyway. 
My brother-in-law has a friend who moved and needed to find a new home for his cat. She's indoor/outdoor, about a year old, fixed and a great hunter. Just what we needed, what with being overrun with mice since Christmas. Which, incidentally, is about the last time we saw our previous cat... 

Just last year, which for me was the perfect storm of health issues, I was diagnosed with allergies to dust - not that there's any of that around here - and pets. So when our cat didn't come back I thought that solved the dilemma of what to do with a pet I was allergic to. Unfortunately for me, I forgot a hard lesson learned back when I first married my husband: living in the woods, you either have a cat or you have mice.

So since December there have been mice under my kitchen sink and in the basement chewing into the extra groceries in my pantry. Having a cat, which is much safer around my grandsons than rat poison, sounds like a stress-reliever, doesn't it?

One would think...

My brother-in-law and his friend brought Striper over Monday, and the first thing she did was run under the table in a corner of the room. Eventually she warmed up and actually walked over and let me pet her. That's a good sign, wouldn't you say?

One would think...

After they left, Striper wandered downstairs to explore, which is fine since that's where the mice are. My sister stopped by and when we went downstairs we found her hiding behind the water heater, at least until she took off...

There was no sign of her for the rest of the day Monday. 

Or Tuesday. 

I can't say I was too thrilled to have a (relatively) strange cat on the loose somewhere in my house. And I definitely didn't want her to curl up and die, whereabouts unknown, like whatever I've been smelling in the wall upstairs for the last couple months. Ugh! I can tell you, they don't make air fresheners strong enough!

Wednesday my brother-in-law was back to try to coax Striper out of seclusion. 

No such luck.

Thursday morning we had a sighting! She was hiding in the corner of the closet of my husband's work room - coincidentally the only room we haven't gone through during our recent clean sweep of the basement. And she ate some of the food I put out for her the night before. Whew! No dead cat; just one that refuses to come out unless under the cloak of darkness. {sigh}

I've really been fighting to keep myself on an even keel lately, and I can't say this stealth cat is helping matters. We've been back from Kenya for almost a month, and unfortunately I'm still trying to reacclimate. These trips cost me big time when it comes to my health. It's not easy to manage here - it only takes my jaw being off a fraction of a millimeter to send me into a tail spin - so imagine what 30+ hours of travel will do, not to mention a 7-hour time adjustment! My TMJ doctor told me it would take some time for me to recover, and that was when he thought I was on a pleasure trip - before I told him about the jostling I took over the worst roads imaginable, stumbling into holes during hour-long hikes, running into things in the dark while living without electricity and slinging mud to build houses!

It's going to take a while to put Humpty back together again.

Have you ever felt like this?
Not only am I trying to adapt; not only do I have an unfamiliar cat roaming around my house; but I'm also back to watching my grandsons, which is anything but routine. Their dad is in the hospital 2 hours away, waiting for a heart transplant and my daughter is trying to balance that with returning to teaching this week. And I wonder why I'm having a hard time holding it together these days...

I began asking God what he had to teach me through this scaredy-cat I have holed up in my house and this morning He revealed it to me: 

I am the cat!

Neither of us travels well and honestly, curling up in a corner and hiding doesn't sound all that bad to me right now. As a result of this recent revelation, I've decided to do for myself what I've done for the cat and cut myself a little slack! I'm giving myself the month off to get reacclimated, and if that's not enough I'll give myself more time. 

So if I can string a few sentences together - like today - I'll have a post. If I can't - like the past week - I won't.

I'll do what I can and not beat myself up about what I can't.

I'll keep my eyes fixed on Jesus and when life gets overwhelming, I'll pull in even closer. You see, it's Him that I work for.

I couldn't ask for a better boss!

Where do you need to cut yourself some slack?


[ Read More ]