I Will Never Be the Same…

My Musings—From My Heart

It has been 135 Fridays since I sat on the bench in our front entrance listening to our youngest daughter-in-law tell me that my husband of forty-six years was never coming home again.

My heart broke as I struggled to comprehend her words. Earlier that morning I had kissed him goodbye, as I always did, and told him to “have a good day, and I’ll see you tonight.”

Mr Van was a residential framer, and he was currently working on an addition to the home of our oldest son. Sometime that morning God had whisked him away to heaven as he suffered a heart attack. He died instantly.

As I listened to her words explaining to me that Dick, our dear husband, Dad, and Grandpa, had died, I knew, deep down, that I would never be the same again. She finished speaking and waited for my response, but I had slipped into crisis mode, thinking of a thousand things at once, trying to face reality head-on.

How could I lose someone so close to me so suddenly and not feel as if half of myself had just disappeared in one swoop? Even though I didn’t know it at the time, that is what had transpired in those minutes. I have no idea how long that conversation took.

I only know I stood up to a different life.

Today, I marvel at how God has led me forward into that life. He has gently and gloriously unfolded every detail, teaching me to know Him in deeper ways, as He displays the same kindness and faithfulness that He has always shown to me over the years.

Prior to the loss of my husband, God had developed within me a passion to see the women in my sphere of influence following hard after Him with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. I longed to see them living life with more intention, in the way that He had planned for each of them individually; to know and to understand His love for them and His desire for His best for them at their age and stage of life.

My Faith Walk

We all experience times in our faith walk where God teaches us to know Him more deeply by bringing us to places of surrender to His ways for us. My life has often radically changed as I have responded to Him and made those difficult choices. The foundation of those important “stakes in the ground” that were planted in me over the years led me to strategize, write and teach a course based on them called Heart2Heart, Becoming a Woman of Strength and Dignity.

Unexpectedly, in God’s sovereign will, after four years of this ministry, I found myself entering my next stage of life, Widowhood.

All the lessons that God had taught me over my lifetime, those “stakes in the ground,” had to pull together to give me the strength and dignity to survive each day that has followed. I lost my best friend and husband, and my life turned upside-down, and inside-out in an instant.

God was asking me to faithfully continue to live out what I had been teaching through this course—

  • Learning to live life with intention
  • Deepening my walk with God as I discovered more of who He is, and
  • Believing Who I am in Him
  • Believing that He is enough in every season
My Life Experience

So, what are these “stakes in the ground” that created the foundation in my life that has held fast in the hardest days I have ever walked through? They are based in five specific areas:

  • I can BEGIN and be more intentional.
  • I can BELIEVE and have deeper intimacy with God.
  • I can BECOME a woman of purpose and character as I am secure in Jesus.
  • I can BELONG and create my life as I love my people.
  • I can go BEYOND and leave a legacy that counts for eternity as I serve my people.

This specific focus has kept me steady even as I have enjoyed and struggled through success and loss in my life, and I expect these core principles to continue to be necessary as the rest of my days unfold before me.

  • I believe that I am held fast by God. I still fall down and I fail and I ask God to pick me up and to help me to carry on. And He does.
  • I believe that He is Who He says He is, and that He will do what He says He will do.
My Future

While I long for heaven, to be with Jesus, and to see Dick again, I am also able to begin to look ahead and see what purpose God might have for me here on earth as I continue to follow His leading and to live out the rest of my part in His Big Story.

I have learned a lot about how joy and sorrow can reside together in my life. My motto for each day has been “Stay in the day” and “Just do the next right thing in love.” It has been survival mode, but I have held fast to God and He has held fast to me.

These words from Psalm 91, verses fourteen to sixteen, have become very precious to me over this time.

“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

Psalm 91:14-16

Moving from surviving the day to being able to look ahead in small ways and so to begin to plan for the immediate future has brought praise to my God and comfort to my soul.

Your Musings—Your Future

I don’t know where you are coming from today.

  • Perhaps you would love to be more intentional in your life, but don’t know where to start.
  • Perhaps you know about God, but don’t know Him.
  • Perhaps you feel you could grow in the areas of becoming more secure, more purposed and in more godly character.
  • Perhaps you want to know more about how to love and serve your people and others.

I would like to invite you to come and walk with us as we explore all that God has to offer us.

Another passage of Scripture that has become so meaningful to me over this time is Psalm 16. In Verse 11 the Psalmist David expresses his acknowledgement of God by writing

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy;

at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Psalm 16:11

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“The Detour is the Road”

My Musings

God has taken me on another detour in my life—Widowhood…

This detour was something that I have often thought about but never dwelt on, as it only brought up painful and hard thoughts. I always wondered how I would ever handle this detour if it did show up, and deep down felt that I could never walk that road well.

It’s not the first time God took me on a detour, but it is the hardest one I have ever walked. There are so many stories. That’s what happens when you live through a few decades.

I want to share a new song with you that God brought along my detoured path recently. The words to this song are so meaningful to me right now. I weep almost every time I listen to them. The name of the song is “The Detour” from the album, “Faithful”. You can listen to it at this link from YouTube or wherever you find your music.

“…I am not passed over in my suffering.

You hold my broken heart and my broken dreams”

The Detour

Suffering is hard. Grief and loss are hard. Losing a spouse or a child is considered to be one of the hardest things to face in life. No matter what our heart desires or dreams are, it is difficult when they are taken away or interrupted.

BUT GOD…

“Your love has held me warmly through the night.

I have seen Your faithfulness with my own eyes”

The Detour

I have been reflecting on times in my life when God surprised me by allowing the circumstances of my life to change in amazing or drastic ways. Sometimes He still gave me the desires of my heart, and in other cases, He removed someone close to me or removed something I held close to my heart.

  • My dream to become a schoolteacher—I began to desire to teach children around the age of eight when I was in Grade Three.

Later in life, I was all set to register for college and begin studying for an Education Degree as our youngest son was just starting Grade One. Mr. Van had encouraged me to see if I had the qualifications to take this next step, and I did.

And then I walked into our church office and was unexpectedly asked if I would consider working there one day a week. My “yes” response to that question led to twelve years of serving our church family, eventually as the full-time Office Manager.

  • My dream to shepherd the children at our church—After working in the church office for all those years, God called me, unexpectedly, into vocational ministry one Sunday morning at the end of a service where our Pastor had issued an invitation to respond to that opportunity.

There was a transition journey involved, but eventually I had the privilege to hold that role of Director of Children’s Ministries for fourteen years.

This role satisfied all those longings I had to teach children, and I had the privilege to create opportunities for them to get to know God personally and to learn to walk with Him.

“You’ve been good to me; I am safe to hope.

I will dare to believe when the way is long and slow…

I will trust THE DETOUR IS THE ROAD”

The Detour

Every time God gives a new opportunity or direction, we have a choice to “let our hearts grow cold or to despise the wait”, or to willingly see it as a time when He is changing our life direction and sending us down a new path.

These changes could happen in our marital status; in our children growing up and leaving home; in our health; in our job; or even where we live. The changes may be “long and slow,” or they may be “immediate with no choice”.

“And I am full of doubt, but You are kind and close.

I will trust THE DETOUR IS THE ROAD.

This time will not be wasted. All the sorrow I have tasted.

YOU SING HOPE ACROSS THE VALLEY OF MY TEARS…”

The Detour
  • A Call into Retirement—There came a point where I knew, for my health’s sake, that my time shepherding the children had come to a close. Many tears later, and after some time, I found myself at home full-time again and wondered how my future days would look.

BUT GOD…

  • A Call into a New Ministry Focus—And then God asked me to take another detour to focus on the Moms and Grandmas who were raising all those children Mr. Van and I had loved so much. He also asked me to share with them how He had worked in my life to teach me to walk with Him.

Out of that new detour eventually came the opportunity to write, direct, and teach a new ministry called “Heart2Heart: Becoming a Woman of Strength and Dignity”. The focus of the course is to help women learn to live in intentionality as they desire to know God more deeply, and also to learn how to love their people well.

“Oh, I will trust the detour is the road.

THE DETOUR IS THE ROAD.”

The Detour
  • A Call into Widowhood—This present detour of widowhood has been, as I said at the beginning of this post, one possibility I never wanted to think about very much. It came as a total surprise into an ordinary day that has turned into a two-and-a-half-year journey so far. As I stood at the crossroads where my life turned inside out and upside down, I knew that I was changed forever and so would be the road I walked.

BUT GOD…

My desire for writing here at Mrs Vans Musings is not to dwell only on my role of Widowhood and how my life has changed, but entering that role has given me pause to again:

  • Reflect on my Values.
  • Reaffirm my Belief System.
  • Redirect my footsteps to walk even more closely on the path of the beauty of Jesus
  • Reestablish the places I belong, and to
  • Remember that my story is only a blip on the timeline of God’s Big Story, but He has provided a place for me to share that story and to establish my legacy as I continue to age, depending on Him as my Faithful Companion. Joy and Sorrow will also walk with us on that path.

Your Musings

As you look back on your life can you see times when God chose to send you off in a direction that was totally different from what you had planned?

How have you responded to His direction for you?

Perhaps you also need to pause and reflect on your values; your belief system; who you are becoming; where you belong; and then acknowledge and share the story God is writing of your life.

Psalm 23:6 in The Message says, “Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life.”

God does sing hope across the valley of our tears. And so I will keep on walking and not give up…

He’s waiting for us to come to Him. Come and walk with us as we all companion together on this path of the beauty of Jesus…

We’d love to have you join us…

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Rebuilding My Grieving Life

My Musings

Yesterday marked thirty months (two and one-half years) since Mr Van left us for heaven. That’s over 900 days which is almost unbelievable to me…

I decided to have a quiet day which began by attending our online church service. It is always a comfort when I need a day of privacy.

  • I see more glimpses of having the capacity to look ahead a bit, and yet needing to still stay in the day and just do the next thing.
  • I see fewer days of continuous tears, and yet still get surprised by grief when I least expect it.
  • I see some desire to have a more public life than I have for these past two-plus years, and yet I know that I need quiet days as well in order to pace myself.

I have almost always had a lot of projects on the go, but I am missing my person who gave me so much encouragement and perspective in them.

  • It has been a busy almost five weeks taking my suite apart, having air conditioning installed, cleaning afterwards (drywall dust, etc.), and then putting the condo back together. Not quite done but getting there. I actually feel like I moved.
  • I just bought the flowers for my balcony and am looking forward to tending to them.
  • I am beginning to work on rebuilding a rhythm into my life.

Spring weather has finally arrived in northern Alberta and it is amazing! Waking up to sunshine and blue skies is the best!

  • I am so thankful for all the beauty that surrounds us if we take the time to notice.
  • I am so thankful for family and good friends.
  • I am so thankful for my Audience of One who loves me, encourages me, and also gives me perspective from day to day.
Your Musings

I don’t know what you are facing this week. It seems that everyone has something difficult going on in their life right now but I pray that you know Who to go to as you face those hard things.

  • Look for the beauty.
  • Treasure your people.
  • Give God the glory for all that He provides for you as you follow His leading. He’s just waiting for you to come to Him!

Have a great week! Love, Colleen

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“To Cry For You…”

Happy first day of Spring 2022…

MEMORIES OF THE PANDEMIC

Two years ago today, in March 2020, our family chose to go into isolation as the beginning of the effects of the pandemic became better known. We spent the evening on March 18/20 together in memory of Mr. Van’s birthday. He would have been 68 and this was about seventeen weeks after he passed away.

I had no idea at that time that I would spend the next six weeks in my house alone. Our dear kids would bring me groceries and meds and take care of any other needs but I would not see everyone together again until May. I missed being in person for the next two months of our youngest grandson’s life and didn’t even meet our first little great-grandson until he was about four weeks old.

MEMORIES OF PAST BIRTHDAYS

All these memories led to some hard days this past week.

  • We lost our first cousin to cancer—she was 65.
  • I am working at completing the final closure for our business—it seems there are just so many details and steps that it often becomes overwhelming.

And then this past Friday would have been Mr. Van’s 70th birthday…

  • We usually make a “fuss” over birthdays in our family as we treasure every day we have with those we love. Every memory in my Facebook feed that morning was full of Mr. Van’s birthdays in recent years. I am so thankful we celebrated him over and over and have photos to prove it.

MEMORIES OF COMFORT IN GRIEF AND LOSS

The song that came to my mind that morning was “To Cry For You” by Carolyn Arends.

  • It is my honour to cry for him…
  • It is my honour to cry out to my Audience of One for everything I need to do life without him.
  • Psalm 27:4,5, ESV, “One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple. For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.”

“I guess grief is the work that love must do. So it is my honour to cry for you…”

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Empty, Quiet Places

I am finding that this Christmas is gently forcing me to face even more reality about the quiet spaces Mr. Van left behind…

Writing these words to a new friend and neighbor who is away right now, I also shared that I am learning that “to love deeply is to grieve deeply, only by God’s grace, sometimes one minute at a time. Life is more settled for sure but these bumpy times are hard.”

As I walk into this Christmas week of 2021, there are some special memories attached to almost every day.
🎄December 22–Twenty-five months since Mr. Van left us.
I don’t plan to keep counting the months into 2022, just as I have not counted the weeks for 2021. But last Friday morning I woke up weeping, and realized, when I figured it out, that it was 108 Fridays since his death. The fine tension between how to walk forward into the future while living in the present, and yet not lingering forever in the past is really difficult.

🎄December 23–The forty-ninth anniversary of our engagement.
I spent some time over this past weekend watching Season 14 of Heartland. I easily identify with the story line and have found a lot of it helpful, even though it’s sad. I watched the whole series AGAIN over these past few weeks—and yesterday I finished off Season 14 and the season finale of Season 15. I was moving photos (I would never tell you how many) off my iPad into safe storage while I was watching TV, shedding tears over the photos and memories attached, as well as over the sadness and moving forward of the TV story.
Life and death. Joy and sorrow. Looking back and moving forward. Whew!! I was having my own flashblacks into those quiet spaces that mean so much as I was watching Amy do the same on Heartland.

🎄December 24–So many Christmas Eve’s spent together: dating, early married years, making Christmas fun and special for the kids amid the chaos of deadlines and extended family times and having a clean house and all the baking done. We often did our Christmas ahead of time, and then headed down south to spend the actual holiday week with both our extended families.
Then our kids grew up, and so began the years of hosting all of them and their families sometime during December (making it work with all our lives)!
Mr. Van usually worked until Christmas Eve noon for sure but then would take at least one week off and sometimes even two. So many treasured memories over those times.

🎄December 25–(Or whatever day in December we made Christmas Day)—Family Brunch. Mr. Van reading the Christmas story for us all and praying over us before we opened gifts. Christmas dinner, sometimes with extended family or with others who didn’t have family close by. And now we have begun working our day of Celebration around the married grandchildren and little great-grandson.

🎄December 26–Usually a quiet day of reminiscing and recuperating after good family time. Sometimes we would head down south to see our parents and stay until New Year’s Day. A stop in Edmonton was often included in the middle of driving 900 km in mid-winter. We chose to make the journey itself part of the “get-away” and I will be thankful for those times forever.

How grateful I am that God taught me many years ago about living “thankful” in the moments, whether good or not, day by day. I certainly have not always obeyed this command well, or projected a thankful heart as I should have, but God has been faithful to show me when I needed a “heart-check” and then to lead me back to Himself.

Life is full of the good and the hard and the happy and the sad. We all get to choose how we handle it. We all fail. We all need God’s grace to pick ourselves up. Say we’re sorry. Take the next step.

How is your heart doing on this 24th day of December, 2021?
I think Mary showed us the way to guard our hearts when she said to the angel in Luke 1:38, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

Happy Christmas, friends!!
Blessings to you and your family!!

❤️ Colleen

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Strong Paths. Strong Shoes.

Yesterday was Remembrance Day, the day we take time to honor those who have defended, and who do defend, our democratic freedom as a country.

Today I say thank you to each person, man or woman, who has responded to the call to do the hard things required.

I’d like to share with you some of the meaning of what those past days have meant for our family.

  • Mr. Van is of Dutch heritage, Canadian, born in Canada. His parents were both Dutch, born in Holland.

Dad and Mom van Nieuwkerk emigrated from Holland to Canada following World War Two. They experienced a lot of the horror of the war, as did many others, and they were thankful for an opportunity to begin a new life in a new land. They came to Canada to join some of their family who were already living here. Their journey to Canada and the early years of their Canadian life involved many difficult times, but they worked hard, learned English when Mr. Van began Grade One, and created a good life for their family.

Mr. Van’s grandparents also immigrated later. They were over fifty years of age. What a challenge that must have been to learn a new language and to adapt to a new culture in mid-life…

  • I am also Canadian, born in Canada. My family heritage is a mixture of different cultures. My ancestors emigrated to North America in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.

Both my maternal (World War One) and my paternal (World War Two) grandfathers served overseas. They had the privilege of aiding in the fight for democracy in two different wars which led to the freedom that Mr. Van’s family was privileged to experience.

  • As I was growing up, I remember many Remembrance Day services at school. My earliest memories begin around age nine in Grade Four.

Standing for that minute of silence to pay respect to those who had served and the many who had given up their lives in order to provide our freedom stirred up in me a life-long interest in discovering the strength of character one must have to either give up one’s life for another, or to receive what costs another person so much.

  • Corrie Ten Boom was a well-known Dutch woman who was a Christian. She was involved in Holland in rescuing many Jewish people in her community who had to flee for safety. She quoted,

“If God sends us on strong paths, we are provided strong shoes.”

Corrie Ten Boom

I believe that God did provide strong shoes for my grandfathers as they travelled on a ship, leaving their homeland to travel to where they had never been to join in the fight for people they didn’t know, never knowing that they were assisting to provide freedom for my in-laws who would need very strong shoes to get on a ship, leaving their homeland to travel to where they also had never been, to face a new life they had never expected to live.

God keep our land, glorious and free. O Canada, we stand on guard for thee…

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A Gentle Unfolding

My Musings Today

Yesterday was the day that marked twenty-three months since Mr. Van left us to enter heaven.

I mentioned in my last post, The LORD is My Pacesetter, that it has been a tough few weeks as a fresh wave of deeper grief arrived to visit again. There are a few reasons why but my take-away is that God is still kind and so faithful to see my tears, to hear my cries to Him, and to carry me through each hard day.

I don’t share this with you because I am full of self-pity or martyrdom.

I do share this to say that if you, too, are in a season of grief for any reason (and there are many reasons right now to be grieving) our God is waiting for all of us to just turn to Him and tell Him all about it.

This week a sweet memory came up on Facebook of Mr. Van in “Bob, the Bobcat” (we tend to name our equipment in our family) and Grandson #6 who was about twenty-one months at the time. He is now nine years old. Grandpa was giving him a ride because he was so enthralled with “Bob”. Part of the sweetness was in the fact that Mr. Van’s voice was recorded in the video. Here they are in the back yard “working”.

Those Facebook memories can do me in…

I think that one of the hardest parts of grieving the loss of someone dear to us is the processing of how to go on living life when they are absent. I cannot argue with God about His whisking Mr. Van away all those months ago. And…

  • I do believe that our days are numbered and his were up. He was not well even though God chose not to let us know about that ahead of time. Psalm 90:12 tells us that we are to ask God to teach us to number our days so that we can gain a heart of wisdom.
  • I do believe that God knows “who” and “what” I need to live out the days He still has planned for me. This concept has been a hard place to come to as I have processed how to live well without my husband and best friend. 2 Peter 1:3 says that God’s divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our calling to know Him, not just about Him. This applies to every life situation, every life stage.
  • I do believe that I have a lot of processing to do re what my future could look like. Working through all of this is difficult. Mr. Van and I lived together through forty-six years of marriage and our desire was, as it says in Acts 17:24-28, to find the places where we belong that God has created and prepared for us to live and move and have our being. His place is now in heaven! Mine is still here on earth.

As I have now been considering all of this for a few months, God has brought some direction and clarity. He has used several encouraging ways to bring me back full circle “to stay in the day” and “to just do the next right thing”, but also to be able to take a deep breath and begin to look ahead.

MY ONE WORD

For the past several years God has been showing me where I need to focus for the next while by pointing out a word or a phrase repeatedly that seems to direct to the next right thing. This word might show up in my Bible or book reading. It could be sung over and over in a song. Or it could come out of a sermon, a blog post, or a podcast I heard.

I am going to share my “One-Word Journey” with you in some future posts, but today I want to give you a glimpse into this year’s word which is “Unfolding.”

I have been asking God to continue to gently unfold my moments and my days one at a time.” He has been faithful to do that for me by:

  • Giving me Scripture to memorize and cling to–

Psalm 119:130, The unfolding of Your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.

Proverbs 31:25,26, Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the days to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

2 Chronicles 20:12b, We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You.

  • Giving me a song by Steven Curtis Chapman called “Glorious Unfolding”.

Just listen to what I’m whispering to your heart ‘cause I know this is not anything like you thought the story of your life was gonna be… There’s so much of the story that’s still yet to unfold…”

  • Giving me courage to practice “surrender and trust” as He unfolds each day, teaching me again to begin to laugh at the days to come.

To live a life of widowhood with excellence.

To begin to thrive instead of just survive.

To continue to prepare for Phase 2 of my eternal life (more about that to come as well).

These past few weeks have shown me again that I must choose to let God direct my steps into each day as there are still many difficult ones. Everyone grieves at their own pace and that is as it should be.

Your Musings Today

There seems to be a lot of grief, sadness, and pain surrounding us all at this time.

As I mentioned above, you may be someone who is struggling in a season of grief for many reasons.

May I invite you:

  • To consider who or what is your source of comfort? As you consider your faith and God as your Audience of One, please know that He loves you, He waits for you to come to Him to supply all your needs, and He longs to give you that comfort and direction to cope with all that life offers you right now.
  • To check out @mollclarissa on Instagram if you are in a season of losing someone close to you. She is a wise woman who has such good insight into grief and loss.
  • To ask God for a One Word or phrase to help you to focus more clearly on your next steps. No matter what age or stage of life we are encountering presently, He has wisdom and direction for us in our own unique journey.

Again, be encouraged as you ponder:

  • On next beginnings.
  • On embracing your own life fully and intentionally.
  • On living out that life with the strength and dignity that can only come from your Audience of One.

We would love to have you walk that journey with us as we all learn together!

Love to you today,

Colleen

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The LORD is My Pace Setter

Happy Friday morning, friends!

MY MUSINGS TODAY:

Fall is the season for new beginnings. Our fall season is about to turn into early winter here in the north as the temperatures begin to fall and our gardens are fast fading for this year. I just cleaned off my balcony and settled it in to wait for whatever Christmas décor I decide to use.

I love new beginnings. I love the fall season. I love fall colors.

My home and my wardrobe all reflect that love.

I also love school and I love learning. I guess I am what you would call a life-long learner.

Many years ago (almost 50!) I attended one year of Bible School at Prairie Bible Institute (now called Prairie College) in Three Hills, Alberta. I had just graduated from high school.

Leaving home for the first time became a huge learning experience. Living in the dorm, juggling many classes and assignments, eating communal meals in the Dining Hall, and attending chapel several times a week in Prairie Tabernacle were all great ways to begin to grow up… It was so good but also was lonely and hard at times.

Sometime during that year I walked by a bulletin board and this poem, which is a Japanese Version of Psalm 23, caught my eye. I was feeling discouraged about completing all my class assignments, and feeling homesick for my family and friends. The overwhelm of being a student was very real in my mind and heart that day.

Psalm 23 is a song of comfort which tells us that our Shepherd, Jehovah-Rohi, will be with us as He cares, provides, guides and protects us. The words in this paraphrase of the psalm brought such comfort to me that I copied it down and have kept it close for these fifty years that have passed by.

These past few weeks have again been hard as a fresh wave of grief washed over me unexpectedly. That is how grief works—we just never know when it will decide to visit again. The words to this Psalm came to mind and I went searching for the words online and found them!

YOUR MUSINGS TODAY:

I don’t know how you are doing with all that is going on in your own heart, in your family, and in the world around you, wherever you are, but I do know that we all need truth to cling to in these days.

My hope and my prayer for you would be that these words, so simple and yet profound, would bring you the comfort and care of the One who longs to shepherd you through this time and on into eternity.

Be encouraged as you ponder:

  • On new beginnings.
  • On embracing your own life fully and intentionally.
  • On living out that life with the strength and dignity that can only come from your Audience of One.

We would love to have you walk that journey with us as we all learn together!

You can sign up to receive encouragement in that walk at Mrs Vans Musings. To receive current updates in your inbox, just click on the Email Request button below. We promise to honor your privacy.

Have a great week!

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Enlarging Our Life

Good afternoon, my friends! It is another lovely fall day here in northern Alberta. The sun is shining out of a blue sky. The beautiful autumn leaves are amazing this year and are just beginning to fall to the ground. I was out for a walk around the lake in our old neighborhood one day last week with a dear friend. It was good to enjoy the beauty, the fresh air and to watch the geese on the water.

Reframing that Shrinks

It has again been awhile since I wrote my last post, Reframing Wisely. In that post I shared how life had downsized in many ways as I am learning to adjust to this widowhood life. I have walked through making many important decisions about the many facets of life I have never before faced alone.

“Reframing means keeping what is important but wisely refiguring as necessary.” Jean Fleming

We talked about how we need to come to an initial place of choosing what is most important to us (what we value) and then living according to what we decide (establishing priorities). No matter what age we are, or what stage of life we are exiting or entering, there will be reframing required.

Our intention influences values which are attached to areas of our life such as our time with God; entering marriage; birthing children and growing them up; our health and personal care; and our work responsibilities. As we reach life stages of young adult, mid-life and then our senior years, there are many challenges that require cooperation and trusting God in new ways.

“Reframing…always requires creativity, humility, and surrender to the imposed limits.” Jean Fleming

Caleb, the Ironman

Jean Fleming, the author of “Pursue the Intentional Life”, wrote about a man in the Bible named Caleb who had to choose to reframe his life as well. She called him, Caleb, the Ironman.

  • Caleb was one of the twelve spies who went into the land to survey what God had promised to them as the Israelite nation. He gave good leadership, alongside Joshua, about conquering that land. He stood strong when the people wanted to kill those who were encouraging them to follow God’s leading and to fight for the territory. In the end, God did not allow any of those who had rebelled against Himself to enter the land, but Caleb and Joshua were among those able to enter. (Book of Numbers, Chapter 13, in your Bible)
  • Caleb was forty years old when he served as a spy, and he was eight-five years old when they finally arrived at that land God had promised them. Joshua 14:10,11 says,

“And now, behold, the LORD has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the LORD spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness. And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old. I am still as strong today as I was in the day Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming.”

  • Caleb believed God’s promise and lived his life faithfully as he waited out those forty-five years.

Reframing that Leads to Enlarged Territory

Jean mentioned, in talking about Caleb, that “God doesn’t rescind His promises or His call because of advanced years.”

There are those times through the years where there may be loss of our people, our health, or our ministry that we love, and so our territory is changed and diminished. But there are also times when God asks us to step out and up as He desires to enlarge our territory for a time along the way.

  • Caleb chose to face the reality of his life. God had kept him healthy and strong over those additional forty-five years for a specific purpose. And he was ready to do what God had planned for him—to receive his land and to conquer the people who presently owned it and so take possession. He went ahead and conquered Hebron but then he promised his daughter in marriage to the man who could conquer the next area. He was wise in possibly looking to pass the responsibility of battle along to someone younger as he stepped aside.
My Musings:

I have been thinking a lot about the times in my life when God asked me to shrink or contract my focus by either “sitting on the shelf” for awhile or decreasing my responsibilities. There have also been opportunities to expand my focus and assume new positions of leadership which stretched me to depend more deeply on God as I used my spiritual gifts He designed for me.

We will talk about some of those amazing times as we walk together, but for today I would like to say that accepting a new assignment from God always involves taking a risk that could include vulnerability, woundedness and sorrow, as well as wonder, surrender, and joy.

God recently showed me one of my “next right things” in allowing me to join a Writing Mastermind. The ad came up in July and I felt drawn to it. I have followed Ann Swindell with Writing With Grace for a few years. She offers a Mastermind, and also teaches other writing courses throughout the year, all online.

I decided to apply for the current year and asked God to show me His will as far as my writing goes by giving me an acceptance into the group. This was a big step for me. I don’t always ask God to reveal His will by a direct “yes or no”, but I did this time. When I received the email telling me that I was accepted, I was a crying mess. God so clearly gave me His answer, and I am humbled. I have a lot to learn, and I am excited to pursue whatever it is that God has for me in this next while.

Mr. Van and I purchased this little plaque quite a long time ago—maybe fifteen or twenty years. The words state what we believed together about how we should live our couple life, our family life, and our individual lives.

Our life together wasn’t full of all kinds of extreme adventures—we were more inclined to live one day at a time, with common goals and dreams, and to plod along as they became reality. But that doesn’t mean that we didn’t take risks in accepting challenges along the way that required change, new skills, and adaptation. We did live our life to the full and I am so grateful for every moment we had together.

We are approaching Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada, and even though joy and sorrow continue to reside together within my heart in deep ways, there are just so many reasons to thank God for His faithfulness and care over all the years.

Your Musings:

  • Can you think of times when God has asked you to step back from something you’ve been doing, or when He has called you to step out into something new?
  • Have you ever taken some time to consider what it is that you really value in your life and then planned your life around those values?
  • How’s your approach to your daily life as you face the challenges that God offers you? Do you take risks or do you run away from them? There is a time for both.

Perhaps you’ve never considered that God might even have an opinion about what you care the most about.

Or maybe you have wondered what He thinks but didn’t know how to figure it all out.

Or maybe you should be the one writing this post because you have wrestled it through and made the hard choices to live according to what is most important to you.

Whichever place you are in, you are welcome here.

Come and walk with us, learn with us, and grow with us. We would love to have you along.

I close with Psalm 92:12-15 from The Message. This Psalm applies to you no matter your age or stage of life. Be blessed and encouraged as you read God’s Words to us today:

“The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the LORD; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the LORD is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.”

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!!

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Reframing Wisely…

In her book, Pursue the Intentional Life, Jean Fleming wrote a chapter called “Wise Reframing: Keeping My Core in Life’s Transitions.” According to my Merriam-Webster dictionary, to reframe is

“to frame (something) again and often in a different way to be open to the view: to reveal.”

Jean Fleming, Pursue the Intentional Life

Jean has a lot of wisdom to share with us in this book—it is one of the first ones we read and discuss briefly in our course for women, Heart2Heart, Becoming a Woman of Strength and Dignity. We will look at it in more detail in the days to come. For now I wanted to briefly focus on some of her thoughts in this chapter that have really resonated with me as I consider the recent changes in my life into widowhood and so into my future places. Perhaps you have some questions about your future days as well as we transition back to whatever “normal” life might look like at this time.

Again, I don’t know where you are coming from as you read this post:

  • You may believe in God as your Audience of One, sovereign and so in charge of every detail of your life. You are growing to know Him personally and you believe that His words to us in the Bible are true and worth hearing and following. You also believe that God’s Big Story of the history of the universe includes your part in that story.
  • Or you may have heard of the Bible and something about God but you don’t really understand why it is so important and what difference it would make in your life to know and follow Him.
  • Or you may have never been exposed to any teaching about God and sometimes, as you lay your head on the pillow at night, you wonder what it’s all about and what’s ahead of us.

Our Core

So what does it mean to keep our “core”, in the midst of all that life brings our way everyday? Our core is the inmost and most intimate part of ourself, and it needs to be focused and stable no matter what, when, where, why, or how. We will all live through many stages of life, and we will experience both joy and sorrow, courage and fear, good and evil, highs and lows, and much else in each one. There is always something new to learn on a journey of reframing/intentionality.

Isaiah 33:5,6 from the Bible says,

“Reframing means keeping what is important but wisely reconfiguring as necessary.”

At some point in our life we need to come to an initial place of choosing what is most important to us and then living according to what we decide. I believe that God has a plan for my life and for your life that He made before He even created us.

Psalm 139 is a wonderful chapter in the Book of Psalms in the Bible that tells us how God planned our days.

Verse 16 says:

Our Perspective

I have been in a place of reframing my whole life as I begin to consider what my future is going to look like. Over these next weeks I would like to walk with you through some areas of life that give us a framework to consider what needs to change, to evolve, and to grow us into the person God intends for us to be.

We are going to consider all of this from the perspective of what it could look like:

  • TO PONDER about what is an intentional life.
  • TO PREPARE to live an intentional life.
  • TO PRACTICE living an intentional life.
  • TO PRODUCE a life that is faithful and fruitful, God-honoring and people-loving for all our days.

My Musings This Week

One way that I have had to “reframe” my life—to reconfigure out of necessity—is in my gardening techniques. Jean talks about how we need to adjust in different life stages to how we do the things we love in smaller and simpler ways, instead of giving them up totally. We pull in the boundaries where God directs because it is not our passion that has diminished, but our strength.

Our former home which was sold last summer (more about the reframing of it soon) was situated on a half-acre of land. I moved to a condo which is just the right size but now my gardening area is reduced to a balcony. I love my flowers. They bring joy to my heart. I have many photos of my flowers over the years so I can still enjoy those but I also decided that I was going to continue to have a space to enjoy them now if I could figure out a system. So this is what my flower garden looks like this year…

Another aspect of wisely reframing Jean discusses is to live in reality. We have to accept the fact that life expands and contracts, and so some things and some persons we love may be stripped from us.

Tonight we are going to celebrate Grandson #7’s fourth birthday and Grandpa Van will not be there. All our grandchildren bring so much joy to our family, and they all loved Grandpa a lot as he did them. We will miss having him there to celebrate with us, but we know that he is in a safe and healthy place and that brings us comfort. He would want us to celebrate all the milestones just like we always have, and so we will…

Next week we will celebrate Grandson #4’s Graduation from high school! So much to be thankful for…

Your Musings This Week

To BEGIN is to set in motion…

  • PONDER WHAT IS TRUE in your life that is or needs reframing? Obtain a journal or a notebook where you can write your observations down. Begin a list.
  • PREPARE one thing you can do to begin that process. Ask God to show you what a next step could be. Maybe outline three steps, if appropriate, to begin to put that reframing in motion. Write them down.
  • PRACTICETo choose to reframe something in your life is to take a step towards being more intentional. What does the first of those three steps require? Perhaps seeking God’s wisdom about what He wants for you is the first step?
  • How do you find out?
  • Seek His wisdom by reading His words to you in the Bible. So let’s look at the Book of Psalms (open your Bible to the middle and Psalms should be nearby) and read Psalm One this week. Blessed is the man who… If you don’t have a physical Bible, perhaps download the YouVersion Bible app and read on your device. As you read, look for what the words tell you about Who God is. A great first step in wise reframing.
  • PRODUCE-What is God saying will happen in your life if you are a blessed person? Write it down and then re-read Psalm One every day this week to reinforce what God is saying to you. Take your time and let it all simmer, right down into your heart, your soul, your mind and your strength.

Blessings on you this week—enjoy your walk…

Want to come and join us? We’d love to have you. You can sign up to receive Mrs Vans Musings in your inbox. Just click on the Email Request button below. We promise to honor your privacy.

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When the Music Stops…

My Musings Today:

I have been on the shelf. Again.

I mentioned to a dear friend not too long ago that I suddenly realized that God had, once again, placed me on the shelf. Sometimes over the years, when life has just become too hard or I was at the end of myself, God has put me in His safe place as a shelter from the present storm.

This time has been six months of mostly quiet.

  • A place to ponder this next stage of life.
  • A place to consider how it is even possible to live this widowlife with excellence and intentionality.

Many tears, much prayer, and an abundance of studying and learning have brought me to this day. The current pandemic has actually worked to my personal benefit in providing that place for me.

In case you are new around here, welcome! We are walking together to discover what intentionality looks like no matter what age, stage of life, or circumstances we find ourselves living out. Just to help you catch up this is my first blog post on Mrs Vans Musings since May, 2020.

  • Our family suffered a great loss in November 2019 and I wrote about that in these two posts if you would like to know the back story to today.

I have been debating, again, how to connect life before Mr. Van went to heaven and these next years. As I have said before, this is not a new life, but it is the NEXT stage in my own journey towards eternal life in heaven with Jesus.

The years have come and gone since I first sang Your song and oh how sweet the melody was then. But now I find myself silent on the shelf wondering why the music had to die. Lord, tell me why it had to end.

When the Music Stops, Parschauer Sisters, 1984

God brought this song to mind this morning and that led to memories of the first time I realized that He had put me on the shelf. I had recently made a very public re-commitment to love and follow this God I believe in with all my heart, soul, mind and strength forever. I would have been thirty-four years old at this time.

  • I attended a Ladies Retreat with some dear friends. There was a concert by The Parschauer Sisters, and they sang this song, “When the Music Stops”.
  • I had been in a season of health issues and had just had another surgery six weeks before this retreat. I was tired of needles and hospitals and being so weary all the time. I seemed to just recover and then something else would happen. My life seemed to be in a holding pattern of sickness and quietness.
  • As the trio sang these words, it was as if God said to me, “It’s ok. I’ll always be close by. I’ll hold you fast to Myself. I’ll show you the next step.” And He has. And He is. And He will.

“Teach me, Lord, to wait. I know You’re never late. For You are always keeping perfect time. And though I cannot see why or what will be, I will trust in You until Your song is through. Lord, help me rest in Your design.”

When the Music Stops, Parschauer Sisters, 1984

Recently I was asked to share with our church family why I believe Jesus is My Coming King. I stated that I cannot argue with God about the timing of Mr. Van’s death as I do believe, as it tells me in Psalm 90:12 in the Bible that our days are numbered. Mr. Van’s time on earth was complete. But mine is not. And my unfinished task is to live out the journey God has for me until He calls me home to heaven.

Does that mean that acceptance comes easily? Not at all.

Does that mean I don’t miss Mr. Van like crazy? Not at all.

Does that mean I am not fearful sometimes about growing older alone? Not at all.

BUT…

God is faithful. He asked me, shortly after Mr. Van passed away, if I was willing to be open and vulnerable about my grief and loss. To write as I share the journey. To encourage anyone who is willing to read and ponder that it is possible to live a life of intention as we prepare for eternity. We all have a choice every morning as we wake up.

SO…

Your Musings Today:

May I leave you with the words of the chorus to this song that meant just as much to me this morning as I went looking online for the words and the music as it did over thirty years ago?

Perhaps you’d like to walk with us as you face whatever your grief and loss circumstances are right now? See more info below about how to do that…

  • We are entering a renewed time on earth as we see hope in the pandemic ending.
  • We are entering a renewed time of assessing values and priorities and how we spend our time.
  • We are entering a renewed time of relationship where hugs are allowed (oh, my!) and we can host people in our home again…

Not quite yet—but soon. Let’s make the most of the time that God allows us, however that might look for each one of us individually.

I look forward to sharing with you all more of how God has taught me to be intentional.

Blessings on you, my friends! I leave you with these words:

“When the music stops don’t think that it’s the end for I am only giving You a rest.

When the music stops BE STILL AND KNOW my friend that I, the Lord, am doing what is best.”

When The Music Stops, Parschauer Sisters, 1984

Want to come and join us on this walk that will never end? We’d love to have you.

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The First 100 Days…

My Musings Today:

On March 20 our family went into self-isolation with the COVID-19 crisis. That time has now progressed to being with family more but still in semi-isolation/sheltering-in-place.

I have been trying to write this post for the past nine weeks, ever since Mr. Van’s birthday on March 18.

April brought Easter with the arrival of our first sweet great-grandson, and then May brought Mother’s Day where we were able to spend time together as a family as we met the limit of under fifteen persons.

Each time I sat down at the computer I would add a few words, but then it was just too hard to keep on trying to express what was deep in my heart and my mind. I think today is the day to finish and hit “send”.

AN AMAZING ENDING

Yesterday, May 22, was the six-month anniversary of Mr. Van’s homegoing to heaven… I am finding it hard to process that one-half of a year has gone by already.

I am a journaler (is that a word?) and on Tuesday, December 17 of last year I made an entry that it was twenty-five days since his death. I also made a list (because I am also a list-maker!) of what God had, at that point, asked me to do in light of all the changes coming into my life.

That journal entry ended with writing down two blog topics/titles that God gave me to ponder.

And so I began to record the highlights of each day for the first 100 days without Mr. Van. Those 100 days ended on February 29, 2020, almost three months ago now.

A NEW BEGINNING

I knew God wanted me to share some of that with those of you who may be, as well, walking through deep, hard struggles. Of course, none of us then had any idea of the coming health and economic crises in which we now find ourselves, and the challenges that would come to everyone.

I don’t know where you are at today.

  • Perhaps you are also mourning someone you have lost.
  • Perhaps you have had an unwelcome diagnosis.
  • Perhaps you have lost your job.
  • Perhaps you are living in fear of what’s to come as we walk through this health crisis and economic uncertainty.
  • Or perhaps life is just going on and you wonder where it’s going and why…

I do believe that God has, in the last few years, been walking me through some steps that have brought a foundation of stability to my life. These steps are:

  • Applicable to all of life, not just to times of crisis.
  • Based on a pattern of living intentionally—BEGIN. BELIEVE. BECOME. BELONG. BEYOND.
  • Centered on the God I believe in “who is Who HE says He is”, and “Who will do what HE says He will do”.

BEGIN-A New Stage of Life

  • No one wants to consider the fact that they may lose the love of their life.
  • No one wants to be a widow.
  • No one wants to have to learn how to live the widowlife.

This is a new stage of life that I somehow never expected to enter—I wanted to be married for 70 years…

But God.

God has a different plan for me and I still don’t really know what that plan looks like. It’s early days yet… But I do believe that God is faithful and trustworthy and dependable.

I am learning to “stay in the day” and to “just do the next right thing in love”.

I am learning to take my “IF only…” regrets and realizations, give them to God, ask for forgiveness if I need to, and then ask God to let Mr. Van know how sorry I am.

I am learning to understand my next place in God’s story for this age and stage of life.

I am learning to take my “What IF…?” questions about life, and to believe that God holds it all fast in His hands and that I can trust Him.

  • What if I missed connecting the dots about how unwell Mr. Van actually was?
  • What if I make bad decisions that could affect my future?
  • What if my health suddenly deteriorates more?

There are many “What Ifs” but no answers…

A friend also advised me to consider not only grieving for what is ended from the past, but to also grieve all that we had planned and expected for the future. That was so helpful to me as it gave me permission to also think that through, and so I began another list which I am still creating.

So what does “Intentional WidowLife” look like? I have had a few glimpses.

BELIEVE God-A Firm Foundation

Be Still and Know. Surrender and Trust. Hold fast and Be Held Fast.

Psalm 91:14, “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name.”

I am also learning to declare, through many tears and lonely moments, “Even IF…”

MercyMe has a song that came across my path a few weeks ago.

Some of the words are, “It’s easy to sing when there’s nothing to bring me down. But what will I say when I’m held to the flame like I am right now. I know You’re able and I know You can save through the fire with Your mighty hand. But even if You don’t my HOPE is in YOU ALONE.”

I am so thankful that God has been teaching me for many years to KNOW HIM and not just to KNOW ABOUT HIM.

I am so thankful that I believe and can meditate on God’s Words to me, written in the Bible…

  • God immediately brought to mind the words of Psalms 90 and 91, which are deeply ingrained in my heart for many reasons. Many days since November 22 I have just read them over and over again.

The Psalmist was asking God to teach him to consider the number of his days so that he could develop a heart of wisdom about how to live them out. He was also asking for God’s favor upon the work of his hands… Mr. Van worked hard every day with his hands and God did bestow His favor on us, no matter our circumstances.

  • God also directed me back to reading straight through Psalms 16-19. These Psalms will come up in future posts but reading and listening to them one after the other has brought me much comfort in knowing that God’s plan is for my good, even though it might be painful and hard.
  • I also started a “Soul Care” playlist on iTunes and a “Grief and Loss” file in Evernote with songs and readings that I can go back to when I need consolation. Many of you sent me songs that have been such a comfort. Thank you.

BECOME-A Vigilant Heart

Security. Purpose. Character. Strength and Dignity. All important when “Becoming”.

  • God also gave me the idea of writing the list of “The First One Hundred Days” to help me remember that His Presence has been and is with me no matter what, no matter where, no matter when, no matter why, no matter how. He is my only Security.

What happened? Who was involved in my life? What did I learn? What did I deal with? Oh, my, there was plenty to put on this list.

All the lasts. All the firsts. All the unknowns.

  • I said to a close friend recently that I feel like half of “Who” I am is gone, and I’m not sure “Who is” the part of me that’s left.

BUT—I believe and know that God has purpose for my days, or I would not still be present on earth.

I also know that He will refine my character as I grow into this new stage of life to reflect Him and to also be prepared for whatever that purpose looks like.

BELONG-A Creative Life

In Heart2Heart, our Discipleship course for women, we talk about belonging being the places where we love our people. Loving our people includes learning to live well within the roles and relationships that God uniquely plans for each of us.

I am learning how to belong without Mr. Van by my side in the places we have always been together. Our life was intertwined and we loved it. He supported me and I supported him and we did our life together… I am so thankful for that life.

And so I am being stretched to consider how that life is going to look different, especially now after sheltering-in-place by myself for over seven weeks. God gave me a lot of time to ponder on many things, and to begin to take steps in this new direction:

  • When will the house sell? Where will I live?
  • What will I eat? What groceries do I need for one person? Do I feel like cooking?
  • How will I relax enough to sleep well?
  • What are the things in my life that I love that I want to keep as I downsize? Who will want what needs to be sold, given-away, or thrown-away?
  • Whatever am I going to do about my Scrapbooking Room?
  • What will my schedule look like?

This is only the tip of the iceberg… Family. Extended Family. Friendships. Home. All the places we belong and all the places that are turned inside out right now.

BEYOND-A Legacy of Hope

  • Discovering our place to belong takes us beyond ourselves as we love others.
  • Learning to love our people leads us to serving them with excellence.
  • Serving our people leads to our place in the local church, our community, and in our world to help to build God’s Kingdom.
  • Assisting to build God’s Kingdom leads to creating our eternal legacy that will go on in intentional ways even after our life is over.

And every choice we make today leads us toward that legacy, whatever it may look like.

I know that God has asked me to help to build His kingdom by loving on my people—those in my present sphere of influence. And He has also asked me to love on all of you by writing, creating and teaching/sharing what He has been teaching me. More info to come about that…

God directs our steps, one at a time, as we walk the path He has put before us. We can’t see the end, and the journey is often full of fear, and detours and hard times, but also joy and surprises, and delight. He is our Guide, and as we trust Him, He shows us what’s around the next bend.

I miss Mr. Van so much, and yet I know that he is healthy and safe in heaven with Jesus, and with so many of our other loved ones. I also know that I am in daily survival mode, and have not yet begun to slip into any kind of thriving. But God only asks me to be faithful that one step at a time, and He’s walking with me, leading, comforting, and full of love. He has blessed me with family and friends who are loving, patient, and willing to help when needed. Again, I have so much to be thankful for…

I hope and pray that you know God’s Presence with you as well. And if you don’t, but you’re searching for Him and for answers to your hard questions, that you will please find someone to ask for help. He’s waiting for you…

Want to come and join us on this walk that will never end? We’d love to have you.

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That Knock On Our Door…

MY MUSINGS TODAY:

Sadness and Mourning…

These past six weeks have been a time of sadness and mourning for our family as we continue to adjust to the loss of Mr. Van, our dear husband, father, grandfather and soon-to-be great-grandfather.

Many of you have known about this since shortly after Mr. Van walked into heaven on November 22.

I have struggled with how to pick up the blog again after an eight week break, and yet I feel that God is calling me to serve you by sharing what He is doing in my life as I walk this road.

The last time I wrote a blog post was on November 2. In that post I mentioned that Mr. Van had not been feeling well. What a shock it was to find out, three or so weeks later, that he died from a heart attack, a condition he or no one else knew about… God had prepared me that something was wrong, but I had no idea what it might be. We had just begun to seek medical help to see what might be happening.

However, as I have said to many of you, God took him while he was doing the work he loved. He was doing it for his children whom he loved. And he really did not want to retire, and now he does not have to…

So, today, on this fifth day of the New Year, 2020, we pick up the Musings of Mrs. Van.

I am heartbroken and am missing my best friend so much. It was fifty years this past August when he kindly gave me his wood stump to sit on at a Youth Group Corn Roast. A month later he asked me out for a coke. He was seventeen and I was fifteen. Four years later we were married. He was twenty-one and I celebrated my nineteenth birthday on that same day, a day that will be bittersweet from now on…

He was sixty-seven the day he went to heaven and I am sixty-five. We have been married for forty-six years. This means that he has been part of my life every day for the past fifty years. I don’t really know how to do life without him, but I know that God is going to teach me as I “stay in the day” and as I do the next right thing in love.

That Knock on Our Door…

The news came to me through a knock on my front door at 2 PM on November 22, 2019. One of our dear daughters-in-law was sent to tell me that Mr. Van was gone.

Mr. Van was going about his ordinary, every-day life, just doing what he always did… And in the middle of it all, God took him. Wow!! It’s actually quite amazing to think that he was stepping down off the ladder of his scaffolding and suddenly was in heaven with Jesus. Romans 12:1,2 in the Message says,

Romans 12:1.2

He lived a very intentional life, focused on the calling God gave him to be a Carpenter who did his work with excellence. There is proof of that work all around our northern Alberta community, built over the span of forty years.

Come and Join Us…

God has also taught me, over my lifetime, about how important it is to live with intention—and so that brings us back to the purpose of this blog.

  • To help you, if you desire, to learn how to live with more intention, full of joy no matter what, when, why or how.
  • To help you to learn how to live with eternal significance in mind.

God has asked me to vulnerably share my experience with all of you.

So, if you are interested in walking along as I figure out these next steps, and as I keep on applying what God has been teaching me, I’d love to have you join us on the journey.

Thanks for walking with us… A blessed 2020 to you and to your family.

Colleen

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Timely Words

Young Mom. New baby in the house. Two other Preschoolers. Still building a house while living in it. Trying to help out at Children’s Ministry Club. Feeling like it’s hard to keep my head above water…

Ever been there? And then a newer friend and Club co-worker came along who meant well, but her words hurt.

I am reading this awesome new book, and it’s so good. But you wouldn’t want to read it right now because you’re too overwhelmed. It would just discourage you.”

Those were just the words I needed at that time.

I immediately looked into the book and purchased it and read it and it changed my life. The name of the book? Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman by Anne Ortlund.

I fell in love with Anne through that book. She taught me so much. And I read every one of her books that I could find over the next few years.

Why did my life change?

Because I also began to fall in love with God and His Words to me—His written words in the Bible. I learned a theological principle that I have never forgotten.

I CAN KNOW A LOT ABOUT GOD, BUT NOT REALLY KNOW HIM AT ALL.

When David wrote Psalm 16, he began with two verses that talk about Who he believed God is…

Psalm 16:1-2, Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”

JOY APPLIED

A Psalm is a sacred song or poem used in worship; a biblical hymn.

David begins this Psalm with a statement of his relationship to God. As I said in a previous post, he believed that God was his Portion in life and his Deliverer in death, and that God was enough for him.

David shares three different names for God in these two verses. See the meanings below and then read the verses again, thinking of Who God is.

  • He takes refuge in Him as God, the Strong (or Mighty) One.
  • He admits that “apart from Him—LORD, “Jehovah, the great God of Israel, I AM WHO I AM”, he has no good thing.
  • And finally, as Lord, “Adonai, Master”—God is not only the strong, powerful God in whom he can take refuge, but also the One who is able to-and does-order his life and direct what he should do.

So…

I don’t know what place you find yourself today:

  • Perhaps you have never read the Bible.
  • Or you just read God’s Words to you occasionally.
  • Or you read and study those words diligently.

If you are searching for God, or if you would like to know Him even more deeply, I would like to encourage you to develop the habit of reading your Bible. If you don’t own a Bible, but want to know God better, please buy one or ask someone in your life to lend you one.

As you read, watch for the Names of God, or references to Who He is. Underline them and muse about them. A study of the Names of God is a great way to learn to know Him more.

WE CAN LEARN TO CHOOSE JOY LIKE DAVID DID, AS WE CHOOSE TO BELIEVE THAT GOD IS WHO HE SAYS HE IS. HE IS ENOUGH.

WE CAN ALSO LEARN TO CHOOSE JOY AS WE GET TO KNOW GOD MORE AND MORE THROUGHOUT OUR LIFETIME.

God is the true source of Joy.

We will never have the joy we hunger for if we do not grow to KNOW HIM.

My Musings This Week:

*God uses His own words in the Bible and also the words of others (even those that wound us) for good. I want my words to others to help them grow, but not, most of the time, through wounding them.

*I need to re-read all my books by Anne Ortlund. They always inspire and encourage me. She passed away in 2013 and I felt like I lost a friend, even though I had never met her. I often considered writing to her (her address was at the end of each book) to tell her how God had used her in my life.

*This has been a difficult week in some ways.

  • Mr. Van has not been really well.
  • My washing machine decided, in the middle of a load, to stop working. The load had towels and flannelette sheets in it so it was not a joyful experience to wring it all out by hand and let everything basically air dry.
  • I suffer with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The changing seasons always cause some upset and distress so pain…

But–God is good and He is enough, and so I can trust Him to give me what I need for each day.

*I am always, it seems, busy sorting and reorganizing the room that I call my “Personal Office”, aka Scrapbooking Room, Study hall, and Ministry Prep space.

My favorite space to do life is actually my kitchen. It is a cheery space, full of natural light. But this week I have been thinking a lot, in the midst of pain, how often we walk from room to room in our house, and how each room is a place with a purpose. I think I need to really ponder on becoming more intentional in using the space in each room for what its intended purpose really is… More to come on those thoughts…

In the meantime, I am sensing the necessity to transplant myself into that special space in my basement that is set up perfectly for all that God is asking me to do right now. Perhaps freeing up my kitchen will help me to feel more like cooking? There is always hope for that!

Your Musings this Week:

*Do you know God? Not just about Him?

*Are you seeking to know Him more deeply by being immersed in His words to you in the Bible?

*Is there an author who has impacted you as Anne Ortlund impacted me? Share with us in the comments.

Thanks for walking with us…we wish you much joy this week.

Colleen

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Joy In Our Musing

Happy Friday! How has your week gone? Did you find yourself focusing a bit more on what you muse about? Were you able to meditate on Psalm 19:14 where David asked God to let the words of his mouth and the meditation of his heart to become a sacrifice of praise?

Today I would like us to begin to talk about what it means to have JOY in our musings…

I have by no means learned to live very well with JOY and INTENTION at all. I stumble and I fall and I get up again and I take the next step. But—I have seen God direct my path over and over and I know that this is true for many of you as well.

Joy Defined

So what is a good definition of JOY? The dictionary says joy is:

“the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.”

This is maybe not such a good biblical definition of joy…

In her book, Choose Joy, because Happiness Isn’t Enough, Kay Warren writes a more biblical definition,

“Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be all right and the determined choice to praise God in all things.”

JOY is not smiling every minute, never letting anyone know you are sad, being giddy and laughing all the time.

Some of us are more outgoing in personality, and it might appear that those emotions define joy for us, but we all express our emotions differently.

We all enjoy times of happiness, delight, and beauty, but life does also bring us times of sadness, ugliness, hurt and hardship.

Sometimes we struggle with where is God? And how do I handle this? God wants us to choose joy, no matter the state of our circumstances.

So, how do we, as women, learn how to choose the JOY that comes from trusting God no matter what life brings to us or to those we love?

About the time God began to challenge me with the possibility that it was time to step down from Children’s Ministry, He also brought Psalm 16 across my radar. David also wrote this prayer, just as he did Psalm 19, acknowledging his faith and trust in God. I was familiar with the end of this Psalm, but had never really looked at the whole chapter…let’s read it together…

Joy Described-PSALM 16, ESV

“Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good thing apart from you.” As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight. The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips.

The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. I bless the LORD, who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your Holy One see corruption.

You have made known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

God had taught David to know Him intimately. This became the most important relationship in David’s life.

David came to believe that God was enough for him. David learned to choose joy.

We can learn to choose joy like David did, as we choose to believe that God is who He says He is. He is enough.

Is God enough for you?

One of the worship songs we often sing is Blessed Be Your Name—”You give and take away. My heart will choose to say. Lord, blessed be Your Name…”

David viewed God as his Portion in life and his Deliverer in death.

Is God enough for you?

My MUSINGS this week…

  • I have the privilege of serving on our Women’s Ministry Team as the Coordinator of Heart2Heart, Becoming a Woman of Strength and Dignity.
    • Heart2Heart is a place for women of all ages to deepen their walk with God as they discover more of Who He is, and who they are in Him.
    • We learn together about how deep belief in God provides the foundation of intentional growth in every area of life, whether in our home, our workplace, our church family and in our world.
    • God has given me a passion to see women—YOU—following Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. This has given me much to ponder… Will share more about this later.
  • Our Federal Election is now over.
    • My belief in God gives me hope as I choose to continue to live out my faith from day to day in a way that will make God’s Name famous.
    • We have much to consider and to pray about as we watch history unfold before our eyes. God is enough.

Your MUSINGS this week…

  • May I ask you, this week, to consider whether you really believe that God is Who He says He is, and whether  God is ENOUGH…no matter what, when, where, why, or how life is today, this week, this year?
  • Did you have a special moment this week that you’re especially thankful for today? Share it with us…

Continue your journey in joy…thanks for walking with us.

Love you, Colleen

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2-Why Mrs Vans Musings?

I recently joined a group called Hope*Writers. One of the statements in their manifesto says,

“We build benches, not platforms.”

Hope*writers Manifesto

I love this and so many other things about this writing site.

To “build a bench” is to invite others to come and sit awhile:

  • So that we can get to know each other better.
  • So we can hear each other’s thoughts about what is important to us.
  • So we can share words of hope and encouragement.
  • So each of us can then turn and pass on that hope and encouragement to someone else.

Thoughts. Words. Actions. All so important.

Why MRS VAN?

I had a really hard time deciding what to call this blog. Should I continue to call it “Mrs Van” or should I call it by my full name, Colleen van Nieuwkerk?

Both names apply to me and have for a long time.

My full name is Lola Colleen van Nieuwkerk. “Lola” is my paternal Grandmother’s name. She was “Lola Mae” with roots in Missouri, USA. I always loved being called after her. She passed away several years ago, and I still miss her and her prayer support so much. Sometimes you may see my name as “Lola” even though I have usually gone by “Colleen.” Anything government-related can become tricky when you are called by your second name.

My life as Mrs. Van began in the late 1990’s. I was serving at our summer camp and was asked what my camp name would be. The answer, “Mrs. Van” was my instant response and so began an easy solution to helping all the kids in my “Director of Children’s Ministry” life know what to call me. My husband became known as Mr. Van. We have loved being Mr. and Mrs. Van. Today, even 22 years later, many of the dear folks in our church still call us by those names. And those kids in our ministry, many of whom are now grown up and have children of their own, also still call us Mr. and Mrs. Van.

Part of my struggle in what to name the blog was “Do I need to give up the “Mrs. Van” identity after all these years?” I probably went back and forth about the name over twenty times until one morning last week. I was dreaming about the blog as I woke up and my first thought was “No, I don’t need to give that identity up.” God gave me peace about the decision.

God has kept us in the same church family for almost forty years and we have been so privileged to learn to know and love Him, and to love and serve our people here. For some reason, He didn’t ask us to move on, as ministry staff often do, as their time of ministry ends. He has, instead, allowed me to continue to serve but to carry a lightened load as I grow older. This is amazing to me!

As I consider passing on hope and encouragement to you:

  • I want to walk with you.
  • I want to sit on the bench with you, and visit one-on-one, and
  • I want to also reach out, with you, to others.

And so, again, welcome to Mrs Vans Musings.

Why Mrs Vans MUSINGS?

Anyone who knows me well would say that the meaning of the word “musing” would describe my personality accurately…

Merriam’s Webster Online Dictionary defines the word “musing” as thoughtfully abstracted, MEDITATIVE.

Other synonyms for “musing” include melancholy, contemplative, pensive, and reflective. The dictionary also includes absentminded but I’m not liking that one very much.

Antonyms given are featherbrained, flighty, flippant, frivolous, goofy, harebrained, light-headed, scatterbrained; brainless, mindless, silly, thoughtless, and unthinking. None of those words describe me ever—at least not in my opinion…

My husband would say that I sometimes overthink situations, but also that I often discern truth about those same scenarios.

  • I am definitely not the “life of the party” person, but I do enjoy other people’s kind humor.
  • I am definitely philosophical and analytical.
  • I also enjoy thinking deeply about God and His story…and how I fit into it.

To live life with intention is to muse, to become absorbed in thought and to think about something carefully and thoroughly.

And so, again, welcome to Mrs Vans Musings.

God’s Meaning Of MUSING

God gave the Psalmist, David, in Psalm 19 in the Bible, some words to share that also pertain to musing. Psalm 19:14 says,

I chose this verse to be my Life Verse when I was thirteen years old…

The words, “Be acceptable,” request in this song (psalm) that my “musings”, my words and my thoughts, would be an act of worship before God, like a sacrifice.

MY MUSINGS THIS WEEK…

What have I been musing about this week—what has been my act of worship and sacrifice?

*Family Joy–

  • Mr. Van and I are parents to three sons who are all married with families. We are grandparents to ten grandchildren. Our anticipated Grandchild #11 will arrive in January/20.
  • Thanksgiving weekend was a time of celebration as it was announced publicly that our oldest grandchild and his wife are expecting our first great-grandchild in May/20!
  • This news means that we will have four generations in our personal family. It also means that we will have two babies to love at the same time:) And it also promotes my almost 87 year old Dad to a fifth generation as a Great-Great-Grandpa!

*This next week will be our Federal Government election in Canada.

  • I feel privileged to live in a country where we still have freedom to live openly the life that God has called us to live. However, many things have changed in our culture in the past four years and so we are praying that God will keep our land glorious and free.

*The rhythms of life as I contemplate doing the next right thing over and over every day, and choosing what counts for eternity.

YOUR MUSINGS THIS WEEK…

So, as we together consider entering into this journey with joy and intention, please let me ask you…

  • Are the words of your mouth and the meditation of your heart an act of worship before God?
  • Will you begin or continue to “muse” about what God might be saying to you regarding your thoughts and words?
  • Will you share in the comments one way you plan to “muse” well in order to encourage the rest of us?

Thanks for walking with us in this place of Joy and Intention. And so, again, welcome to Mrs Vans Musings.

Love you, Colleen

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1-Endings and New Beginnings…

Endings…

Where were you nine years ago? What was going on in your life? Does that time have any special significance to where you are today? We all have events in our life that are marked by the day they happened…either with good or hard or sad memories.

Nine years ago I retired from full-time church ministry—a good time in so many ways, and so affirming, but also so hard when considering leaving a ministry I had the privilege to build up over a time period of fourteen years.

I am so thankful for leadership who recognized my gifts and abilities and gave me:

  • Courage to take a risk and step into the unknown.
  • Freedom to soar in creative ways beyond what I could ever have asked God for, or imagined Him allowing for me.
  • Involvement with volunteers who were available to grow and deepen their walk with God as they developed skills and leadership ability. Some of them are now leading in that same ministry today.

And, oh, so much more…

My husband and I have lived in northern Canada since March of 1979…forty years. When we came to this city, I was a young Mom who was tired, disconnected from friendship, and longing to know God more. I am sure that there are many of you who might also identify with similar challenges…perhaps you just:

  • Moved to a new place
  • Decided to begin to attend church or changed churches
  • Got married or had your first child
  • Sent your first child to school or to college
  • Hit empty-nest
  • Lost your husband
  • Began caring for aging parents.
  • Perhaps you are an aging parent…
  • Perhaps you are suffering with a debilitating illness or know someone close to you who is…

Joy and sorrow seem to reside side by side in our lives.

Over ten years ago this past February, Mr. Van and I made the huge decision that I was going to retire from full-time ministry at our church. At that time, I had been on Staff for twenty-two years, twelve years of which I served in the office, and then, with a bit of overlap, fourteen years as the Director of Children’s Ministry. My official retirement happened in June of 2010, about sixteen months later. Our church was in a building program and so a good transition period in between was necessary.

I became a full-time homemaker again…much to my husband’s delight. More homemade meals, clean laundry actually put away, and my presence with a smile, most of the time, greeting him as he came through the door at night. However, tears were also a regular part of my day.

Grief is a natural part of change, no matter what that change is…

Right after I retired, a dear friend came bearing gifts. She knows me really well, and what she brought for me was a bunch of JOY—Bible Verses in this JOY container; a special cup (in which I have often enjoyed my morning coffee), and a magnet for my fridge with this verse,

Her words to me were: “I just want you to ENJOY this time of your life…” Whew!! I really wasn’t enjoying life very much at all at that time. Change was hard!

New Beginnings…

Then, in the spring of 2011, I was asked by our Church Leadership to become the Volunteer Director of Women’s Ministries where I served until December 2012. After almost twenty-six years, I handed in my church keys. That was a much harder thing to do than I had anticipated…and the tears continued to flow.

A few months into my time directing Women’s Ministry, I suffered a heart attack. No one knows for sure what caused it, but certain meds were removed from my regime, and needless to say, times of physical and emotional weakness were again added to my tears.

Whatever our age or stage of life, whatever our circumstances, change and transition are always there to deal with…

We are all on a journey, our spiritual pilgrimage.

On the timeline of history, we are just one little blip, living in this particular period of time, but with the opportunity to impact history forever.

  • Many of us have already chosen to believe and follow God.
  • Some of us are a ways down that road.
  • Others have just begun, or perhaps you are still considering whether to take that first step towards Him.

Joy in that journey…is it easy? Not at all. Worthwhile? Every moment.

Nine years seems like a long time, and yet it has flown by…how thankful I am for God’s presence in my life and His strength to face each day.

How about you? Do you have an experience that happened nine years ago that caused you to draw near or closer to God? If you have freedom to share, please do so in the comments below.

Mrs Vans Musings and more…

Mrs Vans Musings is all about considering the intentional life, pondering on how important it is to walk our life path alongside joy and sorrow, no matter what, no matter when, no matter why or how. And yet, the hard question is “How does that really translate into a real, beautiful, hard, sometimes ugly life?” More about that next time…

I am looking forward to walking with you as we ponder all of this together.

We would love to have you join us on this journey. If you would like to receive Mrs Vans Musings in your inbox, click on the Email Request button below.

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