“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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