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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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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