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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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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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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