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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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 be full of joy no matter what, no matter when, no matter why or how. And yet, 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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