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!
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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.
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:
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.
PRACTICE–To 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…
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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 songand 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.
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.
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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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.
2-The First 100 Days—An Amazing Ending; A New Beginning
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…
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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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,
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.
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