The LORD is My Pace Setter

Happy Friday morning, friends!

MY MUSINGS TODAY:

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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Have a great week!

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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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Reframing Wisely…

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.

Our Core

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:

Our Perspective

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.
  • PRACTICETo 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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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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