Yesterday was Remembrance Day, the day we take time to honor those who have defended, and who do defend, our democratic freedom as a country.
Today I say thank you to each person, man or woman, who has responded to the call to do the hard things required.
I’d like to share with you some of the meaning of what those past days have meant for our family.
Mr. Van is of Dutch heritage, Canadian, born in Canada. His parents were both Dutch, born in Holland.
Dad and Mom van Nieuwkerk emigrated from Holland to Canada following World War Two. They experienced a lot of the horror of the war, as did many others, and they were thankful for an opportunity to begin a new life in a new land. They came to Canada to join some of their family who were already living here. Their journey to Canada and the early years of their Canadian life involved many difficult times, but they worked hard, learned English when Mr. Van began Grade One, and created a good life for their family.
Mr. Van’s grandparents also immigrated later. They were over fifty years of age. What a challenge that must have been to learn a new language and to adapt to a new culture in mid-life…
I am also Canadian, born in Canada. My family heritage is a mixture of different cultures. My ancestors emigrated to North America in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.
Both my maternal (World War One) and my paternal (World War Two) grandfathers served overseas. They had the privilege of aiding in the fight for democracy in two different wars which led to the freedom that Mr. Van’s family was privileged to experience.
As I was growing up, I remember many Remembrance Day services at school. My earliest memories begin around age nine in Grade Four.
Standing for that minute of silence to pay respect to those who had served and the many who had given up their lives in order to provide our freedom stirred up in me a life-long interest in discovering the strength of character one must have to either give up one’s life for another, or to receive what costs another person so much.
Corrie Ten Boom was a well-known Dutch woman who was a Christian. She was involved in Holland in rescuing many Jewish people in her community who had to flee for safety. She quoted,
“If God sends us on strong paths, we are provided strong shoes.”
Corrie Ten Boom
I believe that God did provide strong shoes for my grandfathers as they travelled on a ship, leaving their homeland to travel to where they had never been to join in the fight for people they didn’t know, never knowing that they were assisting to provide freedom for my in-laws who would need very strong shoes to get on a ship, leaving their homeland to travel to where they also had never been, to face a new life they had never expected to live.
God keep our land, glorious and free. O Canada, we stand on guard for thee…
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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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