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!

You can sign up to receive encouragement in that walk at Mrs Vans Musings. To receive current updates in your inbox, just click on the Email Request button below. We promise to honor your privacy.

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…

Want to come and join us? We’d love to have you. You can sign up to receive Mrs Vans Musings in your inbox. Just click on the Email Request button below. We promise to honor your privacy.

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When the Music Stops…

My Musings Today:

I have been on the shelf. Again.

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 song and 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.

BUT…

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.

SO…

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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Why Mrs Vans Musings?

I recently joined a group called Hope*Writers. One of the statements in their manifesto says,

“We build benches, not platforms.”

Hope*writers Manifesto

I love this and so many other things about this writing site.

To “build a bench” is to invite others to come and sit awhile:

  • So that we can get to know each other better.
  • So we can hear each other’s thoughts about what is important to us.
  • So we can share words of hope and encouragement.
  • So each of us can then turn and pass on that hope and encouragement to someone else.

Thoughts. Words. Actions. All so important.

Why MRS VAN?

I had a really hard time deciding what to call this blog. Should I continue to call it “Mrs Van” or should I call it by my full name, Colleen van Nieuwkerk?

Both names apply to me and have for a long time.

My full name is Lola Colleen van Nieuwkerk. “Lola” is my paternal Grandmother’s name. She was “Lola Mae” with roots in Missouri, USA. I always loved being called after her. She passed away several years ago, and I still miss her and her prayer support so much. Sometimes you may see my name as “Lola” even though I have usually gone by “Colleen.” Anything government-related can become tricky when you are called by your second name.

My life as Mrs. Van began in the late 1990’s. I was serving at our summer camp and was asked what my camp name would be. The answer, “Mrs. Van” was my instant response and so began an easy solution to helping all the kids in my “Director of Children’s Ministry” life know what to call me. My husband became known as Mr. Van. We have loved being Mr. and Mrs. Van. Today, even 22 years later, many of the dear folks in our church still call us by those names. And those kids in our ministry, many of whom are now grown up and have children of their own, also still call us Mr. and Mrs. Van.

Part of my struggle in what to name the blog was “Do I need to give up the “Mrs. Van” identity after all these years?” I probably went back and forth about the name over twenty times until one morning last week. I was dreaming about the blog as I woke up and my first thought was “No, I don’t need to give that identity up.” God gave me peace about the decision.

God has kept us in the same church family for almost forty years and we have been so privileged to learn to know and love Him, and to love and serve our people here. For some reason, He didn’t ask us to move on, as ministry staff often do, as their time of ministry ends. He has, instead, allowed me to continue to serve but to carry a lightened load as I grow older. This is amazing to me!

As I consider passing on hope and encouragement to you:

  • I want to walk with you.
  • I want to sit on the bench with you, and visit one-on-one, and
  • I want to also reach out, with you, to others.

And so, again, welcome to Mrs Vans Musings.

Why Mrs Vans MUSINGS?

Anyone who knows me well would say that the meaning of the word “musing” would describe my personality accurately…

Merriam’s Webster Online Dictionary defines the word “musing” as thoughtfully abstracted, MEDITATIVE.

Other synonyms for “musing” include melancholy, contemplative, pensive, and reflective. The dictionary also includes absentminded but I’m not liking that one very much.

Antonyms given are featherbrained, flighty, flippant, frivolous, goofy, harebrained, light-headed, scatterbrained; brainless, mindless, silly, thoughtless, and unthinking. None of those words describe me ever—at least not in my opinion…

My husband would say that I sometimes overthink situations, but also that I often discern truth about those same scenarios.

  • I am definitely not the “life of the party” person, but I do enjoy other people’s kind humor.
  • I am definitely philosophical and analytical.
  • I also enjoy thinking deeply about God and His story…and how I fit into it.

To live life with intention is to muse, to become absorbed in thought and to think about something carefully and thoroughly.

And so, again, welcome to Mrs Vans Musings.

God’s Meaning Of MUSING

God gave the Psalmist, David, in Psalm 19 in the Bible, some words to share that also pertain to musing. Psalm 19:14 says,

I chose this verse to be my Life Verse when I was thirteen years old…

The words, “Be acceptable,” request in this song (psalm) that my “musings”, my words and my thoughts, would be an act of worship before God, like a sacrifice.

MY MUSINGS THIS WEEK…

What have I been musing about this week—what has been my act of worship and sacrifice?

*Family Joy–

  • Mr. Van and I are parents to three sons who are all married with families. We are grandparents to ten grandchildren. Our anticipated Grandchild #11 will arrive in January/20.
  • Thanksgiving weekend was a time of celebration as it was announced publicly that our oldest grandchild and his wife are expecting our first great-grandchild in May/20!
  • This news means that we will have four generations in our personal family. It also means that we will have two babies to love at the same time:) And it also promotes my almost 87 year old Dad to a fifth generation as a Great-Great-Grandpa!

*This next week will be our Federal Government election in Canada.

  • I feel privileged to live in a country where we still have freedom to live openly the life that God has called us to live. However, many things have changed in our culture in the past four years and so we are praying that God will keep our land glorious and free.

*The rhythms of life as I contemplate doing the next right thing over and over every day, and choosing what counts for eternity.

YOUR MUSINGS THIS WEEK…

So, as we together consider entering into this journey with joy and intention, please let me ask you…

  • Are the words of your mouth and the meditation of your heart an act of worship before God?
  • Will you begin or continue to “muse” about what God might be saying to you regarding your thoughts and words?
  • Will you share in the comments one way you plan to “muse” well in order to encourage the rest of us?

Thanks for walking with us in this place of Joy and Intention. And so, again, welcome to Mrs Vans Musings.

Love you, Colleen

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