“To Cry For You…”

Happy first day of Spring 2022…

MEMORIES OF THE PANDEMIC

Two years ago today, in March 2020, our family chose to go into isolation as the beginning of the effects of the pandemic became better known. We spent the evening on March 18/20 together in memory of Mr. Van’s birthday. He would have been 68 and this was about seventeen weeks after he passed away.

I had no idea at that time that I would spend the next six weeks in my house alone. Our dear kids would bring me groceries and meds and take care of any other needs but I would not see everyone together again until May. I missed being in person for the next two months of our youngest grandson’s life and didn’t even meet our first little great-grandson until he was about four weeks old.

MEMORIES OF PAST BIRTHDAYS

All these memories led to some hard days this past week.

  • We lost our first cousin to cancer—she was 65.
  • I am working at completing the final closure for our business—it seems there are just so many details and steps that it often becomes overwhelming.

And then this past Friday would have been Mr. Van’s 70th birthday…

  • We usually make a “fuss” over birthdays in our family as we treasure every day we have with those we love. Every memory in my Facebook feed that morning was full of Mr. Van’s birthdays in recent years. I am so thankful we celebrated him over and over and have photos to prove it.

MEMORIES OF COMFORT IN GRIEF AND LOSS

The song that came to my mind that morning was “To Cry For You” by Carolyn Arends.

  • It is my honour to cry for him…
  • It is my honour to cry out to my Audience of One for everything I need to do life without him.
  • Psalm 27:4,5, ESV, “One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple. For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.”

“I guess grief is the work that love must do. So it is my honour to cry for you…”

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Empty, Quiet Places

I am finding that this Christmas is gently forcing me to face even more reality about the quiet spaces Mr. Van left behind…

Writing these words to a new friend and neighbor who is away right now, I also shared that I am learning that “to love deeply is to grieve deeply, only by God’s grace, sometimes one minute at a time. Life is more settled for sure but these bumpy times are hard.”

As I walk into this Christmas week of 2021, there are some special memories attached to almost every day.
🎄December 22–Twenty-five months since Mr. Van left us.
I don’t plan to keep counting the months into 2022, just as I have not counted the weeks for 2021. But last Friday morning I woke up weeping, and realized, when I figured it out, that it was 108 Fridays since his death. The fine tension between how to walk forward into the future while living in the present, and yet not lingering forever in the past is really difficult.

🎄December 23–The forty-ninth anniversary of our engagement.
I spent some time over this past weekend watching Season 14 of Heartland. I easily identify with the story line and have found a lot of it helpful, even though it’s sad. I watched the whole series AGAIN over these past few weeks—and yesterday I finished off Season 14 and the season finale of Season 15. I was moving photos (I would never tell you how many) off my iPad into safe storage while I was watching TV, shedding tears over the photos and memories attached, as well as over the sadness and moving forward of the TV story.
Life and death. Joy and sorrow. Looking back and moving forward. Whew!! I was having my own flashblacks into those quiet spaces that mean so much as I was watching Amy do the same on Heartland.

🎄December 24–So many Christmas Eve’s spent together: dating, early married years, making Christmas fun and special for the kids amid the chaos of deadlines and extended family times and having a clean house and all the baking done. We often did our Christmas ahead of time, and then headed down south to spend the actual holiday week with both our extended families.
Then our kids grew up, and so began the years of hosting all of them and their families sometime during December (making it work with all our lives)!
Mr. Van usually worked until Christmas Eve noon for sure but then would take at least one week off and sometimes even two. So many treasured memories over those times.

🎄December 25–(Or whatever day in December we made Christmas Day)—Family Brunch. Mr. Van reading the Christmas story for us all and praying over us before we opened gifts. Christmas dinner, sometimes with extended family or with others who didn’t have family close by. And now we have begun working our day of Celebration around the married grandchildren and little great-grandson.

🎄December 26–Usually a quiet day of reminiscing and recuperating after good family time. Sometimes we would head down south to see our parents and stay until New Year’s Day. A stop in Edmonton was often included in the middle of driving 900 km in mid-winter. We chose to make the journey itself part of the “get-away” and I will be thankful for those times forever.

How grateful I am that God taught me many years ago about living “thankful” in the moments, whether good or not, day by day. I certainly have not always obeyed this command well, or projected a thankful heart as I should have, but God has been faithful to show me when I needed a “heart-check” and then to lead me back to Himself.

Life is full of the good and the hard and the happy and the sad. We all get to choose how we handle it. We all fail. We all need God’s grace to pick ourselves up. Say we’re sorry. Take the next step.

How is your heart doing on this 24th day of December, 2021?
I think Mary showed us the way to guard our hearts when she said to the angel in Luke 1:38, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

Happy Christmas, friends!!
Blessings to you and your family!!

❤️ Colleen

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A Gentle Unfolding

My Musings Today

Yesterday was the day that marked twenty-three months since Mr. Van left us to enter heaven.

I mentioned in my last post, The LORD is My Pacesetter, that it has been a tough few weeks as a fresh wave of deeper grief arrived to visit again. There are a few reasons why but my take-away is that God is still kind and so faithful to see my tears, to hear my cries to Him, and to carry me through each hard day.

I don’t share this with you because I am full of self-pity or martyrdom.

I do share this to say that if you, too, are in a season of grief for any reason (and there are many reasons right now to be grieving) our God is waiting for all of us to just turn to Him and tell Him all about it.

This week a sweet memory came up on Facebook of Mr. Van in “Bob, the Bobcat” (we tend to name our equipment in our family) and Grandson #6 who was about twenty-one months at the time. He is now nine years old. Grandpa was giving him a ride because he was so enthralled with “Bob”. Part of the sweetness was in the fact that Mr. Van’s voice was recorded in the video. Here they are in the back yard “working”.

Those Facebook memories can do me in…

I think that one of the hardest parts of grieving the loss of someone dear to us is the processing of how to go on living life when they are absent. I cannot argue with God about His whisking Mr. Van away all those months ago. And…

  • I do believe that our days are numbered and his were up. He was not well even though God chose not to let us know about that ahead of time. Psalm 90:12 tells us that we are to ask God to teach us to number our days so that we can gain a heart of wisdom.
  • I do believe that God knows “who” and “what” I need to live out the days He still has planned for me. This concept has been a hard place to come to as I have processed how to live well without my husband and best friend. 2 Peter 1:3 says that God’s divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our calling to know Him, not just about Him. This applies to every life situation, every life stage.
  • I do believe that I have a lot of processing to do re what my future could look like. Working through all of this is difficult. Mr. Van and I lived together through forty-six years of marriage and our desire was, as it says in Acts 17:24-28, to find the places where we belong that God has created and prepared for us to live and move and have our being. His place is now in heaven! Mine is still here on earth.

As I have now been considering all of this for a few months, God has brought some direction and clarity. He has used several encouraging ways to bring me back full circle “to stay in the day” and “to just do the next right thing”, but also to be able to take a deep breath and begin to look ahead.

MY ONE WORD

For the past several years God has been showing me where I need to focus for the next while by pointing out a word or a phrase repeatedly that seems to direct to the next right thing. This word might show up in my Bible or book reading. It could be sung over and over in a song. Or it could come out of a sermon, a blog post, or a podcast I heard.

I am going to share my “One-Word Journey” with you in some future posts, but today I want to give you a glimpse into this year’s word which is “Unfolding.”

I have been asking God to continue to gently unfold my moments and my days one at a time.” He has been faithful to do that for me by:

  • Giving me Scripture to memorize and cling to–

Psalm 119:130, The unfolding of Your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.

Proverbs 31:25,26, Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the days to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

2 Chronicles 20:12b, We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You.

  • Giving me a song by Steven Curtis Chapman called “Glorious Unfolding”.

Just listen to what I’m whispering to your heart ‘cause I know this is not anything like you thought the story of your life was gonna be… There’s so much of the story that’s still yet to unfold…”

  • Giving me courage to practice “surrender and trust” as He unfolds each day, teaching me again to begin to laugh at the days to come.

To live a life of widowhood with excellence.

To begin to thrive instead of just survive.

To continue to prepare for Phase 2 of my eternal life (more about that to come as well).

These past few weeks have shown me again that I must choose to let God direct my steps into each day as there are still many difficult ones. Everyone grieves at their own pace and that is as it should be.

Your Musings Today

There seems to be a lot of grief, sadness, and pain surrounding us all at this time.

As I mentioned above, you may be someone who is struggling in a season of grief for many reasons.

May I invite you:

  • To consider who or what is your source of comfort? As you consider your faith and God as your Audience of One, please know that He loves you, He waits for you to come to Him to supply all your needs, and He longs to give you that comfort and direction to cope with all that life offers you right now.
  • To check out @mollclarissa on Instagram if you are in a season of losing someone close to you. She is a wise woman who has such good insight into grief and loss.
  • To ask God for a One Word or phrase to help you to focus more clearly on your next steps. No matter what age or stage of life we are encountering presently, He has wisdom and direction for us in our own unique journey.

Again, be encouraged as you ponder:

  • On next 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!

Love to you today,

Colleen

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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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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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