Well Done My Dear Ruth

Once in a lifetime, does someone get to befriend a person as delightful as Ruth Van Heukelom. My dear “Mom Ruth” was not only a best friend, but a prayer warrior, a spiritual mentor, a confidant, and a mother figure to me.

One day, as she hugged me, she said, “You’re a good daughter.” It struck me in that tender spot. The tears flowed. I secretly considered myself to be her sixth child. Anyone would be honored to be a daughter or son of this kind of woman. We joked about how I would fit right in after Ruth’s five children, as the youngest child. I don’t want to sound presumptuous, because Ruth made everyone feel like they were special. I wasn’t the only one. After meeting Ruth, you felt like she loved you and was interested in you. People loved her the minute they met her, and love flowed out of her.

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I’ve always known about Ruth and her husband Norm. Before I was born, Norm was the minister at my parent’s church. My mom spoke occasionally about the VanHeukeloms in her diaries. After six years in Hamilton, Michigan, they moved on to their next church. Many years later, after five other church assignments, they returned to our Hamilton church.

This time, Norm took on a smaller role, as the visitation pastor. Now, all of Ruth and Norm’s five children were out of the house. They moved back with just the two of them. My husband and I attended the Hamilton Church, were raising our own young family, I was teaching, and life was extremely busy. We knew Pastor Norm and Ruth but didn’t run in the same circles.

After a few years, Pastor Norm had a sudden stroke and died, in 1999. My husband and I moved to a new church around 2002. Ruth remained part of the Hamilton church and drove in each Sunday from Holland for services. She was a determined widow who refused to let loneliness overtake her, remained active and had many friends.

Many years later, I began to attend Bible Study Fellowship in Holland. I spotted Ruth there and we would occasionally exchange pleasantries. It didn’t go any further at that time and several more years went by.

God led my thoughts back to Ruth, after a missed opportunity to get to know another godly woman in our new church. I resolved not to miss Ruth too. Her lifetime of faith intrigued me. Yes, she was getting old, but I knew she had a keen mind and a blessed spirit. I befriended her on Facebook. Yes, a woman in her late eighties was active on Facebook. I called her to ask if we could meet to talk. Soon, her side of the story came out. Ruth prayed for the last few years, for God to give her a younger friend, in light of the fact that many of her friends were dying of old age.

One day as we sat in her living room, I described attending seminars by a Christian ministry, P.R.M.I., which are called Dunamis. We discovered that Norm knew the founder of this particular organization 30 years prior, and Ruth and Norm donated to his ministry. She received the pamphlets frequently in the mail, and one was sitting right on her counter. Ruth was very interested and even expressed desire to go along with me to the next one, which was held in our city of Holland. She always wanted to go and now she had the chance. Ruth taught countless Bible studies, led women’s groups and lived and breathed the Bible all her life but still had a hunger for learning. Especially anything about God.

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We attended the conference every six months for a few years. I think she made it to five of them, plus a couple additional meetings at the local prayer house. Although she really wanted to go, I was afraid it was too tiring for her, and offered to take her home several times a day, but she always wanted to stay until evening. Everyone there fell in love with Ruth and she with them. People tried to sit by her at meals, catch her at breaks, and tuned their ears to hear her wise comments in small groups.

Often, someone would ask, “Is this your mom?” I would answer, “Yup!” I laughed and confessed, “I wish, but I adopted her as my mom!” Ruth would smile, producing her signature giggle.

Entering the dining hall of one of the conferences, when I returned from an appointment, I heard laughter. There were six people all around her at the table, talking up a storm. Ruth was right in the thick of all of it. One day, we had a chance to rotate to different people in the room to pray with them. A college youth group attended that day. Those kids deliberately jockeyed for position to pray and talk with her.

Ruth called, sent emails and prayed for me. She and I learned we had much in common. We were both elementary teachers, and loved to read and write. She always asked about my writing projects and prayed for them. I’d lend her books or she told me what she read from her church library. Ruth was in the process of writing a book about her life for her family. I asked if she wanted to do an audio Life Review. I did them for hospice and knew her family would love to have her voice preserved. We giggled as her grandfather clock chimed several times, the phone rang, and she rapped her fingernails on the table as she reminisced about her family, her life, and churches they served.

She understood when I had spiritual questions or health concerns. When I went off on a rant about something she listened. I trusted Ruth and could tell her my private thoughts. I never heard her speak any gossip to me or anyone else, so I knew she wouldn’t tell others about me. On a typical visit, birds chirped outside, as we sat in her living room in front of the sliding doors. I tried to stay only one hour, but multiple hours usually passed. Sometimes we hung out in her office, where I helped her with a minor computer or Facebook issue. Many times, we would pray together before I went home.

One sunny, warm day sticks out in my mind. I took her to Captain Sundae and we had an ice cream flurry. Then we sat in the car at the Holland State Park and talked. I wish I could repeat that pleasant day over many times!

Ruth had her habits and routines. When she was getting out of my car at the doctor’s office, she commented that she was so slow. I would be happy to wait twice as long for my dear Ruth. She made a little “hum, hum, hum,” as she walked around her house. I wondered what song she was humming. When I went home, I’d encourage her to go up her garage steps before I left because I was afraid she might fall. She said, “I’ve lived alone for eighteen years.” Watching her lean on that rickety old lawn chair she insisted on using, frightened me. Ruth waved goodbye from the top step as I enthusiastically returned the wave.

I miss our talks. I miss her giggle. I miss her hugs. I miss spending time with her. Ruth’s death leaves a great void for me. I am saddened to tears that I won’t sit and talk with her in her condo again. No longer can I email or call her, or set up another visit. I loved her like a mom, and she loved me like a daughter.

She loved well. She lived well. She finished well.

Ruth had a close connection to the Lord her entire life, but she had three times in the last year, when He spoke distinctly to her.

The first was when she had an ambulance ride to the hospital after passing out in her home. As she came back into consciousness on the way to the hospital, she thought, “Oh, this wouldn’t be such a bad way to die, I could go quickly without pain and sickness.”

God answered her and said, “Your room isn’t ready yet.”

She was very ill again about a year later.

She thought, “Oh, maybe this will be it.”

A second time, the Lord spoke and said, “Ruth, you are not in control. I am in control.”

In Ruth’s last months of life, she moved many times, from her condo, to the hospital, then to a nursing facility for rehabilitation, and assisted living. She repeated that circuit many times. She tried to remain upbeat, but her body was giving out.

Finally, she got too weak to sit up or eat. Daughters rubbed her legs and sang, sons kept vigil all night. She laid down her last five days, and the progression towards death was certain. Family members came to visit one more time, even the grandchildren carrying great-grandchildren. But their dearly-loved “Pokey” or “Pookie” or “Precious” could no longer smile or reach out to embrace them.

The third time Ruth had a special encounter with her Lord was a couple days before her death. She told family she saw Jesus’ feet. Then a day or so later, she told her daughter, “Jesus said, ‘I’ll see you soon.’”

Friends who loved her slipped in and out of the shadows to touch a hand or stroke a strand of hair. Her ninety years were full. She was ready to go. Hymns were sung, Bible passages were read, permission was tearfully granted to go to heaven.

On a rainy November noon, Ruth drifted out on a slow and peaceful breath, to her new room in heaven. Ruth saw her precious Savior, face to face as she walked on the streets of gold.

The Master said, “Well done, good and faithful servant! Welcome home!”

***

John 14:2 – “There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.”

 

2 Timothy 4:6-8 – “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

 

Matthew 25:21 – “The master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’”

 

Enjoy this song, “Well Done,” by the Afters.

 

Posted in Death, faith, faithful members of our community, Grief and loss, heaven, Memories, P.R.M.I., Ruth Van Heukelom | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

You Say

What do you say when someone asks who you are? Things that pop into my head when that question is asked, are, “I’m a mom. I’m a wife. I’m a former elementary school teacher, aunt, sister, writer, friend, daughter-in-law, cousin…”

 

Each of us could produce a list of labels proclaiming who we are. On a deeper level, do you know who you are? If you’re a Christian, you can say you are the Lord’s precious child. He gives His people many special names in the Bible.

 

Sometimes the Evil One whispers lies to us with names he wants us to believe about ourselves. He constantly tries to tell us we are worthless and inadequate. When that happens, capture the thoughts and think about what the LORD God says.

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Here’s what God says:

 

I am adequate.

“Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.” 2 Corinthians 3:5 NIV

 

I am protected.  

“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. Psalm 91:4 NIV

 

I am loved.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” John 15:9 NIV

 

I am strong.

“The salvation of the righteous comes from the LORD; he is their stronghold in time of trouble.” Psalm 37:39 NIV

 

I belong to God.

“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” Romans 8:16 NIV

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I have worth.

“Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.” Psalm 17:8 NIV

 

I am God’s child.

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:12 NIV

 

I believe I’m loved.

“The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying, ‘“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”’ Jeremiah 31:3 NIV

 

These comforting passages in the Bible remind us of our identity in Christ. A song which beautifully portrays this is, “You Say,” by Lauren Daigle. Press on the link and enjoy it. Remember who you are!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIaT8Jl2zpI

 

*This post was inspired by the Five Minute Friday word prompt, WHO. You can visit the site to see what other people posted here:

http://fiveminutefriday.com/2018/10/18/fmf-link-up-who-day-19/

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I Will Uphold You

As I drove to the marina one day, I slowed down for a four-way stop behind one other car. Movement on my right side caught my eye. A man and a little girl on bikes, approached the corner on the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street from me, which I assumed was a father and daughter. The girl’s bike was decorated with pink handlebar streamers and basket, which matched the various pink articles of clothing she wore. The happy little girl was around six years-old, and seemed wobbly on a two-wheeled bike.

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She gained speed coming down the incline in the sidewalk, passed her dad, oblivious to danger as she coasted toward the street. The father called out, but it seemed the little girl forgot how to stop the bike. When it looked like she was going into the road, he peddled with great speed and force to get in front of her, to place his body between his girl and the nearest car. He stopped his daughter, let his bike fall, and pulled her back to safety in a grassy area.

Something about this incident impressed me, and my eyes teared up. The love was obvious as the father laid his life on the line for his daughter.

Thankfully, all the drivers at that busy corner were paying attention and drove slowly or stopped. Otherwise, the outcome could have been tragic.

As each of us continued on our various treks, I glanced over at the dad and daughter. He helped her get situated on her bike again, adjusted her helmet, and calmly looked her in the face without scolding.

The girl and her father reminded me of how Jesus saved His beloved children. He willingly put himself between us and sin and gave his life on the cross to redeem us. God’s plan was to send a Savior for us, to defeat our enemy, Satan, and his evil schemes. Jesus put himself in harm’s way, to the point of death, to carry out God’s plan of redemption. He provided a way when there seemed to be no way and displayed His great love for His children.

God does this for us today too. When we experience danger, stress, sickness, depression, or anxiety, God provides the Holy Spirit to be our comfort through the rough times. He upholds us with His right hand, and never leaves our side.

Isaiah 41:10 – “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

 

Posted in God, God's protection, Holy Spirit, Jesus, Jesus' sacrifice on the cross | Tagged , , , , , | 14 Comments

Rush. A Five Minute Friday post.

RUSH.
I really don’t like the word rush. Even seeing it tonight, creates a little bit of a flutter in my gut. It makes me uneasy like something uncomfortable might happen. I never did like to be rushed. I like to do things in my own time, my own style, not to be forced into a certain method or a timed test….this five minute Friday activity sometimes even feels like a “timed test.”

 

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Remember those timed tests in typing class or on those dreaded ACT tests in high school? UGG! I was a ball of nerves and never did well on those! If I set my own goal on myself, then I am very competitive and I work overtime to meet it. If it’s pressure I put on myself, I can do it. If it’s pressure from someone or something on the outside, it makes me feel pushed.
I like the idea of not being rushed. The ideal type of thing for me, is to sit at my desk at home, or in my over-stuffed chair, on in the boat, creating or typing the latest projects on my mind. I like quiet and calm.
I’m very thankful not to be in the rush-a-day world I was in when I was teaching. I was constantly behind. They say that teachers might have “school dreams” even after retiring. I actually did the other day! I had a dream that I was NOT ready for school, the kids were coming in, I was running through the halls, not knowing where the reading books were, and I wasn’t ready for the reading groups. The bell was ringing! The kids were arriving!
Now I set my own hours and pick the activities I want to do. I like to take it slow and think things over. I work on lowering my stress wherever possible. I’m learning to say no to more things and do a few things well.
What is something that makes you feel rushed? What do you do to lower your stress?

 

You can read other stories about the word “rush” or even write and post your own story here. https://fiveminutefriday.com/2018/08/30/fmf-link-up-rush/

Posted in boating, Five Minute Friday with Kate Motaung, Lake Michigan | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Live Like You’re Loved

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Maybe you’ve heard the song by the group, Hawk Nelson, called, “Live Like You’re Loved!” I know we are so loved by our Heavenly Father. In Jeremiah 31:3, God said, “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love, I have drawn you to myself.”
That is such a comfort. It feels like a warm blanket placed around me after a chilly swim. When I took walks last year during the winter, I often would repeat that to myself how God loves me with an everlasting love. That means it was infinity before, the present, and infinity ahead.
It’s hard to wrap my head around the fact that God always knew me and always will carry me. Sometimes the anxiety was so great, it felt like I was smothered. I couldn’t breathe deeply, felt raw inside and out. It’s like trying to climb out of a well, with no steps or footholds. You just keep sliding back down. The thoughts become irrational, as I had a hard time going anywhere. I know the Holy Spirit was encircling me then, and I know He does now.
Part of the song goes, “His love has made you more than enough, so go ahead and be who he made you to be.”

 

I hope you can enjoy the song.

That electric guitar on the chorus!!

 

 

Posted in anxiety, fear, Five Minute Friday with Kate Motaung, God's Love, Lake Michigan, love, summer, sunsets | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Way

When I do Five Minute Friday prompts, the first thing that pops into my head is usually what I have to go with. If I analyze it and worry that my idea isn’t good or debate if everyone else might have the same idea, that never works. The prompt word this week is WAY.

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The first thing I was thinking about was the passage from John 14:6, where Jesus proclaims in one of his “I AM” statements, that he is the Way, the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father except by him. I also remembered the song with the lyrics, The Way, the Truth, the Life, I believe you are!
He is the Way, the only way, the path, the right road, it doesn’t work out to do life without Him.
He’s the truth. He tells the truth, he knows the truth, and he is the only one we can trust. He IS truth.
He’s the life, he’s the only way to have life, he breathes life, he gives life, he IS life.
What a blessing! What amazing news. It’s not exclusive, it’s inclusive. He shows us the way, and tells us the truth and gives us life. Hallelujah! Jesus is the Way!

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Enjoy this song by Pat Barrett – The Way (New Horizon)(Acoustic Video) God often speaks to me through songs and I’ve been playing this one many times tonight.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zAwjuFPoYBE

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Even IF

Word prompt of the week, is IF. Find many stories at Five Minute Friday on Kate Motaung’s blog. http://fiveminutefriday.com/2018/06/28/fmf-link-up-if/

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When I first saw the word prompt this week, this story plunked itself into my brain and would not go away. The story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the book of Daniel amazes me.
These three men were summoned before King Nebuchadnezzar and told they must worship his god made out of gold. They refused.

They said, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into the fiery furnace. It had been made so hot, the flames killed the soldiers who threw them in. Then the King saw four men walking around in the fire and thought it was an angel of the most high God. Ultimately, King Nebuchadnezzar believed in the one and only God, who could create such miracles.

This story makes me wonder. In times of fiery trial in my life, would I say the same thing as Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego? Or would I just go along and worship the gods of this world? I pray that I would follow my God. But in reality, wouldn’t it be so terrifying to be threatened with a fiery furnace? Would I be able to trust God to save me? Do I trust and follow Him in the trials of daily life?
The words these three men used as they spoke to the King before they were thrown in the fire, are such a challenging testament of their faith.
The God we serve is able to deliver.
He will deliver us.
Even IF he doesn’t, we will not serve your gods.
Those are bold statements. Our God is a God of miracles and these men were brave to state these things and trust Him. They surrendered to His will for their lives.

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Posted in Five Minute Friday with Kate Motaung, God, God's faithfulness, God's protection, trust, trust in God | Tagged , , , , , | 13 Comments