Face to Face

In earlier days, W was a robust man, full of life and energy. A talkative type who could make people laugh. He didn’t miss a beat. As a young man, he was a truck driver. When he delivered the produce to a store, there he met a pretty young lady and later they married. As the years went on, W and his wife had a son and a daughter. Their life was busy and joyful.

One day, the tides turned, experiencing great sorrow when their dear daughter died after a short stint with cancer. Part of W was forever severed. He was never the same after that dark time.

Later on, he was a car salesman. Work and life continued for many more years.

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Occasionally he and his son went fishing on a nearby lake. They shared the way men often do . . . sitting side by side, looking at the water. Chit-chat here and there, nothing too serious. Mostly business.

One day, W had relentless pain which intensified. It turned out to be a massive stroke. He didn’t remember the long days and nights in the hospital. Rehab was attempted for the relatively young man, at the age of 61. He laid for a few lonely years, his eyesight completely gone, one leg amputated because of earlier medical issues, both hands contorted into permanent fists. His family drifted away and he never received a visit.

W kept his faith in the Lord. Often a nurse would adjust the dial on his radio to the treasured tunes about Jesus. When a hospice volunteer came, he appreciated a psalm or prayer. Even when the words were very few and far between, he expressed his thankfulness for their visits.

W’s soul went on a journey home to the place he has longed for his entire life. Where is his soul? Where does it go when the body shuts down? The body remains, but the soul goes on an adventure to the presence of the Lord. Now he’s at peace. His hands are limber and whole, his body restored, he’s viewing the glorious colors of heaven. Today he sat with his daughter overlooking the glimmering sea.

W now enjoys the radiance of his Savior . . . face to face.

Posted in Death, faith, God's presence, heaven, hospice | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Legacy of Words

My great-great-grandfather Cornelis deBruyn wrote a summary about his family’s dangerous crossing from the Netherlands to America in 1889. My grandpa John Volkema compiled a journal during his military service in WWI. We have an auditory account of my uncle Art Volkema’s service in WWII, and his survival when his ship was bombed by Kamikazes. My mom kept thirty-three years of diaries about her daily life. They knew the importance of words and wanted to pass stories down to future generations.

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These dear relatives left a rich heritage to treasure. I will pass them on to my children and future grandchildren and beyond. It’s important we don’t forget the lessons of the past and they enrich our lives for the future. The most important thing about these accounts is the clear commitment to our Lord Jesus, and the faithfulness of God.

 
The written word was so important to God, that he gave us the Bible. It was recorded by over 40 authors who wrote during a 1,500-year period, inspired by the Holy Spirit. The Bible is regarded as a highly reliable book by Christians and historians alike.

 

God used words to create.

 

Genesis 1 – All God had to do was speak, and light was created, then countless other things formed at the sound of His voice.

 

Each author of the Bible wrote at the direction of the Holy Spirit who “breathed out” Scripture to him. Peter explains this process:

 

2 Peter 1:21 – “Prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

 

2 Timothy 3:16 – “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

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There are many references to writing, words, speaking and relaying messages in the Bible. It is amazing that the Holy Scriptures are God’s actual words for us to read. Many words were first passed on by way of songs, poetry and spoken word. He didn’t rely on speaking alone, which could evolve over years of repeating. God loves us so much that He revealed Himself to us in the Bible so we can have unchangeable written words to know Him intimately.

 

There are several places in the Bible where God talks about speaking and writing “it” out for future generations. Here’s a few. . .

 

Exodus 17:14 – “. . .Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Write on this scroll as something to be remembered’. . .” God instructed Moses to write the account of the Israelite’s journeys for future generations to remember.

 

We can have complete faith in God’s word because He has proven Himself trustworthy. When Jesus came to earth, he fulfilled many prophecies from the Old Testament.

 

Isaiah 9:6 – “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

 

Micah 5:2 – “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel. . .”

 

God shows his concern for accurate speaking and writing to make things clear to people.

 

Habakkuk 2:2 – “Write down the revelation, and make it plain on tablets, so that a herald may run with it.”

 

God is the very essence of the words.

 

John 1:1 – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

 

He writes on the tablets of our hearts.

 

2 Corinthians 3:2-3 – . . . “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”

 

The apostle John was told to write his visions.

 

Revelation 19:9 – “the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb. . . these are true words that come from God.’”

 

God is interested in what we speak and write. We need to let Him infuse His Holy Spirit through us so that we are conveying what He desires. We must be careful, because words can uplift, or they can tear down. Our words today are not the inspired word of God. The Bible is finished. But they are words given to us by the Spirit of God which can be used to inspire and encourage others to dig deeper into the Bible.

 

I am blessed with a legacy of faith and writing from relatives, and from God.

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Posted in ancestors, Ancestry, Bible, faith, Family, God, God's faithfulness, God's Holy Word, Holy Spirit, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Great News!

In a few months, Lord willing, I will be able to unveil something very exciting! I have worked on a book for the last several years. After the loss of my mother as a young girl, for many years I carried around the “call” to write about it. The book will give hope to those who go through the loss of their mothers, or the loss of any loved one. It is part memoir, and contains stories based on interviews with brave women telling their mother-loss stories.

 

God has been faithful and helped me to form and finish the book. There have been many twists and turns, disappointments, trials and joys during this process. It’s amazing how the Holy Spirit led me through all these to accomplish the task. I’m working with a publisher to polish and refine all the details.

 

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The question in my mind is whether it is ready. Is it as good as I can make it, or is there something more which needs to be done? Is it finally the right time?

 

 

I’m thankful to my blog and devotional readers, my friends, my husband, prayer warriors, interviewees, and mentors, as they each cheered me on and supported me. They encouraged me to press on toward the goal of the upward calling of Jesus Christ.

 

Many more details will be coming! All glory to God!

 

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Posted in Family, God's faithfulness, Grief and loss, Holy Spirit, Hope, Mom, Mom's legacy/diaries, mother loss, mother-child connections, Motherless Daughters, Mothers and daughters, New Book 2019, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

The Doors of Motherhood

(Six years ago, I wrote a similar blog story. I revised and improved it for Mother’s Day week, 2019. I’m amazed how much I’ve changed in my life, and in my writing. This is somewhat of a free verse poem or story. These are some situations I’ve experienced being a mother of two sons. Maybe you can relate to some of them.)

 

Moms walk through many doors during motherhood.

 

One day the evidence is conclusive. You run through that door to exclaim your joy. Yellows and greens. Hopes and dreams.

 

The door of your doctor’s office. The ultrasound room a delightful threshold. Anticipation. Waiting. Faith.

 

The door of the birthing room. Sharp pains forgotten. His first cry. Staring at him counting fingers and toes. Sleepless nights. Blue bibs and blankets.

 

Bright colored doors . . . the first step he takes. Blocks and trains. Lego airplanes hang. Songs and prayers. Sitting in the steamy room while he chokes out his cough.

 

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Welcoming children into your home. Applauding each stage. Books and Bibles. Trikes and sidewalk chalk. Diapers and laundry, your days are filled.

 

The Kindergarten door . . . Crayons, swings. Be kind. Bible School and summer camp. Scraped knees and playing catch. Bicycles.

 

The door of the sporting event . . . the camera charged up. Shoes squeak across the floor. Knee boards near Lake Michigan. Shivering under beach towels. Skateboards and monster trucks.

 

Your slider door. Laughter and hollering of school boys in your backyard pool. Pizza and soccer. Smelly socks and dirty dishes. Smiles and arguments.

 

Slamming doors. You hope to get through the stressful days.

 

Now the bikes have motors. Homework and girls. Snowmobiles roar. You pray like never before.

 

Pushing the hospital door open. Your heart can barely stay in your chest with thankfulness. The car demolished. He’s walking beside you without a scratch.

 

The door of the high school gymnasium . . . on graduation day. Tears of happiness and bewilderment how fast the years have flown. Fear, wondering if you’ve done a good enough job.

 

The door of the first dorm room. Building the loft with power tools. The ride back home in tears and silence. They tell you, “You brought them up to let them fly!”

 

 

Guilt, not feeling the way you think you’re supposed to feel. The heavy blanket holds you down.

 

The front door of the condo. The first home he buys. You’re proud of him but you know this is the most definitive door you’ve ever passed through. The end of an era. Your heart feels tangled.

 

Thankful and deeply sad at once. You know other moms have had much more pain in their lives. You know the expectations. Part of you wants time to go backwards.

 

The door of his car closes. He’s drawn to the mountains out west. He waves and has to go.

 

You’re told the empty nest is grand and wonderful. Adjustments and time necessary, no matter how solid the marriage.

 

A mother for many years, you learned what to do. The end of the care-taking season in mothering. How to climb from summer to fall. Not sure of your identity now.

 

The door of a downsized home. Hobbies and vacations. Roles evolve. Experimenting with purposes in your life.

 

Finding new ways to glorify Him, doing what you can for the Kingdom. Discovering a new season. A quiet home.

 

Now a support role, prayer warrior, letters, texts and phone calls, holiday meals simmer. Still cheering them on. You look up and see a child in the grown man’s eyes.

 

Shades and hues of your doors are different but similar to mothers world-wide.
The kindergarten door, the dorm room door, the condo door . . . all strangely alike.

 

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You lift your eyes. Older mothers are waving you on through.

 

“See that bright point? Here’s a walking stick to borrow!”

 

There are more doors ahead . . .

 

 

 

 

What are some doors of motherhood you’ve walked through?

Posted in bringing up men, Family, love your sons, Memories, Mother's Day, mother-child connections, young men | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

LACK: A Five-Minute Friday Post

Lack.

 

This word reminded me of the first verse in Psalm 23, I will not lack anything. But I have some verses from childhood days of old, packed away in my head. In those olden days, we usually used the King James edition of the Bible. I have Psalm 23 basically memorized, (with some occasional confusion), with the words, “I shall not want.” You know, I always used to think that verse meant, I “shouldn’t want,” or something like that. Actually, it means that the Lord will take care of me so well, that I will not be lacking anything that’s needed. He knows my requirements and watches over me.

 

No matter where I go, what I do, or how bad things look, He will always provide for me. Certainly He won’t always give me what I want! But I will have my needs met. Sometimes the world and my situations look awfully dark and scary, but He is sure to provide His presence if I ask. He has all the hairs on my head numbered, he turns the darkness into light as He upholds me with His righteous right hand.

 

God will do the same for you. Trust Him. He loves you and you will always have everything you need. No, I’m not speaking about a prosperity gospel – you are promised in the Bible that you will have trouble in this world, but when you pass through the waters or walk through the fire, He promises to be with you.

 

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Here’s Psalm 23 in the King James version of the Bible. I never use it anymore, but sometimes it’s pleasant to look back. Maybe this sounds familiar, or maybe you’d like to memorize it. It’s only six verses.

 

Psalm 23. A Psalm of David.

 

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

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If you’d like to read other Five-Minute Friday stories from some awesome authors, click here.

 

Posted in Five Minute Friday with Kate Motaung, God's faithfulness, God's presence, trust, trust in God | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Place: A Five-Minute Friday Post

Place.

It reminded me of the verses in John 14:1-10, that talk about the place God has prepared for believers. In these precious words, Jesus tells about heaven.

He says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

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The disciples claim they don’t know where Jesus is going.

He answered them, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

The disciples still asked Jesus to show them the Father.

Jesus patiently answered them again, by saying, “Don’t you know me, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.”

I realize something else really encouraging in this passage – the last part when Jesus says the Father lives in him and is doing this work. That reminds me of an important truth for me as a writer – often I feel inadequate like I’m unable to write the stories God has put in my heart to write. I need to rely totally on the Holy Spirit of God to help me, he lives in me, and is doing his work.

Thank you, Lord, because I cannot do it on my own!

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Posted in Five Minute Friday with Kate Motaung, God our Father, heaven, Holy Spirit, Jesus, trust, trust in God, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

He Holds Me

Smack! The car careened in two circles, jumped through the air, and landed in the ditch. Eerie silence.

This is how it was explained to us later.

About ten years ago, one of our sons had a serious car accident. When we received the call, we flew out the door to drive to the scene, arriving just after the police. Our son walked toward us unharmed. Our young exchange student stayed seated in the car. He was alert and didn’t appear injured but he wasn’t ready to stand or walk. The first responders thought he should be examined for the abdominal pain he was experiencing so I rode in the ambulance with him to the hospital. Many hours and several tests later revealed that he had a minor internal injury which would heal with time.

Anyone would have fear and anxiety when they hear of their child being in a car accident. We prayed with great fervency and anxiousness on the way to the scene. These are times when it’s understandable to have fear, but when it’s a daily, almost hourly occurrence, that’s different.

Fear confused me throughout my life. It seemed to be a sin because so many times the Bible tells us, “Do not be afraid.”  I grew up in a strict home and church environment that was very conservative with a strong dose of punitive. I visualized God the Father as a big guy in the sky pushing His thumb down on me, saying, “Shape up and do not fear!”

When I was a little girl we sang “Jesus Loves Me” in Sunday School.  I vaguely remember the flannel graph picture of Jesus holding children on his lap. It was a nice story about those lucky kids who were around during Jesus’ earthly life, but it didn’t seem to apply to me.

During my life I’ve been aware of God’s love for me, but I can’t fully comprehend it. In Ephesians 3, the Lord has revealed how His love is four-dimensional, the height, depth, length and breadth of it incomprehensible.

Fear and anxiety have knocked on my door ever since I was a child. Finding verses in the Bible, I’d often guilt myself and allow others guilt me too. A passage like Isaiah 41:10, “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,” sounds like a command. In 2 Tim. 1:7, scripture says,” I have not given you a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self-control.” The “shoulds” piled up like a slippery slope before me.

Learning to listen only to God and not the accusing voices in my head, His unexplained clear voice comes through all the static of life. Our enemy, Satan, tries to drown out the Father’s loving words.

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When fear is mentioned in these verses and others, God is saying, “Come to me, my child, you don’t have to fear because I love you very much. Nothing can separate you from me.”

The Lord says, “Do not fear, FOR I am with you.” It’s as if he’s saying, “Have courage,” not “You’re a bad person because you fear!” This wonderful truth calls me to rest in Him. Through the love of Christ, I’m able to hold out my hands and receive this gift from the Lord, my loving heavenly Father.

Bible verses about fear are for encouragement, not a command that you have to feel guilty about when you don’t measure up. A friend described it this way…as a parent we respond to our child in the middle of the night, by holding the fearful child in our arms, and soothing them with words of comfort and love. We don’t scold them, tell them not to be afraid and slam the door.

The accident that our son had, could have ended very differently. The boys lived and it was a miracle. If the contact with the large vehicle had happened one second sooner, it could have ended in serious injury or death because of the intensity, speed and position of the impact. We were extremely grateful to God for His grace and mercy.

I know others have had indescribable pain in their lives and I don’t pretend to understand God’s ways and timing. The “even if” scenario can also come into play, which none of us wants to experience.

One thing I do know, God is with me, holding me, and loving me.

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“He will carry the lambs close to His heart.” Isaiah 40:11

I can hear His heartbeat. I can feel His heartbeat. He holds me.

If you have a story to tell about God holding you, it might encourage someone else.

 

Posted in anxiety, Family, fear, God, God our Father, God's faithfulness, God's Love, God's protection, love | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Ten Thousand Days

My dad left a cedar chest on my mom’s front porch on Christmas Eve, 1941. A few weeks before, he asked her if she would like to have one. Nothing else was mentioned. When my mom arrived home on Christmas Eve, the chest was a promise of marriage.

Of course, they couldn’t have known, but close to eighty years later, their family has grown large with children, spouses, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. My mom and dad had six children, but she never met any of her grandchildren, as she died young at the age of forty-seven. She had one married child when she passed away, and I was the youngest, at age seven. She had one daughter, Audrey, who joined her in heaven a few years later.

That cedar chest is sitting in my bedroom. It holds mementos from my mom and dad, and things I’ve added over the years. It still has a nice cedar aroma, but the lock is broken and the top has some water stains. My mom’s many years of diaries were stored in it and never touched until about fifteen years ago. They seemed too sacred. My two sisters and I decided to take them out and they each took one third of them home. Even then, I seldom read the ones I had.

 

Years went by, and occasionally we’d wonder what happened on a certain day, or read surrounding our own birth dates or mom’s pregnancy with us. A question would arise about the date of a family event or when a relative visited the farm and we’d look it up. But I didn’t read them straight through. My mom wrote mostly factual accounts, with some feelings mixed in occasionally. They weren’t journalistic in nature but as daughters we could often “read between the lines.”

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The cedar chest

My mom began writing in 1936, when she was just 14 ½ years old. In the early years, she used a fountain pen which she dipped into a glass ink jar. Later on, she used a fountain pen with replaceable cartridges. She wrote every day, except for spotty writing over a three-year period in 1936-1938, when she was age sixteen and seventeen. The years following, she never missed a day. Most of thirty-three years, she documented her life. Stuffed in between pages are newspaper clippings of the times. In the back of several diaries she listed possible names for her babies, and described the contents of her photo rolls. She continued writing until her death in 1969.

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Some of my mom’s diaries

I recently spent many months scanning each of them. We wanted a back-up in case they would become damaged or lost, and also to give a copy to my brothers. Now we each have a preserved replica of the entire collection.

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Every New Year’s Day, when the cold wind blew, she placed another volume into the cedar chest and turned to the first page of a new little book. She recorded ten thousand days of her life. This enabled us to know our mother by her precious words.

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Today our family has blossomed to forty-nine people. I imagine my mom’s eyes would sparkle if she could embrace the smallest great-grandchildren on her lap.

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The kind of ink she used

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Two of my parents’ great-grandchildren playing the game of LIFE

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Posted in Ancestry, Family, love, Memories, Mom, Mom's legacy/diaries | Tagged , , , , , | 14 Comments

Set Your Mind for the New Year

 

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Here we go again. Wow! How did the year go so fast? It seems like we just celebrated the arrival of 2018, and here we are very close to ringing in 2019! If you’re like me, and like many people, the new year is a reminder to set better habits and goals. Losing weight, eating better, exercising more, and being smarter with money, makes most lists. Maybe you hate “New Year’s resolutions,” though setting your mind to some healthier habits seems wise.

I don’t usually make a list of resolutions, although I have at times. At first, I’m determined to accomplish the list but soon it is forgotten or avoided. Wandering aimlessly through my days leaves me feeling so unfinished and empty. “Que sera, sera,” whatever will be will be, feels like an endless cycle.

I have made schedules, set goals and given myself strict guidelines. They usually don’t last long. Failure plagues me in a few weeks. Most often, I set ridiculous time limits and plans which aren’t very attainable. Time schedules for all the things I think I should do or want to do, such as hours or word counts on writing time, scrap-booking, exercising, learning music, cleaning house, or hospice volunteering, look good on paper, but don’t last long.

In the past, I’ve also done the “Word of the year” thing. One year, it was “courage,” and one year it was “strength,” incorporating that theme throughout my activities. Something else I’ve tried, is to memorize a bible verse each month. Compiling a list of “50 goals for my fiftieth year” was also fun, but I didn’t accomplish all of them in a year. These are enjoyable to write up and think about, nevertheless, I end up falling short.

Maybe I should complete one goal at a time, breaking them up into attainable and measurable chunks. As I conquer them, I could give myself rewards in between. Over-scheduling and being rigid never works either. Unexpected things come up and I need to go with the flow of those too. I don’t want to miss the moment when the Holy Spirit wants me to move or step out in some way.

I try not to get involved on my phone in the morning. Following “Bible before phone” makes for a much smoother day. Sitting with God, a prayer walk, bike ride, or meditating on Him with praise music is so difficult sometimes. Why is it so easy to graze on the junk food of scrolling through social media when we could have the delicacies of spending time with the Lord of the universe? I don’t think I’m alone here.

Overall, whatever I accomplish this year, I want to walk closer with the Lord. It’s very important to me to have some sort of daily time with Him. It doesn’t have to look the same every day to be valid. Ultimately, maybe it’s all about setting your mind.

I’d love to hear your ideas on goals and lists. Do you set goals? If so, how, what, etc.? What kind of rewards do you give yourself for meeting them? How do you keep track of your accomplishments? What is your number one aim this year?

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Posted in goals and schedules, new beginnings, New Year, Renewing of your mind, time commitments, time organization | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

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