Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Beautiful Response

This past weekend my husband was preaching in a local church and various people were asking me how I was doing. Often I answer with such phrases with, “being upheld” or “pretty good” or “up and down” or “OK” etc. and with that answer most people are satisfied. So once again on Sunday morning the questions were coming from various inquisitive people and I gave the typical answer. Now I must interject that last week was a very difficult week for me. I had done a lot of investigation into what could help my heart condition and also spoke online with various people who also suffered from it. I learned about a very specific exercise program that was carried out on 250 like people as me and many of them had a very improved lifestyle after 6 months of this program. The problem is that the common lay person cannot have access to the protocol but only one’s cardiologist can receive it. Immediately my Dr. emailed for the protocol but before he received it I started doing some of the rehab that I thought was in the protocol. To make a long story short we received the actual protocol last week Wednesday and realized that I was trying to do now what I should only be doing in the 3rd or 4th month so in the long run my zeal in actuality put me backwards, and almost landed me in the hospital. On Wednesday I spent 2½ hours in my doctor’s office before he felt comfortable enough to let me go back home.
That night I felt defeated and discouraged. I thought we were making progress and now I had lost all the ground I thought was gained and I had to do a 2 week pre-program before even starting the actual protocol. Thursday and Friday I was told had to be days of rest and slowly my heart returned to its more normal functions and I could start some slow activity.
On Sunday I was still feeling defeated and was still having some heart spasms when I found myself answering my pat answers over and over. There was a particular person though who really seemed genuinely interested and pressed me for more information. I ended up explaining what had happened in the previous days and she listened with care and compassion. I felt touched with her care but what she said at the end of the conversation made a profound impact on me. Not only did she show that she cared but with much love she said, “Donna, thank you so much for sharing that with me!” What a caring, compassionate, loving and kind thing to say to someone who shares what lies on their heart with you. That Christ-like response has left an indelible mark on me and I pray that I may in love draw out those who are burdened or hurting and may also respond in a Christ-like way…encouraging them not only to pray on and press on but to thank them for sharing their heart with me.

Friday, November 16, 2012

School 101

I just returned home from an engaging meeting at the Seminary. My husband and I were invited to speak to the students about our life/marriage/parenting in the ministry. Our time with them went well and brought back many fond memories of Burgessville as well as the challenges and difficulties that can sometime arise in the home of a pastor’s family. Following our discussion a lunch was served which gave opportunity for informal questions.
Driving home from the Seminary my thoughts went from the various conversations that had just taken place to a conversation I had with someone this week who was asking how one could prepare themself to help/counsel other people. What lessons could I share, what books have I read, and what advice could I give? How does one know what to say when someone comes for help especially when it’s an “unexpected” conversation? How could the young people be reached and talked to regarding the problems they face? As I reflected on our meeting and as this conversation came back to me, suddenly as if a light was turned on, I could somewhat see the bigger picture.
If you want to impact the lives of other people, I counseled this person, it is vitally important to read and study written material especially the Word of God. If our minds are saturated with the Word, the Lord often brings words from Scripture to our remembrance during counseling sessions which can prove to be an invaluable tool. Read and study the Word daily. Also, the Lord has given much wisdom to men to write books for our learning and knowledge and we would be foolish not to be very well read on many subjects in order to help others. I then tried to give other practical lessons that I had learned over the past 13 years.
While all this is true and important what came to my mind on the way home today was the importance of School 101. There is often a need to go to “school” ourselves in order to learn invaluable lessons which we can in turn use as instruments in impacting the lives of other people. This is one of the most invaluable means that God uses in our life so we can impact the lives of others. And what I further realized is that there are seasons when we are very useful in God’s kingdom but then there will also be seasons when we need to take a step back as we “go to school.” Often this school is called, “The school of Afflictions, Trials and Temptations.” It is here that we learn the deepest, most profound lessons. Lessons about who we are and who God is. Lessons which painfully root out some of our deepest sins so that we can be made humble. Lessons which teach us more about God’s character and His care for us. Lessons which teach us the importance of daily striving against the Devil and temptations. Lessons which  test and strengthen our faith.
I think I can liken this school to our earthly school. Some classes are easy and fun and others are what we would call brutal. Because of their intensity, they cause us to work, sweat and often lose sleep. So it is spiritually…the easy lessons are the books we read and knowledge we gain from them. The hard courses are the ones we need to learn in the classes of affliction, trials, and temptations.
As I saw this big picture I wondered why we at times complain so much when we have to go back to school? If we could really grasp this way of thinking wouldn’t we be more willing to enter into this classroom as well, knowing that if we are faithful the Lord will lead us to a richer knowledge of Himself? Don’t we see that if our desire is to serve we will need to be conformed ourselves? Will we not be able to be used in a much greater way then in His kingdom? Let us encourage one another to not be fainthearted when we need to go back to the “classroom” but rather rejoice knowing that many before us have entered the same school in order to be trained for the service of furthering God’s Kingdom. Keep courage and enter these seasons in the classroom relying on Him.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Storm

Have you ever driven down the highway and off in the distance you saw dark menacing clouds clearly indicating there was an impending storm approaching? I remember driving from Iowa to Canada one year and off in the distance (because of the very flat land) we could see several thunderstorms. Two of these storms were producing twisters which would come out of the clouds, spiraling towards the land only to retreat back up into the storm. I’m sure directly beneath those clouds there were people watching, hoping that these twisters would not indeed touch the ground. As we drove down the highway we too, of course, were hoping that we would not have to drive through the middle of one of these storms.
There are times in our life that we can see in the distance an impending storm approaching. We can try all kinds of tricks to try to avoid these storms. Maybe we just bury our head in the sand and hope it goes away. Maybe we try to run the other way hoping it doesn’t catch up to us. Maybe we gloomily sit and wait for the “disaster” to strike. Let’s face it….storms are not fun. Maybe they are fun to watch from a distance but when they come closer….
To be honest, in personal life it’s not fun being in the middle of a ‘storm’. I am in the middle of a storm and today is a day where I can see a bit of silver lining but this storm isn’t over yet. I too have asked myself…why has God sent so many storms in my life? What is this storm trying to teach me? Am I such a slow learner? Will there any good come out of this? Do I dare to continue to ask God to conform me to the image of His Son? If so am I just asking for more storms? What do other people think of God when they see another affliction on my life?
I don’t know the answer to all these questions but there are several that I have worked through. Each storm that the Lord allows to descend upon His children are sent with a hand of love. This thought has comforted me so much through this present storm. Am I willing to be patient and submissive through this storm? How can I not when it comes with love? He has promised to never leave nor forsake and He has promised that underneath are the everlasting arms. This is such a great comfort. With this comfort I can sleep in between the attacks of heart spasms and not lay awake anxiously awaiting the next one. My husband asked me that the other night “how can you go back to sleep after this happens?” It’s these promises that make me relax and able to fall asleep until the next attack. My life is in His hands and this is my greatest comfort.
I also know that the longing of my heart is to be conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ and I cannot stop asking God to do this in my life. It was only several weeks ago that the Lord made me very aware of a sin in my life and that awareness caused me great grief and sorrow, almost more than I’ve ever felt over any sin before. As I worked through that all I thanked the Lord for showing it to me in such a way and then I vividly thought…ok…hopefully now I can sail on smooth waters for awhile. But even before that thought had passed entirely out of my mind another thought came right on its tail…NO…I need to continue to pray to be conformed to His image fully knowing that it could me more trials…but not realizing they would come so quickly.
And so dear friends do not pity me…the Lord is and will take care of me. But please continue to pray for me that in this storm I would remain faithful to Him…speak well of Him…be a good example of a sufferer…not complain and come through with less self and more of Him flowing through my entire being.

Friday, July 20, 2012

4290 Orchard Creek

The 5:30am alarm came all too soon on Monday morning.
 It would be the last time our alarm would ring in Burgessville…just another last. In a few minutes we would take our last shower, eat our last breakfast, watch for the last time the cow and her calf quietly munching on their breakfast and listen to the birds chirping ever so merrily. They didn’t understand the mixed feelings that we were feeling…they were too busy singing. Everyone threw their sheets and blankets in box #324…one of the final boxes to be packed. We felt like we were packing for a very big holiday but as we joked we knew this was just something to comfort one another for for the pain we were feeling. Soon it was 8:00am and the final items were put into the Semi-truck and several “last checks” were done throughout each room of the house. As each room was given the “all clear” the door was shut. People started arriving and our minds began swirling. The moment of truth had come; it was time to depart.

Last farewells were said…tears were shed…one last trip through the house was made and the caravan of vehicles made their way out of the driveway, leaving 13 years of memories behind.

The caravan itself needs some explaining. First went the truck. Following him was our van, Rachael in her car, Micah in his car, Jeremy and Aje in their car and last Henk & Michelle Vrugteveen in their truck. As we slowly drove out of Burgessville we spoke little…each buried deep in our own thoughts. We decided to go to the border on our own and meet at the duty free by Port Huron. At that point my husband would go with the trucker and we would each take our vehicles and meet together again 30 minutes beyond the border at the rest area. This plan worked well. The truck went ahead and our little caravan went through the border without a single problem. We stopped at the first exit and all got gas and some food. Soon we got word from the truck that they were going to have to go through the X-ray machine and go in to fill out some paperwork which they did without too much trouble. Again our plan worked and about an hour later were all together at the rest area.

This time we and our kids decided to stick together which we did the rest of the way to Grand Rapids.
About 2:45pm the surrounding neighbors of 4290 Orchard Creek must have thought an army was moving in. All of our vehicles arrived and finally the truck. The kids took a quick look around the house before the flurry of activity began.

Photo: Unloaded.......
By 6:00pm the truck was empty and we and those who came to help were exhausted from the heat, a mixture of emotions and hard work.Reality did not sink yet and by night we fell onto our mattresses ready for sleep.
The next days were days of discovery and this discovery continues to surprise us till this day. 4290 Orchard Creek is a very interesting place. In this house one can actually get fact one little visitor couldn’t even find a bathroom and resorted to using the stair landing as a port a potty. If you do get lost and someone tries to find you this can also pose a problem as there are two separate stairways to the upper level so as one goes up one the other person is going down the other and so the search can continue.
The third night in our new house I went to go upstairs to get ready for bed and walked in our master closet only to find my husband’s entire wordrobe (including about 30 dress shirts which I had so carefully tried to preserve so as not to iron them all again) laying in a crumpled heap on the floor. The inside of our closet is made up of metal white shelving and the previous owners didn’t understand the concept of putting braces into studs. Thankfully, I have another week before his work begins to re-iron.
And then there is Grand Rapids water. If we drink the water out of the tap we can almost imagine being in a swimming pool. So we toyed with the idea of buying our water but that just seemed weird as well as expensive so we were told to get a Brita filter which we did. But this only made the water taste like the chlorine level was low in the pool. So we decided we could use the water from the fridge system but it took about 2 minutes to fill your glass. Finally, we had the bright idea of finding the filter in the fridge and changing it. So my husband went to the store got a filter, looked up how to change the filter for our particular fridge and took it out. The sight that we saw about made us all want to throw up thinking we had actually drank that water. The filter was a combination of black and green when it was supposed to be white. For the next several hours we hardly would drink any water because the thought of that filter was so horrible.
And so life continues here at 4290 Orchard Creek. My dear husband is the world’s best Mr. Fixit man and hardly takes any time to sleep he’s so busy fixing “It.” "It" being finishing off a under the stairs closet and installing a under the stairs unit from Ikea.
Previous Owners

Completed Project

"It" being installing cabinets above the washer and dryer. It being putting up shelving in the basement.

Previous Owners

Completed Project

"It" being putting up numerous pictures and the like. The latest “it” project was to try to find out if our flower beds actually had any dirt or plants under the 4 ft tall weeds. Of course tackling this project on 100 degree days may not be the smartest, but when we stopped for the day we just jumped in the shower and drank some of the water and could imagine that we were swimming. On the second day of this project it seemed to be there were some other issues that needed addressing so Mr. Fixit went at it again. I stepped in the house for a few moments and when I went back out he was repeating the words "Uh oh" and I saw him covered with water and mud looking bewildered at a broken sprinkler line that was spouting water and mud. Apparentely there were other things under the 4ft weeds.

At this point I seriously wondered if he thought the list was getting too short to he had to make a new fixit project. Well the old farmer in him just got down in the mud and dirt and started digging…mud literally from head to toe until the break was found. Yes the rest is history…back to Home Depot once again.
Anyway we bought a sectional for our family room but haven’t gotten a kitchen table and chairs yet. This hasn’t been a problem, as we have a patio set, until it rained most of the day today. Old mean mom won’t let the kids eat on the new furniture so tonight we used the kitchen island as a table and had a stand up supper…makes life interesting.
All kidding aside we are settling in. Last wednesday had been a very hard day as Jeremy & Aje and Micah left us…it was a struggle for all of us. We are looking forward to when they visit us again and are thankful for Skype. As far as the unpacking goes I think about 80% of the boxes are unpacked and things are coming together nicely. By Sunday reality began to set in for most of us. Sunday was a hard day. We missed church in the morning as my incision became infected and we had to go to the Dr.  But in the end it was a blessing in disguise as he also took out the stitches which he said were put in a special way as it was a high tension area and I think if my husband had to do it, as was planned, we probably would have needed marriage counseling. Sunday afternoon was a time of no work and we all could think. Burgessville was much on our minds. Our thoughts were drawn to how much we really miss our children as well as everyone in Burgessville. As I sat outside quietly reading I again heard the birds singing their songs. They didn’t know what thoughts were going through my mind but it didn’t matter…they have a mission which is to sing and that’s what they do. We too have a impact the lives of the student body at PRTS and so with God’s help we will press on in our mission. Dear friends in Burgessville…press on in the mission which God has laid upon your path…we love you!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The End of One and the Beginning of Another

Once again the kids have been after me to “write” on my blog. Little have they known that I have begun the next blog post several times over the last weeks but it has never “turned out.” You see how can I accurately and fully explain the feelings that have gone through my head since January 2?
How can I explain how much more meaning the sermon of January 1 (No Fretting Allowed for 2012) had on January 2 than it did on January 1? On January 1 we as a family were excited about our upcoming trip to Florida – a much needed time of rest for us and time to spend with the kids. But on January 2 while sitting in a Detroit motel the phone call came and our life would change forever. Instead of “feasting” while in Florida there was “fasting.” Instead of much “playing” there was much “praying.”
How can I explain over the course of the next 4 months what transpired in our family? If you had a video camera that constantly played throughout those weeks you would see a family that was, unseen to the outward eye, tested and tried almost beyond our strength. You would find a husband and wife who prayed, cried and pleaded to know God’s will. A family that made more trips to the emergency room in 4 months than almost the entire time spent in Burgessville combined. A family that was attacked by the Devil on every side and almost didn’t have the strength to fight. A family that sorrowed greatly at the loss of a loved member of the congregation. A family that longed to stay together but grappled with the fact that separation might happen. 
 A family in which the children each struggled with so many emotions and feelings…2 would be leaving very good friends and their only known home….one unable to complete his final year of highschool here….one whose University program didn’t transfer though he would rather go….one who would need to leave a very good job and friends…2 who are happily married to each other but would lose a father and pastor. A family who on the outside had to carry on with daily life while inwardly battling many emotions.
How can I explain the depth of love that we feel towards this dear church family after spending 13 years of our life rejoicing in their joys, sorrowing in their sorrows, praying for their souls. We have had the joy of seeing sinners struggling and agonizing with the burden of their sins and as a butterfly emerging from its cocoon, they in time come to faith in Christ. This I believe has been our deepest moments of joy during our time in Burgessville. Often if someone would come to us with the burden of their sins not seeing a way out, they would be sorrowful but inwardly we would rejoice.
And…how can I explain how we mourned with those that mourned especially with the families of those who died so young or suddenly? How do I explain how these things affected our children over the years even to the point that sometimes they didn’t want to answer the phone for fear that it was another tragedy and if the phone would ring really late or very early in the morning sometimes they would jump out of bed with that fear in their minds?
How can I explain what it was like on Saturday evenings before bed my husband and I would sometimes walk together up to church often talking about the needs and cares of the congregation? We would then copy and put the bulletins in the mailboxes, walk around and make sure everything looked good and then walk back home. How do we express how much we will miss these times??
Now that the decision is made and moving day is within a week how can I explain the emotions that are going through my mind? I am very willing to follow behind my dear husband and often together in the past years whenever we heard the song of Ruth there was a look of love that passed between us which conveyed many things, also knowing that there could come a time when this might be tested. But this does not mean that I don’t have any emotions…there have been times of great weeping. I loved being a part of this congregation, and I would be a very unusual mother if I didn’t grieve about leaving 2 sons and a daughter-in-law behind. Yet I know that I must leave this all in God’s hands. Change is not always easy…we love what we had in Burgessville and will miss it greatly.

Perhaps the greatest lesson i have learned through all is has been a gradual but sure one. I am coming to realize that if our desire in life is to live our lives to further Christ's kingdom there will be times when the Lord will test us to see if this desire is really true. Over the last weeks and months this is part of the “testing” that has been taking place. When we move to Grand Rapids many of our legitimate earthly joys will not, for various reasons, be possible and the question is…knowing this, is my heart still willing to follow Him or am I going to hold back. Am I willing to give up earthly pleasures for the sake of His kingdom? Will the Lord give us other joys that we cannot see now? It is possible but if not we still must be willing and ready to follow Him knowing that all that this earth has to hold is temporary and our true rest is not in this world or its pleasures. The Lord is calling us to a new part of His kingdom and once again these words hold so much meaning, “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”

My dear friends at Burgessville I do love you and will miss you greatly…please continue to pray for us.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

My Scare of the Year...

A few days ago we discovered a problem in our house – a bad smell. I kept randomly checking our bathroom to see if the toilet was flushed because I smelled such an offensive odor. In addition to this every time the toilet was flushed the tub drain made unique noises. This all culminated on Monday night as we prepared for bed. He thought it was me and I thought it was him but it was that anonymous smell again. It became so bad in our bedroom that we didn’t quite dare to go to sleep because of the fumes. So at 12:00 am we needed a solution so we could get sleep. Our plan was to close both bathroom doors, open the bathroom window and put some water in the tub drain so (foul smelling air) could come back up the pipe. This seemed to work and we finally fell asleep.
Fast forward to Tuesday afternoon. My husband called our water guy and they decided that probably the problem was that the air pipe (not sure what’s it’s called) on the roof was frozen inside. This had happened once before when we first moved here. The solution would be to go up on the roof with a bucket of hot water and pour it down the pipe to unfreeze the water that had gotten into it.
Now my husband (the Mr. Fixit man that he is) had his dress pants and shirt on and I implored him to put on  junky pants because it was raining outside and he wouldn’t want to risk ripping his pants on something. After several pleadings he gave in and changed his pants. He then put on his old, thick brown coat, filled a bucket with hot water which he brought out to the deck, put on his CROCS (of all things) and grabbed our 12ft ladder. He put the ladder on the pool deck and leaned it against the roof. After everything was in place he called to me to hold the ladder so he could get up on the roof. Since the deck was wet I held the bottom for all that I was worth.
He proceeded up the ladder, across the roof and over to the pipe with his big bucket of hot water. After a moment or two he came back with the empty bucket, hanging it off the side of the roof and asked me to fill it up again with very hot water. I did this and handed it back up to him. Once again he walked across the roof to the pipe and poured the water in. He came back to the ladder telling me that it just wasn’t working…he could still see that it was frozen in the pipe. As he was telling me this I started walking toward the door thinking he wanted another bucket of water. He on the other hand had said to hold the ladder.
Yes the rest is history. He stepped on the ladder and instantly it slid across the deck and he was hanging onto the gutter while tangling in the ladder and as I turned around all I could see was ladder and man crashing to the ground. I thought between his yell, my screams and the sound of the ladder against the deck the whole neighborhood would have come running. It was so scary to see it all happen and not be able to do anything but watch as he crumpled onto the deck.
I got the ladder away and got him into a chair and then into the house. We started looking for injuries as he had a lot of pain on his back by his ribs. Thankfully, he could take really deep breaths so we figured no broken ribs but he had an ugly scrape and bruise coming on his back. After more looking we found more scrapes and bruises but thankfully no broken bones.
We both just sat in shock and thankfulness as to the goodness of the Lord in not allowing anything serious to happen. So many thoughts instantly went through my mind in those few seconds. What if he went off the side of the pool deck and hit the stairs?? What if his leg(s) became tangled in the ladder rungs? What if he had broken ribs or his arm which he landed on?? These thoughts and more went through our minds gave us much reason to be thankful.
Today he’s limping around a little,feeling sore and has an ugly sore and bruise on his back but other than that and his ripped shirt (which ripped through his heavy coat) he is doing quite well.
And the lesson?? Always make sure someone is actually holding the ladder before you go down especially when it is standing on a wet wooden deck.