Dear Seniors…

Do you ever have it when you read something and think that is too good not to share?

I am very fond of Megan DeGraaf Vos and the way she lives life with honesty, humor, faith, sass, gumption and grit. Megan’s heart is as wide as it is deep. Megan and those she holds closest to her heart (her husband and kids) have traveled so many different terrains. From all I read and observe, life is full of goodness and blessing and by no means has it been easy.

Tonight I wanted so share Megan’s words to Seniors. She says it clearly and well…

Seniors, I have some stuff to say to you, so listen up a sec, ok?

It’s likely you won’t be heading back to school this year, which means you’ve been cheated out of all your senior activities. No dinner and dance, no senior prom, no seeing us moms in knee socks and sweat bands handing out energy treats for the home stretch. You might not even have a ceremony. This all sucks. It’s suckety, suckety, suck, suck. Most of you have worked hard for the past 13 years. Some of you have just phoned it in, but that counts too, I suppose. You’ve spent countless hours on elementary school play grounds, building friendships on a foundation of sharing and wood chips. You’ve done all the crafts, filled in all the worksheets, learned some skills you’ll use daily and others you will never use again in your life, talking to you Sentence Diagramming. You’ve stood at the door to a new classroom every September, tummy in knots with the wondering what the year will hold, armed with sharpened number two pencils and false bravado, backpack bigger than you were sometimes. We, your parents, stood watching, hearts in our throats, knowing that you were one year closer to this one: your senior year.
You’ve lost a lot. This is a loss. Your spring break plans with friends have been thwarted, you might have to cancel the open house your mom has been planning, your last chance to compete on the pitch or the track or the court has been taken from you and that’s a loss that smarts. But we have prepared you for this since you were teeny. Every time you didn’t get invited to a birthday party everyone was talking about, every time your game was rained out, every time a sick sibling caused plans to fall through. We taught you that there is this thing called The Greater Good and that you must fight for that. We let you cry or rage or simmer and then we told you that, even though it hurts, it isn’t precious. That people are precious and plans aren’t. We let you hold baby chicks so you could see how fragile life is. We took you for walks in the woods on cool April days, pointing out the buds on trees so you could see that seasons are certain, new growth is certain, change is certain and good. We protected your hearts sometimes because that is our job, but we let them be a little broken sometimes because that is our job too. And we taught you that you are strong enough to face hard things. You are strong enough because God is with you and so will we be. Always.
This is your proving ground. We will give you time to mourn and rage over this loss; we will need that time too. We are pissed, a little. Sad, a little. But then we will say this to you: Seniors, you have been training for this your whole lives. This is your chance to take wobbly steps in global shoes. People are dying. Lots of them. The losses encountered in this pandemic are so much bigger than your prom or the open house we booked a caterer for. This is when you take the high ground. Continue to quarantine, even though what you want most right now is to commiserate with friends. In person. Look for ways to serve hurting people. Reach out to your classmates and make sure they are ok. Message your teachers, even the ones from eons ago, and thank them for what they taught you. Sew masks for hospital workers. Be bigger than this loss because you are bigger than this loss. We expect this of you.
We will mourn with you. And then we will model our most adultish behavior by figuring out how to celebrate you in quarantine. We will stage a graduation you will never forget, even if it’s just us in the backyard with a bluetooth speaker and nana and papa on Zoom. We will parade you around in your cap and gown, weep over you, take pictures, remember that you were teeny like, yesterday and weep some more. We will speak to you in the small hours of what is happening in the world. Not to frighten you, but to remind us both that the world is bigger than this. We will not be consumed by the loss because in the grand scheme of things we know that it is not precious. The thirteen or so school years that led to this one? Precious. The pictures of you standing under that tree in our front yard on the first day of every year? Precious. The bin in the basement with all the mementos we’ve saved from a childhood now drawing to a close? Precious. The thousands and thousands of people who are dying? Precious. The essential workers and health care people who are sacrificing themselves to save us all? My word, precious.
Seniors, you are badass. I can say that to you because you are adults and because it’s true. If you don’t walk across a stage in your cap and gown this spring it’s because you were never meant to. The God who holds every one of your days in his capable hands knew long before we did that you, Class of 2020, would spend your last primary school days in quarantine and he has already made ways for you. He will impress upon your sweet heart the next right thing to show the world that you know it is bigger than you. Class of 2020, you will forever be remembered for something. We, your parents, challenge you to be remembered for how gracious you were, for the concern you showed your fellow man during a pandemic and for the action you took, even if that action is staying home because people way smarter than you have told you to. We could not be more proud of that. No missed graduation can diminish our love and respect for you. You are our people.

We believe in you.

Thank you Megan for sharing your honesty, humor, faith, sass, gumption and grit.

Blessed Be His Name!

What does it mean to comply?

Comply synonyms that belongs to phrasal verbs

I have learned over the last 30 years that complying does not come as my natural bend. I have learned how to stretch the box of compliance but still live within it. I would say, for the most part, this character trait has helped me to get where I am today.

And yet, this question floods my thoughts in this time of the COVID-19 outbreak. It is not a question that I engage with a sense of adventure or bettering myself or my staff for something awaiting on the horizon.

The complying I reflect on incessantly now is permeating every bit of my routine.

What does social distancing look like when I run an essential business?

What does stay home mean when I have clients who are out of their incontinence products?

I understand we are supposed to be only with those in our household, but what if one lives alone?

Is there a way to create an acceptable small group/household? Some of these compliance questions come from real scenarios, and some come from the restlessness of my soul?

Yes, Visiting Angels of West Michigan continues to provide care for our clients. Caregivers venture out every day to ensure the wellbeing of our community. The phone rings, and people need to start services, primarily because other services have been stopped. The reality also remains that Cancer and Parkinsons and Strokes continue to happen, and families need support, regardless of the risks of COVID-19.

There are so many ramifications to all that is unfolding around us every day. I am more convicted of my calling to serve the vulnerable and/or aging population more now than ever.

But then there is the time I am home. I wonder about what is permitted. I wonder where the loopholes are, and I find myself wondering what compliance looks like. I came to some clarity last night. Not sure precisely what crystalized my thoughts, but it became evident to me that loopholes are not what this is about.

Do not meet with friends, do not push the limits, do not venture out cause you are bored or restless, or feeling exceptionally resilient.

When I speak with our clients, they often reference that they trust their Caregivers. I remind them this is not about trust. This COVID-19 is indiscriminate to everything and everyone. This disease is not about who we are or where we come from, where we work, our education, our race, our age, or our socio-economic status, or anything else that defines or describes us.

This disease is rampant among us, and perhaps compliance is the only thing that might give us an edge on it. I get a little benauwd ( a dutch word translated as stuffy, stifling, or oppressive) when I think of staying home and away from my community (Mom and siblings included) for 4 to 8 more weeks.

But perhaps this isn’t about me right now.

Perhaps this is a season I am going to learn more about choosing compliance for the greater good. I can navigate my business needs from my home and support my fantastic staff in so many ways. I can write cards and send mail, I can go for walks and work in my yard. I can offer encouragement and support and appreciation for all those on the front lines. As my Mom said tonight, two or three months in our lifetime is not so significant, but we agreed it is best to take these next months one day at a time!

Praying for peace, comfort, healing for all God’s people all over the world.

Blessed Be His Name

 

Spring Didn’t know….

This came to us via my family in the Netherlands and translated from Dutch to English by my cousin. As we move into a new week, remember to pause and notice all the goodness that surrounds you, even in the very difficult spaces.

Be Kind

Be Generous

Be present

Be Thankful!

 

Spring Didn’t Know

brown tree covered by snow

It was early 2020 …

People had had a long, dark winter.

February had been a very restless month with lots of storms and lots of rain.

Nature was restless as if she wanted to tell people something. as if she wanted to warn people about something … 

And then March came.

It was March 2020 …

The streets were empty, most of the shops were closed and most of the cars were on the side of the road.  People almost never left their homes and, all over the world, countries were in lockdown. People couldn’t believe this was happening; it was so surreal.

Everyone knew what was going on.

But spring did not know…

blue and black bird on top of metal frameThe first beautiful spring day came;

the flowers continued to bloom; 

the sun was shining; 

the swallows came back and the sky turned pink and blue.

It got dark later and, early in the morning, the light came through the windows.

It was March 2020 …

Children were no longer able to go to school; they studied online from home and played mainly at home.

Adolescents were bored; parents did not know what to do.

woman in face mask shopping in supermarket

People came outside only for shopping or to walk the dog.

Almost everything was closed … even the offices, hotels, restaurants and bars.

The army began to guard exits and borders.

People had to work from home.

Entrepreneurs ran into problems.

Suddenly there was not enough room for everyone in hospitals.  Operations and tests were postponed.

Everyone knew…

But spring did not know and it shot forth, imperturbably completing her annual program.

She gave us her most beautiful flowers and her most wonderful scents.

It was March 2020…

Everyone was quarantined at home for health or preventative reasons.

Some people were no longer allowed to go to work; others were required to work extra-long hours.

To hug, kiss or shake hands was suddenly a threat.

Everyone had to keep a good distance from each other; that was horrible.

All sorts of shelves were empty in the supermarket.

Many fun events were canceled.  No one knew when this would end.

People were limited in their freedom in a time of relative peace.

All over the world, many people got sick and it was contagious.

There was isolation, illness and panic – the fear became real!!

The days all looked the same and the weeks suddenly lasted much longer.

Everyone hoped that stricter measures would not be necessary.

People felt stuck in a movie and hoped every day for the hero to emerge.

 

The world slowed down when it wasn’t vacation; no one expected this.

Everyone knew what was happening…

But spring did not know, 

and the roses continued to bloom;

Black Tulip Magnolia — Green Acres Nursery & Supplythe magnolia budded;

the birds started their nests.

And then…

The pleasure of cooking and eating together was rediscovered.

People shared tips on fun things to do with housebound children.

There was time to write and read again; people let their imaginations run wild and boredom sprang into creativity.

Some learned a new language,

some discovered art.

Some discovered that they were not really alive and found their way back to themselves.

Others stopped negotiating ignorantly.

Everyone had much more family time.

One closed the office and opened an inn with just four people.

Others offered to run errands or cook for vulnerable people.

Everyone suddenly knew what a ‘vital profession’ was and valued these people as heroes.

Others found ways to make or sing music together.

People recognized loneliness and invented ways to do something about it.

People recovered from their stressful lives.

People who did not know each other found ways to connect and care for each other.

Some made kites out of paper with their phone numbers on them so lonely people could call them.

The government made efforts to help companies and the self-employed so that they would not go bankrupt or fire people.

Retired healthcare personnel volunteered to assist in healthcare.

Volunteers came from all over, everyone wanted to do something.

People from all over the world expressed appreciation for all the doctors, nurses and care staff who worked hard to keep everything going.

Thank a healthcare worker.jpg

It was the year when social isolation caused people to recognize the importance of health and connection, of togetherness and of social contacts.  There developed an appreciation of having a vocation; this did something with the collective consciousness.

The economy almost went under … but it didn’t stop; it reinvented itself.

It was the year when the world seemed to stop, the year we would get into the history books … together. 

We all knew that.

 

But spring did not know.

750+ Bloom Pictures [HD] | Download Free Images on UnsplashAnd the flowers continued to bloom, 

the trees sprouted,

it was getting warmer, 

and there were many more birds.

1000+ Birds On Wire Stock Images, Photos & Vectors | Shutterstock

And then came the day of liberation …

On TV the prime minister told everyone the emergency was over and that the virus had lost!

People had won … TOGETHER!!!

Then everyone took to the streets …

with tears in their eyes …

without masks and gloves.

Life Together: Brought Into Community - Ephesians 2:12-14The neighbor was hugged as if he were a brother and the world had become more beautiful and more loving.

People had become more human;

they again had values and norms.

People’s hearts were open again.

Because everything had stood still, the earth could breathe again.  She, too, was healed from what people had done to her earlier.

 

And the summer came …

because spring didn’t know.

And he was still there

despite everything,

despite the virus,

despite the fear,

despite death.

Because spring didn’t know, everyone learned the power of life.

Susan Blanco (The Language Recycler)

“Inspired by people”.  Sharing is greatly appreciated.

Blessed Be His Name

Through Pake’s eyes….

MaasdamThis morning I woke up thinking about the fact that 67 years ago my Pake and Beppe and 10 of their 12 kids set out to board the Maasdam ship. This ship would bring their thoughts, conversation, prayers and steps towards immigration to reality.

I have often wished I could have spoken more with my Pake and Beppe about what this was like for them. My Pake died when I was in 4th grade and even though I was in my 20’s when my Beppe died, I had was not yet reflective enough in my own spirit to envision what these major decisions were like for her.

Immigration is the story of both my Dad and Mom in their pre-teen years. They did not know one another then, but there is something they understood about one another when they met. Their story is our story and we embrace immigration as a very brave and courageous step on behalf of all who journeyed that road.

I wanted to share with you the words of my Pake as he wrote a 10-page letter during those days of travel. I share this with you so that it can be forever a part of my documents. I print my blogs each year and then I will have this letter bound and retained for future generations.

So I share with you a few pictures first of the days when my family story was marked by courage, adventure, travel, faith, grieving, sadness, anticipation, and hope. I am struck by the words of my Pake:

On our boat trip, we heard a lot about emigration and how people see the future. I hope the material things are not our priority because once when we land in a strange country, we hope we can assist one another in the material and spiritual matters. If we can spiritually help one another, then we have gained—we left much behind—two daughters, a future son-in-law, parents and grandparents, brothers and sisters and a brother-in-law seriously ill (Omke Cornelius Peereboom). We know that Moses’s prayer was the same as we pray today that unless the Lord accompanies us we cannot depart from here. The God we worshiped in the Netherlands is the same God in our new country. (see his full letter below)

This picture of my Mom and her family is a classic. It was taken the day they went for passports. It is all 12 of the children, even though 2 of them immigrated at a later date.

beppe birthday pic-1

The other pictures are taken on the Maasdam during the days of travel from Rotterdam to Hoboken, New York.

While on the boat, Pake wrote a 10-page letter (long-hand) to Aunt Follie who was over 18 and could not travel with her family. She came later and traveled with a neighbor/friend—Anne Rooks. My Aunt Anita translated Pake’s letter in 2003 when many of us went to Sussex to celebrate their arrival in Sussex 50 years ago. 

Wijnjeterp, March 28, 1953 

Around 5:00 A.M. we departed by chartered bus from Mr. And Mrs. Marcus Tolman’s home. Our family, 15 people, was joined by the Andringa family of 8 members and two friends. First, we stopped by Tante Aukje, mother’s sister, who joined us for the trip to Rotterdam. From there we traveled to Beetsterzwaag, where Anita and Wilma had stayed by Omke Andries (Dad’s brother) and Tante Harmke for their final night in the Netherlands. Next, we set off forKampen, Overijsel, where Tante Wietske, mother’s sister, joined us also. 

Finally, we were on our way to the boat in Rotterdam. We stopped in Amersfoort, Utrecht, where we enjoyed a final Dutch cup of coffee en broodje (sandwich). Once when we arrived in Rotterdam mom went shopping for a new dress and Dad bought Anita a fountain pen so she could do some writing on the boat. After those purchases, we were ready to set sail. Our luggage was taken from the bus and checked at the border. Everything was in order and the luggage was taken to our cabins, which was to be our home for the next several days.1953_family on the boat.jpg

Emigration papers (visum) were carefully checked which was very time-consuming. We were each given a yellow card and further checks were made, especially the money (dollars and guilders) was counted carefully. (Every family member was allowed to take a certain amount of money along. editor) Finally, we were ready to enter the boat. I got very confused with all the papers, because one needs this one, and the other some other paper, that I was happy when we were finally on board. We waved a final farewell to those who had accompanied us, which was extremely difficult. Around 2:00 P.M. everything was in order and we departed. 

1953_Dinner on the boat (2)

Early Sunday morning we arrived in Dover, France. Around500 people boarded the boat there and a lot of mail was put on board. The White Cliffs of Dover were a magnificent view, especially for those who had never traveled beyond Leeuwarden. We could not believe our eyes. When all was ready we set sail across the Channel to England. Everyone had a good night and we enjoyed our meal. The service is superb. Sunday morning around 10:30 A.M. we enjoyed a Dutch church service, given by a Gereformeerde dominie. Around 11:30 A.M. another American dinner with everything cooked together. We enjoyed the food more by our hostess of the last few weeks. You have to get used to everything, even the food. I cannot tell you how much silverware appeared at each plate, knives, forks, and spoons. Also, several types of plates were used for old and young alike. They provide excellent service. As far as that goes Tante Aukje en Tante Harmke can well enjoy a boat trip and come for a visit. It is too bad that after a few days you just cannot eat and enjoy all the food. If you don’t like the food, ask the waiter for something else, or a cold buffet. You can get anything your heart desires. 

If you are troubled with seasickness then don’t eat too much soup, just take a rusk and an apple. I am sure you will hear about that. 

Follie and Anna (Rooks, a friend), rent a couple of deck chairs with blankets right away which will cost you around 10 guilders a piece. You can use them for the entire trip—do it right away and the best place is in the middle of the boat because at the front and back it is quite drafty. Just rent the blankets because then you don’t need to take any of your own and then you do not need to care for them either. 

Around 6 o’clock on Sunday evening we arrived in England. More people etc. joined us and around midnight we left for Ireland. Our cabin boy was not the friendliest so I decided to tip him 10 guilders. If you travel with the two of you just give him each 1 guilder and you can pay that from the boat credit which is paid by Vander Meulen from Gorredyk, and then you can exchange by the purser. If you have extra money you can always exchange it in the USA. Take each around 50 guilders and if you don’t think that is enough take a bit more, because it is the beginning in America and we’ll let it roll. But that does not matter, because you can earn it here again. 

Monday afternoon around 2:20 P.M. English time (in the Netherlands it is one hour later). Aafke (Mem) is next to me reading a book in a very luxurious sitting room. P. (Piet) D. (Dirkje) H. (Henny) in bed and Jaltina and Simmie and Minne in the playroom. Aukje and Wieke are on deck and Jan in the beszaal (?) Now I quit for the evening. 

Monday evening 8:15 P.M. (English time)—Around 6 o’clock we had a delicious dinner and arrived in Ireland. The boat did not go ashore but the passengers and freight, including automobiles, were loaded by boat—all in all it took about two hours. 

We met the New Amsterdam, which was returning from New York and going towards Rotterdam. When it arrived in Ireland we could see it. It was a very picturesque site. Possibly because of the rough coast, the larger ships do not go directly into the harbor but remain at sea. We also enjoyed some folk dancing with around 500 people. It’s around 9 o’clock–I would like to do some reading yet and then under the wool blankets. 

Tuesday morning–half of the twelve absent at the breakfast table. We just took some dry rusks and apples to the “patients”, and then quickly on deck and just lay around in the deck chairs. All but one of the Andringa family was seasick. Our minister on board, Rev. Van Dyk, is immigrating to Canada with 6 or 7 children. He was serving in Gouda, a nice place. Every day he was the only one at the table because the rest of the family was all seasick. Rev. Van Dyk’s parents used to live on a farm in Marum, Groningen. He is a very nice person with whom I have enjoyed many hours discussing emigration. He had ministered in four different places and experienced an awful lot in his congregations during World War II. He is a very sympathetic person and sees the emigration as part of a calling. It was also difficult for him to leave since his parents are still living. In spite of that, he felt he had to answer the call. 

On our boat trip, we heard a lot about emigration and how people see the future. I hope the material things are not our priority because once when we land in a strange country, we hope we can assist one another in the material and spiritual matters. If we can spiritually help one another, then we have gained—we left much behind—two daughters, a future son-in-law, parents and grandparents, brothers and sisters and a brother-in-law seriously ill (Omke Cornelius Peereboom). We know that Moses’s prayer was the same as we pray today that unless the Lord accompanies us we cannot depart from here. The God we worshiped in the Netherlands is the same God in our new country. 

This afternoon 6 family members were absent at the table. We had a cold buffet because soup etc did not look appetizing. After dinner, I was favored with the company of someone from Murmerswoude who was immigrating to America with his wife and five children. We played some checkers. After that, I met a 65-year-old German who had lived in Michigan for more than 20 years. His first wife had died and he recently married a 25-year-old. He had served in the German army during World War I and had returned to Germany to visit his children. There are many passengers around 50 and 60 years old who are taking a trip to the U.S.A. One person from Wolvega now living in Echten is 78 years old and he plans to visit his daughter in the U.S.A. Nobody on the boat is discouraging immigration. Everybody is very positive and hopefully, we will not be disappointed. One praises the U.S.A. more than the other. 

Now it is 3:30 (English Time) and we are on the big ocean. It is quite calm to be gliding along with a seafaring village. You just cannot imagine what it is like. Dance floors and really everything is on board. I’ll quit for now, perhaps after dinner, I’ll start again. 

1953_family of 10

Around 6:00 P.M.—We were all at the dinner table. At night I played checkers with an American, who had taken a trip to Groningen, a very nice person. He lives around 60 km from our place. He is also CRC. Around ten o’clock everybody went to the cabin. Wednesday morning everybody was there for breakfast, then we walked and after that, it was just laying around. Around 10:30 a demonstration was held with the life jackets and boats should something serioushappen. Around noon everybody was at the table for lunch and in the afternoon reading, laying around, and a nap was in order. Dinner at 6 o’clock, then I played checkers with a principal’s wife from Itens around Sneek. She was a bit too clever for me as I lost twice, but she belonged to a club, so she was a special player. She was traveling to see her sister in Canada. Around 9 o’clock we went to bed as my wife was getting tired and sleepy. It will be a long night because we will lose again 45 minutes. Everybody had a wonderful rest and Thursday morning accompanied by the three youngest children walking on deck. Because it is too warm to be in the cabins. A bit of activity— then the food tastes better too. After we ate I enjoyed some quiet time reading and the younger children went to the playroom. 

All-day Friday we just sat around, the weather quite rough so that they had to fasten down the deck chairs. It is Good Friday and 8:30 we had a church service in the children’s playroom. It was overcrowded. It is surely nice to be in “church” again, it gives you again a different feeling. The minister had a good sermon. After church we sat around for a while—once again we lost another 45 minutes and if you go to bed early then the night does get to be very long. In the morning you really don’t have anything to do–it is getting a bit tiresome. 

Saturday morning everybody ate breakfast, and Sunday one more sermon from our Dutch minister. Beautiful weather and Monday P.M. we expect to land in Hoboken, New York. Then the officers will come on board before we enter the harbor. All papers have to be ready. Should you arrive in the evening then look around carefully because it is a beautiful sight to see the city all lit up. If all is well we hope to be there then. When you leave the boat the suitcases are placed on a big lot, they will take them there for you. Keep your purse and money with you, Follie. Your suitcases will be placed by the “K” while Anna’s will be at the “R.” After that, you are ready to start your journey to Sussex 

Summary of Heit’s instructions: 

  1. Follie and Anna, in Rotterdam you’ll see a long table with officers behind it. They may open the suitcases (they did not open ours) and after that, they will be delivered for you to your cabin. They will be there before you get to see i.t 
  2. When you get there ask for information as to where you must show your paperwork, stay calm, they will not leave without you. There you’ll receive your paperwork as a passenger and you have to show that when you enter the boat. 
  1. In your cabin, you’ll find the seating for the dining room. At mealtime, someone will walk around with a bell and then you just follow the crowd. 
  1. Read carefully the instructions above the sink in the cabin. You’ll find it in Dutch and English. It looks something like this. 
  1. When Trina and Louis take you to the boat try to show them your cabin. That is allowed. Just prior to departure there was an announcement that visitors had to leave because the boat was leaving. It will give them a chance to see something. 
  1. It would be good for both of you to write a diary—that way you can look back and remember what it was like and it will also help pass the time. 
  1. Now, immediately rent a deck chair with a blanket when you go onboard. If you get seasick it will be helpful to be on deck, and if you rent the blanket you do not need to take care of your own. They do put them out for you every morning. If you don’t get seasick you can enjoy the chair reading and just laying around. The best place is under the roof. One area has windows but they open and at the rear, it gets quite drafty.

It has been a good day to be with the thoughts of what this day may have been like so many years ago. I would love to sit with my Aunts and Uncles and hear more of what they remember from the experience. Perhaps in these days of COVID-19 you can sit and write a letter to a loved one and ask them some of the questions that you wonder about. We have time my friends to pursue the details of our stories I am grateful to know more of mine today!

 

Angels Amongst us

In the last week, for many of us, our jobs were either significantly altered or for some came to a screeching halt. At Visiting Angels of West Michigan, in our care for the elderly, we are considered an essential service and we have made significant adjustments in navigating what care looks like during COVID-19.

A definite blessing in disguise during this time is the amount of communication we have had with our clients and their families and our caregivers. There is something in me that doesn’t want to text as much. Hearing someone’s voice is such a gift and to really hear how someone is doing feels critical and beneficial.

I wanted to share with you some of the responses from the Caregivers when we ask if they are willing to continue providing care in this uncertain climate.

  • Morning. Just an update from our talk yesterday. I talked with my husband last night  and we agreed whatever you need from me in the next  weeks, I am, as they  say, all in!!!
  • After talking with my husband I would like to help as much as I can.
  • Something I’m doing to be extra careful. I have a fun bag I carry with my VA things in it, ie gloves, gait belt, pens, time pages. Last week I changed to reusable cloth store bags. Not as cute, but I use a different one at each client on days I see more then 1 client and wash at night. Maybe others do this too but I thought I’d pass it on.
  • My heart is full of Gratitude for
    • Sunshine
    • Projects to keep me busy
    • Wonderful people to work with and for
    • Grateful clients
    • That my Client really can’t tell the difference between Fox News and CNN ( I’ve read the Bible more in the past few weeks then probably my entire life to give her something else to concentrate on)
    • Wonderful neighbors
    • The calm smart attitudes of my family
    • Extra grateful that my parents are watching this from the other side
  • So many caregivers saying YES to working nights and weekends, signing their communications with we stand together, team angels and with deep gratitude for meaningful work. 

I am so very grateful for the commitment of our team to show up for clients they have known for a long time and clients they have not yet met. They continue to speak of their commitment to our community of vulnerable people. Our Caregivers are now the ones who are permitted to enter into facilities when family members can not. They now facilitate face time calls and comfort fears as many of our clients are trying to grasp all that is unfolding.

And so will you please say an extra prayer for our Caregivers, who I am convinced are Angels among us. Will you pray for protection for them as they enter into homes day in and day out.  Will you please say an extra prayer for our clients, that they will remain protected from COVID-19 and feel comforted in the presence of those who surround them. I have attached a few of my favorite pictures so you can envision some of the folks for whom I give thanks for throughout every day. (not all are pictured here.)

Go and live boldly and wisely in these uncertain days. Be an Angel in your circles. Bring your kindness, your heart, your words, your wisdom and your social distancing presence to remind others that even on hard days, there is goodness.

Hang onto hope my friends.

Blessed Be His Name!

 

Through clouds and sunshine abide with me

I have wanted to write for a long time. If only I could download my thoughts, there would be three blogs a day. But tonight it feels clear to me what the words will be as they travel from my thoughts, through my fingers, for my eyes (and your eyes) to read.

I woke up thinking about uncertain times. They seem to surround every bit of our being IMG_8722these days. But today’s uncertain times is not where my thoughts started. This morning I woke up thinking how two years ago to this date we entered uncertain times.  It was two years ago tonight that my Dad had a seizure. We stood in the ER as the Doc, who spoke with clarity and compassion, but also matter of factness and in somewhat of a sterile way, told us he had a mass in his brain. The hours that followed he was transferred to Butterworth Neurology and admitted for further testing. What I remember most in those initial hours is how we stood together, my Dad had perspective and humor, my Mom’s strength was evident and their commitment to one another was strong. We called Nick who was traveling and he offered to come right home. We had a sense we had a tough road ahead but we had no idea that the road would be only 7 weeks long.

I went to bed that night two years ago and journaled the following:

Lord, you knew we would be here and I know you will remain with us. I am not sure what we will need, but you will provide. I am not sure what you want us to learn, but I trust you will be a gentle teacher. Please Jesus abide with us in the days ahead. Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

Tonight I am listening to a Sara Groves live concert as I blog and she is closing the night with Abide with me. I am reminded of God’s grace, goodness and presence in difficult times.

Tonight I feel a deep gnawing ache as I remember the feelings of unknown looming ahead of us two years ago. My Dad spoke with confidence and assurance in the days of diagnosis, decisions, and uncertainty. He did not lose all he was assured of, even on hard days.

Tonight I feel a heightened anxiety as I consider the feelings that surround the looming unknowns that face us today. COVID-19 brings so many questions and I can’t help but wonder how close to home will the devastation be felt? And yet I am reminded that we have walked in uncertain times before. I would guess we all have.

I miss my Dad every day. Sometimes it is his presence, his voice, his pipe, his laughter, his silence, his singing,  his preaching, his wisdom. I would like to know what he would say about our current state of affairs. He is not hear to speak into it and yet I hear his voice, his message was consistent and clear. Be the Church, live in Unity, care for one another, show up and never forget that God is still on His throne.

I want to live assured of all I do know. I want to hang onto God’s goodness and provision in difficult times. I want to hold the song in my heart: Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

Blessed Be His Name

 

Happy 80th Birthday Dad!

I am in the midst of a fantastic celebration in my life. My sisters established 50 days of celebration, leading up to my 50th birthday. I am 18 days to 50 and feel so loved, celebrated, and delighted in.

But tonight my heart holds the ache of wishing we could be preparing for the final details of my Dad’s 80th birthday celebration. The last birthday we celebrated was his 78th, and we didn’t know it would be our final celebration of his life.

BD04A0F4-AEAB-42AD-9334-54E5E155EE29.jpegMy Dad was always up for a good celebration. I believe what he enjoyed the most were those moments of connecting with such a variety of individuals. My Dad knew lots of people from all over the world. One thing I have heard consistently is when he met up with you, no matter who you were, he was genuinely interested in the conversation he was having.

I envisioned the 80th birthday for my Dad over the past years. I looked forward to the gathering of so many different friends from so many walks of life. I looked forward to the stories and the overall delight of 80 years well-lived

But clearly, my Dad did not make it to his 80th birthday. My Dad died in May of 2018 at 78. And so, on his 80th birthday, we are left in the space of remembering, reflecting, and being grateful for his 78 years well lived. As a family, we will gather, we will prepare some of his favorites, we will drink some Southern Comfort, and there may be a cigar lit in his honor. The gathering will be small and the feel will be so different than a festive 80th birthday open house with so many friends and family present.

But the feeling will be one of gratitude.

0857CBEF-FB47-4934-B743-3B6FC40EB880.jpegGratitude for my Dad’s life, for his marriage to my Mom and the almost 54 years they shared.

Gratitude for his faithfulness and presence in our lives as Dad and Papa.

Gratitude for his leadership and voice in so many different spaces.

Gratitude for the way he left his impact on individuals and organizations.

Gratitude for his passion for the Christian Reformed Church and the Reformed ChurchE7308B8D-89C2-430F-A65E-0A545893220C_4_5005_c around the World.

Gratitude for his convictions for equality and racial reconciliation and justice and for the ways he advocated for unity!

For all the places he traveled and all the people he knew and enjoyed, we are deeply grateful that we called him husband, father, and papa. He had a big presence in our lives, and his absence is felt often. We miss his voice, his prayers, his teasing, his care, his presence, and his wisdom.

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We will celebrate and raise a glass to you, Dad. To the day of your birth 80 years ago!

Toast to Papa
Following the Committal Service, we made a toast to a Husband, Father, Papa, Brother, and Friend who will be deeply missed!

And yet, even with the ache in our hearts, on the 14th of November, 2019, my Dad’s 80th birthday, we remain grateful for all that was, all that remains and all that is still to come.

Blessed Be His Name!

Love comes in so many ways..

This week I experienced

#50daystill50

#49daystill50

#48daystill50

#47daystill50

#46daystill50

#45daystill50

#44daystill50

I am one week into my 50 days till 50, and the anticipation and joy that fills my heart is abundant. I am enjoying and feeling deeply grateful for the many ways I am being remembered on my journey to 50. I plan to write a blog post each week, highlighting the people who brought me such joy in the past week.

2014-06-09 07.09.42My sister Arlene and Suzi created this beautiful 50 days till 50, and each of them took a turn this week.

I am grateful for the friendships I share with each of them individually and what we share together. I love that as a family, we navigate a lot of spaces, and we are always experimenting/learning how to live the best life we can together. Our sister relationships ebb and flow through different seasons, but I know without a doubt, we will always have a friendship that looks out for one another and wants the best for each other.  I am grateful we put words to difficult spaces, and without a doubt, we experience much laughter and love together.

Thank you, Arlene and Suzi, each for how you celebrated me this past week, but also for all you have done to create a memorable journey to 50. I am deeply grateful to share life with you both in our growing up years and still today. I love you both so!

What fun to see Emily Otten’s name come across my messages. Emily was just a young fullsizeoutput_17b5aone when we met when we moved to Holland. I remember going to Church together, babysitting for you and Mike and Melissa, and jumping on the trampoline. It was such fun when you went to College and showed up in my world at Sunshine Community Church and now over the years to stay in touch via Facebook. Your eye for photography is fantastic, and your smile and sparkle in your eye remain vibrant and ever-present. Thank you, Emily, for taking a day to celebrate my journey to 50!

2016-09-05 17.28.08.jpgOlivia Grace is one of my dear nieces. She is a senior at Aquinas College on a soccer scholarship, and she is there because of sheer commitment to her dreams. Olivia is an inspiration to me in her daily discipline. She is as committed to the work of her heart and soul as she is to her physical well being. She is passionate, convicted, tender, an advocate, and so much more. She has blessed me in so many ways by sharing her heart and her life with me. Thank you, Livi, for your goodness shared on my journey to 50.

I know many people wish they could work in a setting with amazing people and where their passion is provoked and at the end of the day, go home satisfied that they lived true to the calling of their heart. As I look forward to my 50’s, I do not take for granted that the community in which I work every day is precisely that in my world.

fullsizeoutput_178b9.jpegTwo of the people who celebrated me this week are Beth and Beth. Beth S has been a caregiver with Visiting Angels since August of 2012. Beth has navigated so much of Visiting Angels with us, and she always manages to find joy in her giving to others. She is kind, generous, and her laughter is abundant, even in trying times. Bless you, Beth, for joining me on my journey to 50. I am so grateful for the goodness you bring to so many, including me!

Beth L has been with Visiting Angels since October of 2015. Beth gives her all to her 31250457_10213771789002021_6265619770259800064_nclients and is generous in her love of others. I admire her commitment to her own wellbeing and self-care, and I hope to be as structured and disciplined in that as she is someday. Thank you, Beth, for your kindness to me on #46daystill50.

There are friends who I once worked with and still hold such a special place in my heart. Karen came into Visiting Angels when it still felt new and unfolding, and we were navigating hiring and managing of caregivers 60140398_10161565136760543_4007779003468349440_o.jpgin a business that was growing faster than we could think some days. Karen always brings a breath of fresh air, a true and grateful spirit, and a deep understanding that some days, you have to choose your perspective on life cause life isn’t always easy. Karen brings joy and goodness into all of her spaces. Karen is a woman of adventure, laughter, kindness, honesty, courage, and a sincere faith. When I saw Karen’s post, I felt such heartfelt gratitude for the seasons we have shared. Thank you, Karen, for leaving a lasting imprint on Visiting Angels and all of us who shared the day to day life with you there.

And the last tribute for this week is to my brother and sister in law, Nick and Jonna. fullsizeoutput_13e74.jpegJonna loves to give gifts with meaning and purpose that fit the life of the person she is blessing. It was no surprise that the gift I received from them is something I can use every day, and it fits into my daily routine. Jonna is observant to likes and habits, and hobbies and routines.  She has such fun giving. Her laughter is contagious, her energy electric, and her goodness comes from deep within her generous heart. Thank you, Nick and Jonna, for surprising me on #44daystill50.

And so I am one week closer to turning 50 and each day was a bit more special because of this array of people from my village.

Blessed be His Name!

 

Let the countdown begin…

Last night at my Mom’s birthday celebration, Arlene read me this poem…

The first line that got cut off is

So, Trish, it’s not your birthday yet, in case you didn’t know. Turning 50’s a big deal…

Wow, I had not expected this, nor was I aware that today started the countdown of 50 days till 50. As I laid in bed last night, I sent Arlene and Suzi this text:

Thank you both so much for creating the 50-day celebration. I find myself a bit giddy with curiosity and enjoying the idea of waiting to see how celebration will unfold. Thank you, and I love you both. God clearly gave me the best sisters ever! ❤️

I am not sure who or what or how or when, and that is somewhat unusual in my world. But as 50 approaches, I am delighting in the fact that the unknown brings a good sense of curiosity and not a sense of trying to figure it out.

As 50 approaches, I am delighting in the fact that I can embrace the celebration of my life as a gift of the outstanding people who make up my community.

As 50 approaches, I am delighting in the reality that life feels settled, my heart feels full, and that I have learned to navigate the many emotions that flow through my being. I am willing to be ok with what doesn’t feel ok. I have recognized that friendships have seasons, and friendships change like seasons change sometimes. That doesn’t have to a negative thing, even if it is hard, and all that was shared can still be called good.

As 50 approaches, I feel more fully myself. I have goals for my wellbeing, I have desires for my relationships, I have adventures to be lived, and I am committed to taking life as it unfolds before me.

I am committed to living intentionally aware and present in my actions, words, busy spaces, and alone spaces. I long to leave a bit of my heart everywhere I go. I want to offer hope, laughter, encouragement, or understanding in the conversations I share. And at the end of each day, I know I can honestly reflect on all that unfolded and look forward to tomorrow because one of the many truths I hold is that His mercies are new every morning.

Today at Noon, my sister came and picked me up, and we had a lovely lunch at Horrocks and spent time decorating my new porch for fall.  It was such a sweet time, and I loved every moment of it.

I am 50 days away from turning 50, and I am looking forward to every one of them.

I live in a village of deep love and great fun, and I am grateful.

Blessed be His name,

 

 

 

Does it get better with time?

Logan_18I know the answer to my question. I am doing a good bit of reflecting this week as I made this picture my Facebook profile picture. Thursday would have been my oldest brother’s 55th birthday. He was 48 when he died in a car accident. There are moments of those first hours, days, and weeks that are etched forever in my memory and heart. But I will say the intensity of the pain of loss does seem to change with time.

And yet there are times the ache of loss feels deep. There is a catch in my breathing, a pit in my gut, and a tightness in my chest that can stop me in my steps.

I still miss Len. I miss celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary and hearing he and Marcia talk about all the adventures they shared. I miss him at Olivia’s soccer games and in Noah and Lauren’s wedding conversations, in Sonta’s love for doing hair and pursuing cosmetology and in Jean Marc’s High School basketball season. I miss calling him and hearing him. I miss his laughter, his singing, and his quirky sense of humor and deep grounded and abundant faith. I miss him often, even after all these years. I do think grief changes over time, but I also do believe that I would not be honest if I did not say, grief also is always in a tender space of my heart. It is there every morning and every evening, and I believe it will be there until my last breath.

This week we also celebrated my Mom’s 77th birthday in a treehouse in California. It was delightful in so many ways, and I was aware in almost every moment that my Dad wasn’t with us. I was driving the rental, he wasn’t smoking his pipe on the cool treehouse deck, we poured our own happy hour, and he didn’t get to experience all we did with Andrew who lives in Monterey for a year completing the post naval graduate program. He would have enjoyed so much of what we did, and we miss him deeply. Our tears flow frequently, our memories are sweet, our conversations often reflect our travels, the stories, the experiences, the laughter, and the yearning to hear my Dad’s voice speak about all that was important to him.

IMG_6661And this picture was my Mom’s 75th birthday. The last one my Dad was here to celebrate. I am deeply grateful for images that remind us how much fun this celebration was.

Our celebrations continue, our laughter is genuine, our smiles reflect authentic gratitude, but our hearts ache in the absence of a man whose presence brought us such stability and goodness.

And so our family now feels the reality of loss in Len and my Dad. The feeling will always be that we are missing two deeply loved family members. We live each day; we welcome new family through birth and marriage, and we know that no one can fill the space of Leonard Hugh or Peter B. Grief changes over time, but grief is also always with us. It is my hope and prayer that as a community, we can enter those tender spaces with one another, be curious, ask questions, acknowledge the absence that is felt, and know that every grief journey is unique. There is not a timeline, there is no right way to grieve, and allowing tears to flow is healing.

I am grateful that grief changes over time, and I also am willing to embrace the tender spaces in my heart where the river of sorrow flows. That river, although known to provoke tears and that deep ache at times, also reminds me of just how much I loved and was loved.