Year of Disappointment: An Anchor for the Soul

This year, 2020, might be called the year of disappointment. Everyone has been affected by the pandemic whether it be financially, socially or physically. 

The politics in our country has been hard to watch. We have flawed men seeking the presidency. The recent revelations of corruption are disheartening.

The bias in the media and the censoring of some points of view is discouraging. Yet I am reminded that people in previous eras have experienced disruption and jarring circumstances.

Currently I am reading the novel, Last Christmas in Paris, by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb. The book tells the story of young people during World War I. As I writer I am enjoying the structure the book. The story (historically accurate) is told through letters written by the main characters.

The lives of people in England were disrupted as the men left to fight a war that would last four years. Women’s roles changed to meet the needs of the home front. News that would show England in a bad light was censored. It was hard to get a true sense of what was happening with the war—and with loved ones. And towards the end of the war, the Spanish flu arrived, the pandemic of 1918.

We do live in a broken world. //

When we have a relationship with Jesus, he does not disappoint.

he is my steadfast love and my fortress,
my stronghold and my deliverer,
my shield and he in whom I take refuge. Psalm 144:2

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end. Lamentations 3:22

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 6:19-20

In this time we need to encourage each other and pray for each other (and vote). I feel blessed to attend church each Sunday and a Bible study during the week. I hope that you are able to meet with a church and/or Bible study.

This post is shared with the Five Minute Friday Writing Community and Heart Encouragement .

Why is the Roe v. Wade Decision Still Raising Questions?

Roe v. Wade is once again being discussed. During the Senate confirmation hearing for Amy Coney Barrett, Judge Barrett was asked many questions about the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide 47 years ago. Senator Klobuchar asked if the decision was a super precedent—a decision that should never be reviwed.

I have thought about abortion from the perspective of a woman, a mother and a nurse.

Abortion is defended as a woman’s right to choose. With the national legalization it is more than that. When abortion was made medically available and normalized, a parent was given the ability to pressure a daughter to abort a baby that might be an embarrassment to the family (as happened to one of my daughter’s friends). A boyfriend, an abuser or a pimp could more easily pressure a girl to abort an inconvenient pregnancy—releasing young men from any responsibility. The national legalization of abortion normalized the choice to kill life.

A friend of mine learned that the child in her womb had a genetic defect. She was pressured to abort the baby. She was “encouraged” multiple times by her doctor and refused. She gave birth and honored the life of that child.

In 1999 I wrote an article for a nursing journal about another woman who went against the current of medical opinion. The baby in her womb had been diagnosed with a major deformity. She carried the baby to term and was able to care for her child for a month, loving him until he passed away.

Five years ago I wrote a blog post about a patient of mine who experienced a pregnancy loss and the way that the nursing staff honored that baby’s life. Here is a portion of that article.

I recalled an experience that I had as a nurse in the hospital. My patient experienced a miscarriage. At sixteen weeks gestation, the infant had died in the womb. The mother had experienced wrenching physical and emotional pain as she labored. She had moaned, tossing and turning in bed. As her nurse, I had given morphine ordered by the doctor, but it had not covered the pain. After eight exhausting hours the body of the tiny girl baby was delivered.

We wrapped the baby in a blanket and after the mother held her, I made the memorial card. I held the tiny feet gently, applied ink and made footprints on the bereavement card—a memorial to the life of a baby girl and one aspect of bereavement care provided at the hospital.

At the nurse’s station, a doctor was explaining various medications that he had used to abort pregnancies.  He talked about the abortion process and it struck me that women going through abortion may have experienced the same misery that I had just witnessed.   The difference was that they did not receive bereavement care.  Women went home from the hospital or clinic quietly. The experience may have been traumatic and done in secret.

Although some celebrities have said that they are proud of their abortion, many women carry emotional and spiritual wounds. The group, Silent No More, testifies about the long lasting pain of abortion.

There is a deep sense among many people that the quick fix offered by abortion is not right or good.

The Wall Street Journal (10/16/2020) quoted Judge Barrett’s response to Senator Klobuchar’s question about a super precedent. “I’m answering a lot of questions about Roe, which indicates that Roe doesn’t fall into that category”.

The images of the developing infant are courtesy of Creative Commons through this license.

Refreshed by a Weekend in Michigan with My Sisters

Northern Michigan is at the height of fall color. My sisters and I enjoyed a road trip, taking in the vivid, glowing colors of the trees.

Sun and shadow played on the orange and yellow leaves, lighting them up like gold. Red and green provided contrast.

We hiked through a wooded area and noticed the beautiful detail in leaves and flowers. Art designed by God.

The fall colors were glorious, and the time with my sisters was a blessing. We picked apples, listened to podcasts together, shared meals and prayed for family concerns. We gave thanks because we have seen God’s faithfulness over the years.

For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Isaiah 55:12

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Breathing Patterns for Birth . . . and Soccer?

Last Saturday I spent a lovely afternoon watching my grandson play soccer. It brought back memories of the time my son played soccer and I was an accidental coach. Years ago I wrote a story about that experience.

When I first told my family that I was  a soccer coach they didn’t believe me.  You see, I had never played soccer.  I had never even watched a soccer game.  My position as a soccer coach began as a mistake.

When I signed my son up for soccer I checked one of the boxes indicating that I would volunteer my assistance.  Whenever my children were involved in an activity it seemed prudent to be involved.  I could bake cookies or make phone calls. At the first team meeting a tall man announced to the group.  “I’m looking for Carol Van Der Woude.”

I stepped forward with a smile, “that’s me.”

“I’m John.  I understand that you are my assistant coach.”

I gasped and then stuttered.  “I’m pleased to meet you.  I did sign up to assist . . . um . . . I can make phone calls, bring snacks.”

John smiled and responded.  “All the parents will bring snacks.  I’ll just need you to help with the practices and then cover a few games when I am out of town.  It’s not hard,  We have a training session this coming Saturday.”

The following Saturday I arrived at the sport center dressed in casual clothes and leather sandals.  I brought my notebook and pen, prepared to take notes on my new role.  With a sinking heart I noticed that I was one of a few females and that everyone was dressed in shorts and tennis shoes.  John greeted me, looked at my attire and  chuckled.  “It’s going to be a little hard to control the ball in those shoes.”

When the instructor for our session asked everyone to assemble on the indoor soccer field, I felt a little sick.  I stayed at the back of the group, trying to be invisible.

It was to no avail.  The instructor walked over and looked me up and down.  I was hoping that he would ask me to sit out.  Instead he shrugged as amusement crossed his features.  “It’ll have to do.”

We practiced countless drills, dribbling and passing the ball, running around cones.  I survived the running and kicking and returned to my seat to write furious notes.

As I wrote I thought, I’ve taught Lamaze skills for many years.  Surely I can teach soccer skills.  Certainly there are principles that apply to both.

During our practices I had each child introduce himself and encouraged the children to call each other by name.  I was sure that a good sense of team effort and a supportive environment would benefit the players.   It was a delight to see the shy child’s face light up when his team-mates called to him by name.

John was out of town for our second game.  I rotated the 5 and 6 year old boys on and off the field.  Whenever a child became distracted or was hesitant about kicking the ball I coached him.  “Focus on the ball, breathe in, breathe out and kick!”  From the sidelines I yelled “Breathe and kick!”

After my grandson’s game I took out the team picture from 23 years ago. I was standing proudly with the team. I never coached another soccer team, but I have happy memories of that year.

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Those Who Love Your Name

Flowers are still blooming in my backyard. The aster (I think it is an aromatic aster) is a nice surprise. It’s blooming in a pot of depleted wild flowers. The humming birds still visit the phlox and zinnias. My humming bird feeder attracts wasps as well as the humming birds. The wasps circle around us but don’t sting.

A couple days ago four of us, women from my church, sat out in the yard enjoying the sunshine and fellowship. We discussed our study of Luke, chapters 2&3. We are familiar with this text, have read it many times. But we found new insights.

Then we took time to share concerns. How is your son’s new job? How was your meeting with the teens on Saturday? How is your mother? (Two of us have mothers in declining health.)

We spent time in prayer praising God for his sovereignty and plan of salvation. We gave thanks for his Word. We prayed for our country and prayed for revival. And we asked for God’s  guidance and help for our families.

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exalt in you. Psalm 5:11

Kate’s prompt for the Five Minute Friday writing community is: YOUR This post is also shared with Heart Encouragement and Inspire Me Monday.

Why Do We Have the Church?

Jesus said to his disciples: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them.” Matthew 18:20

I grew up going to church with my family every Sunday. My parents were members of a  Finnish Lutheran Church that was part of an association of Finnish churches. During the summer we sometimes attended the annual church convention. People from across the United States came to a host church and were housed by the local church members. Guest speakers came from Finland.

The convention lasted four days. Each morning we listened to two sermons and then had a community lunch that was organized by the host church. In the afternoon two more sermons. Then a community dinner followed by two more sermons.

I was sheltered from many things. Young people in the church did not go to movies or attend dances. For several years my family did not have a television. It was legalism, but I gained a foundation of faith. I knew that I, like all humans, was a sinner. I asked Jesus to be my Savior.

When I went to the University of Michigan I became involved in Intervarsity and joined the Reformed Church. Through participation in Intervarsity and the church I was able to sort through the legalism—my faith was refined and grew stronger.

I met my husband in the young adult ministry of the Reformed Church. After we were married we chose to become members of the Evangelical Free Church.

It is true that the Church is not perfect. It is made up of sinners who need to confess their sins regularly and repent. The Church is a spiritual family. Both our family of origin and the church family have flaws, but we need them. God has given the family unit as foundational unit for society. 

The Church is the spiritual family that helps us know God and develop spiritually. We sing and praise God. We pray together, confessing our faults and seeking God’s will. We study the Bible together so that we understand God’s commands and obey. We help each other.

When we consider how God has designed us for relationship and community, we can understand why the restrictions imposed by the pandemic are so painful. The isolation that my mother and many others are experiencing in nursing homes is not right. Churches are struggling to navigate through this time.

And so we pray for this pandemic to end, for the officials making decisions about restrictions, for truth and for God’s mercy.

Sharing this post with the Five Minute Friday writing community. I am grateful for this community led by Kate!

Detroit, the Family and Reflections on Racism

My first job as a graduate nurse was in a hospital in downtown Detroit. I worked in a labor/delivery unit with a diverse group of patients. Some women had taken Lamaze classes and some were unwed teenagers. We had a pregnant woman, victim of a gunshot, who was partially paralyzed. The unit had on average 500 births per month at that time.

The head nurse on the dayshift was a black woman. The head nurse on the evening shift was a black woman. Many of the staff were black, and I had a big learning curve.

Most nurses on the unit were experienced, but I was in my first year of practice. I also found an ethnic difference between myself and the nurses that had grown up in a black community. Sometimes I misunderstood them, and sometimes they misunderstood me. But I don’t think this was racism.

I believe that we must listen to others and try to understand our differences. We need to have respect for all people. We can learn this in our families.

I am third generation Finnish. My family held onto Finnish traditions and language (I learned some basic phrases and listened to Finnish pastors as a translator spoke in English). We kept ties with the Finnish community in Upper Michigan where my grandfathers had worked in the copper mines.

 I grew up in a home where my parents instilled a love of learning, took us to libraries and encouraged us to read the Bible.

My family, like all families, has flaws. Yet the family is the design that God put in place for the flourishing of society. My family provided a foundation for me to withstand the challenges of life in a broken world.

The laws of our country need to support the nuclear family. A child’s best advocate is his mother and father. The family is the primary place for learning life skills. Welfare laws inadvertently discouraged the formation of nuclear families. Did this have a disproportionate effect on the black community? 

Planned Parenthood has placed its clinics in poor and black communities. By providing birth control and then subsequently abortions, did these clinics promote promiscuity in the black community? A negative effect on family formation?

It is important to look carefully at the policies that have disadvantaged the black community to understand institutional racism. In an editorial in the Wall Street Journal (9/11/2020) Latasha Fields writes about her opposition to programs that increase dependency on the government. She states:

By subsidizing recklessness and the growing effects of immorality these programs have subverted, undermined and unraveled the tapestry of thriving and healthy families. Ultimately the successes and failures of the black community come from the choices we make. 

We are at a turbulent moment in our country. We need to understand the roots of the unrest and violence in order to find solutions. The police are dealing with complex issues: domestic violence, aggressive resistance to arrest when they are called to a scene, mental illness. Our society has a growing number of young men with autism. 

Please join me in praying for our country.

Luke’s Orderly Account

Next week our women’s Bible study will begin a study of the gospel of Luke (meeting in my backyard). So I am reading and meditating on the first chapter as Luke relates the unfolding of God’s plan to send Jesus.

The angel Gabriel visits Zechariah to announce that God has heard prayers for a son. Zechariah and Elizabeth are going to have a son that will turn the hearts of the people to God.

Zechariah has been obediently serving the Lord in the temple, but he is astonished by this message. Is God going to do this now? This is beyond my expectations? How will this work out?

God’s ways and his timing are truly beyond our understanding. As we see the chaos in our country fueled by the pandemic, the riots, the fires we may wonder how this will end. God is sovereign and He will fulfill all the promises in scripture. We need to hold fast to our faith.

After Gabriel gives the message to Zechariah, he visits Mary to tell her that she will give birth to Jesus, the promised Savior. Mary wonders how this will all happen, but responds in faith. 

May we be like Mary waiting expectantly for God to carry out his plans.

The gospel of Luke will go on to tell about the events in Jesus’ life on earth in a chronological order. I am looking forward to studying each chapter. The events in Luke are covered in the other gospels, but John makes an interesting statement. 

Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. John 21:25

Bible

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3 Kinds of Basil for Soups and Salads

One of the many blessings from a home garden is having fresh herbs readily available. This year I have three kinds of basil.

I planted sweet basil from seeds.

I purchased a bush basil plant at a farmer’s market.

My neighbor gave me a lettuce basil plant.

Basil is nice with any tomato dish. Diced cucumbers and tomatoes with basil is a quick and easy salad. Tear the fresh basil leaves into pieces and add to the cucumbers and tomatoes with salt to taste.

Basil is also nice in soups. I found a couple of good recipes online.

Creamy zucchini soup

Creamy pea and basil soup

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Loud Songs of Joy

Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy! Psalm 47:1

The pandemic has made it difficult for us to worship at church. In the beginning weeks of the lockdown I listened to the hymn sing led by the Getty family on Facebook. The hymns refreshed my faith and gave me joy.

Our church was meeting on zoom. We are a small church and at first did not have a way to include hymns . . .  but our pastor kept pressing forward and when our tech assistants were able to post the words to hymns with screen sharing, we all sang from our homes. I don’t always stay on tune, but it was good to be singing with other believers. 

More recently we have met outside and/or in a room with social distancing. We have been singing hymns accompanied by keyboard, violin or guitar. I am blessed by the hymns. It is an affirmation of our faith in a stressful time. We need to sing!

This past Sunday we sang Jesus Messiah, written by Chris Tomlin. The words of the third verse have a powerful message about our Savior.

His body the bread, his blood the wine

Broken and poured out, all for love 

The whole earth trembled, and the veil was torn.

Love so amazing  

Hymns turn our eyes back to God and his love, his plan for us.

This post is shared with the Five Minute Friday writing community.