Giving Thanks in 2020

Thanksgiving was different this year. We exchanged dishes with my daughter’s family but enjoyed the meal in our separate homes. My granddaughter made a delicious bundt cake and dinner rolls. Another granddaughter made the cranberry sauce. I made my traditional cornbread stuffing. We all had a wonderful meal. In the evening we zoomed with our children and grandchildren in New Mexico, Kansas and Illinois.

I’m thankful for family and the ability to connect over zoom. We celebrated six birthdays this month—daughter, spouses and grandchildren. God has blessed us.

In the United States we have so much that we can access. I am grateful that all the ingredients for the cornbread dressing are easily available—butter, herbs, chestnuts and more. And turkeys are abundant in the grocery stores.

Cornbread dressing

The apples, berries and currants were made into pies. We are blessed to have these available.

A hymn written by Martin Rinkart (1586 – 1649) expresses thanksgiving joy.

Now thank we all our God with heart and hands and voices,

Who wondrous things has done, in whom His world rejoices;

Who from our mother’s arms, hath blessed us on our way

With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

What if we began and ended each day pausing to give thanks for something? I know it would lift my spirits in this unusual year.

Linking this post with Inspire Me Monday and the Five Minute Friday writing community. The writing prompt given by Kate is: GRATEFUL

The Year My Vote Was Denied

During my childhood I was aware of elections and political jingles. My parents voted in every election. It was a citizen’s duty.

The first year I was eligible to vote (1972) Richard Nixon was running against George McGovern. I had registered to vote in Ann Arbor—where I lived as a student. But in the fall of that year I was living and working in Detroit. I was determined to carry out my civic duty.

I drove to the polling station in Ann Arbor and was dismayed to see a huge, long line. When it was 7:00 pm the officials told us that everyone who was in line by 7:00 pm would be allowed to vote. So I waited . . .  and waited. It was close to 1:00 am when it was my turn. The poll worker looked through his documents and shook his head. He told me, “You are at the wrong polling place.” Despite my efforts I didn’t vote in that election.

Over the years I have committed to understanding political policies and have voted in every presidential election except my first attempt and 1988. That fall I was in Seattle with my son during his bone marrow transplant and follow-up care.

On Tuesday afternoons I have three of my grandchildren at my home. Something was said about the current election. My six-year-old grandson turned to me and asked, “Who are you voting for?”

I responded, “I am voting for religious liberty, the constitution and the sanctity of life.”

He said, “I know who you are voting for.”

As the days wind down to this election please join me in praying for a fair election with clear results. Pray for peace in our streets.

This post is shared with the Five Minute Friday writing community. Today’s prompt is: VOTE

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

Sharing this post with Inspire Me Monday and Sue’s Wordless Wednesday .

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.

Sharing this post with the Five Minute Friday writing community .

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.

The Changing Ways of Birth

I was born in Michigan, and so was my mother. My grandmother was born in Finland.

My grandmother gave birth to her children at home. My mother gave birth in the hospital during the obstetric practice of twilight sleep and delivery with forceps. I gave birth by cesarean section.

As a nurse I worked in labor and delivery and neonatal intensive care. Hoping to help women avoid unnecessary interventions, I taught Lamaze classes.

Finally after many years in the hospital I worked with a home birth practice alongside doctors and midwives. I learned new ways to assist a woman during labor and birth. I gained new perspectives, able to see the spiritual side of childbirth more clearly. Sometimes, while caring for a woman during labor, she asked me to pray for her. Sometimes I observed the husband praying.

Every birth is unique. Every baby is a gift of God. I have been blessed with seeing the birth of my grandchildren at home and in the hospital.

Sharing this post with the Five Minute Friday writing community. Today’s prompt is: BORN

Remembering with Hope

Today we went to the cemetery and tended the family graves. We planted flowers and walked among the stones marking family members. As I read the names I was recalling family history.

My husband’s grandparents immigrated from Holland in 1911. In 1918 they lost three of their children when scarlet fever and the Spanish flu afflicted the family. William was a young adult, Winnie was a teenager and Cornelius was school age.

The family had worked hard to adjust to life in America and pay back the debts incurred during the first year. They had a deep faith in God and persevered. With support from a community of faith, they persevered through the grief of losing three children in one week.

We are blessed to have a family history written by my husband’s uncle. He wrote about his family and each of his sisters and brothers. He described the faith of his parents and siblings.

 I reflected on this as I thought about our Steven. The years of his cancer treatment were tough. He kept a journal, continued with school work and Awana lessons. He memorized many Bible verses. Three verse are listed on his gravestone.

The first one was chosen for him when he was dedicated as a baby.

Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. Psalm 71:3

The second one relates to his participation in Awana, his Bible study.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

The third verse is one that he talked about in the last weeks of his life.

He [God] shall wipe away every tear from their eyes and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:4

As a family we are bonded together in faith and hope. We remember those that have gone before us to eternal life.

If you, dear reader, are not a part of the family of God, you can be. The word [of faith] is near you . . . because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God, raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9