We Need to Sing

Prayer and Bible study are ways to be observant of our faith. Singing hymns is another way.

On Christmas Eve we could not attend an indoor church service. Our family—our children and grandchildren—met in a church parking lot with others. We were standing outside, and it was freezing cold. We held candles and sang Christmas carols. 

The children will remember Christmas Eve in 2020.

This past Sunday we attended our church. We sang the hymn, To God Be the Glory. The hymn brought back memories of a Bible study group that I attended while in college at the home of an older couple. The song leader was very enthusiastic in expressing his faith. He sang this hymn with great joy. The memory has stayed with me.

Hymns are a part of my family heritage, and I am grateful. I remember the hymns that my Dad sang at home. I remember the words to hymns that we sang in church on Sunday mornings  The words that are sung help to instill faith and joy. We need to sing. The children need to hear us and to sing with us.

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

Faith and Hope for 2021

On New Year’s Eve I wrote the following words. As 2020 slips into sunset, I look forward with hope that the new year will bring a revival of faith, renewed health and joy.

And yet, just a few days in, the pandemic continues and the political tension is increasing. I wake up in the morning with a heavy feeling. What should I do?

I must begin the day with time in God’s word and continue to pray. And then these thoughts come to me: Encourage my family. Participate with the church—in person or on zoom as circumstances allow. Ask the Lord for opportunities to reach out to others.

God can use this time to increase my faith.

But you, O LORD, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.

I cried aloud to the LORD,
and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah
Psalm 3: 3-4

In the sermon on the mount Jesus calls us to be a salt and light in the world. He will help us. 

This post is linked with the Five Minute Friday writing community. Today’s prompt is: TIME . Also sharing with Heart Encouragement.

Mom at Rest: December 14, 2020

For the past few years Mom was a resident in Porter Hills nursing home. Her memory and physical mobility were declining. And then the pandemic came and visits were restricted. Mom was alone more and placed on hospice care. We were grateful when in person visits were allowed once more.

Last week the nursing home had a covid-19 outbreak, and within a few days Mom passed away. We grieve her passing but rejoice that she is at rest with the Lord. She believed in Jesus and confessed him as Savior.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

Reflecting on Mom’s life and looking through photos, I came across a letter I wrote a few years ago. 

Today is Mother’s Day and I am thinking about all the ways you have been a blessing. I have many wonderful memories.

Do you remember the house on Prevost, in Detroit? One day when I was little you let us eat lunch in our backyard. We were pretending that we were in a restaurant. We had a menu and you served our food through the milk box. 

You planned many birthday parties—making a birthday cake and inviting friends over for a party.

On Easter Sunday I always had a pretty new dress and shiny shoes. Sometimes you sewed the dresses for Joyce and me.

You let me bake and cook, giving some guidance, but also letting me try recipes on my own.  My confidence in the kitchen grew.

You always had books in the house for us and took us to the library. This was a great start for succeeding in school. 

You raised five children and we all went to college.

You shared your love of berries with us. When my children were little you and Dad picked strawberries and blueberries. You gave them to us. You made applesauce for us and your grandchildren still remember. 

I am thankful for Mom and glad that she is at rest in the presence of our Savior.

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!