California

Even though I have travelled quite a bit around America, I had not made it to the west coast.. many colleagues come from there, so many stories have been told… and now I can add my own stories!!

Last weekend I flew to California just for the weekend… not to see the Hollywood glitz and glam.. one of my biggest wishes was to see the Pacific Ocean.. driving on the Pacific highway would be the bonus.

The warm air and beautiful blue sky was in stark contrast to the blackened hills. The recent fire images from the news sprang to mind quickly when you actually drive through these hills.. and see the devastation. A quick reminder that life is temporary and this is not our home. I can’t wait for the permanent home in Heaven!

No beach visit is complete without shells… and even though I was assured that the beaches are mostly bare of shells, I found some!! To be treasured for sure.

The beach visited is often used for shooting movies and tv series.. I did not see any celebrities though and would not even recognise any anyways. I was far more interested in trying to spot marine life! I instantly regretted not taking my camera.. 2 whales were frolicking in the area were the surf was. We could follow them and observe from probably 30 ft away… so cool! A pod of dolphins was seen further in the sea… man! Awesome!!! That’s the only word I have to describe it.

I did not realise I would be so quickly hooked on a place so alien to me.. walking in the sunshine on the beach…. California… I will be back!!!

Christmas Praise

Colossians 3:17 New International Version (NIV)

17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

I had heard Jaime Jorge was giving a series of concerts in Minnesota… a quick check on his schedule gave me the idea to drive to Hutchinson MN to listen. It has snowed here, and it’s a little icy out.. but I really wanted to go. I set off early.

I arrived a little early, and waited a little in the car before venturing in the church. I have had the privilege to meet Jaime on a few occasions, and as we happened to walk into the building together we chatted a little.

His concert was centred around Christmas. The most beautiful renditions were played of some of the more well known Christmas carols… even though I loved it, it was not what grabbed me…

He started playing Silent Night… just on the violin, no back up track … and asked us to join in singing in the second verse. Maybe there were about 150 people there… and the beautiful sounds that raised from the audience accompanied by the violin moved me. The sprit of Christmas started for me right there.

Right after he played one of my favourite hymns… I surrender all… and he expressed how easy it is to play the song, but how difficult it is to live that out in life.. to surrender all. I can sympathise with that. I am a control freak, and surrendering is the opposite of control… it’s asking God to be in control. That will be my learning and struggle for eternity!

His witness and stories about his mission ‘healing music’ are worth listening to. You can hear he speaks from a living relationship with God. He lives out the words of Coll 3:17 I quoted above.

If you have an opportunity to hear him… do it! His schedule is on his website. (www.jaimejorge.com)

The long drive was worth it. My Sabbath is blessed already..

Giving Thanks

There are few American celebrations I can identify with… most don’t relate to anything I really know. However, Thanksgiving is something that resonates with me. Remembering why we can be thankful.

In the American history, this signifies hard times and new beginnings. Religious persecution lead to the voyage to America to pursue religious liberty. And after a slow start in Plymouth, the first Thanksgiving was a celebration of the first successful harvest. This gets celebrated every year. It’s a national holiday. In Europe we also celebrate the harvest of the year. It’s celebrated in October and I wonder of the pilgrims took this tradition with them and gave it new meaning.

Thanksgiving.. giving thanks for abundance. Often in the humdrum of life, we don’t stop often enough to say Thanks to Him who provides. We may believe that hard work got us there, and not always see the significance of giving thanks.

Over the past years I have been privileged to be in the US during this holiday. Families and friends come together, spending quality time, remembering why they are thankful. Maybe a round table saying out loud that which they are thankful for.

I wish we would pay more attention to this in Europe. To be thankful is an act of acknowledgment that what we have is not of our own making. And that is always good to be reminded of! God relishes in our giving of thanks to Him.

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. Psalm 100:4.

We do not need to minimise the giving of thanks to just the 3rd Thursday in November. We can be thankful every day. Every day is a new gift, a new chance to make choices. But to be especially aware of this act of giving thanks once per year is wonderful.

I will certainly miss it this year, to not be in the US. However, wonderful American friends have invited us to celebrate with them in London. So don’t mind me if I am just a little teary eyed, remembering why I am grateful, and thinking back to last year, visiting Plymouth Rock… there were this remembrance started.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Rock

Kindness

My car is very small… Smart small that is.. and while I don’t like how tiny it is at times, I love I don’t have to worry parking it… I park it on the tiniest of corners while I am traveling, trusting it will start again when I need it driving to work…

I had joked about it before I set off this morning…. wonder if my car feels deserted and is willing to start today….. yup! It did… Hei ho…. off to work I go!

Until I reached the first little hill on a tiny road… the lights came on all at once… never a good sign… I managed to steer it as close to the curb as possible…no more power… stuck on this small road….

I was surprised how many people actually stopped to ask if I was ok…. uhmm… yes… although my car won’t start…. a motor cyclist asked at least twice.. a cyclist called out to me.. total strangers… when a big truck appeared wanting to crawl past, a couple came out of their driveway to assist. So kind…

It reminds me of the story of the Samaritan… the wounded stranger on the ground needed help… and everyone was too busy to stop and help… until a kind stranger came by. Not only did he tend to the wounds, but he went out of his way to ensure the wounded person got the care he needed. Unselfishly kind. Kind without expecting anything in return…

I got rescued too… my car in fact did start up again… and I could continue my Friday as planned… remembering how I felt when strangers were kind, I tried to do the same…

Have you been kind today?

Laying to Rest

We laid my father-in-law to rest yesterday… a diagnosis made 2 months ago, and the fight following did not result in success. Not all fights can be won. He was spared much suffering, but leaves an empty space.

A wise man said to me a few days ago that even if the wish to die is not there, the knowledge of Jesus and His loving grace is there. That makes death a pause… not a permanent end. And life has been worth living, he is now sleeping in the knowledge of Jesus return to take us all home.

It does not ease the pain. We want to keep close that which is precious to us. We want the physical touch, the conversations, the knowledge the other person is there when we need them.

We were touched by the love of the people that loved him too. Cards, texts, emails, presence at the service.. it’s a wonderful thought to know he touched so many lives.

Life will go on. The missing will not get less, but life will be a new normal which takes getting used to. Memories will be relived and stories retold. All the ‘firsts’ will be hard. This is not unique to this family, all of us have to deal with loss, a tearing apart of a connection. Death is the enemy. But glad we know Jesus, who is Life!

1 Timothy 6:12

Run your best in the race of faith, and win eternal life for yourself; for it was to this life that God called you when you firmly professed your faith before many witnesses.

Turning 50

Am sure you can all think of funny quotes, memes and advice for those that turn 50… well, it had to happen sometime, I joined the 50s club…

Its a bit of a mixed feeling with my father in law passing away on Sunday… am not really in a celebration mood.

However, the other side of the coin… not everyone makes 50! There is definitely gratefulness mixed into the mix.

Am not compiling a bucket list of things I want to achieve etc. Nothing wrong with doing that, but it’s not me. I am blessed, saved by grace and grateful to live another day. I am also grateful for all the various people in my life. I hope to keep adding to the list of special people, and for that I wish to learn more and more the gift of kindness.

There is this old Amy Grant song “I may not be every mother’s dream for her little girl… and my face may not grace the mind of everyone in the world… but that’s alright as long as I can have one wish I pray… when people look inside my life, I want to hear them say….. she’s got Her Fathers eyes…eyes that find the good in things, when good is not around… eyes that find the source of help when help just can’t be found… eyes full of compassion, seeing every pain… knowing what you’re going through and feeling it the same.. just like my Fathers Eyes…

So maybe I have a bucket list after all. The list of learning is still long, there is a ways to go… I pray I have enough years left to achieve it all.

So maybe I have a bucket list after all

Because He lives

As I was driving down the motorway, reflecting on the day and the sad news that sickness is winning over life, the song below came to my mind. I copied the full lyrics… and maybe that is just enough for this blog post.

It sums up my sentiment pretty well. The future is the only thing that allows me to get through these days and I know that is the same for my family.

God sent His son, they called Him, Jesus
He came to love, heal and forgive
He lived and died to buy my pardon
An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives.

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living
Just because He lives.

How sweet to hold a newborn baby
And feel the pride and the joy he gives
But greater still the calm assurance
This child can face uncertain days because He Lives.

And then one day, I’ll cross that river
I’ll fight life’s final war with pain
And then, as death gives way to vict’ry
I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know He reigns.

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living
Just because He lives

Because he lives
Because he lives

Written by William J. Gaither and Gloria Gaither

I hope that where ever you are, and what ever you are going through, this song gives you as much courage to face tomorrow as it gives me.

Gratitude

Every day, I like to wake up and remind myself to be grateful of the simple things – Miranda Kerr

Maybe this quote speaks to me cause we are name buddies… or maybe it’s because I like to be reminded that the little things are not really little… these are the important things.

This weekend we spend some time hanging out… going to a pumpkin patch, driving around in the zoo (yes… driving.. Mel can’t walk too well just yet) and having a pizza at the Pizza Hut.

In my book those are not little things.. these are really important connection moments. Moments to soak up the sun, have fun together and just do nothing at all.

Little things… that’s what makes big things!

Below a few pictures that typify the day.

Sorrow

We are all different. We all experience events differently. We all have different coping mechanisms. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade…. some say… don’t worry about tomorrow, is what God says… I care for you today and every day…

But then you hear the words from a doctor no one likes to hear… we are talking about lengthening life, not healing… and suddenly the crazy world is upside down….

My previous post I referred to my father in law being sick… now we know how very serious it is…

what to do next…. everyone has words of advise… diets to follow, pills to take… all meant very well ofcourse. No one wants to say goodbye…even if this world is not our home, we are still at home here and saying goodbye till we meet again is very hard.

How do I cope? I am very good at pushing things away… not thinking about it is better than trying to deal with it.. other members of my family are different… we are all so busy and suddenly we are all forced to slow down…

I have spent these last days in an imaginary world… a world of make believe.. where miracles happen… even if it’s just fairy tales, I know my God is in the miracle business… not all miracles have happy endings… but for sure our end is sure… He will come back to take us home. We will be reunited with our loved ones.

And that keeps me going more than anything!

Let these flames be a prolonging of my prayers….

Pancakes

It’s maybe not my all time favourite thing to eat, but it’s probably a very close second….Dutch pancakes with cheese and pineapple… or pancake with apple, cinnamon and sugar… or just simply pancake with stroop…. or I have been known to order all 3… just for me…

The family was deciding what to eat…. and it soon transpired that one of our nieces is waitressing at a pancake restaurant….as we would not have an opportunity to see her on our whirlwind visit, and we love pancakes… the decision was quickly made…. pannekoekenhuis!!!

A quick call to make the reservation, ensuring we would sit in her section, and asking if they would not tell her…. and off we went…

The family is loud… everyone talking over everyone else, laughing, joking…. but surprisingly she did not hear us until we all stood in the doorway, waiting to be seated…. judging by her face the surprise was a success… at least for us loud bunch…

The pancakes were delicious! Being waited on by one of the youngest nieces a pleasure… her boss allowed her to sit with us…. memories were made!!! we missed those not able to join..

My earlier post spoke about illness in the family, and the unknown ahead… that’s when these moments are most precious….

There is this song by The Isaacs… the words are below…

The sentence ‘I don’t know about tomorrow…. I just live from day to day…. I don’t borrow from it’s sunshine…..

It speaks to me…

we may not see each other again… but the pancake moments remain!!

I know who holds tomorrow

i don’t know about tomorrow
I just live from day to day
I don’t borrow from its sunshine
For its skies may turn to grey
I don’t worry o’er the future
For I know what Jesus said
And today I’ll walk beside Him
For He knows what is ahead
Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow,
And I know who holds my hand
I don’t know about tomorrow
It may bring me poverty
But the one who feeds the sparrow
Is the one who stands by me
And the path that be portion
May be through the flame or flood
But His presence goes before me
And I’m covered with His blood
Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand