One Word 2015

One word.

Safe - Blueandgreentogether.com

I spent the last year reading a Psalm and Proverb pretty much every day.  (P.S. This was one of many Bible reading plans you can get on with the YouVersion app–highly recommended!) That’s 12 times through the book of Proverbs.  Every day there would be new truths and surprises, as if I had never read them before.  However, one verse often caught my attention:

The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe. (Proverbs 18:10)

Here is another Proverb my husband often quotes to me (in a kind way, of course!):

The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. (Proverbs 29:25)

Finally, we just started with Heart of Dakota curriculum in our home school.  The kid’s verse to memorize this week just happens to be this one:

In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety. (Psalm 4:8)

I admit it, this last verse is where I need the most help.  Often you will find me awake in the wee hours, worrying about my family’s safety.  I’m the queen of finding worse case scenarios.  That’s why my word for 2015 is safe.  It’s a reminder to myself that with the God the Father’s protection, we are always safe.  His Word says it.  It’s true. It’s true even when things happen don’t feel safe.  (Think about the situations David was often in when he wrote the Psalms—fleeing for his life.) Time to put my faith in action and believe.  Incidentally, believe was my 2nd choice for one word 2015.

Wouldn’t it be nice to sleep better?  That’s my hope for 2015.

Want to see what others are picking for their One Word this year?  Check out The Loft link up!

The Loft

The Loft

O ye beneath life’s crushing load

I remember those holidays when I was single.  I remember the acute sense of loneliness when I showed up at a family gathering by myself and those pangs of longing as I left the festivities bursting with family and drove home. Alone.

I remember when I wept sitting under the lighted tree one Christmas Eve because I had been infertile for many years. There were no children to share the joy of the day. My arms and my heart felt empty.

I remember the Christmas when my Grandpa, who was so very dear to me, passed away a few days before the holiday. It was a consuming time with the funeral, visitation and dealing with grief. I barely noticed it was Christmas that year.

I also remember sensing God’s presence in those lonely times. When I cried out to Him, I was reminded:

For unto us a Child is born! Unto us a Son is given!

I pray those who might feel lonely today will know that Christ is born for them. You always have a family and you always have a baby to love if you have Jesus. He is our baby, our brother, our dearest One, and He is with us always. God made flesh.

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, verse 2

 

The Scripture quote comes from Isaiah 9:6

The image is verse two from the Christmas carol “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” written by Edmond Hamilton Sears in 1849.

 

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Our (Frugal) Christmas Traditions

This week for The Loft we are linking up to share some of our Christmas traditions!

My husband and I have enjoyed celebrating Advent season with our children. The past couple of years we’ve wrapped up our manger scene with wrapping paper in individual pieces. The kids were allowed to unwrap one piece per night as we shared each part of the Christmas story, culminating in the cradle with baby Jesus.

Manger Scene

This December we are reading through Ann Voskamp’s book “Unwrapping the Greatest Gift”. We printed out the free printable ornaments that are on her website and carefully colored them. After each story we hang the ornaments on our Jesse tree, (in our case, it’s a tree drawn on our chalkboard wall). The kids look forward to it every night, as do the adults.  The readings are helping us keep our focus on the the love that God has for us through His son, Jesus Christ.

Unwrapping the Greatest Gift

Unwrapping the Greatest Gift

 

My husband’s family loves playing board games, so we started a tradition of buying a game that our family can play.  This is the only gift that our children receive from us.  (They get plenty of gifts from their grandparents, aunts and uncles!) In 2013 we purchased Enchanted Forest. It is interesting and challenging enough for children and parents alike—we are all on equal footing! Our family has played it many times over the past year, and you never know who will win. :)

Playing Enchanted Forest

Playing Enchanted Forest

 

Last week, my mom and I made a large batch of banket, a Dutch almond pastry, and not only did we have the fun of baking together, but we gave them as gifts for my husband’s bosses, co-workers and others. In other years we have made babbelaars a Dutch candy.

Making Banket with my Mom

Making Banket with my Mom

 

Our Christmas tree  was purchased at Wal-Mart after Christmas for less than $4.00 nine or ten years ago—when I was still single! Yes, it’s a half-sized pitiful sort of Charlie Brown artificial tree, but my kids know nothing else, and they ooh and ahh over it every year, and have great fun putting on the ornaments.

Christmas 2013

Christmas 2013

 

I hope you enjoyed reading about a few of our (frugal) Christmas traditions.  What is one of  your favorite holiday traditions?  Feel free to comment below!

Or you’d like to read more about Christmas traditions, visit The Loft Christmas Link up!

The Loft

The Loft

Things I’ve Learned in 2014

1.  Manufactured outrage and the news.  I was taken aback this summer when a fellow Word Weaver blogger used the term “manufactured outrage” and said she wasn’t “taking the bait” anymore.  I was allowing the news stories to take away my peace. Dwelling on them tainted my thoughts with fears and negativity.

 

Bowe Bergdahl

The Bowe Bergdahl story was a turning point.  Bowe is a beloved son and brother who was raised by a conservative Christian family.  The family attended a church in a denomination that I once attended.  I was baffled at the feeds I was seeing from conservative outlets and the accusations against his parents.  I came across this post which describes in better words how I was looking at the story and processing it.  Seeing the memes and headlines caused me to step back from all the news, the outrage, and the craziness. I won’t “fall for the bait” with the big headlines. I feel more compassion, realizing a situation is usually more complex than anyone can realize from one news story or Facebook page blurb.  (Not that I blindly trusted everything prior to this!)  While still interested in politics and current events, I’m holding the news at arms-length and feeling more peaceful inside; less stirred up.

2.  Consistent homeschooling produces results.  When I didn’t think there was any progress, it was still happening.  My seven year old suddenly took off with reading!  We had serious concerns about learning disorders  when he was reading backwards, mixing up words and switching letters around.  We kept at our phonics workbooks day after day, week after week (seemingly mundane at times), and all of a sudden—it clicked! He apparently reached a developmental milestone and there was rapid change. Now he is reading beyond where we were with our phonics lessons.  I’m amazed how far both children have come in a year, and it gives courage and incentive to stay the course.

3. Life is precious and there is a time for mourning.  We were shocked/delighted to find out we were expecting a baby in February. There were several weeks of hopeful anticipation, followed by a concerning ultrasound, followed by a confirming ultrasound that our baby was gone.  My heart has been grieving that baby all year.  The grief has finally eased up since getting past our “should have been” due date in late October.  That baby was real, that baby was wanted, and that baby was not insignificant in the kingdom of God.  That was the lesson learned.  There isn’t a shortcut for grieving.  Heaven will be all the sweeter to meet my little ones.

4.  In researching family history,  I learned of my rich Christian heritage.  My great-grandparents were common, every day people. They were poor immigrants who were rich in faith. They came to America in hopes of a better life.

On both sides of my family, great-grandparents, grandparents and parents prayed for their offspring to believe in God, to have faith in His Son. God has heard their prayers and answered them by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is my most important inheritance (not based on relationship with my relatives, but because it is now my own through the grace of Christ).  My prayer is that my children will also have this faith.

Deuteronomy 7:9 (ESV)

Four generations – 2007

 

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Thank you to my friends at The Loft for the idea for this topic.  I missed the link – up, but finished in time for the new year! :)

Your thoughts and feedback are always welcome in the comments section below!

 

Cooking with my Grandmas: Olie Koeken

Olie Koeken (oil cakes) are a traditional Dutch treat similar to a doughnut, and usually served on New Year’s Day. Grandma Vlietstra often made them on New Year’s Day, but Grandma Balkema would make them in the fall when we would go to her house for trick-or-treating.  I also remember them being made at the high school  for the annual fall sale, the mouth-watering scent of olie koeken wafting through the hallways. They go perfect with a cup of coffee.

Comparing the recipes of both grandmas, I found they were quite similar.  This recipe is adjusted to be a combination of the two.  Specific instructions were added as well.

Olie Koeken

  • Servings: 2-3 dozen
  • Time: 2 hrs
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

  • 3 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1  3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 quart oil for frying
  • white or powdered sugar for rolling

Heat oil in saucepan to 375 degrees (or use your deep fryer). Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add buttermilk and eggs and mix well.  Dough will be very thick and sticky. Fold in raisins.  Drop into the fully heated oil using two tablespoons, taking care not to over-crowd the pan.  Cook until golden brown, usually 7-8 minutes.   Roll in sugar or powdered sugar and serve. Makes 2-3 dozen.

eet smakelijk!

This recipe is linked up at The Loft, where we are sharing our favorite fall recipes this week. Come check out other recipes as well!

The Loft

Come to God

Come to God, then, my brother, my sister, with all thy desires and instincts, all thy lofty ideals, all thy longing for purity and unselfishness, all thy yearning to love and be true, all thy aspiration after self-forgetfulness and child-life in the breath of the Father; come to him with all thy weaknesses, all thy shames, all thy futilities; with all thy helplessness over thy own thoughts; with all thy failure, yea, with the sick sense of having missed the tide of true affairs; come to him with all thy doubts, fears, dishonesties, meannesses, paltrinesses, misjudgments, wearinesses, disappointments, and stalenesses: be sure he will take thee and all thy miserable brood, whether of draggle-winged angels, or covert-seeking snakes, into his care, the angels for life, the snakes for death, and thee for liberty in his limitless heart! For he is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

-George MacDonald

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I was going through a file and found the above quote from a sermon of George MacDonald.  It was something I hand-wrote, word for word several years ago, but don’t remember my source at the time.  Thanks to Google, I found the entire sermon written out, so if you like, you can see the context here. I believe that it matches well with The Loft theme for this week:  Intimacy with Jesus.  

The Loft

It’s October Twenty-Eight

This is a beautiful fall day in Michigan.  The sun is shining and the leaves are vibrant.  I’m busy homeschooling, cooking and running errands.

But I’ll admit it. My heart is feeling a little broken inside.

  1. The anniversary of my first marriage was 10-28 and it would have been twenty years today. God has worked all things for the good, and I am utterly blessed to be remarried to a kind, wonderful man.  However, 10-28 was significant in my life.  While I no longer mourn the ending of the relationship, I am reminded every year of the death of a marriage.
  2. It was on 10-28, a few years ago in the doctor’s office that we learned we were having a miscarriage, and would never meet our third baby.
  3. Our fourth baby was also a miscarriage and today was a possibility as a due date.

I wonder why God arranged for those losses to be remembered on the same date?

I don’t know a specific reason it happened that way in my life, but God tells us Himself:  It’s not a bad thing to grieve.

 October 28 or not, there are days where we are called to mourn.  Perhaps for ourselves, perhaps with others.

Despite the pain, mourning comes with promises.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.  Matthew 5:4

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  Psalm 34:18

Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice. Psalm 55:17

Probably for the rest of my life, October 28 will be a mourning day.  Yet it is also true that there are beautiful ways that God has “turned my mourning into joy”. I have been comforted by Christ, the sure hope of eternal life, and the kindness of friends and family.  I sure would love to have a newborn to welcome into our home this month.  But I will see my babies someday.  I long to hold, snuggle them and kiss their faces.  Bliss! 

Today I can also remember that someday there won’t be anymore October twenty-eighths.

How about you?  Do you have any “October 28’s”?  How has God comforted you?

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.  

Pan-a-cakes with Grandma Vlietstra (part 1)

It’s Saturday morning. You wake up at 3:30 am in the middle of a hard Michigan winter.  You put on your mud boots, work pants and stiff flannel shirt, jump into your truck, and head out to the barn.  You set up the parlor for the day’s milking, and then walk up the snow-covered hill in the dark to fetch the cows.  It’s freezing cold, but you feel sheltered in the cow barn with the heat-radiating Holsteins.  After herding them down the alley  to the holding pen, you and your cousin methodically milk two hundred cows; one-by-one, over and over, opening and closing the gate, hooking up the hissing, sucking vacuuming machines to their udders, steaming in the morning cold.  While the machines whistle and click in unison, you warm your hands on the milk jar.

By eight o’clock when the rest of the world is waking up, the cows are milked and you’ve been on your feet for several hours. Working quickly, you chase the last few cows back to the barn. Then you scrape the parlor and hose it down.

Shall we go down to Grandma’s?

You nod and gratefully walk out the door and trek down to the farm house. You jog part of the way because your feet are freezing in your barn boots. You see light coming through mud room window.  Your stomach starts to growl.

You walk in the mud room and through the small window you see her bustling around the table.  There she is, your short, sturdy grandma with her white hair.  The smell of bacon warms you to your toes.

Oh!  You’re here!  Come on in…..

She smiles and waves you to come into the kitchen and ushers you to an empty spot at the table, where a few other cousins and farm workers are already eating. She loads the pancakes onto the platter in the middle of the table and pours you a fresh cup of milk.

Come on, take another pan-a-cake!  You must be hungry from working.

She has a way of bustling, almost jogging through the kitchen. Back and forth between the table, the griddle and the sink.  At eighty-five, Grandma is full of pep and happy to see you.

A favorite hymn of Ada Vlietstra

Words from a favorite hymn of Ada Vlietstra


The following are excerpts of an interview with Ada Vlietstra that I wrote for a college class in 2004.  At the time, she was 85 years old.  

My grandmother, Ada Vlietstra was born in Kalamazoo, MI in 1919 to Dutch immigrants  Hendrik and Rikste (Engberts) Doorlag.  Her parents came to America through Ellis Island and Hendrik worked at the paper mill to earn money so that he could bring his parents to America as well.

As the second born of thirteen children and oldest daughter, Ada was expected to help her mother starting at a young age.  She helped with whatever chores she could handle and watched the younger children.  In those days they did not have kindergarten, so Ada started first grade at the age of 4.  She walked one mile to attend William Street Christian School.  When they were learning the alphabet, the teacher would write the letters with a piece of chalk on the top of their desks.  Then they would use dried corn and put it on the lines to help them learn each letter.

Ada graduated from 8th grade at age 13, and then took two years of high school.  At that time, the high school only went up to grade 10. If she wanted to finish her high school diploma, she would have to commute to a high school in Grand Rapids.  Just a few of her classmates did that.  At the age of 15, when she finished her schooling, her parents told her that she should get a job.  They did not have a phone in her house, and in those days people did not create resumes.  When she applied for a job at the Grace Corset Company, she had the company call her aunt and uncle’s home, who in turn told her parents. She was allowed to keep her wages for her own use. Her mother had twins during these years and she had a great deal of responsibility to care for younger siblings when she wasn’t working.

One Sunday afternoon, Ada and her cousin were walking home toward Paterson street, when a man named Fred pulled over and offered to give them a ride in his car.  (He later teased Grandma that she was hitchhiking, but apparently they agreed to ride with him after he introduced himself.) Ada, age 23, married Fred in 1942.  He was eleven years her senior. Ada said that in those days there would be a “shivaree” where they would try to take the bride away from the groom on the wedding night.

It was war time (World War II) when she was in her early twenties and there were many activities related to that.  She says they would have parades on Armistice Day and that people were more patriotic.  There were many jobs related to making parts of airplanes.  Fred did not go to war because the government felt it was more important for him to continue farming.

Her husband was dairy farming with his dad, and she moved into his family home on Ravine Road, which included Fred’s dad and sister. Fred’s mother had died at a young age. Ada remembers when she first moved into the house, it was a sometimes difficult to get along with her sister-in-law because she had run the home until Ada moved in.  That lasted for several months, but then her sister-in-law moved in with another sibling until she married. During those days Ada would have to wash the equipment/dishes for the milking barns and alternated doing this with another sister-in-law next door.  Ada did a great deal of canning and preparing food to last through the winter. They did not have any indoor plumbing in the house the first few years.

Ada and Fred became parents to six children.  While raising her own family, she also provided meals for her father-in-law, who lived in the same home with Ada and her husband until he died in 1960.

Ada Vlietstra serving cake at her weekly Sunday afternoon tea time.

Ada Vlietstra serving cake at her weekly Sunday afternoon tea time.

 

Stay tuned for part 2 of my interview with Ada where she shared more about her childhood and her life as a farmer’s wife.  I will also include favorite memories of my kind, hard-working and hospitable grandma, who lived to be 92 years old. 

Further information:

Thanks to my cousin, Sara VanDyk and my brother, Fred Vlietstra for helping me with details of the pancake story. I also added a few details from viewing a DVD interview of my grandparents by my aunt, Lois Ailes. 

 

Your comments are always welcome.

Josephine’s Birth

“I see death standing at the door, but God will take care of the baby.”

These were the last words Anna Runia VanDyk spoke to her husband, Meindert.

Anna and Meindert were Dutch immigrants.  The couple arrived in the United States in 1920 on the ship Rotterdam along with their three young children in hopes of opportunity and freedom.  Sidney, the 3 year old middle son had cerebral palsy. They carried him off the ship onto Ellis Island covered in a blanket, hoping that no one would look at him too closely.  John and Anna feared that he would not be allowed into the United States.  They were relieved when he made it through immigration without being noticed.

The family settled in Sully, Iowa so they could live near Anna’s twin sister.  A few years later, Anna was expecting their fourth child, but there were complications.  Anna had toxemia of pregnancy.  Baby Josephine was delivered on April 30, 1924 weighing less than five pounds.  Sadly, Anna died on her 35th birthday, two days after giving birth.   Meindert was left alone with a premature baby in the hospital, children at home and a job working on a farm.

Twin sister, Josie and Anna Runia.  This picture was taken in the Netherlands before they came to the United States of America.

Twin sisters, Josie and Anna Runia. This picture was taken in the Netherlands before they came to the United States of America.

Meanwhile,  Dick and Jennie VanSant had been married for ten years and were managing their farm in Oskaloosa, a couple of hours away.  They had prayed for  years that God would bless them with children of their own, but now they were in their thirties and hope was fading.  They heard through their church about a tiny baby who would require careful attention.

Dick and Jennie hurried to make preparations. When they arrived at the hospital the doctor warned them not to get too attached, because the baby was very small.  There were not intensive care units for premature babies in 1924.  Her survival was uncertain.

Jennie took Josephine in her arms, the smallest baby she had ever seen.  The doctor’s advice (not to get attached) was ignored. Josephine was dearly treasured by Dick and Jennie.  She was so tiny that she could not suck from a bottle.  For weeks Jennie fed her cow’s milk from a glass dropper, every hour around the clock.  A month after her birth, she weighed just over five pounds.

God took care of the baby, just as Anna Runia VanDyk said He would.  Josephine survived.

The Birth of Josephine blueandgreentogether.com

Josephine being held by Dick VanSant.

Within a couple of years, Meindert was making plans to remarry, but this also meant he would be moving hundreds of miles away to Kalamazoo, Michigan.  He had a difficult time leaving Josephine behind.  Before he left, there were two things he wanted to tell the VanSants:

  • You may keep Josephine and raise her as you see fit, but you may not adopt her.  Her last name will still be VanDyk
  • I promise I will never take her away from you.

Josephine was my grandmother.  She lived to the age of 82, having been married fifty-nine years with five children, nineteen grandchildren, and  (at that time) thirty great-grandchildren.

Josephine and Karen in 2005.

Further genealogical information and related links:

  1. Toxemia of pregnancy is now called pre-eclampsia.
  2. Anna Runia VanDyk death record information.  The record says she died at Mercy Hospital, but family members were told by Josephine that she was born at the hospital in Oskaloosa.
  3. Josie Vander Weerdt (twin sister of Anna Runia VanDyk) death record information.  She lived to be 90 years old.  That’s how I realized Anna must have died on her own birthday and what age she was. Anna’s death record only gives an (incorrect) estimated birth year.
  4. Sidney VanDyk, the brother of Josephine who had cerebral palsy resided at the Christian Psychiatric Hospital in Cutlerville, Michigan (now called Pine Rest) after Meindert moved to Michigan to remarry.  He died in 1950 at the age of 33.
  5. The ministers that may have been involved in placing Josephine with the VanSants would have been Rev. Ralph Bolt of Sully Christian Reformed Church and  Rev. Charles Spoelhof of First Christian Reformed Church based on where their charges in 1924. Source:  Christian Reformed Church Ministers Database
  6. The Statue of Liberty- Ellis Island Passenger Search  provided information about the ship and year that Meindert VanDyk arrived in the United States.
  7. Josephine Balkema’s obituary.
  8. Previously on this blog I wrote about Edith Stek.  She was the sister of Jennie (VanSant) Sjaardema.
  9. Also wrote a little story about Henry and Josephine here.

Stay tuned!  In the future I hope to share more stories about my grandma’s remarkable life, including how she reacted when her dad, Meindert came to visit her when she was a young girl and how she met my grandpa.

Special thanks to Josephine’s daughters (Mary, Esther and Joanne) and Jean VanDyk (daughter-in-law of Meindert), who helped with several details of this story.

The Loft

My heroes

A hero – The classic idea of a man who gallantly rescues a damsel in distress.

In some way or form, all of these men have been heroes in my life:

Heroes I’ve met:

  • My husband. With his calm, quiet ways, taking on this crazy, up and down, enthusiastic and sometimes troubled wife, working all day and coming home to help with the dishes at night. He always prays with and for me.
  • My dad. Hard working and STRONG. He has had some physical struggles the past few years, but is still that strong dad– and always will be in my mind. I think of His fortitude and dedication to his faith, my mom and the farm.  Perhaps the only person I know as stubborn as myself. (Well, maybe brother Fred, too?)
  • My Grandpa B. Another super strong man but with the greatest personality and so generous. He will get his own blog post some day, but it’s hard for me to think or write about him without a few tears, because I still miss him.
  • Steve Schlissel. I first heard him speak when attending “Concerned Members of the Christian Reformed Church” meetings. He spoke up bravely in the middle of a dark time in the CRC. I spent a couple of weeks visiting with him and his family in Brooklyn when fresh out of high school.  The experience opened up my world and changed my life.
  • Uncle Dave B. He faced cancer with courage and faith. He lost the battle at age 39, but won the victory. He comforted others (including myself) in his last days. “The Lord is my Shepherd…”
  • My brothers. When it all boils down, they are there for me. They have rescued me off the side of the road  with car trouble at one time or another, and helped me financially when I was going through the divorce. My former childhood arch rivals.
  • My friend Greg. Greg was a hero to me after my divorce. He was kind to me and brought me back to the  gospel and who I was in Christ. He kept insisting I attend his single’s group, where I met other guy hero friends and eventually met my husband. Also a former arch rival.
By chanter Angelos Akotandos (1400 - 1457)

St. George the Dragon Slayer by chanter Angelos Akotandos (1400 – 1457)

Heroes I haven’t met (yet):

Three of my great-grandfathers. They made the brave choice to leave their home country in the Netherlands and travelled by ship to the United States in search of freedom and opportunity.  I met one of my great-grandfather-heroes and remember visiting him as a child, but the other three died before I was born.

C.S. Lewis, my author hero.

St. George the Dragon Slayer.  His story has always intrigued me.

Heroes of the faith.  If I had to pick a few favorites out of the list they would be Abraham, Gideon and David.

Jesus.  My ultimate Hero of all heroes.

In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears. -Psalm 18:6 (ESV)

If you don’t know Jesus, here is a good place to start:  The good news

 Note: Don’t think I am neglecting my heroines!  I am currently working on a couple of posts about my grandmothers, and look forward to sharing them soon.

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