Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A matter of belief

I do not believe in discrimination.
I do not believe in hate.
I do not believe I am in a position to judge others.
I believe in equality.
I believe in human rights, (including those of an unborn baby)
I believe in marriage

I believe in a God who is full of mercy, grace and compassion.
I believe that God sent his son Jesus to die for me and my sins.
I believe in the Bible.

I believe that marriage is a biblical institution, not an agenda. I don't believe that anyone should use marriage as a means to gain something. I believe I entered into a Divine union when I said my vows to my husband in front of God and all those witnesses.

I feel the pain of people judging my thoughts and motives based on other people's actions who claim to believe the same thing as me. Many of you know me quite well. I hope my actions and my love for others is apparent. I pray everyday I can be the woman God intends for me to be. I fail to show grace, mercy and compassion every day, but I continue to strive for it because it is so freely given to me.

I'm sorry, but I cannot sit idle and defenseless any longer. If I believe what I say I do, I have to believe that marriage is a sacred covenant. No I don't do a good job at displaying my respect for that promise every day. No, I don't believe Christians as a whole always do either. I don't pretend that I'm not aware that divorce in the church has nearly the same rate as just outside those church walls.

I don't pretend that this isn't so complicated, or that the answer to our debate is simple. 

I don't believe in orphans staring at bleak white ceilings with no one to love them. Last time I checked there are many people who aren't married adopting those babies, along with many who are. What I know for sure is there are still too many orphans out there. People are too busy discussing politics to think about those babies, maybe.

I don't pretend to be better than anyone else, but I do hold myself to a standard set by the Bible.

Christians, are we portraying how wonderful and sacred our marriages are? Do people walk away from an encounter with us feeling like we are gentle and full of grace? Do you hold yourself, your thoughts, words and actions, to a standard set by God?

I am off to reflect during this Holy week. I will go back and read about another year of being saved from the life I used to live. I will worship God on Friday who had to watch as the sin of the world was heaped and thrown and beaten into His son, and I will worship Him again on Sunday and whisper the truth that Jesus rose from the dead. He conquered death. He reigns. He loves me. This is not to be taken lightly, Christians. Nothing we say we believe in should be.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Book's, baby's and Pea's for dinner

How about an update? Since I last wrote a lot of changed, especially the fact that I am now a bona fide, proud mama to a great baby named Bobby (well, Robert Leendert Johannes but Bobby seems fitting for him while he is still just a little thing).

I dare you to find a Bob in this world who isn't a great guy. And folks, rest assured, I've added another wonderful one to the list.
The day I was induced was possibly the best, albeit craziest day ever. Wait, did I say day, I meant days, as in the two it took from time of induction to meeting baby vdv.
I'm not sure I can recount that story just now, I still haven't written it down. I told a little tiny piece of it at the dinner table the other night in what was previously a normal conversation before the subject came up. Shortly after starting I was awkwardly crying and those who missed the change in subject and looked up to see my tears wondered what had happened.

 I never knew the reserve I had until I sucked every ounce of it out of the deepest parts of me in order to bring my sweet baby into this world. I've never been so desperate, so focused, or so determined in my life. We defied all the odds, me and Bobby. And we did it with the help of the only one true God, our savior and deliverer. Writing it down will be something that needs to be done when the time is right, and then maybe I'll share it.
Children are a gift from the Lord and I will forever hold that truth near to my heart when I look at the boy who made me a mama.

In other news...
I don't like to respond to people that I'm 'busy' when they ask how I'm doing. Really I'm not, I strive not to be. Turning thirty this year has strengthened my resolve to act out daily more of who I am, not how I'd like others to perceive me. I like to have a quiet life, time to relax with my family, and time for myself. I like to have my personal journey with God urge me in matters of spirituality and in my walk of life. I think I could be doing more in ways of service, actually turn that 'think' into a 'know'. Part of that comes from re-entry into life here in the states. Turns out that process doesn't just last a week. hmm.
 I don't feel like working and home life is enough but if I take a step back and consider my marriage, difficult pregnancy, traumatic labor, being a new mom, anxiety over work, preparing our family house to be sold after my parents have been living here 35 years and several other major life changes all within the last year and a half, I tend to give myself a break and remind myself that there is a time for everything. My service is much like it was in Africa. I am simply supposed to serve the people God has put me in front of, and that's that.

I still think about writing all the time. In my head I formulate a sentence or a train of thoughts and start stringing them together as if I am going to write them down. I'd like to make the time, its cathartic and also provides a set-apart time for introspection (That's also on my list of things want to do more of). So basically I've read some great books, had a baby, and I am in the middle of moving and preparing for our entire Dutch family to come for a three week all-american tour starting next week. All while trying not to answer any questions with "I'm busy".

Pea's, anyone?

Friday, February 10, 2012


As of yesterday I completed 8 weeks of bed rest. It wasn't so bad, really. I could sound all self-sacrificing and tell you it was easy because I would do anything for the health and well being of my unborn child, and I wouldn't be lying. I could however be more honest.
I tell people closest to me that being told to lie in bed as a way of extending this pregnancy certainly beats the idea of them telling me to run 5 miles or exercise daily or something equally horrible.

Tomorrow I will reach 37 weeks, a term pregnancy. My doctor still shakes his head and smiles when he talks about how I've made it this far. "I swore you would have a 29 or 30 week baby" he said at todays appointment.

With the preeclampsia starting to show signs this week of an imminent return with high blood pressures and other symptoms, I will be induced tomorrow starting at 7:30 in the morning. If all goes well I will be able to deliver this much anticipated babe naturally, however the risk for needing a c-section is higher when you put a woman into labor before her body is ready so if it comes down to it we will be going down that road. Either way, we would love your prayers and thoughts again concerning the health of 'baby vdV' and myself. We have been beyond blessed by the love of people who know us, near and far.

We are excited to share our news tomorrow!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

For the record

Today is a big day for family vdV. This weekend is quite important to us as a whole as well.

Tomorrow is a special day as it marks the two year anniversary when I met the man who is now my beloved husband. I had just returned to Tenerife, Spain where the ship was docked in between the 2009 Benin field service and the 2010 Togo outreach. I walked on board the ship and passed a group of new faces on their way out. My roommate Sandra asked if I wanted to go directly out and meet some new friends she had acquired for us while I was back home. As I sat at the meter bar, a favorite place for all of us on the ship in Tenerife, I felt so out of place. Besides my roommate there were no familiar faces, and what was worse, all those unfamiliar faces knew each other and were having a grand old time.
There was a cast of characters at the table that night.
The cute Dutch guy caught my attention. He said his name but I knew from living with other Dutchies the past year that I would likely not get it right on the first day so I smiled once introduced and then just sat back and observed. He was loud, and his accent was strong. He had a thick, heavy laugh and everyone was entertained not necessarily by what he was saying, but in the manner he presented himself. The Dutch man with the striking blue eyes and name that was hard to pronounce had a captive audience, and I was part of it.

First impressions soon turned into budding friendships for all who were at the table that night. We went everywhere together, this new group of ours. We talked about the fun we would have once we got to Africa, dreaming of adventures to come. While we walked I often found myself paired with the blue eyed Dutchman, and I found myself not minding this at all. I had to look at the friendship with him as temporary though, with all of them actually. They all had plans to leave the ship within the first months of us arriving in Togo, only Sandra and I would remain through the whole year. An unfortunate reality of living on the ship is saying goodbye to friends all the time, a reality I wasn't a fan of.

Soon we started sailing and I got to see how the Dutchman came alive at sea. He was all business, walking around the swaying ship with a sure and steady gait. He had been asked before we ever left the port if he would stay on for the rest of the year. This happened to be a direct answer to his prayer the night before so during the sail now we talked even more about what was to come, seeing as we would be spending the whole year together. At night our group laid out on the top deck of the ship surrounded by the darkness of the sea being out done only by the brightness of the stars as we sailed to our new home.

I prayed and prayed those days for God to reveal his plan. I held what I wanted most as loosely as I could, knowing God would be faithful and show a way if this relationship was from Him.

I could keep going and going with this story, actually it's hard to stop because this flood of memories is overwhelming at best. The past two years are impossible to sum up or explain in words. What is amazing to me is how different life is now for me and my blue eyed man whom I now proudly refer to as my husband.

This weekend we also celebrate me still being pregnant. At 34 weeks today our unborn baby's lung and brain development have reached big milestones and if it were to be born now it would likely be able to put up a great fight to prove how big and developed it is and come home quickly. We know God orchestrates every circumstance, this one is just so special to us. The fact that we don't have a 29 week preemie right now is nothing short of a miracle.

This post is simply one for the record. Putting down on paper these thoughts helps me reflect on Gods goodness and the special two year anniversary of a night I will remember forever.

Psalm 34:8
"Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him."

Thursday, December 29, 2011

An African state of mind

Today marks day 14 of bed rest. 14 days ago my doctor was preparing me to meet my little 29 week baby, he said his hope was I would make it maybe 1 or 2 more weeks. The diagnosis was severe preeclampsia, and I was quickly admitted to the hospital and put on strict bed rest with the expectation that I would be there until they delivered my very little baby.

Many of you know the story, that after just 4 days I was so stable that my doctor had downgraded my diagnosis from severe to mild and I was being sent home. Maybe you didn't know that I wasn't surprised.
In the 4 days I spent in that hospital room I quite literally felt the prayers from around the world being lifted up on my behalf. We were covered by three continents, countless countries. Friends, family, and even people who don't know us personally rallied around in prayer and God heard each one.

Since those days in the hospital I have had a lot of time to think. A lot.

When faced with fear, and I mean not your average fear but rather that wild, terrifying, all consuming fear, we have an incredible opportunity. We are afforded the chance to die to that fear, to give it away. Looking back I am so thankful for those moments two weeks ago when I was by myself, wild eyed and crying on my knees. I am thankful because it took that fear for me to lay down my life and die to myself again and hand it all over to God. Sound extreme? Crazy? Ridiculous?

It is.
That's the point.

We don't have the ability to ease our own fear. No one can give us the right words or a fitting quote that will take away the terror. We can calm ourselves down, take deep breaths and concentrate on good things, but at night, before we go to sleep, the fear is still there. It lingers, it digs it's claws deep into our very being.

But I have the secret, I've known it now for over four and a half years. My fear and hurt, the pain and terror, all can be taken away with one whisper. It takes one deliberate decision, a handover of the torch, and it's gone.

When I became a Christian I almost immediately felt called over to Africa. This raw state I'm experiencing brings me back to those days in Africa when I was terrified. I was terrified to have to watch another child die, to carry the weight of a dead baby in my arms again, or to grieve those losses one more time. I constantly learned to die to my will. When I look back to my days there I envy what my relationship with God looked like. I missed the rawness and wild nature of how desperately I clung to Him. I never woke up and faced a single day by my own strength, it quite honestly would have been impossible to especially during that first year in Benin.

And now I'm back in that state. I'm back to having no control. All of our plans, or even just thoughts of how this first year of marriage and pregnancy would go are long gone. I hope you believe me when I say I am happy about it. It took some time and some grieving, but we wouldn't trade our situation for any other.

I don't know if at one of my bi-weekly checks they will find a problem and send me over for an emergency delivery. I don't know if we will be visiting a little premature baby for the first weeks or months of it's life in a neonatal ICU. I don't know if my body will hold out another 5-7 weeks of pregnancy until this baby growing inside of me is strong enough to be on the outside.
What I do know is that I've been given the gift of 2 extra weeks already. I know that I count each day that passes as a gift.

When I go to sleep, or wake up in the middle of the night with fear lurking in the darkness I turn to God and remember immediately that this little babe will not be born one minute before He plans for it to be. Whatever the situation is on that day, He will be in control. All I have to do is simply trust that. There is no fear in trust.

Now let me tell you, my love for this baby is fierce. The picture in my head when I think about this baby is also one that brings me back to Africa.
The elephant mama is known to be the most protective mothers of all of the animals. She protects her baby to such a degree that you are only warned of two things when you enter certain safari parks. You are to watch out for the male elephants in heat (they leak putrid smelling urine which is supposed to help indicate that they are near, We just went ahead and did our best to avoid close encounters with those big boys) and you watch out for mama elephants with their babies. We saw more than once a mama raise her trunk and charge at the slightest suggestion of someone looking at her baby. I fell in love with elephants while in Africa. They are so majestic and powerful yet gentle and so beautiful. Really though, I loved the mamas and their all out abandon when it came to protecting that which is most precious to them.

That is the essence of how I feel towards this baby who is currently kicking hard enough that my stomach is visibly jumping. I love my husband and my family something fierce right now too.

More than anything though, I am one step closer in all of this to understanding Gods intense love towards me, towards us.

Psalm 141:14-21

The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.The Lord is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them. The Lord watches over all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy. My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord. Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A new day, a pretty different life

Written back on July 7th...

This is a bizarre way to break news, I know.
As I type I know I won't be publishing this post for at least several weeks. The thing is, I can't hold back the writing, my stream of conciousness any longer.
I'm pregnant.
Yikes, I hope I don't accidently press 'publish post' rather than 'save' at the end of this.

After 7 weeks of being married, my loving husband and I found ourselves staring at a digital readout of the 'p' word

Then we laughed.

With one little word we laughed out of joy at the gift we have been given. We laughed despite the timing of the 'p' word in our lives, and we laughed because we had this incredible deepening of our relationship occur in a split second.

As a nurse I started reading everything I could find about what my body was about to go through. I started an immediate campaign for the girls name I want (my proposal is the girl in the relationship gets to pick the potential girls name and the guy the boys name. A gamble, I know, but one I am willing to take) and then I sat back in amazement of what is about to happen.

Honest truth: We trust God with this. We know His timing is perfect, and we know the weight of responsibility is about to fall heavily on us. Our situation isn't ideal, we aren't ready in a worldly sense for this, and we know that it will be perfect anyways. God is bigger, He is greater than all of that.

To our little one:
I already love you. I wonder what you will look like every day. I picture myself holding and kissing you all the time. I will endure any discomfort and pain for you. To think God is knitting you together inside of me right now is the most amazing miracle I know I will ever experience. Incredible. That's all I can say.

Weirdest symptom so far:
Right eyelid fluttering for the last 3 weeks straight. Strange.

So there it is, I imagine I will publish for you all to see sometime in August, but until then I will keep the vomiting and other joys to myself (bet you're glad you read this last part)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


Transitioning out of Africa has been hard.

Emotional ties, friendships that change, a new place, a different language, planning a wedding, uncertainty about the future, longing to go back to where things seemed to make sense (and not make any sense at the same time), distance from family while being incorporated into a different family and lifestyle, a fight for what is right and no clue in how to do it for the people who I left behind, a desire to hear God, to know Him again, to fall in love and see the world through His eyes, they all swirl around inside of me, coming out in the physical.

The most painful manifestation has been the headaches. Since coming to Holland my once a month pain has turned into almost daily, debilitating headaches. Sometimes they pierce through mornings and threaten my whole day. Other times they creep in with the afternoon, dull and steady. Some last for 4 days accompanied by absolute innability to process sunshine and music or the smell of good food because I can't tolerate the stimulation.
Joy stealers, these headaches.

The nurse in me has diagnosed at least a dozen physical contributers that could lead to this. The little girl inside wants to crawl into bed and pull the covers safely over her head and wait for the pain to go away. The brave woman pours a cup of tea and presses on, trying to deny the pain while she makes invitations and favors for her wedding. The wife-to-be tries hard to be the supporter and rock but then has a short temper when her husband-to-be doesn't seem to do exactly what she needs, even though she doesn't know what that need is.

Until last Friday this is how I have been living from day to day. I read the New Testament each night, feeling a hunger for something that until now lacked a bit. I want to understand more, I don't know where to start, so I go to Jesus. I prayed for the pain to go away. I prayed quickly before bed, as usual, and nothing changed. I wasn't surprised considering the canyon I felt between myself and God.
Last Friday a book came that I ordered. I saw it on someones blog, one of a woman who inspires me. I knew her recomendation would be a good one.

Until last Friday I was reading books about Africa, about the 'Hole in our Gospel', reading them like a person who hasn't seen food for days. The binging on these books fueled my "this is what I know" fire with more burdens for Africa, for her people. The books then were just right, I needed that connection, to read about people who 'got it' and wanted to change it.

What I didn't realize is that huge part I was leaving out. MY connection to God. MY half of the deal. I wanted Him to come and make sense of it all, to speak in a powerful way, to lift me up.
But I wasn't doing anything about it.
And then last Friday the book came and I stopped everything I was doing and sunk into the couch, cup of tea by my side.
'One Thousand Gifts, a dare to live fully right where you are.' (Ann Voskamp)
Was I up to this challenge? Was this another self help book that I would read and be inspired by for 5 minutes?
I thank God that it isn't, that in just a few days my life, my connection to Him, feels familiar again, all while being brand new.

I won't go into a full synopsis of this book, but suffice to say it is good. Like good for the soul good. The basis is thanksgiving, how to do this in all things. I started with my headaches and then promptly cried about it because the pain that day was especially bad. I lay in bed that night and out loud, started listing the things I was thankful for. The next morning I smiled before I even lifted my head from the pillow. I can't remember the last time I did that. I realized how much I had missed that feeling. When I grew frustrated over menial things that day, I thanked God. I continued my list through the day, sometimes repeating the things that I was really really thankful for. It is so simple, this list, but it is working. My attitude is lighter and less critical. The pain and guilt and sorrow, the longing to go back and hesitation about my future still lingering from the last two years and since then is lifiting as I thank God for it all.

I am learning that the burden for Africa is engraved on my heart, it isn't going anywhere, but it doesn't mean I have to live in the past. My joy won't come from things of the past or looking into the future, it will come in being present, with God, today.
So today I am thankful because my headaches the last 3 days have been much less intense. I thank God that these headaches are what He used to spark me back into action. I'm thankful that God renews my burdens for things of His heart and promises me He has a good and perfect plan for my life, that He will see it through until completion.
I'm thankful my joy is coing back fully restored and with a vengence.

Today I'm thankful that I can show Michiel love by making him a grilled cheese sandwich just the way he likes it for breakfast, because thats what he wanted and it made me smile to see him enjoy it this morning, sweet chille sauce and all. I'm thankful I have the ability to spend hours making favors look pretty but mostly that I will have friends and family who come all the way here just to share in this very special day with us.

Today I will continue my list and feel myself entering Gods presence each time I do. I will smile and grow warm with the love of my savior who knows my pain. I will rest in the comfort that I am a child, a nurse, a woman and a wife of the King who loves me.

Today I am thankful I have this outlet, this comfort of writing down my life to share it with others. I have a record of Gods love for me, written down in black and white. Yeah, I'm really thankful for that one today.