Tuesday, October 29, 2013

remembering dad


While sorting through some papers, I stumbled upon a copy of my Uncle Nick's speech from my parent's wedding. Uncle Nick is a gifted writer and storyteller (seems to be a trend in the Dykstra family!), who was responsible for translating and editing my grandfather's autobiography. A cousin of mine then had published a few years ago.While I obviously wasn't around to hear the original speech, as I read it all these years later, it sure brought back memories of my dad. This is a little snapshot of my family history, and I am proud to be able to share it with you all.

**********************

"I have known Hessel all his life, ever since he replaced me as the baby in the family. Mind you, being more than two years old I did not think myself a baby anyway. And because I was big, and he was small, it always was my job to look after him. A job I tried to avoid as much as possible--forcing Hessel to learn on his own. That's how Hessel learned to become very stubborn. Nobody ever saw him make any mistakes. (I did not say that he never made any mistakes--nobody ever saw him make any.) Least of all, his big brother. You could not prod nor tease him into doing anything that he had not mastered yet. When Hessel said "no!" he did "no."

As toddlers, we were always tied onto a rope to keep us from wandering off. If I could not untie the knots, I ended up strangling myself. [Younger] brother Bill was fortunate enough that during the war years, rope was made from paper. After keeping it in his mouth long enough to soak it, he could tear it apart and make his getaway. Hessel [in contrast], would bring the rope to Mom to show his desire to go outside without running the risk of making mistakes. 

As a five year old, he broke his arm. A bike fell on him. Nobody ever saw his attempt to learn to ride that thing. Shortly thereafter, he drove the two wheeler all over the village without ever ending up against a fence, in a hedge, a ditch, or the canal--like all the rest of us.

Where we grew up [in Holland], the farmers' fields were separated by ditches, 6-12' wide, 3-6' deep, filled with water and mud. As kids, each spring, we spent our time roaming these fields accompanied with a long pole, whose only purpose was to get us across these ditches. Favourite ditches were used for days on end for practice purposes, showing off, or competitions, till the banks were slimy from all the activities. Competitions ranged not only on jumping the farthest with or without climbing that pole during the process, but also on placing the pole closest (or on) the near bank or the far bank, hanging on the pole as high (or low) as possible, hanging on with one hand only, etc.... The inevitable result was always: a dunking. It's an official spectator sport now, called pole vaulting.

Dad gave Hessel a pole too. A beautiful blue painted pole. Mine had never been painted. [But] Hessel would not use his pole. Sometimes he disappeared, (with his pole, I think.) Weeks later, he showed up at our favourite ditch and jumped over it. On the wrong side of the pole. Thereafter, he jumped over every ditch. Hessel never came home with wet feet like the rest of us.  

One day he showed up at the canal where we were swimming. Hessel dove in, swam right across, and back. I never knew how he learned it.

He got his high school diploma in three years. Never studied like the rest of us, so it seemed. 

I took driver's lessons for three days from the car salesman who sold us our first car. After a so-called driver's test, I got my license, and proudly drove the car home, only to meet Hessel as a hitchhiker. I stopped and opened the passenger door for him. Hessel walked over to the wrong side and told me to move over. 'You have your license, I don't,' he said. 

So I tried to teach him:
#1 This is the wheel, for steering.
#2 That is the gearshift.
#3 There is the gas pedal.
#4 There is the clutch.
#5 That is the brake to stop this thing.
'Now, step on #4, step on #3, put #2 in left hand rear position, let go of #4.'
Hessel drives away, no jerks. First gear. 
'Then, step on #4, move #2 ahead to right and up, step on #3, let go of #4.'
Hessel speeds up in second gear, no gear scratching, no jerks.
'Well, step on #4, move #2 as far back as it will go, let go of #4.'
Hessel speeds up to 45 mph--top speed of the car. No gear scratching, no jerks, stayed on the right side of the white line.
Beginner's luck? Let's try again:
'Ok, step on #5, now on #4."
Hessel stops on the right side of the road, on the shoulder. No jerks, motor still runs, did not stall.
Repeat whole process with same result.
I gave up.

The next week, Hessel gets his license, and drives for 30 years without banging into anything. Like all the rest of us.

Hessel also waterskies. When he gets tired of standing on both legs, he kicks off one ski and continues on one leg like a stork. I never saw him fall. Like the rest of us.

Hessel and Dad started a farm in 1953. Hessel bought 1 cow, and Dad 50 chickens, to populate the 65 acres. Three years later, they buy another farm of 100 acres. Hessel had 5 cows. Dad's chickens are dead. In 1973 dad retired, (no chickens,) but Hessel had a purebred Holstein herd for which he has received the top trophies in the County for several years, along with the trophy for the highest producing cow in the County. He now farms approximately 300 acres, and is fully mechanized to run it all by himself

So friends, that is Hessel.
Stubborn.
Self-made.
Successful.
Never made a mistake.
We all like him for it.
Kids and animals adore him.
The community appreciates him.

He has in the past, (or is now) serving as Director of the Holstein Frisian Association, member of the Christian Farmer's Association, deacon and steward of the Bloomfield CRC, board member of  Quinte Christian High School, and probably other organizations. 

Today we have witnessed the vows Hessel has exchanged with Connie before God, our Maker and Saviour, and we celebrate with them. We wish them a very happy life together. 

As Hessel's choice, we know, he made no mistake. 
He took his time.
His eyes wide open -- we thought he was looking the other way!
Nobody suitable in Canada, for 31 years.
Nobody suitable in Holland, 3 visits in a row.
He found her in New Jersey, USA.

Since then, his life had changed. This summer alone already he has:
Gotten extremely nervous.
Broken the hay baler. 
Chickened out of a swim at the Outlet when the water was too cold.
Dented the door on his pickup truck.
Got an infection in his left arm.
Gotten disorganized doing chores after three days of visiting Connie in New Jersey.
Losing some of this hair.

So Connie, your job's cut out for you already. He needs you now more than ever, to snap him out of this very uncharacteristic trend--so that 15 years from now, he'll say that today he made the only mistake in his life; he should have married you 15 years earlier!

Hints to the bride:
Hessel loves thick green pea soup or brown beans. Especially on Saturdays.
Hessel likes a weekly bubble bath in his own bathtub.
As far as I know, all Hessel knows about women is that they need lots of cupboards and closets. That's why he built hundreds of square feet of closets--and as an afterthought, some rooms around it to make it look like a house. He bet me that there's no woman in the world that can fill them up. Show him, Connie! I'd like to collect."
-by Nick Dykstra, August 21, 1982



Mr. & Mrs. Hessel Dykstra

Saturday, October 19, 2013

when dreams (don't) come true

**This is a follow-up to a previous post of mine entitled "When God Doesn't Show Up."  If you haven't already read it, I would encourage you to do so before reading this post.**

I have been mad at God for quite a while. Not because He didn't show up for me, but because He didn't show up for my brother. Being the Big Sister in the family, I have this Mama-Bear complex that comes out when someone messes with anyone from my family. 

I have been watching my brother work his tail off for the past few months in a job that he can't stand. (Don't get me wrong, we are grateful that he was able to find steady work for an upstanding Christian boss. But let's face it, it's not where he wants to be or what he was meant to do for the rest of his life.) So as I watch him struggle to keep his dreams alive, it makes me angry. He wants to be a mechanic.  Our local college offers the program, but he hasn't been accepted because he has yet to find an apprenticeship. This past spring, it looked like everything was falling into place, but when things didn't work out, he ended up not only without an apprenticeship, but also completely out of work. As the weeks and months drag on, it breaks my heart to see my brother's dreams crumbling, and his hope fading. 

Last week I started reading our pastor's latest book--a study on the life of the Biblical Joseph--and was greatly encouraged by what I learned in chapter six. So, to my brother and everyone else out there with an "impossible dream," this is for you:

When God give you a dream, He will fulfill that dream. 

Not every one of your dreams is from God. Some are the result of our own selfishness. Our own ambitions. God is not interested in those. But "in the midst of our own striving and dreaming, there will be dreams that God has placed in us." Do not give up on these dreams!

Dream, in this case, doesn't just mean a literal dream. (Though they sometimes come from God.) Dream also refers to "the passion that God places inside each of [us. The] one thing [you] have been created and redeemed for...the one thing that makes [your] heart beat faster than anything else....the one thing [you] want to give [your] life to... The more clearly God has called us...the more strongly our passion will burn in that area."

This next quotation stopped me cold: 
"[God] doesn't tantalize, He doesn't dangle it before your eyes, and then pull it away so  that He can stir up frustration in you. If God gives you a vision, it's because He wants to use it in your life, to bring you where He wants you to be for the glory of His name."
Yet this is exactly what I have accused God of doing! 

So, what were all those times of false hope? Confirming your passion? Affirming that you are on the right track? Providing valuable life experience you will need later? All of the above? For my brother, it seemed like working only a few months in his dream job, was God simply toying with him. Yet, it allowed him to confirm his passion. It showed that he was indeed more than capable of learning a new trade. It provided four months' experience for his resume.  

But here's the kicker:

God fulfills that dream. In.His.own.time.

This is where we have the most trouble. Where I have the most trouble. It always takes longer to achieve our dreams. Often much longer. And it's always more much more difficult than we could ever imagine. 

"This is where God's people often lose faith and grow weary. God places a burning desire in your heart. You go all out to pursue it. Days and months and years go by and nothing seems any closer than when you first began. When that happens, it is pretty easy to despair and think, 'Well, I must have been mistaken about the whole thing...' [but] that is the time to remember that just because you have the timing wrong, it doesn't mean you didn't hear from God. Whatever was truly of God, God will bring to pass in His time."  

We forget that God is not bound by time. We become discouraged when it looks like nothing is happening. We think we heard wrong. Worst of all, we think God just doesn't care. We start to believe that He won't show up. Ever.

But take heart:

When it comes true, it comes true quickly.

"On one hand God works painstakingly slowly over a long period of time....You think nothing is happening, but all the while, God is at work. Then, when all the pieces are in place....He acts decisively and quickly..."

Take the example of the birth of a baby: We wait for his/her arrival for nine months (or longer). Then "the labour [is often] long and drawn out, [while] the actual birth itself [is] over in very short order.... For every work of God that seems to happen in a flash, there is usually an extensive period of preparation where God patiently puts all the pieces together until the whole is ready to be revealed."

The challenge is to hold on to the vision. Keep fighting for your dreams. God will act. It will take longer than you think. But when it comes, it will be quicker and more powerful than you can possibly imagine! 

Despite having a reputation for being a cheezy Christian film with bad acting, Facing the Giants is still my favourite movie of all time because of it's powerful message. After several mediocre seasons as high school football coach, Coach Grant Taylor develops a new coaching philosophy: to praise God, no matter what the result. As he guides and urges each one of his players to give the maximum effort, he motivates them to believe they can win under God's guidance. This is a powerful clip from the movie, and an encouragement to everyone to "not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart." (Galations 6:9).


I don't know what your dreams are. But I know some look pretty impossible. Some have been written on your heart for a lifetime and seem no closer now than they did years ago. My neighbour dreams of owning a horse farm and doing equine therapy. My friend has dreamed of becoming a mom for years. My husband dreams of becoming a Christian counsellor. 

Since I was a little girl, I dreamed of restoring and renovating the house we currently live in. Did I even in a million years believe it would come true? Not really. But God placed that dream in my heart, and though it has been modified over the years, it is coming true. Has it been easy? Never! Has it been on my schedule? Absolutely not! But God is fulfilling it, one piece at a time.  

Did I ever dream of being unable to get a job after two university degrees and over seven years' experience in my field? Definitely not. But God is using this time to allow me to pursue other dreams. Working from home. Starting a business. Pursuing writing. Finding emotional and spiritual healing. 

So today, I encourage you to dare to dream. Hold on to your dream. Pursue it. And never let it go. 

"Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen." (Ephesians 3:20-21)




**To read more, check out 
When Dreams Come True: The Story of Joseph
by John Visser.**

Sunday, October 13, 2013

a heart abandoned

This is a follow-up to a previous post of mine entitled "The Danger of Love."

I have never been able to keep a best friend. Ever. No matter how close we are, and no matter how much I believe that they are a "forever friend", at some point or  another, something happens, and they always walk out.

My first best friend was not until I got to the third grade. We survived being in separate schools for two years, but we somehow managed to drift apart once we got to university. A few years ago, we finally talked about what had gone wrong, but the damage was done. Although we occasionally communicate via facebook, we live in different cities, have completely different friends, and are in different stages of life. Though I am finally at peace with that, sadly, we will never re-capture the friendship we once had.

A few years later, I made some new best friends. My first bestie and I got together every.single.week without fail. I spent Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter with her family. They were like my second family. Often, their home felt more like home than mine did. We were beach buddies, and workout buddies. We went to countless movies, walked endless miles, and talked about everything imaginable. She was supposed to be my Maid of Honour. We were inseparable for three years. Until she walked out. 

I never knew exactly what went wrong. Maybe I overstepped talking about my faith one day. Maybe it was because I reached out to someone she didn't particularly like who happened to be going through a difficult time. Maybe it was because she was dissatisfied with the direction her life was taking, and took it out on me. Maybe it was all of the above. I don't think I will ever know the reason. All I know is that in a matter of a week, we went from being best friends, to never speaking again. And even though it's been three years, the pain is still fresh. 

My other best friend walked me through quite a lot of stuff, and provided encouragement, laughter, and advice for several years. We'd remained quite close, despite dating other people throughout the course of our friendship. After I got engaged, he even offered to be the one to give me away on my wedding day. Although I was touched at the gesture, in hindsight, I'm glad I didn't take him up on it. Because the last real conversation we had was at my wedding. 

Although other friends have suggested reasons and formed opinions as to why he walked out, I don't think I will ever fully know why. And not for lack of me trying. In spite of knowing that I was hurt, he made it clear that he didn't have the time or desire to continue a meaningful friendship. While friendships with the opposite sex are always tricky, especially after one party gets married, I never once considered that a legitimate reason to walk out. I still don't.

Then I had two mentors walk out. Two women who had taken me under their wings, who had loved on me and mothered me. Women who I dared to share my whole heart with, women I trusted completely. Women who I came to rely on for wisdom, advice, encouragement, and validation. Women who in all honestly, knowing my brokenness and my abandonment issues, should have never walked out the way they did. But they did. 

Words have been exchanged and apologies have been made, but neither are currently part of my life in the way I envisioned that they would be. 
Broken promises are not easily forgotten. Trust is not easily regained. Friendships are not easily repaired.

Finally, there's my most recent best friend. I wouldn't say that she's completely abandoned me, but some days it feels like it. She literally lives right around the corner, and we haven't talked in over a month. Granted, she does have legitimate reasons: Multiple other best friends. A boyfriend. She lives a ridiculously busy life. We no longer attend the same church. But I miss her. And it hurts to see her slip away. Just like all the others. After going through three best friends in a lifetime, I can't say I have high hopes about keeping another. At least not to the extent that I would like. I miss having regular Girls' Nights, phone dates, dinners out. I miss being an important part of her life. I miss her.

If any of my ex-best friends are reading this, know this: Perhaps in your mind, the choice to walk away was valid. (I completely disagree, but I admit that I cannot see the whole picture and do not know all the circumstances that led to your decision.) Nonetheless, I want you to know that your choice caused me great pain. And great shame. Because when you lose as many best friends as I have, you have to wonder: Is there something wrong with me?  Am I not good enough? What did I do wrong? You come to believe there is something profoundly defective about you. But while I no longer hold out hope of ever being close friends with you again, I choose to forgive you.

I received this in an email a long time ago, quoted it in a previous blog post, but I'll share it again:
"When someone is in your life for a reason, it is usually to meet a need you have expressed. They have come to assist you through a difficulty, to provide you with guidance and support, to aid you physically, emotionally, or spiritually. They may seem like a godsend and they are! They are there for the reason you need them to be. Then, without any wrongdoing on your part, or at an inconvenient time, this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end. Sometimes they die, sometimes the walk away, sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand. What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled, their work is done. The prayer you sent up has been answered, and now it is time to move on.

“Some people come into your life for a season, because your turn has come to share, grow or learn. They bring you an experience of peace, or make you laugh. They may teach you something you have never done. They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy. Believe it—it is real. But only for a season.

"Lifetime relationships teach you lifetime lessons, things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation. Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person, and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life.”

Despite all the best friends I've lost, there have been a few loyal friends who have stuck by me, though thick and thin. For every friendship that ended, another was forged. For every friend who lied, gossiped, and betrayed me, I can count another who was truthful, encouraging, and loyal. While many of my friendships have been of the reason variety, I dare to hope that a few of them will be for a lifetime. 

If you have been abandoned by a best friend, it is my deepest prayer that you will find hope in the hurt. May you find the courage and strength to choose to live with your heart open, in spite of the pain!





***********If you are grieving the loss of a friend, 
check out another post  of mine entitled "The Grieving Heart."*********

Thursday, October 10, 2013

porch renovations: before & after shots

West side of the house 
BEFORE:



AFTER:


Front of the house
BEFORE:

AFTER:




And everything in between:








Home Sweet Home!

Monday, October 7, 2013

thankful

Giving thanks for all these (and so much more) this year:


MY HUSBAND:
my provider, protector, and cultivator of my heart...the man who's making my dreams come true...and he's pretty handsome too!


MY FRIENDS:
the ones who I can laugh with, cry with, and be real with...who encourage me when I'm down, and who make my life better because they are in it....

MY FAMILY:
the ones who have welcomed me into theirs...





and the ones who I've been honoured to welcome into mine...


OUR CAT:
the perfect little addition to our home....cuddles in bed every morning, antics that keep me laughing, and unconditional love and affection...best.cat.ever...and also pretty handsome too!


THE FARM:
the best place to grow up (and keep growing up), and the most beautiful corner of God's green earth....


OUR HOME:
the place that started out as only a dream back in high school, and is slowly becoming a reality...proud to be the third generation of our family to call this place home...

OUR CHURCH:
a place to belong that believes in reaching the lost and restoring the broken...


LOVE:
from family, friends, and my Saviour, Jesus Christ...without it, I am nothing...



What are you thankful for this year?

Friday, October 4, 2013

when hello is not enough

*This post is a follow-up to a previous post of mine titled "A Heart Ignored at Church." That post was not the first on this topic, and will likely not be the last, as it is something I feel very passionate about.*


Being the "new kid" at church can often feel like being the "new kid" at school. Having left the church I was born and raised in, for a more contemporary church back in my early 20's, I know all-too-well what it feels like to be that "new kid." To walk into the sanctuary and not see a familiar face. To sit in the back row, and hope you don't look too out of place. And to hope and pray that after the service, you won't look too awkward standing around as you wait for someone to come up and talk to you. 

In fact, one of the primary reasons I left the church of my childhood, was because I had no friends. I stood alone after church for countless Sundays, waiting for someone--anyone--to come and talk to me.  To ask how I was doing. To see where I was working. But no one came. No one bothered to take an interest in me. I didn't belong.

So I left. And not without a great deal of hurt and resentment. And some anger. Because after attending every.single.week for 20 years, I was gone 9 Sundays before anyone noticed and bothered to ask my parents what happened to me. I resigned from my position as Library Coordinator, and never received a phone call, email, or letter from anyone, including the pastor. Clearly, I was not missed. My contribution was not needed. I did not belong. I was not important.

I was starving for connections and relationship when I started attending a local, more contemporary church, at the suggestion of an acquaintance who had been attending there. I was excited to start over in a place where no one knew me as "so-and-so's daughter" or "so-and-so's niece." At first, it was really great. Everyone was so friendly. There were lots of people my age. Everyone talked to me. I started getting invited to get-togethers, womens' groups, and Bible studies. I became a youth leader. People seemed to like me, and I liked them. It looked like I finally belonged somewhere. But looks can be deceiving.  

Over a five year process, I slowly discovered that most people either couldn't (or didn't want to) go beyond surface-y relationships. I had a lot of so-called friends, but there were very few willing to talk about big issues and "deep stuff."  If you've ever been faced with a deep issue like depression, chronic shame/guilt/anger/doubt, abandonment issues, family/relational problems, sexual abuse, or substance abuse, you know that they don't just get solved by simply praying and reading your Bible more. But gosh darn, that was the message I kept getting. Tough questions went unanswered. Awkward problems were not addressed. Hearts got ignored. To my utter disappointment I realized I didn't belong here after all. 

Two years ago, when we left that church and began to attend what is now our "home church," I had to start the process all over again. Walking into an 800+ seat auditorium and not seeing any familiar faces was incredibly intimidating, even with my husband beside me. I did not have high hopes for finding a place to belong, nevermind what the church sign outside read. 

In a recent publication of our church denomination's magazine, The Banner, there was a small article written by Ruth Kemps in which she writes,  "It's a pleasant surprise when people take the time to say hello to us. But are they really interested in us? ...Probably not...Typically the greeters will say hello and shake hands with us. Other than that, though, we have been left standing in the middle of a fellowship hall, holding our coffee and cookies while everyone else is busy chatting with their friends." 

She goes on to write, "My experience has taught me that 'hello' is not enough. We are called to make newcomers feel comfortable and welcome. To accept them just as they are. God does! What our churches need are greeters not only before church but also after church. That means you....The reward comes later when someone says, 'Thank you for talking to me,' or, 'You are the first person to remember our names, and it makes us feel like we belong.'"

Even though there are 500+ members at our new church, we are not just another name or face to our pastor. I will never forget the first Sunday I attended. Not only did the pastor shake hands with us and say hello, but he also said to me, "I'm so glad you're here. May I give you a hug?" I was floored that he had even noticed me and that he bothered to take the time to tell me that. Even when we did not regularly attend services, and even when I stopped going to church altogether, I never forgot how he had handled my heart. And I knew I'd go back. Because I knew he saw my heart.

Since then, our pastor has actually taken the time to know us. Really know us. And while he may not agree with some of the things we say/ how we say them, or all the decisions we make, we have felt no judgement or condemnation from him. No damage-control house-calls, disguised as a pastoral care visits.  No finger-pointing, blaming, or name-calling. He doesn't sit and preach at us, tell us we need to pray more, and he certainly doesn't go running out the door when our emotions are too much to handle. He's seen it all, and we are thankful to be led and loved by such a wise, strong, humble, and courageous man of God who not only continues to care for our hearts, but so many other broken and hurting hearts in the church and broader community. 

Because heart stuff matters here. People matter. 

In truth, it's definitely taken a while to feel comfortable in our new church. We've been attending almost two years, and still don't have a lot of friends. But we do have a few really good ones. Including our pastor. People haven't walked out when we've been less than perfect. People are actually interested in talking about tough stuff with us. Not with the intention to collect information to use as gossip later, but to help us walk through it. Even when it gets messy.

There are still times where we stand around awkwardly after church. But just when I'm ready to run out the door, along will come Cliff with a handshake, a great big bear hug, and a huge smile. Or my aunt, with a soft word of encouragement regarding a recent blog post of mine she's happened to read. Or one of my uncles with some encouragement or advice on our latest house renovation projects. Or my sister-in-law with three kids in-tow, just wanting to touch base and make plans for a visit during the week.  Or Tyler and Mell, who ask if we want to join them for lunch.  And then there's Holly. And Sharon. And Sarah. And Jake & Astrid...

Church isn't about filling seats in the auditorium. It's not about being entertained through many programs. It's not about a charismatic preacher. It's definitely not about simply bringing us in and getting us saved. Church is about relationship. With God. But also with His people. We were created for relationships, and to be in community with each other. So, I don't know about you, but for me, "hello" just isn't enough.