Tag Archives: Grandma

The December Celebration Gauntlet

When Wendy and I married, December suddenly became much more than just a Christmas holiday. Wendy’s birthday is December 21, and we married on New Year’s Eve. That means that I have, arguably, the three most important gift-giving days of the year in an 11 day stretch. After 12 years (a number rife with Biblical significance) trying to find balance in this celestial conjunction of celebrations, our first grandchild unexpectedly, like the star of Bethlehem, appeared on the horizon last year and plotted his arrival on December 11th. An already crazy month just got crazier.

Milo and his parents (I state it this way because, let’s be honest, it’s all about the one-year-old) arrived home from the UK in early December. I picked up them up and drove them home from MSP. The kids made our house command central out of which “Operation Celebrations” would be conducted. Milo has four sets of grandparents, a full contingency of living great-grandparents, and at least one great-great-grandparent. Long story short: There’s a lot of people needing a Milo fix.

Our celebration of Milo’s first birthday happened the night of the 12th. We had a small cadre of family over for a relatively small affair. Ya-Ya Wendy made Milo both a chocolate cupcake and a white, funfetti cupcake. He seemed to prefer the funfetti cupcake, proving that his taste bud genes are inherited from his paternal DNA coding.

Walking is a lot easier with one of these things!

The rounds of family visitation continued on the 19th when Taylor, Milo, and I stopped by my folks retirement community to have lunch with the folks. Milo was, of course, a huge hit. Milo also had a fascination with all of the various walkers with wheels. As he is in training to get the whole “walking” thing down (we’re up to about six consecutive steps without falling at this point), it was a huge discovery for him that there are devices designed and manufactured to assist in this basic human motor skill (special “thanks” to Mary for letting Milo run free with her walker).

Skol! Vikings!

Wendy and I began celebration of her birthday on the 15th when we headed to the Twin Cities. On the 16th we went to our first Vikings game at their new “mother ship” stadium. An annual trip to see the Vikings had become a bit of a tradition for us until it was announced that the new stadium would be built. Wendy and cold get along like Hamilton and Burr, so we skipped the seasons they were playing at the U of M’s outdoor stadium. We finally decided to all the trigger on  our old tradition. It was a lot of fun. We’ll be back.

Wendy’s birthday was otherwise fairly quiet except for the doorbell ringing incessantly. She got a trifecta of flower bouquets on her big day. The florist here in Pella was grateful for the business, though they somehow couldn’t get the deliveries consolidated. On the following weekend our friends Kevin and Becky came to Pella to celebrate Wendy. A pint at the Cellar and a pizza from George’s was in order with the rest of the evening relaxing at Vander Well Pub.

Maddy Kate flew in from her home in South Carolina on Christmas Eve day. We visited Grandpa Dean and Grandma Jeanne before I drove her back to Pella. She joined Wendy and me at Christmas Eve services at church while Milo and his entourage were making an all day tour stop at Na-Na Brenda’s.

Christmas day, I’m happy to say, was an all-out, love-and-laughter, food-and fun, lazy lounge-fest with just the six of us. Wendy made her traditional Christmas morning cinnamon rolls, along with an awesome breakfast. I threw French Dip into the crock pot for the evening meal. Lunch was a charcuterie menagerie for all. We opened gifts together after breakfast, then moved a mattress into the family room next to the sectional for a blissful day of binge watching (This is Us took up the entire afternoon), eating, and napping together.

Increasingly Rare (and Priceless) Moments

Taylor Madison Gma Gpa VW

A couple of weeks ago we were blessed to have Madison home for Tulip Time. Taylor’s sudden bout of stomach crud meant that Wendy and I did not get to spend time together with the four of us, but before Madison flew back to South Carolina Taylor joined us at Grandpa and Grandma Vander Well’s apartment and I got to capture this lovely moment with my iPhone.

As our girls have left the next, it seems that these little family gatherings are increasingly rare. Therefore, I find them increasingly precious…priceless really.

Simple Habits Simply Exemplified

You shall put these words of mine in your heart and soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and fix them as an emblem on your forehead. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.
Deuteronomy 11:18-19 (NRSV)

I remember as a child going to spend a week with my grandparents in Le Mars. Mom would take me to the Greyhound bus station in Des Moines and put me on a bus, telling me to sit right behind the driver (where he could keep an eye on me, no doubt) and I would make the long bus ride to Sioux City where my grandparents would be waiting to shuttle me back to their house.

Staying with grandpa and grandma in the small town of Le Mars was a treat. I got to walk “uptown” to explore the shops on Central Avenue. I would be grandpa’s guest at Lion’s Club and we would play Canasta for hours on end.

Once a day, after we ate our meal, Grandpa would get out his Bible and a devotional called The Upper Room. He would read the Bible verse for the day and then read the short devotional thought for that day before offering a short prayer. It did not take long, and to this day I can’t recall any of the actual words or thoughts that were shared. Nevertheless, the simple act of doing it made an indelible impression on me.

Today, I’m thinking about God’s command through Moses not only to ingest and embody His words but also to pass them along to your children. I remember Grandpa reading the upper room after lunch. I recall the daily experience of waking for school and descending the stairs to find my father sitting in his chair, Bible open on his lap as he read and prayed. These things weren’t rigid religious disciplines demanded of us like some kind of cruel and inhuman punishments. They were simple habits simply exemplified which made an indelible impression on a child’s impressionable heart.

I pray that I have been faithful in carrying on the example for our children. I hope for the day when our grandchildren come for the week to the small town of Pella to explore the square and to be Grandpa and Grandma’s special guest so that I may continue to make an impression passed through the generations.

TBT: Grandma’s Photography

Vander Well family in front of Grandpa (Herman) and Grandma (Everdina) Vander Well's house in LeMars, IA. Photo processed June 1974
Vander Well family in front of Grandpa and Grandma Vander Well’s house in LeMars, IA. Photo processed June 1974

I’ve been slowly taking up the task of scanning my family’s archive of old photos. I came across this little gem from 1974 of my family standing in front of my grandparents’ house. There were two things that this photo brought to mind:

  1. Grandma insisting we must take a family photo before we would be allowed to leave for home (notice our shared excitement).
  2. Grandma, bless her, couldn’t frame a photo to save her life.

Dear Diary,

1977 07 06 Vander Well Everdina Diary Entry“But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. We are foreigners and strangers in your sight, as were all our ancestors. Our days on earth are like a shadow,without hope.”

David son of Jesse was king over all Israel. He ruled over Israel forty years—seven in Hebron and thirty-three in Jerusalem. He died at a good old age, having enjoyed long life, wealth and honor. His son Solomon succeeded him as king.
1 Chronicles 29:14-15;26-28 (NIV)

Wendy and I have begun to declutter our house. It’s interesting the accumulation of “stuff” after nearly a decade. I find myself increasingly willing to get rid of things that, for some apparent reason, I felt I really needed at one time. I find it interesting what your heart labels as “treasure” and what you consider “junk.” Yesterday I came across a tub which contains my grandmother’s diaries, which I still treasure and hope to catalog more thoroughly some day.

For over twenty years my grandmother faithfully recorded the events of her day. I must be honest. The diaries are, for the most part, very boring. The entries are not the least bit introspective. Grandma was not one to write about her feelings or insights or to wax eloquent about her perspective on anything. Her entries read like a mundane grocery list of activity:

Thursday, June 19, 1969 – Got up late. Slept good. We did a big wash + ironing. Went for a ride this eve. Sure enjoyed it. Dad drove car. Hot day.

On a whim, I picked up the diary from 1977 and navigated to one particular entry:

Wednesday, July 6, 1977 – We did odds + ends today. Took Don and Dan to Jackes for supper this eve. Had a shower early a.m. + a little shower this eve.

It was the last diary entry my grandmother would make. After writing this entry, she and my grandpa went for a walk “up town” and were struck by a car while crossing the street. My grandmother died that night. My grandfather picked up the daily duty of writing in the diary and continued the practice until late in his life.

How easily we forget life’s fragility. In our hearts we all plan to live to a ripe old age and hand off our accumulated “stuff” to our children just as King David did in today’s chapter. And yet, there is always the possibility that we are just an evening stroll and a distracted driver away from making our own final entry in this life’s daily diary.

I found it interesting that in his advanced age, and in the moment of his giving away the throne, King David recognized that everything came from and belonged to God. It’s easier to give away what was never yours in the first place, and the further I get in this life journey the more I recognize David’s realization in my own heart.

Today, I’m grateful for what I’ve been given. I’m seeking to let go of the notion that I can lay claim to anything and think that it is mine; not even this beautiful summer day in July.

“Coffee Time” with God

coffee and tee
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 55

Morning, noon, and night
    I cry out in my distress,
    and the Lord hears my voice.
Psalm 55:17 (NLT)

“Coffee time” is a long held tradition in the Dutch culture which is my heritage. When I was a kid, I thought it was just something that my Grandpa and Grandma Vander Well did when I visited them at their home in Le Mars, Iowa. About 9:00 or 10:00 a.m. and then again in the mid-afternoon about 3:00, Grandpa and Grandma V would stop whatever it was they were doing and sit down at the kitchen table for a cup of coffee or tea.

Years later, I spent three years living in a very small rural town that was largely of Dutch heritage. I quickly learned that at 9:00 a.m. and again about 3:00 p.m. the local coffee shop was packed for “coffee time.” Local residents, businessmen, and farmers congregated for a cup of coffee and a serving of current events or local gossip. I came to love the routine break in the day. I looked forward to it.

A few years ago, I first read about “praying the hours.” It’s an ancient practice that I believe was largely lost in the protest that made many of us Protest-ants. Also known as “fixed hour prayer,” the concept is pretty simple. At set times of the day, you stop whatever you are doing and have a conversation with God.

The practice of fixed hour prayer actually has its roots in Christianity’s Judaic roots. As you read through the book of Acts and the stories of the beginning of the early church you’ll find hints of the apostles’ dedication to praying at specific hours of the day, often going to the temple to do so. You also find references throughout David’s lyrics, like the verse I pulled from today’s chapter, of his praying at specific times throughout the day.

After studying a bit of the history of the practice (click here for a great article about it if you’re curious), I’ve spent the past few years trying to incorporate what I like to think of as “coffee time with God” into my daily routine. While I’m far from perfect in my discipline, I’ve found it to be an enjoyable practice. I purposefully take a break from whatever I am doing at specific hours of the day to have a brief conversation with God. It provides much needed breaks to my day. It keeps me connected relationally with God throughout the day instead of the sense of leaving God behind after my morning quiet time.

Now, if you’ll excuse me. I have coffee time scheduled with a Friend.