Why I Write….

So, I started this blog a number of years ago. Sometimes, it’s been rather active, sometimes it’s been quiet. Lately, it’s been more quiet than active.

I’ll explain more of why that has been as we move along this journey.

Why did I start it? I started it because I like to write. I find comfort and enjoyment in taking thoughts and ideas and putting them down on paper (or on digital paper actually.) In addition to that, many of my life experiences have given me insights that I wanted to share with others.

Why am I telling you this?

Because I’m soon going to be taking this blog to a different level. I’ve decided, for a number of reasons, that I need to do more writing on here. There are too many things going on that I can’t be quiet about. So, I’m not going to be.

But……..

Before I do, I think it’s important that you know a little bit more about me. I think it’s important that you understand where I’m coming from, where I’m writing from,

What matters to me and why I want it to matter to you.

Some of it you might know, some of it you probably won’t know. Don’t worry, I’m not going to be dragging any skeletons out of the closet……

These are turbulent times we live in, I hope you’ll join me on this journey and see where it leads me and see where it leads you and see where it leads us.

Thanks for listening,

Tom


It’s Not Just for Funeral Homes

What isn’t?

Grief.

It comes at different times and different places.

It’s never the same for two people – even if they are grieving the loss of the same person.

Some of the times are “somewhat” predictable – like your Dad’s 81st birthday that came 15 days after he went home to be with Jesus.

Like the day your daughter became the 2nd Dr. Vanderwell (http://tomvanderwell.net/2018/04/the-passing-of-the-torch-a-tale-of-two-doctors/)

Some of them are totally unpredictable. 

Like when you’re having devotions and there’s something that you aren’t clear on.   “I think I’ll ask Dad……”

Oh wait, I can’t ask Dad.   I can’t ask him about that Bible passage. 

I can’t…. 

I can’t……

There’s a lot of things I can’t do because there’s a lot of things my Dad can do right now that he couldn’t. 

Like sit down and talk with John, the author of Revelations.

And ask him what I was going to ask my Dad.   In Revelations 20:11-15, it talks about the dead being judged by what they had done.   What does that mean?

Does “what they had done” mean whether or not they chose to believe?   Because if it means the works they did, isn’t the thief on the cross totally screwed over?   I mean think about it, he was a Christian for maybe 10 minutes before he died?

I think “what they had done” has to mean whether they chose to believe and chose to live for Christ.   It’s really the only way any of us have a chance at Heaven – and I believe that’s what John means.

Hey Dad – can you ask him the next time you see him?

In the mean time, any of my minister or seminary friends who want to chime in with your thoughts, please do so.

Tom

The Passing of the Torch – a tale of two Doctors

Once upon a time, there was this kid from Muskegon (for those of you not from Michigan, that’s about 45 minutes northwest of Grand Rapids.)

As he grew up, he wanted to become a preacher.

So he did.

And it was good.

And he was good at it.

And God used him to serve and help many people.

And that kid went on to get additional education. After a while, he got another Master’s degree and then he got a doctorate.

But he never wanted to use that title. That’s just not what he was about. He was about helping people and serving God.

And it was good. It wasn’t easy but it was good.

Many times, it was hard but it was good.

And God used him to serve and help many people.

Four of those hard times came when his body was hit by cancer.

Those times impacted many people, touched many lives, encouraged many other people going through hard times.

In 1972, he beat the cancer.

In 1984, he beat the cancer.

In 1990, he beat the cancer.

And then it came back in 2017. A different type, a new battle, but still that “c” word.

By then, this kid from Muskegon was pushing close to 80 years old. That’s far enough along in years to have grandkids pursuing careers.

There was this girl from Jenison who wanted to become a nurse.

And she did.

And it was good.

And she was good at it.

And God used her to help people, particularly very sick kids and their families, in very difficult times.

It was hard, but it was good.

And then this girl from Jenison wanted to do more.

And God opened doors and she learned more and figured out more ways to help kids and their families.

And she taught college students who are learning to be nurses.

And she got more education.

After her grandpa was diagnosed with cancer in 2017, she said to her dad, “I think it’s too much to hope for, but I’d love it if Grandpa could be at my graduation.”

Dr. Vanderwell could attend Dr. Vanderwell’s graduation and be part of watching her become the next generation of Dr. Vanderwells.

But it wasn’t to be.

35 days. 

God called the first Dr. Vanderwell home 35 days ago.

For 35 days, there wasn’t a Dr. Vanderwell here on this earth.

But there is again.

In many ways, she’s a different Doctor.

But in many ways, she’s the same and has learned much from the first Dr. Vanderwell.

Do what you do to care for people.

Do what you do to make the world a better place.

Do what you do to spread the love of Jesus.

Today, we witnessed the passing of the torch.

From Grandpa to granddaughter.

While it hurts that he wasn’t able to be “here” to see the graduation, I know, we know, that he saw it from Heaven.

And it was good.

May God continue to bless the new Dr. Vanderwell and give her the continued passion to impact people and change lives like her Grandpa did – even though she’ll do it in her own special way.

And this Dad is proud of both generations today. Proud to be the first Dr. Vanderwell’s son and proud to be the second Dr. Vanderwell’s Dad.

God is good. (All the time)

All the time. (God is good)

Tom

Grief 2.0

If you’re on Facebook, you know how Facebook does that “memories” thing where each day it gives you the opportunity to look back on something you did, pictured, wrote about or whatever 1, 2 or however many years ago.

On April 16, 2014 – so 4 years and 3 days ago, I wrote this post about grief – http://tomvanderwell.net/2014/04/grief-its-not-only-about-dying/.

At that point, we were dealing with some big issues – my daughter’s heart condition, the loss of some of her dreams, her changing reality, our changing reality.   In addition to that, my career seemed to be at a crossroads – not a cross roads that we wanted or encouraged.

Now we’re in what I’m calling Grief 2.0.   What does that entail?

Life – I’ll be writing about him more in the future, but on March 23 of this year, my dad, Howard Vanderwell, passed from this life into eternal life in heaven.   He fought pancreatic cancer for 15 months, it was his fourth major battle with cancer, and in the end, it was complications from chemo and radiation (some from previous battles) that took him home.

I wrote a piece on his CaringBridge page that last week called “Painful Peace.”   That’s what this last month has been.   It’s been grief, it’s been pain but it’s also been peace.   Peace that in the end, he went home surrounded by his family and without struggle or pain.   Peace that he is now spending time and eternity with the One who he devoted his entire career and life to.   Peace that he is spending time with my grandparents and my younger sister.

But it’s also pain.   It’s a loss not only of a family member, but a church leader, a supporter, a friend, an encourager and a believer – a believer in Christ but also a believer in his kids and grandkids. 

Yesterday, my daughter defended her doctoral project and became the second Dr. Vanderwell in the history of the Vanderwell family.

And the first Dr. Vanderwell wasn’t there to share it with her and with us.

Next week Saturday, she’ll go through the actual graduation.   My dad wanted very much to be there – but God said, “Come home, Howie.  You’ve been faithful, your time on earth is done.”

And then there’s the grief of medical issues gone “not quite right.”   I’ve been battling a condition with the blood vessels in my left neck, shoulder and such called an Arterio Venous Malformation (Google AVM if you want to know more).   It’s been a part of my life and my reality for 40 years and I’ve had surgeries and treatments for it numerous times.  

January 30, 2018 was the most recent one.  The treatment was successful but it brought up some nasty side effects.   I lost most of the hearing in my left ear, I am now extremely sensitive to noise, especially loud noise and my left vocal cord is paralyzed so my voice is significantly impacted in terms of volume, clarity and, well, it sounds like I have a nasty case of laryngitis all of the time.

Grief 2.0

It’s different.

But it’s the same.

Dreams changed.

Plans altered.

Losses experienced.

Questions.

Pain.

But……

There’s also God 2.0

God is still here in our grief.

God is still here in our questions.

God is still here with our changed dreams.

Our unfocused dreams.

Our losses.

God is still here.

And just like we did 4 years ago, when we held faith that God was there (here), we do now too.   Some of the same issues carry over – my daughter’s heart condition hasn’t gone away, my career path is in many ways murkier than ever, and then there are new challenges.

God never said believing in Him would be easy.

But  he’s here.

In our grief.

In our sorrow.

In our blessings.

In our peace.

And so, I say, “God, I don’t get it.   I don’t understand.”

“But I’ve got you.”

And then focus on the peace rather than focusing on the pain.

God is good. (All the time)

All the time.  (God is good)

TJV

My Story, My Life……

For those of you who know me closely, you know that 2018 has been, shall we say, rocky.   For those who don’t know me as well, stay tuned.   I’m going to be talking about my story and what it all means.

This quote from TobyMac is my hope and dream as I share my story on here.

Tom