Life in These COVID-19 Days: A Personal Picture

So what is life like for us during the coronavirus pandemic?

Like many, we are trying to keep things as normal as possible, keeping as many routines as we can. But, of course, many things have changed too. Yet, in the midst of all these changes (and fears), manifold evidences of God’s faithfulness and goodness appear from day to day – as you will see from the pictures.

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A sunset over the “muck” fields of Hudsonville this past week

Let me begin with life at home, which is where we often are these days, especially in the evening (I have been able to maintain my work days at seminary – see more below). My wife and I have been working on some home projects, inside and out. She has been painting/cleaning/reorganizing (it’s Spring!) and I have been cleaning out clutter in the basement (the garage will wait a bit yet for nicer weather so I can move the deck and patio furniture and yard accessories out).

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Some hyacinths blooming in back of the house this week

I love yard work, and with the weather becoming more favorable each week – and the daylight longer – I have been doing some landscape cleanup and garden preparation (the kale I left in the ground over the winter has actually started to come back!). This past week I also repaired our mailbox, which was knocked down for the third time in five years!

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On the warmer spring weather days/nights I get out to walk, ride bike, and play pickleball (but no golf – the courses are closed!). We even got a ride out to the lake in this past week (Holland State Park), where the lake and sky were amazing!

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Recently my brother and I visited Kollen Park in Holland, where we watched the first ship of the season come in – the Pere Marquette.

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One of the things we had to stop for now too was our Voices of Victory quartet practices – and it is sorely missed! We take turns hosting at each other’s homes and we have come to enjoy the fellowship (“business meetings”) as much as the singing. Though several singing events have been cancelled, we continue to practice our songs and prepare for some future scheduled concerts by means of recordings. We are also posting some old and new recordings of fitting songs for the times on our Facebook page, so be sure to visit it.

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Our Sundays are the best and hardest of days right now. “Best” because, though not allowed to gather for public worship right now, we are able to receive live preaching, prayer, and singing through live-streamed services broadcast on our church’s website (Faith PRC). We are thankful for this blessed means of grace in these times – truly rest for our souls! Thank you pastor and elders for providing this for us!

At the same time, these are the “hardest” days, since we cannot gather with the congregation and experience face-to-face fellowship and united, physical worship together. But our leaders are making sure we stay informed and in touch with one another as best we can. And, we are also missing our every-other-Sunday family dinner gatherings. It is hard not to see our children and grandchildren in this regular way. But, in this too, we stay in close touch and share picture and videos as well as texts and calls. They say this is the “new normal,” but it not normal and it is hard, as we know it is for you too.

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But, then, last night our pastor and his family, along with an organist and pianist  from the congregation, organized a congregational singspiration and live-streamed it! It was a wonderful hour of psalm and hymn singing, as many of us gathered around our devices to join in! Word is they are also organizing one for next Sunday night on Easter. That would be wonderful!

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As for life at the PRC Seminary, things have changed significantly there, too, as of last week. After the first executive order of our governor (in early March), we were able to continue our normal daily labors. But after the second order (last Monday), we had to transition to all online classes.

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After a crash-course in how to use Zoom (the popular live-streaming app), most of the professors are teaching their classes live each day – either from their office at seminary (allowed!) or from home. For a few of the classes we are using prerecorded videos. So far this is going well, and we are thankful to be able to continue the training in this way. But, again, it is hard not to have regular contact and fellowship together. Our seminary “family life” has also been disrupted. (:

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I am continuing my labors at seminary with near normal hours. I am allowed to be present to maintain the building, keep up with office work (it’s actually busier now!), and offer support (tech and moral!) to faculty and students. I am blessed and thankful to do so.

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The friendly deer notice it is quieter at seminary and feel free to roam in front now too.

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Little blessings of Spring from our Lord – miniature daffodils in bloom in front landscape

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Even Judi Doezema’s Thanksgiving cactus inside is rejoicing in Spring!

Pray for us as we live in these trying times. We pray for you too, wherever you are. God is faithful and God is good, always worthy of our trust. And He loves us unchangingly, as one of our elders reminded us this past week in one of the devotionals he writes and sends us during these days:

Knowing our sin, and let’s be honest, only God knows our sins better than we ourselves, it so often seems unfathomable that the Holy God could or would love us.  In fact, simply the idea of Him having any kind of a positive disposition toward us, much less love, seems impossible.  We need only look back on this day or yesterday to see that repeatedly we have fallen into sin, and in our pride have rejected God and denied His sovereignty in our lives.  This is nothing new.  When we read through the history of old testament Israel, we are struck by how quickly and how often they would forget God and His mighty works that He had done, and follow after the false gods of the people around them.  We might even shake our heads at this, but are we really any different?  Yes, the circumstances of our lives are much different from theirs but think about it.  How many times, just today, just in the last few hours, have we forgotten God and gone after the other gods in our lives such as self, money, human strength, etc.?

And yet, despite our sin, God loves us.  Despite our failings as husbands and fathers, God loves us.  Despite our failings as wives and mothers, God loves us.  Despite our disobedience as children and young people, God loves us.  Despite our constant backsliding and forsaking of Him, God loves us.  Think of the prophet Hosea, who God commanded to take Gomer, an adulterous woman, for his wife.  Why did He do this?  First, it was to give a very clear and real example of the infidelity of the nation of Israel as she ran after other gods.  Secondly though, it was to show to Israel and to us, the great and unchanging love He has for His people, despite our constant infidelity.

The key, and this is what we must always remember, is that His love is UNCHANGING!  There is nothing that the people of God in the old testament or that you and I today, can do to change God’s love for His people.  Not even our greatest sins are able to change that great love.  If that were true then the Apostle Paul could never have written what he did in Romans 8:35-39: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.  Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.