Amy Skiing!

Amy Van Dyken Rouen (another Dutch girl & 6x Olympic Swimmer) had her devastating accident about a month after mine. I kept hearing from family and friends that, “On a recent interview, Amy Van Dyken said … just like you’ve been saying, Collene.” I tried to send her a message but couldn’t find a way to contact her at that time. A message I started to her remains on my desktop under her name. That keeps her on my mind and recently I’d begun to wonder how she’s doing. Yesterday I heard another interview of her on the Today Show. I went online just now to find that interview. First, I happened on an interview done a couple months post-injury. Watching her struggle to pull her useless  & “dead weight” legs onto the bed brought instant tears to my eyes as I flashed back to  myself in those difficult days. I quickly fine-tuned my search and brought up this link:

As I watched Amy ski, adaptive of course, some tears continued but I realized these were tears of joy over feeling so very proud of Amy – for her determination and what she was overcoming. You will be delighted that you took a couple minutes to view her interview – seeing and hearing her joy while skiing. Listen closely to her comment on how she (read: we) meets walls. We figure out ways to go under, around, over, or break through. We somehow overcome the walls and challenges. Go Amy!

Not sure I need to add the reminder to all of us to watch for our blessings.

Shalom, Collene


A Story of Grace

I was asked to speak at our FL church for a stewardship moment. It is at the very beginning of the service immediately after the announcements. If it doesn’t come up, it was Nov. 27 ~ click the “watch” button.

For a second time, my testimonial was called “A Story of Grace” by others. It is.

We all receive blessing. Shalom, Collene


For 2015 one of my sisters challenged us to each select a word for the year. It was to be one to encourage, challenge, and focus. Mine was easy the first year: Hope. This year a different word came to me: Purpose. I’ve always been a big picture person. If I understood the full situation and especially the reason for something, it made sense and I remembered. I tried to focus on the greater good and purpose for what I did. Easy enough, right? But, then first came retirement and then came the accident.

My purpose and motivation in my career never was “to retire.” I loved working; I loved my job and knew I made a difference. What would I do in retirement? I often said, “I don’t want to retire to be a housewife.” Cleaning and cooking had never been my thing and I wanted to do more than that in retirement. Those tasks would remain shared. Growing up, I would much rather be outside helping than in the house. I much preferred hanging laundry, mowing the lawn, working in the garden, or going to various orchards and farmers to pick fruit and vegetables so we could freeze or can for winter. I even liked topping onions in the muck behind our home. Don’t get me wrong, I love a clean, orderly house and enjoy delicious food. In fact, now when I can dust; clean bathrooms; make the bed (not from scratch); wash, dry, and fold the laundry; or find something I can safely make in the kitchen I feel like I’ve accomplished a LOT! But, I still want and need more.

My mother will soon turn 90. I think I’m asking more questions about her growing up years and stories of her life. When I asked what her typical day was like growing up, I learned that she helped Grandpa outside on the farm and her twin sister helped Grandma in the house. I never realized that! Mom was always amazing in our kitchen. I joke that it was a surprise to me when first married that her cooking and baking skills weren’t inherited. Even during WW2 when both girls, still dressed alike, went to Grand Rapids to work in an office, Mom came home and helped Grandpa on the farm and her sister worked in the house. Now I understand where I get my preferences!

I worked through the what to do in retirement dilemma by identifying some education related projects as well as some ways I believed I could give back while tapping into my experiences and strengths developed through my career. Of course, we also wanted to enjoy more extended sailing, visits with our children, and chip away at that long bucket list of places to which we wanted to travel. In those first months, we were making progress and enjoying ourselves very much.

Accident. Life changed.

If you’ve read my CarePages or this blog, you know that we pray(ed) for miracles. I am an N of one. I still pray for miracles of healing for both of us. We pray that research and modern medicine may develop and fine-tune treatments which hold promise for improvement in bodily functions, bone density, cardio, movement, standing, and walking. I will never cease praying for that miracle.

However, I realized recently that I am already a miracle. Think about all my broken bones, especially in my torso. Yet, I have full use of my arms and hands. Nurses told me that most people with the scull fracture where I had mine do not live. An X-ray technician who was trying to arrange my body to clearly get pictures to show the healing that had occurred to my various bones said, “Do you have any idea how hard you were hit to break your sternum? The sternum is almost unbreakable.” In Mary Free Bed (rehab), based on my chart from Lee Memorial (trauma), I was placed in the brain injury section rather than the spinal cord section. As new medical staff came to meet and help me, I often heard, “Wow, you’re not what I expected after reading your chart. I didn’t expect you to be talking, carrying on a meaningful conversation, or as good as you are.” I have life and have it abundantly. I realize that life as I have it, challenging as it is, is due to miracles. I fully believe the prayers from so many from day one and in an on-going manner are in large part responsible for this miracle of me.

A friend of one of our sons spent some time studying and researching in Ireland. This person recalled being amazed at the number of trees everywhere. At one point, the friend was in the countryside and noted a lone tree. It was huge with its branches and leaves stretched out so beautifully as opposed to those in town which grew together and merged. This person thought, wouldn’t it be wonderful to be like a tree and grow as strong and as fully as this one, simply reach for the light and grow as intended. The tree’s job is to find the sun and move toward it. How beautiful. Trees know their purpose.

The story also reminded me of an opportunity I had decades ago to attend our church denomination’s youth rally with the HS youth group for which Alan and I were leaders. Blind composer, pianist, and singer Ken Medema was an integral part of the worship sessions. For this conference, he wrote a song which we sang regularly and used as our focus.

♪ I saw a tree by the riverside one day as I walked along                                                        Straight as an arrow and pointing to the sky and growing tall and strong.                        “How do you grow so straight and tall?” I said to my riverside tree.                                        This is the song that my tree friend sang to me.

I’ve got roots growing down to the water,                                                                                          I’ve got leaves growing up to the sunshine,                                                                                    And, the fruit I bear is a sign of the life in me.                                                                                       I am shade from the hot summer sundown,                                                                                            I am nest for the birds of the heaven,                                                                                                  I’m becoming what the maker of trees has meant me to be: A strong young tree.

So, what is my purpose? In all honesty, there are days when just getting through the day is purpose enough. But, I can’t believe God allowed me to live as I am just to get through the days. I ask prayerfully that my words to be acceptable and to live more Christ like. I continue to enjoy and impact our children, Alan, extended family, and friends. Is there something beyond what I’m doing? Is there more I should write? More I should do? Or, less? Be more aware of? Be more sensitive to? Additional advocacy? Promote my spelling program? Become more engaged in leadership or education? What?

From: I, The Lord, of Sea and Sky ♬                                                                                                 (Chorus) Here I am Lord, Is it I, Lord?
I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if You lead me.
I will hold Your people in my heart. (Dan Schutte)

Watch for your purpose and enjoy your blessings. Shalom, Collene