I surrender all…

During my time with God in the wee hours thisMom_cute_hair morning, I remember how Mom would always cry when she heard the hymn, I Surrender All. As a young and naïve son, I never understood her tears. What could drive anyone to such an outpouring of emotions? It couldn’t be just this old hymn…

A little more than a year since my Mom’s passing, and having lived enough years to experience a few of my own ups and downs, I have finally been given some insight into my mom’s feelings, her sufferings, pain, and helplessness, her unimaginable burdens – those things that drove her to weep upon hearing that hymn. In spite of life’s crushing disappointments and seemingly insurmountable challenges, she persevered and came out triumphant. Though I have no real say in the matter, I am convinced she has since walked through the pearly gates of heaven and is alive on the other side – overjoyed to finally be one with God.

You see, my mom had a deep and abiding faith. She would always tell me when I shared my problems with her, “Bid maar, Lude. Onze lieve Heer slaapt niet. (Just pray, Lude. Our dear Lord doesn’t sleep).” In those few words she taught me, in essence, to surrender all…

In life we mostly think we can figure it all out by ourselves and we spare God of the many easy moments we have that don’t “require” a divine intervention. This morning, I give thanks for the people who make my life difficult, for the worries, for the stressors, for the circumstances for which I have no answers. It’s especially at these times that I feel closest to God – for that’s when I know I can’t possibly survive out here on my own. I have no choice but to surrender all. I am reminded that God is, in fact, omnipresent in all situations, the good ones, the bad, the ugly, the delightful, the disappointing, the challenging, the “jumping for joy” times as well as the “sobbing on my knees” moments. By giving up control and casting my cares upon God, I am certain of victory; An important lesson of which I lose sight in the shuffle of life’s trials and tribulations. It’s an easy concept to write about in my early morning musings, but so much more challenging to put into practice.

So, Mom, today, I’m going to “just pray”. You were right, surrendering all makes so much more sense.

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The Door of No Return…

Door of No ReturnDon Lemon, whom I love for so many reasons, went on a journey exploring his ancestry that brought him back to his roots on the slave coast of Africa. During his visit, he had an emotional encounter with what they call the “Door of No Return”. The guide told him that through that door millions of people left behind the known for the unknown, security for insecurity, to be loaded onto a ship and treated as cargo. And centuries later, still be struggling to escape the bonds of slavery both from external foes as well as internal demons.

As I, with similar emotions, watched the CNN segment, I could picture my ancestors on both sides of the family – ancestors who left home to seek a better life, some compelled by circumstances to flee their native lands, some brought in shackles by force, some on slave ships as cargo and some as crew. Others were native to the land but enslaved by the Dutch and other European overseers whose only goal was to extract the riches that the exotic Spice Islands yielded. And yet others were me and my parents.

BarbesteinI know for sure of one unwilling piece of chattel. This is the story of our maternal great-great-grandmother, the slave woman Apu who walked through the Door of No Return from Africa to the Dutch East Indies on the ship Barbestein. This branch of the family was fortunate to endure only one generation of enslavement, sailing East and providentially not West which placed our family on a totally different trajectory for generations to come. Her children would not be born slaves but free like their Dutch seafaring father, Wijnand Lucas Baggers, and become part of the mixed race folk who would fill the Dutch East Indies multicultural melting pot with a flavor all its own.

And what of our Japanese paternal great-grandmother, Ogide, whom we know so little about except that she was reported to be just another member of our great grandfather’s multiethnic harem? Why did she have to walk through the Door of No Return leaving Japan for a place so far away? Family stories weave a tale of intrigue and exoticism about Henri Alexander Wasch – this part Austrian gentleman born in the Indies is said to have had a Dutch wife, but also Chinese, Javanese and Japanese women with whom he had many children including our grandmother, Louise Fanny Wasch with the Japanese Ogide and our father’s half uncle, Harry Wasch, with the Chinese woman.  I wonder how these women led their lives in the shadows of a culture that did not empower them and in fact, regarded them as property. Somehow they were able to rise above, survive, thrive and recast the culture that intended to silence their voices.

Fast forward to 1957 as my parents flee the now independent Republic of Indonesia, the only home they had ever known. Five children in tow with just a few suitcases that represented multiple lifetimes and generations on Batavian soil both natives and immigrants from all corners of the world deeply rooted and steeped in its colonial history. They walked through the Door of No Return as they too embarked on a ship leaving behind the known for the unknown and the security of language, culture, family and a way of life destined for a lifetime of insecurity and never again truly belonging.

A few years later, they again walked through the Door of No Return when they decided to leave the Netherlands where at least the language, some cultural notes and extended family provided a bit of security and familiarity. But the lure of the United States offered all sorts of opportunity in the early sixties. What better place to find new life, fresh beginnings, and unlimited possibilities?

Although I walked through the Door of No Return as a small child with no real knowledge of leaving anything behind, ever present in my consciousness is the reality of my parents’ risky, courageous and selfless decision to seek out more for us; their ways though curious and old fashioned are woven into my DNA; their willingness to be foreigners in a foreign land. In some ways it is ironic that I still feel the insecurity of the unknown even with so much American cultural insider information. A foreigner in a foreign land like my parents. We walked through the Door of No Return together and though I live what is unarguably a charmed American existence, I often wonder what it would be like to walk back through time retracing the steps of those who came before me. What would I find on the other side? Java, Holland, Japan, Sulawesi, Ghana, China, Austria, Belgium? The Dutch East Indies no longer exists as a physical space but the vestiges of our culture can be found among the diaspora of those who passed through the Door of No Return carrying with them nothing but their hopes and dreams for the future.


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Creating more peak moments… Thank you, Dan Heath

I was privileged to be among 1400 fellow educators listening to, no wait, interacting with Dan Heath, best selling author of Switch and the keynote speaker at the Carnegie Summit in San Francisco. I was struck by how Dan connected to each of us through his words, gestures. anecdotes, humor, video clips and energy. In my mind, I thought to myself, I want to be a “Dan Heath” – so confident and self assured, telling stories that brought people to tears, asking us to stop for just a moment to ponder about how to create more “moments” in our lives. Moments that matter. Moments that change the world. Moments that have an impact. Lasting moments. Unforgettable and forever moments…

Reflecting on his presentation, I can’t help but feel like I haven’t, especially in the most recent past, been doing very well on creating what Dan calls “peak moments”. You would think given my rather controlling personality that I would be the author and finisher of many peak moments, simply because I want them. But the more organic, spiritual me also has a deeply rooted belief that overall, we are certainly not the authors and finishers but the seekers and stumblers, just trying to keep everything moving in a positive direction with the knowledge that actually, God is in control. And if I believe that even the albeit fewer hairs on my head are numbered and that God knows all, sees all, hears all and orchestrates all for me to live an abundant and meaningful life full of peak moments, then why do I keep trying so hard? Why wake up in the wee hours worrying about future finances, bills to income ratios, and whether life is sustainable were something to happen with work, health or ??

But I want to get back to thinking about increasing the number of peak moments in my life. Living more consciously and deliberately is one way, I think, to get there. Setting aside the have to’s, must do’s and should be’s is also an approach. I don’t “have to” wake up at 6am ever morning and be at work between 7-7:30am – especially given that I have a much more flexible schedule than that. I have boxed myself into this particular “have to”. I “must be” responsible for everything and everyone is another one that has given me a feeling of being trapped – were it just me, I might think differently about it (though I doubt that). I “should be” kinder, better, more successful, etc. is the one that gives me most pause. I grew up with so many should’s in my head.  Blindly believing in all the things we should do and be but ignoring who we truly want to do and be…

There are times I feel like I can’t breathe – possibly caused by a lack of peak moments in my life. The absence of peak moments to me, at times, has been equivalent to a life filled with inconsequential, unimportant, soul destroying moments that can last a lifetime if we let them. So as I search for, orchestrate and endeavor to create more positive moments for myself and others, let me also be mindful that it is not just the peak moments but the in-between moments that can bring joy, laughter and meaning. I hope my soul, heart and mind can be open to all of it.

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Happiness as a daily choice

Each morning should be a celebration. Many of us are fortunate enough to open our eyes and find ourselves lying in a comfortable bed with clean sheets and an oftentimes VERY nice roof over our heads. But it is seldom a celebration. The alarm goes off at exactly 6:15 a.m. and we inevitably utter a groan with (1) the feeling that we did not get enough rest/sleep; (2) the question: how did the weekend go by so fast?; (3) the dread of not knowing what the day of work will bring; and/or (4) the feeling that there has to be more to life than this. Sometimes we jump right out of bed and start the morning routine, other times we delay for a few precious and heavenly extra minutes of rest. Operating as the good little robots that we are, we do what we are supposed to do. The responsible ones among us NEVER roll over and utter these words,”I’m going to skip work today!” When was the last time YOU just decided on a spontaneous whim not to go?

Frankly, I can’t remember the last time I gave myself a pass to take a day solely for myself with no plan, nothing to accomplish; a day to contemplate, relax, rejuvenate, reflect, re-energize, pray, breathe, meditate… Does life in the 21st century even allow for this, even on our “free” weekends? Maybe we should deliberately do this and institute a “mental health” day on some schedule we think might work for our life. Of course we all live in so much fear. Fear that we will miss something. Fear that we will fall behind. Fear that someone might give us a hard time for being absent from our desk. Fear that we derive most of our self-worth from our work. Fear that we might be lonely if we didn’t have to go somewhere. Fear, fear, fear…

I am slowly but surely transforming; letting go of fear; transforming (I pray) to a new creature that believes and is convinced that my higher power, my God has it all under control. As this relationship becomes more intimate – when I start seeing and operating through the eyes of God – what will come next? I’m fairly certain the possibilities are infinite and immeasurable. My first step in this bold new world? I choose happiness first, every day. Why would I not?

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Chronicling this Lenten journey

I hadn’t really been taking this Lenten journey seriously until last week when God brought me to my knees and got me to admit that I can do nothing without God. To surrender myself totally to God’s will and not mine. Would I be able to say yes to God?

You see, I have always approached God with such expectation of God’s grace and mercy and steadfast love for me – a God that never fails me. Going deep into introspection with God and discerning what God’s will is for my life are almost an afterthought. For isn’t anything and everything I do part of God’s greater plan? Even the parts I am not so proud of, even the wrong turns and poor decisions – weren’t they just part of my ordered steps toward salvation?

I discovered this past week that God wants MORE from me – what that entails is coming with clarity and force and so I await, with anticipation, God’s orders. I am in some ways terrified while at the same time exhilarated. Would God ask me to leave everything I know and go into the unknown without a plan of my own [which not incidentally is how I have operated for most of life]? Could I possibly fully operate in the Holy Spirit and completely surrender? Could I enter a space that looks, with my human eyes, to be impossible – a space where only God could make a reality?

At times I have felt like I was on the very cusp of it – that moment when I knew God was with me, yes little old me, that I was fully and totally in sync with God through the Spirit. I said I have often felt on the cusp of it. But I always fall short. Never able to shift to the other side of total surrender and never allowing myself to be totally filled with the Spirit of God. How I long to reach the other side. What would that be like? I can only imagine.

So this is my prayer, oh Lord. Let your Spirit fall fully and freshly upon me like never before. Open my heart, my mind, my spirit, my whole being to experience your presence, your reign over my life, with me completely out of the way. I await you, God, in terror and anticipation, for a new thing to be done in and with me.

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Follow up to “My so-called 600 lb life…” Three words: THERE IS HOPE!

Six months ago, I wrote a post about my frustration with weight – the extra 20 pounds I was carrying and the hopelessness I felt trying to figure out how to DO something about it. Today, I am miraculously 18 pounds lighter (maybe a few more if I’m honest about my true starting weight which was 194). Let me tell you about my journey…


BrothersPic09.2017 (1)

Evidence that I was officially the fattest of the four VAN BROEKHUIZEN brothers

After having had some blood work done as part of my regular checkup, I received a call from my doctor’s nurse with my results. She proceeded to inform me, as if we were chatting about the weather, that my results showed I was way too high in several areas I shouldn’t be (including A1C and blood pressure). I had NEVER had a problem with high blood pressure nor that other dreaded number that was a diabetes indicator… Without fanfare the nurse read off my numbers and said the doctor recommended I go on a diabetic diet and see what happens… WHAAAAATTTT????? I felt like my world had just caved in. When such news is delivered shouldn’t there have been someone there to catch me if I fainted, or standing by with a glass of water in case I was feeling woozy, or at the very least, shouldn’t it have been the doctor on the phone sharing this emotional, dramatic and traumatic news? As a true foodie (that’s a person who really LOVES food in all its splendor and glory, not just the hyped up, faddish, need to be sophisticated about food trendsetter), this was a devastating blow. I truly felt a bit betrayed and reacted (as you might expect) as if I had just been given a death sentence. I was determined to prove the doctor, the nurse and medical science wrong – I would get my counts back to the levels of a healthy 25 year old… well at least back to something that does not totally derail my sense of self.

With my mind made up, I decided to cut out all refined sugar products (I pictured all my favorite desserts floating away on a long and endless river), all simple carbohydrates (goodbye white rice, goodbye beautiful artisanal breads, goodbye life…) and red meat (and even though I am not a huge meat eater, I felt an utter sense of loss – no more BBQ ribs, bacon, pork chops). I started reading labels and though I was not counting calories, I monitored my food intake very closely, keeping a daily diary of my morning weight, a summary of what I ate during the day, and whether I went to the gym or not. I would also comment in the title of my entry how I felt about my progress. This all started on October 20, 2017. Here are a few of my comments to myself: “Going in the right direction!” ” “Oops” “Super encouraging results” “Praise God”  “Yay” “It’s working!”  “Too much eating yesterday.”


I’m wearing skinny khakis…

I have to admit, seeing immediate results is an amazing morale booster. After the first two days of this new food plan, I had already lost 3.1 pounds. I would experience steady losses every day for the next several weeks, weighing in each morning after brushing my teeth. I started an exercise routine at the gym – it began with just a day or two a week but noticing that my weigh ins after a gym day would always be better than non-gym days, I stepped that up as well. Now it is not uncommon for me to go to the gym 3-4 times in a week. And I’m enjoying it! I feel so encouraged – the hopelessness that I was feeling when I wrote the “My so-called 600 lb life” post seems to have vanished. I am now, six weeks later, at or below my target weight and am doing my best to firm up and gain some muscle mass back from my years of derelict and unabashed eating and lethargy. I have gotten a really good sense of what I can eat and how it will affect my weight and overall well-being. I feel like I’m so much more in tune with myself and my body. So as I wrote in the title, THERE IS HOPE!

NOTE: I started this program a month before Thanksgiving and two months before Christmas. I figure if I can make it work during these challenging months, I can make it work FOREVER!


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My so-called “600 Pound Life”…

While spending time with my siblings at my niece’s wedding in hot and torrid Arizona, I jokingly mused about my feeling of utter and total oneness with those poor souls who are the focus and subject of the show, “My 600 Pound Life”. Nearing 60 years of age, I am experiencing the dreaded “slowing down of the metabolism” that I could just as well call “too lazy to bend over and pick up the TV remote”… You see, though it may have seemed easier in my youth to drop 10 pounds in a minute by doing a few quick crunches or altering my diet for a few days like no sugar in my tea, the fact remains that my level of activity on any given day in my late 50’s has probably diminished by about 40% compared to my 30’s and even 40’s. Dropping 10-15 pounds at this point seems just as hopeless and unattainable to me from a psychological standpoint as the 300 pounds the folks on the TV show need to lose to save their lives… Denying yourself, cutting things you love out of your diet, butter-less popcorn, no fried foods, or even more horrendous, no sweets, not eating when you’re feeling sad or not snacking when you’re not hungry – I go back to my original assertion – I totally understand the “600 pound” feelings of despair and hopelessness. Though I am possibly being a bit tongue in cheek about this topic and certainly not intending to offend anyone nor trivialize the pervasive issue of obesity in our country, I stand on my assertion that I get it. Or maybe I should just take my brother Rene’s advice when he said maybe I should stop worrying about the 10-15 pounds I would like to lose (so I can feel better about myself) and accept the gut and the fact I will probably never again have a close relationship with a six pack (unless it’s in the form of a really tasty Mexican beer), embrace my ever-widening waistband, fall on my sword and then buy the next size up anyway. It’s all relative until you want to put on some skinny jeans and realize, “That’s not a good look for you!” There’s always going to be someone slimmer than you and someone heavier. Some days it’s about self acceptance and other days it’s about ego. I guess there is a certain level of joy I should have just being here. So I’ll stick with the joy.

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I’m so afraid Mom’s life will fade into a distant memory

unday nights have always been problematic. The quiet anticipation and sometimes dread of Monday morning that hover over the soul – feelings of fear, melancholy, anxiety, sadness and other such emotions seem to reign over Sunday nights. Not sure why but it’s also the time that you are forced into that corner where you ponder and question your existence. 

On this particular Sunday night I fear the loss of my mother’s memory. I want to describe the smell of her Belmont Dairy apartment – full of cooking and love permeating even my suitcase and all it’s contents lying open on her living room floor – so I don’t forget… The sound of her voice and the words she used to comfort, to admonish, to share, to advise, to love… on this Sunday night I miss her with such an intensity. An intensity that is filled with seemingly endless gaps of silence ringing in my ears. A feeling that I haven’t felt before because I never didn’t have my mother to turn to, to count on, to be there in times of joy and times of sorrow. 

There’s a hole in the soul of all of us who have lost our moms. A void that cannot be filled with any of the myriad sayings that try to convince us “they are in a better place” or “their suffering is over.” My selfish me doesn’t want her in a better place – I want her here next to me so I can tell her how much she means to me, to just give her a big hug even though in her own words she was not that “huggy” type; to just sit with her reminiscing about all the experiences we had together and revel in the stories of her youth – our connection to our past; to admire her strength and tenacity and “doorzettingsvermogen”; to remember she too cried and laughed and lamented and had disappointments in life. 

As I finish writing these last thank you cards to all the loving friends and family who expressed their condolences, I weep realizing that the tangible connections to her are waning. I’ve been wearing one of Mom’s gold chains to keep her close to me. I’ve been picturing her smile, hearing the sound of her laugh, feeling her gentle healing touch. I’ve been talking to her – telling her how much she is missed, how much I miss her and how she left behind so many who remember her with such fondness and joy. 

And so on this particular Sunday night and this bout of Sunday night blues, I write this in memory of my mama in hopes she will never ever be forgotten. 

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Why my mother’s love is irreplaceable…

10353315_10152403631888567_3354031190194508798_o.jpgI can remember back in the far recesses of my earliest memories my mom’s ability to always make everything better… If my ankle hurt, she rubbed Vicks on it and gently wrapped it up as if it were broken and it made me feel better. If I was sad or worried, she would tell me to pray to God for help and then help me herself. When I needed cheering up, she made me the best cup of hot tea imaginable even though it was just Lipton. Sometimes she would feed us hot rice and semur ayam (chicken cooked in sweet soy sauce) blowing on it to make sure it wasn’t too hot (we would line up in a row from oldest to youngest – usually that would be me, Lorette then Michelle)… like little birds waiting for their turn to eat.

I remember putting my head on her lap so she could clean my ears with the korek kuping (we don’t believe in QTips). This simple act calmed my nerves and put me in a state of tranquility that no amount of meditation can reproduce. She knitted me countless sweaters, scarves and hats to keep me warm – to this day, I don’t know how she found the time to do this with a household of 9 people to take care of. On my birthday she would make me my favorite meal: karbonaadjes (breaded bone-in pork cutlet) with rice and special sauce (really just ketchup and mustard mixed together) and usually some atjar ketimoen (pickled cucumbers) to go with it. We would do gardening together and I remember digging the holes for her much loved rose bushes or flowering cherry trees – it was always fun if I was doing it with Mom. She hemmed hundreds of pairs of pants for me over the years, getting out her sewing machine and lining each side up using precise measurements – with always the most perfect results. Mom was so good at so many things though she portrayed herself as not being good at anything at all… humility to the extreme given that, in fact, Mom was good at EVERYTHING.

I remember in the 70’s right after the movie Saturday Night Fever came out, I really wanted this shiny black satin striped disco shirt – it was something like $19 which back then seemed like a fortune. Mom gave me the money and said go buy it even though she would never have spent that much money on herself (and this is just one example from momleeloo1hundreds of times she gave me money for something I really wanted). My brother, Rene, wrote about how Mom was really willing to sacrifice her life in every way for us – nothing was a bother or too much. Whether it was to pick us up from work in the middle of the night or cook something for us at 11pm because we “looked” hungry. And she did everything with loving care that most of us just don’t know how to “do” any more in this fast paced age of luxury and convenience.

I don’t want to lose a single memory of my mom’s love and goodness toward me and countless others. I want to savor and cherish them in the present and future – never letting them slip into the box of the hard to remember past. By writing about her and talking about her as if she were right here next to me, I feel like I am keeping her close. Her legacy of love, kindness, gentleness, bravery and courage  must live on in each of us. Mom’s reach is far beyond the biological, it is mystical, magical and spiritual. I will forever keep her alive in my heart, my mind and my spirit.

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Sadness and loss

We are never prepared to say goodbye to a loved one. As they slowly but surely slip away from the consciousness of their surroundings, we grieve the loss of recognition, acknowledgement and clarity. But that’s a selfish perspective on our part. We are sad because their interactions with us become obtuse and mostly foggy. We expect them to “know” we are there and somehow validate our presence. We want them to be rooted in our reality for us. That “me” focus is human but misplaced and frankly quite self-centered. What’s happening is something we can’t see. It’s behind the scenes work that God is performing  in them and for them – preparing our loved ones for that inevitable transition – the one we dread but know is the kindest most merciful path. 

Simply stated, we go into mourning with a feeling of impending doom – even though as people of faith we should be rejoicing their passage to perfection and life eternal, free from the craziness, pain and suffering this world brings. 

Then we try to convince ourselves we are ok. Some of us show an avalanche of outward emotion. Others privately lament an impending loss. However the process unfolds and it always does, we find solace in family and friends. Some have communities of faith that pray most powerful prayers for healing for us and for the one in transition. Healing from the inside out, on this side of the veil or the other. So healing is the key. But the sadness hangs heavily in the air – permeating the atmosphere with a darkness felt but not seen… 

When finally that time comes, will we get past the guilt of finding and wishing that peace for that someone we love so dearly? Or is the guilt that plagues our soul built on the fact that we secretly and desperately need and want that person with us even though their “limbo” existence is tragic at best. 

I’m back and forth on what and how I feel, so I put our dear mom in God’s plan and wait for the time we can all be together again in spiritual love and eternal happiness. In the meanwhile, let’s cherish and lavish love on those of us left behind. 

A collaborative post by Ludy and Rene van Broekhuizen 

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