I do have one of her pans on the top shelf.
And under its warped blue rubber lid you can see it right there on the underside in faded black marker, her name still. A memory on pyrex.
And I’m not the only one who can still taste her cherry cheese cakes from that nine by thirteen dish.
And Dad Voskamp gave me her spices just last month, when he moved out of the house, moved far away to a new bride and new spices, and he gave me Mom’s rosemary and thyme and a stack of packets with Dutch words I can’t read and I just go by the illustration and the aroma, and the soups haven’t been altogether bad. I stir and think of her famous Sunday afternoon chicken casseroles. I use the spices sparingly. I don’t want to run out of the taste of her.
At lunch over chicken soup, one of our boys says he’s figured it out, the thousands of acres an elderly neighbor has amassed in his near seventy years. Mom Voskamp had had nine kids and was 72 when she took her plot of land in the cemetery on the 8th line and I just move her one pyrex pan and lid to get down a plate for the biscuits. What does a woman really need to have amassed by the end?
For two weeks, I trip over this one last box Dad Voskamp dropped off and I aimlessly set down in the bedroom, of her plastic wrapped ivory candles and puzzles still sealed and piles of never written on postcards from the fifties and sixties — at least three copies of each card, ferries and Holland and kittens in hay mows and of Alaska and we have no idea how she has postcards from Alaska but maybe all of our lives have turns in the road known only to us.
It’s what I find slipped down between 1000 pieces of a castle in Germany and the cardboard of the banana box that has me thinking of the wealth she amassed. These riches are clasped together with a pink elastic. I slide the papers out carefully.
She’s dated each one. ‘80. ‘81. ‘84. A string through the 90s. Bible Memory Association booklets. Booklets of her memory work over decades. Each one with her name in blue ink, same looping “y” as the pyrex lid. After a late dinner, we light candles so we don’t have to see the dishes, the remnants of a day of homeschooling, and I bring her lifetime of memorization to the table. One of our boys tries to figure it out, how many verses his Grandma memorized. Thousands?
What does a woman really need to have amassed have by the end?
“Grandma learned all these?” Shalom’s eyes are big in the shadows. I nod my wonder too.
“Wouldn’t Grandma like it if I could tell her all those verses from Ephesians we’ve been learning?” Shalom’s smiling and she begins, pulling herself up straight. “Therefore, putting away lying, let each one speak truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.” She’s smiling at her dad. Nothing’s slowing her down now. “Be angry and do not sin and do not let the sun go down on your… your…. What’s that hard word, Levi?” Well… nothing but a hard word or two.
Levi’s leaning towards one of the flickering flames. “She dated the top of each page, too … Feb. 7, ‘80″
Hope runs her fingers across her Grandma’s faded pencil lines. “What are all these initials for in the corners?”
She shows them to me over wicks making halos and I read them aloud… “Good work, V.W.” … V.W. … Ah… Viola Weber. I smile and choke it back. Viola sat with Nelson and the four boys in the front pew every Sunday at the Bible Chapel.
“And there’s this one “Said to Seleda, after B.C.” Hope holds the page towards me.
“After B.C. — As in Before Christ?” Caleb’s confused.
“No… “ I can hardly talk for this lump in my throat. That would be “after B.C. … As in after Bible Club.” 70 kids in the Voskamp house for Bible Club every Friday night for 23 years….
Caleb says it so quietly I can hardly hear him: “I think we are losing this way of life… with the internet who memorizes like this anymore?” He’s fifteen and he’s sad, his grandmother’s BMA book in his hand. His face is mirrored by candlelight into the window behind him.
Who memorizes God in the age of google?
Losing a way of life… and losing our way….
“I was seven in 1980,” The Farmer says it quiet, thumbing through the “Wisdom for Daily Living” booklet, looking for traces of his mama that run deep in his veins.
“Seven. The age of Kai.” I look down the table to the fourth boy with the eyes glinting in candlelight and I try to imagine. Am I being the kind of mother to him as own his grandmother was to her son? His father…. Who will Kai be in thirty years because of who I am now? Do I spend my week ruminating on His Words or my worries? I outline the letters of the title of “1 John.” She’d written 1984. The winter of 1984. I was 11.
She memorized the whole of 1 John the winter of 1984. Did she carry these verses with her out through the snow drifts to water the hens? As she made meals and made a boy into a man and my husband? I had one that looked just like this, a copy of this 1 John BMA booklet too. Mine was later, the winter of 1992, my first year of university. I was 19. I walked to class, bitter Toronto winds blowing snaking down the nape of my neck, mittened fingers holding open these pages of 1 John.
Communing with the Holy comes in committing the Holy to the heart.
When did I lose my first love?
Why do I make to-do lists to run my life but not make time to let God’s Word revolutionize my life?
Kai’s turning pages of the “Walk in the Light” booklet. He looks like his dad. How can I raise this child if I won’t raise my eyes to the hills whence my help coa verse card maker to memorize any verses at allme from? Something hurts hard in my chest.
Does repentance burn like this?
The next morning I would find all of Ephesians as a song, to download for free and make memory easier. I would find a verse card maker — just type in the references you want to memorize, and it automatically gives you a page of the verses formatted like business cards, perfect for the pocket. The Farmer in the barn. Or an accordian Moleksine to carry all the business card verses in the diaper bag.
And I would find a download of all of Ephesians, formatted to cut out for a 3 by 5 booklet, like a pocket Moleskine. I’d follow the example of one very wise brother and on the left hand page, I would paste that week’s memory work of Ephesians. On the right hand page, I’d leave the top half of the page for marking down the number of times I review, the bottom half of the page for reviewing. I’d make my own memorization booklet —
A Commitment Booklet — committing His Words to memory and committing to Him.
I’d fall in love again and this is all a woman needs now and in the end.
“Helen” The Farmer leans over to show me the handwriting. “She recited that week’s to Helen.” Helen Van Veen. Mrs. Helen Van Veen shared the gospel with me in Mom Voskamp’s Bible Club. In 1981? It was these two women who threw Words to a drowning kid and saved me with Jesus. The happiness wells liquid. I touch the corner of the page, where Helen and Mom and Jesus all met. She wrote this down too on the page “Description of a Wise Woman” with the text of of Proverbs 31. “Finished on on March 2/1980.”
She finished well. I have no idea how I’m running. Or maybe I do. In the morning, I would begin again with earnest.
At the table in the evening, us all quiet in the memory of a woman who made her life about the memory of His Word, the remembrance of her Christ, Hope picks out one of the BMA booklets. “Could I have one of these? And memorize all of these verses like Grandma?” Her voice is wistful in the dark. She doesn’t want to run out of the taste of her… Of Him.
“On top of all of our memorizing of Ephesians?” Levi waves a thick booklet. He sounds… incredulous.
Hope stands up.
“I could do both.”
She sounds… like Grandma.
Resources to Aid Memorization:
#1 Business Size Cards in Pockets Commitment Booklet
Verse Card Maker : type in any references to any verses you want to commit to memory
A Moleskine Memo Pockets Pocket booklet to slip all the business sized card verses into, to carry in the purse
#2 Weekly Format of Verses of Review and Reflection Commitment Booklet
Download Ephesians in booklet format, with a weekly memorization plan
Very reasonable foldable, bendable *perfectly pocketable* Moleskines to paste in your own verses, leaving one leaf for review and reflection: Moleskine Ruled Cahier Journal Black Pocket: set of 3 Ruled Journals
#3 Ephesians in Song
Sing the entirety of the Book of Ephesians
(click on the music link in the nav bar, and then the “To the Saints” option)
(Many more resources linked in the memorization archives — just scrolled down)
Every Wednesday, we Walk with Him, posting a spiritual practice that draws us nearer to His heart.
Next Week and the next three weeks: The Practice of Giving How do we GIVE thanks? How does doing thanks look like? We look forward to your thoughts, stories, ideas….
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