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Celebrating God's glory in the lives of his saints, the Veldhuisens: A meditation on Psalm 57:11

By James Calvin Schaap

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.

Nick and Ann Veldhuisen were lifelong supporters of Dordt College. Thirteen of their fifteen children  attended.

Nick and Ann Veldhuisen were lifelong supporters of Dordt College. Thirteen of their fifteen children attended.

Took my breath away. Honestly, it did. A quarter century ago, I was on the very edge of what Canadians call “the bush,” in an old 1930s farm home just outside of Emo, Ontario, with twenty-some people, fifteen or so members of one family, all of them smiling. I was an honored guest, the youth retreat speaker, but so were a half-dozen others, kids on retreat. When Nick Veldhuisen, immigrant dairy farmer, dad and host, prayed that first morning at breakfast, I felt the blessing.

That afternoon he and his boys butchered a cow, and I walked out back to watch. When one of the boys got on the tractor and scooped up the entrails, I asked another one where he was toting the blood and guts.

“We’ll dump it out back,” he said.

I shook my head in the loud sputtering of that tractor. I didn’t understand.

“The bears’ll get it,” he yelled over the popping.

A wilderness family of 17 people so full of love and spirit that I wished the world could take a seat at that long kitchen table and get their own breakfast scoop of porridge. Faith breathed in that house and beamed out there in the bush; and, young writer that I was, I knew, maybe for the first time in my life, that I had to commit what I felt in that wonderful home to words. I needed to write something about Nick and Ann Veldhuisen.

Another visit - a funeral

Just a few days ago, 25 years and a half-dozen visits later, I returned to Emo for Ann Veldhuisen’s funeral. Her beloved husband, Nick, had died just a few months before.

It’s a long ride up to the bush, and we got to the Emo church just before ten at night, the family’s visitation just about over. They had kept the coffin open for us, they said, because they knew we were coming. And there she was, Ann Veldhuisen, mom to 15 kids, 50+ grandchildren, most of them there in the church—and hostess to a host of Dordt kids through the years, dozens and dozens of them who made weekend trips to the Emo, maybe the closest Canadian home.

What was there in her coffin was her mortal shell, but she was gone, somewhere smiling.

Her sons had built that gorgeous coffin, and, once we backed away, the six of them together closed the lid. I’ve seen wreaths laid at Arlington’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, but those six Veldhuisen sons bringing the cover down over their mom’s remains, a cover they’d cut and planed and sanded with their own hands, was a beloved gesture I’ll never forget.

“Be exalted, Lord. . .”

Honestly, I’m not sure what the man who would become King David means when he asks the Lord to exalt himself in the final verse of Psalm 57. It’s as if he’s trying to coax some jittery kid out on the stage for a show that’s been rehearsed for weeks. I’m not sure God almighty needs a cheerleader. “Be exalted, Lord,” he says, as if the Creator of Heaven and Earth is somehow introverted.

But this morning, I’m thinking that the glory of the Lord that David wants displayed over the earth is not just some perfect dawn or a stupendous miracle that leaves us utterly speechless. This morning, just a few days after a funeral, I am confident that God is exalted in the lives of his saints, each of them, and in their going home, all that devoted joy behind.

In the lives of his saints

Three days ago, up there in the wilderness, I saw, for the last time, a woman on whom God’s glory shown like some sparkling patina, a woman who, with her husband, years ago made me want to write, made me want to sing.

I don’t believe David the poet, the singer, had a funeral in mind when he ended this wholehearted psalm of praise with the words he did—“Be exalted, God, above the heavens,” but I believe the poet/king would be singing himself at the blessed eternity of the lives of the saints, one more of whom is now home.

In Ann Veldhuisen’s annual joy at first robins and early daffodils, in her unceasing prayers for her children, in her lifelong trust in the Lord, in the celebration of joy that so many experienced in the home she and Nick made in Emo, Ontario, that woman, a cheerleader in the God’s glorious wilderness, praised the Lord. God almighty was and is exalted.

Maybe I can say it this way: I’m thankful that I was there to witness, when a prayer that David sung so long ago was answered, once again.

In 1982, Dr. Schaap’s story about the Veldhuisen family appeared in The Banner, the first story in a series of sketches of people who belonged to the Christian Reformed Church. That series was later published in a book, CRC Family Album, Schaap’s second book. The photo of Ann Veldhuisen hanging clothes on the line outside their farm home appeared on the cover of The Banner.

Of the fifteen Veldhuisen children, thirteen attended Dordt. Margaret, Grace, Alice, and Wilma finished a B.A. program; Wilma also earned her M.A.. To date, six Veldhuisen grandchildren have attended, two of them presently—Jolene Veldhuisen and Justene Vander Grift.