Renae Vander Schaaf

I’m realizing as I changed the calendar page that this year is going by quicker than ever. I guess that is one of the signs of growing older … the years go by faster. There are other things I notice that are either fading away or increasing.

Forgetfulness is one of the things that grows, so I use notepads (notice the plural on notepad). Now if I can only remember which notepad I wrote that down on (if I remembered to write it down in the first place).

Flexibility is another ability which tends to disappear. Since I was never one to do cartwheels, it’s going to be rather difficult to gauge its disappearance if it never showed up in the first place.

The one thing persistent in my mind is endurance. It seems to me my levels of endurance would have been in the low percentile rating — no matter my age — except for that time when I was a baby and I excelled in crying and whining. Come to think of it, there are some habits we don’t outgrow.

Stamina? Well, my computer and I agree on the correct spelling at least; and that’s about the only thing that word and I have in common. It seems I am the last person to show up for a job and the first to suggest it is time for a coffee break; and I will disappear to go get the coffee and cookies ready.

I was noticing how my lack of endurance was interfering with my “to-do” list — which only seemed to grow. It was getting bad. So last February, when the winter snows make it easy to plan how spring and summer would be different, I came to the conclusion I would take up walking.

Walking was cheap and that suited me just fine. Many of my neighbors do it, so I wouldn’t look out of place; and at my age, it was one thing I could still do.

So I told myself that once the snow has melted and temperatures warmed up, walking would become my mode of transportation whenever possible.

Besides, our first pioneers were great at walking. They didn’t think much of an eight mile walk or more if there was someone they wanted to visited or business to transact.

They would also walk to church on Sundays from their new homes on the prairie … as did a pioneer pastor I have often admired.

During the week, Reverend Seine Bolks walked to other new settlements to preach God’s word and provide pastoral care. Dominee Bolks, as he was called, crossed sloughs and creeks in all kinds of weather in his service to God and mankind.

Therefore it seemed fitting to put my walking plan into action the first night it was nice enough to walk to Bible study. That first week of March had days of lovely weather, so it was time to execute my walking plan. My walk to church was better than I expected. Alas, by the time Bible study was over that night, it was dark and my thoughtful farmer picked me up!

Then, weeks of stormy weather followed; and my desire to walk diminished greatly until the next nice day — only I didn’t allow enough time, so I was 20 minutes late!

I tried one more time and managed to walk both ways almost completely. This fad for me has passed. While physical endurance may be one thing to be desired, it’s far more important to have spiritual endurance.

Many of you know that my oldest brother passed away at the end of July of this year. He had been ill, so his death was expected. Yet, when it finally happens, one soon realizes one more visit would have been so nice.

My brother is a great example of enduring in the faith to end. In his youth he was a handsome man with a strong manly physique. His goal was to be a farmer, raise crops and have a dairy (as he liked his Holstein Friesian cows).

He was very intelligent and a hard worker with sunshine in his smile. Then that horrible mental disease began to change him. My protector turned into someone we didn’t know or understand.

He no longer could work. His faithful wife found a job and they moved to town to begin a new life with their beautiful daughters.

I don’t understand mental illness. It hurts us, but how much more does the person who has it suffer? We really don’t know.

As this tormenting disease progressed, my brother became a prolific reader of his Bible — reading it several times in one year. He also read the sermons of Mathew Henry and Charles H. Spurgeon. We both have copies of the same five books of his sermons which I also read regularly.

He had that desire to know God. Our pastor recently preached on Nehemiah 12, where the people rejoiced for the knowledge of the word of God. That hunger and desire to hear and know the scriptures is a sure sign of recognizing our need for God.

My brother knew it. He was fully aware he couldn’t fight the battle of mental illness alone. He needed every word of scripture to endure the race set before him.

My brother’s life and death is a testimony of Romans 8: 38 and 39 “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.”

Renae B. Vander Schaaf is an independent writer, author and speaker. Contact her at (605) 530-0017 or

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