Saturday, January 31, 2015

Thinking of My Son on His Birthday

Blogging moms probably really annoy their children when they write blog posts about them,
today is my son Jonathan's birthday so he gets to be featured on a blog post.

This photo was taken by my son's wife a few years ago.
She perfectly captured a facet of my son's personality that has endeared him to so many.

Recently, I found a card that Jon and his sister Julie made for me for my birthday when they were teenagers.
The backstory:
The initials JAC were shared by Jon and Julie.
That is why one, non-gender specific person on the front of the card represents them both.
At the time the card was written, Sally Jessy Raphael's talk show was very popular.
They used to call me Sally Jessy.
The card was a bit of a satire aimed at those Sally Jessy might interview on her talk show.
Sometimes, when I blog, I fear my children still might think of me as Sally Jessy Raphael.

My fears are grounded in what Julie and Jon wrote inside the card:
Julie And Jonathan 
always hated when
Mrs. Wessely
did the talk-show circuit.

For that reason, I try to not bring too much attention to my children in my blogs,
is Jon's birthday,
so he gets some attention.

I can not even imagine how small and limited my life would be without Jon in it.
He has so many facets to his personality that he has enriched my life beyond anything I could have imagined before he was born.

His intelligence stuns me.
Just try having a debate with him.
He will keep you on your toes.
We've had many debates, all of them heated, mostly friendly, but always passionate about our own beliefs over the years.
The topic of religion is an ongoing debate topic we've had running for a very long time.

He is 
non-traditional and very traditional all in one
good at conversation,
a thinker,
a writer,
a poet,
an artist,
a reader,
a college professor,
hard worker,
passionate about his beliefs,
the pied piper,
a husband and father,
a good son,
a much loved brother,
and always interesting.

As many of you know, Jon has been walking through a great adventure that has unknown outcomes since September when he injured his right brachial plexus in an accident.
The brachial plexus is the area that conducts signals from the spine to the shoulder, arm and hand.

On February 6, Jon is scheduled to have surgery to repair damage done by the injury.
The surgery will be take place in Pennsylvania and will be done by a surgeon specializing in injuries of this type.
Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers during this time.

In the meantime,

Happy birthday, son!
I miss you.
I love you.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

To My Beautiful Daughter

Reflections:  To My Oldest Daughter on the Eve of Her Birthday
Sunday's Child
Full of Grace

Forty-five years ago tonight, on a cold and foggy Saturday night, your very pregnant mother and your father, tired from having served all day at his second job as an Army reservist, made our way with your brother Ryan to your aunt and uncle's new home located out in the country.  We were looking forward to eating homemade chili, playing cards, and visiting for the evening.  

Along the way, on a very dark country road, surrounded by fog so thick we could barely see feet ahead of us, your father realized we had a flat tire.  Somehow, while changing the tire, his head was cut.  Did the car slip and graze his forehead?  I no longer remember.  I only know that he was cut badly enough that we had to make our way back to town to the hospital.  Of course the medical staff thought I was the one needing assistance until they saw the bloody handkerchief on your father's forehead.  Young, and full of more energy that I now have, I think we went back to your uncle's to eat chili and play cards late into the night.

The next morning, a Sunday, your father left for Army reserve duty again, and I began to type the paper that your father had due the next day.  At noon, your father came home to check to see how things were coming along.  Never expecting to hear that I was making more progress towards giving birth than towards getting his paper typed, he thought perhaps I was just tired and should just lie down for a bit.  That was not the case.  My pains were two minutes apart.

You know the story.  I had gone to the hospital at 3:00 p.m.  I only had three hard labor pains before you were born on on that Sunday evening,  January 25, 1970, at 6:00 p.m. You arrived a day before your due date.  Your birth was a great predictor of some of your greatest character traits:  You were early, efficient, and easy to handle.  

From your earliest days, you were a girly girl.  You loved dresses with lots of fluffles.  You insisted on wearing dresses most of the time.  You've always had the most amazing wardrobe, and you wear everything well.  Actually, you do everything well.  You can cook and sew with the best of them.  You are creative in crafts and handwork and in photography and in home decorating and in gardening.  You are a voracious reader and a wonderful writer.  You are organized.  You can put on a party for several hundred without even blinking an eye.  I've never known where you got all of these amazing characteristics.  I know that you must have been seriously frustrated finding yourself being raised by a terribly disorganized mother.  You are your father's daughter when it comes to being organized.

As a child, you loved to read.  You also played office or bank because your father would bring home old bookkeeping ledgers from school where he taught business subjects for you kids to draw on.  No wonder you started working at the credit union where you are still employed when you were only seventeen.

Keicha & Me
Keicha in her little white cap and fluffy coat
with Grandma French
I love that you are a reader.  Some of my great memories have centered around talking about the books we both have read with you.  I remember when you were only in junior high when you came home with a book for me to read.  It was Katherine Marshal's To Live Again.  You had found it in the library and you thought it might help me go through the break-up of my marriage to your father.  It did help.  I'll never forget that you wanted me to read the book.  You wanted to give me hope.

You have been the one with whom I have most been able to share the depths of my grief over the loss of our dear Julie.  We all grieve in different ways and at different time, yet somehow, you and I seemed to be much in sync in our grief journey.  We seemed to be at much the same places at the same time.  I wish we never would have had to walk this path together, but my precious Keicha, I am so thankful that we have been able to be there for each other.

Keicha with the Easy Does It
The rose I bought her to plant in her garden in memory of Julie
You are a wonderful granddaughter, daughter, sister, mother, and friend.  You are strong and able to do what must be done even when it would easy to not step out in courage.  You serve your community in so many ways through the Junior League, the Boys and Girls Club, the Ogden City Schools Foundation, and in so many other ways.  I am extremely proud of you.  

Keicha modeling the coat I wore when she was a young child

Dressed to party
My beautiful girl dressed in red
I wish the brightest of days for you in the future.  I hope that this coming year will bring you many wonderful experiences with your daughter.  I hope that you will find loving and supportive companions for your journey through life.  I am grateful you are again able to walk, and run, and exercise without pain.  I am very excited to see what the coming year will bring your way.

I was greatly blessed the day you were born.  Happy Birthday.  I love you deeply.  XO

*I hope that you don't mind that I borrowed a few photos from your Facebook page.  You know I need to organize my photos.  ;)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

A Saturday in Winter


The sky is blue.
The snow is melting.
The paper whites are fading.
Is is over?

you confuse me at times.
The view from my window says come outside and play in the sun.
Are brumal days and nights over?

Is Mama Bear being tempted on this fine Saturday morning to emerge from her hibernaculum?
Her secret winter home,
 dug within the hillside
covered with majestic Ponderosa pines
that I see outside my window,
may also be heating up in this weather.

Will she be out today?

Or will she, 
like I,
prefer to stay tucked inside a cozy den 
where one does not have to deal with the vicissitudes of weather and life?

* Inspiration for this bit of prose comes from:
  • A post on Facebook by Patricia Polocco where she said, "Make today count...not in a "get more work done" way....but use this day to heal your mind from all the garbage you have dealt with all week, that can't be helped."
  • A challenge by to write a poem about surviving winter.
  •  This site listed some great words about winter. I don't generally use the words hibernaculum or brumal, but aren't they wonderful words?
  • The view from the windows in my upstairs study/guest room.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Most Inspirational Person for 2014 ~ Kara Tippetts

Kara Tippetts has inspired me all through 2014.  She is the author of the book, The Hardest Peace.  Her blog, Mundane Faithfulness, has grown in readership as she has chronicled her battle with cancer and her faith in God.  

In the midst of living, 
in the midst of seeking to live life well,
in the midst of seeking the grace to live a life that has purpose,
for many, 
circumstances and events come into life that threaten to be one's undoing.
Or, perhaps, when life seemed rather mundane,
when we might have even questioned if our lives even have a purpose,
we search for inspiration in books or inspirational speakers.
There is a reason that Rick Warren's book, A Purpose Driven Life has sold over fifty million copies.
Most of us want to believe that 
our stories, 
our lives, 
have purpose and meaning for ourselves, our children, our loved ones, our community. 

I can't speak for KaraTippetts, I can only tell you what I know about her.
At some point in time in the recent past, she began writing a blog called Mundane Faithfulness.
I really don't know when or why she started writing her blog, but I'm sure when she selected the title of her blog, she had no idea that readers of her blog would come to see her
 faithfulness as anything but mundane.

A Short Backstory

Kara and her family live a short distance from my home in Colorado Springs.  They came here when her husband Jason was called to be the pastor for a new church being planted in the area by my church, Village Seven Presbyterian, and the Presbyterian Church of America.  Not long after moving to Colorado Springs, Kara discovered she had breast cancer.  She made this discovery just shortly after she and her family had not only made a move to a new community, but also just after they had been evacuated from their new home by the Waldo Canyon Fire.  Thankfully, their home did not burn.  

I don't have access to her early blog writings about this time.  I think of how challenging those days must have been for her and for her family.  In her book, The Hardest Peace, she writes about this time by saying that she thought they would come to town with a plan of strength that would help them "build a small band of believers who would share Jesus with this community."  Instead, they found themselves broken by circumstances they never could have foreseen.  

I will not retell her entire story here.  I do encourage you to buy her book and read it.  You will read how she has not only won The Hardest Peace, but you will also learn how she truly has lived, as her book subtitle states, expecting grace in the midst of life's hard.  (Her book is available on Amazon.)

How I Became Acquainted with Kara

I started reading Kara's blog much as I would any other bloggers blog early in 2013.  My niece attends Kara's church, so she started sharing Kara's blog on Facebook.  I read with interest about a young mother's struggle with cancer.  My heart went out to her.  I began to think of her as a member of my church community.  In fact, I had considered attending the church her husband pastored before I started reading Kara's blog because it was closer to my home and a sister congregation to my own church.  

In May of 2013, hospitalized over Mother's Day with pancreatitis, I was visited by the pastoral care pastor from my church.  He is Kara's "dear Karl."  He has faithfully visited her as she has received chemotherapy and when she has had other medical procedures.  He has been by her side through much of her "hard."  He came up to see me after visiting with her.  Feeling quite sorry for myself, I had a change of heart as I talked with him and began to think about a mom with four "littles" going through chemotherapy to fight for her life, to have more time to be a mom, while I was just going through a bout with a non-life threatening illness.  Suddenly, her battle became more real to me.  I began to read her blog and to pray for her.

Immediately, I discovered that Kara was a great writer.   I began to relate to her even as I could not relate to her experience of cancer.  My experience was not unique.  Her voice has made her the best friend, the sister, or the daughter to readers all over the country.  She is loved, deeply loved by her readers.  She is prayed for thousands.  Her journey has been one many have traveled with her.

It doesn't seem like it was that long ago,  when on a Sunday morning in late fall 2014,  as I got out of my car to walk into church, I realized that the Tippetts family was walking just in front of me through the church parking lot.  When church services were over, I went up to speak with her and introduce myself as a faithful reader and aunt of one of her dear friends.  She was just as charming, intelligent, and lovely in person as I knew to be from reading her blog.  I thanked her for sharing her story.  I thanked her for building my faith.  She said, "I know you've had your "hard" also."  She seemed to know my story, and connected me with it.  Tears filled my eyes as she spoke these words.  I mentioned that I knew she would be shaving her head in just a very few days.  Wanting to speak words of comfort and supports, I said, "I guess I was surprised to learn that losing your hair is so hard for you," I said.  Immediately, it seemed so trivial to even say such a thing to her, one who was facing the loss of life with such grace, with such beauty, with such peace.  I wanted to take back my words as soon as I said them, but she assured me that being bald is not an easy thing to deal with. In an attempt to tell her that I understood what losing hair feels like, I quickly shared my journey of losing my own hair over the past few years.  She understood my pain.  Her words comforted me when I wanted to comfort her.  Instead, I found myself saying, "but I don't have cancer, I just have hair loss."  She did not minimize my experience with loss of hair.  Oh how I wished I had never said anything about losing my hair, but she has a disarming way of looking at you with her big blue eyes brimming over with life and empathy that caused me to spurt out a deep pain that I speak about with few.  

So often, I have wished I could have ministered to her as she has to me.  Once, deeply moved by one of her posts, I sent her a scripture verse that had become one that I would cling to after my daughter's death. "God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered for a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast."  I Peter 5:10  Even as I sent this verse to her via comments on her blog, I didn't see all that is in this verse.  God has kept her strong, firm and steadfast in her faith.  Not only that, He will restore her when she is in His presence.

Kara is in the care of hospice now.  Her fight with cancer is now done.  She is living the life she has left by continuing to give thanksgiving to God for all of His rich mercy and grace in her life.  Read her latest post here: "Sacrifice of Thanksgiving."  You will understand after reading her words why I have selected her as my most inspirational person for 2014.  You will see her beautiful smile, her beautiful spirit, and her beautiful family, and you will know why she is so loved.

On the last Sunday in December, in our small group at church, we were told that Kara would enter hospice care the next day.  As I prepared dinner that day,  I wondered when was the last time Kara had been able to cook for her family.  I gave thanks that I was healthy and able to cook a meal.  I gave thanks for a young woman named Kara because she had continually reminded me to live life more fully while I still have it.  

What have I learned from Kara?  
Why is she an inspiration?

I've learned to expect grace to show up even during the hardest seasons of life.
I knew this.
I've experienced this.
Kara has reinforced this belief. 
I've witnessed the beautiful sanctification of a soul.
This has taken place as a young woman's body has walked through unimaginable pain and suffering.

I've learned to accept more fully that God is the true author of our story.
I've learned that trusting the outcome of that story to Him would be impossible without 
His mercy and grace.

I've seen the truth of this quote that she used in her book lived out in her life:
Give me the courage to stand the pain to get the grace.
~Flannery O'Connor A Prayer Journel

I've learned that fear is the opposite of trust.
I know she has felt fear.
I also know that she has exchanged the fear for trust.

I have been inspired by the vibrancy of her faith and her life.
Just this week, weakened and dying, she had a photo shoot with her family so she could have their last days captured forever on film.
I was again struck by her beauty, her smile, her blue intelligent, and full of life eyes.
I thought to myself, even the camera loves Kara.

I will be heartbroken when Kara leaves us to go home to Jesus.
I will also rejoice that she will be with Him, the lover of her soul.

On January 1, I read the morning devotional in Charles Spurgeon's Morning and Evening.
His words reminded me of Kara's journey.
He spoke of the Israel's wandering in the wilderness and how they longed to be in the land which flowed with milk and honey.
He spoke of crossing over the Jordan which causes the unbeliever to shudder.
He then spoke of what this is like for the believer.
To be with Jesus in the rest which remains for the people of God is a cheering hope indeed, and to expect this glory so soon is double bliss.
...let us rest assured that we have already experienced more ills than death at its worst can cause us.
Let us banish every fearful thought, and rejoice with exceeding great joy, in the prospect that this year we shall begin to be "forever with the Lord."

Truly, I have witnessed the ills that many have suffered in this life.
I have witnessed how Kara has met these ills with faith and trust.
She did not set out to be followed by thousands on her blog.
She did not set out to write a book.
She set out to be faithful in the mundane parts of life as she raised her beautiful children and loved her wonderful, kind, and loving Jason.
She did not set out to inspire and be loved by throngs.
She did not try to put into practice ways of living a purpose driven life.
She simply believed a Sovereign God and took Him at His Word.
She sought His grace knowing full well that she could not earn His grace;
knowing full well that He alone is the giver of His grace.

Then, she shared her story, one of God working out His grace in her life.

I love you Kara.
Thank you for sharing your life with us.

You will remain in my prayers until you go home.
Your children and your Jason will always remain in my prayers.
God speed.