Posted tagged ‘blessed’

When Your Daughter Turns 36

November 8, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             November 8, 2017

                                  

Today is the birthday of my oldest daughter, Kecia Corin (Wolfe) Hodges. She hit the three followed by the six this morning at 1:21 a.m. Being considerate of her pastor dad, she waited until early that Sunday morning back in 1981 to join her parents. I went to church that day bleary-eyed but on Cloud Nine!

Thirty-six years later she parents three amazing kids who have enormous amounts of energy, teaches fourth graders, and keeps her husband organized.

Kecia has always had a creative side to her. When she was ten she went on a mission trip with me to Keams Canyon, Arizona. We had a great week, but the two of us left a day before everyone else on our team, heading back to Michigan so that I could be there for Sunday morning worship. I’ll always remember her entertaining herself in the long, long, long car ride back making a McDonald’s Happy Meal out of paper, crayons, and a pair of scissors. She was detailed to the point of making individual french fries and inserting them in the made-to-order container. That creativity has also blessed several hundred fourth grade students over the years. Even though teaching has become more challenging in recent years due to dysfunctional families, helicopter parents, and prima donna students, she is passionate about it. Her guiding question is “how can I help my students be fully engaged in learning what needs to be taught?”

Kecia is a great mom. Make no mistake about it, she rules the house! Not like a dictator, but rather as a shepherd leading the flock in the journey that includes stumbles, celebrations, problems to solve, and new adventures to tackle.

And today she begins to tip the age scale towards forty and less towards thirty! Ironically, in my mind she’s still more like twenty-five. Her mind is youthful. She’s more optimistic about life than pessimistic about people. Even though her classroom gets several challenging students each year the frustrations of teaching have not hardened her to the purpose or hazed over the mission.

She’s a great daughter! Carol and I feel that she deeply respects and loves us. She trusts our wisdom and suggestions. We are thrilled by every encounter we have with her.

Thirty-six years ago when she arrived in this world there was a Code Blue that went out. She had swallowed some fluid in the birthing process, and we remember her being treated on the infant table over in the corner of the birthing room. Carol and I held hands and uttered a prayer. This was our firstborn who was teetering on the rim between life and death.

And then we heard the lungs give a cry, and tears flowed from our eyes a few feet away. God gifted her to us and he has used her these past thirty-six years to bless the lives of numerous people.

In fact, I’m tearing up again! Happy Birthday, Kecia!

38 Years!

July 28, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             July 28, 2017

                                         

38 is a weird number…illegal for any basketball jersey except the NBA! Rarely…okay, never requested by one of my middle school football players! I went and asked Google who was the best NFL player to wear the number 38 and got George Rogers of the New Orleans Saints. A good player, but not exactly someone who easily comes to mind! #39 is Larry Csonka, that one I could remember!

But today is a special 38. It’s our 38th wedding anniversary. On July 28, 1979 Carol Falettu and I joined hands at the front of the sanctuary of Community Presbyterian Church in Clarendon Hills, Illinois. Much of the day was a blur for me. I knew what I was doing…and yet, I didn’t know what I was doing! You know what I mean? Kind of like when a young boy goes in for his first kiss. He knows what he’s doing, and yet he doesn’t…and back in my day there were no YouTube videos for instruction!

I met her at the front of the sanctuary. My seminary roommate and friend, Randy Saunders, performed the ceremony. Two weeks later I officiated at his wedding. Unfortunately, a few years later he and Marlene split up.

My six groomsmen lined up to my left as I looked down the aisle. David “Hugo” Hughes stood beside me as my best man. A year later I’d preside over his wedding ceremony. A couple hundred people were there…I think! Doug Loomer sang and played his guitar, like we were two flower children merging together. I remember Don Francisco’s “The Wedding Song”, a Summer of ’79 wedding favorite!

Carol was radiant as her dad escorted her down the aisle. I could tell she was nervous and excited, and maybe wondering what in the world she was doing marrying a Baptist minister who was going to move her to Michigan? Just three years before she had been teaching pre-school deaf children in a Victoria, Texas school. She couldn’t have envisioned this day three years later when Rev. William D. Wolfe would promise her the moon…or, at least, his devotion!

I brought…not much into the marriage. A ’66’ Chrysler Newport given to me by my parents, a bunch of seminary books, leisure suits, and a toaster. When I had graduated from Northern Baptist Seminary about seven weeks earlier I didn’t even have to rent a U-Haul to transport my belongings to my first full-time ministry position in Davison, Michigan. Carol was the one with the wealth! She even had a couch, a twin-size mattress, and a twelve inch black-and-white TV! She was loaded! Her Mustang Fastback was hot, just like she was! In essence, we were a two-car family. We didn’t have two of anything else except toothbrushes and forks, but we had two vehicles!

On that wedding day we looked into each other’s eyes, glistened over with moistness, and vowed words to each other that dealt with devotion, perseverance, wanting the best for one another, and journeying hand in hand for the rest of our life together. We were naive’ and completely in love, but not completely naive’! I was marrying the third daughter of an Italian-American father and North Dakotan Mom. In my family “whine” was prominent at the dinner table growing up as we surveyed the dinner of neck bones, green beans, and boiled potatoes. In Carol’s family “wine” was prominent at dinner, and I don’t think she ever had to look at a pot of neck bones!

An unusual union, the two of us, but it’s worked in the midst of church drama and church celebrations, being surrounded by saintly people and people who ain’t! One of those saints, Rex Davis, loved a certain restaurant in Colorado Springs. When he passed away last fall at 95 and I was asked to do the funeral service, his family gave me a gift card to that favorite restaurant. We’ll celebrate our anniversary there tonight, thinking of him and all the other people who have graced our lives in this journey that has more often than not resembled Lake Wobegon comedy instead of Chicago drama!

Three kids, all grown and pursuing their purposes in life…three grandkids, who seem to have more energy than Colorado Springs Utilities…and an abundance, a multitude of friends who we cherish and love!  Marriage is not just two people. It is two people taking the lead in a caravan of hundreds who have journeyed with them.

Both Carol and I would undoubtedly say we have been, and are, blessed! We have now been married sixty per cent of our lives to one another! There will be no “whine”, or neck bones, at our table tonight, but perhaps a bit of “wine!”

The Morning After…Watching The Grandkids

August 2, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          August 2, 2016

                              

It’s the morning after supervising the three grandchildren for ten hours. I’m feeling the effects!

First of all, there’s my speech pattern! I’m talking in one and two word phrases, and repeating them two or three times. For instance, I stood in front of the refrigerator this morning looking at the containers of orange and apple juice and saying to myself “Juice! Juice! Juice!” I said it non-audibly to my inner self, but I said it with the voice of my sixteen month old granddaughter.

The morning proceeded.

“Waffle! Waffle! Waffle!”

“Keys! Keys! Keys!”

“Coffee! Coffee! Coffee!”

I’m afraid I’ll carry this toddler stream of repetitive verbiage too far. How will Carol react when she comes home from an errand and I greet her with “Hi Wife! Hi Wife!”? Or what if I discover the Half-and-Half container at Starbucks is empty and I carry the container to the counter shouting “Cream! Cream! Cream!”? I may never be able to go back to that Starbucks where I’ve been seen as a responsible adult for the last several years.

Really! Really! Really!

I’m looking at Pike’s Peak right now and saying to myself “Big! Big! Big!” This afternoon when I lay down for a nap I just hope I don’t whine “Pac-i!” Pac-i! Pac-i!”, as in “pacifier!”

The second after effect is my body whining to me. My lower back is reminding me that I’m not a young man anymore. Every time the grand baby looked up at me and said “Up! Up! Up!”, I obliged. Is there rehab therapy for grandparents? My arm muscles feel like I’ve done a full weight training workout at the Y.M.C.A. Actually, it has just been a day of squat thrusts and arm curls with a twenty-two pound weight! I thought I would sleep soundly last night out of exhaustion, but instead I tossed and turned in pain. I’m hoping I have the strength to fix lunch!, lunch!, lunch! I’m now speaking to myself again and thinking of my massage therapist, Jackie Landers. “Massage! Massage! Massage!”

Finally, the third after effect is a different kind of feeling whatsoever. It’s a feeling…a realization of blessedness! In the midst of one word demands and tried muscles I know without a doubt that I am a blessed man, a graced granddad! As I wrote in a blog post a few days ago, I am in marvel of the little ones! They make me feel young at heart even as I feel the age of  my body. I actually get a little emotional thinking about them.

Today is our five year old granddaughter Reagan’s first day of kindergarten. Jesse, our eight year old grandson starts third grade. They amaze me even as they cause me to need a nap. They have amazing parents who keep them grounded in the Word, on-course with figuring out what is appropriate and what isn’t, and immersed in unconditional love.

So even as my speech pattern has changed today and my body has gone south I wouldn’t change anything. To my heavenly Father I say the two words that the toddler does not repeat, but rather only says once as I hand her the sip cup full of juice.

“Thank you!”

 

Three Moms

May 8, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            May 8, 2016

                                         

It’s Mother’s Day, a day where we gloat over our moms and tell them how wonderful they are. Let’s be honest! Moms don’t get the credit or appreciation they deserve. We load up the applaud one day a year for them even though they took care of loaded-up diapers many, many days for many, many years.

I’ve had many unofficial moms through the years who have encouraged me, fed me, and hugged on me, but I’d like to pay tribute to three moms for different reasons.

The first mom would be my own…Virginia Wolfe! Yes, that was my mom’s name! She was possessed by stubbornness and gifted with compassion. Stubborn compassion, quite a mix. If there was someone in need that she could take care of she would do what needed to be done in spite of protests. With Mom there were no questions to be asked. If she decided to take a pot of chicken soup to Mrs. Swallow, our eighty-something next door neighbor widow in Williamstown, West Virginia, she did it. Our neighbors through the years were cared for. Growing up on a farm in Eastern Kentucky, my mom was used to having neighbors who took care of one another, no questions asked.

She was loyal. Her patronage of businesses was not based on who had the lowest price, but rather on friendship, being treated with respect, and loyalty. For years, she traveled forty-five minutes to have the same man do her hair, because that’s what you did.

She raised three children, all with vey different personalities, and, although we frequently didn’t agree with her, we respected and loved her deeply. She’s been gone now for two and a half years. I’ll visit her grave site next month and cherish the memories once again.

The second mom is my wife, Carol. What an incredible woman! In many ways she is like her own mom, Barbara Faletti. Fairly conservative, not prone to extravagance when it involved herself, but very giving when it involves others. The Mother’s Day card I give her today will cause her to scold me a little bit for spending the four dollars. The attached chocolate to it will simmer the scold a bit.

Even harder than being a pastor is being a pastor’s spouse. For thirty-six years, until this past December 31, that’s who she was. The number of evenings where she shared a meal with three kids but no husband can not be calculated. In the valleys and mountains of ministry she walked beside me.

Carol is a champion for those who are afflicted with diminished capacities of various kinds. She works with special needs middle school students. She hung out with a six year old autistic boy at Awana Club this year. She walks alongside a few of her friends who have suffered serious health crises. Although she enjoys watching some of the reality TV shows that I gag on, we’re on the same page in most of our preferences and likes. She loves her grandkids deeply. If you checked her cell phone you would find a video library of “grandkid clips” that include one year old Corin walking across the room, Jesse playing soccer or hurling himself at the player he’s defending in basketball, and Reagan singing, dancing, or just looking gosh darn cute!

Our three children love and respect her deeply. They know that the greatest gifts they can give her are the relationships they already have with her. She is a special woman who gets me to “wise up” in various ways. She’s the “clue” in my “cluelessness.”

The third mom is my oldest daughter, Kecia. Just as my mom had three children, and Carol has three children, Kecia is now the mom to a trio. She is the steady influence to the three. I see my mom in her in terms of keeping her kids on task, and I see Carol in her in regards to her compassionate side. I stopped by her fourth grade classroom for a few moments this past week and it was evident how much her students admire and love her. She’s like their “teacher-mom”, concerned for each one of them, thrilled with their progress, saddened by their heartaches.

Just as my mom and Carol have been steady influences and engaged parents, Kecia is that steady influence in a culture that often teeters on the the edge of chaos.

I am blessed to have lived, and now live in a home where laughter is as frequent as dancing granddaughters, and dressed-up super hero grandsons. “The Moms” are as essential to that as Miracle Whip on my hamburger!

Thank you, Lord, for the mom who has gone before me, the mom who walks with me, and the mom who is delighting me.

Dedicating the Granddaughter

June 22, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                 June 22, 2015

                                       

I’m an emotional wreck this morning! I’m drowning my tears in my first cup of Pike Place.

Why are the tears backing up in my soul? I just saw the pictures my daughter, Kecia, posted on her Facebook page of her three-month old daughter’s, and my granddaughter’s, baby dedication yesterday in our morning worship service. I’m standing there with my fingers holding one of Corin Grace Hodges’ shoes, praying for God’s blessing upon her and her family, Corin is wide-eyed and brightly beautifully dressed, Mom and Dad have bowed heads and smiling faces, as does big brother Jesse. Big sister Reagan is standing closest to the camera with her eyes open in a way that, if you know Reagan, communicates “I wanted to be the one that said the prayer, Granddad!” (She did say it at our lunch together afterwards!)

What an incredible privilege to be able to dedicate this new gift from God!

Kecia didn’t stop with just pictures of the baby dedication, however; she also posted pictures of the “dads” of her life, including grandfathers, me, “Uncle David”, and husband Kevin. Her honoring of the guys was what put me over the falls!

How often do we stop and consider how blessed we are? Sometimes we move unconsciously through life…and then we see a picture on Facebook that hits our eyes and heart at the same time…and we sense the tears welling up inside us at the blessed place we are in.

We breathe in his blessings with deep satisfaction and contemplate the awesomeness of the One who loves us.

Corin Grace has the names of our grandmothers, her great-great grandmothers, that have long since strolled into Glory. And yet when I think of her middle name I will be reminded of the grace of God upon our lives…and here come the tears again!

A Jess Bless!

June 18, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                              June 18, 2015

                                                    

Last night I had the last session of a children’s discipleship class plus two adults. The two adults were there because we talk about baptism in our last session. One of the attenders of the class has been my grandson, Jesse! In earlier sessions we’ve talked about Romans 3:23 and 6:23 and the scriptural principle that all of us fall short. We’ve talked about the impact of the cross of Christ in bridging the gap between us and God that sin created. We talked about forgiveness and grace and other things.

Jesse did a recap for us last night. In these classes I look for whether or not the kids understand and whether they can explain it.

He did!

When I explained baptism he was right with me! Often he would complete my sentences.

“Jesus died-“

“And rose again!”

“All of us have sinned-“

“And fallen short of the glory of God!”

“That’s right, Jesse!”

I asked him why he wanted to be baptized. Sometimes this becomes the stumbling point, as some children can’t verbalize why, but Jesse…”Because I believe in Jesus and I’ve asked him to live in my heart because I love him, and I want people to know that I love him.”

“That’s right, Jesse!”

“And you can’t be a pastor unless you are baptized!”

“Well…not quite! Anyone can be baptized-“

“But you are “called” to be a pastor!”

I sat there with my mouth open. He has a pretty good grasp on things!

It was a Jess Bless time!

Children can bless us more than we can imagine if we let them verbalize it. In the midst of their “ants in the pants” they have the potential to communicate a gem, a truth, a heartfelt belief.

My grandson lost his “chair privileges” one day at school this year because he kept falling out of it with antsyness! Hyper in motion!

But he believes in Jesus, and isn’t afraid to tell you about him!

Heartache, Helpless, and Blessed

June 8, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                June 8, 2015

                                

I’ve recently written quite a bit about loss…losing people close to me who have gone on to glory. Believe me! I don’t want to write about the process of grieving for the rest of my life, but I had two experiences yesterday that have profoundly affected me.

It began with “the missing!” A dear man and his wife, 94 and 91 in age, were missing from their usual spots in worship yesterday morning. Rex helps take the offering each Sunday morning and always squeezes my finger when I put my offering envelope in the plate. He looks at me and says “I’m praying for you”, and then he gives me a wink. It’s an important moment of the morning for me…but he wasn’t there.

He’s been battling a form of cancer, running a race against old age…and the age is catching up to him. He is a dear committed man of God and serving husband to his wife, Ann.

I  called him Sunday afternoon and asked if I could bring our group of young men by to pray with him and his wife, Ann, that evening.

“Well…that would be great, Pastor Bill! Yes…I think that would be all right!”

So we went, six of us, spent time with them, heard about his “miracle malts” that his granddaughter was bringing to him that seemed to make him feel better, and then we stood with them in a circle and prayed.

Each one of us felt a bit of heartache knowing that this couple were in the midst of daily struggles to just keep going. The weariness of their bodies was now dictating what could be done and what had to be surrendered. Things that we took for granted were now only maybes for the two of them.

But we were also blessed by simply being with them, holding hands with them and praying, listening to their stories told with wit and humor. They were so thankful that we had come, but we were even more thankful that we had been there.

After we prayed and hugged on them for a while we got in our vehicles and headed down the street to the ice cream place, BJ’s Velvet Freeze, and we all ordered malts!

Right before I had gone to be blessed by this pair of ninety somethings I became aware of another kind of heartache. I young lady I had coached for three years in basketball died. Twenty years old, full of potential and primed for life…suddenly gone. I was numbed by the news. On the wall behind me in my study is a team picture from her freshman year where she is standing just behind my right shoulder, in the midst of her teammates, looking happy and almost giggly. That was one of the sweetest, most fun groups of girls I’ve ever coached. They finished 13-5 and beat an undefeated Doherty team in the last game of the regular season…a group of Doherty girls that had not lost since they started playing together in 6th grade.

And this young lady was a vital part of the team, but more than that, she was just a delight to coach that year.

And now her light had faded out!

That same sense of heartache that I experienced as I sat with Rex and Ann I also experienced as I processed the news of the death of this young woman, but this time it was tagged together with helplessness. I wished I could have said something to her to change the course of her ship, to let the wind be in her sails again. I wish I could go back to her freshman year and be blessed once again by the giggling and the solidity of those relationships amongst teammates. I wish I could rewind and know that I could say one thing that I hadn’t said before that would result in June 5, 2015 being different…being a day of celebration and fulfilled promise instead of grief and deep, deep sorrow!

A strange day of lives that have been long, purposeful, and fulfilling…and a life that had barely started…and I can’t stop thinking about it!