Celebrating Al’s Birthday

I appreciated my church allowing my wife and me to take off a long weekend in February. It enabled us to go to Fort Worth for two reasons. Of course, seeing the grandchildren was tops, but the second reason was just

Anna with Al (1982)

as special to us. Several months ago we received an invitation to celebrate the 90th birthday of Al Anisowicz, who we have known for 40 years. Al and his wife, Robbie, were some of the first people we met at North Fort Worth Baptist Church while I was in seminary. We had a 10-month old daughter, who we entrusted to Robbie’s care in the nursery while we went to Sunday School. She and Al then “adopted” Anna and additionally our other two daughters, who were born during our time there, as their granddaughters. Their own grandchildren were not in Texas, so our daughters met the need they had to “love on” some babies. We have maintained that relationship over the years and they even made two trips to Iowa as Al played in senior softball tournaments into his 70’s. 

Me, Al, Anna’s daughter, Charlie and Myra

It is not a misrepresentation to say that Al and Robbie were the main reasons we joined that church. Yes, I wanted good, biblical preaching, but that was available in a number of churches that were much closer to the seminary. However, we were away from family and significant connections, and this retired couple reached out in significant ways to show the love and care of Christ. For that reason, I was compelled to give some time, travel and TLC to the man, now a widower and dealing with cancer, and reciprocate the love he showed to my family and me.

Al and Robbie remind me of some of the simple ways we as church can make an impact on the lives of people. Don’t underestimate the importance of a warm greeting, remembering a name, dropping off a meal or offering to babysit.  Simple acts of love expressed to someone at any age can have an eternal impact.

10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, 13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. -Romans 12:10-13 (NASB)

We also took in the Cowtown Marathon, but that’s a story for another post! 

Al with daughter, Linda, and son, Mike

Weekly Photo Challenge: Vivid

It’s my birthday! It was a low-key celebration and probably would have been sans candle had not the bakery owner overheard a conversation with a friend who wished me a happy birthday. The yellow candle she added, the celebratory flame and the colorful sprinkles made these drab but delicious chocolate cupcakes a bit more “vivid.”

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This post is in response to the Weekly Photo Challenge: Vivid.

Celebrating the Gift of Our Matriarch!

Those of you who read my daughter’s post, “To Our Beloved Bunny,” know that my mother (aka “Bunny” to her grand and great-grandchildren) was in hospice care, following a severe seizure episode in early January. What I haven’t reported is that she graduated from hospice this month and is now in an assisted living residence.

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Today, she celebrated the milestone of her 95th birthday. I am glad to say that while not totally back to her old self, she has her humor, enjoys socializing with other residents, reads, watches Netflix (British crime mysteries her favorites), and is back to church.

What do you give a 95-year-old for their birthday? While Mom was doing well in December, my wife launched a plan for a unique birthday gift…a charm necklace. On New Year’s Eve, I put the idea out to the family on Facebook Messenger with the suggestion that her children and grandchildren supply a charm that in some way typified each one’s unique relationship with their mother/grandmother. While there was a hiatus in the planning once she went into hospice, charms began arriving when it became clear that we would indeed celebrate this special birthday. This morning, we gave her gift.

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The oldest granddaughter, who gave Mom the “Bunny” moniker, supplied a bunny charm. My daughter, influenced by Mom’s piano skills, gave a grand piano charm. The funniest charm is a set of false teeth that open. Mom had a knack of amusing the grands and greats by dropping her false teeth and protruding them from her mouth. The most poignant is a girl’s silhouette, representing a granddaughter who died at age 26 in a drowning accident. From a poodle to a camper, each charm brings back special memories of time we’ve spent with Bunny.

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Photo by Sandy Seals

Mom’s spiritual life as a faithful follower of Jesus Christ has been an example to many and she continues to be a witness of His grace (gift of salvation) to others. For that reason, my contribution was a Bible charm, a book that is dear to her as she has read, studied, applied and taught it for years.

Oh, did I mentioned that her given name IS Grace, the word meaning “gift?” We are grateful that God has allowed us to continue to have the gift of our family matriarch.  She is our own “Amazing Grace.”

Postscript: Here is a rundown of the current charms not already mentioned (I’m sure more will be added).
Hummingbird – Hours were spent watching these tiny birds at my parents’ feeders at their home on Kentucky Lake.
Camper – Our family camping history began in earnest when my dad took a guest professorship at Central Washington State University the summer of 1967. Three of the five kids accompanied the folks on that two week trek to Washington, pulling a new Apache tent trailer. It slept four, which meant I slept on the floor anytime we camped. We camped all over the northwest that summer and made some great memories. My parents eventually graduated to an Airstream and a motorhome, but I always preferred the “roughing it” years.
Washington State Ferry– That summer we traveled by ferry on the Puget Sound several times. That was my first time to be on board any boat that size.
Jackrabbit/Grand Canyon – On our return trip that summer we took a southwest tour and spent three days at the Grand Canyon. I’ve not been back, but have an upcoming trip I hope to share with you.
Hersey Kisses – We are a kiss on the lips family…sloppy and wet…deal with it.
Poodle – Mom and Dad owned two toy poodles, Gidget and Ginger. These were their dogs after the we kids were grown, and they traveled with them, so the grandkids got to share in the memories of these special pets.
Tractor – One of the sibling’s family farmed so there were lots of visits to this farm in NE Arkansas.
Book – Mom, a former librarian, is an avid reader and maintained the library at the senior apartment in which she formerly lived.
Dolphins – Our favorite vacation spot is on the panhandle of Florida where our family has been gathering every October since the mid-80’s. We have always enjoyed spotting the dolphins trolling near the beach.
Sand dollar – Our favorite beach once had sand dollars the size of your hand. Now, your lucky to see them the size of a dollar coin, which the name implies.
Quilt – Bunny made a wedding quilt for each of her grandchildren. Thus, a very tangible treasure for each of the 16.
Tennessee – Though having been born in Iowa and living here now, Mom lived the majority of her adult life in Tennessee.
Cooking Utensils – Well, it goes without saying that we like to eat, and Mom ran a good kitchen!
Heart – A contribution of a red heart charm seemed appropriate to fall in the center of all the charms. While I’m sure the grandson who gave it had the idea of love in mind, I think it can represent three things: 1) our love for Bunny; 2) her love for her family and others and; 3) God’s love for us that he demonstrated through the death of his Son, Jesus, whose blood was shed for the forgiveness of sins.

My Birthday Present

I’ve gotten to the point in life that when asked, “What do you want for your birthday,” I usually respond, ” Nothing.” I know this is a frustration to my wife and kids, but stuff is not as important to me, now. So, when my wife asked me THE question on Wednesday in anticipation of my birthday today, I got on Amazon.com and ordered a few camera accessories that should arrive in time for my birthday…not spending much because I’m not sure how much more I want to tie up in my current camera.

My birthday was shaping up to be a low-key affair with some lunch and supper plans with a few friends and family. However, as we know, plans can change in a second. Late last night, we got a text from our middle daughter, Katie, letting us know that she was having some issues with her pregnancy and that she was going to the hospital. Only about seven months along, her water had broken.

The news of her pregnancy originally came to us as she traveled back to Texas after having spent Christmas with us. She had not felt well the entire holiday, so she bought a pregnancy test in Kansas. It was positive. However, her feelings about the pregnancy were never really positive. After delivering her first child last September, this was an “unexpected” pregnancy. But beyond that, something didn’t feel right.

So, when at ten weeks the sonogram technician exited the exam room, saying she needed to get the doctor, my daughter’s feelings were confirmed. She was told that there appeared to be only fluid where the brain should be. While it was too early to conclusively diagnose, the couple was told that it was either anencephaly (absence of all or major part of the brain) or acrania (partial or total absence of the skull).

At that point the question had to be asked… terminate or carry this baby. We sought to instill in our daughters a respect for the sanctity of life and they have personally embraced that tenet of faith as their own. So, Katie and her husband, Daren, didn’t wrestle with that question; she would carry this child and trust God. We were grateful that the healthcare professionals truly supported them in this decision. As Katie sought God’s direction on how to pray for this child, she wrote:

The Spirit has only revealed to me to pray for Life… which could mean spiritual life for my non-Christian friend, life for another child from my baby’s organs, or life for my child.

As the months passed, a clearer diagnosis emerged; acrania, the skull was not forming, a condition that results in death at birth or soon afterward. They also discovered the child was a boy. Soon afterward, they met with a transplant specialist to consider options and discovered the point of viability for transplantation. The baby’s weight would need to be five pounds , so a C-section would be scheduled close to full term. Of course, my wife and I would plan to be there for the birth to have whatever time God might give us with our first grandson.

Those plans,however, all changed with the developments of last night. At 11:40 p.m., we received news that an emergency C-section would occur in the next few hours, giving us no opportunity to be with the kids at this critical time. Due to the premature delivery, transplants would not be possible, either.

As the midnight hour passed, it dawned on me that my first grandson was going to be born on my birthday. Although I would not see him this side of eternity, he would always be my “birthday buddy.” He would be my birthday present on reserve, a treasure in heaven I will one day behold AND hold, healed and whole.

Through a series of texts, I can only approximate that Silas was born between 2:00 a.m. and 3:30 a.m. He lived for about five minutes. Though we will grieve his short earthly life, we have hope that through Jesus Christ, Who is the way, the truth and the LIFE (John 14:6), Silas was welcomed into eternal joy and glory early this morning.

I’ll see you later, Silas! I look forward to unwrapping all that there will be to know of your experiences in the unfettered presence of the Lord!

– Love, Papa

POSTSCRIPT: A few days after my daughter had Silas, she gave a status update on Facebook. I wanted to add her words to this post –

I just wanted to say how unbelievably thankful I am for the prayers, thoughts, love, flowers, meals, and support my family has received over the past several days (and months)!

I am honored to have given Silas Lee 29 weeks of life in my womb and 6 minutes outside of it. His short, sweet life has forever changed Daren and me; we are eternally grateful for our son. Although the heartbreak is very real, God’s peace and absolute goodness through the months of suffering has been, oh how, indescribable.

Thank you again for all the love…we feel it!