Archive for the 'Personal Reflection' Category

50 Year Legacy – How I Became a Jesus Follower: Part One

My College Years

I am celebrating a Golden Anniversary!  50 years ago this July I started following Jesus. Here’s how it began in May of 1970…

We had met before like is sometimes in the case with long term relationships. We actually hung out a lot when I was younger.

My mom remembers us talking to each other from my crib. “Tish, who are you talking to? She would poke into my room to ask. I replied, ‘Jesus.’” But, as I grew older, we drifted apart. It wasn’t about him, it was about me.

Jesus was part of my childhood. I sort of “grew out of him” but held the memory dear, like the flashback of a favorite doll I received one year for Christmas. I didn’t ask him to keep in touch when I left for college. I knew I might stop by and see him at our local church where he lived on my visits home but he wouldn’t have fit in at college.

If he ever did pop in to see me, I rushed him out of the room. I didn’t think he would care for my new lifestyle or choices. No need to embarrass him. Let’s just keep the memories as they were, a childhood friendship. I was going my way and he could go his.

Turns out, my way was ending up full of potholes (no pun intended,) detours, flat tires and dead ends. Not to mention I got lost all the time. Asking for help from any others than my traveling companions on the same road seemed out of the question. Foolish even. Likely someone would tell me to just turn around and find another road. No thanks.

Until the spring of 1970 in my sophomore year of college. My new pursuits, philosophies, and relationships were crumbling around me. I longed for the “Kumbaya” nights around the campfires of my youth but they seemed gone forever.

The wheels began to fall off the bus but it would take something really big to stop me in my tracks. The something big began with the Vietnam war protests.

The spring of 1970 was filled with war protests over the US involvement in Vietnam. I can’t honestly say I did a lot of soul searching for my views on this but it certainly seemed important to join the protests which were happening all over the country. I proudly wore my black armband and chanted with the best of them as we marched around campus.

On May 4, 1970 the Kent State Massacre occurred when four college students were killed by the Ohio National Guard during a protest. That event catalyzed students everywhere and on that night of that event, the call went out to “take over” one of the main buildings on campus, Simpkins Hall. So the entire group of about 1000 protestor marched into the building and refused to leave for five days.

I remember huddled there with my group that first night fascinated and somewhat fearful about what might happen next. Speech after speech was made with lots of chants with the crowd building in fervor. I was glued to my spot on the floor. Then the local police showed up and began making their way through the crowd trying to break it up. Ultimatums were issued on both sides but no violence occurred.

Part of me wanted to run out and the other part thought what a great statement it would make to stand down, risk expulsion and possible arrest. Rumors were spreading about the presence of state police and National Guard near by. Tear gas was used at Southern Illinois University which was eventually closed by the protests.  Clearly, I wasn’t agitating at the level to get even noticed and eventually the crowd dispersed and I headed back for a few hours of sleep.

I wrote my parents about “almost getting arrested” and they showed up at campus the following Sunday, which was Mother’s Day, to have a little chat with me. Actually more like a confrontation.  “Stop what you’re doing!” I knew they were worried but didn’t see that as my problem.

To be honest, I was worried too but not about getting arrested. (To be continued next Thursday)

The Birthday Gift: 1968

2020 is the second of two “most dramatic” years I have lived in my many decades. The first was 1968. Of course, I’ve had many personal moments that changed the course of my life (preview for next week’s blog post!) but for overall years, so far, these are the front runners. 2000 wins the Bronze medal but that’s for another time.

Everything felt spinning in 1968. If you lived through it, you remember it well. I was a senior in high school and it was definitely my Coming of Age year. Besides going to the new-to-Quincy coffeehouse to discuss the meaning of life, reading Kahil Gibran’s “The Prophet,” shedding the parts of my faith the nuns told us were no longer needed like St. Christopher, I was completely enamored by Bobby Kennedy’s run for president. At almost 18 years old, although I couldn’t vote yet, I pinned all my political hopes on his likely presidency.

I will never forget the morning my Dad woke me, June 6, 1968, to tell me of his assassination. I sobbed for days and couldn’t bear to watch any of the coverage of the funeral. My mom saved all the newspapers for me which I found in her home a couple of years ago. I never read them at the time as I was too heartbroken. Along with many others, my freshly budded hopes for the change I was sure our country needed were now dashed.

My 18th birthday was 15 days later and among the many gifts I received was a hand carved piece of driftwood. My dear friend at the time, Barb, knew of my devotion to RFK and painstakingly carved each word.

“Some men see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say why not?” RFK

I remember no other gifts from that birthday except this one. It became my most precious possession.

A few months later, I packed up my world to go to college. The log had a prominent place on the top of my duffel bag as I loaded it in the car. My father, who was not an RFK supporter, decided it was too big to bring, not enough room in the car, etc. I was horrified and we had a rare fight centered around the log.

Looking back, I now know fights between parents and off going college students are common and even helpful to ease the leaving process but my dad and I hadn’t read those books. We were at a standstill and each holding our ground. My mom finally intervened in some way I don’t remember but the log came to college.

52 years later, I still have it. In fact, it is sitting on my dining room table now where it spends every June in honor of my birthday. I have tried to contact Barb to thank her again but we haven’t reconnected. I hope she somehow knows what a treasure it was and still is to me.

The infamous quote seems just as relevant now. Glad I can see it often. I plan to keep dreaming. You?

Do you have any similar object from your youth that still speaks to you?

Hope for the best,


Miss You Today On Your Birthday, Dad*


Tish around 4 years old.

Happy Birthday Dad!  Wish we could celebrate tonight with a pineapple upside down cake and off-key singing. You were always hard to buy for, as many men are, but now I could shop online for you and surely find something unique…but of course, you’re not around to open my gift.

Did I ever thank you for teaching me how to play baseball or ride a bike?  I didn’t like it at the time when you insisted I learn how to drive stick shift before I could get my license but I am so grateful now.  I taught my husband you know 🙂

There are cool stories about you floating around like how you were the Adams County tennis champ and your brief stint as a police officer.  I wish I could hear about those adventures in your words.  I know you worked hard for us, sometimes two jobs at a time.  BTW, I loved that second job at the drive-in when we all watched the movies over and over under the stars.  It probably wasn’t as much fun for you.

I know we had 44 years together but there was so much more we both could have said.  “Relationship Parenting” was not an operating principle in your generation but I knew you loved me.

I wish you could have met these fabulous great-grandchildren of yours.  I hope you can see them from your vantage point and you will be glad to know, Mom dotes on them every chance she gets.  Don’t worry, I will pass on the stories so they will know you too.

Tony Wiewel around 14 years old 9/3/1923-2/25/1994

So cheers to your 96th!

Love, Your “Cutie”

Hope for the best,


  • originally published 9/3/12

Finishing a Dream

One year ago today, I arrived at one of the best jobs I ever had, hospital chaplain, swiped my badge, facilitated a spirituality group on the psychiatric floor, laughed with my colleagues over lunch and then swiped out and walked away forever.

Not a decision I took lightly.

My desire to become a hospital chaplain started when I was 26 and completed when I was 56. A thirty year wait for a dream. You might have some of those too.

I absolutely loved it. All my hopes for how God might use me in this role became true. At the end of the shift though, it always seemed like I was the one who benefited the most. Like the principle we have all seen but can’t quite figure out, “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”

I did receive a lot though…Deeper understanding of God, knowledge of myself, a few shifts in theology, lifetime friends.

When I started, ten years seemed like the right about of time to fully invest in this profession. I never saw it as “the rest of my life” kind of thing like I do writing but I wanted to give it a good decade. Truthfully, I wasn’t even counting until the last six months.

Almost like an apparition, the years flashed in front of me and I realized it was almost ten. During that time, two more of our children married, my grandchild count went from 1 to 9.  I wrote two books. My husband started his PhD program. I started leading small group personal retreats. Tom’s mom died, mine had a stroke. And thousands more things.

I decided to honor the sense of time commitment I felt at the beginning and began to step down. Getting a contract for a third book was an added push.

Sometimes it is the right move to leave the party while it is still going strong and you’re having the time of your life. You wonder what you might have missed but the memory of that party will be forever sweet.

Do I miss it? Absolutely! Do I have any regrets? None at all.

I’m still a chaplain though, of my everyday life. If you walk around with a little hope and encouragement in your pocket to give away, you are too.

As I was leaving the official role, my youngest brother, Mark, was coming on board as a hospital chaplain, also at a “later age.” Two of my seven first cousins are also chaplains. Must be in the genes somewhere!

Do you have a dream? Reach for it. Is it over? Lay it down so you can pick up the next one.

Hope for the best,


Friday Night Lights: Back on the Field

Tom and I and our star.

Friday Night Lights – Evanston Township High School football, filled our calendar, our basement, and swept us away 20 years ago. Our son, Gabriel, #70, was the Center, that’s a position, not a mom’s bragging. I can’t really define that exact role but I always liked the sound of it.

After four years on the field, this 1997 season looked like the big one. Victory after victory, the wins kept coming. Each week the ranking got higher and soon they were ranked #4 in the nation by USA TODAY. Winning the state title felt like it was in the bag, but it didn’t happen.

USA TODAY 11/11/97

The sensational run ended abruptly during a snowfall at the last game of the season when no more victories came through and we all mournfully filed out of the stadium for the last time.

Tom and I stayed in touch with some of the players, they still came in and out of our home occasionally when passing through town. Most conversations still included at least some snippets about THAT fall when hope flooded the field and all dreams seemed possible.

Every autumn we said to each other, “let’s go back to a game” but we never did.

Until a few weeks ago.

The boys came back.  Twenty years had passed and it was time to gather again.

Our grandson looking out on the field where his dad played.

Like stepping into a time machine, we headed back to the field. Tents were set up and a long table of barbecue lined the perimeter. Player’s parents like us showed up but now also wives, girlfriends, and kids. A whole new crowd that wasn’t around back then but had heard all the stories of the season that blew everyone away.

We swelled with pride once again when the announcer proclaimed that this team’s record was still standing and invited them all out on the field for half time. Tears wet my face as my son picked up his son and strode out there with his teammates to thunderous applause.

I know football is under closer scrutiny now, for good reason. I also know the camaraderie, community, and common vision that fall impacted us all in ways we’ll never forget.

Thanks, ETHS Wildkits, for the chance to cheer again, one more time.

Hope for the best,


Book Report: January-March 2017

I never got around to setting reading goals for this year but I finished ten books since January so let’s say I’m on target 😊 My stack of ‘to-reads” keeps growing but there are a few titles that got crossed off along with my Amazon reviews.


  1. The Pie Life: A Guilt-Free Recipe For Success and Satisfaction by Samantha Ettus I am a life coach and always looking for new principles to recommend to keep life in balance. I ended up liking it very much for my own needs, especially the second half of the book. I will not only recommend it but keep reviewing my own ” pie slices.”

2. Heartbeat of a Mother: Encouragement for the Lifelong Journey by Jane Rubietta. Well done, Jane, you never disappoint! With an authentic voice and a plethora of personal stories, this book invites you into a place of reflection, wonder, delight and hope. Easy to read for the busy younger mom yet full of insight for those of us who have been engaging in this precious role for a long time. Here is my promo video for this book:


3. When Strangers Meet: How People You Don’t Know Can Transform You (TED Books)  by Kio Stark. I was attracted to this small book as I am a hospital chaplain and talk to strangers all the time. The first few chapters were especially fascinating. I was inspired to continue to initiate conversation with strangers outside of work as some amazing counters have occurred.

4. Blessed Are You: Finding Inspiration from Our Sisters in Faith by Melanie Rigney. I decided to read this for Lent and liked it so much I finished it well before Easter. I was so inspired by these women! Each one’s story opened up a bigger worldview of living a life devoted to God while serving as many as possible. Some well-known, many I was unfamiliar with but now have been touched by each of their lives.


1,2, 3: The Wedding DressThe Wedding Chapel, The Wedding Shop, by Rachel Hauck.

I loved this series and so did many others with over 4000 reviews for the three combined. Romantic, faith based but not cheesy, captivating stories that kept me turning the pages.

4. A Killing in the Hills by Julia Keller.

I am stingy with five stars but really liked this one! A murder mystery but not a scary one which is an important distinction for me. Beautiful use of descriptive words, I felt like I could see what she was describing. Well done!
Stay tuned in a few months for the next Book Report. maybe I will finish “A Man Called Ove” by then!
Hope for the Best,

How Do You Feel About Your Middle Name?



I didn’t used to like my middle name, Louise. Most of my friend’s middle names were Ann (without an E), Lynn (sometimes with an E), Marie or Mary. I didn’t know any other “Louise’s.”

All the other first names were more “normal” than mine too. I was the only Tish EVER in any of my classes. Did you have any in your classes? See, I told you.

My husband’s middle name is Gary. His mom wasn’t sure if she would have any more boys so she gave him her two favorite boy names. Tom has four younger brothers.

Frankly, I was a bit irritated at my parents for choosing both “unique” first and middle names for me. I grew to really love my first name but the middle one…let’s just say L. I have never used it.

When we on the other side and delegated with the task of choosing names for our offspring, I felt some regret about being so complain-y about my middle name. A lot of thought goes into those choices. But still, why not Elizabeth?

When our four were each born we chose “distinctive” first names and intentionally provided very mainstream middle names in case they wanted to drop the first part and go by the one in the middle like Paul McCartney and Tina Fey did. So far they haven’t.

Some women use their maiden name as a middle name and kind of drop the original one into oblivion. Didn’t want to do that either.

Then my precious women’s group prayed for me during a crisis and had a sense of the word “warrior.” Most people don’t associate that word with me, I’m usually calm, not “warrioring” around. I was intrigued. BTW, none of them would have been able to tell you what my middle name is.

When I found out about a week later that Louise means “renowned warrior,” I was stunned. Wow, that was my name all along.

All of a sudden, I am quite endeared to it. Perhaps I’ll add it to my signature line.

I was thrilled to find “Louises'” on both sides of family trees during my occasional searchings. Wonder if they knew about the warrior meaning. I’m glad to be in their company.

How do you feel about your middle name?

Hope for the best,


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Change Your Life in 40 Years

IMG_2980The phrase, “Changed My Life,” gets tossed around a lot. Like “The Beatles White Album changed my life” as I heard on the radio recently.

Midway through my sixth decade, I am mindful of a handful of people/events that definitely delivered life-changing results. Jesus, my husband Tom, the birth of my children and grandchildren, a move to Evanston, publishing a book, becoming a chaplain. It is somewhat of a short list although I can list many other honorable-mentions.

One other item on the list of life-changers is our involvement from Day One with Vineyard Christian Church of Evanston.

At twenty-five years old, I was full of dreams but none of them involved starting a church. When circumstances converged for that option to emerge, Tom and I jumped in the car for the ride of a lifetime.

Our small group of eleven was so young and radical but we shared an idea of what a church community could look like. We also had a strong sense that God was asking to push our limits, inviting us to do more than we ever thought we could. Yup, it all happened.

I remember one of the impressions we sensed was of the church being like a hospital where people would come for rest and healing. The early years felt like that hospital: long hours, lack of sleep and lots to learn. Not everyone got well.

Some seasons seemed like one big emergency room experience. We all took turns being the ER docs trying to sort out the traumas and then switched places with the patients as we learned how to do the stuff.

Open heart surgery is also a long-standing specialty of Jesus and some of the small groups have served as operating rooms over the years. Risk and vulnerability are the pre-requisites for this type of surgery.

I like the obstetrics wing of this hospital. When the church started there was ONE kid and now the children’s ministry fills multiple rooms.  Like mine, the third generation of families is showing up and individuals of all ages are still finding new life in Jesus.

You never know which badge you’ll wear around here, depends on the CEO. Might be O.R. assistant,  surgeon, midwife, or housekeeping (we’ve had a lot of clean-up needed over the years.) If you’re lucky, you get a turn as the patient and let Jesus love on you with more healing.

For me, I’ve been at this hospital a long time but retirement isn’t on my agenda. I’ve seen a lot of resident types come and go as people get their training and move on and a few of us from the original 40 individuals who showed up on January 11, 1976 are still here.

My current favorite role is of a founding mother looking around and reflecting on all God has done here with the thousands who have walked through the door. Remembering the fun, powerful, scary, wonderful, painful moments and wondering what’s next.

The church is gathering this Sunday evening to celebrate the forty-year milestone. Truly a life-changer. In fact, the term is part of the church’s mission statement crafted a long time ago:

To introduce people to the life-changing power of God’s mercy and truth.

I hope I bring enough Kleenex.

More about the Vineyard 40th and promo video 🙂

Hope for the best,


Changes on the Block…

IMG_3908The “For Sale” sign is clearly visible from my morning prayer chair and a wave of sadness comes every time I see it. After over 30 years on the block, our neighbors are moving on.

I don’t remember the day they moved in but by the next spring it was clear we had something in common: babies on the way. Our fourth, their first and our friendship formed quickly over those timeless conversations that mothers all over the world engage in.

Summer came and so did the babies and by Halloween we were posing them on the couch together. In what seemed like a couple of minutes, my older kids started babysitting hers and we listed each other as emergency contacts for everything. Oh and there was the time she drove one of my teens to the ER when we were out-of-town…

Did I mention we’re the keys-to-each-other’s -houses kind of neighbors?

She threw a surprise 40th birthday party for me and sometime early on we started sharing part of Christmas Eve with their family and just about every 4th of July. Like everyone else, most of our intertwined lives occurred between the holidays when there was always something to borrow from an egg to a car. Information on the goings on in the block passed back and forth quickly too along with a few unsolved mysteries.

In no time we all showed up for weddings and then dropped by to meet grandchildren. The in-between years are well documented in my photo albums. Tree forts, kiddie pools, birthday parties, back yard BBQs. On the night of senior prom our same-aged kids posed together although they both came with different dates. We all thought it would go on forever.

The day they dropped their landline caused quite a stir in our household. No one can believe they are dropping the house next. The kids are gone, the job relocated and the time has come.

We’re praying for whoever moves in next but it will always be ‘their” house. Just like the houses in my childhood Quincy still belong to long ago vacated neighbors.

Wishing you all the best dear friends but oh how we’ll miss you.

Hope for the best,


The Most Dreaded Medical Test: Get It!

Prep Supplies

Prep Supplies

When my doctor told me it was time for a colonoscopy I didn’t think she meant “now.” So I waited another year. Even though my beloved grandmother died of colon cancer at 63, I felt “fine.”

On the way to that first exam, my darling husband reassured me by playing “Don’t Worry Baby” by my fav Beach Boys. Who was worried? Not us.

As everyone says, the prep was much worse than the exam and I was just glad it was over. As we waited for discharge, my doc came into the cubicle holding some photos and sat down. Not a good sign.

I guess she described the photo but what I remember were her chilling words, “You would have developed colon cancer in 3-4 years if we hadn’t removed this.” We drove home sans the song and waited for biopsy reports, clear.

I’ve been on the three-year plan ever since. The pesky pre-cancer growth keeps coming back.

So today I just finished my delicious apricot jello for breakfast and am looking forward to the mango version for lunch. Tomorrow is the big day again. I’m dreading every aspect of it and would love your prayers but this test will stay on my life-time to-do list. I hope it’s on yours too.

I once saw a brochure promoting the exam with the title, “The Cancer No One Needs to Get.” I will remember that tonight as I down the worst-tasting but best option for avoiding colon cancer.

P.S.A.: Get tested!

PS If you would like to know my excellent prep plan, leave me your email address.

Hope for the best,


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