A gift of words to my beloved olive shoot

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r-dayandafter210My arms reached down and pulled the orange-haired baby out of my body. Ten days late, I wanted to get this show on the road! A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do!

That old song by Helen Reddy, “I am woman,” could have been my anthem cry. I felt like I could conquer the world by this one singular action. I still get rather uppity whenever I think about my hands being the first ones to touch my child and being the one to welcome him into the world personally. It was instant love and connection.

The delicious ginger boy I once cradled in my arms has now become a handsome 17-year-old man.

Today I honor him.

I praise the Lord for him.

My heart bursts to overflowing because of him and I’ll stop there or I’ll just start crying.

Sometimes it takes my breath away when I consider God’s goodness, how He knit that boy in my womb. I imagine most moms feel that way about their children, how blessed we are to hold vessels of love in our bodies, don’t you agree?

wh401Truly it is by grace that I am the mama to three awesome olive shoots. I know the person I was, I did not deserve such bounty. One day when I am before Jesus, I will tell Him, “Thank you, thank you, thank you” over and over again into eternity.

Though I will never know what it’s like to have a daughter, I do know what it’s like to have a ginger.

Furthermore, I am an authority on raising an Isaac and could easily write a book on this journey.

These might be a few chapters –

Laughter – True to his name, Ike is the child who makes me reel with giggles. Once he gets going, there’s no stopping this kid. Often the Hubs will be driving and Ike will begin using one of his funny voices. Soon Ike and I are both competing each other for who can drive the Hubs the craziest with our silly antics and jokes. The Hubs will have to scream for us to stop because he lacks our jocularity. We rarely stop. 😉

Tenderness – As humorous as Ike is, he also has a gentle side. He is warmly affectionate to me even at this age and I have seen him deeply touched by the pain of others.  He recognizes others’ struggles and is on the side of the weak and impaired.

sc00305c8bLast year, I was sitting next to a boy during a basketball game. This young man attends our school and he has some disabilities. He beamed as he cheered Isaac on from the bleachers. This boy didn’t know I was Isaac’s mom and when I introduced myself to him, he said, “I love that guy.” I believed him, it was so obvious. When I asked Ike about him afterward, he smiled and said, “Tom’s (not his real name) the man.” Time and time again, I have noticed how my orange hair, freckle-face olive shoot has compassion for those who don’t really fit in with others. My heart bursts with joy each time I see the sincerity of his heart.

He’s the cool kid who is relaxed around people of different cultures and skin tones. He hopes to one day adopt and have a melanin-rich child in his family. I adore picturing Ike as a husband and a dad, he will be a wonderful leader and mentor.

Struggle – But it’s not like life has been easy for him. Ike had a speech problem when he was younger and it was only through hard work and perseverance that he was victorious over this.

Also having two high achieving older brothers can leave big shoes to fill. He often puts a lot of pressure on himself though we reassure him that we just want him to be the best ISAAC he can be. And at times, by his own admission, Ike can have a temper as red as his hair but because of what the Lord has done in his life, Ike usually (not always) can now control his anger and tongue. We rejoice in his accomplishments. God is good!

Humility – This is my precious OS who freely apologizes to me when he is a stinker. He desires to be in right relationship with the people he loves. Ike is able to speak into people’s lives because he knows what damage a prideful heart can cause. As a teenager, I cannot recall one single time when I genuinely apologized to the extent that my son does and trust me, like most of us, I should have done that with great regularity. Ike is the kind of kid you want as your friend because he will tell it to you straight and speak with a voice of experience and authority.

Suffering – This summer I sat Ike down and spoke honestly with him. Since he is the only boy living at home all year, I told him that I felt the Lord was calling Ike into a difficult time of suffering. He was going to get a front-row seat into Alzheimer’s and dementia that his brothers would not know. It would be a very painful time but one that the Lord would carry him through. His grandpa’s conditions were serious and there would be great sorrow. Although the situation has not mapped out exactly as I expected, my words have proven true. As much as I hate it (I will refrain myself about some other feelings I’m having…), Ike has been resilient and strong. His heart has been courageous beyond his years.

photoServant – Which leads me to the next part that I didn’t expect. Though Ike has faced great suffering, God has also recently blessed him with a super cool surprise!  A “little” brother! We are now hosting a Brazilian exchange student for the year! Instead of being the youngest brother, our ginger now shares his home with Chico, the 6’1″ dark-haired guy from the Sao Paolo area! The two are quite a pair and you can’t help but smile when Ike is helping him. He shows Chico how to mow the lawn, take out the trash and empty the dishwasher. Ike helps him with homework, the proper use of American slang and how deal with us as his foreign parents. My OS is a living example of how a teenager can live a Christian life and not be swept up by the world. Yes, it’s not always perfect but no one is and that’s ok. Ike truly pours himself out in joyful service to Chico in every way. There is a smile in our family with this new addition and in many ways, it’s because Ike takes the lead in caring for his new buddy/brother.

photoOctober 29th is a day which calls for great celebration! I am the mama to a strong, kind, talented, adorable, hilarious, gentle, super studly olive shoot! I love you, my Isaac.

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26-50 things I’m thankful for

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To continue with my 50 things I’m thankful for:


26. The hubs gave me a rough draft of a book he’s creating of all my blog posts from last year. This sweet man has poured hours preparing it and it is a family treasure.

from Charles

27. For the first time in my life, I got a birthday card from Charles. Charles is the quirky alter ego of my orange hair, freckle face OS. Charles spawned an alter ego in me named Charlene. Charles and Charlene speak their own language and have unique accents. No one else in the family really likes Charles and Charlene but we/they have fun together. Thanks Charles!

28. a birthday card announcement from 
my cadet in French and Spanish

29. For my birthday, I also received a beautiful letter from my oldest OS. And, just like Nate, he forgot to sign it! 
30. Thread – I have new thread. Thread makes things happen. Oh yeah.

bibimbap, I prefer mine without the egg

31. We entertained a Korean exchange student during my birthday weekend and she made us bibimbap and other tasty Korean foods. And I’ve now eaten bracken…you’re welcome. 

bracken, fiddleheads, they are edible

32. My soap nuts arrived. I’ve been using them for two weeks – love them, seriously!
33. I finished a guest blog post – taa daa!
34. At the end of my birthday night, my middle OS Aaron gave me a video of the past year. I cried through the whole thing but only had one big crying snort, it couldn’t be helped. 
35. No snow or ice storms on my birthday. For someone born January 27th in the States, those things usually go hand in hand.

a mama of oliveshoots needs olive fabric.
but now what do I do with it? 

36. My road trip to MaryJo’s Cloth Store with friends was joyful. Four women in an SUV talking about everything without gossip is a blessing.
37. I bought some 1 1/2 yards of olive fabric. Any suggestions on what a mama of oliveshoots can do with this? 
38. I have three pounds of dried black turtle beans. They are exquisite.

= yum

39. My birthday cake from Blue Moon Bakery – simply divine with raspberry frosting, chocolate mousse filling. And it matched my hair. It’s good when your hair matches your cake.

gorgeous made from scratch poundcake

40. But before we enjoyed the bakery cake on Saturday with my extended family on Friday night, a wonderful family friend surprised me with a homemade pound cake she made from scratch. 
41. Ike’s team won their game! My orange hair, freckle face OS blazed the court on my b-day!
42. My mom does not have cancer. 
43. Balloons.
44. A singing birthday greeting from my cousin’s family. Tis a sweet melody hearing four girls who love the Lord leave a message for me.

45. another birthday announcement from my cadet – in Arabic and English! I’m pretty sure his roommate helped him with the Arabic. 
pj pants for a book lover!

46. I made a pair of pajama pants for one of my two bibliophiles. He’s going to wear them during Spirit Week. 
47. Jesus who gave me a redemptive life. 

48. Zumba which is giving me a redemptive body (maybe)…
49. Lou Malnati’s pizza from my aunt and uncle shipped from Chicago which necessitates blessing #48!

50. And lastly, another birthday greeting from my Soldier. I know this was no small feat for my OS to do, thank you precious son! 




25 out of 50 things I’m thankful for

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I’ve always known how to have fun on my birthday! 

Tomorrow is a big day for me. I used to think 50 year old people were old. Now I think they are, well, they are…me as of January 27. 


Here is half of the 50 things I’m thankful for. 

Class of 2016 = woot

1. My middle OS has been accepted to Moody Bible Institute!
2. This means I will have a semi-regular pizza delivery boy! 
3. I had a wonderful experience speaking to a local MOPS group and I want to do it again! 
4. My topic was “Raising Mighty Oliveshoots” and I’m sensing the Lord is creating something. 
5. My oldest OS has done so well as West Point that he will be getting his first choice for his post and unit. This means that Nate will probably be going to Fort Carson in Colorado. I suggested “Fort” Cary (we live in Cary!) but he seemed disinterested. No worries though!
6. My orange hair, freckle face OS’s basketball team is currently in first place and his back pain is subsiding.

Few moments are as epic as when you
and your OS get to meet Mary Jo!

7. I’m going to MaryJo’s Cloth Store in Gastonia on Saturday with friends. Ignite endorphin levels!
8. I soaked some almonds overnight in water and evaporated cane juice. I drained the water and just before putting them into the dehydrator, I sprinkled cinnamon on them. They taste GOOD! 

I’m having a bibimbap birthday! 

9. We are having a Korean exchange student stay with us for the weekend and she is going to teach me how to make bibimbap
10. We’re also going to be serving squash pancakes and green onion pancakes. This should be interesting!
11. My six year old nephew Jon aka Goo, told me he has drawn me a picture for my birthday. I can’t wait to see it!
12. My aunt and uncle from Chicago sent me two birthday pizzas. I have them safely hidden in the freezer, only the Hubs seems to know. I do not want to share. Does that make me a bad person??? Do not tell a soul. 
13. I’m reading my seventh book since Christmas. Shablam! Current read – Saving Leonardo. Here’s a great quote “One of the greatest injustice we do our young people is to ask them to be conservative. Christianity is not conservative, but revolutionary…We must teach them to be revolutionaries, revolutionaries against the status quo.” Click to read this review that compelled me to buy this for my Kindle Fire. 
14. It struck me last night as I was sitting with my monthly writing friends, how immensely blessed I am with a diversity of friendships culled from many parts of my life. 
15. My house is neither immaculate nor filthy, right now as I type this, it’s right in the middle. 
16. I love my weekly Bible Study and the women I share life with. As I look around the table, I admire their strength, beauty and stories about leading redeemed lives. 

Bible Study just before the Army/Navy game!
Had to bring Nate!

17. My stepfather said he would go with me for my colonoscopy! I don’t have one scheduled but since I took him to his, he said he would accompany me on mine! 

18. I just finished reading a book about a vacuum cleaner and it made me cry. I thought about the stories my family’s appliances could tell.
19. When I told my mom that sometimes her birthday cards to me are so sappy, I could become diabetic, she didn’t get offended. She laughed and scoffed. We had fun! 
20. Loves it when the pastor speaks a sermon custom made for our family! 
21. And REALLY loves it when we apply the sermon to daily life!
22. So blessed to have a praying family. We rallied around one of our OS this weekend and prayed with and for him one night. I want to leave this kind of legacy.
23. Realized that I along with the Hubs are raising a first generation Christian family. I didn’t see that modeled in my own family and we’re super imperfect but still, we’re doing it!

A recent creation I made

24. My sewing machines and I are getting along. We are enjoying our time together.
25. I made a dinner this week for a teacher who has cancer. I wasn’t sure what to make and brought sesame seed crusted salmon, wilted spinach with a white wine sauce and quinoa pepper salad. She said her favorite thing to eat was fish! I didn’t know that! 


On the eve of a big day, it makes sense to have some jollity. Life is a gift. I’d love to hear from you, any of these 25 jump out at you?

Doesn’t get better than this!

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If I must get a year older to be shown such love, I am glad to be aging. Well, at least I felt that way last week! 
Birthday bliss was overflowing! I didn’t have to wait until the actual day either. On Wednesday, Mavis, one of my Bible Study friends made me a birthday cake. The main ingredients were unusual but thrilling. Are you ready for this? 

Beets – ohhhhhh!
zucchini – shablam!
carrots – wowwww!













Be still my beating heart. If those ingredients sound gross, you must experience these victuals in a cake. With homemade buttercream frosting. Oh my. It was dense, decadent and delish. 

No flavors of the veggies could be detected although I wouldn’t have complained. Here is the recipe. I only hope I can duplicate her efforts. 



Then on Thursday the doorbell rang and guess what arrived? 


tough guy

a bouquet of fresh colorful tulips from my son/Soldier. What a sugar boy. I am the only one that gets to call him sugar boy so don’t even try. Remember he knows how to hurt people. 

cherub-like creature

And few hours later, the doorbell rang again. A most sublime, cherub-like vision was carrying another treasure!


Elizabeth floated into my home holding two pints of a soft, edible fruit formed into clusters of soft dark-purple drupelets also known as blackberries. 

if this person knocks on your door, let her in!

I nearly cried. She had read my post mentioning blackberries and when she learned I didn’t have any yet, she brought them to me. 


So that got me thinking…since it worked with Elizabeth, here are a list of other things I’d really like but don’t have yet. I’m not saying you HAVE to get these for me but if you did, I would gladly post about it! 😉

I want this, please get it for me
You can also get me this
A Kindle 


And of course, then I’d need this

Purple, please

How can you not be blessed when this person stops by? With cake no less! 

The doorbell rang thrice. Could this really be happening? It was Danielle, possibly the sweetest girl from church, dropping off a homemade pound cake. She informed me that she had already made me a cake the night before but the dog ate it! So you know what she did? She made another one! After the meal of shrimp prepared by the Hubs, we lavished on perfectly sweetened pound cake topped with juicy blackberries.

Is this an unattractive picture? Yes! Do I care? Nope. 

I didn’t expect these blessings and yet treasures surrounded me. What great fortune!


Praise the Lord from whom all blessings flow!








My Grocery Challenge

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On average, our family spends over $1100 a month on groceries. I learned this last week upon beginning Financial Peace Univeristy. Throughout our nearly 24 year marriage, I have made it a point to stay mostly ignorant on all things related to money. “Blah, blah, blah, blah…” is the script which ran through my head whenever the Hubs would want to have “the talk.” 


But now, for some reason, the Lord is giving me courage to open my eyes and share the responsibility with the Hubs. I feel both empowered by knowing our finances and encumbered because I now need to seriously participate in the process. We are not in financial straits at all yet the time seems right. 


We discussed our food budget. Aside from our mortage, it is the place where we spend the most. Although we narrowly averted a verbal altercation about lettuce right after attending church (!), we had a pleasant conversation about finances that night. My spirit was  challenged to consider ways we could cut back. 


I like to cook, it is my gift to my family. Cooking for others, entertaining, making new recipes; all these things are my passion. Coupons don’t work because we eat mostly fresh food or unprocessed items. I just see junky food in coupons. (Enlighten me if you feel otherwise!) For me, a cupboard full of food means stability. Bringing home groceries feels like I’m carting in Christmas presents for all to enjoy.


Yet as we were driving home from this week’s FPU lesson, I said something unexpected to the Hubs. When he told me that we had already spent $1100 on groceries this month, I blurted out the most preposterous thing.


“Let’s spend only $50 this week.”


HUH? I couldn’t take it back. The Hubs heard me and albeit he was shocked to hear those words coming out of MY mouth, he agreed. Here is a dramatic re-enactment of his facial expression. 

My husband. My muse. 

We announced the budget cut to the OS and a look of panic swept over their faces. Fear of starvation and famine, eating gruel and mush filled their adolescent minds and appetites.


So here we sit on Wednesday. According to my records, we only have $12 left until Sunday. 


For some time now, God has reminded me of this verse…



It’s Wednesday and everyone has a belly full of food. No one has gone hungry. Nutrition is plentiful. We even have shrimp in the freezer! Strangely, I feel a measure of peace. I have already prepared another meal for a family who has a wife battling breast cancer. I am in charge of snacks for my orange hair, freckle face OS’s basketball team tomorrow. I brought food to share during my women’s Bible Study. 

My daily longing for purchasing a large, unsweet iced tea is being satisfied at home with Trader Joe’s Mango Tea. The warm smell of turkey tacos, Guatemalan rice and seasoned tortilla chips permeates the house at this very moment. 


“Be content with what you have.”



I have spoken to the Lord and questioned Him about the timing though. “Um, Lord, I’m not sure if you realize this but it’s MY BIRTHDAY tomorrow (Thursday)! We only have 12 bucks, what are we going to do about that, hmmmmmm?” 

“Be content with what you have.”


I have requested homemade angel food cake (Ike’s specialty) for tomorrow. I’d love some fresh blackberries and homemade whipping cream if we can squeak the remaining $12 out to do so. I’m not sure what is on the menu for tomorrow’s birthday meal but as I assess my possessions, both earthly and those set on things above…


a sewing machine 🙂
a loving family
the blessings of treasured friends
stable finances and 
an enduring faith in the Lord,
and so much more


This will be my desire

to be content with all that I have

my bountiful life

Why Nate is great -18 Reasons

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nateatsevenmonths18 things I love about my son – he turned 18 over the weekend.

1. Nicknames – When Nate was a baby, practically from the minute he “popped” out, we called him “Shakalanna,” “Sheiky Sheiky,” etc. He has new nicknames I am not privileged to share but they are just as weird.

2. Spins and stuff – My son lets me hold his hand when we are walking in the mall. He will spin me around (just once) and let me put my arms around his waist. Not for too long but it sure makes my mama’s heart sing. I feel like the most special person in the world.

3. Honor – I wish I had half the character my son had when I was his age.

4. I love you – Every night, when his youngest brother has gone to bed, my kids have a ritual. Isaac, my 11-year-old OS will shout from the top of his bunk bed, “Night, Nate, love you!” and no matter what Nathan is doing or whom he is talking to, he is sure to shout back, “Night, Ike, love you, too!”

5. Cooking – Nate is not the best cook but he can make a mean salad. He is rather clumsy in the kitchen which is funny because he is so adept at other things. His salad is killer, though.fam303

6. Funny – If Nathan wasn’t my son, I’d want him as a friend. He’s witty and clever. We rarely run out of things to say. I like how he can make funny accents of people he has met. Like the Chinese lunch lady in middle school who would say, “One cookie, 35 cent.” That one comment has provided us with years of laughs.

7. Guns – Nate’s got some sweet guns. He has served as my inspiration for getting back in shape. We compare guns all the time. I’ll never catch up to him but that’s ok.

8. Disciplined – He is self-motivated and driven.

9. Good speaker – Nate is an engaging speaker. He was selected to be one of the students speaking to the entire high school as part of graduation this year. I can’t wait to hear him and will be sure to bring Kleenex as I cry tears of joy.

My three sons10. Cards – Nate will make his own birthday cards on the computer for his friends. They are hilarious and so clever. They are slightly weird but beat any Hallmark card you could ever get.

11. Interesting – My 18-year-old OS is well-read and intelligent. He can talk easily about current events, politics, religion, faith, music and much more. He is very opionioNATEd.

12. The way he treats girls Nate respects girls and has a lot of female friends. He has done well with respecting the ladies and not leaving a trail of broken hearts along the way.

13. Sleep – Nathan has an imperfect side though. He has to get sleep. If he doesn’t, he’s a stinker.

14. Iron – my son irons. Someone is going to be a very lucky wife one day.

Nathan's baptism 15. People  – Nathan takes  pride in a job well done. He has been mowing lawns for years now and has a very diverse clientele. I love how my OS appreciates different cultures and personalities.

16. Family – What a blessing to have an 18-year-old son who likes his family! We enjoyed a birthday celebration at our house. Mark and I made his favorite dinner – Chinese pork dumplings and he had five close friends join us. He didn’t kick us out of the dining room, we all were together.

17. Not a potty mouth – Yes, there is an 18-year-old guy who doesn’t drop word bombs and cuss like a sailor. How do I know? I gave birth to him! Woot!

18. Jesus – My boy has a personal relationship with Jesus. He is not ashamed to tell others about his faith in His Savior. Nathaniel means “gift of God” and we couldn’t have picked a more perfect name for our oldest son/olive shoot.

All moms should be so blessed to have a child like him. Thanks Lord for this treasure!