Seeing Nate for the first time after completing Ranger School

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No sooner had we arrived at our hotel near Fort Benning, when Nate called to check on our travel schedule. We had just put our bags in the room and the Hubs and I begged and pleaded to see him immediately!

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After all we had been through – the driving, the praying, the waiting, the stress, the letters, the gum, the recycling, followed by the driving, the praying, the feeding, the laundry, the eight-hour pass, the stress, the care package, the recycling (twice), etc., we deserved to see this guy, don’t you agree?

Twenty minutes later, we were hugging our Soldier. Considering everything he had been through during Ranger School, our boy looked great. We learned later that the men are well fed and hydrated before we get to see them. My mama’s heart quaked at the thought of seeing him emaciated and zombie-like. Instead, we were able to enjoy conversation and see that his spirit was still very much intact after the Ranger experience. His waist looked smaller but he didn’t have a sunken chest or hollow eyes which was something I really dreaded.

Perhaps the only glimpse I had of him not being in complete reality was when I asked him to take this picture. Had my Soldier been his usual self, he might not have stood in front of the car and posed for a few shots with this sign in the background.2013-07-11 16.20.58

Yes it’s super corny and if the tables were turned, it would have probably annoyed me when I was his age but Nate indulged my parental pride.

Careful to not push it too much, I did, however ask permission before I told our server at the restaurant that he was dealing with a Ranger. When Nate said, “NO!” I refrained and just prayed for an opportunity to casually mention the fact.

Turns out, I didn’t have to force it because soon enough, we learned that our server was a former Ranger who had been injured while serving his country. There are many broad-shouldered military types in the Fort Benning/Columbus, Georgia area.

Nate’s brothers and a family friend were on their way to celebrate this milestone. In my next post, I’ll share some reflections on that special time.

RLTW!

Btw, if you want to read an actual Ranger’s account about the experience, click here!

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Why God gave me these kids

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One of the sweetest pictures in my collection.

One of the sweetest pictures in my collection.

“Oh, God, why did you give me these children???”

I have said these words

More than once

There have been times when I have exclaimed this in a most screaming doleful and lamenting tone.

“OH GOD, WHY did you give me THESE children???

Those moments when mothering is troubling and my spirit is weary. When Nate screamed bloody murder in the bathtub for no reason at all or when Aaron threw handfuls of dirt on the carpet after repeatedly telling him to leave the dirt in the planter. When Ike flew into an angry tirade and it felt like body parts were exploding on the walls. And those are just a few of the stories I could share.

I suppose my OS have their own share of meltdown moments from me as well but we’re not going to talk about that. They can get their own blog and share those stories one day!

But in much larger measure, I have inquired of the Lord,family5

oh God, why did you give ME these children?”

And I can’t say I have totally figured this out but I do see a theme and hear an answer when I enter the holy places of the Lord.

“They brought you closer to Me.” This is the refrain which resonates the most true.

With each successive olive shoot, my need for Jesus became clear. Here’s what I mean.

Nate

Nate

Nate taught me celebration. He was the toe-headed boy who began walking at eight months and wrote the words “hallelujah” in a prayer journal in elementary school. He is my adventurous, always-looking-for-a-challenge child currently plodding away at Ranger School.

Aaron danger boyMy middle Aaron has been used by the Lord to instruct me on the value of submission. As a toddler, it was apparent we were well on our way to raising an absolutely adorable jerk. We had to implement structure and discipline into our home. When he bit into the face of the daycare director’s granddaughter like she was a hamburger at Bull City Burger, we knew something had to give.

wh2202And Ike, oh, my soul, my adorable, orange hair, freckle face OS, he is God’s lesson in absolute dependence on the Lord. The boy who nursed just on one side, pushed his food away as a toddler as if he had been served a bowl of salty mush, Ike has rocked my world in ways I never dreamed. He is ornery and tender-hearted, stubborn as a zit on a middle-age woman and contrite in spirit to the point where it brings me to tears.

Without each of my children, I’m not sure I would know Jesus. Thankfully I’ll never know! God placed each one of my olive shoots in my life to give me life eternally! The Hubs and I couldn’t do this family thing on our own with any measure of success without Him.ikebball2

What about you? Have you ever wondered the same thing about your children? Why did God give you your babies? I’d love to hear!

My son’s first sermon

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"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." 3 John 3:4

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” 3 John 1:4

The first time I heard the name Aaron, I turned to my husband at church and said,

“Our next son will be named Aaron.”

I loved the name Aaron for three reasons.

1. It looked cool. Two of the same letters next to each other in a name basically rocks and you know it.

2013-06-16 10.10.242. Spiritual – Though my Christian spiritual journey was evolving, I loved the idea of having kids with biblical names.

3. Professional – I had made a career throughout the country teaching presentation skills and even had my own consulting business working in the corporate world teaching executives about public speaking. The Aaron written of in the Bible was a great orator among other notable qualities.

In other words, I just had to have an Aaron!

So right there in the pew, next to my toddler Nathan and the Hubs, God delivered this name “Aaron” like a song and a promise to my soul.

Two years later, he was born. Nate called him his “miracle.” I had birthed my Aaron.

The name fits him perfectly. Aaron is a rising sophomore at Moody Bible Institute and an enthusiastic speaker, a wonderful olive shoot and a Jesus follower.

But I could never have imagined what would happen this past Father’s Day.

2013-06-16 11.03.48On Father’s Day, Aaron delivered his first sermon.

In front of our extended family, the gluten-free gf and other members of our con- gregation, the Hubs and I sat and listened to our Aaron preach.

Aaron and the gf/gf just before he got up to share the sermon

Aaron and the gf/gf just before he got up to share the sermon

His sermon was about the importance of fatherhood in the Christian home.

The Lord has blessed my ministry-minded middle with an affable personality and a comfort in front of crowds.

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Ike read the Scripture before his big brother gave the sermon. I don’t even think I owned a Bible when I was his age and if I did, I certainly never opened it. Thank you Lord for these glimpses of grace!

Of course, you know I am biased, but I would have listened to Aaron’s words even if he wasn’t my son. He delivered the message with conviction, thoughtfulness and passion.

At one point in the sermon, I turned to the gluten-free gf and felt very convicted about the message. I whispered to her, “I’m glad God didn’t make me a father. I’ll just be the mom, thank you, Lord, very much!” She smiled and agreed!

God gave the Hubs a gift on Father’s Day and He used our Aaron to deliver it. What a sweet blessing to behold and something I, this former angry agnostic, feminist, existentialist woman never would have imagined!2013-06-16 11.01.21

On Sunday morning, we saw the culmination of all the hard work my boy had poured tirelessly into his message. The hours researching, studying Scripture, praying, consulting with our pastor and seeking the Lord’s voice before he used his own were worth it.

The night before, he stayed up late going over his message with the gf/gf. I think she probably had that thing memorized.

What blessed me as a mom and as a church member was the reverence and time he gave to his message. This is not always the standard today.

I felt safe with the way he handled Scripture, Aaron’s words were measured and forceful yet he spoke humbly.  Aaron has been raised by a godly, Christian dad but he also acknowledged that he has no experience being a father.

As I listened to him speak, I recalled that Sunday morning when I first heard about an Aaron.

Now I was hearing from my own.

Wearing a new polo shirt purchased the day before, looking so handsome and adorable, full of the Spirit, oh, how could my heart contain such pride and joy!

Here is an excerpt of his sermon. I look forward to hearing many more. Don’t you just love it when your kids make you proud and do something you never imagined possible?!

Prepare your young ones for dinner guests, it’s worth it!

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This dining room has housed many memories indeed!

This dining room has housed many memories.

When our olive shoots were small, we had little training sessions about manners.

We stressed several important things with our guys to prepare them for “company.” Now that they are 23, 18 and 16 respectively, I see the fruit of our labors. They really know how to be gracious hosts.

Here are the things we worked on:

1. Firm handshakes

2. Eye contact

3. Addressing adults by their last names.

Yes, this kid does have manners...

Yes, this kid does have manners…

To make the teaching time fun, (and I realize that the word “fun” might be a stretch), either one of my olive shoots or I would go into the hall closet. It was filled with coats and whatnot and after a second, I’d knock on the door or pretend to ring the doorbell. When the guys would “answer” the door, I would extend my hand and give them a hearty “Hello!”

From there, we practiced those aforementioned skills – often I’d invent a wildly funny last name with ample alliteration. One of my favorite last names was Mrs. Schpuhboodydootin. Oh the giggles we shared while learning the importance of addressing adults with respect. Occasionally I’d even hyphenate her name to keep things interesting.

This boy needed some teaching but that's ok!

This boy needed some teaching but that’s ok!

Let me tell you something. There isn’t anything cuter than being greeted by a little ginger boy with a strong handshake. Follow that up with a big brother who addresses you with  confidence and a middle guy asking to take your coat and welcome you into the home and shablam, there was a sweet mood in the air before the dinner even got started.

All this cost me was time and these guys were worth the investment.

I can’t tell you how many people have told me how conversational my boys were even during the awkward growing years. Those light-hearted training sessions were useful!

Controversial as it may seem, I do find the whole last-name thing ironic. We applaud our little children as they develop an ample vocabulary but we dumb them down when it comes to using an adult’s last name. People even put their kids in language classes to help them become bi-lingual but wow, ask them to use an adult’s last name and the parents instantly think it’s impossible!

That same dining room many years ago. Ike still sits in the same chair.

That same dining room many years ago. Ike still sits in the same chair.

Yes there are cultural preferences but people have told me that calling me Mrs. Cindy is a Northern thing, then others inform me that calling me Mrs. Cindy is a Southern phenomenon. I really don’t care, the standard in our home was to use an adult’s last name out of respect. We wanted to keep the bar high because it shows the preciousness of others.

As we taught our guys the fine art of cordiality, I always wanted to lift the standard. I can’t tell you how many people would say my last name was too difficult for their kids to pronounce. Really? My boys found a sense of comfort in acknowledging that they were in the midst of their elders.

This guy is now an officer in the Army!

This guy is now an officer in the Army!

Of course we had no idea one day our oldest OS would be a West Point graduate and an officer in the Army.

I know Nate appreciates the significance of rank and decorum. Maybe he learned some of that in our home training ground. Now it makes me smile when I hear people refer to him with respect and honor. A part of my heart leaps when people salute him, how can that be? He’s just a sugar boy after all.

Sugar boy/Soldier

Sugar boy/Soldier

I’d love to hear what you think about my suggestions. I realize I might have opened up a can of controversy with the whole last name thing but I want to put it out there. What are you doing to train your kids to be ready for guests?

Inside my Soldier’s cap

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My Soldier's cap

My Soldier’s cap

While in the process of doing laundry during Nate’s eight-hour pass from Ranger School, my Soldier’s filthy patrol cap appeared among the pile.

“How can a person’s head get so gross?” I wondered this in the confines of the hotel laundry room. Ew.

But that Army cap became a thing of beauty when I looked beyond the grime.

Oh how I love this child.

Oh how I love this child.

Unbeknownst to me, prior to starting Ranger School, my Soldier had written in black Sharpie pen these words found in Philippians 4:12-13.

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. 

I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,     whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 

I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

As the Hubs and I were scrambling around to help him on his eight-hour pass from Ranger School, it was clear that Nathan wanted us to see those Bible verses on his combat cap.

When our tired boy spoke about these words that afternoon, it was like he was speaking of a great, uncovered treasure. Although Nate has read Philippians 4:12-13 many times before, he understood them now in a more profound way. His current circumstances made the Scripture come alive. It’s so powerful when the Lord speaks to us so individually, don’t you think?

IMG_0037I guess when you only gobble down two MREs a day, get maybe two hours of sleep a night and are pushed to your absolute physical and emotional max, you really do know what it is like to be in need and to have plenty. I can’t even imagine.

Though I try, it’s beyond my grasp, my heart will only allow me so much understanding or it would crumble.

Judging from the letters Nate has sent, in many ways, our Soldier has learned contentment and joy really are found in Christ alone. The strength he summons forth is the result of training, determination and ultimately Jesus. We do what we can on the home-front but Nate realizes that the Lord is his supply. We come up alongside him best we can but the truth found on that combat cap is what really gets him through the rough patches.

Oddly enough, Nate didn’t intentionally write those verses on his hat with the foreknowledge of their relevance. It was only when the chaplain came around to visit the guys during the mountain phase of Ranger School, that Nate put the pieces together and saw how cool it was that he had chosen THOSE verses for such a time as this! He’ll never be able to read Philippians 4:12-13 the same again. Neither shall I.

So today on Memorial Day, I’m deeply humbled, proud beyond words to be the mama of a Soldier. I’m also a grateful cousin, daughter-in-law, sister, grand-daughter and friend of military service people.

Thank you isn’t enough gratitude for all those who have served.

Pray-for-Our-Troops

Check out this beautiful patriotic artwork by a military mom!

One foot forward – update on Nate and then some

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img_20111025_111305Originally published Oct. 25, 2011 –

There’s nothing more annoying than someone stealing your spotlight.

Not to be outdone, my tibia decided it was sick and tired of Nate’s ACL getting all the attention. So yesterday my left leg became encapsulated in an orthopedic boot for the next three weeks and I’m only to walk a total of one-two hours A DAY. That’ll teach Nate and his so-called ACL repair…OY!

Seriously though, my oldest OS is doing so well.

The Hubs went to visit him during a business trip and they bravely went to New York City.

It’s scary enough walking around the Big Apple as an able-bodied person but as you will soon see in this video clip, my OS took on NYC like a BOSS.

I love how the lady by the curb doesn’t even step aside as Nate comes barreling through. Nice. Thank you Mobilegs for making such a great product, your crutches have made such a difference in my son’s recovery.

img_20111009_1132461That awkward Cinderella moment between brothers – the shoe fits!

When Aaron and I were at West Point, I observed brotherly love in a fresh way.

Five years ago, almost to the day, Nate had his first ACL surgery.

Aaron and Ike attended to Nate in the manner fitting of a then 12 and 10-year-old.

One of the post-surgery highlights was when the two guys competed each day to see which brother could collect the most wee-wee from the urinal. Such a proud mommy moment.

Thankfully everyone has matured. My orange haired, freckle face almost 15-year-old stayed behind for driver’s ed but loaded up a box of treats for Nate replete with a funny card. He spoke to him regularly and showed sincere concern.

It was my middle OS that displayed such a servant’s heart, I found myself nearly thankful for Nate’s injury.

When Nate’s surgery was scheduled first thing in the morning, Aaron cheerfully awakened to join me at the hospital.

Anything Nate needed, Aaron offered to help.

Anything I needed, Aaron was equally joyful to do.

Fill Nate’s ice machine, get him fresh water, fluff his pillows, Aaron literally poured himself out to his brother and he was remarkably patient with me.

My boy sacrificed his own Fall break to help Nate and then only three days after getting home from New York, Aaron was the patient. He had wisdom teeth surgery!

It was my middle OS that displayed such a servant’s heart, I found myself nearly thankful for Nate’s injury.

When Nate’s surgery was scheduled first thing in the morning, Aaron cheerfully awakened to join me at the hospital.

Anything Nate needed, Aaron offered to help.

Anything I needed, Aaron was equally joyful to do.

Fill Nate’s ice machine, get him fresh water, fluff his pillows, Aaron literally poured himself out to his brother and he was remarkably patient with me.

My boy sacrificed his own Fall break to help Nate and then only three days after getting home from New York, Aaron was the patient. He had wisdom teeth surgery!

img_20111010_1011532It’s not the best quality picture but I captured a tender moment when it was time to say goodbye.

Of course, the lacrimal glands were activated as I hugged my boy’s neck.

We had such a treasured time together.

There was another WP mom picking up her son by Grant turn-around and she wiped tears from her eyes at the sight. Aaron carried his big brother’s laundry and stuff as Nate crutched back to life at West Point. Yes, I was crying.

But then I really lost it as Aaron accompanied Nate to the barracks.
Nate was limping along on his Mobilegs as Aaron carried Nate’s stuff back to his room.

Two beautiful, godly young men and brothers displaying love and gratitude.

They are there for each other.

They share joy and sorrow, struggles and success.

Neither distance, nor disability of any kind or length, nor differences will separate my three OS from each other. Ever.

Let it be so.

3, 2, 1 = the day I wished I was a statistician

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Over Christmas break, I asked the middle OS to run to the store to get me some canned tomatoes. By the time Aaron came home, he had accumulated MUCH more than 32 ounces of canned tomatoes. Read on for details…

Not just a pretty face! 

We live close to several grocery stores and therefore I assumed Aaron would perform this task lickety-split. My middle bairn has a good track record as my errand boy. If I may brag a moment, Aaron will be a fine husband one day. He not only puts the toilet seat down after using it, this guy can find common food staples and less traditional food items such as hoisin sauce and kefir in several nationally known grocery chains!


However, this recent grocery trip was taking longer than expected and I wondered to myself, “Where is Aaron? Where did he go? I need my canned tomatoes!”


And that’s when the phone rang. 
Aaron: “Hey, Mom.”
Me: “Hey…where are you?”
Aaron: “Um, I just got a ticket.”
Me: “WHAT? What were YOU doing and where are my canned tomatoes?!!!”


The middle OS proceeded to explain where and how he got a speeding ticket. The simple trip to the grocery store had morphed into a jaunt to the used bookstore which somehow led to a pricey speeding fine.


Upon Aaron’s return, the cheerful mood in our otherwise festive home had soured. The Hubs was miffed, Aaron was embarrassed and I was annoyed that I had waited so long for my canned tomatoes.


But it gets better (or worse depending on your perspective)…

“I may be a ginger but I can apparently
read road signs better than my West Point brother!”

We then asked our oldest OS to drop the orange hair, freckle face OS off at basketball practice. He agreed and scuttled his brother into the car. He was gone for no more than 10 minutes-


And that’s when the phone rang.
Nate: “Hey.”
Me: “Hey…what’s up?”

Nate: “I just got a ticket.”
Me: “WHAT? What were YOU doing and where is Isaac?!!!”

The oldest OS then proceeded to explain where and how he got an even heftier speeding ticket. The simple trip to school had morphed into a second W-H encounter with law enforcement. Despite the verbal warnings of the younger brother, Nate had overlooked obvious road signs and in the span of less than one hour, two of our three OS had about $600 in associated ticket costs.

Three oliveshoots, two speeding tickets,
one day = let’s try to not repeat that, guys!
I’ve never heard of such a thing! What are the chances of having three oliveshoots who drive (Ike has his learner’s permit) and two of them getting speeding tickets on the same day in less than an hour? I’m no statistician but I’d say it’s highly unlikely.

The OS are handling these issues responsibly and financially independently. They are reaping the consequences of their actions and although I do not find it amusing that they did something wrong, I do think it’s funny in a quirky sort of way. According to my calculations, for the price of two speeding tickets, these two guys could have bought me over 400 cans of canned tomatoes!

We embrace our weirdness!
I’d love to hear about your unusual holiday experiences too. 

PS. Here are a few links of our other unusual grocery store encounters (one involving an innocent assault with salt!) if you’re interested.