Twice in a summer

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We argue. We fight. We disappoint each other and intentionally do things to annoy. These are some of the rather unsavory characteristics of my family.

On occasion our clothes are left on the ground, someone “forgets” to empty the dishwasher, the carpet needs vacuuming and the kitchen floor hasn’t seen a broom in a few days.

We battle big things too in this house…depression, anxiety, temptation and Ambien, to name a few.

But then there are these halcyon moments –

And it’s like one of us is a polished diamond

And we get it right

I didn’t grow up going to church. Raising a Christian family means so much to me. Sitting next to one of my guys makes it even sweeter.

Maybe not for the whole day, for that might be too strenuous

But for a snapshot of time, we experience a flash of heaven

Which is what happened Sunday morning…

Aaron helping lead worship. He did a great job and found it to be a very emotional experience.

It was Aaron’s last Sunday at church before leaving to attend college in Chicago. This summer Aaron has acted as one of our church’s interns. For a small church of about 50 people, I must say, they put my OS to work like a boss. In addition to holding a paid, part-time job as a pool attendant, Aaron had many church projects to accomplish. Whereas many nearly 18-year-old young people are majorly chilling the summer before going off to school, Aaron has been learning Greek, reading church leadership books and writing reports about them. Aaron worked tirelessly compiling a hymnal for our church filled with rich, beautiful hymns that are still reverent and true. Each time my OS showed me progress on this hymnal, he beamed with excitement and joy. Aaron and the two other summer interns led an entire church service and my middle OS was so moved by the experience, he ended up in tears before our small congregation recently one Sunday morning. Incidentally as a result, most of the congregation was equally emotional especially the mama with pink highlights in her hair = me!

The three pastors poured into our boy’s life and gave him a glimpse into how to truly minister and shepherd a flock of people. They showed Aaron the inner workings of a healthy church body, how to receive feedback before and after the sermon (something I’ve never heard of pastors doing before attending this church). Through their personal investment in my OS’s life, Aaron is developing into a vibrant and active young leader.

And on Sunday, our pastors blessed him in a grand way before sending him off to the Windy City. Although the Hubs and I knew about this previously, it came as a surprise to Aaron when he was asked to come up to the front of the church. Jerry, one of our pastors, explained to the crowd that Aaron was leaving to attend Moody Bible Institute and this would be his last Sunday with us. He then asked the men of the church to come forward and to pray over my boy. It wasn’t creepy and it didn’t offend my former feminist ways in case the mere thought of this bristles you.

Twice in a summer I have witnessed a moment like this.

My sandy-haired boy bowed his head and I realized at that moment, wow, this is the second child in a summer that I have seen kneeling before Jesus and his followers. (Click here to read about the first time with Nathan). We weren’t at West Point; we were in the suburbs of North Carolina but another one of my olive shoots was submitting his life to the Lord and receiving from His people, words of blessing and protection. Honestly, I think the statistics for something like this happening twice in a summer are quite small. And when I consider my wretchedness, I think it is nothing short of miraculous that something this beautiful could happen to me as a mother. And furthermore, this is the second time the orange hair, freckle face OS has laid hands on a brother and helped usher him into a new season of life. Not your everyday, run of the mill brother stuff but something lofty, holy and lovely.

The prayer didn’t last too long, no one spoke in tongues, snakes were not handled. 😉

Seeing godly men praying for my olive shoot, thank you Jesus for this glorious moment. That’s my orange hair, freckle face guy in the black shirt, his hands on his bro.

As the prayer finished and the men made their way back to their seats, Pastor Rob asked Aaron to stay up front for a moment.

And that’s when they gave Aaron another gift as if the gift of prayer, love, protection, shepherding, accountability and manly, godly leadership weren’t enough.

Sitting next to my boy one last time before college, Aaron getting his hymnal, the actual hymnal

He sweetly handed my boy the very first copy of our church’s new hymnal. The project Aaron had devoted hours on was finished and my OS got first dibs. Aaron hugged our pastors fiercely and shined like a diamond holding that hymnal in his hand. He sat down next to me and while he began flipping through the pages, I patted his knee, tears in my eyes. As sad as I think Aaron might feel about leaving his family, I think he feels even sadder leaving his church. He will be a part of our fellowship even if he’s thousands of miles away.

Here’s one of Aaron’s favorite songs, Jesus, Savior Pilot Me which can be found on page 82 in our hymnal. Surely I will think of the precious child who sat and snuggled next to me even as a teenager each Sunday morning. As a benefit of birthing this fine olive shoot, I too, was handed a copy of the hymnal which Aaron will be signing for me. I cherish it already. (Btw, yes, I’m crying while writing this.)

This is a cool song. Beautiful, timeless words. ❤

So today, we’ll see how it goes. One of us might be grouchy. The Hubs and I might bicker, the guys might not initiate folding the mounds of laundry. We are alas a very human bunch. Still, I will praise the Lord. I will exalt His name. I will rejoice in the blessings I am given, those moments when we transcend our selfishness, stubbornness and foolishness and I see extraordinary beauty in the land of the living. May it be so with you and those you love as well. ❤

Ambien – setback, stepback, not giving up

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Wednesday around 3am, I felt like a puny junior high girl in PE class…

Good times posing in the Kmart photo booth

Circa 1974ish

My opponent this time wasn’t the rope that was hooked to the gym ceiling that I never could climb at Jefferson Junior HIgh

And it wasn’t the chin-up bar from which I couldn’t pull myself to save my life or my dignity

Wednesday morning, I wasn’t the last one picked for the volleyball match or the girl who lost the softball game

in my red PE  shorts, red and white thin-striped polyester PE shirt with red trim, a lithe and flat female frame devoid of all muscle tone either

No, in the wee hours of Wednesday, I was in bed, in my pajamas, a grown woman!

but I just as felt defeated that night (or should I say morning) sleep mask, pillows, fan going full blast

Tired

because I took the stupid Ambien

it was 3am and I told the Lord I was going to do it

There have been times when I have told Jesus I was going to do something and I knew He wasn’t going to like it

I bet you have too

but I was so tired

and having been up with my orange hair, freckle face OS for yet another night

feeling helpless about how to care for him and desperate for some rest

I swallowed that tiny pill and fell asleep with my sick boy nearby

I continue to trust in the Lord

Middle school Cindy

Blocking out the Enemy’s voices that remind me of my failings

My Holy One is teaching me things

I may falter and get distracted

Day and night

Ambien and life

But there is grace

My Heavenly Father presides over me

And through Him, I can do all things

Even sleep

The Lord loved that little wimpy middle school Cindy way back then and is compassionate towards me now. I’m on his team, He picked me many years ago and doesn’t laugh at my shortcomings but gives me the courage to press on

And so I will try again and claim this promise

Isaiah 40:31 (KJV)

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Thanks for listening….I welcome your thoughts and prayers

Army strong – day one post surgery

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img_20111007_125642We’re sitting in a darkened room at Keller Army Hospital on a crisp autumn day at West Point.

Though my family often chides me for asking a lot of questions, today I think Nate at least would agree, that trait does have its merits.

I had myriad questions of the surgeon but didn’t barrage him. A mama wants to effectively advocate for her son.

If you’ve ever been to the doctor or had surgery, you understand how important it can be to have another voice speaking on your behalf.

In the short time he has been a patient at the hospital, I have run interference for my OS. When Nate was thirsty, I requested water, when he drank Sprite, I asked if he could have more.

Watching Rick Springfield in the waiting room. Pretty sure he's had a little surgery himself!
Watching Rick Springfield in the waiting room. Pretty sure he’s had a little surgery himself!

The medical staff have many patients, Aaron and I have one. It’s not being a diva or a prima donna, I’m not a Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton, just a mama, if I can do something quicker or easier, than I want to assist.

img_20111007_172711When Nate’s IV monitor was sounding “occlusion,” I fetched someone to investigate. When he thought he might throw up, I inquired of a barfing receptacle. I’m sure Nate would have managed but not very comfortably because he’s too weak to do much.

Aaron has faithfully stayed by Nate’s side even though there’s really nothing for him to do here. I am proud of my boy for his sacrifice and love.

Here’s an example of how Aaron and I have been a good team.

A short while ago, a male nurse came to help Nate with a basic biological function. Nate did not want my intervention (totally understood that!) so Aaron and I waited in the hallway.

Apple picking with my boy

Apple picking with my boy

The nurse gave Nate his privacy once he had transferred him to the toilet. He left the room and told Nate he would get him back to the bed. Nate used the restroom and Aaron and I stepped back in the room. Nate began to wobble and he looked white as a ghost. I yelled for Aaron’s help in case Nate fainted as I retrieved the nurse. Aaron stood by his brother’s side until the staff got him safely back to bed.

Now Nate is fast asleep, problem avoided, thank the Lord.

Seriously!

Thanks for your prayers, concern and support, it means so much to us. Army Strong!

Surgery – when the time is right, whenever that is!

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Unfortunately, the adage “expect the unexpected” and the expression “hurry up and wait” are true this morning as Nate’s surgery has been delayed.

He walked into the surgery room, mentally prepared to get his ACL fixed and walked right back out minutes later because of an equipment malfunction.

The night before, the three of us enjoyed dinner at Sushi King followed by ice cream just a few doors down the street. Nate was as ready as he could be for the surgery bright and early in the morning.

But at this point, my OS has been told that the equipment might not even be fixed today. The sterilizer is broken. I think that’s a good reason to postpone things however, my firstie is hungry, thirsty and frustrated, who can blame him?

Yesterday I found myself counting our blessings, taking stock of the goodness which has resulted through this trial. So instead of complaining which is unproductive, I’m going to concentrate on the positive. This is just a partial list and I hope to later include other blessings which have lifted our spirits.

Don”t be jealous, get your own ACL surgery 😉

My van is loaded with treats for Nathan. Cards and gifts from family as well as from people who don’t even know my boy! When Nate said he wanted me to bring him dehydrated apples, I obliged but a mother who doesn’t even know him also wanted to support a member of the military. She dehydrated a bunch of apples for Nate. They look delicious!

Bible Study friends holding a bag of dehydrated apples.
They donated 40 pounds of apples for my OS!
The women in my weekly Bible Study pitched in and bought a box of apples for me to dehydrate for my OS. We’re talking 40 POUNDS of apples! In addition, my Bible Study leader and another WP mom donated bags of apples for my healthy food project. Such bounty! When I popped open the back of the van to give Nate some of the things, his mouth was agape at the amount of apples he now has to enjoy! I felt so proud of my friends and the community of support.

The West Point networks for parents and mothers are extraordinary. Through a parent list-serve and a closed West Point Moms facebook group, I have been encouraged beyond measure. I learned about Mobilegs which is a lightweight crutch alternative. When I contacted the company and told them about Nate’s upcoming surgery, they eagerly offered me a military discount.

Nate trying on his Mobilegs before surgery.

The Mobilegs arrived at his barracks yesterday afternoon.

When we met Nate, he was grinning and carrying them. “I’m actually kinda excited to use them,” Nate remarked to me last night.

During dinner, when the owner of the restaurant learned that Nate was a West Point cadet having surgery the next day, he made him a free special mango sushi roll. Our spirits were high. Truly I’m learning that the little things we can all do for each other are very significant. THANK YOU SUSHI KING!!

Mango, cream cheese, crab sushi roll made
just for Nate – delicious kindness



Another great blessing was Aaron and I drove to West Point and enjoyed a scenic, pleasant trip. We got along 96% of the time and although the last 4% was pretty ugly (we were less than ten miles away from West Point!), our relationship quickly returned to its formerly happy state. 


And as if we hadn’t be given above and beyond what we even imagined, we had a surprise awaiting us. I opened the small closet in Nate’s hospital room and there, tucked in the far corner, I spotted the thing we never expected. A pair of bright red boxer briefs!!! Carefully I pinched the undies with my fingers and wiggled them at Nate! He was, um, speechless! I’m pretty sure an angel had left them there for my boy. It doesn’t get better than that, my friends!

A complimentary pair of undies left for Nate! What great fortune!

And there have been other blessings which I must acknowledge. Right now though I’m completely exhausted and trusting in the Lord’s perfect timing. Please know that your words and thoughtfulness are so meaningful. We’ll keep you posted…

Doing Hard Things – Nate needs a new knee in New York :(

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August 5, 2011 became a day our entire family will remember. For my oldest OS, it was not only a day that marked the passing of my grandma but Nate endured an additional painful moment that the rest of us didn’t.  

Nate in happier days!

It was an hour before completion of CLDT training at Fort Bliss. Overall it was a lackluster experience for my OS and I best leave it at that. Putting it mildly, Nate was ready for it to be over and to return to West Point for the beginning of his “firstie” aka senior year. Prior to leaving the base, Nate was relieving stress by joking around and wrestling with some of the other guys. The next thing he knew a much larger NCO (non-commissioned officer) pounced on Nate and threw him backwards. As he dropped to the ground, Nate heard the dreaded pop in his left knee.


In 2007, Nate first heard that “pop” during a soccer game. It marked the end of his soccer season for the year. My OS was 17 when he had knee surgery and began a long rehab for a torn meniscus and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). In time, he recovered well and was resolute in absolutely never having to relive that experience ever again. 

But the Lord had other plans on August 5th. Now on Wednesday, Nate returns to the operating room. Not in the comfortable environs of our hometown but this time at West Point. And on the same knee no less! Tomorrow my middle OS Aaron and I travel to New York to be with Nate before and after the surgery. According to the surgeon, my OS will have a different operation to fix the problem. Based on Nathan’s future job as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army, the surgeon advised him to have a patellar tendon graft. This is a harder surgery with a tougher rehab and an uglier scar but it insures better results for his long-term success. I guess you could say Nate will have a Soldier’s Knee.


My boy will have to summon a great deal of strength to heal from this surgery. With the help of his fellow cadets (let it be so!) and his faith in the Lord, I know he can do this but I hate that I will be so far away. Would it really be that awkward if I just stayed in the barracks and promised to not be a bother??? 😉 He will return back to class almost immediately whereas the last time, Nate recovered at home for nearly two weeks. Four years ago I could take care of him. I brought him food, as a family we helped him. Nate had plenty of visitors and attention, we all rallied around him. Now I will only be able to stay for a few days. His dorky brothers even had daily competitions on who could collect the most urine in the handy receptacle near his bedside, I doubt anyone is going to volunteer for that job! 

This is a leg brace; however when I had my ACL surgery
I called it the most horrible orthopedic device
ever created! How I loathed that thing!
Be of good courage, Nate! You can doey it!

Nate will be in a full leg immobilizer for six weeks. He’ll be hobbling all over the base and be expected to fully participate in West Point activities. Jesus knows my heart and hears my prayers. 


So to the extent I feel comfortable, I’m sharing part of my prayer with you, dear friends.

Suddenly plebe year is looking a lot easier
than recovering from ACL surgery AGAIN! 

Lord,

As you well know, I don’t understand the reason for this injury but I don’t have to comprehend all your ways. You don’t ask for my permission and I realize that. Forgive me as I acknowledge my weakness in this area for even questioning your sovereignty about why this happened again. Lord, in your perfect time, speak to me and give me ears to hear. Calm my anxious mama’s heart and allow me to trust You through this process. Reveal to my boy new things about who You are. Bless my child with Your presence when he is in pain and feeling discouraged. Surround him with the compassion and kindness of others and allow my boy to notice your manifold blessings. Though I will not always be near my son, you promise in your Word to never leave or forsake us. You never sleep, you are always present and that is a comfort to me. Lord, though his knees aren’t the greatest (!) you and I both know Nate is tough but so very tender hearted, thank you for fearfully and wonderfully making him this way. Because of You, he can do this hard thing! In Jesus’ name, amen.
One of my sweetest blessings = my boy

Thanks y’all for praying for Nate and caring enough to read this post…

Doing hard things – good days and bad days

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This was my Saturday post..since then I have made progress and didn’t give up after all. I’m choosing to document not only my moments of success but also times of setback and discouragement. I’m posting it because some of you might understand my struggles…


Now back to Saturday afternoon…

ergh

I want to give up and throw in the towel. Swimming is just too hard. Nothing seems to work. It’s too complicated, too many things to try and coordinate. I’m too old for this. I look stupid. When my arms are straight, they should be bent. When my legs are kicking, they should be pointed. People look so effortless in the water, strong, brave, athletic, they must be geniuses too. No one can convince me I have the same appearance, what is wrong with me?


This is where I am today. If you were looking for an encouraging word, this isn’t the blog post for you. Sorry, just being honest. Even typing these words creates anxiety within me. 


What quandary pervades my spirit! Competing forces – grief and gratitude, fear and courage, defeat and perseverance inhabit me. 

Swimming and grieving :&

Grief – My grandma was so dear to me. Someone I loved deeply is no longer in my life and it’s terribly painful without her. Mourning is tiring and I want to just crawl into a corner and cry. 


Gratitude – Yet I had a grandma for nearly 50 years, what right do I have to be sad? She brought immeasurable joy to me and lived 91 1/2 years! The Lord gave me a grandma for a longer time than most people. She led a storied life. Thank you Jesus for blessing me!


Fear – Moving forward without her is scary. And I’m finding that swimming is like grief. Is it ever going to feel natural being in the water? Living without my grandma?

This diving board is becoming my friend. 

Courage – Being a land tortoise is a thing of the past. This summer, the diving board and I have become friends, we’re not besties but we enjoy each other most of the time. Like it or not, I’m doing at least two Hard Things simultaneously – swimming and grieving (News flash…on Monday, my orange hair, freckle face OS told me I had “guts!” That meant so much to me!)

Um, yeah, that looks natural…NOT!

Defeat – I have been googling YouTube videos about the breast stroke. Who came up with this swimming maneuver? The breast stroke is a constant source of conversation in my house, when do I glide, breathe, lift my head? OY! This afternoon I practiced my breast stroke techniques perpendicularly on a kitchen stool and on the large leg rest in our family room. Even at the farmer’s market in the parking lot, I demonstrated a possible breast stroke move to the Hubs. None of it makes sense, am I on the brink of figuring it out or is this just another indication that I need to just count my losses and move on? 


Perseverance–  But I have made some progress with swimming. For the first time in my life, I went in a circle while swimming. Don’t ask me how I did it. Most of you do this effortlessly but until Wednesday, all I could do was swim in a straight line. Frankly, I most often swim (accidentally) diagonally. 

I have walked by this lap pool for years.
I jumped in it for the first time. 

I also went into the lap pool at our gym for the very first time. I plunged (sort of) into the much colder water and swam (terribly) two laps. Nearly died, gulping water, had a very unattractive choking spell while flapping my arms and legs at the wrong times but by golly, I did it. The plan is for me to return to this lap pool and eventually to feel comfortable enough with going there by myself. In the meantime, my trusty Hubs is by my side. 

I’m encouraged knowing I’m not the only one Doing Hard Things and pushing through these struggles. Thanks y’all.



Doing hard things – mourning and living

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Sitting by my grandma was always a cozy place

The rain that pounded on my window Saturday morning symbolized my heart. Something I have wanted to avoid and have long feared, had now come true. For the first time in my life, I awoke to being without my grandma. Tears have poured from my eyes for nearly a week and waking to this new reality was crushing.


Navigating through grief challenges us in the most basic of ways. What can we do to acknowledge our sadness but not paralyze daily living? How do we move forward in life while still honoring the memory of our loved one? Is it ok to still laugh and smile? 


So many of you can relate, I’m sure. Grief is complicated, isn’t it? 


Those torrents of rain granted me permission to stay in the house and do nothing but cry. But when the sun burst forth in the early afternoon, I knew I had two things to do. One was to go shopping for a dress for Ring Weekend, a very special celebration at West Point we will soon enjoy with our oldest OS. (stay tuned!)


And the other was not an task-related errand but something equally important. I had to go back to the swimming pool.

It’s hard to stay in the lane! 

My grandma was a fire-cracker, a whipper snapper, a kick in the pants kinda gal. She was a hard-headed, go-getter who didn’t let things keep her down for very long and I always admired those qualities.


So in honor of my grandma and because I believe the Lord has given me this summer to conquer my fears, I swam four laps. They were crooked and awkward. They were not exactly consecutive laps either. I did my own special version of what I believe you people call “breast stroke” and “back stroke.” During the back stroke, in the middle of the lap, I swam into the plastic lap divider rings. (I just realized I called them “lap” dividers not lane dividers, told you I was a swimming newbie!). Instead of just giving up, though, I found myself laughing, the Hubs nearby chuckled also. I’m exerting a tremendous amount of physical energy swimming because I don’t have all the movements synchronized. I’m aware of how silly I look but that is no longer a big concern. Considering all the sadness in my heart, it was a triumphant moment.

Then the perfunctory ten jumps into the deep end followed. The Hubs sat contentedly on the lounging chair as I began the task. Things were going well but then suddenly, while underwater, fear gripped me. I panicked and I doubted that I had enough air to make it safely to the side. The Hubs was reading a book, he had no idea. It was only after I grabbed the side of the pool that I was able to get his attention. From the poolside, I mouthed, “Hon, I’m struggling. I’m scared. I can’t do this. I’m done.”


Left to my own defenses, overwhelming grief combined with lack of confidence, I was ready to go home. Hadn’t I done enough, felt enough for one day? I didn’t see myself as a failure, I just felt like a grand-daughter mourning and that is part of what I am right now.


But the Hubs spurred me on. He said, “I’ll go in with you. Come on, let’s get back in the water.” With that, I returned to the water and not only did ten jumps into the deep end of the pool but I did an extra. The last one was for my grandma. I asked the Hubs to take a picture and yes, I’m crying while making a heart symbol. I will never forget you Grandma. Wherever I am, Grandma, I will carry you with me. 

I ❤ my grandma

I have no idea how I’m going to press on without one of the most significant people in my life but what choice do I have? Therefore I have to hope. Not in myself but in the power of Christ in me. It’s no accident that the Lord chose this summer to be a time of loss and gain. I know the Lord is changing me. 


I don’t really like this part of the process, it hurts like crud but I hear the voice of my grandma saying, “That’s great, Cin! I’m so proud of you!” she would giggle with delight. And I hear the voice of the Author of Life, my Sustainer, the Lifter of my head reminding me that “he who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it in Christ Jesus.”

Keep working on doing your own hard things. I am blessed by your prayers and comments.