Remembering Memorial Day – what a Soldier did for his younger brother on his wedding day

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photo 1With all the festivities surrounding my middle olive shoot’s wedding on Saturday #hartleywedding

The emotions, planning, celebrating and expectation

I forgot about Memorial Day

Until yesterday driving home from Delaware!

Though we never forgot about our oldest son who is deployed in Qatar

And longed for him to be with us physically

Our hearts broke with the reality that wasn’t going to be possible

But we found a way to bridge the distance

Nate was a part of the ceremony

I’m still trying to take it all in – the beauty of the day, the sweetness of the Lord

photo 5Where do I begin?

On this Memorial Day, I honor my Soldier

I was escorted down the aisle by my orange hair, freckle face OS – so proud was I for this honor

But my husband didn’t walk alone behind me –

Parting from tradition, the Hubs was also escorted –

Our Soldier “walked” with his dad, carried on my husband’s iPhone

Then our Army Ranger “sat” on his dad’s lap and saw the wedding from the same perspective as the rest of us

It was about 6:15PM, Qatari time

Nate wore his Army fatigues

Observing the event in the middle of a desert

The pastor welcomed family and friends

He paused and told the crowd of about 140 people

Someone very significant was missing from the wedding

Aaron’s older brother, Nate

At that moment, this YouTube video was played

Our Army Ranger welcomed his new sister into the family and he read 1  Corinthians 13 from the Bible

photo 4

Nate reverently saw the bride and groom exchange vows thanks to Facetime

Oh friends, if you knew what comfort it was to have Nate with us

It’s a good thing I was sitting because I would have needed a chair

Such was the extent of pride and love I carried within me

In a way, we have already celebrated Memorial Day

We represent countless military families that get creative

Surmount the obstacles and offer support

What a day, what a life, what a fount of blessings

I scarce can take it in…

 

 

 

 

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When you’re a military family, Veterans’ Day takes on a whole different meaning

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2013-07-12 11.21.47Soon

very soon

my West Point grad, my Army Ranger, my handsome, beloved son will go to a faraway place

Not for vacation

Or to get married – though this will happen soon enough

But somewhere distant that brings a sense of fear over me if I’m having one of those days.

And so this whole Veterans’ Day thing is much more meaningful to me than it was, let’s say ten years ago.

(She types embarrassingly).

Last Friday, my orange hair, freckle face olive shoot sang in the school choir for a local Veterans’ Day celebration.

2013-11-08 18.18.25That in and of itself, is notable since Ike will not be dropping a CD anytime soon though he jokes that he is the songbird of his gen- eration. Hearing him sing, “God Bless America” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic” (my personal favorite) caused me to grab the bag of tissues I brought expressly for that purpose.

My tears were mixed though because this year, another veteran in the family was missing. My father-in-law. For reasons we will probably never understand this side of heaven, he has been taken from us. Not by death but by a person. Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia contributed to the cause but the cruelty of it all is too painful to even share.

Grey-haired military people filled the community center. These folks still beam with pride when their song is played. It was not a time of  preference over which branch served – Army, Marines, Coast Guard, National Guard, even Navy (inside Army joke), were honored equally. There was solidarity and appreciation. I was among the ranks of those who love the “Armed Forces Salute” although apparently many of Ike’s classmates noted that I spazzed out during the Army song. I tried to be as discreet as possible! I couldn’t help it!

Two proud chunksters

Two proud chunksters

But little did I know, I wasn’t the only one who got choked up during the per- formance.

A certain someone whose name I can’t mention also had to push back the tears. It’s hard to sing and cry. Thinking about his brother, re- membering his grandpa, watching the 93-year-old man sputtering out Taps on his trumpet maybe for the last time, it got to a certain little stoic olive shoot. For the record, he DID NOT cry, he just wanted to for a brief, oh so brief moment!

As an American, I find myself proud of how we honor our veterans. In Brazil, for example, they do not have such a holiday. They have Children’s Day, Dentist Day and Teacher Day but no Veterans’ Day. To serve in the military is a rarity and something not especially appreciated according to my reliable source, my borrowed Brazilian olive shoot. They are proud of their country but those in the armed forces do not receive any special recognition for their service. I thought all countries had their own Veterans’ Day.

Today I remember those in my family who are in the military, past and present. I remember our honored friend, Colonel Eric Kail who was my son’s mentor whether he knew it or not. We love and miss him. Thank you all, bless you all. Happy Veterans’ Day.

Here is Ike and others in the choir singing “God bless America.” It is the land that I love.

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.

2013-06-16 11.00.56

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?!

One-word prayers

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Before having our first dinner of 2013 –

photo copy 4And after the Hubs had prayed,

I had an idea

(A truly beautiful idea if you ask me)

Initially it wasn’t warmly received

But I insisted

And so we went around the dining room table

Falafel, salad, mung bean sprouts and such, they paused

Cherishing these moments together

Cherishing these moments together

Three precious olive shoots

– A Soldier

– A ministry-minded middle

– An orange hair, freckle face sophomore

The Hubs and I

Offered a one-word prayer for the person to our left

Here are the brief utterances we spoke to each other

The one-word prayers we shared for each other. I am curious to see how these words are fulfilled.

The one-word prayers we shared for each other. I am curious to see how these words are fulfilled.

A simple, carefully selected word emerged from our lips individually

Handpicked from God, I’d like to think

A collective sigh of relief

And blessing manifested

As we feasted (finally) on all we had been given

photo copy 2

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. ❤

Dads

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My husband didn’t really know what he wanted to be when he grew up. As a young boy, aside from aspiring to be like Jacques Cousteau, he didn’t have a dream profession. 

One of my all-time fave pics of the Hubs

But the one thing the Hubs says he always wanted was to be a dad. 


On April 12, 1990, I assisted him in achieving this dream, thank you very much, when Nate was born. Our baby had a cone-head but to us, he was gorgeous. Four years later, the Hubs’ prayers were answered again this time with Aaron. Our middle OS was a juicy butterball, we were smitten. Lastly, in 1996, the Hubs became the father of a ginger. Ike is our orange hair, freckle face child who routinely makes life interesting. The Hubs is the youngest of three sons. He knows what it’s like to live with brothers and now he can speak with authority about raising sons. That’s pretty cool if you ask me. 

Look at that snappy dresser rockin’ the red tie!



I surveyed the long list of prospective suitors and husbands fancying me nearly 25 years ago. 🙂 Trust me when I say that the field of eligible men was miles long.  Seriously! ;% I considered each man’s potential spousal and parental qualifications and compiled graphs and charts or at least that’s how I’m choosing to remember things! Finally out of a field of many (ahem), I picked the Hubs. God has reminded me that I chose well. 

There ain’t nothing wimpy about needing your dad

Observation of the Hubs‘ impressive skills as a father have come to light during our recent health concerns with Aaron. Per Aaron’s request, the Hubs was often upstairs by his side. Our 16 year old OS wanted his daddy to rub his head. When teenage guy is reduced to saying, “Daddy,” you know he’s in pain.  


I can attest to Mark’s talents. When the Hubs and I were first married, he would rub my head and gently tug on my hair when my head felt like it was going to burst due to migraines. 


Our bedroom was clothed in darkness, the Hubs sat next to his sweet boy and rubbed his head with just the right amount of pressure. Then on Saturday night, we sat by Aaron’s bedside at the hospital. Aaron could barely utter a word. The pain was so great. With it being the third hospital visit in days, the Hubs and I were worried and exhausted. As desperate and tired parents, we felt helpless but I heard Mark when he said aloud by the bed rail, “give this to me.” 

Three year old Nate with a fractured skull, don’t recommend it

Without a second thought, the Hubs would have traded brains with our son. If he could have assumed Aaron’s excruciating pain, he would have done it. I felt that way when Nate was three years old and he fell out of our second-story bedroom window. Our oldest OS suffered a fractured skull and as we waited for the test results in the waiting room, I told the doctor that if Nate needed any body part, any part at all, the doctor could take it from me and I would die, no questions asked. I gave him permission without hesitation. My hope is that everyone who reads this post has no idea what I’m writing about but if you’re a parent, you probably get it. 


Through all of this I too, have cried out for my Father. My Heavenly Father listened to my pleas and sustained me. I have sensed His presence and leaned on Him for strength. 


The Hubs wasn’t saying “give this to me” to anyone but the Lord. Such is the father’s love for his son. As I hear the sweet sounds of my middle OS strumming on his guitar, this Wednesday night is especially lovely. 

Five Piece Puzzle, Sort Of

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For years now we have called ourselves the “five piece puzzle.” We have said that there are only five people in the entire world with our last name (which for confidentiality reasons, I’m not using here). We are surely not saying we are better than any other person in the world, but we’ve always wanted our OSs (olive shoots) to feel special, that being a member of this family is a blessing.


Now that our oldest OS is off at West Point, doing West Point-y kind of things, we are establishing new patterns. On Thursday we went to a local soccer game. It was sad getting only four tickets for the game but nice to do something fun.  We scrambled out the door, I grabbed the camera and then I 
picked up one more thing. I got a picture of Nate and brought him along to the game, sort of. I placed the small picture frame into my United States Military Academy Bag (of course.)

We arrived at the soccer center and took Nate out of the bag.  As usual Nathan was fun to have around. I mean we seriously had a great time with him. The people around us probably thought we were a bunch of goofballs and I secretly wanted someone to ask me what we were doing, but alas, no one did. Shucks. But we had a blast. Correction, Mark and I had a blast pretending Nate was by our side.

I took pictures of Aaron and Nate in random poses…the contemplative, model-like shots were among my faves. 

Sometimes our oldest OS can be a little fussy so boy oh boy, were we surprised when Nathan actually wanted to get a picture with the team mascot Soar. Soar was pretty excited about it too. I think they might be BFF


Nate even sat on his dad’s lap which is something he hasn’t wanted to do for ages! As you will see, we all had a five piece puzzle type of night. 

There is a movie, Lars and the Real Girl, I want to recommend which my husband and I loved. It’s a little strange but very endearing. It is not inappropriate, I don’t think there were any swear words or nasty stuff although the original premise might sound suspicious, check it out! 

Don’t worry about me, I am not delusional, I am in touch with reality, aware of my surroundings and such. I’m just a mom who misses her boy and thinks sometimes laughter is easier than tears