Five minute Friday – beautiful

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A few members of my beautiful, imperfect, in process people I call my family.

A few members of the beautiful, imperfect, in-process people I call my family.

Beautiful doesn’t mean perfect –

Cindy Crawford is outwardly perfect

Cindy W-H (me) isn’t…

So when I reflect upon my life

There are plastic times when things on the outside might have looked good or better than they do now

But they were hideous had you looked much deeper

Families are beautiful but a lot of effort

Searching for sparkly pretties in a heap of ashes – much effort required

It is messy work, I have been warned

The pastor said something the other day that has resonated with me profoundly this week –

Here's something imperfect and not so beautiful. I had a few unbeautiful moments when I discovered this in my fridge.

Here’s something imperfect and not so beautiful = sideways milk. I confess I had a few unbeautiful moments when I discovered this in my fridge…

Just remember the people you are with, they are in- process too.

And he said this too, which I wrote down because it sounded so good.

Life for those who love Jesus is not like a Russian novel that just ends in horror and despair. It has a purpose that will work together for good, the Lord’s process. “Remember,” my pastor said, “that He’s strip-mining you, He’s designed us to live through struggles, pain, confusion, weakness and suffering. Your relationship to God determines the meaning of your life.”2013-07-04 10.45.52

Something beautiful will result for those who love Jesus – we belong in the next world. This isn’t science fiction. This is promise.

Father, I seek to appreciate the beautiful, imperfection of this earthly home and can’t wait to see all the treasures and sparklies in the world ahead.

5minutefridayThank you Five Minute Friday for giving me a chance to write about this word! Check it out and join the writing explosion!

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!

Five minute Friday – fall

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I want things to be nice but never perfect.

I want things to be nice but never perfect.

When I have company over, there is temptation.

If I want things to be perfect, I fall into pride.

If the night didn’t gel as I had hoped, like, let’s say, the Hubs got on my nerves the entire evening (true story) I fall into despair.

It’s when I give the occasion to the Lord that I see the greatest rewards.

When the birthday party, dinner company, gathering of friends is marinated in prayer, that’s when everyone has the sweetest fellowship.

IMG_20110120_185631I once had a family member come over for dinner with his family.

They do not know Jesus and before they arrived, I prayed for us to have a special night together.

Strangely enough, as I asked the Lord what to serve this family, I sensed God said “barbecue chicken.”

I realize this might sound like a really stupid prayer and even more so, a really weird answer. You talk to God about food? He talks to you about barbecue chicken? Come on.

My answer is I talk to God about everything and occasionally chicken is part of our conversation. Jesus is my friend and he is intimately involved in my life, so yes poultry is even an open topic for us. Don’t you talk to your best friend about everything?

So this isn’t a usual main dish for me to cook but I listened to His voice and guess what? Barbecue chicken was this person’s favorite meal! I had no idea!

5minutefridayTime and time again, these things have happened to me where God confirms that He was with me the entire time. Falling into his arms, relinquishing the moments into His will keeps me focused on the right thing, serving Jesus by serving others.

Five Minute Friday is a gathering of super cool people who all write for five minutes about one word. If you’re up for the challenge, join us!

Entertaining thoughts about entertaining – getting kids ready for guests

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Lemonhead party!

Lemonhead party!

If we know you are coming over to our house, there are things we do before you arrive. As the mama of three sons, one of whom is currently in Ranger School, I have learned that in military terms, presumably we could call it a “movement.”

We straighten up – usually a vacuum is pushed throughout the area you will visit. There is often dusting beforehand and the bathroom is cleaned. The bathroom deserves its own post though, more on that later.

There they are wearing those collared shirts. We had a guest from El Salvador visiting us among other special people.

There they are wearing those collared shirts. We had a guest from El Salvador visiting us among other special people.

They put on a nice shirt– although my boys moaned and groaned about this, we found that the mere act of putting on a collared shirt indicated they were part of the team. In our family we call it W-H style since those are the initials to our last name. Changing out of regular clothes means something special is going to happen. The collared shirt (usually a polo shirt, rarely long-sleeved)  signifies that our family, every single one of us, not just Dad and Mom, is having company. Even if only one person is invited, the level of alert is heightened.

We rehearse – Just as we had practice training sessions about manners, throughout the years, our family still goes over a list of duties before people show up.

“Ike, you’re in charge of water and drinks. Make sure no one’s glass remains empty.”

“Aaron, don’t talk too much, let others also speak and try to sit still.”

“Nate, when we’re done with dinner, gather up the plates.”

All the guys had a purpose.

So maybe you’re wondering –

Did it always work perfectly? Of course not! We never expected things to be flawless but there was a standard.

Always the life of the party, that's my Aaron!

This guy needs more than a collared shirt! My Aaron!

Did your kids feel like robots devoid of any personality? You haven’t been to our house if you’re asking that question! No, they actually had more freedom because of the rules. We made it fun and not overly formal.

Collared shirts every single time? Not every single time but often. Freshly showered, collared young men are so adorable. Sometimes they would dab a bit of cologne on before bounding down the stairs. The hint of manly fragrance on their middle school necks always made my heart grin and grow wistful. I wish those days back again quite honestly. When the doorbell rang, we were ready for our guests’ arrival. We appreciated them coming into our home.

And I must share this.

Our guests appreciate these touches although most might not even realize what happened behind the scenes. They are just blessed and isn’t that the whole point to entertaining, blessing someone? The minimal preparation we employed allows our guests to be at ease. In some way it announces this family is ready and we have things (slightly) under control.

Last summer, my oldest OS rented a house near Fort Benning and he and his buddies hosted a gathering. Nate called me for advice on menu selection and such. He even wanted to make sure he served a salad (this melted my heart). My boy wanted people to feel welcome in his home. I’m sure my Soldier was a gracious host and maybe he even wore a collared shirt!

And we recently had a 51st birthday party for the Hubs. It was a Lemonhead theme because it’s his favorite candy. The orange hair, freckle face OS  was an integral part of the planning and a huge help before, during and after the event.

But true to form before the guests arrived, Ike asked the standard question. “Do I have to wear a collared shirt?” As this picture indicates, Ike got his answer.

Those are two very lemony collared shirts, don't you think?

Those are two very lemony collared shirts, don’t you think?

Out of all my boys, Ike is very gifted with hos- pitality. His servant’s heart has parlayed into him having a little part-time job at a nearby event venue. He’s the guy walking around with hors d’oeuvres and refilling non-alcoholic drinks. So I guess being a good host, getting kids ready for company has paid off both here and away from home. The more we do it, the better we become as both guests and faithful stewards of our home.

So what are the little things you do before you have dinner guests? Do you even dare try? It is scary! How have you prepared your kids to co-host special times at your house?

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?

Five minute Friday – imagine

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IMG_8765Do you ever wonder

or imagine

what life would have been like?

If you had married another person?

IMG_3623Had children of a different gender?

Lived elsewhere?

Grown up in ways that you never knew?

Have you ever mused –

What if you had played a sport?

Continued to play an instrument?

Really pursued that gift or calling?

I do not regret my life in the slightest but sometimes I imagine. Having a daughter. Being Italian. Playing the flute. Writing a book. Living in Europe. Being rich. Stuff like that.

While taking a walk with the Hubs the other day, I started imagining life differently. He’s a good Hubs and listens because he knows I don’t want to be with anyone else but him living this life.

And you know what?

I always come up with

I like my life with my Hubs and three olive shoots.

There are many aspects of the past I would prefer to bypass

But I see God’s hand

How He ordered my days – three sons, North Carolina, Jesus follower who loves kale

And I can’t imagine being anyone else.

5minutefridayWhat do you imagine?

(Check out this fun writing prompt each Friday! It’s a highlight of my week and I love reading the other posts people write about the same word!)

Colonel Kail is my friend, part two

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Eric and his family.

Eric and his family.

Lord willing, Colonel Kail will have a retirement ceremony on 31 May at West Point, then the packers will come three days later.

With the diagnosis of stage 4 transitional cell carcinoma, life began to drastically change for the Kail’s. The one thing that hasn’t wavered but remained steadfast is Eric’s optimism and faith.

Eric is an awesome dad and husband. He’s a Colonel in the United States Army and has also served for over 25 years as an Army Field Artillery Officer in both conventional and special operations units. He has several combat deployments, including Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom, and Iraqi Freedom. Eric also has a PhD in organizational psychology. His latest assignment was as the course director for military leadership at West Point.

Impressed? You should be!

Here’s where you come in. Would you be so kind as to pray for this man? Eric has a few medical procedures to complete prior to heading for Texas. A few new spots on the spine and sacrum causes weakness in his right leg and severe pain and stiffness in both legs.

Though he moves around like a 90-year-old man, Eric retains his wit and wisdom.

In return for your prayers, with Eric’s permission, I am sharing a recent experience he had at the airport.

Here’s the remarkable thing that happened to him at the airport.

I’m very prone to take matters into my own hands and to gut things out, get the mission done without complaining. I was beginning to feel like my ability to do certain things was dropping off and a book I was reading allowed me to spend time covering God’s instructions to Elijah.

Specifically, delivering bad news to Ahab then going to live in a cave during a drought.

God told Elijah that he would have birds bring him food; not the kind of delivery we think about for food these days. Now, I’m not by any means comparing myself to Elijah, but the lesson was clear.

God will provide every internal and external resource needed to do what He calls us to do.

Well, the day after I read this story I met a complete stranger in a crowded airport lounge.

He was an Indian man who is a missionary living in the U.S. and still tied to missions work in India aimed at reaching their remote tribal populations.

In fact, his son had died in his 20s while working as a missionary in a remote tribal village.

We began discussing what we did and he asked about what God has called me to do through my battle with cancer.

I shared with him that unless my health took a positive swing, that I may have to curtail my speaking engagements and such.

Then he asked me if I knew much about Elijah.

I laughed and shared with him about what I had read the day before.

As my son would say, "Colonel Kail is the man!"

As my son would say, “Colonel Kail is the man!”

So, we stopped what we were doing and he prayed for me right there in the middle of a very crowded airport lounge.

He prayed specifically that God would make clear his provisions for me and my family as we set out to do His work.

No way it was an accident that this man and I spent an hour together in a crowded public spot.

It gets better.

The next day, my devotional was from 1 Kings, specifically Elijah’s meeting the widow who had just enough flour and oil to make one last meal for her and her son before they died.

Elijah instructed her to make some bread for him too, and that God would provide for her until the drought was over. She did and her flour and oil never ran out.

However, her son did die while Elijah was staying as guest in her home. She asked if this was a curse from God. Elijah took the boy up to his bed, laid on top of him, and prayed three times for God to restore the boy’s spirit to his body. God did just that.

So, I get the message pretty clearly.

Our natural default is to look for our own strength and resources to do even what God has called us to do, when He will supply all we need.

This is hard to do when coordinating things like a final move, buying a home, arranging travel, conducting a retirement ceremony, and oh yes, battling cancer.

Just like meeting Eric and Gigi at Sunday School many years ago in Apex, North Carolina, God arranged for Eric and this man to bond in a crowded airport lounge. What were the chances of that? I love seeing God move in his people.

Let’s move spiritual mountains for Colonel Kail. Share this with others too.

Eric and Gigi

Eric and Gigi

Please pray specifically for the following:

– That scheduling for moving would fall into place
– That the nerve pain and limited mobility would not get any worse between now and beginning treatment
– That the MRI of his brain would show success of the procedure and no other tumors
– That there wouldn’t be any flare ups while in transit from NY to TX
– That he can physically able to do his retirement ceremony on 31 May

In addition, he has promised to commission FIVE cadets at West Point next weekend. He swore our son in last year and it was such a meaningful honor.

Let us pray without ceasing for this man who so freely gives to others. Bless you, Colonel Kail!

Here is the background story if you missed it.