Living vicariously and loving it

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I have had my share of life adventures. Some of these adventures I can tell my family and future grandbabies, others aren’t exactly edifying and need to remain hidden. Oh well! But I am not finished with having exciting stories before the Lord brings me home one day. This summer, I haven’t really been anywhere especially incredible but I’ve been truly content with staying close to home, taking care of my family doing what the world would say is “boring stuff” although I don’t personally think so.   


But about 18 months ago, I went to El Salvador on a mission trip and something I never expected has happened as a result. This short-term mission trip was the second time I had gone out of the country to serve the Lord. In no way could you was it a vacation yet I experienced many incredible, anointed, beautiful, positive adjective-filled moments. 

Inside the prison

The one moment that will forever shine in my heart, however was when we spent time in the girls’ prison just outside San Salvador. Tucked in the hustle and bustle of El Salvador’s capital, the girls’ prison is next to an orphanage. As we approached the compound, little boys crowded around our van, some with dirty t-shirts and threadbare tennis shoes so worn we could see their overgrown toes sticking out. We greeted them but directly checked in with the prison guards to begin our work. The guards escorted us to a room full of teenage girls who didn’t really look as if they had committed any serious crimes. I felt comfortable and at ease among them even though I knew several of them had done very bad things. 


The girls at the prison warmly greeted us with hugs and complimented me on the blue-tinged highlights in my hair. Then we began to share with them. My friend and former work colleague, Beth Anne told her story of redemption and the girls were deeply moved. A beautiful El Salvadoran young woman named Lu  translated for us and allowed us to boldly speak of Christ’s unending love for all of us sinners. 

Beth Anne and Lu crammed into the car

I had grown quite fond of Lu in the car ride to the prison. Her English was exceptional and she was at ease with us gringos. While cramped in the car, Lu inquired about our lives. I began to speak about my family and told her about my children. 


When I began to talk about Nathan, my oldest OS, as is my custom, I began to cry. Just the thought of my boy filled me with love and pride. But no sooner had I started crying, then I noticed that Lu had tears in her eyes also. Casually I mentioned that she and Nate would like each other and suggested that they be facebook friends. 


In the back of my mind, I thought to myself that Nate would find both Lu and her friend Tatiana quite beautiful. I was certain my OS would be more than willing to be kind to these girls.

Tatiana and Lu during my mission trip to El Salvador

Um, that is an understatement.


Because now fast forward 18 months and you’ll never guess who is in El Salvador.


Yes, my oldest OS Nathan is in El Salvador.


And I wouldn’t exactly say he’s on a mission trip but he is on a mission and in my estimation one of the coolest and sweetest missions a young man will ever undertake.


Since leaving El Salvador, Nathan has been talking to Lu. For countless hours, the two have been chatting till the wee hours of the morning and have become wildly crazy about each other. 

On Monday, after weeks of anticipation and planning, immediately upon completing his Beast detail at WP, my OS flew to meet Lu for the very first time face to face. It was a surreal experience to go from the rigors of West Point to a tropical land in Central America. And wow, it was even wilder when Nate boarded the plane from Miami to San Salvador and discovered that he actually knew the pilot taking him there! It turns out that the pilot is the father of a high school classmate and friend. Here’s the pic of Nate in the cockpit! We received a phone call from the dad telling us he had flown Nate to see Lu! 

Nate and the pilot – we actually personally know this guy and weren’t expecting him to personally fly Nate to El Salvador. I guess Nate is a pretty big deal after all! HA!

The beautiful young lady I spent two and half days with in prison is now my son’s girlfriend. The translator who helped us share the love of Christ in a girls’ prison now occupies a great deal of space in my son’s heart. There were moments in prison when the spirit of the Lord was so intense, we were again moved to weep. Beth Anne, Lu, the girls, me and even the prison guards were reduced to tears. Speaking of God’s love and forgiveness and what He has done in our lives, how utterly humbling to be in that place. In so many ways, I am happy I made this trip. Now I am even happier. 

I am deeply blessed to say that I love both of them. While on the mission trip, I saw firsthand Lu’s heart for the Lord, 
her compassion and kindness, not to mention her outward gorgeousness (if that’s a word!) It made me fall in love with her before my son did. Until Monday, I was the only person who had ever occupied the same physical space with both of them. As of Monday, that changed.


Only the Lord knows where this story goes from here. We are all praying and depending on our Heavenly Father to order the steps for this relationship. I need permission to tell more about things but trust me, I want to tell you as it would give us all hope and inspiration. 

Until then, I’m living vicariously and loving it! Stay tuned!

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Angels Unaware

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p1040172When my OS began his exploration into attending West Point, so did I.

We were about to embark on an exciting journey and I had no clue what he was getting himself and the entire family into!

I was so clueless about West Point, the United States Military Academy, I had to google search west+point.

Where is West Point anyway?

That’s when I found it is far away. Far away as in New York. Far away as in a 10 hour drive, but about 15 hour of driving time if I’m in the car accounting for potty breaks and not including an overnight stay at a nice hotel. Yes, I am ever so slightly high maintenance.

It just so happened the Lord had placed in our lives a great couple, Gigi and Eric. Eric is a professor at West Point and we met here when he was in our state completing his doctorate degree and attending our church and Sunday School class. When the family left for a two year class assignment to Korea, we thought we would never see them ever again, this side of heaven.

But that was not the Lord’s will and soon, they will return to West Point. We will re-connect with them! When our son was accepted at West Point, Eric called us all the way from Korea and lovingly, honestly explained what R-Day was going to be like for us as parents.

In a word – HARD!

After speaking with him on the phone, I literally collapsed on my carpet, unsure of how I was going to handle parting with my treasured boy. And not only saying goodbye but doing it in under two minutes.

99068-photo250Enjoy this picture I took thanks to my Mac Photo Booth aptly conveying my sentiments last year.Very attractive, huh?

Since then we have pressed on. And we have been blessed. We have met amazing people who have extended themselves in ways I never expected. I see how the Lord’s hand has linked us up with caring families who have been there for us and our OS.

For example, Peggie, a West Point mom whom I never met when I called her because we have a mutual acquaintance. Peggie allowed me to cry on her proverbial shoulder. I barely got one sentence out of my mouth, before the Lacrimal Glands got activated. She was such an encouragement and she listened like a mama who’s been there, done that. And she still spoke in full sentences which gave me hope that I could actually live through this experience with some semblance of sanity.

aa0c5-p1070259Then there have been the Hoffman’s who take Nate out regularly when they visit their plebe at West Point. Patti gives our OS an obligatory hug from me and has loved my boy as if he were her own. This family knows no bounds of kindness. Such a beautiful lady who even did an eyebrow trim for my husband when we were all together at Plebe Parent Weekend! I love these people! How many of your girlfriends can you ask to trim your husband’s eyebrows??? Those friends are few and far between!

p1070333Merrily is a gem too. Although recently faced with the loss of her husband, she is a resilient mama of a very fine plebe. That lady is someone that from the minute she called me on the phone one day after communicating via her husband’s blog, I felt an instant connection to and we ended our first conversation saying, “I love you” and meaning it. 

 

And then there’s Kim. Kim works at West Point and she’s a grad. Very huah but in no way obnoxious. Kim understands what it’s like to be a cadet and she’s a mother which is a perfect combination. 

When Nate’s birthday rolled around on April 12th, Kim dropped off in our son’s room, a bouquet of balloons, a big birthday card and an ice cream party certificate. She has offered to take my OS out for pizza, invited him to an Easter dinner, truly extended herself in ways I could have never imagined. And we have only met once when she recognized me at A-Day. I had a broken foot and a scooter, so I was an easy target and she has been reading my blog for a while. I felt so fancy when she came up and introduced herself! Since then, we have kept in touch and when I have offered to reimburse Kim for her generosity, she quickly rebuffs my offer, saying she does these things gladly and free of charge. Oh, how I am blessed!

 
I am reminded of the Scripture found in Hebrews 13:2 “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” 
 
I reflect on this journey thus far and sometimes can’t believe how fast my son’s plebe year has passed! I praise the Lord because we have survived, occasionally even thrived. We have all learned things about ourselves, our strength, the importance of faith and prayer and developing an extended sense of family. 

 
Y’all, I am meeting angels. Not the fluttering kind with halos and wings but still divine messengers of God who have lighted this path with compassion. I hope you have been meeting some along your way as well, wherever it may be…

April 12th

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Nineteen years ago today, I became a mom. At 6:17pm after an expedient but immensely painful four hour labor, without the epidural I begged for, I held a precious cone-headed boy in my arms. My baby. Who cared if he had a cone-head, he was stunningly perfect. And he was mine to love forever. 


Nineteen years later, the head is back to its normal shape and size but he will always be my baby. You know what is even better? He still lets me call him Baby. He even responds to it. My baby who is now a young man. Strong, handsome, honorable, intelligent, funny, the adjectives pour out of me, I am crying as I write this.

My son, aptly named Nathaniel, means Gift of God. And like all good mommies, I have loved this child from the moment I heard I was pregnant and shake my head in wonder how someone like ME and my DH were bestowed with such a blessing.

Today is Nathan’s birthday and it is Easter and he is not here and that kind of stinks for two reasons.

1. I am used to having my son home for his birthday. 
2. I am used to having my son home for Easter. 

As I was decorating my dining room table, tears welled in my eyes realizing there is one less plate around the table. My baby is where he belongs. He is at West Point. 


I don’t want to sound maudlin, although I do really like that word. I also don’t want to look ahead either because I know once my OS has graduated from USMA, he will be serving our country elsewhere. And it’s the “elsewhere” part that can really get my Lacrimal Glands going, if you know what I mean. I don’t need to borrow trouble. 

Like most WP moms/dads/families who celebrate Easter, my cadet is there and I am here. We have to get used to this, buckle up our boot straps, put our big girl panties on, blah, blah, blah, but y’all, I’m still sad and wistful. Thinking back to all the April 12ths where I woke up and hugged my boy tightly as he rolled out of bed, where did that time go? Or the April 12ths when I scooped him up out of his crib wondering if I would ever get a good night’s sleep.  Poof, they are now history.

And as is our family custom, in all the subsequent April 12ths, Nate would have finely festooned presents awaiting him at the kitchen table. One year a Barney, another year a dollhouse (it’s a LONG story and for the record, HE didn’t want the dollhouse), a bike but this year, I sent his presents away. My kitchen table has the Sunday paper and is decorated with crumbs and cereal bowls. Sigh. Poo. 
My friend Beth Anne gave me a present last year as we were preparing for Nathan’s departure to West Point. I have such kind and loving friends, I actually got presents at Nate’s farewell party! But my friend Beth Anne gave me something that will sit atop the dining room table this Easter dinner. I placed it there last night and of course, the Lacrimal Glands activated. They are in full activation mode as I write this, folks. 


To me this little figurine describes how I feel. I hold my Soldier close to my heart wherever he is. Now it’s West Point, one day it will be “elsewhere.” I hold all my OS intimately in my heart and praise the Lord, the other two are still home to annoy/love/pester/snuggle/amuse me.

Today I celebrate two things which have changed my life.  Nearly 2000 years ago, Jesus, the perfect, matchless Son of God rose from the dead to give me and the entire world, eternal life and victory over sin. I asked Him into my heart 12 years ago and have never been the same. 

And the other blessed event happened a fleeting 19 years ago when that same Jesus allowed me to become a mother to my Gift of God. Happy birthday Baby!