Five minute Friday – encouragement

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2014-01-03 18.44.52 photo 14Encouragement is doing something because you want to not because it feels like an obligation.

It is going beyond a perfunctory one-word statement on a facebook wall – which I have done also to be fair

Unexpected flowers from my orange hair, freckle face olive shoot and a family friend - fragrant encouragement!

Unexpected flowers from my orange hair, freckle face olive shoot and a family friend – fragrant encouragement!

Those usually produce the opposite of encouragement, quite honestly

But encouragement is a stretch of action and heart to make an effort to say

You matter

I care

I want to help

You are not alone

Many times when I am feeling low, it’s hard to acknowledge I crave help and attention. What if people don’t follow through? What if they said they wanted to help but now suddenly, they make it clear it wasn’t really sincere? 5minutefriday

As I begin week three of recovering from foot surgery, the Lord has used unexpected people to encourage me

A visit from a busy mom after my surgery which then allowed my husband to take our son to see his fiancée in Delaware2014-01-03 19.45.57

A meal prepared by Brazilian friends who wouldn’t let me lift a foot or a finger!

A delicious choc olate/caramel apple beautifully wrapped and other tasty delights delivered with smiles and happiness

Homemade dinners and offers to take me out to run errands

A lunch after Bible study, a ride back home ❤

God has also used certain family members to make my immobile life bearable –

Encouragement gives the heart confidence to carry on

Thank you to all who encourage me on this blog and throughout life. It means so much!

How have others encouraged you this week?

This post was inspired by the sassy gang at Lisa-Jo Baker’s weekly Five Minute Friday!

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A name, an identity, a mom and a son…

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fam303When my oldest olive shoot leapt in my womb, I loved thinking about his potential name. I very much like my first name and realized the great responsibility given a parent to pick just the right one. After all, it’s going to stick with them all his/her life, right?

The Hubs and I kicked around a lot of first names before finding the right one for him.

The one thing I knew for sure was that Nathan would have a distinctive last name.

A last name that was hyphenated.

This idea was not met with thunderous applause. In our extended family, my mother-in-law, (may she rest in peace) said some regrettable things about our decision. That only made the woodworm of pride dig deeper in me. Nothing and no one could thwart my resolve.

So on that treasured spring day, my baby entered the world. We signed the birth certificate, sent out birth announcements and we all settled into family life. Two brothers later, 4/5 of our family are known by our special last name. It rarely presented an issue.2013-07-04 07.36.20

But when Nate decided to go to West Point, he began to mention that people were perplexed about what to call him. His first last name? His second last name? The first year, (plebe year) at West Point, NO ONE calls you anything but your last name! This only compounded the issue. The last day of plebe year, there is even a special ceremony where the other cadets actually acknowledge that you even have a first name if you can imagine!

Throughout his time at West Point, Nate noticed that his name was longer on his uniform than others. Eventually he shortened it unofficially because according to him, even the clever-minded cadets just couldn’t figure it out and he was tired of the confusion.

So it wasn’t a surprise to me the day Nate mentioned he wanted to just have one last name. I gulped but understood when he announced that he was going to use only my husband’s/his dad’s last name from now on. Honestly it made sense and I could appreciate the reasons behind his decision.

2013-05-10 13.33.10My maturity about the whole thing has impressed me. As vehement as I was in insisting that he have both of his parents’ last names, I have remained compassionate and impartial. I completely respect his decision. He is a man of honor, integrity and character. He will be married in November. I cannot hold him down nor do I want to impede his life whatsoever.

But here comes the raw part – I’m going to admit something…a new emotion that has risen to the surface a little bit…

2013-05-10 17.14.52When I learned that my OS would be getting a new birth certificate, one with just one last name, it felt like a rope burn to my heart.

Ok, so now I’m crying while typing. There is NOTHING that will ever change my affection for my olive shoots.  Our connection extends far beyond a dumb hyphen. My boy’s decision wasn’t an offense to me as a mom. Still, when the Hubs called me upon returning from the court-house to facilitate Nate’s name change, wow, I suddenly had a hard time. I was fine with Nate changing his name from 2014 and onward but gosh, going backward in time and doing it??? OUCHY!

Thinking of him having a new birth certificate brought sadness. I harkened back to that day in the hospital when we declared his name.

There are lessons to learn through all this. Besides encouraging them to walk with the Lord, my boys deserve respect and support of their decisions. I can do even if it stings a little. Since he is an officer in the Army, Nate has endured endless background checks, mountains of paperwork, and clearances to make this happen. True to Nate’s personality, he has been diligent. It’s the least I can do even if it stings a little. Furthermore, my sweet boy has spoken with tenderness about wrestling with the decision. Maybe he felt like he was betraying the family and what we have stood for. Nate, if you’re reading this, I know you love me and I understand!

299311_10150412030338018_3766445_nHis name is Nathaniel – it means gift of God and though the last name is changing, I am blessed to always be able to call him my son. I can do even if it stings a little. Perhaps I even will get some monogrammed towels for him after deployment to celebrate his decision!

Getting on the good foot, eventually

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photo 1photo 11photo 10 I awoke Sunday morning with the remembrance of a dream.

Have you ever done that? Had a dream that surprises or stirs you?

I’ve dreamt many strange things. Just before the tsunami that devastated Southeast Asia, I dreamt it just a few days before. I stood in horror watching it on tv and told the Hubs that I had those exact images in my sleep just a few days before.

But on Sunday, I dreamt of something ordinary. Something I miss and that must have spilled into my subconscious.

I dreamt of wearing TWO shoes. One on the left foot and get this,

the other on the right – (did that image just give you chills???)

Though I’m certain many of my previous dreams have included me in footwear, I overlooked their significance until today.

Weird how the mind works. Fascinating how things once commonplace become important when they are gone even if it’s only temporarily.

I had foot surgery the day after Christmas. For many years, orthopedic screws in my right foot have caused me problems. It was a more complicated surgery than expected because one of the screws was deeply lodged in my foot and the doctor had to bore two deep holes in my foot to extricate it. Interestingly, one of the screws was loose which probably only proves the theory that many have held for a long time.

And then I developed a shin splint which further impeded my ability to move forward.  Why I was downright churlish when the doctor had the gall to insist on further restricting my mobility!

My tendency is to hurry out of a place of waiting but crud muffins, that’s my reality. Am I the only one who just wants to be over and done with a struggle? Of course not!

Here are the doctor’s orders.

SLOW DOWN! – I’m not used to being still. I’m a busy girl, things to do, people to see, places to go. Forced to move at almost a snail’s pace is challenging. Possibly this is a message for me even after I’m healed.

STAY OFF YOUR FOOT! – If I am foolish enough to walk on my foot without protection, I could break my foot and make matters worse. I might need to ease back into normal activity. I’m wondering if God wants me to do less and abide more.

IT’S GOING TO TAKE TIME! – I’m still learning that healing of the mind, heart and hoof require patience and perseverance. I can’t rush through the recovery but I can do a lot to impede it.

photo 12I know that I will be back in two shoes, Lord willing, by mid-February. I will savor that thrilling return of a simple pleasure. Driving a car, riding a bike, going on a walk, oh how I will cherish those moments!

What lessons have you learned in times of suffering? What have you taken for granted in terms of your health that you now appreciate more than ever? I’ve got about four more weeks of recovery, I’d love to hear! When you easily stroll from one place to the other, give thanks, friends!

Mother-in-law things, something I can do!

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DSC_0538I can’t sew

I can’t drive

My ability to walk is severely hampered

As a result I’m spending an astounding amount of time in bed

Waiting for my foot to heal and for my life to resume back to normal

There are many things I can’t do right now

But I can write

And I can pray

So I take out the prayer journals I began for my future daughters-in-law

And place them on the bed

Along with my bag of colorful markers

My Bible opened to the book of Philippians

I take a verse or two each day

And yes, some days I am remiss

But I begin to pray for these women

photo 6Jotting down things that the Lord brings to my heart

Because I can

I mean prayed for them before I even knew they existed

And now here they are

1543770_10152111217080409_243254914_nOne day I’m praying that my son’s future wife is protected from volcanic eruptions in her country

And then I’m asking the Lord to keep the other safe in the frozen tundra of a big city – WOW!

1459210_10151710511790778_2097815045_nBoth face many adventures being members of this family

And brides to awesome, yet imperfect men

And I love them truly

So while I have time

(O Father, may I always find moments and desire)

Even when I’m back on my feet

To spend productively in prayer

Special thanks to Pray4Lilly and StilettoMom for their encouraging words and inspiration to write a post about what I can do!

Warmth – Brazilian style

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photo 5Temperatures plummet all around the country but we experienced a heat wave of sorts. A Brazilian blast of kindness warmed our family these past few weeks as we enjoyed spending time with Chico’s parents. I have loved ones in Qatar, Chicago, El Salvador and Brazil – we’re all over the map!

Since last May, the Lord opened the door for new people to enter our home. Most who entered as friends left as members of our family. Some through actual marriage proposals (Lu and Kelsie) but others through spending extended time in our home – they became W-H’s, an extension of our olive shoot branch.

And it’s interesting, the timing of it all. Disease and deception ushered a person out of our lives. Without a proper goodbye, a thank you, a warm embrace, nothing, nada, zilch, poof, he was gone. I don’t recommend it. So while recovering from the pangs of loss, these people have been a healing balm to our family. We haven’t forgotten this person but we have moved on in order to survive. He hasn’t been replaced but God has opened new chambers of our hearts. I know many people who have experienced a loss can empathize.

On Sunday, we said our goodbyes to Francisco and Leyla. We enjoyed going to church together and I was deeply touched to sit by Chico’s mom and to hear her singing the refrain “Hallelujah” in one of the songs. Tears streamed from both of our eyes as the music played. It’s safe to say that a year ago none of us had any notion how close we would feel to one another. I didn’t really personally know any Brazilian people until September. Now it’s like our family has grown exponentially just by adding one charming borrowed Brazilian olive shoot into our home.

After church, we went to a restaurant. As the meal was ending, Chico’s dad went out to his car to get something. When he returned, he approached the Hubs holding something small in his fingers. He then gently took the corner of the Hub’s jacket and carefully attached a small gold item to the collar. With a few emotional words in Portuguese, he embraced and kissed my husband and that’s when we saw this.

photo 4In some way, it re- minded me of when Nate was pinned as an officer at West Point. Our dear friend Colonel Eric Kail com missioned Nate. We will never forget that moment or that man.

It also reminded me of the kindred moment when Nate was tabbed by his brothers after completing Ranger School those memories flooded back to me.

I’m not sure Francisco understood the significance of his gesture but based on the tears that flowed afterward, perhaps we all did. Francisco’s gift to my husband was an acknowledgement of trust and connection. That pin proudly sits next to the Army pin on my husband’s coat. The cold weather allows him opportunity to display some of our dearest and deepest connections.2013-07-12 12.17.27

The  feeling of being deemed worthy and proven can warm a heart and that little pin of our two flags was a profound symbol between 2013-07-12 11.19.16men. When people enter our lives, they leave an impression. In this case, it was an enduring and deep connection neither family could have expected.

My family phoenix

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34I am proud of us.

This five-piece puzzle that we have called ourselves has shown strength and faith in the face of great sadness and loss. Last year, my father-in-law was a significant member of our family, this year, that all changed.

But instead of falling apart, our family persevered. We nearly curled inward, it would have been understandable. But we all have done the opposite. We chose hope. Not always, not perfectly. Yet we risked rejection and kept our hearts open. I am proud of us.

UnknownAs a junior in college, I attended l’universite de Caen in Normandy, France. Founded in 1432, the university was destroyed in 1944. Most of the town was also decimated, in fact, the home where I lived still had bullet holes in the stone wall from a fire fight during the Invasion.

At the entrance to the school, a sculpture entitled “The Phoenix” welcomed all. Many days I strolled past this statue but never really appreciated its beauty or significance until now.

For some reason I remember that monument and connect it my present day life.35

The morning before Thanksgiving, my family gathered together. An impromptu gluten-free brunch of pupusas (a popular Salvadoran dish) and pão de queijo (a delicious Brazilian cheese bread) filled the kitchen with warmth and flavor.

Around the table, I saw people I never expected to be here. One person, in fact, I didn’t even know existed until about three months ago.

There sat~

– A handsome borrowed Brazilian son

– A Salvadorena future daughter-in-love

– A gluten-free future daughter-in-love

photo 4And beside them, all holding hands sat

a Soldier preparing to be deployed a few days later

– a ministry-minded middle and

– an orange hair, freckle face olive shoot.

We bowed our heads to pray and I tried not to cry. Happy tears filled my eyes.

How did I get so blessed?

Look at this food!

Behold these people!

I scarcely could take it in as the Hubs led us in prayer. The Lord gives and He takes away. There weren’t five of us. There now were EIGHT.

In a way, that breakfast was a symbol of our phoenix, our human sculpture of grace and resilience.

Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia, deception and greed have not defeated us. What Satan intended for evil, the Lord has used for good. Though we do not forget and still grieve, our family has created new connections and love.

Across the miles, continents and cultures, hearts still remain strong.

Five Minute Friday – tree

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photo 12I am less concerned with my sons’ happiness than with their holiness. Yes, I said it, I know it’s not a popular sentiment.

They know I adore them and want them to live contented, satisfied lives but being a righteous man is the most important desire I have for my three olive shoots.

Not a monk-like existence, depriving themselves of some of life’s greatest joys but for them to care less about human applause than pleasing the Lord.

When my oldest OS was about 14 years old, we had a ceremony welcoming him into manhood.

He was prayed over, offered words of wisdom, a godly collection of men who loved and cared about his life. I served snacks and watched from afar. It was sweet helping usher Nate into this stage of life. As a Christian, there are not many ceremonies we have to mark this passage into adulthood. Our family made its own tradition.

Have you ever seen anything more precious in your life? A little brother offers wisdom, "keep up the good work in school." What wonderful memories this evokes.

Have you ever seen anything more precious in your life? A little brother offers wisdom, “keep up the good work in school.” What wonderful memories this evokes.

Scan10053One of the Scriptures we used as a cornerstone was

Jeremiah 17: 7-8

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

My prayer is that my boys will experience true happiness by following Jesus. Lord may they experience much fruit on their spiritual tree.

This post is brought to you by Five Minute Friday and the word “tree.” 5minutefriday