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?!

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Five Minute Friday – afraid

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My son spends a lot of time on the train. I spend a lot of time on my knees praying for his safety.

My son spends a lot of time on the train. I spend a lot of time on my knees praying for him.

“Don’t worry, Mom, I’ve got brass knuckles.”

This was my ministry minded middle’s way of reassuring me.

He has brass knuckles, therefore,

I guess,

if he is attacked on the subway or on the streets

at night

in a high crime part of the city

while walking back from coaching an inner city boys’ basketball team

I’m not to worry.

Uh, yeah, right…

It doesn’t work that way when you’re a mom.

I grew up feeling a lot of fear, that “muscle” is well-developed.

The trust and faith muscles atrophied

I’m building them back, working them out though.

Aaron provides me with many training sessions with the Lord.

“Push past being afraid,” God reminds. “I’ve got this. I’m Jehovah Shammah (God who is there).”

Hurricane Sandy encountering MY olive shoot in Chicago. This is him in the picture!

Hurricane Sandy encountering MY olive shoot in Chicago. This is him and a buddy in the picture!

And when he went to Lake Shore Drive to experience Hurricane Sandy and sent me THIS picture of the waters nearly engulfing him…

Oh Lord, my olive shoots

With only five minutes to write, I featured just one olive shoot currently on my heart but I have a Soldier and an orange hair, freckle face OS too, sooooo,

Funky chicks write for five minutes! Come on and join us!

Funky chicks write for five minutes! Come on and join us! Click here for deets.

At least the crime rate is lower during cold weather – (another one of Aaron’s gems…)

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. ❤

My Own Good Friday

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When I was in middle school, back then called junior high, I had a fleeting moment of courage, when I stood up for someone and risked it all. Her name was Carol Plalonski (I have slightly changed her name but it sounded pretty similar) and Carol was the “new girl.”


Not the prettiest girl, Carol was tall, rather clumsy and plain. As I recall, she had a slight curve to her back and her shoulders slouched forward and well, Carol didn’t seem to worry herself about the really important things in life like boys, flavored lip gloss, blue eye shadow and mascara. 

Almost from the moment Carol walked into Jefferson Junior High, she became the target for all pre-pubescent angst and torment. Kids would tape words on her back and she would just lump down the hall while everyone pointed and laughed. Oh, how I hated seeing her with the words “DOG” and “WOOF” affixed to her. I seethed with anger and felt entirely helpless but what could I do? I had my own problems! (See self-explanatory photo)

It was scary because if I did something then everybody might turn on ME and then I would be the source of scorn. But one day, I mustered up the courage and said “enough is enough” and as Carol walked down the hall with one of those words on her back, in a moment of brazen anger, I ripped that nasty message of her back. Whenever I think of myself as being a wimp, I summon up that memory of taking a stand, fighting for the honor of another person and taking a risk.

My middle OS has been doing something similar and today I was deeply blessed to receive a message from a dear mother who wanted to let me know that my son was a fine young man of God. She sent this to me on facebook so now I shall forever use that message as the reason I need to check my facebook 800 times a day, but I digress. 

In typical, yet disappointing 9th grade fashion, some of the guys in my OS’s class are pretty rough on the girls. Countless times my son has come home and told me about the insulting comments his peers say to the ladies in class. One time, a guy ticked Aaron off so badly, Aaron smacked his binder into the guy’s nuts which I believe must have made quite a statement. 


Recently, another freshman girl, Lauren (not her real name) stood up in class and articulated her concern about all the high school drama and tension. She announced that something had to change. Then Aaron, with the teacher’s permission, stood up and addressed his classmates. He challenged the guys in the class to “step it up” and start acting like “real men.” I only learned about this after the fact when Aaron came home and said he had a cool story to tell. He hadn’t planned on doing that but I guess he had his own “Carol Planonski” moment.

Now he and his friend Zack have begun a freshman Bible Study on Wednesdays. Boys that previously sat outside the classroom and chided the kids, actually attended this week. Aaron’s charisma and transparency with his own struggles are making a difference. This week when a classmate began teasing one of the girls about her really curly hair, Aaron turned around to the kid, looked him dead in the eyes and said, “Andrew, shut up!” Normally I do not condone those words but I believe, in this instance, they qualify as “words aptly spoken.” (Proverbs 25:11)

This mom wrote me to say that her daughter is amazed how the Lord is leading through Aaron and Zack. Her daughter can’t wait for the Wednesday Bible Study and it is showing her that God can use just one person to “change the tide.”

As our family prepares for Easter Sunday, I can truly say that it is a Good Friday. To God be all the glory and honor and praise. 

POW/MIA Table

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We all clapped for the cadets and midshipmen graduating in the Class of 2009 and offered toasts with sparkling apple cider. I chuckled as I lifted my engraved wine glass and haled, “To the Academy!” numerous times. Indeed, our family has entered a new world.


Yet amidst the fanfare and celebration, there was a sobering spot in the room. It was the POW/MIA table. Each part of the table had symbolism. Previously I just thought it was an awkward table maybe even a silly joke but I couldn’t have been more wrong. When they described each item on the table, I had to choke back the tears. Being the mama of a Soldier and the cousin of an Army Chaplain in Afghanistan, I struggled to maintain my composure and not smear the three layers of mascara on my eyes.

This was the description of the table printed on the program for the All Academy Ball. 

The POW/MIA table is a place of honor near the head table. It is set for one and is a way of symbolizing the fact that members of the military are missing. The table is set for one and is intentionally small symbolizing the frailty of one prisoner against his/her oppressors.
                   
          
                              
           The tablecloth is white symbolizing the purity of their intentions to respond to their country’s call to arms.

The single rose in a vase reminds us of the families and loved ones who kept the faith awaiting their return.

A red ribbon is tied prominently on the vase reminiscent of the red ribbon worn upon the lapel and breasts of thousand who bear witness to their unyielding determination to demand a proper accounting of our missing.

A slice of lemon is on the bread plate to remind us of their bitter fate.

Salt upon the bread plate symbolic of the families’ tears as they wait.

The glass is inverted since they cannot toast with us that evening.

And finally, the chair is empty, they are not here.

When I approached the table, I felt a sadness pervade over my heart. We are so young on this journey of being parents of a Soldier, I am choosing not to go there too much emotionally lest I completely fall apart. 


We have so much to be thankful for in this country and I was moved by this table. Here is a link to a facebook group supporting my cousin who is serving our country in Afghanistan. I know he’d appreciate your prayers and any other support you can offer. 

El Salvador

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Have you ever noticed how things that didn’t really catch your attention suddenly catch your attention when you are experiencing those same things? Did that really make sense? Probably not but let me give you an example.


I remember when I was pregnant. I suddenly saw pregnant women all over the place. It was like an explosion of big bellies just like mine. Or when we had a greyhound, it was like suddenly I saw greyhound things everywhere I went. Thankfully I am neither pregnant nor a greyhound owner any more but you know what I mean?   

So in eight weeks, Lord willing, I will be in El Salvador. I have noticed that since making that decision, I am seeing more Central American things than previously. How interesting that while speaking to my oldest OS just the other day, he announced to me that the President of El Salvador had spoken to the cadets at West Point! How ironic that Nate was in one of the parades West Point and he marched only 25 yards away from El Presidente! I thought that was pretty cool! I asked Nate if he could ask the Prez for $1200 so I could go there but my son didn’t seem too comfortable with that idea! Shucks!

It’s not like I I have had a heavy burden in my heart for the people of El Salvador. I haven’t pined away to visit this country like I have to say, Fiji, Australia or even Africa. Quite honestly, like many geographically challenged Americans, I had to look on a globe just to find out where the place was! But a year ago, I had a colleague who was going to El Salvador to do missionary/humanitarian work. Based on my ministry work in my community, I could picture myself there but the timing was wrong. Now I believe, is the time to go. It is humbling to reach out to others in the world and proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ!  I feel the Lord urging me to go. My husband and children support this trip and I’m not saying God needs me to go. I don’t think that highly of myself to make that assertion. The Lord certainly can do plenty of things in El Salvador and beyond without little ‘ole me, but I’m already thinking about packing my bags and being there. We will be doing things not previously on the itinerary based on the skills and gifts of the group going this time. I am excited!

So since committing to the trip, El Salvador has been on my mind. As long as I can raise the financial support, (YIKES!) I will be on a plane to San Salvador in less than seven weeks. A small group of women, ranging in ages from mid 20s to 60s will embark on this eight day journey. The theme of our time together is “Purity” and the trip is being organized on the shoestring budget of Hannah’s Hands, Intl.  

So now my antenna is on El Salvador.  With God’s help and provision, my heart will be there as well.