A mom, a treehouse and a couple mountains – an El Salvadoran adventure

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IMG_6492.JPGOn Monday, I walked up the stairs to a treehouse

Near a volcano

In El Salvador

No big deal…

Just a regular ho-hum day for a middle aged American wife and mom who only 48 hours ago welcomed a new daughter-in-love to the family.

I jest. It was this a significant moment. Why, you ask?

1. I’m very afraid of heights.

2. I’m not really a very adventurous person anymore.

3. I am accident prone.

4. The treehouse towered high above the mountains in the El Boqueron National Park

5. And it swayed…

Surveying the land – mountains, volcanoes, crests of the ocean peeking near the sky’s edge – such majesty and glory,

I climbed the steps and held on mightily to the thin railing. My eyes shunned all notice of the open risers. The recent earthquake we had experienced a few days ago from neighboring Guatemala was shoved aside. Up, up, up the stairs I climbed and then with trepidation, down, down, down the same.

I felt the Lord’s open hand and His voice saying, “I’m giving you this moment. Take it.” He gave me a gift. All I needed to do was accept. I said yes.

The park is just 25 minutes away from the Salvadoran capital and sits atop of the San Salvador volcano at an altitude of 5,905 feet which is about 1800 meters above sea level- (special thanks to fellow blogger Traveller Soul for the reference). The air was clear and cool, hibiscus and poinsettia blossomed at every view. The light fragrance of cypress reminded me of Christmas. How I wish I could have bottled the smell!IMG_6602.JPG

Ike then bespied a small swinging bridge near the treehouse. “Mom, go on this with me!” he declared.

Incredulously, my feet advanced. Before I knew it, I crossed the bridge. I’m not sure who was more surprised my orange hair, freckle face OS or I. Though a rather clumsy journey, by golly, I did it.

And now as I sit back in suburban North Carolina and attempt to write on my blog again,

Similarly I feel as if I’m overlooking a panorama of memories, experiences

Emotional mountains and volcanoes

The vista of pain and joy, loss and gain

Do I even dare to share and grant access to this life and try to write again? We shall see.

For the time being, I’m moving one step forward and reflecting on the chances I’m given to be blessed and

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So how about you? Any chance you can relate to my journey? The brave part? The blessed? Hope you’ll share!

What I told my young son the night before his wedding

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Cindy and Mark with brand new baby Aaron

 

Today I am sharing the message I spoke to my son at the rehearsal dinner. My intention for making it public is because it is testimony of God’s faithfulness. The Lord gave me confident and courage to speak from my heart after a period of great struggle. 

From the day my middle olive shoot was born, Aaron has done things early. His due date was September 7. This was perfect because my wedding ring was diamond and sapphire – April and September. It all was going to fall into place so nicely!

But then I felt cramping in my stomach and on August 30, just two days shy of September, Aaron Xavier entered our world.

And that’s the way it’s been. Aaron talked at an early age, went to kindergarten and high school as one of the youngest in his class. He turned 18 while at Moody Bible Institute, the only thing he didn’t do early was potty training but that’s all figured out now thank you very much. 🙂

All of this early stuff was preparation for his wedding day. Based on his life thus far, nothing should surprise me about my precious boy. He is getting married 10 years before the national average for males which according to the CDC is 29.

But those guys aren’t my Spurny.

Fave pic of aaron and momSince Aaron was a little boy, our family has instilled values, traditions and a belief in Jesus Christ. When I tucked Aaron in at night, I prayed for him. As I sat on his bed, I thanked the Lord for another day of being his mom. My heart is glad each day that I’ve had the honor and the privilege of being his mama. Of course I feel the same way about each of my boys.

One night in particular I remember specifically praying with Aaron about something very special. Not a good grade on a test or for a tooth to come loose. This night I prayed for Aaron’s wife.

We prayed for our kids’ wives throughout their time at home. I remember the Hubs doing it one day around the dinner table for Isaac. He was about six at the time and his little eyes peeked up like, “My what? My who???”

But getting back to Aaron, I remember like it was yesterday because in a way it feels like it was…

I prayed about this “mystery woman/his wife” and as I said this, my sweet little boy, he might have been around 11 years old; he squeezed me extra tight as I muttered those words next to his bed.

And on May 24, 2014, Aaron received her.

She is here. She is his. Our prayers have been answered.

Since Aaron was a little boy, we also did another thing in my family. Whenever we found ourselves doing a skill we thought would be useful in the future, we’d gather up the available boys and call it “husband training.” Whether it was fixing a toilet, hanging a nail, making salad dressing or chicken broth, ironing, mowing the lawn, boom, Nate, Aaron and/or Ike assisted in the efforts. The thought being one day you are going to do this. One day you’ll be a husband and you need to know. In some way, you need these skills to land yourself a good girl in the first place.

In the recent days, the Lord and I have had many conversations preparing me for Aaron’s wedding day. Because I serve a God of All Comfort and Compassion, there is nothing I haven’t burdened Him with that shocks or disappoints Him. God is very good like that. IMG_8475

And in these moments, I have come to Jesus and He has told me, “Why does this surprise you? You have been calling it husband training all these years? What were you expecting? You called it husband training for a reason. Aaron listened. Daughter, your son watched. He took it seriously. He is ready.

Now Aaron is becoming a husband. I become a mother-in-law hopefully to be considered a mother-in-love and I desperately love my son. I am proud of him and the man he is, the husband he will be and the dad I can already imagine.

10371636_10152976488103018_7618892888247892350_nEphesians 3:20-21 “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

 

 

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…

 

 

 

 

We’ve got spirit, yes we do…

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This is a slightphoto 15 exaggeration

But I live for five days out of the year

More than Christmas, my birthday, Thanksgiving and the first and last days of school combined

My jam is

Spirit Week

That magical time in February when kids who attend a private Christian school with a strict uniform policy let their hair down

Five marvelous days filled with a daily theme, friendly competition, prizes and fun

Since my oldest olive shoot was in middle school, Spirit Week has been like my Super Bowl, my World Cup, my time to shine as a mom…

Or not

Because you see, as my three sons have oft reminded me,

Technically, it’s not MY Spirit Week

It’s theirs

Hrmph!photo 23

It’s an annual battle royal as we compete for control and preparation.

It’s private conversations between my friends as we ruminate about possible ideas all the while acting cool, calm and collected around our kids.

It’s when I google and Pinterest and imagine secretly wishing there was a Spirit Week for moms because we need it more than they do.

It’s me being the person who wants to plan ahead versus my olive shoots not wanting to think about any of it until maybe the night before, I’ll spare you the details since they are usually too painful to discuss.

But last week was Spirit Week and Monday was Pajama Day. In previous years I have sewn pajama pants for my boys. Heck, I even purchased grapefruit fabric about a year ago in anticipation of making Ike some citrus inspired sleeping pants because he loves him some grapefruit. To my chagrin, however, now as a junior in high school, Ike rebuffed my offer. This year he was boring but our borrowed Brazilian olive shoot wore this onesie which surely made the ladies swoon!photo 22

Perhaps the low-key Pajama Day was God’s way of giving me a slight Sabbath before the preparation for Tuesday-Thursday of Spirit Week.

I can’t wait to tell you about what we they I did!

Does anyone else know the joy and agony of Spirit Week???

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!

Five minute Friday – see

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photo 9For over 20 years, I’ve been collecting Christmas ornaments for my three sons.

I would see them on my trees and anticipate the day when they would no longer hang on my branches and proudly announce that I was gathering these ornaments for a very special moment.

photo 8All over the world – El Salvador, Peru, Germany, in Maine, Florida and beyond, I saw ornaments and brought them home and remembered to tell my olive shoots that one day when they got married, those gifts would go to live in their homes to be enjoyed by their own families.

It was joyful seeing all the lovely tokens and memories on my trees. There is a sushi ornament, a snowman mowing a lawn, a giant “X” because that’s my middle son’s middle initial, the homemade Christmas bell Nate made when he was a wee little boy, so many I want to tell you about each one!

Oh and the enormous sparkly ball that Aaron faithfully prominently puts on our largest tree (a family tradition)…

photo 7This year after the holidays, I saw my hands doing the thing I had promised long ago.

Something that caused my heart to tug.

I packed those ornaments I had long saved in two separate boxes

Because two of my olive shoots are getting married. I see this as a good thing, a wonderful thing actually, but it also makes me a little sad.

This blog post was brought to you by the word “see” and the 5minutefridayenjoyable gang at Five minute Friday!

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!