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!

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Sew far away – Guinea Pig Girl doll memoirs

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So many beautiful faces just like this one

I had to go to the bathroom.

#1

in the outskirts of Lima, Peru

Dust-covered village, not a porta-potty in sight – understatement

so I ask my translator and soon we’re following a man to his house

Dirt steps, hollowed out rooms, feels kind of like the Flintstones

The father tells his family someone is here and they come out to briefly greet us

Yes it’s awkward

because I have to go to the bathroom

#1

Over to the side is a makeshift curtain

And I step inside and observe a hole on the ground

which I use

This was the common landscape in Lima

And soon I thank the family who has graciously offered a stranger into their house

But in the corner

over to the side

So many moments like this meeting people and sharing the love of Christ – I will never be the same

I see

a doll

that looks like it belongs in a dumpster

but it is in a house

Is this filthy doll a little girl’s toy?

That image has stayed with me, humbling me many days

Years later, I sew and I pray sometimes

“God, use my simple sewing skills for others, keep me open to your ways.”

I wish I had been making Tess the Guinea Pig Girl dolls back then

because I would have given her one

or two

or a dozen

Tess and Esther, Joy and Leah hang out together. On Friday, Tess’s friends will begin their journey to live in Madagascar.

I want the Guinea Pig Girl dolls to go places

Near and far

Mission trips

Operation Christmas Child boxes

Regular places too

To be loved

and hugged

Three of them go to Madagascar on Friday

Esther, Joy and Leah will meet the Mahafaly people 

On Saturday, Tabitha, another Guinea Pig Girl doll,  goes to Nepal with an anti human-trafficking advocate

Can you imagine?!

Although Tess will miss her greatly, she’s excited for Tabitha and her big move to Nepal.

To bless a little girl or a hurting soul

In my own comfortable land or continents away

My sewing machine feels happy, just wish “we” would have started sooner.

“Heavenly Father, mightily use my human brothers and sisters in Christ. Protect and anoint every aspect of their journey. And for my fabric friends, Lord, whoever receives one of these little dolls, may she receive it with the love with which it was made and sense the everlasting love which only comes from you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Read more about my friends’ travels here and here, I hope to have some pictures of the GPG in their new homes.

To order a Guinea Pig Girl doll, check out my website at oliveshootinstitute.com.

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!

All I want for Christmas is WATER!

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Guess what Santa brought us for Christmas? A broken water heater and valve!!! This might not have been the work of Santa but of that sinister Grinch or Scrooge. I would have preferred coal because at least we could have done something with it. Apparently Santa also doesn’t read this blog because if he did, he would know all the good will and cheer I attempted to spread onto others through apron making. He would never have done something like this if he had read my blog and seen what a wonderful person I have been lately. Hmphf.


Thanks goodness I have been on two mission trips. In Peru, I learned the fine art of dumping water into a toilet to force it to flush. In El Salvador, I learned the fine art of pouring clean drinking water into a cup and submerging my toothbrush and toothpaste into it to maintain proper dental hygiene. On some very microscopic level, and I emphasize microscopic, it has helped me salvage a bit, and I emphasize a bit, of sanity which isn’t saying much.

Here is a picture of a toilet in Peru outside of an elementary school. The orange bucket is full of water, the white bucket is using for pouring.

And this is a picture of a toilet in a poor village in El Salvador. This is actually a very nice toilet compared to what a wonderful pastor and his family used to have.


If I look on the bright side, at least the broken water heater and valve waited until our Christmas Eve company left before deciding to act the fool.

And if I continue to look at this as a glass half-full moment, than I must continue to be joyous that Isaac was feeling sick after our Christmas Eve company departed.

That’s because instead of going to a late night Christmas eve church service, Ike, Aaron and I stayed home. Isaac was trying to go to sleep but heard this annoying tick-tick-tick sound in his room.

I thought I found the culprit to the sound and turned off a few ceiling fans. However, the tick-tick-ticking continued. Being the mama of a Soldier, I thought it sounded like a bomb. Freaked me out a little. The sound was relentless and I pressed my ear to the walls trying to figure out from whence the maddening noise was coming.

Aaron saw me listening to the wall completely dumbfounded as to the source of the problem. Pressing my ear to various places on the wall, I told him this reminded me of a close family member who had suffered from mental illness who also heard things in the wall. It was one of those awkwardly funny comments and Aaron wasn’t sure what to say. Thankfully I wasn’t the only one hearing this sound.

When the Hubs and Nate returned from church, Aaron was fast asleep, Ike had relegated himself to another room to sleep and the Hubs and OS began to hunt for the sound.


That’s when we discovered that the tick-tick-tick was actually a drip-drip-drip coming from the attic and Christmas Day arrived with a very unwelcome gift…no running water. You can get batteries on Christmas Day but you can’t get a new water heater and valve at a gas station! Where’s a Jewish plumber when you need one?

We’re Day Two of this annoyance and the saga continues…ergh

Chicken broth for the soul

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Chicken broth and me have a thing. I’m not sure when it started but I’d say we’re pretty hot and heavy. Perhaps it began (cue dreamlike music) to the time when I went to Lima, Peru and helped in a local soup kitchen.

It was 2007, I was on a mission trip and one day our team went to a very poor village where, among other things, I chopped fresh herbs for the local ladies as they made chicken foot soup for the villagers. We were told not to try any food so I don’t know how it tasted but the local village men gobbled it down before they returned to work.


I am a fan of DIY chicken broth and I very much dislike canned soup. Now that I have mastered making my own chicken broth, the Hubs knows he skating on some very thin ice anytime he brings in a can of (HORRORS) soup!


Here are some reasons I like making my own chicken broth.

Healthy – I know what I put into it. Using local, in season vegetables I often get at the farmer’s market means I selected the ingredients my family is ingesting.

Easy – Basically I just dump a bunch of veggies, a chicken or a chicken carcass, garlic and spices into a pot of water, turn the heat up and just monitor their progress. I don’t measure anything and that’s something because I almost always use measuring spoons. You wash the veggies, cut off any yucky parts and let all the goodness cook and simmer together. Simply cut a head of garlic, cut the onions in half and leave the skin on, don’t peel the carrots and go on with your bad self! You will be popping your chicken broth collah in no time at all!

Cheap – Before I started making my own chicken stock, the Hubs would often have the dubious task of running to the store to get me chicken broth just as I was in the middle of cooking. Now I have frozen bags of chicken broth on hand, made from the scraps in my kitchen. I feel frugal!

Fun – It’s satisfying to create something good for my family. There have been times when I have gone a little overboard and the Hubs will say, “Hon, we have PLENTY of chicken broth!”

So here’s the recipe, if you can call it that. My OS love my chicken noodle soup and all the credit goes to the broth.

Yesterday I roasted two chickens and then put the chicken carcasses in a heavy pot. Other times I just put uncooked whole chickens into a heavy pot.

Then check your fridge and cupboards. Get some onions, a whole garlic, carrots, celery, leeks, turnips, parsnips, parsley, green peppers and onions (you don’t need all of these) and put whatever you have on hand into the pot.


Add enough water to cover all the ingredients inside. Generously add kosher salt or sea salt along with fresh ground pepper into the pot. Turn the heat to high and when it all starts to boil, turn the heat down and let the broth simmer until the veggies are nearly mushy.

Get either a large bowl or another large pot and with a colander, strain the solid ingredients from the broth. Once you have separated the liquid, you will see how rich and savory it is!

Once cooled, if you notice a layer of fat on top of the broth, simply remove it. You can freeze the broth to use later or immediately in soups, etc. The aroma of soup is permeating my house and I can’t wait to feed the Hubs and the OS tonight!

On the mission field, part two ~ new creation

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It occurred to me that this young mother didn’t want just anyone to cut her two year old’s hair…she wanted ME! WHAT??? Didn’t she know that I had never cut anyone’s hair, including my own three OS? Didn’t she know I farmed out that service to qualified hands? Where’s a Sports Clips or a Great Clips when you need one?

The mom returned, scissors in hand and I ridiculously asked her what kind of haircut she wanted her daughter to have. This is funny because it wasn’t like I had a variety of coifs from which to choose. That’s when she blew my mind and informed me that the child in front of me with a long, thick ponytail wasn’t a girl ~ this little person was a boy! Huh? And his name was Richard, not Ricardo. Dumbfounded I stood by a dusty boulder in this forsaken village. The pressure was on. My heart pounded faster.

I prayed to Jesus and put the scissors in my hand and began the job. Richard was the best client a stylist as new and inexperienced as I could ever want. So still, so patient, if he only knew who was about to give him his first haircut! At first I just simply cut the long ponytail but as I looked at the precious face before me, something came over me. I felt empowered to do more. The scissors began trimming around Richard’s ears, giving him bangs, the whole works. There was some styling going on! Richard’s mom gathered some of his locks into a plastic bag I as many American moms have done in the past. I don’t believe I cut Richard’s hair. I believe God did.


Then she asked me my name and told me that the first person who cuts a baby’s hair became that child’s godmother. Oh my goodness.

I stood there, astonished and handed the young mama the bottle of shampoo. At long last, the Bumble and Bumble had found its rightful owner. She gave a heartfelt thank you and scooped up Richard. Just before it was time to board the bus and say farewell, this Peruvian mama returned and paraded Richard in front of me. She must have taken him into her simple abode and used the shampoo immediately. There in front of me stood Richard, his hair was freshly washed, wearing a collared shirt looking cute as can be. This child looked like a little boy!

I wonder what my OS is learning and where he is in Guatemala. What are his stories? I can’t wait to know! I’ve learned this and I’m sure he is as well. The Lord can use our simple gifts, our imperfect efforts (which I have in abundance.) This is the power of transformation.

I have another story about shampoo, this time in El Salvador. Do you want to hear it? Tell me your story about transformation, I’d love to hear it!

Being on the mission field, part one

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Prior to going to Guatemala, I gave my middle OS a project. A crafting project. Most 14 year old boys don’t really like doing crafts. My 14 year old boy is no exception but with constant prodding on behalf of his mom, my son made these…

Aren’t they pretty? So simple and cheap but I just know that God is going to use that boy and these necklaces in a powerful way. How do I know? Because two years ago I had a similar experience. Not with a craft item but with a simple bottle of shampoo.

In July 2007, I went to Lima, Peru on a mission trip. Prior to leaving my hairstylist, (the one who puts pink highlights in my hair), gave me a big bottle of Bumble and Bumble shampoo to use there. Not for my head, there would be no vanity on this trip, but because we were going to be washing children’s hair. In certain areas of Peru, people can’t even afford shampoo, it is a luxury they often do without. I packed it eagerly curious as to what the Lord had in store.

Weeks later, to my astonishment, I found myself washing children’s hair on a filthy, dirt-covered street. The kids would just line up and with nary a peep, we would pour cold water from a hose on their head. With plastic gloves, I would squirt a dollop of shampoo on their little charcoal black heads and proceed to wash their thick Peruvian hair. We used buckets to rinse the water and their attentive mothers would just look on and act so grateful. It was rather amusing because there were even adult men lining up for our hair washing services but we had to decline and concentrate just on the kids.

It was our last day on the mission field. The big bottle of shampoo I was given had been too cumbersome to lug around for our hair washing projects so I still had it in my possession. I certainly wasn’t going to be taking it back home with me. I trusted it was meant for someone else so I placed big bottle in my backpack determined to give it to someone deserving.

We arrived at an impoverished village. The ramshackle homes spoke of a hard life bereft of most creature comforts. I helped prepare chicken foot (yes, chicken FOOT) soup and served hot chocolate to the scads of children milling about.
Another group washed hair and when we were nearly all done, a mother approached me. Through the help of a translator, she asked me if we cut hair. I knew I didn’t cut hair so I went the easy route and said we didn’t have any scissors. Then she told me, not to worry, she had scissors.

Because I’m so quick on my feet (HA!), I presumed someone could do it and I told this mama we could probably do that. I went inside the bus and asked if anyone cut hair. No one listened to me and then it occurred to me that she wanted ME to cut her child’s hair…something I have never done before, not in my own country and certainly not in South America…


I’ll write another post and tell you what happened next…