Inside my Soldier’s cap

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My Soldier's cap

My Soldier’s cap

While in the process of doing laundry during Nate’s eight-hour pass from Ranger School, my Soldier’s filthy patrol cap appeared among the pile.

“How can a person’s head get so gross?” I wondered this in the confines of the hotel laundry room. Ew.

But that Army cap became a thing of beauty when I looked beyond the grime.

Oh how I love this child.

Oh how I love this child.

Unbeknownst to me, prior to starting Ranger School, my Soldier had written in black Sharpie pen these words found in Philippians 4:12-13.

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. 

I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,     whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 

I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

As the Hubs and I were scrambling around to help him on his eight-hour pass from Ranger School, it was clear that Nathan wanted us to see those Bible verses on his combat cap.

When our tired boy spoke about these words that afternoon, it was like he was speaking of a great, uncovered treasure. Although Nate has read Philippians 4:12-13 many times before, he understood them now in a more profound way. His current circumstances made the Scripture come alive. It’s so powerful when the Lord speaks to us so individually, don’t you think?

IMG_0037I guess when you only gobble down two MREs a day, get maybe two hours of sleep a night and are pushed to your absolute physical and emotional max, you really do know what it is like to be in need and to have plenty. I can’t even imagine.

Though I try, it’s beyond my grasp, my heart will only allow me so much understanding or it would crumble.

Judging from the letters Nate has sent, in many ways, our Soldier has learned contentment and joy really are found in Christ alone. The strength he summons forth is the result of training, determination and ultimately Jesus. We do what we can on the home-front but Nate realizes that the Lord is his supply. We come up alongside him best we can but the truth found on that combat cap is what really gets him through the rough patches.

Oddly enough, Nate didn’t intentionally write those verses on his hat with the foreknowledge of their relevance. It was only when the chaplain came around to visit the guys during the mountain phase of Ranger School, that Nate put the pieces together and saw how cool it was that he had chosen THOSE verses for such a time as this! He’ll never be able to read Philippians 4:12-13 the same again. Neither shall I.

So today on Memorial Day, I’m deeply humbled, proud beyond words to be the mama of a Soldier. I’m also a grateful cousin, daughter-in-law, sister, grand-daughter and friend of military service people.

Thank you isn’t enough gratitude for all those who have served.

Pray-for-Our-Troops

Check out this beautiful patriotic artwork by a military mom!

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Treats for the Troops

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I’m often amused when my extended family extols my baking abilities. Aside from the epic fail of kale cake (which will go down in infamy as the most horrible dessert any human has ever created), my mother lavishes praises on my desserts.  My typical response to her exclamations is to casually tell her that the reason I bake so well is this…I’m literate. I can read a recipe, it’s really that simple.


See below for detailed pics of my family’s reaction to the kale cake!

Disclaimer: These pictures are not
representative of my baking abilities, I assure you.
 

Considering how I was loathe to all things domestic prior to my spiritual conversion to Christianity, it is quite wonderful that I enjoy spending time in the kitchen. It is not drudgery or “beneath” me as I thought previously. My heart is stirred into my sugary creations, especially if the treats are going to someone I care about.

Yummers!

Which is why it is a special privilege for me to be involved in West Point Moms Bake. Each month a group of over 130 West Point moms ship baked goods to deployed servicemen and servicewomen overseas. The excitement is contagious as my fellow WP moms (thanks to a private facebook group designed just for us) detail the thoughtful items and care they put into crafting each package. About ten of us moms are given the name and address of one of our heroes and we send a “boodle box” to that Soldier. This means that several packages of home baked treats arrive around the same time allowing these men and women to share the goodies with their unit. Many times my West Point mama friends humble me with their creativity and effort. Despite having busy lives of their own, the ladies of West Point Moms Bake still find time to bake delicious treats AND include other conveniences of home to their assigned Soldier. 

Nate at West Point during our
mother/son weekend last year.  

I don’t want to think about this but soon the day will arrive when my oldest OS is on that list. Upon his graduation from West Point and subsequent training, I must accept that my boy will probably be deployed. Knowing Nate, with his sweet tooth and tender heart, it will mean so much to him to think that others appreciate his service to our country. He will enjoy getting boodle from us but to get treats from others who don’t even know him personally will surely encourage him along the way.


In a recent package to my assigned hero, I made tasty and healthy treats for him and included a picture of our family. The Hubs, the middle OS and the orange hair, freckle face OS wrote him individual notes and it was OUR privilege to reach out and offer our support. 

Frequently members of West Point Moms Bake will hear back from their Soldiers. They are so appreciative and thankful. We love to share pictures and stories with each other and hear how our packages have lifted spirits. To date, over 500 packages have been sent since September! 


If you know of a deployed Soldier and like this idea, please leave me a message and we’ll put that person on our list. If you include a comment on my blog or would rather email me at sewprettyaprons@gmail.com, I’ll forward your information to my contact person and we’ll make it happen. One more thing, don’t worry, I promise I won’t send kale cake! 🙂

Do you remember Sunday?

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On a peaceful Sunday night, quietude filled the home and this mama lounged in her pajamas with the Hubs and her mom. The middle OS Aaron and orange haired, freckle face Isaac were asleep; the kitchen was clean, the dehydrator was going strong as usual.

We were watching a television show I refuse to mention for fear that you would think less of me (!) and suddenly there was a major news announcement. I wondered if there was a severe weather warning. A round of deadly tornadoes has swept our state but the interruption wasn’t from our local tv affiliate, it was from the national news network. The President was going to address the country imminently. What was so important that he had to talk to us so close to most people’s bedtime? Why couldn’t it have waited until the morning? Oh Jesus, what are we going to learn?

The three of us remained glued to the flat screen. As we waited, I googled, hoping to get advanced information that would either confirm or deny my worst thoughts. That was to no avail. Were we announcing another war? Did someone super duper important in the administration die? Was there another terrorist attack?

My spirit felt trapped and my feet unsteady. I wondered about the rest of my family. Would I ever see them again? What about my boy? My Soldier? Surely this news was going to effect him! Something was going to change and there was nothing I could do about it.

Then President Obama appeared on our tv screen. He approached the microphone and gave us the news that Osama bin Laden had been killed.

Although I wasn’t sure what was going to happen next in our country, I knew what we could expect. The phone rang.

It was our boy.”Did you hear the news?” Nate inquired. “Everyone’s going crazy over here, celebrating. We’re pretty pumped.” What else should you expect at West Point? Of course they were ecstatic and rightly so! These cadets are willing to sacrifice their lives for our country and safety, they should rejoice! Hearing Nate’s voice reassured me.

Of all the places to be on this Sunday night, Nate was at a place of historic significance, an institution (albeit imperfect) but nonetheless a place where honor, duty and country mean something.Lord willing, one day my OS will be able to tell his children and his grandchildren about this moment.

He will never forget the time when he and his fellow cadets rejoiced over the news that the sickening mastermind of terrorist attacks on US soil was eliminated from existence. While I sat in my cotton pajamas with my family, my precious child Nate was amidst people willing to die to defend  our way of life.

Among the most epic of all places to be when this man was killed would be at a military academy. Osama bin Laden was found just yards away from Pakistan’s equivalent of West Point.

In only one year, Nate will be graduating from West Point and most likely going to a place of international conflict. I’m not ready to go there yet emotionally and he’s not ready to go there geographically but we’ll need to gear up fairly soon. The Lord has not prepared me for this yet, I’m taking it day by day, not trying to borrow trouble.

I’m not naive enough to think that all of our world’s problems ended on Sunday when that man was felled but y’all, I’m glad, really glad he’s gone. 

For my next post, I’m going to share a story I wrote nine years ago about something Isaac asked me after September 11th.

Sew blessed

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For nearly eight years I had a wonderful part-time job. I poured my soul into the position and treasured every experience, from the funniest moment with a teenager to the most heartbreaking. Talking to young people about sensitive subjects, hearing their own stories often left me with little to give to my own precious family.


This summer the Lord saw it fit to have me step away from that job which came as both a relief and a loss. It was something I was good at and gave me something exciting to do. I stepped into a mission field of sorts and then one day, I didn’t.

With a very low desire to step back into the work world and with a hubs who supported me staying at home, I have enjoyed days caring for my family. I have also loved looking at my calendar and seeing that there is nothing I absolutely have to do. That doesn’t mean I’ve been lazy, it just means I haven’t had the usual constraints on what, when and how I do certain things.

One of my passions is sewing. And I love cooking. So one day I felt a tug in my heart to combine the two. Here is a simple mathematical equation of my idea. It’s a simple math equation because I can’t do any complicated math. I’m a word girl, thank you very much.

Cooking + sewing = aprons

About three weeks ago I ran into a friend at the Whole Foods and I told her about me making aprons. She makes adorable Christmas ornaments so it wasn’t just a random comment that didn’t make sense, as if that has ever stopped me. That’s when she suggested I participate in our church’s Christmas craft party and try to sell my little aprons. My heart skipped a beat as I rushed through the checkout aisle ready to get home and sew my brains out.


I came home eager to tell the Hubs about this new project. I have a ridiculous amount of fabric accumulating in our room so it wasn’t going to be difficult to produce many aprons. I knew he would be happy to see some fabric exiting our house instead of coming into our home Often I have wondered how I was going to get rid of it and if I would ever have the talent to make something people might like enough to buy.

My Project Runway sewing machine has been very busy as I have designed my own aprons not using a pattern but fashioning them based on qualities I have liked in several of my fave aprons I use regularly.

Many times I have spoken with the Lord. While making these aprons for imaginary people, I have confided in Him. “Lord, what if no one wants my aprons? What if I can’t sell any?” As I awaited His voice, I heard Him tell me, “Just sew.”


Last Sunday was the day of the Christmas craft party. I ironed each one and hung it on a rack. You would have thought I was preparing for a fashion show in New York City! There were moments when I actually felt slightly like a designer but not in an arrogant way, I assure you!

I arrived at the lady’s home to get my display arranged. I lugged in a full-length mirror, 20 aprons and several samples of material suggesting other aprons I could make and waited with the other crafty ladies for people to arrive. It is a vulnerable feeling to have people look at your wares. Some walk by with nary a glance, others admire and window shop, it is strange standing in front of something you have made wondering if anyone will like it enough to buy. Like my previous job, I poured my heart out on each little apron. If anyone bought one, they were going to be taking home a little part of me.

And guess what? To my delight I sold 18 aprons! I sold 12 directly at the party and have paid orders for six more. They liked my aprons! As I returned home with more money than when I had left (and that is a rarity, folks!), I remembered the words the Lord had placed in my heart. “Just sew.” He told me to leave the results to Him and in my obedience, the Lord blessed my family and me.

I can’t wait to tell you more about aprons. Remind me to share with you something about the Hubs, a broken toe and aprons. And remind me to tell you about my mom and aprons, too. Aprons and Soldiers too. Stay tuned, dear friends!




Stinky Boy

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It is safe to go outside and bre- athe. Wher- ever you live in the con-tiguous United States, I imagine you have noticed how suddenly the air quality has improved. I know why, my friends. I know why.


My oldest OS took a shower. That putrid smell you have been inhaling is gone! After three days of extensive field training at Camp Buckner, my odious oliveshoot received a much-needed and merited blessed encounter with hot water, soap and shampoo. All is well! The fog has been lifted!

If Nate smelled anything like he did when we picked him up for Christmas break, that child certainly was ripe without a shower for three days. During Christmas break, Nate’s flight had been delayed and he came home a day late. He had to return to West Point and since it is fairly shut down during Christmas, he returned to WP unable to wash up. When we picked him up, I felt like I was hugging Pigpen…remember stinky Pigpen from the Snoopy cartoons? My boy was a handsome yet acrid mix of perspiration, bad cologne and an onion-like smell, ew.

This time at Camp Buckner, affectionately known as Camp Fun-Fun, my Soldier has not enjoyed slumber on a soft cot with a Green Girl each night. To the contrary. This week Nate had his first experience sleeping on a rock. I never thought about having a child who has slept (should I say, passed out!) on a rock. Hmmmm… He pulled security for two nights and maybe got only six hours of sleep in two days. He chomped on David’s Sunflower Seeds (it’s better than chew!) and kept vigil all night taking only small naps while his buddy kept watch. I have seen my OS grumpy from sleep deprivation so I pity anyone who had to endure his wrath. On the other hand, that might be something special Nate just saves for his mama… 😉

At one point, covered in muck and sweat, his Company did a six mile ruck (hike/march) up a mountain. Nate likened it to climbing up a very steep gravel road. Then his foot began to ache and he feared that somehow it was broken. He hobbled 15 minutes on his lame foot in order to get transported for medical attention. A smelly, overtired 19 year old with sharp foot pains must have been quite a sight. My own experience with a broken foot left me rejoicing when he told us that he just had tendonitis and merely needs to tape his foot and take some anti-inflammatory medicine.

I don’t know what to think when my son relays this information. Am I worried? Yes. Am I proud? Absolutely. Am I scared? Sometimes. I love hearing his stories and at once find it all terribly exciting tinged with some maternal anxiety, after all this is MY boy.


Before I became the mama of a Soldier, I was immune and ignorant to the sacrifice of our service people. The scales from my eyes have been lifted, as the Bible says, because I am learning firsthand all that we require and expect from our military. And how many of us don’t truly appreciate all that’s done for freedom.

They don’t get to sleep on comfy beds every night or enjoy time with their family when they are out on a mission. Instead they protect us.

I think of my OS with leaves stuffed all over his helmet, camo paint covering his face and ears, exhausted and reeking to high heavens and I experience a mixture of humility and gratitude. Whoa. There are so many servicemen and women out on the real battlefield doing the same, risking their lives for you and me and countless others. I have a cousin who is an Army Chaplain serving overseas, what a brave and selfless man!

Soldiers gobbling up those MREs, (meal, ready to eat) hobbling around on a wobbly leg, finding a grit within themselves most of us can’t imagine and we take it for granted.

So today as you enjoy the fresh summer air or as you are soaking in a tub or relishing the hot water flowing out of your shower, take a moment to lift up those in the military who didn’t have that luxury. Pray for them, their families, thank them in some way.
We can all breathe a lot easier because of our service people even if they haven’t bathed in days…

An Open Letter to the Military

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To all those who served in the military,

I am sorry that I used to overlook Veteran’s Day.

I apologize for being annoyed when I didn’t get mail because November 11th is a federal holiday. It doesn’t bother me anymore. 

Or forgetting to fly our flag, it has been waving proudly on our porch since last night.
 
I wish I would have told more of you “thank you” a long time ago but I am now the mama of a Soldier and you deserved my appreciation before then. 
 
Now I see your Veteran’s hats and your license plates and my heart is beginning to understand.
 
I notice the bumper stickers of parents of military service people and I want to jump out of my mini-van and tell them I am learning what this means.
 
My life and this day will never be the same.
 
Thank you for your sacrifice to defend our freedom.
 
God bless you for being away from your family, friends and the comforts of  home.
 
For those birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, even just regular days when you are not surrounded by the people who love you, I am humbled whenever I consider what that must be like for you. 

Thank you for being able to serve our country whether you like the president or voted for him. I didn’t realize that until my own child put it into perspective. 
 
Thank you for going to places most of us would never want to live or visit. 
 
I confess that I might have still remained ignorant about all these things if my son hadn’t joined the Army.
 
You have done your job for your country and all the people in it. Including those completely support your endeavors and those who scoff at your service, those who would never have the courage to give everything up for a cause greater than themselves.
 
Until my own son made an oath to serve his country and I saw him in his uniform, 
 
I was naive.
But not anymore, and that is a good thing,
 
I just needed to tell you this from the bottom of my mama’s heart.
 
Thank you.

R-Day, 60 seconds

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“You have 60 seconds to say your farewells,” a member of the cadre announced as we all stood and prepared for our goodbyes.

A petite framed cadet whom I really wanted to hate was just doing her job. I don’t envy her of having the task of separating parent and family from child.

It was like every sentence she was saying felt like a Peanuts cartoon where Snoopy just hears, “blah, blah, blah, blah.”

Of course all of us knew it was coming, the mood was solemn as we all filed in and took our seats. I wasn’t the only weepy mom in the bunch so I felt a kindred spirit among us.

Oh I held him so tight. Be strong, be strong, I tried to remind myself.

Oh I held him so tight. Be strong, be strong, I tried to remind myself.

There was such a feeling of love and pride, but we all entered into some private, intimate place in our hearts and hugged our babies for the final time for a long while like we were the only ones in the place. Nate grabbed his meager belongings and confidently strode to the front of the auditorium and never looked back.

That was a good thing because if I had seen his face one more time, I would have taken it as a sign to rush forward to get him. I know he is divinely placed where the Lord wants him to be and this is perhaps the most unselfish thing I have ever done as a mother. We prayed and prayed for the Lord to put him where he was supposed to go. I cannot second guess my Heavenly Father. Saying goodbye and letting my beloved child set forth into a new life, I am filled with tears and pride, both never ending.

I remember child birth being very painful but this is really rough. I was in labor for four hours, and it hurt like crud and this process is much longer. West Point is such an austere and noble place, I am humbled to have a son who is in the class of 2012 and have the hat, t-shirt and matching handbag to prove it. I shall be wearing black, gold and gray for a really long time. There is a dignity and a respect I don’t recall seeing at other college campuses we visited. This is the right place for my son and I am thankful to have met a lot of nice guys Nathan will soon be calling friends. Take a look and click here at this link to see what his first day was like. OY!

We are all entering a new phase in our lives. After saying our farewells, there were two floors of vendors and organizations to greet us. Nearly ever booth had a box of Kleenex. It was reassuring to see that in the midst of all this decorum and granite, they had chiseled out a lot of compassion and concern.

We arrive home tomorrow and I do laundry which will include some of Nathan’s dirty clothes. It will be the saddest load of laundry I have ever done in my life thus far. I found the toe nail clippers he used before we dropped him off at West Point. They were in the hotel bathroom and yep, I cried.

The Hubs and I weren't the only ones struggling.

The Hubs and I weren’t the only ones struggling.

Motherhood is not for the faint of heart. I am the mama of a soldier. I am the PROUD mama of a soldier. Go Army, Beat Navy, Huah!

Psalm 63:7- 8

For you have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.
My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.