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!

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Briefly observing the world with Alzheimer’s eyes – a daughter-in-law’s journey

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What do you see when you look at this picture?

What do you see when you look at this picture?

“GAW! That was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen!” exclaims my passenger

It was my first time being the driver.

We were running errands and making small talk

Overall, I’d say the time together was nearly delightful

But deep inside me, I was sweating

Try to act nonchalant and easy-going

(Two things I’m not really known for)

So when he exclaimed about the things he saw on the street

I asked him in a very comfortable fashion,

“What did you see?”

And that’s when he says,

“I just saw a house without a roof, smoke coming out of it on top of a grave.”

I gulp…

It’s August

In North Carolina

There are no Halloween decorations up yet

And there is no house without a roof with smoke coming out of it

Over a grave

My heart broke

My pulse quickened

La-dee da, dee da dee da

“Don’t freak out,” I say to myself and we go merrily along the way.

Since Friday, my mind has turned like a whole organic, antibiotic-free chicken on a rotisserie

So today I drive back to that stretch of road

And I take a walk with my camera

W7J9L7Fdbld6DBBp_gomz-GJi-iP196ZexHRe57w9EcI try to look with brain-diseased eyes

This might sound bothersome but I have to figure this out

Then I spot two structures on the street that might fit his description

I know what he saw!

And I get it

With brain-diseased eyes, these buildings look as if they don’t have roofs

I imagine this being a very scary sight.

I imagine this being a very scary sight.

The trees might look like smoke

So could the clouds billowing in the sky

And the grave,

XOhNO0O45NoWuqL7frli7PETNf0fythdsQ_g1W-gkX8

I surmise it’s the office building sign

Strangely, I feel better

Because for a fleeting moment

I have entered his world and a piece of this horrid puzzle fits

I drive away and make a mental note

Scared…fearful…thankful…sad.

Question: Have you ever tried to unlock a brain mystery like this out before? I’d love to know!

You need a thick skin for Alzheimer’s, so what am I to do?

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It is heartbreaking to find old pictures destroyed in the trash.

It is heartbreaking to find old pictures destroyed in the trash.

As this ignoble journey through Alzheimer’s plods on,

I look up at the photo bulletin board in his kitchen

And in the last few days,

The picture of the Hubs and me

Has been torn up

And in our place

Stands the business card of the exterminator!

Ouch

At first I laughed…

But then it felt like a wasp sting in my heart

Pictures of the Hubs and his dad have been ripped up recently

Thrown in the trash

And I told the Hubs, “It’s ok. He doesn’t mean it. He loves you.”

But then it happened to me and instead I sadly said,

“I’m going to need to work through this.”

I can handle cleaning poo off the toilet seat rims,

Cindy versus poo,

I always win

20130824-180520.jpg

The miserable evolution and emotion of the bulletin board. I thought it would be something that brought him joy. I put it up for remembrances. Now I just want to forget I even bothered.

But crud muffins, being downgraded from the exterminator

Come on

Really?

Whoa

Oh, Brain Disease, if a picture of YOU were on my bulletin board

I’d replace you with a 8×10 PICTURE of MY exterminator

Now, Brain Disease, you know how we feel…

Five minute Friday – last

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We are a good team doing a very reluctant task.

We are a good team doing a very reluctant task.

I have fallen into a black hole of despair

Beyond depression

This abyss

Has left me wondering where I went

But I’m not the one with a brain disease

So it’s weird…

Sometimes the Hubs and I feel like we’ve lost our minds

While caring for someone who is losing his

It’s the last thing I want to do

photo copy 3But oddly enough, it’s the first thing I want to do because I have no choice. And I love him and I know it’s the right thing even though Alzheimer’s is the last thing I would ever wish on a person.

Comfortphoto copy

Encourage

Problem-solve

Discover

Feed

Understand

Restore

Calm

Those are first places in my heart

But here I am doing the last things

Removing rotting food from a fridge

Counting pills to help prevent a medical emergency

Cleaning poo off a toilet seat for the millionth time

Being afraid of what’s going to happen next.

Abba, Father!

There’s so much more…I’ll save it for next time.

So what does the word "last" make you think about? Join this writing community and share! You'll feel better, trust me!

So what does the word “last” make you think about? Join this writing community and share! You’ll feel better, trust me!

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?!

Five minute Friday – fall

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I want things to be nice but never perfect.

I want things to be nice but never perfect.

When I have company over, there is temptation.

If I want things to be perfect, I fall into pride.

If the night didn’t gel as I had hoped, like, let’s say, the Hubs got on my nerves the entire evening (true story) I fall into despair.

It’s when I give the occasion to the Lord that I see the greatest rewards.

When the birthday party, dinner company, gathering of friends is marinated in prayer, that’s when everyone has the sweetest fellowship.

IMG_20110120_185631I once had a family member come over for dinner with his family.

They do not know Jesus and before they arrived, I prayed for us to have a special night together.

Strangely enough, as I asked the Lord what to serve this family, I sensed God said “barbecue chicken.”

I realize this might sound like a really stupid prayer and even more so, a really weird answer. You talk to God about food? He talks to you about barbecue chicken? Come on.

My answer is I talk to God about everything and occasionally chicken is part of our conversation. Jesus is my friend and he is intimately involved in my life, so yes poultry is even an open topic for us. Don’t you talk to your best friend about everything?

So this isn’t a usual main dish for me to cook but I listened to His voice and guess what? Barbecue chicken was this person’s favorite meal! I had no idea!

5minutefridayTime and time again, these things have happened to me where God confirms that He was with me the entire time. Falling into his arms, relinquishing the moments into His will keeps me focused on the right thing, serving Jesus by serving others.

Five Minute Friday is a gathering of super cool people who all write for five minutes about one word. If you’re up for the challenge, join us!

Entertaining thoughts about entertaining – getting kids ready for guests

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Lemonhead party!

Lemonhead party!

If we know you are coming over to our house, there are things we do before you arrive. As the mama of three sons, one of whom is currently in Ranger School, I have learned that in military terms, presumably we could call it a “movement.”

We straighten up – usually a vacuum is pushed throughout the area you will visit. There is often dusting beforehand and the bathroom is cleaned. The bathroom deserves its own post though, more on that later.

There they are wearing those collared shirts. We had a guest from El Salvador visiting us among other special people.

There they are wearing those collared shirts. We had a guest from El Salvador visiting us among other special people.

They put on a nice shirt– although my boys moaned and groaned about this, we found that the mere act of putting on a collared shirt indicated they were part of the team. In our family we call it W-H style since those are the initials to our last name. Changing out of regular clothes means something special is going to happen. The collared shirt (usually a polo shirt, rarely long-sleeved)  signifies that our family, every single one of us, not just Dad and Mom, is having company. Even if only one person is invited, the level of alert is heightened.

We rehearse – Just as we had practice training sessions about manners, throughout the years, our family still goes over a list of duties before people show up.

“Ike, you’re in charge of water and drinks. Make sure no one’s glass remains empty.”

“Aaron, don’t talk too much, let others also speak and try to sit still.”

“Nate, when we’re done with dinner, gather up the plates.”

All the guys had a purpose.

So maybe you’re wondering –

Did it always work perfectly? Of course not! We never expected things to be flawless but there was a standard.

Always the life of the party, that's my Aaron!

This guy needs more than a collared shirt! My Aaron!

Did your kids feel like robots devoid of any personality? You haven’t been to our house if you’re asking that question! No, they actually had more freedom because of the rules. We made it fun and not overly formal.

Collared shirts every single time? Not every single time but often. Freshly showered, collared young men are so adorable. Sometimes they would dab a bit of cologne on before bounding down the stairs. The hint of manly fragrance on their middle school necks always made my heart grin and grow wistful. I wish those days back again quite honestly. When the doorbell rang, we were ready for our guests’ arrival. We appreciated them coming into our home.

And I must share this.

Our guests appreciate these touches although most might not even realize what happened behind the scenes. They are just blessed and isn’t that the whole point to entertaining, blessing someone? The minimal preparation we employed allows our guests to be at ease. In some way it announces this family is ready and we have things (slightly) under control.

Last summer, my oldest OS rented a house near Fort Benning and he and his buddies hosted a gathering. Nate called me for advice on menu selection and such. He even wanted to make sure he served a salad (this melted my heart). My boy wanted people to feel welcome in his home. I’m sure my Soldier was a gracious host and maybe he even wore a collared shirt!

And we recently had a 51st birthday party for the Hubs. It was a Lemonhead theme because it’s his favorite candy. The orange hair, freckle face OS  was an integral part of the planning and a huge help before, during and after the event.

But true to form before the guests arrived, Ike asked the standard question. “Do I have to wear a collared shirt?” As this picture indicates, Ike got his answer.

Those are two very lemony collared shirts, don't you think?

Those are two very lemony collared shirts, don’t you think?

Out of all my boys, Ike is very gifted with hos- pitality. His servant’s heart has parlayed into him having a little part-time job at a nearby event venue. He’s the guy walking around with hors d’oeuvres and refilling non-alcoholic drinks. So I guess being a good host, getting kids ready for company has paid off both here and away from home. The more we do it, the better we become as both guests and faithful stewards of our home.

So what are the little things you do before you have dinner guests? Do you even dare try? It is scary! How have you prepared your kids to co-host special times at your house?