Bless me, Mama

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Here are just a few of the people I pray for on the regular.

Here are just a few of the people I pray for on the regular.

My 16-year-old walks into the kitchen and I’m slicing strawberries. He’s got a basketball game in a few hours and is heading out the door.

“Bless me, Mama,” he says.

My thin, ginger wisp stands near my side by the sink.

This is the moment every Christian mom hopes will happen and today’s my day. This is cool. I’m going to write about this I vow to myself.

“Oh, ok, I can do that.” I stop slicing. My strawberry stained fingers lift into the air and words flow from my lips.

But no sooner did I finish the first sentence then Ike interrupts me and says,

“Mom, I didn’t mean it!”

You can’t be serious, Child.

That ginger in the jacket, yeah, that's the kid I just prayed for!

That ginger in the jacket, yeah, that’s the kid I just prayed for!

For a second, I hesitated.

Then what did I do? I prayed for him anyway. #shablam

He had a great game. The team won. I did not cause these things by my prayers but I was obedient to the Lord.

Time and desire to pray have increased since beginning the YouVersion 21 Day Challenge. Other crazy, interesting things are also happening which perhaps I will share one day.

I love and admire this potato head.

I love and admire this potato head.

But the words “Bless me, Mama” resonate within me again.

My oldest olive shoot begins pre-Ranger school tomorrow at 11:45. Gulp. He will sleep on the ground and be pushed to his physical and mental brink. Many fail, it is beyond challenging.

“Bless me, Mama” is my charge as his mother. Nathaniel, my gift, I speak blessings and success into your journey. Oh how I treasure you. Shine brightly.

My ministry-minded middle will soon speak to group of high school students. About the subject of love. Basically it’s his first preaching opportunity. Plus each Friday he goes into the inner city of Chicago to reach high risk young kids with the Gospel. “Bless me, Mama.” I do, Aaron, I do.

Aaron loves this ministry and the kids he meets! Thanks be to God!

Aaron loves this ministry and the kids he meets! Thanks be to God!

May I be fruitful with all you have given me, My Holy One. Allow me to seize every opportunity to pray. Grant me knowledge to embrace ways to boldly proclaim your truth and loving kindness, as a mom, as a woman; every role I play, Father may it be so all the days of my life.

Amen

Five Minute Friday – again

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Imagine what you could discover by participating in Five Minute Friday! Join us, it's just the best!

Imagine what you could discover by participating in Five Minute Friday! Join us, you will LOVE it!

Oh, Five Minute Friday, again you challenge me.

This word “again” is annoying. I connote unpleasant things with this word.

An olive shoot is being difficult again.

My husband has to travel again.

A family member is ill again.

They didn’t empty the dishwasher

or close the door on the dryer so now the light is out

No one puts away the clean clothes

They rustle through all the other clothes and leave things in disarray

An example of an irritating form of "again." Disheveled laundry!

An example of an irritating form of “again.” Disheveled laundry!

AGAIN

Ergh

You get the idea

Frustrating

Scary

Irritating

Repetitive

Something I don’t like is being experienced additional times. Wow.

And it’s not like I see it only in others.

I have my own “again’s” which feel even more disappointing.

But since I only have a few more minutes, let me tell you about another again which can help me not spiral into hopelessness.

A few years ago, the Hubs got me this pretty print from a West Point mom/crafty girl/blogger.

I bespy this reminder of God’s faithfulness again in my hallway. Again I stop and consider the Lord’s treasures and promises.

A pretty print made by a talented West Point mom. Here's her Etsy site.

A pretty print made by a talented West Point mom. Here’s her Etsy site.

His mercies

New every day

Every morning

Just enough

Again, I approach the throne of grace and ask for His guidance and help.

One of my favorite Scripture verses: Lamentations 3:22-24

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
‘The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”

Praying like Mary, thinking about Capri Sun

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I am proud of this Soldier. I must pray fervently for him.

I am proud of this Soldier. I must pray fervently for him.

After reading Monday’s daily Scripture several times, I drop to my knees to pray for my Soldier. So much is on my heart about this strong olive shoot. I notice a verse in my reading,

“Toi, Seigneur, tu connais le coeur de tous les hommes.” – Actes 1:25

Yes, Father, you know the heart of every man. I trust you listen to my heart’s cries. Incline your ear to me, your servant, My Holy One – this is what I implore.

Nate will soon be in Ranger School. I won’t be able to speak to him on the phone or receive his silly text messages for at least two months. Though I can write him letters, the frequent communication I cherish will be interrupted.

Ranger School is physically and emotionally grueling. There are aspects about the challenge that I can’t learn until he has graduated, is rested and has fattened up a little. Monday’s reading reminded me that I need to follow Mary’s example and pray with others, for our children individually and collectively, join together and seek God’s face.

I ponder what God is saying to me in this first chapter of Acts (Actes), I think about Mary and strangely enough, the new Capri Sun commercial. Admittedly, it’s a weird collage of thoughts.

Have you seen these commercials about a new vegetable-infused version of the juice drink called Super V? Here’s a link to see it yourself. .

“Paula Ebert” wants to buy a healthy juice for her son. She wants to help her son with all of his daily struggles. I chuckle to myself when I see the mom on the dodgeball court valiantly attempting to block all shots coming her boy’s way. “NO! NO! NO!” she yells to the kids trying to pellet her son. Hands flying in the air, frantically doing her best, Paula turns to her very embarrassed boy and reassures him, “Mommy’s here. It’s ok.” Bless her heart. I don’t like Capri Sun but I really like this mama. Part of every mother wishes God permitted only good things to happen to her babies. Since we live in a fallen, broken world that can’t happen but we can intercede on our children’s behalf.

21-Day-Challenge-Badge-300x300Mary prayed. 14 D’un commun accord, ils se retrouvaient souvent pour prier, avec quelques femmes, avec Marie la mère de Jésus, et avec les frères de Jésus. 

Acts (Actes) 1:14

How precious that the mom of the sinless Savior demonstrates the legacy of prayer! As I follow the 21-Day Challenge, I observe how Mary loved the Lord in this manner. In these verses, Mary didn’t pray alone but with others and in one accord for her son. To hear someone pray for my olive shoots grabs me at my very roots. Would you please pray for my son and all the men in Ranger School? If you have ever had someone pray for your child, you know what that means to a mother.

Wonder what God might say to you? Check out all of these Bible reading options, I bet there’s one that will speak to you! Give it a try and never be the same! This is the one I’m currently using, join me and many blessings!

One-word prayers

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Before having our first dinner of 2013 –

photo copy 4And after the Hubs had prayed,

I had an idea

(A truly beautiful idea if you ask me)

Initially it wasn’t warmly received

But I insisted

And so we went around the dining room table

Falafel, salad, mung bean sprouts and such, they paused

Cherishing these moments together

Cherishing these moments together

Three precious olive shoots

– A Soldier

– A ministry-minded middle

– An orange hair, freckle face sophomore

The Hubs and I

Offered a one-word prayer for the person to our left

Here are the brief utterances we spoke to each other

The one-word prayers we shared for each other. I am curious to see how these words are fulfilled.

The one-word prayers we shared for each other. I am curious to see how these words are fulfilled.

A simple, carefully selected word emerged from our lips individually

Handpicked from God, I’d like to think

A collective sigh of relief

And blessing manifested

As we feasted (finally) on all we had been given

photo copy 2

Watercolor works wonders this Christmas

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Did you give a loved one a very meaningful gift this Christmas? Isn’t it a satisfying feeling? Four of the presents I gave to loved ones fell into the category of little things that mean a lot.

This holiday season I discovered a talented watercolor artist and fellow West Point mom. I admired Janet’s beautiful work on facebook and contacted her. Upon sharing a bit, Janet agreed to the daunting task of painting (in miniature) a time this year when God literally and figuratively used the Hubs and my three olive shoots to save my life.

On Christmas day, after opening all the other presents, I stood in front of my family. With a silly clearing of my throat meant for dramatic effect and levity, I read the cards I had written. The atmosphere in the living room grew from festive to reflective as I became emotional. I’m blessed (and cursed) with very active Lacrimal glands; soon my pajamas became tear-stained.

Fog, rainbow, valley watercolor

Fog, rainbow, valley watercolor

After reading each card, I simultaneously handed the Hubs and my OS their gifts. (Nate received his gift after returning from El Salvador). There were no shrieks of delight, the kind that are often associated with Christmas; these presents summoned brief silence instead. Each painting was similar yet each had a unique touch.

I gave this watercolor to my Soldier.

I gave this watercolor to my Soldier.

Without getting too personal and making things awkward, I’ll share part of my literal journey.

Some of the dense fog I experienced.

Some of the dense fog I experienced.

In the fall, while traveling to Chicago to see my ministry-minded OS Aaron, I drove through miles and miles of hazardous fog. It was the second worst fog I’ve ever encountered. The most terrifying fog was to happen on the way HOME from this trip and it wasn’t the serene, mysterious kind either. There was nothing ethereal and lovely about it, this fog was treacherous and blindingly thick, a wrong tilt of the wheel would result in certain death. And I had precious cargo aboard in both directions – my orange hair, freckle face Ike.  There was no safe way off the highway, I just had to drive through the fog until things cleared. Anxiety still looms in me as I type these words. Had I veered off the highway, we would have plunged deep into the valley below.

Yet during this journey, Ike and I also encountered a rainbow. He saw it first and pointed it out to me. Both the fog and the rainbow are metaphors for other aspects of my life and we’ll just leave it there.

Ike became my living rainbow.

Ike became my living rainbow.

Janet was “commissioned” to combine elements of both the fog and the rainbow into a 2″ x 3″ watercolor (the Hubs’ painting is a bit larger and trust me, he deserved it!).

The Hubs promptly hung his watercolor painting in his office.

The Hubs promptly hung his watercolor painting in his office.

I love this.

I love this.

And this blessed woman unbeknownst to me at the time, not only created paintings for the Hubs and my three olive shoots; she made one for me. I now own an original watercolor which travels to different rooms in my house lest I am unable to see it.

These paintings are small but Janet rendered them magnificently. Though I fancy myself as a thoughtful gift giver, the Lord gets the credit. He provided the backdrop and graciously allowed the Hubs and my three olive shoots to bestow hope and support to me at a time when the valley was dangerously tempting. The Lord created the scenery and granted me insight. Then at just the right time, God carefully provided an artist, someone with whom I share a kindred spirit.

Psalm 31:8

and have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy;
you have set my feet in a broad place.

It was a privilege to give these gifts and I’d love to hear about a special gift you gave or received this Christmas. If you are interested in learning more about Janet, contact her at jacruick@yahoo.com.

A Soldier ornament give away in honor of my Soldier

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"I enjoy jumping out of planes!"

“I enjoy jumping out of planes!”

Today my Soldier received a snazzy new pin for his uniform.

Nate got his jumper wings and has graduated from Airborne School!

When Nate was four, my oldest OS fell out of a second story window. His little body slammed to the concrete first hitting a clay pot. He suffered a fractured skull and I felt overwhelming guilt that I wasn’t watching him when he decided to play with the cat by our bedroom window. Praise Jesus he survived this random accident!

Now this same child intentionally jumped 1500 feet out of a perfectly good airplane. He didn’t suffer any broken bones during his five jumps though the same cannot be said for a few of his Airborne classmate. One has badly broken ankle and another a broken leg. Nate went from four foot practice jumps to the real deal.

This is my ornament positioned right by a picture of the Hubs and I on our honeymoon in Spain.

This is my ornament positioned right by a picture of the Hubs and I on our honeymoon in Spain.

So in honor of my son’s achievement and the fact that he’s my best Scrabble buddy, I’m offering a give-away. Thanks to a generous donation by Letters by Lilly, I have a super awesome Christmas ornament that’s perfect for a military family.

Nate often underestimates the courage it takes to do many things. As I listen in awe to his adventures, he speaks humbly about his achievements which far exceed the external and temporal. Each of my olive shoots inspires me in a different way, I honor my Soldier and all those serving in the military, thankful for their selfless service.

I placed my Soldier ornament on this tree. Nate will be with his bonita in El Salvador for Christmas, this will be another reminder of him!

I placed my Soldier ornament on this tree. Nate will be with his bonita in El Salvador for Christmas, this will be another reminder of him!

If you would like to win this ornament, leave a message on this post. I’m going to randomly select a name from the messages on Sunday, 6PM (EST). I will post the winner on my blog. Great thanks to Letters by Lilly! I love you, Nathan!

Aaron’s aggravated appendix

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Awkward fun at the hospital

Awkward fun at the hospital

The appendix is a fairly useless organ but it sure can wreak havoc. If you are planning appendicitis during your college career, remain well hydrated and carry an extra dose of humor for the journey. You also might want to finish all your important papers too. Just sayin.

My ministry-minded olive shoot is at a hospital in Chicago. Yesterday in the late afternoon, Aaron began to experience severe abdominal pain. His buddies took him to the Emergency Room and following a CT scan, Aaron learned his appendix is unhappy. Soon it will vacate its home.

Let the fun begin?!

Let the fun begin?!

It stinks being so far away from my OS right now but thanks to social media, I can see Aaron and his crew made the most of a stinky situation. His friends brought him to the hospital and had already purchased him a Get Well Soon balloon. The balloon and Aaron’s buddy, Ethan have been his constant companions.

Aaron’s appendix is/was kinda dumb – can’t even spell himself! #gottago @RIPuvileveriform

Aaron will have surgery in the next few hours and probably be discharged tomorrow. I praise the Lord for his goodness and how He has worked out all of the details in advance. He has surrounded my olive shoot with a caring community and a wacky bunch of friends which is exactly what Aaron needs and what the Great Physician ordered.

I learned that sometime in the middle of the night, one of Aaron’s friends even created a Twitter account on behalf of Aaron’s failing vermiform.

A few moments ago, Moody Bible called to check in on Aaron and to make sure I knew of his condition. Since I’ve had a son at a military academy who had ACL surgery at West Point last year and now an olive shoot at a Bible university, I have no idea if this is how the rest of the colleges handle medical matters. 100% of my over 18-year-old OS have had surgery during college. Ike, if you’re reading this blog post, Mama would  really appreciate it if you changed the stats when it’s your time to get your degree.

It has done this mama much good to trust in the Lord and rely on the mighty ways He can transcend the miles and distance.

Know your soap and enjoy a soapy sale!

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Let’s have a SOAPY sale in celebration of olive shoots!

If you are looking for a thoughtful gift for a loved one or a way FOR YOU to de-stress during the holidays, may I suggest something as simple as a bar of high quality soap?

Before my brain discovered why natural soaps are better, my skin told me. “We like this soap!” it squealed after first encountering lovely cold processed, handmade soaps. “I feel fresh and squeaky clean, not like I’ve been through a car wash!” my face declared one evening. 

There is a difference between natural soaps and commercially made soap. For a limited time, Olive Shoot Institute is offering a soapy sale. When I began to use soap nuts last winter and started a business in the fall, I discovered  100% extra virgin olive oil based soap bars. Since I’m the mama of three olive shoots, of course, the word “OLIVE” got my attention but to keep me interested, there had to be more. Here are some things to know about cold processed, handmade soaps –

Not many people make soap like this any more – it’s old school!

Caribbean Craze soap

Ingredients are unique – your nose will pick up notes of unusual ingredients – spearmint essential oil (Handsome Man), Pure African Shea Butter (Caribbean Craze and Charcoal Hippie), Cinnamon Leaf (Bay and Cinnamon Shaving Bar) just to name a few. The specks of color in each bar are visually appealing but offer their own health benefits. There’s a sense of care and nurturing I get in using and giving them to others. Honestly it was joyful giving my Soldier and my ministry-minded OS several bars of soap to take back with them to Fort Benning and Chicago.

Rich in antioxidants and natural nutrients

Glycerin – this gentle natural humectant is removed during industrial soap manufacturing which might explain why my skin always felt like it had been treated so harshly. Um, it was!

No petro-chemical derived ingredients, animal fats, synthetic fillers and/or synthetic dyes and fragrances.

True story, when I pick up my shipment of soaps, I rip open the box and take out a bar of  individually wrapped soap to inhale on the ride home. Weird, maybe. My latest fave is Charcoal Hippie. Activated bamboo charcoal helps deep clean pores without leaving a residue but is loaded with ultra-moisturizing botanical oils and shea butter of the highest quality. Too bad my blog doesn’t offer smell-a-vision.

Ike closed his eyes and he picked Handsome Man soap as his favorite every single time!

My orange hair, freckle face OS loves Handsome Man soap. He says, “it smells good. It smells fresh” Upon further pestering, Ike replied, “I don’t know, Mom, I just thought it smelled good.” There’s a succinct review for ya!

You don’t have to be a hipster to totally love Charcoal Hippie soap. Made with activated bamboo charcoal, pure African shea butter and essential oils of eucalyptus, lavender and patchouli!

Why torture your skin and expose yourself to unnecessary chemicals and toxins when there is a better alternative? Truly, cold-processed soaps are superior to what you are probably using. Treat yourself and others to the difference!

We also offer other natural products to clean your laundry and home! Check it out at Olive Shoot Institute!

Here’s another great resource that’s worth checking out – Environmental Working Group!

For the losers, 5 lessons learned in junior high about running for political office

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Don’t let this picture fool you, I was a serious candidate, btw.

I know something about running for political office. I ran for Treasurer back in junior high. This is my advice for all the losers in today’s elections. It’s the least I can do for democracy.

Please feel free to pass this blog post along to the losers of today’s elections. I sure do hope it helps them move forward.

1. Be gracious – When I was running for Treasurer back at Jefferson Junior High in the 1970s, I learned to hold my head high as I walked past those who did not vote for me. And I did so in bell bottom jeans no less. Yes, I wanted to burst into tears upon the news of my failure. Sure, in addition, I was dealing with hormonal issues, what 12-13 year old girl isn’t? Yes, I had body issues, poor posture and pimples but did I seek vengeance on my opponents? NO! It probably crossed my mind but I chose higher ground. Dear losers, be nice even when you lose.

2. Work on your public speaking – I found speaking into the intercom during school announcements absolutely terrifying. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I lost. Not sure. My fellow classmates probably detected the quiver in my voice when I spoke into the microphone. So what did I do about it? Did that stop me from ever speaking again? NO, my friends. After college, I had a career teaching executives public speaking across the country and in three countries. Later, I spoke to over 50,000 kids about super private stuff like waiting to have sex. If you work on your presentation skills, you can channel that skill set into other endeavors. If I can do it, so can you.

3. Stand for something – With nearly three decades to ponder the reason for my unsuccessful bid as junior high treasurer, I think my platform might have been weak. I should have outlined clearer goals and strategies.

4. Campaign ads don’t always work – Trust me. I spent HOURS working on stenciling my campaign slogan on poster board. I bought neon poster paper plus I used brand new, smelly magic markers. WIN with WINTER was my catchy phrase, how perfect but guess what? I lost, people! You can pour yourself into your campaign, develop the slickest designs out there and still not rock the vote. It’s going to be ok.

5. Pursue other dreams. Try other things. If you would have told me as junior high Cindy and that in just two short years, I would make history, I wouldn’t have believed you. But sitting in front of me as I type, I hold the title for being Gala West’s MOST IMPROVED BOWLER – 1974-1975. The trophy sits proudly in my office next to my computer. I’m looking at it right now. Dear losers, may my story inspire you. My dreams were not dashed only diverted.

The coveted Most Improved Bowler trophy, yeah, I got insurance on this.

My Soldier, myself and my trophy. Btw, You can order your own doll at http://stores.oliveshootinstitute.com/-strse-26/Guinea-Pig-Girl-Doll/Detail.bok

Interesting side note – two of my three olive shoots have also run for student body political offices. I’m the mother of two former class senators (Nate and Aaron) and the mother of the student body President (Aaron). Furthermore, as the mama of a West Point grad (Nate), a comparative politics major no less, my public service aspirations or that of my olive shoots will not be revealed but here’s a hint. We will not rule out a future run for office. Stay tuned and be encouraged all you winners and losers out there!

Do you have any suggestions for the losers based on your junior or high school government days? I’d love to hear them! Check out http://stores.oliveshootinstitute.com/-strse-26/Guinea-Pig-Girl-Doll/Detail.bok if you’d like a super cool homemade gift for the holidays!