Five minute Friday – close

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photo 2Today we’re close to a life changing moment

Tomorrow amidst a throng of observers and before God, my middle olive shoot beholds a beautiful woman adorned in the loveliest of linensphoto 3

Walk down the aisle and become his wife forever.

For all these years, we have been a close family

Priding ourselves on raising our three olive shoots to be men of God, to be ready for this moment when they go from not only being our children but

Being someone else’s beloved for life

We are so close.

Tonight I prepare my heart and pray

Tonight I speak and cry

Tonight I welcome family and friends and the woman I have prayed for since Aaron was a wee one

And my prayer is that we will be close – my sweet boy and I and the woman we welcome to our family

10171703_10152894953923018_2252761905675416999_nHow could I not want that considering I never had a daughter biologically?

Moreover though I pray that these two young kids who really have no idea about the enormity of marriage

Because let’s face it, no one does and I’m 27 years into this thing

That they will have an intimacy with the Lord, a closeness to Him

photoI am so close to becoming a mother-in-law, I took a seminar about it and learned many “inside” tips!

It is scary, like I’m about to jump off a diving board and plunge into the unknown

Entering what has been called the most complicated human relationship

And my heart’s cry is for a closeness with the Father during our lives together

And with her, if that is her desire and the Lord’s.

Today we’re close to a life-changing moment. Amen.

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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!

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!

I’m having a FOOT fit

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Chico's parents prepared a delicious Brazilian meal for us. Oh how I wanted to be in the kitchen helping!

Chico’s parents prepared a delicious Brazilian meal for us. Oh how I wanted to be in the kitchen helping!

The doctor told me that it would take seven weeks to heal from the foot surgery. He didn’t pull any punches or sugarcoat the news but somehow I under estimated the recovery.

It’s interesting the things we hear and the things we ignore.

I heard SEVEN weeks, and thought, “Oh I can do that, no problem!”

But I failed to think that SEVEN weeks breaks down to

49 days and nights

about 1,176 hours

or 70,560 minutes (if my calculations are correct)

non-stop

of inactivity and/or pain.

A brief moment out of the foot boot enjoying flowers given to me by Ike and Caleb

A brief moment out of the foot boot enjoying flowers given to me by Ike and Caleb

Often it’s like I’m just counting down the time, longing to put both feet on the ground and move forward – physically and mentally.

Since it’s my right foot, I am truly sidelined.

I'd rather be sewing...

I’d rather be sewing…

I can’t drive and almost even worse, I can’t sew. I made a Christmas quilt and walked four miles in one day just traipsing back and forth ironing the piece and putting it together. Now I’m adrift in inertia. As someone who doesn’t spend a lot of time inactive, I’m very challenged right now. In many ways, I feel completely worthless.

And to add further misery, while wearing the orthopedic boot, I developed a shin splint which has resulted in even more time in bed or stuck on a couch. I feel like I’m not progressing at all but instead going backward.

It’s not an entirely blob-like existence. I’m reading Don Quixote, doing my Bible study, praying for others, maintaining prayer journals for my future daughters-in-love, these are useful good things. I’m also folding clothes, doing an occasional chore but nonetheless I don’t feel like me. I guess I didn’t expect a cheilectomy and removal of some screws in my foot to result in such a season of purposelessness. My friends are visiting, in fact people from two different countries have graciously made dinners for us, it’s lovely but I’m accustomed to doing stuff, being an active participant in life.

What are ways that you feel productive when you’re unable to do the things you love? I know I’m not the only one that’s faced this challenge!

Warmth – Brazilian style

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photo 5Temperatures plummet all around the country but we experienced a heat wave of sorts. A Brazilian blast of kindness warmed our family these past few weeks as we enjoyed spending time with Chico’s parents. I have loved ones in Qatar, Chicago, El Salvador and Brazil – we’re all over the map!

Since last May, the Lord opened the door for new people to enter our home. Most who entered as friends left as members of our family. Some through actual marriage proposals (Lu and Kelsie) but others through spending extended time in our home – they became W-H’s, an extension of our olive shoot branch.

And it’s interesting, the timing of it all. Disease and deception ushered a person out of our lives. Without a proper goodbye, a thank you, a warm embrace, nothing, nada, zilch, poof, he was gone. I don’t recommend it. So while recovering from the pangs of loss, these people have been a healing balm to our family. We haven’t forgotten this person but we have moved on in order to survive. He hasn’t been replaced but God has opened new chambers of our hearts. I know many people who have experienced a loss can empathize.

On Sunday, we said our goodbyes to Francisco and Leyla. We enjoyed going to church together and I was deeply touched to sit by Chico’s mom and to hear her singing the refrain “Hallelujah” in one of the songs. Tears streamed from both of our eyes as the music played. It’s safe to say that a year ago none of us had any notion how close we would feel to one another. I didn’t really personally know any Brazilian people until September. Now it’s like our family has grown exponentially just by adding one charming borrowed Brazilian olive shoot into our home.

After church, we went to a restaurant. As the meal was ending, Chico’s dad went out to his car to get something. When he returned, he approached the Hubs holding something small in his fingers. He then gently took the corner of the Hub’s jacket and carefully attached a small gold item to the collar. With a few emotional words in Portuguese, he embraced and kissed my husband and that’s when we saw this.

photo 4In some way, it re- minded me of when Nate was pinned as an officer at West Point. Our dear friend Colonel Eric Kail com missioned Nate. We will never forget that moment or that man.

It also reminded me of the kindred moment when Nate was tabbed by his brothers after completing Ranger School those memories flooded back to me.

I’m not sure Francisco understood the significance of his gesture but based on the tears that flowed afterward, perhaps we all did. Francisco’s gift to my husband was an acknowledgement of trust and connection. That pin proudly sits next to the Army pin on my husband’s coat. The cold weather allows him opportunity to display some of our dearest and deepest connections.2013-07-12 12.17.27

The  feeling of being deemed worthy and proven can warm a heart and that little pin of our two flags was a profound symbol between 2013-07-12 11.19.16men. When people enter our lives, they leave an impression. In this case, it was an enduring and deep connection neither family could have expected.

My family phoenix

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34I am proud of us.

This five-piece puzzle that we have called ourselves has shown strength and faith in the face of great sadness and loss. Last year, my father-in-law was a significant member of our family, this year, that all changed.

But instead of falling apart, our family persevered. We nearly curled inward, it would have been understandable. But we all have done the opposite. We chose hope. Not always, not perfectly. Yet we risked rejection and kept our hearts open. I am proud of us.

UnknownAs a junior in college, I attended l’universite de Caen in Normandy, France. Founded in 1432, the university was destroyed in 1944. Most of the town was also decimated, in fact, the home where I lived still had bullet holes in the stone wall from a fire fight during the Invasion.

At the entrance to the school, a sculpture entitled “The Phoenix” welcomed all. Many days I strolled past this statue but never really appreciated its beauty or significance until now.

For some reason I remember that monument and connect it my present day life.35

The morning before Thanksgiving, my family gathered together. An impromptu gluten-free brunch of pupusas (a popular Salvadoran dish) and pão de queijo (a delicious Brazilian cheese bread) filled the kitchen with warmth and flavor.

Around the table, I saw people I never expected to be here. One person, in fact, I didn’t even know existed until about three months ago.

There sat~

– A handsome borrowed Brazilian son

– A Salvadorena future daughter-in-love

– A gluten-free future daughter-in-love

photo 4And beside them, all holding hands sat

a Soldier preparing to be deployed a few days later

– a ministry-minded middle and

– an orange hair, freckle face olive shoot.

We bowed our heads to pray and I tried not to cry. Happy tears filled my eyes.

How did I get so blessed?

Look at this food!

Behold these people!

I scarcely could take it in as the Hubs led us in prayer. The Lord gives and He takes away. There weren’t five of us. There now were EIGHT.

In a way, that breakfast was a symbol of our phoenix, our human sculpture of grace and resilience.

Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia, deception and greed have not defeated us. What Satan intended for evil, the Lord has used for good. Though we do not forget and still grieve, our family has created new connections and love.

Across the miles, continents and cultures, hearts still remain strong.