What a young man said the night before his wedding – life, death, marriage and God

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photoMy experience with rehearsal dinners is limited and I’m only three weeks into having a daughter-in-law and a married son. That’s a lot to process, lemme tell ya!  So today with permission from Aaron, it’s my privilege to share the beautiful words my ministry-minded middle olive shoot shared less than 24 hours before he got married.

For a young man, Aaron’s words and reflections are beyond his chronological age. I never expected him to speak so beautifully and yet, I am not surprised at his eloquence and maturity either. Nonetheless it still took my breath away, the loveliness and depth of his words. I am a proud mama to be sure.

Aaron spoke after my husband and I both shared. Soon, I will post the words we spoke that night. But as I sat at the table that evening, I wiped away tears full of emotion and amazement.

Here is Aaron’s tribute to his bride-to-be…

My life has been pretty exciting so far. I’ve been able to travel around the world and the country. I go to college in a big city. I work at Starbucks! I mean, what could be more exciting than that?photo

And now, at 19, I’m getting married.

I’d say the Lord has richly blessed me.

More than I know, more than I could ever express. I could not be happier or more excited to join Kelsie’s family; I consider it such a joy. And I have no words to thank my parents and my brothers for the love they gave me and continue to give me as I get older.

Thank you to my friends, especially Caleb and John who have helped me grow over the past two years more than I could have imagined. Y’all have been with me through incredible struggle and encouraged me and advised me so much. To all of you I want to say thank you. Thank you for blessing me. I am a blessed man. I realize that continually and I realize that far too little.

The world thinks of marriage as death, as boring, as stifling. It sees the union that God creates in husband and wife and calls it the “old ball and chain.” And as a very young man getting married I may have to agree with them. Marriage will kill you and it will hurt.

But the Lord has shown me this in a different light.

The song in our first dance tomorrow attends to this. It says,“‘I do” are the two most famous last words, The beginning of the end, But to lose your life for another I’ve heard, Is a good place to begin. ‘Cause the only way to find your life Is to lay your own life down, And I believe it’s an easy price For the life that we have found.”

I was so nervous the day I proposed. I went to the bathroom at the P.F. Changs before we walked to the Chicago River where I was going to propose, the ring in my pocket. My heart was beating so fast; I actually couldn’t believe it. I had no doubt that she would say yes and I was still so nervous. I was pondering the weight of what I was about to do. I was gonna ask this girl to marry me. I really couldn’t believe it. It was such a momentous step, a leap into the unknown, this unbelievable thing that was marriage. And honestly, I feel the same way now. I have very little doubt that Kelsie will also say “I do” on Saturday. But I’m nervous stepping into this uncharted, terrifying territory that is Holy Matrimony.1426411_10200940981183826_384050544_n

But maybe that’s the beauty in it.

The world looks at the requirement of marriage that is dying to yourself with spite and malice – 

I look at it and am dumbfounded that I would be so blessed to have the offer of the love and security within our marriage and to be told that what I have to do in return is to lose my life.

To gain the life that we will have together it means I must lay my own life down. The song goes on, “‘Cause we bear the light of the Son of Man So there’s nothing left to fear, So I’ll walk with you in the shadow lands Till the shadows disappear. ‘Cause he promised not to leave us And his promises are true, So in the face of all this chaos, baby, I can dance with you.”

So, in one sense I understand the world’s qualms and cavils against marriage. It will kill you, but it is the most beautiful thing. Thomas Torrance, a Scottish Theologian wrote of marriage, “When a man and a woman come together in this way, they are made to participate in the active will of their Creator, and in their union and society they reflect the image of the Holy God. In them God brings his act of creation to its fulfillment. Therefore when a man and a woman marry, God is at work doing a new thing in which they both share in their innermost being. Ever after each is unthinkable apart from the other.” Life in another, mutual self-giving, for the Moody Bible students with us, here’s a word for you, perichoresis. As Christ lays down His life for His Church, as He gives Himself to us, so it is with marriage. And that scares me, that makes me nervous. I bend beneath the weight of that calling. But it is a beautiful thing.

10313774_766597896705179_8885708818697631266_nKelsie is an incredible woman. I had no clue that I would ever marry a girl like Kelsie, I had no idea that I would ever see such beauty. She’s asked me before why I love her and I quickly responded, “You’re little and cute.” And that’s true, she’s very pretty.

But that falls so short of all who Kelsie is.

She is tender and feels strongly. Not high-maintenance or overly emotional but tender.

She is caring and compassionate, I am often anxious and I’ll tell her. She’ll ask me what I need and I tell her I need to be anxious with her near. I need her compassionate tenderness close to me. She is, as Caleb will quickly say, industrious. I have never seen such diligence and desire to learn about the Lord.

She is constantly reading and teaching me and challenging me. I always feel out-learned because I really am.

She is skillful and talented, at her job as a nanny, she is incredible. With three little boys 5 and under she works incredibly hard and does wonders for children who are not even her own.

10300986_10203755464748160_1785004085953563782_nShe is fun. Kelsie and I are both homebodies. Most of the time we just want to sit and hang out drink some coffee, read, watch a movie. But there’s no one else I want to sit around with.

She loves Jesus, is captivated by His grace. It is a beautiful thing to see the girl you love continually encounter Christ. And she is little and cute.

That is the beauty in Kelsie, the truest beauty that comes from Christ in her. I am a blessed man, more than I will ever know, or ever feel, or ever express.photo

And I’m nervous about this Saturday, and for that matter, the next 20 or 30 or 100 years that we have with one another. I am blessed man but I am also an unable man.

So I pray that God will love Kelsie through me. I read that we love because Christ first loved us. So I ask the Lord that we will, in the love of Jesus only, love one another.  Thanks y’all.

Here is the link to Aaron and Kelsie’s first dance as a married couple. You have to listen to it!

I was honored to share this with you, thanks so much for reading!

 

A son sees his bride for the very first time –

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photo 1To see a groom behold his bride for the very first time

That moment when they first lay eyes on each other

It’s hard not to cry, isn’t it? Heck, I’m verklempt even watching Say Yes to the Dress and I’ve only personally known one bride that’s ever been on that show! Click here to watch the episode!

Yet to my surprise, when my middle olive shoot saw his beloved last Saturday morning in a church tucked away in verdant Pennsylvania

Tears escaped me as it happened in front of my eyes

Not that I didn’t find it precious and a bit surreal

But when I stood watching my son prepare to turn and step into the day and the role of husband

Times we had prayed for all these years – both just with him and as a family

It would have been wrong to cry because I just felt joyphoto 2

Uncle Alan directed the photo shoot which kept the mood light which helped, thank you, kind sir!

Now, however…

Even after making this simple video,

photo 3It’s like after Thanksgiving dinner

When everyone is gone and I put on my pj’s. I pile my plate high with food – turkey and gravy, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie, apple pie, whipped cream. That’s my moment when I truly savor the meal minus any other responsibilities.

Now I’m able to soak up all the deliciousness

The quietude allows me to absorb it all.

Less than 60 seconds

I watch over and over again, my heart full of gratitude…

How about you? A special wedding moment you observed or experienced? I’d love to hear your stories and share the bliss!

 

 

 

 

I slow-danced with another man and I liked it

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photoMy first experience slow-dancing was traumatic.

Picture a teenage girl going to a Mormon youth dance. She misses her mom who’s in the hospital. It’s a weekend night. Her friend’s name is Michelle.

Platform shoes, lip gloss, a tender heart, polyester

Abba music playing in the background

This Catholic girl alight with anticipation

Who will pick me? Am I pretty? Has that pimple disappeared? More importantly, will there be enough disco music???

Then the creepiest, dweebiest guy asks me to dance. How can I say no? He isn’t cute but he’s the only one to approach.

Pressing me close to him, he slowly removes his glasses and whispers…

“I don’t need these to see you, now do I?”

Every shameful feeling a teenage girl can experience joined me on the dance floor that night

Clumsy feet step all over his until I can’t take it anymore.

I run into the girl’s bathroom, lock the door.

And upon my return home, immediately shower to remove that guy from my person.

Yeah, I’d say that qualifies as a traumatic slow-dancing event, wouldn’t you?

Since then, my slow-dancing skills haven’t improved.

Foot surgeries, knee problems, my list of excuses will impress.

It’s a standing joke with the Hubs.  I can’t slow-dance, I can’t follow his lead. It’s so silly when I even try.

But more than three decades later, there’s another guy who wants to dance with me.

My middle olive shoot – Aaron

On his wedding day no less…

Did he not remember the legendary tale? I mean, I only talk about it a couple of times a year. I plead with Aaron to not humiliate me by forcing me to slow-dance in front of people. Can’t we just leave it alone?

I send him videos of moms choreographing wedding dances with their sons. Don’t they look amazing? Doesn’t that look like fun? I think we should do that, don’t you? Heck, I even work with an up and coming dj on a dance mix.

But no.

The kid won’t budge.

He wants to dance with his mama.

Tears flow after the father/daughter dance. I know I’m next.

Aaron, I can’t do this.”

“I’m crying. I’ll look stupid. People will laugh. I will uglyphoto cry.”

“No, Mama, you can do this.”

He takes my hand and leads me to the dance floor.photo

Suddenly I don’t care. I almost feel pretty. I know I feel proud.

I’m in my son’s arms.

My charming, safe and oh so handsome child. He’s a married man. Sweet melodies serenade my heart-strings.

We step all over each other’s feet.

I twirl him to lighten the mood.

He spins me around. We look ridiculous. At one point, we miss intersecting after a twirl.

It’s a hot mess.

But I cry and look deep into his eyes. I caress his soft cheeks just like I did when he was a baby.

10172643_10203755528669758_7964348490121130609_n“Oh Aaron, I love you so much.”

“I love you too, Mama.”

And then it’s over.

The music stops.

I leave the dance floor glad. Really super duper glad.

10345846_10152968220578018_3115487111255556271_nI nearly passed up this imperfect moment.

I look at the pictures afterward and reflect.

I almost got in the way. Pride and self-consciousness, as clumsy as my feet trying to move at a gentle speed, nearly ruined the moment.

But the sun had streamed on the spot where we danced. We were unaware at the time. I had no idea. Beholding the images now, God’s hand held us together. 

Quite simply, despite our lack of skill, we were GRACE-ful. Not our feet but our hearts.

I feel resplendent. I feel healed. I’ve been dancing on air ever since.

Here’s my message to you moms – don’t pass up moments due to insecurity. Those times don’t come around every day.

And to you sons – encourage your sweet mothers. Take us by the hand. We get scared too. Tell us you love us and guide us to the adventure. You will never regret it.

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.

Five minute Friday – joy

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photo 28Because crying constantly throughout the day was exhausting

I needed a new hobby

A fresh focus

Something to bring a measure of joy over circumstances

Transcending struggle and sorrow

“I want a dog,” I tearfully told my husband.

And he knew I was serious.

We drove 800 miles to meet a four-legged 27 pound corgi/cattle dog thanks to an amazing program called Canine CellMates.

The wag of his tail, the jaunty way he carried his frame.

A dog that should for all practical purposes not be alive

Rescued in every way

Oliver Winslow1896954_10152767953028018_25996553_n

A stray near death, he spent seven weeks in the hospital re-  covering from his injuries

And then three months in Fulton County jail working with a handler who rehabilitated this forsaken boy

Oliver Winslow

Put sunshine back in my heart

A gift from the Creator, a sign of joy and pleasure from the Lord

An adorable, affectionate display of hope and redemption5-minute-friday-1

I began to smile and laugh again.

What does joy look like to you today? Special props to Five minute Friday for this happy word prompt!

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.

When you’re a military family, Veterans’ Day takes on a whole different meaning

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2013-07-12 11.21.47Soon

very soon

my West Point grad, my Army Ranger, my handsome, beloved son will go to a faraway place

Not for vacation

Or to get married – though this will happen soon enough

But somewhere distant that brings a sense of fear over me if I’m having one of those days.

And so this whole Veterans’ Day thing is much more meaningful to me than it was, let’s say ten years ago.

(She types embarrassingly).

Last Friday, my orange hair, freckle face olive shoot sang in the school choir for a local Veterans’ Day celebration.

2013-11-08 18.18.25That in and of itself, is notable since Ike will not be dropping a CD anytime soon though he jokes that he is the songbird of his gen- eration. Hearing him sing, “God Bless America” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic” (my personal favorite) caused me to grab the bag of tissues I brought expressly for that purpose.

My tears were mixed though because this year, another veteran in the family was missing. My father-in-law. For reasons we will probably never understand this side of heaven, he has been taken from us. Not by death but by a person. Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia contributed to the cause but the cruelty of it all is too painful to even share.

Grey-haired military people filled the community center. These folks still beam with pride when their song is played. It was not a time of  preference over which branch served – Army, Marines, Coast Guard, National Guard, even Navy (inside Army joke), were honored equally. There was solidarity and appreciation. I was among the ranks of those who love the “Armed Forces Salute” although apparently many of Ike’s classmates noted that I spazzed out during the Army song. I tried to be as discreet as possible! I couldn’t help it!

Two proud chunksters

Two proud chunksters

But little did I know, I wasn’t the only one who got choked up during the per- formance.

A certain someone whose name I can’t mention also had to push back the tears. It’s hard to sing and cry. Thinking about his brother, re- membering his grandpa, watching the 93-year-old man sputtering out Taps on his trumpet maybe for the last time, it got to a certain little stoic olive shoot. For the record, he DID NOT cry, he just wanted to for a brief, oh so brief moment!

As an American, I find myself proud of how we honor our veterans. In Brazil, for example, they do not have such a holiday. They have Children’s Day, Dentist Day and Teacher Day but no Veterans’ Day. To serve in the military is a rarity and something not especially appreciated according to my reliable source, my borrowed Brazilian olive shoot. They are proud of their country but those in the armed forces do not receive any special recognition for their service. I thought all countries had their own Veterans’ Day.

Today I remember those in my family who are in the military, past and present. I remember our honored friend, Colonel Eric Kail who was my son’s mentor whether he knew it or not. We love and miss him. Thank you all, bless you all. Happy Veterans’ Day.

Here is Ike and others in the choir singing “God bless America.” It is the land that I love.