Five minute Friday – notice

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photo 2When you are the mother of the groom on your son’s wedding day

you are like a gallbladder

necessary to some extent but if you cause trouble then out you go

I wanted to remember my place.

The day was so NOT about me! It was about the Lord, my boy and his stunning bride!

But that doesn’t mean it was easy though I really wanted to behave like a good little gall bladder

especially since my son was getting married in a foreign country

Yikes, the struggle is/was real…

Totally out of my comfort in a place unfamiliar

Lacking close friends and extended family
It was a lonely place

My husband was my oldest son’s best man and so understandably Nathan was his first priority

I got ready by myself and prepared emotionally and spiritually for the moments ahead alone. 

As I stood waiting to walk down the aisle, hearing Spanish all around me, just awaiting instruction

It was my daughter-in-love Kelsie whom God used to be my support.

She pulled me aside and blessed me with these words,

“I’m going to take care of everything. Just enjoy the moments. Give me your purse, give me your phone, I’ll take all the pictures, you just be.

Oh my word.

She noticed…me.photo 5

Little, insignificant African Violet gown dressed me.

In spite of a raging root canal infection developing

In spite of her own emotions and needs

Kelsie was there for me…

We sat together, observed the Salvadoran wedding ceremony,

I think I even put my hand on her lap just because it felt good to have her near

I did not feel alone anymore. We haven’t been family for all that long. She and Aaron have only been married since May but her kindness embraced and ministered to my spirit.

Though I told her that I was her project for the evening, I didn’t expect her to take it seriously. Or to do it cheerfully. For someone so new to the care of feeding of a mother-in-law, Kelsie is a pro. That night, our entire family welcomed a new dear one to our family together. photo

Lu became Kelsie’s sister that night. Lu became another daughter for me to love.

I’m one blessed gall bladder.

Thanks be to God. Thank you Lord for noticing me and for using a special girl to offer me things I needed.

A mom, a treehouse and a couple mountains – an El Salvadoran adventure

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IMG_6492.JPGOn Monday, I walked up the stairs to a treehouse

Near a volcano

In El Salvador

No big deal…

Just a regular ho-hum day for a middle aged American wife and mom who only 48 hours ago welcomed a new daughter-in-love to the family.

I jest. It was this a significant moment. Why, you ask?

1. I’m very afraid of heights.

2. I’m not really a very adventurous person anymore.

3. I am accident prone.

4. The treehouse towered high above the mountains in the El Boqueron National Park

5. And it swayed…

Surveying the land – mountains, volcanoes, crests of the ocean peeking near the sky’s edge – such majesty and glory,

I climbed the steps and held on mightily to the thin railing. My eyes shunned all notice of the open risers. The recent earthquake we had experienced a few days ago from neighboring Guatemala was shoved aside. Up, up, up the stairs I climbed and then with trepidation, down, down, down the same.

I felt the Lord’s open hand and His voice saying, “I’m giving you this moment. Take it.” He gave me a gift. All I needed to do was accept. I said yes.

The park is just 25 minutes away from the Salvadoran capital and sits atop of the San Salvador volcano at an altitude of 5,905 feet which is about 1800 meters above sea level- (special thanks to fellow blogger Traveller Soul for the reference). The air was clear and cool, hibiscus and poinsettia blossomed at every view. The light fragrance of cypress reminded me of Christmas. How I wish I could have bottled the smell!IMG_6602.JPG

Ike then bespied a small swinging bridge near the treehouse. “Mom, go on this with me!” he declared.

Incredulously, my feet advanced. Before I knew it, I crossed the bridge. I’m not sure who was more surprised my orange hair, freckle face OS or I. Though a rather clumsy journey, by golly, I did it.

And now as I sit back in suburban North Carolina and attempt to write on my blog again,

Similarly I feel as if I’m overlooking a panorama of memories, experiences

Emotional mountains and volcanoes

The vista of pain and joy, loss and gain

Do I even dare to share and grant access to this life and try to write again? We shall see.

For the time being, I’m moving one step forward and reflecting on the chances I’m given to be blessed and

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So how about you? Any chance you can relate to my journey? The brave part? The blessed? Hope you’ll share!

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.

Aaron is ENGAGED!!!

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photoThe time to drop your iPhone into the toilet isn’t hours before your middle olive shoot proposes.

Yes, you have read that sentence correctly.

My iPhone took a swim in the toilet on Saturday morning…

And my sweet boy Aaron is now engaged.

As of today,

I have an iPhone that needs repair – waa

BUT much more importantly

In the span of just SIX weeks

I have gained not ONE but TWO future daughters-in-love.

I have been the mother of three awesome olive shoots for many years

And a Brazilian exchange student for about two months

Truly the Lord has taken our family on a fascinating and creative journey. Love and loss, Alzheimer’s and abandonment, family and friendships, oh my goodness. Central America, South America, Chicago, South Carolina, our hearts have been all over the map. We have had a jam-packed season of suffering and joy, our spirits are dizzy and blessed. I scarce can take it in but I’ll try.

Here’s how the proposal unfolded.

After spending the day together in Chicago strolling the Lincoln Square area, Aaron took Kelsie to PF Changs for dinner.

Then they went for a stroll to the Trump Tower. The night was starlit, a slight chill in the air.

Aaron reminded Kels that this was the place where he had asked for their first kiss and professed his love for her.

And then Aaron, all fancy wearing a tie and looking oh so handsome,

My cherished bairn, he took Kelsie’s hand and got on one knee.

With all the confidence and happiness he has probably ever felt, with a host of truly thousands of prayers spoken over this boy throughout his lifetime just in anticipation of this one moment, my treasured Aaron reached into his pocket. Presenting his beloved her great aunt’s wedding ring, a family heirloom, he inquired,

“Kelsie, will you marry me?”photo 4

With nary a moment of hesitation, this dear young woman answered, “YES!!!”

It was a surreal moment for the both of them.

Apparently so surreal that my ministry-minded olive shoot carefully placed the ring on the WRONG HAND! Oops!

But don’t you just love it when things don’t go perfectly?

That’s how life happens, it’s not flawless. I want my children to live real lives and be authentic people. Those little blips and bloopers are what make memories stick. Kind of like what happened when Nate proposed to Lu. Click here for that story. The Hubs and I have so many moments about our own engagement, I’ll save those for another day. I pray that my children accumulate many stories throughout their lifetimes.

photo 5So yes, my phone fell into the toilet yesterday.

It was an unused toilet, for the record and I wasn’t on the phone when it happened. It just fell out of my back pocket. I promise!

But I am thankful nonetheless.

God has answered my prayers. He has been good. So many nights, so many dinner table conversations and prayers about the women my boys would someday marry. And now two of them know who she is.

Nate and Lu –

Aaron and Kelsie –

praise Jesus for my two future daughters-in-law love.

Five minute Friday – She

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When I walked down the stairs at the missionary house five years ago

She caught my eye, took my breath away

“Wow, she’s so pretty!” I thought to myself.

All of us at the girls' prison in El Salvador

All of us at the girls’ prison in El Salvador

Then I went to the girls’ prison in town

And she acted as my translator as we spoke about redemption, purity and freedom in Christ

“I love her heart,” I thought to myself as we both openly wept at the beauty of the moment.

Then my oldest son began speaking to her

He, a cadet at West Point

She, a college student in El Salvador

And soon enough, they began to fall in love

Two countries away, a romance and a host of many obstacles

They have persevered

And on Sunday, in this beautiful tropical land

He dressed up in his finest, heart beating like a drum

What a moment!

What a moment!

He reserved a table at Ruth’s Chris in downtown San Salvador

And when the waiter brought out the creme brulee, there on the plate

Even though they spelled it wrong, she understood! What a sweet memory in every way!

Even though they spelled it wrong, she understood! What a sweet memory in every way!

She read a life-changing message!

Even though there was a typo since English is not the first language of this country

995474_10151567058450059_296521023_nShe became more than the pretty girl I first met in a faraway land

She was elevated from just being my son’s bonita, his girlfriend…

She became my future daughter-in-love…

Join us at this writing community and share!

Join us at this writing community and share!

My son’s future wife ❤

She said, “YES!”

I could write more but I was only given five minutes! What do you think about the word “she”?

Big news in our family – something happy for a change

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My boy and his girlfriend

My boy and his girlfriend

Yesterday I used a word I have never used before.

It was a word I prayed I would use one day.

Like, I really did pray to Jesus about using this word.

I remember praying with my son throughout the years

When I tucked him in at night or

During casual conversation in the family room and

Around the kitchen table before dinner

This word has always provoked a sense of wonder and anticipation in our boys.

My boy and his fiancée

On Sunday at a fancy restaurant in San Salvador, El Salvador, my oldest olive shoot, my Soldier, my West Point graduate, my Ranger, my Sugar Boy asked his beloved to marry him.

She said, “yes.”

So yesterday I no longer referred to Lu as Nate’s girlfriend

Around 4pm during a very serious meeting in Raleigh, the Hubs and I spoke about a very happy moment as we were talking about a very sad one

Then these words flew out like a butterfly in the sky,

“my son’s fiancée.”

The air in the room grew lighter for an instant

photo copyAnd I felt a smile in my heart

A fresh and joyful moment, most welcome and healing to my soul

Their love story is such an adventure, your heart will smile as well

That incredible day, the one we have prayed about for so many years has finally arrived

My son has a fiancée, I have a future daughter-in-love!