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!

 

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Honoring in spite of Alzheimer’s

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photo 6It’s been nearly a year since my father-in-law abruptly left.

He did not die but disease and deception pulled him away.

Poof, he was gone.

No goodbye, no thank you, no I love you.

Ouch.

The wounds are healing. We have moved forward. We welcomed a Brazilian exchange student into our home for the school year. We now have a delightful dog. Two of our olive shoots proposed. The Hubs will enjoy a new knee in less than a month! We know how to keep things lively!

2014-05-23 17.01.07But as our ministry-minded middle announced his plans to marry, I envisioned the rehearsal dinner. I considered the food, the venue, flowers, decorations, it is one of my favorite things to do. Yet my spirit was unsettled about one major issue. How do we reconcile the fact that Aaron will probably never hear from his grandpa again? Although I will never understand the circumstances surrounding his strange departure or the vast amounts of pain this created, the Lord is sovereign. That’s the only part that gives me peace.

I do know that my FIL loved Aaron. He cared deeply about his grandkids, he was understandably proud of the men and women they had become.

2014-05-23 16.51.03That is why I included pictures of my husband’s parents’ wedding in the decorations. Unless you have been in a similar situation, you may not appreciate the significance. I also had a photo of my parent’s wedding even though my mom has remarried and my dad’s been gone for over 25 years. But positioning that little framed picture of my in-law’s on the table was like moving a boulder. I didn’t want to cause my husband any more anguish. In addition to not having my FIL with us, our Soldier would be missing the festivities due to his deployment to Qatar. The Hubs was ok with seeing the photo again, bless his incredible heart.

2014-05-23 16.55.26The placement of that wedding picture announced that the poison cocktail of Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia and deception would NEVER erase the good memories we cling to each day.

Joy and celebration conquered sadness and grief. We chose to honor and cherish.

On the other side of this life because of our faith in Jesus, we will see him again.

 

 

 

Praying for your enemies

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photo 7Prompted by the pastor’s sermon, we left church on Sunday morning and I told my family that I wanted to do something with the message.

Although most of you don’t know my family, maybe you can imagine how your family would typically react to such an announcement. Would your family all just have a beautiful Kumbaya moment in the middle of the church parking lot? I didn’t think so but hey, it would be nice, huh? I did not observe such an inspirational reaction from my crew. 

So what did I say? I said that by dinnertime, I wanted us to share at least two things that God was asking us to do.

The response I got in return was less than overwhelming. The Hubs was the only one who seemed moderately interested in giving an answer anytime in the near future. Twenty-six years of marriage, he is finally catching on! 😉

As we sat around the dinner table that evening, tension filled the room. “Maybe Mom will just forget about the thing she asked us to do,” I believe would be a correct interpretation of the mood and for a second, I really did question going there with such a tepid crowd.

But I felt a nudge in my heart. After an initial burst of irritation on their part, what ensued was the coolest conversation this mom, the Hubs, an orange hair, freckle face olive shoot and a Brazilian exchange student could possibly have on a chilly autumn night in November. Clearly, the Lord was calling each of them to do something very specific and personal. My soul responded with a flutter listening to these men ranging from 16 to 51 give sincere answers.

So maybe I’m a glutton for punishment because last night, I decided to press the question again. Asking two hungry, tired, homework-laden teenagers anything other than “Can you pass me the salt?” is dangerous, borderline stupid. Pushing them to offer deep spiritual insight into their lives immediately after finishing a hard practice for Varsity basketball is not for the fainthearted so be forewarned.

But that’s what I did. I’m a Ranger Mom, after all. I have an inner strength.

It’s a good thing I was sitting down because the answers last night stirred me like a savory spaghetti sauce. My Brazilian OS shared things that made us all think we really needed to pray for these things which weighed heavy on his heart. I could empathize in many ways which is funny considering there are many (obvious) differences between us.

And I was equally blessed hearing about the courageous thing the Hubs had done with a friend. He is risking decades of a friendship to speak truth into a man’s life. May this man have the ears to listen and the humility to change!

photo 6But what caused my mouth to fall agape was Ike’s response.

His shoulders hunched over and Ike shook his head like he had been fighting something.

Then he told us what God had told him to do.

It agonized him to even share it, so difficult was the task.

During school that day, the teacher asked the students to think and pray for someone who didn’t know the Lord. This is permissible in a private Christian school and it was in no way an awkward thing though you might disagree. They did not do this out loud and it made sense for the content the teacher was covering.

And the individual the Lord gave Ike to pray for was not a safe or popular name. Ike finished his grilled cheese sandwich and spoke the name. While in class, my youngest OS shared that he wrestled with the Lord because his flesh didn’t want to do it.

You see, the person God told him is a person who has caused our family great harm and pain. When Isaac told me his name, I closed my eyes in disbelief because I am not as honorable a person as my son.

Just between us, I have prayed for this person but mostly just for vengeance and judgement. Trust me, I have good reason to want these things though I do hold out a sliver of hope every now and then.

But my son was obedient. Prompted by the Holy Spirit, my youngest OS, came to Jesus asking for this person’s salvation. Ike said that it was the only thing that could possibly change the horrible circumstances we are experiencing.

The equally fascinating thing is that I have been keeping up with a prayer journal. Yesterday, with absolutely NO foreknowledge of what Ike was doing at school, I also prayed for those people in my family who do not know Jesus as Lord. Several names came to mind but this person didn’t entered my thoughts.

So tonight I’m still floored – at the family I have been given, the God we serve, the way He speaks into hearts in undeniable ways.

Has anything like this ever happened to you? May the Lord give you insight and great purpose! May He surprise you with strength and compassion wherever you are! Take a look again at this amazing quote from A.W. Pink, isn’t it thought-provoking!

Darkness and light

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On Sunday, I had a dream. I was crying in the dream. When I woke up, I was still crying. The attractive sleep mask I wear to bed was damp with tears.

It was another sad reality. The Lord is the only one who can help us manage our sorrow and pain.

A test that was performed. It was heartbreaking to see these results.

A test that was performed. It was heartbreaking to see these results.

My waking hours have been anguished. Over a month has passed since we have seen my father-in-law. He has been diagnosed with moderate vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s. My brother-in-law lied to us about having Dad come visit him for a vacation and now he’s saying he wants to stay with him. Appallingly, he denies that anything is wrong with his father.

Now isolated by his oldest son from all the rest of the family, we are told he and his son want no further contact from us. After four years of welcoming him into our home and heart, it is a devastating blow to our family. How can Dad just walk away?

When we have attempted to call the available phone numbers, it is apparent the person on the other line abruptly hangs up the phone. This has been the case as each one of our children have also tried to speak to their grandpa. Can you even imagine?

2013-07-22 19.31.31-1“Um, ok,” you say as you continue to read this post.

Why is she sharing this?” you wonder, understandably so. 

(Btw, the Hubs has given me approval to share).

As bad as the situation is (and it’s bad), God is doing something.

Several years ago, I sliced my finger on a can of mushrooms. We were  getting ready to eat dinner. The Hubs was outside grilling chicken when I screamed for his help.

The cut was so deep on my middle finger, it was obvious a little band-aid would not suffice. We rushed to the hospital and there was a concern that I had sliced through bone or a tendon. When I went to the emergency room, grasping my finger to control the bleed, at one point, the physician needed to see the cut. Reluctantly, fearfully, I opened my bent finger to let him look inside.

This is what is happening to me right now.

A wound is being torn open and examined. I am both nauseated and afraid at extent of my injury.

As my finger was stitched up, I knew it would mend.

In this case, the Great Physician looks tenderly at my wound. He sees the gushing blood and the pain. Frankly, I’m utterly woozy and dizzy from the rejection and suffering. Then I am reminded, His loving arms surround me/my husband/my tender-hearted olive shoots.

I’m someone who has had her fair share of “men” issues. This crisis  reminds of the many other men who have rejected my affections. Some of them never deserved my affection in the first place.

Others, had a logical reason to love me…

I was related to them.

Yet there still was and is great disappointment in how that love wasn’t and isn’t manifested towards me. I imagine some of you might empathize.

I sometimes wonder, does this earthly father miss us? Does he ever think fondly of his other two sons, his five grandchildren and his adorable great-grandchild? Does he remember the meals I prepared for him, the holidays we shared, the care and kindness we extended to him? Is all of this happening because of two horrid degenerative terminal brain diseases or is there yet another evil force at work? In a lucid moment, is it possible that he feels a measure of regret for walking away from us? Does my brother-in-law, this urchin of a man, ever sense guilt and regret over his actions?

The answers to these questions are unknown. I can speculate and pray. Some of them might be revealed to me but it’s doubtful.

So I lean on this TRUTH.

2013-06-01 11.02.08-11. The Lord will heal me eventually. This jagged wound, it will take time to recover. He chose to open this wound and clean it out. We will grieve but we will press on.

2. God is my Hope. He is my lovebeam.

3. Our suffering is not in vain. Though it’s hard to imagine, the Lord will accomplish a purpose through this dark trial.

4. My Heavenly Father is the only man who has ever been 100% reliable, dependable and trustworthy.

5. The Hubs, my three olive shoots are currently tied for second place.

6. The Lord will not waste this hurt. His specialty is restoration. What was meant for evil, God will use for good.

7. There are blessings mixed in and I must be attentive to them.

This beautiful song sums it up. The tears keep falling. Thank you for praying for my family. ❤

Today I ate two donuts, don’t judge – a daughter-in-law’s journey

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Take that Alzheimer's!

Take that Alzheimer’s!

Before 9 am,

I had an argument with my husband

I had an argument with my freckle-face, orange haired olive shoot

Contacted the 24 hour help/crisis line at the Alzheimer’s Association, again

I stressed about an impending, almost certain family conflict regarding care management of our loved one with a brain disease

I learned my ministry-minded middle’s bike had been stolen in Chicago

And I had not one but TWO donuts

A Boston creme and a marble chocolate/vanilla swirl one

You got a problem with that?

I didn’t think so.

Then I called my mom who listened without judgment

And I texted a friend who met me for lunch

And biked nearly 12 miles

While sweating

And talking to Jesus

Because I’m talented like that

Today's truism. This is the note attached to the container of cookies. I'm only showing the note NOT the cookies!

Today’s truism. This is the note attached to the container of cookies. I’m only showing the note NOT the cookies!

My friend greeted me with warm hugs, a pretty smile

And a container full of fresh, home- made cookies

Which are stowed away in the freezer

In an undisclosed location

I felt slightly normal

Then I cleaned up around the house

Began marinating the ginger/lime chicken

Patched things up between Ike and me

And the Hubs and me

Continued reading Learning to Speak Alzheimer’s too.

Tonight I just want to feel the Hub’s arms around me

And enjoy the refreshing circulation of our new air conditioner

Maybe go for another bike ride

I’d also like to laugh

And kind of marvel at the way the Lord got us through another day

And probably eat a cookie too

Shhhhh…

Rhymes with “witch” – a daughter-in-law’s journey

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A tender-hearted olive shoot and grandson

A tender-hearted olive shoot and grandson

Under his breath, he muttered the word that rhymes with witch but starts with a “B.”

Only one person heard it

My youngest son

We were going to a wedding in Indiana

I was in the passenger seat, clueless, in a celebration dress

Quite honestly, I was being silly

It had been a stressful day.

But after the nuptials, on the way back to the hotel,

My youngest olive shoot says he’s in massive pain

Really sick, violently ill

We go to urgent care because Ike’s abdomen is cramping

And that’s when I learn the burden he had been carrying

Of course he felt sick to his stomach!

I mean what do you say or do when your grandpa calls your mom a cuss word and you’re the only one who hears it???

That incident happened three years ago and I’d be lying if I told you this didn’t create a rift between him (not my son, of course!) and me. I knew we couldn’t confront him about disrespecting me and putting our teenage son in a very awkward position. So we have sucked it up.

But I have kept my distance not to be hurt again. Plus I haven’t wanted my sons to feel that kind of slicing pain.

"Heavenly Father, sustain us all during this time of great suffering."

“Heavenly Father, sustain us all during this time of great suffering.”

But now here we are

The man has a brain disease

And he needs me.

So does my husband.

I can only do this because of Jesus.

Left to my own selfish abilities, I would have given up. I bruise easily.

But through Christ and with some distance and education behind me, I think that moment was just another sign that there has been a growing problem.

And that man who called me the word that rhymes with witch but starts with the letter “B.”

Guess what I’m calling him now more than I ever have done in my over 25 years of marriage?

I’m calling him

Dad ❤

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…