Five Minute Friday – afraid

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My son spends a lot of time on the train. I spend a lot of time on my knees praying for his safety.

My son spends a lot of time on the train. I spend a lot of time on my knees praying for him.

“Don’t worry, Mom, I’ve got brass knuckles.”

This was my ministry minded middle’s way of reassuring me.

He has brass knuckles, therefore,

I guess,

if he is attacked on the subway or on the streets

at night

in a high crime part of the city

while walking back from coaching an inner city boys’ basketball team

I’m not to worry.

Uh, yeah, right…

It doesn’t work that way when you’re a mom.

I grew up feeling a lot of fear, that “muscle” is well-developed.

The trust and faith muscles atrophied

I’m building them back, working them out though.

Aaron provides me with many training sessions with the Lord.

“Push past being afraid,” God reminds. “I’ve got this. I’m Jehovah Shammah (God who is there).”

Hurricane Sandy encountering MY olive shoot in Chicago. This is him in the picture!

Hurricane Sandy encountering MY olive shoot in Chicago. This is him and a buddy in the picture!

And when he went to Lake Shore Drive to experience Hurricane Sandy and sent me THIS picture of the waters nearly engulfing him…

Oh Lord, my olive shoots

With only five minutes to write, I featured just one olive shoot currently on my heart but I have a Soldier and an orange hair, freckle face OS too, sooooo,

Funky chicks write for five minutes! Come on and join us!

Funky chicks write for five minutes! Come on and join us! Click here for deets.

At least the crime rate is lower during cold weather – (another one of Aaron’s gems…)

What is a fruitful life? Learning from a snowflake hunter

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A talented friend took this picture during our recent "ice" event.

A talented friend took this picture during our recent “ice” event.

James Glaisher walked onto the platform of a hot air balloon. With a companion, the two men ascended 29,000 feet into the skies. While recording meteorological events and gathering research, they nearly froze to death before landing back on solid ground. Can you even imagine!

Ask my younger sister what my answer would be if she asked for me to join her on a subnivean adventure in the sky. She was the one I chose to test the waters of the icy creek next to our childhood home. Some days her foot plunged into the depths. Clearly, the creek wasn’t frozen over enough. Being a very perceptive big sister, I ascertained it was unsafe for me to risk life and limb. I helped her get back on dry ground, we went inside, had an argument and then watched cartoons. Other days we skated the bumpy circles on the ice. Then we went inside to warm up, had an argument and watched cartoons.

This picture makes me appreciate snowflakes a lot more than I usually do!

This picture makes me appreciate snowflakes a lot more than I usually do!

Glaisher and his buddy had higher motives than I (which isn’t exactly difficult!). Glaisher was captivated by snowflakes. He wondered about their shapes and design and contemplated great things of God. Glaisher even sketched the delicacies he found and then through the American Tract Society, wrote the aptly titled book “Snowflakes: a chapter from the Book of nature.” Each chapter of his devotional begins with a beautiful rendering of winter. You should check it out. It’s spiritually deep, really interesting. A super cool read, pun intended. And check out this website if you are a letter person. Very fascinating!

Today I find myself continuing in the YouVersion 21-Day Bible Challenge. Pondering the 22 verse in Philippians 1 in the Bible, I stop on the verse about “If I am to live by flesh, this means fruitful labor for me.”

If James Glaisher would have asked me about a travel companion, I would have recommended my sister Lorri!

If James Glaisher would have asked me about a travel companion, I would have recommended my sister Lorri!

I think about Glaisher. Then I think about me.

My prayers consist of asking the Lord that my remaining days be fruitful for Him. That might mean a clean house, ironed clothes, nutritious food and a pleasant homestead.

Some days I feel so productive, other days are sluggish and it seems like nothing gets done. Could my fruitfulness be found in journaling and Bible study? What if the Creator gave me a very specific yet unusual task such as He did with Glaisher? He drew snowflakes!

Would that be enough for me? How do I measure success? Am I as willing to plunge or ascend to icy wonders of His choosing? I don’t know, it scares me.

I want to be open to what God’s version of fruitful is for me. Father, form the remainder of my days.

Oh the memories. Bitter and sweet, truly. Much to consider on this grey winter’s day.

Blustery heart

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photoA cold morning finds
a mama worried –
about a Soldier,
a ministry-minded middle
and an orange hair, freckle face olive shoot.
Tears flow.
They’re not in trouble or doing anything wrong (or at least not that I, I mean she know/s of!).

Two hours later
she reads Scripture for a weekly Bible study
Gently, unexpectedly
God tucks comfort and assurance into her heart.

“It is good for a man to bear the yoke

while he is young.”

Lamentations, of course, this totally makes sense
This mama can be
a big time lamenter

And just like that
Worries find solace and melt away.

On this January day
She breathes.

Scrubbing Bubbles and the middle school maid

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To make money for clothing and important things like makeup and Bonne Bell flavored lipgloss, I babysat and cleaned houses in middle school.

Stay away from me, Mr. Scrubbing Bubbles!

Scrubbing Bubbles was a new product and the commercials with cartooned, mustachioed scrubbing bubbles made me chuckle. Do you remember the birth of Scrubbing Bubbles or is that before your time?

Well one day, I was cleaning a shower stall. The shower door was closed and I began to coat the tile with a thick layer of Scrubbing Bubbles. As if I were attacking a blaze and holding a fire extinguisher, I doused that sucker. Every tile square received a foamy blast. I wanted to unlock all the cleaning power contained in the Scrubbing Bubbles. As an adolescent fashionista, I needed to keep my job; customer satisfaction, don’t you know.

In the shower stall with the Scrubbing Bubbles can, I prepared to remove all the goo and grime off the tile but then I began having trouble breathing. I didn’t collapse but I began to choke. Since I was a boy crazy, junior high girl, I doubt I had the wits to know to open the door. If Michael Jackson, Keith Partridge or Bobby Sherman would have come to rescue me that would have been a different story but that didn’t happen. I had an epiphany though, something in those Scrubbing Bubbles was rockin’ my world/body. With the door closed, I surely inhaled a fury of aerosol and chemicals.

Screen shot of Scrubbing Bubbles info on the Environmental Working Group

The more I read about chemicals and toxins in cleaning products, the more I wonder exactly what I breathed in that afternoon. When I use soap nuts, I don’t have anything to worry about. I use Extreme 18X (which is a super concentrated version of soap nuts that goes a long way) or make some soap nut “tea” and I don’t need rubber gloves. I’m never concerned about adaquate ventilation either. Did you know that according to the Environmental Working Group, many of the Scrubbing Bubbles products are rated D or F? In my extended family, we have asthma, COPD, migraines and allergies – my loved ones don’t need to be breathing toxins any more than I did as a middle school “maid.”

Obviously I don’t have the original bottle of Scrubbing Bubbles. But this is what the label says now CAUTION: EYE IRRITANT. READ BACK PANEL CAREFULLY. / CAUTION: EYE IRRITANT. Contains lactic acid, solvents and surfactants. Avoid contact with eyes, skin and clothing. Wash thoroughly after handling. May cause respiratory irritation if used with inadequate ventilation. FIRST AID: EYES AND SKIN: Immediately rinse eyes and skin with plenty of water. If irritation persists, seek medical advice. INHALATION: If breathing is affected, get fresh air. CHEMICAL HAZARD: Never use or mix with bleach-containing products or other household cleaners as hazardous fumes may be released. KEEP OUR OF REACH OF CHILDREN AND PETS.

“One day, gf, you’re gonna write about that weird time when Scrubbing Bubbles nearly jacked you up.”

Funny, isn’t it, the weird memories our minds retain? For me it was this strange encounter with a cleaning product. There are greener, safer alternatives for cleaning our bodies, homes and clothes. Soap nuts work. They are 100% organic, biodegradable and effective. Your family deserves someone to be an advocate and a savvy consumer and that’s probably you. Take a look at the products under your sink, read the labels. Look beyond what the brand name company websites tell you about the chemicals they are using. Let me know if you have any questions or thoughts. I welcome them, this is a journey. Here are two other independent reviews of soap nuts also. Check out spoonfulatatime and naturallifemom. I highly recommend these websites for their wealth of information in general.

Ambien – setback, stepback, not giving up

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Wednesday around 3am, I felt like a puny junior high girl in PE class…

Good times posing in the Kmart photo booth

Circa 1974ish

My opponent this time wasn’t the rope that was hooked to the gym ceiling that I never could climb at Jefferson Junior HIgh

And it wasn’t the chin-up bar from which I couldn’t pull myself to save my life or my dignity

Wednesday morning, I wasn’t the last one picked for the volleyball match or the girl who lost the softball game

in my red PE  shorts, red and white thin-striped polyester PE shirt with red trim, a lithe and flat female frame devoid of all muscle tone either

No, in the wee hours of Wednesday, I was in bed, in my pajamas, a grown woman!

but I just as felt defeated that night (or should I say morning) sleep mask, pillows, fan going full blast

Tired

because I took the stupid Ambien

it was 3am and I told the Lord I was going to do it

There have been times when I have told Jesus I was going to do something and I knew He wasn’t going to like it

I bet you have too

but I was so tired

and having been up with my orange hair, freckle face OS for yet another night

feeling helpless about how to care for him and desperate for some rest

I swallowed that tiny pill and fell asleep with my sick boy nearby

I continue to trust in the Lord

Middle school Cindy

Blocking out the Enemy’s voices that remind me of my failings

My Holy One is teaching me things

I may falter and get distracted

Day and night

Ambien and life

But there is grace

My Heavenly Father presides over me

And through Him, I can do all things

Even sleep

The Lord loved that little wimpy middle school Cindy way back then and is compassionate towards me now. I’m on his team, He picked me many years ago and doesn’t laugh at my shortcomings but gives me the courage to press on

And so I will try again and claim this promise

Isaiah 40:31 (KJV)

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Thanks for listening….I welcome your thoughts and prayers

The bunny in the window

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The most adorable thing I’ve ever seen in a hospital gift shop.

The ceramic bunny with powder blue overalls, paws tucked in the pockets, long- ingly looked at me each day from the glass display shelf.

No words were needed. We were just two innocent figures in an odd place sharing a kindred desire to escape the confines of the hospital.

Neither of us knew when and if that would happen.
Maybe he was jealous of me as he stood motionless among the other ceramic rabbits, after all I was in the lobby area and my feet moved swiftly.

To be fair though, I was envious of him also.

He was in a gift shop, he made people smile and he was among other pretty ceramic friends.

Last pic of the bunny and me

I felt uglier and older every time I walked into the hospital.

Only once did I venture into the gift shop to lift him up to see if I had the cash to get him sprung.

He was $38 and I gently set him back down to return to his post.

Each day for ten days prior to seeing my mom, I’d go and check on the ceramic bunny with the powder blue overalls.

And each time, an internal battle would loom within as I pondered taking him home with me.

Did I really want an emblem of my mom’s turmoil?
What if my mom died here?
And even if she didn’t, could I one day gaze at the ceramic bunny dwelling in my home and conjure up good sentiments about the whole experience?

And this is what I saw an hour later

Alas, the decision was taken from me. Here’s what happened.

I had briefly visited the ceramic bunny and gone to my mom’s room.

She was a disheveled mess and it was as if she had completely given up.

Honestly it ticked me off and left to my own druthers, I would have stormed out of the room leaving her to feel sorry for herself.

Yet I couldn’t do it.

Call it pride that I didn’t want people to think I was a bad daughter.

Call it love because I truly love the woman.

Call it Jesus because He alone gave me strength.

But I stayed and I got a stupid wheelchair and pushed my mom down the hallway. I told her we were going to go to the courtyard and I was going to introduce her to my friend at the gift shop. She was nonplussed.

While on the way, I reminded my mom to lift her head up, open her eyes and speak in full sentences. She needed to engage the world in order to get better. My words were met with limited compliance…I pushed her eagerly to the lobby right up to the glass window.

“Mom, I want to show you the ceramic bunny I’ve been visiting every day,” my voice and pace quickened in excitement as we pulled up to the display.

Nothing – and the other ceramic bunnies were mum about my special friend’s sudden disappearance.

photocopy3-3The cer- amic bunny with powder blue overalls was gone.

Someone had taken him.

How could that be? I had just seen him less than an hour ago!

Why did someone steal my joy?

Why was he getting to go home and I was still stuck here?

Did the ladies in the gift shop think I was such a creeper for taking so many pictures of him that they withdrew that bunny from the stock?

Where did he go?

Did someone get him for me?

Numb would best describe my feelings and I’m being totally honest even if it sounds weird. I am home now and the visits to the hospital have stopped.

My mom left the hospital a few days later to continue her recovery.

I tried attaching myself to another ceramic bunny in the gift shop, one that was more in my price range but it just didn’t feel right. I did, however, find another little friend in the hospital which I will soon share with you but there is something I need to learn from this experience.

Albeit wistfully, I now see that the ceramic bunny in powder blue overalls as a welcome, temporary diversion to strife.

He provided me a creative, silly outlet to express myself each day. We weren’t meant to be together but only for a short season of life.

The bunny, my mom and I all needed to go to our respective homes and leave this place behind. My mom is getting better and healing in a variety of ways.

Milestones and recognition

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pubertyWe usually think of milestones in our children when they are little.

They start to roll over and drink from a cup, say their first words.

Big whoop. (Said as a mom of kids that are over that!).

Those things are a big deal but our OS have experienced milestones of their own recently that I just have to share.

How ironic (that is, if I believed in irony) that each of my OS would cross a major threshold in their lives at practically the same time.

May I have your attention, please?

Ike became a seventh grader. Woo hoo!

Aaron became a sophomore.

Take that you annoying upper classmen!

And…cue the snare drums…

Nate became a recognized plebe. Crowd goes wild!

No longer are my boys at the bottom of their respective proverbial social heaps of life. (Was that an awkward sentence?) After all the travail and toil, when it seemed as if the day would never arrive, my OS are happy to be movin’ on up, just like the Jefferson’s, remember those guys???

This means that Ike is eager to try out for basketball and not have annoying eighth graders hogging up the good spots. As long as he keeps his grades up and his tongue in control, my orange-haired fella will be just fine.

For Aaron, being a sophomore means the leadership skills he has honed this past year that will serve him well and he is positioned to forge ahead in whatever way the Lord directs.

But neither of them went through the valley like Nate. Sure, it’s tough being a sixth grader. And no one would dispute that a 9th grader is pretty low on the high school totem pool.

But try being a plebe. Just a few days ago, Nate successfully completed his plebe year. To a large extent, I feel like I also completed my own plebe year as a mom. I need my own badge or pin for surviving! I was counting down the days when Nate would make this transition, he’s been more than ready!

As I reflect on this last year, oh, my soul, there were so many days when I just wanted to scoop my baby up and take him home.

R-Day+and+after+244How could he endure such treatment?
Why did they have to be so sassy and mean to MY child? He doesn’t have to put up with that! (insert the “that” of your choice, especially if you have a cadet at WP or are a USMA grad!)

And while I’m at it, why couldn’t the professors understand that my boy was overworked and needed a break? Or had a nasty cold?

Despite my numerous offers to contact the higher-ups and plead his case, Nate never budged. He could handle it.

(For the record, if any WP folks are reading this, I would honestly have never done that but I thought about it. Nate would have KILLED me! I would have been disowned as a mama!)

And my OS finished really well. Since I will get in trouble if I say too much, let me say Nate should be very proud of himself. Thanks be to God!

A Spirit Week Day we won't soon forget.

A Spirit Week Day we won’t soon forget.

P1070031On Thursday, Nate got recognized.

It was a day he has been talking about for weeks.

What does getting recognized mean?

Well, at West Point, when you have completed your plebe year, there is a special moment, almost divine in nature, when the upper class cadets, acknowledge your existence.

Instead of calling you “Cadet Last Name,” the cadets extend a hand of fellowship your way. They shake your hand and learn something very wonderful about you. They learn you have a FIRST name! That is a MAJOR event in the life of a plebe!

Imagine living in a confined place for nearly a year and not having someone call you by your first name. Or having to wear a uniform every.single.time.you.go.out.of.your.room.

And consider for a moment, not being able to talk once you leave the confines of your room.

But Nathan did and the transition from lowly plebe class to becoming a Private First Class is something so sweet. He strutted outside his room in cadet casual (khaki pants and shirt) and acknowledged people by their first name. He didn’t have to cup his hands or do any of those things that have been the bane of his existence for the last 11 months.

Plebes are people too!

Plebes are people too!

Liberation,

exhilaration,

jubilation sum up how he felt stepping out as a PFC.

Lest my awesome OS become too content, reality will come crashing down on him. Tomorrow he begins Air Assault School and rumor has it, it’s not a picnic.

If you are reading this, please pray for the cadets as they begin a grueling 11 day training school. Nate must pass this in order to come home June 6th.

If he doesn’t pass, (and apparently many will not), he will automatically be re-enrolled and spend another 11 days there until he passes.

Bracelets of hope in an El Salvadoran prison

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The plans had been for us to speak at a university while in San Salvador. We had made a nice slide presentation about purity and were looking forward to the opportunity to share our message with college students.

But as I should have learned by now, things don’t always go according to plans and we learned Thursday night that we wouldn’t be speaking there after all. I was a little disappointed but assumed that God had other plans for us. We were given the choice between staying at home while the rest of the team did the medical clinic at the girls’ prison or joining them and finding something to do. That was an easy choice.  We decided to go back to prison.

I can honestly say I was looking forward to going back to prison. Wow, that is a strange sentence I never expected to write!

Beth Anne and I scrambled Thursday night brainstorming about what we could do with the girls in prison. We had enjoyed such a precious time with them the day before, what else we do with these girls given the restrictions and the limited time and resources we had available? The Lord, always faithful, gave me an idea, something I had seen American girls do and with a quick google search, our plans were underway.

At the prison, while everyone else on our team organized the medical aspect of our visit, BA and I got permission to meet with another group of girls, those serving much longer sentences than the ones we had seen the day before.

As we gathered around a table, with prison guards patrolling the grounds right outside the gated windows and a steady breeze wafting through the open air walls, we were blessed to share our message with them.

I even saw a few guards peeking in to hear our presentation. These girls were a little tougher and wilder than the last batch but seemed genuinely interested in hearing about “pureza” (purity) and having a fresh start through Christ.

After we were finished we asked the girls, “Do you want to do a little project?” “Si!” they all shouted.

At first I was going to just tell the girls that we were going to make some little bracelets but then I got an inspiration and with a quick nudge to BA, I said, “Would you like to make bracelets of esperanza?”

Esperanza means hope and I think it’s such a beautiful word, in Spanish. Even more excitedly the girls said, “Si!” I was encouraged already!

So this is what we did.

First we dipped little strips of cotton material in water. Once wet, we placed the strips on the table and began rolling the strips diagonally.

It was great how the Lord supplied all our needs because in addition to having plenty of fabric around the house the night before, we also found a bunch of beads and brought them along with us to the prison.

After the girls had rolled their fabric all up, they began adding beads to their bracelets of hope. I told these El Salvadorian girls that I saw a lot of American girls wearing these in the States.

They intently worked on their bracelets and even Font sizecame up with a few cool variations. I loved seeing their individuality expressed in their bracelets and they even made bracelets of hope for their friends and some family. They worked nicely together and were very kind and respectful to us. Even the toughest and hardest of people still deserve a fresh start.

When we finished, we asked if we could take their pictures. We were forbidden to take pictures of the girls’ faces but this was not a problem, we simply took pictures of their hands.

If you look at this picture below, you will see an old, white hand with a thin, silver wedding band on one finger.

It’s the hand without a watch and um, that hand belongs to me ;).

The reason I placed my hands there is one of the girls was embarrassed about her hands. I’m not sure what had happened to them but she had dark blue markings or burnings on her knuckles. It would have scared me in the real world!

I didn’t want her excluded from the picture and so desperately wanted a picture with her, I offered her a solution. I put my hands over hers so no one would see them. All of our hands are over a piece of paper where I wrote:

Esperanza = Hope

It was one of many bittersweet moments I experienced in the prison. Check out the lemon in the picture. Apparently the girls like to eat lemons!

One by one, the girls placed the bracelets of esperanza on each other.

They made them for all the members of our team.

I have many new pieces of jewelry at home that I rarely wear but since returning home from El Salvador, with a few minor exceptions, I haven’t taken my bracelet of esperanza off my wrist.

A meager bracelet made only of a small swatch of fabric and a few cheap plastic beads is among my most treasured possessions.

Awkward carrot

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My dad amidst his bountiful tomatoes.

My dad amidst his bountiful tomatoes.

My dad was an avid gardener and I guess I thought it might be in the “genes” as they say.

But I do not have a green thumb.

The Hubs and I are not great landscapers and do not have an eye for flora and fauna.

A while back, we decided we would try a garden.

I love fresh veggies and would take a fresh, warm tomato over a piece of chocolate any day.

Over the weekend, Mark was weeding the “garden” when he traipsed on into the house with this…probably the funniest looking vegetable I’ve ever seen!

According to the seed packet, we should have enjoyed this carrot and all its orange friends a LONG time ago. Our carrot has taken a major time to grow, to say the least

There is a spiritual connection to all this. The Bible speaks about bearing fruit, fruit that will last (John 15:16).

So let me ask you a personal question, what kind of fruit are you growing?

According to the seed packet, we should have enjoyed this carrot and all its orange friends a LONG time ago.

Our carrot has taken a major time to grow, to say the least.

How are you maturing in the Lord?

Can you see growth or development or are you in a weird kind of place, stuck in a rut for years, much like our carrot?

Do you know how long it took for this beauty to grow?

Three years.

That’s right, for three years we have been waiting for something to sprout from our pitiful little garden.

Take a look at the picture, I think it must be a boy carrot. How perfect that a mom of three SONS would receive such a treasure! We have had a lot of laughs with its most awkward shape and at the risk of impropriety, I had to share it.

But I pray you find yourself bearing fruit of a most abundant variety from your verdant figurative garden of faith and if you’re so inclined, from the literal garden the one you might be growing this season.