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!
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
So how about you? Any chance you can relate to my journey? The brave part? The blessed? Hope you’ll share!
This is the number of items the ladies at the North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women are allotted for the weekly quilting program. Eight pins, four needles, no more, no less. Lose them or forget where you placed them, things get VERY awkward and tense. Panic ensues.
I volunteer at the prison twice a month and help the ladies create simple quilts and pillows by hand. I first learned about this program through my church, (The Summit Church’s) initiative to bring the gospel to the prison.
One woman I have grown quite fond of is “Sally” (not her real name). With a scheduled release date of early August, Sally is probably in her mid-30’s. She greets me with an easy smile and wears her chalky mint uniform as well as one can. The hint of mascara (or the prison equivalent) makes her face youthful, dare I say pretty. Sally’s nimble fingers are a stark contrast from most of her peers. Their hands often shake and have nerves such that they can’t focus on pulling thread through a needle consistently.
Sally remembers my name which is also unique. Last week, another inmate “Erin” needed some help and yelled, “Lady!” even though I had told her my name only minutes before and we’ve spent time talking on several occasions.
Sally’s quilts are among the best constructed. The lines on her fabric are straight; the stitching of similar distance and shape. I wonder if Sally realizes her potential, I see glimpses of victory in her life.
Honestly I find it hard to even imagine Sally committing a crime. She has such a gentle countenance.
And yet, there she is.
Soon she will be released from prison. Sally will no longer be told what to do. Her pockets won’t be inspected. She can then use scissors that really work and buy her own fabrics and notions. She will be able to come and go as she pleases with only a few limitations according to rules given by her probation officer.
Heck, Sally can even fancy to sport an underwire bra upon her release if she so chooses. Based on my observations, if I were released from prison, it would be my first purchase. Supportive undergarments are strictly forbidden in prison but trust me, VERY desperately needed.
We sat on the carpet in the special programs room. Instead of volunteer and inmate, it was like two friends crafting together. Straightening and stretching her quilt top, I offered some assistance though Sally really didn’t need it.
A little later on, while helping another inmate, a song came on the radio. I heard Sally singing. “My God is awesome. He can move mountains. Keep me through the valley. Hide me from the rain. My God is awesome. Heals me when I’m broken. Strength when I’ve been weakened. Forever He will reign…”
I perked up and pondered. Could I be singing this song if I were in prison?
“Do you like this song?” I inquired, partly surprised to hear someone in prison knowing the lyrics. I hear this song frequently at church and almost always lift my hands in praise. I guess it surprised me to hear a woman in prison singing these words so freely.
She looked at me and with a gentle Southern twang said, “I do.”
Each time I visit, I fight every temptation to never return. The buzz of the prison doors unlock to let me in is like a lightening bolt going through my body every time. It rattles me to the core. Even so, I’m not deterred. I’m not there on my own strength.
These are two videos of men who are involved in prison ministry and experiencing transformed lives!
As I consider my own struggles and pain, Sally comes to mind and so does God’s Word. Romans 5:3-5
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about all of this! Leave a comment, it encourages my soul!
Today’s blog post is from a fellow West Point mom.
We’re facebook friends and when I saw her post, I asked if I could publish it on my blog. She agreed. I just love the spirit of her message and the fun and forceful way she mothers.
I’m done, here’s Danelle!
Ever since I’ve been a mom each summer I try to have a very basic guideline for what I expect on a daily basis. (Otherwise I get grouchy and they get bored.)
I laugh because my kids freak out about our plan every year, but if you look closely, only 2.5 hours of their entire day is spent doing anything they don’t choose to do.
Here is how we’ll try to redeem the time we are blessed with this year:
The Summer Plan
TV/gaming/computer/screen time (and, yes, watching tv with your sibling “counts” as your own tv time…I wasn’t born yesterday)–2 hour maximum
Chores—30 minutes (or however long you’d like to take)
*You are expected to put your dirty dishes into the dishwasher and wipe around your place-mat when you are done eating
• There is absolutely NO FOOD OR DRINK allowed in the basement other than popcorn and water. You must have permission to make popcorn. The answer will most likely be “yes”, but ask anyways • If you bring any food or drink to the basement you will be charged a $5 fee for this decision
• Chores must be done by 5:00pm
• You can earn extra $ or extra screen time occasionally by doing extra jobs (the frequency of these will be determined by parents and if you get sassy about it, the answer will be an automatic “no”)
Activities for Bored People:
Play a “board” game (get it? Haha!)
Get out a puzzle
Go for a walk
Play with the dogs
Get together with a friend
Bake a treat
Write a song
Write a letter to someone
11. Read your Bible
12. Listen to music
13. Pray for someone who is struggling
14. Use the elliptical
15. Have a lemonade stand
16. Write a poem
17. Call a friend
18. Call a grandparent
19. Offer to help a family member with something
20. Weed the garden
21. Trim your nails
22. Make your bed
23. Organize your closet
24. Make a slushee
25. Sit on the patio and stare off into space
26. Ask a sibling if there is some project you could help them with
27. Walk to the store
28. Walk to the river
29. Have a picnic
30. Make a meal for someone
Originally from Southern California, Danelle and her family now live in Lincoln, Nebraska. She and her husband have four kids – two boys and two girls and a dog named FooFoo. Her oldest son is a cadet at the United States Military Academy, class of 2016. She says, “Being a mom has been the most amazing, challenging and important thing I have ever done. I love encouraging younger moms who are right in the middle of the best job they’ll ever have.
Danelle seems determined to be faithful with her family’s time, to lead her kids well.
As I read her suggestions, admittedly I felt a little guilty because I haven’t been so industrious. I need to implement these ideas even if I just only have an orange hair, freckle face 17-year-old at home.
What would you add to her list? Which one do you like the most?
Today I am sharing the message I spoke to my son at the rehearsal dinner. My intention for making it public is because it is testimony of God’s faithfulness. The Lord gave me confident and courage to speak from my heart after a period of great struggle.
From the day my middle olive shoot was born, Aaron has done things early. His due date was September 7. This was perfect because my wedding ring was diamond and sapphire – April and September. It all was going to fall into place so nicely!
But then I felt cramping in my stomach and on August 30, just two days shy of September, Aaron Xavier entered our world.
And that’s the way it’s been. Aaron talked at an early age, went to kindergarten and high school as one of the youngest in his class. He turned 18 while at Moody Bible Institute, the only thing he didn’t do early was potty training but that’s all figured out now thank you very much. 🙂
All of this early stuff was preparation for his wedding day. Based on his life thus far, nothing should surprise me about my precious boy. He is getting married 10 years before the national average for males which according to the CDC is 29.
But those guys aren’t my Spurny.
Since Aaron was a little boy, our family has instilled values, traditions and a belief in Jesus Christ. When I tucked Aaron in at night, I prayed for him. As I sat on his bed, I thanked the Lord for another day of being his mom. My heart is glad each day that I’ve had the honor and the privilege of being his mama. Of course I feel the same way about each of my boys.
One night in particular I remember specifically praying with Aaron about something very special. Not a good grade on a test or for a tooth to come loose. This night I prayed for Aaron’s wife.
We prayed for our kids’ wives throughout their time at home. I remember the Hubs doing it one day around the dinner table for Isaac. He was about six at the time and his little eyes peeked up like, “My what? My who???”
But getting back to Aaron, I remember like it was yesterday because in a way it feels like it was…
I prayed about this “mystery woman/his wife” and as I said this, my sweet little boy, he might have been around 11 years old; he squeezed me extra tight as I muttered those words next to his bed.
And on May 24, 2014, Aaron received her.
She is here. She is his. Our prayers have been answered.
Since Aaron was a little boy, we also did another thing in my family. Whenever we found ourselves doing a skill we thought would be useful in the future, we’d gather up the available boys and call it “husband training.” Whether it was fixing a toilet, hanging a nail, making salad dressing or chicken broth, ironing, mowing the lawn, boom, Nate, Aaron and/or Ike assisted in the efforts. The thought being one day you are going to do this. One day you’ll be a husband and you need to know. In some way, you need these skills to land yourself a good girl in the first place.
In the recent days, the Lord and I have had many conversations preparing me for Aaron’s wedding day. Because I serve a God of All Comfort and Compassion, there is nothing I haven’t burdened Him with that shocks or disappoints Him. God is very good like that.
And in these moments, I have come to Jesus and He has told me, “Why does this surprise you? You have been calling it husband training all these years? What were you expecting? You called it husband training for a reason. Aaron listened. Daughter, your son watched. He took it seriously. He is ready.”
Now Aaron is becoming a husband. I become a mother-in-law hopefully to be considered a mother-in-love and I desperately love my son. I am proud of him and the man he is, the husband he will be and the dad I can already imagine.
Ephesians 3:20-21 “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
My 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?
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.
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.
Kelsie 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.
She 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.
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!
To 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 joy
Uncle Alan directed the photo shoot which kept the mood light which helped, thank you, kind sir!
Even after making this simple video,
It’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!
consuming, feasting on my sadness like a tick on my soul
This was the place I dwelt for months
Nearly unable to do anything but weep
A friend encouraged me to attend a weekly prayer time for moms
I agreed since nothing else was working and crying was becoming a full-time job with no chance of promotion
That’s how I entered the room at the church
devoid of all hope, ashamed of my grief and dashed dreams
Nothing but Kleenex hid my tears
Unable to even wear mascara because all it did was smudge
And during that sacred time of lifting up other moms’ burdens to the Lord
Only for an hour, nothing fancy or fake
Simply a bunch of real moms who believed
They joined me praying and understanding
No judgement or condemnation
Just love and compassion
I learned I wasn’t alone
My situation and sorrow were different but gosh, we had a lot in common
Suddenly I was able to wear makeup, laugh, see hope and promise
Nothing but the prayers of others
And the inclining ear of God
Gave me the courage to praise the Lord on a beautiful Saturday when my son and his wife were married
I wore a smile as I walked down the aisle
My orange hair, freckle face olive shoot escorted me
And I wore mascara
A silk dress given to me by one of those praying ladies
Nothing stole my joy that morning. Everythingabout this journey is testimony to my Savior God who rescues and redeems.
For you – We probably haven’t met but I pray that you are encouraged today hearing some of my story. Your cir- cumstances are different than mine but the Lord cares about you as much as He does me!
Romans 8:37-39 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Five minute Friday – a group of people who are given a word and then write about it for five (or so) minutes. Check out the other thought-provoking posts here.
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.
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 ugly cry.”
“No, Mama, you can do this.”
He takes my hand and leads me to the dance floor.
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.
“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.
I 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.