Five minute Friday – nothing

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photoNothing –

that endless pit of despair

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

Nothing –

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 mascara2014-05-24 09.31.47

A silk dress given to me by one of those praying ladies

Nothing stole my joy that morning. Everything about this journey is testimony to my Savior God who rescues and redeems.

photoFor you – We probably haven’t met but I pray that you are encouraged today hearing some of my story. Your cir-  5-minute-friday-1cumstances 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.

 

 

 

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Five minute Friday – Truth

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photo 11What is your reaction when you see someone reading the Bible?

Do you feel disgust, embarrassment, judgement or anger?

Do you pity, resent or maybe even hate?

Do you feel joy, peace and love?

Do you feel envy, connection and thankfulness?

I have felt all of these at different times when I have seen someone reading the Bible.

Strange, that I can still recall going to a coffee shop many years ago with my grandma. We were listening to a vocalist. My grandma probably forgot her hearing aid and the sounds were too much for her. I looked around and there, at a nearby table, a group of young people had their Bibles open. They were engaged in a lively conversation.

The feeling in my heart was muddy. In one way, I was repulsed. How could they be sitting over there talking about the Bible in public? Who did they think they were?

But I also felt a measure of jealousy. What did they see in that book that was worthy of conversation? What did they know that I didn’t. I considered myself a Christian but had almost zero Biblical knowledge. I believed in God, that would suffice, right?

This is a place where we seek truth - around the dinner table

This is one of the places where we talk about truth – around the dinner table

Since giving my life to Christ about 15 years ago and by that I mean repenting of my sins and accepting Jesus as my Savior, my quest for Truth is nearly insatiable. I was a strident, abortion rights feminist, angry, confused blasphemer and that’s just for starters.

My idea about truth was to cherry-pick and make my own. Talk about muddy! But don’t think that I suddenly considered myself perfect. Far from it. I still goof up. I do, all the time. But where I find Truth isn’t from the world, it’s from The Word.

photo 10

Here’s what the boys found on the chalk board recently. It opened up great family conversation.

We have a Brazilian exchange student staying with us for the school year. The Lord has opened up many opportunities for conversation between the Hubs, my youngest olive shoot and Chico. Many nights during dinner time, we sit around the table and discuss Truth. The Bible is open and we find daily application to the Truth found within. We talk about real, honest and relevant things and connect it all with the source of all truth.

I’d love to hear what you think about the word truth. I’m also curious to know what you think when you see someone reading the Bible. It’s ok if you have a different opinion than mine, I’ve probably felt something similar along my spiritual path.

5minutefridayThis post is inspired by super cool people who all write about one specific word for just five minutes each Friday! Check it out here.

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!

Five minute Friday – Grace

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photoSometimes the person I have the most trouble giving grace to is…

Me.

Prone to want things to be fixed and perfect, I fall short constantly. I disappoint me.

On Tuesday, I made a homemade, from-scratch chocolate cake.

And I was given an opportunity to offer grace to a person who needed it.

The cake was for my youngest olive shoot’s 17th birthday.

The Hubs is out of town and I felt a lot of pressure (from me) to make the day special.

It would be the first birthday when Ike wouldn’t be hearing from his grandpa.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s along with a deceiving brother-in-law have robbed my son of this simple pleasure.

So imagine my disappointment when I opened the oven door and saw a disaster of a dessert!

If Ike were to look at this cake and consider it a representation of my love for him, he might want to find a new mom.

I was tempted to throw the cake in the trash and start again.

And this is when the spirit of grace fell upon my kitchen.

Instead of making Ike a birthday cake, how about a birthday torte?

This might not seem like a big deal to most people but I had to push aside my expectations of myself and of the day.

I had to not worry about what the guys on his basketball team might say to their mothers about the chocolate disaster with 17 candles.photo

As you might suspect, a starving group of boys don’t worry too much about the presentation. They ate the catered sandwiches with appreciation. And when it came time to laud my orange hair, freckle-face olive shoot a happy birthday, we presented it on the hallway of the high school on the floor.

5minutefridayAnd guess what? It was all wonderful. My boy was blessed,

God’s favor, His grace.

When do you need to extend grace to yourself? I’d love to hear!

Today’s post was inspired by 5 minute Friday! I enjoy getting a word surprise each week and writing with wild abandon for a little snippet of time. Check out other entries here!

A gift of words to my beloved olive shoot

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r-dayandafter210My arms reached down and pulled the orange-haired baby out of my body. Ten days late, I wanted to get this show on the road! A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do!

That old song by Helen Reddy, “I am woman,” could have been my anthem cry. I felt like I could conquer the world by this one singular action. I still get rather uppity whenever I think about my hands being the first ones to touch my child and being the one to welcome him into the world personally. It was instant love and connection.

The delicious ginger boy I once cradled in my arms has now become a handsome 17-year-old man.

Today I honor him.

I praise the Lord for him.

My heart bursts to overflowing because of him and I’ll stop there or I’ll just start crying.

Sometimes it takes my breath away when I consider God’s goodness, how He knit that boy in my womb. I imagine most moms feel that way about their children, how blessed we are to hold vessels of love in our bodies, don’t you agree?

wh401Truly it is by grace that I am the mama to three awesome olive shoots. I know the person I was, I did not deserve such bounty. One day when I am before Jesus, I will tell Him, “Thank you, thank you, thank you” over and over again into eternity.

Though I will never know what it’s like to have a daughter, I do know what it’s like to have a ginger.

Furthermore, I am an authority on raising an Isaac and could easily write a book on this journey.

These might be a few chapters –

Laughter – True to his name, Ike is the child who makes me reel with giggles. Once he gets going, there’s no stopping this kid. Often the Hubs will be driving and Ike will begin using one of his funny voices. Soon Ike and I are both competing each other for who can drive the Hubs the craziest with our silly antics and jokes. The Hubs will have to scream for us to stop because he lacks our jocularity. We rarely stop. 😉

Tenderness – As humorous as Ike is, he also has a gentle side. He is warmly affectionate to me even at this age and I have seen him deeply touched by the pain of others.  He recognizes others’ struggles and is on the side of the weak and impaired.

sc00305c8bLast year, I was sitting next to a boy during a basketball game. This young man attends our school and he has some disabilities. He beamed as he cheered Isaac on from the bleachers. This boy didn’t know I was Isaac’s mom and when I introduced myself to him, he said, “I love that guy.” I believed him, it was so obvious. When I asked Ike about him afterward, he smiled and said, “Tom’s (not his real name) the man.” Time and time again, I have noticed how my orange hair, freckle-face olive shoot has compassion for those who don’t really fit in with others. My heart bursts with joy each time I see the sincerity of his heart.

He’s the cool kid who is relaxed around people of different cultures and skin tones. He hopes to one day adopt and have a melanin-rich child in his family. I adore picturing Ike as a husband and a dad, he will be a wonderful leader and mentor.

Struggle – But it’s not like life has been easy for him. Ike had a speech problem when he was younger and it was only through hard work and perseverance that he was victorious over this.

Also having two high achieving older brothers can leave big shoes to fill. He often puts a lot of pressure on himself though we reassure him that we just want him to be the best ISAAC he can be. And at times, by his own admission, Ike can have a temper as red as his hair but because of what the Lord has done in his life, Ike usually (not always) can now control his anger and tongue. We rejoice in his accomplishments. God is good!

Humility – This is my precious OS who freely apologizes to me when he is a stinker. He desires to be in right relationship with the people he loves. Ike is able to speak into people’s lives because he knows what damage a prideful heart can cause. As a teenager, I cannot recall one single time when I genuinely apologized to the extent that my son does and trust me, like most of us, I should have done that with great regularity. Ike is the kind of kid you want as your friend because he will tell it to you straight and speak with a voice of experience and authority.

Suffering – This summer I sat Ike down and spoke honestly with him. Since he is the only boy living at home all year, I told him that I felt the Lord was calling Ike into a difficult time of suffering. He was going to get a front-row seat into Alzheimer’s and dementia that his brothers would not know. It would be a very painful time but one that the Lord would carry him through. His grandpa’s conditions were serious and there would be great sorrow. Although the situation has not mapped out exactly as I expected, my words have proven true. As much as I hate it (I will refrain myself about some other feelings I’m having…), Ike has been resilient and strong. His heart has been courageous beyond his years.

photoServant – Which leads me to the next part that I didn’t expect. Though Ike has faced great suffering, God has also recently blessed him with a super cool surprise!  A “little” brother! We are now hosting a Brazilian exchange student for the year! Instead of being the youngest brother, our ginger now shares his home with Chico, the 6’1″ dark-haired guy from the Sao Paolo area! The two are quite a pair and you can’t help but smile when Ike is helping him. He shows Chico how to mow the lawn, take out the trash and empty the dishwasher. Ike helps him with homework, the proper use of American slang and how deal with us as his foreign parents. My OS is a living example of how a teenager can live a Christian life and not be swept up by the world. Yes, it’s not always perfect but no one is and that’s ok. Ike truly pours himself out in joyful service to Chico in every way. There is a smile in our family with this new addition and in many ways, it’s because Ike takes the lead in caring for his new buddy/brother.

photoOctober 29th is a day which calls for great celebration! I am the mama to a strong, kind, talented, adorable, hilarious, gentle, super studly olive shoot! I love you, my Isaac.

Entertaining thoughts about entertaining – getting kids ready for guests

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Lemonhead party!

Lemonhead party!

If we know you are coming over to our house, there are things we do before you arrive. As the mama of three sons, one of whom is currently in Ranger School, I have learned that in military terms, presumably we could call it a “movement.”

We straighten up – usually a vacuum is pushed throughout the area you will visit. There is often dusting beforehand and the bathroom is cleaned. The bathroom deserves its own post though, more on that later.

There they are wearing those collared shirts. We had a guest from El Salvador visiting us among other special people.

There they are wearing those collared shirts. We had a guest from El Salvador visiting us among other special people.

They put on a nice shirt– although my boys moaned and groaned about this, we found that the mere act of putting on a collared shirt indicated they were part of the team. In our family we call it W-H style since those are the initials to our last name. Changing out of regular clothes means something special is going to happen. The collared shirt (usually a polo shirt, rarely long-sleeved)  signifies that our family, every single one of us, not just Dad and Mom, is having company. Even if only one person is invited, the level of alert is heightened.

We rehearse – Just as we had practice training sessions about manners, throughout the years, our family still goes over a list of duties before people show up.

“Ike, you’re in charge of water and drinks. Make sure no one’s glass remains empty.”

“Aaron, don’t talk too much, let others also speak and try to sit still.”

“Nate, when we’re done with dinner, gather up the plates.”

All the guys had a purpose.

So maybe you’re wondering –

Did it always work perfectly? Of course not! We never expected things to be flawless but there was a standard.

Always the life of the party, that's my Aaron!

This guy needs more than a collared shirt! My Aaron!

Did your kids feel like robots devoid of any personality? You haven’t been to our house if you’re asking that question! No, they actually had more freedom because of the rules. We made it fun and not overly formal.

Collared shirts every single time? Not every single time but often. Freshly showered, collared young men are so adorable. Sometimes they would dab a bit of cologne on before bounding down the stairs. The hint of manly fragrance on their middle school necks always made my heart grin and grow wistful. I wish those days back again quite honestly. When the doorbell rang, we were ready for our guests’ arrival. We appreciated them coming into our home.

And I must share this.

Our guests appreciate these touches although most might not even realize what happened behind the scenes. They are just blessed and isn’t that the whole point to entertaining, blessing someone? The minimal preparation we employed allows our guests to be at ease. In some way it announces this family is ready and we have things (slightly) under control.

Last summer, my oldest OS rented a house near Fort Benning and he and his buddies hosted a gathering. Nate called me for advice on menu selection and such. He even wanted to make sure he served a salad (this melted my heart). My boy wanted people to feel welcome in his home. I’m sure my Soldier was a gracious host and maybe he even wore a collared shirt!

And we recently had a 51st birthday party for the Hubs. It was a Lemonhead theme because it’s his favorite candy. The orange hair, freckle face OS  was an integral part of the planning and a huge help before, during and after the event.

But true to form before the guests arrived, Ike asked the standard question. “Do I have to wear a collared shirt?” As this picture indicates, Ike got his answer.

Those are two very lemony collared shirts, don't you think?

Those are two very lemony collared shirts, don’t you think?

Out of all my boys, Ike is very gifted with hos- pitality. His servant’s heart has parlayed into him having a little part-time job at a nearby event venue. He’s the guy walking around with hors d’oeuvres and refilling non-alcoholic drinks. So I guess being a good host, getting kids ready for company has paid off both here and away from home. The more we do it, the better we become as both guests and faithful stewards of our home.

So what are the little things you do before you have dinner guests? Do you even dare try? It is scary! How have you prepared your kids to co-host special times at your house?

Prepare your young ones for dinner guests, it’s worth it!

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This dining room has housed many memories indeed!

This dining room has housed many memories.

When our olive shoots were small, we had little training sessions about manners.

We stressed several important things with our guys to prepare them for “company.” Now that they are 23, 18 and 16 respectively, I see the fruit of our labors. They really know how to be gracious hosts.

Here are the things we worked on:

1. Firm handshakes

2. Eye contact

3. Addressing adults by their last names.

Yes, this kid does have manners...

Yes, this kid does have manners…

To make the teaching time fun, (and I realize that the word “fun” might be a stretch), either one of my olive shoots or I would go into the hall closet. It was filled with coats and whatnot and after a second, I’d knock on the door or pretend to ring the doorbell. When the guys would “answer” the door, I would extend my hand and give them a hearty “Hello!”

From there, we practiced those aforementioned skills – often I’d invent a wildly funny last name with ample alliteration. One of my favorite last names was Mrs. Schpuhboodydootin. Oh the giggles we shared while learning the importance of addressing adults with respect. Occasionally I’d even hyphenate her name to keep things interesting.

This boy needed some teaching but that's ok!

This boy needed some teaching but that’s ok!

Let me tell you something. There isn’t anything cuter than being greeted by a little ginger boy with a strong handshake. Follow that up with a big brother who addresses you with  confidence and a middle guy asking to take your coat and welcome you into the home and shablam, there was a sweet mood in the air before the dinner even got started.

All this cost me was time and these guys were worth the investment.

I can’t tell you how many people have told me how conversational my boys were even during the awkward growing years. Those light-hearted training sessions were useful!

Controversial as it may seem, I do find the whole last-name thing ironic. We applaud our little children as they develop an ample vocabulary but we dumb them down when it comes to using an adult’s last name. People even put their kids in language classes to help them become bi-lingual but wow, ask them to use an adult’s last name and the parents instantly think it’s impossible!

That same dining room many years ago. Ike still sits in the same chair.

That same dining room many years ago. Ike still sits in the same chair.

Yes there are cultural preferences but people have told me that calling me Mrs. Cindy is a Northern thing, then others inform me that calling me Mrs. Cindy is a Southern phenomenon. I really don’t care, the standard in our home was to use an adult’s last name out of respect. We wanted to keep the bar high because it shows the preciousness of others.

As we taught our guys the fine art of cordiality, I always wanted to lift the standard. I can’t tell you how many people would say my last name was too difficult for their kids to pronounce. Really? My boys found a sense of comfort in acknowledging that they were in the midst of their elders.

This guy is now an officer in the Army!

This guy is now an officer in the Army!

Of course we had no idea one day our oldest OS would be a West Point graduate and an officer in the Army.

I know Nate appreciates the significance of rank and decorum. Maybe he learned some of that in our home training ground. Now it makes me smile when I hear people refer to him with respect and honor. A part of my heart leaps when people salute him, how can that be? He’s just a sugar boy after all.

Sugar boy/Soldier

Sugar boy/Soldier

I’d love to hear what you think about my suggestions. I realize I might have opened up a can of controversy with the whole last name thing but I want to put it out there. What are you doing to train your kids to be ready for guests?