Aaron is ENGAGED!!!

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

Yes, you have read that sentence correctly.

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

And my sweet boy Aaron is now engaged.

As of today,

I have an iPhone that needs repair – waa

BUT much more importantly

In the span of just SIX weeks

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

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

And a Brazilian exchange student for about two months

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

Here’s how the proposal unfolded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Kelsie, will you marry me?”photo 4

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

It was a surreal moment for the both of them.

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

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

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

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

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

But I am thankful nonetheless.

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

Nate and Lu –

Aaron and Kelsie –

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

Five minute Friday – 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.

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. ❤

Five minute Friday – She

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

She caught my eye, took my breath away

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

All of us at the girls' prison in El Salvador

All of us at the girls’ prison in El Salvador

Then I went to the girls’ prison in town

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

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

Then my oldest son began speaking to her

He, a cadet at West Point

She, a college student in El Salvador

And soon enough, they began to fall in love

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

They have persevered

And on Sunday, in this beautiful tropical land

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

What a moment!

What a moment!

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

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

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

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

She read a life-changing message!

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

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

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

She became my future daughter-in-love…

Join us at this writing community and share!

Join us at this writing community and share!

My son’s future wife ❤

She said, “YES!”

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

Five minute Friday – worship

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IMG_4986Before having my three sons, I don’t really remember meeting any boy who had an active, living, breathing faith.

I knew guys who went to church and performed a variety of religious sacraments

But it all seemed shallow

And I could relate

Because my spiritual practices were very superficial as well

Today, it’s my ministry-minded middle’s 19th birthday

And ladies, let me say he is a cutie (he also has a serious gfgf so he’s taken!)

wh1My superbaby is a reader of unusual books, uses quotes from great Puritan leaders with wild abandon

And he prays fervently, thinks passionately and feels the strong call to be in ministry – I am in awe

What brings me to tears though is his heart for worship

Aaron is a man of imperfection just like the rest of us

But the purity of his surrender and dependence on Jesus

Sometimes I look at him with fascination

He has a faith that is unashamed

His devotion to living a holy and righteous life

Are evidence of his worship to the King

And that’s not something you typically see in a 19-year-old.

They often worship other things far less honorable…

So what does the word "last" make you think about? Join this writing community and share! You'll feel better, trust me!

So what does the word “worship” make you think about? Join this writing community and share!

Today I rejoice that the Lord has blessed me with this child who has a true heart of worship and a love for Christ.

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…