Five minute Friday – close

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photo 2Today we’re close to a life changing moment

Tomorrow amidst a throng of observers and before God, my middle olive shoot beholds a beautiful woman adorned in the loveliest of linensphoto 3

Walk down the aisle and become his wife forever.

For all these years, we have been a close family

Priding ourselves on raising our three olive shoots to be men of God, to be ready for this moment when they go from not only being our children but

Being someone else’s beloved for life

We are so close.

Tonight I prepare my heart and pray

Tonight I speak and cry

Tonight I welcome family and friends and the woman I have prayed for since Aaron was a wee one

And my prayer is that we will be close – my sweet boy and I and the woman we welcome to our family

10171703_10152894953923018_2252761905675416999_nHow could I not want that considering I never had a daughter biologically?

Moreover though I pray that these two young kids who really have no idea about the enormity of marriage

Because let’s face it, no one does and I’m 27 years into this thing

That they will have an intimacy with the Lord, a closeness to Him

photoI am so close to becoming a mother-in-law, I took a seminar about it and learned many “inside” tips!

It is scary, like I’m about to jump off a diving board and plunge into the unknown

Entering what has been called the most complicated human relationship

And my heart’s cry is for a closeness with the Father during our lives together

And with her, if that is her desire and the Lord’s.

Today we’re close to a life-changing moment. Amen.

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A name, an identity, a mom and a son…

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fam303When my oldest olive shoot leapt in my womb, I loved thinking about his potential name. I very much like my first name and realized the great responsibility given a parent to pick just the right one. After all, it’s going to stick with them all his/her life, right?

The Hubs and I kicked around a lot of first names before finding the right one for him.

The one thing I knew for sure was that Nathan would have a distinctive last name.

A last name that was hyphenated.

This idea was not met with thunderous applause. In our extended family, my mother-in-law, (may she rest in peace) said some regrettable things about our decision. That only made the woodworm of pride dig deeper in me. Nothing and no one could thwart my resolve.

So on that treasured spring day, my baby entered the world. We signed the birth certificate, sent out birth announcements and we all settled into family life. Two brothers later, 4/5 of our family are known by our special last name. It rarely presented an issue.2013-07-04 07.36.20

But when Nate decided to go to West Point, he began to mention that people were perplexed about what to call him. His first last name? His second last name? The first year, (plebe year) at West Point, NO ONE calls you anything but your last name! This only compounded the issue. The last day of plebe year, there is even a special ceremony where the other cadets actually acknowledge that you even have a first name if you can imagine!

Throughout his time at West Point, Nate noticed that his name was longer on his uniform than others. Eventually he shortened it unofficially because according to him, even the clever-minded cadets just couldn’t figure it out and he was tired of the confusion.

So it wasn’t a surprise to me the day Nate mentioned he wanted to just have one last name. I gulped but understood when he announced that he was going to use only my husband’s/his dad’s last name from now on. Honestly it made sense and I could appreciate the reasons behind his decision.

2013-05-10 13.33.10My maturity about the whole thing has impressed me. As vehement as I was in insisting that he have both of his parents’ last names, I have remained compassionate and impartial. I completely respect his decision. He is a man of honor, integrity and character. He will be married in November. I cannot hold him down nor do I want to impede his life whatsoever.

But here comes the raw part – I’m going to admit something…a new emotion that has risen to the surface a little bit…

2013-05-10 17.14.52When I learned that my OS would be getting a new birth certificate, one with just one last name, it felt like a rope burn to my heart.

Ok, so now I’m crying while typing. There is NOTHING that will ever change my affection for my olive shoots.  Our connection extends far beyond a dumb hyphen. My boy’s decision wasn’t an offense to me as a mom. Still, when the Hubs called me upon returning from the court-house to facilitate Nate’s name change, wow, I suddenly had a hard time. I was fine with Nate changing his name from 2014 and onward but gosh, going backward in time and doing it??? OUCHY!

Thinking of him having a new birth certificate brought sadness. I harkened back to that day in the hospital when we declared his name.

There are lessons to learn through all this. Besides encouraging them to walk with the Lord, my boys deserve respect and support of their decisions. I can do even if it stings a little. Since he is an officer in the Army, Nate has endured endless background checks, mountains of paperwork, and clearances to make this happen. True to Nate’s personality, he has been diligent. It’s the least I can do even if it stings a little. Furthermore, my sweet boy has spoken with tenderness about wrestling with the decision. Maybe he felt like he was betraying the family and what we have stood for. Nate, if you’re reading this, I know you love me and I understand!

299311_10150412030338018_3766445_nHis name is Nathaniel – it means gift of God and though the last name is changing, I am blessed to always be able to call him my son. I can do even if it stings a little. Perhaps I even will get some monogrammed towels for him after deployment to celebrate his decision!

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. ❤

You need a thick skin for Alzheimer’s, so what am I to do?

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It is heartbreaking to find old pictures destroyed in the trash.

It is heartbreaking to find old pictures destroyed in the trash.

As this ignoble journey through Alzheimer’s plods on,

I look up at the photo bulletin board in his kitchen

And in the last few days,

The picture of the Hubs and me

Has been torn up

And in our place

Stands the business card of the exterminator!

Ouch

At first I laughed…

But then it felt like a wasp sting in my heart

Pictures of the Hubs and his dad have been ripped up recently

Thrown in the trash

And I told the Hubs, “It’s ok. He doesn’t mean it. He loves you.”

But then it happened to me and instead I sadly said,

“I’m going to need to work through this.”

I can handle cleaning poo off the toilet seat rims,

Cindy versus poo,

I always win

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The miserable evolution and emotion of the bulletin board. I thought it would be something that brought him joy. I put it up for remembrances. Now I just want to forget I even bothered.

But crud muffins, being downgraded from the exterminator

Come on

Really?

Whoa

Oh, Brain Disease, if a picture of YOU were on my bulletin board

I’d replace you with a 8×10 PICTURE of MY exterminator

Now, Brain Disease, you know how we feel…

Remembering a Ranger – a message of wisdom and service – thank you, Colonel Kail, RLTW

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photoIn January, my son sought advice about Ranger School from a man he trusted who had been there, done that way back in 1998. (Massive understatement)*

At the time, Nathan had no idea how treasured this email would become only six months later.

On July 24, 2013, Colonel Eric G. Kail passed from this life into eternity with Jesus after a valiant fight with transitional cell carcinoma. Amidst tears of sadness, Nate, the Hubs and I were reminiscing about Eric’s impact on our lives. During that phone conversation, our son casually mentioned this email and began to read it to us.

With my (now) Ranger’s permission, today I share this email as a sort of eulogium to a great man. Even if you’re not in Ranger School, my hunch is you will appreciate the insightful words written by a man of great honor, Christian faith and wisdom. Eric would get a kick out of knowing he was featured again in my blog! He was always such an encourager.

Here’s the email…

Nate,

Congratulations on all you’ve accomplished so far, and for snagging a Ranger School slot. Thanks for asking, here’s my two cents.

1. Ranger school is not fair, nor are the people who run it. I don’t mean that negatively, but rather just as a fact. I saw far better soldiers than me not make it through the first week due to injury and some were even picked on and singled out until they quit.

2. Try to learn something about yourself everyday and acknowledge the work of your peers. No one likes an overt cheerleader who comes across as trying to get the squad to like them. However, quiet and man-friendly encouragement goes along way.

3. Consistency is key, especially when you are member of squad and not the patrol leader. Spotlighting is only working hard when you are in charge, and it is an ugly thing.

4. Remember the school is designed to get you to your worst point, and then deal with it. So, things like packing list changes and last-minute fragos are by design and not something you should ever let get the better of you.

5. You’ll have moments and days when staying at Ranger School is the last thing you want to do. Two things help. First, always find something (never someone else) to laugh about. Second, you’ll spend your entire army career helping soldiers over come hardship. So, learning how to pull yourself out of despair is a good skill to acquire.

6. Never feel sorry for yourself, although you may want to daily.
Keeping a journal of just a few comments or bullets each day will help you reflect on this when you are back in the real world.933882_621564467863032_1204880649_n

7. Enjoy becoming a dangerous and competent man, but not pridefully. Our society is too quick to put sweater vests and choir robes on Christian men and to domesticate them into mediocrity. We need strong warriors who understand unconditional love and possess the will to manage violence in our defense.

8. Most, if not all of the learning you will accomplish is about yourself and your failures while in Ranger School. You’ll learn some cool stuff, but more than anything you’ll learn the value of never quitting. I had to remain in the elevated push-up position for two hours one evening because some instructor wanted to get an LT to quit. Two hours seemed like an eternity then, but merely a blink of an eye now. Funny thing, I ran into that instructor years later and we had a good conversation on my terms. He was a small, angry man inside and out.

9. On your worst days, remember that your future soldiers and NCOs are counting on you to finish what you completed. Don’t worry if you get injured, that happens to the best of them. But when you show up with your tab, your soldiers and NCOs will know that at least you finish what you start.

10. Soldiers only want to know one thing about you. Will you take care of them or drive them like a rental car. Completing ranger school tells them up front that at least you know what it feels like to be driven like a rental car and are less likely to do it to them.

Hope this helps. I’m very proud of you Nate.

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img_2250* By the way, Colonel Eric Kail was Ranger certified in 1988. He also did some other awesome things like marry a wonderful woman, have two kids and other important things like get a Ph.D. and publish a series on leadership in the Harvard Business Review. Eric served for over 25 years as an Army Field Artillery Officer in both conventional and special operations units. He has several combat deployments, including Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom, and Iraqi Freedom. Among Eric’s awards include the Bronze Star Medal with “V” Device for Valor. While our family knew Eric as a close personal friend, Eric was most recently the course director for military leadership at West Point.

On behalf of my entire family, Eric, you will be missed but we mourn not as those without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). See you soon, Colonel Kail.

Other blog posts you might want to check out:

Eight-hour pass from Ranger School, part two

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13. While recycling, (a Ranger School word which means they did not pass a phase of training), we learned that our son had perfected his painting skills. I’d like to think he was responsible for the impeccable craftmanship on this door just outside the barracks. We joked with one of Nate’s buddies that if the whole Ranger School thing didn’t turn out, they could easily get a job at Home Depot.*

14. We greeted our guys with hearty hugs and upon entering the car, we began feeding them.

15. In addition to fresh glazed donuts, they were served green smoothies without complaint. Before leaving Camp Rogers, our fellas had already ingested donuts, spinach, berries, peaches and bananas. It’s a mom thing. Yes, I did write on our car windows. Again, a mom thing.

16. Nate told us one of his buddies needed a little help and we gladly agreed. Basically we told our gang that we were here to serve. Boss us around, we’ll do anything. They were very appreciative.

Do you want to know something else? Not one complaint the entire time. No sleep, little food, physically, emotionally exhausted and we never heard one harsh word or observed any impatience toward us or each other.  True, the Hubs and I had a few rough patches due to stress during the day** but these men were simply grateful and humble. Maybe everyone needs Ranger School, just sayin.’

17. It warmed my heart to see people out there supporting their Ranger School guys. I know several people who weren’t able to make it to Fort Benning for the eight-hour pass but they still found creative ways to love their Soldiers. Some sent video messages, others got perfectly timed letters, I even know a girlfriend/mom team that sent their guy a package of gourmet chocolate fruit to greet him at his apartment.

18. One of Nate’s buddies is originally from the Chicago area and is also a West Point grad. Since I grew up in a suburb near his hometown and we have a son at school in Chicago, we wished we had some deep dish pizza for him. It was an honor to serve B. and care for him as his family would.

19. Upon arriving at Commando’s, our three charges frantically began getting gear and refits. We spent a considerable amount of time there. One of our guys purchased nearly $600 on supplies. This was a necessary visit but wow, the growing stench in the back of our vehicle was proof that another big priority was laundry. That particular event is worthy of at least  one solitary blog post.

20. I had been pushing turkey jerky, homemade chocolate chip cookies while in Commando’s. This is my boy with a green smoothie smile. He won’t be having those for quite a while and they all seemed to appreciate our efforts to feed them well. #momthing

21. The guys struck a good balance between allowing us to take care of them and taking responsiblity for their day. At long last, with their tummies slightly full of nutrition and their supplies re-stocked, we continued full force into the day. Tick, tick, tick…

* My husband worked the graveyard shift at Home Depot following three consecutive job lay-offs so Home Depot holds a special place in our hearts.

** Laundry induced stress, stay tuned.

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