Monday, September 29, 2008

Habla Espanol?

If you saw my on the road today, you saw me practicing Spanish. If you saw me at the chiropractor, you saw me whispering Spanish in the waiting room. If you were in my house, you heard me trying to recall all my limited Spanish vocabulary or reading a Chick-Fil-A book First 500 Words Spanish. I've got espanol on el cerebro! (that's Spanish on the brain!)

Como usta usted?
Donde esta la mesa (table)? La silla (chair)? Su cabesa (your head)? (that last one is a little joke!) Also, I don't know how to put the upside down grammar in my blog, forgive me!

With my trip to El Salvador six weeks away, I really want to be able to say a few things in Spanish. I have a French major so there are some similarities in these romance languages. It's funny though because I was practicing and noticed that I put a French lilt on Spanish words. I sound like an American person who speaks French trying to sound like a latina and that, mi amigos, is quite a stretch. I certainly hope the folks in El Salvador appreciate my efforts and that I don't completely make a fool of myself. 

If I could do things over again, I'd be a linguistics major. Languages and words fascinate me. If only my brain were smarter! I used to be able to dream in French and fondly recall the time while I lived in France for a year in college. 

I lived in Caen, Normandy, France and for Spring Break, I went to Italy and inadvertently ended up traveling by myself for two weeks (long story but one that still blows my mind). I was a junior in college, walking around Florence, Italy all alone trying to find the hostel where I was going to stay. All I had was a German map. My brain was all twirled around as I translated the German words into the Italian street signs, then translated those words into French and synthesized it all into my anglophone head. It was an empowering moment for me!

Now I find myself with another mentally challenging opportunity. My friend, Beth Anne and I will be speaking at the Evangelical University in the country's capital in and my heart's desire is to address our audience in Spanish, however brief. As I understand it, we will be speaking to maybe 300 upper class El Salvadorian college students about purity. I will not be able to do an entire presentation in Spanish but I would love to honor the students in this small way. My ultimate intention, however, is to honor muy Salvador, (Spanish for My Savior and Rescuer) in any language and in every way.

Pray for me as I expand my brain! Muchas gracias! 

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Fancy Scraps

I have been making eyeglass covers for El Salvador. I learned about this need during a Friday meeting with the Hannah's Hands, Intl. coordinator and as soon as she left the house, I googled eyeglass covers.
To my surprise, I found a decent amount of entries for sew your own eyeglass covers along with a million other things, check it out. That's what's great about the Internet. I hate it when I stumble onto icky things when I am innocently surfing the Web but in this instance, I came upon a free eyeglass cover pattern. No sicko stuff! Woot!

What I really love is that I haven't spent a penny so far. All I did was look on my shelf and in my drawers to find loads of fabric just waiting for a project. I have cotton fabric, fleece, satin flannel coming out of my ears, just ask my husband! Ok, on second thought, let's pass on that idea.

The material has been cluttering my home for years. Some my sister Lorri gave me a long time ago, I think she bought it at a thrift shop. I have also stashed away bits of extra fabric from past projects. And, quite honestly, I have often wondered what I could do with all of it. What good could come from some of the fabric and the scraps I have collected? I haven't had enough of some of the material to do aything useful and I've even toyed with throwing it out just to get rid of all the stuff. Never did I think to myself, "Hey, I've got an idea! I'll go to El Salvador and I'll use that pile of material to make eyeglass covers for impoverished villagers!"

But I guess God did and this got me thinking about my life. Do you ever do that? Wonder why you've gone through or are going through something? Is it just me, or do you sometimes hang onto emotional remnants or scraps of struggles you've experienced? Do you ever dare to think about how that stuff could find a useful purpose? 

Well, as I reflect upon my life, I have collected my fair share of "material," if you know what I mean. I have pondered and prayed, "Lord, what good can become of that? And, how are you, God, going to use that (insert sin of your choice)? It's so ugly and worthless!"
I'm like those scraps that have been sitting on my shelf. Like many, I have vestages of my past stuffed away. Yet, firsthand, I have seen how my Jesus has used those things for His good! In my work with teenagers, it still blows me away that I am able to share the fabric of my life and offer them hope. I am an example of what God can do with our material.  Mine. Even yours. 

He has used each one of those pieces and trust me, that is testimony to God's goodness. I had no idea how that would be possible because they're not too attractive. It excites me each time I now sew a simple eyeglass case to find the spiritual parallels in my Christian walk.          

So far I have made about 20 eyeglass cases. The pile of spare material is shrinking and I am so proud of myself because they look pretty good! I feel satisfied and am in wonder. Not because of my mad sewing skills (said like Napoleon Dynamite) but rather for how the Lord is so resourceful.

"I will praise the name of the Lord, who has worked wonders for me, never again will I be shamed." paraphrased and personalized from Joel 2:26. 

Sunday, September 21, 2008

El Salvador

Have you ever noticed how things that didn't really catch your attention suddenly catch your attention when you are experiencing those same things? Did that really make sense? Probably not but let me give you an example.

I remember when I was pregnant. I suddenly saw pregnant women all over the place. It was like an explosion of big bellies just like mine. Or when we had a greyhound, it was like suddenly I saw greyhound things everywhere I went. Thankfully I am neither pregnant nor a greyhound owner any more but you know what I mean?   

So in eight weeks, Lord willing, I will be in El Salvador. I have noticed that since making that decision, I am seeing more Central American things than previously. How interesting that while speaking to my oldest OS just the other day, he announced to me that the President of El Salvador had spoken to the cadets at West Point! How ironic that Nate was in one of the parades West Point and he marched only 25 yards away from El Presidente! I thought that was pretty cool! I asked Nate if he could ask the Prez for $1200 so I could go there but my son didn't seem too comfortable with that idea! Shucks!

It's not like I I have had a heavy burden in my heart for the people of El Salvador. I haven't pined away to visit this country like I have to say, Fiji, Australia or even Africa. Quite honestly, like many geographically challenged Americans, I had to look on a globe just to find out where the place was! But a year ago, I had a colleague who was going to El Salvador to do missionary/humanitarian work. Based on my ministry work in my community, I could picture myself there but the timing was wrong. Now I believe, is the time to go. It is humbling to reach out to others in the world and proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ!  I feel the Lord urging me to go. My husband and children support this trip and I'm not saying God needs me to go. I don't think that highly of myself to make that assertion. The Lord certainly can do plenty of things in El Salvador and beyond without little 'ole me, but I'm already thinking about packing my bags and being there. We will be doing things not previously on the itinerary based on the skills and gifts of the group going this time. I am excited!

So since committing to the trip, El Salvador has been on my mind. As long as I can raise the financial support, (YIKES!) I will be on a plane to San Salvador in less than seven weeks. A small group of women, ranging in ages from mid 20s to 60s will embark on this eight day journey. The theme of our time together is "Purity" and the trip is being organized on the shoestring budget of Hannah's Hands, Intl.  

So now my antenna is on El Salvador.  With God's help and provision, my heart will be there as well. 

Monday, September 15, 2008

My Nasty Broken Foot

I love being an American and love living in my country but today I wish I was in Korea.

Have you ever heard about nibble fish? I have a friend whose husband has been deployed to Korea and if I could scoot on over to see her, I'd do it. Yeah, my leg would be tired but it would be worth it. Why? Korea has nibble fish

Nibble fish are tropical fish that can feed themselves on the dead cells on the human body. It's been five weeks since I broke my foot and over a month that I have been wearing a fiberglass cast on my left foot. Without completely grossing you out, let me just say that if I could plunge this foot into a pool of nibble fish, they could absolutely gorge themselves. We're talking a serious feast! 

For most of my readers, you exfoliate freely. Your feet slough all the dead skin effortlessly. Technically you don't need nibble fish. I trust in the Lord and His Word tells me to be content in all circumstances but my left foot is devoid of such luxury and you can't even imagine how badly I would love me some nibble fish. My friend Gigi has been to one of these magic "fish spas" although it sounds pretty funky, the whole idea intrigues me.

My youngest nephew, Josiah turned one a few weeks ago and now I'm officially the only one in my entire family who can't walk. There's nothing worse than a baby show-off! I'm ready to get back on my feet, seriously!

Today I was wearing a pair of jeans that slightly flair on the bottom. I had just finished having lunch with a friend. We were enjoying our conversation when suddenly my pants get caught on one of the front wheels of my scooter. I bumbled forward, trying to catch my balance. It was a slow motion spectacle as I reached for the brick wall hoping not to go over my handle bars and onto the cement sidewalk. With only one good foot to use, I feared the worse. The woman I was with was a few paces ahead of me. She heard something and turned around for quite a sight. Poor Maria saw me biffing all over the place and she let our an expletive while trying to rescue me. By some miracle, I didn't crash to the ground but I was very embarrassed. If I would have seen this happen to someone, I probably would have laughed so hard, my sweet tea would have been coming out of my nose.

I go to the doctor on Wednesday and I'm not sure what he's going to say about the status of my foot. All I know is that the day this cast is removed, I'm going to do some serious celebrating. Nibble fish, my American foot needs you!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Remembering Sept. 11th

It was the big kick-off meeting for our Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) at First Assembly of God Church on September 11, 2001. There was an energy and excitement that morning as moms and their babes gathered together for the first time since late spring.

We were smiling and laughing. It was going to be a happy day. While driving to the church in my mini-van, however; with Aaron and Ike buckled up and safely inside, I heard that a plane had crashed and my heart felt sad. I tucked that news away in my head and focused more on the excitement ahead.

I confess I was distracted when I walked into the church and the tragedy left my mind. Soon I was addressing all the moms, welcoming them back, telling them of our upcoming plans. I was telling them that one of our MOPS moms was currently in labor when precisely at that very moment, a friend received a phone call. 

She left the room and when she came back, she motioned to me and I could tell she needed to speak to me urgently. I stopped speaking for a second and listened to her whispering the most distressing news I had ever heard in my life. Planes were crashing into buildings, people were dying, the world was changing. And now it was my responsibility to tell these mommies what I had just learned.

The mood had been merry and I knew that what happened next was going to seriously change. I paused, measured my words carefully and I gave these mothers, some of whom had husbands traveling, the bits of news I knew. A sense of profound sadness and fear filled the place. Some mothers left immediately, others began making calls and our little safe haven felt brittle and shaky.
Most Americans can recall what they were doing September 11, 2001. This year feels different now because I am the mama of a Soldier. I have a child willing to defend our country with his life. 

I remember when my OS was completing his application to West Point. I remember standing in my bedroom and my son reading the essay portion of the application. He wrote something about it's one thing to say you support your country. It's another to be willing to die for it. He never faltered in his speech but recited it with conviction.
I listened and again, I paused.

I could barely contain myself and told my boy, "I need a minute here, Baby." Taking a deep breath, I explained to him that in order for me to hear the rest of the essay, I had to perform the Herculean task of forgetting that the young man who wrote these powerful words was once a tiny baby inside my tummy. Nate complied but I don't think he got it. Lord willing, one day he will when Nate and his wife have a child. It's funny how that happens, huh?

Today I look at the flag waving in my front yard and the rows of flags hanging all down my street. All is calm and we are soon going to our middle OS's first football game. In honor of those who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks of 9/11, I'm wearing an American flag pin, even wore it to work out at the gym. 

In addition, I've got my West Point hat on all day even though I was having a good hair day!

We truly live in the land of the free and home of the brave.  I love my country and praise the Lord that I am an American. September 11th is more significant having a son in the military and I will never be the same. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

What I Can Do For My Sons

Since my son began his 47 month journey at the United States Military Academy, I have heard and read many statements from him.

"Mom, I have thrown a live grenade."
"Ma, today I went to the gas chamber."
"Madre, (one of his nicknames for me), I flew in a Chinook."

From each one of those sentences I have needed a minute to recover. Those are awkward statements I never expected to read from a child of mine, especially if you knew my background. Being a mom is an adventure even when I'm not the one rappelling down a mountain or firing a rifle. And in the case of my other two OS, motherhood is equally exciting and I'm even not on the football field, or on stage, or kicking the soccer ball or trying to finish a leaf project. OY!

Lately though I've been especially blessed when my oldest OS has reached out and asked me for things. I'm not talking about protein bars and new undies which he has requested and I am happy to send but...

I love the other thing my son has asked for and that is for prayer.

My son had a two minute sparring match in boxing class this week. He was concerned about getting his nose broken. His nose was still sore from the previous class and I guess he likes his nose in the position and shape it's been in for the last 18 years. While talking to him over the phone, my boy asked if I would pray for him. 

Oh it was my privilege to lift my son up to the Lord! And I took the request seriously! We prayed over the phone; my DH and I prayed for him; I asked for prayer for my son on my facebook; we joined hands in prayer around the dinner table. Let me tell ya, that nose was covered in prayer! Nothing or no one was going to mess with that little nose and I'm thrilled to say that my son's beautiful nose is still nice and straight although apparently he jacked up the other guy's neck. I now need to pray for that young man!

Homework is also stressing him out. Last night, we got an email asking for prayer. We again petitioned the Lord to give our son a peace that passes understanding and success in accomplishing all the tasks at hand.

Peter Kreeft, author and professor at Boston College said, "I strongly suspect that if we saw all the difference even the tiniest of our prayers make, and all the people those little prayers were destined to affect, and all the consequences of those prayers down through the centuries, we would be so paralyzed with awe at the power or prayer that we would be unable to get up off our knees for the rest of our lives." 

Isn't that an amazing perspective? I have that quote in a special scrapbook I created during a very difficult time in our family. How apropos as I learn to be the mama of a Soldier! I get to pray for my son. NOTHING can stop me. I can't do his homework or block the punches that will come his way, literally and figuratively but this mama, above all else can pray! My boy can rest in knowing that he comes from a praying family no matter the circumstances or distances which separate us. 

It is so good to know that our God considers all prayers important. I am humbled to trust in a Lord who thinks that prayers for my son's nose are as precious as prayers for my friend who is fighting a mighty battle against cancer. I find it incredible that the same God who hears my prayers on behalf of my boy for help with homework is listening also to another mom's prayers for complete healing of her daughter's heart condition.

Praying is a gift that I receive and give freely. In my work, I have spoken to many hurting teenagers. Often I will tell them after hearing their heavy troubles that tonight there will be five people who hold hands around a kitchen table and lift them up to the Lord. And I mean it. 

Who do you know that needs prayer? Extend that priceless privilege to others and let me know if our family can pray for you. 


Friday, September 5, 2008

Once Upon a Time

Twenty one years ago, on a sunny late summer day, a happy, little blond woman married a happy, little blond man. She felt like the prettiest girl in the world and everyone told her so, especially her brand new husband. 

They exchanged vows and outside the church, they released balloons out into the sky. Not a very "green" idea these days but back then, it was perfectly fine. They went on a honeymoon to Portugal and Spain and spent a day in Morocco. 

While there, the new bride slipped on her flip-flop and cut the mess out of her toe. It bled everywhere and the happy, little, newly married blond woman got three stitches in her big toe while in Portugal. It was the beginning of an eventful life together

As you probably figured out, the two people I'm talking about are my husband and me. Today is our 21st wedding anniversary! It's incredible to me to think I've been married this long and I rejoice at how the Lord has blessed our marriage! 

My husband and I were thinking about ways we have celebrated our wedding anniversaries in the past and I thought I'd share some of the more memorable experiences we have shared together.

1. On our first year anniversary, my husband arranged for a surprise trip to San Francisco.  I knew we were going on a trip but he didn't tell me the location.  A limousine picked us up to head to the airport. He had roses in our hotel room, got me a few extra days off of work and had the best time. 

2. On the flip side, I vividly recall our wedding anniversary where we were moving into our first home. I was pregnant with our oldest OS and feeling pretty miserable. While my husband helped the movers bring our belongings into our brand new home, I ate pizza on the toilet in our bathroom. The lid was down, don't despair! Just thought I needed to say that. I just ate pizza, people, I'm totally serious!

3. Then there was the time when I was six days post-partum with our second OS. Who knows what happened that day. We were well on our way to sleep deprivation and all the other associated "joys" a woman experiences just after having a baby. I'll leave it at that.

4. When we had our 10 anniversary, my husband and I enjoyed a nice dinner out and then, to my delight, my hubby pulled out a small box. Women love small boxes. Especially if they have a shiny ring inside.
5. Cayman Islands was where we celebrated another anniversary. We saw baby sea turtles, we went to Hell, (a spot on the island) and snorkeled with sting rays. Correction, my husband snorkeled, I felt sick to my stomach under water. Nonetheless, it was a beautiful time. 

6. Last year, we fulfilled a long dream of mine to go to Camden, Maine. If you ever have a chance to go there, we highly recommend it. Coincidentally we were there for the Windjammer Festival and were able to stroll along the bay and see all the windjammers return for a final hurrah. We stayed at the Hartstone Inn and absolutely stuffed ourselves with food the world class chef and proprietor of the inn created. Here is the room we stayed in! Check out the sample menu! We ate lobster, lobster rolls, fresh blueberry ice cream, I'm 
salivating just with the thought of that amazing time! Scrumptious and stunning in every way!

7. And then of course, we'll never forget the anniversary when Hurricane Fran decided to come our way. It was the night of our anniversary that the winds started howling. We lost power as a Category 3 hurricane pelted our area. It cut a path all over our town and the surrounding area. This time my tummy was full of baby #3 and I fondly recall our little family collecting together on the bed with our battery operated radio listening to the latest news. September 5th has become a very powerful weather event day for our part of the country.

8. And this year, we spend our anniversary with me in a foot cast. Not terribly romantic, huh? I don't feel like the most beautiful woman in the world, I'm not sure that's possible on a scooter. But I do know someone still loves me. That man I married 21 years ago, the guy who makes me smile and laugh. The guy that blesses me with unconditional love and sweet memories. Sickness and health, richer and poorer, bi-ped or scooter bound. 

In many ways, we have weathered the storms of life and we have seen the rainbows. Thanks for letting me share. We're off to scoot and celebrate this special day!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Brady Bunch Wisdom

It is Club Sign Up Night at West Point! I hope my son attends. I knew that the time was coming up and so thankfully when we were with my oldest OS (oliveshoot) during A-Day Weekend, I was able to impart some very sage words his way. 

Don't be a Marcia Brady

You are wrong if you think that The Brady Bunch was just a cheesy television series that ran in the 70s. Nothing could be farther from the truth.  I watched every single episode, thank you very much. In my basement. With the polka dotted wallpaper. In my bell bottoms.  I had a little crush on both Greg and Peter but probably not at the same time because that would have been wrong.  Plus I could swing my hair like Jan. I speak with authority. 

I gave Nathan that advice based on the episode was "Today, I Am a Freshman" first airing Friday, October 13, 1972. Like many awesome shows in the days of disco, it still holds great truth that even a West Point plebe can use. Nearly 36 years later, (almost to the day, give or take about five weeks), I am so glad I have remembered that particular episode. 

In "Today, I Am a Freshman," the legendary Maureen McCormick aka Marcia Brady panicked about becoming a high school freshman. She was unsure of herself and slightly overwhelmed by the new adventure. Thankfully Mike and Carol, her incredible folks, offered wise counsel and Marcia returned to school with a renewed energy. However, in an effort to belong and fit in and not feel like a square, poor Marcia joined virtually every single group at school. It was a real drag. 

Since I was concerned that the same thing could happen to my son, I had to do the right thing. So about two weeks ago, while we were eating a late Sunday lunch at Grant Hall, just prior to our goodbyes, I leaned over to my son and told him, "All's I gotta say is Nate, don't be a Marcia Brady."

I wouldn't exactly say my 18 year old son seemed terribly impressed by my comment but that didn't dissuade me. He did seem very interested in many groups and activities and as a good mom, I didn't want him over committing and finding him the same predicament as poor Marcia.

I look forward to hearing from Nate and seeing if he heeded my advice. I sure hope so! Check out this website for more Brady info, how cool is that? Let me know if you have any other helpful advice from tv shows I can offer any of my OS, that would be far out!