Tuesday, October 19, 2010

When the answer is "No"

The post I wanted to share was that a very lovely Salvadorena was coming to our house for Thanksgiving. I had grand words to share with you in the spirit of keeping this sweet fairytale going. 

But sometimes God has a different answer. Since I believe the Lord is the Author of Life, He is writing this story. So my optimistic post has changed. 

Ergh. It would have been a ridiculously happy post but as of now, the Lord has seen fit to not allow Lu's visa to be approved. 

We are really disappointed but probably the most bummed guy in all of North America happens to be my OS...

It's times like these where the Scripture about giving thanks in all things is put to the test. 
"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

The challenge is how do I say thanks to God when I don't like His answer? How do I say "yes Lord" when I have a son who had his heart set on the Almighty rubber-stamping his lovesick request with a big giant, "Sure Nate!" Of course, I realize there are bigger requests of a far more dire nature. Here are three families that are leaning on Jesus with each passing day. Ella's family. Lily's family. Adam's wife and daughter. If I were God, I would certainly have triaged the prayer for Lu to get a visa and thought I was too busy with more important things than to concern myself with something so small when compared with these folks.  

But I'm not God. He doesn't work like me and that incidentally is a good thing! ;)

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD.
 "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9

I know the Lord heard us praying for Lu to come to visit even if it appears His answer is no. He didn't ignore our request, He just gave it a different reply. My OS and I must rejoice that we serve a God who recognizes all prayers. I find comfort that Jesus doesn't tell me or my OS that He doesn't have time to listen to us. What an honor to trust and know with certainty that He hears my cries. Whether I'm in the tub, sitting at church or in my prayer closet, God inclines His ear to undeserving me. As a follower of Christ, I have constant access to the Shepherd who hears the cries of his sheep. 

Unless things change and the Lord intercedes in a big way, we will all resign ourselves to Lu not gracing our table this year. We'll make some pumpkin pie and I'll take some pictures and pretend that she ate a slice. Yeah, it won't be the same but we will still give thanks even if we all have a little tear in our eyes. 

Friday, September 24, 2010

Thursday, September 23, 2010


It was BIG news in our family when Nate fell in love. The phone lines were abuzz as I talked to my mom at least every day giving her the latest update. We brainstormed, conferred, analyzed, considered, prayed, worried, imagined and everything else a mom and grandma could do when the oldest OS/grandson is smitten.

Here's how those conversations often went:

Me: "Mom, Nate REALLY likes Lu."
My mom: "Wow!"
Me: "Mom, he's using the 'L' word with her!"
My mom: "Wow!"
Me: "What should I do, Mom? I mean, he's using the 'L' word!"
My mom: "Exactly what 'L' word is he using?"

You get the idea. It was fun musing what was going to happen next and soon my sister Denise joined in on the fun. She has a close relationship with Nate and when he was home for a visit, he stopped by her house for dinner.

After playing with his cousins around and holding the baby Rachel, Denise had a heart to heart conversation with Nate. I appreciate my sister speaking truthfully to my OS about sensitive issues and reinforcing the solid Biblical principles we endorse in our family. I can always count on her.

As a bonus this time, Denise's romantic side offered Nate even more.  She suggested Nate give Lu some jewelry. Is there any girl in the world who doesn't like jewelry?

Denise didn't suggest this

A gold retainer necklace

or anything gross like this. But if Lu wanted a mouthguard necklace, Ike has a few he could donate!

nor did Denise recommend a trinket like this. It's just wayyyyy too personal, wouldn't you agree? 
A chewed piece of gum necklace = ew
Denise suggested something pretty and romantic, a gift similar to the one she received from her husband many years ago.


A silver charm bracelet. Nate loved the idea and as he talked about it with me, I thought of the two charm bracelets I own. 

The first one I received when I was 16 years old. I can look at each charm and tell a story about every one. For example, as a teenager I received a typewriter charm for my love of writing. I have charms from at least five different countries. While on our 20th anniversary celebration to Maine, the Hubs got me a lobster net charm. And my OS gave me a West Point charm which I cherish. I don't wear the bracelets very often but I love to look at them and remember. 

Once Nate decided to buy Lu a bracelet, I had the privilege of going with him to shop for the bracelet. He wanted my opinion and I must say I jumped at the chance. We went to a small, locally owned jewelry shop and he found a very sweet bracelet that we agreed would look so pretty on her. 

Then Nate decided to get three charms. The first charm he found was a tar heel because he's from NC.

Then, while on a trip to visit family in Greenville, SC Nate found a mustard seed charm. He picked this one based on the Scripture verse "if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." Matthew 17:20 Nate and Lu trust in the Lord and believe that if this is going to work, they need to have the faith of a mustard seed and rely completely on His will in their relationship.

The final charm my OS wanted for Lu was a plane which I thought was very romantic. In an effort to help, Aaron, Ike and I went shopping with him. We went to at least ten different stores to find the right plane charm. Btw, it is not easy to find an airplane charm. We found cheap airplane charms for a little girl's bracelet and other travel-related charms but Nate wanted nothing to do with them. He wasn't going to settle. Finally after dashing around the mall, just as the store was closing, he found it. As patient as Nate was in waiting for the right girl, he was equally resolute in finding the perfect charm, not settling for anything but the best. 

The little charm bracelet traveled to El Salvador tucked safely in his backpack. Lu's father had given their relationship his approval and it was their second night out as an official bf/gf type thing. They were sitting outside of a restaurant, a tropical breeze swayed through the air. Nate presented her with a mushy card, the contents written therein have yet to be shared with me (which I totally DON'T understand!) ;) but I do know how beautiful Nate's sentiments can be and I'm only his mom. It must have been super mushy. He then handed her the rectangular box and she opened it. 

According to my OS, Lu had a "positive reaction" and that's all I have been told.  I have asked, oh, trust me, if you know me, I have asked. I have a nasty family reputation of asking too many questions. Hey, I have a major in journalism, it's my nature. Currently "lips are sealed." Waa. Perhaps a sushi lunch with my OS will pry it out of him. Perhaps not.

The one thing I know is that a lovely young lady in Central America now has a delicate, silver bauble to remind her that she is loved by a really awesome oliveshoot who is thinking of her constantly.
More soon!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Love is patient...

However, before I tell you what happened next, let me share with you how I learned about what was going on between the two of them. 

I remember talking to my OS on the phone in March. Nate told me that he chatted frequently with Lu. Judging by the tone in his voice, I sensed there was more to it than that. Here's how the conversation went when I decided to ask some questions...

Nate: "I've been talking to Lu quite a bit lately..."
Me: "Oh really? That's cool."
Nate: "Yeah, Ma, I like her."
Me: "What do you like about her? There's a lot to like."
Nate: "I don't know...everything. Just everything, Ma."
Me: "Like what?"
Nate: "For one she's drop-dead gorgeous; she's nice and funny and she's the most godly woman I've ever met..."
Me: "Wow! Well, how much do you like her?"
Nate: "A lot."
Me: (trying to sound very smooth and relaxed)"So what do you mean by 'a lot'?" 
Nate: "A lot, Mom"
Me: "Um, so Nate, do you 'L' her?" (I really did say "L" instead of the actual word...)
Nate: (without a nanosecond of hesitation) "Yes."

Allrighty then! I pulled up my big girl panties (figuratively speaking!) and realized that Nate was serious. I needed to pay attention. I needed to pray and I needed to give thanks. This was a good thing. 

And before I knew it he was in El Salvador...

And this is where we pick up the story.

For several days Nate visited with Lu and her family. He stayed in a hotel in San Salvador (by himself thank you very much) and when he wasn't with Lu, my OS visited exciting places like the Mr. Donut

He loved the volcanoes throughout the landscape, the verdant hills but the most exquisite scenery was of course, you guessed it...Lu. Having spent time with Lu in prison (yes, we have spent time in prison together, click here for details!) I know how she can light up even the darkest place! 

He arrived on a Monday and each night when Nate was in his hotel room, he and I would Skype or facebook. And I'd ask Nate in my usual extremely nonchalant fashion the same question in regards to him speaking to Lu's father. "Did you talk to him? Did ya, did ya, huh, huh, huh?" I could barely stand it when he would say, "not yet." Didn't he know or care that his mama was waiting with baited breath to hear the outcome! Zheesh!

At long last the night arrived. After enjoying a dinner with Lu and her family, petting the dog and acting charming, "the" moment was at hand. Lu excused herself and went upstairs while Nate sat in front of her mom, dad, one of her brothers and her sister-in-law. In his very limited Spanish, my boy began to speak.  If your heart is NOT beating fast right now, you better check your pulse!

Lu's sister-in-law served as translator and Nate said something like this.  Remember, this post has been cleared by my son. 

"Senor y Senora ______, we all know why I'm here. I never thought I'd go to another country to see a girl. But when I met Lu, I couldn't do anything else. This isn't something I've ever done before but I had to come here because I am crazy about your daughter. I think she's the best thing ever. Family is very important and I wanted to come here to talk to you in person. So really why I'm here is I want permission to date your daughter. I promise to respect her, take good care of her and keep Christ at the center of our relationship. I would like to ask you if I could have the privilege and the honor of dating your daughter."

I must pause here and say this. You have no idea how many guys I would have avoided if I had had a father like Lu's. A father who cared enough about his daughter and who was strong in character and faith to protect and love and to expect nothing but the best for his girl. Oh my soul, what trouble and pain I could have avoided.

Ok, but back to the story...

Apparently by this time, Lu's sister-in-law, pregnant with her first child, was in tears and translating. She took a deep breath and told my son, "You're a good man." I think that is one of the kindest things anyone could say to a guy, especially my OS. Then Lu's dad said a few things all culminating in him saying "yes." :) :) :)

And then according to my very reliable sources, Lu's dad asked my son to pray. And Nate began to pray. I give no credit to myself or to the Hubs but all the glory and honor goes to the Lord for He alone guided my OS's words and actions.

You see, for so many years prior to becoming a Christian, I  longed to raise three honorable men but wasn't sure how that was done. I wanted desperately for my precious sons to be guys who respected women. Good men are not extinct but sadly they are in short supply. We need a lot more, don't you think? I wanted to do my part to change that. 

Our family is woefully imperfect and just so you don't think I'm uppity, I don't get any credit for the blessings we've received, completely undeserving is how I realistically view myself. And for the moments I do feel uppity, well, the Lord gave me a 16 year old OS to fix that! 

But I must admit, I am a proud mama. As a mama, as a woman, I believe with all my heart in raising the bar for young people. What girl doesn't dream of someone esteeming her in this way? Seriously. 

I can't wait to share with you the next part...jewelry and no, it's not an engagement ring but still delightfully lovely!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Love is a many splendored thing!

The following post is published with permission by my oldest OS. When you have a son who is skilled in military stuff, you must be careful...

So my last post ended with my oldest OS journeying to El Salvador. He wanted an "epic" summer and by anyone's estimations, he was successful. In the span of 10 days, Nate traveled to Lithuania, Slovenia, Latvia (his fave), Estonia and Finland. 

Then he returned to West Point and oversaw a squad of new cadets during Beast. Being a new cadet the social equivalent of being lower than a plebe or an amoeba at West Point and I'm sure it was sweet relief for Nate is now a cow (a third year student) to be large and in charge.

Upon completing his detail, Nate boarded a plane bound for El Salvador. This is when our OS showed another side of leadership many people prefer to overlook. Submission - the action or fact of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person and that is knowing when to submit to authority. Who were and are the superior forces to whom my OS submits, you might ask?

1. The Lord Jesus Christ
2. Lu's dad...

(Enter dreamlike sequence...)
Nate eagerly passed through Customs and scanned the crowd in the airport. Suddenly his eyes fell upon the prettiest, smartest, most awesomest ;) young woman a guy has ever seen. And it wasn't just your everyday sultry SalvadoreƱa walking past him. 

No, this beautiful girl was looking eagerly for him too. She was there to see him in person, face to face for the very first time. Their eyes met, their arms hugged, apparently it was magic. It would have totally killed the moment, but I would have loved to have seen that!

They spent the day hanging out and if I know my boy, he was grinning from ear to ear. Who cares if he had barely any sleep the night before! Nate was feeling like the most blessed, luckiest guy in all of the Americas - North, South and Central! At last, he was near Lu.

My blonde-haired gringo gathered plenty of stares as he strutted around the streets of San Salvador with Lu. Yet if someone would have asked if she was his girlfriend, his answer at the time would have been "not yet." That is because Nate still had something very important to do. He needed to first ask her father for permission to see his daughter.

And unlike most of us who faced with a similar situation would have bee-lined over to Lu's house and hurriedly asked her dad just to get it over with, Nate chose the honorable and respectable option. He waited until the time was right.

I'll tell you more in an upcoming post. I need to have them "approved" before posting! :)

Ephesians 3:20-21

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Living vicariously and loving it

I have had my share of life adventures. Some of these adventures I can tell my family and future grandbabies, others aren't exactly edifying and need to remain hidden. Oh well! But I am not finished with having exciting stories before the Lord brings me home one day. This summer, I haven't really been anywhere especially incredible but I've been truly content with staying close to home, taking care of my family doing what the world would say is "boring stuff" although I don't personally think so.   

But about 18 months ago, I went to El Salvador on a mission trip and something I never expected has happened as a result. This short-term mission trip was the second time I had gone out of the country to serve the Lord. In no way could you was it a vacation yet I experienced many incredible, anointed, beautiful, positive adjective-filled moments. 

Inside the prison
The one moment that will forever shine in my heart, however was when we spent time in the girls' prison just outside San Salvador. Tucked in the hustle and bustle of El Salvador's capital, the girls' prison is next to an orphanage. As we approached the compound, little boys crowded around our van, some with dirty t-shirts and threadbare tennis shoes so worn we could see their overgrown toes sticking out. We greeted them but directly checked in with the prison guards to begin our work. The guards escorted us to a room full of teenage girls who didn't really look as if they had committed any serious crimes. I felt comfortable and at ease among them even though I knew several of them had done very bad things. 

The girls at the prison warmly greeted us with hugs and complimented me on the blue-tinged highlights in my hair. Then we began to share with them. My friend and former work colleague, Beth Anne told her story of redemption and the girls were deeply moved. A beautiful El Salvadoran young woman named Lu  translated for us and allowed us to boldly speak of Christ's unending love for all of us sinners. 

Beth Anne and Lu crammed into the car
I had grown quite fond of Lu in the car ride to the prison. Her English was exceptional and she was at ease with us gringos. While cramped in the car, Lu inquired about our lives. I began to speak about my family and told her about my children. 

When I began to talk about Nathan, my oldest OS, as is my custom, I began to cry. Just the thought of my boy filled me with love and pride. But no sooner had I started crying, then I noticed that Lu had tears in her eyes also. Casually I mentioned that she and Nate would like each other and suggested that they be facebook friends. 

In the back of my mind, I thought to myself that Nate would find both Lu and her friend Tatiana quite beautiful. I was certain my OS would be more than willing to be kind to these girls.

Tatiana and Lu during my mission trip to El Salvador
Um, that is an understatement.

Because now fast forward 18 months and you'll never guess who is in El Salvador.

Yes, my oldest OS Nathan is in El Salvador.

And I wouldn't exactly say he's on a mission trip but he is on a mission and in my estimation one of the coolest and sweetest missions a young man will ever undertake.

Since leaving El Salvador, Nathan has been talking to Lu. For countless hours, the two have been chatting till the wee hours of the morning and have become wildly crazy about each other. 

On Monday, after weeks of anticipation and planning, immediately upon completing his Beast detail at WP, my OS flew to meet Lu for the very first time face to face. It was a surreal experience to go from the rigors of West Point to a tropical land in Central America. And wow, it was even wilder when Nate boarded the plane from Miami to San Salvador and discovered that he actually knew the pilot taking him there! It turns out that the pilot is the father of a high school classmate and friend. Here's the pic of Nate in the cockpit! We received a phone call from the dad telling us he had flown Nate to see Lu! 

Nate and the pilot - we actually personally know this guy and weren't expecting him to personally fly Nate to El Salvador. I guess Nate is a pretty big deal after all! HA!
The beautiful young lady I spent two and half days with in prison is now my son's girlfriend. The translator who helped us share the love of Christ in a girls' prison now occupies a great deal of space in my son's heart. There were moments in prison when the spirit of the Lord was so intense, we were again moved to weep. Beth Anne, Lu, the girls, me and even the prison guards were reduced to tears. Speaking of God's love and forgiveness and what He has done in our lives, how utterly humbling to be in that place. In so many ways, I am happy I made this trip. Now I am even happier. 

I am deeply blessed to say that I love both of them. While on the mission trip, I saw firsthand Lu's heart for the Lord, 
her compassion and kindness, not to mention her outward gorgeousness (if that's a word!) It made me fall in love with her before my son did. Until Monday, I was the only person who had ever occupied the same physical space with both of them. As of Monday, that changed.

Only the Lord knows where this story goes from here. We are all praying and depending on our Heavenly Father to order the steps for this relationship. I need permission to tell more about things but trust me, I want to tell you as it would give us all hope and inspiration. 

Until then, I'm living vicariously and loving it! Stay tuned!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Adventures - Vicarious in Nature

Today seems like a good day to blog. I didn't realize it had been nearly two months since my fingers had tapped out an entry. My health has been relatively good and my exercise regime is consistent. It seems to take longer to burn off the calories from a Heath bar than I can remember but I'm not complaining. This summer I am living vicariously. No big adventures planned for me but plenty for my family. Some adventures I am cleared to mention, others need "approval" but I hope to speak of them soon!

Adventure #1 

My orange-haired, freckle face OS Isaac had a visit to UNC Children's Hospital, more specifically their operating room. He had an abdominal hernia repaired. An uneventful surgery, praise the Lord but still a big deal for a 13 year old guy. I had a proud parenting moment when the surgery was deemed worthwhile since we didn't know going in if they were going to find a weakness in his abdominal wall. The Hubs was questioning the surgery, I was the one pushing for it. I love the moments in our marriage where we synch and rely on each other's instincts. It was a necessary operation and I was happy that Ike hadn't gone
through all that for nothing. He was exceptionally stoic aside from being worried someone might see his "privates" during the surgery. To Isaac's chagrin, I mentioned his concern to the doctors who smiled and assured us they would do their best to avoid any sight of that "area" during the procedure. We left the hospital with our pain-ridden child and the skies opened up with sheets of rain pummeling our car. We called Aaron to meet us outside with an umbrella so we could get Ike into the house thus avoiding the rain. As the Hubs and I were gingerly walked our ginger upstairs to bed, I asked Aaron to get the mail. In hindsight, this was a really dumb idea considering what happened next. 

Aaron ran outside with the umbrella when suddenly a huge bolt of lightning pierced the sky. It sounded so close that I felt the bolt down in my feet. A horrible feeling entered my mind, "Did Aaron just get hit by lightning?" I mused. Nah, the idea was just too perposterous.  It was just too far-fetched to imagine that one son could have been struck by lightning just as we were taking another son upstairs following surgery. Since we're such loving parents, we kept taking Ike upstairs but seconds later Aaron leapt into the house. His eyes wild with fear, his voice octaves higher. While outside retrieving the mail, umbrella in hand, Aaron saw a giant bolt of lightning strike two houses a street behind ours. Soon we heard sirens and fire trucks filling the area. He truly did almost get hit by lightning! Thankfully none of our neighbors were hurt but extensive damage occurred in both of the houses.
Adventure #2

Our oldest OS began his summer with travel. Nate begins his Cow year (third year) at West Point and following exams swiftly boarded a plane bound for  Eastern Europe. A group of 10 students some ROTC others WP cadets, visited the Baltic States and studied its economic conditions, its role in international relations along with its culture and history. He even found himself in the Latvian news. Click here to see pics! He's the cutie patootie with the white shirt and headphones! Gaa! My OS looks so diplomatic with the headphones on listening to translators. Sometimes I chuckle when I think of how this young man is MY boy. Others see him as a leader and as an adult, yet I can still see his toe-headed face in Barney overalls and I still get to call him silly nicknames! I just close my eyes and can see him bravely wielding his plastic knife on a mountain in North Carolina despite the fact that he is growing up and building a life of his own. (That is a good thing I must keep telling myself.)

Here is the YouTube video documenting some of their time in Latvia. My OS is shown in :26, :39, :49, :57 and in 2:01 you will notice him playing with his pen. That's from his father's side of the family. ;) Nate is the one who says, "How are you doing, Ma'am." Gaa again! I was impressed when MP and former Foreign Minister of Latvia, Artis Pabriks stated that the United States and Lativa are "brothers in arms." Thank you Saiema Chancellery for allowing me to use these images.

Nate saw the Hill of Crosses, the Museum of Genocide Victims which was set up in the former KGB headquarters and is the only one of its kind in the former Soviet Union.

He even got his picture taken with a "torturer" who was handing out brochures in Estonia and that's some-
thing most of us have never done!

Other notable events included going to the General Jonas Zemaitis Military Academy of Lithuania, and attending a briefing at the US Embassy in Estonia. I found myself having to check the globe to figure out where my OS was since my knowledge of that part of the world is quite limited. It never occurred to me that other countries have military academies. I think we all can be very myopic in our worldview and travel expands our minds in many ways. My oldest OS brought me home a CD of Latvian folk music and although I don't understand a single word, I love listening to it and transporting myself to that faraway place my son visited. In total, Nate went to four countries in less than two weeks. Yes, he is having an "epic" summer. More to follow on that note...

Adventure #3 

This will only seem an adventure if you are a bibliophile. I have read over 1,000 pages this summer! That's a very big deal for me. One of my greatest passions is reading and sadly I don't do enough of it. This summer, however; I am returning to my love of books and I want to share with you what I have read thus far...

River Town - a fascinating book about an American Peace Corps volunteer who taught American literature in the heart of China's Sichuan province.

I Am Hutterite - This non-fiction book chronicles the life of a woman who spent her childhood in a Hutterite colony in southern Manitoba, Canada. I enjoyed hearing about how she transitioned living in popular culture while still treasuring the life she left behind.

The Good Earth - this is the second time I've read Pearl Buck's classic about Wang Lung, a peasant. There are so many striking moments in this timeless book. The first time I read The Good Earth I wasn't a Christian. Now I have found so many Biblical parallels, it gave me much to ponder. My family hears about Wang Lung, O-Lan and the poor fool all the time. You must read this if you haven't!

The Good, Good Pig - Ike and I read this together. Named one of the Best Books of the Year by The Christian Science Monitor, The Good, Good Pig was a charming true story about a 750 pound pet pig. Ike and I looked up new words and expanded our vocabulary while discussing this sweet novel. I cried a little bit at the end.

Belong to Me - a fiction book recommended to me by my mom. It was an intriguing story about women and friendships.

I'm now reading Isaac's Storm for my personal pleasure and Fever 1793 with Ike as we work on his comprehension.

My adventures are being found in the lives of those I love and in the pages I turn. It might not sound like fun but I am loving this perspective.

More soon, I promise. It feels good to share!