Friday, March 30, 2012

Sister/friend, Army/Navy, trials/blessings

My friend Kim and I hanging out in the hospital lobby.
I have pink highlights and though
Kim does not have olive green highlights in her hair, 

she's still a really good person
as you will soon discover. 
Last year Kim went in the hospital for routine surgery. As part of our Bible Study, she lifted the situation up as a prayer concern and we promised to pray for her. No big deal, I thought to myself. I've had a hysterectomy. Not pleasant but she'll be fine. I'll make her a meal, be a nice friend and we'll see her back in our group in no time at all.

But that's not what happened. The routine surgery became life-threatening as deadly pockets of infection raged in her abdomen. Soon she was too sick to return text messages and too weak to speak. Her husband took over communication and his emails were long as he detailed the troubles and asked for more prayers. Three additional surgeries later, Kim still was in the hospital gravely ill. Another woman in our Bible Study, a pharmacist, told us later that Kim was near death. A vital, young wife and mother of four daughters never expected these complications. Our group was jarred and we cried out to the Lord to save our dear friend and sister in Christ. More meals, more cards, visits to the hospital, we all wondered why this was happening. Kim spent 11 days in the hospital and it took months for her to remain her strength. As she lay in the hospital bed, baseball cap on her head because she was too weak to even wash her hair, Kim had time to talk to God about the purpose for her suffering. She promised to use her illness to minister to others and to not waste this trial...

13 months later - it was past one in the morning when the Hubs and I finally returned home from the hospital. My mom was in the throws of withdrawal from pain meds and at times it was like seeing a demon coming out of her body. Nothing could console her and we were at our wits' end as we left the hospital and to get some sleep.

While in the shower, in the wee hours of the mourning, I felt the Lord speak to me and remind me about Kim. "Ask her to come to the hospital," that's what God said to me...while in the shower...Later that day I called and without hesitation Kim heartily agreed.  On Saturday, a little over a year after her own ordeal, my friend walked back into the same hospital, this time not as a patient but as a woman victorious. 

The devotional Kim gave to my mom.
She brought my mom a beautiful devotional and recounted her days at the hospital. After Mom's visit, as I escorted Kim back to the hospital entrance, she remembered being wheeled down that  hospital corridor. She recalled the blossoms on the trees that she rolled by for another CT scan...reflections of how in the midst of despair, she yearned for another day of life, unsure of when and if she would ever leave the hospital or see another spring. 

Kim and I just before the Army/Navy football game 
as we sparred just before Bible Study
Though she is a Navy wife and I'm an Army mom, and many of us are familiar with the friendly banter shared between these two military branches, moreover we are friends and sisters in Christ. We brush past the fact that her hubs is a Navy grad and my oldest OS will soon graduate from West Point ;) Moreover, Kim has honored her promise to the Lord and actively searches opportunities to tell her story. God uses His people when we let Him. Some of the most shameful parts of my life, things Satan would say you can never discuss because people will judge you or hate you or call you names, the Lord told me to open my mouth and no longer let those chains shackle me. He has allowed me to share parts of my former life with thousands of people because those things point to His redemption, goodness and love. Kim has done the same although her content is different. She doesn't say no to sharing be it a large audience or the hurting grandma in Room 370 (my mom). 

When I prayed for my friend to get better, it didn't occur to me that I needed her, not just as my Bible Study buddy but as an encourager to someone I love. She is teaching me things because the Lord is her teacher. So how about you? Don't discount how YOU can be a blessing. Consider the ways your own story and suffering are touchstones intended to draw you and others closer to the God of All Comfort. Being Kim's friend has made me more sensitive to helping others and moving beyond myself. I pray the same for you, dear friends...more soon

Thursday, March 29, 2012

When you can find joy...

Part of the crew while we waited
for the nurses to change my mom's IV
Well, it's not been for lack of content that I haven't written. Trust me. It's because life has been replete with content that finding a moment to reflect has escaped me. My mom is being transferred to an assisted care facility tomorrow after quite a time in the hospital. So much to process and I believe it's worthy of sharing but sometimes it's hard to know where to begin. This I know for sure, our journey is one you shouldn't do without Jesus. 

Sometimes we make a mess of things
and only God can make something good come out of it.
Strange as it seems, there has been joy. Not a synthetic eudaimonia either. The circumstances surrounding my mom's long recovery and complications aren't particularly pleasant. Had someone told me I would be laughing and silly with all the mess going on, I would have been incredulous. My family has been united. We have loved my mom and each other with honesty and courage. Whether it's the orange hair freckle face OS's tender cards of encouragement for his grandma or the middle OS trekking to faithfully see her; manifold blessings bloom in the spring air. Aaron has pastoral aspirations and I have witnessed the gifting the Lord has placed on his life as he visits my mom with his ukulele or guitar and always his Bible close at hand. He even went to another woman's hospital room (the grandma of one of his friends) and ministered to her aching soul. The Hubs has been my hero. My baby sister who lives nearby has been strong and hilarious showing power when I had none. Extended family has rallied behind us. Really, friends, don't do this journey if you can avoid it (and really don't do it without Jesus, seriously). I still remain thankful despite the fact that my mom isn't doing back-springs and cartwheels out of the hospital. Ok, that's a funny word picture. So as I was sitting in church on Sunday, tears streaming from my eyes, anxiety looming, heart breaking; there was still an undercurrent of contentment. How could that be?

Message from a freckle face,
orange hair OS to his grandma
One of the women in church was praying out loud. Reject any notion that might pop into your head of a person in a trance or losing her mind. Even if you aren't a church-going person, my hunch is you wouldn't have been creeped out. Sincerity flowed from her lips and I loved her prayer because she quoted Old Testament Scripture.

Habakkuk 3:17-19

17 Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.19 The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.
Hearing those timeless words was a balm to my spirit. Lacking a prophet's eloquence and wisdom, my own Habakkuk prayer would go something like this...  
Make a joyful noise my sweet and precious child
Though the circumstances of my mom's struggles are yucky; though I am not in control of all the variables; though I am sad and tired; though I would like to not know so many nurses; though my car instinctively knows how to get to the hospital, though I had text-finger (which by the way, is painful) because of my nearly constant communication with others; though my mom really needs to find more motivation and umph; yea though there is still laundry and meals, yet I will rejoice in God my Savior. What choice do I have? My arthritic knee creaks and bends in humble praise of the One who can do immeasurably more than I could ever expect or imagine. Amen
My writer friend, the recently published, soon to be immensely famous Cara McLaughlin recently shared, "believing is the hardest part but it's also the best part."
Today I'm embracing the believing part of this journey satisfied with what God is doing even if it's not as I imagined it. More soon...

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Hospitals and hair

Pretty blossoms in the hospital courtyard
Having a good hair day in a hospital seems like a waste. Yesterday I was out in public and would have appreciated a bit of flounce. Today I sit in Room 115, a small, antiseptic space squished in a chair. My hair and I listen to the sounds of my mother wracked with pain and wheezing. My hair displays the life my mother needs more. Stupid tv options, frequent interruptions, feelings of hopelessness, confusion and frustration fill the skull but my pink-streaked hair has vitality. Ironic. Hard to concentrate, don't have medical degree, unclear on every level. Ate homemade soup, heard from friends far and wide. Many praying, offers of support and love cover nearly every state and portions of Central America. Aunt spent the night at the hospital and heard the screams of pain. Oh Jesus. 
Romans 8:26 
Likewise the Spirit helps us 
in our weakness. For we do not know 
what to pray for as we ought, 
but the Spirit himself intercedes for us 
with groanings too deep for words.

When I arrived at the hospital this morning, my aunt's hair was disheveled and if it had a voice, her hair would have stories I just can't hear right now. My mom's hair is sweaty and matted. It needs its owner to get up and wash it and style it. I would even be ok if she used the curling iron and that's saying something. 

Having a good hair day in a hospital seems like a waste, at least it does for me. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

We are West Point Moms!

I could barely eek out a few words before bursting into tears. We had never met and yet there was a bond between us as soon as she answered the phone. We were West Point moms at opposite ends of the 48 month adventure. The warmth in her voice removed the little resolve I had left to keep it all together. I attempted to ask some factual questions but really all I wanted to know is that she survived. Since she was still able to speak in full sentences, I perceived that as a good sign. 

The Hubs made this graph when 
Nate was a new cadet, it's so true!
Don't we all want to find kindred spirits, people who can help us along life's way? I sure do. In many aspects, the desire to be encouraged and embraced is central to feeling a sense of community. Connection is what I've found in being a West Point Mom.

WP moms come in all sizes!

Perhaps mothers with children in traditional universities have a bond. As my middle OS begins college at Moody Bible Institute this fall, it would be nice to meet mothers who have children pursuing ministry. Yet I must be honest, my expectations will be high because West Point moms spoil each other with kindness.

Here are just a few examples of what it's like to be a WP mom.  
This is the cutest Girl Scout delivery 
boy in El Salvador!
Recently my oldest OS went to see his bonita in El Salvador. She likes Girl Scout cookies and Nate couldn't possibly go there empty-handed! He had bought her tea and nail polish which truly threatened his "Man Card" but Girl Scout cookies was another must-have item. Well, one quick message on facebook and a WP mom, whom Nate has never met, shipped EIGHT, yes EIGHT boxes to my boy, free of charge.

Girl Scout cookies make girlfriends happy!
Nate was hoping to avoid parking fees at the airport while on vacation in El Sal. A simple message to my WP moms and a grandma of a cadet offered Nate to park his car at her home for the week.

A mom asks for prayers and a swarm of WP moms respond with concern. A mom posts a picture of her cadet on the page and we gush as if it were our own bairn.

There is no paucity of concern or compassion. The Scripture passage found in Romans 12:15 is fitting. "Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn." Though most of us haven't met in person, we understand each other. We don't all share the same political convictions or spiritual beliefs, some don't even use soap nuts(!) but nonetheless we are a sisterhood. We realize our cadets will most likely travel in harm's way. We get it in ways most don't. Current events and conflicts in foreign lands impact our children's future. As our cadets return from Spring Break, many weepy moms lamented about missing their cadet. We reassured them and gathered them into the fold cuz that's how WP mamas roll. 

This is a common WP mom facial
expression. It's hard to let go!
Now I'm at the other end of this experience. Nate graduates the end of May. I don't want it to end but I know my cadet is ready to see where life leads him.  The current trajectory is Georgia, Colorado and then possibly Kuwait.  
Even if you're not a WP mom, you will enjoy this video one of my friends created. One day soon your child will embark on new journeys and it will tug on your heart even if your baby isn't heading to the United States Military Academy. I've watched this video many times and I can't get through it without shedding a tear. A picture of Nate and I at Ring Weekend is found on 00.53 of this link. What a privilege to be part of this long grey line!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Soap Nuts Winner!

Judging from the responses left on my facebook and blog post, many of you have joined the chorus saying, "I'm sick and tired of being pococurante about laundry!", you do know what pococurante means, don't  you?  (looks disdainfully through bespectacled lens)   
Soap nuts amid my homemade fabric bowls

Prior to yesterday, I didn't know what it meant to be pococurante but this mama of three oliveshoots has been pococurante about laundry for far too long, my friends! Thanks to, now I don't have to say I've been careless and indifferent about cleaning clothes. Thank you! Each day a fancy new word arrives in my email box and yesterday's word was pococurante. You should have seen the OS's faces as I was extolling the virtues of soap nuts and then I nonchalantly told them last night that I was no longer pococunrate about dirty clothes. They were like, "wha???"
my trusted source for fancy words

Now that you are thoroughly impressed with my vocabularic (my new invented word) acumen, let me announce the winner of the DELUXE Soap Nuts Combination Package.
Way to go, Julie!
I'm working on a few more things regarding soap nuts and other items so my hunch is this will not be the last giveaway I offer though it might be the most extravagant. I look forward to hearing from Julie about her experiences with all the NaturOli products she can try. Considering she has been sick as a dog with her current pregnancy, I'm sure you can all join me in being happy that in between bouts of nausea, Julie has something to make her feel better.
This is the Deluxe Soap Nuts Combination
Package offered in the giveaway 
Based on a suggestion from an interested mom, I'm now seriously contemplating having a soap nuts party. People are curious on how to use them and how they work. If people can have Pampered Chef parties (which I think are wonderful!), then perhaps a continuing education course on soap nuts is in order. If you like the idea, let me know. If you are pococurante, I'd want to hear about that also. ;)

In the midst of celebrating the Hubs' 50th birthday and a CRAZY compliment the orange hair, freckle face OS (future blog post) gave me yesterday, I washed my middle OS's linens with soap nuts. The first thing I noticed was how crisp and fluffy Aaron's sheets and pillow cases felt in the dryer. The other thing I noticed was that it took a lot less time for the items to dry. I'm not sure if this is a phenomena based on soap nuts but I'm going to ask the experts and I'll let you know.  

Use code WPMoms for 10% off including most sale items!
How many other blogs out there have used a unique word, talked about laundry AND soap nuts? That's just how we do! Congrats to Julie and I sincerely would appreciate you readers telling me what you think about a soap nuts party even if you couldn't attend. Try to find a way to incorporate that fun word into your weekend conversations!

Friday, March 2, 2012

There's something about a soap nut - Discount and generous give-away!

My friend Becki's first load of laundry with
soap nuts - what a moment!
 So maybe you're like I was and you're curious about this whole soap nuts thing. I'm a soap nuts neophyte but a true believer in this product. For me, if soap nuts were a pop star, they would be Justin Bieber. If soap nuts were a pizza, they would be Chicago style. If soap nuts were an exercise system, they would be Zumba. Yes, I'm smitten by saponin, I cannot lie.

Saponin-based products clean naturally without chemicals or sulfates and I've worked out a great offer with the folks at NaturOli

Last night I spoke on the phone for over TWO hours with the co-founder of NaturOli and I'm more convinced than ever that soap nuts are fantastic. I'm not a paid spokesperson for NaturOli, just a happy customer that did a little legwork and wanted to see if I could do something special for my readers. 

A stinky load of Soldier's clothes this past summer
from my cadet's time at
Fort Benning this summer - PU!
So here's the deal. You can discover the versatility of soap nuts and save money. Experience the many all-natural wonders of soap nuts products and:  

1.  Get a 10% discount on NaturOli using the following code: WPMoms. Enter the coupon code at the bottom of your shopping cart page (you have to scroll down to the bottom). The code WPMoms is not case sensitive and will work store-wide and even apply to many items already on sale. Click here to see all the cool products they offer. Some exclusions on products may apply so if that happens, please understand.

The NaturOli folks also suggested that you join their mailing list. Click here for that so you can keep informed about their products. 
This could be yours! I'm jealous!
2. And then there's this...
I'm offering an awesome give-away. Leave a comment on my facebook or on this blog post. On Friday, March 9th, I'll draw a name and have them send you this package. It's a $70 gift (I secretly want to enter my own name but I won't!) 
Here's what one very blessed person will receive:

A DELUXE Soap Nuts Combination Package
...with all full size and/or large soap nuts products!
- A 16-oz NaturOli "Select" Soap Nuts, USDA certified organic. (With heavy-duty wash bag and 8-page info and instructions.)
- An 8-oz "Extreme 18X" soap nuts liquid concentrate with pump.
- A rich Soap Nuts Shampoo Bar, large size.
- A luxurious, handmade Soap Nuts Cleansing Bar, large size. IMPORTANT NOTE: Currently sold out, alternate large natural soap bar will be substituted.
- A 16-oz "Extreme Hair" Soap Nut Shampoo. (Please specify formula desired.)
- A Soap Nuts Laundry Pre-Treat Stick.
NOTE: Stick dispenser type may vary from shown. Product weight will be equal or more.
- A 4-oz jar of finely ground and sifted, mukorossi Soap Nuts Powder for laundry, housecleaning or personal care.

my laundry life pre-soap nuts = blah
Up until a few weeks ago, when it came to washing clothes, I was just your everyday wife with pink highlights and the mama of three oliveshoots...a West Point cadet, a Renaissance man and an orange hair, freckle face athlete. YAWN! ;) But now my laundry life is nearly thrilling and the possibilities are endless.

Now, here's a freshly washed load of laundry = shazam!
So hey, leave a comment and enter the drawing. What have you got to lose? Help me spread the word about soap nuts and use the 10% discount...code WPMoms. Go soap nuts and thanks NaturOli