Monday, May 28, 2012

West Point graduation touchstone moments

This is not a glamour shot. 
Pictured here are the freckle face, orange hair ginger, the Hubs,
the Officer just after we pinned the bars on his uniform,
the weepy proud mama, the grandpa and the ministry-bound middle brother.
We are an imperfect bunch.
But we love each other.
And when not focusing on our own personal comforts which is often difficult for most people including myself and those in my clan.
We reach deep down inside and demonstrate support and care.

And this is what my oldest OS deserved on HIS day.
Not telling Nate how exhausted and hot we were (because I do not believe there are sufficient words and he was surely more tired and sweaty!) 
But rather standing next to our Soldier physically, emotionally and spiritually.
As he graduated from the United States Military Academy.
It was a privilege and an honor.
And if someone would have handed me a mirror,
And lipstick,
And some haircare products,
Or offered me a shower to freshen up,
You know, because an important picture was going to be taken,

I would have said no

And continued to hold my son's hand.
It was only after looking at this picture the following day
that I realized that we were all touching. I love that. 
Unconcerned about appearance,
Shedding tears of pride. 
No other place could I have been
Then next to Nate and surrounded by those who love him most. 
Making memories for a lifetime,
This perspiring, imperfect collection of people
Honored a man of integrity
Whom the Lord gave me for such a time as this
And I am richly, profoundly blessed to call him (and all those in this picture) my own. 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Senior table

Creating unconditional love on cardboard

Making Aaron's senior table was truly an act of love. 
Wednesday night, on the eve of high school graduation, moms and dads filled the gymnasium for a shining gesture. With Herculean effort, we decorated senior tables for our offspring. I know because I was among those parents attempting, in some impossible way to contain love on a 30"x30" plot of space. Talk about pressure!

For weeks I had been staging Aaron's table at home. With two children graduating nine days apart in two different states, I had to start early to make sure it was good. In 2008, Nate had a senior table and Aaron deserved for me to put in the same painstaking effort. In my practice sessions, sometimes I'd tape a picture in one place on the cardboard and then move it elsewhere. A few of my table prototypes were created actually in Aaron's room so he would see them when he came home from school. I'd anticipate the moment when Aaron would enter. Yes, I said to myself, hopefully he will not collapse upon seeing its beauty. Truly, I speculated, he will notice how I angled the ukelele JUST so, put the candle HERE, the coffee cup THERE and the tiny bell from Ukraine on THIS spot.
Middle OS senior pic taken by Aunt Lorri

And when Aaron would walk into his room, my ear would keen for the slightest gasp of wonder. If a second passed without a response, I couldn't stand it any longer. "Aaron, what do you think?" I'd beckon so desperate for his approval. Without exception Aaron showed his gratefulness. Whew.

Other times, you know, just in case a friend stopped by and you never know when that just might happen, I would do the whole set-up in the dining room and dare I admit, I'd walk down the stairs several times just to get a glimpse afresh. As the mama of three OS, for me with no other girl in my household, it was the equivalent of seeing a daughter in a wedding gown or a prom dress. Don't laugh. I felt joy.

The Hubs found other versions of the table in his office or in the hallway. Some family members were even blessed with text messages and pictures from me marking a new table development concept. A few were kind enough to acknowledge receipt of those pictures. Oh thank you if you indulged me!
I had been crying throughout the day
but vanity aside, I had to get a picture of me by Aaron's table. 
I sewed a swatch of remnant material from his books pants fabric. Aaron approved. Then I stitched a coordinating rectangle of some extra fabric a friend had given me. Aaron liked the manly colors. He assisted my efforts by writing in gold a poem from his favorite author William Cowper and I trimmed the sides of the cardboard with pages from an old family Bible. It wasn't perfect but the time had come for the official unveiling. Insecure feelings never replaced the warm and wonderful sentiment I felt inside.
A sample of one of the many other tables on display.

But I bet I wasn't the only one who spent copious amounts of time on the child's senior table project; based on what I saw, our collective souls were poured onto those hallowed folding tables. We did not create altars for our children, I guess we just wanted our son or daughter and all who passed by to smile and either say, "Wow, I am loved" or "Awesome, someone thinks very highly of that kid."

Another mom breathing
words of kindness upon my oliveshoot.
If you think this post is stupid, then we probably couldn't be friends. If you've read this far, you understand. Let's have lunch. 

Thursday arrived and tears flowed as we all beamed. I gazed and cried stopping by many of Aaron's friend's tables. I noted with appreciation that none of these tables felt ostentatious as if they were trying to steal attention from someone else. 
Oh how I adored seeing a classmate write
encouraging words to my boy, such loving
messages filled these pages.

The body of Christ enveloped the mood. With our individual 7 1/2 square feet carefully crafted, the seniors marked the passage of time. I paused with gratitude over the families represented and prayed for their children's future. 
After graduation, Aaron spent a
long time reading the messages.
What a thankful moment for all of us. 

Have you ever done something like for a loved one? What special things would hallmark your "table"? I'd so enjoy hearing about it. May you all have opportunity for such a celebration of life. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A boy who loved Barney

When Nate was a wee lad, he loved Barney and guns. That is an odd combination if you ask me. Barney is creepy and I am not a gun person. Things that explode or shoot scare me more than a huge purple dinosaurs.  

I love the skinned knee, he was so proud of himself
for being on top of a mountain. Holding a plastic airplane
feeling like a tough guy, Nate is truly a gift from God. 
As a young mom, I remember saying, "Nate, you can't have a gun and I don't want you playing guns or anything like that." I tried desperately to cull his firearm fascination but to no avail. One day, Nate, being a obedient and resourceful boy, found a way to satisfy both his mama's request and his personal interest. Astonished, I watched him take a bite off the corner of his peanut butter sandwich (with NO jelly!) and turn the sandwich to the side. He then placed his finger in the sandwich trigger and pulled the "switch" directly in the air. 

Should I then be surprised that this child would decide to become a cadet at the United States Military Academy? What's a mama to do?

Nate is a man's man there's no denying it!
I'm learning albeit sometimes begrudgingly to mean what I say when I tell my boys that I want them to live THEIR lives. Even if it means they do things that are dangerous or far away, they are entitled to go where they want to go, do what they feel called to do as long as it's pleasing to the Lord. As my OSs get older, this proves challenging because their decisions are significant. My middle OS feels called to the ministry, he's going to school far away to Chicago; the orange hair freckle face OS is only 15 and not sure of his destiny. Alas the oldest is a Soldier and I'm discovering truly putting personal interests aside is much harder.    

Watching my son march by me on R-Day
was far more intense than I could
have anticipated and trust me,
I anticipated it being very difficult. 
Next Saturday, the journey to and through West Point will be complete.  (Insert deep breath) My oldest OS will graduate from USMA. The sweet spot I have enjoyed, being part of the Long Grey Line but not having to think about him actually going in harm's way will be over. The next journey as a military mom starts. Things feel surreal and overwhelming. With that in mind, it's no surprise that when the Hubs said he wanted to buy a shotgun for our OS as a graduation gift, I did not react favorably. Frankly, it's not anywhere near the top of my list of things to get my kid. But the boy who fashioned a gun out of a sandwich would love this and I need to measure my response. Chalk it up to another new moment as the mama of a Soldier.

My boy and his bonita in El Salvador. Nate is becoming his own man 
and I rejoice over him being a person of honor, faith and integrity. 
A few weeks ago the Hubs got an email from our cadet informing him of Nate's potential deployment location. When he told me, I cried. This is where my faith in Jesus must prevail. I have prayed over, for and with my child. I do not come naturally to being the mama of a Soldier but this day has been in the works for nearly two decades. I am as prepared as I can be and should have seen this coming Let's do this. 
 Matthew 6:34
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."

To have an inchworm as a friend...

Reading is a most cherished relaxing activity. While my brain can't retain all the amazing things I learn when reading, my black leather bound book (courtesy of my writer friend Kristi, click here for her blog) serves as fertile ground for me to deposit interesting words and quotations from books I've read, sermons I've heard, etc.

Before I met Inchy, these words from Charles Kingsley in Nancy Pearcey's book Saving Leonardo caught my attention. 
"The simplest forms of nature are strangely animated 
by the sense of Divine presence, 
the trees and flowers seem all, 
in a sort, children of God."

Then my mom had surgery and complications resulting in my encounter with Inchy. Maybe I read Kingsley's quote because Inchy and I would soon be friends. Yes, I realize that Inchy is/was an insect and human beings are God's only children though He is the Creator of all things.

But still, Inchy was a good distraction. Laughing is my favorite and Inchy provided some needed jocularity. One afternoon, while on the way to my mom's hospital room, I stopped to greet my chenille buddy. Just in case inchworms have ears, you know I wanted to offer a word of encouragement. My little looper friend, wherever you were, I hope you were having a good day! Don't listen to Hubs in the background, he was just jealous of our unusual friendship!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Symbol of resilience

Two graduations + nine days apart + two different states does not equal a lot of time to write. Even now, though loaded with plenty of blog worthy material, I approach the keyboard with hesitation. I don't know how some people can be so prolific, those fleeting moments I find in between required tasks leave me woefully exhausted.

But the women in my writers' group are meeting this Wednesday and so I'm updating my blog. If you have read this far, thanks for at least checking in.

Easter pic of my mom and some of her grand babies
My mom is home from the hospital and skilled nursing facility. Seeing her recently alert and excited at my middle OS's final drama performance blessed us all. Progress is being made, thank you Jesus.

Strange that a tiny thing I observed a month ago, a small speck of a creature should continue to have a prominent place in my mind. Let me explain...

A month ago I pushed a wheelchair down the hospital hallway. My thought at the time was the only person in need of inspiration was the woman occupying the chair, certainly not me. It had been nearly 10 days since my mom had entered the hospital for routine surgery and she was still there. The ceramic bunny had relocated to a destination unknown and now I wanted to get sprung. I was sick of this place. We needed to leave premises without delay!

As I lugged the wheelchair into the outdoor patio area, I spotted an inch worm slinking by the path. Lurching and undulating its body, there it went measure by measure in front of the two of us. Some people feel lucky finding a penny on the curb, for me finding this little looper was a priceless sign from God (and I'm not even joking).

My mom and Inchworm
Without my mother's approval, I placed the inchworm on my mother's hospital blanket. Had she the will to protest, she would have shooed the little guy off her. My digital camera captured the moments when Inchy (the name I have hereby bestowed upon him) and my mom met. It wasn't love at first sight.

I urged Mom to take heed of Inchy's perseverance and stamina. Look at him go, nary a twig or hospital blanket got in his way. Inchy's small hairless hind prolegs drew his posterior body toward the front. And sure enough, ever vigilant Inchy pressed on and followed the motion by extending his posterior legs forward. He didn't go too far and wasn't swift but by golly, Inchy didn't give up. Lo his tiny frame, Inchy never seemed intimidated by his surroundings or his diminutive size. 

One of Inchy's cousins
Henceforth, each time I went to the hospital I headed to the outdoor patio area in search of my little buddy. Never was I concerned with passersby or whether someone figured I was a patient in the mental health ward. I just needed to see Inchy, plain and simple. The Hubs was with me on more than one occasion and yes, he thought I was nuts. 

You also may think of Inchy as a mere moth larvae but he metamorphosed my thinking and ridiculous joy swelled my heart (and I'm not even joking). Inchy inspired me to write, to hope, to trek on life's distances regardless of the time it took or the impossibility of the journey. And with his lime green body, I appreciated the confidence with which he carried his quirky color. 

Although my mother didn't and still doesn't seem to get Inchy's significance, my perspective changed that springtime day. So here's what I'm wondering...have you ever experienced something like this when you see or feel a nudge from God in a most unexpected form? Without saying a word, Inchy reminded me to keep moving in a positive direction.