Monday, March 31, 2014

March 31 – “A tiny moment of chaos”

How’s this for a snippet of unexpectedness?  Last night Chris and I arranged with Nathan and April and Cailyn to come over and stay with Mom so Chris and I could go to the home of one of the Seaside folks for a brief evening out for the two of us and some adult conversation for Chris beyond going over ten or twelve times whatever Mom had written in her journal for the day.  Everything was going as planned as we pulled into the turn lane at Pirates Beach.  And then my phone rang.

It was our good friend Bryan, who lives in Alvin, about an hour away.  He had borrowed our truck the other day when they were in Galveston and he was suddenly called into work.  Seems he had started the truck up as he was preparing to leave for work and somehow managed to lock the door – without himself inside.  He wanted to know if I was at home so he could come down and get our spare set of keys.  Just as I started my recommendation to him, the phone service dropped the call.  I don’t know of it was on his end because he was out in the middle of nowhere in Alvin, or on my end because I was in the infamous West End of Galveston Island.  I tried calling him back but only got his voice mail.  I even tried calling his wife, but got no response there either.  My idea was to hook Bryan up with Nathan to see if between them they could work out a solution that wouldn’t involve a trip back and forth from Alvin.  Just as I was typing a text to her, Chris received a text from her, so she did the communicating with her while I called Nathan to put him on alert. 

As it turned out, by the time Nathan and Bryan made connections, Bryan was almost to the causeway.  Nathan had concocted a tool out of duct tape and wire he found in the garage to use as a slim jim of sorts, but since Bryan was already so close, Nathan agreed to drive out to where we were to pick up the keys from me.  To speed things up I jumped back into the car and drove to meet him halfway.  Meanwhile we had arrived at our destination, and in between texts and calls we were saying our hellos and explaining the situation.  Chris didn’t really know the folks very well, so she had to rely on her incomparable people skills to bridge the gap while I was gone. 

To make a long story shorter, Nathan got the key and went with Bryan up to Alvin.  He then drove the truck back down, so it is now back at its Galveston home.  Chris and I were able to spend an hour or so with our church friends.  Mom was safe and secure.  And Jesus is Lord.  Even in the tiniest of chaotic moments.

1 Corinthians 15:56-57 says, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Father, thank you for invading even our most annoying moments with your peace.  Amen.


Sunday, March 30, 2014

March 30 – “Suiting up”

Whew.  Yesterday was another really long one.  We left the house around 12:30 to attend a funeral and didn’t get back home until after seven.  Actually I was asked to speak at the funeral.  My sister-in-law’s Dad died, and he had requested that I be allowed to be a part of the celebration.  That is always a humbling honor, but I have never fully understood why people would request me in particular.  Maybe because they know that they won’t have to actually listen to me.  It was a really positive service.  I worked with the pastor of the church where it was held, so we kind of tag-teamed the event.  And as usual for a funeral, I wore a suit.  Well, I had the coat draped across my arm, but the tie was in place.  I know.  Very rare occurrence, right?  My older brother thought so, too.  He came up behind me and touched me on the shoulder.  When I turned around he said, “You look a lot like my brother, but he doesn’t wear ties.”  I immediately offered to unzip the one I had on and take it off for good, but Chris happened to be standing right there.  She quickly nixed that idea.  I did manage to get by without ever putting on the coat, though.  And as soon as the service ended I had several people encourage me to lose the tie.  Didn’t take that much encouragement.  I just had to find the right opportunity when Chris wasn’t looking. 

Afterwards we stopped by to say hi at Jachin’s opening day baseball game.  He started at first base.  Nice accomplishment for the youngest one on the team.  We couldn’t stay very long, but we did find out later that he scored on a squeeze bunt play.  Now that’s impressive. 

The reason we couldn’t stay long there was that we had to go to my brother’s house in Tiki Island for the family meal.  Pretty good stuff, too.  Not sure what it was all called, but the catering was done by Olympia Grill in Galveston.  I had a shish-ke-bob thing full of some kind of meat and a few vegetables.  I watched other people eat first so I would know what to do with it when I got mine.  Seems the appropriate thing to do was scrape the contents off the stick, wrap it in some of the round bread they had on the table, and eat it like a soft taco.  It’s hard to beat chunks of meat.  I even added some lettuce and tomatoes to make it a well-rounded meal.  It was good to see my niece who now lives in Phoenix and my nephew who works for Microsoft in Washington State.  Oh, and we saw Hardy, a friend of my brother’s.  He’s the guy who smashed into Josh at a turkey bowl one year and caused Josh to have to go to the emergency room for stitches.  And it happened right at the beginning of the game, too, so Josh had to miss it.  I told him about it, though.  Wait.  What?  Well, you wouldn’t expect both of us to miss the big game, would you?  He was in good hands.  His Mom’s a nurse.  OK, OK.  I should have gone, too.  I still haven’t lived that decision down.  But I could have done worse, you know.  I could have told him to be tough.  I did have some duct tape in the car …

John 14:1-3 says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.  In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

Father, walk with Sue and her family as they deal with missing Fred.  Thank you for welcoming him into that house of yours.  Amen.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

March 29 – “on Trees and Nana Back Eyes”

Today will be an interesting one around Gulf Village.  We are scheduled to be invaded by a large group of Aggies – Texas A&M Galveston students – who are going to be planting trees.  Some group donated a boatload of trees to the city expressly to be planted within neighborhoods on the city right of way.  In our neighborhood that means the strip of land between the sidewalk and the street.  Lots of different species.  Sycamores.  Oaks.  Magnolias.  Anacuas.  Like how I slipped that last one right in there with the old favorites?  I’d never heard of it either.  So that’s the one we picked.  Supposed to be some kind of fruit tree that you can make jam out of. 

Several weeks ago they walked around and put up yard signs, asking if we would commit to taking care of a tree if it was planted for us on the site.  Many responded and the trees were delivered to a local park yesterday.  That’s when I got a phone call to see if they could borrow my truck to make some deliveries.  Sensing an opportunity to fulfill a civic duty, I drove over and loaded up the truck.  Twice.  It was a lot easier to unload than it was to lift the trees onto the truck bed.  Especially when the cavalry arrived to ride with me on my final trip.  Bryan was a big help unloading and placing the trees on their designated sites.  The group is supposed to stage on 40 Steps (the vacant lot next door), so I expect them to be knocking on my door any minute to start setting up.  I have their table and some of the snacks they are offering the workers.  Bring ‘em on.

I have to add an anecdote before I sign off.  The other day Chris got a text from Christina.  You might remember her as the mother of the Incredible Hulk.  His secret identity, though would be three-year-old Josiah, the mild-mannered, blonde-haired bundle of sweetness who melts your heart with a quick smile and a ready hug.  The text was to notify Chris of his latest pronouncement.  Something along the lines of “Nana knows everything.”  Boy did you ever get that right, Josiah.  Nanas are like that.  It kind of goes with those mysterious eyes in the back of their heads that are issued to every mother when their first child is born.  Unlike everything else on the body, though, those back eyes get sharper and keener as the Nana gets older and older.  It’s a frightening experience.  Begins as awe-inspiring for the youngsters.  Extremely frustrating and irritating for teenagers.  Downright amusing for us old-timer DadDads. 

Psalms 96:11-12 says, “Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them.  Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy.”

Father, you are the maker of trees and Nanas and wonderfully mysterious back eyes.  Thank you for caring what happens in the strange world of yours.  Amen.

Friday, March 28, 2014

March 28 – “Searching for a super power”

Ah, young Josiah.  The three-year-old marvel of a grandson who is convinced beyond any doubt that he is truly the Incredible Hulk.  No, really.  He believes it, even to the extent of refusing to cry when he gets hurt, pushing away meager attempts at easing pain like ice packs, and sometimes even laughing in the face of offers of Tylenol.  The Hulk would never take such paltry pain relievers.  He is, after all, well, The Hulk.

The other day we received a text message from the mother of this Hulk.  It contained a photo and a brief message.  It seems that Hulk Josiah had been experimenting, seeking a new super power to go with his Hulk-ness.  What could it be?  So many possibilities.  Flying, perhaps?  He had already do ne some preliminary testing of that one on the mini-trampoline with less than hopeful results.  Super-speed, maybe?  That one would be difficult for a little guy such short legs who has to compete with two older brothers who always seem to have a major advantage over him in the speed department.  As he rode around on his bicycle pondering the situation, one more idea popped into his mind:

“Super vision.  The possibilities are endless.  Let’s see.  Superman has x-ray vision that can see through things (except lead, of course), telescopic vision that see long distances, microscopic vision for investigating the most minute of clues.  Hmm.  What would it be like if I could see even when I’m asleep?  That would make it possible to get so much more playing done.  How hard could it be?  Why, I think I’ll just test it out right now.” 

And with that he closed his eyes.  Now let me refresh your memory for just a moment.  Let’s see.  As I scroll back up the post I’ll find it.  There it is … “As he rode around on his bicycle pondering the situation …”  Yep.  You guessed it.  He found himself riding his bicycle with his eyes closed.  And … yep.  You guessed it.  That wasn’t his other super power.  Oh, he managed to stay up right on his bike.  But alas, without the assistance of that potential new power, he rode his bike right into the crossbar of the ramp in the parking lot.  Smash.  Even the Incredible Hulk wept on this one.  Just a little bit.  Even the Incredible Hulk accepted an ice pack.  For just a few minutes.  And even the Incredible Hulk took some Tylenol.  Just this once.  Oh, and one final result … Hulk Jr. now has quite a shiner.  He’s such a … boy.

Psalms 139:13-14 says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

Father, thank you for the incredible “super power” you gave us – the privilege of being in your family and access to the wonders of the Holy Spirit.  It’s enough.  Amen.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

March 27 – “One more day and one thing at a time”

I didn’t get up to the hospital yesterday to see Uncle Jerry, but a text from Kristen said he was about the same.  I’ll check back again today.  I did some more work on the sermon and began putting together the Bible study that happens here at the house tonight.  Didn’t even get half way finished, though.  That will have to be a priority for right before and after water therapy. 

About 9:15 I realized that it was Wednesday and Jennifer would be coming over to care for Mom.  She has been doing a lot of the continual moaning and groaning and high-pitched talking that borders on a whine.  That would be Mom, not Jennifer.  Chris really needs a break.  Who am I kidding?  We both do.  She handles those things so much better than I ever could. 

I had such high hopes for planning fun stuff to do on our Wednesdays together.  Not much success on that front as yet.  We had to take the truck in for its annual inspection sticker as well as an oil change and the yearly air conditioning charge-up.  Then we went to Target and Payless Shoe Store in search of some sandals for Chris.  No luck yet.  We didn’t go to Shrimp and Stuff for lunch, though.  Decided we didn’t want to get tired of it.  Instead we switched to Queen’s Barbeque.  Always a fine alternative. Our drive out to East Beach didn’t get us far.  Police roadblock on the east side of Cherry Hill was turning everyone back because of the oil spill cleanup, I suppose.  We turned around at Beachtown and went the opposite direction instead.  I had received an email from Laura asking me to check out the church mail when I got a chance, so we did that.  And finally we went to … yes, of course … WalMart.  Hey, we were out of dog food, and you have to keep the critters happy.  We got the groceries put away just in time to go pick up Cailyn at school, and she joined us for the ride back to pick up the truck. 

While we were doing the running around, I also got a call that Fred Escudier, my sister-in-law’s father, died.  Sue said he had told her a while back that he would like for me to officiate at the funeral.  Quite an honor for me.  It will be held Saturday at 2 p.m.  I’ll pull some stuff to get started on that service today.  Saturday promises to be one of those days.  Cailyn’s school carnival is that day.  There is also another funeral – the father of one of my basketball players.  And the neighborhood is having a bunch of trees planted on Saturday.  Our house (actually the vacant lot next door) is the staging area, so we have a table in our garage and some snacks for the workers here at the house.  It will take some juggling, but we’ll get done what we can.  When it all adds up, that was a pretty exhausting day.  But it sure didn’t feel like I got enough done.  Oh, well.  Here’s to one more day and one thing at a time.  Deep breath.  Aaand … go.

Colossians 3:15 says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”

Father, could you gently lower some of your peace around us?  I can name a few folks who really need it: Chris, Jerry, Kristen, Mom … I could go on all day, I guess.  We need you.  Amen.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

March 26 – “AND a stick”

Quick update on Uncle Jerry.  It looks like he has had multiple stroke events probably caused by blood clots.  At least that’s what I understood all the medical jargon to be saying.  They are still unsure of the cause.  He is still receiving antibiotics in case infection is the culprit.  The neurology team has recommended a series of steroid treatments over the course of three days, but the possibility of an infection is still looming, and steroids lower the body’s ability to fight infection, so the ICU team is hesitant to approve that treatment.  They are still weighing risks versus benefits.  The blood clot problem is usually treated with blood thinners, but strokes are, after all, bleeding in the brain, so they don’t want to encourage more of that.  Kind of a catch-22 situation.  The plan is to watch him carefully over the next few days and see if there are any changes that might provide more clues.  His daughter arrived yesterday, so she is now in close contact with both teams.  She also is working to get a handle on her Dad’s day to day home expenses.  Many things pile up in a situation like this.  Kristen actually came over here and brought some McAllister’s Deli for us all last night.  She headed back out to the hospital to continue getting oriented there.  Looks like she is in for a rough couple of days.  She could sure use some prayer. 

We also found out yesterday that Cailyn will be having surgery here in a couple of weeks.  Her sleep study showed that she has been having numerous period of sleep apnea, so her tonsils and adenoids are on the chopping block, so to speak.  They are deciding which Wednesday (the day for that kind of surgery, I guess) will be the best for them.  Cailyn is experiencing that confusing mixture of emotions that any venture into the unknown brings.  She is excited at all the attention, but still a bit scared since she has never been there before.  Sounds like her Dad is trying to be the rough-tough fire fighter, and her Mom is the all-knowing nurse.  I think they are both feeling the same jumble of emotion that Cailyn is.  The doctor’s office did some blood work yesterday, and she was quite the brave little trooper.  As she held out her arms to show me her needle puncture sights, she told me, “DadDad, I got a sticker AND two things from the treasure box AND a stick that I’m going to take home because I was so brave.”  Yes, she really said “stick.”  Not sure why it was so significant in her mind at that moment in time.  It sounded strange to me, too, but I have to admit, I’ve been pretty excited about finding sticks more than once in my life.  It’s amazing what you can do with a really good stick.  Then she got conspiratorial and whispered, I have to have a surgery.  I’m kind of scared.”  I told her, “It’s OK to be scared.  Everybody is a little bit.  But you won’t be by yourself and the doctors will take good care of you.” 

Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.”

Father, keep watch over Uncle Jerry and grant him your peace.  And give Cailyn the assurance that her family and her stick will all be there for her through her surgery.  Amen.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

March 25 – “Uncle Jerry update”

Well, Uncle Jerry is back in the hospital, and frankly he really doesn’t look so good this time.  He didn’t call me for a ride to the hospital this time.  It was on Sunday night, so I guess he might have thought I had something to do at church.  One of his good neighbors took care of it, though.  They did call the paramedics.  His eye swelled shut again, and that has scared him each time it has happened.  He was also in quite a bit of pain.  In spite of that, he still didn’t really want to go to the hospital.  He wanted to maintain his tough old bird status.  He is a guy, after all.  The paramedic, however, was a friend of Nathan’s, so she called him from Jerry’s house.  She gave him a quick update on the situation, and Nathan asked for her opinion on whether he should head for the hospital.  She highly recommended it, so Nathan asked her to give the phone to Jerry.  He encouraged him to follow the paramedic’s orders and go on in.  That word from Nathan was all it took.  He agreed to go, but insisted that his neighbor be allowed to drive him there rather than ride in the ambulance.  There’s that guy thing again.  Gotta negotiate some modicum of control.  Nathan called me later on and filled me in on what was happening. 

After a full morning of work (my typical Monday) and a lunch meeting, I hadn’t heard any more from Jerry.  I stopped by his house to see if by chance he was there, but all I found was his new cell phone next to his bed.  Jerry never goes anywhere without his phone, so I picked it up along with his charger and headed for UTMB.  I stopped by the front desk to inquire about his room from the good folks who work there.  And when they said his room number I knew this visit was considerably more serious than the others had been.  The number was a room in the medical ICU department.  They let me right in since there was no one else with him.  He appeared to be asleep, but he made no response when I tried to wake him.  The only medication he was receiving was an antibiotic, so the lack of response wasn’t from that.  I confirmed that with one of the residents who came in to check on him.  He told me they were waiting on two things. 
1. The infectious disease team was coming to check him out (which explained the gown and glove procedure everyone - except me - was following).  That team did come by and after their exam they concluded that the problem most likely was not related to any infectious disease. 
2.  An extensive MRI was scheduled to get a different picture of the “changes” they had seen in the CT scans taken in the emergency room when he arrived.  That MRI would take at least two and a half hours to complete, so they had to wait their turn to begin.  As it turned out, they still had not taken him for that by the time I left.  I did get notice later that the MRI had begun, so the results should be ready some time today.

While I was there a priest came by to anoint him with oil and say some prayers over him, so together we gathered around his bed and did our best to follow the scripture in James about prayer and anointing.  It was a good experience for me, and Jerry certainly would have appreciated it as well.  I’ll have to remember to let his kids know about it when they get here.  I think it will be encouraging to them.  The nursing staff and doctors assigned to work with him in the ICU were all very helpful and didn’t mind patiently explaining things.  They were hesitant to come out and say a diagnosis, but from what I could put together and voice to them on my own, it sounded like they are leaning toward a series of stroke events.  It fits with his symptoms, like his severe headaches, as well as his history of blood clots.  One of his daughters is making her way here as fast as she can from the Washington, DC area.  She should arrive by 11:30 this morning if the snow up there will hold off.  I really appreciate all the prayers and words of encouragement.  Keep em coming.

Psalms 23:1-3 says, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.”

Father, Uncle Jerry could use some of those quiet waters about now.  So could his family.  Amen.

Monday, March 24, 2014

March 24 – “eh”

Yesterday was a day for visitors from afar at Seaside.  Oh, we have had some from farther away, but it’s not often we get two Canadian families at the same time.  One of them was from near one of the big cities like Toronto, I think.  The other one, though, was from an area that they described as out in the middle of nowhere.  I’m pretty sure they used the word “Territories” when they were describing it.  The wife also was careful to point out that they are on the same latitude as Anchorage, Alaska.  She couldn’t remember the longitude marker.  Really frustrated her, too.  I think she probably studied some geography before they left for vacation just so she could explain that to people.  Apparently the closest area of civilization to them is Edmonton, Alberta.  That is an hour and a half drive south of where they live.  She seems to really like it up there.  They told me some folks come for a year or two, then move right on.  Others end up staying for a lifetime.  She wanted to be one of the latter.  At that the husband piped in.  “Nope.  Five years.  Then we’re gone.”  Sounds like a bit of an issue there.  He doesn’t really like how cold it gets there.  He tried to tell me, but kept getting confused trying to translate Celcius into Farenheit.  I assured him that I got the picture.  Cold is cold.  After all, this is Galveston where we break out the winter coats when it hits fifty … That would be Farenheit.  Speaking of which, that’s the temperature outside right now – fifty.  And I put on my coat when I went out to get the newspaper.  If nothing else I am true to my word. 

Good folks, those Canadians.  Really loved Jesus and got into worship.  We talked about how great it was to find folks who love Jesus wherever we go in the world.  They really felt like they “fit in” with the people at Seaside.  Kind of like visiting family.  Oh, and she even said “eh” a time or two.  Made my morning.

Ephesians 3:14-15 says, “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.”

Father, thank you for making such a big, spread-out family and letting me be a part of it.  Amen.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

March 23 – “Once more, from the top”

Mom had another trip to the dentist the other day.  Actually it was to the oral surgeon.  He was scheduled to remove two more of the teeth that were in such bad shape.  We decided to break the removal down into more manageable chunks rather than pull them all at once.  We figured it would be easier on her that way.  Chris took her in this time and it didn’t take long to realize something was up.  Not with Mom.  We knew what she needed from the last visit.  This problem was with the office.  It seems they had her scheduled for what they called a consultative visit to “determine if pulling teeth was necessary.”  We already went through all that.  A quick perusal of her chart would have revealed that he already had a plan in place.  We were just picking up where he left off last time.  As a result of their snafu Chris and Mom had to wait almost two hours “to be worked in.”  Never a fun experience, but the agony was amplified with a dementia patient who couldn’t understand what had happened.  Add to that the fact that she is still in her “talkative” mode, and you have a pretty miserable experience before the doctor even walks in the room to begin.  He finally did begin digging in.  Believe me, I chose those last few words carefully.  Chris told me he had to do some serious excavating on the first one.  And when he started on the second he made a comment somewhere in the vicinity of “Uh-oh.”  Not what you want to hear from the mouth of anyone who expects you to call him “Doctor.”  Come to find out, a third tooth, located between the other two, looked as if it would be falling out on its own very soon.  He showed Chris the problem by sticking one of his instruments all the way through it.  He said it really needed to come out as well, so Chris texted me to see if we would have enough money to cover a third extraction.  Before I could answer, though, the offending tooth literally fell out on its own.  Apparently the other two had been the only things holding it in place.  The good thing about that was that we didn’t have to pay for the third extraction.  The bad thing?  Well, let me just say … Kids, brush your teeth when your Mom tells you to. 

Our issue now is convincing Mom to leave the stitches alone until they are ready to come out.  Last time she had them pulled out before we even got back home.  She has done better this time, but she constantly asks if there is something in her mouth and when it will go away.  She is also beginning to ask about getting some false teeth.  From out of nowhere she said her Daddy had false teeth, so she figured she would get some, too.  We assured her that we would look into it further down the line after all the other teeth problems were taken care of.  That seemed to satisfy her.  At least until the next time she noticed it in her journal.  And then the questions began again.  Once more, from the top …

Genesis 8:1 says, “But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.”

Father, thank you for remembering.  It is comforting to know that you are there and you do not forget us.  Amen.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

March 22 – “STOMP”

We were inundated with young cousins yesterday.  Cailyn came over after school so April could do some studying for school.  She is working toward completing her bachelor’s degree in nursing, so days off from work are not exactly fully restful occasions at their house.  And true to the flurry of workish activity over there, Nathan was doing some coordinating work for his second job.  On the other hand Kel and Christina and their brood spent an hour or so over at the Pirates exhibit at Moody Gardens for his day off.  I guess they couldn’t think of anything else more exciting to do afterwards, so they joined us for some Papa John’s pizza.  Oh, and April did make it over in time to grab a slice of pizza, too.  Would have been nice to have Josh and Christi and their boys here, too.  He’s pretty swamped developing his presence as a new pastor, though.  Not that they could have jumped in the car and flitted down here from Waco anyway.  He must be doing a good job, though.  We had some visitors at Seaside a Sunday or two ago who were members of First Baptist Church in Waco.  I shared our Waco connection with the pastor of Columbus Avenue Baptist Church, and they immediately shared that their neighbors attend there and they speak very highly of the new pastor.  In fact they insisted that the whole church “is so glad he is there.”  Always good to hear someone praising your children.  Keep it coming.

When we get those youngsters together I always try to keep what’s left of my hearing on red alert for any fun tidbits of children’s wit and wisdom.  Hey, that sounds like it would make a great title for a book.  A compilation of all the funny and poignant quips that have come out of the mouths of our babes over the years.  I’ll have to take that under advisement.  One more thing our kids can have published after I die.  Well, yesterday was no exception.  The two most quoted ones of the bunch are Cailyn, probably because we see her so much, and Josiah, probably because he is just three years old and is much less inhibited that the others.  He is the kid that refused to take Tylenol for a fever because “Hulk doesn’t need medicine.”  He didn’t give in until his Mom assured him that even the Hulk has to have medicine every now and then. 

As it happened, yesterday I went out with the kids to the vacant lot next door that we affectionately refer to as 40 Steps (Named, as you might recall by Josiah.  Why?  No idea).  Micah was working to dislodge a branch from one of the palm trees.  I guess he was helping his Dad prepare for Palm Sunday.  I didn’t see Jachin around.  He might have stayed in the house conserving his strength for baseball practice.  But Cailyn and Josiah were together.  Prime research targets.  Now, Christina had nudged Josiah to tell me what happens in April, but I didn’t hear his response very well, so I started there.  I asked again, “What happens in April?”  He looked at me with one of those condescendingly frustrated looks and “patiently” replied, “That’s when rabbits lay eggs and baby birds crack out of the eggs.”  Yep.  That’s what I thought I heard earlier.  Changes my whole perception of the biological sciences.  After that I deemed it wiser to simply observe and listen.  Sure enough I did manage to record one brief interlude between the two.

Josiah (to no one in particular): “Hey, an ant.  It’s an ant.  I see an ant here.  Over here.  That’s a bad ant.”

Cailyn (obviously captured by his tone, his sense of urgency): “Why is it bad?”

I was wondering the same thing myself.
Josiah responded, unknowingly borrowing from the philosophy inherent in a famous phrase originally attributed to General Phillip Sheridan back in 1869.  Sheridan actually said, “The only good Indians I have seen were dead.”  That phrase was subsequently perverted to, “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.” Josiah’s version?

Josiah: “Because it’s alive.” (Followed, as you might have expected, by a powerful, Hulkish STOMP).

Psalms 25:4-5 says, “Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.”

Father, thank you for giving me the chance to be around to witness some of the wonder and excitement of a child’s discovery.  It was great when I saw it in our boys.  It is still great to see it in their children.  I’m so glad things like that don’t change.  Amen.

Friday, March 21, 2014

March 21 – “On plumbing and short term memory”

We had another homeowner emergency the other day.  When I came back from the beach and took a shower, I noticed something was off.  It took a while for me to put my finger on it, probably because it should have been my toe I was focusing on.  The water in the shower wasn’t draining.  Now, sometimes it drains slowly because of some mixture of hair and soap clogging the drain, but not this time.  It wasn’t draining.  At all.  I checked the other bathroom, and sure enough, the toilet and the tub were both backed up.  So … with Spring Break guests at the beach who would most certainly want a shower when they returned, that meant another call to the plumber. 

We have a great plumber, though.  Jimmy Chanler.  He doesn’t do any advertising.  In fact I think all of his business is word of mouth referral.  You just call his number and leave a message, and when he can he gets back to you.  This time he called back and said he would be here within the half-hour.  Can’t beat that.  He roto-rootered us out and even had to do a small clearing out job on the shower drain.  As he pulled his snake back in, he measured the length he had to go before the clog was cleared.  I stepped off the distance, and the clog was actually clear out into the gutter.  He recommended giving them a call and asking the, to put in a cleanout on their right of way since the problem was technically theirs anyway.  So, congratulations, City of Galveston.  You just received an anonymous donation from another tax payer.  I paid to have your drain cleared out.  How about you take care of it next time?  That sounds fair, doesn’t it?  At least we got it cleared out in time for everyone to get cleaned up when they got home.

Our Spring Break guests left yesterday morning.  That meant lots of pictures with Mom.  She is still in that Manic MeeMaw state, by the way.  She talks constantly, and she has started up an old practice she used to do all the time – journaling.  She writes everything down – every person’s name, who they are related to and where they live, every event that anyone mentions and as many details as she can convince you to give, every pill she has ever taken.  And then, after a few minutes have passed, she pulls the notebook back out and rehashes everything.  And by “rehashes” I mean she reads out loud everything she wrote and asks us for confirmation as to accuracy and usually for even more information, since she doesn’t remember what we told her the first time.  All of the memory issues are starting to wear on her a bit, I think, because in the midst of her frustration she has even displayed a just a trace of a temper that I haven’t seen in years.  In fact I don’t think I have ever seen it.  But hey, I can sure understand it.  Just hope my kids can understand it when I pull this one out of my hat in the years to come. 

And so, my children and grandchildren, put this in your pocket now for those future times when I don’t remember who you are.  Rest assured … I love you.

Proverbs 20:6 says, “Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find?”

Father, thank you for the supernatural patience you have gifted Chris with as she deals most extensively with Mom.  And I guess some of it has spilled over onto me as well.  We sure have needed it.  Amen.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

March 20 – “Out of gas”

Date Day.  I could get used to this.  We started out with lunch at Shrimp and Stuff.  Are we predictable yet?  You can’t beat that start, though, that’s for sure.  And we were there so early that we were the only customers in the place.  That’s how you guarantee great service.  We did have a bit of a wait at the order window, though.  They were training a new guy on the cash register.  He did a fine job, so we encouraged him.  Kind of took him aback. 

Next stop was the old county courthouse.  We had to renew Mom’s handicapped placard.  I guess that should be “placard for the handicapped.”  The card didn’t have any physical limitations that met the requirements on the application.  At least not any that that I could see.  That took a while.  Only two workers to handle about ten of us in line.  Someone got back from lunch though, so the pace picked up.  They had no questions for us, though, other than to tell us that we had done more authentication than they required.  Yeah Us.

Then we drove down to the Strand area to look at antique shops for a cabinet to display Chris’ Precious Moments collection.  It has been in boxes in a closet ever since we moved back into the house after Hurricane Ike.  She has a very specific idea of what she wants, though, and I guess she just hasn’t seen the exact one yet that matches the picture in her head.  Problem there was … they were all closed.  I guess Wednesday is their weekend.  Oh, well.  We didn’t particularly want to pay to park anyway.

Next we stopped by the fire station so Chris could officially meet the administrative assistant, Trish.  They have been trying to connect since I became chaplain.  And … she was at lunch.  Maybe next time.

On to Home Depot.  The search this time was for a specific kind of lily that Chris wants to plant on the side of our house.  I think she wants a canna lily as opposed to calla lily.  Or it may be the other way around.  They didn’t have whichever one she wanted though.   So … moving right along.

Randalls was next.  Picked up a prescription for Mom and some more coffee beans.  Gotta have that Starbucks Sumatra.  Good stuff.  We filled up the gas tank while we were there too.  Thirty cents a gallons off because of our coffee purchase.  Nice.

Final stop?  Well, WalMart, of course.  We went through it pretty fast though.  Had to pick up Cailyn from school.  She was pretty surprised to see both of us standing there.  Grabbed each of us by the hand and almost skipped to the car.  It’s great when she is in a good mood. 

I closed out my day by mowing the grass.  Front and back.  And about half of the lot next door.  Couldn’t finish it, though.  A couple of reasons.  Time, for one.  I had to be at Seaside for prayer time, so I could say I ran out of time.  The mower quit once and I had to clean the filter. Then the weedeater ran out of line and I had to change that.  Finally the lawn mower simply ran out of gas.  Yeah, that’s it.  It was the lawn mower that ran out of gas.  Or was that me?

Reading back through this blog, it sounds like I was doing some complaining, but that was not at all the case.  I was just happy to be hanging out with my wife doing everyday mundane stuff.   Makes me appreciate even more the incredible gift God gave in Jesus.  And in Chris.

Matthew 11:28-30 says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Father, I do thank you for those two particular amazing gifts.  Jesus.  Chris.  I am humbled by your grace.  Amen.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

March 19 – “Memories – remembering them and making them”

Well, there are some memories left deep in Mom’s brain.  A few of them have apparently tried to make their way out the last few nights.  Mom used to be a bookkeeper, and on several occasions she has revisited that occupation.  She picks up a piece of paper, or sometimes one just seems to magically appear in her hands.  The paper is one of those long skinny strips of adding machine tape.  And the problem?  It has been one of two things.  Either something is not adding up right or, as happened about 4 this morning, she just can’t seem to find the correct printout for whatever it is she is working on.  It really gets her frustrated, too.  Not to mention the frustration it causes Chris as she tries to reassure her that “it will all balance out in the end” or that “we will find the printout in the morning.”  It has been very strange. 

These kinds of episodes haven’t happened during the day yet.  That’s when she obsesses over who everyone is in her picture book and how they fit together, or when her dentist appointment will be, or what day today is, or who was someone who could trim her fingernails and put some of that polish on them.  Sometimes she does say some really random things.  Chris took her to the doctor to check out a particular pain she was having consistently in her hip.  Gotta be careful about those elderly hips.  Turns out it was tendonitis, and she got a shot to relieve it.  But while she was being examined by the nurse practitioner, she asked Chris, “Is she the one who is going to work on my fingernails?”  The nurse took it in stride and chuckled at the unexpected comment. 

Here’s a quick look at our Spring Break hosting experience for yesterday.  It was Beach Day.  Mike, the Dad, was really wanting to try out wade fishing.  That’s probably my fault.  It is my fishing style of choice, and they have heard me talk about it.  Christina brought down her kids to join them, so the Moms and kids disappeared to a part of the beach where there actually was some sand, leaving Mike and me to brave the rocks and enter the swirling waves.  Yep.  It was pretty rough, and the tide was pretty high as well.  That meant our first obstacle was slippery rocks.  And the slippery rocks won round one.  At least with me.  I slipped on the final one and baptized myself into the water.  Into the icy cold, less than sixty degree water.  It was freezing.  We were determined to give it a try, though, so I got up and headed on in.  Mike made it without too much trouble.  He’s much younger than me.  We couldn’t even make it out to the first sand bar, though, and it was so choppy we never even got a bite.  It didn’t take long and I started shivering from the cold.  Oh, the air was really nice and warm, but about the time the sun had done its warming work, another evilly cold wave would crash and destroy all the warmth, replacing it with teeth-chattering cold.  I think I lasted maybe 30 minutes before I had to pull out.  Mike immediately joined me. I’m sure he was just being nice to the old man so I wouldn’t feel bad.  I’m sure he could have stayed for hours.  After all he is from Lubbock.  It’s cold up there all the time.  He decided to move down to where the kids were playing and join them for even more ice-water fun.  Being the generous guy that I am, I volunteered to take the poles back to the house and get them rinsed off.  Of course the perks of that position included first shot at the hot shower.  But as I finished up my shower I noticed something was wrong ...  But that’s a story for another day.    

2 Peter 1:12-15 says, “So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have.  I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me.  And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.”

Father, thank you for those strange things called memories.  They give us a connection to our past that can sometimes be precious.  Inscribe some good ones on Mike and Serena and Wyatt this week.  And inspire some good ones in Mom.  Maybe a balanced worksheet or the location of the printout?  Amen.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

March 18 – “To the moon and back”

Ah, Mondays.  Even Spring Break Mondays.  Especially Spring Break Mondays.  Ain’t they grand?  Monday is my day to get done the weekly, sometimes mundane, mostly necessary tasks related to church operations.  Things like website article updates and FaceBook page updates and sketching out a plan for next Sunday’s teaching.  Add to that the birthday cards I send out for the church and the fire department and any bills that are due.  And then on top of all that, factor in the inevitable Spring Break guests and all that comes with hosting here in our great tourist town.  Yep.  Mondays are great.

I did join our guests yesterday for a few hours of fishing.  It was pretty cold still, so we just went to the Jamaica Beach canal in front of Nathan and April’s house.  I was hoping we could at least catch some catfish so Wyatt (the 8 year old) could actually catch something.  He rode with me out there, and we had a pretty interesting conversation.  He was noticing the water in some of the ditches and some of the sand breaks along the road.  His question was, “Why is there more water in some places and not so much in others?”  Ah, science class.  Where are you when I need you?  I explained a bit about high and low tides and how they constantly change.  He listened intently, then queried, “Well, why do the tides happen?  What makes it high or low?”  Still struggling to remember my basic science classes, I shared all I knew about how the moon is the culprit, using its gravity to tug at the water.  And because the earth is spinning as well, sometimes the water level gets higher and sometimes it goes lower.  Boy, did the wheels ever spin in his head after that one.  He pondered the implications of such a wild and crazy story, and did his best to get it to make sense.  Finally he had the answer, “Oh, I get it.  When there is a full moon it’s bigger, so it pulls the water up to high tide.  Then when you can only see half of the moon the water starts getting lower until finally when you can’t see the moon any more, there is low tide.”  A great theory, I thought, especially for an 8 year old.  Makes a lot of sense.  That’s how it should work.  But sadly I had to answer, “Not exactly.  See, even when you can’t see the moon, it is still up there, pulling and tugging on the water.  Tides change several times every day.”  Frustrated now that his logic wasn’t valid, he returned to questioning mode, “Well, then why does the moon do that?”  And there you have it.  The very question that eventually all scientists get back to … why?  We were rapidly approaching our fishing site, so simplified matters a bit with, “It all happens because that’s how God set it up.”  Surprisingly, that totally satisfied him.  Amazing to me how God always seems to be enough when you are a kid, and then when you grow up you have to try to make things way more complicated.  Keep that up, Waytt.

Oh, I forgot to mention, Wyatt caught the only fish of the afternoon.  In fact Wyatt got the only bite of any kind.  He reeled in a small stingray.  Mom and Dad took the requisite photos and sent them to grandparents and posted them on Facebook.  I was hoping it still had its tail so he could take home a souvenir, but that was not to be.  This guy had been caught a few times before.  He had no souvenir barb, and in fact he had grown three tails.  His Strange but true.  Yet another amazing creation of that God who controls the moon that controls the tides. 

Ecclesiastes 12:1 says, “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, ‘I find no pleasure in them.’”

Father, thank you for being so creative in making this fascinating world.  I’m sure in awe of it.  Amen.

Monday, March 17, 2014

March 17 – “Almost real fireman”

As is often the case, I was the only one at church early yesterday.  And by “early” I mean about ten minutes until our alleged “start time.”  Gotta love Island Time.  A new-to-the-neighborhood visitor arrived with her five-year-old daughter.  The Mom asked about church and Sunday School times, and soon the conversation moved to the typical questions you might expect from the new person on the block.  They live in Jamaica Beach, so she wanted to know what I thought about the schools.  My take included mention of the fact that my granddaughter lives in Jamaica Beach as well.  I let her know that Cailyn goes to Oppe Elementary, her Mom is a nurse and her Dad is a fire fighter.  The little girl’s eyes lit up immediately, and I supposed she was glad to hear about another little girl her own age.  She whispered something to her Mom.  Mom chuckled and told me what the excitement was all about.  Seems the little girl was a bit star struck at the possibility that someday she might get to meet a “real fire fighter.”  Taking advantage of the moment, I told her, “The fire fighter guy might even be in church today if he didn’t have to work.”  The excitement level dramatically increased. 

Sensing the opportunity, I told her, “You know, if he is not here today, I am the chaplain of the fire department here in Galveston.  Not that that would make any difference, because I don’t have to run into burning buildings.  But I do have a uniform shirt and a cap.”  It was evident that the little one had no idea what a chaplain was, but her Mom briefly explained that I worked with the firemen.  Again, the excitement level increased as the new information sunk in.  The little girl’s eyes met mine, and that look of awe had just begun to appear on her face when her Mom added, “Just think.  You met an ‘almost real fireman’ today.”  Almost real fireman.  Let me add that to my resume. 

Philippians 2:9-11 says, “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Father, thank you that we don’t have to rely on making a “real” name for ourselves.  Yours is the only name that matters.  Amen.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

March 16 – “Go do something”

I heard a song on the car radio the other day that really struck me as quite powerful.  I think the name of it was “Do Something” by Matthew West.  Could be wrong on that one, but the song was good nevertheless.  The line that caught my attention?  He was talking about a guy angrily shaking his fist into the air at God and screaming, “Why don’t you do something?”  And God answers something like, “I did.  I created you.  Go do something.”  That’s some good stuff.

Cailyn came over just because she missed us.  Yes.  We are that awesome.  She stayed with us for a few hours while her parents ran some errands.  While she was here, she sat next to Mom and joined her in looking at some pictures we have arranged in a book for Mom.  Over the last week or so Mom has been quite verbal and communicative, but it’s like she has just awakened from a deep coma with absolutely no memory of her past.  And her short term memory of faces seems to be predicated on how often she encounters people.  She knows Chris well, but then she sees her most often.  All day and in most cases most of the night as well.  She usually asks me if I am Kelley, so she connects my face and name pretty well.  Oh, and she knows Betty Head.  That’s her childhood friend who still comes over about once a week for our home Bible study.  Beyond that she begins having lots of problems.  She started a notebook where she jots down people’s names and some facts about them to help jog her memory.  That’s exactly what I do at church.  Guess I come by it honestly.  So I put together a very simple little notebook with captioned pictures showing the people she sees most often, basically our kids and grandkids.  In the back I add pictures of people we might be seeing in the near future.  For example, my niece and her husband and son are staying with us over the next few days, so their picture made its way into the book.  We are supposed to see my brothers this afternoon, so I added pictures of them and their wives as well.  So, these are the photos Cailyn and Mom were perusing when I heard this exchange:

Mom: Who is Fran Vaughan?
Cailyn: She’s in our family.
Mom: I know but how does she fit in?  Where would you find her?
Cailyn: I don’t know how to get to houses.  I’m only a kid.

Well, Cailyn, you may be “only a kid,” but the patience and love you showed by sitting with your MeeMaw and looking at pictures was nothing short of phenomenal.  That’s what you call going and doing something.  I’m proud of you.

Ephesians 5:15-16 says, “Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”

Father, thanks for the simple wisdom you instill in little children.  Help me learn from it.  Amen.