Tuesday, March 31, 2015

March 31 – “So much easier”

Here’s the latest in the computer realm at the Vaughan household.  All programs were up and running and I was feeling pretty good about my considerable prowess in the IT department.  Until the first time I used my Bible program.  Oh, it came up all right, but when I went to check the Greek on a verse, the Greek alphabet had been magically transformed into a conglomeration of transliteration that frankly I’m just not good at reading.  And I had no idea how to transform it back.  And to top it off, the program was no longer linked to Microsoft Word.  I had no idea how to set that up, either.  The “Help” icon was no help at all, so I did what any semi-intelligent computer user would do (after rebooting to no avail, of course).  I uninstalled and reinstalled the software.  Understand, the disks are over ten years old, and they have been through Hurricane Ike and survived.  I had no reason to expect problems. 

After going through the process no less than four times, I finally got everything installed and opened the program itself.  And the home screen was a mess.  The icons were a mixture of tiny pictures and buttons.  They all worked (even had the proper Greek alphabet), but they looked really strange.  Something was obviously wrong.  That’s when I realized there was an icon missing.  The one I use every single day.  Of course.  The concordance was nowhere to be found.  How do you lose the concordance?  I did the uninstall and reinstall yet again.  No change.  I went to the program website and downloaded every update I could find.  No change.  I finally sent them an email and even called the number they provided.  Only a computer was available on the phone.  No answer on the email for hours.  The email reply finally did arrive, though. 

After following a lengthy, very detailed process, I finally located the one box that had to be checked for the issue to be resolved – compatibility with Windows 8.  I exited out per instructions, and restarted the computer.  And there it was.  Start screen looked correct.  All the icons were there, even the concordance, and they all looked the same.  I checked the Greek and Hebrew fonts and they worked.  Success.  And then I moved on to the second half of the email – synching with Word.  Or so I thought.

Oh, there was an answer there, all right.  Something about an error message saying there was not enough room on the hard drive.  Not an error I have ever seen.  Great instructions on how to fix it, but not what I needed.  New email sent to tech support.  And now we once again wait.  I think I may try the internet myself on this one.  Maybe someone else has had the problem and can give me a quick fix.  Don’t you just love these modern contraptions that make our lives so much easier? 

Matthew 9:5-6 says, Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'? 6 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. . ." Then he said to the paralytic, "Get up, take your mat and go home."  

Father, I do appreciate the easier life this tech has afforded us.  More time for family.  Help me to keep that priority in mind.  Amen.

Monday, March 30, 2015

March 30 – “The rocks cry out”

We had a really great day at church yesterday.  Palm Sunday.  Not that the crowd was overly huge (we were right at 40 again, a solid core number for us) or that we had some kind of incredible offering (Although one lady did tell me she was really excited to have found on our website that she could give electronically.  Apparently the only check she writes has been to Seaside.  What a New World we live in.  But other than that, I have no idea how much came in).  I think the thing that made it seem so special was the involvement of so many folks. 

We had a Body Life service, where the people were asked to come prepared to be worship leaders.  I still did a teaching, albeit a shortened one.  In our study of the Gospel of John we are right at the crucifixion, and I was determined to finish the crucifixion before Easter.  We got down to Jesus’ quietly victorious “It is finished” and the supernaturally explosive echo of the victory, with an earthquake and people coming out of their graves and the veil of the Temple ripping from top to bottom.  Pretty praise-worthy stuff.  I actually did the teaching right at the beginning of the service, so it led right into kind of a Palm Sunday flashback of praise, giving us a reason to make our praise heartfelt.  Right after the teaching (which I began draped in a shroud.  I threw it off when I got to the supernatural echo part.  Just a little dramatic touch), everyone went to one side of the room or the other where baskets of palm fronds were waiting.  They picked up a frond and then traded it with someone from the opposite side of the room, sharing a word of encouragement as well.  That exercise went really well.  They didn’t want to stop.  The main part of the worship experience, though, came with the individual sharing.  Someone brought up a beautiful painting of Jesus on what looked like a strip of bark off of a tree.  One lady told the story of the three trees to the kids sitting on the front row.  Made them feel really special.  One of the young teenagers sang a song.  Several people shared personal testimonies and favorite scriptures.  One of my favorite parts was during our prayer time.  As an act of adoration, I asked everyone to call out names of God to him.  The response was really exciting.  Lots of folks got involved, and I even saw a tear or two, just from hearing God’s name spoken.  Powerful stuff.  Powerful name.

The closing involved everyone taking their palm frond, placing it on the ground at the foot of our cross, and taking up a cross of their own, one made out of palm fronds.  Then they invited someone to join them at the communion station to share in that kind of worship together.  And after that they traded crosses.  It was a really strong picture of community.  As a final charge I reminded them about the time the religious leaders told Jesus to keep his followers quiet.  He replied, “If the people are quiet, the rocks will cry out.”  Earlier I had told Cailyn that story and she drew me a picture of some rocks singing and clipped a palm cross to the corner.  That’ll be a special memory for me.  So I encouraged them to come together as a family and find or create a special Palm Sunday reminder of their commitment to Jesus.  Pick up a shell at the beach or a rock in the back yard and remember … if you don’t praise Jesus, that rock or shell will do it for you.  I for one don’t want a rock doing my praising.

Psalms 5:3 says, “In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.”

Father, I knew there was something special about mornings.  Amen.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

March 29 – “The grandparent shuffle”

Chris made her way into the fray of soccer games yesterday.  She had responsibility for Josiah while Christina took Micah to his game.  Josiah ended early enough that Chris was then able to make it to half of Micah’s game.  Gotta love that grandparent shuffle.

Oh, and speaking of shuffle, I went to the Hitchcock Little League Opening Day parade and ceremonies with Kel and Jachin.  Each team decorated a trailer and the kids tossed candy to the crowd as they drove through town following one of the fire trucks from the volunteer department.  Now these were baseball teams, mind you.  So actually being in the crowd was a risk.  These kids were tossing candy “at” people rather than “to” them.  Or they tried to get it into the beds of trucks or, heaven forbid someone leave a car window open.  My favorite shot was when a youngster was squatting down gathering up some candy from the ground.  The kid next to me on the float stood up and managed to fire one right behind the kid’s neck and down his shirt.  Couldn’t do that again if he tried all week.  And yes, that means I road on the float, too.  WooHoo.

The parade ended at the baseball fields where the teams gathered for the big opening ceremony event.  Each team was introduced.  All of them.  I mean each kid had his name called and he had a moment in the sun.  That was followed by the pledge of allegiance and the Little League pledge.  Finally they played one of those versions of the National Anthem where the singer makes up her own way of belting it out.  I really don’t like those.  I want to sing along.  This one was certainly no match for one I heard on FaceBook.  It was sung in person by Seasider in Exile Emily Morgan at her own opening Day in Kerrville.  She was in uniform all ready for her own game.  Now that was impressive. 

We met Chris and Christina back at Kel’s after watching an inning or two of the first game.  Coach Kel had to do a little scouting.  Chris and I left to head back to Galveston – along with a couple hundred thousand tourists.  We ended up working in the backyard for the rest of the afternoon.  I added ten more bags of dirt to our sinkhole and re-leveled the patio blocks.  Chris weeded and cleaned out the last flower bed back there.  It’s really looking nice.  Come take a look some time.  We decided not to brave the tourist traffic, so we missed out on Jachin’s baseball game.  Hope they did well. 

At some point in the afternoon Cailyn called and ask if she could spend the night and go with us to church this morning.  So she and Chris are still dozing, catching those last few winks before facing the day.  Gives me an extra few minutes to go over the teaching for today.  Guess I’d better get at it …

Psalms 3:3-4 says, “But you are a shield around me, O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head.  To the Lord I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill.”

Father, bless all these kiddos as they embark on another summer of baseball and soccer and whatever else comes to draw on their parents’ time and energy … and patience.  Amen.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

March 28 – “Energy??”

Well, the transferal has officially begun.  This is the first blog done on our new computer.  So far so good.  The extra RAM in this thing sure made the loading of extra programs go quickly.  Even start-up this morning, which is usually what I do while I go get the morning paper and feed the dogs, was complete before I could even tie my shoes.  I managed to transfer all of my Word files over so I can work on this one now.  OK, OK.  You’re right.  A little boy enjoys his new toys.  What can I say?

I even got Chris’ work station taken down so her “new” laptop would fit.  That dinosaur she’s been using was really a mess.  There are pieces of it still on the floor that fell off when I picked it up.  I kind of hated to see the monitor go, though.  Absolutely nothing wrong with it.  Anybody need one?  Looks like I’ll still have to do a quick tutoring session on how to use Windows 7 for Chris.  That’s right.  The old one still had one of those old, unsupported versions on it.  She won’t have any problems, though.  Smart girl.

And now we begin a real grandparent Saturday.  On our way to help out Kel and Christina.  They have three boys involved in athletics and only two of them to chauffeur them around. Looks like Christina will take Micah to soccer, Chris has Josiah for soccer, and Kel and I have Jachin for a baseball season opening parade.  Hey, it takes two guys to do what one Mom can do with one hand tied behind her back.  I admit that.  Freely.  They will meet us back at the baseball fields for the opening day carnival.  Then Chris and I head back down here to Galveston for Cailyn’s school carnival.  If she decides to go, that is.  Then, if we still have enough energy, back to Hitchcock for Jachin’s baseball game.  And … I think I’m tired already.

Colossians 1:28-29 says, “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. 29 To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.”

Father, we could use some extra energy to get through all this stuff today.  I expect it to be fun, and I really want Chris to be able to enjoy it.  Thanks.  Amen.

Friday, March 27, 2015

March 27 – “Little Jay”

We finally bit the bullet yesterday.  Now there’s an interesting turn of the phrase, isn’t it?  I assume it dates back to the Old West days of no anesthesia.  When you got shot, you had to bite on a bullet to stifle the pain while the town dentist dug out the offending bullet.  At least that’s how it always went on the TV Westerns.  Now it means making it through a tough situation.  So … tough situation.  Chris is still using the computer we bought after Hurricane Ike back in 2008.  There are three or four of the letter designations missing from the keyboard.  Not a problem if you know how to type, I guess.  But for us hunt and peck officionados, it can be a real problem.  Which explains why Chris is the one using it.  So … we got a new computer.  And as it turns out, I will be the one with the new one and she will use the one I’ve been using.  But don’t get up in arms just yet.  I’m kind of jealous.  Now I have to wade through learning Windows 8.  And I have yet to hear anything positive about it.  I haven’t had much time to play with it, but it appears to be a glorified attempt to duplicate an iphone on a massive scale.  It took me a while, but I finally figured out that what they are calling “apps” are just the “programs” of Windows 7.  Means the same thing.  I have to learn a whole new lingo.  At least it let me load Office 2010 instead of forcing me to go with the 2013 version.

We did a lot of research on this one.  In fact we even tried to buy one through the hp website twice.  Got to the point of pulling the trigger when it just wouldn’t go any further.  Nothing.  No error code.  I talked to one of their “experts,” but finally gave up.  We checked several other websites, and finally decided to go with the one at Office Depot.  It’s an hp, but it also has one of those touch screens.  Very strange.  It still works with a mouse, though, so I can keep my old guy ways.  Windows 8?  The jury is still out. 

The youngster who helped us at Office Depot here in Galveston did a great job tracking down the one we chose.  He also looked eerily familiar.  He got our package up to the checkout stand and ran into a problem with our Office Depot card.  We use it so seldom that every time we do the computer makes us start over again and reapply.  I didn’t want to deal with that, and we have saved up to pay it off when the bill comes anyway, so we just put it on our Discover Card.  They like us there.  He did notice my fire department cap, though, and asked if I was with the department.  As soon as he did, I knew where he came from.  Well, at least who his Dad was.  He was the spit’n’image of Jay Jacob.  I told him I was the chaplain, and he said his Dad worked there.  I assured him I knew exactly who his Dad was.  Found out his name and he even confessed that he was known as “Little Jay.”  I assume that would be among family members.  Well, Little Jay, or Ethan … you did a bang-up job.  Thanks for the assistance.

Proverbs 23:24-25 says, “The father of a righteous man has great joy; he who has a wise son delights in him.  May your father and mother be glad; may she who gave you birth rejoice!”

Father, watch over Ethan and his family.  He represented them well.  Bless him for that.  Amen.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

March 26 – “Tyranny of the urgent”

Rheumatologist appointment up in Texas yesterday.  I did get some good news this time.  The medicine combo I’m on now actually seems to be working.  At least as far as pain is concerned.  The swelling is still around, but I can live with that if the pain is under control. I can do quite a few things now without pain that would have stopped me before.  I still get a twitch or two in the morning when I first wake up, but it usually passes as I get moving around.  Mornings are like that.  Great pain removers if you just give them time.  Joy comes in the morning, you know.  Guess my doc agrees with that.  He said to leave everything as is and come back to see him in six months.  That’s a big stretch from the usual 6 weeks or three months.  I’ll take it.

We decided to do Luby’s for our celebration lunch.  It’s right around the corner from the doc’s office.  Chris had her usual – Luann liver and onions.  I went English and had fish and chips.  It was still the same cod they offer, but it is usually smushed up and formed into a neat little rectangle.  At least with the fish and chips it looked like a fried fish. 

We stopped off at Home Depot on the way home.  That meant my afternoon plans were now secure.  We bought another ten bags of dirt for our hole-filling job, some mulch for the flower beds we’ve been cleaning out, and a bush to fill in one of the open spaces in the back yard.  And we did work in the yard.  Oddly enough, not with the stuff we bought though.  I mowed the grass.  Chris repotted some plants.  That makes three days in a row that we have worked in the yard, and I still have not even approached a palm tree.  And we have plenty left to do, too.  Tyranny of the urgent.  Making the palm crosses for Sunday will not become urgent until tomorrow.  In the meantime, there’s always … wait … what was that? … thunder?  Hmm.  Maybe I’ll get some work done inside today.

Matthew 6:33-34 says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Father, thank you for your assurance that worry is not necessary.  Forgive me when I do it anyway.  Amen.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

March 25 – “She’s my cousin”

I spent the entire morning yesterday working on the teaching and setup for our Palm Sunday worship.  We’re doing a Body Life service where everyone has a chance to share what God has been doing in his life through a favorite scripture or a song or a story or a personal testimony or dance (Yep, we’ve had that one in the past.  We’ve also had a bonsai tree and an entire painting done during the service).  The feedback I have been getting seems to indicate a desire for the next installment in our Words of Jesus from the Cross series as well.  That means figuring out a way to work everything together without having the service last all afternoon.  I would be fine with that if the Holy Spirit is at work.  I just don’t want it to be my fault. 

The whole time I was toiling at the computer, Chris was outside weeding flower beds.  She really has the “It’s Spring and I need to be outside” Bug.  I finally joined her for a little while in the afternoon.  Now I can at least say I helped.  I have to say, the yard looks phenomenal when she gets through with it.  Green thumb on that girl.  I never got around to mowing the grass, though.  Guess that’ll be on my agenda for later in the week.  It hit me yesterday that we have done something in the yard two days in a row this, the week before Palm Sunday, and we have yet to cut any palm branches for making palm crosses.  I have 100 of those to make this week, plus 100 small palm fronds to trim up.  Outside, here I come. 

We had to stop everything for a while around 3:00, though.  Nathan and April are baby-sitting an extra two-year-old little girl while her Mommy (April's cousin) has another baby.  The Mom is high-risk, so how long the extra little one is around is kind of up in the air.  Nathan called and asked if we could go pick up Cailyn from school.  Seems his little charge had just fallen asleep and he really didn’t want to wake her up unless he had to.  How could we refuse?  Cailyn was happy to see us, and she even seemed still caught up in the spirit of the adventure of having an extra person in the house.  The adventure was still new to her, so there didn’t seem to be any traces of jealousy yet.  She even said that when the little one wakes up, “she comes over and hugs me, not Mommy or Daddy.”  She also whispered to Chris, “She has to sleep with me, can you believe that?”  I’m not sure if that is “big sister” mode since I have never been or lived with one.  Cailyn is quick to correct any such misconception, though.  Make no mistake … “She’s my cousin.”

Proverbs 23:15-16 says, “My son, if your heart is wise, then my heart will be glad; my inmost being will rejoice when your lips speak what is right.”

Father, give Nathan and April some extra energy this week as they care for their extra little one.  Watch over the youngster’s Mommy and the new baby.  Amen.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

March 24 – “Frustrations in a technological journey”

I tried to buy a new laptop last night.  The one Chris has been using still uses an operating system that no longer exists as far as the folks at Windows are concerned.  It’s at least three generations old.  We bought it right after Hurricane Ike, so that would make it about seven years old … a veritable dinosaur of the technology realm.  The one I use is not quite that old, and since most of our photos are stored on it (as well as on an external hard drive), she will take over use of this one and we’ll get a new one for me to use for work stuff.  Well, at least that was the plan.

I went onto the HP website.  That’s how we got the one I’m using.  It was simple enough last time.  Choose the one you want.  Personalize it with whatever extra oomph you want to put in, like more memory or storage or specific software you want preloaded.  They put it all together for you right there and ship it to you.  They usually have online offers to take advantage of, and they even offer six months to pay with no interest.  Hard to beat if you’re going to buy something anyway.  Just a few clicks of the mouse and you’re done, right?  Well …

The first part of the process went really well.  I waded through the options and finally came up with one that we would be happy with.  It even came with Windows 7 instead of Windows 8, a plus from what intelligence I have been able to gather.  6 gigs of RAM and 750 gigs of storage.  Office 2013 preloaded (I would still need to get Publisher separate, or transfer my weddings and funerals into a different format).  Intel processor.  DVD writer.  All in all, a pretty good, basic unit.  I pushed the button to move on to the shipping screen.  Another plus.  Free standard shipping.  Can’t beat that price.  I clicked to move forward to the payment screen.  Since we have ordered from them before, all our info was still there, so that was easy enough.  Finally I pushed the button to go to the last section … payment.  There the options were: pay with credit card, pay later (the option we used last time – six months, no interest), or pay pal.  I selected the second choice and pushed the “continue” button.  And nothing happened.  The screen wasn’t locked up.  I could still go to other places within the website.  It simply would not take me any farther.  In other words, it would not make the sale, seal the deal.  I even got one of those online specialists who talk to you on the screen in real time.  She had a difficult time with English as her second language.  I could tell by her sentence structure and grammar in general.  Seemed very nice.  Not very helpful, but nice.  While we were talking a message suddenly popped up on my screen, asking me to try again later.  Said they were having trouble with the order.  I typed in that I would indeed try later.  That’s when she went into her sales pitch for some kind of insurance packet I needed to buy along with the computer.  If I would just tell her which computer I was interested in, she would get me the right packet.  Not happening.  My first inclination was to reply that I would just head over to the Apple website and see if they had something I could work with.  I almost did it, too, but Chris was with me.  She often stifles these urges I have.  Great to be married to a conscience, you know?  Ah well.  No new computer yet.

Proverbs 20:28 says, “Love and faithfulness keep a king safe; through love his throne is made secure.”

Father, help us through yet another journey into the world of technology.  It can get daunting.  Amen.

Monday, March 23, 2015

March 23 – “It’s coming”

I got up at my usual time yesterday morning.  Chris had had a rough night – lots of coughing and tossing and turning - so I did my best to stay quiet, even during my morning routine in the bathroom with my proverbial noisy approach to brushing teeth (can I help it of I use a battery operated toothbrush?).  I had some breakfast, wrote in my blog, and even went over the teaching.  At about ten minutes until eight (we usually leave at eight) I went in to check on her.  By then she is usually already out of the shower and gathering her Bible and notebook together.  Not this time.  She was dead to the world in bed.  I gently touched her shoulder to make sure she was OK, and she jerked to life, asking what time it was.  I assured her all was well, and that I could manage by myself.  I just wanted to let her know I was leaving.  She apologized, but didn’t argue.  I don’t think it took her long to fall back to sleep.   By yesterday afternoon she was feeling much better, but she still has that lingering cough.  I think it will be our house guest for several more days before it decides to move on. 

Church went really well.  The lady from Waco who is a member at Josh’s church was back.  She’s the one who never made the connection that he was my son until I mentioned him in a sermon one day when she was here.  A young pregnant lady was on the second row all by herself.  Seems she and her family were staying in a friend’s house, but they really like Galveston.  She wants to move here full time, or least buy a house of their own here.  As we talked we found out that we had several things in common.  They live in Northwest Houston, as we did many years ago.  They go to church in the Heights area of Houston, as we did many years ago.  And they are dealing with the ins and outs of her mother living with them, as mine did for many years.  We decided that we need to just get together and talk.  Sure enough, that afternoon we were invited to join them for coffee sometime in the future.  As soon as Chris conquers this cough thing, we’ll touch base with them.  I introduced myself to another couple only to find out that he was the guy who wrote to us from prison.  He told me “The last time you saw me I had a pony tail.”  He’s right about that one.  But he looked great, and it was good to meet his wife.  Looks like they are really working hard to get their life together and find a church they can plug into.  They live in Santa Fe, but we have several other folks who drive in from there.  You just gotta decide that the drive is worth it.  He volunteered to help with Easter setup.

Speaking of Easter, there seems to be a lot of excitement about it this year.  I got an email from a lady in Houston who wanted to know if the service was really going to be “on the beach in the sand.”  She said she will be there.  People are approaching me after just about every service asking how they can help out that morning.  I think Cory will have a strong contingent to help him with chairs and the trailer and the generator and the sound system.  Wes is bringing his guitar and I think he’ll have at least a few people singing with him as they lead worship.  Several ladies have indicated they will be around to help with breakfast.  The lady who is going to be baptized was back and still excited about it.  There is still a lot to actually come together, but I think God is on the move on this one.  Can’t wait.

Psalms 13:5-6 says, “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.  I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.”

Father, keep on moving.  We’re doing our best to keep up with you.  Amen.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

March 22 – “Developing a plan”

Well, after that hard work the day before, yesterday’s major, all-day rain event was actually a welcome sight for me.  Of course it was frustrating to watch the concrete patio block sink a little as they settled into place, but the dip isn’t quite as obvious as it was before.  And more importantly, the ground doesn’t look like an earthquake just happened.  Still looks like a sinkhole lurking just beneath the surface, though.  Eight or ten more bags of dirt ought to solve that.  Some day.

With the rain falling and Chris still not feeling good at all, we decided to stick around the house and pretend like it was a real day off.  That meant watching TV for the most part.  After all, the NCAA tournament is going on, and there have already been a lot of underdogs making some great showings.  We even managed to slip in a few episodes of Fringe, our newest Netflix discovery.  Actually we have been watching it for a while now.  We are already on season four out of five.  Very strange show about inexplicable events and the team that investigates them. 

Our other task for the day was to begin talking about our proposed vacation this summer.  Looks like we may put off the Alaska cruise until we can save some more money.  Option number two, though, looks very promising.  We may just take off in the car again.  This time, though, we may even get out if Texas.  We have something that Chris wants to take to a half-sister in Louisiana.  The itinerary from there, however, is wide open.  Are the Florida Keys worth the drive, or are they just more Gulf Islands?  After all, we live on one of those.  And we have never been to Vermont, so I have a sneaking suspicion that may be our goal.  Of course we’ve never been to Minnesota, either.  Maybe on the way home.  How far out of the way could it be?  First we need to get one of those antique things we used to use all the time.  I think they still exist.  We used to call them maps.  See, the problem with the app on the phone is, we can’t see the big picture all at once.  Ah, well.  As you can see, it’s gonna us a while to get this thing sorted out.  Those of you who live in that general strike zone, though … watch out.  We may just show up.

Psalms 10:17 says, “You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry”

Father, wherever we end up this summer, whether on the road or just watching some Astros baseball on TV, would you come with us?  Amen.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

March 21 – “Dirt bags”

Another trip into Texas yesterday.  This time it was to have my regular blood test done.  About every three months, sometimes sooner, I have to check and make sure the arthritis medication I take is not eating away my liver or kidneys.  Thankfully, a Quest location has opened up in LaMarque so I don’t have to drive into Houston to get it done.  You would think they would have an office somewhere nearer to UTMB.  I guess they want to do their own blood tests, though.  Give those rookie doctors something else to do. 

On the way home we stopped at Home Depot.  Our target this time was dirt.  Yep.  Just dirt.  See, we have a sinkhole in our back yard and I have been wanting to take steps to fill it in for a long time.  Way back before Hurricane Ike we had a huge pecan tree in our back yard.  The tree did its best to survive the storm itself and the salt water flood that accompanied it.  It even put out some leaves the following year.  But alas, it was just not to be.  We nursed it along as long as we could, but it finally died.  We had one of those tree cutting down specialists remove it for us.  He also ran his machine that grinds up the stump into mulch.  But the machine could only access so much.  Those huge roots remained.  And now they and what remains of the stump itself are slowly rotting away, disintegrating into nothingness and leaving behind gaping holes.  And when those holes collapse under the weight of grandchildren playing or old dudes mowing the grass, the result is a sinkhole.  The big problem now is that it is slowly creeping under the paving stones we used to create our patio.  Can’t have an uneven surface when there are toddlers and senior adults afoot. 

So to Home Depot we went to buy some dirt.  Ten bags of dirt to be exact.  Surely that would be enough, right?  I pulled up twelve or fifteen of the paving stones and segmented out the area of grass under which the stump used to be.  Had to at least save the good St. Augustine that was growing there.  I opened up the dirt bags and dumped them in.  And then came the hard part.  Well, that’s not completely accurate.  By that time I was already exhausted.  But I was determined to push on.  After all, I did way more that this when we created the patio.  And that was a mere, oh, eighteen years or so ago.  How bad could it be?  Chris cheered me on by texting Nathan and letting him know I was in the back yard digging a hole.  Guess she wanted him to be on call in case I developed some “exercise-induced heartburn.”  I assured her that the guys at station four would take care of me.  She didn’t seem too excited at either prospect.

The next step was mixing the new dirt with the existing dirt and then came the leveling process.  I don’t know any other way to do that than to plop down in the dirt and do it one stone at a time.  Time consuming and back-breaking process.  By the time the patio was shored up, I looked over at the hole in the grassy area and sighed.  We probably should have bought another ten bags.  I decided to make the best of it, though.  I leveled it out the best I could and dropped the sod chunks back into place. 

I managed to drag the shovels back into the shed before collapsing onto a chair to enjoy the fruit of my labor by having a cup of water and a chat with my esteemed supervisor, Chris, who, I might add, had sat outside with me through the entire process, wrapped in a blanket and encouraging me.  Best part of the whole project. Now if the whole thing doesn’t collapse into itself when the rain starts today I’ll be happy.  And yes, I am pretty sore today.  No marathons or tri-athalons on tap.

Psalms 9:10 says, “Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.”

Father, thank you for the rain.  And for holding it off until I got that hole filled up.  Amen.

Friday, March 20, 2015

March 20 – “First”

The drought is finally broken.  I actually managed to go fishing the other day.  First fishing trip of the year.  Chris was just beginning to feel poorly, and her way of handling sickness entails curling up in bed and being left alone.  The exact opposite of me, by the way.  I greatly prefer someone I love to fawn all over me and treat me like the poor little sick kid that I am.  Hey, what can I say?  That’s how my Mommy used to do it.  I did get Chris’ permission to leave her alone for a few hours, though.  I haven’t completely lost my mind.

I made a quick stop at my usual wading spot in front of WalMart.  It wasn’t too rough, but the wind was just starting to pick up, and there was a bit of a chill in the air.  I was afraid the combination of cool wind and 50 degree water would be the end of me.  When I texted Chris to let her know I was heading on to Jamaica Beach to fish the canal, she responded, “Thank you!!  Not interested in treating you for hypothermia!”  The exclamation marks are hers, by the way.  She must have been serious.  I pointed out that blue skin should match up well with my gray hair, but she didn’t sound so impressed.  Oh, and by the way, I saw in the paper this morning that the water temperature was “officially” all the way up to 64 on Tuesday.  Keep on climbing.  We have a baptism in the Gulf on Easter Sunday.

I set up shop in the little fishing park Jamaica Beach has designated.  Not many people use it, and there are no amenities other than a bench or two and some pilings sticking up that one can sit upon or tie a stringer to.  But it is on the main canal, and it is not all that far from the actual entrance to the bay.  That makes it a pretty good site for specks and redfish.  Of course, like all canals, it is also a prime hangout for hardhead catfish, but I was hoping it was too early in the season for too many of them to be hanging around.  Fortunately that hope proved true, as I never saw even one of those pests.  There were plenty of pests in the water, though.  I ended up going through an entire quart of live shrimp over the course of the few hours I was there. 

The catch was a pretty good one, by canal standards.  Started out with two redfish back to back.  Both were too small to keep, though.  And I lost one too-small speck right at the bank as well.  The few other fishermen were walking the bank casting artificial lures.  They all lived right across the street, so this was old hat to them.  I heard stories about the ones that got away, but none of them ever even got a bite.  Guess the fish were particular to my shrimp.  Even had one of the Jamaica Beach police officers stop by to see how I was doing.  Great to have connections to a small community like that.  I ended up the day with a total of five redfish, all too small to keep, one black drum that was too small to mess with, and three very nice speckled trout … just right.  A fine start to our next family fish fry.  As Chris said, “Zakary will be excited.” 

Deuteronomy 32:39 says, “See now that I myself am He!  There is no god besides me.  I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand.”

Father, thank you for the aquatic part of your incredible creation.  And please bring Chris to healing quickly.  Amen.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

March 19 – “Speaking of St. Patrick’s day …”

Speaking of St. Patrick’s Day, I spent some time talking with my fashion consultant the other day.  Now I grew up with the knowledge that you always wear green on that day or else whoever caught you could pinch you.  And if you actually did have green on, they had to let you pinch them back.  You know, basic holiday policies and procedures.  Well, after Cailyn caught me with no green on, I received a lecture on the basics of St. Patrick’s Day décor.  She informed me that there are certain things that just don’t count toward the famous pinch if you’re not wearing green thing.  Underwear apparently counts.  But you have to be willing to verify.  Wearing plants, however, just does not cut it.  I even tried saying that I had green teeth from not brushing.  She didn’t believe me for one thing.  She has been here when I tune up my miniature lawn mower motor that operates my toothbrush.  But that was one of those intangibles that just doesn’t fit the mold of the day.  After several other attempts to get by such stringent rules, I succumbed to the pinch and we returned to watching TV.  Not long after that, a commercial came on that got my attention.  Another possible option.  It was a bad breath commercial, and the breath was portrayed as a thick, green fog emanating from the unfortunate person’s mouth.  I took a deep breath and turned toward Cailyn to make my case with this new evidence.  But she was a step ahead of me.  With arms crossed and a stern look on her face she was already staring in my direction.  Before I could even speak, she declared, “And that green doesn’t count either.”  Ouch.  All my best ideas shot down.  Oh well, back to the green drawing board, I guess.

I also learned some things about the real St. Patrick.  Well, wait a minute.  I didn’t really verify my sources all that well, but it was on the internet, and they don’t let anything on the internet that isn’t true, right?  It seems St. Patrick developed a system of missionary work that was absolutely the best ever.  Although born in Briton, he had been a captive slave of one of the tribes in Ireland for years, so he knew the people and their language.  He eventually escaped, rediscovered his family’s Christian religion, and many years later returned to do missionary work.  But his plan was ingenious.  He always worked in a group of about 12.  They would settle in near one of the tribes and get to know the people.  Slowly, as they were accepted into the local culture, they would then start to share about Jesus.  When enough converts were trained to support a church, he would leave a few from the missionary team there, replace them in the group of twelve with some of the native Christians, and move on to the next settlement to do the same thing.  He always had a full, trained team, and the churches he established always had strong leadership.  Smart man, that St. Patrick. 

Psalms 18:32 says, “It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.”

Father, thank you for breakthroughs in understanding and respecting cultures while we seek to share what is most important to us – you.  Amen.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

March 18 – “At the end of the day”

Chris left me alone pretty much all day yesterday.  Could have been dangerous, I know.  But she has always been one to take chances.  After all, she married me, right?  She drove to Victoria to have lunch with her two brothers and to go see her Dad in the nursing home there.  This would be the Dad who raised her, the one who adopted her when she was a baby.  He can’t live alone any more, but she said he seemed to be doing pretty well.  He recognized her and even introduced her around to the therapists.  I know the trip was probably stressful for Chris, so I’m glad it went well.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch … (where did that one come from?  Some old TV show, maybe? Anybody know?).  I stayed at my computer most of the time she was gone, working on the first of the three Bible studies I have to lead this week.  I think I’m pretty much ready for it, although I do have one more thing to complete this morning before I move on.  I almost forgot to eat lunch.  Chris texted about 1:00 to let me know she was heading to Dairy Queen with her brothers, and that reminded me to get something as well.  Glad we had some of the leftovers from dinner on the grounds Sunday.  Some kind of lasagna-type dish with sausage in it and a lot of cheese on top.  Good stuff, so kudos to whoever made it. 

Chris did get a phone call while she was away.  Cailyn was looking for her hang-out buddy to try to finagle a spring break overnight stay.  So of course that meant we entertained a special little guest last night.  And by “entertained” I mean it was beauty specialist night at the Vaughan’s.  And by “we” I mean “me.”  That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, I received a glittery, albeit it abbreviated manicure and pedicure.  Actually she just put fingernail polish on my fingers and toes, but to her credit, most of it stayed on the nails.  That part was easy.  Not so sure about phase two, though.  Now I’m not saying I didn’t need the beauty treatment.  But makeup?  On my face?  I dint think I have had that much attention makeup-wise since I played Tigger in our high school drama.  At one point she asked my choice of colors: brown, gray, green, or light brown.  I told her I had the whole gray thing pretty much down pat.  I went for green in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.  I did look at it before washing it off.  Honestly I couldn’t really tell that there was that much on there.  Guess that’s a testament to the skill of the applier, right?  Sure did dirty up the washcloth, though.  So much for subtle foundation work.  At the end of the day, I’m back to my wrinkled, gray, leathery self again.  Sigh.  Maybe I should look into dyeing my hair and beard.  Red, maybe?

Psalms 4:7-8 says, “You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound.  I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”

Father, thank you for making me who I am, gray hair, wrinkles and all.  And more importantly, thank you for loving me anyway.  Amen.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

March 17 – “Lost in the work”

Yesterday was one of those “get lost in the work” kind of days for me.  We did start it out by taking a walk around the neighborhood, though.  We have worked up to about two miles.  It’s not the same as walking around WalMart together, grocery shopping and talking and people watching, although we did see one of our fire fighter neighbors.  Jon was out being walked by his dog.  She did stop to greet us, though. 

As far as the computer work is concerned, it soon became evident that it would be my day to prepare for the angels.  That’s the next topic coming up in our Thursday night Bible study at the house.  What started out as a research search to find out the different names of archangels mentioned in literature outside of the Bible soon became a more generalized open discovery time on the subject.  It’s what usually happens to me when I start out on a research binge.  One rabbit trail will lead to another and before I know it I have jumped topics entirely.  It’s a really fun way to approach what could otherwise be a boring process.  At least this time I stuck to angels.  We’ll see what kind of study actually comes out of this research experience, though.  I still have three days to pull it all together.  Of course I also still have to put together the Bible study for Sunday morning before church as well as the teaching for the worship service.  Looks like it will be another long day at the desk.  Hmm.  Maybe that’s why that article in the paper sounded so interesting.  Something along the lines of proper posture when you sit at a desk all day.  I can hear it now.  Chris’ little voice ringing forth in my good ear, “I told you so …”

Mark 12:33 says, “To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

Father, help me stay focused in preparation for these studies.  And maybe open up a rabbit trail or two just for fun.  Amen.

Monday, March 16, 2015

March 16 – “When Momma’s happy …”

We decided to do a “quick drive-by just to look at” Nathan and April’s front yard yesterday afternoon.  We weren’t even going to stop.  They had been working on their landscaping, and Nathan even went so far as to buy one of those chain saws that attach to the end of a long pole.  The kind you use to trim really big trees like the three big oaks in their yard.  You just can’t beat a new power tool, right?  I was sure the yard looked fine.  I was just hoping for a glimpse of the new power tool on the block. 

Well, the drive-by plan went out the window when we saw that they were still hard at work.  There was a pile of tree branches barricading the front of their house as if they expected to have to ward off an attack any moment.  The chain saw was resting off to the side, its work long sing accomplished.  Sigh.  Missed it.  But they still have two more trees to attack in their back yard.  Maybe next time.  Nathan told me his next door neighbor was especially happy about the tree trimming project, though.  Apparently it had been slowly encroaching upon his roof’s personal space for some time. 

Meanwhile, Nathan and April had moved on to outlining their flower beds with some of those concrete blocks.  The kind that weigh a ton.  Each.  And the flower beds themselves had been lined with plastic bags and covered with some of that red mulch.  That was still a work in progress, though.  Evidence of that was in the bed of the truck.  About ten more bags of the stuff waiting to make their debut.  Once the outline was complete, Nathan managed to catch up with April.  She had already moved on to placement of the bushes they had purchased.  No idea what they were called.  I do know April got the idea from Alice Whiteman’s front yard, though.  They sure look good there, so given enough time, I think they will be a prime asset. 

So where was Cailyn during all the work?  Well, she came bounding out from the house not long after we arrived.  Chris managed to get her briefly involved in sweeping the sidewalk.  It became a game, of course.  Nana was the boss and Cailyn had to follow orders.  Guess how long that arrangement lasted.  Before long the new straw boss had catapulted her way through the ranks.  Cailyn took over her new promotion with gusto.  I was enlisted to help with the heavy stuff.  You know … larger leaves and especially tough to extricate weeds here and there.  What can I say?  It’s tough being the go-to guy when it comes to the real manly jobs. 

All in all, it was kind of a fun afternoon outing.  For us, anyway.  Chris did manage to spend some inside time with Cailyn.  I understand she enjoyed a manicure while the rest of us were slaving away.  Well, while Nathan and April were slaving.  Someone had to assume the vacated role of straw boss.  But in the end April was pleased with the project.  And you know as well I do, when Momma’s happy …

Psalms 104:9 says, “He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate - bringing forth food from the earth”

Father, thank you for the wonders of growing things and for the beauty that comes with placing them all together in just the right position.  Amen.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

March 15 – “Quote line”

Since it’s Sunday and I have to get ready for church, oh, and we have to pick up Cailyn and Wes, here are just a few quick grandkid quotations from our weekend.

Let me start with Kel.  I know, he’s not a grandkid, but his quote leads into the others well.  We were outside watching his sweet little daughter play when he remarked, “Why do my kids all like to play outside?”  See, Kel is not much of an outside kind of guy. 
But then later on, I was outside preparing to fry the fish when Cailyn morosely trudged up to me with, “I want to play outside with my cousins, but they’re all stuck inside.”  Ah, yes.  Sadly, the presence of video games and parental approval for media time tends to do that.
Speaking of media time, here’s one from Micah: “Can I play on the phone?  Can I play on the iPad?  Can I play on the wii?”  I think he would have continued but that’s all the potential media he knew of at our house. 
And still on the media page, I got this taunt from the eldest, Jachin: “Come on, DadDad.  You can play this dogfight game.  It’s simple.  Trust me.”  Sorry, Jachin.  I learned a long time ago that when the oldest sibling says “trust me” that something is afoot that has designs on my total destruction. 
Josiah’s quote of the weekend is hard to write down.  “Ha Ha” just doesn’t seem to capture the essence of his belly laugh.  It takes him about an instant to be totally and completely engulfed in laughter from head to toe.  Love it. 
Noa is really beginning to talk a lot now.  Sometimes there are no discernable English-language words in what she says, but the expression and emotion are quite clear.  She definitely has the girl propensity for verbal skills.  Her favorite word now is “disgusting.”  Uses it appropriately, too.  My favorite of the weekend, though, came out when I was in my chair at my desk.  She crawled up in the nearby rocking chair, looked at me with captivating eyes, and asked, “Ock, Ock me, DadDad?”  Which I took to mean, “Rock with me, will you, oh grandfather, my love?”  And once she knew she had my attention, she looked up again at my painting of a praying man, folded her little hands and said, “’men, DadDad, ‘men.”  That’s right, Noa.  DadDad is praying and he says, “Thank you Jesus.  Amen.”
Caleb’s comment of the week I have already shared.  It was his reflection on exiting the Rainforest Café’s thrill ride, ”I can smell the terror.”
And I found out the Zak was the one to blame for the secret, somewhat threatening note on the door that read, “Do not go to get donuts without us.” 
Finally, the youngest.  Luke doesn’t say much.  He is great at captivating things like falling into your arms backwards, totally trusting you to catch him and engulf him in a big hug.  He did have one particular word that we heard more than twenty or thirty times.  See, he was fascinated by the dogs. And what better word to announce their presence or ask where they are than, “uff.”  Hey, Dennis the Menace would know right away that he was talking about a dog, right?  Or is that dating me?  Who is Dennis the Menace?  You didn’t know his dog’s name was Ruff?  OK.  I quit.  For the day, anyway.

Psalms 8:2 says, “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise”

Father, thank you for words of wisdom and amusement from the mouths of little children.  Sure do love these eight you have blessed us with.  Amen.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

March 14 – “The cousins’ day”

Yesterday was a real Galveston tourist kind of day.  We actually went to the world-famous Strand.  And why in the world would we want to do that?  Oh, come on.  Have you never witnessed the wonder of watching the candy-maker at work at LaKing’s?  Or seen some teenagers working on their city-scape jumping skills?  Or perhaps do like Kel did … glamorize a tourist’s picture-taking by doing a photo bomb in a SpiderMan hoodie.  They even asked him to come back and pose. 

After a Papa John’s pizza lunch (gotta have pizza at some point on a cousin sleepover day), we headed on out to the Strand.  The hoped-for ride on the ferry was nixed when we woke up to another foggy, dreary day on the coast.  It wasn’t all that cold, at least, but it would have been miserable on the ferry, that’s for sure.  Besides, all these cousins have never seen the candy maker at work.  And who can turn down a whole store full of candy to choose from? 

When we arrived, however, we discovered that the next show was not for another hour.  So consolation candy bags in hand, we made our way over to the gigantic chess board.  Jachin and Zakary intended to play an actual game, but they soon discovered that they had way too much help.  All eight cousins decided that the big guys needed their help in setting up the board.  Whenever Noa or Luke moved a piece, the older guys (or maybe a Daddy here and there) would very patiently move it back to where it belonged.  It looked like so much fun that I decided to join in.  When Jachin wasn’t looking, I started moving pieces as well.  I don’t think he caught on to my antics right away, but it didn’t take him long.  The whole thing was quite entertaining for a young couple who thought they were just there to relax for a few minutes.  The floor show was a bonus.

Back to the candy store and the demonstration of making taffy.  Our guys pushed their way to the front and had a ring side seat.  Cailyn and Noa even staked a spot on the horse ride right by the rail.  The whole thing didn’t become real, though, until the candy maker started tossing samples to the crowd.  Free chocolate-flavored taffy and all you had to do was catch it.  Well, or pick it up after it bounced off some unsuspecting tourist’s head (and that happened more often that you would expect).  Then we went on back to the house, stepping in every puddle we could find along the way.  Oh wait.  I guess that was just me.  Guess I was jealous of the fun they all had the day before.

And waiting for us back at the house was none other than … a speckled trout fish fry.  Uncle Nathan and Aunt April threw in a few pounds of shrimp as well, so it was quite the feed.  Mix that with Nani’s cheesy potatoes and corn and green beans and Aunt Christina’s salad, and you have a full-blown feast.  Good stuff.  Almost depleted our store of fish, though.  Old DadDad is gonna have get to work on replenishing it real soon.

We finished off the evening with the cousins’ sleepover.  Sleeping bags on the floor, a movie on the TV (Indian in the Cupboard), and a few adults carefully hovering in the background.  The number of adults gradually diminished until only Nani was left waiting for the final holdout to give in and fall asleep.  I think that was Josiah, believe it or not.  The cousins’ sleepover finally officially ended this morning when the early risers, Micah and Zak joined me for a trip to the donut shop to pick up breakfast.  I couldn’t go without them after they left me a sticky-note command on the front door.  It read, “Do not go to get donuts without us.”  And so, a dozen plain glazed, three chocolate iced, three strawberry sprinkles, and three dozen donut holes later, they were ready to start the day.  How about you?

1 Chronicles 16:31 says, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”

Father, please keep these youngsters close as they grow up.  Help them learn the value of family.  Amen.