Saturday, October 31, 2015

October 31 – “Purpose purchase”

I had a chance to see some of the fire fighters at the downtown station yesterday.  Calls were pretty slow for a change.  After that last bout with high water and high winds and all the calls that generated, they deserved a shift or two of rescuing cats and inspecting fire hydrants.  Testing was going on for a new batch of recruits as well.  Looks like 99 people were taking the written portion of the test.  If enough pass that, the physical agility test today might have to be done in two groups.  Good to have that many candidates to choose from.  Oh, and several of the fire fighters passed their driver’s test for possible promotions as well.  Congrats to them.  That’s a significant milestone.  Next step … captain’s exam.

Chris and I did some – get ready for this one – Christmas shopping yesterday as well.  Yep.  You heard right.  Christmas shopping.  Not that we bought anything.  Now a quick disclaimer here.  To our credit we actually have several gifts already in hand for this year.  A few things we stumbled upon throughout the year.  But yesterday we went with the expressed purpose of Christmas Shopping.

I get a kick out of Chris’ style when it comes to picking out gifts.  Oh, she has her list all right.  But at least for the first trip, the list stays in her purse as we wander around the stores.  She has in her mind an array of products that she has seen in ads or heard about on line or maybe even one of our grandkids has mentioned already.  She just has to see them, handle them, form a judgment as to whether she would purchase such a thing.  No impulse buying for her.  That is just outside of her comfort zone.  Not so much me.  I’m more of a “Hey, this is really cool.  It’s bound to be good for somebody” kind of shopper.  Then she asks me who.  “I don’t know.  We can figure that out later” is my usual reply.  Doesn’t usually win out.  Not a clear enough purpose behind the purchase.  We are a strange combination.  I’m ready to do the shopping in August and get it over with.  But my quick draw style is better for last minute shopping on Christmas Eve (which would be fine by me, by the way.  Lots more fun watching frantic people doing last minute freak-out shopping).  She wants to wait until after Thanksgiving to begin, and soon feels the pressure of the season bearing down.  I can get something for everybody in one trip to WalMart.  She prefers to take her time and visit every store on the island and a few in Texas.  So … yesterday was a reconnaissance mission.  We picked up a few little things here and there.  More to come. 

Hebrews 13:5 says, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’”

Father, thank you for a season that gives everyone an excuse to share gifts with one another.  I pray that this year it so inspires everyone that they start doing it year ‘round, on random non-occasions.  Amen.

Friday, October 30, 2015

October 30 – “Up, up, and away”

Christina stopped by yesterday with her young’uns.  They had been to Target to look for a Halloween costume for Jachin.  Seems they had to advance to the adult section.  Christina was surprised.  But hey, the kid is already taller than his Nana.  I think Mommy might be in denial. 

While they were here Christina’s sister texted her with a very serious family concern.  She wanted to hear the favorite superhero of each of the kids.  An aunt has to keep up with those issues.  From the boys we heard pretty much what we expected.  Spiderman.  Pretty much all of the Avengers.  That Rocky Raccoon critter from Guardians of the Galaxy.  But then she got down to Noa.  Now my ears really perked up (Which is quite the feat for someone with my ears).  Christina made it clear to the boys that they were to give her no assistance.  The answer was to be Noa’s and Noa’s alone. 
“Noa, who is your favorite superhero?”
“Um … Olaf.”

Wait.  Olaf?  Sigh.  New generation.  New universe.  New heroes.  At least I knew who she was talking about (Although I still haven’t seen that movie). 

Speaking of superheroes, we saw the pilot for that new Supergirl series they came out with for TV.  Anything DC Universe related garners my interest, for sure.  Now I have to say, from the start, that it was very hard to accept the entirely new mythology they are putting forth. 
Kara getting into her own little spaceship and following her cousin to look after him?  Uh … no. 
Accidentally stuck in the Phantom Zone?  What?  And their whole Phantom Zone scenario was just … weird.  It was designed by Jor-El (not his wife Lara, as they purported, although she was certainly a scientist in her own right) as a humane treatment for the most evil of Krypton’s criminals.  Upon sentencing the individual was sent into the Zone like he would be put into a cell.  So … how did they get a whole spaceship prison full of bad guys in there? 
Superman sending Jimmy Olsen over from Metropolis to keep an eye on Kara?  I get the sentiment.  Fits the Big Guy to a tee.  But Jimmy Olsen has red hair.  And freckles.  I know he’s supposed to be a full-on, experienced reporter now.  But to jump races?  Ah, well.  It added to the surprise reveal of his identity, I guess.  And the actor is pretty good. 
All in all … a bit far-fetched.  But … I like it. 

Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.”

Father, thank you for being all the superhero we will ever need.  Amen.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

October 29 – “It takes two …”

We returned to dancing class yesterday.  Missed last Wednesday because we had all those grandkids running around here.  We did learn one thing right away.  This kind of dancing is NOT just like riding a bike.  At least not for me it isn’t. 

We started out with the waltz, which is a good thing.  It’s the closest thing to the only kind of dancing Chris and I have done together, so it has always felt somewhat comfortable.  Still has all that required footwork, though.  And the extra-credit moves are fun but really hard to remember.  But I gotta say, those other dances kind of eat our lunch.

Rumba.  Just haven’t learned to be comfortable with that one yet.  We have to count the steps out loud and I have to look at my feet to make sure they are obeying the signals my head is sending.  I got in trouble with the instructor on that.  She was dancing with me to show us how to do it and told me to keep my head up and have fun.  Make a decision, Prof.  Have fun or get the crazy foot movements right. 

We didn’t do any of the swing dancing.  That, of course, is my favorite.  The guy has very little movement other than the simple footwork.  The girl has to do all the swinging and twirling. 

Ah, but they added some stuff on us.  Not sure if it happened last week while we were gone or if they were just saving it up to spring on us when we got back.  But yesterday we were introduced to .. the Cha Cha Cha.  Yep.  Really.  Just like on those antique TV shows.  And the footwork is totally different for that one, too.  If that wasn’t enough, then they pulled out the Tango.  There is really a dance step for that one.  I thought it was just some made up old saying, “It takes two to tango.”  And finally, we had a few minutes left, so they threw yet another new one at us.  Fox Trot.  I thought I was in an old World War II movie.  “Access Code Tango-FoxTrot-ChaChaCha.”  Now I think Fox Trot has possibilities, but we didn’t do it enough to sear the steps into our muscle memory. 

I have gained a whole new respect for my Mom and Dad and that whole era’s ability to dance these steps.  Guess I’ve been pining for my early 70’s, PRE-disco (disco was just silly), free dance style.  But I’m learning.  I’m learning.

Hebrews 13:1 says. “Keep on loving each other as brothers.”

Father, thank you for the incredible amount of laughter I have heard coming out of Chris’ mouth during these dance classes.  Music to my soul.  Amen.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

October 28 – “Reconnaissance”

Chris and I took a bike ride last night.  It was a pretty long one for us – probably a couple of miles all told.  We rode down Pine Street to the road that leads to Weis Middle School.  At least I think that’s what it is.  The school district has used it for several different things over the last few years.  To me it will always be Weis Jr. High, where I spent three of the angstiest years of my life.  Hey, everyone’s jr. high years are angsty, whether they care to admit it or not.  It’s just something that comes with being 12-14 years old.  Now when I went (back in the day), junior high covered 7th, 8th, and 9th grades.  6th graders got to be top dogs at the elementary school.  9th graders didn’t have to enter the daunting world of high school.  That was put off until they were “mature” sophomores.  I know the educational jury is still out on that one, but in my experience working with youngsters, 6th and 9th grades are pretty tough formative years in a teenager’s life.  The question at hand is, “Is it better for those ages to be is a position of dominance suited to learning responsibility or one of absolute subservience suited to learning … life ain’t easy?”  Seems to me the former makes more sense.  But no one has asked me lately.

Back to the bike ride.  We wheeled our way through the streets of Colony Park, Gulf Village’s upscale neighbor to the Southeast.  We noticed that their Halloween decorations were quite fashionable.  Matched the very nice homes.  The decorations in our neighborhood aren’t quite as expensive, but we tend to do a great job with what we have.  I’m especially fond of the gigantic spider standing in one yard down the street from us.  Literally takes up the whole yard.  I heard he got bit by a human who had been exposed to nuclear radiation.  Not one of those blow-up plastic things, either.  This one is homemade.  He’s really cute.  You ought to drive by and say hello.  I’m trying to think of a good spider-y name for him. 

We finished our ride by completing a swing through all the streets in our neighborhood.  That in itself is one mile, so if we add in the Colony Park experience, surely we hit two miles.  Hey, we might be ready for a seawall ride pretty soon.  One thing though.  I gotta get a different seat for my bike.  This one is really uncomfortable.  At least one of the fat boy seats I have seen.  Or better yet, maybe one of those saddle jobs I saw at WalMart the other day …

Hebrews 12:28-29 says, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.’”

Father, thank you for some time with Chris on our bikes last night.  Exercise with my best friend.  Hard to beat that one.  Amen.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

October 27 – “Just chatting”

They bad weather has gradually wound down over the course of yesterday.  pretty high winds gave way to cloudy and quite cool conditions on the Island.  My phone Weatherbug app said we reach 60 degrees.  Brrr.  Break out the heavy coats and stocking caps.  That’s winter weather around here.  Sure felt good, though.  And this morning’s reading says 65.  Warming back up, I guess, but “Us Islanders” still need a light jacket, for sure.  The prognosis for the rest of the week is for clear skies and flounder weather moving in.  At least until Friday.  More rain expected for Halloween. 

Speaking of Halloween, I spent an hour or so yesterday stapling the gospel explanation cards to the glow in the dark bracelets that we are giving away on Saturday night.  We are expecting at least 400.  But with rain?  Who knows.  Could be 20 or could break a record.  We’ll be ready for ‘em, though. 

Saturday promises to be a long day.  We are doing another work day at church, hoping to get enough guys to get some countertops installed and maybe a toilet leak fixed.  Anything else will be gravy on top.  We still have lots of painting to do.  And blinds hanging.  And decorations to put up.  And floors to vacuum and steam clean.  And … and … and …

We missed seeing our friends from Pennsylvania.  They were in Houston at a trade show during the storm.  They were supposed to come see us for church Sunday, but backed out after they had to drive through ten inches of standing water to get into their hotel.  That’s what happens when you stay in a swamp.  I heard they got a surprise upgrade to first class on their return flight.  But then they had a four hour delay in Philadelphia.  Tough luck there.  Some Galveston friends were going on a cruise this week.  They were supposed to leave around three on Sunday.  That got moved back to four and then five.  We saw a post on FaceBook from them around seven.  They still hadn’t left port, but they were already having a great time.  I’ve heard those cruises are like entering another world.  Never been on one myself, so I have no idea.   

Hebrews 12:15 says, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

Father, thank you again for those slow, rainy days.  There’s a certain inherent peace amid the turmoil of the storm that has to come from you. Guess that’s why we sleep better when we can hear the rain.  Amen.

Monday, October 26, 2015

October 26 – “Perspective”

A small, slightly damp band of worshippers gathered at Seaside yesterday.  they had braved the mighty winds and pelting rain of the remnants of Hurricane Patricia mixed with Gulf of Mexico moisture from a low pressure system sitting just off the coast and a cold front struggling to make its way through to the coast.  It had all the makings of the perfect storm.  But it really wasn’t all that bad.  Kind of reminded us of what it is like during a tropical storm.  Lots of rain.  Blustery winds.  We even had some incursion into the house this time.  That’s right … a leak.  Somewhere in the very center of the house water started dripping from the ceiling.  Luckily Chris noticed it right away and stuck a pot under it.  Otherwise our wood floors would have been affected.  I put in a call to our contractor to come check it out (along with some other things as well).  I had to call him anyway to hire him to take care of the church’s damage from the violent storm earlier in the year.  We’ll see what he says when he calls back.

I have two final little tidbits from Noa that I haven’t shared yet.  One afternoon after her nap she had some information for us.  “I cleaned my buggers out in my bed.”  We weren’t even sure how to respond to that one.  Still aren’t.  Ah, the joys of having three older brothers, I guess.

She also worked very hard at drawing a picture.  The older kids were doing schoolwork, so she had to fit in.  Her  picture was very precise and tiny … dainty even.  It consisted of two little tiny curved lines touching each other.  That was pretty much it.  I asked her to tell me about her picture, and she obliged.  “It’s a baby holding her Mommy.”  Of course it is.  It’s all about perspective.

Hebrews 12:14 says, “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.”

Father, help us to have the proper perspective when it comes to trusting you.  Baby holding her Mommy.  Yep.  That’s us.  Amen.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

October 25 – “Soaking”

Just a short entry today.  It’s Sunday and it has been raining for two days straight and we have had abnormally high tides.  Not a good combination.  We’ll probably have to leave early to get to church.  I’m anxious to see what the West End looks like.

So here are the results of my visit to the neurosurgeon.  The bottom line is this: until I begin to get issues with my legs – pain shooting down or weakness – whatever is causing the pain is not really something that surgery would correct.  He can’t really know for sure if it is a cyst or herniated disk until he goes in and looks at it.  It seems a lot of the problems I am experiencing are from congenital stuff.  The inherited stenosis.  The tough luck stuff.  There is also apparently a tendon scraping across bone and popping.  That’s never a joyful feeling, either.  So … pain management is the next step.  Feels like a step backward, but at least it means no surgery right now.  He did give me a referral to a doctor who administers the shots in the back for pain.  I told them I would call back and make an appointment after we had time to let all the new information soak in. 

So that’s where we are right now.  Soaking.  In more ways than one, thanks to Hurricane Patricia remnants, our own low in the Gulf and a cold front trying to make its way through.  Quite the soaking event.

Hebrews 12:11 says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

Father, thank you for the rain.  Thanks as well that no one was injured down in Mexico because of the storm coming through.  Please be with the families who lost loved ones at that Homecoming parade crash in Oklahoma yesterday.  Amen.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

October 24 – “Zoo-ing with Luke”

Yesterday we celebrated Luke’s second birthday by taking a train ride at Hermann Park in Houston.  The train ride was a first for me.  Not for riding a train.  That I have done before.  My Grandfather used to work for the railroad, so many years ago we used to ride the train for free with my Grandmother just for fun.  Yep.  I’m that old.  I thought it would take us through the zoo, but no such luck.  It was still a fun ride, though.  Luke especially seemed to have a great time. 

Before the ride we had a little party outside the gate.  Christi spread out a tablecloth on the ground and everyone gathered around to sing and have a train-shaped cookie.  Quite the creative Mommy, wouldn’t you say?  Then Luke opened his presents.  My favorite was when he saw the Incredible Hulk doll.  He gently took it in his hands, rose from his sitting position, walked over to the very edge of the tablecloth, leaned over as far as he could … and ceremoniously dumped the doll in the dirt.  Ouch. 

After the ride we all headed into the zoo, where we were educated about the inner workings of the meercat lifestyle.  Easy enough to remember.  The ones with the shorter tails have been involved in fights for supremacy and have had their tails chewed on.  Ouch.  Oh, and the current female mob leader (that’s what they call a group of meercats) was named …  Christi.  One of the kids made the observation, upon seeing a meercat in standing sentry position, “Look, that meercat is Yoda.”  Knowing they were in good hands with old Yoda watching out for them, we continued on. 

The most exciting portion of the trip came as we were making our way toward the exit.  Two of the rhinos were knocking heads.  And their little escapade soon escalated into a full on brawl, bumping heads and trying to get the lowest position with a horn.  They even outright chased each other around the pen.  One of the zookeepers who was passing by told us that the two “sparring” were both teenagers.  I told him, “Say no more. That explains everything.” 

We stopped at the giraffe pen to have a cheeseburger.  Six or eight giraffes were roaming around, and the newest little baby one was out as well, doing his best to avoid the ostriches and the rampant zebra.  But off in one corner the two biggest of the creatures were standing regally side by side.  One had an unusual color, almost black, while the other looked much younger.  Both huge, beautiful, gentle creatures, right?  Well, up until one of them wound up his neck like a baseball pitcher and swung his horns around right into the outstretched neck of the other one.  You couldn’t miss the smack of contact, either, so it definitely wasn’t a gentle love tap.  The other one waited patiently for a long time, until the first one wasn’t looking, and then he returned the favor, er, well, the smack.  The two of them continued their intermittent punching match until the keepers called them into the barn for the night.  One of the workers told us they acted like that – especially active - every time it was about to rain. Yet another interesting fun fact about zoo life.  Take that Hurricane Patricia.  No sneaking up on these animals.

It soon became apparent that it was time to head home.  Several clues.  It was getting dark.  They started announcing a countdown as to how many minutes remained until lockdown.   I thought we might have to leave April behind, though.  Her new phone is now full of rhino battle videos and photos of animals, and, oh, maybe a few of children for good measure.  Seems that woman kind of enjoys the zoo. 

Hebrews 12:10 says, “Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.”

Father, thank you for all your creatures.  Especially those tiny human ones we call grandchildren.  Amen.

Friday, October 23, 2015

October 23 – “Crisis #3 … through 5”

Well, our three-day visitors have returned home.  Mom and Dad couldn’t stand being away from them for even a second longer, so they returned somewhat earlier than expected.  So I guess I need to close the book on the ongoing saga of The Noa Crisis.  But before I do, here are a few more …

Crisis #3 – Jachin’s deodorant.  Actually, this would have been the first one, but I heard about it late.  Seems Noa quietly discovered her oldest brother’s deodorant.  She does everything stealthily.  She’s a natural, in fact.  Anytime the house grew quiet, even for a few seconds, the cry went out, piercing the stillness, “Noa?  Where are you?”  She naturally assumed that deoderant had something to do with makeup.  A reasonable assumption.  So she installed it … all over her face and in her hair.  Glad Chris discovered that one. 

Crisis #4 – Brushing her teeth.  Ah, this one was my personal favorite.  Primarily because I happened to be the first responder on the scene.  From the doorway I noticed that she was sitting on the sink in the bathroom, toothpaste all over her hands and face.  And as I entered the room, the mirror came into view as well.  That portion of it that she could reach was now an art project that would make Salvador Dali proud.  Of course I didn’t want to disturb the masterpiece before me, so I called Chris.  She began the requisite grilling.  “Did you get it in your mouth?”  Noa shakes her head, “No.”  “Were you putting on makeup?” Noa shakes her head yes.  Ah, a question I would never have thought to ask, and with it Chris cut to the motivational issue at hand.  That at least explained it.  Something about little girls and makeup, I guess.

Crisis #5 – “No shower.  No shower.”  And then there was that one bath time.  Except Noa wasn’t quite ready, knowing that bed time would follow shortly thereafter.  She started in as Chris picked her up, “No shower.  No shower.”  The pleas grew louder and louder the closer to the bath room they got.  And as they arrived at their destination, the pleading became wailing, “No shower.  No shower.”  Chris changed tactics, “OK, we’ll take a bath, then.  Not the right answer, I guess.  The crying continued.  Chris gently wiped her face and body with a warm, wet wash cloth.  And this being Nana and DadDad’s house, soothed her with, “OK.  No shower.  No bath.  Let’s go get your jammies on.”  An all-too brief respite of silence engulfed the house, followed by renewed wailing … “Wanna take shower.  Take a shower.”  Sigh.  The trials of a two year old are never-ending.

Hebrews 12:7 says, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?”

Father, thank you for the chance to walk with Noa through some “crises” in her young life.  Be there for her as the crises of growing up get more serious.  Amen.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

October 22 – “Crisis number two”

Crisis number two.   Potty training.  Seems Noa had begun the glorious experience of potty training just before her time with us began.  Now around here, that’s one of those low-impact, low-stress activities that comes about when the child is ready.  Problem is, the child isn’t always “ready” on the days when the adults remember to slip on big girl panties or big boy britches in lieu of diapers.  Or maybe they are ready in the morning, but the task of remembering gets old and tiresome throughout the day, so the afternoons are not so ready. 

And such was the case with crisis number two.  Noa was in the Blue Bedroom playing, and the playing was obviously more important that wasting time racing to the bathroom, even if it was right next door.  But one thing about those big girl panties … they just don’t hold up like diapers do.  Once you get started, you are just … uncomfortable.  Well, she got started in the bedroom, and as it began trickling down her legs, she made the decision to race to the bathroom before it could hit the floor.  Let’s just say that she didn’t win.  Chris found a puddle that began in the bedroom and flowed little footprints all the way to the kids’ sized potty in the bathroom.  Oh, she managed to save a few drops that actually made it into the potty, thus making her race to the finish a total success as far as she was concerned.  So she sat there for another 30 minutes, singing and talking to … well, the floor, the cabinets, the bathtub, her clothes, and occasionally to Nana.  And successes call for celebrations.  That one earned her a handful of the pecans we cracked earlier in the day. 

Hey, the floor got cleaned up.  The little bottom got cleaned up.  No one was the worse for wear.  I’d call that a win. 

Hebrews 13:1 says, “Keep on loving each other as brothers.”

Father, thank you for the unrestrained joy of kids at small accomplishments.  Help me regain that so I can remember to say thank you for the little things.  Like singing on the potty.  Amen.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

October 21 – “Crisis number one”

Crisis number one of the multi-grandchildren spending a few nights with Nana and DadDad has officially occurred.  I know.  Didn’t take long, did it?  When it came time for us to pick up Cailyn from school, I was asleep (not feeling too great).  So Chris sat down all the kids in the office and gave them instructions.  “Josiah, you are to watch Micah with one eye and Jachin with the other.  Micah, you are to watch Jachin with one eye and Josiah with the other.  Jachin, you are to watch Noa with both of your eyes.  And Noa, you watch everybody.  Ultimately, Jachin is in charge.”  There you go.  Sounds easy enough.  She won’t be gone all that long, right?  And I’m right in the next room.  So what could possibly go wrong? 

Not long after Chris left I woke up and staggered into the office.  Four kids sat there quietly.  Should have been my first clue.  Jachin was reading, so he had checked out completely and entered a whole other world.  The other three had books as well, but weren’t quite as engrossed as the elder one.  All seemed well, so I cleared off a chair and joined them.  Mere minutes passed before Chris returned with Cailyn.  And the chaos fairly quickly resumed.  Except for Jachin.  It took a while for the message to reach the alternate universe he was now exploring.  But in that milli-second after Cailyn entered the front door and the rest of the cousins readjusted their throttles to full speed ahead, Chris made her way into the kitchen.  And that’s when I heard the “Oh, no, little leady.  What have you been doing” comment.  At first I assumed she was speaking to Fred.  Would have made perfect sense.  Except Fred was outside with the other dogs.  Nope.  This time the culprit was none other than … two-year-old Noa.  Seems she decided to be helpful during the interval between Chris leaving, Jachin lifting off into inner space, and me waking up.  Best way to do that?  Why feed the fish, of course.  How hard could it be?  She’s seen it done at least once or twice before.  Just a pinch sprinkled on top of the water.  But they looked so hungry.  And those mouths were in a constant state of motion, open, shut, open, shut.  No way just a pinch was going to be enough.  So she did what any concerned animal lover would do.  She dumped in some more food.  Lots more food.  All of the food in the carton. 

I imagine the fish thought they were receiving manna from heaven.  Especially that big one.  But apparently too much food is not good for goldfish.  Imagine that.  Of course that meant emergency remediation would be required.  We looked it up on YouTube – you know, home of all the answers.  I watched a video while Chris texted, then talked to Christina on the phone.  They both said the same thing, but both solutions involved letting water sit overnight.  Christina finally gave the go-ahead to forget about the wait and get the water changed, though.  Easier said than done.  That meant a mad dash to WalMart for distilled water and replacement fish food and one of those little nets to capture them.  That meant dipping for the fish and putting them in a temporary bowl.  That meant draining their bowl and cleaning the pebbles at the bottom.  That meant wiping out the inside of the old bowl.  That meant returning the pebbles.  That meant filling it up with distilled water.  That meant reintroducing the fish into their new clean habitat.  You know what?  That seems like a lot of trouble.  It is very hard for me to treat bait so well.

Hebrews 12:3 says, “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Father, thank you for all those little critters you created that help our kiddos learn about your world.  Amen.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

October 20 – “Taking one for the team”

Yesterday was grocery replenishment day at the Vaughan house.  Several reasons for that, and they all have names: Jachin, Micah, Josiah, and Noa.  Oh, and Cailyn, too.  We are going to have the first four with us for a few days while Mom and Dad are out of town.  Cailyn will be here at her regular times when her Mom and Dad are both at work.  So … we had to go to the local Mercantile to stock up on some supplies fer the new crew of hands arrivin’. 

So we loaded up a cart and paid fer the vittles and headed out the door.  And jus’ as we was awalkin’ through, one of them thar “You’re a criminal” horns sounded right in our ears.  We stopped dead in our tracks like the decent, law-abidin’ citizens that we are.  Cain’t take no chances with them revenooers, ya know.  Sure ‘nuff, they had one of em stationed right there by the door, hidin’ behind one them big signs advertizin’ a motion pitcher show.  She took one look at our filled-to-the-brim cart, took her a deep breath, and … tole us ta go on through.  Sometimes it just ain’t worth the trouble, I spose.  Sorry.  Reverted to mah old timey talk thar fer a minute. 

When we got home Nathan came by to borrow the truck.  His is broken down behind a fire station somewhere.  Sounds like it has the same malady our lawn mower has.  Starts well enough, but when you move off the gas to put it in gear … sputters and dies.  Sounds like a fairly major purchase may be in their near future.  And I’m no fortune teller.  Anyway, I told him he could take the truck if he agreed to bring me back his lawn mower in exchange.  Kind of a good faith deposit.  Actually I just wanted to mow the grass for what I hoped would be the last time until the Spring.  Our mower is suffering from the aforementioned illness, and Nathan’s jet pack powered lawn mower won’t fit into our car. 

The mowing took place without incident.  Went really fast in fact.  Amazing how quickly that new-fangled, self-propelled jet pack can move when you put it in gear and let it do the work.  The edging took a little longer, though.  Back to the old way for that task – a weedeater turned sideways.  And then came the really fun part of the whole process.  Blowing the grass over into the yard next door (40 Steps).  And that’s when it happened.  I was blowing grass on the side of the house right in front of the gate to the back yard.  Fritz heard the ruckus and rounded the corner … just in time to take one for the team.  He took the full brunt of dirt and grass.  Completely covered him.  He was stalwart, however.  Turned to the side and dared me to keep it coming.  So much for his bath this week. 

Hebrews 12:2 says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Father, thank you for that truck we had available for when Nathan’s vehicle crisis occurred.  That’s what you provided it for.  Amen.

Monday, October 19, 2015

October 19 – “Worth a medal”

We had a really good day at church yesterday.  Almost forty people of all ages and church backgrounds.  One couple arrived early (of course, at Seaside “early” is any time before about five minutes after we are scheduled to start), so we had a chance to get to know them a bit.  They were in from Oklahoma.  Seems they visit a lot of churches in their many travels.  They said Seaside reminded them a lot of some of the cowboy churches they have been to.  They liked the relaxed atmosphere and the teaching style where it’s OK to interact with the pastor.

Another older guy with a Catholic background stopped me after worship just to chat for a few minutes.  He has been several times before with his step-daughter.  He calls me Pastor K and he is Grandpa J.  I found out that he doesn’t really attend church anywhere unless he finds out his step-daughter is going to their Galveston house.  Then he wants to tag along so he can come to Seaside.  This time he wanted to tell me some stories about his Navy days “when we rooted out ol’ Saddam.”  He was manning a sonar station that led ships from all the cooperating nations through a canal to get to the end-of-the-war summit.  Seems the bad guys had moved the buoys and repainted them to confuse the enemy.  He was able to compare water depths to buoy sites and determine the ruse.  It took some fast explaining, and he even had to go over his commanding officer’s head, because no one believed him.  The commodore finally gave him carte blanche to communicate with any incoming vessel in the commodore’s name.  Just in the nick of time he managed to convince the captain of the American vessel to check his depth finder to verify his warning.  Next sound he heard was “All reverse.”  His quick thinking and action managed to avert any ships being grounded and blocking the channel.  He said they wanted to give him a medal, but that just “sounded like kind of a silly thing to get a medal for.”  I told him that in my opinion, “That was well worth at least a medal.”

At dinner on the grounds I had the luxury of spending some time sharing horror stories of back pain experiences with one of our semi-regulars.  His wife is an RN, so she and Chris shared stories of living with someone who had horror stories of back pain experiences.  I’m not sure who had it worse, but we did have a lot in common.

After dinner we went over and checked the church mail box.  Along with the usual stuff, I noticed that we had received someone else’s mail.  And there was an electric bill in that pile.  Now, Jamaica Beach is a small town, so I decided to track her down.  Easy enough.  Just looked her up in the phone book.  For those of the new generation, that is a printed publication that has all the names and telephone numbers of people in a certain geographic area.  We made contact with her and Chris and I put on our mailman hats and drove over.  She was a very sweet 85 year-old lady who had been out of town for several weeks and just returned to pay her bills.  She was quite thankful and even invited us inside for some coffee or tea.  We passed on that offer, but then she invited me to come over sometime and go fishing.  Now that might happen.  Her home is right on the Bay, so it would be a prime spot for some really good fishing.  Wonder if she has fishing lights …

Hebrews 12:1 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

Father, thank you for all the folks you sent to be touched by your Spirit at Seaside yesterday.  Amen.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

October 18 – “Best instructions ever”

Well, only four of us were able to make it to the church workday yesterday.  That severely hampered our hopes to install the countertops.  Ed did get a new fixture for the kitchen sink installed.  And Chris and Lauren got several sets of blinds installed as well.  Our major fail, though, was when we tried to replace the inner workings of a toilet that was leaking.  Oh, the replacing part went well.  Other than the fact that the water never really turned off completely, so we had a pile of wet towels.  And once Ed came in to help me (Oh, did I fail to mention that I was the errant plumber wannabe?), we did get the leak stopped.  Little did we know, however that the stoppage was only temporary.  And we never would have known had I not mentioned to Chris that the bathroom was out of paper towels.  We took some in there and noticed a growing puddle from the “all-fixed” leak.  She got the mop and I got the water turned back to as off as it will go.  Not sure where to go with that one now.  I guess I’ll turn it over to yet another of our resident plumber-types.  Next workday.

Now back to the fun stuff.  Ed and I ran across the absolute best set of installation instructions we have ever seen when we went to change out the kitchen faucet.  The thing that grabbed our attention was a picture of an open mouth just below some gaping nostrils.  Big set of upper teeth.  None on bottom.  It looked as if the mouth was full of some kind of particles.  And the whole thing appeared in a small circle with a line drawn through it, the universal symbol for negating.  Pretty random, huh?  It gets better.  Here are the actual instructions for that particular step:
“Step 1F  Remove the coupling nuts.  Grab your basin wrench and remove the supply-tube coupling nuts.  Watch out for falling rust.  That stuff is no fun to get in your eyes, and even less fun to get in your mouth.”
No, that’s really what it said.  Explains the picture, I guess.  No rust in the mouth.  And how about the next step:
“Step  1G Spit and drink a pop.   See?  We told you it was no fun to get that stuff in your mouth.”
At this point we both gave up all pretense that we were involved in a project.  We each grabbed a “pop” (AKA “a coke” – I had a Pepsi) and took a break to read the rest of this thing.
OK.  Just in case you have been using these instructions to remove a faucet at home, I wouldn’t want you to be left hanging.  Here are the rest:
“Step 1H Remove the tailpiece mounting nuts.  Again, use the basin wrench.  Remove the tailpiece mounting nuts this time.  Again, look out for falling nastiness.  Have you banged your knuckles on the pipes yet?  If so, congratulations.  Get out from under the sink, apply a bandage and move on.”
“Step 1I  Remove the old faucet.  Try to remove the faucet from the sink by pulling it straight up.  In a best-case scenario, the faucet will come right out.  In a could-be-better-case scenario, the faucet will just sort of sit there, snickering at you.  If that’s the case, move on to step 1J.”
“Step 1J  Take your putty knife and gently work its tip under the edge of the old faucet assembly, being careful not to scratch the sink’s finish.  The old faucet’s coming out now, isn’t it?  Sure it is.  If there’s any putty remaining on the sink, you can use your knife to gently scrape it away.  Now you should have a beautiful empty space, just ripe for a new faucet.  It so happens we have some ideas about that, too, at”
Kind of makes you want to change out all your plumbing fixtures just so you can read the instructions, doesn’t it?

Hebrews 11:2 says, “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.”

Father, thank you for the work that Ed and Lauren and Chris all put in yesterday.  Help us get a time when we can finally get the countertops installed.  Amen.  

Saturday, October 17, 2015

October 17 – “A new discovery”

After a long day in my office I was ready for some physical exertion.  I was trying to decide of I really wanted to go over to Nathan’s and borrow his lawn mower when Chris asked me for a favor.  Stop.  That changes everything.  Always has.  Always will.  Forget the lawn mower.  Forget going outside.  I had a project request and I was in accomplishment mode.

Oh, what was the project?  She wanted me to download all the pictures and videos from her camera to the computer external hard drive.  Not exactly an outside job, but important nonetheless.  How else will she continue to be the go-to family photographer in those special moments that need to be captured forever?  The only difficult part was wading through, one by one, all the randomly named folders her pictures were filed under.  Fortunately we already have a chronological base for the photos on the hard drive, so it was just a matter of matching up dates.  It would have been helpful to have them in better order on the phone, and there was probably a way to do that, but I sure didn’t know it.  The job was accomplished, though.  She does want me to double check that all the videos made the transition as well, so I’ll add that to my list.  I even plugged my phone in while I was at it.  Most of mine were already done, so it didn’t take very long.  I do need to delete a lot, though.  Running out of space pretty quickly. 

After such an arduous job, I had to come up with something to move around a little bit.  So I asked Chris if she wanted to go on a bike ride.  Yep.  My idea.  Actually get on a bicycle on purpose.  She was happy to oblige, although she wasn’t sure it was really me doing the asking.  Hey, I love my wife.  I’ll do anything for her.  We made a quick jaunt around the neighborhood, and then I suggested we ride over and see Cailyn.  Of course that meant crossing over the deadly Jones Drive and Heards Lane busy streets.  But we were up for the challenge.  Only difficulty we faced was the ever-so-slight incline leading into their neighborhood.  Chris complained mightily about this evil mountain that had erupted on Galveston Island right in the path of her brand-new birthday bike.  With great effort she managed to negotiate the perilous obstacle.  We surprised Cailyn and April with our little visit (Nathan was still on his way home from an out-of-town conference), and made the return trek before darkness fell. 

We hadn’t been home long when we received a text from April.  They were returning our incursion upon their hospitality by inviting us to join them for a trip to a place called Bahama Buck’s.  We had never been before.  I had no idea what it was, but I agreed on the spot when Chris asked if I wanted to go.  Why not?  It’s actually a giant, glorified, indoor sno-cone shop.  About a million different flavors of sno-cones and smoothies and frozen lemonade and what appeared to be frappachinos of some kind.  I’m not much of a connoisseur of coffees.  It was pretty impressive.  Chris and I tried the cherry lime sno-cone.  April had something with cream and ice mixed together (No, not ice cream.  This looked to be more ice than cream).  Cailyn ordered a “princess.”  Imagine that.  Only thing was, she didn’t really like it.  It tasted like super sweet cotton candy.  I didn’t like it either.  Chris ended up switching treats with her and everybody was happy.  Not as happy as they were when we ended up having to pick up Daddy on our way home.  His truck wouldn’t stay started, but his two ladies were more than happy to welcome him home after his week-long conference.  He was tired but I’m pretty sure he couldn’t wait to carry through with his promise of a game of Hungry, Hungry Hippos with his daughter.  Atta boy, Daddy.

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

Father, thank you for giving Nathan and his buddies a safe trip back home.  Thank you for the extra bit of hospitality we received from our two girls.  Amen.

Friday, October 16, 2015

October 16 – “GFD - absolutely, amazingly … fast”

The day started off calmly enough.  I worked on church stuff all morning.  No news there.  Then we went to Randall’s to pick up some medications.  Again, ho hum.  On the way home we noticed the sand spewer and its accompanying bulldozers were active on the beach, so we made the block so we could take some pictures and even video a little bit so we could show Zakary and Caleb and Luke what was happening on the beach.  At least that was a little pick-up in the action department.  But then …

Then I saw on my phone that a fire call had just gone out in Galveston.  39th and R ½.  That was right near where Kel and Christina’s old house is.  Chris pulled away from the seawall and into the turn lane to get back home.  As we waited for the light to turn green, we heard the sirens.  A quick glance in the rear view mirror confirmed it.  Engine four was headed right for us, horns a’blaring, trying to get around a car in their lane that just wouldn’t pull over.  One masterful job of driving and only a bit of a scare for Chris later, and they were headed past us to do their part at the scene.  So how could I not respond to the scene as well?  Chris hurried home, and I changed into my fire department garb and took off. 

By the time I arrived, the fire was out.  It had actually been discovered in a converted garage apartment.  One entire wall was just gone.  It sounded like an old window air conditioning unit had given up the ghost and caused an electrical fire.  Final bursts of water from hoses were extinguishing the last vestiges of smoldering embers.  A few of the fire fighters were helping drag out a mattress and box spring.  Driver Anderson was already hard at work replacing used air tanks and gathering tools to check in and return to their appropriate place on the truck.  Captain Santucci came out of the building wearing a transport escape vehicle for a number of large roaches.  He thought it was his helmet.  Captain Weber wore a rather stunned-looking one proudly on his shoulder, almost as if it was his trained pet.  Insects and humans alike had obviously been through a “heated” few minutes and had come out successfully on the other side.  Want to know how roaches have lasted millions of years?  Hitching a ride on the helmets of fire fighters. 

At the scene I managed to introduce myself to one of the newest hires at the fire department.  First fire for Brannen.  Quite the milestone.  I also met the three police officers at the scene.  I think one of them was the guy who lives at the end of my street, but I’m not sure.  I talked to the lady who lived next door to the fire.  She asked if I could go check on the old gentleman across the street.  He was recovering from a stroke and she had seen him walk up to his house and fall to the ground.  I grabbed my new GPD friends and we went to check it out.  The old fellow was indeed sitting on the ground, but as it turned out, he was just relaxing in his favorite spot in the shade.  He was fine.  Several other neighbors joined us to see what the new excitement was about, so we assured him – and them – that someone was just concerned and watching out for him.  The way neighbors ought to be.  Speaking of neighbors, I also spent a few minutes talking with one of our guys who knew the family.  He smiled sadly and said, “That’s just the perks of growing up here in Galveston my whole life.  BOI.”  I understand, my friend. 

The fire marshalls arrived and quickly and efficiently began their investigations and interviews with the homeowner.  I even got a phone call from Chief Wisko while at the scene.  He was on his way home from a conference in North Texas and was just checking in.  Kind of surprised him when he heard where I was.  I loved his first question, though.  “Is the fire out?”  Cut right to bottom line, right, Chief?  He told me already had a crew assisting with the big grass fire raging in Bastrop, and we had just sent a second crew to go as well. Pray for all the guys working that fire.  It is a big one. 

As I was talking to a few of our guys just before they left the scene, a gentleman came up to us with hand outstretched.  He explained that he was from Conroe and had been one of the first to see and call in the fire as he was driving by.  He had done what he could to drag things away from the area before the first fire crews arrived.  But his purpose in approaching us was very pointed.  He wanted to say thank you.  He commented that the response time that day was absolutely, amazingly … fast.  He couldn’t believe how fast our crews arrived.  In his words, “Up on Lake Conroe that kind of speed would be unheard of.”  Of course our fire fighters handled the complement as masterfully as the handled the fire.  Something along the lines of, “That’s what we strive for every time we get a call.”  Very well-spoken guys.  I am proud of you.  Once again, way to go GFD.

Hebrews 10:39 says, “But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.”

Father, thank you for the safety you granted not just our fire fighters, but also the occupants of that apartment.  Please watch over all the fire fighters at the fire near Bastrop.  Amen.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

October 15 – “Heh heh heh heh.”

We have somehow accumulated in our vast array of grandchildren-ly stuff one of those little minion toys that they give away at McDonald’s or Sonic or any of the myriad of other fast food traps for the younger set.  This particular tiny creature has a microphone embedded in it.  It is designed to speak one of several phrases when it detects sound within a certain distance.  Now Chris has a … “distinctive” sneeze.  For some reason that little creature has taken a liking to her nasal explosions.  And for the most part the response of choice has been a brief but quite demonic laugh.  Kind of a deep “Heh heh heh heh.”  It can be kind of scary, actually. 

But it is inspiring.  It has certainly captured my fancy.  It took me a few tries to capture the essence of it in my early attempts, for I tried unsuccessfully to duplicate the sound exactly.  And then I realized.  It’s not about perfection in duplication.  Oh, no.  It’s more about consistency and creativity.  I could come up with my own evil laugh version and perfect that by being consistent.  Now every time Chris sneezes, at home or away, I simply have to add to my “God bless you.”  And who doesn’t enjoy a sneaky-sounding, tiny little bad-guy kind of chuckle in the middle of WalMart? 

Hebrews 10:25 says, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Father, help me to be consistent in the things that matter … my connection to you and to my family and then to doing what you call me to do one day at a time.  Amen.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

October 14 – “A New Word”

Whew.  Hot day in October in Galveston yesterday.  I spent the entire morning working on a teaching for Sunday, so by the afternoon what is left of my mind was kind of frayed.  I decided to head outside and pull some stickerburs, that never-ending, “I live next door to a vacant lot that no one seems to want to claim” task that no one anywhere enjoys.  What I didn’t realize was that the temperature had risen and would continue to rise.  It managed to top 90 degrees by the time I gave in and came back inside.  Doesn’t get me very excited to face the inevitable lawn mowing gig that is just around the corner.  Maybe I can put that off until after dancing lessons this morning.

We had some visitors the other day.  Christina too her kids to the beach while Kel was at an out of town conference.  It was a lot of fun watching them interact with old Fred. 
He had his brothers decided she looked like either a hyena or a dingo.  Josiah added, “Or maybe a cheetah, except she doesn’t have spots.  Oh, and she isn’t a cat.”  Perceptive grandson I have there, don’t you agree?  And speaking of perceptive, that Josiah made yet another observation that reflected his keen insight.  As he toted Freddy around and played with her, he commented, “Freddy’s in a good mood … for a girl.”  See what I mean?  Only five years old and he had a handle on the emotions of women.  I am very jealous. 

Two-year-old Noa has discovered another new word.  Diarrhea.  I heard her say it about a hundred times.  I suppose she heard it one too many times last week when her Mommy was describing diaper contents.  But, hey … you gotta get those symptoms’ names down pat for future doctor’s visits.

Hebrews 10:24 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”

Father, please keep those youngsters healthy.  They can learn new words during school time.  Amen.