Saturday, December 31, 2016

December 31 – “One more day”

We finally had our family Christmas celebration yesterday.  It was a long time in coming, but well worth it to have everyone together at the same time in the same place.  And it even turned off a little chilly for the event.  At least the early part of the day, anyway.  Of course it was nowhere near cold enough to prevent the kids from playing outside most of the day.  There were even a few moments where the adults could almost hear themselves talk.  Amazing.

I gave Chris her yearly carving.  Actually she opened the first part of it on Christmas Day.  That was the carved names of our two newest little ones, Ezra and AnnaGrace.  That completes her grandkids set.  Not a big, intricate deal.  Just the carved names of the kiddos.  Well the carving yesterday was a bit of a surprise for her.  I’ve been working on the pelican for a while as well.  I managed to mention all of them at the Christmas Eve service, too.  That is another of our myriad of family traditions.  I give clues to the carving at the church Christmas Eve service.  It was easy to say something about our new grandbabies.  I had to sneak in the pelican reference though.  During the welcome I told the guests that they were now trapped in a tropical island paradise, so they would “find no Frosty the Snowman here.  There might be a Pedro the Pelican, though.”  And so it was completed.

I received quite an array of great gifts.  A book about the Astros signed by the author.  A baseball crossword puzzle book, combining two of my passions.  And an actual worker’s uniform shirt from the old Astrodome.  Sensing a pattern here?  Beyond the baseball, I received a mug with an AnnaGrace footprint that had been made into a fire department ladder truck.  That’s a real treasure.  There was also a table easel for my ukulele music.  Very nice.  Made of wood, and it even has a drawer for music storage.

We played that game that is floating around the internet where you try to unwrap a present wearing kitchen mittens before the next person in line rolls a double with a set dice.  Lots of fun.  The kids played a round after the adults, and theirs got much more intense.  I think everyone had a good time, though. 

And finally came the inevitable Cousins’ Sleepover.  Nine of the ten grandkids stayed at our house.  Ezra went home with his Mom and Dad.  AnnaGrace retired to the back bedroom with his Mom.  After the movie we made an attempt to quiet everyone down to get at least a little bit of sleep.  Jachin just told me he thinks he got the best sleep he ever has at a cousins’ sleepover.  “I was shocked when I woke up to discover it was already six o’clock.”    The girls both ended up in our bedroom, and before the night was over, they both took over our bed.  Of course there were a few others who insist that they never did make it to sleep.  I know Micah and Zak were prowling about the house well after eleven. And they were the ones who greeted me when I came out of the bedroom this morning.  Of course they were all awake when I came out of the bedroom.  And they were doing their best to get oldest cousin Jachin out of his sleeping bag.  Interesting picture.  Jachin covered from head to toe.  The other cousins kneeling on each side of his sleeping bag armed with pillows.  Smack.  Smack.  Revenge of the younger set.  Great movie ending.

Philippians 2:1-2 says, “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.”

Father, thank you for one more day of 2016.  It has been a full one.  Amen.

Friday, December 30, 2016

December 30 – “Never ‘Just Fred’”

A little wit from the tiny set this morning.  Luke has determined all-new designations for our three dogs.  Heidi, our dachshund, has become, quite simply, Old Dog.  Certainly appropriate.  She moves slowly, has gray hair, and can’t hear very well (Wait a minute.  That could just as easily be a description of someone else … me).  On the other hand, Fritz, the Boston terrier/something else mix, has become Big Dog, because he is, well, the big dog of the three.  I know that is a relative term, but Luke is three years old and could be referred to as short in some circles.  To him, Fritz is … Big.  And finally there comes his obvious favorite.  The only dog with which he has a personal relationship.  The dog who lets him carry her around.  The dog who is just the right size for a young whippersnapper like Luke.  The dog who has been honored.  How?  For Christmas he  received a stuffed doggie.  It was brown and small, a reasonable facsimile.  And to honor his Galveston buddy, he gave it the same name.  And speaking of names, this would be the only one of the three that he actually calls by name.  And not by her actual given name on file with the vet.  No, that would be simply, Fred.  But to Luke she is never “just Fred.”  To this young man she is and no doubt always will be … Friederecke. 

And speaking of Freddy, she has found a new purpose in life.  We have had two newborns over here, being passed from person to person for snuggle time.  Ezra has come along just fine and although he is a month younger, he is obviously the “Big Guy” of the two.  AnnaGrace on the other hand is the essence of petite cuteness.  She has regaled us with smiles and her love for being held.  Yesterday we had sugar muffins for breakfast (I didn’t know they were called sugar muffins.  Luke informed me of that).  Perfect DadDad nickname for AnnaGrace … Sugar Muffin.  Not sure I can remember it long enough to make it stick, but I’ll try.  So two bundles of perfection.  Cute overload.  And for Freddy, every ounce of her tiny body has been overwhelmed by maternal instinct.  She wants to be right by the side of whoever is holding one of the young’uns.  And heaven forbid if one of them should whimper.  She can barely contain herself.  Guess she’s not a bad “extra big sister” to have around.

Oh, and one more fun anecdote.  I was out in the front yard with Luke.  He wanted to ride the bike and the big wheels toys we have.  He’s really good on the regular two-wheeler with training wheels that is his size, by the way.  But this time he was on one of the big wheels toys, the ones he calls motorcycles.  We got him maneuvered through the grass until he was situated on the sidewalk with nothing but a clear path in front of him.  He crouched low in the seat.  He leaned forward.  He gripped the handlebars a little tighter.  His feet were on the pedals, ready to explode into action.  I wondered what he was waiting for, but I didn’t dare intrude into his moment.  Finally I heard the noise emanating from his lips.  Beep … Beep … Beep … BEEEEEEP.  Ah, the intrusion, well, at least the influence, of video games.  Thank you Mario Cart. 

Philippians 1:27 says, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”

Father, thank you for unique fun moments with each of our grandchildren.  Amen.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

December 29 – “Connections”

Well, as for me, I spent another day at the computer.  Never did make it to the one other thing I had on my list, the bank.  I can do that later today though.  Now Chris on the other hand was in amazing form.  She got in high gear and got her list completed.  I mane the quilting she wanted to get done, the baking she wanted to get done, and even the cleaning she wanted to get done.  All of it … got done.  Impressive.  We are finally ready for Christmas.  Not bad at all, and it only took until December 28th.  Maybe we’ll shoot for the 27th next year. 

Josh and Christi made their appearance in the late afternoon.  As they parked, three little boys came spilling out of the car as fast as they could go.  Seems a certain new little sister had been informing them all that she wanted to see Nani and DadDad, and she wanted to see them … NOW.  And of course she was a perfect little angel for us.  She sat in Chris’ lap most of the evening.  Needless to say, a certain Nani was in heaven. 

We had hoped to take the boys on a quick fishing trip, but the fog was already rolling in, and they were happy to be running around in the back yard.  They just needed some outside time in the cool Galveston evening to counteract their enforced captivity in the car. 

Last night Zak and Caleb received the privilege of being older.  They got to join their Daddy as he watched the movie he got for Christmas, The Avengers.  It was the first one that included the Battle of New York.  It was lots of fun watching with them, but even more fun when the movie ended and Caleb had to rehash the whole thing.  All the while he was wearing a path in the rug from where he walked around and around in a circle while he talked.  One would think he enjoyed the movie. 

Josh was the first adult to bail and head for bed, and I was not far behind him.  It looked like Texas A&M was going to lose their football game anyway.  At least Baylor won their game the night before.  As Christi noted, it was something like the “We’ll leave the light on for ya” Motel 6 Bowl.  Sigh. 

Philippians 1:21 says, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

Father, thank you for family connections.  Amen.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

December 28 – “Anticipation …again”

So Christmas is getting close around here.  Again.  Yesterday I worked to get my sermon for Sunday as far along as possible.  Chris spent most of the day cleaning house.  And let me tell you … it’s clean.  Well, maybe not “Granny clean,” but it’s most  certainly “Christi clean.”  I think that’s our new standard.

And speaking of “Christi Clean,” Josh and Christi and their boys (and of course their new little girl) are due in sometime today as I understand the plans.  My “understanding the plan” is an essentially meaningless statement, I know.  But I think I heard something along those lines.  One way or the other I’m pretty sure they will be here Thursday and Friday.  And of course that means Kel’s brood of now five won’t be far behind.  Oh, and I’m fairly certain Cailyn will want to be around as well.  After all, there are cousins to consider.  And two of those cousins she has never seen before.  Baby time.  No quiet time to be had around here for the next few days. 

In further anticipation of this onslaught – er, I mean this long-awaited extension of our holiday season - we made a trip to WalMart yesterday as well.  We had to get groceries for the occasion.  There are a few traditional dishes that must be made.  Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without, oh … roast and rice, or chicken enchilada pie, or breakfast bread, or frozen cheesecake, or pudding pie, or that all-time favorite … drumroll here … divinity (which, by the way, has already been made, so Kel and Josh and Nathan, if you want any of it, you’d better get here in a hurry tomorrow).  And Chris just said to me, “Oh, I forgot to buy cabbage.  I wasn’t even thinking about New Year’s Day.”  We’ll be going back soon.

We gathered up our full cart and headed to the checkout counter.  Now over the course of the last year we have been faithfully scanning our WalMart receipts to check for price matches on their savings catcher program.  I finally remembered to hit the redeem button.  After an intensive search of the WalMart website and the WalMart app on my phone, and after several miss-tries in conjunction with the checker, we finally put out an SOS call.  Fortunately, another checker knew the process (actually, the problem was that I wasn’t scrolling down far enough on the email screen of the notice they sent me.  As usual … operator error).  Anyway, we saved a whopping $90 towards the bill.  That’ll help.  I guess we’ll start scanning for next Christmas.

Philippians 1:9-11 says, “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ — to the glory and praise of God.”

Father, thank you for the renewed anticipation Chris and I are feeling as we wait for our little ones to get here (even our “older” little ones).  Amen.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

December 27 – “Donuts and some love”

We got some feedback on the Christmas Eve donut give-away.  One man took a box into the convenience store next to the church.  The owner happened to be working, so the Seasider told him, “You always give away food to people around Thanksgiving time.  This year we would like to give you this box of donuts to say thanks for working on Christmas.”  Apparently the store owner was pretty flabbergasted, so our guy added, “It’s from the church.”  Nice job.  Especially since the store owner is Muslim. 

Another couple followed their family tradition after the service of going out to eat.  As they finished up their meal, they found themselves the only customers left in the restaurant, which was about to close.  In true Seasider fashion, one of them ran out to the car and retrieved the box of donuts.  They presented it to the restaurant staff and said, “Thank you for working on Christmas Eve.”  The staff, again floored that anyone would do such a thing, was very grateful. 

The other anecdote I heard about came from the Seasider who stopped by the Santa Fe fire station.  It took her a while to figure out how to get in (she called to ask me for suggestions.  I wasn’t much help, but she eventually figured it out).  Once she found the right door, she discovered the crew on site after all.  And to her surprise, it was the very same crew that had responded to the call at her house when she fell and broke her leg.  The reunion was a fun was, as they remembered her as well. 

I always enjoy hearing these results stories from ministry actions we undertake.  Lots of times we never know what God does with our meager efforts, so it is very encouraging when there is immediate feedback.  Keep those stories coming in.  And don’t wait until next Christmas Eve to do it again.

Philippians 1:7 says, “It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me.”

Father, thank you for letting Seasiders be a part of touching the lives of a store owner, a restaurant staff, and a fire house crew with donuts and some love.  Amen.

Monday, December 26, 2016

December 26 – “True Love’s Kiss”

The Christmas morning crowd at church was kind of small, around 20 hearty souls, several of whom had also attended the Christmas Eve service.  We abbreviated the service a bit so folks could spend more time with friends and family.  I would say overall it was a good time of worship. 

After church we were invited over to Lauren and Ed’s house for a Christmas lunch.  Apparently Cathy, Lauren’s Mom, heard what the plans were for said lunch and decided that they just weren’t “special” enough.  So she jumped in and changed things up.  Instead we had turkey and all the fixin’s.  Dressing, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans (casserole and regular), and rolls.  Not to mention the warm apple pie and blueberry cobbler with Blue Bell ice cream on top for dessert.  It honestly felt like Thanksgiving.  They were planning an afternoon of games as well, but we took our leave early so we could spend some time with family.

And by family, I guess I mean, first of all, just Chris and I.  We exchanged presents before church, so we needed a moment or two to bask in the glory and excitement of our new stuff.  I got some underwear.  Just what I asked for.  No, really.  I’m not being sarcastic here.  I really needed some new underwear.  I also got a wallet and a movie (Sully.  It’s the one about the pilot who landed in the river.  Tom Hanks.  I like Tom Hanks).  And then there were the slippers.  Two pair of slippers, one for summer and one for winter.  The winter pair has the Superman logo blasted all over it.  I have to return them, though.  Both pair are too small.  The good thing, though, is that they came from good ol’ WalMart.  And we have to finish up some Christmas shopping anyway before Josh and Christi get here on Wednesday.  Chris got a pop up tent of her very own so we don’t have to constantly be borrowing Nathan’s.  we can also use it on our back porch on the scorcher days of August just around the corner.  She got a new cell phone charger for the car.  Our old one died.  And thanks to a combination of sales and coupons and a birthday giftcard from Palais Royal, she got a set of sheets for our bed.  We have a set or two that are about as threadbare as the underwear I have been wearing (Wait.  Too much information?).  She also got two books written by our friend Susan Feaster.  Oh, and the carving this year was … I managed to finish at the very last minute the names of our two latest additions, AnnaGrace and Ezra.  Ezra was a challenge, since he was born on the 22nd, but with supervisory assistance from Micah and Josiah and Noa, I pulled it off with just one minor snafu.  But that snafu glued back on with no problem.  I even managed to mention the grandkids at the Christmas Eve service.  That’s kind of a tradition we have.  I somehow mention whatever I have carved at the service.  Chris has to try and figure out what the carving is.  Some years I have even written an entire children’s Christmas story to give her clues.  That didn’t happen this year, but I did get the clues in. 

After pondering our gifts (read here, collapsing for a much-needed Sunday afternoon nap), we drove up to LaMarque to check on Ezra in his new habitat.  His family seems to be holding up just fine with this new addition.  Noa regaled us with her ever-changing details in a story she was crafting on the fly concerning Anna (she got an Anna dress for Christmas, so she was wearing it, of course).  It had all the characters from the movie (which I still have not seen all the way through), and a few of her own.  As I understood it, Anna’s sister was some kind of evil super-villain with the power to freeze your heart and kill you.  Somebody named Christoph who wears “That one kind of hat like you wear, Daddy” works with the evil sister.  Take courage if you ever get frozen to death, though.  See, Anna/Noa herself had already been frozen.  But true love’s kiss from a snowman had fixed her heart and saved her.  “True love’s kiss can do that.”  Good to know. 

Philippians 1:3-6 says, “I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Father, thank you for taking it upon yourself to send us Jesus - your true love’s kiss.  Amen.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

December 25 – “Homecoming”

Well, yesterday was more than just Christmas Eve to the Vaughan family in LaMarque.  It was homecoming day.  It was the day we took the four old dudes (Jachin, Micah, Josiah, and Noa) back home.  And why was that?  Because it was also the day that baby brother Ezra was making his way home from the hospital for the first time.  The release paperwork seemed to take forever, but we finally got word that they were on their way.  Since it was already afternoon, Chris took the kids home while I finished up getting ready for the Christmas Eve worship services at church.  I also had a little extra time to pull out the Christmas gifts for Chris that have been I hiding for a few months (Hope I remembered them all), and get them wrapped.  Not sure when we’ll do our Christmas together with today also being a Sunday.  Anyway, Chris and the kids were there in plenty of time to greet Ezra and his parents when they got home.  As it turned out, Chris was back here in plenty of time to go with me to the church to get the final things ready there.

Now, as to the service last night …
We had one of the best crowds ever.  Over 70 people.  We had to break out some extra chairs to fit everyone in (Thanks, Nathan, for taking care of that).  I saw some Seasiders even do the unthinkable.  They actually moved to the very front row so someone could have their seat (Nice job, Ed, in particular.  I know your Momma was proud of you as well.  Great to have her with us).  The AA group graciously moved up to the retreat center and had their regular Saturday evening meeting as well.  Christmas is not always an easy time for them, so keep them in your prayers.

Corey was back with the praise team, playing his violin.  Rebecca added her singing voice, and Jim and Dale continued with their excellent guitar (and banjo) accompaniment.  I saw Ed up there afterwards, toying with the banjo as well.  Sounded like we ought to have an extra body up there pretty soon.  Of course I also heard Jim mention something about the pastor playing his ukulele as well.  Think I’ll keep my mouth shut for the time being.

And then came the teaching segment.  Ouch.  The computer froze up and wouldn’t read the powerpoint images.  Nothing past the very first one.  We tried reloading and restarting the computer – everything.  Nothing worked.  Oh and did I mention that all of this happened during the service?  During the sermon?  Lauren did a great job trying all of the known computer tricks to get the powerpoint to come up, but nothing helped.  So I did a fake punt and an end run and just plowed on through the teaching without the cool images.  The feedback after the service was very positive, although things like, “Nice recovery” and “I sure would have liked to see that original picture of Santa Claus” were not exactly the kinds of things one wants to have to hear.  Perhaps it will inspire them to do a google search of their own. 

Otherwise, the people seemed to enjoy connecting with Jesus.  And that’s what the whole point of the evening was anyway.  It was great to see people who come every single year to the service (their only trip to Galveston every year is over Christmas).  And others we haven’t seen for a very long time.  Nathan and April and Cailyn were there.  They and Chris and I lit the Advent wreath as a family.  That was a special moment.  And of course those great current Seaside regulars were doing a super job of welcoming all the guests.  Every single box of donuts was taken (Our gift to be given away on their way home to someone they see at work on Christmas Eve).  Lots of the ornaments were gone as well (same purpose).  So my prayer is that the spiritual touch of worship last night will end up having longer-term effects well after the last car pulled out of the parking lot.  I leave this blog with what has become my favorite greeting for people I see at WalMart … Happy Christmas!

Luke 2:13-14 says, “Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.’”

Father, thank you for the many people who came to worship you last night, both at Seaside and across the world.  May you touch them in ways they never expected, long after the holiday season is done.  Amen.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

December 24 – “EE-I-OH”

While the boys played boy-games involving Legos and GI Joes, Noa quietly snuck up on me as I endeavored to type in my office.  In that sweet “I love you DadDad and I have you wrapped around my little finger” voice of hers, she asked me to sing with her.  Ands as I turned to look at her I saw the little angel standing there, dragging my ukulele case behind her.  She grinned again and added, “And let’s sing wif your little guitar.  Not knowing much about her repertoire, I found some Christmas Carols that I knew the chords to.  She was great, of course.  I was … out of practice.  If nothing else, though, our singing did take her mind off of her earlier whining lament related to the boys not including her in their game of “Ee-i-oh.”  They were saying GI Joe.  Oh, and as it turned out, it also provided her an opportunity to warm up for her premier performance.  She sang the entire way back up to the hospital.  Just a few base songs with a myriad of minor adaptations.  Here are a few of the lyrics: “Oh, Christmas tree, oh, Christmas tree, my God is so big, Jesus loves me, this I know, so, joy to the world.”  Yep.  That was one song.  I am still impressed by how well it fits together, aren’t you?

At the hospital little Ezra was enjoying a snack.  That led to some pondering by big brother Josiah.  The elder one had just one question concerning this whole breastfeeding thing: “Does he drink both sides?”  To her credit, Christina managed her “yes” answer with a nod and a totally straight face.

We also learned that Micah has some pretty strong views on getting married.  In fact, check out this interchange:
Micah: “I am not getting married.”
Nana: “You don’t have to, but you may change your mind some day.”
Micah: “Nope.  I’m not getting married because that lip to lip is just gross.”
Nana: covers her mouth to hide and hold in the explosion of laughter struggling to escape.
Micah: “And if you’re married your wife will make you go to the doctor.”
Jachin and me: Thumbs up

We got home from the hospital in time to run over to the brand new fishing pier off of 61st Street.  Jachin and Micah and Josiah went fishing with me while Nana and Noa headed over to WalMart to do some shopping.  As I mentioned the other day, we had to replenish our food supply.  Fishing was about what I expected for the area.  I have been there a few times before and had about the same result.  But from the perspective of three youngsters, it was the best fishing day ever.  They each managed to land at least one piggy.  And I’m pretty sure Micah and Jachin each had on line one of those monsters that they saw on that TV show Catching Monsters.  It grabbed hold of their hook and simply wouldn’t let go, no matter how hard they pulled.  Ended up breaking their line.  Had to be a big one.  Either that or they got hung up on some of the oysters and rocks around there.  I think we’ll stick with the monster story, though.  It tells better.

Ephesians 6:23-24 says, “Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.”

Father, thank you for fishing stories and the chance to make a few of them with my grandsons.  Amen.

Friday, December 23, 2016

December 23 – “A most … educational day”

Did you know there is a new game available for play on your iPhone?  I know.  Not very alarming news, right?  But in this game, which the boys have been playing off and on ever since they have been here, and which they taught to their Dad up at the hospital yesterday, involves a radical new approach to educational gaming.  In this one, as I understand it, you create viruses which in turn cause epidemics.  Your goal, again, as I understand it, is to destroy the world.  It uses principles of epidemiology and sociology as well as evil genius strategy.  All the elements to be both educational and … frightening. 

We had lunch with Dad at the hospital yesterday.  Now this is Texas Children’s in Houston, so no bland hospital fare for us.  Oh, no.  We went to the in-hospital McDonalds.  The walk down there from the 14th floor was quite eventful.  Noa just couldn’t believe there was a “Matt Donald’s” at the doctor office.  And it’s quite different being in a skyscraper.  Noa was gazing out one of the windows - a long way up there.  I suggested that it was a very long way down, and then I asked, “Don’t you think it’s pretty scary looking down like that?”  Without a hint of hesitation she replied, “Oh, no.  I can totally Spiderman that thing.”  Wait.  She’s how old?

The elevator rides presented yet another level of excitement.  See, Nana doesn’t particularly like enclosed spaces.  Well, Nana hates being in enclosed spaces.  And she is not all that excited about being in an enclosed space that travels up and down on a single cable.  So when the doors closed and all the boys started jumping up and down she was … less that appreciative. 

We also stopped to see the interactive train exhibit.  After all that other excitement this one was kind of anticlimactic, though.  The boys pushed all the buttons, and Chris and I located some of the more creative placements.  The ski lift.  An ice skating rink.  Spiderman.  Godzilla.  Charlie Brown.  An entire clan of Rubber Duckies.  Noa was hoping for a ride but she couldn’t get through the class wall.

When we finally made it all the way back to our house, Noa was helping unload the car.  But her load never quite made it past the front porch.  See, she deposited whatever she was carrying at the Precious Moments manger scene in our front yard.  Her shoes.  Josiah’s sleeping bag.  When asked why she wasn’t taking them into the house, she replied very simply, “Because these are gifts for the baby Jesus.”  Of course they were.  She skipped happily into the house and Chris quietly brought the gifts inside.

Ephesians 6:19 says, “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel”

Father, thank you for a three-year-old’s gifts to the Baby Jesus.  Makes me wonder at mine …  Amen.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

December 22 – “Ezra Kelley Vaughan”

Well, we finally got the official call to arms.  Kel and Christina left in the morning yesterday to go to a regular doctor’s appointment.  On a strong hunch, though, they took along their overnight bags just in case.  I had to meet the bug guy at church, have a quick staff meeting, and then make some stuffed animal deliveries to three fire stations.  So Chris drove up to LaMarque to hang out with the other four Vaughan kids until we heard something from their Mom and Dad.  And hear something we did.  After checking out Christina and the baby, they decided that it was time for this little guy to make his appearance.  Chris got word to me, so after my deliveries, I headed up to LaMarque to see what help I could be. 

As the afternoon progressed it became evident that this little guy was not going to be easy on us.  Chris was pacing and texting, so I finally told her to get on up to Houston so she could offer whatever medical advice she could, and so she could be the Mom in the delivery room, since Christina’s Mom couldn’t make it.  I got left behind to look after the troops.  All 17 or 18 of them.  I’m pretty sure that’s how many were there.  I rarely pay a lot of attention to Mom and Dad rules.  Well, that’s not true.  I generally take their rules and adapt them to make the best of the situation.  I think they were supposed to have limited media time, so they didn’t play any video games, but it just so happened that The Santa Clause came on TV.  We watched it.  Funny stuff. 

After a FaceTime goodnight call from Mom and Dad, Noa succumbed fairly quickly to the call of the proverbial Sandman.  Jachin and Micah went to their rooms and settled in reading.  Not so much Josiah, though.  He got in his head that he wanted Mommy and Daddy and absolutely nothing would console him.  I finally had him come downstairs with me so the other boys could get some sleep.  Still crying.  I texted Chris to get some pointers, and she suggested food.  Sounded good, so I asked if he was hungry.  Instantly the tears stopped.  “Yes.”  Aha.  I followed up with, “Do you want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?”  “No,” was his abrupt reply.  And then I asked “the Question” – the one you never ask a distraught six-year-old.  “Then what do you want to eat?”  There it was.  Open-ended.  No restrictions.  His little mind raced.  And then he blurted out, “I want hot chocolate.”  Now it was ten p.m.  Well past his bedtime.  Sugary beverages were not on the approved list.  So I suggested, “How about a cheese stick?”  That’s what he ended up eating for supper, so I knew he liked them.  But not at ten p.m.  Oh, no.  At ten p.m. the food of choice is … “I pick ice cream.”  Needless to say, things weren’t going well for either of us.  He finally picked an apple, the perfect compromise food.  Then another.  He finally settled in next to me on the couch and started talking.  Non-stop talking.  After a good ten minutes the sound slowly started to fade out until he finally just sat there, looking at the Christmas tree lights.  He did get up once to grab a blanket.  A snowflake blanket.  Then he gradually eased down onto his pillow.  And then he was gone.

I tried to settle in as well, but I hadn’t anticipated not being back at home.  I didn’t have my medication for nerve pain, so it was a fitful night at best.  At least until around 1:05 a.m.  That’s when I got a text from Chris.  He was here.  And as she expanded the details I learned that the youngster had a really tough time of it getting out into the world.  Apparently his shoulder got a little stuck.  Well, a lot stuck.  They called in all sorts of support personnel, and it was a scary few moments before he finally managed to jostle free with the help from a dozen or so new found hospital friends.  The pediatrician checked hi out from head to toe, though, and he was just fine.  Just a not-so-simple case of linebacker’s shoulder. 

Later on this morning we gathered up all the siblings and took them to the hospital to meet their new baby brother.  And, as has been their family custom, the siblings were the first to hear the baby’s name.  Josiah was convinced it would be Abednigo.  But sadly, he was wrong.  They all gathered around him with obvious love in their eyes and anticipation in their hearts.  And finally, Mom and Dad introduced them to young Ezra Kelley Vaughan.  8 pounds, 3 ounces.  21 and a half inches long.  Assuming all goes well, he will head home on Christmas Eve.  Meanwhile Nana and DadDad are the proud surrogate parents of four kids for a few nights.  Guess we’ll be heading to the grocery store tomorrow.

Ephesians 6:23-24 says, “Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.”

Father, thank you for that precious little baby.  May he grow to appreciate you through the influence of his parents and brothers and sister.  Amen.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

December 21 – “Santa and the Galveston Fire Department”

I took a few pictures out in the dark last night.  Now why would I do something like that?  Because Santa Claus was riding around in our neighborhood, that’s why.  Not in his sleigh, though.  I guess the reindeer were resting up for their big night on Saturday.  But this was even better.  See, Santa was up in the back of … drumroll here … none other than a fire engine.  Yep.  That’s right.  The Galveston Fire Department was enlisted by the jolly old dude to take him on one last trek around the city of Galveston to check out all the good little boys and girls.  Since Santa’s sleigh was getting last minute tune-ups and his reindeer were taking those final long naps, what better way to connect with the city than from the back of a fire truck? 

Chris and I walked around our neighborhood twice waiting for the big moment to arrive. One of the streets was relatively dark, but the one little girl we did see out with her Mom was absolutely giddy.  The other street on Santa’s route, though, was a veritable hotbed of festivity.  Many houses were lit up with Christmas lights.  Dads were out in the street tossing the football around with their children.  Moms and Grandmas were snuggled under blankets in lawn chairs.  One family had even brought their fire pit out near the street.  Apparently they were waiting for a family member to get back from the store with marshmallows for roasting. 

When Santa first pulled into the neighborhood, one exuberant youngster took off running after the truck.  I assured his Mom that the route would wind back right in front of their house if he could just be a little more patient.  She managed to call him back.  And sure enough, when the truck passed by the second time, the kiddo was racing to catch up again.  I watched as Santa gave his final, “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”  The young one turned dejectedly back toward home, shoulders slumped.  Just as he passed me I heard him sigh, “There goes my dog.”  I think he wanted to let Santa know his hopes for Christmas morning.  His depression didn’t last but a second, though.  It’s hard to stay down in the dumps when you are a little kid and Christmas is in four days.  He was laughing as he headed back inside. 

Our neighborhood was among the last on the route of a three-night Santa excursion through the city.  The first two nights had been much colder, but Santa still made his rounds.  Thank you, Galveston Fire Department for this unique Christmas gift to the community. 

Ephesians 6:14-18 says, “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

Father, thank you for creative approaches to bringing joy to children’s hearts.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

December 20 – “Still waiting”

Still waiting.  No sign of grandchild number ten, grandson number seven.  Well, that’s easy for me to say.  I suppose Christina might have something else to say about that.  In fact have you seen Christina lately?  She has officially reached the “Incredibly Pregnant” stage.  If nothing happens today we are keeping the rest of her kids tomorrow for her regular doctor’s appointment.  Maybe we’ll learn more then.  I can’t speak for Christina, but I have a hunch she’s more than ready.

I made visits to a few of the fire stations yesterday.  I delivered a bag of stuffed animals from Lifeway Christian Store to each one.  In every case the guys knew exactly what they were going do with them.  They have places on the truck, nooks and crannies, that they stuff the carefully wrapped animals in.  Don’t want them to get filthy from flying around the cab of the truck.  At one station the engine was out doing an inspection, I left the bag with one of the tower truck guys.  At another I was invited in for a cup of coffee and watched the end of a movie with the guys.  At a third I had to return after a quick trip to a nearby Dollar Store.  They were out on a call.  When they got back I enjoyed the smells of a tasty lunch being hastily prepared in hopes that they could eat before any other calls came through.  I’ll complete my rounds to the other three stations on Wednesday when I go up to the church to meet the exterminator and then stick around to meet Jim for staff meeting.  Hope I don’t get the two meetings confused.  I’d hate to have a powerpoint on roach sprays for the Christmas Eve service.

Well, we are back in the saddle with water exercise again today.  And of course it is 41 degrees outside.  Guess I’ll have to put some socks on before I strap on my sandals today.  Here goes …

Ephesians 6:13 says, “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”

Father, once again I find myself asking you to keep those fire fighters safe.  I love those guys.   Amen.

Monday, December 19, 2016

December 19 – “37”

Well, I have to say … it is cold on the Island.  No, really cold.  As in 37 degrees cold.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  It is just not supposed to get that cold on a tropical island paradise.  We even discussed whether or not to wrap up our pipes last night.  We decided that the touted freeze would never make it to the Island this time.  Thankfully, we were at least correct about that much.  But as I understand it, the high for the day is supposed to be around 48.  That’s just not right. 

We had a pretty good crowd at church Sunday.  Never know about that during any holiday season.  Everyone was talking about their Christmas plans.  Numerous ones were heading out of town to be with family.  It was nice to see the joy on their faces as they talked about seeing sons and daughters and grandkids and parents.  Oh, I think there will be enough of them sticking around for our Christmas Eve service to be well-attended.  And some of them even promised to come back on Christmas morning.  It’s very different for the Seasiders to have a Christmas Day service, but we have to worship on Sunday, after all. 

Brings back memories for me, though.  Memories of being an acolyte at Grace Episcopal Church here on the Island.  We would have midnight mass on Christmas Eve, always a key service to be involved in.  Then we would wake up early, of course - sometimes really early if Dad had to go into work – and open Christmas presents.  And after an hour or two of playing with whatever toys we received, it was off to church again for the Christmas Day service.  It did help preparation time that we lived literally across the street from the church.  Never had to worry about that drive time.  Although I’m sure it was hard enough for Mom to get three youngsters all dressed up in their Sunday-go-to-meeting duds.  Not that I ever gave her a hard time.  I’m sure it was my brothers’ fault.  Whatever it was.  It wasn’t me.  I’m totally innocent.

I just found out that another of the fire fighters had a baby (well, his wife had the baby).  I’ll add this little one to my list of baby Bibles that I have to deliver.  Well, after I find out the proper spelling of his name.  with a last name like Norregaard, there are any number of ways they could be spelling Finn.  I’ll touch base with them soon.  I also have to deliver the six bags of stuffed animals that Lifeway Christian Store donated to the fire department.  The guys carry a few with them to give to children who may be involved when they go on calls, whether it be for fires or car wrecks or medical situations.  A little love from one of those stuffed buddies can go a long way toward calming a stressed out little one.  Thank you Lifeway. 

Ephesians 6:12 says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Father, help those folks who have to be out in this cold to stay as warm as they can.  Warm their hearts from the inside out.  Amen.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

December 18 – “The Last One”

So what does one do while waiting?  Waiting for what?  Well, for a baby to arrive, for one thing.  For a blustery cold front to arrive for another.  here on our tropical island paradise any news of impending cold weather is, well, just that … news.  Word has it that we might actually touch the 30’s tomorrow morning.  That is just unheard of.  I’m not even sure where my heavy coat is.

I did get one outdoor chore completed.  I picked the rest of the satsumas off of our tree.  there was a nice bag of them, and they were relatively juicy, but they really didn’t have much flavor this year.  I’ll wade through them one day at a time, though.  After all, they are our crop.  Chris spent the afternoon sewing again.  She finished another of her Christmas projects.  One more really big one on tap.  Not that she’ll get that one done by Christmas, but she at least checked off everything else on her list and got to “The Last One.”  I’m proud of her.

We did get in a little of the University of Houston football game.  They looked pretty good up until halftime.  That’s when we changed the channel.  Apparently things went South fast after that.  Oh, and we started wrapping some Christmas presents.  Not that we are finished shopping or anything.  We’ll get to it.  We still have almost a week, right?

Last night I finally found a combination of movies that convinced even Chris to sit back on the couch and relax a little.  It wasn’t exactly binge watching, but we did see some Hallmark movie (they all have the same plot, so I have no idea which one it was.  Ended happily though.  Then we watched A Christmas Carol.  The one starring George C. Scott.  We have seen just about all of the adaptations, and honestly, each one of them has its own merits.  The gripping scene in this one for me is when the Ghost of Christmas Present opens his robe and flashes Scrooge with the twin waifs.  Very powerful stuff.  I never remembered the brief scene where Scrooge (before the visions) runs into Tiny Tim, who is out on the street in the snow waiting for his Dad.  Scrooge, of course, blows him off, but the image of the little guy is haunting.  Right after Mean old Scrooge became Good Ol’ Scrooge, another holiday movie began … White Christmas.  Chris wanted to watch that one, too, only not at 9:30 on the night before we have to get up early for church.  Actually we don’t get up any earlier than any other day, but the emphasis should go on the “have to get up.”  There’s just something about that requirement that sends her back to school nights with the boys.  I taped it so we can watch it later.  I love the week before Christmas …

Ephesians 6:11 says, “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.”

Father, thanks for anticipation.  It really makes culmination all the more exciting.  Amen

Saturday, December 17, 2016

December 17 – “Box Lunch”

A horribly dreadful thing happened yesterday.  It was so difficult that I have a hard time thinking about it without breaking out in a cold sweat.  To start things off, we made the fateful decision to leave the Island.  That’s right.  A trek into Texas was in the books.  But that wasn’t the worst of it.  I have survived many a Texas Trip over the last 20 years.  But this one had a frightening twist to it.  We went to … The Mall.  Can you believe it?  The Mall.  I haven’t been to one of those things in … in … well, I honestly cannot remember the last time I went to one.  So why in the world would we go to a mall – any mall – and why would we do it the week before Christmas?

Well, the answer to the “why” question is a simple one.  We had to pick up the final piece to a very special thirteen-year-old birthday present for our oldest grandson Jachin.  He received part of it back on his birthday in early December.  I can’t say what it is since we haven’t presented it to him yet, but the present, taken together, represents his attaining the rite of passage into semi-manhood (Translation: He’s a teenager).  I suppose that speaks to the “when” part of the question as well.  He was born in December.  Like his baby brother will be … if he ever decides to get born.  We are still waiting. 

Once there we decided to make the circle and see what the mall had to offer these days.  One place in particular had been recommended to us.  In fact, I had to text our source (Cory) to get the name of the place.  Here’s the gist of that conversation:
Me: “What was the name of that mall store you recommended?  Yep.  I’m headed to the mall.  Aaaargh!”
Cory: “Lol.  It’s called Box Lunch.” ( I still say, what kind of name is that for a store that doesn’t sell food?)
Me: “Thanks.”
Me: “Pray for meeeeeeee”
Cory: “Lol.  I will.  I was there last weekend and it was not fun.  Good luck.”
Me: “Aaaargh.  Not helping.”
Cory: “What I meant to say was that it was the most fun I’ve had in a long time.”
Me: Ah, your poor, poor life.”
Cory: “Lol.”

And there you have it.  At least I helped him to have a chuckle out of my misery.  But you know what?  It really wasn’t all that bad.  We got there early enough that we found a parking place with no problem.  I had the love of my life at my side.  We picked up what we needed for Jachin.  And we browsed through a seasonal store called It’Sugar.  Candy of every array and size you can think of.  Even Harry Potter goodies.  Chris asked if they were related to the store of a similar name in Waco, but the clerk didn’t know.  We didn’t stay long in there.  We were both hungry.  Not a good time to be in a store that specializes in sweets. 

From the mall we went to Olive Garden for lunch.  Actually we were within walking distance to the restaurant where we were parked.  Not that we walked.  There were empty spots much closer to the building.  Much better for my aching back and sore neck, don’t you agree?  After lunch we stopped at Lifeway Christian Store.  Kel wasn’t at work, but we have hit it off with the store manager.  Matt came up to us as we browsed and asked if we had room in our car for six bags of stuffed animals.  They wanted to donate them to the fire department to use on the trucks when a child is involved in a call.  We met him around the back of the store at the loading dock and tossed them in.  Six bags.  One for each station.  I detect a fire department run in my early next week future …

Ephesians 6:11 says, “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.”

Father, thank you for expressions of goodwill and for the ability to be a deliverer of those expressions.  Amen.

Friday, December 16, 2016

December 16 – “Reindeer Games”

After a long, long … long day of preparation, last night we hosted the 2016 version of Seaside’s All-Church White Elephant Party here at our house.  Somehow we managed to squeeze almost 30 people in for fabulous food and rip-roaring fun. 

We started out with the good stuff.  Food.  Well, that and the Thoroughly Random Christmas trivia challenge.  Everyone took up their pencils and worked together to try to get through this year’s version.  The questions were considerably easier than in years past.  Or so I thought.  The struggles were paramount, especially on the Visual Carol section.  Sadly, those songs were exact duplicates from last year’s challenge.  Corey remembered them.  Well, he remembered some of them.  Well, he knew that he really liked one of them, but he couldn’t remember which one.  Or why. 

Around 7:30 we launched into the evening’s festivities.  Jim and Dale brought their guitars and woke us all up with their rousing renditions of Rudolph (with a special vocal appearance by a certain white-bearded jolly guy), Jingle Bell Rock, and Jingle Bell traditional.  The we walked through the answers to the trivia challenge.  Sad.  So sad.  I may have to reprise many of the same questions next year just to get some correct answers.  Who is the mysterious Professor Hinkle, anyway?

Having worked through the difficult part of the evening, it was time for the event we all had been waiting for (but didn’t know it) … The Reindeer Games.  A brand new addition to the gathering this year, we were greatly entertained, under the direction of Games Master Comet, by the antics of several aspiring reindeer hopefuls, all wearing reindeer antlers, of course.  First was Rudolph’s Red Nose.  In this one pour three contestants had to seek out and remove only the red and brown M&M’s from one bowl to another using only suction and a straw.  Eric won that one “by a red nose” over the two Cory’s (well, one Cory and one Corey).  Next came the Marshmallow Munch. Three different contestants had to eat a bag of marshmallows, make and drink a packet of hot chocolate through a straw.  This one was a tight match all the way.  Jim’s methodical approach made him the early favorite.  Ed chose to mix the chocolate and marshmallows and try to eat them without the water.  That really didn’t work out well for him.  Dark horse Zach came through in the end for the victory, though.  The final game was called Jingle All the Way.  The younger generation put forth a challenge on this one as two students, Alyssa and Austin, faced off against Seaside Events Coordinator Lauren.  The task?  Each was given four boxes filled with jingles (bells),  They had to arrange the jingles into order from most jingle to least jingle without opening the boxes.  They could, however, shake them.  After a rapid fire series of rattles, all three were ready to be judged in less than ten seconds.  Fastest completion time in the history of the games, I might add.  Of course this was the first ever competition, so I guess a more appropriate way of saying that would be, they set the bar high for future generations of wannabe reindeer.  And who came away with the victory?  Something to be said for “experience,” I guess.  Lauren came out the clear winner.  Each contestant enjoyed a special prize selected just for their event.

Finally we were ready for the white elephant exchange.  In an abrupt departure from years past, however, we started the event with everyone holding onto a package.  Then I read a series of statements (i.e. You have dressed your pet up in Christmas clothes).  If the statement was true of you, you had to stand, open your gift, and then trade it with someone else who was also standing.  As the game continued, every time a statement referred to you, you stood again and joined in the trading.  By the end of the game everyone had owned and traded at least six or seven different gifts.  It was a little chaotic, but the perfect way to handle a game like that with such a large crowd.

So the Reindeer Games officially ended.  But were they really done?  Oh, I don’t think so.  See, Ed - the same Ed who forced himself to eat cocoa-covered marshmallows earlier – had never heard of Bertie Botts’ Every Flavor Jelly Beans.  And it just so happened that I keep a stash of those delectable goodies on hand.  The real final event of the Reindeer Games was on.  A small crowd cheered him on as he tried flavor after flavor, mastering grass clippings and ear wax with little difficulty.  But the real test was just ahead.  Finally one of those innocent-looking yellowish colored beans fell into his hand.  And he somewhat cautiously popped it into his mouth.  And the truly terrible taste sensation began.  His face contorted.  He chewed slower.  He confessed later that he threw up in his mouth just a little bit.  But he got it down.  Ed was officially inducted into the jelly bean hall of fame.  He downed and kept down a rotten egg flavored jelly bean.  Being the imminently helpful pastor that I am, I handed him another bean to help get the taste out of his mouth.  For future reference, black pepper doesn’t work particularly well in conjunction with a rotten egg.  At least not in Ed’s mouth.  Or his stomach, as we found out later in the evening when we found him sprawled out on the couch.  I offered him one more for the road, but that didn’t go over well at all.  That’s OK, Ed.  Hold on to your glory.  You accomplished something worthwhile last night.  Just remember, Jim spit his rotten egg into his cup of coke and threw the whole thing into the garbage.  But not you.  Oh, no.  You did it.  You are a Post-Reindeer Games Games winner.  Can I have your autograph?

Ephesians 6:10 says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.”

Father, thank you for fun amidst friends who trust each other enough to be just a little bit silly.  Amen.