Welcome to the Neighborhood

It’s been very stressful the last couple days trying to move all our belongings into a new home. We’ve had boxes everywhere and we’ve been running all over the place trying to get things done that need done. Naturally, being new to the neighborhood, we want to make a good impression on those around us. Some of our neighbors have come by to say hi and exchange pleasantries, so when I saw a man walking up to me in the backyard I went over expecting the normal greetings and went over to shake hands and say hi.

But this neighbor was not coming over to be friendly. After shaking his hand, he immediately stated that my pickup truck had hit his mailbox and caused some damage. I was not at all aware of this, but the new dent in my pickup with scratches to match was pretty hard to dispute. But the real problem wasn’t that we hit the mailbox, but that we left without saying anything.

I don’t blame the man for being upset. I have to admit that it is pretty hard to believe a person could hit something and not know it, but I certainly didn’t know it. So either I did it or my wife hit it. Either way, I feel like I’m off to a very rough start in the neighborhood. They guy isn’t buying us not knowing. I find it very hard to believe that my wife would leave after knowing she hit a mailbox and not report it.

The mailbox can and will be repaired, but I’m not so sure our reputation can be.

The man’s response was, “God knows, He’ll take care of this.” I do believe one of hit the mailbox, but I can honestly say that if I hit the mailbox I didn’t know it. But what if I did? Is my crime deserving of eternity spent in never ending torment? Would that be the only thing that could quench this man’s thirst for retribution.

I didn’t do it, but I have done worse. I have tried very hard to live a reputable life, but if the truth be known, I have no claim on self-righteousness. I’m deeply ashamed for many things that just don’t match up to the life that I profess. I’m really hopeful that God’s grace will be enough for me to escape the fires of Hell, but if God is no more forgiving that many of the religious people I see these days, and if that really the outcome for those who don’t measure up, I’m certain I’m gonna burn.

I mentioned that I know it is possible because I have done similar. A few years ago I was fired for backing into a fence with a semi, and one thing I’m certain of is that I didn’t know it. I had made enough mistakes at that job anyway, that I didn’t dispute the termination. I once was driving a forklift too fast on wet and slippery floors which caused me to crash into a door. I’m lucky I didn’t kill somebody. I also pictured a big tote of paint while putting it into a trailer. Both careless accidents that cost a company a lot of money. It also caused some unnecessary work because of my negligence. I’m not proud of it, but I don’t think I should burn for eternity for it.

What disturbs me the most about all this is I don’t see any chance to make things up to the man. Sure I’ll pay for the mailbox, but that won’t repair a reputation or the relationship. Perhaps this shouldn’t bother me, but it does. I think everybody likes the

Serenity Prayer:

God give me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference.

If I’m to be honest, and i have no reason to be otherwise, I haven’t been very good at accepting those things I can’t change. Serenity has never come easy for me, and I can’t say that God has answered that pray for me. One thing I do believe God has taught me is forgiveness. My reaction to offenses isn’t always the best, but my understanding of how people do some of the things they do, does make me a bit more empathetic and forgiving.

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Moving Sucks

I hate moving, but it seems inevitable for us. This is our eighteenth move since my wife and I married back in 1990 and it’s not like this is going to be a permanent situation either. Actually, I’m not even sure we really live here. We stay here two week and the other two weeks we work at a children’s home about 3 hours a way. We live here during our time off; but at this point, it’s hardly time off. It’s work work work. But life is slowly moving towards some sense of order. My dog really doesn’t know what to think. He’s getting older, he’s almost deaf and blind too so I know it must be confusing. For the two weeks we’ve been gone he stayed with my daughter and her husband. They work all the time and I’m sure he’s lonely. Then he moved to live with my song in an empty house and then we show up back in his life. The first day he kept following me around with that look in his eyes: When are we leaving? But when he saw us moving our stuff in, I think he’s getting the idea now that we’ll be staying a while. Well lots to do. Stress level has been over 110 for the last several months, but I’m hoping it will get better. I just thought I would post something just for the hell of it.

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Reflexions from 2017

It is hard to believe that it is already December. This year has flown by so fast. I guess that’s what happens when you get older. The last couple months have been filled with so many struggles and negative events that many of the great things that took place have been sort of overshadowed. As I took some times to go over the pictures and videos I have on my iPad, I am reminded that this has been an amazing year.

I have been able to go places this year that I have wanted to visit as far back as I can remember. I was finally able to make it to the Grand Canyon with my son and dog. This was so special to me. It was a fast trip but incredibly significant. It was a bonding experience for me and my son which was very special.

Then there was the trip out east. My wife and on an incredible road trip. For many years we have talked about going to the East coast and seeing Washington DC, but it just didn’t seem possible. Well it was possible and it did happen. It was a wonderful time in which we were not only able to see Washington DC, but also many of the other sites along the way. I got to see the home of Joey and Rory (my favorite country artists), I was able to eat at their little restaurant (Marcy Joes). We went to Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. We got to travel along the scenic Skyline Drive and explore the great Smoky Mountains.

My wife and I were able to make it up to Ohio where my father’s side of the family lives. I haven’t been able to get my wife to go up there since our first year of marriage and this was a very special time for me. I also got to visit several sites of significance of our spiritual heritage.

It’s been a year of traveling. But it has also been a year of meeting some incredible people. The children that have come into our lives over the year have been very special to us. It’s sad to see the young people who make poor decisions and end up wrecking a really good thing, but the negative situations will not be remembered as much as the good times.

We had had so many come into out lives, touch our hearts, and then have to move on. I’m grateful for things like Facebook which will allow us to still stay in touch because Paula and I will always remember the special times we had with so many of these people.

Some of my greatest memories have been spending time with Grace, my granddaughter. This little girl has given me more joy than anything else. Grace is such a happy child right now. She loves to dance around without a care in the world. Of all the things I have been blessed with in life she is my greatest right now. It really hurts thinking that we won’t be able to spend as much time in the future. She is growing so fast and soon those precious moments will be gone.

Overall, I feel like I have been richly blessed. The year hasn’t ended like I wish it would have. Sometimes conflict and situations out of our control lead us down a different road. But as the year ends, I am not only able to see all the incredible blessings of the past year, but the potential new memories ahead.

The work we do is sometimes full of heartache. But we are so blessed in the process. It’s a beautiful life and it’s been an incredible year. When the demons of my depression wake and poison my thoughts. I hope I will remember the great times.

I hope everyone enjoys the little video.

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The Church: A Support System for Families

I didn’t grow up in the church. At least I didn’t attend real regularly, nor did I see the purpose in it as a child. My children did grow up in the church. If the doors were open, we were there. For a good portion of their early years, I was the preacher; but even when I wasn’t everybody still went and participated in worship, small group, youth group, service projects etc.

Now my children are grown. They still believe in God, but I don’t think they are real convinced about the incredible value that can be found in the church. Perhaps, like so many, they have been exposed to the hurt that come from churches. It doesn’t exactly make a good impression when children see their parents giving so much in service to the church and the main thing they see is the overly critical members. It makes it worse when their daddy is fired by the church and they experience the heartbreak and emotional hardship caused by that.

The church hurts. Sometimes it can hurt real bad, but that is not the church; that’s people and where ever there are people there is going to be conflict and where ever there is conflict somebody is going to get hurt. When we get hurt, there is the unfortunate tendency to avoid that which hurts us. In the case of the church, that is a tragic mistake.

Today, my daughter called me in panic mode. Her husband’s mother just passed away. It’s a really bad situation involving drugs and so forth. Her husband is one who avoids drugs because of what he has seen them do to his mother. Now she’s dead and there is the guilt and pain that will sometimes accompany death. My wife and I hours away and can’t be much help. They have a little girl and really no one near who they can call on for help. Not to mention, there is no money and not only is there the pain of loss, but the extreme expense that comes along with it. My daughter and son-in-law make the most money of the family, but they barely make enough to provide for their own needs let alone pay for a funeral.

It’s tragedy. But tragedy is nothing new to anyone in the human race. It hits us all sooner or later, and for some, it’s a frequent visitor. This brings me to my point: the church may hurt, but it also supports. In a world were friends are hard to find, it is a great place to find support when tragedy hits.

When people think of church these days, they normally think of Bible classes and boring lectures, etc. But that’s not at all the whole picture. Nor is it just putting in your time and walking out when the “service” is over. The real service comes through the relationships and the relationships need to be developed before everything goes wrong.

Those who grow up in the church sometimes don’t recognize the incredible foundation of their world that get’s taken for granted. So I thought I would go over some my own personal experiences.

  • When I was a young single man in the Marines, my first church really took me in. They invited me home, took me out to eat, studied with me, talked with me for hours, and really listened.
  • When I left for college it was church members that helped me select a college, and drove me to the bus station when I headed for home. Later in college they wrote to me and even sent a little care package.
  • The church is where I met my wife. It’s where we formed our friends. Even though we don’t get to see each other like before. We are hundreds of miles apart now, but when we see each other it’s clear that church has remained a major part in all of our lives.
  • When we were first married, it was our church friends that gave us a pounding to help us get things we needed for a new family. They threw showers when we had children. They celebrated our achievements and shared our pain.
  • As the kids grew, the church was our support system. When there was problems at home, it was church members there ready to hold things together. There was marriage enrichment seminars, there were understanding elders and preacher friends to help us stick it all together. And we did stick together. I sometimes wonder if we would have if we didn’t have the church.
  • The church not only provided our friends, but our children’s friends too. There is no telling just how much influence such people had on their young lives.
  • When our children achieved, there was celebration. There were graduation parties, encouragement as the children faced their fears and did puppets, sang on stage, learned to perform, served communion, etc.
  • There is so much more that I could make this really long, but you get the idea.

Sometimes we don’t know how well something blesses our lives until it’s gone. Perhaps we don’t even know it’s missing, but it very obvious something is.

There’s a whole lot of negative that comes with the positive, but the positive is there. I must admit all the backbiting, judgment, and disputes over doctrinal matters gets me down too, but that is not a complete picture. To borrow from an old cliche: “we don’t want to be guilty of throwing out the baby with the bath water.”

As I work with the children and dysfunctional families that I do, I am more and more convinced of just how valuable the church as a support of the family. I am not trying to say for people to turn to the church just in their hour of need. It doesn’t really work that way. Nobody likes to feel used, and if the only time you think of the church is when you’re in need; it’s not likely that you will received the real help that you are needing. People are happy to help, but it is the relationships that really make the whole thing effective.

So there is an investment process which is necessary if you really want to benefit from the support as intended. For this, the church needs to be made a priority. We must stretch outside of our comfort zone to talk with people we don’t know in order to become part of their lives. Like anything worth while; it takes time and effort, but the benefits make it all worthwhile.

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The New Adventure

Tuesday my wife and I started working at a different children’s home. We are working as relief houseparents this time watching the kids of different households so the regular houseparents can have some time off. This is the fourth children’s home my wife and I have worked for over the years, but this is a completely different gig from what we are used to. We were taking care of teenage girls, in the past we have taken care of the older boys as well. This time we are mainly working with sibling cottages, so the children are much younger and we have both genders.

Luckily, our granddaughter has been in our care enough to remind us about caring for the little ones. Because our first cottage has an infant (9 month old), a two year old, and a three year old. Momma is spitting out baby’s just as fast as she can, and we hear she is pregnant again. We have 6 children from the same mother altogether, but the other three are older. I’m not sure if these are all the children.

I was very fortunate that I didn’t begin a family until I developed a certain level of maturity and was at least willing to start learning to be a responsible husband and father. Unfortunately, some will start having children before they reach the maturity necessary to actually parent a child and I’m not sure if some will ever reach such a level of maturity. I was a troubled child myself. In my other post I write about my background as well as my own struggles with depression, anxiety, and even a bit on my addiction to drugs and alcohol. I’ve walked the wrong road myself and made a bunch of really foolish mistakes. But most of that lifestyle was over before I became a Christian, got married, and became a parent.

It really breaks my heart the way such irresponsible people are spitting out children at an assembly line pace while I have also seen such incredible couples who would be awesome parents but for one reason or another, they can’t have children.

Responsible parents take their decision to have children very seriously and are quite careful to not have more than they can care for, but irresponsible parents treat sex as recreation and have little regard for the young lives they create in the process. Not only is sex a regular recreational activity, but so is drug and alcohol abuse. So many of the children are born with an addiction to drugs before leaving the uterus. There’s plenty of good people willing to take are of such children as infants, but the parents don’t just give up their children. They hang on to them for years which exposes the children to horrible living habits from neglectful parents and quite often physical and sexual abuse.

It’s not a pretty picture. These deeply scarred children become products of the state, and the state isn’t anymore fit to be a parent than the parents it took them away from. A children’s home, even a Christian children’s home, in spite of our best efforts still falls short of providing the structure and family environment we strive for. The percentages are not in our favor. Many don’t get picked up by good families and instead become institutionalized and products of the system. Unless substantial changes in lifestyle are made these children will become irresponsible adults who start having children themselves before they are equipped to care for them. Then the whole process repeats and even multiplies.

I’m reminded of a story about a little girl who was playing on a beech when she noticed a whole bunch of starfish had been washed up on shore. There were thousands of them helplessly washed ashore and dying in the sun. The little girl starts picking them up one by one and throwing them back in the ocean. She was asked, “What are you doing? There’s too many of them; you can’t save them all.” To this the little girl replied, “Maybe not, but I can save this one, and this one, and this one.” As she picked the starfish one at a time and through them back in the ocean.

Quite often, I we never see much of a result for our labor. It sometimes feels like I am trying to empty the ocean one teaspoon at a time; it just feels overwhelming. There’s so many obstacles and so many negative things conquer over the positive. But once in a while, we get to see the children grow to become mature adults. If we can save one young person from the carnage of a life of drugs, crime, and neglect; perhaps its worthwhile.

So as I begin this new venture, I will write about my experiences. Some post will be sad, but I’m hoping many will be upbeat and encouraging. I suspect many will be hilarious because there is so much room for laughter in this work.

I write this blog mainly because it is therapeutic for me. I don’t have many followers. I don’t get very many shares or likes. I suspect there’s hardly anyone who reads it, but as I write, I would love to hear from those who do read. I love dialog and sometimes I just need encouragement too. Therefore, please feel free to comment and even give your own stories and thoughts. All I ask is please be nice. I hope to hear from you. Thanks for reading.

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Perhaps it’s fitting that Thanksgiving is right in the middle of Fall which is a tough time of the year for those who struggle with depression. But Thanksgiving is always surrounded by less than favorable circumstances. On this day, we may think back to the pilgrims when they first came to this country and the Indians who helped them to survive. Those were tough days back then. Perhaps, we may think about the days when Abraham Lincoln first made Thanksgiving a national holiday. That was at a time when the country was in a terrible state of war and things were not looking good. Those were also very hard days.

But what better practice can we do when things are difficult then to stop in the midst of all that is wrong and think about the things that are right. So that’s what I want to do in this post.

  • Above all else, I give thanks to the creator. I struggle with my faith and sometimes I wonder if God is just messing with me or if he even concerns himself with the likes of me. But he always seems to pull me though even at those moments when I don’t think I can make it another day.
  • ‘I’I’m very grateful for my wife who has remained my partner for 27 years. She has been the only person who has stuck with me in spite of all my down times, angry times, and embarrassing times. I’m sure sometimes she could have been a bit more picky on who she chose to date back in college, but she has remained with me through everything.
  • I’m very grateful for my little granddaughter. She is such a happy child and I don’t think anyone is capable of cheering me up more than she can. I love to watch her grow and learn new things. She may be the only person in the whole world that likes my songs and loves it when I play guitar for her.
  • I’m grateful for my children. They have both become adults that I can be proud of. Both are hard working, compassionate, honest. They are both buying houses which is something I really have never been able to do. I’m hoping both of them will enjoy life as it comes.
  • I’m grateful for the people I have been able to get close to. I have a hard time making friends and when I do, it seems that we have to separate for one reason or another. With the distance, strong relationships can’t really be maintained as well as we like, but I am grateful to know so many people all over the country. Now we have some friends up around the Washington DC area. I had an old buddy from the Marine Corps days call them a couple days ago. He lives in Florida. We may make it down there one day.
  • I’m also very grateful for my dog. He’s getting very old now and I don’t know how much longer he will be with us. He can’t hear very well, and I suspect he is going blind too. His hips are hurting and he can’t really keep up on walks of more than a mile. But he still gets excited when I’m home, he comes up to listen when I’m down, and he is always wanting to hang out with me even if he can’t really keep up anymore. He is a very affectionate dog to everyone, but there is no doubt I’m number one in his eyes and that means a lot to me. It’s going to break my heart when he goes.

Well there’s my short list. I figure I better not write too long or nobody will read it. I hope everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving.

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Fall is such a beautiful time of the year. So today I headed up the State Park not far from where I’ve been living. Summer is so hot and infested with bugs that it makes it really hard to enjoy the beauty of a nice walk on the trails. 

It has finally gotten cooler in Arkansas but not yet too cool for a walk outside. The leaves are changing, but still on the trees which makes for some incredible scenery. The park is a nice place to go to be restored. I come here often. I know all the trails; I have seen all the big land marks; and I know where I can sit for a few moments of tranquility and reflexion. 

Inspite of the beauty fall is a tough time for many and I am no exception. Even when things are going well, there is still seasonal depression and when things don’t go well, it just makes things worse. As the leaves are changing, I am going through big changes as well. I am in the midst of changing jobs which means that I am also going to be changing where I live. So it’s very stressful and uneasy as my wife and I try to decide on our next step. 

At 52 years of age, the last thing I want to do is look for work. I’ve got a college degree and years of experience at a job that I don’t feel I am capable of doing anymore. That means that my very expensive education is pretty much completely worthless to me right now. We are planning on continuing working with children at a different home, but we are a bit nervous on how this will go. 

In the mean I have taken a job at a warehouse on weekends. It’s working 12 hour days doing very labor intensive work. I’m the oldest guy on my shift. Most are about the age of my children. In fact my children work at the same warehouse. It’s a bit humiliating when I think of how little I’ve been able to accomplish. I but all these young people I work with are wondering: What Happened? 

Life happened! Years ago I read the book University of Hard Knocks, by Ralph Parlette. In the book he talks about a cart of apples which always seems to have the good apples on the top. It’s an old book and back when he was a kid they brought apples to the store in a cart. As the cart traveled down the bumpy road the bigger apples rise to the top. The smaller ones would rattle to the bottom. He used this as an illustration of how some when they face the rough roads of life some rise, some fall. The principle is that those of good character and strong work ethics rise while the rotten ones rattle to the bottom. 

I guess I rattled to the bottom. Was I lazy? Immoral? Or maybe just stupid? Even though I make no claim of intellectual superiority I don’t think that was the problem. I’ve always been able to hold my own when it came to learning. I also don’t think very many people would consider me lazy or corrupt. But sometimes my principles and openness has put me on the losing end. 

Perhaps my altering emotions has betrayed me as well. When I feel good my humor is not well taken. When I’m depressed I’m very socially awkward and aloof. I have never been very good at faking smiles when my heart is broken. When I’m down it’s obvious. It is also quite obvious when I become very passionate or angry about something. 

Whatever the reason, I’ve rattled. I’ve sank to the bottom or at least to the middle. At 52, I’m still learning how to live and struggling just to keep my head above water. But for now my head is above water and I’m still hoping to constribute something to this life worth while. 

Fall gives way to winter which is a horrible season. It’s cold, dead looking, and sometimes it’s a struggle just to survive. We all go through such seasons of life. But when we hold on long enough Spring comes along and there is new life, new hope, and things are good again. It’s like God planned it all this way.  

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