Saturday, January 01, 2011

When God speaks, He speaks loudly!

Today is the beginning of a new year and it started with a miracle!

Let me go back to last Tuesday night. It was the eve of my 20 year anniversary. Cindy and I were talking before bed and were discussing how we were going to pray for 2011 as well as the next 20 years of our marraige to be full of great things. We were going to ask for God to bless our family as well as allow us to bless others. We didn't know exactly what that meant, but we were going to put it in God's hands. As some people may know, this can be a bit scary asking God to take over and allow Him to drive, but Lord knows that my driving has been a bit reckless.

After Cindy went to sleep, I prayed for a long time and ask God to show me what He wanted me to do with my life and asked Him to make me the very best man that I could be for Him, my wife and my kids. Usually after praying, I doze off and sleep soundly through the night. That night was a bit different. I tossed and turned and thought about what I had prayed for well over an hour. Then, God began to speak to me. It was very clear to me that He reminded me that, 3 years ago, during a time of solitude, He revealed to me that I was to go to school and get my Masters in Professional Counseling. (for those of you who do not know me, I have been in sales for over 15 years and counseling was not on my radar 3 years ago).

I should also tell you that I immediately started school and knocked out over half of my schooling in about a year. My company was reimbursing me for the classes so I was able to do this without any additional debt. But, I was laid off in 2008 and went to work for a company who did not offer such a sweet deal as paying for my school, so I felt like I was unable to continue with my pursuit of a Masters. I found myself wondering if I actually heard God correctly and even thought that maybe He never wanted me to go to school at all.

OK. Back to me laying in bed and God talking to be about school. After reminding me about the school plan, He very clearly told me that I was to go back to school and finish what I had started. After I laid awake for a few more hours I finally got to sleep.

The next morning, I got up and immediately told Cindy what God had "discussed" with me. She was totally supportive and told me that she was behind me all the way. Of course, there was the little obstacle of money. I went to my school records folder and figured up what I needed to finish my school. It looked like I would need about $5,000 to finish which doesn't sound like a lot, but to us, it's $5,000 that we didn't have. We decided to just swallow hard and apply for a loan through my bank and worry about the repayment later. I filled out the form and waited.

Yesterday afternoon, the bank called me and said that the University doesn't allow the bank to make payments for school becuase they don't have a current relationship with them. It sounded crazy, but it seemed like the loan route was not going to work. Cindy and I simply said that, if God wants me to go to school, it would happen. We were not going to worry about this. God is driving this deal.

Well, last night, we attended a New Years Eve party with many of our neighborhoold friends. I evidently mentioned the story to some of our friends about the happenings over the past few days and that I was trying to go back to school... I said that God was going to take care of this in His time and that we were not going to stress over finding the money. This was a very brief conversation and didn't think anything about it.

This afternoon about 1:00, a friend that was at the party called me. . He told me that, after they left the party last night, he and his wife were talking and felt like God was telling them to give me the money for school and wanted to write me a check for what I needed to finish. Words could not express what came over me at that moment. I was speechless. He said, "God has blessed me with the ability to produce revenue, and God has blessed you with the gift of having a heart for counseling young people and loving them. This is God's money and He wants me to give it to you." I told him how much I appreciated it and that I would accept it, but to give me a couple of days to process this.

When I got off the phone, Cindy already knew what had happened and was in the back of the house on her knees crying and thanking God. We cried for a few minutes and just looked at each other without saying anything. Finally, when we did talk, we just got down on our knees together and thanked God for this miraculous gift!

2011 is going to be a year that I will not forget. My prayer is that God will make me and my family the best that we can be for Him and that we will be allowed to bless others as well.

Happy New Year! God is truly Good!

**After Cindy read this for grammar and spelling, she said that I left out a very important fact about this journey over the past few years. During the time that I was laid off and looking for another job, I was contacted by the church and someone annomously paid for me to take a class so that I could continue with school. If, whoever provided that class for me happens to read this, I want to let you know that I greatly appreciated that gift and I thank you for that as well. It was also a wonderful gift from God through you.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Day Santa Died!

November 29, 2010. I will remember this date forever. The day that our lives changed forever. The day that we lost our a part of our life that we will never get back. The day that Santa died (at least in our house).

I knew it couldn't last forever. Nothing ever does. But, when it sneaks up on you and you are not prepared, it stings like a slushy snowball in the face.

Yesterday, Scout and I were sitting at the table visiting about school and other events of the day. She was doing her math homework while we visited. I asked her about Christmas and what she really wanted. I ask her if she was still interested in an iTouch or a DSI because I needed to have a discussion with Santa soon so that he could start getting her things ready. She looked up and said, "You can't talk to Santa. You wouldn't have any idea how to talk to him." I replied, "What are you talking about? Parents always know how to reach Santa." She paused a minute and said, "You're Santa, aren't you?" I immediately dismissed it and said something like, "What in the world are you talking about? Just finish your homework." I was stricken immediately with fear and looked at Cindy as she cooked dinner with an "Oh, no!" look on my face. We moved on to other stuff and thought that it was over - at least for now.

An hour later, as we'd finished up with dinner, Nik got up and left the table so that he could get ready for Lacrosse practice. As we finished up, Scout was still at the table, pushing her food around so that it would look like she was eating her food. I don't remember how the conversation came back around to Santa, but it did. I believe that Cindy asked Scout why was questioning the reality of Santa or something like that. It's all a blur now, but it was discussed again, nonetheless. I remember Cindy saying something like, "Scout, why do you think that there is no Santa?". Scout replied, "I don't know. I just think that Dad is the one who gets up at night and puts the toys under the tree." We asked her a couple more questions about it, but it came down to her asking the ultimate question - "Do you promise that you are not Santa?"
I looked at Cindy and we both knew at that minute, Santa will die in our home tonight. Cindy immediately started to cry. I looked at Scout with tears in my eye and said, "Sweetheart, I don't know what to say. I can't look at you and lie. But, if you are making me promise, then I have to tell you that.......I am Santa." I immediately started to cry. So, here we are, sitting at the table with our sweet little girl, with tears in our eyes, trying to compose ourselves. Scout looked at Cindy and started to cry as well. She kept patting her and saying, "Mom, don't cry, don't cry. It's OK. I'm not mad." Cindy said, "We aren't crying because you are mad, or that you're sad. We are crying because we're losing our little girl. You're growing up and it's hard for us to let that go."

Well, as I type this, I am once again starting to well up with tears. I have not been this emotional about anything in a very long time. I'm not sure why this milestone is so powerful to us, but it is. When Nik stopped believing it was more like a right of passage. We knew our boy was getting bigger. But, when it's your baby girl, it ain't the same. It just doesn't feel like anything that I've ever felt. I could never describe it, but I'm sure that I'm not the only parent to feel this way.

I am sad because there is no more Santa in our house. I am sad because there is no one left here to believe in Santa. And, I am sad because I will not get to eat cookies and milk left out for Santa while I write a clever note to leave behind for Scout to read. I am very sad. Santa has left the building...

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Ripple Effect...

It's been quite some time since I've blogged. Funny how your job, your kids, your marraige, and life seems to get in the way of writing about it.

For most people that know me, this story is old, so you may not care a lick about reading it. This is going to be written as a place marker in my life when I got confirmation from God that he has big plans for my son. CIndy and I have always felt like the Lord has some in store for Nik. Not sure why we think that. Maybe all parents think that. If you do, great! But, Nik is so far ahead of where I was when I his age in maturity (spiritually and mentally). It's crazy watching such "grown up" things come from him that I am afraid that I am going to screw something up and not be the Dad that he needs to accomplish everything in store for him. Sure, he's a kid and he fights with Scout and he does things that drive us crazy. He has horrible table manners, his room is a mess, and he doesn't listen to anything we ask him to do the first dozen times we give him orders or chores to do. It's something else. He has a sense of "doing what is right" without us having to prod him. He thinks about others. He thinks about the future. To me, that is freaky for a 12 year old.

Let me get on with my story -

Nik came home from school a couple of weeks ago and told Cindy that he really felt like he needed to do something for the people in Haiti. He said that he'd been thinking about them all week and just felt that he needs to get involved some way. So, he decided to call his neighborhood buddies together that night and plan a garage sale. That evening, several boys showed up and off they went. They painted signs and went home to clean out their closets. In addition, they asked for other neighbors to donate things for the garage sale. So, the following Monday morning (MKK Day) the doors opened and they were off. They had boys down the street waving cars over and asking for donations. They pointed up the street to the sale and invited them to come up and "shop". It was so awesome to see the boys working so hard for others in need.
They morning was cloudy and it looked as if it were going to rain, but it held off for until about 11:30am. And, that was all that was needed for the boys to raise $920. That alone was huge, I was amazed that they could get that kind of money in such short time. Mainly because almost nothing was sold. It almost all came form drive by donations. I need to add that, my brother, Ted, offered to match whatever Nik and the boys raised. In addition, he was going to use his company matching program to double it again. Unfortunately, Nik and the boys raised more than he expected and had to cut it off at $500. So, just as a quick tally, this sale was responsible for $1920 (so far).
Nik thought that, since there was so much stuff left over, that they should have another garage sale on Saturday when more people would come out. This gave them time to gather more garage sale items.
That Saturday, they opened the doors at 8:00am and had a big turnout. Many neighbors came out and brought stuff over to sell as well. It seemed like they were bringing in more stuff than they were selling. After about 4 or so hours, the sale ended. They raised another $367.
Here's where it starts getting to be obvious that God's hand is in this:
The following week, the local newspaper called and wanted to cover the story. They interviewed me for a while, then asked for permission to interview Nik and the boys. At the time, I'm writing this, the article has not run.
In addition, the church called and asked if they could do a short video of Nik so that they could show it during the services. The sermon was about serving the poor. So, Matt Coleman came over and taped Nik and made the video (which was great, I must say). As if this wasn't enough, Nik recieved more money at church. $60 from a couple of people and $100 from another. So, the total had grown again to $2527.
As we left church this morning, Andy Beams, who is on staff at church called me over and said that someone came up after one of the services, and was so touched by the video that he decided to donate $2,000 to the Haiti effort as well. God is Good! It's so cool how God does amazing things out of such small ideas. How could a simple idea of a garage sale bring in over $4500 dollars in a matter of a few days!
Nik doesn't realize what he and boys have accomplished. He doesn't even speak of it. I hope that he remains humble. It's such a great quality! But, I, on the other hand, am beaming and so proud of what a big heart he has. I have learned so much from him in the past couple of weeks.
I hope that I can teach him something some day.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

What is Integrity?

Hey, remember me? I'm still here, but haven't blogged in over 2 months. I guess getting a job makes it difficult to sit down and put my thoughts down. But, something happened last night that kept me up most of the night asking God how to deal with it. I'm up this morning and hoping that I handle it in the proper way. Let me elaborate a bit:

Last week was "Field Day" at my kids school. That is the day when all of the children participate in several different events such as Jump rope, Sneaker Find, Tug of War and "the 60 and 100 yard dashes". I put those in parentheses becuase that is where my story will concentrate. First of all, I have 2 kids participating in this glorious day of events. Scout is my 1st grader, who goes out and just has fun. She could care less if she gets first or last. She just like to have fun. Strange enough, she recieved all 1st place ribbons. She was very proud of them, but really will forget about them in a couple of days, becuase that's the type of kid she is. She just loves life and enjoys living it whether its by being the best or not.

Nik, my 5th grader, is a bit different at this time in his life. He is VERY competetive and wants to win. He gets so "keyed" up before any competition, that he almost gets sick. Field Day was no exception. Although he didn't get sick, he did have a horribly hard time going to sleep the night before. I'm not sure if I was that competitive when I was that age or not. I'm sure that I was, but don't want to admit it.

Friday morning, the kids of OC Taylor Elementary converged on the fields to start the competition. If you have never had the privilege to attend one of these competitions, I highly advise that you do all you can to make it to one some day. Anyway, without going through all of the events, I will concentrate on the one that prompts this blog - the Dash! The 60 yard dash to be more specific.

Nik ran the 60 yard dash against his school mates and received the Blue ribbon. He was so proud and yet he seemed to be humble. The race was a photo finish. There were 3 boys who crossed almost at the same time. Nonetheless, Nik got the ribbon.

I do my best to teach him to be humble when he wins and a good sport when he loses. I'm not sure that it always comes across that way when he is in those positions, but we do work on it. Moving on - one of Nik' friends dads happened to have videotaped the race. I didn't know until the following day that he even put in on youtube for the kids to see. Nik pulled it up and watched it several times, and, to his defense, without slowing it way down, you just can't see a clear cut winner. But, being a terrible dad, I did slow it down. I wished I wouldn't have now, but I did. The video showed that Nik was edged out by another boy. Here is where it starts to get a bit sticky. Nik was sitting beside me when I saw this. We looked at it several times and he insisted that he still one. But, unfortunately, it just wasn't so. I could see the complete fear in his eyes as he saw this, but he would not admit it.

Anyway, the evening went on and this really ate at me. Not the fact that he lost, but the fact that he saw the tape and still instisted that he won. After the kids got to bed that night, I stayed awake for several hours. I rolled around in bed asking God for a way to approach this delicate situation. All I knew for sure is that, as a dad who wants his kids to learn integrity, that this was a time to try and instill some of it.

See, I heard a long time ago, someone say, "You Ooze what you are." This means that, what is inside of you comes out of you. No matter how hard you try to cover it up or how hard you try to hide it, that who you truly are will come out eventually. This has been one of the most life changing phrases that I've ever heard. This has helped me change the way I do life in so many ways. I'm not saying that I am a man with character that is above reproach and full of integrity, but I am aware of what is inside me and work like heck to make it as good as I can.

This morning, I got up and discussed this with my son. I told him that I can't tell him how to feel or what to do about this. I simply asked him to pray about this and ask God to guide him through this and reveal to him how to handle it. I have to remember that he's 11 years old and this may never get any further than our conversation on the couch. Nik is a wonderful boy with a tremendously soft heart. I can only pray that he takes this to God and asks for his guidance and conviction.

I love my kids so much that I can't stand it sometimes. But, sometimes I have to ask for God to help me with their discipline and change their heart when I can't.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Direct Line to God!

I spent all day yesterday at JPS Hospital learning how to install EKG monitors. As some of you know, I am starting a new job selling Cardiovascular equipment to hospitals and JPS is a customer in my territory.

If you are not familiar with the fine work of this hospital, it is where most "less fortunate" and homeless go for care. It is a great place to watch people and, if you are so inclined, to look for good stories.

I just so happened to meet a woman yesterday that provided me with a fairly entertaining few minutes and would like to share my visit with her.

I was sitting in the main lobby waiting for the others in my group to show up. I had been there for about 15 minutes, when a woman in her late 50s or so walked up to me. She was holding 2 plastic sacks full of clothes and looked like she was homeless (I cannot confirm this through my conversation with her). Here's how it all went down:

Woman: "Sir, I just got discharged from here and don't have money for bus fare. Can you help me out?"

Me: "How much is bus fare?"

Woman: "Three dollars, but anything you can give is fine."

I open my wallet and all I have is $3, but I pull it out and give it to her anyway. She takes the money and continues to talk to me:

Woman: I" know you from somewhere. How do I know you?"

Me: I work down at the Union Gospel Shelter. Have you seen me there? Are you a resident at the shelter?"

Woman: "No!" Looking at me like I'm crazy for asking. "New York City?"

Me: "No. I've never been there."

Woman: "Brooklyn? I think it was Brooklyn."

Me: "No Ma'am. I live here and never been to New York."

Woman: "I know your parents. Who are your parents? I know them."

Me: "Well, my dad passed away and Mom lives in Amarillo."

Woman: "Your mother is a famous actress, isn't she? I know your Mom and she's a famous actress."

Me: "Sorry. No, she's a retired school teacher."

Woman: "Are you in ministry? Are you a minister?"

Me: "No, Ma'am. I'm not in professional ministry. I do like to think that I'm in ministry, though."

Woman: "I knew it. I can tell that you know God. Can you do me a favor?"

Me: "Sure. What is it?"

Woman: "Please pray for the children. Just pray for them."

Me: "I sure will."

Woman: "Oh, and when you talk to God, tell him to give me a call."

With that, she turned and walked out the front door.

I have to go now. I have a call to make.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

You are what you smoke - You giant "Butt"!

Well, if I didn't alienate myself from enough people last week, let me see what I can do now.

For most people who know me, they have heard me on my "Cigarettes out the window" rant. But, just in case you missed it, let me give it to you via blog.

Where to start, Where to start...
...Oh, how about that I think every person who throws cigarettes (lit or not) out the window of a vehicle should be strung up and put on public display to show the world their "Butt". I feel so much stronger about this than I will write in my blog because it will damage my witness and may not put me in such a glowing light, so I'll try to scale this back while still attempting to get my point across.

First of all, I don't know how anyone can ever be dumb enough to start to smoke, but that is everyone's perogative and I will not even attempt to go there. However, when those who do smoke think that the world is their ashtray and can drive all over God's beautiful earth and flick cancer sticks out their window makes it mine and everyone else's around business. What can they be thinking? I have tried many times to put myself in their shoes and gone as far as actually rolling down my window and pretending to throw something out of my window to see how it made me feel. It just doesn't compute in my tiny little pea brain.

Do they think that we don't see this red hot, smoking filter with fire oozing from it hit the ground and bounce across the pavement? Do they think that, since it's just so dang "good"for them and makes them look so "cool" that they need to bring even more attention to their themselves? Maybe. Does the fact that they may very well be the reason that these raging fires are mysteriously popping up everywhere? Do they care that animals are choking on them thinking that they are food? Do they care that its illegal? Do they care that most people look at them like they are (as my Dad use to put it) "Low Rent?" Probably not.

I have to make a confession that very well may put me in a "crazy" category all my own. But, its not a place that I'm not already familiar with. So, I'll go ahead and tell you that I have taken my complete rage for this act to a new level. I have found 2 websites that allow you to report litterers to them, and they, in return, will contact the litters by mail telling them that they were witnessed littering and enclose a bumper sticker and auto trash bag. It's a very kind letter, but it will let them know that they are being watched. At one point, I was reporting 4-5 week, but my wife said that I had become obsessed and to give these people a little grace. So, I've scaled way back.

Please know that I do not hate these people. I make plenty of mistakes every day myself. I simply get angry seeing others have no regard for others around them. I must also admit that I grew up in a family (in the 70s) where my Dad thought that it was perfectly fine to throw out anything not nailed down inside the car. I remember when we'd pass through a town and pick up food at the Dairy Queen on our way to see our Grandparents. After everyone in the family was finished my Dad would say, "Wait until we get outside of town to throw that out". Then, my brother and I would try to hit a highway sign with our stuffed DQ bag. So, I am also guilty of the littering thing. But, something happened after I grew up and I realized that I don't want to be the guy who make the Indian cry or cinge Smokey's Bear fur. All I ask is that smokers will think about others before tossing smokes out the window. It's not that hard to wait until you get home to throw them away.

If anyone wants to re-Butt on this and tell me how shallow I'm being, I'm willing to listen. However, if you are on board with my thoughts and want to report litterers as well, here are the links:

Good Times!

Friday, February 27, 2009

I'm not like you/You're not like me...

I realize that the longer that I have a blog, the more toes I will step on.  But, hopefully, not many people will find this blog. As I've said before, it's more of a therapeutic device for me.

I realize that I'm not like other humans in so many ways.  I am quirky, close-minded on many subjects, innapropriate, and just plain weird.  So, my thoughts on this may be be off base. But, here it goes:

My wife speaks to a lot of moms in at school.  Many are very busy trying to keep things running at home and getting the kids to and from school and taking care of family matters.  That is good.  So far in my story, I appreciate the moms for that.  But, there are a lot of Moms that can't wait to get their kids in school so that they can play all day.  That's where my close-mindedness thoughts take over.

Let me tell you where I'm coming from.  I think that my wife's drive and attitude about life spoils me.  When the kids are in school, she either wants to work, volunteer, or meet with people to help them on life's tough road.  She nevers sits down to relax and she is always trying to find a place to serve to make life better for others.  I guess that's why I feel so fortunate to have her.  I feed off of that and it makes me want to continue to look for ways to make life better for others and help wherever I can as well.  For example,  she spends Thursday at a local Homeless shelter serving lunch. I went along with her yesterday and enjoyed it so much that I'm going back every week that I can.  When she's not doing something like that, she's looking for other places to help.

Fast forward to my point - She spoke to a Mom this week who said that she can't wait until all of her kids are in school so that she can play tennis all day.  Holy Cow! That doesn't even compute in my tiny little peanut brain.  Here I am living with a work machine that can't find time to paint her fingernails and there are stay at home moms out there whose only desire in life is to chase a tennis ball around all day.  I realize that this is not an uncommon thought or desire for many "soccer moms", but it pains me to hear about it.  Hey, if the husbands can afford to let their wives stay home - more power to them.  That's a superdy-duper deal for the wives.  I hope to be able to allow Cindy to stay home and not worry about helping out with bills.  However, I have to wonder what the husbands think about their wives staying home and living such a pampered life all the time while they are at work all day paying for their "happy fun times".  Are they bitter and resentful? Or, is that just expected.  Don't get me wrong, I wished my wife would pamper herself more often.  I'd like for her to go and have her nails done and shop for things that she wants not needs, but that is not in her to do that sort of thing.  I'm just astounded that there is so much pain and suffering and poverty and injustice in this world and there are people out there who have time to play all day.  How selfish does someone have to be?  How self absorbed are these people that they won't get up and do something to help others.  Hey,  play tennis, go to the spa, take a trip to Canton.  That is great!  But, for gosh sakes, balance it out with a little outward care.

I realize that I live in a tiny little bubble and am very one-sided in this, but hey, it's my blog.

I now have to say that I was once one of the most selfish, inward thinking, non-caring bums in the world.  I lived every moment for myself.  But God had different plans for me and he put my wife in my life to help mold me into something different.  I am not better than anyone else (probably worse than most).  I don't want to paint a picture that I'm some fantastic man who is constantly giving and giving and trying to be "holier than thou".  I am very selfish myself.  But, I do see that life is more than sitting around letting life pass me by while I sit around and watch Sitcoms and Sports all day.  

Here's a challenge - Go out and do something nice for somebody once a day.  See how it makes them feel.  Who knows, it may make you feel pretty good, too.