Friday, August 27, 2004

The road to....


Yep, that 's right. We are taking the family on a well-deserved, and well-needed little vacation. It's Iowa, can we really call it a vacation?

We are actually driving down to talk with the Pastor that married us when we were younger and in better shape. My wife grew up with him and his wife, so they are all too weird when they get together. Reminiscing over different things while I sit back and wonder whether there is a baseball game on somewhere that I could be watching. Don't get me wrong, they are absolutely wonderful people and I am looking forward to spending some time with them, but when you have 5 years experience in a group that has been together for 20+ years, you most likely missed all the good stuff.

We are actually heading down there to discuss some financial items and to talk with them about our parenting classes that we are leading. Classes that at times make me wonder if we should be the ones doing this. For example, I was sitting in the recliner the other day, reading the paper and enjoying a nice, hot cup of coffee. The youngest ankle-biter, who was days away from taking that HUGE step in life and going from a 2 year-old to a 3 year-old came over and was standing next to me looking over my should. He likes to point at the pictures of all of the different sports and tell me what they are. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that he was no longer looking at my paper, but seemed to have been distracted by something else. As I turn my head, I notice that my son, wearing some red, soccer shorts, has pulled the waistband down and is "flicking" I fight back the urge to spit my coffee all over the place, and ask him what he is doing. He quickly pulls his pants up and gives me a quick "Nothing, daddy". Now, I know that at times we think we are a pseudo-normal family, but this one left me wondering.

Dinner Time

As we sat down for dinner, we held hands to pray. The youngest child (I really need to give them a nickname), said he wanted to pray. As we bowed our heads, he rattled off a prayer that I think I heard the words, "mommy, food, good, and then ended with a rousing Aaaaaaaamen". I mentioned to him that I was not sure that it was a good prayer because he went so fast and none of us could understand him. He looked me straight in the eye, raised his index finger in the air to make sure I understood his point and said to me, "Daddy, all prayers are good prayers."

-Words to live by, I guess.

This, of course, coming from the same child who, around Easter time, came running into our room at 2:30 AM yelling, "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy....". I asked him what was wrong. He responded in an incredibly enthusiastic voice, "Daddy, Jesus is Alive!!!" Then he scurried back to his room, closed his door and went back to sleep. Needless to say, my wife and I could only look at each other and try and decide if that was the cutest thing ever, or just incredibly weird.

I know that it will be a long weekend as Y'all(notice the singular form, All Y'all would be the plural form) wait to hear about the great trip to Iowa.

Pictures from my Lake Michigan Fishing Trip will be done this weekend - we caught plenty of monster salmon. I will try and post a couple of the good ones ;)

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Sometimes the small ones are the best

One of the blessings in my life has always been my wife and my boys. That may sound like a standard answer that you would hear from most people, but I truly believe that they are a blessing to me.

It seems that no matter how bad or how long my day at work is, there is always someone waiting for me when I walk through the door of the house. Literally! As I pull in the driveway, I click the button and the garage begins to open. As I pull the truck in and gather my papers and my lunch box, I turn down the radio so as not to be blasted the next morning when I leave for work. Grab all my belongings and walk over to the door. As I reach for the door I can already hear them getting into position. the door opens and I am greeted with a boisterous "Welcome Home!! We Miss You!! We Love You!!!" by 2 boys with glowing smiles on their faces. They then race down the stairs to give me hugs and tell me what we should have for dinner.

The first couple weeks that this went on I found it enjoyable. the next 6 months I found it rather tiresome and really wouldn't have minded if it went away. But as the road of life has grown more difficult, I take solace daily in knowing that THIS is what it is all about. All the hours we put in on training, and explaining and truly trying to reach the hearts of our children comes rushing out like water breaking through a dam. Now, to be honest, on days that I come home early and one of them is still napping, I feel slightly cheated that I missed out on "the greeting". I think the part of this whole act that makes it the blessing that it is, is the fact that it requires no prompting from their mother or I for this to happen. Yes - they are dangerously similar to Pavlov's dog, but you have to train first through repetition before you can train the heart.

So if you are ever in the area, and in need of a pick-me-up. Look me up and I will be more than happy to lend you my garage door opener.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Missed opportunity.....

I just got a message from my wife that she is getting together with some other mothers and their children today at Chuck E. Cheese. I know that this does not seem like that big of a deal, although it is the Mecca of eating establishmets for children, in our area. My boys, 3 and 4, have asked a couple of times before if we could go there to eat. Most often they ask after we have seen the commercial on TV or if we are driving near it. It is not a place that I first think of if we are looking to go out to eat, so the opportunites to go there were not many. I had, however, always looked forward to seeing the looks on thier faces as they walked in the door and were overwhelmed with sounds and lights and games and kids. My boys have not led an incredibly sheltered life, but we have worked with them on understanding the differences between needs and wants. It has always been a pleasant treat to walk through the toy store and have my boys ask me if they can play with a particular item. They do not put up a fight or start whining when asked to put the item back either. That was a battle that I wanted to make sure that we would ot face. I remember once going to the store with my nephews, who were 5 and 2 at the time. This was an adventure that tested my patience and must have raised my blood pressure 100 points. Sometimes you forget how good your children are and at times take it for granted. The nephews always helped me to remember that we had set the bar higher in our family for a reason and I was all the happier for it. As I was saying, I am a little disappointed that I will miss out on todays adventure. I cannot wait to get home tonight and have them tell me all about it.

~God Bless

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

God's blessings beginning to show

Rather than bore you with details of our financial hole that we are in, I will just say that we were in a tight spot - and have been there for the last 12+ months. We have had times where we thought we were making smart choices to help recover, only to find that the hole became wider and more difficult to dig out of.

We were given the opportunity this morning to pick up a Store-Front paper route that will generate some addtional $$ for us. It will be a Mon - Sat route that is done from 1am - 3 am each day. We will give this a try for a few months and see how it goes.

Updates will follow.

Go Big or Go Home

As I arrived home last evening, I knew that something needed to change. I have talked about trusting God with my life for quite some time. Although I had turned over many things to his care, I am not sure that I truly surrendered my life to Him. I was always holding onto areas that were uncomfortable to give up. The last few months have been very confusing - at times I feel that my life and my family are slowly slipping away from me, while at that same time I am able to look and see that I have an incredible relationship with my wife and my relationship with my sons is closer than ever. I look at this an can see that the financial burden that has been placed on this family is beginning to take its toll. It seems the harder we try, the further behind we get. At the same time, it is impossible to just throw in the towel as I have never felt myself to be a quitter.

I sat down last evening and read The Dream Giver by Wilkerson. At first read, it seemed to be more of a "fluff" piece than something that could be useful. As I laid in bed last evening, thinking about what my Big Dream is. Unfortunately, it was not as simple as he made it sound. I will spend some quiet time over the next couple of days to try and determine what my dream truly is.

As I continue to work through this blog, I will share bits and pieces of my testimony and will try and help you see just how awesome God is and how awesome He can be. I do not have an earth-shattering testimony, but it is neat to be able to look back on times in your life before you had faith in God and be able to see how He was working on you and your life. If only my eyes would have been opened at that time, I cannot imagine how many more people I could have impacted.

Speaking of people impacted - I feel the need to share a little story.

A few years ago, I was sitting at my job and was downloading software via WinMX. Not the most honorable thing to be doing, either at work or at home. One of the items I was trying to download was the Dramatized NIV Bible in an mp3 format. I had finally found it. It was 2 separate files, one for the Old Testament and one for the New Testament. I realized that once I had acquired them, I would need to do some work in order to break them up by books and verses to make them easier to listen and search through - but that would be dealt with later. I spent the better part of 4 weeks trying to get the complete files. Through waiting in queues and slow connections, I was finally able to get both files completely. It was the next day that someone was trying to download those same files from me. They were far down on the waiting list as I was only allowing 1 download at a time. He sent me a message asking if I would start his download for him rather than having him wait. He mentioned that he was from the UK. I told him that since this was a work PC and I needed it during the day, I would start the download in the evening for him and leave it on overnight. That would work well for him because of the time difference.

The connection we had was not the greatest, so the download took a few days. During this time, I was attending church in the evening. I was beginning to dig a little deeper into who God was and what He was and why I should care. I felt something take place inside of me and began to feel convicted for things that I was doing in my life that I felt were not right. One of them happen to be the downloading of pirated software. Now I realize that this is an area that we could discuss at length for the next few months and would not make it anywhere so we will just let it be that these were MY feelings. As I returned to work one morning, I saw my UK friend still working on the download. Let's call him Al for now. As I contemplated disconnecting him from my PC and then just removing all access so that I didn't have to listen to some person I didn't know whine about what I was doing, I felt the need to talk to him. I asked him a couple of questions about what he did for a living and other small-talk type items. Then I asked why he was so interested in getting these audio copies of the Bible from me. He said that he had been struggling in life lately and that he was looking for something to help him. It was at that exact moment that he was no longer speaking with me, but he began speaking to God through me. I remember quoting some scriptures for him, but to this day I cannot remember what was said. (We will come back to that point in a little while.) We continued to talk about church and faith and why we believed different things. I remember telling him about this class that I was taking through my church, called Alpha. I mentioned that it was started by a gentleman in England, Nicky Gumbel. I talked about how this course focuses on the basics of Christianity - Who is Jesus?, How do I get to Heaven?, How can I know that the Bible is true?, etc... I gave him some websites and encouraged him to check things out. He said he would and we kind of left things at that.

I recall discussions we had over the next couple of weeks that took on a different tone. One specific one was in regards to how he disliked going to church because he would become so overwhelmed with emotion that it made him uncomfortable. I remember him saying, "Bri, I am a big guy - I stand 6' + and go over 250lbs. I shouldn't be crying like that over some music." We talked about why he should care what other people thought of him. He was not there to impress them or to be accepted by them, he was there to praise God and to worship the Lord. God could only be pleased in seeing that you are worshiping with all that emotion. I encouraged him to just get "lost" in that feeling to and to allow the Holy Spirit to work through him at those moments. Conversations like this went on fro quite some time. I was continuing to feel see his relationship with God grow and see him become more excited about Jesus. He even went and took the idea of starting the Alpha course to his church and they began to host it there. It was awesome to see this man go from 0 - 100 right in front of me. We would talk about scriptures and world issues, it was a great friendship that had been built online.

Over time, I had become so proud of the work that I had done with him and was pleased that another soul had been saved. Our conversations slowed and he would occasionally come to me and ask for guidance or insight into situations and I would share my perspective.

Then things in my life began changing and I was dealing with some struggles. I think it may have been about 2 weeks since I had last talked with Al, when he all of sudden IM'd me. "Brother - it has been awhile. Do you need me?" This seemed like a rather odd question, so I pressed for more info, "Hello there - what do you mean?", I replied. He said, "I had this dream last night that you were struggling with something and God told me that I should leave and come over there to help you. Do you need my help over there?" As I sat at my desk at work, tears flowed down my face. I once again realized how AWESOME God was and how much He really cared about me. This was a man that I had reached out to in a time of need and had helped to point in the direction of the cross - now God is using this man to help me in my time of need. I shared with Al how his simple offer had humbled me and that it was more than a coincidence that God had spoken to him. I shared with him my situation and he prayed with me about it. We have continued to pray about it and discuss it for the better part of 9 months now, but without his encouragement and wisdom, I do not think I would have survived to this point. Although we do not talk often, he always seems to appear just when I am struggling the most and is there to lift me up and send me off on my way being a warrior for Christ.

To this man - Al - I am forever indebted.

Monday, August 23, 2004

In the Beginning........

Well - here it is.

I have spent many hours reading blogs put together by others and often thought about doing my own. I finally worked up the courage- or a new level of boredom was reached - to begin this adventure.

Check back and see what fun stuff we can share.

~In Christ