Monday, December 23, 2013

Keep Wrapping Paper Pretty

I am one of those people who loves clearence and sales. This is because I want my dollar to stretch as far as possible! Part of making a dollar is also making everything I have last as long as possible. One thing that is hard to make last is Christmas wrapping paper. It seems like no matter how nicely I place it in the closet, when I return a year later the wrapping paper is no longer pretty. Over the course of a year the Christmas wrapping paper rolls fall over, come unraveled, are squished, get crumpled, and get other creases that are just unexplainable.

With 2 kids and another on the way, making a dollar stretch is now more than a want. It's a necessity. What's nice is my wife brought into our marriage neat tricks I never knew about. I want to share her solution to my wrapping paper problem. And it's super easy.

christmas wrapping paper in a tubeTake an empty wrapping paper roll. Unravel it along the crease. Now you can take this and place it around your wrapping paper you want to save until next year.

Christmas wrapping paper protectedNow your Christmas wrapping paper won't come unraveled for the next 11 to 12 months! This also helps to protect your wrapping paper roll from damage. This works for birthday wrapping paper too. Hope this helps.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Reflection To Gratitude

As we near Christmas, I begin to reflect on the last year. And as I do that, I look back over the last several years. A lot is different now than just a few years back. I used to hate this time of year. Why? I used lots of reasons(which is just a slightly fancier word than excuses), but it really boiled down to the fact that other people were overly happy and I was miserable.

What's different now? Well, lots! I'm married, though that didn't make me happy or get me to look forward to Christmas for the past few years. I'm a father, though when Blaze was born 3 1/2 years ago I still didn't to look forward to Christmas. I'm a stay at home Dad, though that is often more stressful than any career I had. So what's different? I would say two things. I want to first say God, but He's always been there so that's not different. It's my relationship with Him. He may have always been there, but I wouldn't let Him in my life. Mostly I didn't want to reconcile with Him because I was afraid of what He would ask of me if I started being obedient again. So the first thing that is different is my willingness to be open to my Lord Jesus Christ.

The second thing that is different is my church family. I tried doing life on my own for a long time. That left me miserable. Partially it was because I wanted to do it on my own but not be alone or feel alone. Now I have a church family that encourages and refreshes me. Now I know the cynic reading this might wonder what is so special about my church. Well, for one, it's not just the church I attend that I am talking about. My church family includes my church(Hillside Christian Church) but also includes brothers and sisters in the Emmaus Community, in the Kairos Ministry, and even Christians from my past that I've reconnected with thanks to the Facebook.

Does this mean my kids and wife don't make my life meaningful or special? By no means is that so! What it does mean is that my relationship with God and being part of the (global) church has allowed me to more fully appreciate the blessings God has allowed me to have.

My Christmas Gratitude List:
1) I'm grateful for my church's support that allows me to reach out to other dads who are available to meet and grow as fathers.
2) I'm grateful for the recovery programs that are having an impact on me and therefore my family.
3) I'm grateful for my small group that allows me to grow with my wife as we experience life with other Christian couples.
4) I'm grateful for the opportunity to serve the Bible Study Fellowship community and learn new skills while my kids learn about Christ.
5) I'm grateful for the Emmaus Community that has been impacting my life for at least 13 years(even though I've only know about it since November of last year).
6) I'm grateful Kairos Ministries has allowed me a chance to get back into prisons(without having to be a resident).
7) I'm grateful my past hasn't stopped too many Christians from my past from talking to me.
8) I'm grateful for the Christian family I married into.
9) I'm grateful for a wife who loves God and always has.
10) I'm grateful God has allowed me to return to Him and His family.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Slithery Intruder

Hillside Christian Church DadsA few weeks ago I was at church for a Dad's Bible study. There are several studies and classes at the same time on Tuesday mornings as that's the only weekday morning the church provides childcare. Most of those classes are for women, but I'm happy to say we have an outreach to dads. This is for any dads who are available in the mornings. This is available to stay at home dads, work at home dads, dads who do shift work, disabled dads and more.

This specific day I needed to go to the restroom about 45 minutes after classes started. I walked down the hall to the restroom, took care of business, and started walking back. That's where my day stopped being just like any other Tuesday.

Back Porch
I saw what appeared to be a piece of window insulation. In case you don't know what I'm talking about, to the right is a photo of what I thought I saw. The photo to the right is from my back porch at home.

As I got closer to the insulation, my heart froze and so did I. I realized in the middle of the hall lay one of my greatest fears. It was a snake. Then it moved. The only thing worse in my mind than a snake is a snake that's still alive!

Intruder At Hillside Christian Church

I phoned a staff member at the church to alert them of the intruder. You see all the classes were meeting in rooms off this hall. So when time came for classes to be out, a LOT of women would be coming out into the hall. The snake had moved a little with me there, but I didn't want the snake to move in fear.

The maintenance guy and a few staff members came to help get the snake. When I was on the phone, I had told them it was a small snake, but I guess the small part wasn't communicated. The maintenance guy told me he was afraid of snakes as I am. His actions in handling the intruder told me otherwise though. He got the snake on a leaf rake then used his bare hand to hold the snake on it. He took the snake to a field next to the church and let it go.

One of the staff members commented that it was so small it could hardly be called a snake. I did remind them I said it was a small snake. In my mind I shouted that any size snake is still a snake, and I don't like snakes!

Tiny Snake at Hillside Christian Church
Snake without me zooming in. It was maybe 1 foot long.

This event reminds me of sin in our life. How often do we ignore a problem because we see it as something else. I was so used to seeing the insulation hanging on my back porch that I didn't recognize the snake for what it was. I actually walked(probably very close) by the snake as I went to the restroom and didn't even see it! Is there anything in your life that leaves you desensitized to the dangers in your life? Perhaps you are like me and watch TV. There is so much that is wrong on many of the shows, that I often fail to recognize things as being wrong because the shows have made these things 'normal' in my world. Maybe you are like I was just a few years ago and spend your life in bars surrounded by people who acknowledge God occasionally with words but certainly don't honor Him with their everyday conversations or actions. Maybe there is something else in your life?

As I've continued to reflect on this day, I think to the comment made that it was so small it could hardly be called a snake. Do we do this with mistakes or sin in our lives? In the past, I've thought, "It's just a small lie to someone I'll never see again, so why does it matter? It might be a lie, but it doesn't really count." That's sick thinking. What I've realized is when I ignore the small 'snakes' in my life they tend to grow. Before I know it, the small problems have gotten big. How did this happen? When we don't deal with issues when they are small, we are actually feeding those bad habits or behaviors. I've learned in life there is no standing still. We are either moving closer to a goal or further from it. We are either moving into a greater addiction or moving away from it. We are either getting healthier or setting ourselves up for the illness. We are either using healing coping mechanisms or destructive ones. Don't let the small snakes in your life live unchecked.

One last thing I've noticed is that when I go to church now, I'm on the lookout for snakes by all the doors and in the landscaping near the sidewalks. Even though that's not where I saw the snake, now that I am aware that snakes can get in the building, I am on the lookout. We should be the same with issues in our life. Once we realize we have an issue with selfishness, depression, addiction... We should be on the lookout for it in our lives. Let me show an example:
If I feel like I'm worthless when I argue with my spouse, perhaps I should be aware when I feel that way at other times. Then when I recognize that feeling in all areas of my life, I can start to battle it properly.
I can kill that 'snake' with the truth that I am treasured. Jesus allowed himself to be tortured and killed so that I could have a relationship with my Father in heaven.
God loves me so much. So I'm not worthless.
I'm to die for!

Be on the lookout for "snakes" in your life. Don't let them stick around just because they are small.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Heart Challenge

My writing as of late has been divided between a journal made from pen and paper and my facebook posts. I have had a lot to say, but most of it has been for me and only me. And when I put something on Facebook, I am more restricted than when I post here on my blog.

What's new with me?

My wife and I are expecting another child. This is a huge blessing! I still think of the baby we lost earlier this year. Now when people find out Jamie is pregnant and ask, "Is this your third child?" I don't know how to answer. It is and it's not. It is our fourth child, as far as I'm concerned. But I don't want to get into all that with most people. Plus there may be a child from my past that is also mine. I may never know. So again, I don't know how to answer honestly.

Last night I watched Raising Hope. On the show, one of the characters said that she lied when it was easier than telling the truth. I don't want to do that when talking about my kids. But I also don't want to talk about a child that I've never met that may or may not be mine when someone asks about my wife being pregnant. I also don't want to talk about my grief concerning our miscarriage. Anyways, this is one of the challenges my heart has been facing as of late.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Gratitude Day Six

This is the sixth day of my gratitude list. It is getting tougher to come up with 5 new things, but I think I can continue for a while yet.

1) I am grateful God uses me to help others. Right now I'm specifically thinking of running the sound and video for a women's BSF group.
2) I am grateful for my beard.
3) I am grateful that not everyone sees me now as who I used to be.
4) I am grateful God continues to bless me with more children.
5) I am grateful for Dr Pepper. How did it take this long to make it on my gratitude list?!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Gratitude Day Five

This is the fifth day of my gratitude list. It is getting tougher to come up with 5 new things, but I think I can continue for a while yet.

1) I am grateful for my son's willingness to learn. Today we went through a lesson using the book Where's Spot?
2) I am grateful I have both legs that allow me to walk.
3) I am grateful for Christian brothers serving in different areas of our community. Talked to a guy today who has spent the last 6 years planting a church in Amarillo.
4) I am grateful for my daughter's love of colors. Everything is described in colors right now. I love the way she says blue and yellow!
5) I am grateful a fast internet connection in my home.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Gratitude Day Four

This is the fourth day of my gratitude list. I missed posting something yesterday despite thinking about it half a dozen times. Pray I can continue to do this regularly.

1) I am grateful for being in a church that supports my passions.
2) I am grateful for my new Dad's Bible given to me by the groups team at church.
3) I am grateful my kids' energy.
4) I am grateful I can pray at a restaurant without fear of government persecution.
5) I am grateful my glasses allow me to see.