And People Willingly Live in the South, Why?

Ah vacation… or at least what passes for it in my household.  I had a guy call me on Tuesday and when he did so he apologized for calling on my vacation.  Laughing it off I told him that the difference between vacation and work for me was that on vacation I got to wear T-shirts and I only worked six hours a day as opposed to twelve.  The irony of that was that Tuesday I had a site visit to a job in Rome (Georgia, not the Italian one, although, amusing side note: a number of months ago I drove from Florence [SC] to Rome [GA].  It was amusing telling people what my travel plans were.) and I put on a nice shirt and ended up working a total of eleven hours that day.  Oh well, I still consider myself fortunate that I did not wind up flying back to Schenectady for a couple of days.

Tuesday served as my first reminder why I love living where we do in New York.  As I mentioned previously, I had a site visit in Rome which is the far north and west side of Atlanta… ok, to be perfectly accurate, Rome is not anywhere near Atlanta, and neither is Monroe which is east of Atlanta and where my in-laws live.  In all it was about a 2.5 hour drive out there and I intentionally scheduled my meeting so that I would not have to battle traffic getting out there and so that I could at least attempt to get out early and avoid traffic on the way home.  The first part of my plan went off without a hitch, I avoided the heaviest parts of Atlanta traffic, although it would appear that what would have passed as mild traffic when I lived here eight years ago now passes for light to no traffic.  Unfortunately, the gentleman I was meeting hit a bad patch of weather and wound up being an hour and a half late.  He gave me enough notice before I left that I wasn’t sitting there waiting on him the whole time, but he was still later than he was supposed to be.  This meant that I did not get out of Rome until the beginning threads of rush hour and Google politely informed me that my total commute had been increased by an additional hour and a half based on traffic conditions… Awesome.  Traffic in my home town might constitute a 20 min delay if things get real bad, and my 3.1 mile commute in to the office has taken me a grand total of 18 minutes during horrific weather conditions with multiple accidents along the way.

Of course, if I had not made the trip to Rome on Tuesday I would have been robbed of this little gem.  When stopping for fuel and a restroom break I happened to catch sight of the summary block across the top of the Rome News-Tribune.  Personally I don’t know what they will accuse this woman of, most people will willingly give up their Mondays.img_5219

Christmas day provided my second reminder why I love where I currently live.  It was a grand total of 75 degrees on Sunday and as I was playing manhunt outside with the nephews and nieces (including a couple of the neighborhood kids who appear to have adopted me as their awesome uncle) I began to sweat in the extremely humid air.  By the time we were done I reeked of an odor faintly reminiscent of wet dog.  I guess I can’t complain too much about this one since it was 72 degrees on Christmas eve in Schenectady last year, but the difference is that what was an abnormality in NY is what passes for normal around here.

This was the first Christmas in a number of years that we have actually had a big celebration on Christmas Day.  The past few years… most of my married years, in fact, we have actually pushed our Christmas celebration to the week before or after Christmas, so it was actually with a good deal of surprise that when I tried to take my nephew out to the store to pick up some batteries and a spare Nerf gun I discovered that everyone was closed.  What’s up with that?  This is America darn it, my vain consumerism should trump any body’s right to have a day off and enjoy the holidays with their own families, right?  Ah well, at least the authors and editors of certain select newsletters are still filling their civic duties today.  Merry Christmas to all those still enjoying the last few minutes of Christmas Day 2016.

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It’s a Wonderful Life

We left NY on Saturday amidst a practical blizzard, at least what has accounted for one over the past year and a half.  In fact, what we received was more than two thirds than the total snow fall for all last winter so, woohoo… too bad it had to happen on the day I left the state.  It was a Saturday and I had cancelled my Saturday morning prayer group since I was planning on using most of the morning to get ready for our trip, thus having a little bit of time to sleep in; which, of course, meant that I woke up just a little bit after 0530.  Go figure.  I knew we were expecting some overnight snow so I peeked outside as soon as I woke up and saw that we had gotten maybe an inch or two at best and it was no longer currently snowing.

I got up and took a shower and my puttering around the house was enough to wake Leslie up so we played a game of cards while waiting for the kids to get up.  By the time the kids got up the snow had started to fall again and at a rate that was mildly concerning considering that we had a plane to catch in a few hours.  As we put the finishing touches on our packing I nervously began to check my phone for airport delays and flight cancellations.  All down the screen I saw serious flight delays and numerous cancellations for many flights after 0800, which was about when the snow had started again.  I took hope in that all of the flights going out of Albany at this time of morning were to other places in the northeast so it was highly possible that these flights were being delayed or cancelled because of the receiving airports.  As we approached the time to leave I went out and blew the snow off our driveway and moved our luggage to the garage.  There was one flight that I had my eye on for an on-time departure, it was a flight to Ft. Lauderdale, I figured if that flight departed on time our flight to Atlanta was probably safe.  15 minutes before I decided we needed to leave based on a combination of poor driving conditions, the need to make one minor stop on the way, and concerns about weather related congestion in the airport itself, the flight to Florida departed after having been delayed only a few minutes.

The normally 15-minute drive to the airport took us a little over 45 as it appeared that the Schenectady County plows had yet to run on any of the streets.  We got to the airport about an hour and 40 minutes before our flight was scheduled to depart, early enough that I felt we had left too early and late enough that my wife was starting to get nervous.  Clearly she is a rookie when it comes to flying out of the Albany International Airport, we made it through baggage check and security in about 20 minutes; ah the joys of priority status and TSA pre-check.  The snow had stopped falling by the time our plane took off leaving us with a total accumulation of about 7-9 inches… and I was not there to fully enjoy it.  Oh well, at least I got to dust off the snow blower before we left.

We finally arrived at my in-laws house a little before 1900 (a combination of an hour and a half drive and nearly as much time spent trying to jam 5 people, 3 car seats, 3 smaller bags, 2 large suitcases, and a partridge in a pear tree into a Jeep Patriot will significantly impact your total travel time, we ended up having to leave the pear tree at the airport).  We ate dinner with most of the extended family and I reminded my nieces and nephews why I am the awesome uncle, by playing manhunt with them once it got dark.  It was during this process that I was involved in possibly one of the most hilarious pranks I have ever been involved in, but was not the instigator (or provoker… should I say provocateur?) of.  Let’s just say that during the process of choosing teams one of the members of our group discovered a dead chipmunk in the garage, it was then decided by group consensus that it would be hilarious if we placed said chipmunk (for whom rigor mortis had long since set in such a position that said chipmunk was now stiff as a board in a spread-eagle position) on the windshield of my father-in-law’s vehicle.  I wish I had snagged a picture of this prior to its discovery later that evening because it truly was hilarious.  The view from inside the vehicle made it appear as if the chipmunk had been flying along before meeting an untimely demise upon the surface of the vehicle’s windshield, much as a rather large insect would have appeared minus the associated splatter of internal (and external) organs.  And this, my friends, is what being an uncle is all about, or at least it should be.

36,000 Words a Day with a 350 Word Vocabulary

One of the things I love about my current job is the number of different things I may end up doing over the course of a week, this past week for instance I have acted in the capacity of an electrician, an iron worker, an equipment operator, a field surveyor, and a general construction hand… all of this on top of my normal duties as a project manager.  One of the things I hate about my current job is how many different things there are that require my attention yet distract me from the things I am actually supposed to be doing, this past week for instance I have acted in the capacity of an electrician, an iron worker, an equipment operator, a field surveyor, and a general construction hand.  It’s amazing that I can find time to do my other job anymore.  Funny how things turn out like that.

I was praying with a guy on Saturday and he asked me how things were going, I told him that things were going much better than the previous few months, things weren’t any less busy (or stressful) but there was finally a light at the end of the tunnel and that was enough to make all the difference in the world.  That’s all it takes anymore to improve my quality of life, things don’t have to actually get better, they just have to look like they are going to get better soon.  It seems like there should be a sermon illustration in there somewhere.

One of the reasons that I took a hiatus from writing this newsletter was the fact that I was really struggling to come up with source material.  That problem, in large part, stemmed from the fact that this job has really done a number on my short-term memory.  So much of my job as of late has been fighting one fire after another, it is rare that I can start a task and then get that task completed before something else comes up that demands my attention.  Whether it was drafting a simple email, preparing a building permit, or updating a project financials, I simply could not summon enough time to finish the tasks before receiving a phone call calling me out to the field, or being approached by a coworker and asked for some piece of information.  It started to affect my memory as I could no longer keep track of the things I had been working on.  It has gotten bad enough that on more than one occasion I have called someone and in the time it took for the person to answer (or for me to get their voicemail) I had already forgotten who I was calling not to mention why I had even called in the first place!

It was not that funny or amusing stuff had stopped happening to me, it was that I simply could not recall what that stuff was when it came to write my newsletter.  In truth, my memory has not really much improved in the intervening months, I’ve simply decided that cherry picking only the funniest moments was a requirement to write… that and my note-taking has moderately improved.  Thus, all you get from me now are fragmented recollections of my previous week, something that is probably not nearly as funny as it once was.  I’m beyond apologizing though so you will simply have to suffer through with me.

I just realized that I have not devoted any time this year to my annual “I hate leaves” blog post.  Well, I just finished raking my leaves this year, probably about a month and a half past when I should have and an easy three weeks past when the last of my neighbors raked theirs.  Truthfully, I didn’t even really rake my leaves all that much, I just gathered the few piles I had scattered around the yard for the kids and hauled them back behind my fence, the rest I just left layered over the yard (mostly the back yard), I’ll mulch them when next spring rolls around and I have to start mowing my lawn.  At least, that is what I keep telling myself; for now I’ve just become that one guy with the hideous looking lawn.  I also learned a valuable lesson yesterday during the 3 hours I spent raking and hauling leaves, wet leaves are heavy, like really, really, heavy.  Anyway, have I mentioned how much I hate leaves?

I had one of those moments this morning when I saw the stark contrast between men and women.  When my children came into my bedroom I asked each of them, in turn, how they slept.  Jack and Nicolas both responded “Good,” and “fine” respectively.  When it came time for my not-quite-two-year-old daughter to respond, she looked me in the eye and said, “I had a good nap, daddy.”  She will turn two this month and while she doesn’t have the vocabulary of a fully functioning adult (though compared to a typical two-year-old she far exceeds expectations) she still probably uses more words in a day than I do.

There’s Pine Needles All Over My Floor

It was an interesting week for us, one that was filled with spontaneity, emotionalism, and change… you know, all those things that make me feel uncomfortable.  Nicolas turned six today and we celebrated his birthday yesterday with a number of people from church, including the adoptive family of his biological cousin (and if that doesn’t sound like something out of Jerry Springer, I don’t know what does).  The party went well and we managed to keep the church where we hosted it in mostly good condition… minus the hole in the wall at the base of the stairs positioned in a location where a plastic teeter totter encountered the wall after having been pushed down the stairs; an idea that, while it was not instigated by my children, I did find out originated by my oldest.  Sorry Josh, at least I didn’t nearly burn the church down this time.img_0822

Ever since we got back from Thanksgiving I have been wrestling with the idea of whether I wanted to get a Christmas tree.  On one hand we are travelling to Atlanta for a good two weeks in the month of December and it does not make sense to go through all the setup work when we will only be able to enjoy it for a couple of weeks.  On top of that, for various reasons (whether it was living in a small apartment, living in a camper, travelling for most of the holidays, or just moving into a new house) we have gone nearly 11 years without ever having decorated for Christmas, why break a perfectly good streak.  On the other hand, my children are now getting old enough that they are forming memories that will stick with them for a lifetime, I don’t want a Christmas tree to be something you have to go somewhere else to see, I want my children to be able to experience that joy.  Monday I decided I wanted to go after work and get everything I needed for a tree, lights, ornaments, a tree stand, and finally a tree.  Monday, I ended up working late.  Tuesday I decided the same, much with the same results.  By Wednesday the decision to wait was getting easier, I had two fewer days to enjoy the tree before we left, and besides, I could pick up all the important tree related stuff on sale after Christmas was over.  Thursday night I sprained my back (yes, apparently, that is a real thing), and with the pain I was in and the time I spent visiting a chiropractor in the morning the odds that I would have time to leave early that day were increasingly slim.  Nevertheless, I optimistically blocked time off on my calendar so I could try to get out early.

Miracle of all miracles (which actually sounds kind of blasphemous considering the season we are entering) I found myself only blowing past my self-imposed deadline by 30 minutes and I fled the office praying that my back would hold out long enough to make it through the store lugging around a Christmas tree.  It was a good choice; you would have thought I was a crazy person the looks my kids were giving me as I tried to stuff a real tree through the front door of the house.  And for those of you that know my father well enough, no, I did not have to trim the top 6.5’ off of the tree to get it to stand upright in the living room.

Anyway, all of this culminated with a conversation Leslie had with Nicolas in the car earlier this evening.  During this conversation Leslie asked if Nicolas had had a good birthday, to which he replied that he did; and after a few moments of thinking said, “I don’t have to move homes any more, right?”  Leslie then said, “No, you get to stay with us forever.”  “Good, I’m glad,” he responded.  Our lives have changed a significant amount because of this addition to our family and he has caused me to face a number of realities in my life, personality traits of which I am not proud of.  I have really struggled with the type of parent I see in myself when I deal with him, things which have been downright ugly at times.  But somehow, through all of this, God has used Leslie and I to provide a place of sanctuary and stability for this little boy, a place that he can truly call home forever.

I don’t know why God chose us to provide a home for him; all I know is that He did.  We’ve laughed and cried, sometimes both at the same time (like when we discovered he had taken scissors to a large chunk of his hair in the middle of his forehead and then proceeded to lie about it), but it has been a journey that has been remarkably easy, at least in terms of the transition, for our little boy, and we are continually amazed at how smoothly things have gone.  It is times like today that remind us that despite all of our failings God is still using us to make an impact in the life of this little boy.

For those of you interested, here is the link to the audio for the sermon I gave last week about contentment.

http://podcast.awakenchurchny.org/e/contentment-1480343400/

 

Thanksgiving by Any Other Name

Well, it is that time of year when everyone should be enjoying deep fried turkey, sweet potato pie, and good football.  Our Thanksgiving was a little different this year and as a result I only experienced one of those things, and truthfully, the sweet potato pie was mediocre at best.  As we approached this week Leslie and I did not have a clear idea of what we wanted to do this year, typically we have invited some friends over and had a large meal and enjoyed good company; this year we had trouble identifying any friends who were going to be in town that did not already have other plans.  As we rounded the corner of the week on Sunday Leslie told me she really was not looking forward to cooking a big meal and seeing as it was going to only be our family (and that nobody in our family is really big on leftovers) we decided to make other plans.

I had needed to visit a site up in New Hampshire for a couple of weeks now but could not really afford the time for the overnight trip it would cost me so we decided to combine our problems into one solution.  I booked a hotel for a couple of nights and we decided to just spend Thanksgiving in New Hampshire at the hotel, enjoying the complimentary breakfasts and letting the kids watch movies (as special treat) and swim in the pool.  This was our first Thanksgiving where we were planning on going out to eat and I was not 100% certain what we would be able to find open on Thanksgiving Day so I told Leslie to plan for the worst and pack a box full of snacks and the makings of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

As it turns out, people going out to eat for a Thanksgiving meal is not altogether that unusual and after our initially foiled attempt to find a Golden Corral, we settled on Cracker Barrel.  As a side note, I found it amusing that the closest Golden Corral was back in Albany, nearly four hours away.  How is it that there is not a Golden Corral in the entire state of New Hampshire?  Nevertheless, we settled on Cracker Barrel and loaded up the kids for a late afternoon lunch/early evening dinner.  When we first arrived, we were initially a little intimidated by a parking lot that was overflowing with people, but understanding how limited our options were we persevered, and fortunately for us, the wait was not nearly as long as the parking lot would have indicated.

I opted for the traditional Thanksgiving dinner which, while it did include turkey, was not of the deep-fried variety.  Regardless, the food was good and, with the exception of Ayla only eating a handful of French fries, everyone chowed down.  I really don’t understand my daughter’s eating habits as of late, we had chicken tacos the other night which she stubbornly refused to eat, electing to go to bed early with nothing to eat instead.  Then, Wednesday night we ate at Chickfila in Springfield, MA where she chowed down on a box of nuggets.  Thursday she said she wanted chicken again and then promptly refused to even try one of the chicken fingers.  Friday, we again stopped at Chickfila, where she again refused to even try one of the nuggets, even though it meant she had to sit in her seat the entire time the boys played on the playground.  It is not that she does not like chicken because the episode on Wednesday clearly indicates that she enjoys it just fine, but nearly every other time she absolutely refuses to even try a little bite, almost willingly accepting whatever alternative we offer as a discipline for not eating.

Wednesday night we arrived at the hotel around 2030 and let the kids run around the room while Leslie and I got everything set up; the boys sharing the pull out sofa and Ayla in the pack ‘n’ play tucked in an alcove by the door.  We finally got everyone to bed but none of the kids were used to all of us sleeping in the same room together so it took a little while to get settled down and get to sleep.  Thursday we must have really put the kids through the ringer between the pool, running around the hotel, a movie, and dinner, because it was not five minutes after we had turned the lights out then I was able to distinguish the light snores from three little kids all fast asleep.  I on the other hand, took advantage of the fact that I did not have to be up early the next morning and chose to live life a little on the edge, I stayed up until nearly midnight reading my book… Crazy, I know.

Overall, we actually had a pretty relaxing holiday, which was exactly what we were aiming for.  No I did not get all the things I wanted to experience over Thanksgiving, but I just preached a sermon this morning talking about how we should not be seeking contentment out of material things so I don’t think I have too much room to complain.  In fact, with where we currently stand in the pace of life, the busyness of church right now, the stress of a soon to arrive baby, and the workload of all my projects, this restful and relaxing weekend was exactly what we needed.

I will end on this story though.  Yesterday I went in to the office/jobsite to get a little bit of work done, I’m moonlighting as an electrician of sorts for one of my projects since I am working through some difficulties getting an electrician hired and I’ve got work that needs to be done now.  Anyway, I went in to the office to get some work done and when I came home I started experiencing some pretty severe abdominal cramps.  I ended up splitting time the rest of the day between lying in bed/on the bean bag/on the couch trying desperately not to move, and sitting on that porcelain throne with which I am so well acquainted.   More than a little concerned as I knew I had to preach the following morning, I decided to go to bed early.  Much to my dismay, when I woke up this morning, I was not feeling a whole lot better.  Nevertheless, I got up, got a shower, and headed to the church early to practice my sermon.  On the way over I stopped by the grocery store to get some Pepto Bismal.  When I got to the medicine aisle I was greeted with two choices of Pepto in the size that I wanted, one was just the regular stuff and one was labeled “Extra Strength.”  I started thinking to myself, what are the odds that they would actually dilute their formula just so they can sell an “extra strength” option for a couple dollars more?  I mean, it’s probably the exact same stuff, right?  Then I realized, the type of person who is likely to be purchasing Pepto Bismal is likely not in a frame of mind to be making rational choices like this so it totally makes since…  If you feel like a bottle rocket that could go off at any moment, would you really want to play the odds and not spring for the “extra strength” option?  Of course not; that is a brilliant marketing ploy right there.  Even having considered all of this I still went for the extra strength Pepto Bismal, so who’s the moron in that situation?

Contentment

I don’t watch much television anymore which means that I don’t watch much college football anymore (read: one partial game this entire season) but I do still follow my teams by checking scores when they are playing.  It caused me no small amount of pleasure to see that Oklahoma trounced West Virginia and that, perhaps more importantly, Texas lost to Kansas… The same Kansas team who is 1-19 in games versus FBS opponents, the same Kansas team that has not won a Big 12 game in something like 3 years.  It’s a good day not to be a UT fan.img_4913

I’ve spent quite a bit of time studying Philippians 4 this week in preparation for my sermon next week.  It is sometimes frustrating to read Paul’s letters because he frequently builds up to a climax for holy living, and we read through expecting to see a simple and specific solution to our problems but then he pivots and speaks to something else that only seems tangentially related.  So, then you are forced to reread the text to understand that the solution you expected was actually subtly provided in the passages building up to the climax.  Philippians is no different.

Philippians 4:11-13 is a passage frequently cited in reference for how Paul is speaking about contentment, but what is stunning to me is that as you begin to read the context you understand that this is not really a passage about contentment, Paul simply raises this as an aside to the topic he is discussing, which is the generosity of the Philippian church!  That said, there is still value in the text as it pertains to contentment if we are careful to understand it in the context of what was written.

I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

I have learned the secret!  Paul doesn’t say, “Well, don’t worry if you are poor, you should be content with what you have.”  No!  He is telling us that he has learned how to be content in all situations.  Contentment is something we all strive for, contentment is why we pursue after other things, whether it’s money, cars, houses, or any other number of things; we think, “If I can just get this thing, then I will be happy, then I will be content.”  But it is all an illusion, because once we get that thing we find ourselves wanting something else, something more.  Yet here we find Paul telling us, “I have found the secret to being content, and it does not have anything to do with the amount of stuff you have.”

What I find interesting about how this passage is written is that Paul is not telling us that we should be content in all situations, merely that he has figured out how to.  I’ve heard this verse used to encourage people to be content in seemingly bad situations.  “Oh, you don’t have money to pay your rent and you are being evicted?  Well, remember, you should be content in every situation.”

No!  Telling me to be content in all situations is like telling me that I should want air.  Air is a great thing, but telling me I should want it when I am drowning serves no purpose.  Of course I want air, I’m drowning!  If I did not want air it would be because I am already dead.  It is the same with contentment and that is not what Paul is saying here.  What Paul is saying is that it is possible to be content in all situations, he knows it is possible because he has done it!  Every single one of us desires to be content, that desire is what drives every single thing we do, so telling me to be content in all things does me no good, I need to know how to be content in all things.

What is it?  What is the secret to being content?  You must tell me!

 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Really, that’s all you are going to give me?  I get it, God is all powerful, He can do anything He wants.  You are able to be content because God has made you content.  But what about me?  I’m not content, God has not made me content.

If we were to only read these handful of verses it would very much seem like Paul has let us down; that he told us he had learned the secret and then failed to divulge the secret.  But these few verses are not the entirety of his letter, in fact, they comprise merely a small part at the very end of his letter.  If we go back into chapters 1-3, and even earlier in chapter 4 I think we begin to see what the secret is that Paul was hinting at.

1:3-4 I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy

1:18c Yes, and I will continue to rejoice,

2:17b-18 I am glad and rejoice with all of you.  So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.

3:1a Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord!

4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: rejoice!

4:10a I rejoice greatly in the Lord

The word rejoice can be defined as, “to make glad, or take delight in,” and here we see Paul saying that he takes delight in the Lord over and over again and then encouraging his readers to do the same.  If we were to expand the selection of verses I read earlier, you would see that not once does Paul say he rejoices in material things.  In fact, he calls it out a bit more strongly in 4:6,

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Do not be anxious about anything.  Don’t worry about material things…  That’s funny, that sounds like something Jesus would say.  Oh, wait, He did say something very similar in Matthew 6:25

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?

What Paul is getting at is this, if we seek contentment out of material things then we will always wind up somewhere short of being content because there will always be more stuff to have and someone who has more stuff than us.  Rather, we should seek something eternal, we should seek to transform our mindset and in doing so contentment will be granted to us in such abundance that we will have learned to be content in any situation; we will ourselves, have been transformed so that what we have (or do not have) will not define how we feel.

Gratitude leads to contentment.  Gratitude is the temporary feeling while contentment is the deep-seated personality trait.  Contentment is bestowed through the continual act of gratitude, which is fed by our constant realization of how truly fortunate we are.  It is through continual acts and admissions of gratitude that we begin to form and achieve our concept of contentment.

Jesus Loves the Little Children

I’m a pretty smart guy, most of the time, but every so often I am presented with a problem where my thinking is so inside the box that I miss the incredibly simple solution that has been staring me in the face for quite some time.  This happened to me twice this week.  The first involved a situation where I was performing some work that I really should have hired someone else to do on one of my projects but my budget is already tight so there I was standing in the rain trying to determine elevations on a series of anchor bolts.  I set the first row with no issues but realized that I had been pretty lucky in some of my guesses and that with slightly different conditions I would find myself in a situation where the math got pretty sticky.  So, in my vast wisdom I decided to create a spreadsheet to do all the work for me; to take the guesswork out of what I was doing.  It was an extra step but it significantly minimized the potential for error or rework.  I went back to my office and devised a spreadsheet to do exactly what I wanted, then I took my first row of data (that I had gotten lucky on) and plugged it in to my spreadsheet to validate the output I was getting, it worked like a champ.  Nevertheless, I still wanted to test its functionality on another set of real data before I went too overboard with it.img_4804

Fast forward a day and I still haven’t had the time to test my spreadsheet and now I am being pressured by my contractor to maintain a schedule and get the elevations set.  Enter the part where I should have hired someone who knew what they were doing… and had the time to do it.  In a rush, I sent my spreadsheet to my iPad and took it out for a field demonstration.  I input the data and set all the elevations per the output.  Satisfied I had performed well I moved on to the next line of anchor bolts and started collecting data while my contractor began erecting steel work on the bolts I had just set.  It was not too long before one of the guys came over and said, “hey boss, something doesn’t look quite right.”  I stared past him at the row of columns and, sure enough, something did not look quite right.  We went back and took some measurements and somehow the elevations did not add up.

To keep a long story short I’ll put it this way, I spent most of Friday trying to figure out my error only to discover that, had I been part of the design team for the Mars rover my spacecraft would have splattered itself across the face of the planet in futile effort to land 380’ below the surface.  To clarify, I made a mistake in a sign convention halfway through my calculations that impacted only half of the elevations I had previously set.  “Plus is positive, minus is negative! Oh let me do it!”

This past Tuesday I experienced a moment that was simultaneously soul-crushing and incredibly uplifting… Strangely enough it had nothing to do with how I voted.  Leslie was at a women’s group so I was home alone with the three kids, a terrifying thought on the best of nights.  This was not the best of nights.  It had been a long day at work (in a several months long period of long days) and the kids had been acting up so I abbreviated our goodnight routine to get everyone to bed a little bit earlier.  I kissed the boys goodnight and went back into the living room to sit down and hopefully get a little more work done before Leslie got home.  I had not even sat down before I heard Nicolas crying; more than a little frustrated I stomped back down the hall and opened the door.  “Why are you crying,” I demanded.  Stumbling to get out his words, “you didn’t pray with us,” he said.

We are over the nine-month threshold since we took custody of him.  In many ways it feels like he has been part of our family for much longer than that, and while it certainly feels like it has been much longer, nine months is an incredibly short time to adjust for a child who has been twice ripped away from his home.  On one hand it was awesome to see that in the short period of time he has been with us this has become such a comforting part of the routine that he cries when it is missed, but where on earth was my head that night when it became something I skipped!?

I am not a perfect parent, at times I’m not even certain I am a good one, but I am fortunate that God gives me grace.  I also consider myself very fortunate that my children give me an almost equal measure of grace.  Is it any wonder that Jesus himself expressed such a great value for children?  In so many ways they are capable of being more Christ-like than we are.  Perhaps that is why Christ said that the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are like these.  Their transparency, their ability to show forgiveness and grace, their ability to take joy (true joy, mind you) from such small and simple pleasures; this is what we are called to be like.  Jesus loves the little children, and so do I; I consider myself privileged indeed to be able to learn from them what Christ wants us to be.

While I am not there yet, I will one day soon be the father of four children who will all be in their teenage years at the same time and while the Bible says that Jesus loves the little children, strangely enough it does not say that Jesus loved the teenagers.  The Bible also does not say when exactly it was that Satan rebelled but, my guess, he was probably 14 or 15.