Friday, July 27, 2007

Learning Opportunities

I'm having a little trouble staying focused at work today. It's because I'm very excited about this weekend.
First, I'm heading to Marcellus, MI with my dad this afternoon for some camping and fishing at Cranberry Lake Campground. We've never done anything like this before - just my dad and me. I'm hoping to make this a yearly event, and in a few years when my son is old enough to enjoy it we'll take him along.
Second, our friends Derry and Janelle are staying next door to us this week and I'm hoping to be able to hang out with them. I work with both of them, but we haven't had a ton of time lately to just hang out outside of work. Although on Wednesday we all loaded in the van and went to a drive-in in Syracuse. Derry and I ate breaded cheeseburgers!!!!
Third, I've got a special date planned for my wife Sunday night. Seriously, this is the most planning I've put into something for the two of us for quite some time. I'm really looking forward to it.
Fourth, Derry and I have plans to go fishing Monday. Also, maybe some time on a jet ski. That's one of my favorite things to do on the water and haven't done it since we moved to the lake.

I know this all seems like just a bunch of "here's what I'm up to" stuff, but I'm really writing this because all of these activities should be "Learning to Serve" opportunities.

First, my dad has already taught me a thing or two. I called him last night to figure out what I need to bring on our camping trip. Basically, he's got the whole thing taken care of. I could just show up with my clothes and a fishing pole and would be fine. The trip was my idea, but he's really taken that idea and run with it. He bought me a fishing license and is supplying all the food. He'll probably try to get me to take some money for the campsite (but I won't). He's just taken this as a chance to let me know how much he loves being with me and that's something I want to pass on to my son (and daughter and wife).
Second, time with Derry and Janelle teaches me lots of things. Laughter is always a big part of our times together, and I can't get enough laughter in my life. This couple is so entrenched in ministry that seeing what's in their hearts is always a boost for me. Derry has said in his blog that he's going to try not to talk about "work" but I doubt he'll be able to stop himself for long. You see, his "work" is ministry, which is his heart. So, we'll talk about other things but I'm going to try to get Derry to talk about "work."
Third, planning a special night for my wife has been a lot of fun and definitely a learning experience. At first I was all excited about the ideas I had and trying to figure out how to make them happen. Then, I reached a point where I just wanted to give up and take her to "dinner & a movie" - the old standby. But, I pushed through that and now have a pretty cool date planned. I've got to remember to push through when things don't sound so exciting anymore. Serving others sounds so great at first, but when you actually start serving it gets pretty dull. That's when I've got to remember to suck it up and get the job done. If I do, the end result will be very rewarding for everybody involved.
Fourth, the reason Derry and Janelle are living next door to us this week is because Neal & Leslie Yoder (who I've referred to a few times before) are letting them stay in their "guest house." The reason I might get to ride a jet ski is because Andy & Kathy Brown, who also live on the lake, have given Derry and Janelle unlimited access to one while they're staying on the lake. That's two great examples of selflessness. Those families have put others ahead of themselves just because it's the right thing to do and they love serving!

So, once the weekend is over I'll report back on any interesting events as well as lessons learned.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Personal Touch

I continue to be fascinated by the things I'm learning through blogging. I'm still a baby blogger, so I know there's a whole lot I don't know yet, but the past couple months have been fun!
I really enjoy Jim Stump's series, Tuesday's Blog on Blogging. I like it so much that I'm going to use this post as a Blog on Blogging. I won't, however, be starting a similar series (at least not yet).

I recently signed up for a Google Reader account and I love it. Well, I mostly love it.
I have about 20 blogs I try to keep up with and it has saved me a ton of time each day.
The only drawback is that I usually just read new items within Google Reader and never actually visit the blogs. This bothers me for 2 reasons. First, if the blog has some sort of statcounter, I don't know if my "visits" count. Second, I don't get to see any updates people make to their blogs.
As a designer, the way a person makes his/her blog look is almost as important to me as what he/she has to say.
So, I don't know what I'm going to do. Maybe I'll just click to the blog from Reader. It's only one extra click, right?

Friday, July 20, 2007

Laugh Out Loud!

Today was a pretty busy one, so not much time to post much, but I read a great post from another blogger and I figured if I could help a few more people read it my blogging effort for today would be quite productive. So, please read Mark Batterson's post on laughter. Then, do something that makes somebody laugh!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Blogs I Want To Read

Two months into my blog life, I am amazed at how much you can learn about a person by reading his/her blog. I'm also surprised at how much I learn from the comments people leave on my blog. With that in mind, here's a list of people whose blogs I would love to read ... if they had a blog:
My wife - it would just be interesting to see what she would share with the world, and who would become her regular readers.
My Dad - being a Sunday School teacher for as long as I can remember, he would probably have some great Biblical insights to share, as well as some funny in-class stories.
Neal Yoder - his outlook on life seems to be so positive and selfless, I wonder where that comes from.
Mark Lantz - a business-minded man whose heart seems to be for ministry. A great combination!
Dave Engbrecht - if all he did was share insights into being a successful leader, it would be a great blog. But I'm guessing he'd give his readers way more than that.
Dennis Engbrecht - what's it like to work with college students every day? What's it like to see some of them make bad choices again and again while others take the high road?
Joe Focht - I'd be most interested in what it has been like raising three girls, although his thoughts on leadership would be most valuable as well.
Tim Baylor - a fresh dose of his thoughts on scripture in regular intervals would be priceless.
Mike Lightfoot - where does all that positive energy come from?
Leslie Yoder - Give, give, give and then give some more: the art of generosity.
Cindi Lantz - why take an interest in the next generation?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Mr. Mom - Part Three (Campouts, Crocodiles and Crying)

The past two days have been such a mix of ups and downs.
As I'm trying to think of how to put this into words, I can't help thinking this shouldn't be such a big deal. Five days alone with my kids shouldn't represent such a monumental time for me. I think I've got to make it a priority to either send my wife out for times of refreshing or take the kids with me for times of bonding. I can't tell you how much these past few days have made me sensitive to how hard my wife's job is. So, when she comes back we're going to reprioritize things a little bit, making sure we each get times of refreshing and times of bonding with the kids.
Back to the past two days: Sunday was great. I mean it, that was one of the best days I've ever had with my kids. We went to church like normal, then invited the Graversons (Marty, Mindy, Emma and Tyrus) over for a campfire that evening. We ate our normal Sunday lunch of pancakes and eggs, then started getting things ready for a campout.
As I was setting up the tent, I could tell the kids were excited about camping for the first time. They've experienced campfires before, but not actually staying outside all night. So, their minds must have been racing.
The Graversons came and I also invited the Yoders to join us and it turned out to be a great time of fellowship with all three families. The kids played hard and ate a little bit.
After everyone left for the night it was time for the real test. The kids and I (and Gus, our 5-month-old Golden Retriever) piled into the tent, settled into our spots and went to bed. This was the part I was really worried about, especially with Gus in there. I didn't know if the kids would freak out once the lights went out, or if Gus would just keep us awake. But, everything went as smoothly as possible. Gus slept at our feet the whole night and the kids didn't wake up until morning.
Today's agenda was simple: Go to the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo. We had never been before, and we're still getting used to the idea that Fort Wayne is as close as South Bend.
We woke up pretty early, so we got cleaned up and headed out at about 9:15. The ride there was great. Our youngest took a nap and our oldest sat still the whole time, either singing songs, talking with me or just being quiet.
Things started out smooth once we arrived at the zoo, but it didn't last. The heat, a pretty short night of sleep and three different opinions on what we should see next made for a less-than-perfect situation.
We only stayed at the zoo for about 2 1/2 hours, which was fine with all of us. The ride home and the evening activities were a test for all of us.
The kids were obviously fatigued, as was I, and 4 days without mommy finally got to our oldest child. She broke down while I was making dinner (no, it wasn't hot dogs or frozen pizza). I held her as much as I could and tried to comfort her, but the tears just kept coming. I felt so bad for her. All she wanted was her mom and a little girl time (remember, she's been stuck with 2 boys for these 4 days). It felt good to be the one there for her in her time of distress. Holding her is all I've wanted to do for most of her life, she just hasn't slowed down enough very often.
Thank goodness for the Yoders, once again. We went for a bike ride and stopped by their house after dinner. Fortunately Julia was home and gave Hanah some attention before we headed home for bedtime. Then, just before bed, Leslie and Jana came up for a quick visit. I think that eased some of my daughter's anxiety in a way I couldn't.
So, we're about 20 hours (hopefully) away from the big reunion. I know things are different on this end, and I'm sure things will be different from my wife's perspective as well. Tomorrow, there are no plans, except picking up some poster board and following Rob's advice. Thanks for all the support you guys have been giving me.


This is just a quick little note to help promote one of the best things about this summer. Sweet Corn Charlie has provided us (at the price of $5.50-5.75) with 2 dozen ears of incredible sweet corn. We also bought some from another seller (in the Mishawaka area) and were terribly disappointed. So, I don't think I'll ever buy from anywhere but Charlie! I hope you will follow my lead.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Mr. Mom - Part 2 (Fatigue, Frustration, Fear)

Ok, so I know the last post made it sound like there has not been any problems. That is certainly not the case, even though it has been fairly smooth sailing thus far.
Tonight, things became a bit more difficult for the three of us. As the day went on and we all started getting tired.
I had to take the kids to church with me to do some work. Bad idea. This required them to keep their hands off stuff in and around the office, video room and sound booth. That's a tough thing for little ones, especially when they're tired.
Trying to work as quickly as possible while also trying to keep an eye on two kids was tough for me. I have to admit I "lost perspective" a few times and was probably a bit harsh with them.
On the drive home, I tried to regain my perspective. The fatigue we were all feeling quickly turned into frustration whenever the slightest conflict came up.
Long story short, we made it through dinner, bathtime and bedtime without any major trauma.
As I was waiting for our youngest to fall asleep, he just started crying for his mommy. I think he's starting to be afraid that she's not coming back.
Fortunately, I was able to see it as an opportunity to go in there and teach him a hard lesson ... just kidding. I went in there, held him, assured him I would be here whenever he needed me and got him back to bed peacefully.
That last interaction was what I had been waiting for all day. As the day wore on and I just started wishing for the kids to fall asleep, I wasn't thinking about making the most of the bedtime process. Thank goodness I happened to find the right frame of mind at the right time.
I love these kids. I love being with them. I hate blowing opportunities to grow closer to them.

Mr. Mom - Part 1

Well, I'm about a day and a half into the 5 days alone with the kids, and things are going great. Seriously. No, I mean it!

Anyway, day one went smoothly. We dropped off my wife at 8 a.m. and went straight to a park. We played for about an hour and a half then went to a local store and found some new shoes (see picture above).

We got home in time for lunch and then put the little guy down for a nap. Then it was time to go to the Yoders for some swimming, but it didn't turn out to be a very good swimming day. Kind of cool and windy.

After a few hours of down time (kids playing on their own while I tried to stay awake), we got dinner ready and then dropped the kids off at the Yoders.

I headed to the softball game, which we won, and then picked the kiddos back up. Bedtime was a cinch (you've just got to wear them out during the day) except for a little whining about wanting Mommy.

Today is going well, too. We made another trip to a park and then I used up my one meal at McDonald's for the week. Another nap has just ended, so now the kids are ready to roll.

I've already got a greater appreciation for what my wife does every day. And if that's the only thing I learn or accomplish from this time, I think it's valuable. But, I hope much more comes of these next 3 1/2 days.

I do feel like the kids are learning that Dad is pretty good at comforting them when they need it, and that I can keep the house running, even if it's not a smoothly as Mommy!

I'll try to post more either tonight or tomorrow night. Keep praying for us!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I love you Mansfield!

As I was doing some blog maintenance today, I checked out my report on Google Analytics. I found out that I'm huge in Mansfield, Ohio! That city has sent, by far, the most visits to this blog. I can't think of anybody I know who lives in Mansfield. In fact, I had never heard of Mansfield before now. But, it is quickly becoming one of my favorite cities!
By the way, I'm also pretty popular in Brussels, Belgium!

I also got on Google Reader today (with some help from Derry) and now I'll know much more quickly when any of my favorite bloggers posts something new.

Google Analytics and Google Reader are pretty cool services. You should try them out.

Goodbye, old friend

It is a sad day for me. I'm dealing with the loss of a true friend.

Last night my wife and I decided to take some time off.

My life won't be the same for at least a month and a half.

Are you worried about me yet?

Don't be, I'm simply referring to a pact between my wife and I to start a 40-day break from sweets. We've both been hitting the sugar pretty hard lately and the sugar has been hitting our bodies even harder. Neither of us is terribly overweight, but we're heading in that direction.

So, today I'm mourning the loss of my trusty companion, Mountain Dew.
We decided soda qualifies as a sweet because of the amount of sugar in it. However, we somehow decided sweetened tea is OK. Not sure what our logic was on that one.

I'll keep you posted on any symptoms of withdrawal!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Sammy teaches me

I finished reading God's Secret Agent by Sammy Tippit and Jerry Jenkins last night. Here are my takeaways:
1. I am deaf. Seriously, I can hear people speaking, but I don't know if I've ever heard God speak to me as clearly as Sammy has. I know it's a me problem - I've got to become more sensitive through quiet time, reading the word and prayer.
2. I have no faith. Several times throughout the book, Sammy says his faith is small. What? He's traveling to dangerous places because of his faith. So, if his faith is small, what does that make mine?
3. My priorities are wrong. Sammy had to put God first in order to leave his wife and family behind for weeks on end so he could preach where God led him. Would I do that? I'm having trouble dealing with the fact that my wife is going to be away for 5 days in Ohio. What does that tell you about my priorities?

(This book didn't just beat me up. It also encouraged me.)

4. God still does miracles. Some of the things that have happened in Sammy's life are unbelievable ... unless you believe God is almighty. Looking back on my life, I can't recall many "supernatural" things, but I know God has spared me on a few occasions. So, I'm thankful for His control over all of life's circumstances.
5. God saves people, not me. It's a good thing, too, because the whole world would be going to hell if it were up to me to save people. This encouraged me because I get so nervous when I am in a situation where it seems appropriate to share my faith. Usually I never muster up the courage to do it. But, after reading Sammy's book, my perspective has changed. What have I got to lose? If someone is offended or thinks I'm crazy, why should that bother me? How is that going to make my life any worse?
6. The name of Jesus is incredibly powerful. One time Sammy saw a ferocious dog heading to attack him and all he could think to do was use the name of Jesus to rebuke that dog. The dog stopped, turned and ran the other way! I know Jesus' name does not only work on dogs, so I am encouraged to claim Him as my lord in every situation.
7. God provides. Sammy has made it a point in his ministry to never ask for money. Seriously. His belief is that if he's truly following where God is leading, the necessary funds will be provided. And they always were. That encourages me to seek God's will before anything else. For example, instead of seeking a higher-paying job or a cheaper place to live, I must first ask Him what his plan is for my life. If I can discern and follow that plan, He will provide the necessary means to get me there.

As literature goes, I'm no expert, but it doesn't take one to recognize an incredible story. This isn't the most captivating book I've read, but Sammy's life story is amazingly intriguing and inspiring. He chose to follow Jesus wherever He led. That commitment has taken him to every inhabited continent to preach the Gospel.
I know it's not safe to follow Jesus, but it is exciting. His will is unfathomably greater than any plans I could make. So, why wouldn't I follow Him?

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Quote for July 5

"I don't want to waste my suffering." - Joni Eareckson Tada during an interview with Francis Chan for his sermon at Cornerstone Simi Valley last week.
There's three links to sites worth checking out.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Somewhere between 15 and 60

If you read my post about quotes and followed the link, you might have come across this one:

"... make it a habit to have conversations with people half your age and twice your age." - scottmeier

I spent most of my day yesterday on the beach with my family and another family who has children just a little younger than mine. It was a lot of fun. The kids made it incredible.
The wonder, fear, excitement and disappointment they go through in short periods of time is fun to watch. The things they say are worth remembering. I just wish I could know all their thoughts. What a fun world they live in!

I also spent time this weekend with a couple who has kids much older than mine. These people aren't twice my age, not even close, but old enough to have experienced way more of life than I. Neal and Leslie Yoder live near us in the summer and have become good friends over the past month. Their generosity is unbelievable. I think Neal's still mad at me for not using his boat yet! I love to listen to them because they know where I'm at in life and how quickly I'll be in a new place. Their perspective is valuable to me because I've always been weak at seeing the big picture. Their friendship is valuable to me because they make me feel important, worthy and loved. They are valuable to me because they are valuable to Jesus and their love for Him is perfectly evident in their lives.

So, I'm 30 (almost 31) and I didn't exactly have conversations with someone 15, or someone 60, but I think I realized the intent of the quote. The perspectives I saw this weekend helped balance me. Hopefully, every week can be as balanced as this past one!