One Year Ago
September 24, 2017
Wendy and I didn’t have much time for lunch today before we (she) was to meet Zoë for wedding stuff.
So, we stopped at Luby’s, traditional old folks meal.(Not that we’re old, it was just quick.)
So we got the senior plates. Split a dessert. (That does sound old, doesn’t it?)
Anyway, we were sitting next to a table of six ladies of a few more years experience than we had, quite a bit more gray on the top side.
They were eating, talking quietly, back and forth to each other.
I heard laughter from their table, and I looked over.
They were all laughing, shaking, and the laughter continued for several minutes. They weren’t loud, or raucous, but they were genuinely tickled.
I saw one of them daubing at her eyes with her napkin, still laughing.
There was one man at the table, younger, probably a son or grandson of one of them. He may have been the source of the laughter.
I don’t know. But, I do know, I wanted more than anything to be in on it.
I didn’t bother asking Wendy if it would be okay.
I knew what she would say.
But, man, I really would have liked to be a part of that exchange.
Laughter…. Good medicine.
Journal • Sunday, Sep 24, 2017, 8:33 PM CDT • 189 E Blackbourn St, Hawkins, TX, United States • 80°F Clear
SHADES OF THINGS TO COME
Since my mom worked at Kraft Foods in Garland, in the summer of 1972, I was able get a job on the night crew, cleaning the production lines.
Sounds pretty great, huh? You haven’t lived until you have scraped cardboard dust and Miracle Whip off of a conveyor belt.
It wasn’t so bad, though, especially when I got promoted to drive a sweeper over the entire warehouse. That was kind of fun.
But, this Friday night in August, my mind was looking forward to the end of this shift.
My hours were 10:00pm to 8:00am, and on Saturday, my new girlfriend and I were spending the day together.
We had already had a couple of dates: a movie followed by a dinner at Kip’s Big Boy the first week (traditional), and a bicycle ride ending with a picnic at Flagpole Hill the second (non-traditional).
But, we had talked. And hung out together. For hours.
I was captured by this young, exciting beauty.
So, when I got off work, I went home, cleaned up, and drove to Wendy’s house to pick her up for our day together.
Do you remember being able to stay up all night, then being able to go all the next day?
But I did.
I needed a chest of drawers for my new apartment in Houston that I was sharing for the coming year with two of my college friends.
She had a plan. “We can go to some used furniture stores and find one for you. I know some good ones.”
How does an eighteen year old girl know stuff like this?
But she did. We went to the Knox-McKinney area of Highland Park. My grandparents had lived nearby before they sold their house and moved to the country just north of Allen, Texas a couple of years earlier. So, I was familiar with the area.
But, I had never, ever been inside a used furniture store.
Actually, it was more of a junk shop that had old furniture.
Wendy’s eyes were bright with excitement. All these “treasures” everywhere she looked.
“Look at this…and this. I haven’t seen one of these in a long time…Oh, remember these? …” She looked at me with shimmering joy.
I was just happy being with her. I didn’t yet share her excitement with all this old stuff. (That came later…years later.)
“Randy! Here it is!” She was standing in front of a lot of stuff, piled around a baby blue chest of drawers, barely visible. “We can strip this old paint off…it will be perfect!”
She fell in love with the image in her mind of a beautifully transformed antique classic piece, restored to its original shining wood look.
I fell in love with the price…$15.00.
Somehow, we were able to get it into the back of my ’64 Nova, and we carried it to my parent’s house, after a stop at a hardware store for necessary supplies for stripping furniture.
I didn’t have a clue…how did she know these things?
That afternoon, she began to teach me the first in a long line of new skills that she had tucked away in that beautiful old soul that I was starting to discover…apply the stripper, wait, start scraping it off with a putty knife. It was amazing how easily the first couple of layers of paint came off…light blue, green, tan, brown…layer after layer after layer…each layer a little bit harder to remove.
The image in her mind began to change. “You know? We could antique it. We wouldn’t have to take off any more paint. It would look so good. Let’s do that!”
I knew about antiquing. My dad and mom had made my brother and I a long desk for our bedroom years earlier out of a door, resting on two bedside tables…green paint, antiqued with streaks of brown.
“I like that idea,” I said. I was in love.
By the end of the day, we stood in front of an antiqued brown, five drawer chest, that went with me to Houston, and stayed with us through the early years of our life together. (I think we still have it in storage. Somewhere.)
But the treasure that I found was this beautiful young woman, filled with gifts and skills I knew nothing about, that I would marry by the end of the year.
And, looking over this young, unknowing couple, was the One Who made us, Who knew this day in advance, Who knew what lay ahead…
Who had a divine plan.
And, today, 46 years later, as she is getting ready for church in the other room, I know that I love her more now than ever.
And the Plan.
We started to learn the Plan.
Almost six years later.
I have had some kickback through the years by my insistence that one has to be born again in order to belong to God.
I haven’t changed in that, but I have grown in my understanding of the process.
If I can’t come to God unless He first draws me to Him…if I can’t see Him unless He reveals Himself to me…if the only thing I can do is accept or reject the Life He offers me…then, the “being born again” part happens when I say “Yes” to Him.
Jesus told his disciples that he would send the Comforter (the Holy Spirit) to them to guide them into all truth.
Without the Holy Spirit, one remains dead, as he was before he accepted God and His offer of a new Life…he cannot even perceive of God or the things of God.
Before Jesus left his disciples the last time, he told them to go into the whole world to make more disciples, to show these new believers this new way of living.
Now, here’s the thing…you can’t be a disciple unless you are not dead. You have to be a believer, one who has the Life that only God can give. The Life He plants in you when you say, “Yes” to Him.
This Life isn’t magic, but there is power…the ability to “see” and “hear” God, and to understand things written in His Book.
This Life starts out as a tiny seed, and it can sit “dormant” for a while, sometimes for years, waiting to be watered, nearly invisible, except to the One who planted it …
Until a disciple comes along to “make disciples”, to show you some of the marvelous gifts that are waiting for you if you are ready to “believe God” … to trust Him and to follow Him into a new way of living.
When I became a disciple, everything changed.
BRUSH WITH FAME
Two Years Ago (9/18/16)
Wendy’s mom gave me an article written by a guy about my age.
It was about the time he met his first professional football player in 1960. He was nine. Me, too.
Eddie LeBaron, first quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, the guy who held down the fort in those formative days as they groomed Dandy Don Meredith for the role.
0-11-1 that first year.
But there was another team in Dallas at that time, the Dallas Texans of the American Football League. 8-6 in the first season of the fledgling league. They won the championship in 1962.
They had two running backs; Abner Haynes and Jack Spikes.
Sometime in those three years, my church, Monica Park Christian Church in Garland, Tx had a father/son banquet. Jack Spikes was the featured speaker.
My best friend was Earl Ray Shoemaker, preacher’s son.
We hadn’t yet developed into big football fans. Honestly, my earliest memory of football on tv was seeing the end of some important game at my grandparents’ house, when the losing quarterback removed his helmet, and he was bald! Seriously? A bald quarterback? Y.A. Tittle.
Anyway, I guess Jack Spikes gave a good talk. I was nine or ten, so I probably didn’t absorb too many details.
Earl punched me in the arm.
“Ask him how many times he’s shaved on tv,” He whispered.
“You ask him.”
“No, I can’t! Just ask him!”
I raised my hand. Jack Spikes saw me. Pointed to me.
“Uh, how many times have you shaved on tv?”
Everybody laughed. He hadn’t…yet.
That week, Casey’s Callum, the sports column in the local paper, The Garland Daily News, (Casey Cohlmia, who had twin daughters my age, and also went to our church) reported about the celebrity visit to our little church.
“One bright young lad even asked Jack Spikes how many times he had shaved on tv.”
That’s right! I was famous! Mentioned in the newspaper!
When I saw Earl, I said something about the column.
“I know,” he said, “I couldn’t believe he mentioned me in his article!”
Journal • Sunday, Sep 18, 2016, 10:24 PM CDT • 189 Blackbourn St, Hawkins, TX, United States • 79°F Clear
One Year Ago
When I was in fifth grade, Mrs. Carnes’ class at Caldwell, we had square dance day on Wednesdays.
I can’t say I looked forward to it.
My friend, Lester, and I had learned the manual alphabet after Mrs. Carnes had read Helen Keller to us.
“D-Day” Lester finger spelled across the room.
“I know” I signed back.
“Randy, you and Lester, stop talking.” Mrs Carnes didn’t miss a thing.
The pairings of partners was random.
Sometimes that didn’t turn out so well.
But, every once in a while, I was paired with Jeanna Yeager (who later in life actually flew with the legendary Dick Rutan in the first non-stop,
non-refueled flight around the world in the Rutan Voyager. She was not related to Chuck Yeager.)
In the fifth grade, she was quiet, gentle, and did not lead in dance.
And she was a little shorter than I was.
You don’t have to be in love to be a good dance partner.
Years later, I read her story in Smithsonian magazine.
She didn’t mention me.
The next year, my mom decided I needed to learn ballroom dance.
Monday nights for two months, she would take me to the Garland Community Center Annex where Phyllis Clopton taught us the box step, fox trot, and others.
I had a partner who was quiet, gentle and did not try to lead. I think her name was Linda.
“Don’t sway,” Mrs. Clopton would tell us as she walked around the room, adjusting our posture.
At the end of the two months, we were to have a party, a dance. We were supposed to bring a “guest.”
At my house, we had one phone, in the hallway between the bathroom door and my parents’ bedroom.
It had a four foot cord, and would just barely reach into the bathroom.
I found Anita’s number. (I watched her constantly in class. She loved another.)
“Uhhhmmm, I’m in this dance class and we’re having a party. Can you go with me?” I was sweating now.
Anita sweetly responded, “I don’t think I can.”
“OK. Bye.” I hung up.
I went to the party alone.
So did Linda.
We danced together.
She was quiet, gentle, and didn’t try to lead.
Now, I like to watch So You Think You Can Dance!
Sorry, I don’t think I can.
Journal • Sunday, Sep 17, 2017, 4:11 PM CDT • 189 E Blackbourn St, Hawkins, TX, United States • 90°F Mostly Cloudy
FOCUS AND PAIN
When I fell off a roof and broke several ribs on August 14, I entered a time of extreme self-awareness.
Every movement held some sort of pain, so I planned every movement, thinking before I moved, “Do I really need that book on the table? Do I really need to pick up that piece of paper on the floor? Do I really need…?”
In the first few days, time m o v e d s o s l o w l y.
The nights were long, going from fitful dozing to fitful dozing.
The smallest movement would awaken me in pain.
Will I ever feel normal again?
I have always loved my work.
I dreaded going back to work. I knew it was going to hurt.
But, the funny thing is, while I was “immobilized” from busyness, God opened my eyes to people around me who were caring for me, spending their time trying to make up for my newfound inabilities.
Friends from church.
While time moved so slowly in the beginning of the struggle, God pointed out to me that, every day, I was getting a little bit better.
That there was a time in the near future when the pain would be a memory.
A sign that the God I love never leaves my side, even when I forget that He is there.
And in the quiet times of still inactivity…if I listen…I can hear His voice.
Today, four and a half weeks later, the constant pain is gone…only occasional reminders remain; a sneeze, a stretch…but, I am amazed at the design that our Creator built into His creation to repair and rebuild and restore.
And…time is speeding up.
I am glad that I belong to Him.
(Sept. 3. 2016)
Just to be clear, I am not inclined to seek thrills.
Comfort zones, good.
The thrill rides at the fair never had that much appeal.
The only reason I ever tried them was peer pressure.
If I record a football game to watch later, I don’t mind learning the outcome before I watch it, so I don’t have to feel that stress.
If my team lost, I don’t really need to see how.
Adrenaline, while necessary in certain situations, kinda makes me jumpy and nervous. I am not addicted to it.
I like people to like me.
Never have liked to make people around me uncomfortable.
I was always “decently athletic”, strong for my slight build, having pretty good hand-eye coordination, pretty fast runner.
But training was not my strong suit.
Laziness was my default position.
So mediocrity in athletics was the usual result.
School was easy for me, at least through high school.
I didn’t have to study. I just got it.
In college, that “lazy gene” got me.
College, not so easy.
I didn’t do well.
In love, well, don’t we all want what makes us happy?
In work, wanting to be liked, I always tried my best to please my bosses.
I usually did.
Sometimes, life would throw me a choice that was difficult to reconcile with my easy-going nature.
The stress of that type of decision made me jumpy and nervous.
I chose badly.
Once, I got fired for stealing.
Once, I got fired for lying about getting fired for stealing.
Not my comfort zone.
Generally, everything I ever did in any area of my life was for my own self-preservation, anything I could do to keep my life from being too hard.
Even line on a level slope.
“When I became a man, I put away childish things.”
May 8, 1978 everything changed.
The focus of my life that had always been inward, suddenly began to be upward.
The God that I had ignored most of my life, suddenly called me to come to Him.
I find myself being pushed to “step out of my comfort zone.”
My tendencies are still there, to hide, to put up walls.
But, there is a power that is not my power, that moves me, directs me, talks to me, teaches me, understands me.
“And when I run with Him, I feel His pleasure!”
“STOP MONKEYING AROUND!”
Okay, let me begin by saying that I know the difference between monkeys and apes, and I know chimpanzees are not monkeys.
That said, I cannot tell you how many times in my life I have been told, “Quit monkeying around!” Or “Cut out the monkey business!” Or ” You’re all acting like a bunch of monkeys!”
We knew what they meant.
We had been to the zoo…to the spider monkey cage…it was the best!
Playing all the time.
Swinging from tree to tree.
Who wouldn’t want to act like that?
When I was 9 or 10, there was a show on ABC called The Hathaways.
It had a man and woman (Jack Weston and Peggy Cass) who were raising three chimpanzees as if they were children, clothes and all.
It was fantastic!
(Wikipedia said, “Probably the worst television show ever made!”)
I saw it!
I wanted a monkey. Or a chimpanzee.
But when someone told me to “Stop monkeying around!” I knew what they were talking about.
They meant we were acting like monkeys…the animals…(Or chimpanzees, it was just too hard to say “Stop chimpanzeeing around!”)
That is what it meant.
That is still what it means.
We weren’t offended.
We just had to act like humans.