Category Archives: God

The Gifts I Gave . . .

This is not even remotely close to a serious post.  However, every last word of it is true.

From December of 1992 until February of 1997, I worked at Lighthouse Christian Bookstore.  It changed names and owners a couple of times, and it wasn’t a continuous period of work (there was a 3 month sabbatical at JByron’s Department Store, and a 3 month run in the Winn Dixie Seafood department, and the worst lawn service job in the history of the world – but this isn’t about those).

I cannot even believe I’m allowing you guys into this side of my mind, but my friend Katherine somehow drew this out in the comments on one of her posts, so hang with me.

Because, without fail, every gift I gave anyone during that time period was purchased at Lighthouse Christian Bookstore.  Every single one.  All of them at either 10% or 20% (different owners equal different discounts) off.

I bought my mom most of the seraphim Angel collection.  She loved ‘em, or so she told me.  They were kinda creepy, I thought.  I put them on layaway for, like, 18 months or something.  Longest layaway plan in history.  Then I bought her a Bible.  Then a Beth Moore Devotional.  Then a Beth Moore Devotional Bible.

I bought my dad a genuine leather Bible, KJV.  Then I bought him a Charles Stanley Devotional.  Then I bought him a Rick Warren Devotional.  Then I bought him the Men’s Devotional Bible.  Then I bought him . . . you get the picture.

I also used my employee discount to score items of affection for potential women in my life.  I’ll never forget scouring book after book of “birth name” cards.  Come to find out, these were for newborns, and you’d put them in a first Bible or something.  But they’d have the name, a la “Amanda” and its definition (“worthy to be loved” or “beloved” – they all basically had the same definition since there were no Amandas in ancient Rome).  It’d be a glossy card, with like a picture of a seagull or a mountain or a sunset in the background; text would be in the the calligraphy font straight from Microsoft Works 1.0.  How I didn’t score more dates by leaving those $.49 cards on girls desks and in their lockers at school, we’ll never know.  I was certain that would leave a trail of cheerleaders in my path.  I did not.

Anyway, my sister reaped the most benefits of all, because I ascended to the man in charge of the music side of the store . . . This means she benefited from my behind the scenes music access.

First, you need to understand that I was under the impression that I was IN the music industry.  Sure I was making $7 an hour selling Bill and Gloria Gaither Videos . . . but that doesn’t take into account the perks.

Like free backstage passes to meet Steven Curtis Chapman?  Mark Lowry?  Petra?  Michael English?  How could you put a price on that*?

*Technically, those tickets all had prices on them.  But whatever.

When Christafari sold there 100,000th record, and the band decided to call Christian Bookstores and thank them, who picked up that phone?  Mark Mohr didn’t carry on that conversation by himself.

When Jars of Clay decided to send a Gold Record to all their mega-stores, who was only 9 album sales short?

So I was kindof a big deal.  Which meant I could take home the standup displays after they’d run their useful life.  And this is where my sister really benefited.

Off the top of my head, I remember bringing home:

A life sized Carmen.  A 3/5 scale cutout of PFR.  Andy Griffith (because she was a huge Andy Griffith fan).  The Steven Curtis Chapman Great Adventure display AND the SCC Signs of Life display.  Signed Third Day posters.  Signed DC Talk posters (not actually signed by them; but really good reprints).

This is to say nothing of the bands I brought home who never made it, but woah if they had, we would have some serious memorabilia for the Alt-Rock-Christian-Retro movement that’s afoot* . . . a Believable Picnic Poster?  Boom.  Imagine This promo tents?  Nailed it.  Keith Brown, well, anything?  Give me a hard one.  Oh, a signed East to West Poster, by the dude who’s now in Rascal Flats?  Please . . . I could’ve had tons of those if I’d wanted (if by “signed” you meant “not autographed so much as re-printed”)

*What do you mean it’s not afoot.  Just wait.

None of this really has any point at all, I just felt like y’all needed to know.

Anyway.  That was life with me in the mid-90’s.

While you were away . . .

Well, actually, most of you were here all along.  It was I (we) who went away.

Late 2013 was a weird period for us.  We had some pretty major lifestyle changes, and our custody arrangement changed, and we took what most of our family termed “the best vacation ever” to Washington, DC.

I won a second straight neighborhood Fantasy Football championship, narrowly, over my daughter.  Will finished speech therapy, and his “r’s” and “l’s” are coming along wonderfully.  Liv was accepted into the International Baccalaureate school, a pretty big deal.  Both kids are bringing home straight A’s (with a very occasional B).

We bought a grill, and started actually liking our puppy, and both of us got new jobs and we rediscovered Popeye’s Spicy Fried Chicken and discovered (for the first time) PDQ Buffalo Chicken Tenders.

Anyhow, we’re back – maybe not as religiously as we have been in the past, but back none the less.

If you want to get caught up, here are some of the highlights:

On being 14

The time I went to church and got booed

Our 2nd anniversary

On Step-parenting

I have to tell you something

The vicious hamster story

Stuff on Coley’s head

A dove(less) hunt

The time Gilly caught our TV on fire

Thanks for reading, and for coming along on our ride!

Dads and Doughnuts

Subtitled: the post where I went to Awana.

Yes.  Awana.

Will comes home, like, 2 months ago, and tells me that there is going to be a night at his Awana class where all the dads come, and they have doughnuts.

It bears mentioning that this is a church where my ex-wife attended until very recently, and my kids have been involved in their Awana programs and music programs and soccer programs over the years.  That it’s 5 minutes (literally, 5 minutes) from my house.  And that I’ve been to it a handful of times for various events.  And, having grown up in church in Winter Haven, there are a number of folks there I’ve attended church with and shopped at Publix with and played softball against . . . So I’m not altogether unfamiliar with the facility or people.

So I tell Will “certainly, I’d love to come to Dads and doughnuts” and we forgot all about it.  Until last Wednesday.

I’m driving Will to school, and we pass the church, and he says “Daddy, guess what tonight is!!?!?!?”

So I put on my big girl pants, and show up to Dads and Doughnuts at 6:15.  The following is what ensued:

6:15 - Check-in to Will’s class.  Notice that it’s called “Dad’s and Doughnuts” . . . realize grammar is not a primary concern here.

6:16 - meet Will’s teacher; in my head, I nickname him “Capt. Awana.”  Walk into classroom.  Stopped by a very stern, bespectacled woman – she and Will exchange some sort of gibberish – Will gets handed 4 gold coins, which he walks across the room and drops into a green sand bucket.

6:17 - I sit down in one of the grownup sized chairs along the wall, directly behind Will.  We discuss Minecraft, his day at school, and the bookfair.  I am the only dad (out of 6 in the room) not on his iphone.  I give myself a gold coin, mentally.

6:30 - Still in the same seating arrangement.  More dads have arrived.  The room, which is the size of the smallest bedroom in your house, now has approximately 30 1st/2nd/3rd graders and probably 15 dads.  The noise level is somewhere between a rock concert and a 747 landing.

6:35 - First graders called out of the room.  Their dads follow them.

6:40 - Second graders out of the room.  I am excited, as the temperature in the room is roughly the same as the tarmac where a 747 would land.  In the summer.

6:41 - we’re in the room where the kids say their memory verse(s).  I find it strange that, despite having said “hello” to at least 4 different dads so far, none seem interested in engaging in any sort of conversation.  I feel like this is odd for at least 2 reasons – 1) because if this is an outreach sort of event, you know, to reach the parents of kids who come to Awana but aren’t engaged in the church, you would think I would’ve been a prime target; 2) maybe all the dads here are not engaged in this church, and their kids only come for the Awana program.

6:42 - Will is still talking to me . . . about everything he can think of, except Awana.  I keep asking questions, as I don’t have a schedule of events, I don’t see any signs, and the only evidence I can find that tonight is any different than any other night is the “Dad’s and Doughnuts” sign in sheet, and the 10 or so adults in the room not wearing Awana issued gear.

6:45 - Okay – I’ve seen at least 5 people who I know, and none has even so much as offered a “hello” – I walk up to one . . . I coached his daughter for 2 years in basketball, served on the PTA at the small private school where our kids went, and worked line duty there 10-12 weeks a year for 4 years.  Assuming nothing, I walk up and reintroduce myself, asking about his daughter, his sons, his wife . . . and he engages!!!!  We catch up for a few minutes, then he goes back to his group of 5 dads across the room at the cool kids table.  I walk back to Will.

6:47 - I ask Will if he should be studying a Bible verse to recite.  “No sir.”  Why not?  “Because I’m already done with those books.”  Um.  Okay.  So – do you graduate Awana then?  “No sir.  I have to do this. (shows me a list of the books of the Old Testament)”  Okay – do we need to study that then.  “No sir.  I’m not going to do it.”  Okay.  So this is kinda like a free time?

6:49 - I get the kid next to Will to take the purple crayon out of his mouth.  I mention that he probably shouldn’t eat that.  His dad almost glances up from his iPhone.

6:55 - line up – time for game time.  I silently pray that the Dads aren’t participants in game time.

7:00 - Prayer unanswered.  Well played, God.  We are ACTIVE participants in game time.

7:01 - I realize that gametime isn’t necessarily well thought out.  I realize this when I see that Will is competing against a 3rd grade girl who’s 5 feet tall, a kid who could play linebacker on a JV team, and a 1st grader sucking his thumb.  I wonder if I could start some side-action with some of the dad’s if they’d give me odds on linebacker kid.

7:02 - The girl won.  Linebacker kid slipped and finished second.  Will was a distant third.  Thumb sucking kid cried.

7:07 - Game number 2.  Dodge ball.  All the dads in the middle.  Capt. Awana counted to 30 seconds, then counted the number of dads left in the middle.  Then we switched, and the dads were outside, kids in the middle.  Dads won, 12 – 6.  Will and I both never got hit.  We also never were allowed to throw the ball.  Those tasks were handled by the cool-dads table.

7:15 - Game number 3.  Kids lead the dads around the circle.  Dads are blindfolded.  I wonder about the church’s insurance policy, since I feel certain this will end with a broken ankle.

7:18 - Cool kid and his dad run into Will and I.  I don’t fall, since I’ve got a foot and 80 lbs on cool dad.  He goes down like a sack of bricks.  My ankle is bleeding. It’s okay though, because they cheat at the end of the game to beat Will to the center.  Everyone cheers.  I don’t.

7:22 - I feel really sad for some of these kids, who don’t have dads, or their dads couldn’t make it tonight.  It’s okay, though, because cool dads step in, calling attention to the fact that they aren’t the kids’ dads, and there’s always hijinks, and those kids never win.

7:24 - this woman has walked by me no less than 4 times.  I know I know her from somewhere, but I can’t place it (and if you know me at all, that is quite the upset).  Finally, I figure it out – I stop her and say “Excuse me – are you Megan’s mom?” . . . and she smiles and says “hey Travis, how are you doing” . . . Now, I coached Megan in basketball for YEARS.  When she started, she shot underhand and couldn’t graze the bottom of the net.  She quit at least once a practice.  And by the last game of the year, she scored 12 points.  In that game.  Now, I hadn’t seen her in probably 6 years, but the fact that she’d walked by me 4 times, and knew my name, but I had to be the first to speak, well, it bugged me.

7:26 - but not as much as the guy I saw across the room . . . Charlie . . . he was in my small group for 5 years . . . I played softball with him, gave him rides places, was a job reference.  I made eye contact and he didn’t even wave.  So I marched over to him, said “hey Charlie, how’re you doing” and he was polite, and we talked, blahblahblah.  I give myself another gold coin.

7:28 - last game, thankfully . . . conga line race, around a circle.  My mind plays out how this is going to end with a kid getting trampled.  Sure enough, my giant feet step on the flip-flop of the dad in front of me.  He takes out 1/4 of our group, plus the tail end of the line next to us.  3 kids are crying.  I feel really bad, which, I think to myself, is exactly how you want a visitor to feel . . . cool dads all laugh – their team won the race.

7:32 - back into the sauna-room, aka the original classroom.  Capt. Awana teases us with the idea that the doughnuts will be awesome, and available, after our lesson.  He tells a funny story about how, when he went to buy the doughnuts this morning, he was not the only person wearing a “Sparky” shirt in the Dunkin Doughnuts, and that they sang the Sparky song together right there in the shop.  This leaves me with two thoughts:

  1. Lots of people who will never go on dates must eat at Dunkin’ Doughnuts
  2. That I’m ’bout to get doughnuts that have, at a minimum, been sitting around in this cat’s car for 10 hours.

7:34 - The pastor, yes, the actual pastor, yes the pastor of the church will be in momentarily to teach us about Daniel and the lion’s den.  I LOVE Daniel and the lion’s den.

7:35 - until I’m chosen to play a scheming enemy of Daniel.  I know this isn’t good, because I’m going to end up thrown into a lion’s den and actually eaten, and the lion’s are all being played by the cool dads . . . the pastor makes a big deal out of getting the crowd to “boo” us whenever we are mentioned in the story.  Yes – I got booed at Awana.  Repeatedly.  The other dad with me obviously never got to explore his theater major, because he’s in full on dancing and whooping mode, which causes me to stand out like a sore thumb.  Really enjoying this.  Deep breaths.  Doing this for Will.  I give myself 4 more gold coins.

7:55 - WTF – is it like 85 degrees in here?  Dude next to me smells like my gym socks from 8th grade, you know, before you realized girls would like you better if you didn’t smell, and you’d actually take them home occasionally to be washed.  He is sweating like he’s running a marathon.  In his defense, he is exerting a lot more effort into his role as a kings adviser than I am (which is to say, any effort at all).  I’m fairly certain that the actual king’s advisers, you know, the ones 5 thousand years ago, I’m fairly certain they put forth less effort than this cat.  If he’d been an actual king’s adviser, the whole Daniel story might’ve played out differently.

7:58 - mercifully, we’re thrown to the lions.  The lions, are, remember, the cool dads.  This is roughly exactly the same way I remember high school. I’m rooting for the lions at this point.

8:00 - Awards time – I silently cuss in my head . . . is this an overnight event?  How long are we going to be here?  And what about the doughnuts?  Am I going to hell for cussing in my head at Awana?

8:07 - “. . . and Charlie Drummond gets green jewel number 7 . . . wait, you already have green jewel number 7 . . . hmmmm, oh well, just see me next week and we’ll figure it out . . . ” Umm, how ’bout we just see you next week for the awards?

8:12 - “Joey Hill gets his skywriter’s badge . . . Joey?  Is Joey here? Where is Joey?”  I’m thinking Joey caught on to this con hours ago, bro – he saw that the doughnuts were just a bait and switch – he recited John 3:16 or something and cut and ran in time to get home and watch the Lakers game.

8:18 - “I want to thank you all for coming.  Please stop by the check in table at the back door and get yourself a doughnut on the way out.”

8:21 - Still standing in line.  Will is beaming.  He is so happy.  We each get our munchkin (“One per customer” according to the little old battleaxe lady guarding the boxes).

8:21:39 - WTF IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE!!!?!?!?!?!  ONE MUNCHKIN – I AM BLEEDING ON MY ANKLE FROM SOME MORON RUNNING INTO ME BECAUSE HE THINKS A BEANBAG RACE IS GAME 7!  I’VE HAD SALIVA ON MY HANDS THAT WASN’T MINE BECAUSE LITTLE JOHNNY CAN’T KEEP THE CRAYONS OUT OF HIS MOUTH.  I NEARLY KILLED “FATHER OF THE YEAR” AND THREE OF HIS OFFSPRING IN THE CONGA LINE RACE.  I STILL DON’T KNOW WHAT THE GOLD COINS DO!  I’VE BEEN IGNORED, EMBARRASSED, BEATEN UP, TRIPPED, BOOED (BOOED!?!?!), AND FED TO LIONS AND YOU’RE GIVING ME ONE DAMN MUNCHKIN?!?!?!?!?!

8:24 - Exit the building . . . Will’s mom is there to pick him up.  “How was it?” she asks.  I get a bit misty eyed, as my boy, a chip off the old block, says to her “Great.  Only they only gave us one munchkin each.  That kinda stinks.  And I didn’t boo my daddy. But me and Daddy had fun anyway.”

Yes we did, Will.  Yes we did.

Things I think . . .

  • I think we have a pond in our back yard.  It’s about 1 1/2 acres of surface area, and it’s overgrown, and it attracts alligators and otters.  On Monday, Finley decided to do some laps in it – right after I gave him a bath.  And I had to go in after him.  I was displeased.  My father, however, who was there to witness the incident, was more than pleased.  In fact, I think he may start a blog and join facebook just so he can talk about it.
  • I think, in a completely related event, I want to sell Finley on Craigslist.  Ad will read: “Free to a good home: dog.”
  • I think Gilly might not be okay with that.
  • I think there’s collusion going on in our neighborhood Fantasy Football league – a dad/son combo down the street is swapping players back and forth with each other to circumvent bye weeks.  Olivia is marching up and down the street in protest, ranting and raving like a lunatic, garnering support to shoot down their latest trade.  I’ve never been so proud.
  • I think I went to church twice last week – once on Sunday morning, once on Wednesday night, to Awana, with Will, for Dads and Doughnuts.  One of these two outings will result in a blog post on Friday.  Trust me when I tell you – do not miss it.
  • Gilly:  Which—if I may—can I just say that I am completely ashamed of what I used to do at church? I used to be in charge of making it “relevant” and “cool” and making videos and graphics and lighting. Turns out, Jesus is relevant without my help. And really, Jesus is what people want when they walk into a church building. Not videos and cover songs and pretty lights. I know this now, because after many years of church detox piled on top of many years of not-easy life, all I want is Jesus. No lights/videos/sirens/dancers necessary.

Two Yearniversary

Two years ago we got married under the oak tree in our backyard.

reception062-M

We did everything for our little wedding with our own hands (and lots of help from family!) and it was everything I hoped it would be. It also happened to be freezing that day, but I didn’t even notice.

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We got the flowers the day before from Publix, dinnerware from Ikea, and set up one big table on our back porch.

 

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My sweet neighbor and mother-in-law made home made apple and pumpkin pies.

 

We have been on a lot of adventures together.
Some include climbing roofs and looking out over the Tennessee river in North Alabama.

Lake Guntersville State Park in Alabama overlooks the Tennessee River.

Lake Guntersville State Park in Alabama overlooks the Tennessee River.

Some include hanging out in some really, really dirty bathhouses in campgrounds.

Believes there are spiders near.

Believes there are spiders near.

 

Fears no oil.

Fears no oil.

Fishing all the while. . .

Windcreek State Park

Windcreek State Park

 

 

Sometimes we worked outside until 4 am in a blizzard.

Brrr.

Brrr.

On a lift, freeze cold air flows all around your feet. The increased surface area leads to faster frostbite. In case you were wondering.

On a lift, freezing cold air flows all around your feet. The increased surface area leads to faster frostbite. In case you were wondering.

 

Also brr.

Also brr.

Sometimes we take road trips and come home with new family members.

Finley's first car ride.

Finley’s first car ride.

Some adventures are not so fun. Being jobless for months. Sick kids in the hospital. Inevitable family drama.

But…

Did I mention we go fishing?

The club can't even handle me right now.

The club can’t even handle me right now.

Sometimes we go on dates to Taco Bell and see how much money we can spend, because it seems like no matter how hungry you are, you can’t spend more than $25 at Taco Bell.

Sometimes we sit in our car in a parking lot and talk and talk and talk. These conversations usually start with, “I have an idea for a business.” I roll my eyes and Travis continues. And we dream.
Always together.

Andy’s milkshakes. Dairy Queen runs. Come sit on the back porch with me. Let’s watch a West Wing. Wanna walk the dogs? I have an idea for a blog post. Trying new recipes. Wanna go garage-sale-ing?

In these recent weeks in a season of uncertainty when we have struggled so forcefully to survive, we held each other up and cried and prayed together. Literally holding each other up.

There’s no one else I’d rather do life with.

Me too, baby . . . me too . . .

 

Step Parent-ing: The best worst feeling you’ve ever had.

I think maybe the worst part of being a step-parent, with no biological kids of my own, is my delusion that I have a blood-bond with a child that leaves no doubt that this is a false impression.

I don’t bother making the “step-kid” distinction very often (usually only when someone looks puzzled as to how I managed to acquire a 13 year old daughter while appearing in my teens myself. I am, in fact, in my late 20’s and technically could be her mom…if I had pulled a Lorelai*). We’ve been told we look alike, share mannerisms, we have long lanky bodies and often finish each others sentences. Whether we are home or out and about, to me they are simply my son and daughter.

But to them, I am always their step-mom. As it should be.

Nothing could have prepared me for this season of my life. I read books (my favorite: Becoming a Step-Mother with Humor and Grace), had counseling, and read through support forums online (whatever you do, don’t read through the support forums online. They are horror stories.). But the reality of being completely invested in a child’s life, and having no real control of their day-to-day disciplines and routines, is a hard one to swallow. Don’t get me wrong, Travis wants my opinion and asks for it often, but the bottom line comes down to what he and their mother decide, and that is what we execute.

This week in particular,  we’ve all grabbed hands and run head first into a brick wall called “the teenage years.” I feel like I’m on the ground with little birds circling my head.

But, there are also small victories. Moments where we bond over music or Duck Dynasty. Moments where we meet as a family and talk about values. There are ‘I Love You’s’ exchanged with no hesitation, and hugs given, and cuddling on the couch. I pack lunches and help with homework, tutor Algebra and look up video game cheat codes. I dig poop out of underwear when there are accidents, and I bring forgotten homework to their mom’s when it’s left at our house. I bandage scraped knees and offer perspective when kids at school are cruel.  I pray for them everyday.

My kids call me Gilly, and I’m not even sure how it happened, but it stuck. And while I will never be their mom, no one else will ever be their Gilly.

That’s a good feeling.

 

I have to tell you something.

“Gilly. I have to tell you something.

Uhhhhhh. I love you.”

That’s what Will says…probably 50 times a day. He does love me, and it’s very sweet that he tells me all the time, but…sometimes it’s also a place holder for what he says when he can’t remember what he was actually going to say.

It’s very endearing.

Sometimes I do that to God. Like. Am I the only person in the world that struggles with prayer? When I do pray, I see stuff happen. Crazy stuff. Like, immediate, insane things happen and I know that it was God answering my prayer. It’s kind of freaky sometimes. Especially lately.

But even knowing that, sometimes I go to pray and I’m like, “Hey God…Uhhhhh. I love you.” Which I’m sure He finds very endearing. And possibly annoying. But I love that He understands that sometimes my little, addled mind just can’t sum up any more than that.

My friend, Kaley, puts some good stuff on social media. Which makes me happy, because how many 20 year olds do you guys know that put like, HELPFUL things on social media? She put this on her FB recently and it really really really is awesome and changed my brain and I love stuff like that. Here’s what she said:

“Feel guilty falling asleep while praying? How do you feel when a child nods off in your lap? There. Feel better? You should!” -Scott Sauls

Ahhhh omg doesn’t that make you feel like you can BREATHE AGAIN?!

If you’re like me, and are way too hard on yourself, well. Stop it. God loves you. You have nothing to offer Him, and He loves you. You cannot make Him love you more, or less. He is good. And…He has to tell you something.