Ah, Monday morning… I haven’t been on the porch much for the
last week. I’ve alternated between the hospital and Opal’s Farm and had a few
late nights, so the porch has been a bit lonely. I was able to catch a breather
this morning and so, here goes…
As most of you know, Margaret has been in the hospital for
the last week. I’m not going to share the details. Her condition has been moved
from critical unstable to critical stable. Things have been up and down: on
several occasions the doctors thought they had the problem solved only to erupt
again. However, after several tests and procedures they believe it may be taken
care of. We’re in a wait and see mode today. We’re praying all is well and the
final option of surgery is no longer necessary.
While there’s never a good time for a medical crisis, this
one came right in the middle of fall planting at the farm. We are so blessed to
have friends and family as well as a short distance to the farm from the
hospital. I’ve been able to spend some time watering the new seed and finishing
preparations for the next round. Thanks to Charlie Blaylock for helping us out.
We’ll be able to plant the next phase by Tuesday.
The farm has been a saving grace during this situation. A
couple of hours working the soil here and there gives my mind a break. It
provides time to speak with God (I’m sure the cyclists and runners on the
Trinity Trail wonder who I might be talking to…) and most importantly, clear my
mind and change my perspective from fear to hope. It’s difficult not to be
hopeful working in a garden.
I had a long stream of thoughts this morning: far too many to share. It’s time to go back to the hospital and down to the farm. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers. Hopefully, we are on the upside of Margaret’s situation and I’ll see you all at Cowtown Farmer’s Market next Saturday.
A quick note to my friends: I’m posting quickly this morning so I can get to the hospital to be with my wife, Margaret. I don’t want to go into details, but I do want to ask my friends for prayers. She’s having a test today which should (hopefully) give us some answers. Not knowing is difficult. I hope to keep everyone updated.
The greatest fear most of face is the unknown, the “what ifs”. Please pray we walk through the fear with acceptance and trust that God has got this (as He has everything else in our lives!). We know we are blessed beyond measure even when life comes barging in with its friend, fear.
I haven’t written from the porch for the past couple of weeks. Time has been short. I’m playing catch up from a recent two-day stint in the hospital (long story but everything’s okay). They couldn’t figure out what was going on. I guess that’s why doctors only “practice” medicine…
I could use the whole hospital thing to explain my lack of recent communication, but I won’t. The truth is a bit uglier than that. The reality is there’s been some doubt and depression going on the last few days. When I started writing “Thoughts From the Porch”, my intent was to only write positive, encouraging words. God knows there’s enough negative crap out there!
Unfortunately, life isn’t always happy, joyous, and free.
Life shows up in some awful ways. Even when I feel I’m on the path God has
chosen for me it can have some serious rough spots. I would be dishonest if I
didn’t share those as well. I may not write in a manner comparable to great
authors or even my fellow writers on WordPress, but I’ve learned to be
truthful, to be authentic, and to be myself regardless of how I’d like to be.
The truth is that I haven’t liked myself very much the last
few days. Sometimes, the truth sucks. As my friend Edgar always tells me, “The
truth will set you free, but it’ll really piss you off first.” Quite frankly,
I’ve been pissed.
Margaret and I have struggled financially over the last few
months. Work has been slow as most of my time is spent on the urban farm
project, Opal’s Farm. Most of you know my passion for the project. Margaret and
I prayed diligently before taking on this task. We went into it with eyes
wide-open. We knew money would be tight until we gained sponsors and had our
first harvest. Looking back over the last few months, hell, even over our
lifetime, we can see God’s thread all the way through. He stands with us
through all the difficult times. Bills get paid, we eat regularly, and most of
the time life is good despite the setbacks that come with our chosen path.
However, there are times when an awareness
of God’s providence is insufficient to stave off the blues.
In lieu of our smaller income we’ve been forced to put off
needed home repairs and tighten our money belt in ways neither of us have
experienced, at least in our lives together. Add to that Margaret’s chronic
pain, limited mobility, and the depression that rears its ugly head as a
result. Frustration and stress mounts despite our faith in the Almighty. It’s a
recipe for doubt, fear, and self-loathing, for me at least, and it has been
simmering for quite a while. Yesterday it came to a boil…
A serious case of the “F..k Its”.
Yes, folks, expletive laced prayers, lamentations of “poor
me”, and drowning in a cesspool of comparing myself to everyone else. I threw a
temper tantrum! Why me?
I imagine some of you can relate. It felt as though my world had fallen apart and God was nowhere to be
found. He always seems to be playing ‘Hide and Seek’ when I need Him: just like
with everything else in my world. I
immediately decided to quit the farm, stop writing, and start looking out for
Number One. I’d probably have to become a greeter at WalMart (no offense
intended – all work is important). A career in bank robbery seemed a
viable alternative to the present financial hardships. You must take it, because no one’s going to give to you, right?
If it sounds a bit extreme, it is. I tend to go for
extremes. A friend once told me that “balance is the beam I trip on while
running between extremes”. Yep!
I always feel like such a spoiled brat after these not-so-little
tantrums. It doesn’t take as long as it used to getting over these fits of
doubt, frustration, and fear (that’s really what the tantrum is about…). I find
relief in the fact they don’t happen very often anymore, but I sure hate it
when they do. I’m sure I’m not the only one who can identify with this
Fortunately, sanity returns, I own my behavior, make amends
for the harsh words and actions, and find forgiveness and gratitude for everything
I do have. First and foremost, I have a Heavenly Father who appreciates my
authenticity. I’m sure most church folks would be shocked by how I “pray”. It’s
not always pious and formal. Still, God allows me to express my doubts and
fears. He listens. He understands and He loves me right where I’m at –
expletives and all. He allows my rants and then holds me close to remind me
that I’m loved and it’s okay to be human. I’m His child.
Somewhere in this process I find peace. The situation hasn’t
changed at all, but I have.
Healing the Blind…
My tantrums always begin with tunnel vision and outright
blindness. The world is out of focus, blurred with pain and frustration, and I
can only see myself, my needs, and my wants. When I finally grow tired of
emotional blindness, I hear Jesus’ question to the blind man at the Pool of Siloam,
“Do you want to be healed?”
It sounds like a simple question doesn’t it? Sure, I want to
be healed, but… I tend to find excuses, much like the guy at the Pool, until
finally, I can see again.
Restoration of sight, healing, takes place in miraculous
ways for me. It happened the other night. Blinded by my self-centered fear and
doubt, I stormed out to the porch to be alone. I stood there, blindly staring
into the night, when a tiny spider and his (or her – I’m not sure how to tell
the difference) web began to take focus.
As my vision sharpened, the intricacy and size of the web
grew. I saw his tiny legs shooting across the web with new silken strands. The
minute strands vibrated in the wind but never strayed apart. It seemed
It sounds silly to be so intrigued by a simple spider web, but I’m kind of a simple guy, I guess. However, this tiny spider is building his web in the same place on our porch every Spring. He’ll stay until Fall, building his net every evening and waiting for the meal he knows will come. I’m no expert on spider species identification, but it’s always appears to be the same species year after year. It’s always a smaller version that grows to be the same as the one last year.
While I’m no Arachnologist, our little eight-legged friend is
probably last year’s offspring. I had the privilege of seeing all the little ones
bursting from their egg sac last year. Their home and ours are one in the same.
I get to watch the intricate, complex beauty of this tiny creature every
evening. Clarity had returned.
Our hardships and my frustration faded into the darkness of
the evening. I could see, and more importantly, see that our difficulties were
nothing, that God was still (and always is) faithful. Life may have its
difficulties, but grace changes how I see them. Difficulties become
opportunities to grow in ways I can’t even imagine.
If a tiny spider ca open a world of grace and heal blindness,
how much more can I be a vessel of grace?
Thoughts From the Porch: I stepped out on to a dark porch this morning. The Mockingbird sang his morning song, and all was peaceful. Our little cul-de-sac is far removed from the rest of the world on mornings like this. While I enjoy the respite of the porch, I’m not immune to the world around me. I know how blessed I am. Others are not so fortunate.
I watched the news in horror as another hateful display of
violence and white nationalism resulted in the death of 49 people and 20 others
wounded in Christchurch, New Zealand. My heart goes out to our Muslim brothers
and sisters who were doing nothing more than practicing their faith. It seems
to be a story often repeated: Sikhs in Wisconsin, Christians in Charlottesville,
Jewish worshipers in Pittsburgh. It even happened a couple of hours south of me
in a small church in Texas. All mass shootings motivated by hate, racism, and
While I’m deeply saddened by what happened in Christchurch, I’m saddened far more by the fact that I feel no shock whatsoever. Mass shootings are no longer exceptions to the norm. According to www.massshootingtracker.org there have been 65 mass shootings as of March 16th in the United States alone.
I was living in Denver, Colorado in April 1999 when the Columbine
shooting occurred. While there had been earlier mass shootings, Columbine hit
home. Maybe it was the scale of the violence or that the news coverage was so
immediate, but I was completely shocked by the event. Moreover, my oldest
friend had friends at Columbine. It was all-to-real.
I’ve lost count of how many mass shootings there have been
since. Maybe that’s why I’m no longer shocked to hear of yet another one. I
despise the fact that I’m no longer surprised. It feels like giving in and
giving up. People die, it causes an uproar in the media for a couple of days,
and everyone goes back to life as if nothing has happened. It’s just the way things
I don’t pretend to know how to fix the problem. I’m not here
to debate gun control or the other policy decisions that might prevent, or at
least mitigate, mass shootings. Prayers and sympathy might help but they aren’t
enough. They’re usually lost in a twenty-four-hour news cycle that dulls the
“When you come to the end of all the light you know, and it’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things will happen: Either you will be given something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly.” — Edward Teller
One of my favorite scenes from
the “Indiana Jones” movies where Harrison Ford’s character must step out in
faith over a giant chasm in order to reach the Holy Grail. With his nemesis
holding him and the people he loves at gunpoint, he’s at wit’s end and out of
options. He steps out into the darkness of the abyss. As he takes the first
step a narrow bridge begins to come into view. Unfortunately, it can only be
seen with each successive step, one step at a time. Each step requires more
courage, more faith, than the one before. I can’t recall how many steps it took
to get across the dark abyss, but I’d like to think it was twelve. I can
That scene’s been on my mind a lot lately. Margaret and I are experiencing some difficulties as late. Finances have been tough since my hospital stay earlier this year. Business has been slower than projected. Opal’s Farm still has a way to go before all the start-up costs are in hand and planting is scheduled for February 15th. How are we going to do this? It’s a little overwhelming at times (OK, a lot overwhelming…) The chasm looks awfully vast at times…
If I get honest, I’m a lot like
Indiana Jones (well, except for the whole “dashing adventure hero” thing…). I
usually need to be backed into a corner with no options or solutions in sight. I
know there’s absolutely no way I can get out of the situation before I’m
willing to step out into the darkness. I forget the fact that in looking back, a
path has always been carved through
the darkness and it’s always illuminated. If the path isn’t clear, I learn to
fly before I crash into the bottom of the abyss. Always! Though I usually don’t
see it until later…
You’d think that with such a
proven track record I’d push right through whatever obstacle was in my way. It
doesn’t always work like that. Taking that first step into the abyss isn’t my
first choice. I temporarily forget God’s faithfulness. As my friend Edgar likes
to remind me, “I’m not a slow learner,
just a fast forgetter”.
“Trials are not enemies of
faith but are opportunities to prove God’s faithfulness.” — Author Unknown
Ironically, my memory gets
sharper as I grow older: at least in matters of faith (in other areas, yeah,
not so much…) It doesn’t take as long to remember God’s faithfulness even when
mine is absent. One of my favorite reminders is Psalms 119.105: “Your word for my feet and a lamp for my
path”. The funny thing about a lamp is that it only shows what’s
immediately ahead. I can only see the path if I keep stepping out, one step at
I’ve spent far too much time stressed out about things beyond my control, so I’m stepping out. Whether I’ll be walking or flying, I’m not sure yet. What I do know is that I’ll see you on the other side…
Thoughts From the Porch: Yesterday was the big day for our son and our new daughter-in-law. We welcome Amanda into the family with tons of love and gratitude. She’s a beautiful, remarkable young woman and incredible addition to our family. We pray continued blessing and happiness for the Brandon and Amanda.
It was a beautiful ceremony with pastoral surroundings. Despite the rain and grey skies, the wedding and reception went well, and a good time had by all who attended. We received a text from the happy couple this morning as they boarded the plane bound for the honeymoon. The best thing about the whole affair? It’s over!
I’m not a crabby old man mind you. I love weddings. I’ve had the privilege of performing many wedding ceremonies over the years. Couples, especially the brides, look more stunningly beautiful than ever, and I get to see the love in their eyes up close. There’s something incredibly holy about that moment. I’m always awed by the power and beauty I witness. It was no less holy seeing it from the attendee’s point of view.
However, I’m happy it’s over. The lead up to the big day was stressful for everyone in the family. It feels like a pressure valve a has been released and we can all breath again. No more worry about invitations, dresses, and food choices for the reception. After yesterday, Margaret and I slept in this morning. I can’t remember the last time I slept until 9:30! We spent an inordinate amount of time on the porch this morning. As I write this morning my thoughts are more about binge watching Netflix than finishing this post, so you may not be seeing this until Monday…
And so, it is Monday…
Monday has arrived, and it feels beautifully normal. Up early, coffee on, and time on the porch. I shall not bore you with the details. It feels like Fall though. For that I’m unbelievably grateful.
Looking back at this weekend, I was reminded of my own marriage and how blessed I am. It will be our sixth anniversary in March. I know that doesn’t sound like a long time to folks who have been married for much longer, but it amazes me. I’m sure I’m not always the easiest person to live with.
Margaret and I had been friends for several years before we dated. I always wanted to go out with her, but quite frankly, I figured I was out of her league. I had been single for a long time and, because I had chosen to be public about my HIV status, I thought I’d remain that way. Being positive kind of screws up the whole dating thing. I’m not complaining, mind you, because looking back, I know God was preparing me for what was to come. I had to learn to love myself, and by His grace, my willingness, and an incredible group of men, I did. Loving myself allows me to love others fully. Maybe that’s why Jesus placed such importance on “loving others as you love yourself”.
During that time, He was also preparing Margaret. I guess it was no surprise that our courtship was short – only ninety-one days. Thanks to our many friends who banded together to pull off a gorgeous wedding in only eight days (many of you know the story), two became one. If such haste seems foolhardy, each day since has reaffirmed our (or at least my) decision. Apparently, we became a ‘magnet couple’ – I’m HIV positive and she’s is, and remains negative…
We’ve had some hurtles since our wedding day, most of them physical. A month after our wedding, I ended up in intensive care behind a post-operative meningitis infection for a month. It was touch and go. Margaret worried about planning a funeral a month after planning a wedding. Then a couple of years later, Margaret had complications from back surgery leading to chronic pain and decreased (and sometimes extremely little) mobility. Neither of us planned on these challenges, but it is what it is, right? All they are is speed bumps on this wonderful journey we began together.
Sometimes the challenges we face cause self-doubt. We’re not exempt, nor is anyone I know of. While Margaret isn’t an invalid by any means, there are days when she’s really hurting and needs more of my attention. I’m grateful that I work from home most days and can be there to help. She apologizes and wonders if I’m second-guessing getting married. I can say with absolute certainty that I’ve never had second thoughts. Yet, I can tell you that on the days I’m irritable, frustrated, or depressed I wonder if she’s rethinking this whole deal. Sometimes my brain is not my friend…
For both of us, self-doubt is fleeting, erased by the love we share. Feelings are one thing and, at least in my case, rarely have anything to do with reality. The reality is that I’m still awed that God could have blessed me so richly. I still get giddy when Margaret walks in the room. When I look into her eyes, I see the love there and I come back to reality quickly. I still can’t believe that she said yes…
I know that Saturday was Brandon and Amanda’s special day, but I need to tell you, it was truly special for me, too. Margaret stepped out of the bride’s room as we prepared to walk down the aisle. I was floored. She’d been locked away all day with the bride and bridesmaids getting ready for the ceremony. I saw my bride. She looked even more beautiful than the day we wed. I truly am the most blessed man in the world…
I hope that our kids have the same joy and love that Margaret and I share. If the vows they wrote for one another are any indicator, then I’m certain they will. If I could offer any advice to the newlyweds, it would be this: never lose you sense of wonder that your spouse chose to spend the rest of their life with you. When in doubt, remember how they looked at you on your wedding day, and perhaps more importantly, how you looked at them.
My prayer for you all is that you feel the butterflies and the awe every time the love of your life walks in the room…
(Today’s post is unedited. My ‘editor” is hard at work on another project today…)
It’s only partly cloudy out here on the porch this morning. It seems it’s rained or drizzled every day for the last week. I’m terribly grateful for the rain and the cold front that triggered it. We’ve had a hot, dry summer and I’m not sure we can afford another huge electric and water bill. The air conditioners been off for the past few days and there’s no need to water the garden. It’s greened up and grown immensely in just the last couple of weeks. It never ceases to amaze me what rain, versus watering, can do. I can water the garden regularly and, while it may keep it from dying, it does little to promote production. Yet, end a bit of rain and all the sudden new blossoms and tomatoes abound. There’s simply something special about God’s touch. Still, I need a break from the rain, at least long enough to dry out for a couple of days and plant the Fall produce.
That being said, I haven’t posted much this week, nor have I had a chance to. North Texas Giving Day is coming up next week (please visit them at https://www.northtexasgivingday.org/). It’s a huge day for local non-profits, especially for Unity Unlimited, Inc. and Opal’s Farm. I’ll be posting links to each over the next couple of days. If you can help in any way, please let us know! Anyway, that’s what has limited my time on the porch this week and quite frankly, I’m glad.
My thoughts have been far too scattered to share this week. I’ve been grateful for a project to focus my efforts on. It’s been a relief from the dissonance between my ears. Some of you know what I mean. I offer a prayer of thanks for those of you that don’t. I’m sure I’m not the only one who experiences this, but it sure feels like it. It’s beyond mere ‘writer’s block’. It’s far more devious. It creeps in and tells me that I don’t have anything to say, and if I did, nobody gives a rat’s ass anyway…
If the voices are loud enough for long enough, it begins to be a crisis of faith. Do I really believe what I say I believe? Am I doing ‘enough’? Am I stuck in willfulness and missing the point? Am I wasting my time on the unimportant? What was I thinking anyway?
There are times when no amount of faith, positive thinking, or intellectual knowledge of one’s worth to God, self, and others can hold self-doubt, worry, and sadness at bay. St. John of the Cross called it, “The dark night of the soul”: my friend Jim used to say, “in the meantime, it’s a mean time”. I used to think I was the only one who felt this way. Experience has shown the opposite to be true. Some people are simply better at hiding it than others.
I’d love to post only the good stuff, like gratitude, grace, and the awesomeness of the life I get to live today. All of those things are true mind you, but I’d be dishonest if I didn’t tell you about the times I feel God’s absence, when things don’t go according to plan, and it feels like I’m not coping so well.
I’ve been blessed to walk through many a ‘dark night’, only to find an even brighter day. I know that “this too, shall pass”, because I’m still walking. Sometimes that’s all it takes. Just keep walking.
There are times though when I feel stuck. That’s probably why “Groundhog Day” is one of my favorite movies. I keep repeating the same old day, over and over and over, but redemption is right around the corner. One day you wake up, the calendar has changed, and the world looks brand new. That’s just the way it goes…
My friend and confidant, Jim, always told me that “it’ll get better Tuesday at 2:00”. He’d never tell me which Tuesday, or whether it was 2 two AM or 2 PM, but it would get better. Looking back over the last sixty years I can attest to the correctness of this statement. Sometimes I need to remind myself that today’s Saturday – Tuesday’s right around the corner…