Thoughts From the Porch: A stunning late winter sunrise started my morning. I drank my first cup of coffee to the varied songs of our resident Mockingbird. Nesting season has begun and my little friend sings once again, reminding me that spring in almost here. He brightened my morning even more that the rising sun.
Sometimes I can’t offer anything more than a simple thank you in my morning prayers. I see mornings like this, and I hear God speaking quite clearly. It’s time to just sit here and listen, to bask in His glory and miraculous creation.
The Mockingbird fell silent around the time of our first early frost. I’ve missed my little friend who greeted me in song each day as I set abut my porch time. This winter has been mild – eighty-degree days in January – and I would’ve thought he’d come by now and then, but his internal timing told him to wait until now. He saved his melodies for me and this very morning. Thank you my little friend…
“We may think of prayer as thoughts or feelings expressed in words. But this is only one expression… Prayer is the opening of mind and heart—our whole being—to God, the Ultimate Mystery, beyond thoughts, words, and emotions. Through grace we open our awareness to God whom we know by faith is within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than choosing—closer than consciousness itself.” —Thomas Keating
I enjoyed the sunrise a tad more than usual today. The birdsongs were louder and more melodic today. Perhaps it’s in anticipation of another delightful autumn day in Cowtown knowing that by the time this is posted it will be a a couple of days of record-breaking arctic chill…
Most of you know that my wife, Margaret, broke her leg in
one of the worst spots possible. The good news is surgery wasn’t required. It
was a clean break and will heal without pins, plates, and various orthopedic
hardware. The bad news is that Margaret can’t put any (as in none, zero, zilch)
weight on her left leg for the next eight weeks or so.
That means that her already limited mobility is now reduced
to sitting, standing, and pivoting on one foot to make it from the bed to the
wheelchair. From there she can go to a living room chair and sit. She watches
TV and works on one of her many artistic endeavors involving crotchet hooks and
tatting needles. She’s presently working on a baby blanket for our grandson.
She says she now has time to get it finished well before the projected due date
It’s beyond difficult for Margaret to get around. We moved
the kid’s bed into the living room since she can’t get in and out of our bed. A
few inches in height make a huge difference these days. The kid’s sleeping in
our room as a result. Our world, our more accurately, our routine, has been
turned on its head.
I hate to admit just how much I’ve become a creature of habit. I catch myself falling into patterns reminding me of my father. Not that it’s a bad thing. My Dad was a loving, caring man so I intend no disrespect. It’s simply one more reminder I’m growing older. It’s just a part of life but I’m not quite ready to take on senior airs.
My routine has been completely broken and I’m a bit
scattered as of late. The demands have increased as well. Margaret, the house
upkeep, and the farm swallow each waking moment. Quite frankly, I get worn out
by the end of the day. I’m far from clear-headed in the morning which
significantly alters my “porch time” and writing time.
I become irritated and get “put out” with everyone at times.
Then I feel guilty for feeling the way I do. It’s not a great place to be. I
feel in conflict with my feelings and my values. I do what I do out of love
right? Why do I feel this way?
The answer came as I prepared another cup of coffee for my wife.
Margaret and I knew each other for almost nine years before
we ever dated. The night before our friend Stan’s memorial in 2012, we met
several friends from out of town and all went out to dinner (IHOP may not be
known for great food but it holds a special place in my heart).
Afterward, Margaret and I went out front to smoke and ended up out there
talking for four hours. That led to our first date a week later (and marriage
three months after that!).
During our conversation, Margaret said she often felt like
no one wanted to date a woman who they would have to push her in a wheelchair
if they went downtown for coffee or dinner. I told her that I didn’t understand
why anyone would feel that way. “It would be an honor and a privilege to push
your wheelchair”, was my immediate response and I meant it.
I tell you this because it occurred to me this morning what
an honor and a privilege it is to “push my wife’s wheelchair”, to serve the one
I love. You see, I’d allowed all the flurry of activity to distract me from the
truly important thing in my life – the honor to have Margaret as my wife.
An Honor and a Privilege
My friend Jim once asked me if I knew what honor was. I
responded with a flat, somewhat emotionless, dictionary definition. He said that’s
not it and then drew in a short quick breath; the kind you have when you’re
suddenly startled or awed by something. He smiled and said, “that’s honor”.
I was confused. “What’s honor?”
He drew another short, quick breath and again said, “that’s
Jim had a way of using metaphors in a way that often
irritated me. “What in the world do you mean?” and I imitated the breath he’d
He said that honor was like that breath. Honor was seeing
your wife come into a crowded room and seeing her takes your breath away. Honor
was about keeping that breathtaking moment in your memory. I began to see the
dictionary definition in a whole new light.
Used as a noun, honor means “high respect; great esteem”.
It also is “adherence to what is right”. Thus, honor is an attitude whereby I
hold my Margaret in “high respect” and “great esteem”. It’s about my perception
of my wife.
Honor, as a noun, is my intention. Unfortunately, we are
never judged on our intentions, only our actions. To honor someone is to “regard
with great respect” and to “fulfill (an obligation) or keep (an agreement).
As I was going to get Margaret another cup of coffee this
morning it dawned on me – the occasional frustrations, and yes, even selfishness
I felt on occasion was simply an opportunity to learn to love, cherish, and
honor my wife better. Suddenly, serving didn’t feel like a chore, an
obligation. I remembered March 2nd, 2013 when I said those vows to
love, honor, and cherish the woman I married.
The words of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesians came to life:
Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church – a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring out the best in her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor – since they’re already ‘one’ in marriage.” (Ephesians 5:25-28 – The Message)
I’ve yet to meet anyone who lives this out perfectly, but I
have been privy to long, loving marriages that are an example of what to
Margaret, if you’re reading this, know that today I will honor you in every way possible. It is my privilege to be your husband (and I still think you got the short end of the stick…). I cherish every moment with you, and I’m honored you allow me to be of service. I would gladly push you in a wheelchair or walk beside you and hold you up. And by the way, you still take my breath away every time you enter the room…
From the Porch: I slept in an extra hour this morning. You see, I turned
sixty-one years old at about 2:58 AM. Happy Birthday to me, right? It had more
to do with my body feeling my age rather than any secret celebration. It’s been
brutally hot for the last couple of weeks. It simply caught up with me last
night. Such is life…
unsure of whether it was the oppressive heat or completing another trip around
the sun that made me a bit reflective this week. I’m not where I thought I’d
be, but I am right where I’m supposed to be.
I never thought I’d be farming in triple digit temperatures in my sixties. My goals were much different in my youth. But life has come full circle. Dreams have come true in ways I never imagined. My friend Charlie says I’ve found my ikagi: my reason for being and the thing for which I get up for in the morning.
was born on the tail end of the Baby Boomer generation. The sixties, and
unfortunately, the seventies and eighties, shaped much of my perception about
success. I wanted to change the world when I was in college. Idealism isn’t all
that unique for college-age. However, idealism doesn’t make one wealthy and
that’s what everyone else deemed success. So, I traded idealism for pragmatism
and chased whatever I thought was pleasing to others. I got lost somewhere along
won’t bore you with the details. I will tell you I was in my fifties before
life ever began to make sense. That’s only because God began to make sense. Not
the judgmental, punishing God of my youth, but a loving, forgiving God: one
whom I could trust to have my back. The relationship I have with God today is
the foundation for the life I get to live. It’s changed
my perceptions and made me whole.
the metric for success is salary, celebrity, or how many followers one has on
social media, then I surely missed the mark. If, on the other hand, it’s about doing
what you love and the people in one’s life, then I am rich beyond measure. I
get up in the morning and know the day is a success
even when it doesn’t feel like it, and it doesn’t
at times. I’m still responsible for the bills. There’s usually more month than
money…). I rarely understand how we make another month financially…
being said, I trust God will take care of us even when I can’t possibly see how
it’s going to be done. I show up, plant seeds, and water what comes up. It’s
like that at Opal’s Farm. It’s like that in my life. I’m always surprised by
Thoughts From the Porch: I’m told the best way to blog is to post something regularly and preferably, on a scheduled basis. Unfortunately, I’ve failed to live up to that standard this month. I was looking back over my July posts and realized this is only my third one so far.
Opal’s Farm is booming. Fall
planting is underway and we’ve been blessed by all the volunteers helping us
harvest and get our irrigation going. Our Saturday sales at the Cowtown
Farmer’s Market seem to increase each week we’re there. We’re in the process of
looking at a new partnership with a couple of local restaurants and non-profits
that will serve a broader community. Things are moving in the right direction.
Unfortunately, the flurry of
activity at Opal’s Farm has limited my writing time. I still have my moments on
the porch; my quiet time with God and my beautiful wife. Porch time sets the
tone for the rest of the day. It’s as necessary to well-being as food and water
are to physical life. Quiet time in the morning refreshes my body, my mind, and
most of all, my spirit. I’m better able to greet the day’s business with
gratitude and grace.
Most days there’s no time for
writing on in the morning unless it’s business. I come back from the farm with
every intention to sit down and write, but evenings have their own struggles –
fix dinner, do dishes, respond to messages and emails. On top of that there’s
the long day in the Texas heat. Some evenings I forget dinner, drop the
work clothes, and lay down in front of the air conditioner until the next
morning. If you work outdoors in Texas, then you know what I mean.
To be perfectly honest, I don’t
have much to say this morning. One of my favorite writers, Anne Lamott, says
that her prayers fall into two simple categories – “Help me, help me, help me”
or “Thank you, thank you, thank you”. I get it. Lately my prayers have been of
the “thank you, thank you, thank you” variety. I have little to say other than
thank you. If I were to make a list of all I’m grateful for it would fill a
legal pad and then some. I shan’t bore you, gentle reader, with my list…
Most days, as of late, are
filled with quiet gratitude for the grace I’ve been given. I can’t believe I
get to live the life I live today. I get to do the very things which were the
desire of my heart all along. I work with amazing people working toward a
godly, incredible mission. I spend my days “playing in the dirt”: a constant
reminder of stewardship and Jesus’ parables. When I come home at night, I enjoy
time with my wife and drift off into a solid sleep, ready to “rinse and repeat”
I could go on and on, but I won’t. I simply needed to touch base with you all before heading to the farm for another day. Have a super Friday and a wonderful weekend! See you soon…
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?
I was at the desk for a long time last night catching up on paperwork and phone calls. I had a great head of steam and was crossing items off the “to-do list” right and left when my internet radio station hit a string of songs that stopped me dead in my tracks. I had no choice but to push the papers aside, crank the volume, and sing along to Van Morrison, Jimmy Buffet (anything before “Margaritaville”), the Eagles, and a host of other tunes that reminded me that growing up wasn’t all bad; even if it felt that way…
It felt that way a lot. Years later I’d ask my friend and
mentor, Jim, why I felt so different from everyone else growing up. What was
wrong with me and how did I get here? Why was I so uncomfortable being me? He’d
smile and reply with one of those West Texas sayings that used to drive me
batshit crazy like, “Son, it ain’t important how the mule got in the ditch, it’s
how are you gonna get him out”. I’d like to believe I’m a reasonably intelligent
individual, but it took a long time to understand what he was saying.
You see, the why didn’t matter. It wasn’t important. “Why” could never change the outcome. I was always asking the wrong question. When the question became “how” as opposed to “why” I began to crawl out of the proverbial ditch I found myself stuck in. I may not have been responsible for falling in the ditch, but I was responsible for getting out. As a result, the climb has been faster than I imagined and slower than I’d like, but the view from the top is well worth it…
Every now and then I’m reminded I’m on this amazing
journey called life, replete with mountains, valleys, obstacles, and wide-open
meadows. I wouldn’t be where I am if I hadn’t been where I’ve been. Duh, right?
Music, like what I heard last night, transports me to the mountaintop where I
have a 360-degree view. I can see the past and present and am delighted to
revel in the present.
Is there a song (or songs) that take you to your “happy place”?
What makes you stop, crank up the tunes, and relish the