Monday, December 31, 2012

My Last Hurrah

All the way to Alabama, whenever we stopped for food, gas or a restroom break, I checked the milk section to see if anybody had the pint size egg nog. I have LOVED egg nog since I was a kid, but I must confess, I think it may have become an obsession this year since I discovered vanilla egg nog from Kroger. Although I was not able to find one single gas station or convenience store that had egg nog on our trip to and from Alabama, I was (pleasantly) surprised to find that Kroger had one last quart of vanilla egg nog when I made a quick run to the store earlier this evening. Last quart in the store. I felt like somebody saved it just for me! I'm pretty sure I have at least 5 pounds of egg nog weight gain this season, so I have decided this must be gone by Wednesday when I start back on my diet to re-lose all the weight I lost last year. Thought it would be perfect as I sat down to watch my movie tonight. My last hurrah.

I guess I am the only one in my family who is a fan of It's A Wonderful Life. I do not see how anyone cannot think this is the greatest movie of all times, but I guess there are some who don't. We have not watched it the last couple years, so I decided I was not going to let another Christmas go by without watching this. Since nobody would watch it with me before Christmas, I decided I was going to watch it tonight as we are getting ready to welcome in the new year. I absolutely love this move. The older I get, the more I cry when I watch it (what is up with all the crying while watching TV/movies!!??). I love the message that our lives touch the lives of so many others that we are not even aware of. God made us for our lives to matter, and this movie reminds us of that.  This movie reminds me that God's plan for my life is not all about me...and that is what makes life rewarding.

Earlier in the day, Amanda got out her bow for the first time. She was measured for a 25.5 inch draw length. This bow said it was for a 23-28 inch draw length. I think it may be just a little on the long side for her, but she was out tearing up the target this afternoon. 

Sunday, December 30, 2012

I Left My Heart In Texas and My Wallet in Tennessee

This past week visiting Brooke's family in Alabama has been wonderful and relaxing. I have the best in-laws and I love them.

Amanda showing MaMa Brenda the new camera she got for Christmas. 

Playing Blitz with The Fam. Notice the only person who still has 5 lives! 

As great as this past week was and as "un-fun" as getting back to the "real world" is after vacation, there's nothing like getting back home. Today was the day. Up at 6am, we packed and headed back to Texas. There is no place like home, and that's where the "I Left My Heart in Texas" came from in this post's title.
This is something like what I saw in my rear view mirror at 9:30am this morning, and thus the "I Left My Wallet in Tennessee" portion of the post title. Brooke had been driving and I just took the wheel. I thought  was going 70 MPH in a 65 MPH zone, but the officer informed me the speed limit through that area was 55 MPH. Not much you can say when you knew you were speeding...even if you thought it was only 5 MPH over the speed limit. On the plus side, the officer was very polite and I can now say I properly handled identifying myself as a legal CHL carrier in another state. When the officer asked for my license, I handed him my driver's license and my Texas CHL explaining that I have valid Texas concealed carry license. He asked if I was carrying, and when I replied "yes" he asked where. Without removing my hands from the steering wheel, I explained it was on my right hip. The officer informed me that as long as my right hand stayed where he could see it, would be fine. It was all good...right up to the part where his definition of "fine" included handing me a ticket for $161.00!! So, come January, I will be mailing my 'donation' the State of Tennessee. Lesson learned.

I think this is my FAVORITE part of coming home. No, NOT unpacking...I do NOT like that! My favorite part is coming home and seeing my puppy dogs. I miss them terribly when we are gone. Boo always comes and offers her support when I am working on a project.

And here is a picture of Sully in "his" chair in my office after getting his haircut (both dogs got a haircut tonight).  The last couple times I have given the dogs a haircut, I have listened to a podcast of my friend Pastor Stan King at Impact Cowboy Church of Nacogdoches. He made a statement in the message I listened to tonight that I knew I had to write down as soon as he said it. I will pondering it and praying it over my life this week. I will end with this quote:

"We need to start walking in the impossibilities so that we might start seeing the realities of the Kingdom of God."  -Pastor Stan King

Happy Birthday Amanda Kay

It simply is not possible that 14 years have passed! 14 years ago today, Brooke's and my life we forever changed with the birth of our daughter, Amanda Kay. Thinking about these years we have had together as a family brings a whole new perspective to being my understanding of being blessed. I feel Brooke and I have truly experienced the favor of God in the gift of our daughter. I love her and am very proud of the youth lady she is becoming, of her love for others and of her tender heart towards the Lord.

When Brooke and I first got married, I told her I was not saying I didn't want children, but I did not want children right away. We talked about it and were both fine with waiting for a little while. I remember very specifically walking the dog one night, I guess about 15 years ago, at our last apartment and the thought hit me, "If I became a father, that would be OK with me." Something had changed in my heart, and I was ready. I don't know if Brooke had a "moment" like that, but I think she was always a little more open to the idea of kids than I was.

It wasn't too long after that we moved out of our apartment and into the house where we currently live. As we were unpacking, Brooke kept saying how tired she was. And as I painted, for some reason, the paint smell made her sick. And soon after that...we discovered Brooke was pregnant! As I thought about becoming a father, of course I would be a proud and thankful father with either a boy or a girl, but something about being a Daddy to a little girls really touched my heart. I don't know whether God gave me the desire of my heart or if He put that desire there in the first place, but we were blessed with a little girl and my life as Daddy began. It has been an incredible journey!

So this week, we celebrated 14 years with Amanda Kay. Today is her birthday, but since we were traveling back to Texas from Alabama today, we did a little celebrating several days this week.

On Thursday, we were at Academy and Amanda saw this camouflage comforter.  Amanda likes cammo (an understatement) and since she was in need of a new comforter, we picked it up for her birthday. She closed the bedroom door and turned on the fan Thursday night. This is how I found her Friday morning when I went to wake her up!

On Friday, Amanda opened her official birthday present that we brought with us from Texas. She also got some $$ from MaMa Brenda.

Friday night was dinner at Alfonso's. It was "Amanda's birthday meal" but the restaurant choice was strongly influenced by Brooke's "desire" (read as 'demand') to eat at Alfonso's while we were in Decatur. Note also the new cammo shirt, also picked up at Academy.

On the way home from Alabama today, we stopped by Geama & PaPa D's to pick up the dogs and Amanda got to celebrate once again. Geama added the 14th piece of Amanda's Precious Moments birthday collection and Amanda also got a gift card for Walgreens so she can buy the curling iron ("wand"??) she wanted. Also note the cammo rain boots...another impromptu birthday present while in Alabama.

Amanda Kay, I love you and I am so thankful to be your Daddy. You are a BLESSING to me and your momma!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Fun At The Park, Help At The Bank

Amanda got a new camera for Christmas and she wanted to go down to the river today to take some pictures. It was pretty cold, but we went anyway.

It's Thursday...that means it is haircut day. And no hair means a cold head. You do what you gotta do!

Amanda taking pictures.

More picture taking.

After taking pictures, we went to play on the playground for a little while.

This picture reminds me of Buddy the elf trying to sit on furniture at the North Pole.

David and Hannah came over for dinner tonight. 

Browsing the Internet, there is no lack of people who have a strong dislike for Bank of America. BOA has been our bank for 20 years now and they have taken good care of us. Tonight, they exceeded my highest expectation and I am so thankful for their help.

I got an email early this evening letting me know that our bank balance had dropped into the red. I keep a CLOSE tab on our accounts, so I knew this was not right. A quick check online discovered almost $600 in fraudulent card had been compromised. BOA covers their customers in situations like this and we are not responsible for fraudulent charges if we report them and help prosecute them. My biggest concern was the 48 hours it could take to get the money credited back to our account since we are supposed to travel home this weekend. I explained my concerns to the agent on the phone and, to make a long story short, BOA released their hold on the fraudulent charges that will likely go through tonight. This will all get sorted out in the next few days, but by releasing the hold on these pending charges, BOA allowed me to go to an ATM tonight and withdraw our money. If our account goes back in the red tonight, all fees will be reimbursed and our account will be credited for the charges, but the main thing is, I was able to get money to get us home. BOA will not only credit those charges back to our account, and are pursing the investigation for us (which most banks do), but they went the extra mile to help us get home. Thank you Bank of America!

Enjoying Time With The Fam

12/25/12 - From left to right we have Brooke on the Android phone, Hannah on the iPod Touch, Amanda with her new FujiFilm camera and David on his new Android tablet.

12/25/12 - Now that I'm blogging again, I've got to get better at capturing the moment. Missed pictures of Christmas lunch with Brooke, Amanda, sister-in-love and husband Jill and David, nephew David, niece Hannah, mom-in-love Brenda and her pastor and his wife. Also missed capturing a picture of a surprisingly fun game of charades that popped up spontaneously.

12/26/12 - Jill had us over for dinner tonight. Again, forgot to snap a picture at dinner!

12/26/12 - Amanda and I at Jill and David's house this evening. I held the camera to take this picture...I'm not sure what I was staring at over there in the corner!

12/26/12 - Brooke and Amanda at Jill and David's house this evening.


Acts 24:24-25
Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

24 After some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and listened to him on the subject of faith in Christ Jesus. 25 Now as he spoke about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix became afraid and replied, “Leave for now, but when I find time I’ll call for you.”

These couple verses grabbed my attention today and I wrote in the margin: Paul's message to Felix must not have been "God has a wonderful plan for your life." It made me think about the way I present the Gospel vs. the way it was presented in Acts. As Christians, we talk all the time about being in I am saved. But salvation is the result of confessing Jesus Christ as Lord. Got me to thinking maybe we should talk more about confessing Christ as Lord" than about confessing "I am saved". Salvation is God's gift to us because of His incomprehensible love for us, but when sharing the Gospel, shouldn't the emphasis be on the work of Christ and his coronation as King rather than the benefits of this decision? And to those who have already confessed our life still confessing Christ TODAY to those who do not know Him?  Paul also said in Romans 10:9  If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. It seems he did believe in a call to salvation, but even there, the confession of Jesus as Lord is the emphasis. I believe I will be studying this more after the first of the year.

I am so very thankful for all the FREE Kindle books that are available for download. Maybe in another post I will address my seeming inability to quit filling up my Kindle with all these free books. If I were able to read a book a day, I believe I have enough free books on my Kindle to get me through 2013!

On Christmas, I downloaded The Complete Sherlock Holmes which is still free for the Kindle as of the writing of this post (12:05am on 12/27/12. If you go to get it, be sure to DOUBLE CHECK the price before downloading it. Kindle book prices, especially free, frequently change without warning.) It contains the four Sherlock Holmes novels and 56 short stories. I have started "A Study in Scarlet".

Without permission, my "little girl" continues to grow up and will turn 14 in just a few days. We were at Academy today getting some accessories for her new compound bow when Amanda saw this comforter. Of course that was "the exact same one" she had been looking at. It was on sale and her current comforter is in need of replacement, so we got this for her today. How could it stay in the bag until we got home when there is a perfectly good bed in need of an "Amanda touch" at Grandma Brenda's?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Back To Blogging?

We came home to Alabama for Christmas this year. We rotate every-other year and this was the year to visit Brooke's family. This year was especially hard for Brooke as it is her first Christmas without her Daddy who passed away in September, but she was so glad to get to spend time loving on her Mom. We left after church and got in here at 10:30pm.

To be honest, the couple days before we left, I was not real excited to be leaving for Christmas. I really enjoy being in MY home, with my immediate family and puppy dogs, relaxing at home. But today I realized I can never really quit thinking about my work responsibilities when I am at home...I have to get away. So, while I miss my puppy dogs badly, I am glad to be here. And, it does help that my in-law family is great.

Although we've been in Alabama just a little over 24 hours, I've had some time to think, pray and do some year-end reflection on my life. One of the things I'm going to try and commit to in the coming year is getting back to blogging. I don't blog like an author wanting to be read...I blog more for me. It's sorta like a journal (but I try not to put the really personal stuff on here if it would affect others). It helps me process and, I must admit, I really enjoy reading blog posts from the past and remembering what was going on in my life at that time.

Amanda and I went to the mall here in the Decatur metropolis (population 55,902...yes, a bit of sarcasm). As Amanda was checking out Bath and Body Works, I checked out the kiosk that was selling the cool remote control helicopters. As I was looking, I heard applause up the mall a ways. When Amanda came out, we headed that way to see if a group was singing or something. We had just figured out it must not have been a singing group when we saw all the people were gathered around the photo booth for Santa, but as we got closer, this is what we saw:
The picture is a little blurry, but this is an actual picture Amanda was able to snap with her cell phone. Obviously a soldier had returned home for Christmas and was able to surprise his daughters. Touched my heart and made me tear up. If you want to go into a full-blown cry, you can watch/read the story here. And if you can watch the video without crying...there must be something wrong with you!

Ever since I was a kid, I have loved Christmas time. Christmas music, decorations, family, the busy build up and then some time off. I especially loved the Christmas break in college where life was MAJOR stressful with finals, etc and then I could home home for a couple weeks and just chill with my family.

(reading in Alabama today)
One of the things I have tried to do these last couple years is read a Christmas book or two. I have found that reading is one of the most relaxing things I can do, and so last year I started a new "Christmas tradition" and started reading a Kindle Christmas book or two. I choose from the MANY Kindle books that are offered for free.

The first Christmas book I read this year was Claus: Legend of the Fat Man. I don't seem to have the patience to write book reviews, so I'll just post the link above to this book on Amazon so you can check it out. But the book description sounded like sci-fi remake of the Santa, North Pole, Jack Frost story. And that's pretty much what it was. A little different, but I enjoyed it. I have it 3 out of 5 stars.

The second book I chose, which I just finished tonight was The Christmas Dog. The description I read for this book sounded like it was going to be a little more of a "sappy" story...and it was. A feel-good-and-very-predictable story that did what it was supposed to do...make me feel warm and fuzzy as I read it while listening to Christmas music. I gave it 3 out of 5 stars.

As I mentioned earlier, I have a great in-law family. Got to spend the evening with Brooke and Amanda as well as my mother-in-law, sister-in-law and her husband, my niece and nephew. We had dinner together and then opened Christmas gifts. It was a good time and we are looking forward to Christmas dinner together tomorrow.

(Amanda with the compound bow she got for Christmas)