Friday, January 23, 2015

Finally. Will I get back on track?



1/3/15 Saturday
            First journal entry for the year. We have had a 4 day long streak of ice and freezing that this area is certainly not used to. We are grateful to God that we have been blessed with plenty of firewood this year, through part time work with a tree trimmer. Kept a fire going for 4 days as that is our source of heat other than a small space heater in the bedroom. While many in the area have lost power due to the ice buildup on power lines and breaking tree branches we have been fortunate out here in the country to have not lost power. Losing power happens out here often and I was blessed to be able to purchase a generator about a year ago so we are prepared for that.

            Every time I write in this journal I talk about how I don’t write in the journal. LOL. Not really funny. It’s an indication of my lack of self-discipline or perhaps a sign that I stay distracted. I don’t know but I need to get better as this is my memory also, a record of what happens I can go back to. And there has been much that has happened. It has been a busy and eventful year. 

1/23/15 Friday
            How frustrating it is to always see what I haven’t completed. Started the entry for this journal you can see above twenty days ago and never finished. Did I get distracted? Did something come up? I don’t know, but I know this is sadly typical. I know they taught me that this is a common issue for those with traumatic brain injuries at the Brain Injury Institute in St. Louise but that doesn’t make me feel any better. Then it almost seems like I say this as an excuse, a justification for me not accomplishing what I set out to do. What do others think of me when they see how little I do? I’ve had folks come to the farm and watched as they were dismayed at the messes, at all the piles of things started and not finished. I know it frustrates my wife greatly but she doesn’t say anything. My joke about it, that I am the smartest dumb person or the dumbest smart person you will ever meet. Which one depends on the moment you meet me, isn’t really funny. Not when it’s a reality you live and can’t seem to do much about. I’ve accomplished much in the past despite the TBI but I always had help. They call TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) the unseen illness because there are no outward visible evidences of it. Folks talk with me and can tell I’m no dummy so they can’t comprehend why I don’t follow through. How can I explain it? How can I help folks understand without getting all this “Oh, you poor man, I feel sorry for you” crap I hate. There are some I work with who are always trying to protect me from the pain I live with. While I appreciate the consideration I don’t like being coddled. This “Why don’t you go pick up the twigs while we pick up the heavy limbs” makes me feel like I’m some kind of child who is not up to doing men’s work. So what do I want? I work to overcome difficulties, to get things done despite them, so trust me to say “I can’t handle that” when I know it’s more than I can do and let me carry my fair share of the work.

            I can do great things, with a little help. My issue is staying on task, not getting distracted, and being able to make the judgment call of what is important to do first. Our brains are incredibly complex, with many parts needing to cooperate with other parts to make good decisions. I’ve been around many people who have survived serious brain injuries, and no two of them are the same in the problems they must overcome. There is often a disconnect with some realities and it is difficult to help some see where their thinking is wrong. I’m betting I am the same way. I’ve seen some who are fixed on their concept, so assured they are right that any attempt to correct an error is seen as a great affront. There is a stubbornness that is hard to overcome. However on the other side of that coin are great ideas that are beyond some people’s ability to accept. A Rabbi once said that the foundation of every successful man is built with the bricks those who doubted them threw.

            I am sitting here drinking a warm cup of hot chocolate I made with the remains of this morning’s coffee. When we woke up the house was once again cold, as it usually is in this weather. I raked the coals left from the large overnight logs I put on to burn as long as possible, up and threw on some wood to get a fire going again. I went out and started Cherie’s car and scraped the ice off the windows so it would be nice and warm for her when she left for work. I didn’t think to sweep off the 3 inches of snow from the hood and roof so Cherie got a broom and did that. The roads were nasty and Cherie called to let me know there are all kinds of wrecks on the interstate so I would not choose that path when I went to work. Then Butch called to say they would not be doing tree and lawn work today because it was too much of a mess.

Thus I am able to spend some time writing this and hopefully some other things I need to write. There is so much. I have a letter to one of my brothers in Christ I started writing in January of last year that needs to be finished. Just another example of things I have not finished. There are bible studies started and not finished and the two books that are on my heart to write. I wanted to write about our year last year, a summary of what happened, something I could send out to friends and family with pictures, but that did not even get started. When I go out and work, whether it is tree or lawn jobs, or installing the floor for Geneva, by the time I get home I’m done for. The pain level is often way high and on top of that there is the fatigue.

This is another part of TBI that is hard for some to comprehend. It is clearly documented by many studies and recognized by those who work with TBI survivors, but hard for others to understand. When I had my three companies I would work seventy to eighty hours a week and still go to the bars and play. No doubt, looking back now, I was stupid and burning the candle at both ends, but the point is I had an energy level that no longer exists now. Sure I’m older now and I know that plays a part but this fatigue is different. When I first got back with Cherie, three years after waking from the coma, I would conk out around noon every day. Simply run out of steam and could fall asleep sitting in a chair. It was necessary for me to take a two or three hour nap in the middle of every day. This wasn’t a physical tiredness but a mental one.

Now, fourteen years later, I have much greater endurance but I still wear out both physically and mentally. I am jealous of those who can get so much accomplished, who have the energy level I once had, but that’s just the way it is. This is where God has put me. I pray for greater energy and wisdom all the time. Pain I just ignore until I can’t. But I am grateful for the life I have and realize it is only through the mercy and grace of God that I am able to breath. The difficulties I must overcome are all the results of the decisions I made earlier, of the sins I pursued. There is one rule of the universe we can’t avoid, a biblical truth that is unavoidable, we all reap what we sow.

How grateful I am to have this time to write. In my imagination I think I can say something important, something that will help someone improve their life. My hope is that these words are words of life, that give hope, not taking it away. One of my frustrations is seeing so much need but finding so little time or resources to help with those needs. I find myself doing odd jobs to try and pay the bills and at the end of the day being so worn out that nothing else happens.

But now I have a short window of opportunity, and what have I done with it so far? It looks like I complained, just vented my frustrations. Great. So much for saying something important. But there is still time so here is one of the things that has been on my mind.

In a conversation with a generous friend he mentioned the difficulty with doing business with friends and people we know from church. We talked about how folks often avoid this and how it is a commonly accepted belief that it is not wise to do business or work with family or those we are close to. I agreed with this man but it got me to thinking. What does the Bible say about this? I thought there were some proverbs that addressed the issue of doing business with friends so just went and read the entire book of proverbs. There was advice regarding guaranteeing or becoming surety for loans and advice against working with fools, greedy, or dishonest people but I didn’t find anything about hiring friends or family. Now I read proverbs quickly and might have missed something but what I did find in proverbs was lots of wisdom regarding helping others, especially those who are not doing as well as you are. There were also some very pointed words regarding greed and taking advantage of others, especially the poor. Also God’s heart is revealed in Deuteronomy and other parts of Moses’ writings and especially with the words of Jesus. All through there it is clear we are to help those who are our neighbors and family in the sense of the family of God, fellow believers. Jesus not only said to give to anyone who asks of you but also said that if someone takes advantage of you to let them and forgive them. The worlds wisdom says to avoid doing business with those close because it will cause divisions and discord, and frankly I have done just that thinking it is the smart thing to do.

What this really boils down to is it is a matter of faith. Do you really believe God and His promises? If we avoid helping someone because of fear that something bad will happen or they will take advantage of us then we are not really trusting in God, who said that all such sacrifices will be rewarded, both here on earth and in heaven. I know of some who in the name of this “wisdom” won’t help someone in need but often it is just an excuse they use because they really don’t want to be bothered and have other things they would rather do. Proverbs addresses that also and so does Jesus, the son of God and the one who will judge us on that last day. What will be judged? We will be judged on our works, what we do or don’t do, and on our words, what we say both publicly and in private. How do our works line up with our words? Lots of people say all the right things but what we do reveals what we truly believe in our hearts.
 
Gee, I can’t believe it is already 12:44. What will I do with the rest of this day? The snow is already gone and there is some tree work I need to finish up for a friend. I think I’ll fix a meatloaf sandwich with what is in the fridge and do some praying as I decide what to do. Do I keep writing and finish things I started or do I go to work and finish the job I started. That will help pay some bills though the income tax bill we have from when I worked at A-1 is thousands of dollars and we have a long way to go on that. I need to fire up the tractor and start preparing to farm this spring. Would love to get several trailer loads of mulch while it is free, because that would be a huge help creating grow areas for melons. Would like to get some more telephone poles. There is so much to do and so little of me to do it. What I really would prefer is to spend time studying the bible and teaching others the way of God, to tell of the freedom God offers through Jesus and the gift of eternal life available to us all. That is the most valuable thing I can do, more valuable than all the money in the world. It is where my heart is but we have to eat and pay bills.  

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Nothing easy



7/31/14 Thursday
            In my busyness I forgot about this blog again. Had an email from the newspaper that showed someone had accessed an old post and a picture of Rascal when he was a puppy. They track who accesses things because our blog has a link from the papers website. Going back and reading the old posts from 2007 revealed how far I have come regarding the brain injury. At that time I was still having seizures and struggled to understand things or people. I still struggle to understand people and probably always will. What bothers me the most is how many wear their “I’m a Christian” label but seem to not understand what that means. So many have their “God in a box”, a box that fits who they want God to be and allows them to live any way they choose, justifying all the hypocrisy. They choose a god in the box that requires no personal sacrifice and little personal discipline, one that makes them happy and allows them to despise or ignore everything outside of their comfort zone.

            The seizures have been gone for years now. Praise God for that. It was sad to see Rascal as a little puppy right after we got him and Trixie, because he is gone now. The cancer that took him was a horrible experience but we loved him the best we could, making his last months as joyous as possible. We still miss him and so does his sister, Trixie. She hasn’t been the same since. But this is life. There is no life without death and often death brings life. As a follower of Christ I died to my old way of living and all the things that held me bound, but now I am set free, born again, and have a new life to live, one that hopefully shines a light in the darkness that surrounds us.

            Things are going slowly here. Nothing is easy and there are always problems to overcome. The Oasis project is a struggle. Now that I am no longer with A-1 we don’t have a source of income. I hoped to sell trucks we bought at auction but failed to take into account that people can go to a dealer and get financing. Had a few potential buyers ask if I would take payments and I did not want to get into that zoo because if they missed payments I would have to repo or go to court. So despite having good trucks at great prices we haven’t sold any. Someone broke the glass out of the driver’s door of the 2004 F150 we had at the Oasis store on the interstate. They rummaged through the glove compartment and did not take anything.

            So we sit on a potential gold mine with the Oasis store but are having a hard time buying food or gas for the vehicles. It is frustrating. Some have helped us a little with personal needs but the help I really need is to create a business of some kind. We are working with Midland College on a business plan. That is going slow because I still have a hard time organizing and following through on things. Had a friend suggest I get on disability because, to use his words “You are really disabled”. That disturbed me a lot. I sent him an email explaining that if I ever declared myself disabled that would close the door for any kind of a future so would not do so. He did not respond or answer my phone call. That too bothers me, how some of my brothers and sisters in Christ distance themselves because we are in need.

            That’s it for now. Lots to do. We had a rare rain last night so I must get some diesel fuel for the tractor and move dirt while it is wet. Once it dries it becomes hard as a rock. Will work on the cabin spaces at the store and must disc here on the farm. As always I will try to update this blog more often, but history shows I haven’t been good at that.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Starting businesses and ministries



I'm digging up this old septic tank. It makes a good metaphor for parts of our life.

5/27/14 Tuesday
            Journaling is a habit I need to reestablish in my life. There are many things happening in our lives and it would be a good idea to keep a record of these events. I sacrificed much to help Harry and Lola at A-1. It brings great sadness to my heart to see how that failed. I told them in the beginning that theirs was a spiritual problem, not so much a business problem. Sure there are business problems but they are the fruit of deeper spiritual issues. I tried, even begged, to find a time they would agree to meet together with me and unite with a simple bible study. It never happened and evidently was not important to them. If it was they would have found some time in their life. At the end they were both screaming at me, calling me a hypocrite, fake Christian, proud, arrogant, and a whole list of things I don’t recall. What is profound in that is the day before I wrote them a letter and stated that, because it would be uncomfortable for them to acknowledge God brought me into their life to help, they would attack my faith. And they did.

            I know there are no accidents in my life, that God has a plan for us, so there are reasons we were placed in their life. One of those reasons I suspect is that the lessons learned will be part of one of the books I am to write. Another is that I believe many of the things Cherie and I have experienced since God restored our marriage are designed to train and prepare us for the future God has mapped out for us. There will be some hard times for sure and we will need all the faith and wisdom we can find.

            Work on the Oasis store is progressing slowly. Partly because I have to learn how to do things like plaster walls and relearn drywall repair. There were people I had lined up to provide labor but drugs and alcohol issues have caused them great personal harm. One went back to Nebraska, where he checked into a drug rehab program. That was good news. We had lost track of him and I got a phone call last week where he let me know he had realized he was in trouble so went back home and got help. That was an answer to prayer. The other person has fallen off the map and did not respond to text asking that he let us know how he is doing. Last I heard he was playing with meth, one of the really scary drugs out there.

            One of my big motivations for creating the Oasis is ministry. In fact that is my primary motivation. I have seen and experienced the destruction that comes with substance abuse, whether it’s alcohol or drugs. While at A-1 we had a steady stream of people coming in to work who had addiction issues. There were many who walked from the nearby Salvation Army center, where they stayed due to being homeless. I talked with them and told them about the love of God, how Jesus can set them free of all the things that have them bound. It always breaks your heart to watch people continue down a path that you know has an unhappy ending. You can try and try, throw them a hundred life savers, but it is always their choice in the end. For so many it is the “friends” the crowd they run with that continually entices them to fail and I hope to provide a place of safety, a place that provides direction and protection for them. I understand that many will still choose to not follow the right path but I hope to increase the percentages of those who will choose life over death.

            Stopped by A-1 today and dropped off another invoice for the $7500 in back pay they owe me. It is a sad thing to see the people I tried so hard to help still tied up in bitterness and a love for money that is not healthy. It was uncomfortable to say the least. Lola said “We already have a copy of this invoice” to which I replied that I would bring one by every week. I asked when they intended to pay this and she said they were talking about it, which means very little in reality. I had warned them last week that if there was no action at all I would turn this over to a collection agency. It is almost as if they think that if they ignore a problem it will go away. This is what has gotten them in trouble many times in the past and it cost them several businesses. They let  me know that they are making sure I could not access email and were bringing in an “expert” to provide some kind of internet security. I told them “I am not your enemy” and once again said that if they needed any help with anything to call me.


One of the suppliers they lost due to not paying the bill is Flash Furniture. Flash imports chairs and has really good prices. I had applied to become a  dealer for them in order to be able to sell chairs through A-1. That application was just approved so now that I am no longer working for A-1 we are starting our own chair business. I can get any kind of chair you want. Stacking, folding, church, office, leather, living room, and even Ashley designs. And I can get them at prices that are half of what you would pay in a store. If you need any chairs let me know.



            Still working to get details figured out on the Oasis project. There is much to do for sure. Getting things in order for investors so I am sure I do it all the correct way. I don’t have a background or education for that end of things. Then there are designs for septic systems, cabins, landscaping, and all kinds of things. You can check out that project at Oasis