Thursday, February 25, 2010

Here it is, the project description, the dream unvieled

At long last I am unveiling the dream. This is a project description I wrote for the government agencies we met with last week. IT's EXCITING, IT's GOOD, and it will happen with the help of many people who will all share in the fruits of such a good work. Now is the time for us to get moving on it. Please feel free to publish your thoughts, questions, and opinions, both publicly and privately. Everyone is invited to join with us in this.

Westbrook Farms
Westbrook Farms will be an Agritourism business designed to take advantage of it’s prime location a mile and a half from interstate 20 at exit 151 central to several population centers within a seventy mile radius. We are motivated to become an asset to the community, enhancing the economy and quality of life through providing a variety of services and functioning as a hub through which area products and services can be highlighted and presented to both local markets and the 26,000 vehicles a day that travel past on the interstate.

Westbrook Farms will consist of a variety of enterprises, each of which will enhance the others in a symbiotic relationship. These will include an RV park/campground, greenhouse operation, livestock production and breeding, fruit tree orchards, model farm operation presenting a variety of technologies and agricultural concepts, restaurant, two stores, one at the interstate exit and one located centrally on the farm to serve the guests, facilities for both outdoor and indoor public functions, and a production facility to manufacture and package food products as well as agriculture/garden consumables such as composts. A big part of Westbrook Farms will be a separate non profit entity that is designed to provide services to the community.

RV park/campgrounds can be accurately compared to hotels in their design and feasibilities. Just as there are low cost overnight stops and higher priced hotels designed to accommodate guests visiting specific locations and functions there are similar parallels in RV parks. As a general rule “destination” RV parks offer higher quality services and can command premium prices. The Westbrook Farms RV Park will be designed to accommodate guests who have come to partake in the events and services of the farm.

The greenhouse operation will enable Westbrook Farms to grow produce year round and escape the hazards of conventional agriculture such as weather and pests. It will employ cutting edge technologies and designs such as aquaculture and geothermal climate control achieved in part through building the greenhouses partially underground.

The livestock division is designed to fit in with and enhance the
Agritourism concept so will incorporate miniature cattle. A miniature dairy cow can produce up to four gallons of milk a week but requires only 20% of the feed and much less space. Breeding and sales of miniature cattle is a rapidly growing market segment with calves selling for $1700 and up. Miniature horses are comparable in value and cost of maintaining. Goat milk is in much demand, particularly for lactose intolerant children, and essential for the production of certain types of cheeses so we intend to meet that need. Poultry production is another element of this well balanced farm, providing a steady stream of organic cage free eggs and meat for sale.

The fruit tree orchards will be the primary attraction at Westbrook Farms during harvest season with apple trees being dominant. It will be a “Pick your Own” operation geared to provide a wholesome family atmosphere designed to attract families and community activity.

Maintaining the family orientation of Westbrook Farms we will grow a variety of fruits and berries, such as strawberries and blueberries, that are conducive to “pick your own” activities. Because strawberries and other products ripen at different times of the year it will enable us to keep activities and festivals throughout the growing season. Included in this retinue are wine grapes, for which there is an established market and need for grapes grown in Texas.

When it comes to a “Model farm” and in keeping with the Agritourism and educational aspect Westbrook Farms will employ sustainable and organic practices and utilize self sufficient technologies wherever possible. This will include solar and wind electricity generation as well as bio diesel production. We will endeavor to waste nothing and recycle everything. Animal waste and organic matter can all be turned into fertilizers and compost that not only enhance our growing mediums but can be packaged as sellable products.

There will be a central building that will house offices, RV park and campground facilities, a store featuring both our and locally produced items, meeting rooms, and a restaurant. In addition we have the use of a building located at exit 151 that will be a Westbrook Farms store and serve as a farmers market in season. Due to limited acreage we propose to create a production facility off campus that will manufacture and package a wide variety of products under the Westbrook Farms brand. These will include salsa’s, soups, spice mixes, composts, along with everything else we can think of to grow, manufacture, and sell.

The non profit arm of Westbrook Farms will be a separate entity but is closely tied to every aspect of our operation. A primary thrust will be to provide an environment to help those with disabilities the tools they need to overcome them and provide employment opportunities for those who may have been deemed unemployable. If you go to on the internet you can see some of the inspiration I have for this. Of course being a survivor of a traumatic brain injury myself is a core motivation as well. By creating this separate non profit entity we will be able to access a wide range of grants and funding to enable us to reach our goal. A look at Kessler Foundation’s site can give you an idea of the possibilities we have.

Westbrook Farms will be a corporation and as such will allow a large number of people to be involved and own a portion of the company. We will seek to attract investors who share the vision of creating such a positive enterprise and will take an active role in it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Life and death, Choose one or the other

2/23/10 Tuesday
We certainly got snow. It looks like about four or five inches. It’s hard to tell because it is a light snow that blows about easily so in some areas the ground is nearly bare and in others there are drifts well over a foot deep. I went out at four this morning and covered up Ben and Gretchen, our outside dogs. There are some out there who are amused by how we spoil our dogs and will tell us that dogs are tough and shouldn’t be coddled like this but we don’t care what others think. Our dogs are our companions and do not judge us or develop low opinions but love us unconditionally. So we love back and demonstrate it through actions. Gretchen’s paw got infected, probably from a thorn or piece of glass that had imbedded itself and abscessed. She’s doing well now after we took her to the vet but for a while we had two three legged dogs outside. Ben will never get the use of his back leg back but gets around pretty good now.

With the snow everything is shut down so Cherie doesn’t have to go to work. There was a funeral scheduled at the church she works at for today so she wondered “Do they cancel funerals” as we watched the list of school and business closings on television. I don’t know but suspect that a funeral is hard to cancel so probably will go on. Makes me think a bit about what would have happened had I not come back to life after being declared dead at the accident in November 2001. I suspect that I would have been buried in a paupers grave with no one attending as there was no money, no insurance, no one in the state who knew me, and I had no friends who would have been able to make the journey to Oklahoma. Perhaps my brother or sister would have come but it’s doubtful my father would. “What a morbid thing to think about” some might say at reading this but it brings out even more the miracle my life is becoming. Today I am confident there would be many who would attend my funeral. Today I am surrounded by those who care and love me. How blessed I am and what a mighty work God has done and is doing in our life as things destroyed are being restored.

One of the most powerful (at least for me) scriptures is found in Deuteronomy chapter 30 where it says “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

This area of the bible goes into great depth explaining what is pleasing to God and what He finds to be detestable. The big emphasis is to not get drawn or lured away into the habits and lifestyles of the people and nations that surrounded the Israelites in the land they were taking over after Moses led them out of Egypt. I understand the truth of this intimately now after experiencing it firsthand. It was a slow process involving small compromise after compromise, doing what I knew God wasn’t happy with but justifying it in my mind, confident in God’s grace and forgiveness but not understanding God’s judgment at all. The end result? I died long before the accident physically killed me, was dead in my spirit and for a while would talk the Christian talk but my heart was far from Him. It was a deadly path. There is a proverb that says “There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end of that way is death”. How my heart breaks as I see a nation full of churches that have incorporated compromise in their message, as I see so many who stand on the edge of a cliff blithely unaware of the danger they are in. But there is a reason this is on my heart and it is one of the reasons I am alive today. So I must obey what my spirit tells me.

Time to take Carman kitty to the vet so got to go.
Carman apparently pulled a muscle or tore a ligament so that’s why he can’t jump and limps. That really came to my attention when he, in trying to get to his favorite spot on the office chair as I worked, did so by climbing up my legs using his claws instead of doing in a single leap. Plus Carman kitty is getting old, I think about fourteen years, so has arthritis too.

The drive to the vet was nasty. I figured getting on the interstate instead of taking the service road would be best, thinking all the traffic would help clear it. Just the opposite was true. All the traffic had pressed the snow into an ice pack, which was full of holes. In Ohio the highways would have been plowed and salted and consequently clear and mostly dry. “We’re not in Ohio anymore” a voice tells me with touches of a scene from the Wizard of Oz. No, I’m not hearing voices, just being a story teller, so don’t worry.

Dr. Law, our vet (We highly recommend her if you need a vet) rightly thought we were nuts driving in this weather to bring Carman. In fact Cherie let me know that too and tried to convince me to turn around and reschedule before we were a half mile away from the house. But I tend to be a stubborn old fart and really don’t let fear or common sense keep me from accomplishing a goal. But having some ding bat in a little car fly past us at a high rate of speed did make me nervous, as did the semi pulling one of those double trailer set ups. So we were happy to get off the highway and when we came home stayed on the service road.

At the vets I took lots of pictures. We were surprised to find the peacocks way up in the trees. These peacocks are a fixture in the neighborhood and we’ve seen them many times before but were not aware that they are able to fly. Evidently they had belonged to someone who lived there or had been dumped off, I can’t remember the story right now, but everyone on the street looks after them now. So here’s some pictures of them.

When I opened the garage door to get some tools I was surprised, and not real happy, to see that the wind had driven a lot of snow under the one inch space that had been left because I didn’t close the door all the way when I was battening everything down in preparation for the storm. Fortunately I don’t think there is anything that will be damaged by it.

I called Alan and told him to not bother to come in and work. He was glad to hear that as he had no desire to drive in this stuff. Alan has had some real bad experiences in the short time he’s been out of prison. He has some money from savings and investments made before he went to prison and inheritance from his dad’s recent death so was able to purchase a car. He found a 1998 Honda in the paper and I took him to the guys house so he could pay for it. The guy was a fast talker and when I heard him tell Alan that he should always check the fluids and that a freeze plug leaked it sent up red flags. Come to find out, when Alan had test drove it the guy only let him drive it around the neighborhood, giving some lame excuse for that. Well, the car doesn’t have a fifth gear that works and quickly overheated. It gets him to work and around town but there’s no question he got ripped off and paid twice what it’s worth on top of that. Alan is my brother in Christ and we will do as much as we can for him, confident that God brought him to us for that purpose. I am grateful every time we are able to help someone out and I’m starting to recognize that many times it’s the hand of God that brings things together for us to do so.

It’s good that we have the snow, not so much for the ever appreciated moisture but because it frees up time I need to spend on preparing material for the USDA and NRCS guys. Plus I need to write the congressman too.

So enough said, time to get to work. Enjoy the pictures.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Hope is renewed, I'm blessed and grateful

2/22/10 Monday
It’s been rough. Had some bad slowdowns yesterday evening and again this morning. Alan came to work early, as he does every day. Not real early, just fifteen minutes, which is commendable. But he saw me while slow for the first time. It’s something I try to hide as a general rule but also something I can’t always keep out of sight. My pain level is up there right now, high enough that I must lay down.

Alan lost his glasses somewhere out here, they fell out of his pocket and are no where to be found. We called around to find a place where he could get an eye exam in order to buy new glasses and the only place we found he could get in was at Walmart. He asked when it would be ok to go and get it done so I told him now would be best. This works as I have much to do writing wise and besides that it’s miserable cold outside. So I have time to catch up with this journal as I lay down waiting for the pain pill to take effect. Besides that just laying down helps it hurt less. Somewhere the two outside dogs found a deer leg and brought it home so they are all taking turns commandeering it, growling at the others as they proudly say “I’ve got it and you don’t”. Where the leg came from I don’t know and am not happy with the idea that our two outside dogs are invading somebody’s property and stealing stuff. The bone is cut clean with a saw so is apparently from some hunter’s butchered venison.

Let me take the time to tell you about Alan. I asked him if it would be ok for me to write about him and he said yes. He’s 50 years old, just three years younger than I am but has spent the last fourteen years in prison and has only been out for a little over two weeks. I’ve been to prison a couple of times but never for such an extended period of time. However I have a good idea of the shock and fear that faces someone in his shoes and am grateful I am able to help him during this period of transition.

Unlike many, Alan wasn’t a career criminal and doesn’t have an extensive criminal history. He had been a self employed contractor and businessman but drinking and drugs did what they do to so many, led him down paths he ought not have gone. We are so very alike in our personalities and somewhat in our backgrounds that I can see why God led him to us, or perhaps me to him. Cherie met Alan and had an instant liking for him. Alan has a gentle spirit and a healthy fear of going back to prison. We have made him feel at home and extended a trust that I am confident will not be violated. In fact we told him that we consider him to be a part of the family. We took him out to eat at our favorite Mexican restaurant yesterday. When all you have had is prison food for fourteen years even a hamburger at whatever fast food place is a gourmet meal so we were anxious to treat him to this. He’s having a hard time slowing down as in prison you only have six or eight minutes to eat your meal and vacate your seat so I encouraged him to relax. The next treat we plan for him is to cook him a steak, something he’s dreamed about now for…well a long time.

It is a tremendous blessing to have his help, a real win win situation. If it works out Alan will become a permanent part of this farm and our lives. What that depends on is my ability to pay him and we are trusting that God will continue to provide in that area. This gives me hope, something I lost a lot of last year as I struggled with depression, pain, and the inability to accomplish what I desired here at the farm, or anywhere else for that matter. The words of someone we know still hurt when they expressed how I need to get a real job as if I was just being lazy or something, not understanding at all how hard it is to get up some mornings or to keep pushing through a whole day and paying the price for doing so later.
Here's the old hen house that I'm converting to a seed starting station. Am insulating it and running electrical wiring. Started this a year ago but never finished.

But with Alan’s help and a few dollars to invest I have great hopes for this year. There are still many difficulties I must overcome but I’ve been fighting to overcome difficulties for nine years now and have no intention of stopping. It’s with the help of friends and others that success is possible and it helps to know that I’m not a lone ranger, so to speak, regarding these things.

I am planning on getting involved with the Kairos prison ministry. Went to the first training session Saturday and was impressed greatly at how it is structured and the effectiveness of the ministry. It requires a lot of work on my part to recruit support for this, very similar to missionaries finding people to back their efforts. I worry about my ability to hold up physically and mentally for the three or four days they spend at the prison working the program but will trust in God to strengthen me. I’m already in a preliminary stage at involvement with the Stepping Stone halfway house, where I met Alan and have taken him under my wing as a mentor. Why would I do this when I have a hard time taking care of the farm? Because people and doing what I feel God wants are more important than anything else, with the notable exception of my wife, Cherie. And Cherie is very supportive and encouraging with regard to this and everything else. I am so blessed in so many ways and Cherie is at the top of the list of the blessings. It is beyond words to describe how good it is to have her as my partner in life.

I’m still working on the widow’s financial nightmare and that is a continually evolving scenario. At least they won’t be stopping her monthly check but at this point it’s unknown exactly how much that will be. What a bunch of heartless paper pushers they are at Met Life, who are making this poor woman pay for the mistakes they made. Plus the widow has other loads on her shoulders with her adult children and equally adult grandchildren taking advantage of her. Wish I could get them all together so I could tell them what I think but that wouldn’t help anything, though perhaps it might. So I see the widow regularly and try to keep her cheered up, or at least give her hope. The last time I saw her she was terribly depressed so I read her a psalm that related to how she felt, that God had abandoned her, and counseled her the best I could. We finish every visit with prayer as I look to God to do what I can’t.

What else is going on? We met with the NRCS guys last week and that was encouraging. There are lots of ways they can help with the vision I have for this farm but I need to follow through with things, a big weakness of mine. Alan just called from where he went to get his eyes examined and I let him know that it wouldn’t just be ok for him to take the rest of the day off but that it would actually help me out as I must do things like fill out paperwork for the NRCS guys. I also need to email Congressman Mike Conaway’s staff member regarding that. Mike and I talked about it a week or so ago along with his staff so that’s another thing I must not keep forgetting to do. I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to these things.

The VA sent me a letter stating they would not accept the payment arrangements I asked for and set an amount that they required. That letter was dated the ninth of January and then I got a letter dated the thirteenth from the Treasury Department demanding payment in full and threatening all kinds of collections stuff because I had not fulfilled the requirements of the first letter. Plus they added over $2,000 in interest and penalties on top of it. Geeze, let me take a breath at least between letters or something. Welcome to the Obama government. So that’s something else I’ll write Congressman Conaway about.

That’s it for now. At least I’m not as fuzzy headed as I was this morning and can think clearly, plus the pain level is down to manageable now. That’s good cause I have more firewood to split in preparation for the snow they are predicting tonight.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

To be broken

2/21/10 Sunday
There is so much that God is doing and apparently has for me to do. This morning I listened to Charles Stanley teach on brokenness and it resonated deeply within me. It can be found online at entitled “God’s pathway to brokenness”. How truly it fits me, fits what I’ve endured and experienced. But more than that I see what a great need there is for this principle of faith to be applied in everyone's life, everyone who truly desires to serve and please God. There are some whom God has placed in our life that have or are going through things that are designed to break them, to teach them to submit to God. They don’t realize these things are from God, nor do they understand that the end result God desires is to bless them in ways they can’t fathom. What gets broken? Our self will, our desires to do what we want when we want how we want in spite of knowing in our hearts that these things are not just displeasing to the one who died to give us life, but often are disgusting to Him. For me this breaking has taken years and in fact is still going on today as I come to terms with things like the bitterness I held against my brother, who lied, cheated, and stole from me. It was just this morning that I forgave him despite the fact that I have no desire to.

But the main thing that has been broken is my pride. Pride is the root of all sin from the very beginning and the one thing that renders us useless and unusable to God. Peter is a prime example of this. Peter, whom Jesus renamed saying he would be the rock, a foundation of the church, had to be broken many times. Peter many times expressed his pride and self confidence only to fail just as many times. “I’ll never deny you” he said and then did. “If it’s you have me come to you” Peter said as Jesus was walking on water. Jesus said “Come” and Peter walked on water till he “saw” the waves and wind. As Peter sank into the water he had to call out to Jesus for help. There are many other examples of this but ultimately Peter had to learn to depend on God and more than that to humble himself in order for God to use him. This gives me hope for my deepest desire is to please God, for Him to be able to use me. In my pride I ran from God and ultimately denied He even existed. This is an ultimate result of pride and it took 20 years for me to get to that point. And God, in His mercy and grace, broke me, and taught me to depend on Him. It started with waking up from the coma and finding myself strapped down to the hospital bed. I couldn’t feed myself, I couldn’t even get up and use the bathroom. Daily the nurses would come in and change my diapers as I lay there helpless and embarrassed. Then they started feeding me solid food, spooning the stuff that had a consistency of baby food carefully, wiping what drooled down my chin off as they did. Speech therapists would come in and teach me how to talk and then came the time that others would start to teach me how to walk. I was totally dependent on others, totally. But I still had my pride. It has taken nine years for me to get to this point and I still have a ways to go. But my hope is that God will now be able to use me, that I will no longer depend on my own ability but depend on Him, who loves me so much he raised me from the dead and didn’t just let me go after I was declared dead at the scene of the accident.
It’s time to go to church. We’re picking up Alan to take him with us. Here is another man whom has gone through a dramatic breaking process, whom I know God has plans for. So my friends, think on these things and strive to please God, not your own selfish desires that get in the way and lead you down paths you ought not to go. Be blessed.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Guaranteed to be a fight

2/16/10 Tuesday
Ok, I’m trying to keep up. After a week or so of trying I was finally able to make copies of one of Ron’s teachings. It was hard and triggered several slowdowns. Tomorrow I pick up Alan, my new and first employee. Got an email from Laura at DARS and it was disappointing and hopeful at the same time. Seems that because I am already “working” on our farm I don’t qualify as needing to find a job, therefore don’t meet their eligibility requirements for the help that had already been lined up. The couple who had been contacted and would have been contracted to help still want to do so on a volunteer or mentor basis. They are a good Christian couple that had told Cherie they prayed for her when she was trying to find the office. Laura sent some links for business plans that will help me and they are offering other services such as education and stuff. I’ll take all the help I can get and will keep plugging away no matter what. This is the way of things. In the battle of good and evil there are always obstacles thrown up by those forces that don’t wish to see anything good succeed. Yeah, I know, that’s a simplistic way of looking at things but my simple eyes see this going on all around me in the lives of everyone we meet. There are good people all over who have bad things happen to them. Some are led away into temptations that destroy the flesh and in that case good people sometimes become bad. I know I did at one point of my life and now strive to be good again.

Also we got a letter from the VA rejecting the payment arrangements for the $6500.00 they say I owe and demanding a much larger monthly payment. Of course, timing is everything.

By the way, the widow who had such a terrible time with her Met Life investment account has gotten a little relief. I called the manager of the branch and got some wheels turning that should help. They filed a complaint against the person who treated her so poorly and never explained what was going on. Seems that they had deposited someone else’s money in her account by accident. So they reinstated her monthly payment and will figure out how to fix it without causing her undo hardship. I’ll visit her later this week and go down there to confirm things. It helps to see that I was able to do some good, really does.

What else? I don’t know right now but there was a whole lot of stuff that happened today. It’s ten to nine and I’m tired, having a hard time staying awake. I’m up before the sun and by the time it goes down pretty worn out. They do a bible study at 8:00 pm at the Stepping Stone ministry and the director would like me to attend. I will just to get involved and meet the guys but might just start a morning bible study for them because I’m not worth much after the sun goes down. But in the morning I’m usually fresh and sharp so am able to think better and interact well with others.

Oh, I know what else I did today. I went to see Congressman Mike Conaway at the Stanton Senior Center. We talked after the public meeting where he entertained questions and explained part of what’s going on. I need to email some of his staff regarding the business concept as he wants to help where he can. Mike also asked me to send him some information regarding some issues I brought up so I need to make that important or I’ll forget.

There is an increasing sense of providence around me now, a sense that God has plans and needs me to push forward with them. It’s so strange to think this way. It used to drive me nuts when other people did that, you know “God this and God that” but here I am doing it. So just watch and see, or better yet get involved, because if it’s God things are going to happen and it’s guaranteed to be a fight.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Interesting start

It was a cold morning, in the teens, but when I saw this sunrise I had to go out and take some pictures. So I flung on a t-shirt some sweats and a pair of shoes to capture it before it was gone. I'm sure those driving by thought I was nuts but that's probably common knowledge by now

2/15/10 Monday
It’s been an interesting start for the day. This morning I opened the bible to find a scripture to read to Cherie before we prayed and found it was at 2Peter chapter 2. It talks about false teachers, how they will introduce destructive heresies and follow their sensuality, causing the “way of truth” to be maligned. They will exploit you, it says, in their greed with false words. “They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime” and “having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed. Ok, that wasn’t the uplifting scripture I wanted but the truth is the truth. After Cherie left for work I once again opened the bible and this time came to 1 Timothy chapter 6. Once again it talked about false teachers, describing those who have a “morbid interest” in controversial questions and disputes about words, who suppose that Godliness is a means of gain. This section contains a favorite scripture of mine where it says “For we have brought nothing into this world and can take nothing out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction”.

So with that I started my day. After praying some more I called the director of the ministry that helps those getting out of prison and arranged a time to meet him later this morning. Pulling into the place the only person I saw was working to build a garden so I went over to see if the director was in and if so what door I should use to find him. He wasn’t there yet so I started talking with the guy. He’s been in prison for fourteen years, quite a long time. But he has a gentle spirit and I was comfortable with him. Come to find out he has a great interest in gardening and had subscribed to Mother Earth News while in prison. So I think he’s the one I’ll hire. When I brought that up he was happy and perhaps even eager about it. For someone who has been locked away for that long the outside world is a scary place for sure. The more I talked with him the more I liked him and I could see a wisdom in his decisions to not return to the city he’s from, where temptations and friends from old lifestyles are, and to come to this ministry where he can get the guidance and emotional support he needs. So we’ll see. First I must call his parole officer and make sure it’s ok.

The director showed up while I was talking to the guy so I went in to talk to him. We talked for a bit and discussed ways I can be involved. I’ll start attending a bible study to get acquainted with things and kind of feel the situation out. Then I sat in the living room area and struck up a conversation with a guy. Boy, was he something. A little bit out in left field for me and has developed quite a theology while in prison, and evidently before as he said he had belonged to a cult. This guy sure fit the description I had just read in First Timothy and was uncomfortable to talk with. But I did well and told him that the important thing is to keep our focus on Jesus and the fact that He died in our place because He loves us. So I think now that it was no accident that I opened the bible to where I did.

Anyway, it’s 2:38 and I’m tired with that mental fatigue thing I must fight. But it’s beautiful out and there’s work to do. I grabbed something to eat out of the fridge. I feel a need to take a nap but don’t want to. But experience has shown me that laying down for an hour at times like this refresh me greatly so I’ll let the dogs in so they can lay next to me as they so enjoy doing. The ears are ringing, always hate that. Hope it’s not a slow down but enjoyed being sharp this morning.

Friday, February 12, 2010

I had to die in order to live

2/12/10 Friday
It’s another day and will be a good one. I now start my days in prayer, inspired in part by learning that Ron often gets up at four in the morning and spends two hours praying. When you consider that he often puts his life on the line when overseas in Muslim countries, has been chased, shot, and made to watch the execution of others with the threat that this would happen to him if he didn’t stop ministering to these persecuted converts to Christianity you can understand his need to pray. So I pray for him along with for wisdom and guidance in my affairs as I try to help others and accomplish what I feel God wants. For many of my friends this is a new face for them to see with me. I know pagans, witches, drug addicts, criminals, homosexuals, and many others who I understand will be uncomfortable with this change in me. In fact I know Christians who will be uncomfortable and can relate well with that. There are some I’ve met who all they talk about is God and it got old real quick but things evolve and so it is with me and my faith. What many of my old friends, the ones from my past life, don’t know is that I was once a pastor. They never saw that part of me because after I fell out of a tree breaking my neck, back, and sustaining the brain injury and resulting drastic personality change that led to the divorce from Cherie in 1984 I turned my back on God and all of that. So I drank, used drugs, and according to the state of Michigan ran a “continuing criminal enterprise” along with becoming a successful legitimate businessman. Oh that all didn’t happen at once but was a seventeen year long de-evolution as I returned to old habits and lifestyles I had abandoned when I became a Christian in prison in 1976. In fact I got to the point where I no longer believed that God even existed, that He was a figment of many peoples imagination and that caused more harm than good in the world.

Then I had the car wreck. It hasn’t been an instant return to faith in God, in fact it has been a slow painstaking process that got me to where I am today. I’m writing this to explain to my old friends what’s happening with the hope that through this explanation they will not simply shut the door but understand that I care for them all and desire only what’s best for them.

So here’s the deal, there are too many things that have happened that I can not explain away as just coincidence and in fact now recognize as Devine providence. On top of the list is the accident and the FACT that I was declared dead at the scene, (still listed as a fatality by the state of Oklahoma so that’s public record) life flight was called off, I was covered up and put in the ambulance for transportation to the coroner, and at some point came back to life. When I have the ability I dearly desire to find and interview the paramedics and others involved but till then this is all I know. Oh, I didn’t just wake up, I was in a coma for six weeks and from what I learned from the second wife and others was expected to be a vegetable until I finally passed away. My brother told me that they would wheel me to the door of my hospital room where I would just babble away rocking my head continuously up and down. But I steadily improved. I was taught how to walk and given speech therapy so I could talk legibly. I remember painfully meandering down the hospital hallway, once they finally allowed me to walk without someone holding me up, and finding a room labeled “chapel”. Going in I found it to be an empty room with short little pews and an altar. So I sat down and prayed “God, are you there? If you exist let me know. Thank you for letting me be alive. Help me”.

I’ve been saying that same prayer ever since and now have the confidence that He is there. I have that confidence from seeing the miracles of my life, from the restoration of my marriage with Cherie and her grace, understanding, and patience with me, from how so many doors are opened and how our needs are met in such amazing ways. Restoration is a principle one finds often in the bible. Joel chapter two is just one of those that I find inspiration in. Oh, I know the thoughts this will bring up, that I’ve become a “bible thumper”. But the bible is an amazing book that is opening up to me and has so much to say. I have a hard time believing in what I can’t see or feel with my own eyes and hands and tend to be a logical person but my eyes and hands perceive much that I wasn’t able to see before.

Sure we’ve experienced some unpleasant things that hindered this journey of restoration of my faith. There’s nothing like having a church send you an email saying “We think you will be happier going somewhere else”, or the other forms of rejection we’ve received from the hands of those who wear the label of “Christian” but that, in the long run, just encourages me and helps me understand that there is a spiritual world with forces for both good and evil. If there is a God then there is a devil and the devils’ desire is to steal, kill, and destroy all that is good. So it stands to reason that these forces for evil will do all they can to stop or interfere with anything God desires. Lucifer is the master of deceit, a liar extraordinaire who lures and fools those whom he can, making them believe they are doing just fine when the opposite is true. There is a proverb that says “There is a way which seems right to a man but the end of that way is death”. Such is the nature of deceit.

So I apologize to those who may be offended by this new tone in my writing, not for the tone but for offending. Maybe I don’t apologize, I just hate to lose friends. But Jesus said that if anyone is ashamed of Him before others He will be ashamed of them before our Father. That’s a bob paraphrase and probably isn’t word for word an accurate quote but the principle is the same. So it’s been almost thirty years now since I turned my back on God, and I had to die and lose everything, absolutely everything understanding I wandered homeless and lost carrying everything I owned in a plastic bag, including losing my memories and my mind. So my mind has and is being restored, my marriage with Cherie has been restored, my faith is being restored, and there is more to come as I’m a work in progress. I am blessed beyond measure and undeserving of any of it but every morning I wake up I am grateful for the gift of life I’ve been granted and stand in wonder at it all.

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May God grant you peace and may you find the same gift I’ve been given that your life will be full and pleasing to the Lord of all. My prayer goes out for all who read this. Yeah I know, I’m getting all religious on you but bear with me. I’ve seen things most of you may never see but have learned how to be content and now understand what is truly important. That is to please God, not those around me. So I will love the life I have and live a life I can be proud of. Remember that all the money and things you have can vanish in a flash but what has true lasting value is the lives you touch.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

smart and dumb at the same time

2/11/10 Thursday
It’s so hard to be both dumb and smart at the same time. That was one of my standing jokes about myself, that I am either the smartest dumb guy or the dumbest smart guy you will ever meet. It just depends on the moment you meet me. I’ve been struggling with how to burn a DVD with the widow’s financial information on it for what seems like hours. It’s so frustrating to have to struggle with what should be simple. I think I figured it out but will have to wait and see. The problem I know will come up is next time I’ll have to learn it all over again and will always have to unless I perform the task many times. Then it will stay in my memory.

Something else I’m wrestling with is what to do regarding a friend of ours who’s words have hurt and is apparently unaware of herself. Do I be honest and tell them? Honesty has caused so many problems before.

I’ll tell the truth and let the chips fall where they may. Meantime I’m having a hard time thinking and my ears are ringing. Not sure if the frustration of figuring out how to burn the DVD triggered this but I’m sure I have a headache and am worn out. That gets me too, how quickly I wear down. The person who said that I “Need to get a real job” seems blissfully ignorant of the difficulties I face despite knowing us. I guess she’s willfully ignorant instead of blissfully. That’s how lots of people are, they see things through their rose colored glasses and ignore what doesn’t fit their preconceived notions.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

It's been a while

2/10/10 Wednesday
It’s 11:22 now and I’m taking a break. Haven’t posted on the blog since last Tuesday. Ron came that Wednesday and I will never be the same. I’ve been meaning to write in length about his visit and the impact it has had on me but every time I start too something comes up or I have a slow down. It’s like there’s a force that doesn’t want me to write about it. For that matter it seems that every time I try to focus and accomplish anything important, such as working on the sweet little old lady’s stuff or the business plans, things get hard. The headaches have been bad and the slowdowns severe enough that I am unable to think or function well. It’s been tough to be me lately. Even as I write I must push through a headache and find my level of cognizance diminished. And then the fatigue sets in, a common aftershock of slowdowns. It’s been cold lately so we have been burning wood for heat 24 hours a day. I have to wonder if the leaky wood burner contributes to that. Cherie’s had a lot of headaches too. Getting an airtight stove is high on my list and I keep waiting for the prices to drop as they often do this time of the year when spring approaches. Hasn’t happened yet, at least that I’ve found.

There is so much I need to do. I need help and have the funds to hire someone but need to organize myself enough to go find them. Already have an idea of where to look, at a ministry that helps those getting out of prison, but haven’t followed through on my phone call to the director. This difficulty following through drives me nuts and is a serious, and common, impediment that often comes with traumatic brain injuries. I always desire to help those who are disadvantaged and having been in prison before understand what those getting out face.

Meantime I need to get back at scanning the hundreds of pages of info that the widow gave me. Worked on it three hours yesterday and, not quite understanding, clicked a button to scan that ended up erasing all the work I’d done. With the slowdowns and headaches I had yesterday it was the icing on a very unpleasant cake. Cherie took one look at me when I met her for dinner and knew I wasn’t in good shape.

I just had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich I fixed and am tired so may lay down for a few minutes to rest or refresh. First I must put another log on the fire. The gophers are active and making themselves known. Here you can see the trail of mounds they made along with where the dogs dig after them. Wish they could catch or scare away the gophers.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Trying to focus on the positive

You can see (Click to enlarge) where the drip irrigation lines I had so carefully rolled up were unrolled and partially covered by the wind and sand. On the left is one of the white pieces of ten inch PVC I'd cut to do this with. Others are just gone now, miles away in some farmers field.

2/2/10 Tuesday
We are blessed, blessed in so many ways. I try to focus on this as it helps me overcome the negative thoughts that often invade my mind. It’s hard when you find yourself seeing the bad in things instead of the good. The paranoia that others interpret my words and actions this way leads to being unsure of myself in relationships, always worrying about what I said or did that might have offended them. This is accentuated when they don’t talk or respond to emails, confirming in my mind the fears that exist only there. It’s the lack of communication that accentuates this and diminishes any assurances I might have. Coupled with not clearly remembering what’s been said and done it’s kind of like back in the days I was a serious drinker. There was more than one occasion where I woke up wondering what I did that night and dreaded to hear the stories. Of course the day I woke up in jail I knew it wouldn’t be good. I don’t drink now, other than a glass of wine with a nice dinner, and it’s great to be free and to no longer work so hard to damage the brain cells I have left. But I still must fill in the blanks now because of the TBI and that’s where communication is important and reassuring. When you fill in the blanks with the assumption that you did or said something that offended someone your always standing on shaky ground and uncertain of yourself. Fortunately I have Cherie to help. One of my common questions for her is "Did I do OK?" after we visit with friends as I seek to insure I didn't say something stupid or offensive.

Today is a poop scoop day where I clean a friends yard. These days are the ones where I try to get as much shopping and stuff done as I can while in Midland. Tomorrow our friend Ron Charles flies in to tape some programs for the GLC television network so I’ll be picking him up at the airport and will provide transportation and assistance wherever I can for the four days he will be here.

I’ll work on pulling up some more trees. I call them trees even though few of them are more than four feet tall. It’s quite an undertaking. I learned that in order to pull up the roots I must soak the ground even more than what the rain provided. Digging around these things can be painful as the two plus inch spikes easily go through my boots much less my skin. I am careful to pick up as much of the branches as I can to not only prevent flattening tractor tires but also to protect the dogs from potential serious injury as they run helter skelter.

Part of what I must always deal with is the constant effects of wind and the buildup of sand it brings. In this picture you can see how much sand has built up since I harvested the beans that were on this trellis last fall. If I set something down and forget, like I often do, it doesn’t take long for it to disappear under the sand. When we have a big blow it’s amazing the things I find uncovered, things that have been hidden in some cases for decades. Here the sand has built up over six inches on some spaces. You can just see the top of a large styrofoam cup that had blown in from somewhere. With the sand comes weed seeds as well, many of them designed by nature to take advantage of the wind to spread. This is why planting and growing wind break trees is a vital part of our long term plans as we design this farm. One of the first things I’ll plant won’t be crops I can harvest but a type of plant grown for hay called Sudan. I’ll ring each plot with this as it will provide some protection from the wind blown sand, that can strip a plant of it’s leaves, literally sand blasting them to death.

So it’s gonna be a busy day and as always I hope to stay on task and not get distracted. Time to go.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Yanking trees

2/1/10 Monday

Yesterday I started to yank young mesquite trees out of the ground. Unfortunately as I did the muffler fell off the tractor. I see that it had been “Southern Engineered” to fit. Looks like they used half a dozen welding rods to make the muffler fit in the first place. I pretty much expected to find such things as it was obvious someone had whipped things together in order to make it attractive at the auction. But that’s part of the reason I got the tractor for such a good price. It runs good and that’s what’s important. So I did some more “Southern Engineering” with bailing wire to put the muffler back on. I don’t expect it to stay but at least it’s quieter for now.

Today I hope to remove more of the mesquites. Want to do it while the ground is still wet from the rain because once it dries it’s like concrete. There is so much to do that it’s hard to decide what to tackle first. I must make copies of the little ole lady’s financial stuff and send it to the lawyer in Houston. It appears that I will be able to purchase a complete woodshop for what I think is a good price. When I heard the shop would have to be sold I gave the lady a good price with the idea that it would insure that others bidding on it would not be able to take advantage of the lady and steal it. I was surprised to hear they lost all interest and that my offer was accepted. Included in this is a Shopsmith machine which I suspect is worth the price by itself. There is a table saw, band saw, drill press, and a variety of hand tools included in this deal.

You can see two telephone poles I planted as corner supports for the garage extension. Doing that put me in bed for a while from the pain. Soon I'll be able to pay for some help with this stuff.

So now I must work to make a place for this equipment. I am becoming more aware that I need to build a barn now. It is essential for this farm. I already have plans to extend the garage and create a greenhouse on it’s south side. The money for this will come from selling the truck I bought in Michigan. At least I got it titled so after fixing some rust and other little things I’ll put it on the market. Actually I think I’ll put it up for sale now at a lower price as is and raise the price as things get fixed.