Thursday, February 28, 2013

Choosing to not fear

2/28/13 Thursday
            It was cold this morning, the weather lady on the news said 27 degrees. There was no wind so we were fairly cozy in the house. I got up at 2:00 this morning and restocked the wood burner. I often do this, waking up by some instinct to keep the fire going. It is 12:45 in the afternoon right now. Cherie came home for lunch and fixed some couscous. I am having a bad slow down. Can barely talk. Perhaps I’ll record what I sound like during these episodes. It is so strange to be me. I am smart but can’t remember what to do. We run into people all the time who don’t know what to think. It is like being on drugs and I wonder if some people think I am high or a drug addict because of how they act towards me. This is a pretty bad slow down. Wonder how long it will last. I worry about this. Here we are trying to build a business and asking others for help. I didn’t talk a lot about the effects of this brain damage. Did not want to scare people away who might help us. But I don’t want them to think I purposely tried to hide the fact I have problems to overcome. As I wrote that last sentence it occurs to me that I did purposely avoid that issue. Is it wrong to not point out my weaknesses? I don’t hide them. I try not to focus on them. There was a period where I talked about the issues that come with a traumatic brain injury all the time, was constantly trying to explain why I was different. It was almost like I was apologizing for what I was afraid I would do before I did anything. I figured out that doing this caused more problems than it solved. People would always say “We understand” but in reality they did not.

You can see how much sand the wind blew in and this is just one window.      

     Things are progressing with purchasing the property on the interstate. I have great hopes and at the same time great insecurities too. There was a time I was a proponent of positive thinking and it was a core value I presented during the many sales seminars and training sessions I taught. I was often complimented on how impressive I was with my “Can Do” attitude and great self-confidence I exuded. I built several companies and overcame many obstacles in those days but it is much harder today. I guess a lot of that got beat out of me during the days that led to the accident and in the years of desperation that followed waking from the coma. I was so on top of the world before that and then became totally dependent on others for my daily needs, even having to have my diapers changed as I lay helpless. It is hard for me these days to be confident. I have no doubts regarding the potential for the RV park as there are dozens of them all over which are filled with RV’s but there is a fear inside I must overcome, a nagging lack of confidence that looks for everything to go wrong. I suspect part of that is a result of the personality change that came with the brain injury. Plus I have constant reminders of my areas of weakness and having a bad slowdown like I just did doesn’t help.
 See those streaks of dirt? During high winds the walls are pressurized and thus fine sand blows out of every little crack and crevice, like along the door trim.

            So I will choose to trust in God and have faith that He loves me and that He has always had a plan for us. Plus I will choose to be confident. It’s not an easy thing to do for me, not like it used to be. But I sit here being honest and that might be part of my problem. One of the results of the brain injury was that I was, and still am, painfully honest. I don’t put up a false face well, I am not good at pretending to be happy when I am not or pretending to be anything. But if I am to be a leader then I understand that I need to present that confidence and a positive outlook because I know that my attitude can greatly affect or infect those around me. This I know and have seen in so many ways. With my telemarketing company I would always keep an eye out for those individuals who had bad attitudes because I knew that one bad apple could spoil the whole room. Here I am struggling with my fears and doubts and telling the whole world about them. There is no question that the RV park is a good idea and will be successful. My doubts are in myself I guess and my fears are related to the bad experiences we had in the past, with people who would say one thing and do another, with betrayals from those we trusted. I can’t allow myself to let those past betrayals to cause me to doubt others. A scripture I cling to, that I rely on, says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge God and He will direct your paths”.

We loved Ben and Gretchen, both dogs we rescued. It broke our hearts when someone shot them both. There is so much we just don't understand.

           We have had dogs come into our lives who had been obviously abused. When I lifted my hand quickly to simply scratch my nose Gretchen would cower down in fear. We loved her for the entire two or three years she lived with us and that fear she had slowly got better. In some ways I am like that dog we loved, having been beaten too much. The Love of God in my heart is slowly mending those wounds. I recognize the source of these fears within me and with the recognition no longer allow them to have much sway. But they are there.

            We look forward to what God and the people He has put in our life has for us. We look forward to creating a place that will help others along with it being a place we can share the Love of Christ with others. 

This is our worm farm, where we make some great dirt.

            I am doing better now regarding the slowdown. It’s 3:00 so that one only lasted 3 hours. Not as bad as some have been but certainly worse than the ones that only last fifteen minutes or so. They always tire me out, suck a lot of energy from me. I will get back to working with the worm dirt we have. It’s time to get it sifted out so I can prepare planting soil and get some of the seeds started. The worms did good this winter and I found lots of them thriving in most of the refrigerators. In one the rats or mice found a way in and ate lots of the worms. Rats and mice are always a problem here. They have been getting into the engine compartments of our vehicles and caused some serious damage chewing wires and stuff. Time to go and get some stuff done now.  

Monday, February 25, 2013

The wind blew

2/25/13 Monday
            The wind is blowing hard and cold. As a result even the fire in the woodstove does not keep the house warm. The blanket over the window is blowing despite the window being closed with a towel stuffed in where the sash is to help seal it. Turned the electric space heater on as well. We try not to use it in order to keep the electric bill manageable. I will have to put my thick winter socks on in addition to the regular socks and wear my coat inside. Went out to check on things, to make sure there is nothing that will blow away. There was some snow mixed in with the blowing sand so this may be interesting. The weather said that Lubbock, which is about 120 miles north of us, was getting a snow storm. We are grateful for any kind of moisture we get.
            So let me bring you up to date on the happenings at Westbrook Farms and in our lives. We don’t feel that there are any accidents in our lives and believe that the people we meet have been put in our path for a reason. There have been some interesting people for sure. Some who have helped us, some whom we have been able to help, and some I can learn from simply by observing their actions and the results of those actions. There are always those who need prayer for a wide variety of reasons. Lately many I have met have expressed their loneliness and sense of isolation. This is something we relate to well and have experienced so there is an understanding of how these people feel. It verifies my desire to create a place of acceptance, where people will be loved without judgment and hopefully can come to understand how much God loves them through this.

            I will need to go cut some more firewood as the truckload I cut last week is already mostly gone as we strive to stay warm. How I long to build a new house, one that is better sealed and designed that will not be as hot in the summer or as cold in winter. We have looked at several designs and the ones built with straw bales are pretty nice and can be built on a tight budget.

            A friend told me about a place that had fifty or more trees that had been cut down and left so I went to check it out. It belonged to a widow whose husband had just died last year. She was grateful to find someone who could help clean up the mess and I was grateful to not only find a source of firewood but mostly to find someone I could help. Went there last week to cut some wood and discovered one of the many dead trees on her land had been blown over. It was partly on top of her front deck and had just missed the trailer home she lives in. I cut much of it up and loaded it in the truck but could not finish because my pain level got too high. It’s a pretty nasty day out there today so I may or may not go finish that job. Considering how many dead trees there are still standing I must go there soon to make sure no more blew over in this storm.

            Still haven’t figured out the wiring problem with the truck. I know I am playing with fire driving it because a ticket for expired inspection sticker is a chunk of change but it is the most reliable truck I have. The other one runs but that bad transmission is scary. I think I will probably drive it today because it is legal and go slow and careful to nurse it along as long as I can. I drove the red truck that way for two years when it only had first and third gear working. It’s dead now and sitting on the farm till we have the means to fix it.

       It's hard to see but this picture shows one of the RV parks that have sprung up all over. I think you can click on the picture and make it bigger

     Speaking of means, things are moving forward with the RV park we hope to create. We are trusting in God to help us do this and that requires us to trust that some of God’s people will be unselfish enough to help. There are two on board with a definite amount of cash they will commit to the project. There is another who is definitely involved and helping me with understanding legal things and how to protect the investments of those who are joining with Cherie and I in building this business. I am left in the dark regarding any monetary amount he is willing to contribute but am grateful for any help and advice I can get.

            This is all new and strange territory for me when it comes to money and asking for investors. I built multiple companies before and advised numerous others regarding sales and marketing but the only time I asked for money was to purchase a store full of pallet racking I could buy for a song but was short of cash for. Everything else I did on my own, building the companies from scratch. The first one started with me in a provided office making appointments for financial advisors with companies throughout the area. Soon I hired and trained my first employee and as things grew saved enough of the income to rent our own office. Then I slowly grew, adding phone lines and employees as work and finances allowed, eventually incorporating and becoming a well-known name in Toledo. The other companies grew from that and each one paid its own way as they expanded. So asking for investors is new for me but add to that is the fact that with the brain damage I lost much of my memory so if I had a knowledge regarding this it doesn’t exist now.

            So the third person, the one with an extensive financial background asked me “What do you plan to for your investors?”. That is a good question and one that I really don’t have the background to know what is normally done or expected. The two who are on board with specific dollar amounts have simply trusted me to do what is right. My thoughts are that they can either consider this as what a lawyer called a note, that will be paid back with an agreed to profit, or they will become part owners of the company and thus get a percentage of the profits for as long as they chose. I told one potential investor I would pay a flat 20% profit on the note and he said that sounded high. Shoot I don’t know. I am grateful for the help and would gladly pay more. Compared to what you can get from an IRA or CD or any other typical investment 20% is a way better return on investment. I am not greedy, and frankly have no desire to get rich, but I would like to make enough to pay bills, fix our vehicles, and help others out. It would be nice to have the resources to build the vision we have for this farm and we trust in God for that as well.

            The big vision for the farm involves a 10 acre or so greenhouse operation, goats and a small dairy operation that includes making cheeses, butter, and who knows, maybe even ice cream. The store on the interstate is important as it is the avenue we will primarily use to sell what we grow and produce on the farm. A fruit tree orchard is also part of that dream and along with it a place for people to come with their families for a relaxing time together picking fruit and enjoying wholesome organic foods. The RV park and a campground have always been a part of that vision, which I had before I knew we would inherit this farm. A 100 space RV park would easily bring in half a million dollars each year.

            The winds finally died down so we have a chance to be warm tonight. Tomorrow I’ll have a chance to see what blew away or blew in with the storm. The day went by quick today. Goodnight folks.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Frustrations, overcoming problems

            There are times I feel so inadequate and this morning is one of those. Things seem difficult, easy things. I am struggling to know and decide on what to do next. The whole business plan has gotten confusing as I strive to understand people and try to process what they have told me. Talked to someone yesterday who has experience in real estate and he gave me all kinds of advice. Much of the conversation I am unable to remember and some of it I know was hard for me to understand. There are some who seem to have been offended by me but I can’t tell because they have not responded to emails so I wonder what is going on in their minds and worry that I said something wrong. I still work on social skills that were lost with the brain injury. Usually have Cherie review things I write so she can advise me and let me know when I’ve crossed some line I don’t know exists. I understand that honesty is often not appreciated but still believe in being honest. How I long to create this business, to thus create a job I can work and earn a living with. How I long to not be poor anymore. How I long to provide for my wife and give her the nice things she deserves. How I long to not have people look down on me. And how I long to be able to focus my time helping others find Christ and live the life He desires.

            Here I am asking others to invest in me and the dream we have but struggle to figure it all out. The business itself is pretty simple but people are much harder. I am not a politician, not adept at rubbing elbows and doing that whole meeting, greeting, and selling others on the idea, I just know it’s a good idea. What is strange is that I used to be a top salesman for every company I worked for and was even better with the companies I started, where I trained other company’s sales forces on how to do the whole thing. That is part of what was lost with the massive brain injury and it hasn’t returned though I am better at relating to others than I was after I woke from the coma. I need a little help, or maybe a whole lot of help.

I guess part of my problem is I have an understanding of how things are supposed to be based on my study of the bible but the reality of how people are is often far from that biblical standard. I told many of the way I was when I woke from the coma, how I operated in social areas at about the same level a three year old would. I could not understand jokes, and subtleties were lost on me. I would say what I thought without understanding you don’t tell someone they looked bad or smelled funny. I’ve come a long way but suppose it’s still an issue. In my ideal world everyone would be a Christian and all Christians would love their neighbor just as much as they loved themselves. There would be no wars or conflicts and every person who had a need would have it taken care of. But that world  won’t exist till God comes down and destroys this one and brings in the new world.

            But I must live in the real world, where things are not so simple or plain to see. There are many who proudly wear their Christian label but only practice the parts they like, and often only when that is convenient. We have received our deepest hurts and betrayals from the hands of those who proclaim their belief in Christ loudly. One couple had adopted us and helped us in many wonderful ways. We would get together regularly and they would always end the occasion with profuse “We Love you guys”, and we were blessed to know them. But then I had Steve look at our mineral rights and all that stuff about our oil well that I don’t understand. He said “There is a problem here, something is wrong, but before I go further I need you to sign this paper”. I read the paper (still have it) and saw that it gave them 75% of our mineral rights along with handing over full legal authority to administer those rights as they saw fit. When I questioned that he told me that he had discussed it with his wife and she told him “They (Cherie and I) don’t have children so they have no need for a legacy, but we have family and do so they don’t need those mineral rights”. Steve also tried to convince me that they were being generous to “give” us 25% of our own mineral rights. What a slam, what a knife in the back and to justify it by using one of the deepest hurts in our life, the fact that we were beyond the age of being able to have children, just made it worse. But the next reaction from them was even worse, as they totally cut us off from friendship, unfriended us on facebook, refused to respond to calls and emails, and when I confronted Steve in person at their house he says “You’re not my friend anymore”. For a moment I thought I was back on a first grade playground hearing a juvenile taunt designed to hurt, but this was coming from a successful oil man who had been blessed with much. I continue to pray for them but watching my wife cry and struggle with the hurt after that made even praying for them hard. I sure would not want to be in their shoes when they face God on judgment day.

This is the car I died in.  

         That was a hard lesson to learn, and another step in peeling away the naiveté I have as a result of the brain injury. As I watch people dance when we mention the desire to get some help with this business I am saddened but reminded of the man who came to Jesus saying "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus answered saying “You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery,' 'Do not murder,' 'Do not steal,' 'Do not bear false witness,' 'Honor your father and your mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.' " The man said "All these things I have kept from my youth." Understand that this was a religious person who was studious to know and obey the commandments found in the bible, and it is evident he was raised in his religion because he told Jesus he had been following the commandments all his life.

 So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me. But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich.  And when Jesus saw that he became very sorrowful, He said, "How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." I have heard lots of sermons on this, including some that talk about a gate in Jerusalem called “Eye of a Needle” that was so narrow camels had to be unloaded to pass through. But the point is pretty clear, all your religion, while good, will not get you into heaven. Jesus knew this man’s heart and brought out the one area He knew this man held higher than God. That was money. Jesus and the bible have a lot to say about money. It is the source of all kinds of evil and the love of it is also called idolatry, as in a god some worship or anything you hold more important than God. 

I once preached a sermon titled “Do you really believe?” It upset one man and he let me know about it. I suspect it simply challenged some areas of his life he was not willing to surrender to God. There is a reality many don’t like to face, and that is tied to the question “Do you REALLY believe” for what you do shows what you truly believe in your heart, and often that does not match the words you say. Hear what Jesus said to Peter at the end of their conversation regarding the rich man. “Then Peter said, "See, we have left all and followed You. So Jesus said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel's, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time--houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions--and in the age to come, eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first."

Peter and the rest of the disciples surrendered all to follow Jesus. Peter left his fishing business, boat, everything behind, because he knew the truth he was seeking and understood well the eternal reward. In the question “Do you really believe” are many aspects. What is it you really believe? Do you believe there is life after death? Do you really believe that you will stand before God and answer for all you have done? On that point I understand that many have accepted a teaching or doctrine that tells them they will escape all consequences for their actions, and thus feel they can do what they want without any fear of any accountability, but that is not what the bible teaches. James wrote “Let not many of you become teachers, knowing that as such you will face a stricter judgment”. It is not just the judgment but those who teach others are held to a higher standard than the rest. We bear a heavier burden and greater responsibility for our actions and words.

There are many people in church who don’t have a clue, because those that teach tell them what is comfortable and easy, and they have become lazy, depending on others to tell them what the bible says instead of reading it themselves. In Ezekiel we are told that if we don’t warn others of the dangers ahead, of impending judgment, then their blood will be on our heads. That is a responsibility that comes with any form of leadership in the church.

So, do you really believe? The early church certainly showed they did and you can read in the book of Acts how many sold their property and brought the profits to the church to be distributed to the poor and needy. Why? Because they believed in a real way that this time on earth is but a breath of air, and that on the day they faced God their reward would be exactly what Jesus told His disciples after Peter said “See, we have left all and followed you”. Thus, really believing and understanding that the heavenly reward is far greater than earthly things, all that money and possessions were no longer things to lust after and covet, but things that could be used to help others and show the love of Christ.

There are few preachers these days who dare to speak the truth on the subject of money. Many have gotten wealthy preaching a gospel of prosperity, tapping into the greed of many by twisting scripture to say “Send me money and God will bless you with more” and hundreds of variations of that. One of their favorite scriptures is found in Luke 6 Verse 38 "Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure -pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return."

But it’s important to read all of what Jesus said in that chapter of Luke. It can be summed up with the statement “Nothing is worth more than others and their needs. No possession you have is something you should covet and love more than the needs of others” This is true love, to care for others more than you care for yourself. Here, listen to the words of Jesus, who will be our judge on that last day.

Looking at his disciples, Jesus said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. "Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets. "But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets. "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

            This had been a long teaching I had spent 4 hours working on but my computer messed up and it all disappeared. I have a busy day today as we work to get the investors together for this hope we have of building a business.

A little about what is happening here on the farm. I finally got the booster pump out of the well pit I had dug for it. Took hours of painful bending that reminded me in no uncertain terms that I had broken my back and neck. When you are poor you buy cheap stuff. When you buy cheap stuff it doesn’t last long and breaks. When it breaks you seek for a cheap fix, and thus the cycle continues. I had expected to find some of the PVC pipe had broken, perhaps froze, but was surprised to see that the pump housing itself had broken. PVC I can easily replace but this I don’t think can be repaired. The water has a lot of salt in it so perhaps that contributed to the decay I found. You can see where the salt corroded some of the steel. The booster pump was to provide pressure that would allow us to run sprinklers and irrigation, along with providing enough for us to use our new shower. Unfortunately the shower head plugged up from the salt and hard water, along with shredded plastic from when the well pump demolished itself so we take baths and can’t use the shower.

I haven’t figured out what wire is bad on the diesel truck so I am driving it with a bad inspection sticker. The other truck will move but the transmission is on its last legs because of what the mechanic did. I will drive it to Stanton because it is legal. The out of date inspection sticker could cost us $800 if caught so that has me scared. How tired I am of living on this edge and how we desire to get the company going so we can afford to do simple things like repair our vehicles. We are surrounded with opportunity we don’t have the means to take advantage of and we are surrounded with people who can help us but…I am frustrated and this is not the place to vent that. There are some who are helping us and we are grateful. Many are so easily offended and few people like to hear the truth so I find myself in a difficult situation. If I speak the truth some would say I am trying to manipulate and if I don’t they continue living in a way that Jesus spoke clearly about, that is not the best way to live. Perhaps when we get things going I can feel free to be honest and not be judged as someone using God for personal gain.