Category: neighborhood

Around the Table

When we moved to League City, south of Houston, in 2007, we planted a church. It was just a little different from most churches where we had served in the past.

But, it was a good different.

We tried to take the good from the past and chuck the ineffective/not-so-great, and planted a church, designed on the church in Acts, in the Bible.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.  All the believers were together and had everything in common.  They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47

Not every idea worked perfectly, and our church, which is still in existence, even though we had to move, is still trying to get it right. (Aren’t most churches trying to get it right? We are a group of flawed humans, after all.)

But, through all of it, we felt (and still feel) God’s hand of favor was and is upon that little church.

One of the things we did a little different was to have weekly local neighborhood gatherings. (A couple different families would host in their own neighborhoods, getting to know their neighbors.)

There was ALWAYS food involved!

(And, you know how I love me some food!)

Long story, short, we would meet at our house, or at our neighbor’s house, bring a pot-luck meal, and while eating, we would share our lives. The highs and lows of the week. The kids were included in the conversation, as well. It was important for them to hear and be heard.

We invited other neighbors and we shared meals with them. It was not designed to be exclusive in any way, shape, or form.

But, it was bigger than just a supper club.

We served our neighbors together.

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We played together.  (That link is only one of the many Hunks vs Punks posts I’ve written about…do a search for Hunks vs Punks, and you can read them all!)

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(Not only did we play football together, we went to football games together…)

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(I actually DO know the lady at the bottom right; I just didn’t when I took that picture. She’s probably still talking to her neighbor because he’s probably still texting…)

We prayed together and even baptized together…

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And, of course, we ate together.

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It was a beautiful thing.

ThrillCam and I will forever be changed, for the better, because of our neighborhood Table Group.

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(photo credit to Jeremy Knight)

So, guess what?

We are trying it, again, with our new neighbors!

We had a group of 4 families over, on Tuesday night (no, I didn’t take pictures…yet!).

We threw out the vision.

We’ll see what happens.

Either way, whether we meet weekly and eat together, or not, I’m excited to see where God takes us, as a neighborhood.

Because, I KNOW how lives can be impacted and changed just by reaching out and loving one another…doing life together.

E.

Be a Good Neighbor

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Some people you just hit it off with immediately.

Some people fall into the “they will will be lifelong friends” category.

You know them.

You have a couple of friends like that.

Right?

We do.

ThrillCam and I have a number of those friends from our old stomping grounds, south of Houston.

I am happy to say, we can now add a few new folks to our list here, as well.

We moved to the Waco area nearly a year ago. While it seems like a long time, it has flown by.

Our first few months we spent holed up in the new house getting things moved in. We weren’t spending a ton of time meeting people.  We didn’t really start to church shop until after the new year. We sat alone in the football stands for most of our son’s football season. I did not go up to the school to volunteer. And, on top of that, our house is set off the road with a few acres, not in a typical neighborhood.

We pretty much made it very difficult for anyone to get to know us.

If we were going to actually make friends, it sort of rested on the shoulders of the very people we needed to meet, but weren’t. THEY were going to have to be intentional about meeting us.

Enter: Mark and Julie.

Look closely at the picture above. Those two are the poster children for the term Good Neighbors.

They immediately reached out to us and invited us to church, to their home, to share deep and thoughtful conversations, to eat. (Offer food, and I’m so there!)

They took a risk.

Julie took it upon herself to introduce me to more girls in the area. We started having lunch out. Or, I’d invite the girls over for coffee. I was even invited to celebrate a new friend’s 40th birthday, which is huge in my book!

Or, Julie and Marlo and Kim would take me walking or to Zumba and cause me great pain the next day because I was (am) so out of shape.

But, that’s another story.

Mark asked ThrillCam and our youngest son to join him, his sons and a few other dads and their sons, to hang out on Sunday evenings. Mark wanted to just pour into the neighborhood boys and foster stronger father/son relationships.

This couple has made our transition a little easier, a little sweeter.

Learn from these sweet folks; reach out to someone you don’t know well, open up your circle of friends to a new (or not-so-new) neighbor, take a risk.

Who knows? You may gain lifelong friends!

We often think others don’t want to be bothered, but you may be totally surprised if you reach out.  Honestly, don’t we all want friends, to be cared for, to be loved? ThrillCam and I did!…do.

Of course, it may not work out as supremely as my new friendship has, but you will be better for trying, for risking, for loving.

That, I do know.

So, get out there, and be a Good Neighbor.

E.

Baseball

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Did you know that there are MILLIONS of little black balls of rubber embedded in field turf ? (Did you know there’s a difference between field turf and Astroturf? Astroturf was first invented for the Astrodome in Houston, Tx. They are both synthetic fibers, but Astroturf was inflexible and caused many injuries. Field turf has been improved over the years and the use of the rubber balls–and sand–help to prevent injuries.)

I knew the tiny bits of rubber existed due to the time I’ve spent on football sidelines, but it wasn’t until I was down flat on the fake grass to grab the above picture that I truly understood just how abundant the black stuff was.

I still have imprints on my legs where the black stuff dug into and stuck to my skin.

The good thing, it camouflaged the cellulite.

Sort of.

Okay, not really. It only lodged itself into the cellulite making it that much harder to remove the dag-blame stuff.

According to eHow, the pellets are made from frozen rubber tires.

Well, here, you can read for yourself:

  • When you play on, or carefully inspect FieldTurf, it’s easy to notice a number of small, black pellets that sit below the surface of the synthetic grass. These black pellets are loose, and as you run on the FieldTurf, your feet will flip them up into the air. The pellets are made of cryogenic rubber and are a vital part of the infill structure of FieldTurf. The rubber pellets used in FieldTurf are environmentally friendly. They are produced from recycled tires that are frozen through a cryogenic process. While frozen, the tires are broken into the small pellets that will eventually end up in the FieldTurf.  —eHow.com

ThrillCam spent quite a bit of time and energy acquiring the turf that had been removed from a high school football field somewhere in Texas.

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We were thrilled the previous owners of our new house built a rather large metal building on the property because the front section was just the right length for a batting cage, which both of my boys (and a couple neighbor friends) have put to good use.

Getting the turf TO and INTO the building required an act of Congress; it took multiple days, the use of the tractor, and numerous strong-bodied males to move and roll it into place. (ThrillCam had to cut it into smaller pieces just to be able to lift and move it–with the TRACTOR! It was extremely heavy.)

Then, after the turf was put into place and glued down, the little black pellets had to be spread around to provide spring and cushion.

You can barely see, but to the left of the cage (in the above photo), there are buckets and bags against the wall. See them? Left-over pellets. Extra. Lots. (There are a few mounds of the stuff on outside the building, as well.)

The pellets are environmentally friendly, in that they are made from recycled tires, but, honestly, they will never go away. Ever.

I considered using the extra around my garden as a type of mulch, to prevent weeds growing around the edges. Seemed like a great idea, initially, but, I’ve decided against that because they would eventually make their way into the garden soil, which doesn’t sound beneficial to my tomatoes. (And, we know how much trouble I’ve had in the past growing tomatoes….)

Anyway, we are happy to have the turf, the millions of rubber balls, and the batting cage, because our family loves baseball.

Baseball–actually, any sport–is a great metaphor for life, in so many ways.

Like the Babe Ruth quote I put on the top photo–it applies to all of us whether we play baseball or not.

Every strike can bring us closer to our next home run.

So get out there and start swinging!

Eventually, we will hit a home run!

(Just don’t fall while running the bases–I’m still picking little black pellets out of unmentionable places….)

E.

Coffee and Breakfast Goodness!

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May I just say, it’s quite hard to type while licking icing off your fingers?

You see, on this cold and blustery morning (it’s late April–what’s up with that!?!), I invited some neighbors over for coffee and some scrumptious goodies to gab by.

About 6 months ago, we moved to a completely new area of Texas, one that we were familiar with, but one where we didn’t really know anyone. So, we’ve had to very intentional about meeting and making friends. With that in mind, I have occasionally invited over some of the neighborhood girls for coffee.  I absolutely love the time we spend together–we laugh a lot, which is good for the soul. And, we, of course, eat a lot.

Well, not all of us. Just me. I eat a lot.

Anyway, I thought I’d pass along the recipes I made this morning. I figure, this way, if you have these easy recipes, you too, might invite some neighbors over for coffee (and goodies).

It makes the world a better place…or at least your neighborhood a better place, no?

This first recipe is not really a recipe. It’s just cooking an already prepared item in a new way. (This is why I still have icing under my fingernails.)

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Cinnamon Roll Waffles!

Just place one or two cinnamon rolls (store bought pop-open-the-can cinnamon rolls–you know, like Pillsbury) into a greased waffle iron, close the lid, and press down. Once they’ve reached the crispy edged done-ness you desire, place them on a plate and squeeze on the icing!

(If you don’t have enough icing from the can, just stir together about 1/2 C. powdered sugar and 1-2 T. milk–or heavy cream–and a pinch of salt. You want the icing to be thick.)

By the way, your kids will love this new presentation of a cinnamon roll!

I also whipped up a batch of Orange Juliusessssss. (How do you pluralize Orange Julius…esesesessss??)

(Can you tell I snapped all these pictures with my phone-camera? blech!)

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Easy-sneezy.

Add 1 Can frozen OJ (12 oz.) to a blender, along with 1 OJ can of milk, 1 T. sugar and 1 T. vanilla. Blend away! (Add ice cubes, if desired.)

It’s good for what ails the soul.

Or for a nasty cold.

Or for neighbor friends.

Or just because.

Lastly, I made Eggs Benedict Casserole.

So, creamy and delicious. It’s one of those make-the-night-before-breakfast-casseroles that definitely fits the bill.

It had me at hello.

It hits the spot.

It scratches that itch.

It completes me.

Enough already!

The hardest (not really hard, but step-intensive??, if that) part was making the hollandaise sauce. Not a big deal, I promise. Just have your hand mixer near your microwave, so you can easily beat the sauce between heatings in the microwave.(The recipe I used calls for a hand mixer and the microwave. Most of the other recipes online have you whisk it over a simmering pan of water. I suggest you compare the recipes and decide which you think is easier for you and then go for it.)

I have all of these recipes on my Pinterest breakfast board. Check them out!

Now, make your grocery list and text or call a couple of neighbors, including one or two you don’t know well, and invite them over for coffee.

Don’t make a fuss. Just keep it real and casual.

Deepen those relationships!

Oh, and eat some good food!!

E.

Shenanigans…

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My youngest son’s 14th birthday fell on Easter weekend this year, which made it difficult for us to have any type of celebration at the time.

We ended up postponing the party until this past weekend.

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I really believe, though, it was worth the wait!

Seven of our son’s buddies joined him for a sleep-over and par-tay!

This year, we by-passed the usual go-cart or rock climbing party and got a little more creative.

We went on a Photo Scavenger Hunt!

We split the boys into two teams and drove them to the specified locations on their list to complete their tasks. (each team started at a different place on the list) Then, as the task is being done, or completed, a photo or video must be taken for proof. (Pretty much, all photos were taken with a phone-camera.)

I haven’t had this much fun in a long time!

Below is the scavenger list  (tasks listed in no particular order) and some of the photos….

PHOTO SCAVENGER HUNT

*You have 10 minutes to choose a song and choreograph a routine for a flash mob in Target. (Team)

While at Target, you must purchase the following items: Fun Dip (or Warheads), one package of adult-sized underwear (like Depends), a small roll of foil, and sidewalk chalk. Once purchased, each team member must eat enough candy to turn their mouths a different color (team tongue photo for proof) AND each team member must wear a pair of underwear (over their clothes) to the next PUBLIC assignment.

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*Climb on and pretend to herd the cows at Suspension Bridge (Team)

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*One team member must chug a Dr. Pepper in front of DP Museum

*Team must lead Baylor University students in a “Ahhhhh, Sic ‘em Bears!” in front of Bear Pit

*One member must get 10 signatures on their chest from strangers.

(this was probably my favorite task)

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(We used non-permanent markers!)

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*Entire team must wear foil hats.

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*One member mummified with TP.

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*One member lying on sidewalk with chalk outline and a quote bubble.

*Team jumping in air.

*Team wearing clothes inside-out.

*Team pyramid.

*Team holding one team member off ground.

*One member “antiqued” with flour in face (must be done OUTSIDE).
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*Team as a band in studio.

*Team in canoe, on dry land.

(“I’m King of the world!!!”)

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In the end, the judge (our oldest son who was home from college for the weekend) called it a tie.’

What a fun, silly distraction after a very heavy-hearted week!

Still praying for the injured and hurting in Boston and our neighbors in West,

E.

Helpers.

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This photo has gone viral since the Boston Marathon bombings, and for good reason. It’s a good advice.

ThrillCam and I have lived near quite a few disasters over the recent years and it’s amazing to watch the good that comes from very sad and seemingly helpless situations.

We’ve watched Helpers come in very different forms over the years…

We had been living in Clear Lake (Houston) Texas, right down the road from NASA, for not very long when the space shuttle Columbia exploded.

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I don’t believe we were remotely prepared for what we witnessed as this large city, and yet, very small community of engineers, contractors, scientists, and friends rallied around NASA and the shuttle victims’ families. When I say it was amazing, it was amazing.

Everyone in the community was connected, in some form or fashion, to NASA, and more specifically, to an astronaut. For such a large population, the degrees of separation were minimal.

I remember mourning friends who personally worked alongside the astronauts telling me stories of how they walked side-by-side through brush and thicket searching for pieces of the shuttle for days following the explosion; they were determined to help find even the smallest sliver of metal that could help the investigators piece together the hows and whys of that tragedy. It was their way of helping.

Our oldest son was in the same class/grade with one of the astronaut’s daughters. So, we were eye-witnesses to the attention and support given to her and her family. Helpers with tangible offerings of many prayers, food, carpooling, house-cleaning…anything that could help ease the burden of sorrow the families were feeling.

“Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes!” I Peter 4:9

During our time in the Houston area, we evacuated three times for the threat of, or the actual frontal attack of hurricanes.

While Hurricane Katrina didn’t hit our area directly, we watched as hundreds of evacuees fled Louisiana to Houston and its surrounding areas. Churches, families and businesses opened their doors to these refugees, feeding and clothing them. Our church sent teams of workers to some of the hardest hit areas in Mississippi to help in the recovery process. It was beautiful and inspiring to watch.

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Photo credit to Gateway Community Church.

“Jesus sent his twelve harvest hands out with this charge:

‘Don’t begin by traveling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers. And don’t try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously.” Matthew 10:8

We moved a few years later, further south, to plant a church in the town of League City. League City is in Galveston county, about 30 minutes (minus traffic) south of downtown Houston and about 30 minutes north of the Galveston Bay.  Hurricane Ike hit Galveston with force, causing a devastating storm surge.

Our church took a small, but dedicated, loving group of helpers down to help with the cleanup efforts following Ike. (You can read my post about it here.)

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Just a few days ago, the Boston Marathon was bombed. Unbelievable and, again, devastating.

But, I am amazed by the first responders (that include just regular folk who stayed to help), who swooped in, immediately, to help the victims. This morning’s national news did a piece on the EMS workers who were stationed in and around the race. Because of their presence, they were able to move 90 people to area hospitals in less than an hour.

Helpers.

And, now, today, I sit here reeling at the close proximity of our new home to West, Texas, the small town devastated by the fertilizer plant explosion. I grew up going there on a very regular basis to buy kolaches and go country and western dancing! My heart is heavy and sad for the precious people of West, as they continue to search for loved ones and tend to injured ones…

But, I am also, once again, reminded of the good in people. Immediately, churches and businesses opened their doors for the refugees and hurting people of West. Donations of blood and gift cards and clothing and baby diapers, etc. are flowing in.

I’m, once again, watching the loving hands of Jesus being lifted through service and care.

This is just unfolding and I am looking forward to hearing the hero stories…

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
 My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.” Ps. 121-1-2

A few months ago… (Part Uno)

I didn’t blog much last Summer and into Fall of 2012.  There was a lot going on.

For one thing, I was too busy packing, moving, and unpacking.

To be honest, though, the packing didn’t start until later in the summer, so, I really have no excuse.

I just didn’t spend much time in front of my computer.

Nor did I use my DSLR much.

I tended to rely on my phone to capture moments.

Instagram became my new vice. Or helpmate. Whichever.

The following is brief and choppy view of the end of 2012. (Sorry, in advance, for the horrible grammar tense changes, etc.)

Here we go!

So, in June, my oldest punk graduated from high school!!

(Neither one of us would claim this as our favorite picture of the two of us…)
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It was a thrilling moment for us when our son decided to become a Crusader! (More on that, later.)

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But, before he started college, we followed him around all summer, watching him do what he loves best…

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By mid-summer, I was packing my son’s stuff for college and our stuff for a move away from the Houston area to Central Texas.

I believe there are documented studies that show the psychotic breakdown that happens to a human mother when she has to both pack up her own belongings, as well as her son’s.  It’s hard enough to have a child move away. It’s a whole other thing for the entire family to move AT THE SAME TIME!!

No bueno.

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In the meantime, we made our yearly July trek to the Branson, MO area to retrieve our youngest son from summer camp.

Every single year, we MUST stop in Conway, Arkansas at the Market Place Grill.

The Chocolate Mess.

It calls to me annually.

(These phone pictures do no justice to the decedent, fudge-y, peanut buttery, vanilla ice creamy-ness that it is…)

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Upon returning from summer camp, I had to say goodbye to some of my dearest friends.  (Shannon will probably kill me for posting this picture, but this was the last time I laid eyes on them. It was late at night, right after we cleaned and loaded up their belongings for their move to Alabama. No one dresses pretty for moving day. No one. So, they are excused.)

(I’m pretty safe in saying, not a single one of the four of us smelled any better than we looked.)

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A few weeks before our oldest was to take off for college, we decided to take him and his brother to New York City.

And, since our teen-aged sons were on the trip, we HAD to visit the Nike flagship store.

I believe my sons would call this place, “mecca.”

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While walking around Times Square we saw The Naked Cowboy.

Only this guy was an impostor.

He was too short.

Among other things.

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While visiting the M&Ms store, in Times Square, my youngest purchased a pound or two of mixed M&Ms. I think that bag lasted a whole 2 days…

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We took the boys to Ground Zero.

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And, there was no way they were going to miss this place…

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Finally, back at home, we continued the process of packing and moving.

One of the many steps to our somewhat complicated move, was to store most of our belongings in PODS. Someone smart thought of this idea. We’ve used them in the past, on another move. Genius.

(We had to store our things for 6 weeks, and PODS was a great solution.)

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Packing and moving is no fun…for many, many reasons. One, it makes me tired and grumpy.

Two, I don’t like leaving people I’ve grown to love and depend upon.

Three, it makes me very aware of all the junk I’ve moved 30 million other times and never threw away.

Four, it’s no fun.

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This was the view of our OTHER storage solution. UHAUL has its own version of PODS.  Smaller version.

Don’t ask me to explain the convoluted a crazy process we devised to move ourselves….

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So, there you have it. That brings you to August 2012.

Stay tuned for September through December!

E.