August 24, 2006

Work and Bad Coffee

This week has been a tough one for me. Because Ron is leaving, there is a bit more work that I am picking up at the office. It is all good work and stuff that needs to be done. The problem is it stacked up on all the other stuff that I do. Needless to say, I'll be delegating out a bit more stuff (which I should have probably been doing before). I've really been searching for better ways to use my time and not be buried under the workload I have. One example of the things I have come up with is setting my email to only check twice an hour. It might even get set to every hour next week.

I have also been searching for a new offsite sanctuary. For those of you that know the south side of Lansing, my normal office away from home, Il Bacio Caffe, closed for good on Saturday. The owner will soon be living on the beach in Mexico. He had the coffeeshop up for sale, but it would have had to move from the plaza it was in. Not that I had $150,000 to buy a coffeeshop. I wish. Yesterday I went to Panera Bread, which in itself is a great place--free wireless, good bagels, and such. However, their coffee is horrible and it is really too far away, not to mention there are too many college girls that go through there.

Today I'm trying Cornerstone Coffee--a newer coffeeshop in Holt. While the location and the layout is quaint, I'm sitting at a glorified card table. There is no atmosphere here and honestly, the mocha is horrible. It has tons of potential, but its just not what I'm looking for. As I'm sitting here typing, a regular from Il Bacio is talking about why I'm at a glorified card table. The place got firebombed (yes, I said firebombed) a couple of weeks ago. I guess the regular tables, chairs, and such are being replaced. This place labels their coffee sizes in ounces. How not cool is that?

I hope next week will provide a better coffee joint for me to hang out in when I want to hide from the phones. Just as much, I hope that my focus and diligence for work is stronger than ever. It needs to be, otherwise I'm going to drown in work and bad coffee.

August 20, 2006

Missed Celebrations

I've started this post about 3 times. It never really flowed. It doesn't mean that I don't want to write. It simply means that my mind, for some reason, doesn't want to let go of what is in my head. Why is that? I don't know. I wish I did.

Each time I've started this written thought I've wanted to dote on my family history. I've begun to write about how long many of the marriages in my family have lasted, talking about my grandparents 60th wedding anniversary that I remember when I was like 4 or 5. I've talked about how my family is mostly normal--how they gave me a good solid base of life.

I've also started out talking about the different stories that I've heard from the church people I minister to. Some of their stories are great, similar to mine. Some, however, are gut wrenching and hard to hear, because of the pain they have had to endure from the lack of love in their families.

The whole point I was trying to build up to was the fact that I did not get the chance to go back to Ohio to celebrate my aunt and uncle's 50th wedding anniversary celebration, which I really wanted to attend. This post was going to be a tribute to their faithfulness and love through such a long time and to the others in my family that have done the same.

unfortunately, it has never come out the way I wanted. It has never flowed with the impact I wanted. Maybe that is the point. My family history is very impressive. Most of my aunts and uncles have stayed faithful and committed to their spouses. My grandparents both would have eclipsed 60 years of marriage had death not come. And, even in death, my grandmother continued to show her love and respect for my grandfather. My immediate family has the same run of commitment.

Here is what I've come to get out of all of this. While my family history with relationships is impressive, there is nothing flashy about any of them. Each relationship has had its share of hardship and pain. My parents have been through hardships like my father losing his job after 24 years of hard work and commitment. My grandparents on my mother's side endured losing a child and dealing with the depression while raising five kids. I could tell you about my Aunt Garnet who, though losing Uncle Chet to cancer some time ago, still has that smile and twinkle in her eye when she talks about him and then quickly she fights back the tears because she misses him so much. She is no wimpy lady either, she in her 80s and still waiting tables at the Four Winds restaurant where she's worked for decades.

My family is made of grit and character. They are true to who they say they are, and they are not ashamed of who that is. They take the good and the bad and make the best of it, no matter what the cost. That is why I believe they have such an impressive string of commitment and love. Marriage and longevity isn't made of fancy things and impressive gifts. Its made of people who are willing to love others more than themselves.

You can't really make that flashy and catchy in writing. It is what it is. My prayer is that I can continue the Lowman/Brunner heritage and love the way those who are before me love.

Thank you Aunt Kay and Uncle Claude for the example of 50 years! I'm sorry I missed the celebration.

August 12, 2006

Reveling and Remembering

Today was a good day. It started out with a golf benefit for Great Lakes Christian College at Centennial Acres golf course. There's nothing better that great golf with friends that benefits GLCC. After golf and lunch, I came home, mowed part of the yard, and then spent time with Hannah and Steph. It has been a great day.

Tonight Hannah was extra cute. She's always cute, but tonight it was painful cute. When we went into the bathroom to brush her teeth, she just had that, "I'm cute and I know it look" on her face. Momma had just taken her hair out of her ponytail and it was falling forward around her face. I seriously could have sat there for hours and just looked at her face, her glistening eyes, everything about her. It was the same way last night. I finally got the burn permit for my fire pit out back. Last night was our first fire of the season. Hannah went with me to help build the fire. She was there right beside me, crinkling paper and breaking sticks. After we had the fire going, I played my tin whistle and she sang along. A little bit later, the elementary kids came over during their sleepover for smores. As they sat around the fire and told stories, Hannah sat among them and held hands with Marissa and another girl as they shared one of the cement blocks they were sitting on. I sat across from her, quietly observing and watching her in the flickering fire light, enamored by her every smile, look, and giggle.

I wonder how much of now she is going to remember. My earliest memories are of things like building forts and tents under the tables that my dad set up in the living room for the garden plants he always started in March and April. I remember going outside in the front yard to wait for my brother and sister to come home from school. I remember trips to my granparents house and sleeping on the couch in the spare room. I remember watching Johnny Carson in the reflection of the door from the couch when I was supposed to be sleeping.

Yet, I don't remember any of those tender, taking in everything moments. Maybe its because I was a boy back then. Maybe its becasue as little kids we don't catch those things. I want Hannah to catch as many of them as I can. I want her to know how much I marvel at her beauty and innocence. I want her to know how much I love her, how much I will go out of my way to make everything in her life a blessing.

It is moments like these that help me only begin to understand the love that our God has for us. As I want her to feel nothing but love and hope, so our Father in heaven wants us to have love and hope. Even in our darkest hours, I think that he wants us to feel grace, love, and hope at any cost. I think that's why he's so committed to us--because he can't stop marveling at us.

Thank you Lord for allowing Steph and I to stumble into this parenting thing. Thank you for blessing us with one of the cutiest, smartes, and utterly amazing children on the face of this earth. Thank you for teaching me through her, through my love for her and her mother. May you give me every opportunity to make her life the best that it can be!

August 5, 2006

Home Invasion

When Steph and I lived in Tennessee, our apartment was a small 2 bedroom basement unit in a quad house. Honestly, the who quad would fit in the blueprint of the farmhouse we live in right now. It was tiny, sometimes dank, and not devoid of critters while we were there. One night, while I was working on my Old Testament Worship project, we were invaded by termites. Well, they weren't actually wood eating termites. They were the scout termites that search out new places to munch on for the rest of the wood eating colony. As I was sitting there typing and fretting because I had to pull together a 20 page paper and a hour presentation together in the matter of days, the vermin began falling from the ceiling light fixture. I got out the sweeper and proceeded to vacuum them up as they came through the light. Needless to say, I didn't get much work done that night. My prof was nice enough to give me an extension on the paper.

Yet another night while I was up working on a paper or something, I noticed a blur out of the corner of my eye. You know what I mean. You think you saw something catch your attention, so you turn and look. Most of the time, there is nothing. At that point, you figure you are hallucinating because of the lack of sleep and you press on with what you were doing. Not this night. As I turned to look, there in my shoe was a little brown mouse. The battle was on. If I remember correctly, I shut the door and put a towel under it so the thing couldn't escape to the hallway, or worse, to the bedroom where Steph was sleeping. I move things as quietly as I could. I tried and tried to corner him and catch him. It was back and forth for probably a half an hour. Then, the unthinkable. He somehow snuck out underneath the door.

At this point, I had to involve Steph. She doesn't like animals in the first place. In my mind, I can only imagine what she is going to do when I wake her at 3am because a mouse has just crawled into her closet. I think, "this is going to be great!" With her roused, she joins the battle. We proceed to empty out our hallway and block each exit with cd racks, towels under doors, and whatever else I can find. Then I attacked her closet, removing each box and such one at a time. After about another half an hour he was trapped in the wastebasket and quickly put outside to run free.

After that encounter, mice were a regular thing in our basement apartment. We would catch one every once in awhile on a trap under one of the cabinets in the kitchen. The landlord couldn't totally figure out where they were coming in from. He steel wooled some of the holes that looked suspicious and left us to fend for ourselves.

Unfortunately, this was not the most memorable. That occasion would have been when Steph was awaken by something chirping. I figured it was a cricket, since they were very common in our dank basement apartment. It annoyed her enough that she got out of bed to go make noise in the hallway, hopefully scaring it to be quiet again. As she stepped out of bed, another chirp came from right beside her foot. They were not crickets talking however. They were baby mice calling for their mother. She would not come to their aid that evening, for she got greedy for peanut butter and was dead in the trap in the kitchen. There was no hour long ordeal that evening. I quickly scooped up 4 or 5 baby mice into a shoe box and duct taped them together so they couldn't come back in. Morbidly, I think I tossed their mother in with them before I put the shoe box in the dumpster.

Now, I know you are probably wondering when I'm actually going to get to the point. Oh, there is more to tell.

Our mice woes followed us to Michigan. We live in a farmhouse that is roughly 140 years old.
The basement walls are like swiss cheese if you are small and in need of a warmer place to stay. We found one mouse one year, dead under the fridge. We thought nothing of it. I don't even think I bought traps. That was, until I got a bird feeder. A good friend of mine bought me a bird feeder for Christmas our first or second year here. I quickly hung it and began to enjoy the multitude of birds that would come and feed. It made me think often of my grandmother, who had a fond love for birds and could tell some of them by their whistles and noises. It was about that time that we began to be invaded by mice. At first it was just one. He popped his way into the living room one night while Steph and I sat on the couch watching a movie. I guess he just wanted to watch it with us. I tried for a little while to catch him, but gave up. With new traps set the next day, he was quickly eradicated.

Unfortunately, his brothers, sisters, aunts, and uncles, amongst other kin, decided to come along with him into our house. A couple of days later, we noticed some mice on the front porch at night, eating bird seed. We also began finding tiny piles here and there in the house. Needless to say, the birdfeeder has been stored since then. We caught 10 or so mice that year.

Even now, we get a stray mouse every once in awhile. However, they are greedy little vermin who love peanut butter. Two traps continually wait for them, and more often than not, do the job we want them to do.

In addition to mice, our house has become home to insects like carpenter ants and box elder bugs. This year has been the worst. I think I killed thousands of box elder bugs this spring. They would congregate on the outside bricks in the sun, all huddled together like a giant mass of bug. Their exoskeleton doesn't do well with dish soap mixed with scalding hot water, so I've found out. And, to our joy, I either killed the bulk of them or they went somewhere else for the rest of the summer. I pray they don't return.

Then comes along the heat the past couple of weeks. That sends the carpenter ants out of the 140 year old walls into our house. I think I sprayed 3 or 4 times in the last week. I think they mock me when I come with the spray gun. They run around haphazardly and beg me to try and hit them. Unfortunately for them, I also have sandals that squish. Steph's parents were here last week. Grandpa did his fair share of ant killing around here. Whether it was a shoe or a tissue, many an ant was squashed and discarded last week.

Hannah even gets in on the action. You'll hear her scream, "ANT, ANT!" and see her run for a shoe, which she quickly then begins whacking on the floor until the target is properly obliterated. In the house, this is good. Outside on the porch, not so good. I think she killed 3 or 4 pill bugs who innocently ventured out of the yard onto the sidewalk behind the house today. Bugs beware, the crazed two year old is on the rampage!

There are also the aforementioned groundhogs. If I could only get Hannah to take her shoes after them.

One would think that we've had our fill of vermin and pestilence already. I wish that were the case. It seems that farmhouses are also a welcome mat for bats. Now, I knew I had bats in the attic. One night while grabbing a fan for CIY, I noticed an innocent little bat hanging from one of the rafters, startled by my presence and the light in his quiet attic. Bats in the attic don't bother me. They bother Steph, but that just keeps her out of the attic (though she never really went out there anyway because it is "creepy"). I know they are there because of their poo droppings. I don't mind it. I look when I go out to make sure they aren't going to attack my head and I'm good to go. Every once in awhile, one will find its way into our ceiling, between the drop ceiling and the old plaster ceiling. We'll sit in the living room and hear it flop back and forth for awhile before it finds its way back from where it came. No big deal.

However, this summer we started seeing droppings in the basement. Not all that surprising to me--it is an old house with lots of open passage ways from the attic to the basement. Steph doesn't like it too much since the washer and dryer are in the poo path. It creeps her out, but she knows that I will probably turn the clothes the wrong color, so she braves it. Sometimes I go down with her to help protect her, not that I'll really be able to do anything since bats are quite jittery and uncatchable. Sometimes she stands at the top of the steps before entering the chasm and screams, "I'M COMING DOWN!!!!!!!!" It is quite a scene.

We also see the bats come out every night. Its somewhat fun to me to watch them swoop out of the back porch from the attic to feast on the plethora of mosquitos we have. I like them for that! If that were all, I would be geeked. Yet, that is not the case.

Tonight when we came home from our weekly trip to Wallyworld, I was greeted by a rather large bat circling in the living room. I would guess his wing span was 10 inches or more. Luckily, Hannah was slow getting out of the car and her and momma were still outside. I, once again, went out to tell Steph that we were being invaded yet again and that she might want to wait outside, which she gladly did. Having the bat in the living room poses both good luck and bad luck. The good luck is that the front door is right there. Its a nice big space that the bat can fly through to get back out into the open air where he belongs. The bad part about the living room is that there are 5 other doors leading to other places in our house, all of which were open when I clicked on the light and was greeted by a bat swooping at my head.

I think God was on my side tonight. After shutting 4 of the 5 doors, the bat realized that it was soon to get ugly if he didn't get out of the house. He circled one last time and silently exited through the front door. I'm still a little befuddled on how he got in the house. All the screens are in place. The door to the attic and basement are always closed. If anything, he came in the crack above the attic door, though I would guess he was too fat for it. Oh well. He's gone now.

Needless to say, I'm tired of being invaded by critters. I don't like the fact that their presence, even though they are part of God's creation and quite beautiful in their own regard, disrupts the sanctity of my home. My wife will have sonic ears and eyes for the next few days now that we've been visited. I will to a little. I guess you could say we've become accustomed to the critters over the last 8 years--to the continual home invasion.

Our spiritual lives are the same way, though. We do our best to keep things clean and vermin free. We study, we pray, we ask others (hopefully) to keep us accountable to be people of the light. And yet, even in all of that, the darkness seeps in and messes things up. If we aren't diligent about it, the darkness will stay and steal away the light. It will infest the house and eventually, if left unchecked, destroy it.

We are diligent against the bugs, the mice, and the bats in this old house. Even in our diligence, they still enter in unexpectedly, invading our home. Sin and darkness is the same way. What traps and preventative measures do you have in place to deal with it quickly, so the light stays light? Or are you infested and feeling helpless? There is hope! Clean the house. Put away the bird feeder. Clog up all the places where darkness can seep in. Get help! We as Christians are all in this together, helping one another stay in the light.

Psalm 1 (TNIV)

Blessed are those who do not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but who delight in the law of the LORD
and meditate on his law day and night.

They are like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.

Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff that the wind blows away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will be destroyed.