Don’t Be Anxious! Yeah, Right!

As soon as he walked through the door, he knew that something was not right. The house was quiet, too quiet. He called out her name as he looked around and moved through the house. No answer. Stopping at the bottom of the stairs, he listened for a moment, before continuing up the steps and down the hall to the bedroom. Opening the door slowly, he heard the sound of quick short breaths mixed with whimpers. It was the sound of someone hyperventilating. As he walked through the door, he saw on the bed, in a fetal position, his beautiful bride. Her hands clenched over her face, crying uncontrollably. His heart dropped, and he thought, “This is a serious one.” He felt so unequipped to handle this. He went to her asking, “What’s wrong?” She leaned into him, rocking her body back and forth, shaking her head. She sucked in a big breath. Through a quivering exhale, she whispered, “I, I, I, don’t know.”  He asked, “Are you okay?” She shook her head no. He could tell she was trying to get herself under control, but something was paralyzing her, locking her in what seemed to be a state of fear. As he wrapped his arm around her, he lovingly whispered to her, “You’re safe, you’re okay. Slow down your breathing. Breath with me.” He loudly drew slow, long breaths, trying to get her to match his breathing. He silently prayed, “God, please help her. Give her peace, give her your mercy. Cover her with your love.” After what seemed like hours, she slowly calmed down and fell asleep from exhaustion, in his arms. He watched as her body slowly relaxed and released whatever it was that had captured her.

This was not the first time this happened, and it wouldn’t be the last. Each time seemed to get worse. Each time it seemed like it started with a small thought that just got stuck. Most times it was a “what if” or an “I wonder” thought that was a little negative. Like, “I wonder if they like me? I seem invisible to everyone, no one really cares about me.” Most times, they were lies whispered to herself that grew into screams. All he knew was that they needed some help. Who could he trust though?

This is what it’s like for someone who has a loved one who suffers from anxiety and depression. This is a mild example of a panic attack. The unfortunate part is that, even in a mild attack, the stakes are life and death. For some with no intervention, they can’t take the overwhelming darkness that covers them, and it seems the only way out is death.

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Unfortunately, those who battle this are often tormented when they try to make a heroic comeback because they are only met with opposition. I know that seems ridiculous, but it’s true. Because of the darkness that has been shadowing them, the light is so very hard to see. So, they start with questions like, “Who really likes me, or let alone the big question, is there anyone out there who loves me?” Each step on the road to recovery is difficult; it’s often like having a noose around your neck, constantly pulling you back. They fearfully think, “If I stop even for a moment, I will be pulled backwards and drug back down into the pit.” The thoughts race in their head.

It’s almost like they are stuck in a puddle of quicksand. One false move, and they will be sucked down, but if they don’t reach out for a saving branch, they certainly will die. So, isolation comes into play, keeping everyone at a distance is of utmost importance. This insures that no one can get close enough to hurt them– or love them. The loneliness is better in their eyes than sharing that they need something or someone. Besides, there is the fear that others will think bad of them or think they are crazy. When anxiety covers you like this, you need to seek out professional help, a physiatrist and a counselor is a good start.

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I am not a counselor or any authority on this in the sense of an educational degree. All I have is life experience, and this is what I have come to know and understand through loving someone who faces these issues each day of her life. I’m writing this to give you a glimpse of what it’s like for someone who faces these challenges, as well as how and why we need to help.

Part of the reason for the isolation is that when others find out that you have anxiety or depression some think oh, just get some drugs and move on, or get some counseling.

I have heard people say that it’s not like they have a broken bone or a chronic disease or something, that could actually kill them. The thing is, that’s not true. Anxiety and depression can kill, and they have. It is just like a physical disease or an internal injury. You really can’t see the disease itself, but you can see the symptoms of it.

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Most times when this disease first comes out or when we first notice it, we can easily mistake it as the person being moody or aloof, or even stuck-up. They may even seem shy. All of these things are attributes that could be part of a normal person’s life. So, how do you know?

You need to take time establish a relationship, if you really want to care and try to make a difference for them.

My bet is that you may know someone who is very close to the person, like a partner, spouse, or best friend. Ask them if the person in question is okay or do they need anything? Do this authentically with genuine concern, and they may let you know the truth…if they feel they can trust you, and you won’t hurt them.

Those closest to these people tend to guard them and try to protect them as much as possible. They know that it doesn’t take much to drive them deep into the darkness, even when they are in recovery.

Taking some meds and talking to a counselor may be a great start but unfortunately, it’s not so easy to fix this.

If the anxiety has been severe enough for long enough, they may need to have their self-esteem re-built; they will need to be loved both closely and from a distance at times. They will need help finding out that they are of worth and have purpose. They will need to be shown that their life counts, and that they can make a difference in this world. This takes people who care deeply about the individual.

Yes, some of the drugs and genetic tests we have today can assist, but nothing replaces human relationships. Boy, can they be hard.

As I have stated, being a friend or a partner of someone who suffers with this can be challenging, but let me also say this, it can be very fun and rewarding. In my experience, these people love deeply, they are both passionate and compassionate. They also can be a blast to be around when they are in a safe place or having a good day. Please understand they are not special projects, don’t try to treat them like that because they will see right through you. These people need people in their lives who are not going to try to fix them and then walk on to the next project. They need friends who are in this walk for life, and that is often rare and hard to find.

So, beware, they may try to reject you before you even scratch the surface. This is their litmus paper test to see if you are really serious. Yes, it may seem harsh at first, but you just have to remember they are in a survival mode most of the time.

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These hurting people are no different than anyone else; they have dreams and goals. They have amazing talents and gifts waiting to be uncovered. If given the opportunities and outlets to use those gifts and talents, they will rise to the challenge, and even blow away your expectations.

For this to happen though, it requires that they trust the provider of these opportunities. You don’t have to have a deep relationship, though a close relationship may inadvertently develop because you prove you can be trusted. But, you always have to remember that there is the risk that they may have a bad day or a relapse. And there is always the possibility that because you are associated with this person, well, you yourself may look bad.

All I can say to that is, who cares?

This is when the real question needs to be asked, what is at stake here? To be blunt, it is life or death. That’s not fair, some may say. But t’s true that the one opportunity that you offer may just be a lifeline. It may be the one thing that keeps them from totally giving into the darkness.

Honestly, people who face life with this illness believe they don’t even have a chance because others think they are crazy, or they are just too unworthy of having a chance to share themselves with the world. I believe that those who don’t open a door for these people are the crazy ones. What is a life worth?

So, what can you do? That is the question that should be asked.

First you should know that having anxiety is difficult, and there are times that they can’t communicate effectively to others exactly what they are feeling or going through. So, sometimes, they just need someone to be there for them without judgement. No words– just your presence and the knowledge that you accept them, just the way they are, where they are. Then sometimes it maybe the opposite– just a few words of encouragement and lots of space with open, accepting arms. The key is always to meet them where they’re at and love them the way they need loved in that moment.

Yes, this can be hard, and sometimes you can be hurt (which can be very hard), but it’s never in my experience intentional. Lashing out is sometimes the only way they can get the feelings out that have been trapped and captivating their thoughts.  Sometimes you need to just put your feeling on the back burner to help someone out of a difficult situation. If you’re a Christian, we have a great example of how to sacrifice for someone you care about or even for people you don’t know.

I can’t help but think about all the times Jesus loved people where they were, and because of His love, compassion, and sacrifice their lives and our lives have been changed. The adulteress, the woman at the well, Zacchaeus the Tax Collector, and the list goes on.

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Jesus met people where they were, and he loved them up to where they needed to be. He never worried about what others thought, only what His Father in Heaven was thinking. I’m sure it wasn’t always easy.

I’ve heard it said, “We’re reaching out, but they need to reach out too.” When you’re paralyzed with fear, you can’t push yourself up to grasp an outstretched hand.

There was the time that four friends carried their friend to Jesus. When they were faced with opposition of not being able to get directly to the Lord, they tore the roof off a house and lowered their friend down to place their friend at the feet of Jesus for healing. They didn’t meet him half-way– he was paralyzed! They carried him to Jesus. Sometimes we need to carry our friend to the feet of Jesus.

There are also the times when we need to get dirty and do more than reach out.

We need to get some spit and dirt on us. I recall Jesus spitting into the dirt and rubbing it onto the blind man’s eyes, so he could see again. Jesus did more than reach out; He got dirty. He didn’t dismissively say to those who came to Him, “Oh, I‘ll pray for you.” He took time and ministered to them.

This is part of being more like Jesus. Honestly, I have watched people who suffer actually minister to others hurting in amazing ways that no one else could. It’s because they know what it’s like to hurt or be an outcast, and they can empathize with them.

This can apply to so many things in life I know, but who has God placed in your path to help carry to Jesus or get dirty with in the process of healing? Who are you crying with? Who are you loving and encouraging, near or far?

Has God placed someone in your path that you just stepped over or worse kicked them to the side, because you have been too busy going where you want to go rather than looking where God is leading you? The Bible says that God directs the steps of man. So, look where you’re going. We ask for God to use us, but we miss the opportunities that are right in front of us all the time.

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I have also heard that this is a person’s spiritual issue, and you are accurate. But it’s not just their spiritual issue, it’s yours too.

We are to love one another and encourage one another; sometimes people go to these dark places because we didn’t love like we should have. I know that statement will not be popular, but it’s true. If we took the time to genuinely care, some people may not feel so invisible.

People with mental health issues sometimes need more of the people who claim to have the Light surrounding them. Darkness is the absence of light. How do we make the darkness go away? By bringing in the light. The Bible says we are the light of the world. The light we have comes from the Holy Spirit. If we obey Him, we will be sharing his light with others. He will be working through us. So yes, it is a spiritual issue– ours and theirs. It’s not just their issue, it’s ours too. We need to do something about it.

How can we help? Love them unconditionally the way God loves you. Take a moment to smile and see them, don’t let them be invisible. Be genuine and compassionate.

Provide opportunities for them to come into your light. This takes time, you have to be in this for the long haul. This is not about you; it’s about loving someone else the way we should love one another.

I hope this is an encouraging post that helps some to have hope and to others, perhaps this will challenge them to see who God has placed in their path.

If you suffer from anxiety or depression or any other non-visible illness, please know you are loved and cared about. I know this is not easy, but with the right environment and people surrounding you, things can get better. We shouldn’t have to walk this road alone.

Unexpected Night Visitors

I have been thinking about what I wanted share next. I have a few posts lined up, but I’m not ready to put them down yet. So this week, with all the kids and teachers going back to school, and some off to college for the first time, I thought I would share one of the many experiences that we had when we were in college.

First thing you need to know is that when I finally did decide on what I thought God was telling me to do with my life, I was a bit older than the traditional college student. So, I was designated as a non-traditional student.

Chrissy and I had 3 kids when we went back to school full time. That’s right, it wasn’t just me, it was both of us who went back to school. We both had started college a few years earlier, and I did go to school before we were married. I was an advertising art major, and I focused on photography and color and design. Then I came to the conclusion that I really didn’t want to be in school. So, I sought out my photography professor and asked him what I needed to do to start my own studio. He gave me some advice, and I was off.

Now Chrissy, she started in on studying early childhood education a little while after we were married. After some time, she decided that this was not what she wanted to do. Even though she enjoyed it, she felt that it just wasn’t the right time to be in school. So, she put it on hold.

That is until I felt the Lord telling me that He wanted me to be a pastor. When God says go, you need to go. So, we answered the call and went to school. I was about 26, and Chrissy was 22. We started our journey at a college that wasn’t a good fit for us. The next fall we transferred to another school better suited for us.

We were officially students of Lincoln Christian College-East Coast. It was a satellite school located in Bel Air, Maryland. The main campus was located in Lincoln, Illinois, which is now called Lincoln Christian University.

Chrissy and I both enrolled as full-time students. Our campus and student body was very small, but we had great faculty.

Chrissy and I lived in an apartment across the road from the men’s dormitory. The apartment building, we lived in also housed the girl’s dorm and two faculty apartments. The girl’s dorm was basically just another apartment above our apartment. And even though the school was small, it was situated on a really cool campus.

The campus sat on an old southern plantation that had been renovated to house a school. It was called Eastern Christian College back in the day before it became Lincoln-East Coast. It had a gym, 2 classrooms, and offices– it even still had the huge plantation mansion that we called Old Main. The office building was at the opposite end of the campus from our apartment. It had a Christian school meeting in it as well, and a small book store. This building also housed two more apartments at the very end of the building on the upper floor. Those apartments were numbered 1 and 2. Which was ironic, because we lived in apartment 2 also.

Side Note: Our apartment building, way back when it was a plantation, our little living quarters, was once the chicken coop. The  girls’ dorm apartment was #1, and our apartment was #2, then two staff apartments on the other end were numbered 3 and 4.

Back then, we had just started to scratch the surface of something called the Internet. We had a computer in our apartment; this was when we were still using something called dial-up. Our computer would use a modem to dial a number to connect to the Internet through the phone lines in the apartment, then hopefully connect, if there weren’t too many people using that server.

We also had a land line home phone. It was really confusing trying to get the phone and internet installed because the buildings were so old and the wiring was all messed up. One line that they had marked apartment 1 was actually apartment 3. It was crazy! Now, you may be thinking, what does that have to do with anything? You will understand in a bit.

The students on campus love to pull all kinds of fun pranks on each other. We did all kids of funny things. At one time, some of the boys decided to prank one of the girls by splitting apart Oreos and sticking them all over her little white car. It was pretty funny at first, but when they were removed each cookie left a round dot from the oils in the filling on the car. Overnight, the car became speckled.

This is why I was not surprised when Chrissy woke me up in the middle of the night saying, “Someone is outside our window,”

It was a school night when this all happened. Nothing really out of the ordinary. Chrissy and I got the kids to bed; Tori had her own room, Ben and Jonah shared a room. I’m sure we had just worked on some homework, watched some TV, and then went off to bed.

Everything was fine, that is until I abruptly felt a hard smack across my chest that woke me up from a dead sleep. I woke to find my wife grabbing me and frantically whispering in a scared voice. “Butch I think someone is outside our window. The head of our bed was in the middle of two windows against the wall. So, I lay there absolutely still as I intently listened for what she had heard. It was so quiet, I could hear my heart pounding, and Chrissy breathing quickly. Then I heard voices outside too. I sprung out of bed, grabbed some jeans and pulled them on when I heard someone pounding on the door. Then a deep loud voice said “Open up! It’s the police!”

“What the heck?” I asked myself. Could this be some kind of prank?

Chrissy had on a very short and silky nightie that had a lacy V-neck. I moved to the door quickly as Chrissy peeked abound the bedroom door to see what was going on. I flipped the lights on and opened the door. I really expected to see some of the boys from the dorm across the way.

To my surprise, there stood 3 of Harford county’s finest in uniform.

They said, “Sir, we received a 911 call from apartment 2. Is this apartment 2? I said yes. They then continued by saying, “May we come in? The call received was a non-responsive call. We would like to check and make sure everything is okay.” I said, “Ok?” Then the one officer saw Chrissy in the bedroom door way. He said to Chrissy “Ma’am, can you please step out here?” She was totally embarrassed. She stepped out, and they started to question her. Then they asked, “Is there anyone else here?” We told them our kids were sleeping in their rooms, and they insisted on looking in on them. They checked the boys room first. This room looked like a cyclone had torn through it. As they shined their mag light on to the beds they could clearly see the boys fast asleep.

Then they moved to Tori’s room that was just off the kitchen.

Side Note: Tori liked to sneak into the kitchen at night and get leftovers out or other food and take it back into her room. We never knew what we would find in her bed or room. We would smell something funky or weird and instead of checking Jonah’s diaper, we checked Tori’s room for food.  Honestly, most times it was just Jonah’s pants though. LOL!

Also when Tori was little, she loved to wear dresses. She absolutely highly disliked pants or anything that covered her legs tightly. In fact, dresses were all she would wear; it was dresses or nothing literally. If she couldn’t have a dress on she had nothing on.

So, as the officers in their investigation of our apartment moved to her room, Chrissy looked at me and I at her, knowing that we may find a crazy situation in her room. I can only imagine what the expressions on our faces were like. Chrissy told me later that it was at this moment that she had visions of the child protective services coming to our door the next day to take our kids.

The officer opened the door and shined the light around  her room that looked like Punky Brewster’s wardrobe room gone bad. I peered I with the officer, just praying that Tori would have something on. When his light rested on the little body of my daughter she was in her sleeping position that I still kid her about.

Side Note: Tori would sleep on her belly all scrunched up with her knees tucked under her with her butt up in the air. It was the cutest thing.

So the light stopped on her sleeping in her normal position butt up in the air. The only thing she had on was a head band that she had made in Sunday school that looked like a lion’s mane. That was it, nothing else. She was naked as a jaybird. The cop chuckled and turned about and said to the others “We’re all good here.” I was at a point of embarrassment that there are no words to describe. I looked at Chrissy and slowly shook my head, at that she knew tori had done something.

I was just glad he didn’t say to the others, “Dudes, come over here, you have got to see this!” The officers seemed to be satisfied with their investigation. As they walked to the front door, they told us that they were sorry to disturb us and again mentioned that there was a 911 call from apartment 2. Then they asked if there were other apartments on campus? We told them that there were 3 other apartments in this building, but there is another building with more apartments down the hill. So, they thanked us for letting them in, and they left.

After they left, I showed Chrissy what the cop was laughing at in Tori’s room. She was still in the same position with the lion’s mane. We stood there laughing at the situation. After covering our girl and removing her lion headdress, we then turned to each other, and agreed this would be one of those nights that we would not forget.

The next day we found out that in the office building down the hill there was another apartment number 2; the person who lived in that apartment had a phone that malfunctioned and somehow called 911 in the middle of the night. I still don’t understand how it happened. The police got the two apartments mixed up and ended up at our home. So, we were the lucky ones who received a visit in the middle of the night.

My take-away is that sometimes you may be the victim of someone else’s emergency, so the best thing to do is try to be cooperative. Chrissy’s take-away was, make sure you have a housecoat close by for those times when you have visitors in the middle of the night.

 

Shrimpie!

 

They called me a shrimp! That was all I could manage to mutter through the tears and snot running down my face. My mom asked, “Who honey?” With a quivering voice, I said, “All the big kids out there!” I had been playing outside my house on the sidewalk, when I got in the way of some older kids, and they told me to “Move it, Shrimp,” and that just didn’t sit well with this short 5-year old. So, there was a bit of a tussle, and well, I got the brunt of it all.

This is the earliest memory I have of being pushed around or bullied. I was always a bit smaller than the other kids it seemed, but I never let that stop me from trying to join in or be a part of what was going on.

My mom always said that I was special, and no matter what I did, I needed to do my best at it. So, I did. But here’s a bit of something I learned. Even if you are special, and you try your best at things, it doesn’t always mean that you will win, or that you will be the best at things. It also doesn’t guarantee that people will like you.

It was second grade, and my family just moved into the house my dad grew up in. It was older in the sense that it didn’t have the comforts of modern day homes. I was told that my Granddad Hunter built the house with his own hands, but he forgot the water and sewer. Well, he didn’t really forget. they just were not things that he felt to be necessary. There was an outhouse and a well, and that was all they really needed. They had electricity and a telephone. What more did you need?

Along with moving to a new neighborhood came the challenge of a new school. I’m really not sure why I had to change schools, because my old school, Jackson Elementary, was less than 3 miles from our new house. The school I had to switch to was close to 10 miles away, and I had to take a bus. Round Hills Elementary was the new school. Up to this point, I had loved school and all my teachers.

My teacher at this new school was Mrs. Metzer, she was old, it seemed to me. Of course, everyone seemed older then.

I remember the first day like it was yesterday. I found my class and my desk. My desk had a name tag on it with the name “William Hunter” on it. Yuck! No one called me that. I have always, and I mean ALWAYS, been called Butch by everyone. I knew my real name, but I was Butch!

Side Note: How I got the name Butch was that my parents couldn’t agree on what to call me. (I’m just glad it wasn’t Barney, after my mom’s dad.) Until they decided on a name for me, they called me Butch. My dad said, “We can’t call him that; it’s a dog’s name!” But my mom persisted in calling me Butch. Eventually I did become William, but Butch just stuck from that day on.

So, on that first day of second grade, the teacher called everyone’s name out. When she got to me, she called out, “Billy, Billy Hunter,” and I didn’t say anything. I just looked around the room. Who in the world was this Billy Hunter I thought to myself.

Then I wondered if he was related to me? After all, we both had the same last name. She continued calling out everyone’s name. When she was finished, Mrs. Metzger asked, “Did I miss anyone?”I raised my hand. She asked, “What is your name? I said, “Butch Hunter.” She said, “Do you mean Billy Hunter?” I politely said, “No Ma’am, Butch Hunter.” Then she started to get upset. She sternly looked at me and said, “Is your name William Hunter?” I sheepishly said, “Yes, but everybody calls me Butch.” She glared at me as if I cussed at her. She walked around her big wooden desk, and standing in front of the class she said to me, “You will not be called Butch in this class. You need to know and use your real name. You will be called William or Billy!”

She might as well have come over and stripped me down to my skivvies and made me stand in front of everyone. I hung my head and said, “Yes ma’am.” I was totally humiliated and embarrassed. That was the one of the hardest years of my young life. Whether she meant to or not, she made me the target of the class. I was not only the new kid, but now I was the dumb kid too.

I still listened to my mother and did my best and told myself I was special. I tried hard to be accepted, but I just never seemed to break through.

My parents worked hard to provide for me what I needed and wanted. When It came to somethings, I just didn’t have a choice in the matter. Like clothes. I remember looking though the Sears and Roebuck catalog along with the JC Penny’s catalog to pick out my school cloths. They weren’t very stylish, and I had a limited say in the matter. What I got came in the mail, and that was that.

Not all my pants fit quite right, and I had to wear a belt to keep them up. They were husky’s!

One day, I forgot to wear my belt and the top of the waistband of my whitey tities was sticking out. So, one of the popular boys decided to make fun of me. He called me Diaper Man, and he rallied all my classmates to join in calling me Diaper Man. Every time he saw me he would call me this and find something additional to make fun of.

If Diaper Man wasn’t bad enough, I had started having a hard time in class and was falling behind. So, it was suggested to my parents that I should have my eyes checked. Sure enough, I had to have glasses. I hated those things, but even more I despised going to school to hear Mike and Mark call me four-eyes every day.

Like I said, this was a hard year, but after the year passed, I moved into another grade. Unfortunately, so did the bullies. 3rd grade was a bit better. Mrs Lewhaski was my teacher, and she was nice. This was the year that I was given a bit of extra help, because I was slower than the other kids in learning to read and doing multiplication.

My parents thought that it would be good for me to join Cub Scouts as it would give me different ways to interact with other boys. My mom signed up to be a den mother. I was in Den 2. She strived to be the best den mother ever. She even came up with an original Den Yell for us too:

Den 2 Den 2, we stick like glue, we do our best for the gold and blue! We are the best! Den 2 Den 2!

We really did do some of the neatest stuff, from wood working to arts and crafts. Unfortunately, for me when I signed up, so did my nemesis, and we were put in the same den. Ugh!

All the dens met at the leaders’ homes, so our den met at my house. By this time, we had running water and a fully functioning bathroom, but my parents we still fixing the house up as they could.

So, then I became known as the kid who lived in the shack. Not good at all. As the years went by, someone thought it would be a good idea for me to spend more time with my bullies, so I was made to go to their houses and spend time with them. It really didn’t change things at school. If anything, it made things worse. Recess, I would get invited to play football, but always seemed get hit hard or tackled to the ground until I was hurt in some way. When I told teachers, they passed it off that I was not tough.

Finally, something happened and I had to change schools again. I was back at my school– good old Jackson.

This was the year I was tested, and they figured out that I had dyslexia. As a 11-year old, I was told that I would not amount to much. Perhaps, I could become a truck driver, and if I was lucky I might graduate high school. I got held back that year.

From that point on, no matter what, I had a deep drive in me to prove them wrong. I am not a very competitive person by nature, but I will do my best and strive to be the best I can at whatever I do. I never wanted to leave anyone behind or let anyone go through the things I had gone though. So, I avoided the limelight and helped other misfits steer clear of the bullies.

By this time, I was pretty good at spotting them. At an early age, I started to understand a few things about myself.  I learned that I have a big heart and I care deeply for people. I’m a bit shy, until I feel like I can let my guard down. I always give multiple chances to those who hurt me. I forgive and overlook the shortcomings of those around me. I’m very patient and can be a good listener, as well as a good negotiator. I look for the best in people and always try to be positive and encouraging. I never reject anyone–ever! Simply because I had been rejected so much growing up, why would I want to put anyone through that?

The older I get, I wonder more and more why people jump so quickly to judge. I find myself many times bowing out of situations or yielding my agenda while trying to take the high road. Sometimes because I’m quiet, or don’t know what to say to people, I’m told they think that I’m conceited, or I think I’m better than others. This is not the case at all. It’s just that I don’t feel comfortable with you yet.

I actually long to be friends with many people, but because I’m not as outgoing or open, I get pushed to the side. So, yes, it is hard to make friends at times, but if you give me a chance you will have a blast with me.

I have also found that sometimes some people’s lives are just too hard for some to handle. Some people’s baggage weighs too much for others to slow down and walk with them through life. Then you have others who reject you because they can’t handle you, but to make themselves feel better, they buy into a lie that you pushed them away. I have always had a hard time setting up boundaries in relationships, though I have come to understand that if boundaries are not set, everyone can get hurt, and before you know it, no one understands why they were hurt.

This is a small slice of who I was, who I am, and who I’m becoming.

My hope is that every day is new and God’s Grace is sufficient to get me through. Ephesians 2:10 For we are his work, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared in advance · that we should do them.

 

When The Wheels Come Off

This week marks that it has been 4 years ago that Chrissy and I officially welcomed into our family a new daughter. This past week was the anniversary of my oldest son (Ben) getting married to Brandy, who just happens to be one of the best things that has happened to this family. Good things come in small packages is an understatement when you are talking about Brandy. Now, when you put our fun-size Brandy together with our big, gentle Ben you have a pretty great package. They may look a bit funny dancing, or even standing together, but they are a terrific couple put together by God.

I remember the week before the wedding pretty well. Brandy was not hard to please with what she wanted for the wedding. She was definitely not a bridezilla! Chrissy and I have done big events most of our married lives. Together, we have turned some near impossible places into fun, magical venues. God has wired us in such a way that we are creative, but sensible. I’m creative and Chrissy is the detail person. You could say we’re like mac ‘n cheese. She’s the mac, and I’m the cheesy one!

Anyway, the kids wanted to have an outdoor wedding, and it had to have a camo theme. So, we did our best to get an idea of what they wanted, then we went to work.

Chrissy and Brandy’s mom (Toni) and Brandy went cake shopping to find the perfect wedding cake. They ended up having a traditional round cake with chocolate icing it was decorated as a fall wooded scene with a little toy deer for the topper. Then, they had a sheet cake with a big buck cake graphic on it.

Along with all the camo that was going on in this wedding, Brandy wanted to have a country flair to the celebration. So, Chrissy and I took some old pier sections that I had laying around, and we made a walk-way that led to an alter area. We borrowed a floral arch to use in the altar area, and we decorated it with ribbon and green ivy. Chrissy placed an old wooden chair on the on the side of the alter that held a distressed vintage sign that read “With my whole heart, for my whole life”.  On the aisle walk-way, along the pier, we made posts that mason jars could hang from, holding fresh cut wild flowers. Then we lined the walkway with smaller mason jars holding candles. For some of the seating, we used bales of hay, that we covered with material for seats. We found a very pretty battery operated imitation crystal chandelier at a local store and hung that up over the pier walkway. We borrowed some cool Edison-like clear, round bulb Christmas lights and strung them from the trees to give the yard a bit of a glow when the sun went down.

Side note: After having the lights in the trees for the wedding, we returned them, and the yard looked so bare. So, I went out and bought some strings of lights like them for the yard. I never would have thought how a few strings of lights could make a yard look so great in the summer time.

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Chrissy and I thought it would be fun to put out some board games and cards on tables for people to play as they enjoyed the reception and catching up with each other. So, looking back on how we turned our yard into an open-air chapel for this day, I’d say it was pretty amazing.

The reason it turned out so great was because we had some amazing people help us pull this day off. Our family was surrounded by some very special people who supported us and cared enough to help make this important day one that we all would look back on and cherish. Those who helped will always hold a special place in my heart.

Now, the week leading up to this day, well… that was horse of another color! Chrissy and I were scrambling to get everything done for the big day. The yard needed to be perfect, the walk-way needed power washed, lights needed hung, food needed to be bought, as well as the all the dinnerware and everything else that goes into making a wedding day fantastic.

We were heading into the home stretch. It was the Thursday night before the wedding. We decided to make one last trip to Walmart for the last-minute things we needed. We loaded up in my powder blue F150 Club Cab truck with a full-size bed. This vehicle made transporting large amounts of supplies a breeze. I had a few white plastic chairs in the bed when we left for the store. I let them in the bed because I had to clean them, and I didn’t want to get them mixed up with the other chairs I had already cleaned.

Off we went to Goshen, Indiana to the Super Walmart, about 16 miles from our house. I took my normal bumpy, windy route to get there. Once we reached our destination I parked the truck, and we divided to conquer our shopping list. When we were finished gathering everything we needed, we loaded the bed of the truck, and what we didn’t want out in the back, we loaded the back of the cab with. We had a lot of stuff and had just spent a bunch of money. We were loaded and ready to head back home. Chrissy the kids, and I jumped in the truck and headed back home.

We pulled out from Walmart onto Route 33. This is a very busy two-lane road, lots of traffic. By this time it was around 7:30 pm, right around dusk. We got out of the really busy area and through the first major intersection. At this point the road curves to the right, and we were going around 50 miles an hour when all of a sudden we heard an awful noise. Then, horrified, we saw a big wheel rolling off the side of the road ahead of us.

It took a few seconds for this to sink in to my head that the tire speeding way ahead of us, heading towards an office building, a window to be exact; was the front right wheel from my truck. I would like to say we were so smart that everyone shifted their weight to the left and we balanced out the truck. You know like you see in the car stunt shows, when cars drive on two wheels. Yeah, that was not us. It would have been awesome though!

I remember telling myself to slowly move off the road. As I just got on the berm of the road, the right front side of the truck dropped to the ground and made a horrible noise. I brought the truck to a stop, all the while watching our wheel race towards this window. It hit a bump just enough to redirect it to fly by the building, thereby miraculously missing the big window it was headed for. The wheel finally slowed down, and about 150 yards ahead of us, it slowly dropped over, wobbling until it came to rest on the ground. The funny thing is that it stopped just short of crashing into a newly manufactured home sitting in a storage lot.

I got out of the truck and went to the other side to evaluate the damage. Chrissy tried to get out of her door, but it was jammed. I pulled hard on the door from the outside, and forcefully opened the door, bending the front fender even more than it was from the wheel coming off. I was not a happy Hunter. We just spent all this money on the wedding, and bam! The truck falls apart! I had just had the truck serviced a few weeks earlier and the tires rotated.

Side note: Many months later I found out that the truck had special lug nuts that locked on keeping this from happening. There was even a recall for it. When the service center had rotated the tires, they didn’t  put the right lugs back on the truck.

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Silas retrieved the wheel as I made a call for a tow truck. Chrissy called Ben and asked him to come get us all, telling him to be sure to have room for all the stuff.

There wasn’t much I could do. At that point, I had a choice. I could be mad and let this eat me up, or I could ask one of my favorite questions that I don’t always like to answer. Will this matter in a day, a week, or a month from now? I asked the question, and the answer was like most things…No, it really won’t matter that much, at least that is what I thought, until I got the bill for the repairs. LOL!

Waiting for Ben and the tow truck, I grabbed one of the chairs from the bed of the truck and sat down to get my head on straight and to correct my stink’n think’n. Leaning back on two legs of the chair against my broke-down truck,  I started to replay the event that just happened over in my mind just to see if I could have done anything differently.

Doing this, I came to the conclusion that this was out of my control, and I did everything that I could have. Then, it occurred to me what a blessing we had just received. Yes, the situation was bad, but boy, it could have been disastrous for us! It could have been the left wheel that came off. If that had happened, the wheel could have gone into on-coming traffic and caused a bigger accident or even killed someone. It also occurred to me that being a rear-driven vehicle, when the truck dropped, it could have had so much momentum that it could have spun us around into traffic or even flipped over, which it didn’t do!

As I sat there, my kids laughed at me for sitting in my chair, taking pictures (that no one can seem to find) of me sitting, just relaxing beside a 3-wheeled truck.

How amazing it is when these things happen to us– what could have been a very horrible ending turns out to be just an inconvenience. It amazes me that we can look at things like this, and say that we were just lucky or it was a coincidence. I have to say that situations like this are times when we are shown that we have the favor of God. Now, I also have to admit that God’s favor is hard to understand, especially when we don’t like things that happen, or we don’t understand why things happen the way they do. Believe me, I have had my share of those times also, and someday perhaps, I will be granted an audience with the Most High who might give me answers, but until then, I will have to remember that He is the one who created everything including me, therefore His reasons must be good.

The lesson I learned is this: don’t let the little things of life steal the things that matter the most in life, like the people you when or the special events in life. We have a choice to choose how we respond to what life throws us the truck wheels start coming off. We get to choose our attitude. Take a moment, get a check-up from the neck up, and make the wise choice!

The rollback tow truck came and got our truck.  We somehow loaded everything, including all of us into Ben’s vehicle. It was a very tight squeeze, but we made it. The next day, we prepped for the big day of the wedding. The celebration was a success, and all who attended had a good time.

Meet My Friend Stephen

The other day, I was blessed with an amazing gift. I was given tickets to a concert. Now, not everyone knows this about me, and it may shock some of you. I absolutely love going to rock concerts, especially the ones where I can relax and be myself, the ones where no one cares how you dance or jump or move, just so long as you are having a great time and enjoying yourself. Sometimes, I just like to stand wide-eyed, head bobbing back and forth, totally taking in the experience. Then there are the times that my body is all in; I’m jumping, hands in the air, head banging. Most of the time, I share these moments with my daughter who is not afraid to rock out at all. Our favorite group to rock it out with is Family Force 5, but there are many others like Hawk Nelson, Switchfoot and Skillet, just to name a few.

Before I had Tori to go to these concerts with, it was Chrissy. She likes some concerts, but she’s really more of a listener not a see-er. Most of the groups we have seen are Christian bands, but we have been known to take in a Bon Jovi concert or a U2 concert once or twice. Some of the bands we have seen are mostly ones from our early years in the 80’s, like Degarmo and Key, Mylon Lefever and Broken Heart, The Choir, Rez Band and many more.

So back to the tickets we were blessed with. I decided to surprise Tori with them. Chrissy was going to be away for the weekend, and I wanted to do something special with Tori. So, I asked her if she would like to go on a date? Asking your 22 year old single daughter this question can be awkward, I guess. I  think she thought that I was trying to set her up on a blind date, because she said, “With who?”

Side Note: This was all thorough text messaging. Sometimes things can be misconstrued or not communicated well when texting. This was one of those times.

I said, “With me, who else?”

She replied, “Why are you being so weird?”

I texted, “I’m not. So, will you go with me?”

I almost felt like I was asking for a real date with someone. The struggle was real.

She said, “I guess??”

I replied, “Great! Be ready at 6pm on Friday! I promise it will be fun!

So, I picked up the tickets for the concert from the people who were giving me the tickets. This couple is older, I think it’s safe to say they are senior citizens, but they are amazingly youthful. I love these two people; they always have a positive thing to say and are positively optimistic. Their names are Joe and Peg Leatherman. I had to wonder and laugh a bit when Peg told me that she likes Colton Dixon quite a bit, and really wanted to go see him. The timing was just not going to work for her and Joe to go. She was glad I could use the tickets. She then told me that a friend said that they were shocked that she would want to go to a concert with Skillet. I had to admit to her that I was also a bit shocked that they would want to go!

So I the day came. Tori and I made it to the venue. When we got there, Tori was delightfully surprised at my idea of a date.

Side Note: I may have had it in my head that I wanted to show her what it was like to have a real date with someone who really cared about her.

The concert really was great! As I stood bobbing my head, my mind went back to our younger years and some of those awesome rock shows. Skillet’s stage show reminded me of the REZ Band. The lead singer, John Cooper, put me in mind of another person that never made it to what some would call the “Big Time.” As I watched John move around the stage, I could feel his passion and I couldn’t help but think of my old friend, Stephen Klopp. Steve always sang with everything he had, and it wasn’t for the people, but it was for an audience of one, and that one person was Jesus. When Steve talked between songs he would always bring it back around to who this world needed most, Jesus.

Stephen was in a few bands from when he was a teen, at least that I know of.  First, there was Exodus II, and then he was in another band called Big Ideas. When I first met Steve, I had entered into a lip sync contest for a local outreach ministry. The youth group Steve was in at his church had entered the contest also. After the contest, there was a concert with this local Christian band called Exodus II. Steve was the lead singer and electric guitar player for the group. Two things I remember about Steve was his passion for hard rock music and his intense love for Jesus. If I was asked what other traits this guy would be known for, I would have to say it would be his smile and his laugh. He has one of those contagious smiles that brings joy into the saddest of places.

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I got to know Steve though a youth group we both were a part of called SOS. I have talked about this is past posts. It was group of youth who wanted to make an impact for Jesus and was student led. SOS did all kinds of things, one thing being concerts. For a few years, my singing group opened for Exodus II.

After a while, life changed for everyone. Some went to college, others worked jobs; the bands and groups we were in in high school fell apart. Each one of that group went in their own direction.

Chrissy and I got married, then Steve met Ricki, and they got married. I lost contact over the year with a lot of those that were a part of that youth group. Somehow Chrissy and I were able to stay in touch with a few of the guys. One being Steve and Ricki, both of whom have always been an encouragement and someone to look to for support.

I’m not sure of the details, but the second band I mentioned above, Big Ideas.  Some of those who made up this band were those who were in the first band, including Stephen. They cut a demo and were great together. I’m not sure why, but for some reason they disbanded and went their separate ways. Perhaps, it was just that God had other plans for each of them.

I had a dream years ago to start a music festival that would reach thousands of people for Jesus. I also thought it would be the coolest thing to have those who encouraged me in my faith be a part of this event in some way. I thought it would be great to see some of my friends open for a big name band at a Christian music festival.

I’m fuzzy on how this all happened. I don’t know if if I was asked about it, or if I had the brain child myself, it really doesn’t matter. It just matters that it did happen. The year was 1996. It just so happens that I was, at the time, the founder/promoter of a Christian Music festival called Vision. We had just booked a guy by the name of Michael Row. Before he went solo he played in a few bands, one being the 77’s, and another called Lost Dogs. Both pretty big name bands, and Michael was a big name himself. Then it was a few weeks before the festival, and we had a band back out on us. So, guess who I was able to fill the spot with? None other than Big Ideas—a  reunion concert. It was a great night! They absolutely rocked that night. I wish I could get my hands on some of the photos for that night, but I’m not sure where all the scrapbooks got to.

Perhaps, this was not as big of a deal to others as it was to me, but I felt like God made this happen. Over the years of serving in ministry and life in general, I have these moments where I think back to that night about how God cared enough about some guys that He made them the Rock Stars that He knew they are. It has always brought me a bit of encouragement that God cares about our dreams and hopes. Sometimes, he gives us a little slice of them; it may not last long, but you can always say it happened.

My friend Stephen has been fighting a battle for a long time. His body is just not working, and it’s shutting down little by little. They say he doesn’t have long to be here with us, but as he has said and showed countless people before, we have an eternity to be together. That is because of the message that we have devoted our lives to. I unashamedly say that Jesus is my Lord and Savior and when this body that houses us wears out (and it will sooner or later for all of us) we have hope because of Jesus! You may not agree with me, and that’s okay, but I hope you will someday run into a Steve Klopp and see what it’s like to experience the love of God.

Please join me in praying for my friend, brother, fellow rocker and his family during this difficult time. Steve, Brother, you are amazing, and I have always looked up to you for being the man God asked you to be. Please know that you have made a huge impact on this world for Christ! And you are so very much loved! Rock on Bro here, there, or in the air!

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How It All Started?

So, this week on the 10th of August, I mark 26 years of being married to my best friend. Every year around this time Chrissy and I get asked the question, “How did you two meet?” For this week I thought I would share how we got to where we are.

It actually started 30 years ago.

If Chrissy was telling the story, which she will add her two cents into this before it’s all said and done, this is how she would say it all started…

Chrissy attended a concert that a group of youth put on called “Rock to Reach.” I was a part of this group. Chrissy was also, but we really didn’t know each other. At this concert there were three acts– two local openers followed by a somewhat big-name band. The first act was a group that I started called “The Live Wires For Christ.” We were a vocal group that used backtracks to sing along to. I have to say that we had some of the smoothest group choreography of any conservative Christian kids in the 80’s. We thought we were the bomb-diggity. So, after we performed, we would stand at our table in the hall, available to talk to our fans. Thinking back to all that just cracks me up that we thought we had fans. We even had black and white 8×10’s of the group that we autographed and gave away.

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So, as Chrissy would say, there was this one very cute guy and another guy that was just so full of himself. Chrissy thought the second guy had an way over-inflated ego, yeah well… that was me. The cute guy was my best friend at the time. Well. As the story goes, Chrissy didn’t want to have anything to do with me that night we first met.

Fast forward to four months when our youth group held a Christian skate night at Great Skate.

Side note: This youth group we were in had no adult sponsors. We were made up of a group of Christian teens who wanted to make an impact in our community for Jesus. It was called S.O.S. (Sword of Salvation). We held all kinds of outreach events and concerts.

At the skate night, I was there with my friend best friend, Sam. I loved to skate– if you needed to find me on a Saturday morning, you would find me at the rink. I was pretty good at skating, and Sam, well he could just about stay on his feet. That night there was a couples skate. This was when they slow the tunes down, and only couples would be on the skating floor. This was the time when you could ask a girl or a boy that you may be crushing on to skate with you. Most time you got to at least hold their hand as you skated around. I had just came off the floor when this little girl came up to me and asked Sam if he would skate with her friend. Then she turned to me and said, “Will you skate with me?” So Sam accepted first, and I looked at this little girl and thought, sure why not, what would it hurt? She looked like she was 10 years old. So I skated around with her. As we skated, I found out that she was actually 14 and was in middle school. She was very sweet and funny. When we were done, she gave me a paper with her phone number on it and said, “My name is Carla” as she cracked her bubble gum and smiled at me in a very flirtatious way. Then she said in a high-pitched squeaky voice, “Call me some time, sweetie!” Her friend (Chrissy) exchanged numbers with my friend, Sam.

I thought she was way too young for me to be serious. So, perhaps we could be friends. After all, I had just turned 17. That was a big age difference back then.

Side note: It’s funny how the older you get, the gap in age doesn’t seem that big of a deal. It actually seems more common than not.

Carla who lived like 20 miles from me and she went to a school a few towns over. So, we got to know each other through phone conversations. But Sam and Chrissy’s phone numbers were long distance from each other, so they couldn’t talk as much. See we didn’t have cell phones back then and for our home phone, we had to pay for long distance calls, and they were actually pretty expensive. So, I could call Carla and give a message to her for Chrissy from Sam. This worked fine for a while, but Carla seemed to always be getting in trouble with her parents, and they would take her phone privileges away. That caused me to call Chrissy directly, and then she became the messenger to Carla.

Over the next few months, Chrissy and I became really good friends. We talked almost everyday after school, even if we didn’t have a message to pass along.

Fast forward again. Our group youth group was bringing in a band called “Bash’n the Code.” Chrissy was there, and so was Sam. It was April 17th 1987. (This is the date we consider our anniversary for starting our relationship.) At this time I was beginning to realize that I really liked Chrissy. So, I wanted to make sure she knew I existed. While I was taking every opportunity to flirt with her, I thought that I would be funny and pull her chair out from under her as she sat down. I planned to catch her, but this was one of those times in my life that a prank went wrong. I didn’t get in position to make the catch. She fell to the ground and smacked the back of her head on brick floor. (Which she says she still has an indentation in her head to this day.) I felt horrible. I thought all chances of her liking me more than a friend were totally over. I was in the “Friend Zone,” and I just gave my friend a lump on her head!

But the night was not over. As Chrissy tells it she and Sam went for a walk out on a playground, and he tried to kiss her. Yeah. I think it had a worse impact than me pulling the chair out from under her. So I was back in the game! You have to understand there was really no bro code, so it was all good.

The four of us made plans to hang out together at Chrissy’s house one weekend. The telephone games were getting old for both Chrissy and I, but we still hung out this weekend. At one time when Chrissy and I were playing with the soccer ball, she kicked it into some lilac bushes in her yard. When she ran behind them to get the ball, I followed and as she turned to come out, she ran right into me. Face to face, and I went in for the kiss, and it was received pretty well because she kissed me back. It made things a bit awkward the rest of the day because we were now both very aware that we liked each other.

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At some point my parents came to pick me up at her house. That was when the unspeakable happened for both Chrissy and I. My parents said, “What is Chrissy’s mom’s name? I said, “Jo.” They me if it could be Jo Cott? I said, “I don’t know, why?” They then got out of the car. This was not good for a teenagers reputation. My parents wanted to be introduced, so I did, and as it turns out, Chrissy’s mom knew my parents from years before. Chrissy’s mom loves this part of our story, because we found out that she uses to babysit me when I was a baby. So she likes to tell everyone, even to this day, that she changed my diapers! Talk about humiliation for Chrissy and I both!

Then our parents made plans to get together when they were camping at a place called Kettle Creek.

We met up with them, my family and Chrissy’s family all together. Chrissy and I decided to go for a walk and talk. We decided we needed to be sure we were definitely sure about what we felt when we kissed the first time, so we did again. Because our feelings were confirmed, we talked about what to do about Carla and Sam? As it goes, we each respectfully broke it off with them, and we decided to go steady.

There are many stories to tell from the 4 years that we dated. Like the time she through a plastic bottle of nail polish remover at me, which cut my forehead wide open. She got sent to her room for that one. Then you have the marriage proposal. Chrissy got so mad at me for being late to pick her up. I really wasn’t late; I was just down the street taking pictures of her because I was getting ready to ask her to marry me, and I wanted the area to clear out. But the one story that I love to tell is the first time I told her I was going to marry her. It was after we had been going out for a month. I felt so sure of myself that I looked at Chrissy one day and I said this: (Wait, you should know that at this time I was 17 and she was one month from being 14. Okay, so she was 13.)

I looked deep into her gorgeous brown eyes and said, “Someday I will marry you, and you will be my wife! She smiled at me, then started to laugh. She said, “Yeah, right.” And then she walked away.

30 years later, she is my best friend, my soulmate and my wife. We have been though a lot over the years. With each challenge that has come our way, I thank God that it was you that I was able to walk through it with. You are one of the most creative and fun people I have ever known, together we are a blast. Love you, Chrissy Hunter!

I should have ran off with the circus when I was 5!

The other day when Chrissy and I went to the fair we saw a booth for bounce houses and other cool inflatables. So, I naturally picked up a brochure of their products and services. There were all kinds of inflatables– obstacle courses, Velcro walls, jousting, and themed bounce houses. They had tons to choose from!

If you’re around me for any prolonged length of time you will figure out that I love inflatables. Somewhere deep in me I have the makings of a carnival worker, or at least someone who works or performs in a circus. If I’m getting raw and real here, I will let you in on a secret. Don’t tell anyone though. I think perhaps I should have ran off with the circus when I was 5.

I remember my dad getting me up super early when the circus would come to Williamsport. He would take me down to where the circus would set up. It was right next to the railroad tracks. The circus train would come in, stop, and unload right there. When we would arrive, often the fog would be just lifting and you could hear the men calling out to one another, laying out the huge tent that soon would become the “Big Top” of the Barnum and Bailey Circus.

Thinking back forty plus years ago, I remember sitting on the dike next to the Lycoming Creek with dad, my sleepy eyes trying to focus on what was happening in the field. Once the tent was spread out and laced, a line of big men would hoist up a humongous pole to their shoulders and make their way in under the tent to place the main support beams.

Then, my favorite part was coming. My dad grabbed my small hand and led me down the incline of the dike into the green, grassy field. We slowly walked trough the field closer to the action, to have a better viewing spot for what would take place next.

With my eyes wide and my mouth wide open, an exciting electricity flowed though my entire being that my small 5-year old body could hardly contain. My dad hoisted me up on his strong, wide shoulders and sat me there, so I wouldn’t miss anything that was happening.

Just then, I heard the trumpeting and felt the ground shake a bit. Out of the fog came the huge white-tusked elephants. Their enormous ears flapping back and forth, and their trunks swinging from side to side, they majestically walked alongside their trainers.

I remember seeing one of the beasts lay its trunk on the shoulder of its trainers as if to say, “Hi, I’m with you.” The man reached across his body and gently patted the elephant’s trunk, looking over his shoulder into its eyes and seemed to speak kindly to it.

I recall each one having a special harness on as they moved past me. Their fire hose like trunks would swing to and fro, grabbing grass along the way as they moved into place. When the trainer told them to stop, they obeyed immediately. The huge pachyderms knelt down instinctively knowing what they were there to do. Each handler hooked up a large ropey strap to an elephant, all the while lovingly encouraging and gently praising the animal.

Then it was time for the magic. With one loud shout from the head man, the elephants all stood up and with their trainers at their side started to methodically walk effortlessly forward, They moved in sync slowly, and as they did, the tent rose to the top of the poles, kissing the sky. I have always loved the circus from that day forward.

The sad part is that if I did steal away with the circus that day, I now would be out of a job with the recent closing of the Greatest Show on Earth. That does make me sad to think about. This show brought wonder, excitement, and even a bit of magic to town. It always made me feel like a kid again, no matter my age.

So the family story I have may not seem too surprising, but then again, we are the Hunter Clan– nothing is ever too easy or dull.

Over the years, I have rented these inflatables for various events, and I have always thought it would be great to own one. I never really did anything with it. Then one year I was working on an annual church event called Trunk or Treat. This is a Halloween trick or treating alternative, where kids get to safely trick or treat out of trunks of cars that are hosted and decorated by a group or organization. At my Trunk or Treats, I always like to have a little more for those attending to do than just walking around asking for treats. So, sometimes I have been known to have games or food for those attending.

One year we did a superhero theme, and I had seen a huge, inflatable slide obstacle course that looked like Superman. The front of it was Superman standing in his classic superhero pose, then alongside of him was this huge slide– it was something like 16 feet. So this thing was big; unfortunately, so was the price tag to rent it. I’m pretty sure it was close to $700.00. These things were not cheap.

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After renting that one, I got to thinking… I wonder how much it would be to buy a used unit like this? So, I started to do some research on the web to see if there were used units out there that I could buy. Well, it just so happens that there are inflatables out there, and incidentally they only cost a bit more to buy then what you rent them for.

So, I thought ‘tis maybe an option someday. Just imagine if I owed my own inflatable. That would just be so cool! I started to do the math. How many rentals would I have to have to do to break even on this? 4 or 5 maybe?

Like most great ideas that I have, but I don’t have the finances for, I put it on the backburner. Then, I had another event that I needed to have an inflatable at something like camp or VBS. That is when it really hit me that I could be saving my ministry amazing amounts of money that could be used in other ways to reach kids for Jesus. So, I when back to my computer and started the search process again. I remember looking on eBay and finding a nice variety of inflatables. Then I saw this one that was simply put– Awesome! It was a huge slide shaped like a parrot. I called Chrissy over, and said, “You have to check this out! She came over and as she usually does when she knows I’m onto some crazy idea she looked at it and said, “That’s nice. What would you do with that?”

That’s all I needed. I told her all my great ideas and uses for this inflatable. I told her how we could use it for ministry and to bring in a little extra cash at times. Then she asked how much is it? I said, “Look it’s only $1200.00! Then she said, “What’s wrong with it?” I said, “Nothing!” I knew at this point I almost had her. I was on the verge of my dream becoming a reality. I was so close that I could smell the popcorn and cotton candy of the carnival.

 

“How big is it?” she asked.

I said, “25 feet tall! It’s giant!”

Well, she said, “That is big! How big is that?”

She’s not always that good at judging how big things are when you say it in feet. So, I told her it was bigger than our house! We lived in a ranch style house at the time.

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“How much do you think we could rent it for?” She asked. I said, “I don’t know. The one slide I rented was $700.00, but I would not want to charge that much, especially to churches!

She said, “Well, let’s see what we have in savings.”

So, we looked and thought we could do it. I went a ahead and bought it. Now one thing you should always do if you are shopping on eBay is look at the shipping price before you bid. Now, this was not my first rodeo with eBay, but we were so excited that we forgot to look at the shipping costs. We just made sure this was not a pick-up only kind of thing.

We were so very ecstatic that we were going to get this amazing parrot inflatable and all we were going to be able to do with it. This was a dream come true!

Then the seller messaged us, and asked how we would be shipping. What? The seller takes care of shipping, not the buyer! Then I dug into the post a little closer, and I saw that the buyer would be responsible for arranging shipping for the inflatable. I looked at Chrissy and said, “Awwww… no problem we will just use UPS, and have them ship it.

So I started make inquiries about shipping our parrot, only to come to find out that an 800 pound heavy duty vinyl inflatable would be very expensive to ship. So, I told the seller that it would take us a bit to figure out the shipping, but we would take care of it.

You may have seen the show Shipping Wars? Well, that was what I discovered online way before the reality tv show was a thought. I put my item up, and potential shippers started to bid on handling my package.

I was still not happy with the results. In the end, our shipping cost was almost the same as what we paid for the inflatable. It was the best price we had gotten though. After talking it through, we still thought it was worth it so, we moved forward with shipping it.

The next bump was that the shipper needed it to be on a skid and shrink-wrapped. The buyer didn’t even want to help with finding a skid. I did pay a little extra for a lift gate on both ends of the shipping. I thought that would help a bit. From what the seller said, the driver was not happy about any of it. But, if you watch the shipping wars show, the drivers never are happy about any of the jobs.

I somewhat understood a bit when it finally reached our house from California. The seller had this thing rolled up in the most inefficient way. It came looking like a wrestling mat. It was about 12 feet long and about 2 ½ feet high. The truck that it came on for some reason didn’t have the lift gate, so the driver went back and changed the load to a lift gate truck but failed to bring a lift jack to take it off the truck and gate. So, I was told I needed to come to the depot and pick it up.

So, Chrissy, the kids and I borrowed a trailer, hooked it up to our full-size conversion van and went to ABF to get our parrot. We got there and they finally found our package– it was really hard to miss. They used a forklift to load it on the trailer. I signed for it, and we were headed home.

We got home and all of us worked together to get it off the trailer. Then we unrolled it in the driveway and called a few of our friends to come over and try out our new slide. As soon as I started to inflate it in the driveway, we attracted the attention of neighborhood kids we didn’t even know existed on our street. They stood at the end of the driveway to see this spectacle, hoping for an invite to slide down our mammoth bird. This was the biggest bird I had ever seen, let alone the largest inflatable. We set up lights in the driveway and played on this thing far into the night. Everyone loved it and had a blast!

The next day, we needed to figure out how to fold it and roll it into a smaller, more compact manner than it came in. After a few tries, we finally achieved a roll that looked like a red and blue super-sized burrito. It sat about 3 foot wide and 4 foot long. It was heavy! This is when we discovered the amazing uses of ratchet straps.

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Side Note: It didn’t take too long for us to figure out we needed heavy duty straps to hold it all together. We used a furniture dollie to make it easy to move in and out of the garage.

Last thing we needed to get our big bird ready to rent was a trailer, and Chrissy found one off of…Guess where? Yup, you guessed it, eBay! This time we made sure to check the shipping. Actually we just traveled a little ways to pick this up.

Chrissy was very smart on picking a trailer for our bird. It was a tip trailer, and it had hand crank winch. We would hook the parrot up and crack away pulling the inflatable up on the tilted trailer. When it reached the tipping point, the trailer would come down flat, and we would strap her on.

We have had our share of adventures with this huge bird. We even rented it to a famous rapping celebrity who lived close to us. He wanted his kids to play on it one afternoon, so he rented it from us. I had to sign a disclosure, so I can’t tell you who he was. I can tell you that I didn’t get his name quite right when I told Chrissy who he was. I asked her if she had ever heard of a guy named Art Kelly. She hadn’t.

Even though we had a bit of a rough start in the beginning, the parrot paid for itself and even help fund a mission trip or two.

Never give up on the dreams that God plants deep in you. If you truly believe He can bring it about, it may just happen sometime in the strangest of ways. Some of those dreams are even passed on and come to being in our kids’ lives. For example think about David and Solomon with the temple. Keep dreaming and believing in the impossible, and wait to see what happens.

The Cake With A Surprise Ingredient

So today, as I sit and eat my very gluten-free lunch consisting of a spinach and chicken Ceaser salad, which has amazing olives, I think back to the times that I was not gluten-free. As I watch Chrissy eat one of my most favorite foods.–Stone oven baked margarita pizza! The smell alone is wonderful torture!

As I drool over her pizza, the rest of the wonderful foods that I can no longer have pop up as pictures in my mind. I have not really been on this gluten-free journey as long as others, but I definitely know that this is a lifestyle that I need to have, just for the simple reason that I don’t like the pain that comes after indulging in gluten-bearing food. And I’m seriously amazed at all the food that has gluten in it. Things that I always took for granted, like cookies and cake! No, I’m just kidding about those, but seriously I never thought that most ice cream contain gluten, as well as many meats at restaurants. Even steaks! That’s just crazy!

So this crazy train thought process left me standing at the memory station of a time when I was given the task of finding the most amazing and authentic Tres Leche Cake. I was given this job because our kids were taking part in a yearly 4-H Club ritual, preparing for International Fair. This was a group project that our family enjoyed immensely, whether they would admit it today or not.

A little history… each year the kids’ 4-H Club voted on a country to study, and then, after months of studying that particular country, they would give a huge group presentation at a area 4-H meeting. All the groups would be judged on the presentation of their county. So, in this process our group’s members would nominate different countries that they would like to study. After the nominees were selected, there was a member vote to make a final decision.

Side Note: This is one of the thing I loved about 4-H. Our kids learned the formal way to conduct business meetings according to Robert’s Rules of Orders. This is a super skill to have if you want to be in any type of leadership.

Our kids always had two countries that were close to their hearts, and every year they tried many times to have the group study the countries they loved. One was Scotland; the other was Honduras. Our family is Scottish, and with doing mission trips to Honduras, the kids wanted to share their love and passion for this country.

One year they finally caught on to what some of the older kids would do when they lobbied for their choice of county. They figured out with four of them, they could possibly win a majority vote, if they all worked together. So they did one year they each convinced their closest friends to vote with them, and they were able to get Scotland as the country. Actually, at the time only 3 out of the 4 were in regular 4-H. Silas was a “Clover Bud,” which is the junior version of 4-H in Cook County, Illinois. He was not a full-fledged voting member of the group. I tell you this because they tried the next year to get Honduras in, and they and failed.

So, the following year they lobbied again for Honduras, and out of sheer numbers of the Hunter Clan, they pushed their vote through. Quite a few older kids had graduated out of the group that year, and having almost 1/3 of vote gives you a slight advantage. This is just one of the advantages in having a larger family.

Throughout the year, as they would prepped for International Fair, the leaders tried to help the kids learn as much about the country as they could. We would go on field trips to different places, if at all possible, this way the kids could experience the culture first hand they would also bring in speakers who live there or had recently traveled to the country being studied. One time we spent the day in Chinatown, Chicago. Another year we visited a Hindu temple, and I also remember meeting a musician from Senegal. The kids would also be assigned different things to research and then report back to the group what they had learned.

One of the things the group liked best was when there would be a project that was a craft or some sort of thing the kids make that the people of the country earned a living at doing. The other thing that we all enjoyed is sampling the food of the culture.

One of the most impressive things I remember is that one of the moms in our group tried to make Haggis as authentically as she could for the kids during Scotland year. That was interesting to hear about. Some parts of the dish were not available for purchase in the United States, so she had to make do with what she could. (Sheep windpipe cannot be found for purchase on this side of the pond.) There was also the small matter of the sheep belly exploding in the middle of her kitchen! Some countries’ cuisines are more interesting and delicious than others. We had great food in Chinatown!

When it came to Honduras, there are a lot of similarities to Mexican food, but there are some major differences. Shortly after the club decided on the country, Chrissy came home and said, “Guess what we’re in charge of for the Taste of Honduras?”

I said, “I don’t know, what?”

She said, “Dessert!”

I said, “Cool! The best part of a meal!”

Side Note: Years ago one of my assistants had a saying. Okay well, Geri had quite a few of sayings but this one she really loved to say “Life is short, so eat dessert first.” Geri loved this saying so much that when I left that ministry, she gave me one of the coolest ice cream scoopers. It was silver and very heavy. I love that scoop! Even to this day, when I’m dipping my Breyer’s gluten-free ice cream, I think about my friend, Geri.

Chrissy was less than excited about it. She wondered, what can we make? One of my favorite Hispanic desserts is Tres Leche Cake.

So, I said, “How about that?”

She said, “I guess we can do that.”

Well. When she says that, it means she is going to look for something better, but if nothing comes up she’ll go with it.

So, the time was coming soon for a Taste of Honduras, and Chrissy was stressing big on this one. My wife is a pretty good cook, but one of the dads in our 4-H group was a professional chef. So, she was a bit nervous about making this cake. I’m trying to remember, but I think this confectionery delight was difficult to make. Some times it was a challenge to find authentic ingredients too. This cake has three milks in it, thus the name Tres Leches—Three Milk Cake.

As she was expressing her nervous frustration with all the recipes that she was looking through, I said, “I have an idea! I will explain it when I get back.” I was on my way to pick up an order we had called in at one of the best Mexican places I have ever eaten, here in the States that is. It had a great name too, “Whata Taco!” Seriously though, it was amazing, and I had befriended the owner. So I ran over to grab our food, and as I was waiting on the food I asked the owner if they had a whole Tres Leches cake that I could buy? Their cake was like a fiesta in your mouth, perhaps even a Cinco de Mayo celebration, all in one bite of this cake. It really was that good! I. knew they had it made by a Hispanic bakery closer to the city

So, I asked, “Do you ever get a full cake? Or do you just get slices in?”

He said, “I just get a few slices in each day.” I asked him if he thought he could get a full cake in, or tell me where to get one. I went on to explain why I was asking and what I wanted it for. He told me just give him a call a day before the 4-H Taste of Honduras meeting, and he would get one for me. Problem solved, so I thought.

I went home and over amazing tacos, I explained my brilliant plan to the family. I said you could even pass it off as your own. I was just kidding, and I did tell my wife that I was sure she could make an amazing cake, after all she has won a blue ribbon for her carrot cake at the county fair. That took care of it. It was a done deal. I would order the cake, pick it up, and they would take it to the meeting.

I’m not sure if something was lost in translation on what I needed the cake for or what. I think he thought I needed it for some sort of adult celebration or something. You will understand why I say that in a few minutes.

The day for Taste of Honduras came. I went to Whata Taco and picked up the cake. That was when I found out the price. Wow! I was bit shocked on that one, but I figured it was well worth it for the stress it would remove.

Side Note: Only one other time did we pay a crazy amount for a cake and that was when we took a trip with our friends Brock and Amie to South Haven. We had a nice dinner together, and on the walk back to the hotel, we stopped at a sweet shop, and Chrissy ordered a piece of chocolate cake. After ordering, we noticed a strange sign posted on the shop’s register that stated you must pay for cake after it has been sliced. Maybe instead of doing that, they should have just posted the cake slice prices next to the cake. But then, they probably wouldn’t have sold much cake. This was a big piece of cake, but it didn’t equal the price for the slice. I think it was around $15 bucks! We split that piece of cake and savored each bite.

Back to the Tres Leche Cake. I took it home, and handed it off to the 4-Hers. They looked at it, and everyone agreed it looked amazing! So off to their meeting they went. I was not able to attend this meeting for some reason. So, I just hoped for a left over of that cake.

When I came home that night I was bombarded with all kinds of stories of how the meeting went and what foods were there. Then Chrissy spoke up and told me that a lot of the people really liked the cake but some of the kids seem to not feel so well after eating it. One of the moms even complained about her stomach bothering her. Still, everyone had an amazing time! Then there was one person who really liked it, but he couldn’t place what a flavor it was that was in it, and he kept coming back for more. So, it seemed like hit.

It was only later that we discovered that the cake is traditionally made not only with three milks, but to keep it moist and to help with the celebration, it was doused with Rum too.

So this cake may or may not have had some extra spice in it, and some 4-H group members may or may not have had a piece or more of said cake. So the running joke about this cake is that we may or may not have been indirectly responsible for serving a cake with alcohol in it by accident.

So let this be a warning to you, just because something tastes great, make sure you know what it is that you are consuming, otherwise you may be ingesting something you may regret later.

I really don’t know how this crazy stuff happens, but I’m sure we can’t be the only family it happens to. I think we just are open enough to admit that we are far from perfect. I share life stories so others can laugh at us and even relate once in a while.

It’s my hope that we never forget what we learn from our mistakes, always forgive and never forget to love each other while having fun laughing at ourselves. Cherish the life we live and the good, the ornery, and the precious people God has crossed our paths to eat some cake with.

Our Candy Rocks

When the kids were young, we always tried to instill in them values that we felt were important. Like having integrity, honesty, gratitude, generosity, honor, self control, conviction, hope, love, respect, and responsibility. Just to name a few.

We also thought it was important to have creativity, ingenuity, and persistence. Always think outside of the box, use critical thinking. You should constantly be on the look out for opportunities to make our world a better place, give a hand up to those in need, and use the gifts God has given us.

We wanted our kids to have opportunities to flourish and make a difference. Lastly, we showed them how to be entrepreneurs.

One year, Chrissy and I decided we were going to teach the kids how to have a business and run it. As a family we decided that we all wanted to go on a mission trip. We wanted to go to Honduras with World Compassion Network. This was a mission we had come to know about and loved supporting. They do a number of mission venues from local to international.

Our favorite was the Family 2 Family Boxes. This was a small Rubbermaid box that you filled with specific things like rice, dried beans, soap, a hand towel, and a few other things. Then you brought the box to church, and it was shipped to Honduras to be handed out to families in need. The coolest part of this was that you could go on a mission trip to hand out the boxes.

Instead of just handing out the boxes, WCN works hard to find credible local churches and pastors to arrange distributions to families in need. Then, when we go to hand out the boxes the local church, the church or pastor gets the credit for helping the community in need, not the North Americans who helped pass the boxes out. This helps to build the church in that community, rather than fostering dependence on WCN.

Most of the boxes are given to families that don’t attend the church, but are members of that church’s community. I almost forgot– these boxes would feed a family of four for about 2-3 weeks. That is pretty incredible, if you ask me.

We wanted to take our kids and go do this all together. Ben and I had just gone the year before, and it was a life-changing experience for both of us. Now, Chrissy and I wanted our whole family to experience this. The issue that we faced was that it was going to cost over $10,000 for our family of six to go.

Chrissy and I also wanted to take the kids on a vacation in the next year, one that they would remember for years to come. Up until this point the kids thought that vacations were just things that they gave away at the radio station. To do both things, we would need to come up with some serious money.

So, we sat the kids down and shared our hopes with them. We thought this would be a great learning experience for them. We shared what we would like to do, and they were all on board with it. The next part was how to get the money. We have always taught the kids and believed ourselves that if God wants something to happen, the doors will open, and a way will be made. We might need to do some work, and it may take some faith in getting there. We just need to be faithful.

So we asked the kids for some ideas we could do to raise money for the mission trip. Someone suggested writing letters for support. We said, “Ok, what else?” Silas suggested collecting aluminum cans and getting money for recycling. (Which he ended up doing for hours and hours with a family friend and his truck.) What else? Someone said, “Maybe we could start a business.” I said, “What kind of business?” Someone came up with the idea of sandy candy. This was a colorful candy that looked just like sand art, but you could eat it. I said, “Okay, let’s put together a business plan, and see if we can do this.”

That was exactly what we did. We saved up some seed money and then invested it in this business. We decided that we would hit the festival circuit. Every town around where we lived had festivals. So we would rent a space, and the kids would sell their sandy candy. Each of them had a job to do. We had 2 people who would handle helping the customers make their edible art project, then we had two callers who would bring people into the stand. They would introduce people to the products and bring them over to the stand, then the table people would close the deal. Chrissy’s job was to be the money and business manager. When someone needed a break, Chrissy or I would fill in.

Most of the fests were 3-day events– Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I was not always able to help with the stand, with me being a pastor those were days that I worked and had to be available for services.

The kids would take turns at each job so no one got bored with what they were doing. It became evident to us who was gifted in which areas. Ben and Tori were great at helping the customers and closing the deal. Jonah and Silas– they were amazing callers. It did help that they both were really cute. Si was about 9, and Jonah was around 11. So, the cuteness factor did help.

Our first fest nearly wiped us out and closed us for good. The town we had booked was known for having a population of healthy eaters. No one wanted their kids to have sugar. Then during the night a tornado came through nearby the fair grounds, and many of the vendors tents and boots were destroyed–including the Candy Rocks tent (that was us!). Our brand new, heavy-duty pop-up canopy was twisted and mangled and ended up a row or two over.

Fortunately, we always took the product and tables down when we left for the evening. The tent was a huge expense for us, but we needed to have it. So, we went out and bought another tent with the money we just made the day before. If we hadn’t booked other events we probably would have ended the business all together. But that is not how the story goes, because that would be just boring.

So as we peddled our candy to people, we started to make some money. The kids started to get into a rhythm. That’s right, we had successfully become a carney family.

The kids came up with competitions to see who could sell the most in an hour or, who could get the most compliments. Not only was this business profitable, it was also a great learning tool. Our kids then started to figure out the best times of the day that sales would increase, and they noticed the best locations to have our stand located in the festivals.

You would never guess where the best spot was. You might think near kids’ activities or other dessert foods. And you would be wrong on both accounts. The very best place to be was directly across from the Beer Garden exits. (At most of the festivals, this was the only area that people were able to buy alcoholic drinks, hence the name “Beer Garden.”)

When people would come out of the beer area, they would often be looking for something sweet to eat, and guess what stand they would stumble over to? That’s right they would come right over to Candy Rocks. It’s surprising how much people who have been drinking will spend on something sweet. Now, you may be saying that’s not right, you were taking advantage of them. We just thought if they weren’t buying our candy, they would be spending money somewhere else. So, why not spend it at our stand?

Maybe it was a bit unfair, because the kids would give a little sample of the candy crack to them in their hand, and then instruct them to eat it. Silas was the best at this part, as they were licking the candy from their hand, he would look at them and very excitedly say “Now, that’s good stuff, isn’t it?” Almost 100% of the time, they would agree with him, and then, without missing a beat he would say, “Follow me over here, and we’ll get you some more.” And they would follow him to the table and buy pretty much whatever he suggested. Crazy!

We did have our share of experiences that were just weird, but too funny not to tell. Like the time we had borrowed a few costumes from a friend. These we costumes that you would normally have to rent. They were high-end mascot costumes.

The kids thought it would be fun to dress up in costumes, and let people take their picture with them. So one of the costumes we had was “Dora, the Explorer.” We thought this would also give the kids an opportunity to practice their Spanish if the opportunity presented itself.

We took the costume with the intent of the kids taking turns in it. Well as it happened, the costume only really fit Jonah well. So, the other kids took turns escorting Jonah up and down our row, meeting tons of people. Jonah loved to be in the costume, because it gave him the opportunity to be as silly as he wanted to be, without anyone knowing who it really was.

He would take breaks to cool down and get refreshed. Then when he was ready, he would suit back up and go meet more people.

As different 80’s bands hit the stage, Dora/Jonah would bust a move. Sometimes he would be dancing with kids, at other times with senior citizens. Some of the funniest people he danced with were the big biker guys who were a bit toasty. As they played and danced with Dora, they were always very respectful and kind.

The one story that has been told over and over was as one evening the beer garden was closing, and everyone was coming out. Jonah was standing out in front of the stand in the Dora costume. Up walks a lady and says “Hola, Dora! Will you be my friend? “She started to have this long drawn out conversation with Dora, while Dora/Jonah just stood there, nodding and gesturing.

Then the lady started to pat herself down, looking for something. She frantically looked in purse, then looked at Dora and said, “Dora, do you know where my keys are?” Then she asked Dora to help her find them. It really was pretty comical. Especially watching Jonah handle the situation.

I may be mistaken, but I believe we helped the lady get to security, and they helped her from that point on. Before leaving, the lady gave Dora a big hug and thanked her for being her friend. No matter what the situation was, we tried to have fun with it.

The kids learned a lot that year, and they raised enough money to go on the mission trip with the help and support of others.

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The following summer, we did the same thing, and this time the goal was to go on an amazing vacation that we all worked really hard for. We made enough money to take everyone to Disney World.

Overall, it was a great experience for the kids and us. Even today we still have a small side business called Tyes of Hope. We help people create their very own wearable works of art. We let people create their own tye dye t-shirts.

We can do all types of events from parties to customer-appreciation events. Big or small, we can tye dye at them all. We can even have a custom logo printed on the shirt before you create your fashion memory.

We have decided that we want to go back to Honduras in the summer of 2018, so we are looking to open our schedules for more bookings. And yes, we do fundraisers too.

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Looking back, it’s amazing to think of all our family has done and experienced, and it’s really cool to see how God has made a way for us to do the things He has put on our hearts.

 

 

Biker Momma

Okay, so summer is officially here. June 21st is Summer Solstice and also the love of my life’s birthday. Along with summer comes all those wonderful fun things we love to do outside that we can’t do during the winter. One of those things I love to do is ride motorcycle. Now it’s been awhile since I have had my bike out, only because I can’t get it running. I have had it looked over, and some of the things that I was told was wrong with it were fixed, but alas it still needs more work. I was told it needs a new carb and that is very expensive. So it sits, waiting on me.

When I was twelve I first learned to ride. Oh my, what a rush! I was at a camp that was sponsored and run by the Pennsylvania State Police called Camp Cadet. Yes, it really was the cops who gave me my need for speed. Of all the things I was able to do that week, learning to ride a dirt bike was the highlight.

I remember popping the clutch from the start and flying through a course that was set up in an open field. I really don’t know how we didn’t kill ourselves. I flew around the orange cones, shifting as needed. It just seemed to come natural to me.

When I was 17 I bought my first dirt bike, a 125 Yamaha Enduro. It was bright yellow. I tore that thing up! My parent’s one requirement was to keep a helmet on. I took it up and down and all over the mountain we lived on. Then, once in while, I would cross the street and take it to place we called the Gobi Desert.

This was a place where a lot of people brought their bikes and three-wheelers. It was a place made out of orange clay dirt and it had great little humps that you ramp off of. It was like a natural dirt bike racetrack. Tons of fun!

After I pulverized that bike, I decided to get another bike, this time a big boy bike. I got a street bike; it was a 400 Honda Night Hawk. I bought this one from my buddy, Rob Lynn. It was a great bike! I put a lot of miles on this bike. This is the bike that I took Chrissy to her senior prom on. That was a fun night.

Up till then Chrissy and I had rode with her parents. They owned Harleys and let us ride with their group, even though we had a rice burner Years later, I had it stored at my in-laws during a freaky flash flood in January, which destroyed the bike.

All our kids had grown up on bikes, if not mine, it was their Pop’s Harley. Ben and Tori have been on a bike since they were babies. They loved sitting on the bikes when they were tiny. Then when they got bigger and able to reach the foot pegs, they could ride on the back. We went years without a bike, but the itch never went away. Each spring I would have this desire to ride. Finally one spring, I had gotten a big raise in pay, and we thought we could get one again. So Chrissy and I went to look. We would have loved to get a Harley or a Triumph or even an Indian but they just weren’t in our price range. So, we found a Harley Softtail wann-be.

We brought a 1100 Yamaha Virago. Chrissy actually picked it out. I think it’s a bit funny that the word “Virago” means “loud woman.” I’m not saying my wife is loud our anything, it’s actually quite the opposite, until you get to know her.

I love this bike! It’s a two-tone turquoise and cream color decked out with chrome and drag pipes to top it off. You can hear me coming too. I have a sticker on my helmet that says “Loud pipes Save Lives.” If people don’t see me coming, they should hear me.

 

Like anyone who had rode for any amount of time, I have had my share of close calls on this bike, as well as the others. I learned early that I always had to anticipate what others would be doing; the other thing I was once told is that you always need to have a good respect for your machine. Don’t ever become over-confident or make stupid choices. This is what gets people hurt or killed. It just helps if everyone does their part.

The year we got the bike, I was asked to ride in a parade with a group from our church. Another friend that was riding said that his daughter was going to be riding their mini bike. This was a mini bike that looked like a street bike. Our kids overheard this and thought it would be cool if one of them could ride a mini bike in the parade with me.

I told them there was no way we could afford that. And that was the end of that with them. Then we went to Pep Boys for something, and Chrissy saw the small bikes that they had and said, “I think we could get one for the kids.” She said, “I would like them to know how to ride.” I said, “Let’s think about it.”

As we talked I said to her, “I do want them to know how to ride, and not like you!”

Side note: When Chrissy’s brothers got their dirt bike she tried to ride it. She took off and forgot how to shift gear and forgot where the break was so as she sped across the yard on this little dirt bike she struggled to keep her balance. She started to panic, so as she started to pass the swing set she reached out to grab the leg in hopes of stopping. Well, I was told that didn’t go as planned. She grabbed the leg and the bike flew around the leg in a circle. Until she let go of her death grip that she had on the bike with her legs. The bike traveled on, and she stayed, hanging onto the swing set. So, her first solo ride was not the best.

Later that day, after talking about it, we made a trip back to Pep Boys. We picked out a little chopper with metallic blue paint and chrome. I have to admit it was pretty cool, it had a pull start as well as a electric push button start. It really looked like a miniature street bike. We made the kids wait in the van while we went into the store. After going through the checkout, we couldn’t wait for the kids to see it.

We walked out the doors of the store and you could hear an eruption of screaming yelling in the van. As you looked at our van you could see it bouncing and rocking back and forth. Yup! They were a little excited.

We went over the rules and safety instructions on the way home. Like, always wear your brain bucket, and always make sure you have a clear path in front of you. Never take the bike out of the backyard, and never ride it on the street.

Our back yard was about ¾ of an acre of land. This was a big yard for where we lived. This is one of the main reasons we bought the house. We wanted to have plenty of space for the kids to run and play.

So we got home and unloaded our new toy. Just to be sure that I understood how the bike worked and handled I took it for the first ride. I discovered that even though our backyard was big we needed a little more space. So we decided to open the fence gate to the front yard, and then we gave permission for the kids to ride out across the yard, making a big loop by going up the driveway and into the back again.

As I gave the kids a few instructions, the excitement was so thick in the air you could cut it with knife. They hung on my every word as I told them that we would take turns riding, and we would go from oldest to youngest. I said, after one loop around the house, they needed to stop and switch riders. I also told them if I saw that they were doing something that was potentially dangerous, I would stop them, and they would loose their next turn riding.

So all the kids did pretty well. They all made it around the house at a good speed without falling or running into anything. They all had great balance and didn’t lose control at all. They all stayed on the course I asked them to.

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As kids do, they stood waiting for their next turn full of anticipation. They jumped up and down in place as their mouths we jabbering about what they did or what someone else did as they gestured with their hands and arms in huge ways. To say this was an exhilarating day would not begin to cover what the kids were feeling.

After a few trips around the house, Chrissy piped up, butting in line and said, “I want a turn!” She strapped a helmet on, then grabbed the bike, straddling it, she sat down on the seat. I believe she even dramatically flipped out a pair of sunglasses and slowly slid them on. (She doesn’t see the best without them, so she needs them when driving.) I told her to remember this doesn’t have a clutch, just the accelerator and a brake. She was like, “I got this!” waving her hand in my face. “I have ridden before!” I said, “Please, just stay on the course.”

Chrissy has a habit of doing things her own way and sometime you just can’t tell her what to do. To say that she can be a bit of a rebel would be an understatement. So, sometimes it’s best to just let her go and hope for the best. I have to admit most times what she does do is spectacular in a good way (most times).

So she was sitting there on the bike, and if there could be theme music to this, “Born To Be Wild” would be playing in the background. She sat there grinning the biggest, cheesiest grin, as she hunched her shoulders forward and acts like she is over revving the engine. Throws her head back and laughs. Then released the brake and hits the gas.

She moved forward slowly and placed her feet on the pegs, wobbling the entire time eventually she got her balance and around she went. As the kids stood jaw-dropped, mouths wide open in awe of their mom speeding by. I’m sure they thought we have the craziest, coolest mom ever! That would be until she came back to the starting point. She slowed down as if she was getting ready to stop, but when she got to where the kids and I stood, she cranked on the accelerator and waved to us as she flew past saying, “See ya, suckers!”

She threw her head back and laughed the most maniacal laugh you would ever hear. That’s when I lost control of the crew. It was like a Greyhound race when the little bunny flies out past the dogs, and they all start running in pursuit of it. She weaved in and out of the trees and around the trampoline. Laughing the entire time. Then she flew past me and out the driveway into the front yard.

We had a huge pine tree that was in the front yard, which she managed to circle that a few times, as the kids were still close in hot pursuit. Right then, she decided to take the bike down into our drainage ditch. This wasn’t too big but at the end, it had a little bit of a steep incline out on to the street. When she reached that point she cut up, and out into the street she went. I believe this is when she forgot all the rules we had talked to the kids about.

She was fist pumping with one hand as she flew down the block. The kids knew not to chase her any further, so they stood at the edge of the street yelling at her while they flailed their hands around over their heads. You would have thought that she was a thief, and she just stolen their favorite toy. I guess she kind of did.

She turned around at the intersection and came back up the street. I was pretty impressed with how she was handling the bike. That is up to this point. When she got to the end of our yard where she exited on to the street, she must have forgotten about the steep bank into the ditch because she flew over the one side of the ditch and landed in it. I believe she got some air too. I think that if she could have done a cool trick like a superman or a cliffhanger just like the free style motocross riders, she would have.

When she landed, well, that was when she had issues. She lost her balance and started to hit the gas, then the brake making the bike wobble up into the front yard as she went. And then she not so gracefully toppled over with the bike still running. Her evil Kevil escapade had come to an abrupt halt. She laid there with bike still between her legs she looked like a rag doll someone had just flopped down on the ground. Her helmet was over her eyes and all we could hear was a laughing-crying sound. The kids and I ran over to where she fell. I asked, “Are you okay?” She nodded her head yes flopping the helmet back and forth, because she was laughing too hard to speak.

That’s when everyone started to laugh, and the kids with big eyes and with lots of gestures told each other their favorite part of their mom’s little steal away. This would be a day that would go down in the books for the kids who have an awesome mom.

We picked up Chrissy, dusted her off, and made sure she was okay, then we checked the bike out. Of course, Chrissy had to tell the kids not to do what she did. Then turned to me and said it was fun!

This is the Chrissy few people get to know or see, honestly this is just a mild event that just scratches the surface of who my amazing, fun, and adventurous wife is. Even with this wild rebellious free spirit, she has a huge love for people and a heart of gold just don’t let her drive your bike!