Tag Archives: Family

What Would You Change?

Christmas 2021 – Reminders for Next Year

It’s over. The ornaments have been boxed. The lights have been stored. The living room is back to normal. And the kids have returned home. All we have left are the memories and the pictures stored in our phones.

It wasn’t a white Christmas. But as I type this, I am looking out the big window behind the couch and seeing a beautiful scene of snow covered farmlands, hills with sled treks, and cars covered in inches of powder that will remain for another day or two. The snow came nine days late, but it came.

The world moves on.

Before we reach February (which is when some of you take down your outdoor Christmas lights), I think we should stop and reflect a minute. Before we completely put the Spirit of Christmas behind us, which we really never should do … before we move on, let’s reflect on what we take into next year’s Christmas. Yes it’s just over 11 months away, but let’s see what we learn from Christmas 2021 to take to Christmas 2022 …

Spend more time with family. My son and DIL came for 96 hours from Dallas. It was 2000 hours too short. It was 1 minute too short. The very second we said goodbye and they walked deeper into the airport, I missed them deeply.

Don’t put off spending time with family. My mother struggles with memory dystopia. The memories of Christmas’s gone by are slipping from her mind. She often forgets when it is and who I am. My earthly father is in heaven with my heavenly Father. I would trade every gift I received this year to spend 10 minutes with him.

– Spend more time thinking about what to give your loved ones. Yes, gift cards are easy and even appreciated, but make sure you put thought into each and every gift. Start early too. The whole transportation log jams of 2021 might get worse in 2022. My adult kid may want a new iPhone, but those custom slides for a retro View-Finder that pictures his dating, engagement and wedding to our new DIL is so cool.

Give something to someone who is not in your circle. Help the homeless, pack a shoebox, donate to missions, visit a shut-in, help a single parent, volunteer at the local school, surprise a first responder. This makes the spirit of giving so much more precious. And don’t do it for the recognition. Our Father in heaven sees it.

Watch the kids. There is something about the joy and magic of seeing Christmas through the eyes of children. See the excitement. See the marvel.

Get out and go see the lights. From small town (after all, my little corner of the world has about 102 residents and we had The Lights of Evergreen) to the big city, there are always a few lights to take in.

Read the Christmas Story. Okay, you know it. But when did you last read it … aloud? Not ’Twas the Night Before Christmas … not A Christmas Carol ….not Frosty, or Rudolph, or any other story. Read THE CHRISTMAS STORY found in Matthew 1:18-23, Luke 1:26-56, 2:1-38.

Go to a Christmas worship service. Worship, celebrate, remember the joy, peace, love, hope and true meaning of Christmas. A corporate gathering adds to the warmth and synergy of the season. Whether Christmas Sunday, Christmas Eve or a Kids’ program – go to one you wouldn’t normally attend – make the effort.

Stop everything. Take a deep breath and remember the gift of Jesus. Nothing else really matters.

What else would you add to the list? Comment and let us know.

It’s over. The ornaments have been boxed. The lights have been stored. The living room is back to normal. And the kids have returned home. All we have left are the memories and the pictures stored in our phones. But we have next year. Let’s make that one even better.

Day Three – Road Trip ‘21

Day Three – Food, Family, Shopping

So, First Full Day in DFW. It’s kind of weird. I spent so many years saying Dallas, but I am actually in Fort Worth/Keller. Oh I’ve crossed the D city limits, but only passing through. Is it being mean to Tarrant County to push the name Dallas? It’s like saying mom loves me most (which she does) but not thinking about my poor neglected siblings. I’ll have to be more thoughtful. Me being so thoughtful is why mom continues to love me more.

The day started out looking for a breakfast spot open at 5:30am. Plenty of What-A-Burgers and donut shoppes. A few Starbucks, but I wanted a diner or something. And there she was, Joe’s Pie Coffee & Cafe. PIE!!!! It’s like Google Maps listens to my conversations, even reads my thoughts, and pumps out on the Google search what I want. That is kind of scary (and probably more true than not!)

So sneaking out of the house, praying they didn’t set the alarm, I headed to Watauga and a delicious slice of apple pie. I didn’t want too much, for once the fam was up, they wanted First Watch. I took PegLeg in with me. And the grandmotherly waitress was hesitant to have her picture made with the PegLeg. Oh well, some people just don’t get me.

Pie + Coffee + Quiet time = a great morning.

Fort Worth, Keller and Roanoke Texas aren’t so much different than my little country life in Appomattox. There are cows everywhere. Lots of trees – but they don’t get as big in Big D. Trees just don’t make it too long. You have traffic – but more of that here – lots more. LOTS MORE. People live in communities – maybe a bit closer together here. And WalMarts. Okay, I haven’t seen Dollar General in 48 hours, maybe Virginia has the market cornered on that – almost every corner on that.

Here’s a difference. Texas high school sports were advertising for the high school rodeo competition. I don’t remember that in the ACPS. I wonder if little Faith T would do a bronc busting for 8 seconds!

Breakfast was a delight. Watching my two love birds share their meal, encouraging new and fresh tastes, and banter a bit was enthralling. Unfortunately, I see a little of me in Calvin and for that I apologize to my D-in-L. There might be some frustrations that my habits passed on to him will bring to her.

After First Watch – my DIL went her way, a full day with her sister and ministering to a single mom getting her triplet daughters ready for Prom – make up day. WOW, can you imagine. Single mom. Single mom of triplets. Single mom of triplet teenagers. She deserves hazard pay, a bravery award, and some Zanex.

Calvin and I went south to meet with Lisa’s fam. That was delayed, so we went shopping. Calvin delights when we go shopping. Should I be buying the 30 year old entitled snot everything he wants? I’m cursed with a shortcoming when it comes to my favorite kid. Another difference of Dallas-Fort Worth and Appomattox … shopping options. No trip to just Walmart, or the big city of Lynchburg. Nope – Malls, Outlets, Specialty Stores.

Interestingly, after most of our shopping destinations have been accomplished, I asked if there was something his wife has been wanting. He laughed and said in all of this, he hadn’t even thought of her. Not good. Maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned that. But it’s just too fun to get him squirming.

Finally, we got with Lisa’s father and Lisa’s qwerky sister. The time was enjoyable. Her father is getting better now that his church is emerging from Covid restrictions. There is something about worshipping together that online just can’t meet. We loaded the car with memorabilia, some of her mother’s stuff, lots of photos (to take back and scan into a digital format) and etc.

In the evening, they took me out for my birthday (just three weeks away). If it was my birthday celebration, why did I buy him stuff?

On my bucket list for the trip – Marty B’s. A great BBQ, Western spot. One aspect of this busy Saturday night was with hundreds at the mostly outdoor venue, nary but a few masks were seen. It was as if Covid didn’t exist and life had returned to somewhat of a normal routine. This meal, this time with them, this was the reason I am here to visit.

Back home, Hulu, and dogs. A normal evening in their homestead.

Time with family is precious. It doesn’t matter if city, country, on the road, snuggled in a house – family time can’t be replaced. We need each other.

Tomorrow – worship at Gateway and time with my eternal family. We need each other.

All for One … part 6 of 6

Oops … I never posted the sixth of the six part series. So for all you waiting on the edge of your seat this past couple of weeks, you can relax now, here it is …

It’s a community event. People are taking time off work … to work. And on this huge project, we have seen various types of responses to the construction project. So far in Nehemiah 3, we have looked at five types of people found in this important endeavor of rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem …

  • Leadership is setting the example
  • Some people worked in areas outside their area of skill sets
  • Some people are willing to work in unappealing areas (the dirty jobs)
  • Some people are willing to work harder than others
  • There almost always some that just refuse to help and get involved

But this next group is one that might be missed in a casual reading of the chapter. Four words. The simple ending of a sentence about the efforts of a politician – yes, a politician getting his hands dirty at a construction site. Doing actual physical labor. That fact alone might be so shocking, so unusual that you could miss the final four words of verse 12.

Next to him Shallum the son of Hallohesh, ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, repaired, he and his daughters.

Nehemiah 3.12

He and his daughters. Forget for a moment the fact this is the only mention of women getting involved – which is important. Forget the politician doing work angle. There is a great truth seen here.

Oops …I searched for work together, not work out together. But it was too cute

This verse shows us that Shallum took advantage of the mission endeavor to get his family involved. He took his kids to the wall rebuilding project, an important act of service to the Lord, and he made it a family event.

Dad not only set the example – he got his girls involved in the service project.

Dads – what a great lesson. Get your kids engaged. There is no age limit shown here, for there is really no age too early to get your kids helping.

  • Help deliver meals to those on need
  • Decorate cards to be sent to homebound
  • Visit the hospital together (back when you could get in – and obviously within healthy conditions)
  • Help change the oil or check the tires for a widow
  • Serve in a ministry together (cleaning between services at church, yard work, setting up for an event, play in a worship band)
  • Prayer walk together
  • ___________________ (add your own here)

What great memories can be made when a family serves together.

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

Adjusting to the Technologically Challenged (or, this is for my mother)

Technology is amazing. With our phones we carry maps, Bibles, internet access, news reports in an instant, thousands of songs and videos, thousands of picture to place on social media outlets, teaching and preaching series, watch TV and movies, keep a datebook, have phonebooks, entire library collections, calculators, and of course, candy crush (or whatever game keeps you busy – for me it is Risk), and lastly, a phone.

But my mother is technologically challenged. She no longer needs a cell phone and can’t figure out a tablet (always forgetting to charge it.) I know she is challenged with short term memory dystopia, and we adjust to that. There is no doubt that family is important – but we don’t make it easy for her. We have moved all over the globe. Until recently, one son was even in Dubai. So getting together is not normal for us. Reunions rarely take place, and visits have to be scheduled. Even me, though I live in the same state – it a seven hour round trip. So it is an all day event to visit even for a short time.

I can not express how grateful I am that my bro, her eldest son, moved closer and is helping in all this now that mother is twice widowed.

But I have discovered a new toy, a piece of technology that will enable all her family to stay connected a bit more … and more than just a phone call. It is a digital frame. Wait, you say. They’ve been around. Yes, but these are WiFi enabled and photos can be shared from a phone by email or simple app.

Click – send – and it shows up on the picture rotation on the frame in her room. It holds 8 gigs on the frame and 50 on the cloud. With a subscription, you can even do small vids (think TikTok for grandma). Entire photo albums can be organized and shared by an app on any phone or tablet, even android based. Some give the date and time. Others even have weather updates. All on an attractive frame that sits on a table near her chair. I can control the frame from wherever I am … turn it on, change settings, and manage all the pics. Pretty cool.

Before this, it took weeks for me to get our son’s wedding pictures to her. But now, it’s there in mere seconds. Already my niece, her granddaughter, has loaded her family’s Christmas pics on the frame … within minutes of the frame being set up – and from three states away.

Now you may still live in the community with your family of seventeen generations, where everyone sees everyone everyday and everywhere. This technology may be unnecessary for you. But for us, I look forward to being connected just a little better. Especially with the technologically challenged.

And if that brings a smile to my mother, it’s worth it.

Have a blessed day.

Post Script. This is not an advertisement. But if you want to know, we went with the NixPlay Smart WiFi Cloud W10F HD frame. There are some with more bells and whistles, some that do less and do more. But this seems to work for us.

Over the Hills and Through the Woods

Today I am headed East to see my mother. It’s one of those events many do around the holidays – traveling to see family. And it’s both joyful and daunting.

It’s daunting – for family knows us. Our flaws. Our failures. Our frustrations – things that we call pet peeves. And they know how to push our buttons – and they are not hesitant to push said buttons. My mother will talk of me being out of shape, how the other siblings pay her more attention, and how I should get jeans without holes in the knees.

One of the few pictures of me as a kid – Christmas at Grandparents

But it is joyful too for they are family. I see the love in her eyes and have the heritage of faith her and my father have passed on to me. So I delight in the time I can spend with her. It’s about a 7 hour round trip, so a visit is an all day event. But I am glad we still have her – knowing so many would give so much to just say I Love You again to ones they have lost.

And every time I talk to her, visit, or even think about her – I grieve over the impact age has had – memory loss and more. Her short term memory dystopia has taken an effect. I am grateful her long term memory is mostly intact.

In this holiday season – remember to embrace those friends and family that are around. Make memories. Forget the trivial daunting things and focus on the love and joy of relationships.

Life gets muddy – but family doesn’t care. They will get in the mud with you. That’s family.

Merry Christmas!

Parent-Child Lessons Flow Both Ways

A moment in time with my son … oh how things have changed.

It was a moment in time that changed every way she viewed her mother. One author wrote that she remembers the exact moment she realized she had changed roles with her mother of caretaker-nurturer. She was driving and her mother was in the passenger seat. At one point, the daughter had to brake suddenly. So she instinctively stuck her arm out to prevent the passenger, her mother, from flinging forward into the dashboard. The daughter looked at her mother and realized the roles of their life had changed. She never looked at their relationship the same again.

It was so much more than just this small incident, but it was that exact moment it really hit her.

Lesson One … Selfies with Granny

This past week, I had interactions with both generations that came before me and the one that follows. Let me begin with the former – my mother. It has been tough on her since Blandy, her husband, went home to the Lord. I know she misses my father, her first husband, who died over 20 years ago. But Blandy’s death hit her harder for multiple reasons. She struggles with grief, and her early stages of dementia make it difficult for her to get past even the beginning of the grief process … pain of loss begins anew repeatedly. Her loneliness and heartbreak repeats its pangs of despair over and over. I love her and call her (not enough according to my secretary). Now, not to be too sober here, she still has strong long term memory, she reacts well in conversations, and remembers all of us. She even remembers I am her favorite, well, maybe I remember that more than she does. I realize it can be so much worse. So I still know she is so blessed.

In all this, I am reminded to treasure the moments with people while we can, to never pass up moments to share love and make memories, and to take pictures capturing moments we share. For this I love the iPad and the apps that help share pictures. She can’t figure out the tablet she has, soo reading this wise and witty blog I write is out of the question. But showing her pictures while there is such a blessing to her.

Lesson Two … Swapping Spit

Calvin came in. And he taught me a lesson. Yes, the lesson was a bit gross and I had to put up with some bleckness. To what am I referring? All the spit swapping, suck facing, and over exaggeration of young love between the two engaged that were with us. Please. But you know, it was a delight to see the love these two shared. I hope he never stops opening her door, putting her first, and expressing his love unashamedly. I don’t know how her parents take it … but I don’t care.

The lesson hit home. Do I continue to show that love to my wife? Do I unashamedly profess and demonstrate my affection? Lisa was kind. She said she didn’t know of anyway I could show I love her more. I am not sure if that was a statement of affirmation or a command to please stop. I’ll take the affirmation point of view. But I do need to step up my game.

The son taught the father a lesson. Keep it up Calvin. I am eager to learn more.

My son’s fiancé … just got a wake up call

For a few days, we are being blessed by a visit from our son and his fiancé. I had met her once … we ate out at Hard 8 … a great Texas BBQ place where I always eat toooo much. I was moving from Dallas to Virginia, my son had struck up a friendship with this wonderful woman, so he wanted her to meet me before I headed out. My wife hung out in D for about 3 more months, so they got to know each other some more.

That was 9 months ago. A lot can happen in 9 months. A lot. They started to date, they changed their Facebook status, he met the parents (while her daddy held his gun), they dreamed, planned, doubted, dreamed more, and then he surprised her with an engagement proposal. She figured it was coming, but not yet. But that timing is in the past now. Rings have been bought, the date has been set, registration has begun, and so on. (This will be nothing compared to the following 9 months as they wed and start a life together as husband and wife).

They flew up to see us some. And here lies the lesson.

Over about 72 hours, she has gotten to experience the life and ways of Todd. She has seen me preach, interact, pushed to physical limitations (come back tomorrow for that entry … Old Rag Mountain: Lightning on a Ledge), and more.

I pity her for having to go through this. I really feel sorry for Lisa … she can’t go anywhere – forever. But Tiffany said, that in these few short days, she now sees where Calvin gets so much of who he is. She sees so many physical and relational mannerisms. I am not sure if she meant it as compliment or not. I will take it as such … mostly. But she got a wake up call about Calvin’s background.

As I ponder this, this is exactly what it should be for each of us. But not our earthly father, though that is not bad per se. I am talking our Heavenly Father. Wouldn’t it be great if people looked at us … wondering what makes us do the things we do, what makes us act the way we act, and what makes us be the way we are … and then they realize it is because we are like our Heavenly Father … or, more specific, the Son–where we have been transformed into the image of the Son.

What does that take …

  • Hang out with Him (you become like the people you hang with)
  • Learn what He loves, cherishes, desires for people (look through His eyes)
  • Get rid of things in your life that doesn’t honor Him.

I’m not there yet. But what I would love for my son, is that when people, specifically Tiffany, sees his ways, his actions, his mannerisms … they see he is so much like Jesus. I want the same for me, for you, for each of us. What a world that will be.

EXTRA, EXTRA – Special Edition Muddy Shoes

A Young Man Finds a Magical Young Woman

Once upon a time, there was a little boy born into a magical household.

The grandfather was a wizard with words, a type of town cryer that went from town to town spreading hope. He shared good news to people far and wide. He was a wise, learned man that cared for people. His bride, a beautiful field worker, met him early in their life. The first glance took place while he was bringing the harvest into the barn. Her beauty so overwhelmed him, he drove the team of oxen right through the back wall of the barn. Their union was written in the stars.

And from their union, three normal and average towns folks arose, and one extraordinary and annoying little brat – brilliant, but a brat. The other three were jealous. They mocked him, tried to make him believe he was adopted. But this was okay, for he knew that any family would’ve been thrilled to choose him as a child.

Occasionally, the two brothers would beat him. Not maliciously, but he probably deserved it a little. As they grew older, they grew apart. One brother travelled the world. He too was in the business of sharing the message of hope. The other brother had the hardest journey, he had four daughters. He never had a night of peace and always slept with one eye open. The other sibling, the lone sister, moved to the town of the king, nestled next to the mighty river that divided the great nation. She cared for children at the house of Jude, and fed the hungry. Hers was a noble journey.

That left the young precocious boy who became a brilliant young man. He had a creative mind that would bedazzle crowds. He had a sense of humor that made even the crankiest old codger crack a smile. He got the talent of words from his father, though his delivery was more humorous and highly creative. And then one day, he saw a princess with a smile that would melt the heart of any man and calm the wildest storm. It lit up the darkest room and her voice calmed any troubled soul.

They fell in love and got married and something great happened. A little boy was born into this magical family. This boy was blessed with his father’s sense of humor, but cursed with his mother’s delivery of humor. How sad. He had the heart of his mother, one that protected others, a servant that seeks to make others lives better, and a tenderness for those closest to him.

Once upon a time, there was a little boy born into a magical household.

But this young man’s journey will not be one he will trek alone. He too met a magical one … a young woman who steals his breath, stops his heart, and causes his eyes to leak with joy. He knows he never wants to leave her side. She brings out the best in him, listens to his great jokes that are delivered like a hippopotamus in roller skates bringing out your burgers at Sonic.

He cast a spell on her. Put a magical ring on her finger that made resistance futile. She was his, but only because she cast a spell on him first. He couldn’t think right anymore. She knew the magic ring was coming, she even picked it out. And yet the day he gave it to her, it caught her off guard.

These two magical individuals will have a magical journey together. Where will they go? What will they experience? What does the future hold for them? That story is just beginning. But this I know, it will be magical.

Once upon a time, there was a little boy born into a magical household. And he fell in love with a magical partner.

Two solitary souls met each other, and made each other’s life better.

Two solitary souls met each other, and made each other’s life better.

It happened over 15 years ago. And not everyone was happy it happened. My mother, who was a widow for about a decade, finally retired, moved from Delaware, and took up residence in The Chesapeake (an excellent retirement village in Newport News). Her eyes soon met a widower by the name of Blandy Haynes. And his eyes met hers. It may have been the other way around, but I wasn’t there.

Now he was a bit different than my father, her husband for over 40 years. But that didn’t stop the attraction between the two. And many of the single ladies did not appreciate this newcomer coming into their world and taking the best available bachelor off the market. It would have made the TV franchise history … the septuagenerian singles. My mother said she got mean looks, ignored by others, and basically, a very chilly reception by the residences who has their own eyes on this fine man.

And then me. She visited Lisa and me in Louisiana. And she broke the rules. She called him. She made a phone call to Blandy. Sounds innocent, but my parents had a rule when we were growing up – there would be no phone calls from girls. We could call them, but they couldn’t call us. So now, in my home, I tried to enforce that rule. I told her to hang up the phone and wait for him to call her. She told me to mind my own business, went to her room, and slammed the door … and continued the conversation with Blandy in an unauthorized phone call. Ah, the tables had turned.

A few years later, my brother Jon and I officiated their wedding. Andy, our eldest brother, walked her down the aisle at Liberty Baptist in Hampton, VA. I still chuckle when I tell people I married my mother.

Blandy, retired army officer, stalwart servant of the Lord, faithful follower, dedicated dad, and active member-deacon-lay leader at Liberty Baptist for decades … came into our family’s life, and we into his. He and mother travelled, shared a life, filled a void left at the loss of spouses, and made life better for each other.

The Lord was in the middle of the relationship. Their love for each other was special, real, and rewarding. Their respect for each other’s respective family was always part of their relationship. And their union was a God-send at a time in each other’s life where they needed each other.

A few years ago, as in so many of our elders, their memory began to be hit. Their health would never be what it was decades prior. Though I am not sure the extent, the actual diagnosis, nor the full impact it had … I can say I never saw Blandy anything but polite, happy, and full of gratitude for life, friends, and family. He would eventually be moved to the memory ward – and my mother’s days would be spent down there with him. The two, still deep in love.

This week, the Lord took Blandy home. His struggling is over. His health is restored. And he is there with so many of the saints … including his first wife and my father. They are shouting praises in a great heavenly worship experience I am longing to experience myself (just not too soon).

We pray for Blandy’s kids. We lift up my mother, who herself is struggling with memory loss and is taking this loss hard. But we also rejoice knowing God has it all under control.

It seems too often we say goodbye after someone has already been called home. May we never miss the chance to tell our love ones they are loved, never pass up opportunities to build memories, and never take someone’s presence for granted.

So Lord, thank you for bringing Blandy and my mother together. Thank you for their love. And thank you for having him being part of my life. My mother is not the only person in this scenario that is better because they met Blandy – I am too. We will miss him, but only for a bit.

Nomads in my Family Tree … Italian Exiles

I haven’t done the Ancestor.com. I haven’t researched extensively the Estes clan through the centuries. But, I do know a little. From what I know, we trace back to northern Italy where we were pretty well off. (There’s even a library with our name … look here). That’s also why I probably like pasta and pizza way too much.

But we kind of messed up. From what I’ve been told, we tried to get into politics so they kicked us out of Italy, and took our land. We floated around Europe, had a few marry royalty here and there; but we weren’t the type to settle down, so my kin headed west … and ended up in America, Missouri to be more exact. But even then, we floated around – with Roy & TW ending up in North Carolina … Mount Airy (or better known as Mayberry). Then my dad moved, and moved, and moved, and even moved some more. And so have his kids.

Monday, I went to the Frontier Culture Museum in Augusta, VA. It had some wonderful exhibits of how African, English, Irish, and German farm and residential cultures impacted American farms and frontiers. The European homes had been transported and restored to their original architecture. It was cool to see how we came to be who we are today. Now that I am in a more agrarian environment, I see some of that culture front and center.

There are those that will follow us and be influenced by our culture, our worldview, our way of doing things. What are you doing about it?

We can try to start fresh, we can try to run from our past heritage, and we can try to create a new legacy for those that follow us, and to some degree – that can happen. But it is uncanny how we see our heritage impact the way we continue to live.

We parent the way our parents parented. We have been programmed, to a degree, by 18 plus years of culture and influence. We often like similar things (fishing, sports, reading, etc) or believe similar world views (politics, faith, etc).

Bottom line … two things.

One — we can run from our past, but it still impacts us. We can build on its strength and try to eliminate the weaknesses, but we rarely can ignore it. So learn from it so you can make a difference in the second point.

Two — we are leaving a legacy. There are those that will follow us and be influenced by our culture, our worldview, our way of doing things. What are you doing about it? Make the most of this. Strive to be the best you can.

It’s never too late to make difference.