But then the wheels fell off (almost literally):
- TRUCK REPAIRS. The front end of the truck had to be replaced. That kept me stuck up in TN for nearly a week.
- DRYING GEAR. When I returned home I had to start drying out all of our tents, tarps, & camping equipment (this rarely happens, but we had to pack up everything while it was still wet)... Setting out 16 large tents, tarps, etc to dry during rainy season by myself is a very laborious and time consuming chore. It's two months later and I'm still drying out gear.
- FLEA INFESTATION. When I returned home I was greeted by a few hundred fleas!! I had a flea infestation throughout the house!! My summer was packed and a few things fell through the cracks... including that I failed to give the dogs their flea treatments for 2 months. By the time I got home there were hundreds (maybe thousands) of fleas. Don't feel bad for me... this was the 3rd time I've made this dumb mistake in the past 10 years. I know better! Feel bad for the poor dogs! They were the ones suffering =(. One flea can lay up to 50 eggs per day so it only takes a missed treatment and a few days for an infestation to happen. Fighting a flea infestation while trying to avoid toxic chemicals is a relentless DAILY war of vacuuming the carpets, mopping the floors, washing & spraying the dogs with natural flea killer, sanitizing (in a washing machine) every piece of material (bedding, clothing, throw carpets, etc) exposed to the dogs, and trimming their hair to near baldness. In addition to all that, I had to treat the source of the fleas - the lawn - with insecticide. Just treating the lawn took 3 days. Fighting fleas is like a part-time job! It literally takes 4-5 hours per day (over several weeks) to win each day's flea battle and ultimately win the infestation war. I've been working on it for 6 weeks with a few days off here & there, and thankfully it's almost under control. Almost.
- PARENTS' HEALTH. My parents have been going through some tough times. Traci & I have been preparing for years to one day transition into the primary caregivers for our parents. We are honored to honor our parents and be there for them just like they've always been there for us. This has been a rough year for them. Dad has had a variety of challenges, but finally got his much needed (bionic) knee replacement surgery in August. Mom has had her share of challenges in recent months. But they both keep bouncing back (praise the Lord). Sometimes Traci & I feel like we live at the hospital & doctors' offices. That's not a complaint; it's just a new level of assistance they are needing and we are blessed to be there for them. Laurie, Traci & I have become a good solid team focused on helping them. Over the past 2 months we've installed monitoring video cameras, organized their medicine and doctor appointments, organized & taken care of all their bill payments, made modifications at their house to help with new challenges of daily activities. We are in a constant state of readiness... Often, almost daily, dropping everything to rush over and help when an incident happens (just like they did for us growing up and throughout our lives). They are amazing people! We have officially transitioned to standby caregivers ready to move into action everyday, but trying not to infringe on their remaining independence.
- SOILED SOCKS. This is embarrassing. This year, during the summer I used my old tennis shoes as my water shoes. When we went bridge jumping, cliff jumping, and sliding over waterfalls I wore my tennis shoes with low-cut ankle socks. At the end of the activity I would change into some dry socks & shoes and set my wet socks and shoes in the back of the truck to air out & dry. Well, over the course of a few weeks I compiled quite a collection of wet socks in the front corner of the bed of the truck. Evidently those socks would bake during the sunny days and get saturated during the rainy days... and get real stinky. I never noticed. I simply planned to wash them when I got back home. As I was preparing to drive back to Florida my friend Stacy went to put something in the back of the truck when he smelled something very foul! He winced in nasal agony like he had just happened upon something dead. It wasn't something dead, it was my pile of wet socks. I went to confirm it and nearly hurled when I smelled the nasty pile of malodorous footwear. I've never piled up wet smelly socks before so I never imagined it would become a problem... or to what extent it would become a problem. I just thought that all I needed to do was put them in the washing machine when I got home. And I did just that. I put them in the washing machine, but here was my big mistake... I also put my T-shirts and towels in the wash with them. Nooooooo! Do you know what happened next?! Instead of the socks getting clean, the T-shirts and towels became putrid! They were all now rank! The soiled socks were like the beast rotting everything they touched. I didn't realize at first that my shirts were contaminated so I put them through the dryer. And that was my next mistake! The dryer seems to have permanently baked in the odor. But it doesn't end there. I still didn't notice that my shirts were now putrefied so I folded them and placed them in the drawers WITH MY CLEAN UNCONTAMINATED SHIRTS. Bad decision! Because the reeking beast passed on its rancid smell to my other clean shirts!! I've washed everything numerous times with different detergents with very little improvements to show for it... or smell for it. I've spent so much time trying to fix this problem that was easily avoidable! As the old saying goes, "An ounce of prevention saves a pound of cure". True that!
- WASHING MACHINE DIES. The washing machine bit the dust! One of the most important tools for the war on fleas & the fight against soiled socks - the washing machine - stopped working. After weighing my options for about 2 weeks (repair or buy used) I found a good deal on Offer Up for a quality washer & dryer matching set. They were about an hour away in Riverview. I had been bagging everything to be washed and setting it in the garage. After 2 weeks the piles were mounting. Moving the old washer & dryer, picking up the new set, and setting everything up took some time, but I'm fully operational again. And, I love the new set!
- BURIED ALIVE. The garage is maxed out! All of GTD's gear is now at my house (which saved GTD nearly $3000 in annual private mini-storage rental fees). But it takes up a large footprint in the garage (as well as throughout the rest of the house). In addition to the GTD gear, over the past year I've been collecting several items & materials to go towards the home renovation. Most of it is pre-owned that I find on Offer Up at a GREAT PRICE (sometimes free) and purchase way ahead of time (even if I'm not ready to start on that particular project). The trade-off is that every inch of the garage is packed full of projects waiting to be done & GTD gear needing to be organized. If I had it to do over again, I would have waited to get some of these items (such as vinyl fencing, farm table bench & chairs, kitchen cabinets, etc, etc). But I'm not guaranteed that those items will even be available on Offer Up (or at the same great price) when I do start the projects... so the trade-off is that I'm living like a project hoarder. I'm buried alive under lots of stuff. The major downside to all of this is that all of my exercise equipment was also buried and I haven't been able to get my workouts in since I've been back from the summer trips. That is, until a few days ago. I found a few hours here & there to work in the garage. It took about a week, but I was finally able to organize 1/4th of the garage where my gym equipment is and now I'm back to working out. The next 1/4th of the garage is going to be the workshop area with all my tools so that I can start cranking out the home renovation projects. And the remaining half of the garage is mostly storage of GTD gear & personal items which still need to be sorted, consolidated, & stored (or sold, donated, or thrown away depending on its usability).
- MY ACTUAL JOB. I've had several deadlines and urgent requirements with my full-time job at GTD. That's normal, but with everything else going on it has been a daunting task to stay on task.
- MORE??? I know I'm forgetting a few other things, but the gist is that the past 2 months have been daunting... many times exhausting & frustrating... and sometimes a big blur as one day bleeds into the next day.
BUT THE REALLY COOL THING IS how much God has been teaching me through all of this. In many ways these are old lessons God has already taught me, but is now teaching me again at a different level. At first, I was trying to fight past all of these "obstacles"... trying to overcome them and not be overcome by them. I failed many days. I was treating most of these workloads (except my parents) like they were an unwelcome intrusion to my daily priorities. They were sucking up all of my time and energy. I was letting that affect me. I was letting that infect me. I was letting the lack of progress frustrate me. I was letting my perspective and my perception of these circumstances bother me... agitate me. But then God gave me the insight & understanding that I was lacking. These things weren't obstacles to be avoided. They were (and are) part of His ordained testing grounds to be embraced. They aren't meant for my destruction. On the contrary, they are designed for my construction. They are my latest basic training for my calling. Like in the original Karate Kid movie, painting the fence - waxing the cars - sanding the deck weren't actually about painting, waxing, or sanding. They were the mechanism of training martial arts. But more important than the skills of karate was the mindset of maturity. The misperception of painting, waxing, and sanding as a waste of time builds an environment of frustration for the immature. But when the Karate Kid found out that all of his slave labor wasn't actually slave labor, but was rather martial arts training he was enlightened. That truth transformed him. That truth gave a new value to all of his "wasted time & energy". And so it is with me (and all of God's servants). The culmination of all of my "circumstances" are causing me to be stuck. I'm forced to wait for the progress I so desperately want NOW. And that's the point. Waiting (and loss) are God's ultimate tools used to test His servants. Ask Noah. Ask Abraham. Ask Joseph. Ask Moses. Ask David. Ask all of God's greatest servants and you will see the common thread that I so easily overlooked. Time isn't as important to God as I think it is. Waiting is God's method of choice to develop our character. He gives us each a great calling. We get fixated on the destination. But God gets fixated on the journey. We think it's immediate. He knows it's a process. 10 years, 20 years, 50 years... God really isn't concerned about the amount of time. But we are. And that creates a "situation of frustration". And that's the training & testing ground. That frustration is like the oil light on your car. Except it doesn't indicate low oil pressure, it indicates a lack of maturity (AKA: underdeveloped character). Soon after we receive our calling everything goes "wrong". We get stuck. Bogged down. Paralyzed. It doesn't make sense in our destination mindset. God gave me this promise, but all I'm experiencing is problems. And that's the point. Those problems prepare me for the promise. Those set-backs prepare me for the set-ups. Those beat-downs prepare me for the build-ups. Those wilderness journeys prepare me for the promise land destinations. I'm not naturally ready for the Promise Land. I'm impatient. I'm aggressive. I'm ambitious. I'm self absorbed. I'm in a hurry. I'm prone to worry. I lack wisdom. I lack meekness. I lack humility. At the moment I'm called I'm everything I shouldn't be, and at the same time I'm very little of what I should be. That's why there is a long wilderness that stands between where I received my calling and where my Promise Land resides. The wilderness is the classroom. The silence is the Teacher. The lack of resources is the point. It's designed to develop my character. It's designed to teach me special skills. It's designed to get me living fully in the moment instead of missing the here & now because of an unhealthy preoccupation with the destination. If you are like me, you immaturely think this is a big waste of time. Why waste 40 years, 25 years, 15 years in the wilderness?!?! Wouldn't that time be better served living out our great calling. And with that thought we miss the point. We display an immature underdeveloped faith. What is time to God? He invented time. What is treasure to God? He invented value. What is talent to God? He invented giftedness. All these misperspectives cause hurriedness and worriedness which are the essence of a lack of faith. Immaturity gives birth to frustration which eventually culminates into quitting. When we quit we live in tents in the wilderness, instead of enduring until we reach the Promise Land flowing with milk and honey. We stop painting the fence, waxing the cars, and sanding the deck because we incorrectly define them as pointless. We never experience the Karate Kid ending victory because we get frustrated with our sensei's mundane tasks. We quit because we hate to wait. We quit because we hate the silence. We quit because we don't understand that all the mundaneness isn't actually mundane at all. It's the actual process that prepares for the promise. So for me, I'm no longer seeing truck repairs, flea wars, wet tents, soiled socks, broken washing machines, unending projects, unaccomplished goals, and countless deadlines as inconvenient interruptions to my destination. I'm seeing them the way God intends them - as my testing & training ground gift wrapped to look like mundane purpose blocking circumstances when they are actually designed to develop spiritual advances. Somehow instantly (and hopefully permanently), I no longer care about the amount of time it takes. My God invented time. He can dole out more hours, days, weeks, months and years at the blink of an eye. I'm no longer fixated on the destination. I'm caught up in the journey. I'm walking with Jesus through the wilderness, and somehow I'm caught up in the present tense. I'm fully alive in the moment. My cup overflows with joy whether I'm fighting fleas or setting out tarps to dry or beating back the habit of frustration when I can't make "progress"... I've relearned that the source of my joy isn't about progress, it's about a person. As long as I'm with Jesus I'm full of joy regardless of my circumstances. I don't need anything else in life. I'm fully content in Jesus =)
AND ON A SIDE NOTE... I now own a lawn spreader, dog grooming clippers, dog washing tub, a new vacuum, and a "new" Kenmore Elite washer/dryer set... so there you go ;)