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Monday, November 20, 2017

GG's Thanksgiving

In October, my wife and I went to Kauai for a long awaited two-week vacation. We’ve never been more relaxed, happy or thankful as we were during that time. As we laid out in the warm tropical sun with the beautiful blue ocean right in front of us, we talked about how good life was at that moment. Our family was healthy, and our relationship was stronger than ever. So, we had a lot to be thankful for… until we got home.
As soon as we got back, bad news struck. My 83-year old Mom was rushed to the hospital due to multiple health issues. She was diagnosed with severe COPD, congestive heart failure, pneumonia and failing kidneys. The doctor gave her only days to live, so I have been driving out to Murrieta every day to be at the hospital by her side. She is so frail she can’t even move her arms to hug me, so I make sure I hug her… a lot. But there’s one thing about my Mom, she’s always been really strong, and she became even stronger when my Dad passed away in 2001. For the past 16 years her strength has helped her to make a good life on her own, while she has helped her family and her many close friends have a good life as well.

My Mom’s favorite thing in life has always been celebrating holidays. I have never met anyone who has more Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations than my Mom. Even now, she has a huge mini-storage unit packed with decorations, which she refers to as “treasures”. It was always so much fun to visit her because she would totally deck out her house with those beautiful decorations and treat her guests to great home style southern cooking as well. Therefore, the house would always be packed with loving family members who affectionately refer to her as “GG”, greatest grandma ever! So I will truly miss those times, especially with Thanksgiving right around the corner.

And that got me thinking… Looking back on our Kauai vacation, I can see how easy it was to be thankful when everything was going right. Being thankful is easy when you have a lot to be thankful for. The hard thing to do, is to be thankful when things are not going so well. For example, it’s really hard to be thankful when you’re holding the hand of someone you love, and you know you might be holding it for the very last time. As strong as she is, I don’t know if GG will be here for this coming Thanksgiving celebration. But one thing I do know… because of all she gave to others throughout her life, she will always be a treasure to me!  
Joan "GG" Thrailkill, circa 1952
We can only be said to be alive…  
in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.
~ Thorton Wilder

Monday, November 6, 2017

Give Me A Break

I’ve been living in a small beach house right on the sand for over 5 years now and I absolutely love it. It’s such a beautiful place to live, but there is one strange thing that happens here that probably doesn’t happen as often at other beaches along our coast line. The sand will be smooth and shining and totally inviting one day and then the next day millions of rocks show up out of nowhere, completely covering the warm soft sand, making it super difficult and painful to get to the water. A day or two later, they are gone.

Some people have told me that the rocks don’t just “show up”. They say that the ocean occasionally churns up a ton of sand, washing it onto the beach, which then covers up the rocks, and then the sand washes back out. Well, that’s not true because I’ve seen the rocks washing in and heard them clanking up onto the shore many times. The rocks come and they go and yet there doesn’t seem to be any pattern to it.

On Friday evening I witnessed a perfect beach scene. The sand along the shore was totally pristine white and the ocean was so blue and calm that I figured I would get up early and take my paddleboard out for a ride. However, when I woke up the next morning, the sand was once again completely covered by rocks and all I could do was mutter under my breath, “Oh, give me a break!” I was really looking forward to paddle-boarding, but walking over the rocks and then getting slammed by the smaller stones as I waded out in the water made me turn around and hang my board back up.

As I went back into the house, I thought about what I had just asked for, “Give me a break.” Then I paused to ponder, who was I talking to? Was I asking the ocean to give me a break? The ocean doesn’t have ears. Was I talking to the plucky pelicans who were resting nearby on the top of the water? They have ears but I doubt they can understand me. Or was I asking God to give me a break? He has ears to hear and He understands, but I hope He wasn’t listening to me because I wouldn’t want Him to think I was complaining, especially since most of the time the beach, the water, the sand, and my life are pretty darn perfect.

So why was I angry and complaining and asking for a break when I shouldn’t be? I’ll tell you why. Because I’m a stupid, selfish human being who gets frustrated when things aren’t exactly the way I want them to be. I don’t just get frustrated with the ocean, I get frustrated with my fellow man as well. But yet how many times in my life have I asked other people to give me a break because I messed up and didn’t do something the way they wanted it done? Lots of times, for sure!

And that got me thinking… What would the world be like, if everyone gave everyone else the break they hope to receive?

Sometimes life can be pretty smooth...

And sometimes life can be a little rocky!

If a small thing has the power to make you angry, does that not indicate something about your size?
~ Sydney J. Harris

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Black Beanie

In October of 1990 I owned a small lighting maintenance company called “Sundown Lighting”. The company was starting to grow and we picked up some commercial shopping center contracts, but the contracts required us to service tall parking lot light poles. The only problem was that we didn’t own a Boom Truck that could reach tall poles. So I made the decision to take out a loan and buy one and I actually got lucky because I found out that Carmenita Ford had a great deal on a new Ford F450 Dura-Lift Boom Truck. They had been using it as a demonstrator and it only had 10,000 miles on it, but unfortunately at that time it was parked in Denver at a truck show. If I wanted it, I would have to fly there and drive it back. However, the Ford Sales Rep told me to hurry because winter was on its way!

When I got to Denver the truck was perfect and just what we needed. I filled it up with Diesel fuel and headed out, but within an hour the snow began to fall. Within two hours I was stuck in a blinding snowstorm at the top of Vail Pass. I waited a long time and eventually a snowplow showed up and I was able to follow slowly behind it. When we reached the summit, I glanced over and through the heavy white mist I saw a large 18-wheel truck stopped on the side of the highway. About 50 yards in front of the truck was a man dressed in a dark coat with a black beanie pulled tightly over his head. I figured his truck must have broken down so I pulled over and asked him if he needed help. He said “Yeah” and jumped in I asked him, “What happened to your truck?” His answer caught me off guard when he replied, “That’s not my truck.”

As we rode along together I was kind of spooked. I kept thinking, what is this guy doing in a snowstorm with no car, no food, and no water, just a black coat and a beanie? I tried to start a conversation several times but he didn’t say much, just that he was an out of work carpenter headed for Salt Lake City. He said he heard that there might be work there, but other than that he barely spoke at all. When I asked him if he had family in Utah, he said, “No family.” I began to have some crazy thoughts. How did this guy get to the top of Vail Pass in a heavy snowstorm on foot? Why was he traveling with no backpack or supplies? And what happened to the driver of that 18-wheeler on the side of the road?

After traveling for about four more hours along a section of Hwy 70, I spotted a gas station and a Wendy’s Restaurant. As we pulled up I asked the stranger if he wanted something to eat. He grunted, “No,” but I knew he had to be hungry, so I went inside and ordered two double cheeseburger meals and brought them back to the truck. As we pulled back out on the highway, I think he said, “Thanks,” but it was only a faint whisper that I could barely hear.

Soon we came to the intersection of Hwy 70 and 15, where my journey would take me south. All of a sudden he said, “Stop here!” It was late in the day and the sun was going down, plus it was cold out and we were in the middle of the desert, so I asked him, “Are you sure you want to get out here? If you want to keep riding along for a while, I’d be willing to get you a motel room.” The stranger just kept his head down and never responded, so I pulled over. As he started to get out of the truck I grabbed his arm and stuck a fifty-dollar bill in his hand and with a slight nod of his head, he turned away and jumped out of my truck, slamming the door. I kept thinking he’s going freeze to death out there, but I didn’t know what else to do. So I put the truck in gear, made a quick U-turn, and looked out the window to wave goodbye.

That’s when it got really spooky. The stranger was nowhere to be seen! Even though we were in the middle of the desert, with no trees and not even a cactus to hide behind, the stranger was gone! He vanished in less than 20 seconds and it totally freaked me out. “Where’d he go? What happened to him?” I even began to think maybe he climbed onto the back of my truck and was hiding out, waiting to jump me and rob me when I stopped again. I guess I was just being paranoid but I also began to wonder, “Did I really did just spend 6 hours with a mysterious stranger in a black beanie, who barely spoke, and then disappeared into thin air? What was that all about?”

When I finally did pull over at a Motel 6 about an hour later, I was still freaked out. So I climbed slowly out of the truck, walked around the back, and peered in to see if the stranger was hiding in the back of my truck or something. Fortunately, he wasn’t, so I guess I felt relief, but I also couldn’t stop wondering what happened to him. It was then that I decided to call my office and let them know that I had picked up the truck and was safely down the mountain. Boy did I get a funny surprise! My Office Manager told me she had finally decided on the perfect gift we should get our customers as a promotional item for the upcoming Christmas Season… Black Beanies with our Sundown Logo on them!

There are so many lessons I can learn from that experience. But maybe the most important lesson is that wherever I go and whatever I do, I am always operating for an audience of One. No matter if I’m at home or at work, or in a snowstorm in Colorado, or even on a remote highway in the desert, I need to remember that God is always watching me. So I should always do my best to serve others…. even if it’s a scary ghost in a black beanie!
Sundown Lighting's Promotional Black Beanie

One of the most beautiful compensations of this life is 
that you cannot sincerely try to help another…  
without helping yourself.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Walk The Walk

I’m pretty sure that most of us have experienced a bad neighbor at some time in our life. We’ve certainly had our share and unfortunately, we currently have a bad neighbor where we live now. For the past five years she has consistently caused us problems, so we refer to her as the “crazy lady” next door. By the way, that’s the same description the sheriff uses every time he has to deal with her.

And when I say crazy, I’m not exaggerating. She has an extremely loud voice and loves to drink and party all night on the beach. But mostly she loves to be the center of attention. My wife and I try our best to ignore her, so maybe that’s why she doesn’t like us and keeps trying to make us want to move. Whatever the reason, here is just a short list of some of the “crazy lady” things we have had to deal with.

·         She tore down our mailbox and our neighbor’s mailbox in a drunken rage one evening.
·         She knocked over a temporary fence we had installed, but managed somehow not to spill her drink.
·         She likes to party late into the evening and sing along with loud Hispanic music, which wouldn’t be so bad if she wasn’t singing so off key.
·         She doesn’t like me to park in front of my own house because it makes it slightly harder for her to turn into her driveway, so earlier this year she took her electric golf cart and creased the whole side of my truck with it.
·         Two months ago, we brought home some giant pink balloons from our daughter’s wedding shower and tied them out on our beach area. They were gently swaying in the breeze when we went inside to eat lunch. When we came back out, they had both been mysteriously popped.
·         And most recently, she broke off all the branches on the single beautiful Jade Tree we have in our front yard. I’m not sure what the Jade Tree did wrong, but maybe it simply forgot to applaud as she walked by.

So… If you’re wondering why we don’t just move away, there are several reasons. For example, we love living at the beach, we love our landlord, and we love all of our other awesome neighbors who help offset the single bad one. But you may also be wondering why we don’t retaliate. Well, the truth is we have thought about it and come up with a lot of clever ideas, but we can’t act on any of them because we’re trying to be good Christians. So, what can we do? We can be thankful! I know, now you think I’m the crazy one! But think about it. This “crazy lady” is giving us a chance every month to show God that we can pass His test, that we can actually walk the walk (just so long as we don’t walk into her yard), and that we understand what it means to turn the other cheek. We won’t stoop to her level (although I did stand on a ladder yesterday to install security cameras) and we won’t complain about it anymore (mainly because it doesn’t change anything anyway), but we will do something from now on every time we see her. We will walk the walk… and we might even applaud!

Prayer is when you talk to God. 
Faith is when you walk with God.
~ Anonymous

Monday, October 2, 2017

Give and Take

My wife and I are currently vacationing in Kauai and enjoying all that the island has to offer. The house we rented is perched out on a bluff with a gorgeous 280-degree view of the beautiful blue Pacific Ocean. As I sit here at the kitchen table typing this new Monday Message, I can see giant sea turtles swimming down below in the cove, gecko’s crawling outside on the deck, white tailed Tropicbirds flying overhead and lizards and frogs jumping around out by the rocks surrounding the pool. This place must be close to the center of Mother Nature’s universe because besides all the wonderful wildlife, we are also surrounded by lush green trees, beautifully colored plants and brilliant rainbows.

Having grown up on a ranch in Fallbrook, I’ve always had a love for nature, especially animals. But when I heard my wife scream as she stepped into the pool, I knew there must be some kind of deadly critter in the water. She screamed again and I said, “What is it?” She didn’t answer at first, she just pointed at the tiniest, cutest little frog I have ever seen and then shouted, “I think it’s dead!” I had to laugh because a miniature frog is not exactly a deadly creature, but apparently my wife doesn’t like frogs, especially dead ones floating in the pool.

The funny thing is, the frog wasn’t dead. Granted, he was floating upside down on the surface of the water, so he looked like he had drowned. But when I went to scoop him up he popped himself right side up on my hand and started moving around. He looked straight up at me and crawled out to the end of my finger. The little guy was smaller than my fingernail, but big on personality. I think he liked hanging out with me because he appeared to be smiling as I took him in the house with me to get my phone. And when I took him back outside to take his picture, he never once tried to jump away.

That tiny little toad and I had a good time hanging out together for at least 10 minutes. But then I wanted to return him to the wild, so I took him to the back side of the pool and set him on a lava rock. In less time than it took for me to stand back up, a large alligator lizard leaped onto the rock and chomped straight down on my new best friend. Now I was the one that felt like screaming. It was horrible to watch as that lousy lizard slowly munched my little buddy down his big fat throat. I swear that stupid lizard was smiling at me and I could just imagine what he was thinking, “Dude, thanks for lunch!”

I know that God designed our world in His infinite wisdom, and that this earth is designed “to give” and “to take”, and I appreciate the beauty and the wonder of it all. But sometimes… the “take” part is just kind of hard to take! 

Goodbyes are not forever.
Goodbyes are not the end.
They simply mean I’ll miss you.
Until we meet again!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Best Friends

Saturday, September 23rd, 2017, was one of the happiest days of my life. I got to walk my 27-year-old daughter, Brooke, down the aisle and give her away to a man I have come to truly love and trust. I never thought any man would be good enough for either one of my daughters, but Zac treats my daughter Brooke like gold, has tons of friends (which says a lot about his character), works hard every day, and is humble in all aspects of his life. It’s obvious they are “best friends” and madly in love. What more could a father want!

The wedding was at a small vineyard Arroyo Grande, and was attended by over 100 friends and family members. The ceremony was short and sweet and absolutely beautiful. They even gave me the honor of reading from the Bible to get the ceremony started and somehow I managed not to mess it up, (trust me I practiced a lot beforehand), and the reception afterwards was every bit as fun and beautiful as the wedding.

Receptions always include a toast by the “Best Man” and the “Maid of Honor”. At this wedding, the best man was Zac’s brother, Ben, and his speech was hilarious and at times extremely heartwarming as well. He spoke about how close he and Zac were growing up, how much he looked up to Zac, and how Zac always had his back. Ben’s love for his brother flowed effortlessly with every word of his toast. The bride’s maid of honor was a sibling as well, her sister. Nikki’s speech was very different as she spoke about how her and Brooke were not able to bond as children because of a seven-year age difference. But she went on to tell how she and her sister have totally bonded now as adults, living close to each other, spending countless evenings together, sharing problems and solving problems, as only “besties” can. Nikki fought back tears as she expressed her love for Brooke and how much they mean to each other.

Ben’s toast made us laugh, and Nikki’s toast made us cry, both speeches showering us with love. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house and yes, I shed a few tears myself. But I also couldn’t stop thinking how wonderful it must be to have a loving brother or sister that you can always count on. I have a sister but we haven’t spoken in years and it’s been a source of pain all my life. But Saturday, the day of my daughter’s wedding, was also the day of my sister’s birthday. So, I decided to send her a brief note wishing her a happy birthday. I haven’t heard back from her and probably won’t, but at least I feel good about reaching out to her. Who knows, maybe if she realizes that I took time to think about her, even though I was totally immersed in my daughter’s wedding day, it will spark some small flame inside of her. If not, then I will simply appreciate all the great people in my life and be accepting of the rest.

And that got me thinking… If you have a loving sister or brother or close relative of any kind, you are blessed beyond measure. So don’t wait for their birthday to reach out to them. Tell them today that you love them. Who knows, in some small way, it just might make today the happiest day of their life!
Mr. and Mrs. Baysinger - September 23rd, 2017
Yesterday brought the beginning, tomorrow brings the end, 
and somewhere in the middle we became the best of friends.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Lift Your Head (by Debby Thrailkill)

Sometimes I feel as if I am riding on top of Jesus’s shoulders as he carries me along the trail of life. Sure, that is a bold statement (and I’m tempted to knock on wood), but I know He is with me and my life is good. However, it’s not as if I don’t have struggles, we all do. I suffer with ongoing migraines and back pain, many of my loved ones have health concerns, and too many have passed away recently. Plus, the stress of surviving in the chaos that is OC is ever present. Yet I strive to be as positive and happy as I can be because blessings abound everywhere I go.

Many times, I will rush through my day, deep in my own thoughts while out in public. I hurriedly keep my head down, anxious to get everything done and head back home while avoiding interaction with others. And it occurred to me that in those moments, I can have a profound effect on others. In fact, our daily interactions with people can make a difference and sometimes we can be a blessing to others without even realizing it. Being aware of that is the first step!

For example, when our kids were growing up, we attended church quite often. But I was always busy with our four kids, getting them situated and finding a seat next to my husband. I hoped to blend in, listen to the sermon, and get on with our day. But then one day a lovely lady, dressed very elegantly and with a soft voice, pulled me aside and welcomed me. She inquired if we were new and introduced herself warmly. On further visits, she always smiled and took time to visit with me. Even though we never knew each other outside of church, she made me feel welcome… and that truly made a lasting impact on me! I started making it a point that when I was out in a similar situation, I would be welcoming to someone else. I’ve always remembered her grace, and I was saddened to learn recently that she is suffering with ALS. I have her in my prayers now, just as she always included me in hers.

I have a friend who recounts a similarly impactful story. She recently volunteered to lead Vacation Bible School for Foothills Church in RSM and she shared with me how she would be nervous when she was up on the stage, acting and telling a story to the children who were intently watching and listening below. She would smile as she found herself becoming larger than life (out of her comfort zone) in order to entertain and inspire the kids. Afterwards, at a women’s retreat, ladies were encouraged to write anonymous notes to one another. When my friend opened a note left for her it read, “You are the reason I am here.”. It went on to say, “You’ve been a blessing to my family and our son was so touched by you at the VBS he attended, that he encouraged our family to start attending church together.”

As the summer turns to fall and the busy holiday season comes upon us, I encourage you to reach out of your comfort zone. All you have to do is lift your head to realize that your interactions with strangers are just as important to Jesus as your interactions with your loved ones. You can change the lives of others with a simple act of kindness, a friendly smile, or even a simple word of encouragement. Our lives are larger than we think. Just as we are carried when we need it, our thoughtful interactions might just help us carry someone else on our shoulders when they need it.

Even the most routine part of your day can be a 
spiritual act of worship, holy and pleasing to Me.
~ Romans 12:1-2