Another Lesson in My Texas Education

They build houses on a slab. No basements. I didn’t think much about that when we bought our pre-owned home. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately.

Pre-owned means that we bought the truly lovely home with the problems that have built up through the years, AND with the problems I wasn’t there to address with the builders.

For instance, we all learned in school that heat rises, so why, in a home with cathedral ceilings, would you put the heater vents, (intended to heat the room), 8 feet and higher, up the wall? In the rooms with standard 8 foot ceilings the vents are actually in the ceiling, which leaves the upstairs quite cozy. Downstairs however, we dress in layers and occasionally sit on our hands to warm them. I refuse to wear gloves inside.

I understand that on a slab there’s no crawl space, but if the intent is to provide heat to the room, shouldn’t you place the vents in the wall at say, the same level as the electrical outlets? I’m not a builder, but that makes sense to me.

Then, there’s the question of the heater. I couldn’t find it for a while. It’s in the attic. Hmmm. I think there may be a trend here. I called the heater people to come out and see if there’s a problem, other than poorly places heating vents, with our heater. While making the appointment I was asked questions to which I had no answer. I don’t know whether it’s forced air, pulled air, pushed air, or pumped air … I just don’t know.

After wandering the house trying to find the heater, (which I just discovered have multiplied) so I could check the filters, I found the first unit in the attic. It turns out I missed two others, in the other two attic access points. The filters was not found. As I continued to try to be a responsible home owner, I finally discovered the filters, in the ceiling, no where near the heating unit. I’m so confused.

I’m beginning to miss that cold Colorado basement I used to curse, where my heater lived. I could find it easily. I could change the filter with no trouble. And there was only one. And oh, by the by, it was gas.

Today I paid $60.00 for this bit of Texas education. All to be told I have the least effective, most expensive heating system there is, and I should expect a bill to cause palpitations. To all my Baptist friends, please forgive me, but this Lutheran girl may need a single malt before opening that one. Actually, make it a double.


Farewell to the Year of The Foot – Hello to the New Song

This year could be titled The Awful, Horrible, Terrible, Wonderful Year. It began with me on pain killers and Steve wondering how long he’d be employed. Before January 2014 was over, Steve was unemployed and preparing our home for the market. I was still on pain killers.

Throughout this year I’ve asked, “Where will we be for Christmas?” Tonight, sitting in front of a crackling fire, listening to my grandson Dashiell marvel at the flames, my grand-daughter Eyvind coo and babble, and my hubby and son Jesse discuss the treasures he IMG_0532found meandering through Gladewater’s amazingly wonderful used book store, the answer is clear. Home. I’m completely and utterly amazed that I can say with total contentment, “I’m home.”

If anyone had told me at the beginning of the year, that East Texas would be home, my reaction would’ve been less than edifying. Life in Colorado was great. I was deeply blessed with friends, loved ones, purpose, and a great home. I saw no reason for radical change.

Psalm 98:1 “O sing to the Lord a new song, For He has done wonderful things, His right hand and His holy arm have gained the victory for Him.” I have a new song in my heart. A song of gratitude, wonder, humility and anticipation.


Our home is beyond what I ever thought possible. We are at home in our church, Lifepoint; the same heart and passion as Vanguard – AND they have Sunday School for grown-ups.IMG_0190

Steve’s job is another wonderful thing. He enjoys being in an academic setting doing what he does really well, and working in a team environment with people of professionalism, grace and integrity. We are home at LeTourneau.

We’ve survived a second foot surgery by a surgeon who’s not only skilled in feet fixing, he’s compassionate. Before surgery, seeing my fear and anxiety, he asked if he could pray with us, took my hand, bowed his head and covered us in prayer. I went from scared to grateful in that instant. IMG_0184

I’m sure if I’d been more obedient, and not helped with the recent move, I wouldn’t have broken my already horribly abused toe, (only a hairline fracture). As it stands, the healing process is moving along amazingly well. I’m nearly there.

The friends we’ve made are precious to me. I never expected to give myself so freely to others in true friendship so quickly. It’s a direct answer to the prayers of women back in Colorado. Women I miss desperately. I’m blessed that they were willing to pray for what I needed, not what I wanted.

I wanted life to remain as it was. I wanted to stay in my beautiful home; watch my garden bloom in the spring. I wanted to be close to the women I love. I wanted Sunday dinner with our Life Group whose loving care kept us going. I couldn’t imagine no more drop in visits or crowded, noisy meals with kids, grandkids and cousins.

Psalm 98:1 “O sing to the Lord a new song, For He has done wonderful things, His right hand and His holy arm have gained the victory for Him.” God moved us from Colorado to Texas. IMG_0036Our oldest son and his family live here. I think we’ve seen Jesse, Casey and the kids more in the past 6 months than in the previous 16 years. Wonderful.IMG_0173


My verse for 2015 is Psalm 98:1 I will sing a new song. He has done marvelous things. He has gotten the victory, and so have I. We’re living in victory in East Texas. I’m excited to be part of God’s unfolding adventure right here at home, in Longview.IMG_0521

What verse are you praying in 2015?

Faith or Obedience

Pastor Brian spoke a bit ago about obedience and faith. I’d always thought that obedience was primary, but he challenged me, (not to my face, but during the sermon). Obedience without faith is legalism, but obedience combined with faith … well … that’s when it really gets good.

I was watching Lord Of The Rings recently, and once again I gleaned profound truth.

In one of the last scenes, (if you haven’t seen it yet … well you should have), Sam is walking into the river to catch up with Frodo, who’s paddling to the other side. Frodo yells back to him, “Go back Sam. I’m going to Mordor alone.” Sam, the river nearly waist high, says, “Of course you are; and I’m going with you.” The problem is, Sam can’t swim. As the scene’s intensity builds and I’m watching Sam sink, looking up through the water to Frodo, my thoughts became crystal clear. “That’s it. That’s walking in obedience with faith out in front. That’s when the adventure really begins.”

I know he’s fictional, but when I grow up, I wanna be like Samwise Gamgee, heading boldly into the river with faith out in front.

If you know me well, you know I’m a bit slow spiritually speaking. I’ve got a ways to go.

This week I’m thankful for God’s provision of a pastor who speaks truth with power and grace.


It’s November so we’re preparing for Thanksgiving. As churches direct our attention towards thankfulness Pastor Brian’s following suit, but with a slight twist. He’s adding the importance of community, which is after all, how this holiday began. A tiny community who’d survived much hardship, set aside time to express thankfulness to God, and their neighbors. Although my favorite part of Thanksgiving is being with family, it was originally a larger gathering.

Sunday morning at church, there was lovely dining room table and chairs on the stage. Pastor sat down and invited us to join him in a family discussion, (I really hate it when we have to turn to someone in church and discuss things, unless I’m sitting next to my hubby, Wendy Neal or Andrea Regan.) As soon as Pastor Brian asked what we were thankful for, like an automatic reflex, “Lifepoint, my new church family” came out of my mouth.

I’ll digress for just a moment. Back in the early 70’s I spent several months living in England. Anti-American feelings were strong and as an 18 year old it hurt to be looked down on and mocked simply for being an American. On my way back, from England to America, our plane circled the Statute of Liberty and when I saw her, I cried. I was so grateful to be home.

About a year later I felt like God was asking me to go back to England and I remember praying, “Please God, I’ll go anywhere, even China, just don’t ask me to go back to England.” That was in 1975. I did go back to England and then a few years after that, I went to China. Texas was so far down the list of places to go, it ranked below China. When, this past June, Steve was offered a job in Longview, Texas, I was stunned.

Back to the present; we just bought a home in Texas. I’m more than just thankful. I’m happy. I never expected to feel so connected to a church so quickly. Our Lifepoint family is loving us well as we deal with all the new things in our lives, complicated by the old, namely my big toe. Surgery two weeks ago, to correct the mistakes made by the surgeon in Colorado, was a low blow. Steve’s working this time, so we wondered how we’d manage. No worries. Our new family was here for us before we even asked. It’s good to be home.

We are honored to be joining Lifepoint at the table.

Lesson 4 – Donuts Abound

When my folks got married, so the family story goes, my Mom, being from Ohio, only knew how to cook meat-n-potatoes. Dad, being a San Franciscan and a total food snob, liked food from all over the world, and was quickly bored with a steady diet of meat-n-potatoes. He got cookbooks for my Mom so she could learn to cook food he liked to eat, and learn she did. Mom was an excellent cook, from stuffed grape leaves, lasagna, egg rolls, schnitzel and the world’s best mac-n-cheese, (which we lovingly call the cholesterol special – a weeks worth in a single meal.)

One thing we seldom ate was BBQ I have a feeling Dad was a meat purist, steak sauce, ketchup and BBQ sauce seldom graced our table when red meat was served. Needless to say, I’m not an expert on BBQ but living in Texas I figure it’s time to, at the very least, make a deliberate effort to appreciate good BBQ. One of the joys of Longview is that we have the pleasure of being the home of one of the top BBQ joints in all of East Texas, Carter’s. I can testify; it’s really good. Carter’s is also where I ate my first Boudin. Boudin is a sausage of sorts, the primary ingredient being rice. I chose it because Texas BBQ tends towards spicy and I wasn’t in the mood for sausage with jalapeños.

However, if you were to judge food’s importance by the number of shops where it can be purchased, it seems that Texans love donuts as much as BBQ. So in the interest of cultural awareness and education I’ve decided that I need to find the best donut shop in Longview. I’ll be tasting one a week, and being on Weight Watchers at the moment, I’ll only finish the ones that I deem points worthy. Steve tells me that it’s only a good process if I always order the same donut. I’ve settled on a plain old fashioned as my standard for a couple of reasons, with no extra flavor, or icing I’ll get the sense of how the baker does with a pure donut, presuming that any other donuts made in that shop will be fairly represented. Then, and more important, it’s my favorite. I am my father’s daughter, a bit of a purist. I’ll let you know the winner when I get there, which may take a while.

Like I said, there are a lot of donut shops in Texas, about 26 donut shops to 20 or so BBQ joints. I even found a Krispy Kreme Burger at The Fork in Gladewater, one of the neighboring towns. I just couldn’t order one, not even with bacon.

The Every Day of Life

I’m doing a Bible study with my sister-in-law. That’s wonderful all by itself, but the amazing thing is, (because I’m old and remember when this was just a Jetson’s thing,) she lives in California and I live in Texas, but we see each other every week via Skpe. Incredible.

This week the thing that I want to talk about with her is walking with God. While studying about who walked with God, it hit me; one of those, “I’ve always known this, but today it’s real,” kind of moments. It’s about doing the every day with God.

Talking with Him while sorting the clothes and putting them in the washer. Weeping with Him over the text from a daughter or friend miles away. Laughing with Him when reading a status on Facebook. Using colorful language, (I know some of you do), when cooking dinner at the end of a long tiring day. Pleading with Him when you see the bills to be paid. Dancing for joy with Him when the bills are paid and your check book balance isn’t $0.00 – or less. Singing with Him in the car while you pound out the beat on the steering wheel. (I love me some Joe Bonamassa in the car.)

It’s all about the normal stuff of life, the every day. I’ve had a lifelong dialogue with God. I don’t know when it started, but I can’t remember a time before our conversations. No one taught me, and I suppose at one time I would’ve been medicated for talking to my invisible friend – my Heavenly Father.

I’m forgiven. I’m loved. I’m accepted. I’m even celebrated, and I don’t have to do anything fancy to receive such precious gifts. The most amazing thing is that He wants to be with me, part of my every day. It’s His choice. It’s the whole reason He came to earth.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:20.

He’s inviting Himself over for a meal, into your every day, so grab a cuppa, pull up a chair, and have a heart to heart.


Lesson 3 – Double Wides and Wet vs. Dry

Just in case; Wet or dry isn’t a reference to humidity. It lets you know whether or not you can purchase alcohol.

I remember learning about Blue Laws when we moved to Colorado. If you live in Colorado you still can’t purchase a car on Sunday, but since 2008 you can stop by a liquor store, on Sunday, and buy a six pack, although you still can’t buy wine, any day of the week, in the grocery store. I don’t get the point.

I didn’t know anything about Blue Laws when we moved to Colorado, but they became normal in no time. Since moving to Texas I’ve learned a bit about wet and dry counties and cities. There were some articles recently that caught my attention in the local paper. A wet county allows alcohol sales, but if you live in a dry county, you’ll have to cross county lines to buy your dinner wine.

We live in a wet county, and a wet city, so much so that while shopping in Albertson’s I was offered a sample of a white wine spritzer, and I can buy wine or beer in any grocery store in town, which was a pleasant surprise for this Irish lady with deep Lutheran roots.

There are still 11 completely Dry counties in Texas, according to Wikipedia. Funny thing, if you live in wet county, it’s still possible to live in a dry city. I find this fascinating, because Texans, as a general rule, hate being bossed around.

One of my new friends, who’s also our real estate agent here, told me that Texans hate being told what they can and can’t do on their own land, so zoning regulations are rare. The newer neighborhoods are sometimes built with covenants, but they aren’t as common as neighborhoods without rules and covenants. For instance, a home on 5 acres that sells for a million dollars could be next door to a double wide on 10 acres, that sells for significantly less. The value of the million dollar home isn’t brought down by the double wide, neither is the value of the double wide increased because of the sale price of the mansion. That’s something to ponder before we purchase a home. Like, maybe it’s best to purchase the double wide and then build a nice home on the 2 acre lot right on the lake, which may be next door to the nicer home.

It’s all hypothetical, we’re not ready to buy, but definitely ready to ponder.