When Halls Converge

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Spent the weekend hanging out with my brother and his family from Arkansas.

Roughneck

Saturday, we planned on heading to the Caldwell Zoo. But the weather ended up being cold and drizzly, so we stayed inside and hit up the East Texas Oil Museum.

Oil men

The East Texas Oil Museum is one of those special places that is far cooler than it has any right to be. Something about the museum having:

  • A replica of an oil boom town. Complete with a muddy street that has cars and donkeys stuck in it. We learned that the donkeys have been with the museum for 40 years. Each of the donkeys has a name (there are 4 of them) and are real (taxidermy).
  • A mine elevator ride (puppets included).
  • And even an audio-animatronic lineman.

Learning about where oil comes from.

Not just a Disney thing anymore.

My sister-in-law said that the museum reminded her of Knott’s Berry Farm, in California.

The kids loved the scavenger hunt and resulting prizes for finding all of the listed items.

Post Office Boxes

My artsy shot.

Overall, we spent a good two hours at the museum.

After lunch, we let the boys hang out and play. They fought with their Beyblades on the trampoline. I’m not sure who “won”, but I know that Wyatt loved hanging out with his cousins.

Spidermans

Wyatt ran into some other Spider-Mans.

We ended the day with some trick-or-treating at LeTourneau University. Afterwards, we did some big eating at Papacitas, a two story Mexican food restaurant here in Longview.

Sunday, we hung out and talked. Even got my sister-in-law and niece to play a few games of The Mind.

I hadn’t seen my brother nor his family in over a year. The weekend was a great time to catch up with them, hang out, and eat.

Thanks, Mike, for driving down.

Mom and dad, ya’ll really need to come out and visit.

From Across the Net – “The sacrifice in adoption that I didn’t plan for”

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God is good.

Adoption is often referred to as a beautiful tragedy, and it is—for all involved. The tragedy of it is man-made, but the beauty of it is fully from God. He used our adoption story to not only change the life of our precious baby boy, but he also used it to transform the life of our precious baby girl.

I knew God would use my sacrifice to change my heart and draw me closer to him, but I had not been willing to let him do that with our children. Thank goodness he is the one in control, though.

You can read more here

Life Changes: Learning to Live with Type 2 Diabetes (for now)

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I am having trouble remembering which finger I used last; which finger was pricked with a needle to test my blood sugar. It has been more than a few weeks now, but I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes.

Shock, anger, and even disbelief were my first reactions. Looking at the symptoms for Diabetes, I had none of them. My soda intake wasn’t terrible (maybe two a week). In fact, I am eating better than I ever have (unless you count the candy that has been introduced at work).

Diabetes Symptoms

  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Slow wound healing
  • Blurry vision
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling hungry (even though you are eating)

I had gone in for a routine doctor’s appointment. I needed some refills on medicine. Happened to mention that I have been losing weight for awhile now (about 10-15 pounds). The doctor started panicking, looking over past blood tests I’ve had, and then looks at me:

“I don’t want to alarm you, but I think you have Diabetes.”

We finished up my visit, and I was sent to go have blood work taken without fasting. I walked away trying not to panic.

The next morning, at work, the doctor called me:

“Your A1C tests, average blood glucose levels for past 3 months, are really high. You have Diabetes.”

He went on to throw out a bunch of medical jargon. Something about my liver being surrounded by fat, diet changes, and how he thinks I can be off medicine in 2-3 years. Never was checking my blood everyday talked about nor slowing ramping up the Diabetes medicine he called in for me to take. Once the shock, depression, and FEELINGS wore off, I made some phone calls. Had my doctor’s nurse call in a glucose meter.

Photo by Kate on Unsplash

Stabbing Myself

The evening I first tried lancing myself, I was soaked in a puddle of sweat. No matter what, I couldn’t press the button! Suddenly I was flashbacking to summer camp in high school. I remember waiting in a long line for the rope swing. I waited all this time in line to ride, got to the front, and I couldn’t do it. My fear of heights kicked in. So I stepped off the swing platform. Although their faces are fuzzy, I can still remember having to walk past the other kids waiting in line. Pure shame. Not being able to push the button on the lancing device, I went to bed. I had dreams about needles and woke up to pray many times. My anxiety threatened to swallow me as I lay there in the dark.

The next morning, I woke up exhausted. As I headed towards the kitchen table, where the glucose meter and lancing device were, I could feel my anxiety kick into a new gear. Thankfully, Tabitha started making breakfast. The smells of food cooking proved to be the motivation I needed. I finally pushed the button, tested my blood, and I went on with life. Not a big deal. Funny though how small things like momentary pain keep us from doing things.

Moving Forward

At this point, I’ve given up things like soda. I see my soda intake / liquid intake in general as something I can easily control–hello water!–. I am learning a lot about sugar in food.

HINT: Sugar is in EVERYTHING!

I am also learning not to freak out when my blood sugar levels vary from day to day (in this case, when they go up). I am trying to focus on collecting what I see as personal data points to a much larger picture. The medicine I’m on, Metformin, has been horrific. The side effects of dizziness, weakness, and nausea, early on, were very hard. I still have moments, but I can tell that my body is getting used to the half dose I’ve been taking (the doctor wants me on more).

Photo by Owen Beard on Unsplash

Since my diagnosis, I have learned that Diabetes runs in my family far more than I ever knew. I have also realized that this is not a death sentence. Checking my blood sugar, everyday, isn’t that big of a deal. I know that some have to check it far more that just once a day. What I need to do though is come up with a system as far as which fingers I use to test:

  • Left Side of Index Finger = Monday
  • Right Side of Index Finger = Tuesday
  • And so on

I am relearning that life can be trucking along, we think we have everything under control, and then something happens. In my case, my body decided to ambush me. But cutting back on sugar and watching what I’m eating (food, portion control), even more so, aren’t such bad things.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. – Romans 8:28 (NLT)

An Unofficial Revival of Boys Club

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Wyatt wasn’t having the best of days yesterday. A combo of East Texas allergies and a knee injury at homeschool co-op had him snuffling/limping about. Tab ended up going to church alone to teach the kids (normally I tag along and help her). This Wednesday night though, I got to stay home with Wyatt and have a bit of an unofficial Boys Club revival. Two guys. All alone. What are we to do?

First, we kind of geeked out over a Star Wars trailer breakdown:

Second, we watched the Untitled Goose Game Gameplay Trailer. Wyatt just laughed. “We need this, dad.” I love listening to him laugh his deep belly laugh.

And then third, we played some Fortnite. I am still not a huge fan of the game. But recent changes have made the Chapter 2 update revolutionary for me (which means I’ll actually play with Wyatt now). The shooting, which always felt off/not good, feels dialed in now. I can shoot with the best of them and actually rack up a kill streak. Wyatt and I have consistently placed in the top ten playing duos. We even achieved our first Victory Royale over the weekend. Oh yeah!

Victory Royale!

Playing with Wyatt last night, I realized that we haven’t had a lot of one-on-one time lately. As we played Fornite, he talked. I learned about the video games kids at church are playing:

“Dad, so-and-so and so-and-so play Halo, but they aren’t allowed to play Fornite, isn’t Halo more violent?”

I smiled.

There is something about getting to hang out with him, one-on-one, that is super special. Tabitha is probably smiling as she reads this. At one point in my life, when she would leave, I’d put Wyatt to bed as quick as I could so that I could have some “me” time. God and the passage of time have worked to change me.

Was reading an article the other day that got me thinking about setting aside time to just spend with Wyatt. I liked this point:

Taking them out for breakfast. One much-loved tradition in our family is taking my children out for breakfast on Saturday mornings—one of them each week. It’s a tradition I have lost and revived and lost again and revived again. It is a tradition worth maintaining. The $10 or $20 expense and the time it takes pales in comparison to the investment in their lives. I will never regret our breakfast daddy dates.

Daddy dates. Going to think more on this one.

How do you make time to connect with your kids?

How did your parents make time to connect with you as a kid?

Let me know in the comments below.

From Across the Net – “What the Family Dinner Table Gave Me”

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Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash

Dinner time is special.

Growing up I loved hearing stories like how my parents met, or why they chose my name, or what it was like when my mom finally gave birth to a boy after having three girls. My parents often asked us to share about our day and encouraged us to ask questions of one another. Even when we went through phases where we didn’t feel like talking, or we siblings rolled our eyes at one another, or we were plain grumpy from the school day, we learned how to dialogue and enter into dialogue, even when we didn’t feel like it. I’m thankful for those life skills I’m still drawing on today.

You can read more here

An obvious question

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Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you    – Matthew 6:33

I have been reading through a devotional book for awhile now; A devotional book that I have quoted numerous times on this blog. I haven’t been happy while reading about grace for what seems like the millionth time. Nothing wrong with reading about grace. I need grace. You need grace. Grace is good. But I feel like I have been going through the motions during my morning quiet time. Bored with the daily:

  • Read – Check
  • Pray – Check
  • Move onto the next thing – YUP!

I often feel like I am not doing enough. As if reading a single daily entry is lacking. Distracting thoughts…

Photo by Joel Filipe on Unsplash

Talked with a good friend this morning. Maybe more like I dumped a load of thoughts on him (thankful for you, Travis). At one point, in my jumble of texts, he offered: Have you asked God for direction with your quiet time?

“No”, I replied.

What a question. So obvious and yet something I haven’t done.

Gotta fix that.

As Matthew 6:33 says, seek the kingdom first, and everything else will fall into place.

What do you do for a personal time with God?

What has God been teaching you?

Smoke Break

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I used to work with an older man who smoked. Multiple times a day, he would go out to his truck and puff away through a cigarette. All the while reading a book on his Kindle. I remember being jealous of his book reading at work; jealous that I couldn’t do the same.

Photo by Elijah O'Donnell on Unsplash

No matter what, my old boss would always be looking for my coworker whenever he stepped out to smoke. Angered my boss to no end to see my coworker smoking and reading away in the parking lot. Oftentimes he would smoke for 15 to 20 minutes. But no matter, he took a break, and he got to read.

As you work through your day, do you take any breaks? In a job where it feels like I am often glued to my desk (someone has to answer the phone), I have wondered what it would be like to build a “smoke break” into my day.

One day I will figure this out.

Do you take breaks at work? What do they look like?

East Texas Yamboree – 2019

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While driving to the East Texas Yamboree, in Gilmer, Texas, I saw a deer off to the side of the road. The doe seemed to contemplate running across the highway. I could see her muscles tense as she started to run in what would have been a direct line for our car. She tensed up, ran, and then seemed to think that running into a car wasn’t the best of ideas for an overcast Saturday. Just one of those surreal moments where I could see things playing out in slow motion and couldn’t do anything about it. Thankful she decided to veer off.

The East Texas Yamboree was fun. We met up with some friends and watched the parade. We saw:

  • Harry Potter (JK Rowling)
  • Mary Poppins
  • Julia Child
  • Beverly Clearly
  • Mary Kay Ash
  • Joanna Gaines

One of the local cowboy churches even had a float with Moses and Jesus on it. Harry Potter and Jesus in the same parade. Only in Gilmer, Texas can you celebrate yams and Jesus. And tons of American manufactured cars. Parade might as well have been sponsored by Ford.

How has your weekend been? Drop me a comment below.

Friday Night Movie – Iron Man

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Friday nights have become movie nights in the Hall household. We’ve been slowly working our way through the Marvel movies.

  • Iron Man (2008)
  • The Incredible Hulk (2008)
  • Iron Man 2 (2010)
  • Thor (2011)
  • Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
  • Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)
  • Iron Man 3 (2013)
  • Thor: The Dark World (2013)
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
  • Ant-Man (2015)
  • Captain America: Civil War (2016)
  • Doctor Strange (2016)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
  • Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
  • Black Panther (2018)
  • Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
  • Captain Marvel (2019)
  • Avengers: Endgame (2019)
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

Over the years, Wyatt and I have watched the first Thor and Captain America movies together (content-wise, these are pretty clean). This past summer, we watched Infinity War prior to watching Endgame. And then over the past few weeks, we’ve watched Far From Home before looping back around to watch Spider-Man: Homecoming. We have been all over the place! Tonight, we go back to the beginning with Iron Man. Thankful the local library has a chunk of the Marvel films to check out.

What’s your favorite Marvel movie? Have you gone back and watched any of the early films recently? Let me know in the comments below.

Cricket Through the Ages

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Wyatt and I finished Cricket Through the Ages, via Apple Arcade, this past weekend. With him turning 10 and entering 5th grade, I don’t get to play games with him as much as I used to (we have reached the stage where personal alone time is a thing now).

I enjoyed sitting to my son, on the couch, flailing away at each other on the iPad. Cricket Through the Ages is a silly game with equally silly mechanics. A fantastic/short weekend distraction; A win-win in this dad’s book.

Adoption Update – I feel so frustrated

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Leaving church Sunday, someone walked up to Tab and I and asked how the adoption process is going. I replied, “I feel so frustrated.”

Photo by Park Troopers on Unsplash

A few weeks ago, we were sent an email from our adoption caseworker. The email contained a picture and a brief description of a little boy who is/was up for adoption. We were told that our home study had been submitted and to email our caseworker back if we were not interested. We didn’t email back. 🙂

Weeks went by, the deadline for caseworkers submitting interest in this little boy came and went. I followed up with our caseworker to see if she had heard anything, nope. Silence.

Another week went by, we received an email from our caseworker saying that we had not made the initial selection process. I felt gutted. So many questions filled my mind:

  • Were we not picked because of hold old Tab and I are?
  • Were we not picked because of the age different between Wyatt and this little boy?
  • Why?!?

I knew I couldn’t dwell in the land of why too long… so instead I kind of shut down.

It’s been about a week since we found out that we weren’t selected. This morning, I feel like I am waking up from a haze. With my mental fog clearing, I can tell that I’ve been distant with those I love, mourning someone I will never know.

There is something about a picture and a description that opens your mind to possibilities and dreams. Excitement about what could be is good; checking out when things don’t go as planned, not so good. I am learning through this adoption process. Learning about:

Trusting God when things don’t make sense / have gone off the rails

Strengthening my own personal mental armor / being stretched

Yes, I am still frustrated about the adoption process. But I realize that the word “process” is key. The process, the journey if you will, is helping prepare Tabitha, Wyatt, and I for the day we change from a family of three to a family of four. While my pessimism towards the process tells me that that day could be awhile off, I have to admit that I have no clue / it’s all out of my hands. Next week could bring a new email, a new child to dream about and consider.

Daily, I have to give this process to God. Let go. Let Him do His thing.

Until next time,

Bryan

 

 

From Across the Net – “The Siren Song of Gaming Music”

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My friend Joe, over at the Raving Luhn, wrote a piece titled The Siren Song of Gaming Music. At the end of the article, he asks, “What are your favorite video game soundtracks?” For me, I’m going to cheat and mention a single track: Florence + The Machine’s rendition of Stand By Me, at the beginning of Final Fantasy XV (starts at 1:00 mark). So good!

How about you?

From Across the Net – “China tells churches: Children and teens can’t convert until they’re 18”

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China’s government has intensified its crackdown on Christianity in recent months, including its enforcement of a law against the conversion of children and teens.

“One of the rules that have always been in their law is that you cannot proselytize or you cannot convert somebody under the age of 18,” Eric Burklin of China Partner told Mission Network News.

Previously, he said, “People were having their children come to church and many churches started what we would call Sunday school classes. They would use that time to teach children Bible verses and teach them Christian songs and so forth.”

Now, though, “any churches have been notified by [China’s] Religious Affairs Bureau heads that you can no longer conduct Sunday school classes in your churches.”

“They even put signage up in the entrance of some churches to indicate that,” Burklin said.

Photo by Adi Constantin on Unsplash

From Across the Net – “The Deficit of Discipleship: How the American Church Is Off-Mission”

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Regardless of how churches can rephrase and reframe their mission statements, this is the mission: to go and make disciples. The American church is not called to make converts. In fact, to lead people in a prayer without offering them a pathway and companions for the journey is irresponsible. The American church is not called to make leaders. In Jesus’ view, the first would be the least. This doesn’t sound like western leadership. It sounds like discipleship. The American church is not called to make volunteers to staff the weekend services. In fact, to reduce the ministry of the church body to guest service roles is an affront to the New Testament church. The American church is not called to draw crowds. The American church is not called to build buildings. The American church is not called to make money. We are called to make disciples. (You can read more of the article here)

Photo by William White on Unsplash

Can I say this? Volunteering/serving, in a guest services role at church, week after week, is exhausting! And to top it off, having fellow church members treat you like you are “the help” is demoralizing. I get that volunteers are needed to keep the church model we use moving forward. But I’ve also noticed that it is always the same people serving. I often wonder what it would be like to just get up, go to church, and not serve just like everyone else. Yet, I believe in being the hands and feet of Christ even when no one else wants to… but something seems broken with the church model we use.

Switching things up

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I had been meaning to talk with Tabitha about our evenings. I felt like we, as a family, had gotten into a bad habit of not interacting / watching television every night. Some of our passivity I understood, the Texas heat zaps you. Summer needs to end! But I felt like we could be more purposeful with our time.

Tabitha ended up approaching me first with the idea that we needed to turn off the TV. I had to have surprised her when I agreed. We then sat down and hashed out how our evenings will look moving forward. During the week:

  • Boardgames
  • Drawing lessons
  • Playing
  • Reading aloud
  • Family Devotions
  • Anything else non-electronic we can do together

We agreed to reduce our family television time down to one night a week. The weekends, we decided, will be more lax with screen time. Sunday afternoons are tailor made for movies and/or video games.

The Game of Life – Pirates of the Caribbean edition… Tab and I picked this up at Walt Disney World on our honeymoon. Game features ship-to-ship battles and a solid piratey theme. Makes the regular version of Life seem boring.

Loot

Somehow we ended up with a pirate themed game night. Loot (the card game above) was different.

Our first week was a success! We set aside a night for family devotions (10 minutes); we dove into some different boardgames (evidence above).

I picked up the first book in John Flanagan’s Ranger’s Apprentice series to read aloud with Wyatt. We read two to three chapters a night before Wyatt heads off to bed for his own reading time. I’m trying to introduce him to new authors/series to feed his voracious reading appetite. Wyatt has also always loved Tab and I reading aloud to him (I hope this never ends). If I have learned anything as a dad, you can share your love of reading with your children. Just gotta read!

This week, I’m looking to try out a new devotional book for our devotional time: Marty Machowski’s Long Story Short: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God. I’ll let you know how it goes.

What do your evenings look like with your family? Does the TV reign supreme? Ever thought of shaking things up? Let’s talk in the comments below!

From Across the Net – “The best parenting decision I ever made”

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Love this. Reminds me that I need to start up Boy’s Club again with Wyatt. Be purposeful.

When I was growing up a man in my church gave me perhaps the greatest gift I have ever received…weekly, uninterrupted, quality time. Mr. Zechman was a busy guy. He had four busy and successful daughters of his own. He was involved in our church and community in all sorts of ways. He had a demanding job and was a public figure in our town. He was the kind of guy who should not have had time for a goofy ninth grade boy like me. And yet he made time.

You can read more here