Sunday, January 9, 2011

Rest vs Work

A Day Enjoyed with My Girls

Saturday was a great day that had mixed emotions that allowed it all to end in a good, confident way. Let's start with the fun and then I'll give you a warning when it's gonna get heavy (read long) if you wanna bail at that point to just stay for the easy stuff.

I was able to go ice skating with my girls, Shana and her youngest boy Sam. Although it was cold (17 degrees) there wasn't much of a wind, which is what makes Iowa REALLY cold. We rolled up all excited and noticed the Zamboni was just finishing so we looked forward to fresh ice. Walking into the little hut the kids were a' yappin'. All stoked to be going for the first time, while the adults were a bit more cautious as we remembered what it feels like to continually bounce of an ice rink. Regardless, with skates paid for and all jackets zipped up tight we headed out to brave the decent crowd in the rink and armed with a camera in one hand and Olivia in the other I was ready to catch hilarity on digital film. Thankfully the first five bounces off the ice didn't deter either Sam or Ellie and we were in business. Believe it or not, the little ones lasted a full hour and were wanting more as we pulled them into the car due to the cries of Olivia being cold and tired of only being able to watch the others have fun. Hot pizza from Papa Murphy's and Hot Cocoa made for a perfect finish. What a great way to spend a glorious Saturday and take in a little of God's gifts.

Deep Crap Coming Alert - time to bail if you're short on time as this is where it could get lengthy. Saturday and Sunday both have proven to contain pieces that have been both challenging and reassuring to me. The first part is that many of you know I had bought a vending business in the Fall of '09. This business has been an enormous challenge for me over the past year financially, emotionally, physically and spiritually. While I have spent a lot of my life working hard, tirelessly staying on task, expanding my skill sets on the fly to meet any demand, but the continual running into a wall when needing blessings by God and being met with less than desired results, this has challenged my will, my usually upbeat attitude, and in general my idea of how I relate to my God.

Before the ice skating I met with some folks I respect a ton. This past Thursday I received some news that drastically will affect my business, and in turn my home and life. The news is bad and until I have a concrete plan I'll leave it at that. I met with my friends to discuss exactly how the numbers could fall in the budget and what some possible options are. Coming away from that meeting I am facing some things that I hate to contemplate being reality, but life recently has taught me to accept it and move forward as soon as possible. That's all well and good but we surprising finished with going a bit 'deeper' into that thing called faith that has gotten me this far and how I over the past year continually tried to lean on my faith but continually seemed to come up short in my business and even in life to some extent. The statement was made that maybe I wasn't being fully blessed by God due to maybe not all aspects of my life weren't as God would like. A tough thing to hear for sure but really not something unexpected nor something I hadn't thought many times myself in recent weeks. All the praying, time talking to God, the time trying to be quiet and listen to God or looking for his presence in my everyday life just wasn't proving to make any difference. I felt like I was just pushing through a gale force winds only to find deeper and bigger waves ahead of me.

Today at church the sermon was about work and rest. Deeper than the rest we take every night or simply the work we do as jobs or what we do to help others, rather the work BENEATH the work and and rest of the soul. Many times over the past few years folks have asked me how I have managed to push forward when others say they may have not or at least as well, I'm not so sure I've done it well all the time, but I have done it as best I could. I remember even before losing Leslie and then going through the hardest years of my life that have followed, that I once pushed through life with the same determination and vigor that I believe I did immediately after her death - when my dad died, one of my best friends in high school, my grandfather and the list goes on of the lows that have surrounded me but I always managed to climb to new highs. I was never abe to put into words how or why I was able to continue on with a good attitude and seemingly not really ever get tangled up in the past for more than a short period of time, rather continue to focus on the goals and dreams I set before me. Faith was something that I continued to explore and talk with others and I look back and see very distinct people that have made huge impressions on my life and faith, but that's not what this is about. This is about work and rest. Two things that I have lost sight of over the past 2-3 years I think.

You see, work that has underlying purpose or direction is often called inspired. What the preacher this morning was saying that no mater your job albeit taking out the trash or saving someone's life, it's all capable of being inspired and the work of God if you first believe that God made it for you and chose you specifically to do it. Every moment you are doing, every day you are working and everyday He is choosing you. For me I was always working to accomplish my own goals and then Leslie came along and showed me how and where God should fit. One of the many reasons her loss was so great to me.

Back to the sermon, if work has the undercurrent of His work, than rest has an undercurrent of his grace and peace. As pastor put it, sleep has the REM sleep which we're all aware of the our bodies physically need. What then of our souls, the rest for it should get recharged when we are at our end and seemingly are tested to our extreme. My heart and soul has been there for some time. The rest of the soul is also given and received only through Christ and knowing that He paid for our eternal rest and peace. When knowing this there comes a kind of calm and satisfaction with our life that no matter what we are asked to endure, our efforts and purposes will ultimately be put to the best use. Knowing this makes rest even more calming. The ironic part about of all of this is that when you have true rest, it's easier to have inspired work.

All of this to say that in the past 14 months I have taken on the largest challenge in buying a business only to have it take the hours of my day, the strength of my will and the smile from my face in efforts to make it right and grow. I can't think of anything that I would do differently as the school of hard knocks was in session every month and I could not have learned any other way. I appreciate and thank all of those who have helped me to this point and I lean on many of the same people in the near future to continue to support and teach me. I can say that I have regained my larger perspective that although I may have lost sight at times of true work and rest in the past 18 months, I once again see the Lord as I should and hope to make my life as He would like. Not because I hope for his blessings, rather because I know my life is not as it should be nor is my work inspired or my rest truly calm. I know that the days immediately ahead of me will not be easy nor without stress, but I will persevere and be blessed because I trust and serve him first.

Come unto me, all that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. – Mathew 11:28

Monday, November 15, 2010

Welcome Back Y'all

A great family, no?

It’s been a while and I’ll get to some of the reasons why in future posts but today I’d like to focus on moving forward and laying the groundwork of where this blog will be headed.

One of my largest struggles with this, besides not having ANY time to write, was I know as the house finished folks didn’t want to know small details of things I’m doing so what is it that readers want to know. I think I’ve heard the status of how John is doing, and Ellie, and now Olivia too. But I struggled with to what degree of detail should I share, you all don’t want ALL the details but maybe the highlights. To be sure this isn’t a personal journal, rather maybe a letter like the folks of generations past would write each other from one family to another or letters home from the battlefields. With Veterans Day just past, I take inspiration from the many men woman who have served who so completely relied upon the connection to their families to keep them going. Not that I’m at war – by no means – but I most certainly have come to rely upon the connection to family, friends and God to get me to where I am as well as being able to remain focused on the good of tomorrow.

From that intro I’ll give you a few highlights of the past year to 18 months. Shortly after the grand opening last summer I was still unemployed and came across a business that I was interested in buying from the 70 year old owner who was looking to get out of the business and enjoy some of the spoils of his many years of hard work. Chavas Vending was a small family business that I saw had a ton of potential but needed an equal part of hard work (and money) to fix certain things, bring out existing good things and make needed changes to bring it up to today’s business standards. This vending company was challenge that I officially jumped in with both feet October 31st, 2009. Being two weeks shy of a full year without employment made me extremely ambitious and hopeful of the things to come.

On another note, Ellie is now going to Kindergarten at Des Moines Christian School in Urbandale, Ia and absolutely loving it. Every week she amazes me with the facts and ideas that she is now forming and able to recite. Little things like constantly working on writing letters and numbers, reciting bible verses in a way that makes me challenge my own knowledge and already see that she is going to be MUCH more intelligent than I ever could be. She continues to be the sunshine of my day and one of the two reasons I exist.

The other reason is Olivia Addison O’Bannon. What a wonderful blessing that Lord has given this family in Olivia. To be completely honest I began (and sometimes still do) to wonder if this is it for me with having children. I wondered that the dream that Leslie and I had to fill this house with the pitter-patter of small feet might be those only of Ellie and no others. I hoped that Ellie would know brothers and sisters and had no idea how He would provide and as usual He has provided a wonderful additional set of pitter-patter sounds in Olivia. She is now almost the age that Ellie was when Leslie was killed and I often try to think back to how we raised Ellie together and think of how different Shana and I are doing because of our circumstances and hope that I’m doing all that I can to create a loving and rich environment for Olivia as I had a hand in creating for Ellie. Olivia is already a completely different child than Ellie in most ways. She is headstrong like Ellie but has no fear in venturing out to discover her world around her. She often challenges authority but does respond when authority is applied. She has an infectious smile like her big sister and has a great sense of bond to her family that is much different than what Ellie knew growing up. It warms my heart that such a larger immediate family surrounds Olivia and I hope that gets to know and share a similar bond with her extended family like Ellie has been fortunate to develop. I know raising Olivia will be completely different than Ellie, and she is a different person than Ellie, I just hope and pray everyday that I can give all of me and create a model for both to follow that shows my love for God, family and each other that is at the root of both girls’ persons from which they both stand upon.

Well I think that’s a good start for today and hopefully sets the stage and whets your curiosity of posts to come. I have more to share, much of which is full of struggle as I continue to struggle mightily in many areas and I ask for your continued support in prayers and thoughts. Hopefully future posts will be shared parts challenge and victory and hopefully you come back to share in those highs and lows with me. Thank you following and supporting, I pray that you and yours are all doing well and chasing the priorities that make the most difference in the greatest life you can have.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Grand Opening

A sweet thank you

It finally happened. If you hadn't heard or gotten an invite (or two) I finally set a date and followed through on having the grand opening party at the house to signify the end of this major project. Sure there are a few minor things left hanging out there, but whose house doesn't have those kind of issues? Mine for al intents and purposes is done in regards to asking throngs of people for help. I chose June 6th, 2009 for the final date making it two and a half years and one day from beginning to end. What an amazing ride it's been.

Two days before things were looking a bit hopeless. I think it was another example of me biting off WAY more than I could chew and another example of the people around me saving my bacon. I had spent two weeks busting tail trying to get things prepped and completed from having a garage sale and laying mulch in the back flower beds to starting to go through the MOUNTAINS of boxes in the third floor and hanging some pictures. I have to admit though that despite all my efforts to push and push and push, I was near the end of my rope and really needed help this time. I sent out an email and I was once again humbled by the response of help by friends and family. I had a onslaught of help from Elisha, Ryan, Shana, Dan J, his daughter, Lola K, Neil O, Randa D, Mary, Dan, my Brother Sean, Mom, Russ, Caryn, Case, Helen, Ron, Kirby, Kirby's friend Michael, Mark S, Uncle Al and I'm sure one or two more that I'm forgetting this late at night. I wish I had captured them all in pictures, but alas I didn't know where my camera was in the whole confusion. The night before the big party the crew and I were up past midnight putting on a final coat of paint in the third floor and cleaning like fiends. It was as much a dash for the finish line as I've ever known. I heard a few times from a few that were at the house less than 48 hours before the open and then at the open that the house was a completely different house for the Open and I completely agree. One of the coolest improvements and one that was nagging at my 'metal list' for some time was the completion of the wet bar and the basement bathroom plumbing. The first is now ready for service and the latter has already been tested with great success. Uncle Al was determined to get the sink in the bar hooked up come hell or high water and wouldn't you know that as the first guests were arriving Al cried out victoiuosly and with great pride put out the 'It's 5 O' Clock Somewhere' sign and we were truly ready for a party. I would have never have been anywhere close without the help of these folks and many, many others as well as all of the prayers that I know were being sent up.
Randa splits hostas/Lola sifts out rocks & weeds

Randa, Mary, Shana & Lola work hard for their ibuprofen

Shana waters the new plants/Completed new beds

Lola preps a bit more/Ed & Joyce let the light in!

Ed & Joyce cleaned ALL the windows/Ryan starts the 3rd floor bedroom paint

Sean takes on plumbing/Lola cuts the 3rd floor play room

Lola cuts in more/I lend a hand in painting

Dan J and his daughter help out LATE Friday

Believe it or not - the mess 24 hrs to go...

Even with all of this great help and support, I once again received an amazing gift on the last day that I still shake my head in disbelief of the generosity of the peole that surround me and the grace of the Lord. While I was to be out the afternoon of Friday, I happen to be around as some guys pulled up to the yard to install some sod. Huh - I hadn't ordered any sod and probably wasn't going until the following week. Turns out that My frined Mike M who (along with his two brothers Andrew and Nathan had helped install the sprinker system) had ordered - and paid for - the sod to be installed on the north side of the house where the dumpsters had made their mark for nearly 18 months! I was nearly brought to tears - seriously in a manly way of course - because it's one of those little details that to me makes a huge difference and really would make the open house a finished product. I still can't believe the surprise and generosity - thank you Mike.
The surprise crew starts up/Both sides of the driveway and front bed

That's A LOT of sod/Mike @ Andrew fix a few things

Making things smooth/Almost done with the fix

Back and forth/and then do it again to be sure

Completed beds look better with sod!

Oh did I mention the mulch in the last 72 hrs? - 30 cu/yd!

On to the main event - Open House 2009

The day started out a bit soggy and I was worried. THe Lord was in charge as always and had it completely under control. I had enough food, tables, chairs and gifts for nearly 300 people. It was a time where I really hoped folks would come back to see what the fruits of their labor helped to create, not at all for myself, but because I wanted to show them that I put to good use their time, efforts and gifts. It's not often that you get to see the finished product when you volunteer for a project and when it is possible it seems to wrap things up. I know a lot of people had taken great joy and pride in making my house so fabulous and I wanted to share that with them.

I could really go on forever saying how grateful I am for everyone's generosity and I'm trying to fight the urge to do so to keep everyone from boredom of reading the same thing over and over again. In my effort to try and reveal new information or ways that I see the Lord working in my life (or the world around me) I'd like to tell of a short story I heard over the past couple of days. My disclaimer is the usual that I in no way claim responsibility or credit, I am only a part of the picture and enjoy witnessing how wonderful it is to see the Lord work in everyday life. I recently heard that one of the young people that have worked at my house and in this case this person worked A TON at my house, decided that of all the fields of study to choose from in today's collegiate system, he'd like to look into architecture. While that's not amazing, what strikes me is that he chose to do so in part because of what he learned and experienced here at the O'Bannon Project. Working along side myself, others and his father, Kirby has found a new path in working with structures and building things that are both useful and works of art. I think that fits his personality and talents as there are many of both here at my home and many are due to his contributions. I have talked a little before in the blog about Kirby and his dad, and specifically the relationship between them that has grown over the past two years. In many ways their time together reminds me of the relationship I had grown with my father in college just before he died four months after my graduation. I was so fortunate to come to see my father as a friend and as a man that was my 'equal'. My dad and I had spent much of my teenage years bucking horns and I'm sure many around us thought that the day we came to respect each other as equals would have been decades in the future if ever at all. Yes, you might say I got his hard-headedness in spades and a lot of that was directed at him for many years. By the Lord's knowing and loving hand though, we moved through that and were able to come together as friends and I believe I loved my father far more when he died than I ever could have imagined because we had made that transition into knowing each other more deeply than just rule-setter/enforcer and rule-breaker/young buck. Not that I'm saying Kirby is me at that age, but I see that those two men are seeing each other more as equals in manhood and respect is a two-way street that often comes from God working on people's hearts, egos and tempers - at least that's what it took for my father and I. I guess in a very long and drawn out way, I guess I'm saying that God has allowed me to see another father-son relationship grow and because I know how much it meant to me to lose mine, it means that much more to see others gain it for themselves. God gives those kind of blessings and it buoys me more times than I think I allow others to know. Okay huge diversion from the point so I'll get back to it after these pictures.
Eating good food/then playing

Ellie with Big Uncle Jonny/Little ones eat too

Signing the book/Chatting it up and telling stories

Mom chats it up/The small group talks about what they worked on

friends, friends... and more friends

..and more friends...

..and more friends...

..and more friends...

..and more friends...

..and more friends...

..and more friends...

..and more friends. Seriously, I AM blessed.

It feels so good to be 'finished'. I was asked if there were any other things left on the list and I think there are really only two must-do items and one nice-to-have item. The have-to-do is residing the kitchen bump out - formerly known as the eat-in nook as there is a 3" gap between the existing siding and foundation not to mention holes where the windows used to be and the doors are now and the other is a new roof. Both are not horribly difficult as I've done more roofs than I care to count and the siding I've never done, but I'm sure is similar to a roof, just vertical. Yeah, I know a oversimplification I'm sure, but really not. If anyone out there knows how or better yet wants to show me how to install the siding - maybe a shake siding I'd love to talk with you. The nice-to-have is to extend the garage in the back where the concrete slab already exists and I'd just need to create the walls and roof for a 'shed' for the mower and such as I can only park one vehicle in the garage right now and am constantly tripping over things when I'm trying to find whatever it is I need at the moment. So not critical, but definitely a high nice-to-have that has a lot of function! I'm thinking to take a week or so before I dive into the next item of wiring the garage from the box, but I'm itching already to get that finished up.

Although I sent out a couple hundred invites and had only 150 or so people, I know many more helped and I would really like to extend my most heartfelt thank you to them. For many years I will be asked about this project and I will be thanking folks well into Ellie's middle school years and that still won't cover it all. If I run into you in the mall or at church or at the supermarket, I would really like to give you one of the measuring tapes or hammers that I had engraved to say thank you. I can vouch that you can never have too many good hammers or tape measures around the house. As I experienced (and even commented about in this blog a few times;-) throughout this project I would misplace or at least not be able to locate for a while my tape measures and hammers and having 'just one more' would've never been a bad idea. Plus, they're just really cool tools that all the losers want and the cool people have. So please stop me and ask me about them as I will have a box of them in my car for quite a while so that as I track you down I have one on the ready for you.