When Christmas is a Challenge

26114107_10204280294844961_3814914844198375237_nWho knew?

Last Christmas was our last one with Marty.  Marty loved Christmas.

I remember the best gift I ever got for Marty was a poster when he was either first married or engaged, don’t remember which, but it was a poster that said “All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned from Star Trek.”  He was a big Trek fan.

One year, me and Kristen, Marty and Penny, and Mary Anne and Kevin played “secret Santa.”  Not the most fun with just 6 folks, but still fun.  Marty had drawn my name.  He didn’t get me a book, or gift card, or something for the office.  No – my brother bought me a Japanese Maple tree for my back yard.  Only Marty would think of something like that.

My worst Christmas was also my brother’s fault – because he got married on December 22.  In Florida.  Far, far away from my traditional Christmas celebration.  At the time, I was miserable.  But we’ve all looked back on that trip with lots of laughter (because the only thing that went right was the marriage!!).

Hold the ones you love close tonight.

What’s Your Faith Story?

We all have a faith story.  Some of your faith stories may be more elaborate, and some of them may be pretty vanilla.  But your faith story consists of more than just the day you became a Christian.

Someone taught you.  Someone showed you.  Someone helped you.

And your faith story may just help someone see Jesus.

One of the easiest ways to be a disciple is to live out your faith daily.

What is keeping you from sharing your story of faith?

One of the Only Guaranteed Things in Life…

cloud-transformation-changes

Changes.  They happen.  I guarantee it.  Changes happen, regardless of whether we want them to or not.

Recently, I’ve gone through some changes.

First – my family and I made a move from Tampa, FL to Huntsville, AL.

Second – I got out of full time preaching ministry, and took a job as a Discipling and Associate minister.

Third – I went off some major medication.

Fourth – I lost something.

Now, let’s discuss these changes real quick.  Back in March of 2015, we moved to Tampa, FL from Nashville, TN to preach for the Northwest Tampa Church of Christ.  My time there was both a blessing and a hardship.  I will admit, I had a hard time there.  It was far from my family.  It was not the “Bible Belt” that I was used to.  It didn’t have the traditional southern charm we grew up with in my family.  But for 4.5 years, I worked with some great families in my church, and we miss our small group terribly.  There were some great folks in there, even though one of them did ruin my birthday cake by putting turnip greens into some cupcakes…but that’s for another time.

We were not looking to move – but an opportunity landed in my life that I felt was directly from God.  I was invited to work with the Mayfair Church of Christ and to serve on their leadership team as their discipleship minister.  I began that job in October, and it has been the greatest blessing of my life to work alongside the best ministry staff in the world.

At the same time, my wife was able to secure a teaching job at Madison Academy.

When we started to make this transition, I decided to go off some medication.  I hesitate to write about this, because it is deeply personal, but I feel like it could help someone in the future.  In August of 2017, due to some situations that had occurred in my life, my doctor thought it was best, after visiting with a counselor, to go on some anxiety medication.

I remember when I took the first pill, I didn’t know what to expect.  From my time in teaching and youth ministry, I was expecting to zone out – but what happened was exactly the opposite.  The things I worried about, struggled with, things I couldn’t let go of – I was now able to deal with them.  Things that got shut me down didn’t anymore.  Situations I didn’t want to face were no longer a problem.

Lack of encouragement was a real motivator behind going on the medication.  A person can only go so far without it, and was really struggling.  While the medication did not provide “encouragement” it did provide the ability to see beyond it, to compartmentalize things, to move forward.

On Sunday, December 15, I took my last pill.  I no longer need it.  I have been encouraged and uplifted here and that was a MAJOR factor in being able to move past the pills.

Another major change has been something I’ve lost.  Since August 7, 2019, I have been on the Keto Diet.  I used to laugh at folks who did the diet.  I couldn’t understand why people would want to restrict themselves.  How can you give up potatoes and rice and chips?

Earlier this summer before all the changes began – I ballooned up to 315 pounds.  It was officially the heaviest I’ve ever been.  I was miserable.  I was diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea.  I was in a bad place.  When my wife and daughter moved to Huntsville ahead of me to start school, I began doing the Keto diet.  No more than 30 carbs a day, try to keep under 1600 calories a day, and lo and behold, the weight started to come off.

I wasn’t able to weigh myself over the past few months since we’ve been staying with my in-laws with all of our possessions in storage.  So this past weekend, when we finally closed on our new house and moved in, I was able to find the scales.

I’m down to 275.  40 pounds gone.  And it feels wonderful.  I still have a long way to go.  But I feel so good.  I’m not bloated, no upset stomach, food is no longer a major motivator in my life.  I can bend over and tie my shoes without struggling.  I’ve struggled with weight most of my adult life.  I know that dieting is not a fleeting moment, but rather, a lifestyle change.

I say these things to motivate you.  To encourage you.  If you think you may need medications for anxiety, depression, etc. – don’t wait.  Go see a doctor today.  If you need to lose weight, don’t put it off.  There’s no time like the present.  I know, I know, the holidays are coming up, so you’ll “start it in the new year.”  No, you probably won’t.  Sure you may go and buy what you need and plan on it, but if you wait, there’s always an event coming up that you don’t want to miss.  I did TWO THANKSGIVING MEALS and DID NOT CHEAT!  Christmas is coming, and I’ll again do the same.

Finally – I’ve moved my blog to this new site – http://www.ministerlane.com – with hopes of having a more regular presence once again.

Garbage In – Garbage Out: The One Where We Cut the Cable

Sometimes, you just have to make a change.  So we made one – and while not a big deal for some, it’s a pretty dig deal for us.  We cut the cable cord.

More and more folks are cutting the cord.  Most people seem to be doing it in the name of saving money.  I’ll admit, that was part of the reason we did it.  We were paying $160 for Frontier’s cable and internet package.  We’ll now be paying about $60 for just the internet.

We had hundreds of channels at our fingertips, but we routinely found ourselves asking, “Is there anything on TV tonight?”

We simply weren’t using it.

But then there’s the other part of it – most of what is on television is nothing but garbage.  We have a few things we would routinely watch, and probably still will continue to watch – but it was time to say goodbye.

I did purchase a 3 month “prepaid” package of DirectvNow – which I can access on my phone, ipad, computer, or through my Apple TV or Amazon Firestick – but honestly, I only did that so I could get a free 4K Apple TV.  3 months of prepaid was $100, and I got a free Apple TV worth $180, and I can cancel at no charge right after that 3 month period.  Which leads me to another point –

All the new streaming services, you can cancel without contract.  Come and go as you please.  Pay for what you want and nothing more.  There are versions of just about anything and everything you could ever want out there – and I by no means am endorsing one over the other.

The only thing I will definitely make sure of is when college football rolls around, I’ll have access to all the ESPNs and SEC Network.

I’ve been a subscriber of DirecTV, Dish, Comcast, Charter, CenturyNet, Spectrum, and Frontier – and honestly, I mostly just watch network television and ESPN, along with the occasional TLC/HGTV/DIY networks.  When Josie was younger, we frequently would watch Nick Jr. and Disney Jr., but now that she’s older, we don’t.

Really, when I think about it, we spend a lot of our TV time watching the old “Little House on the Prairie” episodes we bought on DVD for our daughter.  Those were just great.

So, if you’re thinking of cutting the cord, tell me about it.  Already have?  What has worked great for you?

Build Project #13 – My First Cutting Board

Apparently, in woodworking, a “rite of passage” is a cutting board.  There are many, many, many different styles of cutting boards.  Edge grain, end grain, cut out face grain, but the most enjoyable ones to look at seem to be the “end grain” variety.

A few weeks ago, I purchased some maple, cherry, purpleheart, and wenge wood that I thought I would eventually work into a cutting board.  For my first cutting board, I chose maple and cherry.

This would be my first time to use my new “planer” – which I bought from Butch, a guy at our church who is a phenomenal craftsman that used to build homes, and now builds custom furniture.  He had an old 10″ planer he was no longer using.  I bought it from him, and it is going to change how I do my woodworking.

For the edge grain boards, you simply cut the wood into strips, glue it together, cut it again, glue them together again, and repeat the process until you like what you have.  Here’s what I did:

I cut the maple and cherry into equal width strips.  My planer is only 10″, which means I can only make a design that is 10″.

I glued up my strips.

And after sitting overnight, I cleaned it up, ran it through the planer, and cut them into strips again.  This time, I turned them on their edge, and glued them up again, after making the pattern I wanted.  I decided to go for a fun checkerboard design.

After sitting overnight, I cut it into the final shape, trimming off the edges.  It was here that I discovered my miter gauge was horribly cheap and not square at all.  After many attempts – I ordered a new miter gauge.  I’ll show that at a later project.

After I finally got the board sides straight, I realized I needed a way to easily pick up the cutting board.  Since I still don’t have a router to cut handles into the sides of the board, I decided on making a bevel cut, so it could easily be lifted.

I sanded it down, and it started to look even better.  But the real fun is after you put the butcher block/cutting board oil on it.

Here it is in its final resting place in our kitchen.

Build Projects #9, 10, 11 and 12: Some Catching Up

Let’s start with project #12.  Here in Florida, a lot of homes have these ledges around the house for you to put knick knacks and stuff on.  I’ve dreamed of building something to put up there – and finally figured out what I wanted to do.

I initially saw something similar to this on April Wilkerson’s Youtube channel.

I cut out a “W” from some scrap plywood probably 6 months ago.  This is something I’ve wanted to do for a while.  Problem is, I needed some scrap wood for it.  Well, it takes a while to accumulate scrap wood!

Photo Jun 30, 1 18 12 PM

I took the scrap wood after I had enough to do the project – and painstakingly assembled it on the “W” like a puzzle.

Photo Jun 30, 1 18 38 PM

Since I don’t have a brad nailer of any type, I had to rely on good ole’ wood glue, which made it take a little longer.

After all the pieces were glued on and secured – i took the jigsaw and cut off the edges.

Then, after some vigorous sanding – i applied some dark Danish Oil.

The final resting place of our new “W.”

Photo Jun 30, 5 40 23 PM

A couple of months ago, we had our annual church auction to raise money for our Honduras Trip that members of our church go on to do things for people of that nation.

For the auction I made three things – a tic tac toe game, a necklace holder, and a doll cradle.

Here’s the Tic Tac Toe board:

Photo May 29, 8 41 10 AM

Here’s the necklace holder.  It’s made of Honduran Mahogany and Aromatic Cedar:

Photo May 29, 8 43 14 AMPhoto Jun 02, 11 37 33 AM

Here’s the doll cradle:  The first one I made actually broke when the buyer got it home — and I realized why.  I made the grain go the wrong way.  So I cut off the rockers and made new ones, and then braced it up against the existing cradle.

Build Project #8: A Bookshelf

I recently completed my 8th (official) woodworking project of the year.  It’s a simple bookshelf, that ended up taking quite a long time due to sickness, stress, and stupidity.

The shelf is the second to last project in the Weekend Woodworker course by Steve Ramsey.  I had a few issues with this simple build, mostly because I didn’t pay attention to some of the instructions.  However, I’m learning that woodworkers aren’t supposed to disclose mistakes, because most people would never see them unless they’re pointed out!

Starting out with some simple cuts.

I started by assembling the base. The base was mitered, and then put some brace pieces on for later in the project.

The base, almost fully assembled. I attached 2 more brace pieces before I was done.

This is the body, or the “carcass” of the bookshelf. I have to say, I truly hate the strap clamps, but they work well.

Whilst in the middle of the project, my old Black and Decker drill finally bit the dust. Part of the reason this project took a while was because I had to decide what to replace it with.

My wife decided it was time to stain one of the bar stools I made for our kitchen. Isn’t she a beauty?

I had to cut dadoes or rabbets or whatever these are. Got a bit sloppy with the glue.

The carcass is done. I was supposed to use one sheet of 1/4 inch plywood for the back, but I used two pieces I had left over. I’m going to paint this, and there will be a shelf covering the crack, so it won’t matter.

My clamp collection is growing, out of necessity.

This shelf has decorative trim pieces on the front. These gave me more trouble than I thought, because I didn’t quite measure correctly.

I ended up popping a few screws in to the decorative pieces. I went back and covered them with wood filler.

Behold, the final project. The top has a decorative wrap around it. We haven’t painted it yet, but when I do, we’ll share an update!


Again, special thanks to Steve Ramsey’s Weekend Woodworker course.  It’s taught me a lot – and I still have one project left to go, which I am currently working on.  It’s been so much fun.

Stay tuned for more projects!

 

 

Build Project #7: A Set of Shelves that are Also Stairs

My first woodworking project ever was my daughter’s bed.  I built her a loft bed this past summer that you can read about HERE.

One of the problems in our home is that the secondary bedrooms are small.  Most newer Florida homes seem to have smaller secondary rooms.  It just doesn’t leave a lot of room for extra things in our young daughter’s room.  That’s why I built the loft bed in the first place – to get her bed up off the floor so she would have more room to play in her room.  One of my next projects will be to add a desk under the bed.

The one problem with the bed is that it was not easy to get in and out of.  I had a ladder on the end that was built into the bed.  But I decided to kill two birds with one stone – add storage into the room, and make it easier for her to get in and out of her bed.

While this project was not overly complicated – and the design was very rudimentary – it has made her room and her life a lot easier.

I started with some very thick, heavy, wide boards – some 2″ x 12″ boards.  The idea – make shelves and stairs, without spending a lot of time and money.

Here’s what I came up with:

I started out with a crude design in my sketch book. While it didn’t end up exactly like this, it helped a ton in figuring out how much wood I needed, and how big the shelves needed to be.

Measuring, marking, and cutting the first piece. Using a circular saw, I was able to just set the depth and cut it right on my mobile work bench.

The cuts for the stairs/shelves.

Using my Rockwell Jawhorse extension piece to balance the back part of the shelves so I can begin attaching the other pieces.

Starting to come together. I’m not going to cover the screws, because in the original bed, I left everything exposed – plus – we’re going to paint it this summer.

Placing the stairs by the bed. I attached them to the bed with some “L Brackets.” Very sturdy, and it’s not going anywhere. The loft bed had handles on it already for her to climb into it, so the height of the stairs went just under where those handles are.

Josie started filling her shelves right away!

She loves the stairs! It makes getting in and out of her bed so much easier!! You can also see in this picture the bunk bed I made for her American Girl Dolls. That’s where the desk will go eventually.

SaveSave

Build Project #6: A Coffee Table (But I Don’t Drink Coffee…)

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve updated my woodworking projects.  There’s been so much going on, but I finally got around to wrapping up my 6th project of the year.  I’ve finally finished the coffee table for our formal living room.

This project took longer for a few reasons – time constraints, evening meetings, and the table was challenging.  In the end, it turned out pretty good in my opinion.

This table was built by 1x4s and a sheet of 1/2 inch plywood.  I also used a whole lot of wood glue! (not all of this wood was for the table…)  This project was my first entry into the world of using dado blades, which look a lot more intimidating than they are.  I also used a strap clamp, and made some pretty wicked miter joints.

Lots of wood that I bought at a nearby big box home center.

I started off by making the legs.  This consisted of cutting them to length, and gluing them together.  I then cut a bevel into them to put an nice looking angle to the legs.

Gluing up the boards – since I don’t have a lot of clamps, I had to do two sets of legs together with my longer clamps.

Two other sets of legs being glued up.

All 4 legs glued up and ready to be shaped.

I ran the legs through the table saw at an angle to create an awesome looking bevel shape.

After that, I broke out my new dado blades.  Dado blades help cut wide rabbets and dadoes much quicker than a regular saw blade.  I used the dado blades here to cut a decorative top to the leg.  Later on these will be where the frame goes.

Dado blades made quick work of the next step, and aren’t that difficult to figure out. The stack I have is thicker, but don’t fit in the throat insert for my table saw. I need to make my own to use the whole stack.

The result of the use of the dado blades.

More of the shaping from the dado blades.

 

Next, I cut the frame pieces.  The plans I was using called for just a simple frame, but I wrapped them to have a mitered edge, which makes the table look more symmetrical.  This part took me quite a bit of time, because I messed up one of the cuts, but I finally figured it out and got it put together.

Putting the side frame pieces on to the legs.

A dry run of the frame pieces. Cute daughter tax paid in this picture!

Adding a decorative wrap around the frame pieces. These pieces had mitered corners.

Check out the miters! In truth the inside frame pieces and the outside frame pieces weren’t necessary. But I messed up on the inside ones, and covered them up with the outside boards. Worked out well!

Closer shot of the frame pieces. You’ll also see the shorter frame pieces connecting the spots cut out by the dados.

The bottom of the table, completely assembled.

Heading into the final phase, I had to do the table top.  In essence, it’s a large picture frame with a sheet of 1/2″ birch plywood as the “picture.”  I cut a large rabbet, and then added a shadow line to it, which is a neat feature that adds some depth to the piece.

Using the strap clamp was not easy.  I had a lot of frustration with it.  But it did work well.

The frame for the top. I did a dry run with the strap clamp before I glued it up.

On all of the miter frame pieces, I cut a large rabbet for the table top to sit down in, and then the smaller rabbet is called a shadow line.

The frame glued up.

Trimming up the plywood for the insert. The tape is to minimize chipping.

Using my Jawhorse for the cut.

After putting some support pieces on the bottom frame, I flipped the table top upside down, lined everything up, and put the table together.

Using the support pieces, I screwed the top onto the bottom while the table was flipped upside down.

The plywood has been glued and screwed.

The process of gluing in the table top.

I finished the piece by using Danish Oil.  I put down a coat of natural wood color, and then put two coats of dark walnut color.  After letting that thoroughly dry for about 3 days, I applied a spray polyurethane, about 4 coats of it.

Finally putting coats of the Danish Oil finish on to the table.

I’m really proud of this piece.  I had a lot of struggles with it.  I think it looks really good inside our living room area.

The family loves the new table!

Once again, I’d like to thank Steve Ramsey for doing such a great job teaching on his Weekend Woodworker course.  I would have never had the ability to do this without his teaching.

 

Build Project #4, and #5 – a Chair and an Office Accessory

I’ve been taking part of an online woodworking course called the Weekend Woodworker led by Steve Ramsey.  It has been great fun, and I’m learning how to do a ton of awesome things.

For my 4th and 5th projects of the year – one of them was part of the course, and one of them was not.

First up, a paper holder.  I know, it doesn’t sound awesome and amazing – but it taught me some great skills on the table saw, and even led to a “mini-project” where I learned how to make a pushstick designed by woodworker Matthias Wandel:

The paper holder took just a few small cuts on one 1×4 board, and a piece of plywood:

First up was learning to cut some rabbets on the boards:

I had to cut an opening in the front piece for being able to grab the papers out of the holder:

Then I had to put them all together:

Next I had to rip the sheet of plywood, which I did not enjoy.  I got it cut a bit too much and it didn’t fit exactly like I wanted it to, but that’s okay, it’s on the bottom.  I cut it out and then glued it in place:

After that dried up, I cut some decorative bevels into the top:

The last step was to make a paperweight – which consisted of just gluing up two boards together.  You’re supposed to add personalization to it, I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

After I made this, I thought it was time to try something not part of the course – and we’ve been needing some barstools for our kitchen area.

This project was really more of a “let’s see if I can do it, and if I can, I’ll make a better one later” type of project.  I began with some 2x4s and cut them down to some lengths that would work well for the project:

This project, I was finally going to use pocket holes.  I don’t have an expensive “Kreg” jig, but rather I had purchased a pocket hole jig from Harbor Freight.

The only thing I don’t care for about the HF jig is that I can’t adjust the height of where the holes go in the board.  It ended up working out just fine for this project, but I can see where in the future it may restrict me from using them in all projects.

Pocket holes are supposed to “hide” the screw, and then you can go in and fill the holes later, or you can just leave them if you’d like.  Here’s the jig, and here’s how it works:

I am using the Kreg brand screws – they were a gift from my wife at Christmas.

After getting all the holes drilled, I started to piece things together:

After putting the braces in, and then putting on the seat boards, here’s what it looked like:

The chairs will fit perfectly in our kitchen/living room area under the kitchen counter.  However, they are a bit clunky – so I may go back to the drawing board and make something a bit less of a large footprint.

Regardless, even if we don’t use it in the kitchen area, I now have a great seat for my garage/workshop area.