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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011 and a Happy 2012

Merry Christmas everyone! Hope 2011 was a year of Blessings and Peace in your household. Cannot believe another year is gone. It seems like the Seasons of Life are flying before our eyes and seems like last week, I was putting together last year’s  "Christmas Letter.”   When the Fall Season comes around the calendar again, I always start to ponder the year that is coming to an end, what we can share with family and friends, which will speak volumes about life, not so much about the Nicholson’s life, about the “One” who gives us life. We hope our words, are “words” that do not “point” to us, but hopefully point the reader to the true meaning of Christmas.   
 Our Lord has been faithful in 2011, many changes, adjustments and new challenges have been the norm for our household this year.  Jeanine has brought new meaning to the word, ‘empty nesters’ this year and a lifestyle that is as foreign as the Hebrew language is to Jim and Julie. Jeanine is on a journey that will most likely become a lifetime journey of serving her Lord as an Olivetan Benedictine Sister in Jonesboro, Arkansas. When we married three decades plus 6 years ago, we were raising our first child, before our first year of marriage was to be celebrated. So in reality this is the first time we have come to the understanding “the two of us.” We have felt so blessed to have kept Jeanine under our roof as long as we did and rejoice with her in the decision she has made.
When pondering over this year’s events and what to write this year in our Christmas Letter, my mind wondered to our humble beginnings as parents and all the joys, trials, challenges, disappointments, victories and etc. we got to experience as a family of four. How all these things have shaped our faith at times and how all these things have even challenged our faith. How we have many times just wanted to give up as parents and run away. I truly believe God gives us children to show us what “unconditional love” really means, to teach us about His love for us and that His love is truly unconditional. He never gives up on us, even when we want to give up on ourselves and sometimes others in our lives. There is no place in the Bible that tells why God loves us. From Genesis to Revelation you will find no such passages. Do we deserve His love? No! Did we earn His love? No! However, we all put conditions on who we love. As a parent our Lord taught us through our children what God’s “unconditional love” really means for us all.  
Our two children brought us challenges as their parents in many ways. We can remember a time when some of our friends decided to divorce and were fighting over who would get the kids. Jim and I looked at each other and said “if our marriage were ever to end in divorce, we would be fighting over “who had to take the kids.” We knew parenting was hard and wanted the best for our kids. The sacrifice single parents make can truly be a big challenge. Well, we did it, we raised them and we are still together. Miracles still happen today with God’s help.
Pondering this year’s events and finding closure in Jeanine’s decision to open her heart to the religious life had me reminisce about all she has taught me, especially about God’s love. And this will be the Christmas message or meaning I want to leave everyone with this year, as we celebrate our Lord Jesus Christ’s Birthday.
Some of you who get this Christmas letter have become friends of ours only lately, others might have know us a few years, then there might be those who have known us 10 plus years, 20 plus years and those who are family and friends that have know us from the time of our humble beginnings. If you are those from our “humble beginnings” you know the whole story about our daughter Jeanine. Where do I start?
Oh!  Jeanine you have taught us so much as parents. What a wonderful, loving child and now loving grown women you have become. Then there has been the other side of the coin. For all of you who have known our daughter and the struggles she had to deal with in learning things that were simple to others. Diagnosed at a very young age with ADHD and auditory processing difficulties she never gave up, never got mad, never held a grudge and kept on keeping on. We call her our “late bloomer” because in her time she finally found her talents and purpose and that is all that matters in this temporary world. She graduated from Southern Arkansas University Tech 2008 with an Associate Degree in Office Systems Technology and certified as a Software Specialist. This year she graduated from Southern Arkansas Community College with a Technical Certificate in Medical Coding and a Certificate of Proficiency in Medical Coding.  
Jeanine was a challenge and to slow her mind down, to get her to focus, to listen is the key” to this story. She always loved going to church, youth group, and youth camp and loved singing in the choir to her Lord. As a “young ‘n” She was like a bull in the china closet in church and out…. “Slow down Jeanine, focus, think before you speak!” Fidget was her middle name. I finally found a way to make her focus and sit still in church. She was required to take notes and in time this became not a chore, but something that became very personal between her and Jesus. We had a hard time getting her to focus, listen to us, process information and “express” the information without changing it all up. In her note taking and later her journaling, it is clear she is hearing His voice, is listening for the first time, focused and her auditory processing excellent. We have moved so many times and in some of our moves we have lost some of the notebooks she had written in. After she left for Jonesboro while cleaning and organizing her old room I found some of her talks….prayers to her Jesus. In reading them it has given me peace in knowing the Lord has been preparing her for some time in this journey, in which she has chosen to follow her heart. The puzzle of so many pieces has come together. Who would have ever thought 10 years ago the Lord would lead us to the Catholic Church? It was not even on our radar. One beautiful thing we have learned about Nuns and Brothers who chose to serve our Lord in the Religious Orders of the Catholic Church, is the fact they pray. I mean they truly are committed to a life of PRAYER. I heard one Nun say, (actually she is Mother Angelica founder of EWTN) “We pray for those who will not pray for themselves.” After finding Jeanine’s writings I see she has been doing this for some time now.  With her permission I share with you her Jesus. All daily prayers and writings are a page long and I tried to pick out a few “blurbs” that could build on the journey she is now pursuing. I could write a book if I gathered them all together. It is amazing the list of folks she knew and folks she personally did not know at all, that she has continued to lift up in prayer over the years.
June 14, 1995             Pastor Sims 2 Timothy 1: 7-12
We need to fan in the flame of the Spirit.
Verse 7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but of power, of love and of self-disciplining. Be bold for Jesus!!!!! Spirit of love. We need a super natural love to be a Christian. Fan the Flame.
Psalm 1: 1-6           1996
 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the wicked, Nor standeth in the way of sinners, Nor sitteth in the seat of scoffers: But his delight is in the law of Jehovah; And on his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the streams of water, That bringeth forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also doth not wither; And whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The wicked are not so, But are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Therefore the wicked shall not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For Jehovah knoweth the way of the righteous; But the way of the wicked shall perish. What is the Lord saying to me? Meditate on His word. Like having a Bible Study all by myself and also go witness to people that do not know the Lord. I witnessed to Teresa my best friend, she already knows the Lord, but tried to help her know Him even better. Still trying to show her that God loves her everyday.
Summer 1997
Dear Lord, Thank-you for this beautiful Sunday that you gave us. Please help Jill, Mike, Austin and Hayden have a safe trip from Texas. Let them have a good time up here while they visit us. Love, Your Best Friend, Jeanine
Dear Lord, Thank-you for this beautiful day you gave us. I thank you that Jill, Mike had a good time here with us and that they had a safe trip back to Texas. I pray that you will bring rain so corn can grow for the cows. I pray for Josh when he starts in a new work environment tomorrow. I pray for our church that you will bring new people to worship with us. Love, Your Best Friend, Jeanine
1998
Dear Lord, Thank-you for this beautiful day you gave us. I think you for the little rain you gave us. I thank you for letting Josh have a safe white water rafting trip. I pray you will bring him home safe. I pray you help my dad through school and make it go quick for him. Love, Your best Friend, Jeanine
Dear Lord, Thank-you for these beautiful days in the couple of weeks. I pray that you will help Josh and Dad get through school, every day. I pray that when Josh graduates that all our family and relatives will have a safe trip here. I pray for Josh when he goes to college that you will help him get the grades he needs. I pray he has a safe football season. I pray that Josh will earn enough money this summer for college. AMEN Love, Your best Friend, Jeanine
Jeanine started feeling the tug on her heart the fall of 2009 to learn more about the Religious Life of the Catholic Church.  This tug prompted her to send an “inquires postcard” off to a place that helps those who are considering discerning a Vocation in Religious life.  Early 2010 she started receiving information from Religious Orders all over the USA. Wow! The ministries they are a part of throughout the world are truly amazing. They are serving the poor, the sick, the orphans, the homeless and the list goes on. They are teachers, nurses, doctors, administrators and again the list goes on. Jeanine sorted through ones that interested her, narrowed it down to four places she wanted to visit and never made it to the fourth place. She felt the third place was where the Lord was calling her to follow her heart.
Friday, Sept 3, 2010
Jesus, I believe you make all things new. Help me to step into that new life today. Let me taste the new wine of the Holy Spirit, so I can take hold of your gifts and use them in your kingdom today. Jesus makes all things new!! So seek out His new life. Don’t limit your Christian life to one of simply trying to be good and avoiding sin. God has so much he wants to give me. He has so much He wants me to accomplish in His name. Go ahead and open the door wide.
Tuesday Sept. 7, 2010
My God stands by me, all my trust is in Him.
When God chose me he also equips me. He never fails to give us all the grace we need to carry out His call.
Lord, you have called me and I answer: Here I am! I trust that you will make up in me all that I lack.
Tuesday Sept. 21, 2010
Dear Jesus, Help me to better understand my vocation. I pray that you will be with me when I travel to several Convents and discern my call. Help me decide if I am to be a Nun and if so where? I pray that you help protect Dad and me as we travel to DFW. If it is your will let me know if you want me to tell others about this, especially Grandma and the others. I pray these things in your Name. Amen
Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010
Lord, let me know clearly the work which you are calling me to do in life. Grant me every grace I need to answer your call with courage, love and lasting dedication to your will. Amen
Thursday, Sept 30, 2010
God teach me discernment and knowledge for I trust in your commands. Lord help me understand my discernment process and also help me find my vocation. Thank-you for letting Father Hart be my Spiritual Director. Lord, help me in the coming weeks as I travel to places to discern. Lord let your Holy Spirit speak to me of what vocation you want me to do. If it is your will for a vocation provide a way.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Lord, Thank-you for this beautiful day you gave us. I thank-you for letting me have a good flight to Peoria, IL. I pray that you will show me my vocation and that you will help me understand it. I pray that if you want me to be here, let me know.  I pray that you will let me have a good time when I am here. I pray for Heather Chandler as they are doing test on her to see if her cancer has returned or if it is just scar tissue. I pray you will comfort her and her family. I pray that you will help me get the rest I need so I can start tomorrow. I pray these things in Your name. Amen
Sunday, Dec. 5, 2010
Dear Lord, Thank-you for this beautiful Sunday morning to worship you. I pray that you will speak to my heart, that you will want me to be a Sister here. I pray for my vocation and my discernment process. I pray for the Olivetan Benedictine Sisters, especially those in the infirmary. I pray that you will anoint the Priest that is doing the Mass.  I pray for my Parish this morning and also the RCIA Participants.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
Dear Lord, Thank-you for this beautiful Sunday morning of serving you. I pray that you will let me have a good “Adoration” with you. I pray your Holy Spirit will speak to me and that you want me to be a Sister here. If not I know you will close the door. I pray for the Bible Study this morning, I pray that the Holy Spirit will be with each participant. I pray for the Mittelmier’s, I know they are struggling in many ways. I pray Mom and Dad will be a shining light for them and that they will see their faith in them. I pray for all my unsaved family, I pray that we will have a great Mass and that the Holy Spirit will anoint Father Udo. I pray to the Holy Spirit, you know that the upcoming election for a new Prioress is coming up. I pray that you will anoint the Sisters with your wisdom to which Sister they should elect. I pray these things in Your name.
Tuesday, May 18, 2011
Sorry Lord that I have not written in my journal lately. I am just now trying to catch up. I have been going everywhere and helping the Sisters. Thank-you for speaking to me the other day, that you do want me to join Holy Angels Convent in August. Lord continue to speak to me. I pray for the Mittelmier’s visit this week-end that they will have a great time visiting Mom and Dad while I am in Jonesboro. I pray that Mom and Dad will be a witness to them and will be able to share their faith in You. I pray for Sister Marie Christi as she is traveling back home to the Convent from Indiana this Saturday. I pray also for Sister Mary Clare for traveling mercies. I thank-you Lord for this beautiful day, that you gave us at the Convent. I pray that I will get a restful night. I pray these things in your name. AMEN
May 20, 2011 @ 6:00am
Dear Lord, like it said in the Gospel this morning; Jesus said I am going to prepare a place for you. Lord I know you are preparing me a place at Holy Angels Convent. I will follow whatever your will is for me. I thank-you for this beautiful day you gave us. I pray that all the Sisters have a good day at work and then bring them home safe. I pray for my unsaved family and friends that they will know you. I pray for Grandma next month as she is having surgery. I pray for me and Sister Gloria this morning when we go to Mass. Help us to hear a good message in the homily. I pray these things in Your Name. Amen
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!                       
Jim and Julie

Monday, November 21, 2011

Come go with us to Bethlehem to Witness the Birth of the Savior

We are changing our Facebook profile picture today for the start of Advent starting this Sunday, November 27, 2011. The pic is a piece of art that we purchased a few years ago called La Posada. The Spanish word “Posada” means lodging or accommodation. It can truly speak to one’s heart and prepare us for the true meaning of Advent.  When I sit and lay my eyes upon this beautiful work of art, I ponder what the artist is trying to tell me, teach me and in doing so the artist brings me into the lives of “Joseph and Mary” as if it happened today. I am there with them on this journey to pay the taxes in Bethlehem. Come go with us to Bethlehem.                                                                                                                                        Joseph’s face is motionless, somewhat in a deep place, in deep thought, so deep that he probably has lost all senses and the reality of this gruesome journey. His mind is lost in the eagerness to get to Bethlehem with his wife Mary, the Christ child in her womb and keeping them safe. Can you imagine the worry, the details that he was working over in his mind as they traveled by foot?  We must remember that Mary was heavily pregnant at the time and the 80 mile trip was not like it would be today. If Mary and Joseph traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem, as stated in Luke's Gospel, we must think about the route they took and the culture of the day. Samaria lay between Galilee and Judea, the region in which the town of Bethlehem is located. There was much ill feeling between the Samaritans and the Jews. Any lone traveler crossing from Galilee into Samaria would be at risk of attack and would certainly not receive lodgings or any other type of assistance on the journey. The family would have had to travel east, cross over into modern-day Jordan and then travel south on the eastern side of the Jordan River, before crossing back into Judea. This is a much longer journey.
Mary; as I gaze at her face, her posture, as she rest and rides on the donkey I see a women that is resting and trusting her God. I am reminded of what she was told, just a few months ago when the angel Gabriel announced to her; “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you, do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord will give Him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will have no end. And Mary said to the angel; “how can this be, since I have no relationship with a man?” Gabriel replied; “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” Wow what a statement! I notice Mary has her left hand gently touching her swollen belly and her right hand rest upon her lap. Or maybe her right hand is supporting the growing Christ child in her womb, the child she loves so much and will soon be a mother to. Does she realize that the next 33 years will take her and the Christ child, all the way to the cross? Does she recall over and over in her mind the words of Gabriel? As she lightly caresses her womb, I am in awe that she is with child, not any child; “God of the Universe, The Word that became flesh.
The donkey has one foot lifted as he moves quickly, as Joseph has a light hand on his mane. Joseph will keep the donkey close to him, guide him and reassure the Donkey continually with his touch in hopes that the donkey understands the special cargo in which he is carrying. The donkey’s eyes are sharp, clear and looking into the direction in which Joseph is leading him.
I ponder and keep all these things close to my heart, just like Mary did in Luke chapter 2; when Jesus went missing for 3 days and was found in the Temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking questions and all who heard the young child Jesus were astounded. Mary and Joseph after finding him and being anxious; Jesus says, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s House?” And Mary kept all these things close to her heart. As my eyes behold the artwork, again I notice Mary lightly touching her womb, and she is keeping all these things close to her heart. Will she fully understand the words of Simeon when she and Joseph take Jesus to the Temple and present him to God? “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory for all people.” Simeon blessed them and prophesied “”Behold this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke Chapter 2:22-35). Simeon’s words echo in my mind, “and you yourself a sword will pierce.” Oh Mary, what the sword must have felt like when you were standing by the cross of your son Jesus? John 19 26-27. When Jesus saw you and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to you Mary; “Women Behold, your son.” He then also told his disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took you into his home. Me too….Mary, I have also taken you into my home since I have become Catholic. You have become my heavenly mother, you have taught me so much and you gently point me to your son. Through you, I feel the sword in which you felt that day your son Jesus hung on the cross. Through you I understand what our Jesus (your son) endured on the cross for me and the whole world. Through you I have come to know that “Blessed be the fruit of thy womb Jesus” means so much more to me than I could imagine!
 The following will sum up the beauty of entering into this season of Advent with Mary and Joseph as they travel to Bethlehem. How important Mary’s role has become in my Christian Faith. As I journey toward “Christmas Day Bethlehem” during the season of Advent, I ask Mary to gently take my hand and help me to understand Luke chapter 1; 28 “Hail Mary full of grace the Lord is with you” 42: “Most Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”
 Exodus 40:34-35, when the Tabernacle was completed, we learn the following:
"Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.  And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting, because the cloud overshadowed it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.
Luke 1:35:
"And the angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God."
In both cases, the word used to "overshadow" is "episkiasei". 
 Mary is the New Testament, “Ark of the Covenant.” She is carrying in her womb the Lord of the universe. The Old Testament Ark of the Covenant contained three items – The Word of God in the form of stone tablets (the 10 Commandments), manna (bread) from Heaven, and the rod of Aaron that re-sprouted and came back to life (Hebrews 9:4).  Just so, the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary contained Jesus Christ – The living Word of God (John 1:1), the bread of life (John 6:48), and the ruler with a rod of iron who also came back to life (Rev.12:5). At the Annunciation of Mary, Gabriel told her that the power of the most high would “overshadow” her (Luke 1:35).  The term “overshadow” is significant, because it was also used to refer to the cherubim “overshadowing” the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant (Hebrews 9:5).  The Ark (Exodus 40) was very holy, which parallels the Catholic teaching that Mary is also pure and holy.  The Ark of the Covenant was so holy, that no ordinary person could even touch it.  Uzzah reached out to steady it, and was instantly struck dead (2 Samuel 6:7).  There are many parallels between the mention of the Ark in 2 Samuel 6 and Mary in Luke 1: 
  • David heads to the hills of Judah in 2 Samuel 6:2-3; Mary heads to the hills of Judah in Luke 1:39. 
  • David dances for joy in front of the Ark (2 Samuel 6:14); the unborn fetus John the Baptist leaps for joy in Elizabeth’s womb at the sound of Mary’s voice (1 Luke 44).  
  • David says “How can the Ark come to me”? (2 Samuel 6:9); Elizabeth says, “How is this that the Mother of my Lord has come to me”? (1 Luke 43). 
  • David and the Ark stayed for 3 months (2 Samuel 6:11); Mary stayed for 3 months (1 Luke 56). 
So if Jesus is “The Word Made Flesh”, then Mary is “The Ark Made Flesh”.  All of these parallels between the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament and the Blessed Virgin Mary in the New Testament are a branch of scripture study known as “typology”.  In other words, events and people in the New Testament are prefigured by events and people in the Old Testament.
One such typology revolves around Revelation 12 and Genesis 37:9.  In Genesis, Joseph says, "Behold, I have dreamed another dream; and behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me." 
Revelation 12:1:
“And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” 
The obvious parallel is that the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars in Joseph’s dream represent his 11 brothers and all of Israel, while THE WOMAN in Revelation is adorned with these symbols of Israel.  So who is the “WOMAN”?  The first clue is the term “a great portent”.  In Isaiah 7:14 in the Old Testament, it says,
“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son and his name shall be called Emmanuel.” 

The great portent of Revelation and the sign of Isaiah are one and the same – A Virgin who will give birth to the leader of Israel, Jesus Christ.  That woman is the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The writer of the book of Revelation, St. John the Apostle, was given by Jesus on the cross to Mary as her son, and Mary was given to John as his Mother, in John 19:26-27.    This means that John knew Mary better than anyone, except for Jesus, and he is trying to tell us all something about her status in heaven.  In the preceding verse, Revelation 11:19, John tells us that he sees the Ark of the Covenant. In the next verse, Revelation 12:1, he describes the Ark for us as “A woman clothed with the sun”, a term that could only mean the immaculately conceived Virgin Mary.  The rest of Revelation 12 talks about the enmity prefigured in Genesis 3:15 between the devil and THE WOMAN, and how Satan can’t get to her.  In Revelation 12:17, it says that we are her children if we follow the commandments and bear testimony to Jesus.
Advent has just began, let us continue to seek the Christ Child until he comes.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

1963 VOLVO RESTORATION "Lt Col Buddy"



Jim inherited a 1963 Volvo from his Dad in 2002. It had 300,000+ miles, sat in a barn for 16 years and was in bad...bad condition. A request to restore the car from his future daughter-in law and son began a 5 month project to get the car ready for their Nov. wedding. Yes, "five months" was the notice to get it ready for a "get away" car after the wedding. The car had been sitting in our greenhouse/workshop that was eventually transformed into a car garage/paint booth all to rebuild the Volvo. Jim named his father's Volvo "Buddy" a nick-name given to his dad when he was a child. Buddy was in bad..bad condition and the request was something he had been wanting to do, but was dragging his feet to get started. The request was a spark that lit a fire to make Jim go forward with the restoration. Oh my...five months to get it ready? That five months consumed every moment in our life. From ordering parts to researching leads to get it done. Most parts had to be ordered from Sweden and Jim was literally finishing the restoration of the Volvo the day of the wedding. Now that it is done and Jim's labor of love is complete, we have memories of restoring the car and making memories with "Buddy" at our son and daughter-in law's wedding. The following pictures are of the restoration and I end this blog page with a letter Jim wrote to his son and wife a few months after their wedding. His thoughts about the project and completion is a beautiful conclusion to a project that I never thought he would complete.
Original Title and "Buddy" brand-new in 1963
In honor of I.A Nicholson.. Lt. Col






Buddy and his Antique tags.

                                               Final work 12 hours before we are to leave for wedding.


                             Buddy is not complete.."almost" loading him up for a ride to the wedding in FL.
                                            Good Bye "Arkansas" ....
                                             "Hello" Florida!!!!
                                                    He Did It!
Grandma sees Buddy for the 1st time, in a long time.


Josh & Mel,

I have been contemplating writing this note for some time.

First, let me say the wedding was as perfect as any wedding could be. The love you two expressed for each other was incredible. Every aspect of the wedding ceremony pointed to Christ and the sanctity of marriage. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, I spoke to had never witnessed a wedding like yours. It was a tremendous witness of God’s power and grace.

Now I would like to discuss Buddy. This caused me much thought and reflection because I did not want you to think I was seeking more accolades for completing the challenge you laid before me. Sure, I liked the many complements from all the folks at the wedding, but I did not want it to diminish attention on your special day. Grandma was very concerned that I was making Buddy the focus of the wedding. I assured her many times that was not my intention and I was not driving that log. Read on.

Back when you asked me to “restore Buddy for the get-a-way car”, I had some reservations. Was the engine in decent shape? The radiator? The generator? The transmission? The rear end? How in God’s name would it get painted? Could I really completely deconstruct the car and reassemble it? As I thought about it, I was overwhelmed with the magnitude of the project. I committed to have the car ready for you, but was quite terrified of failure. Two things crossed my mine. Since his death, it had been my goal to restore the car to a drivable condition as a tribute to my dad. And, I wanted to fulfill your request to use the car on your special day. “What father, who loves his son, would give him a stone if he asked for a loaf of bread?” The Lord encouraged me to try.

I knew much of the mechanical stuff would need replacing. Disassembly was quick and I began to order parts. I soon learned that some of the parts, although available, were very long-lead. At one point the pieces were stuffed in any available space I could find. Parts were cleaned, but reassembly was not happening and I began to panic. Also, upholstery and window/door seals were ordered, but the best delivery date was projected to be “early November”. How would that work with the wedding scheduled for 14 November??? I was devastated, but, the Lord encouraged me and that still small voice urged me to keep going with whatever I could find to do.

Suspension parts began to come in and I was making some progress at reassembly. However, everything took at least twice as long as I had anticipated (I’m getting old). And, so much time had passed since disassembly it was imperative to rely on memory (such as it is) and excellent photography by Jeanine. She also sketched electrical schematics! Rather than just cut the wiring harnesses, we disassembled them at the connectors. That was the only way to get the fenders off.

Once the suspension was done, I turned to the Mighty Mouse engine. When I got it disassembled, there was plenty of good news. There was also what appeared to be bad news. One of the rod bearings was totally shredded and the crank journal looked very bad. Once again discouragement set in. After a few days of prayer and contemplation, I attempted to determine how bad the crank actually was. Several hours of polishing with various grades of emery cloth resulted in a shiny journal bearing. I consider that a miracle. Some of the engine parts were on back order, but the still small voice urged me on.

While I was waiting for the Mighty Mouse engine parts, I looked toward the body. I knew the fenders would have to be removed and prepped for paint. The doors would need to be disassembled and removed for paint prep. Front, rear and side windows would also come out. Side window seals were showing 46 years of sunlight exposure, but they had to be removed. I had discovered the seals were no longer available and if the old ones were damaged (or crumbled to pieces) it would be a major problem. There was a considerable amount of body prep to be accomplished; dent removal, rust removal, rust treatment, etc. I was about to order the primer and paint, but was greatly concerned about: 1) my capability to paint, 2) the adequacy of a “greenhouse paint booth” and 3) wondered if the weather would cooperate. The still small voice informed me that the three items listed were irrelevant if the body prep was not done and that I should concentrate on that.

Body prep moved along well in spite of my minimum experience and ability. The days were hot and humid, not conducive to painting a car. I was afraid the heat would cause the paint to dry before it hit the car and humidity in the air would cause an undesirable effect on the paint finish. But guess what? I still did not have the paint on order!

The worry turned to determination when the remaining engine parts arrived. Mighty Mouse would be assembled at last! The first order of business was to install the piston rings, then install the pistons. During assembly of the last ring on the last piston, the ring broke. My excitement degenerated into frustration. Another set of rings was three weeks away; so many road blocks, so little time. I was still debating on whether or not to rebuild the carbs myself, or have them rebuilt. (Mel will come to understand that I rarely trust anyone to work on my stuff, especially my mechanical stuff. I will never forget the famous words of my father, “If you want someone to screw it up, do it yourself!”) Well, the still small voice said, “You do not have enough time to do carbs. You will need to rely on someone else. Seek and you will find.” And found I did – ZTherapy was a phone call away. They did a top-notch job and I was relieved.

At this point in time, you showed up for Labor Day. I watched you walk around the car, look at each other and look back at the car. No seats, no hood, no doors, no fenders, no trunk lid, no engine and no transmission. The looks on your faces were priceless. Then the proverbial icing on the cake: Mel turned to me and said, “Jim, It’s OK if you don’t get it finished in time for the wedding.” Mel, what were you thinking? I had eight weeks left! (If I were you, I would have said the same thing. In fact, I was thinking the same thing, or wondering if it would be OK to miss the deadline and shatter your dreams.) I put on a strong front, but completion was looking doubtful to me. I had been developing plan “B” for upholstery – cheap seat covers from Wal-Mart, buy material and wrap the seats and even saddle blankets draped over. Plan “B” for the floor mats was carpet scraps from the local flooring store – sort of cut and paste.

I managed to get Mighty Mouse assembled and back into to his cradle. Carbs came and were bolted on, followed by fuel pump, distributor and generator. Oh yea, the generator. It looked good. It felt good. It smelled good. But, was it good? No place in Magnolia to get it checked. The kids at the auto stores don’t even know what an automobile generator is. That Saturday was long and tedious, but a confidence builder. Buddy roared to life. What a sweet sound, just like I had remembered. The still small voice said, “Finish the race.” But I said, “No upholstery. No paint. No window seals.” (Oh me of little faith!) My Better Half (I’m sure you have noticed that I married above myself) asked, “What do you need for your greenhouse paint booth?” Of course I had prepared a list. “Is that all?” was the reply. “Yes”, I said confidently. She asked, “Why don’t you build it?” I said, “Because the weather is not right.” She said, “Build it and the weather will come.” I laughed (to myself – I’m no dummy).

Well, we built the “paint booth” and continued to piddle about the greenhouse making sure everything that could be done was done. The primer & paint arrived and we waited – rainiest fall season we have had in 6 years. As the days passed, there was vanishing hope. Then an email form Swedish Treasures; the floor mats arrived sooner than expected. That was great news, but the mats would be stuffed in the corner until installation at a later date. One week later another email; the upholstery arrived sooner than expected. More great news and I turned the Chicken Coop into an upholstery shop. I had done all I could do until paint was on the car. The still small voice reminded me to be ready to paint at a moment’s notice.

Time was running out. Then with three weeks left in October, I awoke to a gorgeous Friday morning – no dew, no wind and NO RAIN. The still small voice screamed, “Paint now!”, and paint I did. The first few guns full of primer were a challenge. What is the best gun pressure? What is the best gun distance from the panels? What is the best gun speed across the panels? What was I thinking? No matter how much you search the internet, some details are self-learned.  I suffered through the fenders and the trunk lid. Not bad, but a little rough and slow. I was tired after about 2 ½ hours, so I decided to clean the gun and spend the afternoon sanding the “rough” out. It was the cleaning of the gun that set me free. I thinned the remaining mix in the gun to clean the nozzle and discovered a thinner mix sprayed like a dream. I sprayed Buddy’s nose (just to get rid of the remaining paint in the gun), it went on fast and smooth. The paint man (expert) never mentioned thinning the primer (details, details)! The still small voice said, “It’s all good. By Sunday you will be a pro.” Well by Sunday I had primer complete and felt reasonably good about the prospects for successfully spraying the top coats (total of 8-10 coats was my goal). The following weekend was a carbon copy of the previous. I put 4-5 coats on everything followed with sanding, then 4-5 more coats with the fenders attached. The paint was on, but there remained the final sanding and polishing. The still small voice said, “You’re on the home stretch. Finish the race!”

The last 2 weeks were almost around the clock. If it had not been for a loving wife and a wonderful daughter, I would not have finished. They polished chrome, devised a method to make the sun deck, determined how to cover the dash cleaned up after me and packed the “finishing kit” we took to Tampa to complete the job. Above all, they were like cheerleaders encouraging me to finish.

I said all of this not to dangle the challenges I faced in front of you, but to explain why God must have wanted you to have the car for your special day. He wanted to once again show me his power and grace.
1) God’s demonstrated power – Without some miracles and the Lord’s Spirit continuously encouraging me on, I would have failed. God has blessed me with some special skills and abilities and without them this would not have been possible. I had ample opportunity to use them all!
2) God’s healing power – I got to relive several moments I shared with my dad in Buddy; vacation trip to PA with Jenny, Jill and dad; a trip in Buddy to see the Harlem Globetrotters; a trip in Buddy to the DMV so I could take my driver’s license test. These are just a few. It was therapeutic to rerun these memories and remember the great father God blessed me with. My dad was instrumental in developing the skills I have.
3) God’s return blessing – I was privileged to see the looks on your faces when you cast your eyes on Buddy for the first time in Tampa. That was a blessing for me. If you give selflessly to others, you will receive a blessing!
4) God’s direct blessing – God reaffirmed the true love of a tremendous wife and a wonderful daughter. What blessings both are. I have been blessed by God because He allowed them to be in my life. What a wonderful God we serve!

Finally, God has blessed me with a wonderful son. In spite of my shortcomings as a father, the Father in Heaven has molded him into a fine person and will continue molding him into His perfection. Josh has chosen wisely for his covenant partner. Mel is what every father prays his son will find. May the God of all creation bless you and seal your covenant until the end of this age. May His grace continue to build your union into His perfection. Amen.

Love,
Dad



Saturday, September 24, 2011

HAVE YOU EVER SEEN AN ANGEL? I THINK I HAVE.


In the late 90s my mom and I went to Kingsville, TX my old stomping grounds in which I lived for almost 4 years while Jim was in college. We loved S. Texas while we were there; the history and folks, who live the S. Texas life, were the salt of the earth. My plans to take my mom there was to show her how special S. Texans were. One such treat for S. Texans is: they love to shop in Mexico. While we lived in Kingsville they showed us the ropes on where to go and what to buy, when we traveled there. So, we planned a day trip over the border into one of Mexicos border towns. It was always an adventure to shop and look for bargains and be a part of a different culture for a day. My plans were to visit friends in Kingsville, take her to the historical King Ranch, eat at all my favorite spots and stay at one of my friends home (Mary), and go shopping in Mexico while we were there. We planned to leave early in the morning for Mexico so we could get there before noon, to shop all day, leave around 4:00 for Kingsville, and this would get us back to Kingsville at a decent hour. We decided to go to Nuevo Laredo a good size border town, with easy parking on the U.S. side.  A walk over the bridge and you are there. We got up early, had breakfast and off we went. The drive from Kingsville is a couple of hours and you go through a few small towns and the last trek of the drive you are in no mans land. You can see for miles and miles and miles. The landscape is flat with small brushy growth and you sense you are in a desert. You better make sure you have a full tank of gas after leaving the last small town, because there is nothing until you get to Nuevo Laredo. We were traveling in my moms fairly new T-Bird, low mileage and good on gas too. Our laid out plans were working well, we got up early and ate, drove to Nuevo Laredo, parked the car, walked over the bridge (11:30) and shopped till our hearts were content. Before we knew it, it was 3:30 and we had not eaten all day. Oh well, lets finish shopping and we can stop and eat something on the way back to Kingsville. Our bags of treasures we found had to go through customs (which took time) and we finally got back to our car at 5:00. We were starving and had not eaten for 10 hours. The 5:00 traffic getting out of Laredo was not fun and we kept our eyes open looking for a place to pull over to eat, but nothing caught our eyes. Before I knew it we were leaving Laredo and heading into no mans land. I assured my mom, well we will find something in one of those small towns before we get to Kingsville. Hang in there we will not starve.  The road in no mans  land is straight as an arrow, flat as a board and you can put the petal to the metal and make some good time, so that is what I did (we were hungry). There we were traveling at the speed of about 85 miles an hour, smooth as glass, did not see anyone else on this desolate road, just me and my mom in the T-Bird cruising along in our adventure. About 20 minutes into our smooth as glass ride; I looked into my mirror and saw lights, blue lights on top of a police car, on my rear-end. Oh my. Where did he come from? I could see for miles and he appeared out of the blue. So, I pull over in the middle of Nowhere - Ville, and proceeded to pull the gear shift into park. It would not go, it was stuck in drive. With my foot on the brake, I pulled and pushed and it was stuck. As I was trying to get this car into park the policeman came to my window and I rolled it down. He started the conversation; Miss, Did you know you were speeding and could I please see your license and registration? Yes officer, was my reply as I was tugging on the gear shift. I went on to say, Officer my gear shift will not go into park, see I am pulling on the stick and it is stuck. While I am telling him my dilemma he is looking at my license and registrationthen hands them back to me and says, Pop your hood and I will see if I can manually pull it into park. I popped the hood, the officer moves away from my window and heads to the front of the car and opens the hood. He studies for a minute, locates the gear mechanism and starts to manually pull it into park. It was stuck! He tried several times and it would not budge. The Office then closes the hood, walks over to my window and says, Miss, You were speeding, but I am not going to give you a ticket, only a verbal warning. Please watch your speed. Where are you heading? I told him, We had been shopping in Nuevo Laredo all day and were heading back to Kingsville.  He then went on the say, Miss, please do not speed and do not stop anywhere. You go straight to Kingsville without stopping.  Yes sir, was my reply. I rolled up my window, watched in my mirror as the Officer returned to his patrol car and got in it. I then pulled forth from the shoulder of the road and started driving towards Kingsville. The police officer was behind me, following at a close distance and I would from time to time, look in my mirror to see him following close behind. It must have been maybe 10 minutes, hard to say the exact time, I looked in my mirror and he was gone, disappeared in an instant. Remember we were on a straight flat road and you can see for miles. His last words of advice echoed in my mind; do not stop, go straight to Kingsville. My mother and I were planning and discussing how we were going to get the car fixed when we did get to Kingsville. What a mess! We finally drove into Marys driveway and were in Kingsville. I went to put the car into park and as smooth as a babys butt it went. I did it again and again and each times the same results. My mother kept that T-Bird for another 7 years and it always, without any trouble, would slide into park as smooth as a babys butt.  
We have reminisced many times over the years about our trip to Nuevo Laredo. We both truly believe that the Officer was an Angel in disguise. Who knows what lurked in one of those small towns that could have harmed us. Our Guardian Angel did know what lurked and we give all the thanks and praise to our Father in Heaven who cares for us and our angel who steered us back to Kingsville.