Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween

Greetings Halloweenies,

The 4 Webbs are not afraid to admit we participate in the age-old tradition of giving away twenty times more candy than our kids take in.  It's not about the loot...  It's about the experience.  

Our neighborhood is a hotbed of activity on Halloween.  We have car-loads of kids dumped off by parents and they parade through like a line of ants.  Ouma and I chaperoned the twins while Kendra stayed in the driveway to give away two enormous bags of candy within an hour.  This is probably my favorite picture from the outing because Easton and Layla are both ecstatic about trick-or-treating with Ouma this year.  She reluctantly dressed up, but the neighbors were impressed.

Now that Ouma is retired she can join us for holiday's outside of the school calendar such as Halloween.  Hooray!  I'm trying to work out a deal with Oupa for 50% custody, but I'm not holding my breath.

My HOA board member neighbor has a full-sized skeleton pirate that sings with background music while shaking his hips.  The twins were mesmerized.  I had to physically turn them towards the street to hit up the next house because they were so intrigued.

Our neighborhood is unique in that almost every neighbor sits out front in their driveway and many gather at a single house. It was common to pass several darkened houses before coming across a driveway full of families and buckets-o-candy.

Layla knows how to pose and stand patiently while Daddy gets lots of pictures.  Easton was eager to fill his pumpkin with candy.  Can't say that I blame him for the "hurry up and go!" smile.

I agreed to let them each have one piece of candy tonight.  They dug around to find the only full-sized candy bar in their loot.  A deal is a deal!

My sweet princess Layla and my queen Kendra dressed up in her 50's poodle skirt.  I'll add this to rotation of pictures on my phone's screen saver.  Two of the best gifts I ever received.  When I looked at this picture I sat in shocked silence for over 10 minutes.   Just thinking, "Is that grown-up looking young lady my little baby who I held in one arm?"  When you see a person every single day, little changes are hard to detect.  However, occasionally I see a picture like this where I'm able to really process who Layla has become and it causes me to do a double and triple take because she is growing up faster than I care to admit.

This is the last year for Spiderman Sr. and Jr.  Almost half of the trick-or-treaters who crossed our path called Easton "Spiderman Jr.".  That's not bad, but his costume is getting a little too small and won't fit next year anyway.  We'll start planning early and next year we'll each have our own unique costumes.  

With all of the new responsibilities at church I've logged more 12+ hour days in the past week than I have in the past year combined.  Looks like this month is shaping up to be highly time-intensive, but also very rewarding.  It's a real balancing act that's going to take some getting used to.  Also, I have a new job opportunity on the horizon that may or may not pan out.  Either way I'm going to have to step up my A-game at work and stop loafing so much.  I was joking with a friend today that it's almost embarrassing how much I get paid considering how easy my job is.  Seriously.  It's a dream job by my own admission.  I shouldn't (and don't) go around saying that at work, but this is my blog where I can be as open as I want.

1. I work whenever I want for as long as I want.
2. I can wear flip-flops and a tank top every day.
3. Travel is at my own discretion and optional.  
4. My coworkers are highly trained and professional.
5. I get 21 days of vacation per year plus a sabbatical.
6. I listen to music and play on my computer all day.

There's not

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Absent Father

Greetings friends and family,

Thank goodness for absent fathers.  I was totally absent from my family for 48 hours and it was wonderful.  It is a good thing for fathers (and husbands) to be away from their family occasionally to relax, refill, rejuvenate, revive, and re-whatever else.  I missed Kendra and twins and Ouma too, but I surrounded myself with 45 Godly men for a weekend conference.  I didn't go to get away from them.  I went to get connected in a deeper way with guys who help me become a better husband and father.  It's the same idea of preventative maintenance on a car or piece of machinery.  My car oil doesn't get changed when the engine explodes.  It gets changed regularly so the engine doesn't explode.  This time away gives me perspective and wisdom so that when I jump back into daily life that I'm the best "me" I can be.

This is my roommate, Carl, and I hitting a buckets of golf balls to loosen up as a preparation for golf the next day.  He and I had some intensely open moments of transparency.  He told me things about himself he's never told anyone such as his past, who he is today, and what he hopes for the future.  I did the same and it's one of the most freeing things in the world to talk through the issues of life and be encouraged about my dreams and goals.

The next day I hit the course with some new guys that I didn't know very well.  The game was slower than molasses, but it gave us a chance to talk for several hours while waiting.  Certainly not my best day of golf, but sure was a ton of fun to get to know these guys better.  Such unique backgrounds and diversity across us.

Then we went to our new church campus and did what 45 men and a bobcat can do for landscaping in 4 hours.  We transformed the area by digging trenches, planting trees, and raking ground cover.  Doesn't sound like much fun, but it really was.  Anything done together by this many guys is considered a bonding experience.  If all we did was sit around and watch TV or eat a meal, then that wouldn't cause the level of relationships that are forged when guys pull together to achieve a common goal.    

I was able to speak a few times and lead the group of guys through some interesting spiritual concepts.  This leadership role is getting real...  quickly.  This was the best $125 I've spent on myself in a long time.  I consider it an investment because what I got out of it will benefit my family and strengthen my relationships with solid men who will be a positive influence on me.

While I was having the time of my life Kendra and Ouma was helping the twins recover from the after-effects of the flu. Sounds like I missed out on lots of coughing and snot.  There wasn't even a single picture worthy event except when Betty came over to watch the twins while Kendra and Ouma went to an event.

Her daughter Kayla hung out as well, which left Easton out of the princess tea party.  He was probably glad for the alone time though.  It'll take many years for me to get used to the idea of seeing Layla in a wedding dress, but for now it's not too big of a deal.  I'll be her prince for as long as she'll let me.

The new thing around our house is jump rope.  One end is tied to the kitchen chair and the other is manned by one of us three adults.  Layla and Easton are both very excited by the accomplishment of jumping 5 or 10 successful revolutions.  

We don't celebrate Halloween with scary movies and evil components, but we do participate in the festivities.  Pumpkin carving is the first component because we want to get all the use we possibly can from the jack-o-lanterns.  Ouma helped Layla figure out what she wanted.

and then Ouma made her own from a little pumpkin.

Layla settled on a princess and penciled in a rough sketch of one on the pumpkin.  The features were too small to carve out so I asked if I could pick out which princess to make for her.  I went to the computer, found a template, and printed it off within about 2 minutes.  Then I taped it on and cut it out.  I chose Ariel and here are the results.

We had to threaten Easton with losing the privilege of designing his jack-o-lantern because he wouldn't pull out the pumpkin guts.  He was grossed out by the idea even after Kendra pulled out a handful of slimy fibers and seeds.  He decided it was worth the grossness to design his own so here's Easton tolerating the yucky stuff.

He wanted a bat because he recently learned how to draw bat wings.  As Kendra drew the mouth he requested the happy smile be replaced with a scary, sad mouth.  Not sure why he wanted it that way, but as you can see by his face he is happy with the results.

Later that afternoon Easton and Layla were in the neighborhood running around.  They ran into each other and Easton hit the pavement.  He was brave, but these kinds of injuries are sometimes the fall out from letting kids be kids.  It was an accident and both parties were equally at fault.  Easton just took the brunt of the damage because Layla has better balance.

I took the twins shopping for tea lights because we had no way of lighting our creations once the sun went down.  They turned out well considering our novice artistic skills.

I'm still thinking about what costume to wear and the next 4 days are going to be crazy busy.  Looks like I'll probably be Buzz Lightyear again.  :)

See you soon!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Way Back Whensday

Greetings friends and family,

In the midst of the busiest season I've seen in a few years I still take time go for a mountain bike ride.  Notice I didn't say "make" time.  that's impossible.  All we can do is take time from one priority and use it on another.  The ride was smooth with only minor scrapes on my elbow because I'm still getting used to the clips on my new bike.  I've only been able to ride a couple of times in the past few months, but each time I go it makes me want to go more.  My lungs and legs are a little mad at me for pushing so hard, but only for a day.  

photographs are very deceiving when it comes to angle and difficulty.  This looks like a stroll in the park, but it is a treacherous section of heavy-breathing uphill fatigue.

I'm still singing good night songs for Layla and Easton every single night.  Layla is stuck on Daddy's little girl as sung by Michael Buble.  She insists I rub her back with a light fingernail touch as I sing.  While Kendra and I were gone to Texas, Ouma wasn't made aware of "our song".   Layla sung it for Ouma from start to finish so she would get the hang of it.

Easton is still perfectly content with Jesus loves me.  Nothing wrong with that.  i'm looking forward to his interest in playing instruments to accompany my singing some day.

Morgan came over for a while this evening.  She stops by from time to time and we're always glad to have her hang out.  She does well with the twins.  Partly because she fits in the same boxes they play in.  Just kidding, it's because she knows how special they are and enjoys them as much as they enjoy her.

Today is a special day.  Not for me our us, but for her...  Mom.

I'm not able to give her a birthday hug and say "happy birthday" face to face so a phone call and a picture here is as good as it gets.  I'm closer to her today than we've been in years.  Relationships are dynamic.  they are either growing or withering, but they are never just status quo.  I'm content with how ours is growing.  Happy birthday to Mom and many more to come.

Several months ago Layla gave me a rock from my own yard.  I gladly accepted her gift and kept the rock on my night stand for a long time.  I knew then that even though it was just a rock that it was all she could give.  At her age, there isn't a single thing she has that I didn't give her (except maybe gifts from friends and family).  Anyway, over the past few months she's been drawing me art work almost daily.  I gladly accept and display them at work, in my room, and even at the hotel while we were in Texas.  Layla gave me this one the other day and I had to keep from laughing because it says, "I love bab" instead of I love dad.  She's really good at reading and writing for a five year old, but everyone makes mistakes.  especially while in the early stages of learning.  I appreciate the heart behind the art.  That's what matters most to me!

I'll end this post with two Way back Whensday pictures just for fun. These two are from the 18 month old era when they starting to be more fun.  Hind sight is only sometimes 20 / 20.  There is much of these first two years that was and still is a blur.  I'm extremely grateful for Kendra's mothering instincts and her love for being a mom.  We both agreed early in our dating life that we both want her to be a stay-at-home mom.  I haven't regretted that decision for a single moment.

When Easton and Layla look back through the pictures and blog posts I want them to know with absolutely certainty that not only was I present, but also lovingly, intentionally involved in their lives from day one.  There are times I miss this stage where everything was amazing.  A silly facial expression would generate giggles and hugs lasted as long as I wanted.

See you soon!

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Calling

Greetings friends and family,

What a great weekend for the 4 Webbs.  Thank God Ouma is here!  Our weekend would have been ten times more difficult without her because the twins are both sick.  Other than that minor detail we are doing great.  Saturday morning turned into a daddy date with just Layla and I at the soccer field.  Easton was already feverish so he had to stay home.  He doesn't like to be on video much, but he is happy to share about whatever interests him.  The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle phase came and went fairly quickly, but his love of aerospace has remained constant since he first saw an airplane in the sky.

Layla represented well by scoring a goal and winning honors for teamwork.  One of her teammates had his shoelaces come undone.  He stood there waiting for the coach to notice and tie his shoes.  Layla ran over and said, "don't worry coach, I do this for my brother all the time."  She tied his shoes in sturdy knots and off he went.

Layla did many things right on the soccer field that are a result of the practices and time between games to figure out the game.

Guess who learned "defense" and blasted the ball away from the other team before they were close to our goal?  That's my girl.

I guess I should get used to boys chasing Layla, but this is the only acceptable scenario for the next few years where it is OK for them to chase her... on the field.

She sat out one quarter (yes, our game is split into 4 quarters) and I noticed she crosses her legs like a princess even in cleats and shin guards.

We bought gifts for the twins in Dallas during our conference trip.   They appreciated the contents even more than we hoped.  Easton's favorite gift is the combination microscope/telescope.  Layla's is box of stamps.  Doesn't take much to make their day.  They might even want us to go away more often if they know we return bearing gifts.

Speaking of gifts...  Aunt Mary blessed the twins with a "Y Bike".  It's like the old-school Big Wheel, but the controls and wheels are backwards.  The steel frame and rubber tires are super sturdy.

Easton took about 10 minutes of stick-time to get comfortable with the pedal motion.  Once he figured it out he was rolling around the streets with no issues.

I told them to "show me how excited you are for the Y Bikes!" This is the result.

And of course, Layla can pose and smile no matter what the situation or props available.  Yes, this contraption works on grass too.  Especially down hill.  :)

Now I'll get back to "the calling" from my previous post.  The short version of my story is that God made me to be a servant leader and my Dad developed me.  Proverbs 22:6 says, "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it."  The phrase "way he should go" has nothing to do with personal convictions of my parents or family traditions.  It means "in keeping with his God-given individual gift".  Dad may have got those confused at times, but he taught me to be a servant and helper within the boundaries of my own intelligence, capabilities, and interests.  When he worked on the car he didn't show me how to rebuild the engine, but he let me get tools for him and assist.  I was (and am) perfectly content to let my leaders lead while I support.

Before I get into the story, watch this clip:

At the 2:20 mark he says, "I believe God made me for a purpose. He also made me fast.  and when I run, I feel HIS pleasure."  This movie, Chariots of Fire, was released when I was six years old.  I don't remember how old I was when I first saw it, but that scene was etched in my memory ever since.  I've wondered my whole life how to feel His pleasure.  The new role I'm stepping into as executive pastor is the first time I've felt His pleasure.  There is no glory or recognition or status, but that's not what motivates me, which makes this a perfect fit.  For the first time in my life I'm in the middle of this overlap between my talents, my passion, and the needs of the church.  I feel His pleasure.  Not one moment of my 16 year corporate career gives me as much fulfillment as the past two months of ministry in this capacity.

So what is a "calling"? There are four types:

General call : All Christians are called, by nature of their baptism, to ministry and service.
Ecclesiastical call : The Church’s corporate call that reflects different needs in times and contexts.
Providential call : The gifts, talents, and experiences one has been given to carry out God’s call
Secret call : A deepening sense within of a specific ministry or work to which God is calling you.

Dad recognized my providential call and, from what Mom said, confirmed it by saying I would be "a friend of the Pastor".  Back when I was a boy there was no executive pastor role, but I believe this is the role he had in mind.

Six years ago Kendra and I attended a Wednesday night church service.  We had only attended a few times and didn't have any friends or connections.  She was pregnant with the twins.  I had no idea about the amount of time and resources parenting requires.  To top it off, our marriage was just recovering from the dysfunctional crisis state when we were on the verge of separation.

At the end of service I felt a deep sense of compassion for Pastor and a switch was flipped in my heart that energized a desire to see his vision carried out.  I walked up to the platform where he was standing and said, "what can I do to help?"  He could have easily taken advantage of my eagerness by loading me up with tasks.  However, knowing Kendra was about to have the twins, he said, "come back and talk to me a year."  I could have taken offense to that, as some would, but instead I trusted his wisdom and focused on Kendra and the twins.

After a year of faithful attendance, consistent giving, and an eye-opening experience of bringing Easton and Layla into the world I approached the pastor again.  I thanked him for putting me on hold and not allowing me to get my priorities out of alignment.  I don't even remember my first task or role, but it was insignificant and unseen.  The more I did what I was asked, the more he gave me to do.  I have yet to ever say "no" to any opportunity he has offered.  Here's a list of the different roles I've filled in the past five years:

Small group leader
Alarm responder
Membership class teacher
Young adults ministry leader
Armor bearer
Advisory board member
Finance budget committee leader
Security team leader
Crisis support ministry leader
Inner healing ministry leader
Mentoring group leader
Guest speaker

and now, executive pastor.  There is more work to do in this role than I could ever have time for even if I didn't have my corporate job.  Even so, Pastor agreed to let me fill this role temporarily with as much time and attention as I can give it.  I don't know how long I'll have this role or where it will lead.  All I have is the task at hand and the desire to see Pastor's vision carried out.

My secret call as described above was ignited six years ago and I didn't even recognize it at the time.  Last week Pastor empowered me with the authority and responsibility to oversee several specific focus areas.  I am called to be diligent with whatever I'm given to do no matter what it is.  

This is a new chapter I will need to navigate wisely by maintaining my priorities.  I could easily leave the other 3 Webbs in the dust as I provide for our family while serving in the church.  Accountability and time management must be elevated at the same rate as my time commitments.  Bear with me as the 4 Webbs adjust to the next level of serving.

See you soon!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Fired Up in Dallas

One last Howdy Y'all from Texas.

Kendra told a cashier how cute her accent was.  She asked, "What do y'all say instead of y'all?"  Kendra said, "You all".  The cashier shook her head and said that was a waste of time.  We had a good laugh, but it was odd because we were laughing at the absurdity of each other.  Which leads to my wisdom of the day:

In the eyes of someone else, the way you do things is totally appalling.  Yes, you.  We are all messy in some area where we are not aware.  Sometimes others are right though.  It's not healthy to take anyone's advice, but it is healthy to consider everyone's advice.  If any ONE person points out a flaw, then brush that off your shoulder.  However, if EVERY one is pointing out the same flaw then guess what...  you should consider the possibility you need some course correction.

Before I get too far I want to say thank you to Ouma for making our trip possible.  Without her manning the Casa de Webb and Uno and Dos we would never have been able to be gone.  Also, thank you to Aunt Mary for making our trip possible in her own special way.  Kendra and I felt very strongly about the importance of being here.  We made our plans and just trusted it would work out.

We spent six glorious days without the kids and with our Pastor and his wife.  The four of us spent nearly every second of every day together.  You can really get to know somebody well doing that.  The biggest "shift" for me was that we became friends.  He's been my Pastor and mentor for several years now and I will continue to be fully submitted to his authority as the leader.  Even so, we unlocked a new achievement this week and added "friends" to our list of how we relate.

Kendra and I were alone for a few leisurely meals.  The burger joint was empty so I had to take a selfie.  We held hands, walked slowly from place to place, and had conversations about anything and everything.  You know...  all the things people without kids do.

With an extra hour open in our schedule we didn't know what to do so we went shopping for souvenirs for the twins.  We found an awesome toy store packed full of practical, fun toys.  They gift wrapped for free!

I have never experienced as much church in one week as I did in Texas.  And I never grew tired of it.  First two days were participation in an event called Kairos.  It is a two-day conference to experience God’s presence, power, and truth through worship, teaching, testimonies and inner healing exercises. We covered a variety of topics including:

Appetite for the Eternal
Establishing Identity
Living Without Regret
Breaking Soul Ties
Freedom Through Forgiveness
Healing Father/Mother Wounds

Talk about an intense inward journey.  I found several answers to questions I've had for years.  I also unpacked my own issues with brutal honesty to figure out another layer of how I got where I am and why I am who I am.

I got to meet the visionary and designer of the whole process.  As we talked she walked into the book store, picked up her book, signed it, and gave it to me as a gift.  How's that for a personal touch/

The next two days were filled with behind the scenes views of how these three campuses pull off five services per weekend.  We were given full access to the entire staff (600 full time!), all of their processes, curriculum, and wisdom.  The four of us together were given a private tour of the entire facility across three campuses.  I was astonished by their coordination, structure, friendliness, and willingness to help us with everything we asked.

The next two days was the official pastoral conference where 3,800 pastors converged on this campus to connect, learn, and get refreshed.  Ministry is hard because it is a life of pouring into others.  Everybody needs to refill from time to time.  The conference provided the atmosphere to do just that.  I spent a week of my corporate job vacation, but because I'm a good steward of my time and I had my sabbatical thrown in this year I have plenty of days to cover such an incredible opportunity.

This is as close to the main stage as I ever got.  They never offered to give me the mic before or even after Joel Osteen was on.

The most thought provoking question of the week came from Perry Noble.  He asked, "When were you called to be a pastor?  if you don't know the answer to that then your life of ministry is going to suck."  I really had to think about this because my life choices of non-ministry work in the computer world was based on an inner vow I made growing up.  I said to myself, "I will never be a pastor."  What I meant back then was I will never be a senior pastor doing what my Dad did.  I didn't make that inner vow because of anything negative Dad portrayed about the ministry or any particular event that wounded me.   I just saw the amount of time and extraordinary effort required of him and knew that I don't have that in me.  that's not my personality or my talents or my desire.

So how did I end up here and when was I called pastor?  Stay tuned for the next post for the rest of the story.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Arizona Ranch, Texas Big City

Howdy folks,

We are enjoying our time in the land of y'all otherwise known as "deep in the heart of Texas".  The dichotomy of our day was in how relaxing our morning was and how crazy busy our evening was.  We exercised in the gym, went for a slow walk through the outdoor mall, and I even took a dip in the semi-heated pool.  Those few hours were rejuvenating, to say the least.  Then we met up with Pastor to spend the rest of the evening taking in information about how to run a mega-church.  It was like drinking through a fire hose.  I met dozens of people and asked question after question about processes and procedures they use to make it work.  Unfortunately, there were no socially acceptable moments to say, "Can we get a picture together?"  The memories will only exist in my head.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...  I mean that literally.  Easton and Layla joined our friends and their kids for a ranch experience.  These are the pictures I have, but no context or stories.  We weren't able to talk with the twins or Ouma tonight probably because they were all wiped out tired from the excitement of the day.  Easton is beginning his journey to develop into a knight in shining armor.  Everybody starts somewhere!

Riding around in the John Deere is something every boy wants.  I'm glad he was able to go for a ride on this one with his buddies.

Great.  Now I have to buy Layla a pony.

There is no doubt in my mind she will ask me for one within the first five minutes of our next conversation.  Even if I don't get her a pony I'm really happy for her to have these experiences of riding horses and learning how to interact with animals.

I'm sure there is more context needed for the next picture, but I'm interested to find out how and why she was riding on the front of a four-wheeler with six people on it.  I can imagine her screaming, "charge!" as they rode around the ranch.

I'm starting to miss the twins a little bit.  Only two more sleeps before I see them again and give a much needed break for Ouma.  I'm very grateful for our friends who have provided a change in scenery and shift from the norm for the twins and Ouma.  I know how much it means to have those fun events and get togethers during the day to mix things up.

Fall break is over for the twins.  The only person more excited than the twins for school to start on Monday is Ouma (I'm guessing).  No matter how much she loves them, I know from experience it's refreshing to have some "me" time where their well-being is the school's responsibility for a few hours.
See you soon!

Kid-less in Dallas

Howdy Y'all,

We are kid-less in Dallas Texas!  The two of us are laying in bed awake after sleeping in until 10:30.  That isn't news worthy for most people, but for us it is a measure of success for our trip.  This is the only day we get a chance to sleep in and we were able to take full advantage of it.  The last time we slept in this late together was before Easton and Layla were born.  Something this enjoyable that happens once every 5-6 years IS news worthy.

Easton and Layla are safe at home with Ouma.  That makes vacationing 10 times more peaceful and relaxing. I took this picture before we left to show how quickly Kendra and I turned into Mr. and Mrs. Cellophane as soon as Ouma arrived.  I'm not complaining at all though.  We are perfectly fine with the two of them enjoying her fully and ignoring us.

They are still grasping the concept of time when it comes to days, weeks, months.  Ouma had to assure them nightly that she was going to be at our house for a long, long time and she would surely be there in the morning when they wake up.

Meanwhile, Kendra and I are in Dallas attending a three-part week of conferences.  We are taking on two leadership roles at church and our time here is valuable to help us function effectively in those roles.  The first two days are an event where almost 800 people get to experience God and receive physical, emotional, mental and spiritual healing.  It's the deep-end of the pool for people who are willing to listen to the voice of God and choose to become who they were meant to be.  It's hard to describe, but easy to experience.

We are extra excited to have our Pastor and his wife join us for these six-days of awesomeness.  Part of the success of the ministry we are leading depends on their buy-in and agreement to support and embrace it.  They've been "all in" from the beginning, but knowing they had their own growth and benefit from the experience made the whole trip worth our time.

The next two days will be spent touring church campuses and getting a behind-the-scenes look at how a mega-church succeeds.  We'll have unfiltered access to all ministries, all pastors, and all aspects of how the church functions.  this is a once-in-a-lifetime weekend for me.  I can't wait to have these open interactions and soak in the wisdom from some of the greatest men and women in ministry.  I don't want to rub elbows with hot-shots for the sake of improving my own stature.  We will learn and listen to see how it works here so that our church can be more effective.  That's an honorable focus and path to travel.

Talk to you soon!