I wrote a mini series earlier this year on our time living in New Jersey.

Left off thinking I might come back to it, but then I wonder, who is really reading this stuff.

I do appreciate all of you that take the time to read and interact. It’s one of the highlights of my day.

But then this morning I was thinking about my most recent interaction with the lady whose roof I wrote about in my last post...Michelle, made a comment about me being direct, and I thought, you know, that is one of the fruits of our time living @ Gilgal.

The importance of addressing issues head on.

Bible calls it “speaking the truth in love.” Not going to go and quote verses for you on it. You’ll have to trust me on this one…but they are there. It’s a part of the Christian life .

There are two parts to that life skill…

Speaking the truth.

Doing it with love.

If either part is missing, you have a problem.

When I say things that may have truth in them, but don’t do it out of love, it’s like someone trying to prune me with butter knife. I’ve had that happen. I don’t like it.

The other extreme, is thinking we love someone, but we’re not honest, that too is a perversion.

Give you an example.

When we moved back to Iowa, I was not the same person I was when I’d left. When we left. I would say I was pretty passive. A doormat. Not only hated conflict but didn’t go there. I would keep quiet if someone tried to manipulate and or intimidate me. Had that type of relationship with one of my uncles. He didn’t know what to do with me when I no longer took it. It’s taken about 25 years, but I think he finally gets it. ūüôā

There was also a re-calibration of my relationship with my dad, whom I genuinely respect and love. I’d put up with a level of sarcasm for 40 years, until that one morning (after we returned to Iowa). I’ve mentioned it before.

He called 6:30 one morning to touch bases about a job. In the context of our conversation, he sarcastically said “Don’t you listen to the radio?” (Had to do with me not knowing the weather forecast for the day)

Probably had something to do with me just waking up, but out of my mouth came the words, “I don’t like it when you talk to me like that.”

Dead silence on the phone.

Took both of us by surprise.

I didn’t say it, disrespectfully, but I didn’t pussy foot around either.

I just said it.

It was a watershed point in our relationship. Happened 25 years ago. He has never used that sarcastic tone of voice with me since. Couple of times, it was close, and I found myself push back.

Told my mom about that conversation later that week, and do you know what she said?….

“I’ve been waiting for you to do that.”

So there you go. One of the biggest life lessons I came away from that season of my life living in New Jersey was how to cultivate, authentic, deep, honest, relationships with other imperfect people. And less you think, it only happens in the context of your family..


Works just as powerfully on the job, with your kids, with the guys in the lumberyard, and even in the blog-o-sphere, it can happen.

Do I do it perfectly.


But the quality of my relationships as a whole are on a whole different level than they used to be.

If you’ve read this far, thank you! DM

The Door Opens #7

36 years ago, come this July, we picked up, lock, stock and barrel, and headed East,   Gilgal Bible Chapel agreed to let us stay in one of their apartments while I returned to school.

I have been reliving that season in our lives the past several posts. This is the 7th installment.

I knew my dad would struggle with our decision, although he and my mom have never meddled in any of our decisions,¬† (and still don’t).

I wanted to break it to him easy and give him another perspective.

When we got back from our week on the east coast spying out the land, He asked, “Well, what did you decide?”

I’d given it some thought (what to tell¬† him) so I said, “We’ve decided¬† to move to Africa as missionaries.”

Dead silence.

I let the words hang in the air for about 15 seconds, then,¬† “Just kidding.¬† All the details have come together so we are moving to New Jersey for a year.”

(That was SO out of character for me, as his compliant first born).¬† ūüôā


Shifting gears….

To my regular readers,   Thank you for being so gracious and reading along the last several posts!

I don’t plan¬† to relieve the whole 5 years we lived on the East Coast with you here.¬† Just knowing¬† several of you have been following along has encouraged me to take the time to get this stuff down in print.

I do plan to write one or two more installments  on a few life lessons that were drummed into me while living and working in New Jersey.


Any of the following interest you?¬† (If I threw in a few short stories.)¬† Just trying to get a feel if any of these would be interesting to anyone but me. ūüôā


Addressing issues rather than ignoring them. (house meetings)

Transparency. (Living life w/o a mask)

People pleasing and boundaries.

Balance or (living with margin) for the long haul.

Mentoring.  (A lot like what goes into good parenting)



Take care and have a good week! DM





Now What? #5

Picking up where we left off…

We pull into the parking lot of CCEF:

It had been an emotionally exhausting day.

We’d left home early that morning.¬† Flew into Philadelphia, Been accosted by some crazy guy in the terminal. ¬† Drove through the heart of the city (pre-gps/smart phone),¬† and now, finally sat in the parking lot of the school….

As I recall,¬† it was almost closing time. We talked to the receptionist and said Jeff ? knew we might be stopping.¬† He had been the supervising teacher I’d interacted with through the correspondence classes.¬† As we talk with Jeff, when he learned we were planning to find a hotel room, he invites us to follow him home, we were welcome spend the night @ his place.

We accepted.

Next morning we were back @ CCEF talking with Earl Cook. ¬† His area of expertise was children’s counseling. ¬† I can still remember sitting in his office.¬† Earl¬† had a deep voice,¬† and infectious sense of humor.

Earl leaned back in his chair, hands behind his head and asked me to tell him our story.

“What had brought us there?”

I recounted everything I’ve told you over the past few posts, including writing the letters I’d sent ahead to the dozen or so pastors who lived in the area, putting out feelers for a job, etc. ¬† None of those inquiries had generated any leads, which brought us up to the present.

Sitting in his office, trying to figure out what to do next.

Earl looked at us and said,“I have a thought.”¬† There’s a church located in Northern New Jersey, about 2 and 1/2 hours north of here that regularly sends several of their staff for classes.¬† It isn’t¬† your typical church.”¬† (I wasn’t quite sure what he meant by that, but would find out soon enough).

He continued, “You and your wife strike me as a couple of free spirit types. You’d fit right in with them.¬† If you want, I would be glad to make a couple of phone calls. If they say OK, you could¬† run up for the day, and spend the night… What do we have to loose?¬† You have a week..”¬† ūüėČ

Few minutes later, we were on the road again.  Heading north to West Milford New Jersey.

When we pulled onto the property of Gilgal Bible Chapel,¬† there were kids running everywhere.¬† Here’s a picture of me just after we pulled into the church parking lot:

Notice the map ūüôā

We were given a tour of the grounds….

Yes, it was a local church.  In addition, they  had apartments for missionaries on furlough.   Were currently housing  a couple of  families from Viet Nam.  They also  ran a large day camp for kids in the summer.


View of the gymnasium when you first pull onto the property.

There was a¬† mechanics shop, man made lake…10 acres of “Water shed” property. (Water from this area, would eventually winds up in large reservoirs for Newark I was told.

Here’s a picture of the main house:

The smell of pine trees, was in the air.  We were to find out later, black bear also lived in the area,  not exactly how I envisioned New Jersey when I was sitting back in Iowa.

It was beautiful!

We had been given permission to spend the night in one of the guest rooms, and as it turned out, the next day was the 4th of July. Someone (I can’t remember who any more)¬† suggested if we wanted, we were welcome to come to a church picnic.

The 4th of July, 1985 we went to  the home of Gay and Pat Brandeal.  Pat was a general contractor, and Gay a teacher.  There were  25 to 30 people at the picnic.

I remember visiting with Dorothy, Dorothy Gunther…¬† As she and I sat in our¬† lawn chairs, she asked about us.¬† I told her we were on a mini vacation, thinking about moving East to attend CCEF, if the details could be worked out.

She looked at me, “Well, my son Mark has a construction business.¬† If you do decide to move, you could work for him.¬† I know he would hire you…”

That night after the¬† picnic, wife and I were sitting in the guest room.¬† I¬† picked up a bible and reread the account of what happened after the nation of Israel had wandered around in the Wilderness for 40 years. (Remember in my last post, 10 of the 12 spies had said, they didn’t think they should go¬† into the land that the God of Abraham had said he wanted to take them into.¬† They were afraid.

They spent the next 40 years wandering in circles until all the adults of that generation had died off.

All except for the two who had been willing to go in…Joshua and Caleb

So now, 40 years later, the nation of Israel crosses the Jordan River and enters “the Promised Land.”

(You can read it yourself in the book of Joshua chapter 4).

Joshua chapter 4 verse19 “On the tenth day of the first month the people went up from the Jordan and camped at Gilgal on the eastern border of Jericho. 20¬†And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. 21

As I read the account, the name Gilgal jumped off the page.

At this point, I remember feeling overwhelmed with emotion.  The name Gilgal had never registered  before that day.

There I was sitting¬† in the guest room of a church called Gilgal Bible Chapel , with a possible job offer…

to be continued…


Better is….

Got together yesterday with a few friends to catch up and talk about life.

Lots of coffee….lots of laughs…

Wife made a no-bake, blueberry cream cheese pie.

Wish you were here.¬† ūüôā


Here are a couple of things that I shared…

A week ago, I stumbled across some  words written by an old fool at the end of his life:

“Better is a handful with quietness than two fists full and trouble with it.”

I’ve said something similar myself, probably started saying it about the time we started having children. ūüôā

I would say:¬†¬†“Peace and quiet is entirely under-rated.”¬†

Second quote (by the same guy) I have been chewing on:

Remember: The duller the ax the harder the work…”

We heated with wood growing up. On those rare times when I picked up an ax¬†instead of a chainsaw, I quickly realized a dull ax was worthless….

I was watching a class online  recently on how to build a timber-framed structure.  The first  thing  covered  was tool care, and keeping your chisel sharp, both literally and  figuratively.

Wow.¬† That was deep.¬† I’ve been thinking about what that means ever since.

(ie. how to keep my life “sharp”.)

I am a carpenter and nobody has ever taught me how to sharpen a chisel.   Ever.

In all fairness to me,¬† with the kind of work I do, (framing, siding, roofing, concrete)¬† I don’t use chisels all that often, but on those rare occasions when I need one, i usually end up buying a new one.

So I’ve¬† been on a mission the past week to learn how to sharpen my chisels.


Dad is 86.¬† Didn’t stop farming until just 2 years ago.¬† Worked full-time as a general contractor into his late 70’s. One of his few regrets was working too much while the kids (myself included) were growing up.¬† We never saw him except on weekends.¬†Then my mom was diagnosed with colon cancer in her mid 40’s.¬† I had moved out of the house and gotten married by this time. There was definitely a shift in¬† dad’s priorities after that.¬† He started taking each of us kids out on our birthday’s for breakfast.


It’s all about balance.¬† Finding the balance between work, money, bills, wants, desires, relationships, life…

In my late 20’s as I was chasing my own mechanical rabbits around the track, I came across two quotes that stopped me dead in my tracks…“If you make it to the top of the company ladder, but loose your family in the process, you are a fool.”¬† and , “If you are a hero to others, yet strangers to your own children, you are a fool.”¬†

I’ve written about that season elsewhere on the blog so I won‘t repeat it right now.

The fifteen or so of you that regularly interact with me here are in a very real sense my on-line family.¬† I appreciate each and every one of you!¬† If you’re a somewhat regular reader that has never made a peep, I would love to hear from you..even if you just say, “I’m here.” ūüôā

Anyway, this is what has been on my mind the past week.

How about you?

Take care. DM

Christmas Eve, Slivers, and PTSD

Marie came up to us after church that year and asked if we’d like to join their family for Christmas eve.¬† Sure we said, it beat sitting in our little rental house 1000 miles from home, missing family.

As it turned out, Marie had also invited Nancy, Karen, and Scott,¬† all singles, also away from home over the holidays. Marie had the gift of hospitality.¬† Those are still some of my favorite Christmas memories…

I remember coming into Marie’s kitchen, the smell of turkey and pumpkin pie, dimly lit Christmas lights,¬† scented candles..

It felt like I’d just stepped into a Hallmark card movie…and we were part of the story.


As I sat in a big stuffed chair after dinner, visiting with Sid, (Marie’s husband)¬† I absent-mindedly picked a callous on the tip of my pointer finger. ¬† It had been¬† numb for months.

All of a sudden,  out popped an inch long wood sliver.

I thought back to early September when I had helped Joe V install a new set of pine steps.¬†¬† I’d gotten a nasty sliver, and assumed I’d gotten the whole thing out.. guess not. ūüôā


The same thing happened again yesterday.¬† I came into the house for lunch and I noticed a¬† small piece of wood protruding out of the middle finger on my right hand.¬† Last month, I was moving some old lumber in my way on a project, and I got “stuck.”¬† At first, I thought I’d gotten another nasty sliver but when I got home that night and dug around, I couldn’t find anything.¬† (I wasn’t sure then whether I’d gotten a puncture wound or another sliver. Figured if something was in there, it would eventually work itself out.)

I know how these things work now ūüôā


Buried slivers are a great word picture for PTSD.¬† Trauma comes in all shapes and sizes…it could be sexual abuse. Could be trauma from combat.¬† Could be trauma from a surgery as a small child….¬† Sometimes after a traumatic event, in order for our brains to cope, a part of our heart goes numb.¬† It’s one of God’s coping mechanisms (I believe). The numbness initially allows me to continue to function…all the while the memory¬† foreign object stays buried in there somewhere, festering..and at the right time,¬† it will come to a head.¬† I don’t think you have to go looking for it.

I’ve seen this played out three times, in the lives of people close to me.¬†¬† 15 to 30 years after the initial trauma, weird things started to happen…unexplained panic attacks, the desire to cut, being in a state of constant hyper-vigilance, etc.

A marriage counselor told us¬† about the waves of terror that would overtake him when he started to deal with the abuse¬† he’d experienced as a child. Things didn’t come to a head until after he’d gotten married. Something would trigger the PTSD and it would incapacitate him.¬† One day, a friend of his stopped by unannounced, while he was in the middle of an episode. He told his wife to let his friend come up and see him…. The friend, a former marine,¬† had no idea that this guy was going through ptsd.¬† When he saw him, curled in a ball, covered with tears and snot, he crawled into the closet with him and just held him.

It was a turning point on his road to recovery.

If there is an emotional wound in your life that is giving you fits, don’t suffer in silence.¬† It means you are human.

Open up and let someone in.