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Birthday Birth

Just two days short of 39, I have yet again had an adventure for the ages.

It was a hair past 4 am today when my bladder became impatient and decided it was time to be awake.  In a blurred state of consciousness, I stumbled to the bathroom.  Along the way, the right side of my stomach complained a bit, and I thought to myself that maybe I had slept on it wrong.

I finished my duty and worked my way back to the bedroom, when to my surprise I suddenly felt the urge to bow to the porcelin god.  Hurriedly I dashed back to the bathroom.  Along the way my right side decided it needed to join the party.  Like a sci-fi horror film where the hero gets slashed in the side by a knife, the pain came.

I quickly fell to the floor and rolled up in a fetal position writhing in utter dispair.  The torment of torture lurked on for what seemed like hours but turned out to be only a mear few minutes as I slowly crawled back to the bedroom to alert my wife of the doom that was before me.

In slumber my loving wife along with my kind mother escourted my wounded soul to the car for transport to the emergency care unit.  As we pulled out I could feel every bump and tiny pebble that could possibly be in our pathway.  My kidney was screaming at me like an overweight gym teacher blowing a whistle at the kids in gym class and coaching them to move faster and quit being lazy.

We arrived at the ER and the medical team went through the motions of detecting and confirming what was going on.  They eventually found within themselves some reasoning to end the suffering and pumped me full of feel goods.

The results came back that I had thankfully been through the worst part of passing a kidney stone.  The rest will come ans this will all be over soon, but with a lot less drama…hopefully.

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What is Mercy?

I remember a time many years ago when my family was introduced to a kids show that had a lot of silly vegetables talking to one another. Before long it became one of my favorite and most clever shows.  I’m sure most folks have seen it in one form or another…VeggieTales.  

Here on the ranch, we have been in the role of alternate house parent.  In short, that means we relieve the primary house parents during their days off.  We spend generally 3 days at a time in a home and move to another.  Sometimes covering homes could mean a different house everyday.  

There are lots of success stories we could tell along the way where we have had breakthroughs ans happy moments.  However, along with that comes the trials and growth that lead to the success.  A large majority of the homes we have served have been teenager homes with either all guys or all girls…up to 12 per home.  

We defintely love what we do, but we can honestly say that we have become pretty tired.  It has been a difficult ride, especially for our immediate family in the last few months.

That being said, we needed some sort of adjustment to help with the stress level.  So what was the adjustment?  The little girls home. Pig tails, Barbie, and VeggieTales.

This morning we had difficulty with our normal music player at the girls home.  This was frustrating since turning on music is a huge part of their routine.  So we improvised.  I had an cd player and still have a lot of old discs still around.  Among the mix were two VeggieTales cds.  

One of the ladies reminded me of myself as a child.  She quickly sorted through all of the music and scooped up the silly sing a long.  The player began blaring the theme song to the show.  She happily sung along.  I thought at first this bliss would end after a few moments, but as I watched and observed, she melted into her own world and soaked up every word.  One of the songs is called “Stop!  And Go With Mercy”.  As she was bebopping along to the song, she suddenly paused…tilted her head to the side with a puzzled face.  She turned to me and asked “Mr. O.  What is mercy?”  These are golden moments that God lays before us and exclaims “Go get ’em!  Teach what I have taught you.”  As the song says, I explained to her that mercy was getting a second chance even when maybe we or others don’t necessarily deserve it.

She smiled with a learned understanding and went back to her world of music, dancing with water buffaloes and searching for her hairbrush.

Texas Twister

So lots of adventures for our family have come and gone since the last time I posted. Our family has transitioned from Oklahoma to Texas in a major move that came long before anyone anticipated. It has been quite an adjustment. We moved from lots of trees and green to a much drier climate with windy conditions and some cactus. One major difference related to this change involves the weather. Storms still happen, but there is far less rain. Being a native Oklahoman, we don’t necessarily fear storms. As a matter of fact, we tend to watch them from our porch and choose to look and listen for the tell tale signs of life-threatening weather such as lowering of cloud bases, eery calm wind, and green skies. Even though we may be a bit crazy by hanging out outside, we have a deep respect and healthy fear of the power and destruction these storms can cause. Many of us know somebody who has lost property or loved ones and fully understand that destructive storms during the event are not ideal times for humor…which leads me to the driving force of this note.
Yesterday, we experienced some wicked weather here in the Panhandle of Texas. A tornado touched down about 8 miles south of here and continued westward for quite a while. I was thumbing through social media looking for information from those tracking the danger of the storm. These folks are invaluable to saving lives by giving ample time to take cover.  

One post I ran across wasn’t a big deal at first, but the more I pondered it, the more it bugged me.

It read “New Tornado warning out where the jackrabbits and tumbleweeds roam btwn Dumas and Stinnett”

It was humorous at first, but then I thought to myself, even though there may not be too many folks in that rural area, a life-threatening situation may not be the best time for humor. I would hate to see any person or property suffer.

I replied to the person. “even though color commenting is sometimes cool, places where even one life/home may exist may not be a good time for humor.” To my surprise, he replied. “I wasn’t laughing. And you yourself should be careful to not be so quick to wrongly interpret what I posted.”

Thinking maybe he didn’t understand how the comment may be interpreted just by viewing the words alone, I replied back. “words used are left for interpretation. just pls be careful in the words chosen. ppl do live rural. tornadoes are not humorous.”

Here is the bottom line. I don’t know the guy or his character. I’m sure he is a good guy. I wanted him to know that maybe the words could have been different during a violent event and he seemed somewhat offended at an interpretation of what appeared to be humor at a wrong time.

Honestly, he can say what he wants, how he wants. I just wish as a public figure that he would take into consideration that every life matters and that this particular moment was life-threatening. Maybe during the emergency, think about keeping people safe and save the humor for after the storm when everybody is accounted for.

I really didn’t mean to offend the guy at all. I apologize if that is the case.

Am I too sensitive on this?

Be a Voice Not an Echo

A good friend of mine once penned an excellent quote that has stuck with me for more than a decade.  The quote has helped to shape leadership qualities rather than following the crowd qualities in me.  It is simply stated “Be a voice not an echo.”

Our nation has made some key decisions in its history that modified the appearance and heart of the country.

Without making this a long post, I will get to the point.  For a nation founded upon principles that line up with Christianity, intending to uphold pure values in its original documents, they missed the mark with the supreme courts decision this week.  We the People in 30 states by majority approved bans…and 9 people overturned that right to choose…all while the other two branches of government act like their hands are tied to fulfill their duty to keep the other branches of government in check.  A vivid example of tyranny…not because of the context of the decision, but by not upholding the will of the people to choose.

Speaking if the context of the recent decision, my opinion and choice shall remain that marriage is God given and only between one man and one woman.  Homosexuality and transgender is sin…but now let me continue this a bit…keep reading.  Believing this is sin, I also must outwardly admit that I am no better.  I eat too much food (glutony).  I lie.  I do think I should when I shouldn’t and don’t do things that I should.  I am a sinner.

The good thing is that all of us, me especially, can call out to God, confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and be saved.  We can choose to believe He was born a virgin, lived a perfect life, died for our sins in our place, came back to life and will come back for those that have decided to follow Him.  It is the honest belief in Christ; the true posture of your heart that saves you.  This is truely where love wins.  I pray all reading this have done the above or will soon.  I am praying for you.

One last related thing…So just to make sure we are clear…yes, i am a Christian.  I believe the Bible.  I do not support homosexuality or homosexual marriage.  Yes, I still love you.  Yes, we are still friends.  No, I am not judging you…only God can do that.  No, I am not condemning you to Hell.  No, I will not let anyone bully you.  But realize that name-calling and stereotyping those of us who stand for what we believe is exactly what you don’t want done to you.  We have a right to speak what we believe, same as you have a right to speak what you believe.

May God bless you this day!

We live and work on the outer edge of the Ozarks, miles away from the nearest city, in the hills of Cookson…and I am super proud of that compound sentence.  Being in the sticks we encounter all kinds of wildlife that keep us on our toes.  Weird bugs and spiders, colorful birds, deer, groundhogs, coons, frogs, and the occasional snake.  As a matter of fact, I rode a snake yesterday!…No.  Seriously.  I did.

The horse named Snake.  If I understand correctly, the name comes from the curved marking on his forehead.  He’s a young guy here on campus, one of several horses used for equine therapy and recreation.  He was my training buddy during a morning session where several riders were learning how to pivot a horse.  He was learning while I was learning so it took us time and patience to get the hang of it, but eventually, we got it.

  

I didn’t look at the date. I just saw the number. 109 days since the last post. When was that? Oh, I remember…just before the holidays. The busiest time of year for a children’s home. The donation center lights up with end of year activity. Generous people from all over help make certain our kids have gifts for Christmas. And then there are the unexpected surprises of the changing weather…water leaks that must be attended to…at least this time it was not in the middle of the night.

We saw 2014 come to a close seeing a lot of emotions run through our house both good and not so good. But this is the reason we are here…to help kids sort through their trauma and learn new skills to rise above and be awesome adults in this world. We show them Christ. We show them love…how to handle stress…how not to eat with their mouth open…how to speak positive rather than negative. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.

January came and the world settled a bit. The colder weather showed itself in frigid fashion and school resumed for the new year. Basketball started its second half, and the old men who scrimmaged the team are victorious. Of course they are all nursing their muscle aches…aches…a reminder of a low point for our house…saying goodbye early to a house daughter. The family wanted her home. She had made progress and still had a ways to go. We wished her well then and pray favor and wisdom to her as she continues life’s adventure today. She is missed and will forever be a part of the Oswalds. She was the first of many goodbyes that are to come.

Which brings us to February. We have a few adventures planned and hope that doing so will create great memories and provide opportunities for growth.

Please pray for health in our home, for an increase in “ah-ha” moments as the kids learn to appropriately navigate life, and most importantly, a hunger and desire for each family member to know Christ more.

Its a bit early, but the holiday season has come back to Cookson. There is a turkey dinner next week provided by one of our great church partners in the area. Churches and groups far and wide have offered goodies that will brighten hearts during the Christmas holiday to kids that may have never experienced it in a good way. Life is busy and very fun during the next few months.

Today, I was checking the water wells and making sure the refrigerators and freezers were operational while the dining hall and food store were closed. The food store is where we shop from week to week and pickup meal and snack items for breakfast and weekend food. Our donors do a great job of ensuring we are taken care of. I’m not sure how we get them, but we get a lot of Little Debbie snacks…and this time of year it becomes quite a temptation. That lady can bake a treat! And she brought Christmas tree cakes…and cherry creme filled morsels of magical goodness! And to top that off, she brought Santa sleigh brownies! How could she be so mean? And to line them up all nice and neat right where I would have to pass by to check the freezer? She is very smart, that lady.

Well, my goal is to lose the Cookson 5 and 10 that has found its way to my belly…so I victoriously passed it by…but this is not the end of the story!

My wife asked me to bring back some eggs for the house. Upon entering the freezer…they were there! The devil of deliciousness, the gladiator of goodies had increased her ammunition against fellow human kind! She had brought in another set of villains into her flock of sugary slavery! None other than the Krispy Creme minions themselves! All 600 of them right there in the walk-in freezer!

Thankfully, I was able to muster up the strength to grab the eggs and get out of there alive!

So yet another episode ends on a good note. I pray now that she does not bring in the Kryptonite of Cookson…at least for me…Braum’s egg nog.

Strong to the Finish

The title today is a borrowed phrase from a great ministry partner, Brian Hunter, who has done an excellent job of listening to God’s call and acting upon it. As a result, many have been introduced to the Savior of the Universe. Brian is one of my heroes and I am thankful for the time in ministry working together.

Saying that, I am brought to our blog for today. Followers may have noticed a significant drop off in posts. This isn’t because of the lack of things to write about, its the mass amounts of topics and happenings, leaving time in the dust.

We are solidly a family of 9 now…5 girls and 2 boys plus us. Our house shape is a little different from the others on campus, limiting numbers and male/female. We have room for one more boy as long as we remain in this house.

The exciting news is that our building project has boomed the past few months. 3 new homes are nearly complete, while 6 others have gone from foundation to in the dry with the help of hundreds of volunteers. Thank you for your support!

All of these things are great, but the real exciting news is the progress in the house. I wish I could detail out everything, but we are trusted to protect and help so thats what we will do. Know that at times progress means that the honeymoon period of “this is a cool place, my mom said to be nice” has come to a close…progress means we begin to see some of the trauma layers peel.

What does that sound/look like? Tears, anger, frustration, sadness followed by happy moments of relief…then…repeat. They complain that they hate this place, that things aren’t fair, and that they just want to go home. Some come pre-equipped with fight or flight actions, a disrespect for authority, and do not understand that being accountable for actions and accepting proper consequences is a good thing.

All raw emotions. All brought on by different kinds of past and present trauma. All have been bravely brought here with hope for healing and restoration.

For a large part, the kids are here for up to two years or more…because it takes that long to see significant progress. Unfortunately, we see some families pull the child a bit early for various reasons.

So here is the final thought or two…

Parents/Guardians. Stay strong to the finish. Don’t give up early. Help your child heal…and time in a helping environment is what is needed.

Prayer Warriors. Pray for the parents/guardians during the period if separation. Pray for God to do the work in the kids and families that only He can do. Pray for us as we help these kids advance in their journey.

Much of what we do is linked up with food…so I will gladly talk about it. I’ll do my best to stay focused…really I will.

Food is taken care of in several different ways here. Most of the meals are cooked by our on-site cook and served M-F for lunch and dinner except Fridays. Breakfast and the weekends are left for the families to fill in around their activites. Wednesdays are special because it is the one major day a week that we pick up groceries from our on campus food store. The variety of items come from different sources and support the entire community. What that means is that the pantry of our house becomes a magical land of exploration after school. Do we pick up Little Debbie’s? Of course we did. She sends them every month like clockwork…and I don’t mind eating butterflies from spring instead of footballs for fall during the summer months. They taste the same. But I digress.

It’s been a bit since we talked about our house. As of yesterday, we are now a house of 9. Let’s break that down. Dad, Mom (age is not important here)…kids…15, 14, 13, 10, 10, 9, 9…and the 14 will be 15 in 5 days (trust me we know this because she reminds us about once an hour). 🙂

We have been blessed beyond measure to have them here. And blessed to have your support if it be by prayer or otherwise. Thanks for checking in on us and for lifting the needs of these kids to the King.

So updating more often would be a better idea because so much happens around here. We’ll do our best to give a few highlights of the past month.

When we last wrote, we had gained our first family member, Kilee. Since then we have grown considerably…3 additions to be exact, doubling our family of 4 to a family of 8. Please join me in welcoming T’Era, Landan, and Caitlyn to the family! T’Era and Caitlyn are the teenagers of the house with Landan in elementary. Just to paint the picture, that is two teens and four 10 and under (with room for more youngers). Never a dull moment.

Summers are different here since we operate as a year- round school. School ended at the beginning of June with graduation of our Seniors and ended the middle of last week. We have enjoyed horsemanship classes, crafting, swimming, caving, trips to the river, softball, volleyball, a large waterfall at a local state park, and a trip into Tulsa. We are sad that summer is over but excited for the school year being under way…that means some short and needed breaks for us parents!

One final thought of great importance. Nearly a decade ago we added a member to our family. He completed our bio-family and has brought years of smiles and a book full of insightful commentary. We have enjoyed attempts at baseball and soccer, and enjoyed monster truck events. He’s a compassionate giver, and a selfless friend to those around him. As a dad he makes me proud and I love him very much! If you don’t already know who I’m talking about, please help me say happy birthday to the grandest son in all the land…Michael.

With that I will bid you farewell, until the next adventure.