30 September 2006

Looking back in amazement

It's a Saturday afternoon. My beloved called me earlier today and told me she probably can't make the trek down to join me until Monday. Possibly tomorrow, but Monday is more likely. Some things need to be done, there is no one to rely upon, and she has to do it personally. So yet another delay. I miss her desperately.

We are acting on faith that all of this is ordained of God, that He is in control, and that we can rely upon Him. He has never let us down, though we have let Him down, and the blame for that rests upon me. He has been faithful, and I haven't always been. My fault, His grace.

This has been a bumpy ride. The comments about the hollowing-out of U.S. manufacturing are based upon experience. The below is longer than I planned. It's not a pity-me, it's more of a detailed testimony.

In the last sixteen years, we have endured downsizings and plant closings associated with some of the big names and major manufacturing operations in the United States. From Packard Electric Div. of General Motors (now Delphi) through a now-defunct wire manufacturer outside of Akron, a division of what was for years the most admired company in the US near Knoxville, a top-tier supplier to the top appliance maker in the world in Arkansas, and a top-level automotive supplier in eastern Tennessee, we have seen up close the hollowing-out of manufacturing in the nation. We have also endured great privations as a result of all of this. The last, the auto parts maker, literally shut down in the middle of our move there.

That was a setback, financially and emotionally. We lost virtually everything we had as, over the next 18 months we lived on unemployment (until it ran out) and a few short-term projects, and what my wife could pick up while I sent resume's everywhere. I heard numerous versions of ''we'd love to have you with us, but you're far beyond our needs and we feel you'd leave when something better came along. Good luck and goodbye''.

Try going from 'respectable'' to destitute. We've been there, and we're still pretty close to the line. Not quite the life the college professors painted for me. And yet ......

God has, somehow, been at work through all of this. He has constantly been opening doors, making a way, providing, blessing, carrying us through some frankly tough situations. Along the way, we've met people and encountered situations that, left to ourselves, we would never have been in. We've found wonderful people in a number of churches who have ministered to us, prayed with and for us, loved us, and generally been the walking presence of Jesus Christ in this world. We are grateful beyond measure, and looking forward to what He has in our future.

26 September 2006

Another nght

It's Tuesday night at the roach motel. I took to calling it that after killing the 5th roach bug in the bathroom Sunday evening. Probably an unfair depiction. Then again, this is a motel, and that was a roach bug. It fits. And I'm feeling a bit less than totally charitable right now. Took a real major effort to get into my motel room. It looks like the little key card reading thingy on the door has a dead battery. After three sets of key cards failed, they called out a maintenance guy with a little programmer box, who was able to over-ride the system and let me in. But he couldn't replace the dead battery, that requires the oversight of the daytime manager, so they'll come by some time tomorrow and put one in. If it wasn't so aggravating, it would be amusing. Look, this isn't the Ritz. But they haven't had Housekeeping in for 6 days now, and the sheets are the worse for the experience, and so are the two bath towels I've been alternating since last Wednesday. Too Much Information there, probably.

The good news is that the family will join me in a few days. I expect to see wife and daughter on Thursday afternoon. Bearing in mind I haven't seen them in more than a month, I can't wait. God has been good to me in very many ways, and the family He's given is one more example of that. They will never realize, no matter how I try to convey it, just how much I love them.

There are a lot of things I'd like to be writing about: the Bill Gaither program that's playing on the TV right now, better ways to design and operate production facilities to accomplish the real aims of the organization, how to deal with the death cult of Islam, the relevance of the prophet Isaiah to our world today, the benefits (and limitations) of Six Sigma and Lean Manufacturing principles to a variety of operations, as well as the damage that can be done through the misuse and brainless adherence to them. A lot of topics, really. Hang around.