Tag Archives: Memories

It All Started With, “Let’s Go Get Breakfast!”

I have been accused of giving too many details and making my stories too long, so I will spare you many of the details and try to make this story short.  Nevertheless, just remember, leave out just one little detail, and instead of a cake, you get a brick.

But anyway…

It all started a couple of weeks ago when my wife woke me up with a smile and said, “Let’s go get breakfast!”  It sounded like a good idea, as many good ideas do, but it was a Saturday morning, and there was little on our schedule (for a change), so I should’ve known something was about to go wrong.

The only thing we needed to do before heading out to a place that sold pancakes was to go into a room in the basement of our church building – to a small room where we were storing some boxes of personal items during our move to the parsonage –  and retrieve one small file for my daughter. When we saw that the file was wet, we knew something was terribly wrong.

Just as soon as we started moving a few boxes around, we found out that the whole floor was soaking wet, and every box that was anywhere close to the floor was wet, too.  And not only was everything wet, but there was mold all over the boxes. Why did my wife get my hopes up? I was really looking forward to those pancakes.

Needless to say, the rest of that Saturday morning consisted of unpacking a room full of boxes, including separating all the items, and making sure nothing was ruined.  Unfortunately and tragically, there were some casualties. Pictures.

How it was that boxes full of of priceless and irreplaceable photographs ended up in the boxes closest to the wet floor, I will never know.  What I do know is that that afternoon we were forced to take a melancholy trip down memory lane.

At one point my wife wept like someone had died. One of the photographs that was nearly completely ruined was a one-of-a-kind of her mother and father. It was impossible for me to reassure her that everything would be OK, because I couldn’t; that was the only photograph of its kind.

They were also other items that were either ruined or nearly destroyed. Some of those were keepsakes that were created by our children when they were very young, and one item was a construction-paper-version of Noah’s Ark that our nephew made.  But even though there were some tragic losses, most of the photographs were only wet and a little moldy around the edges. So, what we had to do at that point was rescue what we could  before they dried and stuck together.

My wife and daughters and I began taking photographs out, one by one, laying them out to dry.  The only  place we had to do that was in another Sunday school room across the hallway.  What started out as a family outing in search of breakfast, ended up being a family project: create the largest display of damp photographs in our family’s history.

Now, on a sidenote, I took some photos of all the photos, just like my daughter Katie did. But, as always, Katie cannot just take a picture, she has to create photographic art.

So, again, what started out as a quest for breakfast ended up being something else: a time to make memories out of memories.

If I wanted to take more time, I could list several lessons that could be learned from what happened that Saturday morning when breakfast was skipped and photos were saved.  But there’s one lesson that should be pretty obvious from what happened that day, and the truth of it can be found in Proverbs 27, verse one:

Boast not thyself of tomorrow, for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.”

Sometimes breakfast will have to wait.

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Filed under Future, General Observations, Life Lessons, Struggles and Trials

An Official Goodbye to an Era

Time for a Change

As you know, I have been driving a school bus for a while. Much of that time was spent in an area where I used to live and pastor, Lookout Valley, TN (just in sight of Lookout Mountain).

For several years (actually, since 2009) I was what we call a “park out” driver. That means that I was able, because I had the space, and because of the closeness to the schools I served, to keep my bus at home. That was extremely convenient in that all I had to do to go to work was walk out my front door.

But now that I no longer pastor in Lookout Valley, nor do I live there, it is no longer convenient to drive a bus route in that area. It makes much more sense to drive a school bus route closer to where I will now be living (in that parsonage I recently showed you) 30 miles away.

Now, there are no guarantees I will be able to secure a route in the area to which I am moving – that is still a matter of prayer. However, as with the last route I had, the fact remains the same: I want to be a fixture in the community in which I pastor. If it’s God’s will, He will provide the route I need.

It happened before, you know.

If it be the Lord’s will, next school year (2017-2018) I will secure a route on a special needs bus (a small bus) that I can park in the new church’s parking lot. However, that remains to be seen. This summer I will be working as a driver trainer, but I will be keeping my eyes open for whatever opportunities are out there.

In the meantime, I thought I would share with you some photos that tell a little about the era that is passing, the era of Bus 374.

A History In Pictures

When I first started driving for Durham School Services in Hamilton County (the Chattanooga, TN area), I was a “sub” driver. In other words, I didn’t have my own route, a particular route with an assigned bus, that I drove every day. What I did the first couple of years was fill in and drive whatever route needed me, wherever that route happened to go.

As a matter of fact, when I started driving a school bus in Kentucky back in 2001, that is all I ever did – work as a substitute driver. Some of the experiences I had while doing that, especially the part including tennis balls, is detailed in my book. However, I unfortunately don’t have any pictures of my early days driving a bus – I wish I did.

My first route after being a sub-driver was bus 369. I drove the 369 route for a year or so, then went on to drive bus 374. If I’m not mistaken, bus 369 started out as a conventional-style bus (with a long nose) and later changed to a front-engine transit (flat front) …it might have been the other way around, but I can’t remember.

All total I had four different models of buses during my time as driver of #374. At one point I drove a 2007 Thomas transit. Later I drove a conventional-style (long nose) Thomas with a Mercedes engine (my favorite bus out of all of them). After that I went back to a Thomas transit, but a more modern 2011 model. Lastly, I finally ended up with a 2013 International transit with AIR CONDITIONING!

My first ride as bus 374. A front-engined transit with no air – and it could reach 120 degrees around the driver’s seat in August!

 

The conventional-style Thomas (with the cool Mercedes engine) parked behind the church, the place where I parked all the time during the week.

 

The next generation of #374. This pic shows an ultra-rare instance of when we in Tennessee actually had to pick up kids in the snow!

 

A side view of the final incarnation of #374, the unwashed, rear-engined (called a “pusher”) 2013 International. Notice the additional cargo bays underneath.

 

Over the years I’ve seen a lot of things while driving a bus (and some of that is also detailed in my book) But there are two places on 374’s route that I will miss seeing on a regular basis.

The first is a little pond and the view of it from a little hill on Shanty Lake Road. The view varied with the change of seasons and the angle of the sun. Incidentally, the children on my bus hated it whenever another driver drove instead of me – I was always better at going over that hill without scaring the kids 😉

A view of the pond on Shanty Lake Road from inside my bus on the last day of school (the bus was stopped).

 

The very same view as above, but as the sun is coming up in January. God is a beautiful artist, isn’t He?

 

The other view that I will miss is the one seen driving back into Lookout Valley over Cummings Highway across the side of Lookout Mountain. I wrote about this in my book and six years ago in another blog, Ebs and Flows (you should check it out).

Looking down towards Lookout Valley and the Tennessee River from the Cummings Highway bridge – yes, a bridge.

 

Over the years I’ve also met a few adults while driving in Lookout Valley, not just a lot children (of all ages). There were a few teachers with which became friends, but it was the other bus drivers that helped make getting up in the morning a little easier.

Taken a couple of years ago, here we see Chris (370), Joseph (369), and me at McDonald’s.

 

Myself and Paul Mashburn (the contract driver of #49). Mr. Mashburn drove my wife on band trips in 1985! And she said he still looks the same!

 

The last day of school this year we went to Cracker Barrel. Here is Chris (370), a driver from New Orleans, Jean (369), and myself…I should have tucked in my shirt.

 

The following are just a couple of pictures I wanted to throw in for good measure. The first is me on a day when I wore a wig to keep my head warm – why wear a hat when you can be different?

The second picture is of our little dog, Nugget. Nugget went missing in August of last year, and we miss him terribly. This photo was taken on the day after we first got him. I was driving bus 369 at the time, and I didn’t want to leave him home alone, so I took him with me that day 🙂

A wig can both keep you warm and give you attitude.

 

Baby Nugget on the school bus.

 

On the last day of school I pulled up in front of Lookout Valley Middle and High School, along with the other buses there to pick up what kids actually came that day (I had none). Only four or five buses were ever needed to service this small school, so the afternoon lineup became a traditional time to shoot the breeze for a few minutes before the doors burst open.

My final lineup at Lookout Valley Middle/High.

 

And as you may have seen from other blog posts of mine, Bobble Head Phil always rode on my dash (secured with double-sided tape) and stared at the kids behind me. One time a little girl said, “Mr. Baker, make him stop looking at me!” I replied, “Why? What are you doing?”

Phil has left the building (or bus, rather).

 

I don’t know what the future holds, but I know Who holds the future. God willing, Phil and I will drive another bus – a smaller bus – in the area closer to our new place of ministry. But for now, goodbye Lookout Valley and bus 374…we will always remember you.

In the meantime, keep me in your prayers – I’ve got new drivers to train! 

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Emotions of Christmas

Melancholy

Even though Christmas time is full of happiness and joy, there are also moments of melancholy. Just to be sure, I looked up that word and it actually means what I thought it did: “pensive reflection or contemplation.”

Every year that goes by we tend to lose people we love, and that includes pets, too. We lose people, animals, our hair, our smooth skin, and bunches of other things; yet there still remains a joy that’s unexplainable. At least that’s the way I feel.

Have you ever heard Mannheim Steamroller’s version of Silent Night? Every time I hear it I feel both melancholy and reverent at the same time. It also makes me really miss my dad.

Melancholy is also how I feel when I watch the following video I made 5 years ago. A few things have changed since then, the biggest of which is the loss of our little dog, Nugget. Christmas at the Baker home is not the same without him, and that is sad.

Worshipful

But even though I have my moments of melancholy pensiveness, I look forward to the holy, reverent, worshipful experience of a midnight Christmas Eve service. Honestly, if all we ever did was go to tonight’s service at First Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Chattanooga, that would be enough for me. Singing Silent Night in a cathedral-like auditorium at midnight while holding candles is chillingly awesome!

You see, no matter what we may have lost here on earth, because of Jesus we have everything in eternity to gain! When the world lay cold and dark, the Lord became flesh and light came into the world “with the dawn of redeeming grace.”

There are many reasons why some people find Christmas to be a time that brings sadness and pain upon the remembrance of loss. However, when we take the time to contemplate the wonder and glory of God’s grace, that He would put on flesh and be born in a manger, the great I AM, so that the lost might be found…

Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15)! That’s Christmas! Because of that Baby born in a manger, melancholy may endure for a season, but JOY comes in the morning!

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Filed under Christianity, Christmas, Struggles and Trials, worship