In This Issue...
'>Day 179 – My Final Chick-fil-A Black Card Experience
'>Day 178: Merry (Day-After) Christmas
'>Days 175, 176, & 177: All About the Chocolate Peppermint Mocha Shake (& Asher’s New Shoes)
'>Days 172, 173, & 174: A Wilderness Wonderland Celebration of Lights
'>Day 170 & Day 171: Miscellaneous
'>More Recent Articles
Well, this was it. The last day. I’ll recap the experience at a later date, but for now, just know that this was the end of an era. The Black Card era. Technically I could’ve squeezed one more morning out of it, but we flew out on the 28th and by the time we were ready to go, just no time left.
It was off to St. Louis, and I had to say my good-byes. It was only fitting that my last visit was an evening visit, since that’s where most of the relationship-building happened. Ryan #2, one of the faithful, was on location, and I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the fat lip of sadness in this pic:
I had a good conversation with James, who managed to evade a head shot during all 179 visits. Nice work James. Ordered a Spicy Chicken sandwich solely because it would give me the most bang for my buck (confirmed by James, as well). The Spicy Chicken IS the biggest piece of chicken you can get. Keep that in your back pocket when you’re extra hungry.
I topped off my visit with a Cookies & Cream shake (the Peppermint special was officially demoted to next year’s menu), and rode off into the darkness.
A fairly regular ending to a completely irregular experience. I’ll need to spend a few days to collect my thoughts and put a nice bow on this journey, which, undoubtedly, has been pretty freaking cool.
Merry (day-after) Christmas! Unfortunately today is Thursday but I haven’t had any Chick-fil-A since Monday. For only the second day, I missed my regularly scheduled daily Chick-fil-A date on Tuesday, Christmas Eve. We were in a hurry to get over to Liza’s mom’s and drop them off so I could go to our church and help set up the parking lot, and by the time we actually got organized, I didn’t have time to pop in (of course they were closed after the service.)
So tonight I picked up a Chick-fil-A Mocha shake (they were out of Peppermint, the horror!), filled with plenty of food from a third Christmas dinner at my mother-in-law’s in as many days. Great to see the fellas, though sad to inform them that I only have two more days of VIP status as I leave for St. Louis on Saturday. Unfortunately, the card isn’t good in The Lou (and I’m proud).
Notice the gap in this picture? The elusive James managed to miss another picture. I think the only one he’s in is the one where his back is to the camera and he’s on a ladder fixing the Chick-fil-A drive-thru automated voice machine that was giving bad info.
At any rate, it’s hard to believe I only have two more days.
It was Asher’s first Christmas, and I have a cornucopia of pictures, so I’ll just throw a couple of for memories’ sake:
The fam at Christmas Eve service; I was working on the parking crew, hence the hideous yellow vest and white legs.
A closeup of me and the boy.
Easily his favorite gift. That was all mamma’s idea, and it was a good one.
We went for a family run; starting another tradition I suppose.
Dinner at Grandma’s.
Hanging with Uncle James.
Of course, Christmas is about so much more than family and friends, so for those of you who actually don’t know how Christmas came to be and what it really is all about, I posted the below essay on my Facebook wall and with my own permissions, post it here. Merry Christmas!
What Is the Meaning of Christmas? A Short Essay
I posed a question on Facebook recently which went like this: “If aliens invaded earth, would they be able to determine the meaning of Christmas by observing human behavior?”
Of course, no conclusions were really made, and I believe we ended up going off on a tangent about what aliens would actually look like, which, while an interesting exercise in imagination, has no value in determining the answer to the question.
But we needn’t really bring aliens into the equation, do we? Couldn’t we just take a street poll and ask random folks this question – “What is the meaning of Christmas?” I think the answers would go something like this (I’m attempting to provide this list without resorting to hyperbole or sarcasm):
- The three F’s: Family, friends, and food
- Giving back
- Giving gifts to the ones you love
- Spreading cheer
- Eggnog and other spiked beverages
- Did I mention food?
- Pastoral images of sleigh rides, snow globes, and lit fireplaces
- The birth of Jesus
I could go on, but I think it’s a fairly generic and comprehensive list. Everything on that list is something to which I can relate, though some more than others. I think most people can.
Then there’s that “birth of Jesus” thing at the end, which, undoubtedly, at least a few in our imaginary poll would give as an answer. But in an increasingly secular culture, while many may still know Christmas has some religious undertones, it seems obvious to me that there are those who can grow up in a Western city or town and potentially never hear this word – “incarnation.”
Oh you see it on Orthodox and Catholic Church signs all the time, but do you know what it means? Because quite essentially, it is the meaning of Christmas.
If you’ve read any of the early church creeds or confessions – you wouldn’t be alone if you haven’t – you’ll know that the “incarnation” is an essential doctrine of the Church. When I use the word “Church” with a capital C, I’m not talking about the building you see on seemingly every corner, at least in the South U.S. I’m talking about the Church Universal; that is, a group of people, like Americans, women, Bears fans, or any other number of grouped individuals who identify with a certain tenant or quality.
Another way to think of the Church Universal is this way – it’s God’s family. It is people from all races, all ethnicities, genders, cultures, and ways of life who, in their diverse and sundry interests, set them all aside to be unified in this one way: to confess Jesus as the One who reconciles us back into a right relationship with God.
Very simply, everyone who is part of this family – the vernacular most used is “Christian” – believe in the Incarnation. That’s why so many creeds were both written and spoken soon after Jesus lived, died, and rose again; the early church fathers wanted to codify and solidify that which actually happened, despite its unbelievable nature. One such creed, at the First Council of Constantinople in AD 381, put it this way: “[Christ], who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man.”
How shall I translate that for a modern audience? Basically it means this – the man who lived in 1st century Palestine, Jesus of Nazareth, was God before He was a man. The word has its roots in Latin, and I’ll let you do your own research, but essentially Incarnation means this: ‘to be made in the flesh.’ You won’t find the word in the bible. Instead, it’s the family of God trying to come up with a word that encapsulates the Christmas story, the meaning of Christmas: Incarnation.
As interesting as that may be to me, there’s a good chance it’s not interesting to you. But I challenge you to think about what it means if it’s true. If the man who historically lived a historically verifiable life in what is now modern day Israel some 2000 years ago really was God incarnate – that is, He was actually God and was made a man – then Christmas takes on a very different meaning indeed. While the presents, family, food and friends can enhance its meaning, without the Incarnation being absolutely true, Christmas means nothing at all. You can assign your own meaning to it with family tradition and Aunt June’s famous corn pudding, but something that means many things actually doesn’t mean anything.
So Christmas means the Incarnation. So what? Why should that matter to anyone in the 21st century? Because an eternal God did something that, if not done, would’ve left us all irrevocably hopeless, whether in caveman BC, 21st century America, or some day in the future if humans colonize Mars. God is Spirit, according to the bible. If God only exists in Spirit form, then He could never do something that the rest of us do: die. He needed a body that He may die in, so as to identify with humanity’s biggest problem: death. In “being made in human flesh,” He was able to then take on the sins of the world, dying in our place, so that the penalty of death would not be an eternal problem, but merely a temporary one.
Before He could die a death for us, forever abolishing our sins and obliterating them as though they never were, He had to have a body. At Christmastime, we celebrate the biblical doctrine that God became a man, born of a virgin, having no physical earthly father, but having a physical body in which He could experience all that humans experience; in doing this, He qualified Himself as One who understands our every problem, feels with us in our every pain, and endured our biggest certainty – death.
Christmas IS the Incarnation. If you’re celebrating for any other reason, it’s all good. But please know that the very reason you are celebrating now is that throughout time and history, men and women before you celebrated the historical event of the Incarnation and passed it on to a subsequent generation. It’s this event alone that gives any other celebration meaning, because it guarantees the elimination of that which we all fear – death.
That is something to celebrate indeed.
Day 175, Day 176, & Day 177.
This is what Days 175, 176, and 177were all about. The truth is, I had dinner each night – Day 175 was a homemade quiche, Day 176 was PF Chang’s after picking up Asher his first pair of shoes, and Day 177 was an impromptu visit to our local Beef O Brady’s. So by the time I got to Chick-fil-A, I was all about the Peppermint Chocolate Chip Milkshake. I have to tell you, I am going to miss a lot about my Every Day with CFA runs, but what I may very well miss the most is the Peppermint shake. I don’t even really like Peppermint all that much – but when you froth it together in vanilla and chocolate chip creaminess, man, you’re really cooking with peanut oil at that point (Duck Dynasty reference).
It’s cool to see the college kids back and working the drive thru. On day 175 it was Nick, back from his first semester at FSU. I wished him and his ‘Noles the best of luck in their upcoming Championship game efforts. As an Ohio State fan, it pained me to say it.
Day 176 it was Megan who was back from college, and she was happy to jump in with [drawing a blank] for the Peppermint Chocolate Chip shake pic:
Mind you, this was on the way back from Countryside Mall after picking up Asher his first pair of shoes. I was a touch worried, as he’s fairly proficient at motoring around the house and on any surface in just his bare feet. But I have to say, he took to shoes like I take to cheesy Lifetime holiday flicks – like a champ! It was hilarious to see him run all around the store with this high-stutter-step, proud as can be.
To celebrate, we decided PF Chang’s would be a good option, and here’s the memory of that event:
(George Orwell 1984 moment. When I posted this pic to Facebook, it suggested I tag the dude in the green over Liza’s left shoulder, whom I’ve never met. The world is getting much, much smaller.)
Asher was so excited about his shoes he nearly jumped in the bath with them:
Well, not really, but hyperbole sounds so much better.
Okay, so on to day 177. I don’t have a server pic as this time I grabbed my shake at the Gulfview Mall, and she declined to be photographed, politely of course. In all fairness, it is very weird for some guy you’ve never met to ask to take your photo and post it on a blog. But in all fairness to me, Facebook can suggest a tag of a random guy I’ve never met with relative ease, so in the digital world in which we live, I imagine our photographs are all over the Net without our permission – at least I ask.
I should note that I ran into a very good friend of mine at the mall who was also doing some last minute Christmas shopping, and it was great to see this dear brother of mine. I left the mall encouraged, both because of him and because of my Chocolate Chip shake with peppermint pieces (yes, there is a difference, and this was perhaps even better than the original)!
I had actually hoped to get the Chicken Tortilla Soup, but alas, they were out. But as I mentioned earlier, the belly was satiated for the most part anyhow, courtesy of the Beef’s nachos. To prove we were there, here’s a pic of little man, who we think finally for reals might be getting some teeth, which means this is finally the reason we can blame for his crankiness:
He really loves that darn green spoon. To chew and strike things with, of course.
Welp, one more day to Christmas. We’re all spent in our house, and I’m looking forward to a couple of days off. Celebrating Christmas really should be a year-round thing for the Christian, but sadly we cram it in to a couple of December weeks without spending five solid minutes to meditate on the purpose and meaning of the season. I’ll probably post more about that tomorrow, but for now, just know that I’m happy it’s Christmas, in more ways than one.
Day 172, Day 173, & Day 174.
Once again here in the home stretch I’m stringing Every Days with Chick-fil-A together. Trying to push through to the end, and in this busy season, it has been a challenge. But I have to tell you, even though I have nothing to gain from blogging about eating CFA every day, it’s pretty freaking cool that I’ve been able to do it.
New Year’s is around the corner and if you’re like me, you’ll be making a resolution or two, even if you don’t tell anyone about it. But let’s be honest – we rarely do them more than a couple of months, or, if you’re like me, a couple of weeks. Changing something in your life – anything – is difficult, even when it’s something fun like eating Chick-fil-a. Factor in the blogging part, and it makes the difficulty factor increase by a factor of 10. So I’m glad I’ve stuck it out, even if I am putting multiple days in one post.
So, on Tuesday, it was Day 172, and I don’t have a picture for it. I know I went in and ordered a #11 with a Chicken Tortilla Soup, tried to take a pic of the server (new gal, forget her name), and my iPhone wouldn’t cooperate.
Day 173 was a Spicy Chicken sandwich meal on the way home from a church business meeting. I was starving, and figured the Spicy would be my best shot at a hearty piece of poultry. And, I was right. Theory still holds true.
Thanks to my fellas in the drive-thru (and Alysa too, who sneaked into the boys club picture):
We wrapped up day 174 at the great Pasco County Wilderness Wonderland
Celebration of Lights, which, I am sorry to say, was a Parks & Recreation episode just waiting to happen.
I give you, Exhibit A:
Exhibit B. Mr and Mrs Claus were very friendly:
Exhibit C (that’s real “snow” in case you were wondering):
And finally, Exhibit D. It was nice to see that a nativity scene representing the Incarnation – you know, what Christmas is all about – was present.
Asher did splendidly through all of this, and after eating his dinner, seemed to want to delay bath time. And I have proof (this has been edited from its original format):
Hilarious. Nothing like seeing a naked 14 month old run around the house trying to avoid whatever it is you want him to do. Ah, the memories.
Oh yes, and I had a 12-ct Chicken Nuggets this evening after Ash went to bed, with a Peppermint Chocolate Chip Milkshake to top it off. Here’s the boys club – love these guys!
Okay, less than a week until Christmas, and closing in on the end of my Every Day with Chick-fil-A. Hard to believe.
Day 170 & Day 171.
Between Saturday and Monday, there isn’t a whole lot to report. On day 170 (Saturday), we went to some friends’ to celebrate their little girl’s 1-yr old birthday; she’s adopted just like Asher, and we semi-formally prearranged their marriage – they’d make beautiful kids, no doubt.
The party was pretty cool, complete with real snow (well, ice rink leftovers) and “snow ladders” which, consequently, fell on my wife’s head. But she’s okay, and it was good to get Asher out with other children. We’re still working on attachment, so going out still makes us a little nervous – he needs to know unequivocally that mamma and dadda are the primary caregivers. Whenever we introduce a lot of other grownups with a propensity to dote on such a stinkin’ cute kid, it runs the risk of setting us back. He’s definitely close, though, and we feel we’ve made a lot of strides in the last month. A lot of people probably wonder why we don’t put him in nursery or take him out more for play-dates, but the bonding between mother, father and son must “take,” and take solidly at that. We don’t want to have to rewind time because we thrust him into situations that, to his orphanged mind, are confusing. The good news is, we’re almost there.
I really wish I would’ve grabbed a picture of the party, but I’m a guy, and the last thing we usually think about is taking pictures. Of course, having a son and have a blog will change that somewhat, which is why I have a picture of my guys Justin and Evan at Chick-fil-A serving us up some soup and salad for Liza and my old faithful, an Asian Salad with extra crispies. I love these guys:
Day 171 was a normal Monday – scrambling in the morning to get the Publix ad up, and then coming apart at the seams later in the day from loss of blog-numbing brain cells. Good news is we did get up the Christmas tree finally, this year with all decorations starting halfway up the tree, as I’m sure you can guess why:
Big thanks to Kim Kinney for our personalized Asher’s First Christmas ornament – so awesome!
Tonight’s CFA run was all about the soup. It’s been crisp all day, and the I was really ready for some Chicken Tortilla Soup. HOWEVER, much to my chagrin, when I got home, I discovered Chicken Noodle Soup instead. Sigh. Double sigh. I think this is only the second wrong order in 171 tries, however, so not bad. Don’t get me wrong, the chicken noodle soup is good too, and I had some extra tortillas from the other day sitting on the counter just waiting to be consumed. It’s all good Ryan #2, and the new girl and Alexis who fooled me with the Alyssa name tag; I’m not madatcha:
Today is also a memorable day for this reason – my brother and sister (yes, they’re twins) turn 26, I believe. Mike is in St. Louis with his wife, son, and daughter-to-be, and Kari is in Africa with her husband. Love you both!
Day 171 down – only a few more to go. Hard to believe I’m really on the home stretch.
P.S. Since drafting today’s blog, I have found out that a very good friend of mind is in the hospital with a pretty bad heart. If you’re the praying type, please intercede on his behalf when you read this, as I believe we serve a God who hears and answers prayer, and uses men and women doctors as His instruments.