Monday, March 25, 2024

For Jim.

For years, Jim Hackney's Sunday morning Facebook posts encouraged us to grab a cup of coffee and have a chat. It's not Sunday, but the coffee and memories are flowing, and these thoughts need somewhere to go. Nobody can compose a Facebook chat like Jim Hackney, but bear with me because I'm going to share anyway.

Brett and I were on our way home from Austin when we got the news that Jim had passed away. As we drove through the darkness, side by side, we talked about how much Jim—our minister, pastor, and friend—has meant to us. We will celebrate our 30th anniversary this summer, and we fully acknowledge that Jim Hackney is a big reason why. When our marriage was in trouble many years ago, we reached out to Jim in our desperation. A couple of times he met us in his office late into the evening, hearing us, being there for us, advising us in those days of crisis. Of all the inspiring words he shared, the most powerful were about his bride, Sue, and the depth of their love for each other. He helped us see the beauty of a lifelong commitment, and he led us to the help we needed to fight for our marriage. Take our experience and extrapolate it to 50-plus years of Jim’s ministry, and that yields countless families that benefited from his counsel.

This morning, sitting in my living room, I recalled another morning 11 years ago when Jim sat on our couch to plan his eulogy for my mom’s funeral. He had known my mom in her later years, but he patiently listened as in my numb state I recounted stories about her younger days. He beautifully shared Mom’s testimony at her service a few days later. Jim had been with us through her many hospitalizations, and he was with us in those precious days when our grief was new and our world suddenly so very empty. And he did the same for many others! As a minister and a hospital chaplain, he prayed over thousands of people in hospital rooms and funeral homes, “rejoicing with those who rejoice and mourning with those who mourn.”  

And now, as I sit at my computer, I’m recalling all the weekends I spent alone with Jim—or his words, anyway! From 2006 until 2013, most of my weekends began with an email from Jim. He would send me his sermon notes and slide outline, and I’d crank out a Powerpoint to accompany his Sunday message. I loved helping him with those slides, and he showered me with gratitude. But the best part was getting to be the first to “hear” his lessons. Jim was a gifted communicator, able to make his sermons “meaty” and yet easy to comprehend. He challenged us with truths that could make us uncomfortable, but those messages were always wrapped in love—his God-given, from-the-heart, sincere compassion for us.

For years, Jim's automated phone calls reminded us, "It's Friday, but Sunday's coming!"

In our recollections last night, Brett and I kept coming back to Jim’s sincerity. Considering how many people he dealt with, it would’ve been easy, even understandable, for him to slip into platitudes or a “Reverend Lovejoy” type of script. But Jim truly saw us, took the time to really know us. He would thoughtfully consider our questions and respectfully respond with honesty. Jim was forthcoming about his own uncertainty, and with full transparency, he shared his faith journey’s twists and turns. After nearly 45 years at Heritage, he could have rested in the prestige he had earned, content with his tenure. Instead, he led by example, continuing to challenge himself. In his last sermon at Heritage, he admonished us, “We have to be so careful that we don’t feel like once we become a Christian, we have arrived. I mean, it’s too easy to become satisfied or complacent.” Jim never stopped studying, never stopped contemplating, never stopped serving others in his quest to be more like Christ. 

And he never stopped reminding us that this world is not our home. As recently as his Dec. 3 Facebook post, he wrote, "Enjoy life! It passes much too quickly! Do not be fearful! What waits beyond the veil of death is so much better!"

But it's not just his recent teachings that have emphasized life beyond this earthly one. In my sorrow this morning, I opened up the old "Sermon Slides" folder on my Mac, looking for the oldest sermon saved there. I found a couple from 2009 (older ones apparently lost when my previous laptop crashed). I randomly opened one file, and its topic floored me: "Trading This Life for What's Behind Door #1." 

The whole sermon is powerful, but here are a few slides that jumped out at me today:

And this slide that applies to Jim, as well!

In so many ways, we are all richer because Jim Hackney was our minister, our pastor, our friend. May the God of all comfort be with Sue and all the family, and may we all keep Jim's leadership, teaching, and example in our hearts.


Here are a couple of special memories from Jim's last sermon as senior minister (Dec. 29, 2013).

  • Slides from that sermon 

4,317 at Heritage as of December 2013—and more in the 10 years since!

Jim mentioned all the changes he'd seen, including Bible translations, dress code, and technology.

IYKYK :)  

Friday, January 26, 2024

2023 in Review: October


Katie's birthday and Halloween make Octobers special in our family. Throw in some extra fair time, and this October was off the charts!

October 2: Dallas

I was watching the morning newscast when I heard that Jeopardy! GOAT and host would be at the State Fair that day. Within minutes I was on my way to the train station for an impromptu solo trip to the fair! Ken was super nice and didn't even flinch when I mentioned that I'd been in the audience for a Celebrity Jeopardy! taping in August. (Upon further reflection, I really wish I had mentioned that I'm not a stalker but just living my best retired life!) 

October 4: Allen

Another whim fulfilled! Ryan needed to be at the airport waaaaay before dawn, so I took advantage of those early morning hours to be among the first to visit the new H-E-B in Allen. The team members treated us like royalty with free coffee, gift cards, and lots of cheers as we entered the brand new store. I can't wait to repeat this when H-E-B opens up closer to home!

October 6: Home and Dallas

Happy birthday to Katie! Because she was flying out of DFW that Friday, we got the bonus of spending her birthday with her for a change. To celebrate her day, she and I used my "bring a friend" pass to go to the fair. It was fun to splurge on the Texas Star ferris wheel, eat Fletcher's (and other goodies), and show her the special Texas Tech Centennial exhibit in the Hall of State.

Before going to the airport, the guys met us at On the Border so the four of us could celebrate our Bug.

October 7: Dallas

Even when the game doesn't go our way, Texas-ou is the best Saturday of the year! Once again Ryan got to join us thanks to a friend's generosity.

October 12: Dallas

For this fair trip, Dede and I spent time with our furry friends. We visited the petting zoo (and the overly aggressive ostrich), the pig races, and even dinosaurs. Turns out it was our last trip for the season, but we're already planning to get passes for 2024, too.

October 13: Winstar

Another spur-of-the-moment adventure: seeing a Beatle! I had so much fun (with my $31 ticket!) hearing Ringo and his All-Starr Band. I was excited to see one of the Beatles, but I was delighted to hear hits from Colin Hay and other 1980s musicians.

October 14-16: Lubbock

The morning after Ringo, I hit the road to visit Katie and see The Lion King in Lubbock. Along the way I stopped at a rest stop in time to see the partial solar eclipse. The shadows were super cool.

The Lion King musical had been on my list forever, so it was wonderful to finally get to see it with Ryan and Katie at Buddy Holley Hall. It was also thrilling to watch the Rangers beat the Astros in Game 1 of the ALCS with Katie's friends (who happen to be Astros fans).

October 12-14: Portland

While I was gallivanting across Texas, Brett was representing at the Portland Retro Gaming Expo with friends. Always a huge show!

October 19: Athens

After visiting Milan (Ohio) and Paris (Texas), we wrapped up our "world tour" with a trip to Athens—Athens, TEXAS, that is! The occasion was the wedding of Brett's cousin's daughter. It was great to catch up with Nana's side of the family!

October 21: Houston

It was nice of the Big XII to add the University of Houston to the conference just in time for us to sneak in a visit to the Cougars' stadium. It was hotter than hell, and we nearly squandered the big lead we started with, but the Horns won and we didn't melt--but it was close. While in town, Dede and I attended the wedding reception for my cousin's son. After seeing Brett's family Thursday night, I loved getting to catch up with my family that Saturday.

October 25: The Colony

Nothing like date night! This one started with us picking out new "his and hers" recliners and ended with dinner at Rock 'N Brews. Fun night!

October 26: Fort Worth

We celebrated our 30th "Buenoversary" at Taco Bueno, and the nice social media folks featured our post on their Instagram story! We have eaten Bueno Chilada platters on Oct. 27 for years in honor of the fancy fast food dinner we ate the night of our engagement. This year we bumped our Bueno date to Oct. 26 because I would be on the road for football on the true day, but the Chilada platters tasted just as great and the occasion no less sweet.

October 27-28: Austin

Oh, how my heart needed this weekend! For years we have shared football and our lives, but miles have come between us. For this special weekend, though, Wallis came in from Houston, Greg came from New Jersey, and Dana and Kelley arrived from LA. It was great to share football, Tex-Mex, and lots of laughs with these dear friends who live too far away.

October 31: Work and Home

Happy Halloween! Brett borrowed Ryan's Cobra Kai costume for work, and Daisy cosplayed as both a bumblebee and shark bait. We didn't set up a table on the driveway, but we had plenty of "Trickers" ring our doorbell. Always a fun day!

Thursday, January 25, 2024

2023 in Review: September


Football season! It's the most wonderful time of the year! This September meant the return to Austin but also plenty of visits to Dallas for the State Fair and a bonus trip to California.

September 2: Austin

September means football, and Longhorn football means "Spell Texas" season! It was great to get back to Bevo Blvd. and to see our tailgating friends. After the long offseason, September football is a thing of beauty. Not so beautiful? The unrelenting heat! Day games are brutal in the late summer.

September 9: Los Angeles

Ryan got me into watching Survivor way back when, and we both share a love for the show. As a latchkey kid in the '70s and '80s, I have an undying devotion to The Price Is Right. That's why I automatically requested tickets when I heard The Price Is Right was doing a special taping for Survivor superfans. We booked our flights and he made plans to miss school, but then the TPIR people changed the tape date from August to September. Oops. It was a little tricky, but Ryan decided it was worth another day off work to head back to LA for this special event. So glad he did!

We made it to our hosts' home in time to eat dinner and to watch Texas beat Alabama! We had "cow pie" cookies and festive Longhorn decorations in honor of the big game. 

September 9-10: DFW

While Ryan and I were in LA, Brett was hosting his friend Adam. Adam is a YouTube creator who travels all over the world, and in anticipation of the 60th anniversary of JFK's assassination, he traveled to Dallas-Fort Worth. Brett was his host and driver, and in some cases, a stand-in as Adam filmed a wild number of locations key to Kennedy's visit in 1963

September 10: Los Angeles
Meanwhile, back in LA, Ryan and I spent that Sunday visiting some fun sites. We started our day at the Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area. 

We visited back in 2016, but because there was nowhere to park, I didn't get to see this particular area that was used the Buffy the Vampire Slayer's musical episode, "Once More With Feeling." It was fun to see the locations we've watched dozens of times in that show! Ryan knew just where to go for key spots.

From there we drove down to Long Beach to visit the Los Angeles Maritime Museum. 

The main attraction for us was this model of the Poseidon used in Ryan's favorite film, The Poseidon Adventure. The museum used to be a ferry terminal, so while we were there, we took advantage of the back deck to get a good look at the ship channel. We also found the displays about the area's tuna canneries interesting.

After finding some good seafood for dinner, we drove over to Los Angeles County Fire Station #127. For me, it will always be Station #51 from the 1970s TV show, Emergency! Unfortunately, there were no Johnny Gage or Roy DeSoto sightings.

We returned to Hollywood with just enough time to get to the Funko store before it closed. We tried out a few of the photo ops and checked out the exclusive Pops for sale there.

And of course, it's not really a visit to Hollywood without a moment with the hand- and footprints at the Chinese Theater's forecourt.

September 11: Los Angeles

The big show day finally arrived! Ryan and I had priority tickets that pretty much guaranteed we would be in the studio audience, but we still allowed plenty of time to fight LA traffic. It was fun getting there early because we met other superfans. We didn't get called to "come on down," but we still had a blast cheering for those who did. It was fun seeing the episode when it aired the next month, too.

September 16: Austin

The Wyoming game was a special one because it was our first time to see the stadium's new lights at night AND because some special friends from my college days joined us at the tailgate. It was great to see these guys together again.

We knew about the special lighting around the stadium, but the drones were a huge surprise. So cool!

September 17: Temple

Football Sundays are crazy busy at Buc-ee's, but we just can't resist stopping for the potty and treats when we're on our way home.

Random days: Our neighborhood

Speaking of home, Daisy made ordinary mornings special. She's a wonderful (and wonderfully enthusiastic) walking buddy.

September 22: Arlington

We love us some Fright Fest at Six Flags! We traded our usual Friday night happy hour for an evening at the park.

September 23: Waco

I'm really going to miss the Big XII because of days like today: an easy 90-minute drive to Waco, lunch downtown, friendly and efficient stadium personnel, a "short" drive home. I'm glad we could be in McLane for this last Baylor-Texas game for the foreseeable future. Until we meet again, Bears!

September 27: Home
Our most anticipated Survivor season ever finally premiered, and at long last, we got to see Ryan's good friend Brandon on the show! Later in the fall, Ryan went to New York for a viewing party/podcast gathering, and he got to celebrate Brandon's big adventure.

September 29: Dallas

With both of our retirements imminent, I decided that Dede and I needed season passes for the State Fair of Texas. On opening day, we were among the first to greet Big Tex for 2023. One of our first stops was the Creative Arts Building to see my mustard pic and its 3rd place ribbon. And of course, we ate our first of many Fletcher's corny dogs for the season.

September 30: Austin

And just like that, it was gameday again! Back to Bevo Blvd., back for another win, this time with Ryan. Hook 'em!