It Takes Courage to Go Down the Path of Challenge

The Question is, Can You Find Your Hidden Courage?

Life is full of challenges. Nobody ever said that life would be easy. If they did…they were lying.

Life’s challenges are the things that build character. They are the things that help us to become who we were meant to be.

Anything worth doing is a challenge.

As Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem to be crucified, He knew what was waiting for Him there. Even so, He kept pushing forward. You want to talk about courage when facing a challenge.

On the way He encountered several people more focused on their worldly situations, rather than focusing on Him and His eternal message.

Luke 9:51-62

We need to have our focus in the right place.

If we’re honest, just like Jesus we’re all on a path to our death. Accepting this is a challenge and it takes courage.

“If you live each day as if it were your last, someday you’ll be right.” (Steve Jobs

One of the best ways to summon our courage is to put others ahead of ourselves.

Think about how courageous a mother is when her children are in danger. Or how a husband will put himself at risk to save the love of his life. This kind of love gives us courage we didn’t even know we had.

Jesus showed this kind of courage when He went to the cross to be killed in our place.

Courage is out there. It’s up to us to incorporate it into our daily lives.

Whatever the challenges are that you’re facing, large or small, you have what it takes to confront them. You have the courage you need…now find it and use it.

Take on life’s challenges with courage and confidence.

What is the Third Man Syndrome?

It’s There for Everyone, But You Have to be Open and Willing

The Third Man Syndrome refers to situations where an unseen presence provides comfort and support. This is most commonly reported in cases of extreme or traumatic experiences.

For example, in Sir Ernest Shackleton’s book South, he describes being joined by an incorporeal being when he and two others were on the final leg of their exploration journey over the mountains and glaciers. He said, “It seemed to me often that we were four, not three.”

This ‘third man’ was also alluded to by football player Russell Okung when describing his faith story. While in college his mother and sister were at home alone when a hurricane went through Houston Texas where they lived. Russell says while sitting in the chapel one day God spoke to him and said, “You don’t have to go through this alone. You’re not by yourself.”

“It’s crazy how God will come to you even in the most small, subtle ways – maybe even a whisper.”

A 3rd example comes from James Ryle. He experienced an abusive situation in the orphanage where he was placed at the age of six. After leaving the orphanage in 1969, he fell asleep while driving a car, resulting in the death of his best friend. In an effort to raise the money to pay the attorney representing him in the accident case he was caught selling drugs. He was sentenced to the Texas State Penitentiary at the age of nineteen.

While sitting in jail he recalled a Bible verse he had learned growing up. Romans 8:28, and he realized God was saying, you can keep doing things your way or you can do them My way. Through a collection of miracles James was released early and went on to help found Promise Keepers and ultimately millions of lives were changed.

Too often our ideas are not God’s ideas. We look at things for a worldly perspective and expect God to look at in the same way. For example, in Luke 24:13-35 when some of Jesus’ followers were going to Emmaus after Jesus’ crucifixion. They had expected Jesus to be a worldly leader and restore the throne to Jerusalem. They were left lost and scared after He was killed.

“While they talked and discussed, Jesus Himself came and began walking with them.” Luke 24:15

The greatest blessing God gives us is the knowledge of His presence in our challenges. When we ask for patience, He doesn’t give us a warm and fuzzy answer. He puts challenging people and situations in our path. When we pray for wisdom, He gives us situations that require humility and discernment. God’s miracles are often average people dealing with difficult circumstances and finding solutions.

God doesn’t give us “genie in a bottle” answers.

He will be there through the storm. He will give us direction and insight, but we need to be willing to do our part. We need to be open and aware to the “third man”

May the Christ who walks on wounded feet, walk with you on the road

May the Christ who serves with wounded hands, stretch out your hands to serve

May the Christ who loves with a wounded heart, open your heart to love

May you see the face of Christ in everyone you meet and

May everyone you meet see the face of Christ in you

An Update on The Lavallee Remodeling Project





A Good Example of How to Hit A Moving Target



A few weeks ago, I wrote about the challenges of remodeling and how they pertained to the Lavallee project. I pointed out that these challenges start before construction and continue throughout the project. These moving targets are part of remodeling.


Hitting a moving target requires the ability to look ahead and visualize where it’s going.

One of the project goals was increased head room at the top of the stairs on the second floor. The top of the stairs ended in a low vaulted ceiling attic room with a small raised dormer for head room. This area was cramped and dark. It didn’t provide a very usable space.














The increased head room was the initial focus. We also planned to remove a dividing wall doubling the square footage of the space. It was still going to have limited head room at the sides of the room but would provide the head room needed to access the second floor and would make a great play area for kids.

The original plan was to install some beams to allow for raising the center portion of the roof and ceiling. As the project progressed, we began seeing another option to gain more usable space by adding to the existing short walls. This option would open the area up more and make it more usable. It would also allow enough wall height for installing two 25” x 25” windows above the porch roof giving the area some great natural light.












Once the walls were built level it was apparent the floor was not. It was decided to remove the floor from the stairway landing and level it up as well as eliminate the existing broken floor joists. When the original painted tongue and groove wood floor was uncovered it was determined that it should be salvaged and used. At this point we don’t know where yet, but we’ll find the right place.

After seeing the open framed ceiling with a few temporary ceiling joists, the customer asked about leaving it vaulted. After some discussion, we decided to leave it vaulted with a narrow flat ceiling near the ridge and install some beams rather than ceiling joists.

As you can see the targets keep moving and we have the stairway landing one in our sight.

The floor height in the stairway landing area was fifteen inches lower than the height of the second floor. To accommodate this height difference there was a step at the top of the stairway turned 90 degrees. This is not a good design and is not going to work. We are currently planning to cut a step back into the second floor rather than how it is currently.




At our weekly production meeting with the customers earlier this week we discussed the stairway plans. As we talked there were some new and different options that began to surface.


I’ve been thinking about some ideas for this stairway since the meeting and have come up with different options. I think this target is on the move and we better get it in our sights.




Check back later to see what direction the stairway goes and how it turns out.

I Love the Challenge of a Good Remodeling Project




If It Was Easy, Anybody Could Do It


The challenge of a remodeling project is taking an existing building and turning it into something new while working within the buildings predetermined parameters. Otherwise just tear it down and start over.


The remodeling challenge isn’t for everybody.


Building new is simpler, it’s a less restrictive clean slate that requires less imagination. Where’s the fun in that?


On the other hand, new can be more cost effective than remodeling. This is one of the questions that needs answered early on. If remodeling is the decided-on plan, just be ready for the challenges.


The Lavallee remodeling project certainly fits the status of challenging.


This project starts with a home that was built in the late 1800s. It has previously gone through numerous remodels and additions. The amount of previous changes makes this project that much more challenging.


The project’s goals:


  • Increase the size of the master bedroom, add a new master bath and walk in closet.
  • Add a bathroom to the second floor.
  • Widen the narrow stairway to the second floor.
  • Increase headroom at the top of the stairs on the second floor.
  • Open wall between the kitchen and the dining room.
  • Lower the dining room floor height to match the kitchen.
  • Install new windows.
  • Change the exterior of the remodeled part to a low maintenance exterior finished insulation system (EFIS) system.



The challenges start even before the construction does:


  • Is remodeling the best option?
  • What is the project budget?
  • What is the project timeline?
  • Without a blueprint what will the floor plan be?
  • Where do the customer’s plan to live while the work is being done?




As this project gets underway there have been new challenges that have come up. They are hidden inside, behind or under something. Until things are opened up you won’t know what they are. As they do, we address them, find a solution and move forward.


A few of the challenges we’re dealt with while digging for the addition foundation:


  • Temporarily disconnecting and moving the air conditioning ductwork so the digging could happen.
  • Discovering a buried gas line, determining it was not in use and cutting it out of the way.
  • Finding some unused foundation pilings and determining a plan for dealing with them…final plan yet to be determined.
  • Reconnecting the ductwork so the customer has air conditioning in this upper 90-degree heat.



I will post more updates to this project as they happen. Check back regularly and watch as this phoenix rises from the ashes.

A Day by Day Accounting of The Dog Playground Project


And What a Fun and Challenging Project It Was


We all expect things to take less time than they usually do. It’s no different when building an “out of the box” project like a dog playground.

Last week I wrote about the expansion and updating of Prairie Paws Lodging’s facility and what the project consisted of. This week we will review the daily accomplishments and struggles.


Preconstruction activities – Before onsite work could go too far, we needed to finalize what materials/processes would be used for the out of the ordinary construction. Some of this was addressed in last week’s solution

One challenge that we didn’t talk about was the need for 50-60 railroad ties. Our supplier wasn’t sure he had that many and couldn’t get more for a couple of weeks. I made a couple of calls and found more if we needed them.

With all the wet weather we’ve had, my go to trucking companies were behind schedule. This presented another major challenge, if we couldn’t get the sand and gravel we needed we weren’t going to accomplish much. Once again having the right connections we were put in contact with Dave Williams of D&Ts Hauling & Excavating, Dave came to the rescue and got us what we needed before we needed it.

Day 1 Monday – We began the day by gathering the first load of railroad ties and skid loader and got them to the job site. We disconnected and removed the portions of the existing fencing that would be relocated. Next we moved the existing pipe framed structure that served as a covered area for the existing run, this was also going to be reused.

The layout of the railroad ties was measured and marked. We placed the first few ties and filled between them with 4”-5” of fill sand and then 2”-3” of ¾” gravel flush with the top of the ties. This brought us out 8’-10’ along the 48’ long east side of the run.


Day 2 Tuesday – We started by picking up the concrete culvert and delivering it to the site. Then we picked up where we left off and laid a couple rows of ties west to approximately where they were going to stop. We filled between them with the sand and gravel as before. Then we moved a roll of artificial turf to the raised pad where the building was going to sit and rolled it out.

Day 3 Wednesday – It rained overnight and made things too muddy for onsite work so, I took used the time for organizing and planning.

Day 4 Thursday – We laid rest of the east-west rows of ties, spread more fill and moved the remaining rolls of turf to the areas where the pad was prepped. I began digging the hole in the sand and gravel for the paw shaped pool to set in. To minimize future settling and give us the best base we began compacting with a vibrating compactor. This meant we needed to temporarily roll the first turf back out of the way of the compactor. It wasn’t fastened yet, so this wasn’t much of an issue.


Day 5 Friday – We picked up another load of ties first thing today. Then it was more ties, more sand, more gravel, more compacting, and more turf. We cut the ends of the concrete culvert smooth and set it in place. Today we got the first roll of turf lined up, squared up and stapled in place. We knew we were going to be short of sand. I called Dave and he wasn’t going to be able to get any today.

Day 6 Saturday – Dave called me and said he could get me the sand I needed. Thanks again Dave. We began by picking up 35 bags of Quikrete to use for building and shaping the hill. The first thing we did on site was move the building back into place. This was done by temporarily fastening some 2x6s to the ties over the turf to serve as skids, this went well. After it was in place, we pulled the temporary skids and bolted it down to the ties. We spent a big portion of the day designing and building ends for the tunnel/hill out of treated 2×6 tongue and groove. After they were built, we began stacking Quikcrete bags and filling around them with sand and gravel. We ran a few bags short of being able to finish the hill.


Day 7 Sunday – No work today, it’s the Lord’s.

Day 8 Monday – It’s getting closer, but still much to do. More ties, more sand, more gravel, more compacting. We finished the hill with the extra bags of Quikrete, sand and gravel. The west side got an additional row of cross ties for future pens to sit on. We rolled out the turf to go over the hill and cut it as needed. Then we rolled out the last roll of turf and cut it around the building offset, remaining gate post and pool. All the turf seams were taped, and the perimeters were stapled down with a few exceptions in areas that needed some special attention.

Day 9 Tuesday – Things are coming together. We reset the chain link fence in the new location, reattached the remaining fence to the building, hung the panels back in the end of the building. Using up the last of the ties, most of the sand, last of the gravel, and we built a raised pad for the new private cottage to sit on. Due to the elevation around the cottage pad we installed some drain tile to one of the downspouts on the original building and buried it in gravel to prevent water from becoming a pond. Next we moved the cottage onto the new pad.

Before we left Ann had dogs out playing in the new yard.


Day 10 Wednesday – We did some backfilling around the outside of the ties with the left-over sand and dirt. Loaded up and moved onto the next project.

There are still a few things to finalize. The fire hydrant fountain still needs to be plumbed, but we haven’t got the hydrant yet. I need to install a window AC unit in the new cottage. As is usually the case there will probably be a few more things that might come up.



I hope this challenging project will give Ann many years of service and her boarders many years of fun and exercise.

I Love A Good Challenge

And Building A Dog Playground Sure Is That


Challenging and abnormal projects must run in my family. I’ve written about the grain bin house we plan to build for my niece Hannah.

Avoid Feeling Like a Sardine in a Tiny House

How to Determine If Someone’s Trash Can Be Your Treasure

How to Dream Big in A Small Space

How Do You Make Your Dream Become A Reality?

The Next Chapter in “The Saga of the Grain-Bin Home”


Now her Mom, my sister Ann, has once again joined the out of the box project roster.

Ann owns and operates Prairie Paws Lodging, a pet boarding facility. When we built her building originally in 2016, we took into consideration future expansion. We currently are working on the first phase of this expansion. As per an earlier post the original ideas have changed. Rather than adding on to the existing building we are going to set individual private cottages made by Pinecraft

Part of this expansion project includes doubling the size of the existing dog run. This involves landscaping it with artificial turf and installing dog amenities…I’m talking fun stuff like a pool with a fountain, a tunnel, a hill and a rope attached to a flexible pole.

When we built the original facility, we looked for a way to make cleaning up after dogs easy while maintaining a natural look and feel. We accomplished this by installing artificial turf over an elevated bed of gravel bordered by used railroad ties. This allows for liquid to run through and solids to be cleaned up.


Due to the existing run being natural grass and in a naturally low area, it would get muddy in rainy spells. So, when considering the design for the expanded run, it was decided that we would give it the same artificial grass treatment as well as some new fun things for exercising and entertaining dogs.

The project consists of building a 2100 square foot raised pad. The construction consists of railroad ties around the perimeter in rows spaced 12’ apart. In between the ties will be a 4” thick layer of fill sand covered with a 3” layer of ¾” gravel. The gravel and sand will be compacted with a vibrating packer to minimize future settling of the sand/gravel fill. Artificial turf will be spread over the gravel and attached to the ties. The existing fence will need to be removed and reinstalled along with some additional fence. The existing steel pipe framed cover will need to be moved for the building of the raised pad and then moved back to its original location.

In one corner of the run there will be a small paw shaped pool with a fountain. This will require figuring out the best way to get the water from the pool to the pump and to the fountain. In the future there will be an old fire hydrant serving as the fountain, so this needs to be allowed for now.


The most challenging part is building the tunnel/hill. We needed to determine what we were going to use for this. We considered pipes, barrels, tanks with the ends cut out and a few other things. Then we found some concrete culverts and the price was right, so this is what we decided on.


With Ann having a commitment for the week of June 17th she had no dogs scheduled to be boarded. This provides a good opportunity to work on the project with minimal disruption to the normal boarding routine. With the challenges of this project it may take longer than a week, check back next week to see.

Check back next week to see a day by day progress of the project, the challenges faced and see how the finished project turns out.