The Worst of Times, The Best of People

Today, I want to share some thoughts in light of one of the most devastating storms to hit our country, Hurricane Harvey, because even though my area was not affected, it directly impacted many family members and friends of mine, including my best friend and her family and my dear cousins and their families that are scattered across the Houston and Beaumont areas.

The storm has brought the worst of times, but it has also brought out the very best in people, and I thank you for reading today, as I bear a bit of my heart.

It’s been a terrible roller coaster of emotions over the past two weeks, and now Hurricane Irma is posed to possibly do even more devastation to our beloved nation.

I teared up or cried more than once for my own loved ones and others devastated by the storm…

…in fear for the safety of my loved ones that I was powerless to help directly during the storm.
…as the rain unbelievably just kept coming down with no end in sight.
…at nearly every story of brave everyday people that showed up to help with no expectation of reward, often risking their own lives in the process.
…every time I heard a loved ones’ voice on the other end of the phone, just knowing they were safe and sound, at least for that moment.

I even discussed this storm-caused emotional roller coaster with a friend.  I’ve certainly waited with anticipation in the past as hurricanes and other storms have wreaked havoc on my loved ones in this area, but the extended time period of this storm made the waiting game almost intolerable at times.  And, I was far from the storm’s direct impact.  I cannot even fathom how bad it was for those in it’s midst.

Even though many of us aren’t really talking about it yet because of the dire situation at present, the bad news is still going to keep coming for quite some time.  I just can’t go there right now, but I know it’s not going anywhere.

The Worst of Times, The Unprecedented Storm(s)

Hurricane Harvey was an unprecedented storm.  Even though I live in the state, I’m still having trouble just comprehending the size and scope of the devastation.  I doubt any of us, except those on the ground in the affected areas, really know just how bad the devastation is, but I’ve had a little better idea, thanks to direct reports from those I know in the area.

The damage is now done, both physically and emotionally, to those in the area.  My family members and friends in the impacted areas thankfully had little damage, but they all know people that have been severely impacted.

Now, the long-term work recovery work is set to begin.  Of course, this is prime hurricane season, and everyone knows that seasonal rains and possible future storms are certainly not out of the realm of possibility at this point.  It’s just too much to consider right now, though, but Irma is certainly keeping us mindful of that possibility.

There’s been another sad storm over the past few days, too, a storm of negativity and division, often political in nature, like none I can remember with previous storms.

I was so shocked to see inappropriate, if not hateful, comments from the onset of the storm from some people, and I wonder if these people have ever known empathy at all, including the “keyboard warriors” that just cannot put “first things first” in a time of crisis.  These people also do not realize they are only hurting their chances of getting others to sympathize with their position at times like this when they spew their offensive or ill-timed comments, but one has to wonder if they even care.  Probably not.

“There are no politics in eight feet of water. There are human beings in eight feet of water.” — Sandra Bullock (donated 1 million dollars to the Red Cross)

However, I also noticed more people (who are typically quiet) come out against this negativity and division-sowing in light of Harvey’s devastation.  They are experiencing the truth first-hand, and they are calling out those that don’t speak it.  Maybe it’s time to do just that.

No doubt, most of these argument-prone, negative folks tend to be angry people.  These types of people are quite foreign to me, and honestly, I’m glad.  I don’t look for opportunities to read or hear their comments, but they are becoming almost unavoidable to see and hear at times, making this already bad situation truly “the worst of times” in an even bigger, and terribly sad, way.

There is supreme joy in helping and supporting someone in need, and I wonder if some are ever going to know that joy in their lifetimes.  It’s never too late to start being helpful, rather than hurtful, in both words and deeds.  That change can begin today, and it is a choice everyone can make right now.

Whew, thanks for letting me vent just a bit.  Like I said, it’s been a very emotional couple of weeks.

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Now, for the rest of the story, the stuff that has brought me to tears so many times over the past few days.

I want to document and remember when the “rainbow” appeared after the storm.

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The Best of People, The Resiliency of Victims and Everyday Heroes

My fellow Texans are a special kind of family.  I don’t know if people in other states feel this way or not, but I say with no hesitation whatsoever that I believe the majority of Texans feel this way.  If you’re a Texan, you’re family, and those of us not affected by the storm are going to be there for you as soon as possible in whatever way we can.  We’ve been with you in prayer even before this monster storm hit your areas, and we’re coming soon with everything we can possibly think of to help you get through this.

Texans don’t expect others to really understand who we are, but we love it when they get a glimpse of our true selves.  Right now, my fellow Texans are shining like bright lights in the darkness of Harvey’s aftermath, representing what the majority of us really and truly believe, and others are finally noticing some new things about us.

I’ve often wondered how others think we are not a diverse and loving people, when we are truly one of the most diverse and outwardly loving peoples anywhere.  We are too often stereotyped incorrectly to those elsewhere, but without a doubt, we know who we are.  That’s what matters most.

Love thy neighbor.  That pretty much sums it up, I think.

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Let me slightly digress for just a minute.

Texas can be hard… very hard.  Just look at the storms that hit us routinely.  We get everything from ice, deep snow, gale force winds, blowing dirt, huge dirt haboobs, frigid cold, blistering heat, huge wildfires, high humidify, flooding rains, tropical storms and massive hurricanes.  We also have the lovely privilege of having mosquitoes, love bugs (that are totally disgusting), rattlesnakes, alligators and other critters that keep us on our toes in many areas.

It’s just part of our Texas lifestyle.  We deal with it and keep going on with our lives, even if we let our frustration with these things be known, usually in a sarcastic or humorous manner.  Humor really helps.

But with all these routine challenges, most people elsewhere have no clue what some in our Texas family have endured this year, even before this storm hit.  National news outlets tend to overlook many stories that affect us, especially those of us in flyover country.

It’s been a tough year for many in my Texas family.  I’m especially thinking of the cowboys that lost their lives in a monster wildfire earlier this year in the Panhandle while trying to save their livestock.

Real cowboys still very much exist.  This was more than their job.  It was their life and their love.

Folks, these wonderful young people burned to death in a truly horrific way.

I teared up when I heard this story on the news and bawled longer than I care to admit when I read this excellent Texas Monthly feature about all of them.

If you haven’t read this story, you should, no matter who you are or where you live.  It’s long and detailed, and I’ll bet you will never be the same after reading it if you are an empathetic person at all.  Read that article and start to understand more about some of my nearby Texas family members.  This one hit especially close to home for me.

Sometimes we need to hear the difficult stories and cry the tears.

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Now, back to Harvey, and a look to the words of Luke in the book of Acts.

Acts 20:35  In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the LORD Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

Hero Texans have been first on the scene to help each other during and immediately after the hurricane.  I’ve heard just a few of the first-hand accounts from our best friends in one of the worst-hit areas south of Houston.  While they were still not completely out of harm’s way themselves, our friends were actively helping their neighbors in life-threatening situations, and they were just two among many doing the same thing.

Hero Texans took matters into their own hands to not only rescue their fellow Texans, but they went after their pets and their livestock, too.  If anyone knows the value of life of any kind, it’s a Texan, and that includes dogs, cats, cattle, deer, horses, pigs and even bats that were stranded.  I saw all these rescues on television and bawled more than once.  And while we just have to admire the resiliency of all those huge floating fire ant colonies that organized to survive on top of the flood waters, we probably won’t shed any tears if they don’t make it!

I had to laugh when I saw this quote that was sent to me by text by a friend as the small boat rescues were still going on.  Laughter’s been a short commodity lately, for sure.

I’m tellin’ you guys, Texas needs to erect a statue honoring “random average dude with a bass boat.”

These hero Texans are just some of the “best of people,” and if you’re only hearing these harrowing stories on the national news, you can’t even begin to know just how bad it’s really been and likely will be in the days to come.  I don’t think anyone can at this point.  For now, it’s all just one day at a time.

One of the stories I especially love is the story of Mattress Mack.  You’ll not regret watching this great story!  What an inspiration in words and deeds… and heart.  Honestly, I really don’t think he’s an exception either, but I’m glad he’s been featured right now.  I can name at least a dozen older men I know that are just like him, including my own father, who passed away in 1999.

Another “best of people” focus today is all the many volunteers and state and federal agencies coming like the cavalry to help from all over the nation and around the globe.  You are all hereby adopted as fellow Texans, and we love you!  That’s includes all you Cajun Navy volunteers and all you folks with big trucks filled to the brim with food, water, clothes, diapers, medicine and all manner of goods that are desperately needed.  So many people are in need of your help, and by the looks of things, this relief effort may set records… in a good way.

These heroes are just now getting into the affected areas, and their stories will be told soon.  Texans strive to be self-sufficient, but we know that as much as we would like to not be a bother to others right now, this monster named “Harvey” was just too big and destructive, like no other storm in a very long time, if ever.  We welcome your charity, and we’ll make sure you know it, too.  Just watch how we come help you when it’s your turn in the storm.

Another “best of people” focus is a little surprising, as it’s all the fabulous people and groups harnessing the power of social media and newer technology, like Zello, to help those in the affected areas.  This is the first time I’ve witnessed just how the social media impact can be utilized to speed up both rescue and relief efforts.  No doubt, it helped save lives and is helping to get specific aid into needed areas.  We should all go download Zello on our phones now, too, just in case.

Social media now provides another way to channel assistance to some smaller groups that are closer to the devastation in a timely way.  Our first monetary donation was to one of these small groups that was on high ground in League City that was overwhelmed with the need to assist many people in surrounding areas that were severely flooded, a first for them.  They had a “donate” button on their Facebook page, making the donation process so easy for us and timely for them.

My final “best of people” spotlight is all the churches and local non-profit agencies in the area that continue to meet the most immediate needs of those that are hurting.  While many of them have suffered damage themselves, church members are selflessly out helping others.  Some have also suffered the loss of members of their communities, as is the case with our best friends, unfortunately.

Right now, there is an urgent need to get all the wet material out of homes before black mold begins to grow in the heat.  It is monumental and dangerous task, and the magnitude is almost incomprehensible.  Local churches have accepted the challenge to get this done in many, many areas, and I’m aware of two local churches that are working miracles right now in this area.

Seeing the “best of people” in full force over the past week has given me hope again that we as a nation are still comprised of mostly good, quiet, decent people, rather than the divisive minority that often seems to grab the spotlight.  I’ve honestly wondered if our country turned a sad corner, but today, I don’t feel that way.  The silent majority has shown its true colors once again.

Our Response, Date Night

Hubby and I enjoyed an impromptu date night that consisted of a tasty dinner at Costco, followed by purchasing supplies at both Costco and Wal-Mart for a nearby hurricane relief group.  We have decided to give more than we have in the past, hopefully helping several relief efforts, and we had a fun time together on our shopping trip, knowing that every single item was going to make a difference to someone that’s hurting.

Both clerks that checked us out asked if we were buying relief supplies, and I suspect the case of diapers at Costco was probably a dead give-away, given that we are not spring chickens by any stretch.  I got very teary, though, as I looked around at others in the checkout lines at Costco and saw that many of them had cases of diapers and other likely relief supplies in their baskets, too.

We also got some strange looks when we checked out at Wal-Mart with 20 bottles of bug spray, but it gave me the opportunity to explain what we were doing to man behind us in line, and he pulled out of the line to go buy his own supplies to take to the church nearby.

I also spent some time helping the group sort clothes that had been donated.  We sorted them into boxes by gender and size to assist the church in distributing them more efficiently upon arrival.  I enjoyed working with ladies that I’d never met, and we had a few laughs at some clothing items that were donated.  Seriously, folks, people in Houston do *not* need winter parkas right now.  In fact, they don’t *ever* need winter parkas!

Going Forward, The Challenge

The South Texas area is going need lots of assistance in the days, weeks and months to come.  Hubby and I want to be a part of the ongoing healing effort, and I hope you will also consider doing and giving what you can.  Look for reputable opportunities to make a quick and direct impact right now, if possible, and always be wary of scams that will no doubt pop up.

One more important need that I’m familiar with is the need for blood donations across the nation.  I donate regularly, but many others now need to step up and donate, too.  The need is critical right now and in the immediate days to come.  I can’t stress that enough.  Please spread the word.  It was critical prior to Irma, and it’s going to be even more so now as Irma heads toward Florida.

If You’ve Been Impacted

If you’re reading this today and you’ve been impacted by any of the current storms, including the horrible wildfires in other parts of the country, my heart goes out to you, as well as my prayers.  I cannot begin to fathom what you’ve been through and what you’ll be going through in the days ahead.  Ask for help when you need it because so many want to give it.  Allow others the blessing of blessing you.  You likely have no clue at the love and generosity that is headed your way very soon.

Just like the storm that was Hurricane Harvey, I hope the love and help coming your way is totally unprecedented!

#PrayForTexas

#TexasStrong

 

 

Wordless Wednesday – Life Saver

Make the call.

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My Tribute

A special photo that, to me, represents healing since 9/11

I took this photo last weekend while we were on retreat in the mountains of New Mexico, but as I looked at it more closely this morning while watching the 9/11 remembrances on the morning news, I realized that this photo represents so well the healing that has occurred, at least for me, since the tragedy of 9/11/01.

The darkness is still seen in the background, as well as the “shadows” of what was, but literally hundreds of points of light shine through that darkness to illuminate a single tall vine that is new growth in the foreground.  For me, those points of light represent the lives of those lost that day and the hope that could not be destroyed.  Every little detail of the healthy vine can been seen so well as it reflects the light that is piercing through the darkness beyond, and it was illuminated so brightly that I felt compelled to capture it in a photo.

This brings to mind a special verse for me today, and may it inspire us all to continue to fight the good fight in our own lives, know whose we are, know how much we are loved, and be a shining light of truth and grace to others in our lives every day.  Today, I am grateful for this special little message to help me to continue to move forward as I remember the sacrifices and the exquisite pain that many are experiencing today.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

— John 15:5

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Grand

The very next day after the tragic event with the young man which took place in our neighborhood that I wrote about in my previous post, I was blessed to accompany one of my best friends and her family to the hospital for the birth of their second grandchild. I was there with my camera for the birth of their first grandchild a few years ago, and what a privilege it was to be there with all of these special friends once again on this happiest of days.

While I am certainly no pro with my trusty camera, I was able to just be there to help ensure that the desired “first” pictures were not overlooked amid all of the fun and excitement, as well as taking a few pictures they might not see themselves, such as the picture in this post. Their job was to be family, and my job was to love them with my camera. They also received a free professional photo shoot with baby before they left the hospital, but nothing can ever replace the real-time photos taken in first hour or two in the life of a brand new baby.

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The sign in the room as the family met their precious new baby

There is just nothing like the experience of holding a new baby and seeing the expressions of those sweet family members as each one held this little 7 lb 2 oz miracle straight from the arms of God for the very first time, and I feel quite confident that I am likely preaching to the choir among many of my readers here. I’m not sure that life gets much better than times like this.

As my friend held her precious new grandson for the first time, some new thoughts came to me. Was such a celebration also taking place in Heaven at that moment? What if we are received in such a way in Heaven one day? Do angels sing at times like this? There was such great anticipation of the arrival of this sweet new life. What if it is that way in Heaven for each of us? What will that experience be like someday? Will the earthly celebration of the birth of a baby even begin to compare with the Heavenly celebration? Will this change how I look on the death of a believer going forward? I never once entertained these thoughts until that moment.

I had such a great hour in the room with these precious people in my life, and I will treasure this memory the rest of my life. And as “payment” for my services, I got to hold this sweet little boy after everyone else had their turn and even had my picture made, too. But, this was certainly not about me. It was their special time together first and foremost. My friend’s daughter was more beautiful than I’ve ever seen her, and she is always stunningly beautiful. A new mother has a special glow about her, I think. Haven’t we all seen it at some point? It is revealed in her eyes that are tired, joyful, loving, relieved and a bit scared all at the same time. It’s just priceless.

After I left the hospital, I decided to take a stroll in a nearby park for a few minutes. The grass is still green, as are the trees, and it was a beautiful afternoon to take a quick stroll around the lake in the park. Normally when I’m walking outside, I have one or both of the dogs with me to exercise them, which is always fun, but I truly enjoyed this peaceful time alone to decompress a bit. A quiet walk in nature should be a medical prescription when we are a bit out-of-sorts from the roller coaster of life. Just being in God’s creation, whether in an urban setting or out in the middle of nowhere, is always a good dose of medicine to my soul. Hopefully we will be headed out in the RV this weekend for a quick getaway to one of the state parks, too. This is such a great time of year to go camping, and we are ready to go and enjoy this beautiful weather before winter cold finally arrives in a few weeks.

I believe we all need beauty in our lives regularly, in whatever form we can see, hear, touch or smell it. For me, that also includes absorbing the beauty of God’s word regularly… as in every single day. It is medicine for my soul, comfort when times are hard and joy when times are grand. I doubt that too many things are more beautiful and grand in this earthly life than being present at the birth of a brand new baby. No wonder they call them grand… children!

And all you grand… parents reading this say…. 😀

Psalm 127:3
Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him. (NLT)

Psalm 139:13
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. (NLT)

Jeremiah 1:5
“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart …” (NLT)

Matthew 18:10
“Beware that you don’t look down on any of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father.” (NLT)

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The Blessing of Waiting

For some reason, the post that I published earlier today is not showing in my WordPress Reader.  So, I would like to invite you to read today’s post, The Blessing of Waiting.  I believe it was successfully published via email, so I’m not sure what the issue is with the Reader.  Thank you, dear readers!

If for some reason it was actually published in your own Reader earlier, please accept my sincere apologies for sharing this again.  It did not show up in mine after almost three hours.

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