Inspiration in Tough Times

It’s tough right now.

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Tough seems to be the operative word right now, but I’m still finding some great inspiration during these tough times.

I.  I’ve been fortunate to be able to watch many of the Olympic competitions in Rio over the past week, many of them live as they happened which is always a special thrill.  Watching these highly disciplined athletes from all over the world strive for excellence is always an honor, and once again, I’ve been moved to tears at times and have also cheered a few of them on from our living room, including athletes from other countries, too.

I also saw “Phelps Face” live on the evening it aired.  I was cracking up watching it and was not at all surprised when it went viral and produced some absolutely hysterical memes afterward.

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Olympic athletes are definitely tough people, including and especially the Paralympic and Special Olympics athletes, and their personal stories are incredibly inspiring.  So many of them have overcome very tough circumstances to be where they are and do what they do.

If only our politicians were as inspirational as our Olympic athletes are.  Sigh.  I guess we can dream…

No doubt the Olympics tend to bring out the best in people during the games, even we spectators that are simply watching on our televisions thousands of miles away.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”  1 Corinthians 9:24

II.  The weather here at home has been tough over the past five weeks, with no rain and typically hot weather for this time of year.  Despite the hot weather, the yard work has not gone away, and I’ve had to be more diligent in working in the yard to get those chores done and still try to avoid the worst of the heat each day.

I would much rather enjoy the cool(er) mornings with a good cup of coffee, but I also don’t want to work in the heat later.  The plants, grass and trees still need water to keep them from dying in this heat, and I’m their water source right now until the weather cooperates once again.

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Without a doubt, caring for the yard in recent weeks has been pretty tough.

My little reward for all this hard work is enjoying our little outdoor paradise and the wonderful beauty of nature just outside our doors each day, something we haven’t always had here at home in years gone by when we didn’t have the time to tend the yard as we do now.  Right now, though, we just enjoy it in the cooler part of the day, but hopefully soon, the weather will moderate, and we can enjoy it much more.

All ten of our Red Rocket crape myrtles are in full bloom, and they are absolutely gorgeous, despite the very tough hot and dry weather.  This is something I’ve come to look forward to each summer in early July, and once again, they did not disappoint, having grown even more since last year.

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Birds have to be tough survivalists in the weather we’ve been having lately, but sometimes it doesn’t work out for them.  For the second year, a little nest in the tree in our backyard failed.  A dove built the nest and seemed to be thriving before we went on our trip over the 4th of July weekend, but when we returned, it had failed.  Once again I am very sad, too.  Nature isn’t always kind, by any stretch.

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Doves are visiting in abundance, as well as robins, cardinals, house finches and blue jays, thanks to our beautiful trees and bird feeders, and I love to hear the doves cooing in the early mornings to greet a new day.

 “Flowers are appearing on the earth. The season for singing has come. The cooing of doves is heard in our land.”  Song of Solomon 2:12

III.  One of our local sportscasters is once again doing something fun as the high school football season will be underway soon.  He interviews a different coach each day about their players and their upcoming opponents, and he actually tracks the number of times each coach says the word tough in the interview.

This sportscaster has found a creative way to keep viewers interested in all the interviews, not just the ones that concern their home team, and it’s fun to watch each evening.  One coach recently uttered the word tough 28 times during the interview, too.

Hats off once again this year to a very creative sportscaster!  Who knew tough could actually be quite funny!

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. ” Proverbs 17:22

IV.  A dear friend and her elderly mother are both going through a very tough time right now.  Her mother became seriously ill about three weeks ago and is not expected to live.  She moved her mother to a private nursing home with Hospice care a few days ago, and I’ve been on call for her each day to help as needed.

It seems that I’m now the “go-to” person when friends need advice to care for their parents toward the end of life, since I’ve already “been there and done that” several times.  I’m so happy when I can help others with the knowledge I gained and resources we used and/or learned about as our own parents all fought their own terminal illnesses.

Without a doubt, this is how God uses so many of us… by simply sharing our personal experiences and testimonies with others in this way to help them in their own struggles, and I always give thanks when I’m able to help someone else during a tough time… because I *have* been there and done that and know how I desperately needed help myself.

If there is any good that can come from enduring tough times ourselves, it’s being able to grow in our own faith and also help someone else lessen the effect of their own tough times by loving and helping them through it.

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” Proverbs 17:17

V.  Our country is in a tough spot these days, for sure.  It’s sad when there just seems to be nothing good on the horizon for our nation on a macro level, but the good I’ve seen manifest on a micro level lately has truly been uplifting.  This is where we can actually make a difference anyway.  Spewing hate and division on a macro level accomplishes nothing good but does afford a few loud voices some attention, unfortunately, as well as a lot of misinformation… and I do mean a *lot* of it.  In times when it’s just so tough to find out what is true and what is not, we have to dig deep to look for it.

Perhaps we should just show what we’re made of each day on a micro level, and maybe, just maybe, some day things will improve on a macro level, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Bible and Cross

I need to remind myself every single day that God is still in charge, too,… “our refuge and our strength” in times of trouble. — Ps. 46:1

And to my sweet friend in Louisiana who sometimes reads my posts here, I continue to pray for you daily as you and your family an pets endure the horrific flooding and possible loss of your home/cars/etc. Our tough times pretty much pale in comparison to your tough times right now.  I am once again reminded to never take anything in this life for granted and to ever be thankful for even the smallest of blessings each and every day.

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Have a blessed week, friends, and look for blessings, joy and inspiration all around you, no matter where you are!  😀

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27

Random Thoughts

Second day of summer random thoughts

Today’s post is a little exercise in just writing some “random thoughts” that come to mind, so let’s see what comes to the forefront, shall we?

Summer is officially here as of yesterday, but summer actually showed up in a big way here last week with some pretty brutal temperatures and heat indexes with higher humidity levels.  While others downstate often suffer from high humidity this time of year, it is not such a common occurrence where we live.  Let me just say how glad I am for that fact, too!  Whew, it is pretty much torture to combine heat and humidity, and for us, that is pretty much anything higher than 30%!

 

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The dog days of summer are definitely upon us!

 

We had a nice Father’s Day, and I hope you all did, too.  Son joined us for a nice lunch out, which was actually a combined celebration for us for Father’s Day and our 37th anniversary last week.  We splurged and went to a restaurant that we only visit for special occasions, and it was such a treat!  I tried Tres Leches cake for the first time because our meal came with a free dessert for Father’s Day, and I am now on a serious hunt for a similar recipe.  No, it’s not on my diet at all, but it was so, so good!  I know it had plenty of calories, but I didn’t feel stuffed after I ate it.

I’m feeling a little melancholy right now.  A dear friend informed me that she is going to be moving out-of-state, and I’m sad to hear this.  She is really my best friend at this stage of life, and I’m going to miss her terribly.  It won’t happen for awhile, as she has many things to take care of, including moving her mother and selling their home here.  On the upside, they are moving to a beautiful area in Utah, and it will be a nice place to visit as we are able to do so.

I’m also melancholy about the general state of things in our country and in our world right now.  There is so much hate… so much hate.  I honestly can’t believe some of the things I’m hearing people say these days.  Social media can be such a good tool to stay in touch with people and share some “light,” but these days, I think it is more a tool for the hatemongers.  Twitter is just a cesspool of hate and vile, and I’ve pretty much given up on it completely, except to follow a few accounts individually that are inspirational to me.

Speaking of inspiration, I’ve been studying the book of Daniel for a few weeks, following along via Max Lucado’s teachings via the Oak Hills Church video podcast on iTunes.  It has been great so far, and I’m looking forward to finishing it up soon as it nears its conclusion.  I highly recommend it to anyone desiring a little supplemental study this summer, and it is quite timely as well.

Some fellow RV friends have shared that by this time next year, they may be on the road full-time in their RV.  They are ten years younger than we are, and they are ready to see if they can make it happen.  This took us by surprise, for sure, as their youngest child will leaving the “nest” by this time next year.  They don’t have a firm plan yet on how to do it financially, but it has got us to discussing this option again ourselves.  We still think that we will need to do it in retirement, if we do it at all, so that it won’t stress us financially.  But, it will be quite interesting to see if they go for it or not next year.  I’ve learned so much, and continue to learn, from some of you full-time RVers that I follow here, and based on the large number of people doing it now, I really don’t consider it to be an alternative living option anymore.

Speaking of full-timers, I started following “Driving Miss Norma” on Facebook, and what a joy and inspiration that has been for me.  If you’re on Facebook, be sure to check it out.  Miss Norma is my hero, as well as her family and their standard poodle that travels with them.  Just search for “Driving Miss Norma,” and be sure to read her story.  It has brought tears to my eyes more than once as I’ve been following their journey.

We are looking forward to hitting the road in our RV late next week… finally!  We are meeting three other couples, and it should be a really fun time.  Our Houston-area friends are actually renting an RV for the first time, so this should be “very interesting!”  Hopefully the heat won’t be too terrible.

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Even though you can’t see it in this photo, there is a big air horn on top of the RV on the passenger’s side, and my goodness, it is loud! 😀

 

Hubby’s best Father’s Day gift was finally fixing the big air horn on our new-to-us RV, and wow, that thing is loud!  It only needed a new ground wire.  I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing!  Ha.

As we are ready to resume RV travels, I’ve been trying to map out our remaining vacation days through the end of February.  We’re considering a possible trip to Big Bend at some point, visiting both the national and state parks there, as well as visiting another new-to-us state park, which is also a goal of ours each year.  I invite any helpful suggestions from anyone as far as making this trip in our RV, too.

Planning vacation days just seems to get more difficult every year, due to Hubby’s work travel requirements, but we will get them in somehow.  At least RV travel allows us a little more flexibility when needed.  It is a real blessing to have four weeks of paid vacation each year, but it is a challenge to actually take all those days, too.

Well, that’s pretty much it for today’s random thoughts.  Thanks for stopping by and reading along!

 

A Piano in Heaven

We’ve lost a true treasure.

The water has been flowing freely in Texas over the past few days from the rain clouds, but today, the water is coming from the tears of many fellow West Texans over the loss of one of our true treasures, pianist and composer Doug Smith, who died in his sleep this week(A complete list of Doug’s albums can be found at the end of the linked article.)

My family heard Doug play in person on several occasions, usually at church, and I also heard him in concert on another occasion, too.  I’m not sure if any music has ever moved me so much as Doug’s music did over the years, and I know I’m not alone in feeling this way, especially today.

The news of his death also hit me yesterday as I remembered what a fan my mother was of Doug and his music.  I remember taking her to buy some of his CDs at a local store here a few years ago and remember how thrilled she was to have them and listened to them so often.  People young and old alike loved Doug and his music, it seems.

As an avid lover of both music and photography, I found his artistic collaboration with Texas State Photographer, Wyman Meinzer, to be a truly rare work of art that I probably won’t see again in my lifetime, and I think it will go down as one of the best representations of my West Texas home that will ever be created.  Any visitor to our area can benefit from first watching this magnificent video to try to first understand the soul of the area and its people that these two gentlemen managed to capture so beautifully.

Often, when we go camping, we listen to Doug’s music.  It is such a perfect fit when out in our beautiful Texas State Parks.  Many scenes in the “West Texas” video are from those state parks that we visit so often, too.  Today, I broke down in tears watching the video again and knowing that half of the artistic duo that created it is now gone from us.  That speaks to the impact Doug and his music had on so many of us.

Please take a few minutes today or sometime soon to watch the two videos below.  One is the video I spoke of above, the famous “West Texas” video, and the other is an eight minute documentary by Doug himself following his tragic car wreck in 2007 that paralyzed him and took away his ability to play the piano… temporarily.  It is an epic story of overcoming adversity and is one that I think you will remember going forward, too.

You will see the West Texas video in its best quality by watching it in full screen mode.

Wyman Meinzer’s West Texas from Wyman Meinzer on Vimeo.

I’m going to listen to Doug’s music this week as I go about my daily chores, and I will pray for his family and all that loved him.  They are legion, and some of us feel that we’ve lost part of ourselves in his passing.  We mourn both the man and his music today.

Today, it gives me comfort to know that the hands that Doug said he missed a few years ago are once again restored and that there is a piano in Heaven that is once again singing the tunes of the soul of West Texas at the hands of a master with a true gift from God who learned to play the piano by ear.  And for all the many, many hours of enjoyment Doug’s music has brought to me, and will continue to do in years to come, I wanted to offer my own little tribute today in gratitude.

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A Time to Remember

It’s personal for me.

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It’s Memorial Day and a time to remember those who have sacrificed and those who died for us.

On this day each year, I always think of the uncle I never knew that died in WWII.  We actually know much about him, but I will always be sad that I never knew my father’s handsome little brother who endured such great hardship and suffering in war.  My father never talked too much about him because I think it was just too painful to do so.  But, he made sure we knew about him and how he died.

Perhaps that is the reason I’ve always taken Memorial Day to heart.  It’s personal.  Because it is personal for me, I appreciate how it is personal and painful for many, many other family members and dear friends today, too.

Today, we remember and mourn together for our loved ones gone much too soon, and we also show our appreciation as we are moved to do so, including taking time to be with family.  These days, that is certainly something to celebrate, and I think many loved ones gone before us are smiling when we gather.

Today, I hope you will remember those gone and celebrate those present.  We are truly blessed indeed.  May we never take that blessing for granted.

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46 Years Ago Today

Remembering “Tornado Day”

46 years ago tonight, we survived this monster with only minor damage at my parents’ house.  Twenty-six fellow citizens lost their lives, though, and I knew one woman that died.  I was in the sixth grade, and she made regular visits to my school as a volunteer.

My mother, father and I tried to get to a neighbor’s storm cellar across the street as the storm hit, but the fierce wind actually blew my father back into the house when he attempted to walk out the front door to the south.  We took shelter in an interior closet and heard the trademark “train” sound outside as the storm roared over us and blew over our massive maple tree in the back yard, narrowly missing hitting our house.  The wooden fence didn’t stand a chance either.

To this day, I have never been as scared as I was that night.

We had no advance warning until the local news folks broke into the Carol Burnett Show right before the storm hit, showing the simple black/white radar with a “hook echo” on it.  Shortly afterward, the electricity went off, and we listened to a local radio station for news updates on our battery-powered radio from that point and over the next couple of days.  We had no city services until later the next day, a first for me, and it was my first experience in living amid a truly chaotic situation for the first time.

I will never, ever, ever forget that night.  Ever.

It’s still hard to think back on it and talk about it even today, and, like my mother, it’s why I am a fierce “weather bird” just about any time during severe weather season.  I still miss her calls to make sure we are aware of impending weather, too.

If you do not own a NOAA weather radio, please get one and keep it on over the coming weeks. We nearly always have a weather radio on in our RV when camping, and we generally avoid camping during the months of May and June unless we feel that the weather forecast will work for us just prior to our departure day.  That includes forecasted winds, since driving an RV in high winds is not a good plan.  We have good friends that encountered  high winds on their drive home from their RV trip last week, and it certainly played havoc with their plans, not to mention their nerves.

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The massive storm that spawned the deadly El Reno tornado in 2013, as seen behind us after we left the OKC area early, thanks to the early warning from the NWS in Norman.

 

I’ve also found that following the NWS offices directly on Twitter is a fabulous idea, too.  Following the NWS Norman Twitter feed may have saved my life, as well as my nephew’s life, a few years ago on a trip to Oklahoma City when we heeded a early predictive warning about what was likely to come just prior to the tragic El Reno tornado that struck the area where we were a short time later.  We saw that massive storm in our rear view mirror after we departed the area earlier than planned, missing it my about an hour.

What are the chances that I would be in two separate locations where massive tornadoes struck in my lifetime anyway?  I truly hope there are no more, but living in “Tornado Alley” means the chance is always there.

Please remain “weather aware” during storm season.  I’m thankful that we have the opportunity to be informed so much more today than in years gone by.

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Another Loss

We just lost yet another loved one in our life, this time very suddenly and definitely unexpected.

Late last October, we spent a very quick weekend camping with some friends.  We all needed a little break from our everyday lives, and I really needed a couple of nights away to refresh a bit as we were dealing with the hard situation of slowly losing my sweet cousin.  These long-time friends gladly joined us, as they had just purchased a brand new fifth wheel, and we shared their happiness as they took their new trailer on an inaugural trip with us.

Hubby worked with this man for thirty years, and they were good friends.  Sadly, we just lost this dear friend to a tragic accident.  One day, this friend was at work with Hubby, and the next day, he was gone.  He did not survive but a few brief minutes after the horrible crash.

Over three decades, this friend and Hubby grew very close.  They had a lot in common and helped and supported each other in ways other friends could not at times.  He and his wife were looking forward to their retirement years very soon, and they were especially looking forward to camping regularly with family and friends and even meeting new people on the road.  We were looking forward to being a part of that with them in coming years, too.

My heart is truly breaking following this tragic news that we received while on a drive around sunset with the dogs in the car.  Hubby completely broke down in tears, and it was all I could do to keep some composure myself to try to comfort him.   I drove us home as he wept and called other friends to share the sad news, and I remember seeing one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve seen in some time as I drove.

We memorialized and buried our friend, along with many others who loved him.  He ended his life well, after many years of heartache, and for that healing, I am very grateful today.  He will most definitely be missed.  So many times in situations like this, I struggle to see how his family will go on without him, but I also know that in every situation I’ve known in the past, they always find a way, even though it is seldom easy for them.

I’m sure I will remember our friend every time we revisit the places we camped with him and his wife and enjoyed their company in some beautiful scenic spots, and I hope that over time, I can remember in gratitude and not in sadness.

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.
– Marcel Proust

The photos shared in today’s post are from our last trip with our friends back in October, a trip that I remember so fondly.  We had a great time acquainting them with this particular park a little more, and these photos represent some memorable moments we shared together.  It was a lovely time enjoying good friends, beautiful scenery and more than a few much needed laughs.  We also loaned him an extra HDMI cable to use, since he forgot to buy one, and Hubby had great fun teasing him about it.

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Memorable sunsets
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Hidden lake that few people know about
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Beautiful fall colors

 

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Seeing lots of bison and their young up close
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Hiking around the lake

I am feeling fairly guilty right now as I mourn the fact that this is the fifth loved one we have lost in the past fifteen months.  We lost three family members and a good friend last year, and now we’ve lost another friend.  The more I think about being a little resentful of this fact, the more guilty I feel.  Perhaps it is time to quit looking at death in this way and start being more grateful for the blessing of having these people in my life for the time they were here.  As we grow older, we will no doubt continue to lose loved ones like this, and I don’t want the pity party to only grow within me.

This is a very hard loss for many of us, and if you are a praying person, please say a prayer for his family and friends.

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Wordless Wednesday – The Day The Music Died

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