Hard Times

Hurricane Harvey…you are welcome to leave the great state of Texas at any time! You have become similar to the guest that overstays his/her welcome…you stink like days-old fish. Bye-bye!!

Although we only received 5.5 inches of rain over three days at our home, the communities of East Texas were not as fortunate. Houston and areas south and east have received over 50 inches of rain in places. It is estimated that over 30,000 homes have been destroyed in Houston alone and literally hundreds of thousands of people are now homeless. As of this post, six people have lost their lives, among them a first responder who drowned while attempting to get to his assignment and a mommy who died trying to save her 18 month old baby. The tragedies are many but for each sad, depressing story there are many, many more that are uplifting and filled with hope.

Texans take care of their people. When the first responders became overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of people needing to be rescued from the swiftly rising flood waters, their neighbors rose up to help. Boats of all sizes were used to traverse the waters to pull people from the roofs and through the windows of their flooded homes. People used social media to connect those who needed help/shelter to those who could provide what was needed. Businesses opened their doors to any who needed shelter and volunteers poured in from all areas of the Lone Star State and neighboring states to provide a hug, a blanket, water and a hot meal to those affected by Harvey. Celebrities donated monies to help the relief effort while others set up foundations to raise funds and take donations. There is an old saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” and boy has that been true of Texans this week.  Although there were those who tried to put a political spin on this tragedy, the following were non-issues: race, wealth, gender, life style, politics. People helped people. It’s that simple.  All else just faded away.

Houston and the rest of the coastal area will survive. They will rebuild. They will heal and move forward. But my heart breaks for the loss of homes, possessions and, most importantly, lives.

And the rain continues to fall…

My heart is so heavy tonight. One of our sweet neighbor friends passed away this evening. His illness came on fairly recently and after a brief procedure in the hospital he was released only to return soon after. Four days later, he is gone. Michael was such a sweet man. He and his precious wife, Angel, lived across the street from us for over 29 years. They were the very first people we met…even before we moved into the house. When Steve and Mike got together they talked for hours about everything and about nothing. One thing was always certain with those two…stories were told and laughter was loud. Mike was the kind of man that would give you the shirt off of his back…literally. He always had a smile on his face and a chuckle in his throat. The ONLY annoying thing about Michael was that his lawn was ALWAYS the greenest and the most beautifully mown in the neighborhood.  Shrubs were trimmed neatly and flowers grew bigger and brighter than any others!  It didn’t matter what we did, when you compared our lawn to his, ours always looked dry, brown and raggedy!

My heart breaks for him, Angel and for his family. His death will leave a real void in their lives…and in ours.

Though rain, high waters, adversity and death surround us, we must remember that…

“God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling.
(Psalms 46: 1-3)
and

Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge.
(Psalms 46: 10, 11)

We are not alone! God holds us in the palms of His great hands and we WILL prevail!

Adversity

I went out to water the garden today and noticed a couple of weeds growing up through the crushed granite.  They were just behind the containers where I had planted some of our favorite tomato varieties.  Absentmindedly, I bent down to grasp the stem where it met the rock and then I stopped.  The plant was NOT a weed but a tomato plant.  In fact, as I stood up, I realized that there were two tomato plants growing up through the stone.  Paying attention now, I looked around and there was a third tomato plant growing up through the rock.  How in the world did that happen?  I laughed aloud as I wondered how those seeds had found a foothold in the soil beneath the crushed granite and how it was that they were growing bigger and stronger than the plants in the containers!!

In some ways, the lives of people mimic what is going on with the stone and those little tomato plants.  When do we grow the most?  When do we become the strongest? We become stronger only when we go through adversity.  When the world of hard knocks comes around, we learn new skills and/or strengthen those we already have.  We push through, pick ourselves up, straighten our backs, lift our chins and step out to continue on for another day.  When the world treats us less than well and we come out successfully on the other side, we have overcome!

God is waiting to hear from you so He can help!  He is there for YOU!

What do you need today?  We will pray for you!

IMG_3448.JPG

“…but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that  tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. ”  Romans 5: 3,4

A Love Note

This has been another difficult week for us. Steve’s final “hard” chemo treatment was last Friday and the subsequent days have been filled with nausea, chills, fatigue, no desire for food and very little communication. He’s always been a quiet guy at home but these days he sits in front of the television in unbearable (for me) silence.

I assume it is a lonely place to be in for him (he doesn’t want or can’t talk about much of anything) and I know it is for me. So how do I cope when the ocean waters threaten to breach the walls and overflow?

I walk and I talk (or cry) with God.

On Saturday, the day after Steve’s treatment, l went on one of those walks. As I finished a crying jag and a rather one-sided conversation with God wherein I fussed that He didn’t care about me (us) and that I felt completely alone (which I’m not) and whined about Him not listening to my prayers, I stopped walking to blow my drippy nose. I looked down. There, off to the side of the trail was a beautiful pink stone made of crystals. It rested all by itself surrounded by a sea of white and gray rock. The light rose-colored stone isn’t one usually found in our area and was, most likely, brought in months ago when contractors laid the makeshift road.

You may not think anything of that, but I believe that the stone was a love note from God. I picked it up, gently put it in my pocket and took it home with me. I don’t usually collect stones but this one was special!

The rest of the week was no easier but that love note helped to get me through the next several days. When Steve had a really tough time or when he took a nap during the day and I was left alone with my thoughts, I remembered finding that stone and, just like that, I wasn’t alone anymore. God was right there with me!

You would think that I would have been satisfied but, no. That’s not really human nature, is it?

Yesterday, as I walked a different road/trail with Ella, I was in the middle of another conversation with God. This time, I made certain that I spent some time in praise. I thanked Him for the blessings in my life. I thanked Him for Steve and that he appeared to be feeling a bit better. I thanked Him for the beautiful, cool day. However, in spite of all of HIs blessings, I again began to feel as if I were alone. So, I did what humans typically do, I asked God to show me (prove to me, I suppose), again in a tangible way, that He was there. It didn’t have to be much, I told Him. It didn’t have to be another pretty piece of earth with crystals in it. An object of any kind with an interesting shape or color would suffice! Nothing out of the ordinary…just something that would shout, “I’m here”.

As we walked the last quarter mile of trail, I noticed a flat, clear plat of land just to the left of the trail on which we were walking. I didn’t recall seeing that piece of land before and we stepped off of the trail and walked over to see what might be there. I scanned the ground and noticed a ‘rock’ with an interesting shape resting near the center. Bending down to retrieve it, I was amazed.

A fossil!

There was no mistaking His intention. There was no doubt in my mind. That fossil was God’s shout of, “I’m here”!!

Our God DOES answer prayers. All we have to do is ask. His answer won’t always be “Yes”. Many times His answer is “No” and sometimes it is “Wait”.

Twice this week, He answered my simplest request with a “Yes” and provided a tangible object for me to look at and remember that He listens and responds. Our difficult days as a family are not over. My prayers for Steve’s healing may not be answered in the affirmative but, when things get tough, I am going to look at those two stones, both created under heat and pressure, and remember that Steve and I are not alone! We will come through this time stronger than ever!

It certainly helps knowing that our God stands with us…Always.