What's on Fire?

Have you ever felt like you really just don't know what to worry about first? I feel like I am in a burning house and everyone is running around grabbing the things that need to be saved, and I am standing there screaming, "What's on fire?"

For starters, my house STILL has not sold. It has been one year. I talked to my realtor on Sunday and she told me that the market is pretty sucky and that leasing my house for 2 years might not be a bad idea. Well, we have a crap ton of equity in that house, and it selling is the only way we can purchase a house here in the motherland. Before the mortgage crisis, we could have bought a house here and paid PMI, until we sold our house and then we could have refinanced. Now they aren't letting buyers do that. Even ones with excellent credit.

Second, my son is sick. I won't go into the details, for his privacy, but he's sick and it sucks. It especially sucks because there is ABSOLUTELY nothing I can physcially do for him. nothing.

Third, we are not that many years from retirement, and we are watching the possibility of our retirement packages going down the tubes. I'm trying not to panic about that. Mike and I talked this morning, and we agreed that if we lost our retirement, that our later years will just look different than we thought they would.

I could go on, but it would only make my stomach hurt, and I am choosing to walk in truth today. The truth is that God IS in control. And even though I can't possibly fathom one iota of what is going on I can grasp the idea that God reigns supreme. My faith is all I can lean on right now, and so I will.

All that to say, I'm choosing not to sit in a burning house and looking for fire. It won't benefit me anyway. Though the earth trembles and the mountains fall into the sea, still my God reigns.

Happy 27

Today is the 27th anniversary of my wedding day. A lot has changed in 27 years, and not just the color of my hair. We have traversed some pretty turbulent waters and suffered much loss. We have lost a child, lost parents and grandparents, lost jobs, lost weight (gained it back!) lost our minds and lost our youth.

But oh what we have gained. We have gained a deeper respect for one another. We have gained a love that surpasses time and circumstance. We have gained insight into each other's thoughts and reactions. We have gained a desire to grow closer to each other.

All that to say, today and forever, I now pronounce us husband and wife.

What Can Brown Do for Me?

I mentioned on my post on Tuesday that I didn't go buy a surplus of groceries, even though I have power now, because I know too many people who got power, then lost power. I don't want to go buy a bunch of groceries, then lose my power, and then lose my groceries.

I don't normally live my life from a place of fear. I have lived that way. And it was draining and awful. So I try not to live my life or make decisions about my life based on fear. HOWEVER, today a friend told me that her power got turned off yesterday and she STILL doesn't have power.

Another friend told me that the power company told her that she might be experiencing "brown outs" for weeks! BROWN OUTS!!! What is that? It sounds terrible!! Apparently it is where they pick certain grids and turn off their power for a few hours or a few days, to allow them to supply power to other grids, because APPARENTLY Hurricane Ike wiped out our ability to produce enough power for everyone. AND, people who get their power turned back on become power hogs, with everyone doing laundry, vaccuming their houses, running the A/C for 24 hours non-stop etc. (which by the way is EXACTLY what we did when our power got turned back on).

All that to say, I still have power, but I am not buying groceries, because well, quite frankly, I am worried about what BROWN will do for me. :)

The Indictment

I drove to HEB (that's a Texas grocery store chain) last night around 9:00. I was hoping to find short lines, but people were still there by the hundreds. I haven't been to a grocery store since Monday of last week. No real reason to go. I was surprised to find meat on the shelves. And ice cream and frozen pizza and yogurt.

I put my few purchases in my basket and went to get in the very long checkout lines. The "express" line was not going to be any faster than any other line, so I chose one. Most people were like me. They had 4 or 5 items at most. As the cashier started to check out my goods (that sounds weird, but I've rewritten that sentence a bunch of times and it always sounds bad) the bag boy (is that what they are called?) started putting my groceries in a bag when he stopped, looked up at me, and said "You have power, don't you?," his tone dripping with the sound of indictment.

I looked down, afraid to make eye contact, totally understanding that sound in his voice as I have asked that same question many times in the last 11 days. "yes" I mumbled weakly. "i just got it an hour ago."

I HAVE POWER!!!!! I bought milk, eggs and creamer for my coffee. That was it. I have heard too many stories about people's power coming on and then going off again. In a few days, maybe I will go buy groceries. But for now, I slept in my own bed, took a shower in my own bathroom, blow dried my hair AND did two loads of laundry. And that was enough.

All that to say, I have power. yeah. But I still have MANY friends who do not. So I will celebrate in a small way.

Day Ten No Power

I thought it would be easier just to say the power status in the title line. Just in case that's all you checked in for, you'd be able to read and run. But yeah, day ten, no power. I saw them digging giant holes yesterday for new poles. And this morning as I was driving home from the place I slept at last night, I saw about 20 power trucks. So who knows? Maybe today.

Yestereday my church went back out to Timber Lakes/Timber Ridge http://www.photoblog.com/Sevenapples/ to pass out clothes and backpacks. Mike and I went out early to pass out flyers letting residents know what time to get there. As I approached one house, the doors and windows were all open. Inside lay on older man (maybe 65?) on his bed that was in the middle of the living room. He didn't move when I knocked on his door, so I called out, "Are you okay?" He sort of sat up and said, "I don't know."

His bed appeared to be piled high with clothing and a few other articles he obviously hoped to save. His carpet had been stripped down to the bare concrete, but you could still see the water line from the flood on his wet sheetrock. I said, "Sir, are you hurt? Do you need some help?"

He said, "I'm not hurt. I'm just tired. No one can tell me what I need to do. Some tell me start repairing things, but just take good pictures. Some tell me don't do nothin'. I pulled out my carpet, and I ain't got no camera, so I'm just gonna lay here until someone can tell me what to do."

In the same neighborhood, I met a woman carrying 3 empty gas cans. She had just filled up the generator at a hospice house. Three old people lay dying in that house. She asked me when they were getting electricity. I told her that I didn't know.

A few houses down I saw 4 little kids, the oldest of which was probably 8, playing in their driveway. Their parents were busy loading up their uhaul with what was left of their belongings. The rest of what they owned was lying in a heap on the edge of the street. The kids played as though nothing was wrong. The dad just hung his head and plodded along. The mom smiled weakly at me, thanked me, and then went back about her task.

I feel somewhat useless. I have no real help for these people. No real answers. So I just keep doing the little things. But I have discovered that the thing most of these people want is just someone to listen to their story. I heard a lot of stories yesterday. A lot of stories, through lots of tears.

All that to say, Day Ten, no power.

The Hope of New Light

Day nine. No power in my neighborhood yet. It's funny that people now greet each other like this, "Hey, how'd you guys do? Got power yet?" Which translates to, "Did your house sustain damage. Is your electricity on yet?"

This morning at church someone asked me what I missed most about electricity. I had to think because the list was long and often petty. I miss my blow dryer. I miss hot water. I miss having light to shower by. I miss seeing what I am picking out to wear in my closet. I miss the news. I miss the internet (though now that most things near us have electricity, I do have options). I miss cooking. I miss the dishwasher. So, I just shrugged my shoulders and picked one of the above.

We sang a lot of songs about darkness.

When I call on Your name You answer
When I fall You are there by my side
You delivered me out of darkness
Now I stand in the hope of new life.

I had to laugh this morning when we sang this song. I certainly have not been delivered out of the darkness, at least not the physical kind. But the reason I laughed is because I always thought the words to this song were, "Now I stand in the hope of new light." Not new life.

I think, for this present darkness, "Now I stand in the hope of new light" makes way more sense.

All that to say, Awaiting power. Day Nine. But I do have hope. Both the hope of new light, and new life. "Though the earth shakes, and the mountains fall into the sea, I will not tremble for my God reigns."

Ike the Saga

Day Eight without power. I drive through lit up neighborhoods, hoping all the way home that I, too, will be in the "current flow," only to find that I am still surrounded by darkness. I hate the dark. I really hate it now.

People I know who lost something valuable:
John and Kelly, their home.
Matt and Tracey, their home and health.
Asia, a stranger I met whose house flooded. She lost her pink bible. She said it was her "one thing" that she really was sad about.
Laura, her addiction to coffee (I met her in an "ice line" at HEB on day four).
Misty, her faith in God. I sure hope she finds it again.

Some funny/odd things have happened though.

I might have mentioned earlier that our house smells like dead shrimp from the shrimp that defrosted in our freezer. It still does.

Two nights ago, our upstairs neighbors decided to have an "all nighter." Keep in mind we all have to sleep with our windows open. Seriously people. Come on.

We loaned our truck to some people to haul trees off their property. Apparently something heavy and red fell on it and smashed the tailgate down. Discovered that this morning.

We were helping a friend clean out their flooded house the other day. Insulation was everywhere. Said homeowner friend commented about being sick of being covered in insulation everyday and another person there said, "Do you go home and rub pantyhose on yourself every night?" We all died laughing. The look on the homeowner's face was priceless. (Apparently he didn't know that you could remove insulation from your skin by rubbing pantyhose on yourself . . . tuck that one away for future use!)

Other oddities:
Handwritten cardboard signs in front of big fancy restaurants that say, "We are open."
People saying, "I heard they have milk at Kroger!" in the same voice they might say "Gold is falling from the sky!"
People standing in line to buy gloves and boxes at Home Depot. Some for hours. Some who never see the front of the line before the store closes.

All that to say, you know the saying, "It looks like a hurricane went through here!"? Well, I have a whole new understanding of the statement.

More on Ike

It is day seven, and still no power. I think I might understand why people in the olden days didn't bathe real often. It's too dang cold! I came home last night from another day of packing up people's wet moldy houses, covered in God knows what, and just couldn't bear the thought of that cold shower. I knew I needed it. But I just couldn't do it. So at 9:48 p.m. I told Mike that I didn't care how long the drive was, we were going to his sister's house to shower. And that is just what we did.

I wish I had my camera with me right now so I could download some pics for you guys, but I'll do that later. Maybe I'll teach myself how to do a slideshow on my blog and post several for you to see.

Yesterday my church went down into a fairly poor neighborhood (though by the world's standards, these people would be considered rich). This is a neighborhood that floods every single time we get a bad rain. When we get REALLY bad rains, it floods anywhere from 6 feet into their houses all the way up to the roofs of their houses. Very sad. Anyway, yesterday my church was able to secure about 500 bags of ice and MRE's and we drove through the neighborhood passing them out. You would have thought we were giving away bags of money! Later that afternoon, my dad drove all the way from Louisiana carrying 500 hot dogs (we can't get meat here yet) and all the stuff to go with them. We put together a little impromptu barbque and mini-carnival for the kids. A guy we know loaned us a generator and a moonwalk too! It was so much fun. When you are living without the basic necessities for days on end, you need an emotional break.

I feel weak and a little depressed. Not with my circumstances. I can stand to lose the weight, and my dry skin and hair have loved the "every other day" shower thing. Plus I have heard cold water is better for your skin and hair anyway. I have thought a lot the last few days about people who never have clean water or most of the other things we consider basic necessities. It makes me have that much more respect for my friends Matt and Tracey Shepperd who live daily on faith to try to change the injustices in the world http://www.iamchange.com/ By the way, their house was wiped out by Ike. If you would like to help them in any way, would you please contact me?

All that to say, I have too much to say in this one blog, so perhaps I will tell you more the next time I drive to Deb's for a shower and a touch of normalcy.

Hurricane Ike

We have survived Ike! He entered our little neighborhood at about 2:49 a.m. on Saturday morning. I know this because that was the last time our electricity was on. It is now Wednesday.

We ate really well the first night. After that, not so much. No way to keep anything cold. By Sunday night, we were feeling pretty hungry. Then some friends loaned us their gas grill. So we grilled the hot dogs we had left, and that was our last hot meal. TuesdayI stumbled upon a gas station opening and got to fill up my gas tank. That same day we found a little mom and pop store with ice! Woo Hoo! What a find!! Today we had COLD drinks. That was so awesome. It went really well with our COLD showers that we have been taking for 5 days.

We heard today that we should have electricity by October 4th. Great . . .

The worst thing that has happened is that we had fish in our freezer. When it defrosted, it leaked fish juice (technically shrimp) into the drain line of the refrigerator. Now our entire apartment smells like dead shrimp. Mike is working on getting it cleaned out and getting rid of the smell.

I am at my sister-in-laws tonight. She lives in a nearby city and is in one of the rare neighborhoods with electricty. So tonight I took a hot shower, watched tv for like 10 minutes, ate a hot meal and SHAVED MY LEGS!!! I'm gonna blow dry my hair in a few minutes. You learn to appreciate the small things. Let me tell you.

I have learned a few things. One, we had NO IDEA how to "prepare" for a hurricane. You should definitely plan for not having power for a long, long time. Some camping gear is probably a good idea. And BIG, REALLY BIG flashlights. And matches. And something to cook on if you don't have a gas stove. Also, own a generator and a few gas cans. They will come in handy when you don't have power.

Also get plenty of paper products, not just paper plates. Stock up on toilet paper too. And own a couple of ice chests. Also, power adapters that you can use in your car to charge up your computers and cell phones. These are also handy. Oh, and don't think you can live on peanut butter and tuna for very long. You can't. I may never eat it again!

All that to say, we have survived. We have several more weeks of surviving to go. And thanks Deb for the food and hot water.

Hurricane Preparedness Kit

So, (I start a lot of my blogs with so) Mike put together a hurricane emergency kit in my absence. It made me smile.

Here is what it contained:

Cases of water
Case of Gatorade
donut stix
peanut butter

I told him it was a good mix. We should be set in case we lose power. :)

All that to say, "hurricane's a comin."

This Crazy Life

On Sunday, Mike picked me up from church (late afternoon) and told me how he had jumped down from a 3 or 4 foot ledge, slipped on some gravel and fell backwards, catching himself with his left arm.

By Sunday night, it was swollen, but he was in a good bit of pain. So, we headed off to the hospital. Keep in mind, up until two months ago, Mike had never, in our 27 years of marriage, been hospitalized! Turns out, he had a radial head fracture (elbow), so they popped a couple of vicodin in him, put a cast on him, and sent him home.

It's not too bad a break. He'll recover quickly. But I just had to laugh. Really.

All that to say, normally my life is busy, but boring. Lately, it has been anything but.

Just for Fun Today

I HAD to replay this because it was way too funny.

Yesterday I was at Target and as I am getting out of my car and closing this door, this girl in the car next to me yells really loudly, "Heyyyyyy Girl!" I turn to look, assuming of course that she is talking to me. I make eye contact with her and at that point her smile fades, she looks incredibly irritated at me, and points to her phone.

My mistake.

So I turn around and keep walking. Behind me I hear . . . (INSANELY LOUDLY)

"Can you totally believe how seriously pissed everyone is? I mean totally. Seriously."

"IIIII KNOW!" "She was the worst. And she was like, "How did you pull of getting everyone all about your stupid party?" And I was like, "Facebook and Myspace B#*ch" and she was like, "It said it was a private party" and I was like, "Hello??? How could it be private if it was on Facebook?"

"Ohmigod, she's so stupid. Oh, and now, i've been blowing up all day. My mom is gonna be super pissed."

At which point, mercifully, I entered the sanctuary of Target. But then I laughed outloud (embarrassing as people look at me) because I had this mental picture of someone overhearing that conversation that didn't understand all that slang and trying to figure out why the girl's mom was going to be mad at her for blowing up.

All that to say, I am easily amused. And I love teenage girls.

Raising Churchy or Godly Kids?

When my children were little, we decided that we wanted to raise them in church. So we did. We went to church EVERY Sunday, without fail, unless someone was sick, and even then, one parent stayed home with the sick child and one parent went to church with the well child. Church was very much an integral part of our children's "upbringing" and certainly not something to be ashamed of. I'm glad I took my kids to church. It is where they needed to be.I wanted them to go to church and learn about Jesus and all the stories of the Bible, because as an adult who came to know Christ as an adult, I always felt embarrassed that I didn't know the Bible very well. I wanted my children to KNOW the Bible.Both of them accepted Jesus as their Savior as young children. An important milestone to say the least. They both were baptized as young children as well. Then when they were in elementary school, they started attending a private Christian school. Trust me when I tell you, my kids KNOW the Bible. They know it better than I do.But I forgot one important thing. I was pretty keen on them knowing the Bible, and that is exactly what happened. I wish, in hindsight, that I had wanted them to really love Jesus with all their heart and soul and mind and strength, and that I had wanted them to love their neighbor as themselves. I think I raised up churched kids, but I don't know that I raised up godly ones.As adults, they have had to find their own way to loving Jesus and loving others. Because I, we, the church, was focused on teaching them the Bible on a knowledge level. I'm glad they have had mentors and role models in their young adulthood who have helped them. People like Casey Cease who uses his life stories to rescue people from themselves. And people like Matt Shepperd who is showing them what selflessness looks like lived out (www.hydratehope.org)I think today, as a church, we are doing a better job of balancing knowledge and application. If kids have all the knowledge in the world, but don't have love, what good is that? (I think that's in the Bible . . . I Corinthians 13? Sounds familiar).But, I think we still have to be careful to teach our kids to love God, love others, AND love His Word. Imagine a generation of people who have their priorities in order. :)

All that to say, this is an excerpt from a parent blog I started in April. The idea is that parents ask a question and I answer it on the blog. So follow the link
www.justforparentslikeyou.blogspot.com, ask your parenting question in the comment section, and I'll answer it for you. Periodically, I will just add some thoughts on parenting for you parents out there.

Back to the Battle

I mentioned yesterday that I am studying what it means to battle the enemy (meaning satan) who seems to desire nothing more than to distract me from God, His purposes, our relationship with one another, etc. In that, I am reading through, studying, and dissecting Ephesians 6:10-18. I'm writing down what I am learning. Feel free to study along.

I'm writing out the verses so you don't have to go get your Bible.

10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.

My first thought is this. Know whose armor you are wearing. Armor was often custom fit for each soldier. It's how it protected them so well. We are told to put on (literally pick up or take up) the full armor of God. This is the armor of God. Custom fit for God. GOD. And we, who are in the image of God, have an armor custom fit for us. You have, at your hand, the strength and might of the Lord God. Think about that for a second. Let that sink in. Armor, Custom Fit for God, is yours for the wearing. Put it on. And don't just put on some of it, put on the FULL Armor. All of it.

Second, Know why you are putting it on . . . so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. (vs. 11) TO STAND FIRM AGAINST THE SCHEMES OF THE DEVIL. Put on all of it. (vs13) so that you will be able to stand firm, resisting evil. I looked up "standing firm" in the original text. It basically means taking a battle ready stance. Think of judo (sorry, it's the mental picture I got). There is a basic fighting stance that when mastered allows you to be quick and flexible, but immovable when the enemy strikes. So "stand firm" means that you are in the "ready" position, and when the enemy strikes, you will be able to withstand the blow. So, if you have on the full armor of God, you are not only ready for the strike that will come, but you will also be able to stand up to (stand firm) whatever the enemy sends your way.

And Third, Know your enemy. (vs 12). Sometimes for me, the best way for me to think about what something is, is to think about what it isn't. It lets me rule out stuff. So to think about who my enemy is, I thought about people that I have an "enemy like" relationship with. Then I thought about who others might say their enemies are. Then I wrote all of those down as "who your enemy isn't."

Who your enemy isn't:
Each Other
Your Mom, Dad, Aunt or Uncle
Your Husband or your Wife
Your Annoying Neighbor
Your Daughter or Son
Your Friend that hurt your feelings
Your Boss or Your Sister or Your Brother

It's not:
A Teacher, or a Lawyer, or that person that wanted to get you fired.

It's not:
The person who convinced your teenager to start drinking or doing drugs or,
The person your spouse had an affair with.

If you want to know who your enemy is, know who it ISN'T.

vs. 12 For your struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

All that to say, I must remember that my enemy is not human. And it's not even the people I know that don't act human. And, I need to rest my mind now. That's a lot to take in, in one day.

A Tidy Business Relationship

I'm home this week. A self-imposed vacation so that I don't burn out. I've learned the hard way that one must rest. That's why it's one of the big ten (Remember the Sabbath to keep it Holy). It means rest one day or you won't be holy. :) That's a loose translation.

Anyway (someone told me I say that too much when I write). Anyway. As part of my week, I have determined that I am going to try to get this prayer thing in my life straightened out. It occurred to me the other day, that even though I know that I love God and He loves me, my prayer life has become less of a meaningful time with God and more of a good daily business meeting. It usually starts off with me doing the "pleasantries" . . . "Good Morning God. You are so awesome. I worship only you because you are Lord. You made the heavens and the earth. You are in total control. I love you Lord."

If I were in a meeting with someone else this is what the equivalent would be, "Good Morning. You are really looking great today. I wish I could look that good. You are just excellent at your job. You've got it all under control. Way to Go! I love that about you."

But the problem is, I'm not IN a freakin' business meeting. So why oh why I have a reduced my relationship with God to that? I sit down with Him, do the pleasantries, then give Him the list of things I want Him to accomplish for me during the day.

So I started my week really wanting to have a different, more personal relationship with God. I wrote in my journal, "God, I have walked in fellowship with you for a long time, enjoying your presence when it suited me to do so. Oh but God, how much more have you desired from me? How you have longed for my company, but I have doled it out to you in small portions. I do love you, and my heart's desire is to please you. I think the best way for me to do that is just to truly love you, and then from that love, to love others. But maybe I don't know how to love. What if that is true? What is true God?"

I think I am just terribly distracted by the enemy. I believe that I have allowed him to shape the way I interact with God. He (the devil) knows I'm going to meet with God each morning, so over time, he has cleverly convinced me to have a "meeting" instead of a meaningful relationship-building time together. So, I asked God to show me how to fight off the enemy and his cleverness. Then I opened my Bible to Ephesians Chapter 6. No lie. Half of the chapter is about fighting the devil. So, I am reading it, and studying it.

Over the next few days, I'll share with you what I learn.

All that to say, I have thrown out the day timer that once was my prayer life. I almost feel like I'm going on a blind date.