#HurricaneHarvey

Hurricane Harvey. Unless you’ve lived under a rock for the last week, you’ve heard about Hurricane Harvey. He brewed and churned in the Gulf for days. Then made his grand, unwelcome entrance on the Texas coast on Friday.  Everyone knew he’d be trouble. Everyone knew he’d overstay his welcome. But I don’t know that anyone knew how much damage Harvey would continue to cause.

Our first thoughts were with Rockport. We have family with places there. They got their homes boarded and grabbed possessions and evacuated. But have no idea if there are even homes to return to. Or how long it will be before they can even access the area to find out.

Then our thoughts were on our own area. Just over 200 miles from where this massive hurricane made landfall, we initially had some potential for some pretty nasty flooding. Then the storm shifted. It’s funny how the shift that saved us, put my parents and so many friends directly in the path of massive destruction.

A shift I should be so grateful for because we got some rain, and we needed it. We cooled off by about 25 degrees and that makes this fall loving girl happy. But it’s so hard to feel grateful knowing that the flood waters are just yards from reaching my parents’ backyard. Knowing that over a dozen tornadoes have touched down, some less than a mile, from my parents’ home. It’s hard to feel grateful knowing I have friends who are already flooded out of their homes. Their workplaces are flooded. Their schools are flooded.

Texas is in a catastrophic way right now. And it’s nowhere near the end of this mess. It’s hard to watch. It’s helpless to watch. But ya know what else? Texas is strong. Texas is resilient. It’s something built into us at birth. When life hits, Texas hits back. Hard. Seeing the best in people who are donating, sending supplies, coordinating volunteer efforts. Businesses who are swinging their doors wide open so people have a safe place to retreat, grocery stores bringing food to the people (I love my HEB). In these last 3 days, we haven’t seen Republicans or Democrats. We haven’t seen race or religion.  We haven’t seen position or financial status. We’ve seen people. People.

Why does it take a Cat 4 Hurricane to get us here? I think it’s a little because this catastrophic event doesn’t see those things. It doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care. So while this storm keeps pounding Texas, Texas will keep pounding back. We’ll keep showing that we’re stronger than this storm. We’ll keep showing that we’ll bounce back and we’ll do it well. We’ll keep showing that we rally around our people. And if you’re Texan, you’re our people.

While we wait for this to pass (we still have DAYS of this non-sense) we covet your prayers. As we come to the place where we can take action, I’ll be sharing on my Facebook page ways you can give, contribute, participate. As you watch this unfold on the news in front of you, know there are real people, real stories, real lives represented in every one of those stories. And know that every.single.one of us are #TexasStrong.

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In the waiting…

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I’ve often wondered if Mary would look at our “holiday” of Good Friday and feel pain in her heart for what she went through on that day so many centuries ago. It wasn’t a good day for her. Obviously I’ve never met her, but I feel I can confidently say that this day that we refer to as Good Friday was the worst day of her life.

She endured a pain that day that no mother should ever feel. She witnessed a horror that no human should ever be subject to, much less watch that horror unfold on her first born child.  History shows us she was a woman of faith. The fact that she was chosen to carry, birth & raise the Messiah should speak enough to her relationship with God.

Mary witnessed the growth of her son. His growing into a man and growing into His calling of Savior of the world. She was a first hand witness to His first miracle. And I’m sure was witness to many others. Can you imagine the conversations when Jesus would return from long journeys with His disciples between the mother & son? I’m sure her heart filled with joy to hear her Son tell of living his life so completely surrendered and carrying out God’s plan here on earth.

But did she always have in the back of her mind that knowing of what was to come? She knew she birthed a child that would ultimately experience the cruelest of deaths to save the world. Did she ever have secret conversations with God asking him to spare her precious son? Did she ever want to interfere and maybe try to redirect Jesus knowing what he would face? We mamas always want God’s best for our kids. But if we knew that God’s best was what Jesus would endure, would our faith stand? Would our trust waiver?

I know that in the deepest part of Mary’s heart she knew. She knew that God’s promises were true. She knew that Jesus would do what he said he would do. But as that day approached, did her heart want to just steal him away to a place where no one would find him? Did she just want to save him? He was 33, but he was her baby, her first born. That instinctual thing that we mamas have to protect our children…did that kick in for her? How hard must it have been to fight that instinct and trust!

As Jesus went before Pilate and he took the coward’s way out, turning Jesus’ fate over to the people, did she begin to experience the deepest grief a mother can feel? As He began to receive the beating, as the heavy cross dropped on His weakened shoulders, as the crown of thorn was driven into His skull, did she begin to question God? Y’all, I’d have past questioning God about the time Pilate acted a fool and Peter denied knowing Him and been so angry with God by the time that long walk to Golgotha began. How did her mama’s heart feel?

As any loving mama, she pushed aside the pain watching Him suffer & die would bring her and stayed with him until the end. Until he was wrapped in the shroud and placed in a borrowed tomb, she stayed.

In her heart, I believe that she still clung to just a thread of trust that God would redeem this. I believe that to somehow numb the pain & grief of what her son went through she HAD TO BELIEVE that Jesus would rise on that third day. She had to or she surely would have become completely overcome by grief. She waited, in hiding with Jesus followers, wondering if their lives would be next. God never promised them safety from those that placed Jesus on that cross. They spent those days in grief and fear for what was in store for them.

I know that nothing most of us have faced (or will face) in life compares to watching your first born child beaten and hung on a cross to die. But all of us go through the hard things. The things that either we bring on ourselves or life just deals us. There’s a waiting between when that hard thing is placed on us and when we see it redeemed. In that waiting we have a choice. Are we clinging to the promise that God redeems the hard things like Mary? Or are we acting on our own to redeem it our way?

It’s hard in the waiting. We know that our redemption is coming, but what we wait through to get to it is hard. It can strip the life right out of us if we let it. It can rob us of joy and cause us to forget that God is good. It can cause us to forget that, if we can just hold on, when the hard thing is redeemed we experience our own kind of resurrection.

Jesus didn’t just go to the cross and WIN to only gift us heaven. Our redeeming comes in the every day.  In the dream fulfilled after struggle and loss. In the relationship restored after pain and separation. In that hard thing that makes no sense until you walk out on the other side and see how God redeemed it.

If you’re living in your own Good Friday right now, where it’s hard, it doesn’t make sense, where you wonder if God really does see where you are and have a plan, where tomorrow seems unbearable…you have a resurrection and redemption day ahead.  Just like Mary, cling to the thread of hope you have left until you see that hard thing redeemed. It may not be in 3 days, but it’s coming.

The Day After #Election2016

Friends, I’ve stayed away from politics for the most part on social media.  I really believe that we’re better served having these hard conversations one on one with a cup of coffee, rather than behind a keyboard. But here is what I will say today.
1. The Electoral College is a flawed system that needs to be done. Let the popular vote of the people be the deciding factor. Period. I’ve sat on the side where the Electoral College benefitted my choice and on the side where it didn’t. Neither side feels right when the voice of the people is silenced by a flawed system.
2. People are hurting today. Deeply. The “winning” side does no one any favors, nor bridges any divides by lacking grace in the win. Please remember today that those who “lost” felt just a passionately about their candidate as you did. And just like many of us grieved the election of our current President 8 years ago, there are many grieving the election of President-Elect Trump today.  Offer grace upon grace upon grace. Throw on some old school country with The Judds “Love Can Build a Bridge” and remember that LOVING your neighbor will do more than any elected official could ever possibly do.
3. Making America great again has never & will never start in the White House. That’s you & me, friends. WE make a country great or tear a country apart. We are different, we see things different ways, our political views vary.  THAT’S WHAT MAKES THIS COUNTRY GREAT! We need different viewpoints. We need different voices.  And we must listen with an open heart and mind and respond in love and grace. We can disagree without hate.  We can disagree and still be friends.
4. We are where we are now. Our new President, come January 20, 2017, is Donald Trump.  As Americans, we must work harder than ever before to bridge the huge gaps that divide us.  As Christ-followers, we are called to pray for our leader, fervently and without ceasing. Many failed in that during the current administration and represented Christ poorly in their rhetoric towards President Obama.
Again, win or lose, our calling is to represent Christ to those around us. Our call is to operate in love and grace, not judgement and hate.  Our call is to be a light. God has so graciously left the burden of judging others off of our shoulders. He has so graciously taken the responsibility of changing people off of our shoulders. He owns that. We only muddy His work when we choose to take on responsibilities that aren’t ours.
Friends, where we go from here is our choice. Washington can’t change our hearts. Washington can’t cause me to love my neighbor more or less. I choose to love. I choose to extend grace, because God knows I need it so desperately.  Will you join me today?

Cinnamon Orbit

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Do you have those things that take you back to a place or a person or an event? Maybe it’s a song (this time that’s NOT what this is!), a smell, a place, a piece of clothing? Or maybe, like me today, it’s something totally weird. Like a package of gum. GUM, y’all.

In the big middle of HEB today, I straight up lost it. Like had to walk away from my cart and have a moment. See this gum? Cinnamon Orbit? In high school, this was my favorite gum. And knowing me back then, I was probably a gum snob and turned down anything that wasn’t Cinnamon Orbit. I haven’t even seen this gum in YEARS.

When I was in high school, and for some years after, this was my favorite gum. Because it was, my Grandma kept me well stocked in this gum. Like Sam’s Club bulk boxes. I seldom, if ever, had to buy it for myself.  That’s what she did.  If she knew there was something you liked (hello, Starbucks bottled fraps), she made sure you always had it. And more of it than you’d ever possibly need.  Because that’s how she gave and how she loved.

I distinctly remember opening the last packet of Orbit Cinnamon that she bought me before the first time brain cancer tried to take her from us. By the time I got to that last packet of gum, a second round of brain cancer had already taken her from us. I almost didn’t open it. Because it was the last pack of gum I’d ever have from her. But I did.

Honestly, I think that may be the last pack of Orbit Cinnamon I ever had. I remember at times, looking in the check out line for it and never finding it.  I guess time has a way of burying things in your memory. Because I honestly forgot about this gum…until today.

I made a wrong turn down and aisle at HEB, then stopped to answer a text. When I looked up, there it was. Right in my face. Cinnamon Orbit. In a split second, I was in that old blue Chevy Lumina with my Grandma (Grandpa, too, I’m sure) getting gum. I lost it. I didn’t totally hit ugly cry, but I certain hit unattractive cry. Over gum. GUM, y’all. After I walked back to my cart and regained by composure, I grabbed that package of gum.

As soon as dinner is done tonight, I’ll be popping a piece in my mouth. I don’t know if I’ll still love this gum like I did in high school, but I know I’ll love thinking about my Grandma while I’m chewing it. She loved fiercely, generously and lavishly. She passed that on to my mama. And as I look at that gum, I hope I’ve picked up some of it, too.

Weeds and flowers

We’ve all heard that phrase “grow where you’re planted”. It’s a nice thought, right? You’ve been placed in this “soil”, so grow while you’re in it.

But recently, looking at a little note at my friend Christy’s desk, God gave me a new perspective on that. The note was a simple, handwritten note that said “Bloom where you’re planted” with a little flower drawn on. Bloom. Not grow.

Is there a difference?

Here’s the thing. A weed grows where it’s planted. It grows, and chokes out the life of everything around it. It grows taller and taller and spreads itself all around until it can choke out the life of a once beautiful garden.

A flower…well, a flower grows where it’s planted. But then it blooms.  It blooms into the beautiful, colorful flower that God designed it to be. It’s not only beautiful to look at, but it gives life to things around it. Other things in its garden depend on it for its life giving pollen.

A weed is never picked and given as a token of affection or gathered and placed in a bouquet. A weed is never simply cut with the hope that it grows back again next season. A weed can only be removed by digging up it’s roots and pulling every part of it, then throwing it away.

A flower though, is picked by a small child as often a first gift he gives his mother. A flower is given as a token of affection and love. Flowers are gathered and placed as centerpieces in our homes or placed in bouquets for our most special occasions. A flower, once cut, can leave its roots. Because those roots will again grow and bloom into life. Beautiful, flourishing life.

Right now, right where you are, are you living as a weed or as a flower? Wherever you are, God has placed you there for a reason.  And probably even only for a season. Maybe it’s a hard place. Maybe it’s an unwanted place. Maybe it’s an isolated place. Maybe it’s a place of hurt, confusion, loss, frustration, anger. But it’s where you are.

So are you choosing to live there as a weed? Are you allowing bitterness, resentment, anger, negativity be the source of your growth? Or are you living there as a flower? Allowing grace and love and mercy and peace and God’s promises be the source of your growth?

Whether you’ve made the choice to be a weed or a flower, you’re growing. But one grows and brings death, choking out the life around it. The other grows and blooms and brings life and joy to everything around it.

It’s a choice. Sometimes a daily choice. So today, choose. Choose to bloom as the beautiful flower God made you to be.