Harvey and Houston

For the last four or five days, I’ve had a close eye on Houston and the monster called Hurricane Harvey. I know that Harvey made landfall further down the coast and devastated the area there, including the towns of Rockport and Port Aransas. KB called Corpus Christi home for several years before he and I met and knows that area well. It’s beyond terrible, the pictures we’re seeing come out of there. I don’t mean to lessen the devastation or need there at all because it’s real and it’s huge and they are most likely going to get the short end of the assistance stick because of all of the attention Houston is getting. But, Houston hits me in my gut. Because it was home and I know so many people still there.

As I sit here watching the horrific images of Houston slowly being drowned, neighborhood by neighborhood, my heart is breaking. I called Houston-or the area-my home for a little over seven years. Along with all of the stuff I accumulated while there, I carried many memories with me when I left; some wonderful and some not so great, but all a part of the experience of living in the country’s fourth largest city. The friends we made while there are, by far, the best part of having lived there.

Some people have been extremely fortunate in that while the water has literally lapped at their door, none has entered their home. Others have lost everything right up to the rafters to the floodwaters. Places that have never flooded have feet of water in them right now. The pictures and videos that are coming out of there don’t even begin to convey what it’s really like. It’s truly heart breaking and gut wrenching to watch.

But, for all of the awfulness that we see, there is something amazing and wonderful happening in Houston and being transmitted on our tv and computer screens as well. People are coming together. In a day and age where everything is divisive, people are coming together to help each other. We’ve seen all races affected and all races helping each other. No one is stopping to ask who you voted for, what political party you belong to, if you’re gay or think it’s okay or not, what your thoughts on statues are, what religion you are-or if you even believe in God. No one cares. All anyone sees is a PERSON in trouble that they can help and they do. THIS is the America that I know and love. THIS is the America that I am a proud to call home. Because that’s what we do in this country. We come together in a crisis. It’s when our true colors come through shining brightly.

If we could continue this attitude of service and love past this disaster, we’d be living in a much better world. As the waters recede revealing the extent of the damage and the sun comes out and start drying things out, the media trucks will leave and the relief trucks will arrive. There will be people of all races, walks of life, and beliefs that will come from all corners of this great big country and help. They will shovel mud and muck, tear down, haul off and help rebuild, wipe tears, give hugs, pray, feed, clothe, and support and love on the people of Houston and the surrounding areas. You won’t be seeing those stories on the nightly news because it doesn’t bring in the ratings or stir the pot. But, this is what America NEEDS to hear and see. Because it’s us at our best.

My heart hurts for the people of Houston and the other areas impacted by this disaster. They, and their towns, will never be the same. It will take years for some areas to rebound and, sadly, some never will. I pray that mixed in with the awful memories, there will be some good ones, too. Of friendships forged by shared experiences, of the good people that stepped up and did what had to be done, and of the love that people showed their fellow man. My heart holds hope for the future because there are still many, many good people just doing the right thing. This week, they are the ones wading through water to help their friends, neighbors, and strangers. Love wins.

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ELI

About six years ago a dear friend posted asking for prayers for a little guy from her church that had been diagnosed with brain cancer.  We all see those kinds of posts every day. Many, many of them. I don’t know why some of them really hit home and sort of settle in the corners of our hearts and minds and others don’t, but Eli did.

Like many others, I watched him fight a battle that no one, much less a child, should ever have to fight. Through the ease of social media, I watched this family deal with the laughter and the tears, the pain and the frustrations; all of the things that come with the horrific disease that had invaded their life. They did it with grace, love, generosity, and hope. Until the day that hope died and they knew that, in the end, this monster was going to win. But, they didn’t let it. Not easily. They continued the research and the treatments, and didn’t go down without a fight. In the process, they made life as normal as possible for their family while making memories that will, hopefully, bring comfort to them in the future.

One thing they did early on was decide that they were going to give back in some way. Once they carried hundreds of DVD’s to add to the library at St. Jude’s. They took donuts to the nurses that had given such wonderful and loving care to the children in their charge. Target House received laundry detergent and cleaning supplies. Toys and games for the children that were spending months in the hospital undergoing treatment. They set up a charitable foundation to raise money for cancer research. A well in Africa bears Eli’s name thanks to someone that wanted to make a difference in his honor. I could go on and on if I could remember all that they’ve done. Instead of letting this monster named cancer suck all of the good out of their lives, they used it to create good things in a nightmare world.

I tell you all of this because while they were just trying to get through the days, sometimes just the minutes, they were inspiring people all over the world by the way they lived their lives. The strength, courage, and faith they have shown is remarkable. Most people would have collapsed under the burdens they’ve had to endure. They have been a light in a dark world.

They will be the first to tell you that God has sustained them.  God has been their strength along every step they took in this horrific journey. THAT has been their message to the world. Rely on Him and He will get you through. Not their will, but HIS.

Last night, Eli’s earthly life ended peacefully and this world got a little bit darker.  But, his eternal life began and his little body is whole and healthy again. What a wonderful gift Christ gave us when he sacrificed himself on that cross so many years ago-salvation and eternal life. That is what will bring his parents comfort as they face the days ahead.

I added Eli and his family to my prayer list that night six years ago and have prayed for him so many times since then. Those prayers won’t end just because he’s gone. They’ve added so much to my life and I have never even met them that I count myself privileged to be able to pray for them.

The Magic Oven

I visited my 90 year old grandmother earlier this week since I wasn’t able to be at her house on Mother’s Day when everyone else was there. As much as I enjoy seeing everyone on holidays like that, I really prefer going when no one else is there and I have her all to myself. It’s much more relaxed and she and I can just sit and visit. She doesn’t hear well anymore and when there are a lot of people there, all that noise makes it even harder for her toIMG_2733 hear.

I called on Sunday to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day and make sure that the day I wanted to come would be a good day to visit. You never know with her…she stays busy and isn’t always home when we all think she should be. Plus, she has doctor’s appointments and such. Anyway, it was a good day for her and we made our plans. I told her I’d be there in the afternoon and would take her out for dinner before I left. She said that would be good and she was looking forward to it.

I arrived a little later than planned but not by much and we had a really nice visit; just sitting and chatting. After I’d been there a while, I went and got the bird feeder I’d brought for her deck and set about getting it filled and put up. I noticed her tomato plants needed watering so she and I went into the kitchen to get the watering jug so I could give them a good drink. Talk turned to what we were going to have for dinner.

I should back up here and say that, for the first time in a long time, my grandmother’ s kitchen was spotless when I arrived. Not that she doesn’t keep a clean kitchen, but usually when any of us come to visit, she has been in there cooking all day and there’s pots and pans in the sink to be washed and food on the stove, that sort of thing. Because she is going to feed us and you can’t feed people and keep your kitchen cleaned up all the time. That’s just the way it is. So, I was a little surprised, but pleasantly so because I thought, “Oh, good, she’s actually going to let me take her out for dinner.” I should have known better.

Back to the what we’re going to do for dinner conversation…She told me if I didn’t mind, she would like to just stay home and have something there. The hearing issue is even worse in restaurants-lots of background noise there- so I completely understand her reluctance to go out. Fine. I could go get something and bring it back. “Welllll,” she said, “I have some leftovers that need to be eaten if you wouldn’t mind having that.”  I was totally fine with that as anything my grandmother cooks is delicious and left overs have never bothered me.   So, I went outside to water the tomato plants.

This is when the magic happened. Five minutes later I walk back into the kitchen and there was a feast laid out on the island. Seriously. A feast. Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, fried squash, green beans, carrots, and cornbread muffins.  She pulled a fast one on me and had it all hidden in the oven just waiting for me to agree to stay there and eat. Her oven is magic, I tell you. Magic. IMG_2748

Did I mention that my grandmother is 90 years old? She still loves to cook. LOVES it! It is her thing. She’s an excellent cook and is one of those people that can make a meal for ten out of seemingly nothing. Puttering in the kitchen is therapy and soothes her like knitting soothes me. We’ve tried for years to get her to let us bring food for various occasions and family gatherings but she won’t have any of it. Well, we can but she’s still going to cook and she’s so much better at it than any of us I don’t know why we bother. Cooking food and feeding people is her love language and she doesn’t know how not to do it.

Not only did she have a feast for us for dinner, she had made my favorite dessert; a chocolate meringue pie. IMG_2750She makes THE best chocolate pie and spoils me terribly by making one for me whenever I come to visit.  I usually eat too much of it but this time I used restraint and only had a small piece.  I know that my grandmother isn’t always going to be around to spoil me with her good food and even better hugs so I am soaking these times up and saving them in my heart to remember when I need a hug. As long as she wants to, and is able, I’m going to let her cook for me and not nag her about doing too much.  After all, she has that magic oven that produces some of the best food I’ve ever eaten and she might as well let it do its thing.