Month: August 2017

How American Heroes are Born

Hurricane Harvey arrived in south Texas a few days ago and has caused tremendous loss and heartache in America. As we sit here safe and dry at Wild Blue Yonder, our prayers and concern are with our fellow Texans just down the road.

The pictures and stories coming out of the affected areas are full of great sorrow and amazing fortitude. We hear of neighbors helping neighbors, Texans taking care of Texans, and Americans caring about Americans during this incredibly difficult time.

Tonight I want to share a few hero stories with you.

We have dear friends living and helping in the Houston area. They are in the medical field and have been called to their hospitals to help.  Dr. R’s car stalled in rising water while trying to get to the ER that needed her. Several strangers came to her aid and pushed her car out of the waist deep water. Then, her hospital sent a big truck to get her. All of this happened while her husband is working at another hospital. He went in Friday and she doesn’t expect his return home until Tuesday.

This morning I saw a post online by a local woman who announced her husband had a boat and was heading south to see who he could help. She asked if anyone wanted to go with him and a man quickly responded that he would go. These two men didn’t know each other, but one had a boat, and they were both willing and able to go, so plans were made.

A couple of my friends have family members that were rescued by boat after getting trapped in their homes. I am guessing there are a good number of people, just like those two local guys, who are showing up with boats and helping people even though we may never know their names or hear the details of their incredible rescue stories.

We are located at least five hours away from the flooding, but that didn’t stop a local church from collecting material donations. They have already sent a truck load of items on their way and I hear they are continuing to collect more for another delivery.

Our pastor told us Sunday about a group called the Texas Baptist Men. I have seen pictures online of these men serving hot meals and providing other services for these communities. This is a group that is already there making a difference. If you want to make a cash donation, I believe your money would go directly to those in need. Just click on Texas Baptist Men to donate.

Last night my heart was touched by a guy in Houston that goes by the nickname of Mattress Mack. He invited those who needed shelter to his furniture stores. I have since read that his two locations are at capacity. His words of encouragement to his community were as kind as his offer to open his places of business to those who needed a place to stay.

Of course there are many more beautiful stories that will rise from the flood waters of South Texas in the coming days. As you know, Texas is a huge state. There is still a good portion that has not been flooded by Harvey. That means there are many many places in Texas prepared to welcome the evacuees, including where we are.

We all know the help isn’t just coming from fellow Texans. All across America, people are donating and praying. Americans are caring, loving people. When there are difficulties, we rally around those in need and help in whatever way we can.

When we hear these stories, we are touched. We call these Americans who go out of their way to help strangers our heroes. Of course, the heroes of the story don’t ever think of themselves as heroes. They just see someone in need and figure out a way to help them. To them, it’s just what needs to be done, so they do it.

It’s in times like these…when we hear these heartwarming stories…that we get to see first hand how American Heroes are born.

With My Eyes To The Sky…

Today was a very special day in America. We were blessed with a unique opportunity to experience a solar eclipse. While our family back in the Midwest marveled at 100% totality, we enjoyed about 76% here in Texas.

JB secured a pair of the approved viewing glasses and I made a pinhole camera similar to the one I remember making as a child. We used both methods for viewing the eclipse from our backyard. It was pretty cool to watch the moon inch across the sun right above Wild Blue Yonder.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. ~ Psalm 19:1

The sunlight diminished a bit and the temperature was comfortable, but we didn’t see any stars or hear the cicadas. Our outdoor lights didn’t come on like they did for those in the optimum viewing path, but we still reveled in our experience as we sat on our back porch.

All across America, people were having similar experiences. As the eclipse made its way from sea to shining sea, Americans were united in awe and enjoyment for a few minutes today. I’m so thankful for the peaceful excitement the Great American Eclipse brought to our country.

Frankly…in my opinion…we needed it.

Isn’t God just cool? He knew it…long before these days of division enveloped us. He always knows just what we need and today He gave us a moment in time to come together and look to the Heavens in pure wonder.

Thank you, Jesus, for loving us even when we struggle to be loving to each other.

Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
and calls forth each of them by name. 
 ~ Isaiah 40:26

Wouldn’t it be glorious if we could keep the feeling of amazement we shared today and block out all the heartache going on in this world?

Oh how I wish we could, but ugliness doesn’t go away. Mommas still get cancer, people still fight on the internet, terrorism is real, politicians still disappoint us, extremists still hurt others, and babies are legally aborted every single day. Great suffering continues in our world. A breathtaking moment doesn’t take those horrors away.

Clearly we can’t pretend everything is all beauty and love when we know it isn’t. We also can’t live in a constant state of fear, sadness, and anger either.

So what do we do during times like these?

I love this advice from the Apostle Paul to the people of Philipi:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.  ~Philippians 4:4-9

So while I can’t hide out on my back porch all day ignoring the heartaches of this world, I can choose what I think about as I go about my day. It’s up to me how I react to others. It’s on me to put good into practice. I need to be the good in this world.

Instead of worrying and wallowing in the problems of the day, I can spend my time marveling over the excellent and praiseworthy events that come along. I can focus on the many blessings of thanksgiving our family has enjoyed over this past year. I can pray God will take care of the problems of the day.

Additionally, I can trust God to envelop me in the peace which transcends all understanding, guarding my heart and my mind in Him.

So I am going to look at all of the beautiful pictures people have posted. I’m going to watch their videos and read their stories. I am going to meditate on this amazing gift of God’s handiwork that He gave to America on this day. It brings me peace.

Tomorrow, I’m going to keep today’s beautiful experience in mind as I go out to be the good in my little part of America.

 

The Day I Was a Part of a Stranger’s Wedding

Just one week ago we were driving home from a quick beach getaway. I can’t believe that was only one week ago! I miss the beach already.

While we were there, JB and I got to laughing over one of our favorite beach memories. It happened three beach trips ago, but the memory resurfaces every time we go to the beach, and it always makes us smile.

Three years ago, we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. We decided to do something significant to mark that very special occasion, so we saved and planned our first big vacation without our sons. We booked a week at a resort in the Bahamas.

We had never done a vacation like that. We were thrilled when we arrived to find a fantastic room, with an awesome balcony that overlooked a gorgeous turquoise ocean. It was heavenly.

We spent our days on the beach or at the pool. Our evenings were filled with yummy meals and moonlit beach walks. It was a dream vacation and I will be forever grateful we got to experience it.

One afternoon we were lounging on the beach under a cabana, when the groundskeepers began setting up for a wedding near us. They placed a large white arch on the sand just a few feet away from our cabana and wrapped long strips of white gauzy material around it.

I was very excited about this and proclaimed to JB that I thought we were going to get to attend a wedding. About that time, a gentleman walked up and stood nearby watching the workers set up.

When he glanced our direction, I asked him if he was the groom. He broke out into a huge grin and reported he was indeed the groom. We chatted with him for a few minutes and learned that it was their wedding and honeymoon all packaged into one trip. He told us that they did not have any family or friends there with them.

We told him we were happy to be their wedding guests and celebrate the wedding with them. Then he asked me if I would be willing to take a few pictures with his phone. He explained they would get some professional photos from the resort photographer, but they would love to have a few candid shots as well.

I told him I would be happy to do that for them. A little while later, when it was time for the wedding to begin, the groom returned dressed handsomely for a beach wedding. He handed me his phone and gave me a quick tutorial of how to use it.

Before we knew it, the music was playing, and his beautiful bride was walking down the beach in a breathtaking gown with her veil flowing behind her. I jumped up wearing my beach coverup and floppy hat and began snapping pictures.

As the wedding began, I planted myself right next to the resort photographer and took picture after picture. I took this job seriously…and might have even stepped in front of the photographer at one point.

JB observed the blessed event from his chair in the cabana. He remembers watching me snap picture after picture…and then all of the sudden I stopped for a moment and tilted my head…clearly caught up in the ceremony.

For the record: I don’t remember doing that, but I do remember getting teary as the bride’s voice broke during her vows.

It was a beautiful ceremony.

As the service came to an end, the wedding official had the bride and groom turn around to the beach goers. He introduced them as husband and wife. Everyone on the beach clapped and cheered for the new couple.

It was at that very moment, the bride looked at her new husband and asked, “Does that lady have your phone?” To which her husband replied, “Yes! That’s Rosemary!”

I smiled and waved at the bride.

That was my favorite moment! I mean…how fun is that??

My only disappointment came when it was time for the witnesses to sign the marriage license and they asked the real photographer instead of me. I was SO hoping to get to be their witness.

After the ceremony, we finally got to meet the bride. A few minutes later, we wished the newlyweds well as they headed off down the beach to have more photos taken.

JB and I decided to check out a catamaran and sail along the beach for a bit. We enjoyed a lovely time on the ocean and even spotted the happy couple back on the beach posing for pictures.

When we had soaked up enough sun, we headed back to shore. As we neared our little cabana, we saw the groom standing in it with a bottle of champagne and two glasses.

The newlyweds were quite pleased with all of the photos I had captured of their special day. The champagne was their way of saying thank you for being a part of their wedding. It was such a sweet gesture to end an incredibly joyous day.

We never saw that couple again. We didn’t even learn their last names. We will most likely never connect with them again…but they will forever be a fun memory of our 25th anniversary trip. Honestly, I hope we are a memorable side-note of their wedding adventure as well.

For us, it’s such an incredible story. It’s the kind of experience that adds joy to an already wonderful vacation. It happened because I asked a simple question. Without thinking about it, caught up in the romantic moment, I reached out to someone, and I was able to do something that added to their special day.

In return, it added not only to our day, but our memory of a very special trip as well.

Last week I shared about our up and down adventures during our most recent trip to the beach. Several small issues popped up that could have ruined the vacation for us, but each time something frustrating occurred, strangers jumped in and helped us.

Each one of those people could have just watched us struggle. They could have stayed right where they were and done nothing to help. They were on vacation after all. They were trying to enjoy a day at the beach. They didn’t have to reach out and help us. Other people didn’t.

But they did. They made a positive impact on our day. They made a difference in how things turned out for us. Even though we didn’t even learn their names, they are part of our story.

I have been thinking about both of these experiences and it reminded me of this encouraging verse:

Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. ~ Hebrews 13:2 (NKJV)

Of course, strangers aren’t always angels, but isn’t it fun when thinking about this verse, that sometimes they are?!

Remembering this verse helps me be more considerate and thoughtful when it comes to my day to day dealings with strangers. It may be the only encounter a stranger ever experiences with me…and angel or not…I want it to be a positive one.

When taking time in your day to be kind to a stranger, you never know what the outcome may be…but once…for me…it was the day I was a part of a stranger’s wedding.

 

 

I Guess You Don’t Need the Snow Button at the Beach

We love beach vacations.

With summer coming to a way-too-speedy close, JB and I decided if we were going to get to the beach, we better get going. Last week we booked a condo on an island, packed our bags, and took off for the coast as soon as we could.

We arrived late the first night to find a cute little condo just as the pictures described, with a view nothing like the website described. It was a tiny disappointment, but we were there to spend time at the beach, not sit on the little patio overlooking a parking lot. So we shrugged it off, and prepared for the beach.

Day 1

Our first stop the next morning was at a little German bakery we knew we wanted to try. The bakery was a fabulous find. JB and I are of German descent and we felt a interesting kinship sitting in the little shop. The restaurant was filled with delicious baked goods along with several other reminders of a country some of our family called home.

As we sat eating the food and listening to the bakery workers converse with the customers, we thought about our relatives, not that many generations back, that traveled to America to start a new life. We wondered if they brought such recipes with them. Did they bake these wonderful creations in their German kitchens?

We went back each day and tried something new and marveled at the deliciousness of each homemade item. The German bakery was definitely a surprising highlight of our beach vacation.

After a meal filled with bread, meat, and cheese, sitting on the beach and taking in the ocean sounded like the perfect plan. We headed to a beach within walking distance from our condo…at least that’s the theory. We saw plenty of cars driving down the little road, but nary a person actually walking to the within-walking-distance beach.

One of the things we love about going to the beach in Texas is driving right out on the sand. You can back your vehicle up to the ocean. It’s such a cool experience. We had grabbed the required beach parking pass at the local gas station that morning, and we were hopeful about we what we would find down the little road.

Texas beaches…bless their hearts…are nice. They try…but they are just not the pretty blue waters and white soft sand of say…Florida or the Bahamas.

But a day on the beach is better than a day not on the beach, and the beach we discovered on this trip proved to be one of the best Texas has yet to offer us.  We picked our spot, and began unloading our car.

Our German heritage means we are fair-skinned people. We burn quickly in the sun…even with sunscreen. So JB unpacked and set up our two little beach umbrellas and they worked diligently to shade us all afternoon on the windy beach.

The wind gave our little umbrellas quite a workout and as the day went on, JB was checking up and down the beach what other people were using for shade. By the end of the day, he had decided that we should get a canopy for the next day.

Day 2

So the next day, we enjoyed another morning at the German bakery (don’t judge…it’s our heritage, you know), then we drove across the bridge back into town to find a canopy. Four stores later, we had a nice sturdy canopy, four bigger-than-we-probably-needed spikes, and a roll of Duct tape. I so love my man.

Finally, after gathering our supplies, we returned to our new favorite beach, only to discover the Saturday crowd was insanely bigger than the Friday crowd. People were packed into every inch of the shoreline and we decided we should maybe try another beach.

We drove down the road to the next beach and found it nearly as packed as the first one. We saw an open spot that didn’t look too bad, and as we turned, we realized the sand was not as firmly packed for driving on as the last beach.

Just as we were discussing if we should nab the open spot, we stopped. Our wheels spun. We were stuck.

I immediately began throwing out suggestions of what we could do, such as “I can get out and push.” To which JB responded with a look that spoke volumes and a request to please let him think for a minute.

I tried to sit there quietly, but quiet isn’t my strength, nor is watching someone get upset in a situation. I am a fixer…and I was trying to think of anything that might help to diffuse the frustration building up.

Then I remembered the Snow button on my car’s console. I knew it might have something to do with traction…could it help?

So I blurted out, “What about the Snow button?”

Y’all…I really wish you could have seen his face. He looked at the Snow button and then he looked at me and then he said softly and firmly, “No. Please be quiet and let me think.”

So I sat there quietly for what seemed like MINUTES, but evidently were mere SECONDS, when I broke the silence once more to offer to go ask someone for help. JB  agreed that would be a GREAT idea. I was so relieved to get out of the car…and I’m pretty sure he was equally relieved to have me get out of it.

As JB sat in silence analyzing the situation, I found a guy that looked strong and asked if he would be willing to help push us out of the sand. About the same time,  another guy drove up in a big Jeep and offered to pulled us out.

With my helper pushing, JB steering, and our new Jeep friend pulling, we were out of the frustrating situation faster than we expected. We thanked our kind strangers, I jumped in the car, and even though a great beach spot had opened up right next to where we were, we decided to leave the Beach of the Too Soft Sand and return to what we knew and loved.

We pulled back onto our favorite beach and there was a great spot right in front of us. JB backed in and unloaded our new canopy with just a tiny concern about the lack of upper body strength and size of his partner.

I gave him my best effort, and we began setting up our new purchase. I guess we looked quite incapable of pulling off the set-up on our own, because just a few minutes in, another couple came over and offered to help us get it in place.

Thanks to their expertise and guidance, we had our new shade up in no time. Our new friend suggested we bury the legs of the canopy to keep it from blowing away in the wind. That is when JB pulled out his four foot spikes and Duct tape. The gentleman took one look at JB’s plan and said, “That will do it.”

I asked in the sweetest wifey voice I could muster if the Duct-taped look was really necessary…and apparently it was.

While I was not thrilled with this redneckish approach to beach setup, things had not gone as smoothly as we would have liked…so I quietly watched him hammer in the spikes and Duct tape them to the legs of the canopy.

We had a fabulous afternoon and evening at the beach. A few hours later, when our neighbors began to take their canopy down, it started to go airborne. JB was able to jump in and return their kindness by helping them catch it, and get it taken down before it flew away.

Day 3

The next morning, we were awakened bright and early by the fire alarm going off in our condo. There’s nothing like waking from a deep sleep by a blaring fire alarm. We jumped out of bed, but before we could even form coherent sentences to each other about what was happening or what we should do, thankfully…mercifully, the alarm stopped.

Nothing seemed to be on fire, so we climbed back in bed and tried to go back to sleep. By the time my heartbeat returned to it’s normal pace, I was wide awake, and so we finally just got up and prepared for our last day on the beach.

We enjoyed one last meal at our favorite bakery and then were delighted to find our favorite beach was a little less crowded than the day before. We backed into a great spot and unloaded our canopy like we were experts. We were halfway through the set up when a man and his son walked up offering to help us.

The job of setting up a 10 X 10 canopy on the beach goes much smoother with twice the people…especially when three of them have upper body strength. In no time at all, we were once again enjoying the beach, with great thankfulness for the shade our new purchase was providing and the kindness of strangers.

Then the wind picked up again and JB began watching the frame bend a bit with the wind. While our Duct-taped spikes were doing a fantastic job, (our canopy had not moved an inch from it’s spot), the frame was continuing to bow under the pressure of the constant wind.

JB got the Duct tape out again and reinforced the bending frame by taping the cheap little spikes that came with the canopy to the frame. True. Story.

We sat back down and enjoyed the beach under our canopy a little while longer when: POP! The canopy frame broke – not in the place where JB reinforced it, but at the corner. It was clear, even to my untrained eye, this was not going to be fixable.

We decided it would have to come down, and so we began the process of taking the canopy down. We were doing okay, but there was A LOT of Duct tape to remove and the wind had not let up for even a minute during the entire ordeal.

We were slowly getting the canopy down, when two couples came walking up the beach toward us. They saw us struggling from quite a ways down the beach and had come to our rescue. With their help, we got it down quickly. The seasoned beach goers felt so bad for us and kindly gave us several helpful tips for our next beach trip.

After we got the canopy down, JB went back to the car and pulled out our little beach umbrellas. He got them Duct-taped and staked in the ground, but the wind was just too much and folded the umbrella’s up just as quickly as we got them opened.

JB quietly took the umbrellas down and returned them to the car. He then went for a swim in the ocean. I felt so bad for JB. I knew he was trying to make sure I truly enjoyed our few days at the beach. He was doing everything in his power to make it special and relaxing, but I was sure he felt like the odds had been against us this trip.

I sat on the beach, watching him swim, and waited. I was giving him the quiet he needed. After a while, he started to head back in, so I got up, and met him in waist deep water.

I tried not to be overly “sunshiny” as I told him how much I had enjoyed every trip we had ever made to the beach. I told him I wasn’t going to let disappointment or things not going as planned ruin our beautiful trip. I was truly grateful to get to be there.

I could tell my optimistic outlook wasn’t doing much for his frustration. I was trying to figure out how to make him feel better…when as we talked…I took a massive wave to the face.

It drenched me and left me blinking and sputtering.

And JB laughed.

He laughed….and I laughed too.

Soon we were playing in the big waves that were rolling through the ocean, laughing and smiling…the mood had been broken…so taking a massive wave to the face was totally worth it.

We went back to the beach and sat in our chairs with no canopy or umbrella and soaked up the sun for a little while. Then we packed up, went back to our condo, and got a bite to eat.

Later that evening, we returned to the beach, and watched the moon rise over the ocean. It was a peaceful, powerful, beautiful way to end our beach vacation.

As we sat in the glow of the moon, we talked about how each time something went wrong, there were people we had never met, who were just trying to enjoy their beach day, but saw us in need, and reached out to help us. It was humbling and touching.

This is why I believe God is in the details. Sometimes we don’t get what He is doing. We walk out into the ocean in frustration and shake our fist at God. We question His plan. A word of caution about that…He might just throw a wave in your loved one’s face to get your attention and put you back on the right path.

If everything had played out just like we wanted it to, we would never have met those kind strangers and experienced their goodness. So much of the daily news surrounding us is negative. We start to doubt people and their intentions. We wonder if there are any good, caring people left in this world.

And then your car gets stuck in the sand seven hours from home, or you are trying to set up or take down a canopy on a windy beach with your 4’11 wife as your only helper…and God sends you reminder after reminder that there are still good people in this wonderful world that He has created.

If you look for them, you will find them anywhere. What a blessing to us that we found them on a windy beach in Texas just when we needed a little extra kindness.

While living in Texas, I may never get to push that Snow button in my car. Of course, I still have no idea what it actually does, but apparently it is of no use when you are stuck in the sand on the beach.

image

 

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: