Remember that doll I mentioned awhile back? The one that belonged to my grandmother? The one we were always so scared of when we were kids? We ran across that one again. And its leg was broken. Not just cracked, mind you, it broke off and was in two or three separate pieces. Chris gave one of her patented sighs, and quietly added the doll to the stack of "To be repaired's." I asked her how she planned to attack that problem – with superglue? She answered, "I will try. But she is very brittle in a lot of places. She's one of those that will just have to sit by herself on the shelf – out of harm's way."
We didn't go to Galveston at all today. Instead we went and picked up my Mom and headed for Mansfield to visit Zakary (and his parents). It felt very strange to "pick up my Mom" instead of just hopping into the Explorer and hitting the road. She's just supposed to be with us already. My brother and sister-in-law have been wining and dining her royally since she went to stay with them. Manicures. Pedicures. New clothes. New shoes. Massages. Hairdos. She is a pampered woman. I guess that had a part to play when she said to me the other day, "You and Chris have too much to do to bother with the likes of me. I'll just stay with Jay and Fran for awhile." Part of me said, "You're right. We are at the house every day. There's nothing there that you can do. It would be really boring." But a bigger part of me said, "Ow, that hurts. You are our family. You belong with me and Chris – and Betty – and Seaside – and Galveston. We finally moved into a house where you can join us, and now you don't want to?" Of course I didn't say anything. But she is coming home with us "for a few days, at least" after Mansfield.
You know what? It feels like our little family has a little fracture. Not completely broken, just a bit of crack. A hairline fracture. Enough to know it hurts. What do you do with a family when it gets broke? Can't put a cast on it. Can't rest it. Can't "take two aspirin and call me in the morning." What can you do?
I found an answer. I found it when we went to Panchos and ate together. I saw it when I went with Josh to WalMart to pick up a prescription for Christi, a clown nose, and six pumpkins. Hey, it was Halloween. Anyway, in our haste to get the pumpkins loaded and the clown nose tried on, we left the prescription in the shopping cart. In the parking lot. Some nice shopper found it and turned it in. It was there when we gave away candy while sitting outside, because all the power went off in the neighborhood. Hey! That kind of felt like home. And it was there in force when Zak got dressed for bed and began running through the house, back and forth, and around and around in circles. How could he do anything else? He was wearing superman PJ's!
The answer to a fractured family? Family. It helps to know I'm not the only one who leaves important stuff in shopping carts at WalMart. It helps to know that somewhere kids still go trick or treating, so MeeMaw can sit out in her witch hat and give away candy. It helps to see kids still wearing superman PJ's and getting wound up right at bedtime. Family helps family when it's time to heal, when it's time to process circumstances, when it's time to … just be there.
Ephesians 2:19 says, "You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household." God's household. That means his family. He knew.
Father, thank you for my family. For Chris. For Mom. For our boys and their wives. For our grandkids. And the two still "cooking." And our extended family – the others who don't live with us when we have a place to live. Thanks for our Seaside family and for those in your family who we have been meeting since the storm. Heal. Amen.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Like most of the rest of Galvestonians after Hurricane Ike, we registered online for assistance from FEMA while we were still evacuated. We waited anxiously for the FEMA adjuster to finally arrive and make his determination – the decision that would solve all our problems – the commitment of as much money as we needed to rebuild no matter what. And from what I have heard, like most Galvestonians, we received our two months rental assistance (that's $1428). And then we were told that since our house was "habitable," we would receive no more assistance. Basically, "Lots of luck with your insurance."
As the days turned into weeks, a second and then a third FEMA inspector came by. The last one saw inside our house and encouraged us to go to the FEMA pod and get the help we obviously deserved.
We also faithfully filled out our application for a loan from the Small Business Administration, waited once again for an adjuster, and finally heard the decision, "You are officially rejected for this loan. But you really need to go to the FEMA pod and apply for a grant."
OK, so today we went to the FEMA pod, all excited and ready to see some serious aid from the government. We told them our situation and wondered how they would help (other than the water bottle they brought each of us and the disinfectant they gave us as we left). We waited again – this time for a very slow computer to find our file. Finally it was there on the screen. He asked if we had received anything from FEMA yet, and we noted the $1428. He asked about our insurance and wanted to make a copy of everything. We didn't have everything. Not a good sign. He asked if we had received any assistance from Windstorm. Yes. Just this past week, in fact. Apparently not a good answer. An honest one, yes, but not a good one. He all but closed up his laptop. He still made a copy of the few papers I did have, but now, instead of offering more help, they assured us that we would have to repay the $1428. Not right away. But they would seek us out and get the money. There was nowhere we could hide. See, ever since Katrina, FEMA has been hot on the trail of criminals like us. Fraud.
If I could have been assured that it would find its rightful place in the grand governmental financial machine, I would have written them a check right then. But they assured me I could wait. It might take a few years, but someone would come for the money. Probably not federal marshals, but someone.
I sure didn't know I was a fraud specialist. A felon. A low-life scum criminal. Just didn't know. I thought I was an evacuee trying to get back into his house. Sorry. My bad.
The help they gave, they promised to take away. Kind of reminded me of
Deuteronomy 31:6, "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." Or maybe Matthew 28:20, "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
Father, thank you that when we are rejected by the government, we are accepted by the Church. Thank you that when we are pushed aside by the world, we are welcomed with open arms by Jesus. Amen
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Have you ever had a day …
Maybe back in school where you really wanted to do well on a test and you even studied some and you were pumped up … and when it came time for the test you just didn't feel all there?
Maybe at work you had a particular assignment and you made all sorts of plans and charts and you knew just what to do in your head … and when it was time to get the job done, all you could think of was calling in sick?
It's not a bad day, exactly. It's not all that different from any othe day, in fact. But something inside you just hasn't clicked on. You feel OK, but just not great. "Blah" comes to mind. As does "Ho Hum" Maybe even "sigh" (without a capital letter). You don't want the day to be drab. You want to get excited. To get things done. But it's just not happening for you.
And to make things worse, there is invariably someone else around who is Mr. Chipper. You know, he's all those things you wish you were right now. You've been that guy in the past. Just not now.
That was me today. Trying to work before and after Mr. Tarzan (aka Ferel) got to the house. I tore out some sheetrock at Mom's house. Pulled a few nails. Walked around and looked at stuff that was here yesterday and looked just the same then. Blah. Ho Hum. sigh (without a capital).
Then Ferel and Melissa came for a quick hour or two of work before they left for home. The energy level in the house went up dramatically. He bounded from wall to wall. Took out a wheelbarrow load of trash. Pulled some nails. Tore out some sheetrock. Started again. I tried to keep up. I really did. But I was counting the minutes until we would leave to attend a memorial service off the island. If anybody had asked, I would have said I was tired. But no one did. I was – and am – certainly ready to take another of those Sabbath rests. A few of them. Back to back. Maybe I have that dreaded mold disease.
I carried my disease with me through the memorial service. Into Loews as we looked at stuff for the house. Into the Omega house and back to the other car where we finally found our missing cell phone (missed a call from the SBA. Oh, well). Into the youth group meeting at the church.
And there I woke up. I think I started to rouse when Mike shook my hand, smiled, and said he shared the link to this site with a coworker and it made her cry. The cloud definitely lifted a bit more when the kids began to arrive in all their exuberance. I blinked at the brightness when two girls who were back for the first time since the storm came over and hugged me and told me they had missed me. I welcomed in the warmth when we began to sing – to praise. Of course. Psalms 22:3 says, "God inhabits the praise of his people
Praise the Lord. God will be there.
Father, shout me down a good, loud, "Attitude Check!" next time I get in a funk like today. Praise You! Amen.
"God has been very good to me. You need it right now. I don't."
Praise. Ministry. Submission.
Today we moved … again. Workers were due to begin soon on the house in
Anyway, we "loaded up the truck and we moved to" …
"God has been very good to me." Praise. "But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more." (Psalms 71:14).
"You need it right now." Ministry. "Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free." (Ephesians 6:7-8).
"I don't." Submission. "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." (James 4:7).
Tyrone gets its.
Father, help me to be a Tyrone-type Christian. Praising you. Serving you. Submitting to you. Amen.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Sunday morning some of you may have met my new friends Ferel and Melissa Gage and their kids – Summer, Ty, Autumn,
It is still hard for me to understand what we need. Though we see a faint light at the end of the tunnel, and though I am committed to a life of optimism because of what Jesus has done in the past, I admit I am still overwhelmed by the sheer scope of the task facing us in rebuilding. I get to thinking in terms of the city, and all I can picture is where to send teams of volunteers and what can I tell them to do when they get here. And I end up drawing a blank. Then I get to thinking of
The Gages came to our house ready to work today, and all I could think of was trimming the now-dead-and-dying trees around our power lines (not that they have power right now, but someday they will!). Ferel was ready. He had a chain saw and ropes and mountain climbing gear. He got his kids all gloved up and put them to work raking and bagging leaves on our deck and removing downed tree limbs from the yard. I hadn't even noticed the leaves on the deck. I remembered seeing the limbs back when we first came home, but then we went inside and my brain fried. Ferel then geared up himself. He strapped on the climbing gear, shimmied up the nearest tree, draped some rope around a limb, and called for the power tool. It was amazing. It was like Tarzan had appeared in our backyard dressed like a lumberjack. With Melissa's steady hand on one end of the rope, he took out the offending branches and was ready to take down the whole tree right then. His lovely wife - and my own - had another opinion, however, so he stopped for the day and began cleanup, all the while talking about how they "hadn't done near enough," and "Wasn't there something else they could do." What an amazing family. I couldn't believe how much they did do, and they were disappointed they didn't do more.
What a great picture of the Family of God. 1 Peter 2:9-10 says, "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy."
Father, we have work to do as your family – declaring your praises, coming before you in prayer for your people, standing ready to "direct traffic" as you draw lost people toward yourself. Give us the creative eyes of the Gage Family – to see the needs around us that others are still too overwhelmed to see … and meet them. Amen.
Monday, October 27, 2008
I had some people at the house today. I was at church, but a phone call the afternoon before set up a team of workers to mud out my house and Mom's. The Texas Baptist Men had been doing a training session all day Saturday at
We had another visit from the Lord at church today. This time he looked just like a lady named Rowena who was down here staying at the Jamaica Beach RV Park as the camp mom for a group of relief workers from
Meanwhile we continued the preparations as "usual" for the worship time. I got the computer up and ready for Mike to load the songs when he arrived. But he never arrived. Seems our resident sheriff
It's like when Abraham's servant was looking for a wife for Isaac. He stopped to pray for guidance, and "Before I finished praying in my heart, Rebekah came out, with her jar on her shoulder." (Genesis 24:45). God was preparing to answer his prayer before he even prayed it.
Father, before we even began praying in our hearts, Rowena came in, with her hymn books in her hand. Thank you for the gift of your presence today. Amen.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
First thing this morning we stopped at the house to check on a crack in the ceiling that I had seen awhile back. It appeared to have developed a companion crack, so I wanted to get in the attic and check it out. Sure enough, that crack that started small – the one we never really did anything about - was gradually getting bigger and bigger. I sure hope the sheetrock guy saw it the other day. That'll make a big difference in the bottom line if we have to add a ceiling-full of sheetrock. Sin is like that. Left alone it gradually takes up more and more space in your life, more and more time, more and more interest. Often it gathers around it others who are committed to that sinful activity. It's easier to sin when "everybody's doing it." And when sin has been around awhile, there is only one way to get rid of it – kill it. Die. 1 Peter 2:24 says, "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed." We went up to the church building to clean, get set up for Sunday, and greet the youth group from We didn't get to spend much time with the Louise group. We had to go to a wedding in We stopped on the way home to see some old friends from the very first church I worked in way back yonder. Faithful friends are the best. Guess what they gave us? A bag of apples. Fresh fruit. Now who would have thought to give a bag of fruit to someone whose only experience with fruit for six weeks has been the little mystery fruit cups from the relief teams? And then we had dinner with some brand new friends from Father, thanks for nailing me with your machine gun of truth today. I needed it. Amen.
First thing this morning we stopped at the house to check on a crack in the ceiling that I had seen awhile back. It appeared to have developed a companion crack, so I wanted to get in the attic and check it out. Sure enough, that crack that started small – the one we never really did anything about - was gradually getting bigger and bigger. I sure hope the sheetrock guy saw it the other day. That'll make a big difference in the bottom line if we have to add a ceiling-full of sheetrock. Sin is like that. Left alone it gradually takes up more and more space in your life, more and more time, more and more interest. Often it gathers around it others who are committed to that sinful activity. It's easier to sin when "everybody's doing it." And when sin has been around awhile, there is only one way to get rid of it – kill it. Die. 1 Peter 2:24 says, "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed."
We went up to the church building to clean, get set up for Sunday, and greet the youth group from
We didn't get to spend much time with the Louise group. We had to go to a wedding in
We stopped on the way home to see some old friends from the very first church I worked in way back yonder. Faithful friends are the best. Guess what they gave us? A bag of apples. Fresh fruit. Now who would have thought to give a bag of fruit to someone whose only experience with fruit for six weeks has been the little mystery fruit cups from the relief teams? And then we had dinner with some brand new friends from
Father, thanks for nailing me with your machine gun of truth today. I needed it. Amen.
Chris got to take a break today. She went with April for her doctor's appointment since Nathan had to work overtime. I didn't go straight to the house either. I spent a few early hours working on the computer. I do have a sermon to prepare, bills to pay, and a wedding on Saturday in
The long-awaited floor guy came today. Our contractor sent him to check out the wood floors and see if they can be salvaged. Chris really wanted to keep them, but they were buckled into really bad humps in several places. Plus we were not at all sure what they looked like underneath. You never know what strange creatures may lurk in the deep, dark recesses of two-inch tall nothingness – trapped since the flood under fifty-year-old planks of three quarter inch thick oak. Remnants of the flood's sewer-salt dampness? Assuredly. Mold? Certainly. As-yet undiscovered species of sea-creatures spawned in these unique, lab-like conditions? Maybe. Monsters? Hmmm.
The floor guy did his walk-through and made initial recommendations. He wanted to talk to his restoration specialist, and he made no promises – the floor is in bad shape in places – but he gave us some hope. He did say, though, that we had to cut out the parts that had formed the wavy humps (no doubt in memory of the actual waves that crashed above them just a month ago). So when he left, that's what we did. We didn't have the proper tool (a circular saw – both mine were flood victims), but we did have Josh's Sawzall, a miraculous "I-can-cut-anything" tool. So using the power tool hooked up to Kel's generator, along with a hammer and pry bar, we managed to cut some holes in our floor. It was not easy, either. Chris made the comment that if we were able to save this floor she would never worry about scratches on it again. Five holes in the floor. In strategically located spots, of course, to ensure better circulation of the drying air. Still-standing water under one. Mold under all. Didn't see any monster, but you know how good they are at hiding when it's light out.
So what's the lesson in poking holes in the floor? I guess it has to do with discovering what's beneath the foundation of the way you live your life. What are your decisions based on? What is behind your everyday, no-one-is-looking behavior? Moldy assumptions? Stinky, sewage-water sins? Hidden monsters of things you refuse to give up to God? Remember the parable Jesus told in Matthew 7:24-25. "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock." Get one of our preschoolers (or Mama Chris) to teach you that song.
Father, help me to live like my foundation is built on you. Anything less is – well, less. And I would be stupid to settle for less. Forgive me for the countless times I have settled for less. Amen
Thursday, October 23, 2008
What an interesting start this day brought. It was cold! In
Anyway, once we started working at the house, we didn't need it. My task for the day was to remove ceiling and insulation from the walk-in closet and the laundry room. It was a nasty job. Insulation itches. When I finished that, I started back on scraping the kitchen floor. So far it had taken the better part of three days on that floor – three layers. The top one was linoleum, the other two were some kind of tile – probably asbestos (Just kidding, EPA. Or whoever checks those things). We finished scraping the tiles in the closet earlier – well, Chris finished the job, and was quite proud of it. Then, when there was just a football sized patch of tile left, I "admitted" that I was whipped – through for the day. And Chris came through. Once again she finished the scraping job. What a woman!
We had a pretty exciting text message from Nathan about half-way through the kitchen. He was at work. It said, "The guys at work say we're green." Now, in
As great as that news was, though, the best part of our day today had to be when Mom arrived on Sycamore for the first time since we evacuated way back last month. We knew she was coming. She spent the night with her best friends, Betty and Mildred, and today they planned to tour the island together, starting with Sycamore. She hugged us a little tighter than usual, and held on a little longer than usual. But then, so did we. We have missed her. She's the rest of our family. She told us my brother had fixed up a room for her in
Psalms 34:1-3, 8 – "I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. My soul will boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.
Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him."
Father, thank you for the chance to see Mom today. Thank you for letting me be the one to walk through her house with her and hear her "Oh, no's" and "Oh, my goodness'es." Thank you for her hugs. And thank you for your hugs, too. Amen.
We had another answer to prayer literally drive into Mom's driveway yesterday. A good friend from
David, the guy who brought it down agreed to stay the night and set it up for us in the morning, so we got up early and headed to Home Depot to look at buying a generator to run it on. We found one at Home Depot that met with David's approval (he's the pro at this. Remember, I don't do camping!). We also found out that we needed some parts so David could create a converter cable so the camper would work with the generator. See, David used to be an electrician before he became a fire fighter, and he knows how to do all that. It seems he had several types of connectors, but with one, the air conditioner wouldn't work. With another the AC and hot water heater couldn't be used at the same time. There was one part, though, that would make it all work just right. Well, our good ol' Galveston Home Depot didn't have the right part, so we ended up at the one in
When we arrived, he immediately set to work, because he had to teach a First Aid class back in
And now, the lesson. I did get one from this. See, the camper cable didn't fit into the power source. There was nothing wrong with the power source. It was humming along nicely. The camper just had a problem. It had no relationship point with the generator – no way to hook in to the power. There were other cables, and some seemed to work right for a time, but pretty soon it became evident that they just weren't good enough. Get it yet? We are a bunch of campers. We do all kings of things to connect to a power source greater than we are, and some seem to work for awhile – popularity, success, money, a great job. But something is just not right. We need the right cable to connect to the right power. Jesus is that cable that makes it possible for us to be in a relationship with God, and that gives us access to his incredible power! Are you hooked up to God with the right cable?
"Jesus answered, 'I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.'" (John 14:6).
Father, forgive me when I try to connect with you using the wrong cable. It never does work right. Jesus, please be my Cable. Amen.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Have you ever had one of those roller coaster days? You know, everything that happens is either great and awesome and best-ever, or it's terrible, disappointing and depression-inducing. Welcome to my world. Or at least to my day today.
We got up early and went to the Galveston County Dog Racing Track in LaMarque. No, we didn't decide to blow what money we had left and bet it all on the dachshund that reminds us most of Heidi. That's where the Texas Windstorm Agency had set up shop. We were among the first ones there – Yeah! But we couldn't figure out how to get to the proper entrance – Awww! After a kindly old security guard took pity on us and explained how to get there ("Take four lefts when you leave. Left. Left. Left. Left. That last one you should be by the bank over there. See it?"). Well, we could see it, but he never turned around or pointed. Guess he was just making his speech of the day. Following his directions, we found the entrance – Yeah! But now there were even more cars in line – Awww! We got in the check-in line, got to the front fairly quickly, and showed our policy – Yeah! That meant we were ushered to a chair outside and told to wait until our number was called. Awww! A lady came out and said she was the bearer of bad news. It seems the computers in
We finally talked to our contractor, and we got the guy we wanted – Yeah! But we were still in the yellow zone, so he can't get permits yet – Awww! Our neighbors Larry and Sandy came by with permits to do some work on their house. Maybe there is hope for us – Yeah! They are eleven feet, three inches above the mean flood plain. We are only eight feet, three inches. And the dividing line for issuing is eleven feet – Awww!
Up and down. Up and down. How long is this going to keep up? Stuff like this makes me tired on the best of days. With all this accompanying stress and pain and physical exertion … I'm tired. Again. But I know that – through it all – "it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." (Philippians 2:13).
Father, I'm dizzy. I've about reached the point where I just want to get off the roller coaster. Could you give me some substantial good news soon? Thanks. Amen.