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    The Angel on Highway 6

    Stale. Boring. Redundant.

    Honestly, some days and some stories in the Bible just evoke the emotions of those words. I know I can’t be the only one that gets in the rut of reading the same book of the Bible on repeat. Maybe when the pastor says he’s going to talk about Moses or the Prodigal Son, you internally cringe and start thinking of what you need to get done after service rather than listening to the word of God. I’ve been there.

    Ironically, I’m not there right now. I cannot stress how weird that is. I feel like I’ve been sitting in the middle of James for over a month now. Talk about a book wrought with tension for living your life without transforming and being obedient to God. In the midst of this, there’s one Biblical story that keeps showing up and tapping me on my shoulder as if to say, “don’t forget me. I’m still here.” That story is the story of the Good Samaritan. Let’s read it together really fast. (Stick with me, even if you’ve heard it 1000 times before.)

    The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)

    On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

    “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

    He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”

    You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

    But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

    In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

    Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

    The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

    Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

    My Drive Down Highway 6

    Last Friday, I hung out with my mom and some friends as we went to a huge garage sale, breakfast at McDonald’s and a quick trip to Marshall’s and TJ Maxx. I had a great time, and I felt relaxed. It’s probably one of those few quiet moments that I didn’t feel like I was rushing to get to the next thing. That has been so rare lately. When we finished at the last store though, I knew that I needed to get on my way to get some stuff done before family begins arriving for Thanksgiving.

    My drive seemed ordinary. I was reading The Fringe Hours via audiobook which just seems incredibly appropriate since I don’t have the time to sit down and read the book version currently. Turning onto Highway 6 to head to my home, I figured there must be an accident or something ahead as the lines of cars appeared longer than normal. I didn’t really give it too much of a thought since I was into my book.

    My car got up close to the light and I pulled to a stop. I had seen a lot of cars swerve around from the right lane into the left lane to pass something in the road and whizz past on their way. My first instinct was that it was a blown out tire or something that had fallen from a truck that had come down the road before me. The driver in front of me threw on his hazard lights and proceeded to get out of his car and beeline towards the object.

    My mind is still wrapping itself around this next part. It wasn’t a discarded tire or an old, stained mattress in the road. It was an elderly man who was kneeling. As my mind processed what was happening, I saw the Angel stoop down nearby and grab a cane. It must have fallen out of reach when this man fell. He kneeled down next to him and put the cane back in the man’s hands.

    Together, they struggled. The Angel was finally able to get him to his feet. A woman who had been walking towards them, fell in line as she struggled with them. They embraced each other and walked to the sidewalk. They were able to get the man seated. I cannot imagine the gratitude and the feeling of love and safety that enveloped him in that moment.

    My hazards were on at this point. The light turned green again. Cars behind me proceeded to merge over to the next lane to continue the cycle of swerving and whizzing past this inconvenience. A car honked. For some reason, that honk was so much more jarring in that moment than a honk would at another time. Maybe because it seemed as if the honk was from a spot of self-centered busyness or a complete lack of empathy and compassion? I don’t know. I just know that it’s still haunting me days later.

    The Angel got back in his car, and we drove on. A few miles down Highway 6, he pulled off to assist another car that had pulled over. My prayer is to have his love and courage to slow down to notice the moments playing out in the world around us and step out to help.

    My Struggle with this Moment + How to Carry On

    Getting to see the Good Samaritan story play out in action in realtime was a beautiful moment that unfolded before me. I’ve struggled a bit with it as I’ve reflected on that moment in my Friday though. Why didn’t I get out of the car? Why did I not step out to help? I know that my mind was still processing what was unfolding in front of me as the woman was falling in line to help. Honestly in my own haste, I nearly missed the moment entirely myself.

    As I’ve struggled with that moment, I’ve come to realize something. I needed to stay in my car. I don’t think I could have practically helped to lift the man in my own strength. As someone with a platform, even just a tiny one, I am able to spread the story of that moment and why it matters. I’m able to ask you to sit in this tension with me. Where would you have been? Are you okay with that answer?

    I’m about to set out for a conference in a few days with some friends. The other night, I was looking over my chosen breakout sessions and a topic seemed to leap out at me. I have multiple sessions where I’ll be listening to how to make the Bible come alive. That’s almost laughable to me right now. There’s nothing in my power or my crafted words that will hit someone’s soul anywhere close to the Holy Spirit tapping on your shoulder saying, “don’t forget me. I’m still here.” I just watched scripture come alive before me for goodness sakes!

    If there’s a passage or story on the back of your mind that you’re thinking that you ‘already know’, go read it again. God may just have something new to reveal in it for you or a reminder that your heart so desperately needs. Maybe you’re needing that in person reality like I did where I saw scripture practically unfold before my eyes. I believe in a God that can make anything happen. Pray for him to bring scripture alive in front of you or for you to live with your eyes open so that you’ll see what He is already unfolding before you. Maybe you know you would have been one of the cars that were swerving and whizzing past. Pray that you can trust God with the chaos and slow down to notice these things.

    And if you’re wondering, I’ll still be in those sessions about the Bible coming alive at the conference. It can’t hurt.

    “Not My People, Not My Concern” – A Prayer


    On Sunday morning, life changed for those in Sutherland, Texas when a gunman killed 27 people and left many more injured inside First Baptist Church of Sutherland. Sunday night, a friend of mine was on a walk in with her husband when they were robbed and her husband was killed by gunfire. 9 days of marriage and having just returned from their honeymoon, their lives were forever changed.

    I have no words today. Ever since putting it together that my sweet friend’s new season of life has been taken away from her, I can’t find words to say, but I’ve given God the tears that have been shed. 9 days after Rick and I married, he returned to work and I believe I set out to begin unpacking our belongings to make us a home. It breaks my heart that my friend won’t have that.

    Sad stuff happens all the time in the news. I check the news, but I can’t handle sitting and listening straight through a news segment. My heart can’t handle it. The phrase, “Not my monkeys, not my circus”, must spring to minds often when watching the news – or at least the sentiment of it. How many of us wish that when we thought or said that and threw our hands up in the air, that all was really done with *that* situation and with *those* people? I think that’s how a lot of us feel when we see something on racism, violence and any other tragic atrocity that we see played out time and time again on our news outlets. We glance, we feel sad or guilty for a few seconds, we throw our opinions at it and then move on with our lives unless it directly affects us.

    What if instead of throwing our hands up in the air and saying “not my monkeys, not my circus” we stopped and prayed though? Y’all, that questions seems really Jesus-y which isn’t really my style. It’s a little on the cliche side which I try to avoid at all costs. That Jesus-y, cliche question though is convicting the core of my heart right now.

    Let’s do this together. Instead of saying, “not my people, not my concern” today, let’s rally for a few minutes for those around us who are hurting.

    Pray with me.

    God, we gather right where we are – not physically together, yet still united in your name. We thank you for your mercy, mightiness and graciousness. You are amazing and marvelous. When we look at you, it’s difficult to believe we are in your image as we fall so short of your glory. We are made in your image and called to live out your kingdom here on earth. That’s such a gift, especially in this breaking, hurting world. 

    We live in such a fallen world and cannot even begin to fathom the heartbreak that we cause to ourselves or others. The tears you must shed for us must make up an incredible amount. Lord, wrap your arms around those who are grieving, those who are hurting and aching in situations that most of us write off that “aren’t our concern”. Lord, make them our concern. Break our hearts for the things that are breaking yours. We lift up to you the following people and situations on this list right now.

    – my sweet friend who is grieving her husband way too soon
    – for those who have pulled the trigger, that they would repent and turn to you
    – for the family and friends of gunmen who are struggling to reconcile the person they knew with the situation that unfolded before their eyes
    – all the Pastors and PK’s who are looking at Sutherland and fearing for the safety of their own families and congregations
    – for the loneliness of those battling chronic diseases and illnesses that have taken them away from the everyday normalcy of life
    – for the care takers of the ill, the young and the elderly who everyday deal with tough moments that most don’t ever want to face
    – the ones who are scraping together enough to feed their families now as they look ahead to the holidays with anxiety
    – for the rich to disperse their wealth in ways that would glorify you and bring good to this broken world

    – for those who are drunk on their own power that they may be humbled
    my brothers and sisters that are struggling the everyday horrors of racism based on their skin color
    – my white brothers and sisters that have hardened hearts and veils over their eyes regarding their white privilege
    – for the terrorists, may they question their violent actions and turn to seek your face
    – for those who have been manipulated into a situation and don’t feel like they can step out, give them the peace, protection, strength and courage to do so
    – the leaders of your church who don’t represent who you are, may they repent or be removed from leadership
    – for the ones who are facing constant uphill battles and don’t believe they have the courage and strength to go on
    – for those that have been justly imprisoned and for those who have been wrongly imprisoned and then forgotten

    – the ones that feel like their lives don’t matter, reveal to them their unique purpose
    – for those who have been left to die

    for the ones that are “forbidden” because of their heritage, their race, their sex, their economic standing
    – the abused that are seeking help and those that are afraid to say something to begin to rectify their lives
    – for the homeless who are trying to make it day to day
    – for the employee who doesn’t think they can survive in their position, give them the courage to move on
    – the ones that hearts are breaking and want to help, but can’t figure out where they fit in

    – for healing and dignity restored to those who have been enslaved in any sense
    for wisdom and guidance in every stage and season of our lives
    – those who hurting everyday yet continue to walk alongside the hurting and fighting injustices for others
    – for the policemen, military and emergency personnel that they wouldn’t let their own biases get in the way of serving
    – for those who are doing good, yet allowing their pride to get in the way
    – the missionaries who are struggling to see their value in adverse situations and questioning His call for them
    – for those who are fearful of the differences of those around them, bring them friends to help them understand
    – for the orphans and widows who feel forgotten
    – the ones that want a brighter future for themselves and their children but are paralyzed by formal systems they can’t fight

    – for those struggling with inner demons and mental illnesses who don’t want to seek help for fear of judgment
    – the persecuted church

    – for those separated from their loved ones
    – those risking their lives to use their voices and hands to serve the poor, the marginalized, the unworthy and the undignified
    – for the parents who are worn-down and unsure how to navigate this season of life, may they be encouraged and find resources to guide them
    the ones that are working towards cures for diseases like cancer, give them discipline and willingness to continue
    – for those with a platform that they would use it to bring awareness to injustice and to empower others
    – for the generational sins wreaking havoc on our lives
    – all the sinners and the saints not already named here
    – Who else needs to be on this list? Pray for them.

    Lord, hear our prayers. Let us see those on this list and those forgotten ones that should be on this list with eyes like yours. Let them know that they’ve been seen and their cries have been heard. Wrap your arms of love around them. Soften our hearts and give us a heart that breaks for those around us just as your heart is breaking so. Amen. 

    Safe, Loved + Rested

    Oranges, reds and blacks popping into decor. Ghostly puns and pumpkin spiced everything. Those golden fall sunsets walking hand in hand with your loved one. Friday night lights and Hocus Pocus. I absolutely adore this time of year. There’s something about October that draws me in.

    This October is no different. With its brilliant hued leaves falling from trees and an intense desire to wear boots and scarves bubbling up from the depths of my heart, it is evident that this is my season. It’s here. It’s also brought some new uniquely Fall 2017 things with it – post-Harvey Houston, settling into our first ever home as new home owners, celebrating a year of marriage, the Astros going to the World Series, and generally settling into a new season of life. I guess that’s where I’ve found myself today. Lost in the hustle and bustle of it all.

    Hustle + Bustle

    I’ve never been a memorizer. I can cram the night before the test and do well. Ask my about individual facts days later? Forget it. I can give you the big picture of whatever the subject is. I struggle at memorizing scripture and even where things are in the Bible no matter how many times I’ve read a passage. Sometimes as time goes on and it’s been awhile between readings of certain passages, they become buried in my mind.

    Over the past week or two, one of those passages has been unearthed for me. I’d heard it touched on here and there in small ways but didn’t really speak to me until this weekend. It’s the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42. It’s the age old question of which one am I? Am I the Martha who has a never ending to do list as she runs around trying to check another thing off no matter what is going on around her? Am I the Mary who is willing to set aside the less important for the most important – sitting in the presence of Jesus? Let that sink in… Which one are you?

    Vietnamese Coffee + Interrupted Plans

    Last Saturday, I was the Martha. I had my to do list and an intense plan to get a million things checked off from household chores to simple texts needing to be sent. I had finishing books on there, blogging, getting ahead with Christmas shopping, organizing my closet and so much more. Some of this is extremely time sensitive for my sanity. (Excuse me, Closet, you’ve got to do something with yourself!) Others are just ridiculous things that I want to do because watching at least one Halloween movie on Netflix really isn’t a top priority.

    My Friday afternoon and night was full speed ahead as I tried to outdo even Martha herself. I got up on Saturday and had several things already crossed off my to do list before Rick woke up. He desperately wanted to try a little Vietnamese restaurant near our house. Honestly, it was going to cut into my list. They did have Vietnamese iced coffee and I’m a total sucker for it so I obliged. I’d go eat an early lunch with him but then it was back to my list.

    We had a half an hour to kill before the restaurant would open. Rick suggested we take a lap around the trail behind our house. That sounded awesome. (And it was on the list!) That’s where my entire day changed and the reality of that once again unearthed passage would sit heavy on my heart.

    Rest + Reassurance

    While on the trail, there was a bicycle accident with a woman who was trying to coordinate a really big dog on a leash and a tiny little one in a basket. We were on our way to help her wrangle them back home when we saw one of our neighbors. He was trailing behind two meandering dogs. We didn’t know the neighbor so at first glance, they just seemed to be out on a walk. When we got closer the neighbor asked us if we knew them. We didn’t.

    We went on our way but something prompted me to turn around. Rick went ahead to return our other neighbor and her two canine friends home. I chatted with the neighbor as I learned more about the two dogs he’d been following around the neighborhood. He had a dog and couldn’t take those two in. We had a free backyard, and so we moved these two to our house. I watched them come in and plop down on our hard tile floor. They reeked of weariness as they gave a new definition to dog-gone tired.

    New things were added to my list as I rushed out to the store to get some food as Rick tried to coax them into drinking some water. As I walked around the home trying to “get things done”, it just seemed to provide more anxiety in the home for all of us. I finally decided to put almost everything on that to-do list off for the day. It was then as I watched their weary bodies resting up that I saw myself reflected back at me. I was weary and still am, yet I continue to run around and try to get things done. Sinking into the couch, the story of Martha and Mary sunk into my soul. My mind dredged up what I read the night before as part of the reading I tried to get off my to-read list. The irony of it being on sabbath and rest has not alluded me one bit.

    If nothing else, these two have slowed me down. Reminded me that rest is okay. There’s no grace on my to-do list, but there is grace in my life. I just have to intentionally give grace to myself even as I strive to be “perfect” and “put together,” which is really what that to-do list comes down to.

    Part of being okay with putting things off is recognizing that with freely given grace to stop the hustle and just sit, rest and be in relationship with Jesus. Two words sprang to my mind a little while ago that seem to fit here. Safe and loved. It’s hard to extend grace when you’re not feeling safe or loved, whether it’s external for someone else or you’re just being too hard on yourself.

    Before coming over to write this, I reminded Oakley, the labrador/golden retriever, that she was safe and loved. Everything would be okay. I sat repeating those words over her for a few minutes. In the midst of writing this, Scout, the boxer mix, jumped up out of nowhere seemingly alarmed. I repeated the same sentiment over her for a bit.

    Safe + Loved

    7 years ago in October, my dad and I adopted my dog, Clyde. He was a fantastic dog. He was there for me through some tough, heartbreaking moments. Weeks before he passed away, I was watching Homeward Bound with my husband. Growing up in the 90’s, that was one of those movies that we were watching for nostalgia, but I knew it would break my heart. I hated the fact that those dogs and cat were separated from their beloved family and cried at the end of the movie. I loved Clyde and couldn’t imagine being separated from him, whether it was by location or in death. A few weeks later, he passed away. What I do know is that when he was with me, he was safe and loved. I repeatedly rest in that when waves of grief wash over me.

    I’m a dog lover. Since then, it’s been a natural question for many to ask me when I’d get a new dog. My husband, Rick, has longed for a dog for years. In the past few months, I couldn’t even begin to entertain the idea. Even now as I write this, tears are welling up in my eyes. I miss my friend, Clyde. I miss his quirky little habits, and I still find myself looking for him at my mom’s house. The idea of getting dogs were not novel to me, but I haven’t been ready yet. I need for the pain to be less searing.

    Here it is, October, a few months after Cylde’s death and now with two dogs sleeping nearby. It’s a tad ironic. I didn’t feel like I was ready, but I guess the timing is here. Honestly, I don’t know if God didn’t place dogs in our lives with us like this that I would have ever said I’d been ready. We asked around, and they are not chipped. It seems that Rick and I have become puppy parents. I’ve been followed around all day by these two, who I guess call me mom now. Oakley + Scout, know that you are safe and loved just as Clyde was. 

    Update as of October 24 at 9:30am

    We got a phone call early this morning from Scout and Oakley’s real owners. We have given these two our hearts which are now breaking. We know that reuniting them with their family is the best thing for them. My last sentence from this blog will forever ring true. They are safe and loved. No matter what happens as our hearts grieve, that is the important thing.

    A Reminder + Some Questions I Am Asking Myself

    My writing day is typically on Mondays, so I try to start thinking of what I want to write about over the weekend. Here I am now, walking around Target on Monday “getting things done”. Going through my mental checklist of things that need to be checked off sooner than later, I’ve started wondering what I’ll be writing about later today. It is on the list of things to check off after all. 

    My initial thoughts are that I have nothing. I’m dry. We’ll, I guess I have a few droplets left in the well because I do have ideas for next week and other days that are simply not for today- words that I’m ready to write but the timing doesn’t seem to be there yet. The reality is that if I’m truly honest with myself, I do have something to write about. It’s not a perfectly packaged moment in my life so maybe I shouldn’t share it. I will though.

    Over the past week or so, God has gently reminded me in the way he so often does that I have thrown out my word of the year for this week. That word is ‘intentional’. It seemed like a good word to focus on at the time, but the more I’ve journeyed throughout this year, the word just keeps getting harder and harder.

    These past few weeks have been exceptionally harder. Rick and I have moved into our first home as new home owners. With that, came packing, coordination, getting movers, setting up utilities, turning in our old keys along with the myriad of other “normal” things like laundry and feeding ourselves. I let myself get lost in the mix. I wasn’t being intentional. I was busy and not anything even close to a “good” busy. At best, I was distracted. 

    The funny thing is as I’ve walked alongside the word ‘intentional’ this year, I’ve noticed something. There’s another word that walks hand in hand with it. That word is ‘grace’. I didn’t expect her to come saddling up when she did. The more I hang out with ‘intentional’, the more I have to let ‘grace’ follow me around. The more I have to accept her in my life and the more I have to accept her for myself. 

    Isn’t that so stinking hard? Not only am I trying to be intentional in every area of my life, I’ve had to become more okay with grace too!? That seems like too much. It’s not too much though. God extends his grace to us daily. We should be able to as well. That’s so much easier to say than to do. Actually forgiving myself when I mess up or when I realize everything is out of whack because I haven’t been intentional in anything over the past few weeks is a lot harder.

    This was convicting for me this past weekend. This week, I’m stepping into working on new routines and being intentional in everything I can be. It’s not a quick little jump back in, but with ‘grace’ and ‘intention’ by my sides, we’ll get there in no time. Maybe you need to step back after the whirlwind past few weeks, reflect and ask yourself some of the same questions I am.

    Questions I’m Asking Myself

    Am I being intentional in my relationships or just hoping they keep on keeping on?
    Where is my time going? What can I quit so that I can be more intentional elsewhere?
    When was the last time I was truly intentional in my relationship with God?

    Kill the Spider by Carlos Whittaker: A Book Review

    I can probably name the amount of times that I’ve sat around talking to another Christian about spiritual warfare. I’m not talking about the “there is bad in this world, but Jesus will overcome” kind of chats. I’m talking about the nitty, gritty conversations where the Devil doesn’t look so neat and tidy, where the darkness is darker than one can ever imagine. Talking about how to combat it? Say a prayer. Do good things. Hope for the best.

    This response has always seemed to pale in comparison to the greatness of the God I serve. Really though, is there a “good” way to discuss spiritual warfare where it doesn’t seem like it should be relegated to October or set in a dark, moody, muted color palette like Stranger Things? If there is, Carlos Whittaker has discovered it. I think sometimes spiritual warfare is seen as something to do behind closed doors where no one can see the darkest of the darkest moments we have. Carlos is begging that we bring the light to that darkness.

    Setting up this whole idea of a spider in your life creating cobwebs and generally wreaking havoc, is an incredible tale that his dad told him. (I’m already on board with this because I love stories from older generations.) As I’m sitting here currently, I can’t decide to let you in on the tale or to tell you to go buy it and read it for yourself. It’s in the very first chapter or two. It’s also here on Carlos’ podcast in Episode 001. Actually, go listen to him interview his dad. It’s an incredible story, and I loved being able to hear his dad audibly tell it. Once you’ve heard it though, let the power of it sink deep into your soul. It’s a tiny tale with a huge impact.

    The Words That I Can’t Get Out Of My Head

    Carlos is now off on a grand adventure to kill the spider instead of brushing away the cobwebs of his life. Picture your own cobwebs. You know the ones I’m referencing. It’s the habits you confront quickly, and they dissipate only for you to rediscover them a few weeks down the line. I get it. I’m right there with you. Social media comparison, I’m looking at you. (On a slightly other note, instagram, please enable a feature where I can remain following someone but don’t have to see their ‘glamorous’ life on my feed.) Carlos defines the spider itself as “an agreement with a lie you believe.” Brush the cobweb away and let that sink in.

    There’s a few stories that I’m still digesting a few weeks after reading. There’s also a few quotes that have stood out. They’re the ones that I haven’t been able to shake no matter what I try. They’re the ones that when I dive back in, I’ll be digging into them and their influence in my life. I’ve listed them below. Hear these words straight from Carlos Whittaker himself:

    “What can you silence in your busy life to increase the decibel level of the voice of God?”

    “We will never kill our spiders with podcasts, seminars, conferences, conversations, leadership principles, devotional apps, Scripture tattoos, or killer Instagram images with motivational quotes on them. They are great and work for a moment—literally, one moment. But that stuff isn’t and wasn’t created to address the deeper needs. It won’t completely and totally change you from the inside out.”

    “Everybody has spiders. It’s just nobody does anything about it until they come out of hiding.” Wow.

    Write those down. Take them with you. Don’t just read and walk away. Let them influence your life.

    Raw. Honest. Truth.

    Those three words are the ones I can best describe my experience reading this. I felt like I was sitting at a close friends house as they told me with no bars held back about everything they’d been going through lately. It is refreshing. It is also heartbreaking. I saw myself all too much in Carlos’ words where I wish I hadn’t. His struggles with how he relates to God and wondering if he’s forgotten sound all too familiar. If I’m honest, it’s a little uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable in a good, strive towards a better life lived in His fullness kind of way.

    Y’all, I am actively planning on rereading this already. I devoured it on my first read through and can’t wait to sit with it and dig deeper. I cannot express enough how much this book is a game-changer in spiritual warfare and actively living as a Christian instead of just brushing sin away like it’s now dealt with.

    I’ve started compiling a list of quotes that I love, but really, how does one compile one of the most comprehensive daily prayers that I’ve ever read into a list of quotes. It’s pages long, absolutely breathtakingly beautiful and a necessity in a starting place of my own prayer life. Carlos’ wife, Heather, wrote it for them and their family, but I’ll be revising it and tailoring it for my family and posting it on a wall somewhere for us to pray daily. It is hands down one of the most heartfelt, beautifully written, seeping with love prayers that I’ve ever laid eyes on.

    Seriously, I have all the love for this book and can’t wait to see the impact it has after its release on October 3. It’s my number 1 suggestion from my 2017 Fall Book list. In Carlos’ words, “Gaze at God. Glance at life.” Now, go preorder it, so you can get it next Tuesday!

    [Full Disclosure: I am a member of Carlos’ Launch Team for Kill The Spider: Getting Rid of What’s Really Holding You Back. I have been asked to provide my honest opinion regarding this book in exchange for a free digital copy.]

    Hurricane Harvey: How We Fared + What Now?

    Nearly two weeks ago, like most of Houston and the surrounding Southeast Texas area, I sat rendered helpless as Hurricane Harvey came to visit. While sitting on my couch in my untouched home streaming Netflix in the background, it felt surreal as my Facebook feed was flooded with photographs and news stories of the heartbreaking situations around us. From Friday night to Wednesday, I feel like I became besties with the County Judge. The Fort Bend Emergency Office Facebook Live updates enthralled me like it was my favorite TV show. I couldn’t shut my laptop for really any amount of time. As soon as myself or my husband answered a call or text with an update on our situation, another would come in.

    Untouched. That was the state of my home. That is where I live. Unlike so many who evacuated or hunkered down just to find water coming too dangerous for comfort. I missed blogging on that Tuesday after Harvey hit. I’ve probably been sitting on parts of these words for a week or so now as they streamed themselves together and as I have processed the tragedy that has taken place in my beloved city and state. Rick and I are “okay.” We never lost power, we stayed dry, and our physical property remains undamaged. We are so not “okay” though.

    A friend texted me last night to see how I’m doing in the wake of Harvey as well as how Houston is holding up in general. This is part of my reply back. “Streets that were once overflowing with water are now overflowing with the aftermath of destruction. It’s so tragic. The whole city is exhausted.”

    It’s been a whirlwind of a little over a week now. We are Houston. We are strong. But we are tired. There have had many restless nights. We are a grief stricken city as not only lives were lost in this tragedy, but our hopes and dreams. We are diverse, and we are united in our recovery. #houstonstrong and #texasstrong are who we are.

    The Best Facebook Post This Week

    As I sat trying to focus on reading Kill the Spider, I really couldn’t keep my mind focused for long. Relaxing and reading on the couch seemed so ridiculous given the circumstances. My husband and I tried watching our favorite funny shows on Netflix. Rain continued to pound down from the sky and laughter was scarce. When the rain let up, this gem found its way into my Facebook feed.

    “….After 7 more days Noah again sent out the dove from the ark. When the dove returned to him that evening, there in its beak were two Shiners and a rack of baby back ribs. Then Noah knew that the water had begun to recede from Houston. He waited seven more days and sent the dove out again, but this time it did not return to him because it was still in line at Killen’s BBQ in Pearland.

    Genesis 8:10-12 LSV (Lone Star Version)”
    – Bill Cooke

    The rain had let up and with a taste of what Noah and all the citizens of earth went through that time, seeing the sun shine that day was way more exciting than the solar eclipse that had just happened days before. The sun coming out to play and water seeping into the ground is only the beginning of the days to come.

    What Can I Do Now?
    Pray.

    Pray for compassion and empathy. Thank God for the sunshine. Pray for those who have lost their jobs in this tragic timing and the economy as it begins to rebuild. Thank God for those who jumped at rescuing neighbors, friends, family members and animals at a moment’s notice. Pray for strength to rebuild and for strength for those who are continuing to provide relief. Pray for those who had to make tough decisions that they are still second guessing. Thank God for the Cajun Navy, HEB and so many others who jumped into action. Pray for those who have no idea when or if they’ll ever see their homes again. Pray for those who don’t even know how they can help yet and those who feel helpless and guilty. Thank God for showing us what really matters – humans – regardless of race/religion/nationality/gender/sexual preferences and everything else that threatens to divide us. Pray for those who are experiencing trauma at the sound of water. Pray for the shame of being in the path and the shame of not doing enough. Thank Him for those who will be continuing to help long after the cameras are gone and Houston has slid from headlines. Pray for those in the path of Hurricane Irma as tensions are high after watching Hurricane Harvey. Pray with me now.

    God, we’re so weary. The exhaustion for myself alone is overwhelming. Take care of those more exhausted than I am. Those who are still staying in shelters that have no time frame of getting home. Be with those who are watching their favorite pieces of furniture, their family photos and their literal dreams be scattered into trash piles. Give those who are running shelters and other relief spots a second, third and fourth wind to get through. Allow healing tears and safe spaces to process what is happening. Be with those who not only lost material possessions but lost dads, sons, brothers, husbands, sisters, moms, wives, and friends in this. Help us to grieve well.

    Protect those in the path of Irma. Keep them in your arms of safety. Be with those dealing with wildfires in the Northwest. Be with all the first responders, nurses, doctors, counselors, government organizations, non-profit groups and religious organizations as they step into these moments. I pray for kind words from all and for all even in the face of exhaustion. I pray for compassion on all of us as we begin to rebuild our lives. Be with those who feel forgotten. Let them know that you haven’t left them, that you are near. Thank you for surrounding us with your love. Lord, let yourself be known in all of this. Amen.

    Rest.

    If you were in the path of the storm or have gone out and mucking and gutting houses in the beginning processes of recovery, please rest. Drink water. Take care of yourselves. This isn’t a quick fix. It will take self-care to make that long-term commitment of recovery which will take way longer than any of us want it to. We can’t flip a switch and get August 24, 2017 Houston back. It will take time. We are still figuring out what the storm took from us.

    Don’t disregard your mental health in this process. News outlets and weather channel segments were the choice of tv viewing for days. Facebook feeds filled up with news, sad posts, and families trying to get help or be reunited with their loved ones. If you’re waiting for permission before backing away and focusing on something else, here it is. Turn off the news. Turn off Facebook. Read a fun fiction book. Watch your favorite movie. Cheer for your favorite sports team. Chat with loved ones. Go out to eat. Just disconnect from the tragedy of Harvey and invest in some mental health time for yourself. That doesn’t mean you don’t care anymore. It’s a sign of strength that you not only care but understand that you have to take care of yourself if you’re going to care for the long haul.

    Give Responsibly.

    Many of us have gone through our old clothes and unwanted goods to give to others. The heart behind that is absolutely beautiful. We have more than enough old t-shirts. Organization asks for certain types of items because they are usable and of top priority. While some items are perfectly good donations aren’t necessarily of top priority in that moment. Sorting, storage and proper distribution are all issues.You can read more about that here or here.

    If you want to help, please for the love of Texas, please donate money to an organization you trust and know will be on the front lines of helping. These organizations are ones that I believe are trustworthy and are operating with integrity: UMCOR, Legacy Collective, or directly to a local church.

    Hate, Love + Kindness

    Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

    My heart aches right now. As many are hurt and terrified as the climate is filling with even more tension and wonder after the events this weekend in Charlottesville, I have to add my voice to the mix. It would be wrong not to do so at this point in history. Being silent is saying that this is okay. It is NOT okay.

    I spent much of last week looking through old photographs. I was blessed with being exposed to other cultures early on in life and getting to sit in classrooms for years with students who didn’t look or think like me. Being a white woman who has been surrounded for much of my life by people of other nationalities, races and beliefs is a gift from God as I would not be who I am today without these friendships. They have taught me so much about perceptions, privilege, hardship, injustice and beauty and for that I will be ever grateful.

    My heart not just hurts for what happened this weekend. My heart hurts that this is still a conversation in our nation. I hate that God has set us free yet we live in fear of ourselves. I have friends that don’t feel comfortable in a variety of situations, because they are treated differently based on their skin color.

    Last Friday, I had lunch with a dear friend where we discussed gender bias and racism, because these are real constructs that are happening at our time. The stories of my friends aren’t my stories to share, but I wish they would. Friends, I urge you to share your stories online, be that voice. Help us to listen and understand with new fresh eyes.

    I’ve seen several things over the course of the last six months or so begging the question of if you wonder what you’d do during the Holocaust; you’re doing it now. The thought of that is so incredibly scary but I think it is pertinent that we really evaluate that.

    My words are not enough.

    I pray that we will all stand together and say that hate is not okay. I’ve read a bunch of articles as well as Instagram and Facebook posts over the past few days. Unfortunately, many are already buried under ongoing social media. My prayer is that we will not forget the ongoing daily struggles when we only see the big, tragic moments. Here are some that I’ve been able to dig up along with others that I believe need to be heard in this moment.

    Look at What is Happening in America in 2017
    A Word from Dan Rather, Journalist
    Letter: Family denounces Tefft’s racist rhetoric and actions
    Words from Jen Hatmaker regarding Charlottesville
    Here’s an Anti-Fascism Video the U.S. Gov. Released Back in 1943. You Should Watch
    A Note to the Church: Let’s Be For, Not Against by Kaitlyn Bouchillon
    A Response to Charlottesville by Judah Smith + The City Church
    Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey featuring Tasha Morrison
    Jamie The Very Worst Missionary’s Call to Find A New Church
    Watch Dr. Cornel West and Rev. Traci Blackmon’s Friday Prayer Service in Charlottesville
    Pastoral letter about racism in America in 2017 by Bishop Scott J. Jones of the Texas Annual Conference, The United Methodist Church
    Ten Ways to Fight Hate: A Community Response Guide

    I wish I had more eloquent words to convey how deeply saddened I am by this. God has seen my tears and heard my cries. We have to stand up for those who can’t, for those who have continually stood up allowing us to have this freedom we have today and for those who have ultimately sacrificed themselves for their beliefs. Whatever side you are on, know that the side of love will always win.

    Humans, hate is never okay. Let us be kind and love one another.