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    “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. 

    Update On The Dogs + What I’m Loving // October 2017

    Oakley + Scout aka The Dogs

    If you read my blog last week, you saw that we rescued two dogs. If you receive my emails, you may have missed the update saying that we found their owners. Needless to say, our house was heavy with sorrow. Our neighbors came. Everyone was reunited. They went on their way. That was it.

    We tried consoling ourselves with Mexican food, but enchiladas and queso could only take us so far. We took an extremely early bedtime of 9pm for us and chocked the night up to being over. The next morning though, I received a phone call that would change things once again.

    Oakley and Scout’s original owner called with an offer that at first left me with my jaw agape. Scout and Oakley were ours if we wanted them. I hung up, called Rick and played a long waiting game as I wondered what the final verdict would be. Long story short, the original owners are in a fresh, new stage of life and feel like we can offer these two a better and more stable home at this point.

    I guess that’s all to say, we’re once again dog parents. It all feels right again.

    What I’m Loving

    Stunned at the whirlwind October has been! Our anniversary and one of my favorite holidays always makes for a fantastic but crazily paced month. We’ve barely even fit watching Gremlins and Hocus Pocus in. Season 2 of Stranger Things has even taken a back burner!

    Laughing out loud at this episode on The Happy Hour Podcast with Jamie Ivey. If you know me, I don’t say, “lol,” lightly because it takes quite a bit to make me actually laugh – let alone out loud! Sharon Hodde Miller totally brought that for me along with a simple but powerful reminder of who I am in Christ and how to freely live out who he made me be.

    Trying to recover after a weekend of Questival which I absolutely loved! Questival is a huge adventure scavenger hunt style challenge which I blogged about over the weekend here because it was one of the challenges. Think of the whole thing as a real life game of Quelf on steroids. I’m already planning my next Questival adventure with my team, because we loved it so much. Next time, I’ll be sure to get plenty of rest before it begins though!

    Reeling from this episode about identity on the JourneyWoman Podcast with Hunter Beless: episode 18 | The Theology of Identity with Matt Lantz. Here’s a small nugget of truth that made me want to pull over and take notes on the side of the road: “Identity is received, believed, and then lived out. In that order. If you’ve built an identity around anything, whether that’s your job, your spouse, your popularity, your grades, your accomplishment, or any of that stuff. If you’ve built an identity, you haven’t built an identity. You’ve built an idol.” – Matt Lantz.

    Playing Molkky in the backyard, because it’s absolutely beautiful weather around here. Hello to all things Fall – pumpkin spice, scarves, fleece and that glowing, golden sunset that Fall does so well. Plus, it gets us outside as a family!

    Drinking wines and eating cheeses at our wine tasting at Clear Creek Vineyard, courtesy of our bed and breakfast. We finally found a red wine that I actually enjoy! If you ever have the chance to meet Barbara, the owner of the Clipper House Inn in Kemah, please do so. She is incredibly kind, sweet and made sure our anniversary stay in Kemah was absolutely spectacular. We both absolutely loved our weekend there.

    Drowning in Ellie Holcomb’s beautiful lyrics on her Red Sea Road cd. I am totally feeling late to this party as her cd came out last January, but oh my goodness, it’s deep, dreamy and comforting. If you ask Oakley and Scout, that’s what we’ve been listening to around here. It all started with hearing some old episodes of Ellie being interviewed about her heart behind the songs on the cd. I absolutely adore when I get to know the why behind the words of music. The heartache, tragedy and praise she went through that this cd is a direct result of, is inspiring. You can listen to her interview with The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey podcast here or on Annie Downs’ That Sounds Fun podcast here.

    Feasting on Shauna Niequist’s words in Bittersweet. She is one of my favorite authors as her diction and word juxtaposition is always on point. I also believe she reaches down to the depths to put things into words that not only allows one to understand themselves deeper but those around them as well. I can’t wait to binge read yet another one of her other books!

    Loving my new girls, Oakley + Scout. We’re definitely being stretched as we adjust and grow together, but we’re a family now. I love that so much. It’s a great new adventure for Rick’s and my second year of marriage!

    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.

    Let’s Celebrate! One Year of Marriage + The Things We’ve Learned Along the Way

    Videography by One Fifty Media House

    One year. Wow – what a year it has been. I can’t believe that a year ago last Sunday, we made our vows forever. We’ve learned a lot in the one year of marriage. I’ve been planning for weeks to share some of what I learned on here and post this as a sort of surprise for Rick. After spending the weekend celebrating our one year anniversary with him, I decided he needed to be in on the sharing too. Don’t worry. We already got out all the mushy, gushy words in cards and love letter, so we won’t bore you with all of that here. Now, on to things we’ve learned!

    Things We’ve Learned After Year One

    Written from Ashley’s perspective but includes Rick’s thoughts.

    Compromise goes way past TV shows and decorating styles. Sure, we compromise on TV and decorating styles. The compromise doesn’t stop there. It begins there. There’s so many little things that we’ve had to compromise on during the last year. Dairy Queen versus Thai Tea isn’t the hardest of decisions, but we’ve had to learn how to compromise on the big things. Compromise requires sacrifice from both people, even if it’s a seemingly small sacrifice in the grand scheme of things.

    “Two are better than one…” – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. It’s been a rough year for me personally. I’ve allowed myself to fall into the trap of several lies. I’ve never understood this verse better than I do now. Rick has been by my side to encourage, support and let me know those lies are false. He has sat with me time and time again and reassured me that those aren’t true. They are not true of who God has made me to be or of my actions. I cannot imagine if I sat through this past season by myself. I’d be a much different person. I definitely would not be walking in God’s guidance. I needed that grounding and constant reminder that I am loved, valued and worthy.

    It’s not about romance, it’s about doing life together. This may be one of the things I am most thankful for. At the end of a rough day, I don’t want roses. I want someone to sit with me that I can relay all about my day – the joys and frustrations. I want someone that I can bounce off wacky ideas and serious theology. Yes, date nights and long weekends together are incredibly important. If those are the only time you’re connecting though, it’s not enough. You need to connect in another way. For us, that may be me sitting in the kitchen drinking a glass of wine while Rick is cooking. It’s Rick doing chores so I can pour myself into photography and blogging. It’s me letting him sleep until noon on Saturdays when I desperately want to play board games by 9am.

    Not every moment in marriage is pretty. I knew this going in but figured I’d add it to the list, because it has rung even more true than I could have imagined. You know what’s not pretty? Starting our marriage sick and ending our first year of marriage sick again. Maybe that’s just full circle? Either way, there’s been plenty of moments that haven’t been the prettiest. Some have been grosser than others. (Mucking out houses.) Some have been prettier than others. (Yay for big dinner date celebrations!)

    Don’t compare your marriage to others. This encompasses how easy things are, how hard things are, both the glamorous and the non-glamorous moments. I think we have the idea that when you get married that things will line up just like your friends or family appears. In reality, those marriages may already be set up and have taken years to take root and grow. Take your time. Let yourselves grow and thrive naturally.

    Not every fight is worth having. If we fought whenever we thought we were mad, we’d be fighting a lot more. We choose to fight when we need to, when it’s over something important and especially if it’s something that threatens our marriage. There’s no need to fight over who ate the last hummus. We’ve got a grocery store nearby. There will be more. We choose to fight over the tough and hard stuff that matters. This isn’t always the perfect formula, but we try to strive to be better at it each day.

    Apologies + Forgiveness are Hard. I stink at apologies. I always have. I’m probably even worse at forgiveness, especially when it comes to myself. This one is hard to talk about. I think I’m better at both of these today than when this marriage started. Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about grace though. Grace for Rick. Grace for me. Grace for us as a couple.

    You’ll learn a lot about yourself. I know I have. I’ve learned about things that I’m good at that I have never considered strengths of mine. You also see your own shortcomings as slightly more glaring than ever before. You have more accountability. There’s someone that sees every aspect of your life. You may be able to ignore the chair full of laundry that’s been there for a week already, but it’s hard to ignore the one that you’re accountable to when they sleep less than a foot away from you. There’s a different responsibility that comes with that accountability – one wrapped in loyalty and respect. I’ve learned to rely on Rick as a sounding board for reason, encouragement and support. I’ve learned that we truly do need one another.

    Day 365 is easier than Day 1. Life together gets easier. It’s simple. We learn each others’ idiosyncrasies. As we get to understand those quirks, we understand how to do daily life with each other, and we increase our capacity to fully love each other. It’s a lot easier to display my love for him now when I know him deeper and better than ever than when we left our wedding.

    Be intentional in everything. Intentional was my word of the year, so of course it’d find its way on here. It’s so true though. It’s easy to look back on this year and see the moments where we’ve been intentional and see the moments where we got “busy”. Being intentional doesn’t always look like a big moment. It’s the small moments of connecting throughout the day. We’re very intentional in different ways. Do things fall through the cracks? Yes, we’re human. It’s about picking up the very next piece when that happens and making sure it’s given a little extra care. I’d venture to say that being intentional in the mundane moments leads to a lot more glorious “big” moments as y’all have the foundation laid for that. Intentionality these days is playing a board game, taking a walk and making sure we’re on the same page with calendaring.

    Never stop telling your spouse how you feel. Not to be morbid, but death has been in the back of my mind for awhile. I want Rick to know without a doubt that if something happens to me, that I truly am deeply, madly in love with him. He is my best friend and the one I can count on for absolutely anything.

    Our Favorites From Year One

    Games: Skipbo // Ticket to Ride // Pandemic // Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime

    TV + Movies: Moana // Longmire // NCIS // Hocus Pocus // Great British Baking Show // Raising Hope (on repeat + still cracking up each time at the same moments) // Parks + Recreation // 30 Rock

    Podcasts: The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey // Popcast

    Books: The Turquoise Table by Kristin Schell // A Fierce Love: One Woman’s Courageous Journey to Save Her Marriage by Shauna Shanks (We read both of those books together and had some really great discussions based off of them.) // Rick getting back into reading in general

    Food: Sushi Dates at Japaniero’s // Guac + Chips // Asia Cafe // Chicken Lime Tacos // Dumar’s // Zucchini // Local Table // Snow Monster // Anything I cooked for Rick // Korean Grill // Wine

    Miscellaneous: Reading in Hammocks // Our Wedding Memories // Our New Home + Trails // Road Trips + Travels (especially ATX, St. Augustine + Disney World) // Sleepovers with Andrea + Lori // Waco trips to visit Rick’s Family // Dinners with my Mom + Lori // General exploring // Pokemon at Oyster Creek Park // Breakfast with the Quiochos // Candles

     

    I totally feel like a new mom right now with those trendy boards that say all the stats about your one month old. On that note, we are not pregnant. I am a photographer that created a Pinterest maternity board the other day for a client session. (I’ve gotten several texts, so hopefully, that’ll clear it up for you. I get it. I have a bit of a tummy. I’m on a new medicine for my Chrons Disease that is causing weight gain.)

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    Photography by Awake Photography

    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.

    Let Freedom Rise

    Red, White + Blue. Inner Tubes on the Lake. The American Flag on as many things as you can get it for the day – clothing, drink koozies, etc.. Grilling Out by the Pool. This is America. The 4th of July is our day. Let Freedom Rise!

    Except, what about those that aren’t free today? What about those that are suffering captive by their own minds, their own addictions and even by others? There are a lot of us captive by varying things. Today, most Americans will choose to focus on family and friends, fireworks, relaxing in their freedom and amazing grilled grub like that brisket above.

    Freedom. You know those who have gotten us here – our armed forces, our leadership at all stages, our ancestors and our past as a nation. But those who aren’t yet free are harder to put a face with. In fact, they’re the ones we ignore, the ones that we’d rather not put a face with. Ignoring them and their existence is a 1000 times easier than admitting slavery still exists, than admitting that it’s real and that this is a problem.

    The problem is that it is real though. Listen to these statistics that Love146 has collected: “In 2012, the International Labor Organization estimated that there are 20.9 million enslaved today. That’s an estimated 4.5 million in sexual exploitation, an estimated 14.2 million in forced labor and an estimated 2.2 million in state imposed labor… One child in Love146’s Survivor Care Program was sold by a trafficker to a brothel for $72. This price is quite typical.”

    You can read more about slavery – how it happens in today’s world as well as some of the stories of those Love146 has helped here. Seriously, click on it and educate yourself. Then come back here and pray with me.

    A Prayer to Let Freedom Rise

    God, you know what is going on in the world around us. You see the good and the bad. You see the downright atrocious. The thing that make my heart so sad and causes tears to flow freely from my face. I can’t even imagine with you being All Knowing how you so deeply feel about this. You see every single moment. I can only imagine the heinousness of it all.

    As we celebrate our freedoms in America today, may those who are not yet free know that they are loved and cared for even now. Allow us to be your hands and feet as we stretch them out to those who need it. To those who are deemed unworthy according to our society. To those who are “supposed” to be overlooked and forgotten. May we see them. May we remember them. May we play a part in their rescue, in your redemption story for their lives.

    You can move mountains with the slightest of whispers. We know that you can take the world of human trafficking and not only make it turn upside down, but change hardened hearts and eradicate that world for good. God, work your miracles. Rescue those who are trapped! 

    God, force us outside of ourselves. May we lay our selfishness of not wanting to upset our “perfect and busy” lives to help those who are hurting whether they’re your beloved children who are trapped in human trafficking or those we know are hurting but are hoping someone else will step up to help them so we don’t have to. Will you use us for you glory? Lord, we’re here. We’re ready. We’re waiting for your gentle, “Let’s Go.” before we launch out in obedience. Show us where we need to be obedient to you in this today. 

    Lord, may our partnership with you be a blessing to others right where they are. In Your Name, Amen. 

    Resources – Where to Start + How to Get Involved

    I hope your heart is stirred today. I hope at least you will learn more and remember those without the same freedoms as you and me. If you’re looking for more additional resources, I’d start here and then check out the organizations that I have put my own trust in below. I would strongly urge you to see if your church has a small group based on learning more about human trafficking and how we can prevent it. I joined one for a semester a few years ago. It was probably one of the heaviest small groups I’ve ever been in, but also one that challenged my stagnant faith in a “wake up, o sleeper” kind of way, especially to the plight of others around me.

    A great way to get a good glimpse of exposure into what is going on is through reading and seeing. While Netflix has several documentaries that highlight human trafficking in various ways, I would recommend steering clear of those initially. I’d instead recommend focusing initial documentary screenings regarding human trafficking to these ones that are provided online thanks to Elijah Rising. I haven’t watched them yet myself, but I’ve heard really good things about Nefarious from the leader of the small group I was in. I’d also recommend reading Renting Lacy. Get ready! This book tore up my heart over this issue when we delved into it as a small group. If you’re looking for even more, A 2nd Cup also has an amazing resource library here.

    Organization against human trafficking:
    Free the Captives // Love 146 // Redeemed Ministries // A21 Campaign // A 2nd Cup (Houston Coffee Shop) // Elijah Rising