Monday, August 28, 2017

Hurricane Harvey

Oh my, how we're all praying for the people of eastern Texas!

Hurricane Harvey has hit that region with incredible force.  The images of people being rescued, homes and businesses's almost unbelievable and just so sad.

I was listening to the news when a reporter said, "We haven't seen anything like this since 2004 when Charley hit Florida."  His words were a jolt for me because we went through Hurricane Charley.  We didn't move here until 2005 but we were in Winter Haven when Charley barreled across FL.

The circumstances surrounding that experience were so bizarre.

We were still evangelists at the time.  It was August and we had to get Kristin and Joy back in school. We brought our RV down and actually parked behind what's now our church.

The plan was for me to stay with the girls getting them settled.  Frank would fly to NC on Friday for the service we had scheduled then back to us on Monday.  Perfect.

Well, perfect until Charley came knocking.

We hadn't watched the news and had no idea people were evacuating Tampa as we were driving toward the airport. We were completely oblivious.  Later we learned, his was the final flight out that day.

Frank called as soon as he landed in Raleigh to say he was renting a car to drive back.  "There's no need,"  I told him.  "Wait until it passes over and then you'll know what supplies to bring with you."

Please remember, I grew up in FL.  The routine of preparing for and "riding out" hurricanes has been part of my life since childhood.  Collect food supplies, fill the bathtub with water, prepare to lose power and phone service.  Mom and Dad always stayed calm so I developed that attitude too, I guess.

But I'd never experienced anything like Hurricane Charley!

We had only hours to get ready and I had two other girls with us for the weekend.  So it was five young ladies ages 15-20; two silly dogs and me.

I contacted one of the board members and got permission to stay with the girls in the church.  We cleared debris from around the RV.   Tree limbs and loose boards become projectiles during a hurricane.

The girls helped cook what I had in our tiny freezer while I dashed to the store for batteries, bottled water, milk, bread and peanut butter.  (PBJ sandwiches and milk make everything better!)

Not knowing how long we'd be without water and power, I urged everyone to get a quick shower.  We closed up the RV and headed into the church just as the wind and rains started getting serious.

I won't bore you with all the details of that harrowing night spent sitting against the wall of the interior hallway.  We prayed.  We encouraged each other.  We prayed some more.

At one point, I stepped into the foyer just long enough to see a row of trees bent almost perpendicular to the ground by the ferocious wind.  It was too dangerous to stay there because of all the glass doors and windows.

As the eye of the storm passed over us, we all stepped outside to take a quick look at the devastation right around the church.  Such an eerie scene.  I was grateful to find our RV in an upright position but knew the backside of the storm was still to come.

We were already without power, so as the rain started again it was a little more difficult to take shelter in the darkened hallway.  Those five young ladies were troopers!

Obviously, we made it through safely.  RV's all around us were thrown on their sides like matchbox toys.  But ours sustained only minor damage.

There was no power in our area for five days.   Friends graciously invited us into their home in Lakeland.  We camped in grand style; sharing our food and water with them.

Frank made it back to us and I gladly handed the cloak of "Family Protector" right back to the shoulders that carry it best.

I took a moment this morning and wrote a note of thanks to the family that housed us during that natural disaster.  Yes, it was thirteen years ago but the appreciation for their kindness and generosity is still strong.

We've used many illustrations from that experience in sermons through the years.  I'll leave you with what's probably my favorite story.

Everyone is aware that looting becomes a big problem after catastrophic storms.  We knew as six women in a church building containing thousands of dollars in electronics, supplies and such.......that we were sitting ducks.  Prayer for protection was a big one.

Around two in the morning, it happened.

We heard looters moving around outside, talking, rattling door handles, trying to find a way to get in.

I'm not exactly sure WHAT I thought I was going to do.  I had no way to protect us from robbers. But I reached for my most intimidating teacher voice and yelled out through the locked door, "Who are you?!  What do you want?!"

A split second of frozen silence......

"It's the police!  Are you alright in there?"

That's when my confident-acting knees finally went wobbly.  I opened the door and I'm pretty sure I startled the first officer by grabbing him in a big hug.

Yes, we know to keep praying for the people of Texas.  For the first-responders; utilities workers; even military coming in and working tirelessly to care for those affected.  We may not be able to offer our homes but we can pray.

How about you?  Have you ever been through a natural disaster in your area?  I'd love to hear about your experience in the comment section below.  


Monday, August 21, 2017

Historic Event

"First in our lifetime! Very likely the only time."

"Nothing like it in modern history."

"A truly remarkable event!"

Am I quoting references to the total solar eclipse we'll experience today across the United States of America?

No!  Something much more unbelievable!

These are statements made after it was learned that on Saturday, Aug. 18th, in the year of Our Lord 2017, all by herself, one Sharon L. Hawley..........  ............MOWED HER ENTIRE 1/2 ACRE YARD!!

(Yes, I hear your gasps of disbelief and wonder.  Stunning news, right?!)

Frank was totally shocked.  He's pretty particular about our yard.  (Actually, that's an understatement. The man claims he can hear the grass growing while we're trying to enjoy our morning coffee on mowing day.)

But this week he was leading a prayer retreat for the men of our board and staff.  The grass was already pretty tall and I knew he wouldn't be home in time to get it done AND finish his sermon for Sunday.

So at 10AM Eastern time I made a bold decision in my perky little optimistic unexperienced head. "I'm going to mow the yard for him!'

My thinking process went like this - "I've been driving different vehicles for over 40 years.  Driving a riding mower is surely just like driving a car.  What could possibly go wrong?"

Ah, famous last words........

First off, I realized I had no idea how to even get the mower out of the garage.  If I called one of my sons to get it out they would simply brush me aside and say, "I'll do it, Mom!"  But I didn't want to interrupt their Saturday with our yard work.

So I texted our young neighbors across the street for help.

Richard came right over.  He backed the mower out expertly and gave me a hand climbing up into the seat.  I'm pretty sure he bit his lip tensely when I said, "Thanks!  Now, how do I get it started?"

Richard should probably consider a second career in education.  His tutorial was patient and thorough.  He put his hand behind me just in case I fell off when the mower jerked forward the first time.

He quickly saw I couldn't reach the brake.  A rather important element when dealing with a machine designed solely to twirl sharp blades of steel at a high rate of speed.  You want to be able to hit the brake!

So Richard helped me off the mower again and adjusted the seat forward.  So many moving parts on a riding mower.  The brake.  The mower deck.  The speed control thingy.  And one other lever I just didn't touch.

I had no idea!

(And that's what had him a little concerned.  He told Nathan later in the day, "I kept going to our front window to check on your mom every few minutes."  I think he was relieved when the task was finally finished.)

I donned Frank's wide brimmed hat, some good tennis shoes, proper sunscreen and I was off like lightening. Well, actually more like a turtle because I wanted to get used to what I was doing before I revved the engine to 3 (with 6 being the fastest.)

Several lessons came from my experience:

  1. Always hit the brake before shifting to a higher speed.
  2. If you miss a section on this pass, you can always come back again.
  3. Those straight lines Frank creates so easily - aren't easy!
  4. Yes, there's a cup holder that works well.  However, all the water sloshes out of the cup.
  5. Look forward, not backward, at all times!
  6. Lawn ornaments can be shoved aside by big mowers, small trees can not.
  7. Lawn ornaments can be replaced.
  8. Mowing in FL is as hot as I suspected.
  9. Heat stroke is real, occurs quickly and takes a while for recovery.
  10. Biggest lesson of the day - if you hit a root from an oak tree while traveling at the speed of 3, your mower blades WILL make a horrific noise; the mower WILL jolt to an immediate stop; you may go flying forward and the seat will be wet when you land back on it.  Just saying!
Frank had to do a small bit of modifying when he got home.  (Mostly straightening the line we share with our neighbor and some edging.)  But he let me know he was proud of my efforts and gave me a quick kiss in that "Oh, you're just so cute" kind of way.

So, you guys go ahead and make a big deal out of that once in a 100 years total solar eclipse today. The bigger news on Misty Morning Drive is that SHERI MOWED AND NO ONE WAS HURT!!

Let me leave you with this perfect and timely statement from King David: 
"The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky abovea proclaims his handiwork."  (Ps. 19:1)

Friday, August 18, 2017

Las Ramblas

I have walked on Las Ramblas.

My feet have traversed the location in Barcelona, Spain where evil struck again most recently.  Las Ramblas is not just some far off, unrelated destination for me.  It's a place I know.

I've pressed through the masses crowding that sidewalk.  My eyes have swept over the buildings, the art work, the abundant colors.  My ears have processed and tried to decipher the blaring noises as well as the flutter of leaves on the numerous trees.  My nose has been delighted by the countless fragrances of foods provided by street vendors and restaurants lining the way.  I've handled delicate scarves and heavy post cards at the tourist shops.  I even selected a pearl ring at a shop on Las Ramblas.

When Frank called down to my office yesterday and told me of the most recent terror attack, my mind saw faces, not a dot on a map.

I traveled to Barcelona two summers ago with a teaching team.  We had been invited by friends who pastor an amazing international church right in the heart of the city.  (International Church Barcelona.)  Our main purpose was to bring encouragement to the ladies of their congregation by teaching at a retreat.

But we also shared at Bible studies, home groups, luncheons, the main church service and even once in a park.  One of my more memorable opportunities involved a short taxi ride to a winding alley where we walked for twenty minutes then climbed five flights of stairs to meet with the three couples waiting for us.  Whew!  Not for the faint of heart but definitely rewarding.

Our experience in Barcelona left us with friends we'll cherish for years to come and memories that will take a long time to fade.  The pastor said that we added value to the lives we encountered.  Our message brought hope and peace.  While we challenged them to walk close to the Father in obedience, we also reminded them of His perfect love for each individual as well as the world.

Following religion or man made rules can kill.  But relationship with Christ brings LIFE - Abundant Life!

One of my favorite passages seems so timely today:

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have life and have it abundantly!"  John 10:10 (ESV)

Yes, let's pray for the individuals and families impacted by this tragedy but put action to your prayers.  Find someone who needs a word of encouragement.  Offer forgiveness or a gift of joy.  Reach out with a hand of hope to a person who crosses your path.

It's a proven fact, when you add value to another you actually enrich your own life.

I choose to add LIFE today.  I'm watching for an opportunity to add value somewhere.  Join me, won't you?

I'd love to hear about your experience.