Houston on My Mind

Hurricane Harvey is blowing through our neck of the woods and it is both a terrible and a wonderful experience for me this time around.  Wonderful to be sitting safely on a ranch located on a veritable mountaintop in my eyes. For over 50 years, I lived south of Houston, Texas in a city that is barely 20-feet above sea level. I have experienced and evacuated from more hurricanes than I can remember during my lifetime. To currently be located on a ranch that is 456-feet above sea level feels like I am sitting atop a mountain as this hurricane barrels towards us.  That is the wonderful part of this experience.  The terrible part is that I know, personally, the stress and destruction that will trail behind this hurricane for months after it disappears off the radar.  It leaves families stretched to their limits and stressed out for months trying to find a new normal in a dirty, flooded home in a neighborhood full of people who all need an equal amount of help.  When I was young, we lived in a house of cement floors and nail-ridden carpet strips for months on end before we were able to replace the carpet in our home after one of the floods. I will never forget the pain of accidentally stepping on one of the carpet strips with my bare feet.

Sure, there are some issues to stop and consider at our new location. Serious issues such as dealing with rushing water and flooding in the low-lying areas and roads. But, still, it feels so different. Different from watching the waters rise towards your home and having to evaluate which items to try to set up on risers and which items to pack for an evacuation. The stress is so much less up here due to the fact I do not have to place a mental value on each item I own and decide whether or not it is worthy of taking with me during an evacuation. (I’m ignoring the thought of tornadoes at the moment. Those definitely scare me and seem more imminent in this area.)  I remember many times before an evacuation having to look at my belongings….picture albums, mementos, valuable papers, valuable antiques, and more….and try to ascertain which items were worthy of packing and taking with me upon evacuation.  It is a mentally tedious job.  Not to mention trying to put all of the furniture up off the floor and getting everything in closets off of the floor before you leave the house.  The job seems endless and it is usually done in the oppressive heat and humidity.

Right now, as the rain pours down and we brace for gusts of wind and rain heading our way in an outer band of the now Tropical Storm Harvey, I am sitting at my computer in a comfortable, cool house that still has electricity and water. I am watching out my window as streams of water rush across our property and into our huge, thirsty pond. The ranchers around here have desperately needed the rain this storm is bringing. The ponds have been extremely low due to a long drought in our area and this will guarantee the cattle and livestock will have enough water to get through the upcoming winter.  I am thankful for this blessing on our ranch, but in the same breath I am praying for our close family and friends who still live on the coast.  We are praying for the rains to subside for enough time each day for the waters to drain off their property.

In addition to watching the rivers of water run across our property, I am watching the wind whip through a huge oak tree near the pond and feel a pang of sadness as I remember that we lost one of our huge, old oak trees near the front of our property from yesterday’s wind.  It was easily over 100-years old, but it is now laying defeated on its side in our pasture.  It was a split trunk tree with a bench that had grown between the two trunks and our oldest daughter was sitting on it reading a book just last weekend. Even though I am so sad to lose it, I am grateful that no one was near it when it finally toppled over from exhaustion.  At the end of the day, it is only a tree.  The people along the coast of Texas are losing far more than beautiful trees.  Many are losing their homes and belongings so I will not give myself permission to even give a second thought to my toppled tree.

Our animals are all safely tucked into the hay barn, corrals, pig sty, shed, pastures, and woods.  They have all taken cover and we have checked on all of them several times to make sure they have enough food and water for the duration of the storm.  We are grateful for the buildings and ability to provide shelter for our animals during a storm.  As day one of the storm has stretched into another day, we made rounds again this morning to check on all of our animals and to check on the drainage of our land.  Thankfully, the animals are all doing well and the water is flowing rapidly across our land, into the ravines and ponds, and rushing off the back of the land down a slight incline that is a hidden blessing on our property.

Now that the second day of this never-ending rain has occurred, our family in Houston has been hit hard.  Thank goodness, my parents and brother are both in homes that are staying dry as of now, but The Outdoorsman’s entire family has now endured the flooding of their precious homes.  His brother and his sister have evacuated with their families to other locations and his parents are pulling out wet carpet and salvaging what they can during a break in the rain in which the water receded out of their house.  Many of our friends and family are experiencing flooding and most people are exhausted from non-stop rain, water, tornado threats, and emergency communications.   Please pray for a night of rest for our family and friends in Texas as many people spend the night in shelters or neighbor’s homes tonight.  During this time of great destruction across the state of Texas, please pray for the school children who are displaced due to flooding and other issues.  This beginning-of-the-school-year may be very stressful for them so please be extra patient and prayerful concerning them as they make adjustments in their living quarters and family life due to displacement.

To be honest, Harvey is absolutely one of the most horrible events to happen in Houston since I was born in 1965, but I am also seeing awesome things coming from the people of Houston, Texas.  The neighborly care and concern for one another.  The first-responders and regular citizens working together to save lives and property.  People sacrificing their own comfort to help others with dire needs.  We have hated watching the news from afar and knowing that our families are struggling to stay safe and dry.  We are so thankful we have been able to contact each family member individually and secure their location and safety.  Thank you, God, for that blessing.

Houston, my hometown for fifty years,  I know first-hand that you are literally filled to overflowing with extremely intelligent, hard-working, caring people.  Take care of one another.  Rest for a couple of days.  Regroup and rethink.  Then show the rest of the world what it takes to rebuild the city and, better yet, what it takes to rebuild one another.  The rest of us will be praying and watching.  You’ve got this.



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