NovelSisters

watching, reading, and writing stories

Snow Day

Growing up in central Texas means you rarely have a snow day. And even when we get a snow day, it’s usually because of ice, not snow. In face what passes for snow is usually sleet, tiny round balls of ice that don’t stick together to make anything. It can be pretty to look at, but, well it’s not snow.

But last night we got a huge surprise. It wasn’t even freezing and snow started to fall from the sky. And this wasn’t sleet, this was flaky soft snow, some of it clumping together into extra big flakes. And it didn’t stop, it just kept falling and then started to accumulate on the ground and the cars. Anything hitting pavement just melted, but it was amazing to be in the middle of an actual snow storm and see it gathering on the trees and cars and grass. I can’t remember this ever happening before in my life.

I know some people live where it snows all the time, but for this Texas girl, last night and today were something special and something I want to praise God for. It was such a blessing for me to see His handiwork in the snow and laugh with joy as I tossed snowballs at family members and opened my mouth to catch a flake on my tongue. It is a special time that I don’t want to forget. So here are a few pictures from my snow adventure. I hope you enjoy them and take time to praise God for the little blessings He gives you today.

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Be Our Guest

I’ve seen Beauty and the Beast twice now, so the songs are getting stuck in my head. Sorry but this post is not about the movie. It was well done and I enjoyed it, but I want to talk about something else today.

It’s funny how the simple things in life can so easily be overlooked and underappreciated until you don’t have them anymore. My family is in the middle of a kitchen remodel so we do not have access to a stove, oven, dishwasher, or large sink. Our meals have consisted of take out, shakes, microwave meals, leftovers and whatever else we can scrounge up.

Then yesterday, we were invited to the home of one of our church friends for a meal. I didn’t realize how much I had missed a good home cooked meal until I sat down at their kitchen table. It reminded me of all those times I came home from college for the weekend and finally had my Mom’s home cooked dinners instead of cafeteria food. Everything just tasted better. There was breaded fish, sliced potatoes, green beans, a huge fresh salad, roasted chicken, and fruits, veggies and even a blueberry crumble cake for dessert. Everything just looked, smelled and tasted so good. With the absence of our own home cooked meals at our house, this one felt even more special and it made me realize something.

God emphasizes hospitality for a reason. Our culture has made this gift or courtesy less important than it should be. Welcoming someone into your home, feeding them and spending time to get to know them better shows such value and care. I really felt blessed after our meal together and it’s making me excited to get to do the same thing for others once our kitchen is done.

So here’s your challenge for the day, think of someone that you can share a meal with. If you can’t actually host, then go out to lunch or dinner. But if you can open up your home, do it. You might be surprised with how meaningful it can be. But one word of caution because I’ve found myself feeling this way before: Don’t stress too much about how the house looks or if everything is perfect. It’s okay to clean up for guests but keep your focus on them, not on the impression you’re making.

Well that’s my short post for the day, hope y’all have a great week!

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When Life Gives You Lemons… or a Flat Tire

So this past weekend I finally made a trip to Uvalde, TX to see some of my good friends and their baby. It was a lot of fun, but on my way home, something unexpected happened. I was driving on Highway 90 East towards San Antonio when suddenly everything got really loud in my car. At first I thought the road was just bumpy, maybe made of a different kind of asphalt or something, but it was really loud and then it hit me: Something is wrong with my car. So I slowed down, got into the right lane, pulled off onto the shoulder of the road, and put on my hazard lights. When I finally got a look at my tires, this is what I found.

This was not what I had planned on, but there was nothing to be done but start fixing the problem. I called my mom first, just to help calm myself down. Then I called Roadside Assistance and checked to make sure I had a spare tire. It was very low on air, but it was usable. Unfortunately my jack was completely rusted. Somehow water had gotten in where it was stored and I couldn’t even make it budge and I highly doubted it would work even if I could get it out. I then contented myself to sit in the car and wait for a call back from Roadside Assistance. But when they called, partway through our conversation, a knock sounded on my car window.

A lady had seen me pulled over and she had gone out of her way to stop and see if I needed help changing the tire. She had a jack that wasn’t rusted and experience with changing a tire. So between the two of us, we got the car in a safer position and started lifting it off the ground. But when we tried loosening the bolts on the tire, one of them wouldn’t budge. But God provided again and two young men strode over to help us out. They quickly got the bolts loosened and replaced the tire. I felt so blessed and cared for by these strangers on the road. It reminded me that there are people out there who care, who don’t mind interrupting their day to help someone out and lend a hand.

They even told me the closest place I could go to refill my spare tire with air. So after calling to cancel the Roadside Assistance, I slowly drove over to the nearby gas station. The ladies and young man working there were very helpful too. I had to buy a tire gauge to check the pressure. And I had to call my Dad to ask what the pressure should be in a tire. He also suggested I go to Discount Tire to see if they could replace my tire.

So the next few hours were spent at a shopping area with a Discount Tire and several shops and restaurants. I got to eat lunch and get some help with my car. I even met an older gentleman who was also waiting in Discount Tire and we talked about where we were from and how we ended up there. He and his daughter had also had a blowout that day. But through the whole experience I felt at peace and that all I had to do was the next thing and God would take care of me. And it helped extremely to have perfect strangers come to my rescue on the road. It made me want to start looking out for other people I could also help out that day.

I know there is still a lot of tension in our country about politics and policy changes. But my experience with the flat tire reminded me that we are not alone. If we rely on God and try to help each other out and look out for each other, we’ll be okay. So I’m going to try to keep a look out for people that could use a hand and I hope you do too.

Have a wonderful week!

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Why Go?

I felt like writing about this and giving my audience a heads up about my upcoming absence from blogging. In 12 days I will be heading off to Mozambique for a 2 week mission trip. This past week I was telling some friends about the trip and one asked me why I had decided to go. I gave her a short answer, but I thought it was a great question and deserved a more involved answer, so here it is.

Image Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mozambique_in_Africa_(-mini_map_-rivers).svg

Why I am Going to Mozambique.

First off, there are a lot of passages in the Bible where God tells us to go, and says He is sending us to proclaim His word, to share the gospel, and to make disciples. I think there’s something about “going” that is important. It may not always be thousands of miles away, it could just be next door, but God tells us so often to “go” that it must be important. So part of my saying yes to a short term mission trip is because I want to be saying yes to God’s command to go. Here are a few of my favorite verses about going:

“And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” Isaiah 6:8

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” Matthew 28:19

“Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.'” John 20:21

Secondly, I’ve gotten to experience several short term mission trips in the past and I don’t want to miss out. As I’ve grown up in my church I’ve gotten to be a part of 4 different mission trips. It’s been amazing to see God show up and do incredible things when you’re surrounded by people trying to serve God and listen for His calling and just stay focused on Him. From construction projects, to running some kind of kids club, or carrying rocks to sharing the gospel, mission trips have a large range of adventures. And I’ve found that even when we make plans for what we will do in a foreign country, the plans often get changed… multiple times. But it’s a joy to be a part of something lasting; something God is doing.

And one time when I was in college, I was invited to go on a short term mission trip over Spring Break and I thought I was too busy, so I said no. And afterward I regretted it. I heard some of the stories of what God did on the trip, but I wasn’t a part of it and it felt like I had missed out on something good. So now when there are opportunities for me to go, I don’t want to say no.

And lastly, I’m going because I’m available. Right now, I am single. No spouse, no kids, and my job is fairly flexible. I still have good insurance for another year and I’m in good health. I don’t know how long this will last. I may have to change jobs, or I may get married and have kids which brings many more responsibilities. But right now, I’m in a place where I can go. So why wait? At least that’s what it seemed like God was telling me.

And so I’m going because God commanded us to go, because I don’t want to miss out, and because I am ready and available. It’s such a blessing to be a part of God’s mission, whether here or in another country and I can’t wait to be able to share all that I learn and see on this blog when I get back.

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What I’m Thankful For #2

Gourds, Fall, Autumn, Orange, Decoration, Halloween

Image Source: https://pixabay.com/en/gourds-fall-autumn-orange-949112/

As you might have seen in a previous post, I am trying to remind myself to be thankful this month. It probably helps that in church yesterday we talked about being grateful and how important it is.

So today I am grateful for my family and friends. I don’t want to sound corny when I say this, I think most people are thankful for the close relationships they enjoy with other people, it’s part of being human. But I really am grateful for the people I’ve gotten to know.

You see, I’ve grown up in the same city, and the only times I moved was when I was 2 years old, and briefly for college. But I came home to visit so often, it was like I never left. So I really feel a deep connection for the people around me because a lot of them I really have known for over a decade.

These lasting relationships are a real blessing to me, it reminds me that just because some people move on, and our friendship only lasts for a couple of months or years, there will always be people that don’t move away, and even the people that do leave can be visited and reconnected with.

I guess the whole reason I’m thinking of this is because my brother just had a couples shower for his wedding in December and seeing all the old and new family friends at the shower brought on a wave of gratitude. There are so many people that love me and my family, and it encourages me to know they’ll be there for us in the happy moments of life, and the hard ones.

And I’m thankful for my family, because man we’ve been through a lot together and we’re still close. We can even fit 11 people in one house (8 of which are sharing 1 bathroom) and we still love each other. That’s a blessing and I’m thankful for it.

So in honor of my family and friends, I will share a short story I wrote about my childhood. Some of the details may be fabricated, but in essence the story is true.

Enjoy!

Barton Creek

“Are y’all ready to go?” Dad called from the front door.

“I’m ready!” I said happily. I had just changed into blue jeans, a red t-shirt with the logo of some obscure camp stitched across it.

Dad looked back into the house, not seeing anyone else yet.

“I think Mom’s in the bathroom.”

Dad nodded and headed inside to see if he could help make the preparation process go faster for anyone.

I sat on the front porch step and watched bees buzzing around our rosebush. It was an early summer afternoon, with large cumulus clouds spread across the vast Texas sky. A blue jay hopped from one branch on our massive ash tree to the next.

My Dad never liked the ash trees in our front yard. He said the neighborhood only planted them so there would be big nice looking trees in a short amount of time, but they didn’t live long, and their roots grew close to the surface, so unless you had covered them while they were young, it looked like an anaconda was living in your lawn.

I stared up at the tree, it might not be the best kind of tree, but I loved the shade it gave in the summertime, its branches spread perfectly, drooping slightly to bring the maximum amount of sun blockage. The only downside in my opinion was the fall, when thousands of pointy seeds fell from its branches along with the leaves. Those pokey seeds got stuck on everything and occasionally would break the skin, if you stepped on them barefoot.

The door opened behind me and I turned to see the rest of the family ready for our outing. Everyone had tennis shoes and long pants for the journey into the woods.

“Alright, let’s go!” Dad said enthusiastically. He had this tendency to get extremely enthusiastic about something in a funny way, like he was trying to entertain us with his zeal.

We all started marching down the sidewalk, till we reached the small street. We turned left and headed towards the dead end, with large reflective signs that stated “Private Property,” and “No Admittance,” and other such statements of discouragement. We ignored the signs as always, I think they had been left up from a time when the land actually belonged to someone. Now it was like a private trail for our neighborhood’s residents.

“Remember when we filmed Fat Man here?” Jonny said excitedly. He was referring to a home movie we had made parodying Batman. Instead we had made the hero Fat Man and had stuffed pillows into our neighbor’s shirt to make him chubbier. One of the scenes in the movie had Fat Man battling a ‘robot’ played by another neighbor, in the woods.

I laughed, “Oh yeah, I remember that. Remember that Drew wasn’t wearing his shoes.”

“Yeah, that was funny,” Jonny said.

We continued on, passing fields of cactus and tall amber grasses. A few yellow flowers poked out of the undergrowth. Then we ventured into shaded areas where the cedar trees grew close together and formed a canopy over the trail. A few side trails appeared, but we continued down the main one headed for the creek, as we had so many times before.

Jonny came across a large stick a few feet off the trail and decided right away that he needed a walking stick. He marched along for several minutes like a he was Louis or Clark on a grand expedition, but he soon got bored with the stick and decided he’d much rather have the use of his hands for climbing. He left it on the side of the trail, for yet another adventurer to find and use.

We stopped for a couple of minutes at a short tree that was perfect for climbing. The two boys scurried up into the branches and Mom took pictures. I picked a few yellow flowers instead and put them in my hair.

“Y’all ready to keep going?” Dad asked a little impatiently. He was ready to see the river, and maybe stick his feet in the cool water.

The boys leapt out of the branches, landing with a thud into the soft earth.

We turned and continued deeper into the woods, finally after several minutes we came to a stop at a crossroads. One trail wove down a gentler slope to the creek bed, the other rose to the crest of a hill and gave a nice view of the sloping landscape before plummeting down a steep drop to the bottom. Both ended in the same place, so either could be taken.

“So which trail do we want to take?” Dad asked.

“Mountain Goat Trail!” Jonny and I shouted together.

As you might have guessed, this was the steeper trail. We swerved to the right and walked up an incline to the lookout point at the top of the hill. The tops of cedar trees could be seen in any direction. The rolling slopes of the Hill Country looked like a giant green ocean that had been frozen in time, in the middle of a heavy storm.

After staring out at the countryside, we continued down the steep drop. It wasn’t so much like a cliff, more like a giant staircase with some steep places where you needed to be a little more careful. The trail disappeared as well, the large rocky “steps” were the only way down, and no matter how far to the right or left you went, as long as you went down, you would eventually end up hitting the other trail.

I hopped down the rocks, pretending I was actually a mountain goat. My shoes gripped the rocks easily and I felt like I belonged here.

Jonny and Alicia joined me in jumping around as we headed down the steep trail.

Mom and Dad took things a little slower, making sure not to fall.

As we gathered on the intersecting trail, we stopped to stare down the steep drop. This drop was more like a cliff and ended in a little gully where water from further up the hill would rush down towards the creek. No one would go down there unless they were crazy.

While I stared down at the deep drop, my ears picked up a faint sound. “Shh, listen,” I commanded.

The family stopped talking and we all stood still. Faintly, through the trees, we heard the soft roar of the creek.

I smiled eagerly, “I can hear it!”

Our steps quickened as we neared the bottom of the hillside. It had rained a week before and the water was going to be high. As we neared the end of the trail, the sound grew to a loud swooshing sound.

Finally I caught a glimpse of the water. It looked grey and murky, clothed with a bubbly white shawl. “There it is! There it is!” I said excitedly.

“Whoa it’s huge!” Jonny said.

We all scampered down for a closer look, dodging the wreckage the waters had left in its rush to the creek: branches, leaves, even an old shoe. All of a sudden we were no longer on a soft dirt trail, but on white rocks, rubbed smooth by the water’s touch. We came to a stop at the water’s edge and stood in awe of the powerful rapids before us.

Water careened over the stones, and bubbled as it collided with trapped logs. The roar wasn’t deafening but if forced us to increase the volume of our voice to be heard.

Alicia grabbed my hand and stared amazedly at the mighty river before her.

Brian picked up a small stone and tried skipping it across the water; it bounced once then disappeared into the current.

Jonny took up the game right away, though his rocks didn’t bounce and instead he began to see how big of a splash he could make.

After several minutes, we decided to follow the creek downstream and do some exploring. There was another pathway along the water’s edge, so we got in a single file line and began hiking once more on a worn dirt path. As we journeyed the creek widened and slowed to a gentler pace. The roar of the rapids died down and was replaced by the sounds of calling birds and insects. We passed a rope swing that could be used to jump into the river and an odd tree with a cactus growing on top of its mossy bark.

Twenty minutes passed before we decided to take a break. We’d never hiked this far before and we were all tired. Fifty feet off the trail we found what looked like a natural Bathtub; the creek emptied into a little inlet that was separated from the rest of the water by a few large rocks.

We took off our shoes and got our feet wet, walking from stone to stone and then splashing into the cold clear water.

Mom took out some snacks and drinks for the family. She was always prepared for hungry kids. I guess with having four kids she learned pretty quick that having food on hand was a necessity.

We sat back with our crackers and Capri Suns and talked about our adventure. It wasn’t long before we decided to head home, it had been a long walk, especially for Alicia who wanted to be carried now, and the sun was getting closer to setting. But it had been a good day, and even though I’ve been on many journeys to Barton Creek since then, I’ll still always remember that special day.

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Lessons from Haiti: A Day of Blessings

It’s a good thing I’m only a few days away from finishing this series on my mission trip to Haiti. It’s only been a few weeks, but details are starting to disappear from my memory. So let’s go on to the last work day of the trip.

Day 7: A Day of Blessings

cross finished frandy Peter marc
Even though this was the last “work” day, we actually had a lot of time for relationship building and meaningful conversations which resulted in a lot of blessings. In the morning we were able to hear the story of Jacob’s Well camp from the missionary Gerson. We also went hiking up the mountain and saw a nice view of the valley. I know there were a few work projects going on during the day. I was still finishing up the painting of the Ciel FM radio logo. It was quite entertaining to hear the Haitians in the camp say “Ciel FM” every time they walked by. But the one thing I will always remember from this day is our conversations with Frandy, Peter Marc, and Gerson. I’ll start with Frandy.

Frandy was an interpreter for us during the week. He was more involved with the fence project than my painting project, but we had still gotten to know each other fairly well since he is also an artist. In fact, the conversation I’m talking about happened while he was showing off his artwork for us to buy. As people were picking out bracelets and paintings or t-shirts to purchase, Frandy began to tell us how blessed and encouraged he was by our presence. We were surprised and encouraged by his comment and asked if he told every group the same thing. He said no. I was surprised. As we conversed further, we decided that because some of the other groups were quite large, it was harder to build close, encouraging relationships. But it was good to know that our group had not been a burden to our interpreter, but an encouragement. Most of us even friended him on facebook once we got home.

It was such a blessing to me, to know that our group had been a blessing to Frandy and that he wanted us to know that. Our next conversation, that I don’t want to forget, is with Peter Marc.

Throughout the week we had been sharing our testimonies with each other, but on this evening, we invited Peter Mark to join us and share with us his testimony. It was such a blessing for me to hear how God was working in his life and how he had chosen to follow God. He simplified the Christian walk so well, he simply follows God where he leads, whether that’s moving from Porta Prince to Limbe, or telling his congregation about the freedom in Christ. He expressed the gospel so clearly. Peter Marc said people ask him “why are you so happy, and how can I be free from spiritual oppression too?” Peter Marc’s only answer is Jesus.

Peter Marc’s testimony was a real encouragement to me. He reminded me that my life isn’t that complicated. Just like Peter Marc; my purpose, my mission, my meaning in life comes from simply following Jesus.

Lastly, I wanted to share a story that Gerson told our group. Even though this conversation happened in the morning, I wanted to share it last, because it’s my favorite story. This is the story of the cross at Jacob’s Well camp. When Gerson wanted to put a cross on the hill beside the camp, God provided by having the whole community help him take the heavy cross to the top of a hill. And once it was standing up there, people from the community began to ask him, “What does this white cross mean?” or “What does it symbolize?” You see, in the Haiti culture there are a few different crosses: the black voodoo cross, and the Catholic cross with Jesus’s dead body hanging on it. Both of these crosses symbolize oppression and slavery to the people. But Gerson told the people that this simple white cross meant freedom.

In the end, this day was very encouraging to me as a believer. It showed me that there are hidden blessings in everyday conversations and that no matter if I’m in America, Haiti, or somewhere else; the gospel doesn’t change. It is declaring the good news that knowing Jesus brings freedom.

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