HO HO HO Holiday Relief 2016

Having survived a devastating EF4 Tornado the evening after Christmas 2015 I find that I’ve learned a lot of things from being displaced from our home for 9 months. But what I’m writing about now is not about me or any losses we incurred.

In the months following a huge and deadly storm I’ve participated in a number of social media groups that have offered up support and resources for people who’ve suffered loss as a result of losing homes, personal belongings of every kind and just about every sense of safety and security that one might have.

These groups have pointed people to Relief Centers, Red Cross Offices, State Insurance Offices,  and a myriad of places for help with every possible need. People lost lives that warm and humid winter night in North Texas  (miraculously only 8 died). Of those lost they were all in vehicles traveling on the highway when this massive twister rumbled through south Garland headed northeast to Rowlett and beyond. The track went 13 miles with wind speeds up to 180 miles per hour.

With all of the loss that night there are items you wouldn’t normally think about losing at a time like this. You think food, clothing, furniture, cars, and personal belongings of every sort. But something lost because of being immediately following Christmas Day is peoples holiday decorations (both indoor and outdoor).  One big howl of the wind and your house is gone and everything in it is blow to parts unknown.

Having had great insurance and a very competent and trustworthy contractor to rebuild our home we feel especially blessed. Fortunately we only lost what little outdoor decorations we had. Our inside items (with the exception of the Christmas Tree damaged by the move and storage) didn’t sustain loss. So our tons of crates of decorations remain intact.

So as we are now back home I feel inclined to give back to our community that continues to suffer as a result of a fluke storm that changes many people’s worlds.

I am in the Christmas business 365 days a year as a buyer for a Lighting company. So Christmas lights and decorations are not a seasonal item for me. It is something I do year round. And you wouldn’t believe how many people will buy these products year round!

Currently I am soliciting the help of some of my vendor/suppliers for donations of Christmas lights, greenery and any other product that they are willing to send me. I’m also soliciting items from the local community as well via social media and other means. Then whatever we come up with we will assemble and distribute to those in need for this 2016 holiday season. We even have crews of men standing by ready to serve by installing displays as needed.

I heard a story last week of a lady who had just installed Christmas lights for the first time in a fairly new home. Her 2 year old son loved them. But they were all blown away and destroyed in a span of about one minute. She’s already told her son that they won’t be able to decorate their home this year. (oh, by the way her home was destroyed). They’ve since rebuilt but there have been plenty of expenses for every other imaginable thing besides holiday decorations.

Hearing stories like that propel me to action. Knowing people might not have such a normally festive time for lack of Christmas lights, presses me to do all I can to meet those needs. “The need is great but the supply must be greater”. I may capture that phrase as our motto in the project we are calling HoHoHo Holiday Relief 2016.

See our Facebook page for detailed donation and distribution locations and times. https://www.facebook.com/hohohoholidayrelief2016/

 

Progress is Slow – But it’s Still Progress

Finding your sea legs after something crazy as a tornado hitting your home is a difficult task. Being patient and being placed “on hold” is something I don’t’ do well. I manage my personal affairs with a “full hands on” for most things. Being dependent on other people and waiting for dominoes to fall does not come naturally for me.

We all hate insurance, until we need them – to pay off. The constant battle is this – Do I or don’t I trust the insurance company? Currently I do trust them. They said the right things. They seem to be on our side and in our corner.

Storm follow-up and repairs are slow, especially in such a hard hit are like North Texas. I am learning a great lesson that I’ve heard about before- That this is going to be a marathon not a foot race. We are taking a very LONG foot race. it will be about endurance and hanging in there. The word race will now be replaced with journey.

It has been an emotionally grueling 3 weeks since our world flipped over. Emotions change every day or two. It goes from shock to sad to mad to hurt, and then bits of each all over again. At least now I don’t take those big nose dives after visiting our home. The hurt is being replaced with “OK, let’s get this ball rolling and get it all done”.  If you don’t like simple auto damage claims, you’d not believe all of the elements of a catastrophe dwelling claim. I’m trying not to get overwhelmed by it all. So many decisions face us in the months ahead. But the alternative is homelessness! We are grateful for small things that we took for granted before.

We are on a quest to find joy in our journey. We’ll look back one day and know what we should have worried more about, and what we should have done differently. We hope we’ll be better people for this chapter. We can’t help but think there is some grander purpose in this all. We just know it.

Riding the Rails

The emotional roller coaster in the aftermath of devastation is quite the ride. The ride takes off with tons of adrenaline flowing that moves you to action as you take that first steep dive down the tracks. Then as you start up the next hill you get a bit concerned about how high the next drop might be .

Then after a few days of riding you are dizzy and downright tired of the ups and downs. The downhill falls seem to get steeper when they come. But pockets of adrenaline arrive to alieve some of your fears.

About a week in you realize that your life (all of it) will never be the quite the same. Planning for a life change and implementing that plan is quite different than being forced to change every single plan and thought you had about your future.

Yesterday was one of those days. It started out stressful at work with tons of things to do and not knowing where to start on them because they were all urgent. It was so overwhelming it made me want to just walk away. Then I found a happy place with earbuds in place with some soothing music that took me away. That’s when work started cranking out. At the crest of the ride I decided that I needed to go “home” at lunch to survey the mess to see what we still need to do in the mopping up process. That little visit sent me back to a bad place.

Life has its ups and downs regardless of the date or your station in life. Challenges that we all face can take us from contentment to worry and doubt, in short order.

As I reviewed my life (and not just the past 10 days) I was reminded of some words from Isaiah 54:10 that lifted me up.

“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.” NIV

That’s all I got today, and all I need.

Left Turns. Ever made one?

LEFT TURNS
Right turns when driving are fairly easy, aren’t they? Most states allow a right turn on red light, if no other traffic is coming. Some times there are arrows that allow right turns. But for the most part in America we could all agree that turning right is fairly simple.
Left turns however are another matter entirely. My most poignant remembrance of a left turn was when I was a little bit younger (OK, a lot younger!). I met regularly with two older men on Saturday mornings for coffee, encouragement and prayer. The route to our meeting place required a left turn at an intersection. One particular morning when at the signal light and turning left, I proceeded to make my turn at the end of the light’s cycle.
On the other side of the intersection another driver was coming through the intersection, also at the “end” of the cycle going straight. That morning we met without a handshake. It was a small disaster. The other driver T-Boned me on the passenger side of my car. I had my driver’s window down at the time and the impact flung my eyeglasses into the street and we run over later. The right side window exploded and some of the flying glass now resided in my face.
After the spinning stopped I surveyed the scene and realized my little car was done, Caput, totaled and basically a nice new U shape.
I made my meeting that day after a brief discussion with the other driver, the police, paramedics and a few other “concerned” citizens that were worried about us clearing the intersection. My meeting guys saw the blood and the no glasses on my face and said, “What the heck happened?” “I said, well I was just making a left turn, when………”
I survived that crash. My car didn’t. Had my pregnant wife been with me in the passenger seat that morning most likely she or my unborn son might not be with us today. It was that bad of a collision.
How can out life be changed so quickly and drastically with a simple left turn?
As I look back on that day and survey the many days of my life since that time, I can tell you I’ve had and seen many other “Left Turns” in my and countless other lives. Can you recall those times when your world changed in an instant? Was it a phone call? Was it a birth or death you witnessed? Was it coming home to an empty house unexpectedly? Or maybe it was that day you were called into the boss’s office for some bad news?
My bride and I were discussing just last night how many of our friends, co-workers and others we’ve known of the past couple of years who’ve had some drastic and even fatal left turns. Often without any warning, we’ve seen settled lives get toppled in an instant. Is it that we are just getting older and everyone around us is too, or does it seem that problems for all of us are mounting up like pending storms?
Regardless of why, we will ALL have LEFT turn(s) in our lives. It is just part of the human experience. How, oh how, do we prepare for such events and drastic changes? I think we can’t. We just have to live our lives in such a way that we keep our “bags packed” to some degree. Bags packed thinking also means we need a level of faith and trust in our creator God that He is the one that is ultimately in control of our lives. If you don’t believe this to be true, I surely wish you would consider seriously trusting Him for your own destiny. He’s the one whose set my life back on the road after many, many left turns. He is working out his will in our lives and HE is good ALL the time!