Friday, May 15, 2015

First Cousin to a Tornado

In the late night hours of Monday, May 11 and the early morning of Tuesday, May 12, our RV park was hit by a storm.  It was not a full-fledged tornado, but there was some "family resemblance" to a twister.

From our safe shelter in a secure corner of the clubhouse, we could hear the frightening sounds of the tumult outside in the dark: winds reaching 80 miles per hour, driving torrents of rain, lightening  that lit up the sky like fireworks, and thunder claps that shook the windows around us!  We returned to our own trailer about 2 am when the intensity of the storm had passed,  but for several hours as we lay in our own bed, our rig shook like a cradle.

The next morning, on our usual morning walk, we were shocked at the extent of the damage visible within the park.

The park was fenced with 8 foot high sections of corrugated metal supported by 4 x 4 wooden posts embedded in concrete.  This was the view from the north fence line.  The wooden posts had broken off at ground level and become airborne projectiles as the metal fence sections blasted into near-by houses!

Houses were damaged by the flying debris: skirting blown away, windows broken or cracked, carports collapsed or torn off.  A friend's new truck was punctured by a flying fence post through the rear window of the cab.  The 4 x 4 came to rest on the dashboard!

The roofs of a number of houses were punctured by debris or damaged by the intensity of the winds.

The northside fence was spread hither and yon across the entire park as if pulled up and scattered by the mighty hand of Mother Nature!

Where the north facing fence was not flattened or blown away, it was damaged in dangerous ways.

There must have been some rotation in the winds because even the fence on the west side of the park suffered major damage.

Several of our beloved old shade trees were also brought low by the storm winds.  In some cases it was only large limbs that blew down so the main tree may be salvageable.  There were, however, a few big old trees that literally turned up their roots to the sky and are dying.

Despite the widespread destruction of property, we are all giving heartfelt thanks because no one was injured.  Several homes that were damaged were empty as their owners had already headed north for the summer.  A large tree came down on a lot that was empty of its usual inhabitants and their trailer. A 4 x 4 crashed through a roof, bedroom ceiling, and came to rest on the bed.  but the bed was empty because the man who usually sleeps there was staying at the hospital with his wife who had just had surgery!  Mother Nature sometimes gets vicious, but God is good!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Body Swap

Someone stole my body!  Or swapped it (more true!)
Because now it won't do all it used to do.

At 20 there were no wrinkles in my face.
But now, there they are, all over the place!

At 30 my hair was silky and brown.
Now it's gray and stiff, like a silver crown.

At 40 my legs biked 100 miles in one day.
Now they're weak if I walk too far away.

At 50 my back was strong and supple.
Now it hurts, and sometimes it causes me trouble!

At 60 my eyesight was good and clear.
But today sometimes, I can't see who's here!

At 70 my pace had begun to slow down,
With a painful smile and a crooked frown.

So, who stole -- or swapped -- my body of yore
And replaced it with this one I've not had before?

Father Time is the thief, and he has no excuse!
Such a parent should be jailed for child abuse!

A Mother's Day to remember

It started on Friday with a knock on our door.  It was the office staff delivering a box addressed to me and boldly labeled "FTD."  I tore it open, and inside was a beautiful bouquet of spring flowers

and a loving note from our younger son.

Then, on Saturday, the man who made me a mother took me to South Padre Island 
to spend the day on the beach.  

He knows that my favorite place in the world is at the seacoast 
so we spent the entire day walking on the beach, wading in the surf, 
watching the sea gulls and admiring the wind surfers.

Lots of families had the same idea, because the beach was very crowded.

It was sunny and hot, but a steady, strong wind kept it comfortable.  
We enjoyed the shade of a beachside cafe as we watched the pounding surf.

After dinner, as the shadows began to lengthen, 
it was time to leave our sandy get-away and head home.

What a delightful -- and memorable -- Mother's Day!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Our "vacation" from the usual

Everybody needs a vacation once in awhile; a change of pace; something different than the usual daily routine.  Our daily routine, we must admit, is pretty enjoyable: daily exercise walk, a little gardening or outside work, a daily siesta, visiting with friends, dancing two or three times a week, occasional symphony orchestra concerts and university theater plays, and lots of time for reading. But, since several doctors have delayed our summer travel schedule, we decided we needed a vacation!

We drove north for about two hours,

through the cactus, mesquite and brush of south Texas

to the small city of Falfurrias.

It is the county seat of Brooks County, Texas.  Just south of the city there is an Immigration Control Enforcement (ICE) checkpoint where all northbound vehicles must stop for questioning or search. Some residents of the area declare that there are more apprehensions of illegal immigrants there than at any other checkpoint along the U.S./Mexican border  But the town of Falfurrias was not our destination.

Just a mile or so north of the town, on the east side of Route 281, is the Falfurrias Church of the Brethren. That's where we would spend our "vacation."

We had visited there a few years ago.  Now, we were returning to feature the ministries of the little church on the on-line congregation for which we help provide some leadership. We arrived at the church a week early to see if we could be of any help in their ministries.

The congregation had been founded in 1928.  
The building was erected in the 1940s 
and space was added in 1962.

The large sanctuary is a reminder of the days when it was filled on Sunday mornings.  
The smaller group that gathers each Sunday morning now meets in a smaller, side room 
in order to be good stewards in their use of utilities.

But this logo is clearly displayed on the front wall of the church building which faces U.S. Route 281. It was the life perspective of one of the ancestors of the Church of the Brethren, and clearly describes the continuing purpose of this congregation.

The church-owned acreage around the building is farmed on shares by a neighbor.  But the fifteen acres surrounding the church building includes a variety of ministries.

The congregation owns 2 houses, which are occupied rent-free
by needy members of the church or community.

A healthy flock of chickens is kept by the resident of one of the church owned houses.

Eggs are gathered and sold to those who stop in response
to the sign in the front yard of the church: "Fresh Eggs for Sale."

The large yard surrounding the church building also has room to house a neighbor's goats!

Inside the church building, space no longer needed for activities of a larger congregation are filled with boxes of used clothes, sewing machines for mending them, shoes, and toys.  They are neatly sorted and packed in boxes which are delivered several times a year to Border Mission.  This mission is located in the Rio Grande Valley just a block or two from one of the bridges that connect Mexico and the U.S.  

The congregation is active in the local community food bank. They also serve with a cooperative effort of Falfurrias  churches to address social needs of their community and county, including the plight of illegal immigrants headed north along the route on which the church is located.

So, what did we do on our vacation at this active little congregation?

We mowed and trimmed the cemetery, under the wild olive tree.  I washed windows in the church building and Bruce helped with a building project.

We helped mow the LARGE lawn around the church building,

and trimmed around trees and out-buildings nearly overgrown with grass and weeds.

And all the time we were working, we could enjoy the lovely flowers and trees:

the esperanza (hope) tree

the Indian blanket blooms,

and the graceful, yellow-tipped branches of the retama tree.

After a week of gathering aching muscles, new friends, fresh insights into Texas history, and some very delicious Mexican food,  it was time to head south again, back "home" to real life!