Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage . . . They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.
~Psalm 84:5

Friday, September 23, 2005

Aqui Estoy

Made it to Waco in 8.5 hours....will update more tomorrow....keep praying....

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Hurricane Prep

Hurricane Rita Shopping List:
(just the basics, cause the pay check hasn't been deposited yet.)
-flashlight (can't find any since we moved)
-canned food
-motor oil (stuck w/ Dad's car this week, and it has a slight leak)

But what I really bought when I made it to HEB two hours ago:
-Diet Coke
-wine (they were out of water, so I thought, 'What the heck!')
-ice cream (I had a craving)
-cereal (There's a whole half-gallon of milk in the fridge, and it's up to me to drink it all. Besides, it's a good hurricane food)
-candy corn (I actually need it for work tomorrow)

And that about tops off the items bought during my hurricane emergency shopping trip. Sad, I know.

I nixed the canned food 'cause I remembered that we had a few cans of tuna in the pantry . . . I think . . .

I nixed the batteries and flashlight because there were TONS of people in the store and I didn't feel like hunting through the store. I have plenty of lighters, matches, and candles . . . somewhere . . .

I nixed the water because there was no water and I didn't feel like waiting in line to get water off the 8:30 HEB supply truck (a truck which nearly ran me over as I was leaving the store! Seriously! It freaked me out!) Besides, I have tons of bottles around I can fill w/ our fridge's filtered water.

Talked to Mom this evening and she told me to fill the bathtub w/ water. I think she's crazy, but I may have to do it just to appease her. She says if we lose water power then we have to use the water in the tub to flush the toilet. Whatever.

It's obvious that people in the area are starting to worry/panic about this hurricane. I feel kind of whatever about it. It was strange going to the store and seeing shelves completely empty. They were so empty, I had no clue what items they contained just hours earlier.

I'm still planning to head to Waco. That is if I don't have to work. But I have a feeling HISD will cancel classes Thursday and Friday; many area school districts are closing tomorrow through Friday. So, if HISD closes, I'm hoping our school will close (since it's an HISD charter school they don't HAVE to close, and the fact that they get their money based on how many days they're open doesn't help).

So that's the 4-1-1. I'll keep ya posted.

Update, 10:30p.m.: My Uncle Mark (Blo, to you Thinklingers) just called and invited me to stay w/ them. I may just do that. I want to go to Waco 'cause I won't be able to go until October and I'd like to see my nephews, niece, and old friends. But, it would be nice just to chill at Mark's house. I wouldn't have to worry about fighting traffic, spending a hundred dollars on gas (seriously), and packing to leave town. We'll see. Ok, now it's past my bed time. Good night!


(I thought of titling this post "I Stand Amazed," but I thought Nah, no need to plagiarize one of my favorite Dennis Jernigan songs... :D)

This evening, I was actually visited by a church. Finally. After months of filling out visitor's cards and getting nothing more than direct mailouts, I got real contact from live people.

OK, so it was from ladies who were old enough to be my parents, and they tried to witness to me, but hey, it was a start. :D They were from a large Baptist church here in town that I visited Sunday night, and I wasn't really comfortable in their worship service because the atmosphere seemed sort of stiff. But hopefully I was wrong. I decided that I would give them a chance if they actually called me.

So I'm giving them a chance. I emphasized that I would like to look into their singles ministry.

Well, that was my excitement for the evening. :D I was really beginning to wonder about a serious apathy problem in the church at large... Just as long as I can sit in a pew on Sundays without being ignored, I'll be happy.

Wow. What a weird goal...

Monday, September 19, 2005

Pending Hurricane

According to the Houston Chronicle:
. . . Rita . . . is a tropical storm now but is expected to strengthen into a hurricane this afternoon. By the time it hits the Gulf Coast on Saturday morning, it is likely to be a Category 3 hurricane.
"It could hit anywhere in the window of Brownsville and New Orleans,” said Lance Wood, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. "The Houston area is in the center of that window."

Well that's just great! The week I'm home alone a hurricane is projected to hit our area. It's a good thing I get paid tomorrow. I can go out and buy some bottled water and flashlights and batteries and whatever else you need when a hurricane hits. Or, I could just skip out on work Friday and head north to Waco. I like that plan better. I'm suppose to work Saturday, but I'm thinking if a hurricane is coming we might not have to go in. But you never know with my school!

I'll keep ya'll posted.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Wal-Mart boycott update

At first, I was just ticked off at their lousy customer service. But I think I've actually managed to successfully go a little over 3 months straight boycotting Wal-Mart. (See the blog entry dated June 7).

Again, not that it's a horrible store. I understand they're very involved in local communities. It's just that * I * personally can't stand shopping there. And I'm here to testify that yes, there IS life without Wal-Mart. :D

I've been frequenting Target quite often. They have some nifty deals. And in my neck of the woods, what's really convenient is that it's located in a shopping center next to HEB, so sometimes their deals are competitive to HEB.

So between Target and HEB, and also Dollar General, and not to mention eBay (for online bargains), I am one happy consumer who can lead a perfectly normal life without having to ever set foot inside Wal-Mart. (That is, except for the occasional social call.)

I still use my Sam's card, though. And I may visit to purchase some music downloads someday. We'll see.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Quote of the day

From an email I just received from one of my friends in England; an email that contained more than one expletive, btw.

Ps I love God how bout you?? Reading the message has made me feel better about Jesus. He was a bad ass.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Bias in the media

In the past, I've heard lots of complaints (mainly from Christians) about the media being biased. Meaning the ideas they communicate tend to be a bit skewed, reporting information that makes some people or situations look bad. Or just overall improperly balanced.

If you had to categorize me (and I hate being categorized :>), you'd probably end up putting me in the conservative-religious-right category. But I try to keep a healthy open mind whenever it seems appropriate. So usually it didn't seem fair to me to issue a blanket judgment saying that the media were biased. Even whenever a public figure in the conservative-religious-right category was presented in an unflattering light. Journalism is supposed to be objective, right? Perhaps it was just a misunderstanding.

But now that I work at a newspaper, I've just about completely changed my mind about the whole thing.

I'm here to testify first-hand that the media ARE biased -- thoroughly and totally biased!!! Not necessarily because of any agendas, but because of another enemy that gets less attention than it should: the DEADLINE.

I am thoroughly and totally convinced that deadlines can successfully suck any type of objectivity out of journalism. It takes a lot of time and careful, thoughtful planning to convey information objectively! (Just ask anyone who's ever worked as a manager anywhere.) But if you've got deadlines breathing down your neck, the clock is ticking and you've got no choice but to go with your gut reaction most of the time. If you're personally biased about something, I really think it will come out in your work sooner or later.

We're shorthanded at work right now. Part of my job is to write headlines. I've been so busy that I can barely even REMEMBER at the moment what was included in those headlines... And tomorrow those hastily written headlines are going to tell the entire town what is going on in the world. To me, that is a somewhat scary thought. Especially now, when there's SO much going on in the world.

And yet...

Somehow I'm comforted in the fact that it's just a newspaper. I don't intend any disrespect for the publication, but really... After the paper gets read tomorrow, our dog is gonna go on it.

Just a fact of life. :D

Friday, September 09, 2005

A Deeper Impact

Even though I've watched the news coverage over the past 12 days, I'm still blown away by pictures like this.

Or this

A few days ago, HISD began enrolling evacuees into their schools. I thought I would like to have one in my class, but figured it wouldn't happen since I have a full class and we're a slightly obscure charter school. So needless to say, I was surprised when Ms. Williams, our school's middle school's assistant principal, arrived at our campus yesterday and brought her three-year-old nephew to me. He and 15 other family members are New Orleans evacuees staying with Ms. Williams and her husband. My heart immediately melted when I met little Justin. He is the sweetest thing! And I can only imagine what he has witnessed over the past two weeks.

I don't know the whole story, but I do know that when the hurricane hit they had evacuated to the Convention Center. Soon they were told to move to the Superdome, but after they arrived there they were sent back to the Convention Center. I remember hearing the stories on Fox News about the people arriving and waiting in line to get into the Superdome Monday night and Tuesday morning. But then the Superdome was evacuated shortly after they arrived. I also remember seeing the first report about the people at the Convention Center on CNN. I was horrified - people waiting days for help to arrive, suffering through the heat outside because it was too dangerous to stay inside. I vividly remember seeing video footage of families huddled together, suffering together, protecting each other. And now I have little Justin in my class. Little Justin, whose 9-month pregnant mother* carried him through waist deep water from the devastation of the Superdome

to the devastation of the Convention Center.

I can imagine Justin sitting with his mother, waiting for help to come...much like this woman and her child...

Justin and his whole family made it to Houston safe and sound last Thursday. They were somehow transported to Houston in a van, with only the clothes on their back and an extra change of clothes, and are being taken care of by Ms. Williams and her husband. But there are NINETEEN of them. The Williams can only do so much.

There are THOUSANDS of stories like this one, I know. And even though I heard the stories and saw the pictures, meeting little Justin has impacted me deeper than anything else.

I've been praying and asking God to help me be the hands and feet of Jesus to those who are suffering. I never expected Him to answer my prayer in this way, but I am honored to have this opportunity.

Let me know if you're also interested in supporting, praying for, and loving this family.

*Justin's mother went into labor and delivered a healthy baby boy, Joseph Williams Jr., Friday morning, the day after they all arrived in Houston.

All the above photos from photo essays

More thoughts on Katrina

Wow, it's neat how the body of Christ works. :) Here's a link to a Last Days Ministries site where Melody Green (widow of Keith Green) listed prayer points for the hurricane just before landfall. Also, if you'd like to donate for hurricane relief via LDM, follow the link to their home page.

This isn't the first prophetic-type stuff I've heard about Katrina (God showing people His perspective on events before they happened). He definitely knew this was coming (nothing new under the sun), I'm sure His heart is broken over the hurting people, & I'm sure He's got great plans for restoration & showing His glory.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Crazy Life

I know I've been quiet the past few weeks/month. It hasn't been intentional, believe me. Life has been CRAZY!

Never ever would I have thought I would be waking up at 5am. 5AM, PEOPLE!!!! Sleeping in for me (during the week) is waking up at 5:30; over-sleeping is waking up at 5:45. ?!?! Mind-boggling, I know. But such is my life.

This year of teaching has been the hardest thing I've ever done. I know that's a cliche, but it's true! I feel the pressure even more because my certification depends on how this year goes. Talk about stress. (sarcasm)It gets better(/sarcasm):

My school (which I'll call EEA) is an HISD charter school and the way it's run is ridiculous. For starters, I didn't have all the furniture I needed when school started - no bookshelves for my room, no teacher's desk, not even a chair for each child in class. They hadn't delivered our tables for the lunch room, so we had to eat in the classroom the first two weeks. Since the floors weren't properly cleaned, we got ants. So you can imagine what it was like for me, trying to get 22 3-year-olds to eat their lunch, even though half of them didn't have chairs. Then they would much rather look at all the ants than eat.

That leads to another rant - I have no teacher's aide! Like I said, there are 22 3-year-olds and ME. PLUS, the children arrive at our main campus in southwest Houston and then we're all bussed downtown to our school (something I didn't find out until after I signed the contract). Since there are no aides, we have to go to the first campus and ride the buses w/ the kids, leaving our cars behind. Since we ride to school w/ the kids we have no time to prep our room before or after school. That makes for some very creative mornings. The no aide thing also means we don't get breaks or a planning period. Thankfully the kids still nap, so that's our time to prep, eat and use the bathroom. At this point, once the kids fall alseep (usually around 1) we let them sleep until the buses arrive so we can leave (around 2:45). And that's what we'll keep doing until they say we can't.

There are 7 teachers and classes of 3-year-olds at our location. We have two administrators at the school as well. So nine staff total. The good thing is I get along well with my coworkers. The two I'm closest to are very strong Christians as well, so that's encouraging to have. What's also good is we're away from the main campus and all the crap that happens there. Our campus supervisor is laid back and tries to help us when she can. Of course we need TONS more help, but that's something we can probably only dream about. I'm not expecting things to change anytime soon.

I'll end my rant by explaining that all but three of my kids are Spanish speakers. So I try my best to communicate in my Spanglish, but there's still a lot that doesn't get translated. Not being able to communicate w/ some of the parents is the most frustrating.

But I'm getting used to my situation. I know I can't change it, so I'm going to try to make the best of it. That whole be faithful in the little thing. It's hard. *sigh*

My kids are still getting used to me and I'm getting used to them, but things are tons better. We're still working on staying in line, though. Especially when we arrive at the school in the afternoon. It's hard because a lot of parents are there already, waiting 'til 4 so they can get their children. So they stand around the corner and watch us get off and walk in. It's so frustrating because the kids want to turn and look at them rather than pay attention to where we're going so they can stay w/ the class. So half my kids are trying to walk into the building and the other half are outside waving at parents. Oh so frustrating. I don't blame the kids (they're only 3!); it's the parents that frustrate me sometimes.

Ok, no more griping. Sorry.

As you can so obviously read, life is CRAZY now. I need all the prayer I can get!

Sesame Street saved

Good news so far! The school district in Odessa voted recently (sorry my news is late) to hand over its PBS station to community members who banded together to form a non-profit organization. You can read about it in the August 31st edition of my local paper.

Also, one of our editors wrote an interesting editorial story in our August 21st edition, talking about how there ain't enough dough to go around for all the arts organizations smack-dab in the middle of the oil patch.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Disjointed thoughts

The devastation left by hurricane Katrina is unbelievable. I just read that the disaster area is as big as all of Great Britain. Unbelievable.

I listen to KSBJ every morning on my way to work, and it's been so encouraging to hear about what is being done and how churches have opened their doors and their hearts. It pulls at my heart and makes me want to do something . . . anything. So it's been frustrating this week, knowing I won't get a paycheck until next week and having to work 12 hours every single day. But such is my life from now until at least next June.

But I am so proud that I live and work in Houston. This really is an amazing city that has drawn together to support and sustain tens of thousands of evacuees. Amazing.

Over the past few days I've seen tons of news footage that stirs a flurry of emotions - grief for those suffering and lost, anger at those politicizing this tragedy, relief for those saved and reunited with loved ones, and thankfulness for those banning together to help each other.

One such story was featured on On the Record with Greta Van Susteren. Jabbar, a young man from New Orleans who looked about 18 years-old, went into a school yard and took a school bus after the hurricane hit. He then went around and picked people up from the side of the road. Although he had never driven a bus in his life, he drove about 80 people from New Orleans to Houston in 8 hours. They made three stops for gas, and made their way to the Astrodome because they heard on the radio that's where people were being evacuated to. Hearing Jabbar tell his story was encouraging and even comical at times.

Here's another heart-warming story: An older couple living in Mississippi was interviewed on a news program last night. They're in their late 60's and retired. Their house was destroyed during the hurricane. As they stood outside what was left of their home, the husband explained that they had lost everything and that he had never imagined that they would have to start all over at their age. The wife looked up at him and said, no we didn't lose everything; we still have each other. He put his arm around her and said, yes, we still have each other.

How sweet is that???

It's easy to get overwhelmed by all that's happening. So my suggestion is to pray. Pray for the tens of thousands that are now homeless. Pray for those who are still suffering because of lack of food and water. Pray for those who have lost loved ones and for the families that have been separated. Pray for those waiting to be evacuated. Pray for those organizing evacuations, as well as rescue and relief efforts. Pray about what you can specifically do to help.

Like I mentioned, the hunt for someone to blame is really starting to anger me; it's time for people to stop pointing fingers and DO SOMETHING. Our country is divided enough as it is, and instead of drawing us closer together, this tragedy is causing a deeper rift. I was reading a blog earlier (which I won't even grace with a link) that essentially said since the states devastated are red states, they should be left alone to suffer. How stupid and heartless can people be?! Another guy said he saw a woman on the side of the road, standing outside her car, clutching her baby. He assumed she had run out of gas and slowed down to stop to help when he saw the W on the back of her car. So instead of stopping he sped up and drove away! He had the audacity to say that since she was stupid enough to vote for Bush she should wait on the side of the road for him to come and help her. What the- ?!?! I don't get how one's political standing should keep them from receiving help when they need it. Or how one can refuse help because of another's political views. What's wrong with people???

These are just a portion of my disjointed thoughts. There are plenty more where these came from, but my bed beacons. Until tomorrow . . .
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