Isla Blanca – Storms

We often think of a vacation on the beach as a place of resting, not testing.
Yet, when the storms roll in, the vacation definitely becomes an enormous test.

Before the Storm

We recently took the camper down to South Padre Island, Isla Blanca, for a week. I had never been there before and it had been a few decades or more for Jon’s only visit, so when Jon’s uncle mentioned he was going, we invited ourselves along. We have heard how beautiful South Padre is and were excited to check it out and have some fun in the sun, surf and sand.

The trip would be an excellent “shakedown cruise” for the new camper. We had taken it out once right after we bought it, but only to Canyon Lake . Its maiden voyage, however, had been an adventure, given the severe storm with small hail that rolled through in the evening.

While the forecast called for some rain across much of Central and South Texas during the week, with the cold season past we weren’t worried about possible freezing temperatures, and it was a month from the start of hurricane season. So, no worries. Right?

The trip down was uneventful, which we appreciategiven the challenges we had encountered with the previous camper. Isla Blanca and the campground were nice, albeit a bit windswept and hazy, but the choppy water reflected back the grey clouds above. The forecast still held rain, although nothing to get excited about.

When you describe your vacation by saying, “Well, other than the tornado on the first night, and the tornado on the last night, the weather was quite lovely.”

In the Storm

During our first night some thunderstorms developed in Mexico, moved into South Texas, and quickly, unexpectedly turned severe. Booming thunder, constant lightning, torrential rains, andworse of allhigh winds woke us at about 2 am. A quick look at the radar on our phone app showed us in the storm: the form of a bow echo moving over us. The warning issued with potential gusts to 70mph came a little late.

Several trucks pulled up next to the bathhouse across the road; others were taking shelter. We debated with every gust that shook the camper whether or not we should, too, wondering if we would be blown over. We stayed put, praying for protection. The winds eventually died down, along with our extreme unease. Unfortunately, the power went out shortly after.

After the Storm

The next day we walked around the campground and couldn’t help but be grateful for the damage we didn’t have. Awnings and tarps left out ripped to shreds. Numerous campers blown off their jack stands. And near the waterfront, two campers about the size of ours flipped upside down. Thankfully, the weekend campers hadn’t been there. Campers on either side and between them were fine, suggesting the work of a small tornado. As did the flattened road signs Later, the Coast Guard station next to the campground confirmed a max gust of 73 mph in the storm.

Not quite the tropical weather we had planned for the start of our little vacation. The rest of the week, however, was beautiful (read about it in my upcoming blogs: Treasures and Sabbath). That is, until our last night.

Another Storm

On our final evening more storms developed over Mexico , forecasted to move over South Texas. They woke us about 3 am. The radar and the warnings indicated that, while strong, they didn’t appear as bad as the first night. However, dread still gripped me. I had seen the damage from the first storm. As the strong winds blew and threatened, I wanted to trust. But I knew bad things happen. I anticipated the worst and prayed for protection, yet found myself fighting against fear in the storm, unable to sleep or relax. Especially when I heard a deep roar and wondered if it belonged to another tornado.

In the midst of the winds and rain, a quiet voice asked, “Do you trust me?” I had a choice. To continue to fear. Or to trust. I wanted to trust with every fiber of my being. I said, “Yes, I trust you.” With the question and my answer, the fear diminished and I sensed encouragement then to sleep in peace. So I did.

“As the strong winds blew and threatened, I wanted to trust. But I knew bad things happen. In the midst of the winds and rain, a quiet voice asked, ‘Do you trust me?’ I said yes. With the question and my answer, came the encouragement then to sleep in peace. So I did.”

The next morning, having slept through the rest of the storm, we packed up and left for home. While Isla Blanca was spared this time, Port Isabel was not. Our intended road out of town was closed because a tornado had struck a housing area on the north end, killing one, injuring more, destroying several homes and downing power lines across the road.

We waited a bit, without any indication of the roads being cleared, then turned around and took another route Jon’s uncle told us about.

Thankfully, the rest of the weather moved east as we headed north. While our camping trip was bookended by tornados, our travel days were relatively clear and blissfully uneventful.

I’m glad I can say, I chose to trust. However, the question remains, will I do so when I again find myself in the storm.

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Power of Story

Not long ago I attended an event that shared the Last Supper, Crucifixion and Resurrection story as told through the eyes of Mary. While I enjoyed the different perspective, it felt so distant and I failed to connect with the well known and quite familiar account.

Later, when I heard freedom testimonies of women told with imagery and a handful of simple words, I couldn’t help but struggle with the fact that their stories brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart greater than the actual narrative from Scripture. My heart ached with this realization.

I asked Jesus, “Jesus, I feel terrible. What does this mean? Why do the stories of the women resonate with me so powerfully, and yours doesn’t? Why do I find the places the women were and—after their encounter with you—where they are now, more heart rending and stirring than your death and resurrection ? Has the power of the cross somehow become stale to me? If so, what does that say about the condition of my heart?”

Jesus, in the gentle way he does, quietly replied, “Peace, Daughter.

You are moved because the Power of my Resurrection is retold in every one of their stories.

Every redemption story is my Resurrection story.”

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift. 2 Corinthians 9:15 (NIV)

Grace and Peace

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Cross at Kerrville

The Empty Cross

As I read through the Lenten liturgy, I longed to do something a bit different but something also filled with tradition and imagery. I love prayer paths and prayer gardens and having heard about the Cross at Kerrville, I decide to visit.

Spring is just beginning to show herself in the gardens. The lingering scent of grapes from fading mountain laurel flowers fill the air, along with the powdery scent of yellow agarita. The pink blossoms of the eastern red buds bring the next splash of color as the first bright green leaves of young maples emerge from the branches.

The main garden path lies in the shape of the cross paved with Scripture in Spanish, English, and German—a testimony of the cultural heritage of the area—and provides the opportunity for a meditative walk to the large cross at the center.

At the start of path to the cross, Jesus greets me, fishing net in hand, the Star of David beneath his feet—a reminder of his Jewish rabbinical heritage—and the looming cross over his shoulder.

Fisher of Men

I make my way slowly, reading the Scriptures as I walk, listening, pausing, and listening again, until I reach the cross. It’s open underneath and I walk in. The cross towers above me. Inside someone has place placards for the sojourner, explaining salvation, baptism, prayer, miracles. I pray for a miracle over a couple people I know that need one.

I walk on. Gravel paths extend outward in several places, one of which provides white rocks and rock walls for visitors to write and place prayers in the garden.

Prayer Rock Garden

We would write a prayer on a rock and place it in the garden, but pens are no longer available on site (except to purchase at the gift shop—which I discover on the way out). If you visit, be sure to bring along a couple of sharpies for prayer on the spot or prepare a prayer rock and bring it when you come.

We visit the gift shop on the way out and learned that a planning meeting for Easter sunrise services would soon begin. Many worshipers are expected. We talk with the friendly store worker who shares a bit about the history of the cross, the gardens and the artists, Max Greiner Jr, Beverly Paddleford, and David Broussard. You can learn more at The Coming King Sculpture Prayer Garden.

On the way out we stop at one last sculpture. Mary sits, waiting on a bronze wall with an empty spot next to her. Her life-sized hand stretches out to invite and I am compelled to slip mine into hers. Sorrow lines her face and she clutches a crown of thorns tinged with red—a reminder of the season we observe. Grief. Lament. Mortification. Confession.

Not far from us stands three enormous criss-crossed nails—the reason for Mary’s sorrow. Yet rising above the gardens soars the Empty Cross—testimony of why we rejoice, why we celebrate, why we sing. Soon Mary will trade her despair for a garment of praise, joy for mourning, and a crown of beauty for ashes (Isaiah 61:3).

Because. “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭15‬:‭55‬-‭57‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Hallelujah. He Is Risen

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Lent – Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday. Today marks the 40-day Christian season of Lent. A time of introspection, confession, repentance, prayer, and fasting that prepares us for Holy Week and Resurrection Sunday.

I was raised with off and on attendance in a small, country United Methodist church that followed the liturgical calendar, although—at the time—I didn’t know what that meant. My faith and my military career then took me to many places and many churches—mostly evangelical. However, the past half dozen or so years have opened my heart and curiosity to new ways to understand our God, faith traditions, scriptures, and Jesus.

In all these things, my desire is to love God more, with all my heart, soul, and strength. The Lenten season provides us the opportunity to do so. Whether you’ve had a life time of observing Lent, if you’ve left it behind and want to pick it up again, if this is your first time considering it, or if you know nothing about it,  there are many resources to help us along this journey of exploration and understanding.

This year I’m reading Lent: The Season of Repentance and Renewal by Esau McCaulley, part of IVP’s Fullness of Time series. McCaulley describes Ash Wednesday (and Lent) to be a call “to remember our first love, the pursuit of holiness that may have marked the first years of our journey with God.” At only 98 pages, it’s proving to be insightful, personable, and accessible.

Many liturgical churches provide online resources for the seasons we observe and celebrate on the church calendar. The United Methodist church is one of which I’m familiar and they have a great article on different ways to observe Lent, 40 Days of Lent: Find your own spiritual path by Joe Iovino.

A friend shared with me an article from that gives a bit of background and insight into the season, What Is Ash Wednesday? 2023 Guide for Christians Celebrating by Kelly Givens.

Wherever  your faith is at, and however you walk it out, may the rhythms, seasons, and celebrations of faith enrich and expand your life and draw you closer to the Creator, Shepherd, Messiah, Savior—Jesus.

Grace & Peace

If you’d like some insider information on the seventh book this year in the Be Still series, what might be next after Be Still, as well as exclusives on my fictional works projects, then hop on over to my author website and sign up for my email newsletter: The Road Less Traveled. You won’t want to miss it.

Note: Wikipedia defines the liturgical calendar, also called the liturgical year, church year or Christian year, as “the cycle of liturgical seasons in Christian churches that determines when feast days, including celebrations of saints, are to be observed, and which portions of Scripture are to be read either in an annual cycle or in a cycle of several years.”



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Turn the Page

The first page of this year’s calendar has already fallen away. January behind us, February rushing in. March fast approaching. As I flip through my bullet journal planner (I LOVE my bullet journal), I wonder how quickly will the events to come become events in the past?

That said, after the crazy, joy-filled holidays and hitting the ground running in January, I’ve finally had a few moments—thanks to the ice storm that cancelled everything in Central Texas—to outline what I hope to accomplish over the next few of months.

Hope being the operative word, because what I plan for and what happens are often quite different. Also Hope, because that’s the title of the sixth Be Still book we released on Amazon in November.

As I prepared for the book release (the usual: updating my author website here, ordering books to sell, replenishing my stock of the other five Be Still books, and creating an author poster for the Artisan Faire at Journey Fellowship) I had a startling realization.

I have six books published.


To be honest, I never quite took my books as seriously as I should. But, to be fair, the first was a proof of concept. Inspiration showed up, Amazon provided the means, I wondered if I could, so I decided to try. And I did it. Then I did it again. And again. And, well you get the idea. Six books. And this year will mark the seventh and final book of the Be Still series. (Although, I have to admit, the six look nice as an image, don’t you think? Symmetrical. But seven is completion. So seven it will be.) To order, visit me on my Amazon author page here.

Then what? I’m not sure. I have a few ideas. And that reminds me. If you’d like some insider information on the seventh book, what might be next after Be Still, as well as exclusives on my fictional works in project, then hop on over to my author website and sign up for my email newsletter: The Road Less Traveled. You won’t want to miss it.

When I have seven subscribers, I’ll send out the first newsletter. Then I hope (there’s that word again) to release quarterly newsletters. And while I have your attention, if you’ve read any of my other books, I would LOVE some positive book reviews on Amazon here. Your reviews help my books rise to the top of the search output and not be lost in Amazon’s gargantuan virtual warehouse.

If you’re interested in more, like in what I read, you can visit me at Goodreads here (maybe give me a follow and provide another review), and also drop me a comment on Facebook here. Would love to hear from you.

The pages keep turning. Plan wisely. Plan well. Then go. Live wisely. Live well.

grace & peace

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