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Blogs I Follow

The Presidents Club

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The Surest Defense Against Evil

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The Triumph of Grace

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Contemplating God’s Sovereignty

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How Should We Then Live?

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Not a Timid Christianity

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Finishing the Race

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Because the Time is Near

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Revelation Song (YouTube)

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Where The Wind Blows

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Doing Great Things

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Recognizing a False Prophet

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The Power of Forgiveness

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Created for Relationships

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The Only Way I Know

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Faith: The Misunderstood Doctrine

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Our True Home Address

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‘Tis the Season . . . for L-O-V-E

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The Paris Terrorist Attack and the Problem of Evil

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Cherry Picking 101

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Love Sweet Love

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So Goes The Culture

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Idols of the Heart

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Divisions Are Not Always Bad

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The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

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“Ain’t No Sunshine” So I Came Back

They say (you know, that infamous and anonymous “they”) that “home is where the heart is.” Well, I’ve been traveling so much over the past almost three years just looking for a job that it’s a good thing in my case that my “home” is wherever I physically happen to be. And for me, once my mother died back in Iowa in 1983, it’s not a particular place but rather it’s any place I happen to be. If she hadn’t died back then, my life would have taken a very different turn as I never would have left her alone in Iowa. She was divorced and in poor health, and I loved her very much. But with her death I gained a freedom I didn’t even know was waiting for me and at that time I ended up going back to college to finish my bachelor’s degree (at 31); then I completed a master’s degree (at 39); and then I was awarded a doctoral fellowship at 40 and move to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in June 1992, and the rest, as that infamous and anonymous “they” say, is history . . . .

As you know if you’ve been a regular reader of my blog, I left for Houston, Texas, at the end of September 2014 and was planning to stay there long term. Well, I did stay for 14 weeks (just a little over three months) but I have returned to Florida this past week as it was clearly obvious after that amount of time that no door was going to open up for me any time soon, and by the time the New Year rolled around, the sunshine was starting to disappear, too. Reminds me of a song sung by Joe Cocker (originally sung by Bill Withers) titled, “Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone . . .” (see YouTube video below of the song sung by Joe Cocker). Well, as that sunshine was starting to disappear in Houston for the winter (it comes and goes at this time of year, as do the warmer temps), I decided it was time to come back to the Land of Sunshine (Florida) after spending 14 weeks in the Houston area with no door of opportunity opening to me during those three months (and I spent a considerable amount of time looking and asking and seeking and knocking, to no avail). When I left Orlando on September 26, 2014, I told myself I would stay at least until the New Year or longer depending on what did or did not develop while I was there. Well, long story short and after much searching, nothing opened up for me in those three plus months, so I headed back to the warmer climate of Florida on January 2, 2015. And I think I have finally gotten Houston out of my system.

Famous Biloxi Lighthouse

Famous Biloxi Lighthouse

You’d have thought I would have learned that lesson the first time around when I lost that ill-fated job there; but I didn’t blame it on the city and I did like Houston despite the job, but I just guess Houston doesn’t like me, so I’m done for now. On the way back I spent a couple of day in Biloxi, MS, in a hotel right on the Gulf. It is such a beautiful area and I just love stopping there when I’m traveling through Mississippi. And, I arrived back in Orlando late Sunday night, January 4, 2015.

After spending my entire time in Houston living in weekly-rate hotels, I am again living in a weekly-rate hotel here in Orlando as my friend who lent me her spare bedroom this past spring/summer had given it away to someone else while I was gone, and that came as no surprise to me. I appreciated the time I stayed there but I’ve been looking for my own place for a while now ever since I lost my apartment in New Port Richey at the end of March due to new owners buying the house where it was located and hiking my rent higher then I could really afford long term. Now if I can just find someone to give me that extraordinarily elusive job I’ve been looking for for almost six years now, I can find a decent place of my own again. I had no idea how hard it was going to be to find another place to rent after leaving my apartment in New Port Richey, and it’s been impossible to find an apartment to rent on my social security income as it’s too low to be considered at a regular apartment complex and the low-income senior apartment complexes all have long waiting lists of up to a year or longer. Talk about being between a rock and a hard place. Well, I’ve been there on the unemployment front for almost six years now, so I now get to add housing to that list.

My three plus months in Houston were interesting to say the least but I’ll save that for a later blog post. Suffice it to say I’m writing now just to let you know I’m back in Florida again. And the weather has been outstanding here this past week, too. Bring it on (the sunshine and warm temps, I mean). No wonder folks come here to live in the wintertime.

joe-cockerAs you know from an recent post titled, With A Little Help From My Friends,” published on December 23, 2014, I’m a big Joe Cocker fan, and I was very sad when I read that he had died on December 22, 2o14 at the age of 70 from lung cancer. However, in memory of him and also in celebration of my return to Florida after three plus months in Houston (I was honestly expecting to stay in Houston long term when I left Orlando back in September), here he is to sing, Ain’t No Sunshine.” So, without further ado . . . . Sing it, Joe . . .

YouTube Video: “Ain’t No Sunshine” sung by Joe Cocker (1944-2014):

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit
here

Not Limiting God

Don't Limit GodI left Orlando, Florida, on September 26, 2014, after spending six months there and headed for Houston, Texas. I had no idea what might be waiting for me in Houston, but I was determined to find out. I’ve never been able to get Houston out of my mind ever since I lived here six years ago for exactly one year (September 25, 2008 to September 25, 2009), even though the job I relocated to Houston for turned out to be the biggest bust career-wise in my entire life. And, it has also left me unemployed for the past 5 1/2+ years now. But I didn’t blame the city. No, it’s not Houston’s fault. I just landed in a really bad place to work. But I fell in love with the city.

So I came back . . . .

Orlando to HoustonI don’t know what I expected to find as I made the 18-hour drive back to Houston, but I love taking road trips so I was full of anticipation. I’ve been looking for a wide open door for the past 5 1/2 years and so far I haven’t found it no matter how hard I’ve looked and tried. I’ve even tried to wedge it open on my own a few times only to discover I couldn’t do it. Everybody needs a little help at times, but I just wasn’t finding it. But I’m not a quitter, and I don’t give up. So I decided to take my search back to where the bad stuff (long term unemployment) all began when I lost that job in Houston in April 2009.

And Texas is certainly a big enough state to find a wide open door . . . 

Right???

The first thing I went looking for when I arrived over six weeks ago was inexpensive housing. I checked out all the “room for rent” ads as well as apartments and temporary sublets on Craigslist and in other sources and answered a bunch of them. The response, unfortunately, was practically zilch; and of the few who did respond, the price was too high on the first one and I was also expected to share a bathroom with three other tenants (are you kidding me???) in a house in The Woodlands, and the second person who responded with a cryptic email stating, “Can show on Wednesday,” never wrote back when I responded asking for a time and location so I could look at the room for rent. Another couple of responses directed me go to Roomster.com to find them and once I got there, I discovered that after I created an account it is not a free service as one has to pay a fee to contact those folks advertising rooms for rent. And it’s not cheap, either.

I also checked out apartment complexes, especially those that catered to seniors and low income (I qualify for both) and found waiting lists a mile long (well, of up to a year or longer). And all the time I’ve been doing this I’ve been staying at weekly-rate hotels. Weekly-rate hotels are much cheaper than staying at a regular hotel but still very pricey overall when compared to rent on an apartment, but I’m unemployed and living on a very limited income (social security) that isn’t enough income to qualify to rent a regular apartment.

Talk about being between a rock and a hard place . . . .

Also, being a “new” senior on social security now that I turned the magic age of 62 of few months ago, I could officially apply for low-income senior housing. Someone I had talked with in the past couple of weeks suggested an “Interfaith” organization as a place where I might find some help, so this past Wednesday I visited that organization and got a two-page list of apartments in the area (including several senior, low-income and “Section 8 subsidized–HUD–housing”) so I started down the list calling a bunch of them. Most had waiting lists or the rent was too high, but I decided to visit three of them in The Woodlands as I really like that particular suburb in the Houston area. The first place I visited was absolutely huge, and the woman I talked with was very friendly. I told her I was new to all this “senior” stuff and she gave me a lot of information including the 30-page HUD application. 30 pages!!! I thanked her for the information and then visited the other two complexes that were nearby and much smaller (I really liked the third complex the best–a small complex with 66 units and a very cozy feeling–but with a waiting list of up to a year). And, I got a copy of the HUD application from them, too. I have to tell you that one look at that application is a bit discouraging. And I don’t like anyone nosing into my business to that extent–talk about an invasion of privacy!

"Rock, Hard Place" Road Sign with dramatic clouds and sky.Now before I go any further I want to mention that I am an able bodied U.S. citizen who has been actively seeking work (in and outside of my career field) for the past 5 1/2 years since the day after I was fired in April 2009. Also, I didn’t want to have to take Social Security at 62. I want to WORK!!! And I can earn a whole lot more money working then living off of my small social security check, and that is exactly what I want to do, too!!! There should be no need for me to have to apply for and live in public housing if someone will just give me a break, a break I’ve been actively seeking for over 5 1/2 years now!!!

With that being said, I took the three applications back to the weekly-rate hotel where I had been staying for the past three weeks and decided to give it some serious thought as to what I wanted to do over the weekend. My last week’s stay at this particular weekly-rate hotel ended on Friday (two days ago) at noon, and I made the decision to leave there on Friday instead of staying for a fourth week. I planned to get an inexpensive hotel room for a couple of days in order to not be tied into an entire week at a weekly-rate hotel. There is no refund if one leaves before the end of the week (which starts on the day the room is rented). I needed to decide whether or not to stay another week in Houston since most of the housing options that I could afford required the 30-page HUD application and up to a one-year wait to get into an apartment. And, where am I supposed to live while I’m waiting on somebody’s list to be called? Answering “room for rent” ads has gone absolutely nowhere for six weeks now, and I can’t afford the weekly-rate hotels long-term on my social security checks. I never expected for it to take this long to find some type of affordable housing (especially a “room for rent” in a home).

Well, Friday and most of Saturday I spent time trying to decide whether to stay in Houston after six weeks of going nowhere fast or leave, and on Saturday I did some extensive driving around Houston in other areas as up to this point I had primarily been looking in the North Houston, Spring, The Woodlands, and Conroe areas. I had responded to ads in other parts of the city, too, over the weeks I’ve been here and that’s when I got the “Go to Roomster.com” response. I drove over to the west side of Houston including the Cypress and Katy areas and then decided to take at look at the east side of Houston in the Baytown area. So I hopped on I-10 which is the main interstate that cuts right through the heart of Houston as it’s the quickest way to get from the west side to the east side of the city, and just as I was approaching the downtown area in massive traffic (and it wasn’t even rush hour as it was Saturday) every vehicle traveling on I-10 came to a screeching halt and at that point it was an incredibly slow crawl for what seemed like miles on end. Finally, I noticed a big sign off to the left that said, “I-10 closed on Nov 7th and Saturday (8th).” I couldn’t believe it. They closed a main artery through Houston that close to a million vehicles travel on on a daily basis? Whoa . . . The mass of traffic at a standstill or slow crawl stretched as far as the eye could see.

Well, I happened to be in the left lane of traffic and noticed a sign for the exit to I-59 North that was just up ahead on the left. I-59 North goes back to the northeast section of Houston so I decided to take it and get out of the mess on I-10. As I approached FM 1960 (a main road in the North Houston area) I exited on FM 1960 and ended up in Humble which is only a few miles from where I had been staying in that weekly-rate hotel.

By this time I was tired and hungry and sick of all the traffic jams, and I knew I just wanted to find a room for the night and get off the road for a while. I noticed a sign for a hotel sort of hidden off the main road and decided to turn in and check it out. The nightly rate was way out of my price range and I almost left but instead asked if they had a weekly rate. Well, the weekly rate was a much better deal and not all that much more than I was paying at the previous weekly-rate hotel I’d been staying in for the past three weeks. And this particular hotel is brand new and just opened a week ago for business (it’s part of a chain), and the manager asked me if I wanted to look at a room. I said, “Sure!”

Well, when the manager opened the door to the room my jaw almost dropped open. It is huge and beautiful and everything in it is new. It has a sofa and coffee table, king-size bed, a small refrigerator and microwave and 42″ HD TV with a bunch of cable stations on an entertainment center, a desk and chair, and the quality of the furnishings is excellent. And, it has a 12′ high ceiling. And it’s also beautifully designed and very colorful. I asked him again what the weekly rate was as I could hardly believe I was getting all of this for what he quoted me considering I paid only a little less for far less (and a much smaller room) at the weekly-rate hotel I stayed at just a few miles down the same road to the west. Without even blinking an eye I said, “I’ll take it!”

So here I am for this next week . . .

Maybe things are starting to look up after six weeks. At least they look pretty darn good right now in this hotel room. While I don’t know what this next week (my seventh week) in Houston holds for me, I’m glad I didn’t leave when I felt so discouraged on Friday or Saturday. There’s a saying that’s been around for a long time now and I’m not sure where it originated, but it goes like this:

It's always too soon to quit

Yes, it is . . . “it’s always too soon to quit.” As I mentioned earlier in this post, I’m not a quitter, even when I get discouraged. And despite the obstacles I’ve found in my first six weeks here, there was something deep inside of me that said I wasn’t ready to give up on Houston just yet. But at this point in time I needed a sign to show me what to do as I honestly didn’t know what to do yesterday. I knew as I headed toward the east side of Houston on I-10 that it wouldn’t take much to just keep on going on I-10 back to Florida and throw in the towel. It’s really hard to know how to make the right decision when one is feeling discouraged. And, if it had not been for that huge mess on I-10 yesterday I would have most likely ended up on the east side of Houston and quite possibly just kept on going at that point. Fortunately, I couldn’t leave that way as the interstate was closed, so I hopped on I-59 North to get out of that mess which took me back to the area of Houston I really like, and I found this hotel in the midst of it. And it was the sign I needed to remind me that “it’s always too soon to quit.”

This morning I read a devotion I received via email from Leading the Way,” titled, Not Limiting God,” and it was a great reminder to me to never limit God even in the midst of feeling major discouragement while being in the middle of a huge traffic jam. Here is that devotion:

Not Limiting God

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

It’s natural to look out for number one. But this focus on self takes us off course in our walk of faith. We may profess devotion and obedience to God, yet we seldom are willing to give up anything for Him. In Genesis 22, we see that Abraham was told to give up not just a little something—he was told to give up his long-awaited and treasured son, Isaac.

“Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’ ‘Here I am,’ he replied. Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you’” (Genesis 22:1-2).

Can you imagine the pain of hearing those words? After years of waiting for his promised son, Abraham had now been called to sacrifice him. Most of us would claim that we had misheard God. We would try to bargain with Him or to run and hide our beloved treasure from Him. Yet the Bible gives no indication that Abraham put up a fight.

How could he go along with such a plan? Abraham’s faith was bigger than his fear of losing his son forever. After a lifetime of lessons in his walk of faith, Abraham had finally learned to not limit God with human thinking.

Prayer: God, help me to be totally surrendered to You and Your plan for my life. Help me not to put my human limits on who You are and what You can do, for You are far greater than I can even imagine. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

“Who has prescribed his ways for him, or said to him, ‘You have done wrong’?” (Job 36:23).

I don’t know what this next week holds, but I know Who holds it in His hands. I just have to keep my hands off of it and let each day unfold as I leave it with Him to guide me. One thing I keep learning over and over again especially during these past 5 1/2 years of wandering around in the land of the unemployed is that God is always up to something, even when we can’t see it or know what it is He is doing. His ways are, indeed, not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9).

If someone in my reading audience is going through a season of discouragement, I hope this post has given you a bit of encouragement. I’ve had my share of discouragement and disappointments during these past six weeks in Houston (as I’ve had during these past 5 1/2 years of unemployment), but I’ve learned over and over again to let go of what I want (my wants are so very few anymore) or think should be happening by now and hold nothing back from God (including those things and/or people that have become my “Isaac”), and let Him guide me. And it’s at that point that He brings the most unexpected surprises (even in really small things and not just in the big things). I had reached that point yesterday when I was just not sure what to do as I drove across I-10 in the middle of Houston and right into that massive traffic jam that took me on a detour I never expected but greatly appreciated. I never would have guessed that another week’s stay in a really cool and beautiful hotel room (much, much cooler than any of the others I’ve stayed at while I’ve been here) was even on the radar screen. And even the name of this hotel has His fingerprints all over it–Palace Inn in Humble, Texas.

God’s leading really is a “moment-by-moment” thing. At just the point I was tempted to quit, He provided the answer in a way I never expected, and He gave me hope when I felt like hope was slipping through my fingers. Proverbs 3:5-6 states: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” That’s “moment-by-moment” guidance, and it’s not just in the big decisions in life but in the everyday decisions we make, too; even in the tiniest of decisions. So if you happen to be carrying a load of discouragement right now and are at the point of quitting, remember these three things . . .

Trust in the Lord with all your heart . . .

And do not lean on your own understanding . . .

And let God lead the way “moment-by-moment” . . . .

YouTube Video: “Something in the Water” (2014) by Carrie Underwood:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here
Photo #4 credit here

Turnaround

During much of the past four years I’ve been in the habit of getting up early and starting my day by meeting with God through reading the Bible, a few devotions, and praying. And it has revolutionized my life. And, I haven’t stopped during this short trip back to Houston where I continue to look for employment. It has become my lifeblood.

While I’ve been a Christian since I was a young girl, my passion ebbed and flowed over the years. I don’t know how many years have gone by where Jesus Christ was not the “Number One” priority in my life when I first climbed out of bed in the morning. In fact, days and sometimes weeks would go by where I wouldn’t even open my Bible except on Sunday if/when I went to church and if/when I remembered to take it with me. And more often then not, when I prayed it centered around my needs and/or the needs of others but lacked thanksgiving and praise as a meaningful part of it. And, I also wandered my way through a number of prodigal years, too. It wasn’t until I moved to Houston on September 25, 2008, to start that fateful job that has ended in this very long time of unemployment that I clearly felt God’s Spirit wooing me to “get serious” in my relationship with Him. And I did. And my life hasn’t been the same.

I read a couple of short devotions this morning and I want to share them with you. Perhaps you find yourself in a lukewarm lifestyle of Christian apathy that rarely finds any real passion for the things of God in this life, or perhaps you don’t personally know Him even if you do attend church every Sunday but it rarely leads to a changed life during the rest of the week. The first devotion is titled Turnaround for August 31, 2012, and is from Our Daily Bread:

Turnaround

Galatians 1:11-24

Bill was a friend of mine in seminary who had come to Christ out of a blatantly sinful lifestyle. He described it this way: “I was driving down the street drinking a bottle of brandy with another man’s wife at my side. When I saw some Christians on the sidewalk witnessing to passersby about Christ, I drove by and shouted, ‘Fools!’ But only a few weeks later I found myself kneeling in a church and asking Christ to become my Savior and Lord.” Bill’s conversion resulted in his giving up his old ways and experiencing a new life in Christ. It was a life-changing turnaround.

True repentance, which is initiated by the Holy Spirit, includes a real turnaround. Often we see that the greater the opposition to the gospel prior to conversion, the more stunning the change of direction afterward. When Saul of Tarsus encountered Christ on the road to Damascus, he was changed from a persecutor to a preacher of the gospel. Of this many observed: “He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy” (Gal. 1:23).

Authentic conversion includes repentance, which is a change of mind and direction. For the follower of Christ, repentance means to keep turning away from sin and turning toward Christ in obedience.

Out of my shameful failure and loss,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into the glorious gain of Thy cross,
Jesus, I come to Thee. —Sleeper

Repentance is being so sorry for sin
that you are willing to give it up.

The second devotion is from Open Windows published by LifeWay and is titled, “Zeal Without Knowledge” (for August 31, 2012):

Zeal Without Knowledge

Romans 10:1-4

“For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge”
(Rom. 10:2)

I used to make New Year’s resolutions–things I wanted to change about myself. If I had followed them, I would be almost perfect! Unfortunately, my good intentions usually fell apart within a week. I had a zeal to be a better person, but I was relying on my own strength or willpower.

Self-help books fill bookstore shelves and often make the best-seller lists. We can long to improve our lives physically and spiritually, but zeal without God’s power sets us up for failure. Any changes we make on our own will be superficial.

Paul yearned for Israel to be saved. They had knowledge of God but didn’t know Him on a personal basis. They were depending on their own righteousness to save them. But we can never make ourselves righteous through our own efforts. Self-righteousness is a poor substitute for God’s righteousness.

Knowledge “puffs up” our self image. We may be impressed with the information at our fingertips. But only God gives us wisdom to interpret data and use it to live for Him.

Father, help me remember that lasting change
can only come through You.

A.W. Tozer (1897 – 1963) once stated, “If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95 percent of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference. If the Holy Spirit had been withdrawn from the New Testament church, 95 percent of what they did would stop, and everybody would know the difference” (quote source here). He died almost 50 years ago, but this statement is still so very true in many of our churches today. We do a myriad of “things” in the name of Jesus Christ but rarely consult with Him on what really needs to be done. We have lost our first love in order to strive for a life of prosperity and comfort. We place our passion in “things” instead of the Creator of everything.

If this sounds familiar to you, it’s not too late to turn your life around. And you can do it right now. Repentance is the key that unlocks the door to a real and vital relationship with Jesus Christ.

I want to end this post with the words to a song by Twila Paris titled, True North(YouTube Video below):

We lost our bearings following our own mind
We left conviction behind fear of the future
Springing from the sins of the past
Hiding the hope that would last

How did we ever wander so far
And where do we go from here?
How will we know where it is?

True north
There’s a strong steady light
That is guiding us home

True north
In the lingering night
We were never alone
True north

Wonders of nature
Speak to us all of Your plan
Why would we run from Your hand

Laws of the earth
Just like the laws of the heart
Only begin where You are

How did we ever wander so far
And where do we go from here?
How will we find it again?

True north
There’s a strong steady light
That is guiding us home

True north
In the lingering night
We were never alone

“Finding ‘true north’ is essential for accurate navigation . . . . In life’s journey we are often uncertain where we stand, where we are going and what is the right path for us personally. Knowing our true north would enable us to follow the right path” (quote source here). For those of us who are Christian, Jesus Christ is our “True North.”

Are you in need of a turnaround in your life?

If so, won’t you do it today?

YouTubeVideo: “True North” by Twila Paris:

Photo credit here

While You See A Chance

Downtown Houston

Well, I’m in Houston! Yep, that’s right . . .  H-O-U-S-T-O-N !!! And I have a little storm named Isaac to thank for that!

I’ve been through five hurricanes in the years I’ve lived in Florida. Yes, five . . . . The worst was the very first hurricane that greeted me less than two months after my arrival in Fort Lauderdale to start a doctoral fellowship at Nova Southeastern University. You may remember that one–it’s name was Andrew.  Yeah, A-n-d-r-e-w (for those of you who do remember). Then there was Charlie when I was living in Orlando (I think it hit in 1999 if I remember right). And then right after I took a job at Southeastern University in Lakeland, we were hit by three hurricanes within a six-week period of time in August/September 2004. I don’t remember their names.

And, as if that wasn’t enough, I endured the aftermath of Hurricane Ike that hit Houston in September 2008. I accepted the job in Houston in August 2008 and was scheduled to move there in late September. Well, Ike hit Houston, and hit it hard, mid-September 2008, and my coworkers at Southeastern University asked me if I was still going. I remember telling them I had lived through five hurricanes in Florida and I wasn’t about to let hurricane stop me from going to Houston. And I didn’t . . .  However, navigating through an area so soon after a hurricane hit was a challenge . . . mostly from all of the energy trucks that flooded the highways throughout Houston. And, I also arrived in Houston at the peak of morning rush hour. It took a couple of hours just to navigate to where my apartment was located (and yes, they did have electricity but there were still many areas in Houston including that area around the location of my apartment that still didn’t have electricity).

So, with my previous experiences with hurricanes I decided not to chance it by staying in Florida waiting for Isaac’s impact. I packed up my car and left early Saturday afternoon heading for Houston. Seventeen hours later I was back in the city where this long saga of unemployment first started almost three and a half years ago. Maybe it will end here, too (I did pack my job interviewing outfit).

This was not a “spur of the moment” trip but was planned in advance. My three-day trip to Atlanta in May spurred me on even though I was not successful in my attempt to find a job in Atlanta. Since the trip to Houston required 17 hours of driving, I knew I wanted to stay for a least a week to make it worth the cost of the trip. I thought I was going to go at the end of May, and when that didn’t work out I made plans to go in July, but that particular plan turned out to be way too expensive (I was planning at that time to actually move back to Houston even though I didn’t have a job waiting for me). While I love living in Florida, I just haven’t been able to find a job in the three years I’ve been back, and since I loved Houston, even though my work experience there was, well, disastrous, I still wanted to give it a second chance.  After all, I can’t blame an entire city for one bad job, now can I?

When I arrived yesterday (Sunday) morning, after getting several “second winds” during my 17-hour drive, one of my first stops was at a friend’s home where I spent some time talking with her and her husband. I first met her at the place where I lost my job (she resigned a few months after I was fired, but the two incidents are unrelated–her resignation was health-related). We had a great time and she helped me locate a hotel nearby that looked like it was fairly reasonably priced for at least my first night (I was looking forward to resting my head on a pillow and my body in a bed at that point in time). So I bid her farewell and headed off to the hotel. I didn’t end up staying there but kept looking around and found a Red Roof Inn near Katy that fit the bill perfectly (in fact, I’m writing this in my hotel room). Since I’ll be staying a week I’m looking into the “extended stay hotels” in the area for the remainder of my time here.

I love road trips–LOVE THEM–but haven’t had the money due to being unemployed to take very many in the past few years. When I first got out on the open road Saturday afternoon, a smile broke out on my face and didn’t stop the whole way to Houston. I was in my element. I felt free–free for a few hours from the hassles and heartbreak of trying to get my work life back together after so many years. Absolutely nothing mattered except being out on the open road and listening to some great music . . . .

And now that I’ve caught up on my sleep after a great night’s rest, I’m ready to see what this week will bring. And I’ll keep you updated . . .

This morning a song crossed my mind by Steve Winwood–“While You See A Chance.” There couldn’t have been a more perfect song for this whole trip (well, sans the romance part of it as I’m looking for a job right now–romance can wait for later). I decided to post the YouTube video below and here are the words to the song: 

Stand up in a clear blue morning
Until you see what can be
Alone in a cold day dawning
Are you still free
Can you be

When some cold tomorrow finds you
When some sad old dream reminds you
How the endless road unwinds you
While you see a chance take it
Find romance, fake it
Because it’s all on you

Don’t you know by now
No one gives you anything
Don’t you wonder how you keep on moving
One more day
Your way

When there’s no one left to leave you
Even you don’t quite believe you
That’s when nothing can deceive you
While you see a chance take it
Find romance, fake it
Because it’s all on you

Stand up in a clear blue morning
Until you see what can be
Alone in a cold day dawning
Are you still free
Can you be

When that old gray wind is blowin’
And there’s nothing left worth knowin’
And it’s time you should be going
While you see a chance take it
Find romance, fake it
Because it’s all on you

While you see a chance take it
Find romance (repeat 4x)

This whole experience reminds me of something the Apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:13-14: “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” The Message Bible (including verse 12) states it like this: “I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.”

Well, I certainly don’t have it all together either, but I’m well on my way . . . . And, I don’t count myself to be an expert in any of this (either), but I’ve got “my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus.”

And, just like Paul, I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back . . . .

And I’ll keep you posted . . . .

YouTube Video: “While You See A Chance” by Steve Winwood:

Photo credit here

The Thrill of Big Cities

I just spent a long weekend in Atlanta contemplating a new direction for my life (we’ll see–I contemplate a lot) and got back last night. I love road trips and for the past three years I haven’t really taken any (except to move back to Florida from Houston in September 2009) due to financial constraints from being unemployed and a set of very, very, VERY old tires on my car. Well, the tire issue was resolved when I got a flat a few weeks ago and decided it was time for a new set of tires regardless of the cost or the fact that I have had no income for the past year since my unemployment checks ran out in May 2011.

WOW!!! What a difference a new set of tires can make! I decided to break them in with this trip to Atlanta (a 7 1/2-hour drive one way from where I currently live). As I zipped on down (or rather, up) I-75 it was smooth sailing (nothing like mixing metaphors) all the way until I hit construction at the south end of Atlanta. Not to worry though as I was in no hurry and I was thrilled to be back in a big city again. As I wound through downtown Atlanta (on I-75) I could feel the energy of that city and it reminded me of when I drove to Houston in September 2008 to start that ill-fated job–but it was a good memory (not because of the ill-fated job but because of the vibrancy of the city of Houston). On that trip I zipped through the heart of downtown Houston during morning rush hour on the way to the apartment I had rented (sight unseen, by the way) to start my new, but rather short-lived life in Houston. Did I mention this was less than three weeks after Hurricane Ike hit Houston? My colleagues where I worked in Lakeland, FL, were shocked that I was still considering going there right after a major hurricane hit the city, but I’ve never been one to let anything get in the way of a great opportunity and I had already lived through five hurricanes including Hurricane Andrew during the years I have lived in Florida (since June 1992). And, at least I wasn’t actually in Houston at the time Ike hit!

Yikes! Imagine this jammed full with vehicles.

Navigating rush hour traffic in downtown Houston at that time with about a zillion additional power/energy vehicles on the road along with regular rush hour traffic took a lot of time–about an hour and a half just to navigate from one side of town to the other and switching freeways in the middle of it. But zipping under, over, and through downtown Houston was still thrilling just to see all of the tall buildings (there’s some very cool architecture) and feel the energy there. I can’t remember a time when I was happier moving to a new city other than in June 1992 when I drove from Des Moines, IA, to Fort Lauderdale, FL, to start a one-year doctoral fellowship at Nova Southeastern University, but that’s a whole ‘nother story. . . .

There is something about really big cities that just thrills me to my soul and I can feel the energy pulse through me when I am in them. I feel more alive and less like I am stagnating, and while my creative juices follow me wherever I go, the energy of big cities seems to bring them out even more. Imagine what would happen if I ended up in a city the size of New York or L.A. I’d probably explode! Well, Houston is close as it is ranked #4 and Atlanta comes in at #40 of the top 50 biggest cities in the US according to Infoplease.com.

These past three days in Atlanta gave me a shot in the arm and a boost to my morale that I really needed. I don’t have a clue where it might lead but I know I’m tired of stagnating and waiting for my life to get off of hold. I can’t magically improve the economy and/or find a new job in the midst of it (and it appears the politicians in Washington D.C. can’t either although they are all still employed), but while I still have a few dollars left in my pocket and four new tires on my car, I might start taking a whole lot more weekend trips. And who knows, maybe I’ll find a job during one of them. After all, it’s a big world out there . . . .

Now at this point, if you’ve been reading my blog you’ll know I come from a decidedly Christian perspective, but as you’ve probably noticed in this particular blog post, I haven’t mentioned anything that most people would categorize as particularly “Christian.” That’s because God is a whole lot bigger than what we, especially here in America, separate out as “Christian.” The whole topic of what people consider to be “secular” and “sacred” is not something I wish to tackle in a blog post (and I’ll leave it to others to discuss the dichotomy which I don’t happen to believe exists). In a conversation I had the other day with a “non-believing” friend (for lack of a better term), she stated that she didn’t know I was so “religious.” I had to keep from laughing as it goes to show just how much people separate out “God” stuff from the rest of what they think life is all about.

Suffice it to say, God created everything, even the people who designed and built all of these great cities and freeway systems. God is not some kill-joy out there in the universe trying to think up ways to keep us distant from Him or hating Him (no, it’s people who think up ways to keep us distant from God or hating Him). If it wasn’t for God, we (and this planet) would not exist. Period. Therefore, there is absolutely no separation between secular and sacred whether you believe in God or not. God doesn’t exist is a box of our own making. And, He isn’t the least bit limited by our own thinking. We are . . . .

And that’s about as “religious” as I’m going to get in this post, folks. As my old friend from bygone years would say . . . .

“You think about that . . . .”

YouTube Video: “Rockin’ Down the Highway” by the Doobie Brothers

Photo credit of Atlanta here
Photo credit of Houston here
Photo credit of Houston freeways here

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