Fire Devastation... So Much Help Needed

The fire as seen from our field on Monday

The TV blares with newscasts and press conferences. The online news sites show incomprehensible pictures. We have been surrounded by slowly trickling information.

But the news I have been most waiting for began to come in yesterday. The final answers to the gut-wrenching question thousands have been asking for four days... is my home still standing?

Phone calls. E-mails. Texts. Facebook status updates. One after another. And here we thirteen residents in this haven on a ridge alternately cheer and mourn.

So far I know that nine families in my immediate circle have lost everything. Many more I don't know well I am learning of, mostly people in our extended homeschooling community.

And the reports are not finished yet. There are still areas burning. Still areas too hot to enter.

As of this morning 1386 homes had burned. One thousand three hundred and eighty six. In my little community. My home. I grieve typing this.

I find myself staring into the distance, searing pictures into my mind. Pictures of how it was. Tim and Dee's house. Leah's house. Terry's Corner. My beloved Highway 21 with its towering pines, the road that made me want to move to this county, the road that I drive up and down four days a week.

I can't process that they are gone. Black. Charred to ash or sticks.

We have a home to go to. Miraculously we were on the perimeter of the fire. We are profoundly grateful.

More than that, the fact that in this massive fire we did not have more loss of life is miraculous. Tragically, two people are known to have died, and I do ask your prayers for their families. Given the extent of the destruction it is incredible that there was not more loss of life.

My heart and hands long to serve.

As we sat here these endless days and nights, worrying and calling and reading and talking and trying to glean any tidbit of news, an idea began to form in my mind. Red cross and insurance and many other agencies would come to help as people tried to put back together their lives, but who would help our homeschool friends rebuild their libraries? The books that are the foundation of their children's education?

So we made a decision. We would.

In between phone calls we began to formulate a plan. We would compile a list of names and specific books or other educational materials, and create a website where people could help from anywhere in the world.

It is still coming together as we contact the families and find out their needs. I would be so grateful if you would "like" our facebook page so that you will know when we have our website running.

The families of Bastrop County are going to need your help.

The Fires Rage On

How much I have wanted to sit and write and how fast the time has flown. A whirl of packing and driving and smoke and phone calls and emails and where-is? and how-is?

Wednesday will be day four of our evacuation from a massive wildfire that has consumed our beloved Lost Pines forest in Bastrop County, Texas.  This fire, oh this fire, how can I describe it?

Huge. Furious. Fast.

This huge...

This furious...

This fast...

34,000 acres. Close to 600 homes. And the fire rages on.

Never in my life have I had so many completely speechless moments. Words are my commodity and words have failed me over and over and over again the past three days.

Dear friends have lost all in minutes. Dear friends have barely made it out alive.

We are safe, three families cozy together, sleeping on floors, sharing life. Last night we sat down to compile a list of the families we know who have confirmed they lost everything, those who we suspect lost everything, and those who are evacuated but whose homes are likely intact. I had to step away from the computer, from that list, and try to breathe. The list was too long and too full of faces and hearts I love.

When the evacuations lift we expect to return to our homestead. We are 99% certain that our property was not touched by the fire. I am awed by this. It was so very close.

I have been asked by so many how you can help. There will be incredible need in the coming weeks and months. I will be asking you not to sprinkle, but to pour.

Now? I ask for your prayers. The winds have died down so the fire is not spreading as fast. But it is still huge. And it is still furious. 

I would like to list credits for these photos but I do not have the information. If this is your photo please let me know.
The top photo is of the city of Bastrop with the fire behind. Our home is on the other side of that fire.
The bottom photo is of Bastrop State Park.

For Such a Time As This

I walk across the yard and there is no hiding it. My boots' crunch on crisp grass and soil loudly accompanies my travels. It is so dry and hot here. So many, so very many, things dying.

Yes, the rain was a joy and a blessing and how we soaked it up! But an exceptional drought takes a long time to recover from. It almost seems like it was a dream.

And yet...

By the road a wild lantana... completely untended, never weeded, never watered... it still lives.

Not just lives, but thrives.

This glorious burst of color, this force of life in the midst of drought and heat and death... it is no anomaly. The lantana survives and thrives because it was made for this.

Its roots were made to withstand dry soil. Its leaves were made to withstand scorching sun. Its flowers were made to bring oh so much joy to the heart of this parched farm mama.

I am captivated by the intricacy of the flowers, the incredible variation from stalk to stalk. I find myself on my knees shooting up in order to capture the stunning blue of the sky.

When I look back down I am moved by a tiny spot of red on brown.

Tiny sprinkle of color on dirt and weeds.

Life amongst the lifeless.

O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water. ~ Psalm 63:1 ~

All photos by Patti Brown

When the unexpected makes your day

A few days ago, thanks to Hurricane Irene, the town I grew up in looked like this...

A little more waterfront than this home owner bargained for

But here in Central Texas, we are seeing things more like this (although thankfully less fuzzily than the phone's camera did)...

Doing a booming business in frozen Frappuccinos around here

Country cafe owners advertise pie and beg their customers to intercede...

 Note the lush yellowish brown grass

And soup is just off the menu...

Just thinking about soup makes me break out in a sweat

We have now broken the record for number of days over 100° in one year, and the year isn't even close to done.

Sunday, it hit 111°.

On top of the heat, we are in the midst of an exceptional drought. This drought is not exceptional because it did so well on its Killing Living Things 101 final exam. No, "exceptional" is a technical category of drought, the worst in fact.

Late last week, our second week back to school, we were sitting busily working away when we heard a strange sound. It was a sort of roaring kind of sound. Like something on the roof. The air conditioning? Something stirred in our memories, we looked out the window... it was RAIN!

Not the lovely puddle you pictured? The yellow sticks are grass, the brown stuff is dirt and the bubbles are because the water is boiling as it hits the griddle that is our yard. I'm kidding! Sort of.

"School's off! Go play in the rain!" I shouted as squeals filled the house and boots were sought out.

Little Warrior felt that he needed extra protection from this mysterious weather phenomenon.

BRRR! It's only 90° out!

The animals were not quite as excited... mystified might be more accurate

What on earth...???

One little kitten had never felt rain before. Until this shower we had had exactly 0" of rain since her birth.

Mama! There's something on my paws!

While the kids frolicked in the rain...

... the goats sought shelter under the eaves.

Because of course they were in the back yard. This was the same day they had knocked down their portable fence and peppered our side and front yards with their goaty selves. Eventually the lure of the road and its zippy cars was too great for them to be allowed so much freedom. So I had bribed them all into the back yard with food, because I knew the back yard fences would hold.

Unpredictable goats, unexpected rain. Unending blessings!

Photo credits: flooded house ~ Donna Sweet
                       all other photos ~ Patti Brown
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