Acclimated…sort of

img_5882_pileofcrawfishSeven months should be plenty of time for a family to become acclimated to their new surroundings, right?  I don’t have to use my GPS nearly as much.  I have found my “go-to” grocery stores, shopping areas, and restaurants.  New routines and schedules are flowing, as well as diverse activities and events.  Band, BETA Club, church youth group, voice lessons, and soccer keep our schedule full, helping us settle more into our life here.

However, it’s funny how I keep getting reminded that I am really not a NATIVE Louisianan. The smell of boiled crawfish stimulates my gag reflex and sends my ten-year-old fleeing the grocery store. It’s crawfish season here.  All stores and restaurants are filled to the brim with the little crustaceans.  Understandably, it is also Lent, so everyone has to eat seafood since all other meats are taboo.  Whatever seasoning is used, my olfactory senses can.not. handle.it.

The weather is yet another adjustment that has yet to be made.  In southern Louisiana, it is either HOT or MILD…kind of like the food. Along with those two factors, it is WET.  I am reminded of this as I slosh across the soccer field in my flip flops.  Evaporation just doesn’t happen very quickly.  It is quite humorous to watch the soccer coaches try to maintain order in practice when the kids are jumping in the marshy grass.  Multiple umbrellas and towels are needed, as well as a trash bag for muddy shoes unless you want to spend your weekends vacuuming and shampooing the upholstery.

Along with the previous weather stipulations, I have learned never to trust the weather predictions.  There could be 0% chance of rain and an all-out thunderstorm could strike at any time, in the middle of soccer practice, naturally.  Basically, just plan for any type of weather and you should be just fine.

Our life in Louisiana has been an adventure and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, most of the time.  Surrendering my life to God means that He is in control of all of it, and I am just along for the ride.  Any time I attempt to regain control, I am an anxious basket case.  I am confident that God has placed us here.  If we should move elsewhere, I’m just along for the ride, taking each decision and moment as it comes.  All of this is just a reminder, that we are not to get too comfortable here.  For believers, we are reminded in 1 Peter 2:11, that we shouldn’t get too cozy here on earth since this isn’t our eternal home.  We are strangers, travelers, just passing through (Psalm 39:12).  God could keep us here permanently in Louisiana, or not.  Either way, I know where my real home is.  At least for me, I hope it will be 100% sunny, dry, mild, and without the smell of crawfish.

Calmed…within the Storm

The text immediately drove me to prayer.  Praying without ceasing was easy on this one because the news was without ceasing.  “God, they just can’t seem to catch a break.  God, please calm this storm! Isn’t enough, enough?”

I felt an urging to turn to my Bible and read in Matthew where Jesus calmed the raging storm and that had the disciples shaking in fear, begging for relief.  In Matthew 8:23-27 Jesus had been teaching and healing all day, he surely was exhausted.  To get a break from the crowds, he and his disciples climbed into a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee.  Jesus fell asleep and a huge storm suddenly came upon the area.  The boat was being covered up by waves and Jesus continued to sleep.  The disciples started freaking out, waking up Jesus to rescue them.  Jesus spoke to the disciples about their weak faith and immediately calmed the storm.  I think that was pretty much a sanctified mic drop.

There were a few things I observed from the story.  First, the storm was SUDDEN.  In this area on the Sea of Galilee, sudden storms were pretty common.  Also, many of the disciples were fishermen, so they were used to being in a boat with a storm arising from nowhere. As a follower of Jesus, we are promised that we will have storms in our lives (John 16:33), so although storms may be difficult, we shouldn’t be surprised by them.  The disciples had been spending day after day, with Jesus, watching him perform miracle after miracle, and yet their fear was out of control during this storm.  We know God has taken care of us in the past, but another storm brings up all of the same fears, again and again.

Jesus was sleeping through all of it.  Y’all, the boat was rocking, the storm was loud, the waves were crashing, and he had to be getting a little wet, yet he didn’t wake up until the fear of the disciples awakened Him.  Oh, to have such peace in the midst of a storm, that we would not lose a minute’s rest on worry or fear.

After Jesus awakened, he rebuked the disciples, then rebuked the storm.  The disciples hadn’t grasped that their faith had everything to do with the authority of Jesus.  He was more concerned with their faith and them understanding that He was sovereign over the storm than actually calming the storm.  The disciples wanted the STORM TO BE CALM.  Jesus wanted to be their CALM IN THE MIDST OF STORM.

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I needed to change my prayer.

“Lord, calm us within the storm.  Help us be at peace as we ride out this storm with You.  The thunder may be loud.  The weather may be messy and the waves may be relentless, but fill us with your calm as we endure it with you.  You are LORD over the storm. Amen”

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Removed pt. 3

I expected our move would bring new experiences and a fresh start.  I was not anticipating new opportunities for me.  God placed specific people in my life who were “nudgers”. People who saw more potential in me than I saw in myself and felt no reservations in giving me little nudges toward what they felt God was calling me to.  I fully explained that God told me “no”.  That He took that ministry from me and I needed to yield.  Although they accepted my explanation, they didn’t stop urging and pressing that God may have different opportunities here.

One huge “nudge” came from someone for whom I have great admiration and respect.  A world-renowned Bible Study leader, writer, and speaker was going to be at the local Christian bookstore a few weeks after our move.  Beth Moore had just written her first Christian fiction novel, set in New Orleans, and was coming to have a book signing.  Upon meeting her, my tears flowed as I shared with her my journey and how I felt God telling me to wait.  She nudged and breathed great encouragement into me.  Beth urged me to keep studying, writing, and serving in small ways and one day, it will be evident that it is time for more.  Her words became embers of hope in my soul.

Another opportunity came for me to attend a Bible study at our church.  I had already been a part this study seven years prior and it happened to be my favorite, but I also looked forward to being a part of a study again. Not to mention, one of my loving “nudgers” wouldn’t leave me alone about joining the group. After attending the first session, yielding 50 participants, I immediately felt an urging that more leadership would be needed.  The women are divided into small groups for discussion, so I volunteered to lead one of the groups.  All I can say is that it felt so good to be “home”.  Leading a group of women in the study of the book of Esther fanned a small flame that had dimmed long ago.  It’s as if I felt God’s “nudging” that now was the time to begin moving forward in women’s ministry.

Yet another unexpected opportunity arose in the form of a conference specifically for young women pursuing a ministry of writing and speaking.  Beth Moore held a day-long conference called “LIT” for the sole purpose of encouraging and feeding the flame for the next generation of women.  “‘Is not my word like fire,’ declares the Lord, ‘and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?'” Jeremiah 23:29.  Two friends came along with me to experience twelve hours that would forever change our lives.  We worshiped, studied, and breathed in the inspiration of women who had paved the path ahead of us. We anticipated God moving in big ways for that conference and we waited for whatever that would be.  On our trip, each of us expressed a different burden that weighed on us. Completely unrelated to one another, but something that caused a heaviness in our spiritual journies.  Throughout the 12 hours, each of those burdens was spoken to, breaking us into tears, and lifting from our shoulders.  No one could have known what we needed to hear and be released from, except for God.  We left that weekend, breathing easier, with a new sense of calling. Within each of us was a flame that was strong and unwavering.

Redemption is defined as the removal of a possession in payment for a debt.  In order for God’s redemption to take place in our lives, removal is necessary.  Redemption requires removal.  I had given my life to God many years ago.  Surrendering my life to Him means that I have given Him control to do with my life as he pleases.  God wants to draw all of his children nearer to Himself and many times, he has to remove something that is hindering us moving closer.  Even if those things are good, they can become more important than solely focusing on our relationship with God and our family.

In order for God to redeem, He had to change my environment, removing things from my life that were not where He wanted me to be and taking me to a place where He could bring it all back, on His terms.  I am so thankful I learned to yield to God’s leading.  All that is now being redeemed is only because I allowed God to first remove it.

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I know now that I always need to return to my first ministry, my family.  It is only through waiting on God during that time, that I am able to move forward with the passion He has rekindled in me.  Removal was painful, bur redemption is healing and more beautiful than I could have ever imagined.  Just as Jochebed must have experienced the gut-wrenching feeling of surrendering her son to that basket, God’s redemption and salvation of her people through her son, was that much sweeter.

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Removed pt2

img_4067I felt lost.  God had asked me to step back from everything I was passionate about.  I struggled to see how this fit in to my church and my life.  Saying “no” at every turn was so unlike me and yet, as I withdrew, my focus moved to my family.  My full term baby was born with underdeveloped lungs.  My husband needed a more devoted wife.  My children were growing with lightning speed.  My reluctant obedience became a blessing as God removed all of the extra things in my life to focus on what I had.  What remained was my original calling, to be a wife and mother.

For four years, they have been my sole focus and my soul focus.    My baby girl healed beautifully after a NICU stay.  Our family transitioned through job changes and moving twice.   My husband and I committed to building a stronger marriage. I am so thankful for the time I had to tend to their lives, helping them adjust to numerous changes.

Throughout that time, I waited for my passion for women’s ministry to die.  I felt that if my calling was temporary and God didn’t want me to pursue it, the yearning would just cease. That never happened.  I missed bonding with and teaching the women of my church desperately, but I knew my greater calling was with my family.

Our most recent transition to from Virginia to Louisiana was the true test of my path as a wife and mother.  Investing in my loved ones, keeping my attitude in check, and building a home in a new place brought me to my knees with the realization that “God’s got this”. All of this.  My four year hiatus was a preparation for our move and what I would encounter in the bayou.

In Exodus 2, Jochebed placed her baby in the basket with the full knowledge that “God’s got this”.  She knew God wouldn’t work until she let go.  He had greater things in store for what she so dearly loved and wanted to hold on to.  Jochebed had no idea the call God would place before her son.  I had no idea what God was going to do with this passion that I had abandoned, but still burned within me. It wasn’t until we moved to Louisiana that he began to give me glimpses of what was to come.

to be continued…

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Removed pt.1

me-and-c-2“But when she could no longer hide him, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with asphalt and pitch. She placed the child in it and set it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile.”   Exodus 2:3

Throughout my journey with God, I have felt his yes and no answers.  I say felt because His voice is not audible, but more or less a pounding in my soul.  He told me yes when I prayed about marrying my husband.  He told me no when I was a part of a church that I needed to move from.  Sometimes the obedience is easy.  I desired to marry my husband.  My heart loved him deeply.  I felt God leading me away from that church and calling me to somewhere different.

In my journey, there have been times where God’s no was not welcome.  Obedience was the last thing I wanted.  The sacrifice was too great.  Four years ago, I was living and breathing “Women’s Ministry” in my church.  I enjoyed leading Bible Studies and speaking before groups of women.  I was passionate about breathing God’s truth into the lives of women, that He is greater than all of their struggles through womanhood, marriage, and parenting.

Upon expecting our fourth child, God pressed in on me to give it all up.  He asked me to lay down all that I felt called to do.  Give it all to him.  Its as if I had to relinquish my deeply loved child, as Jochebed surrendered Moses to the reeds that day.

I cannot imagine her pain.  I dare say she made that basket and placed him in it with a smile on her face.  I mean, aren’t there crocodiles?  What if the Pharaoh did find him?  Would he die anyway?   Hebrews 11:23 says that Moses parents hid him for three months because they did not fear the king’s edict that all baby boys must be killed.  They are mentioned in Hebrews 11, known as the Heroes of Faith.  If they weren’t afraid of the edict, then they must have had complete peace about placing their beloved infant in that basket.

God, what about my gift, my calling, my passion?  Why would you give this to me only to take it all away?  Remove it he did. Every last bit.

to be continued…

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Ensnared

anxiety

Anxiety.  It can be an UGLY word and an UGLY emotion.

Anxious: full of mental distress; greatly worried

According to WebMD, anxiety is linked to mental disorders, panic attacks, and social disorders. The site also includes symptoms of extreme anxiety include:

  • feelings of panic, fear, uneasiness
  • problems sleeping
  • not able to be still and calm

Leah MD would like to add upset stomach and/or the increased desire to eat junk food.

I am no doctor or therapist, and have no degree in anything related to this topic.  For those who have diagnosed anxiety disorders, I applaud you for getting help.  It takes a great degree of humility to reach out for support.

On top of all of the beautiful havoc anxiety can wreak on your life, it can also have a serious affect on others.  Fear alienates and destroys relationships, especially with those closest to you.  Anxiety is such a strong-hold that it turns you into someone you were never meant to be.  We hear one news story or a political fiasco and we lose all sense of composure. Fear engulfs our thought process and ability to hear truth, so all we hear is satan whispering “fear” into our ears.

This post is something I felt the need to write after observing the affects of anxiety in my own life as well as the world around me.  Our world is riddled with it.  The media loves to provoke it.  I’m here to tell you that it’s one of satan’s favorite tactics.  There aren’t too many emotions that can make us lose all self-control and keep us from relying on God. That’s what satan wants, to remove our dependence on the one he fears most.

Peter writes, “Cast all of your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”(1 Peter 5:7, NIV) When I read that, I think of the fishing nets being cast out to sea.  Peter is telling us to throw all of that worry and fear onto God.  You have to throw it in order for God to retrieve it.  He’s not going to pull it from your clenched fists.  You’ve got to recognize the issue so you can cast the net.

“He cares for you.”  Who do you “care” for?  Your children?  Your family? When your they are sick, do you wish you could take on their discomfort?  Do you wish you could take their pain away?  God wants the same thing for us.  He cares for us.  He wants to take the anxiety that ensnares our lives.  We were created for much more.

As I look at our world today, I see it as one big battle of good and evil;  God and satan; courage and fear; Narnia against the Snow Queen; Middle Earth versus Mordor.

Which side are you on?   I’m going with God.  He cares for me and I matter to him.  I care too much about the people in my life to allow anxiety to ruin my relationships.  Don’t let it rule your life any longer. Talk it out with a friend.  Find a pastor to pray with you.  Seek out a counselor who can rid you from the strong hold fear has on your life.

Dear one, God cares for you and so do I. Cast out that net.

Transitioned

This is the point in my blog, where I need to move beyond the impact of the move on our family, to the funny, quirky, everyday happenings that make me smile, because life goes on (Ob la di ob la da life goes on bra).  It has been 5 months since we moved, which is completely ridiculous, because I feel like I have been here for WAY longer than that.

I used to write another blog, before the move, that was entitled “Mommy Block”.  I loved sharing real life stories to hopefully make my readers laugh and feel completely at ease that there is another mom out there who really doesn’t know what she is doing.

So, part of this post was written sitting in the…..wait for it….DMV.  Be jealous, I know. This is the one thing since moving that I have been dreading.  I hate going so badly that I drove 30 minutes to the most hole-in-the-wall DMV I have ever visited.  I refuse to battle the traffic of Baton Rouge.  I will stay home all day long if it means I don’t have to enter that realm.  I am not kidding: “Baton Rouge ranks 3rd in the country for most congested, “medium” sized city in the country, according to the Texas Transportation Institute’s Mobility Report.” On top of that, I may have already had my first accident here and it was a hit and run, twice.  I.DON’T.DO.TRAFFIC.

The DMV and I go way back.  My father was a long-time employee and first started his career there when I was in high school.  It was about the time I had to take my driving test. Multiple choice tests have never been my strength.  I can overly rationalize each answer until they all sound right.  Why couldn’t there have been an essay based test? Why must there be specifically correct driving answers?  (I am sensing the majority of the drivers in Baton Rouge feel the same way.)  I flailed the written test horribly.  I didn’t FAIL, but was one question from that, so lets just say I FLAILED.  I don’t know how I didn’t fail except for the fact that my dad worked there.  He has never admitted to having anything to do with my score, but seriously, I know I did quite badly.

My drive to the DMV was quite lovely.  Really.  One feature of this area that fascinates me is the Mississippi River and the bridges.  Ya’ll, its like driving up the incline of a roller coaster.  I hold my breath and can not look down, but I love the majesty of the bridges. (Dad, I found these pictures online, I promise).

I’m glad I enjoyed my drive, because I get to revisit the hole-in-the-wall DMV again seeing as although I had every piece of paperwork I could possibly imagined I needed, I still was missing some key pieces.  Clearly, the DMV wants to continue our relationship whether in Virginia or Louisiana.  Somehow, I am not comforted by this.

Captured

It had to be done.  I missed my people.  My kids missed their people.  We had to make a visit to Virginia.  Four kids.  One adult.  15 hour road trip.  Its enough to make you NOT want to attempt it.

The day after Christmas, we hopped in the car, fully stocked with snacks, movies, and books on CD.  There was one rule.Don’t lose your mind and we’ll all be okay.  I prepared myself for all sorts of behavior and nonsense.  Let me just say that as long as we stopped EVERY 2 HOURS, no exceptions, whether they had to use the bathroom or not, we kept it together.  Also, flavored candy sticks from Cracker Barrel are fantastic incentives for maintaining sanity.  8/$1.00 bought a lot of peace in my van.

I can not tell you how elated I was when we crossed the border into Virginia and I saw the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Comfortable. Familiar. Home.

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Each of the older kids had a buddy to spend 24 hours with.  In other words, we needed a 24 hour break from one another.  They all had their people again.  That was enough to make me teary.  Not that I was sad to be home, but happy they could have their time, just for them.  I was fortunate to spend the night with a dear sister, whose family gladly took my baby girl for the evening so we could enjoy time out with other girlfriends. Within 24 hours, I eeked out as much time with my people as possible.

The rest of our time in Virginia was spent with family.  It was lovely to just take a deep breath, stay in my pajamas and allow the grandparents to do what they do best, spoil my children.  I couldn’t have asked for a better Christmas gift.

I knew the visit would be physically exhausting.  I was fully prepared for a long recovery from the whirlwind week and a half.  I was not prepared for how I would feel.  I honestly believed that I would have a harder time, emotionally.  I missed my family and my friends. I missed the beauty of Virginia.  However, I was not sad.

There is so much I am thankful for in Louisiana.  When asked how I like Louisiana, without hesitation I said, “The people, I love the people.”  This place has captured my heart.  I have cried with this community.  I have felt the pain and the heartache of all they have tried to overcome.  This was God’s plan from the minute we arrived, to open ourselves to a place that desperately needed all of the support they could get.  Its not that we have done anything spectacular, but who doesn’t need an extra person praying for them or another smile on a dark day?  I am learning to open myself up to the work God wants done, even if that means moving from everything comfortable and familiar.  Being captured isn’t such a bad thing.

Unexpected

Image result for fireworks images“What do you want for Christmas Eve dinner?” I asked my husband while we were sitting in our bedroom. We were watching TV and trying to focus over the relentlessly barking dogs on the other side of our window.  I had focused Christmas Day prep along with packing for our trip to Virginia and had completely forgotten to plan dinner.

“Hot Dogs,” he replied with a hint of sarcasm.  Those dogs have barked more days than not since our move and love to position themselves on the other side of the fence outside of our bedroom window.

I laughed off the reply until I found myself at the grocery store a few hours later.  Nowhere else was open, so I had to come up with something. He wanted hot dogs?  I’ll give him hot dogs.

I began serving them up and my oldest ran into the kitchen, “Mom!  The neighbors are shooting off fireworks, let’s eat dinner outside in the driveway!”

So we did.  Never in a million years would I have pictured our family sitting in our driveway on Christmas Eve watching fireworks and eating hot dogs.

Earlier that week, a radio station was sharing unconventional Christmas traditions.  So many of the stories had just “happened” and the family continued the tradition to carry on the memory.  In a new place, we needed new traditions to happen, without me trying to plan it out.

I am thankful for those crazy dogs and a culture who celebrates life at every turn.  God always knows when we need a little humor in the midst of the crazy and stressful.

Redefined

I wasn’t ready. Uprooting and relocating is one thing, but completely redefining how you celebrate the holidays is another.  I didn’t know what to expect.  I wasn’t grieving, but I wasn’t ready to do anything different.

I tried to avoid Thanksgiving at home.  At first we attempted a trip to Houston, then a trip to New Orleans.  Work called and both fell through.  I was forced to redefine our first holiday.

We came up with nothing spectacular, fried the turkey, cooked all of the normal sides, and made my grandmother’s famous chocolate meringue. We pulled out some of our favorite games and tested our Disney movie knowledge, laughed around the table and talked about this and that.

Looking back, I think God wanted us to redefine a few things.  He’s been doing that since we arrived.  I think he wanted us to stop the busy and the planning.  He wanted us to slow down and refocus on our family.  A trip would have been fun, but we would have been distracted by all of the sites to see.  I would have been stressed by all of the planning it would have entailed.  God knows.  He sees.  We needed time as a family, without all of the bells and whistles, so here is where we had to be.