Encouraged

After the Boxes are UnpackedThe God of Angel Armies, who went before us to prepare our way for the move, not only cared for us physically, but put plans in place to care for me emotionally and spiritually.  He gave me a group of women who have become more precious to me than I ever thought possible.  When God bestows a blessing that you never even realized you would need, its indescribable.

On Tuesday mornings, from 9:30-11:30, I gather with a group of ladies who have all been through the process of moving.  That’s it.  We have moved.  Some have moved multiple times,  others have moved internationally.  Some of us have only come from one state over.  We have all been through the relocation process and lived to tell about it. Our fearless and hilarious leader,  felt God calling her to begin a group for women who were new to the area.  She has experienced this so many times herself  and was inspired by, “After the Boxes are Unpacked” by Susan Miller.  This book guides readers through the physical, spiritual, and emotional aspects of moving.  She had always wanted to be a part of a moving group, but instead, God wanted her to start one.  Several years later, the group is still going strong.  Some have moved away (because movers move) some have been in the group since its birth, hanging in there to help other new movers.  When you go through a move, only fellow movers can fully relate.  I had no idea the impact this group would have on me and how much I desperately needed it.

Moving is an emotional roller coaster like no other.  To have been born and live your entire life within a few hours of your home, then all of a sudden move 13 hours away, I never imagined the emotions I would feel.  No matter the mindset you try to have, the grieving will come, in waves, then you think you’re over it and you feel it all over again.  Someone may have on a t-shirt of your college rival, or you catch a glimpse of a passerby who looks exactly like a familiar face from back home.   This group of women gets it.  The unfamiliarity and frustrations,  the sadness and pain. They feel it with you and are there to pick you back up again.  These friends walk with you as you help your children grieve because someone in the group has a child who has gone through similar emotions.

Yet another blessing in the midst of uncertainty.  A blessing that I had no idea I would need, but God knew,  He always does.

Undefeated

World War II airplanes - pictures, facts, history, and display models

I can not imagine what it must feel like to go to war, to physically enter a combat zone, flying full force into enemy fire.  I do know what it feels like to go into a spiritual battle.  At times the enemy of fear surrounds me.  When it was confirmed that we would be moving 13 hours from everything comfortable and familiar, the enemy pressed in, looking for an opening in which to infiltrate my soul.  Fear of: the unknown, “what if”, how it was all going to come together, and being away from family and friends who happened to be the greatest support a mom of four could ever have.  Enemy artillery surrounded me from every side.

There have been countless times God has used my love for music to speak scripture into my heart.  Every time I am walking through dire circumstances, God creates a “playlist” of songs that breathe scripture over me.  During our preparations to move, Chris Tomlin’s song Whom Shall I Fear brought me to my knees every time it was on the radio or sung in worship.

I know who goes before me
I know who stands behind
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side

His lyrics come from Deuteronomy 31. Moses is speaking to Joshua and the Israelites about crossing the Jordan River and heading into the promised land, the home they had been anxiously waiting to enter for 40 years.  God said to Moses, “The Lord your God himself will cross over ahead of you.  He will destroy these nations before you, and will take possession of their land.”

I am sure the Israelites feared numerous foes.  They considered the “hows” and the “what ifs”, but God was going before them.  He was crossing the river first, to prepare the way for them to enter and not be defeated.

God went before our family as we prepared to enter the Bayou.  He made a way for us to come here and not be defeated.  I am sure He will reveal to me countless ways he prepared our path, but already I have seen evidence of his hand and his angel armies that had gone ahead.

Two weeks before we were to move, we had a change of housing.  The original rental home to which we were assigned was not to be.  We had circulated the address and had friends send us pictures of this home.  The school system within the district was a concern, so we went through the arduous process to secure alternative schooling.  We made many accommodations to live in this house.  For whatever reason at the time, we were moved to a second rental house 10 miles away from the first.

Three days after moving in,  our alternative schooling option fell through. We made the choice to place our kids in the public schools.  Originally, this would not have been an option, but the second house happened to be in a better school district, one of the best in the area.  Despite the new curriculum, school, rules, and location our children are excelling.

A few days later, after the flood, we drove through the neighborhood of the original rental and saw piles of debris from flooded homes.  Had God’s army of angels not moved us to a different location, we would have been flood victims.  The debris would be our belongings and would have added a whole new level of stress to our already crazy situation.

The God of Angel Armies went before us and prepared a way for our family not be defeated. He placed us precisely in the house and location we needed to be in, for our family to thrive.

Are you about to cross the Jordan River into an unknown place or circumstance?  Does fear envelope your every thought?  If we were sitting down together, having coffee, I would look you in the eyes and tell you, without a doubt, that the God of Angel Armies has already crossed over ahead of you.  He is preparing the way and you will not be defeated.

Chris Tomlin Whom Shall I Fear

Endured

pit-600x369[1]The journey of faith is tough.  There was I time that I didn’t believe there was an “enemy”. I didn’t really think that there was a being “out there” that impacted my daily walk with God.  I could not have been more wrong.  The enemy doesn’t want us to be happy.  He wants us to wallow in our grief, forgetting our faith and losing our hope.

“The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy;

I have come that they may have life and have it to the full. John 10:10

We don’t like change.  We don’t like it because we are not in control.  We want to have a say in what happens in our lives.   The enemy likes to take advantage of fear of change, so when it happens, we spiral, question, and crawl into our pit.

Please don’t get me wrong, there is a time for grief and mourning.  I’ve been there, I know pain, I know how it feels to be in a dark pit, but Jesus didn’t die on the cross for us to stay in that pit.  God didn’t raise his Son from the dead for us to live in darkness.

“…a time to weep and a time to laugh,    a time to mourn and a time to dance…”  Ecclesiastes 3:4

Friends, I encourage you to push through your grief.  We all go through the process in different ways and within a different time frame, but if you feel like your grief has kept you from laughing and dancing for too long, find help, through a counselor or pastor trained in grief counseling. Seeing a counselor doesn’t exhibit weakness, but great strength, by acknowledging you have a need and you are tired of pretending everything is okay.

Do not allow the enemy to steal your joy any longer.  Do not allow him to keep you in your pit of despair.  This is his greatest desire, to keep us from living the joy-filled life to which we are called.

*Side note:  This was written with no one in particular in mind.  I write what I feel God has laid on my heart, most of the time sharing from personal experiences.

Diminished

img_3504During the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina,  I remember someone starting an “undie” drive.   Simple reasoning, because these people who lost everything, deserve new underwear.  I wondered if I posted something on social media, for 10 friends to send socks or underwear to donate to the distribution center at church, would there be a response.  Apparently more people read my Facebook feed than I realized.

Responses were immediate.

~My home church began getting the word out to donate socks and undies.

~College friends purchased items and mailed them to my doorstep.

~High school buddies (whom I haven’t spoken to in person for over 20 years) sent numerous packages of toiletries, pet food, and school supplies.

~Dear neighbors from home gave cleaning supplies and donated money.

~Family members purchased items as well as collected items from their friends.

Sometimes I think I underestimate my people.  Not that I ever thought my friends wouldn’t step up to help, but they have their own lives, crazy schedules, and disaster relief going on in their own homes.

But in reality, I diminished my God.  How often do we do this?  How often do we set the bar way too low for God?

Natalie Grant’s new song “King of the World” resonates this as well:

How could I make you so small
When you’re the one who holds it all

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we may ask or think.”  Ephesians 5:20.

As if God hadn’t done enough already.  He was ready to show me the true meaning of the word infinitely”.

My parents called one Sunday afternoon in the middle of all of the disaster relief.  I was an emotional wreck already; overcome with the fact that we had just moved and seemed to have been placed smack dab in the middle of a mission field, without a chance to catch our breath.  My father had taught Sunday School that day and had chosen to base his lesson on generosity.  He shared my posts about the distribution center, documenting the supplies sent in by friends. He used these posts to share with his class the amount of generosity he had been witnessing.

After class, one of the older gentlemen pulled him aside and offered him all of the money from his wallet.  Seriously, the man didn’t count it out, but just grabbed it and handed it over.  He said he felt the Lord leading him to give all he had to what was going on in Louisiana.  My parents waited until they got to the car to count the money.

$820

A man, whom I do not know, gave my father $820 to mail to me.

WHO DOES THAT?  God does.  God does infinitely more than we could ever ask or imagine.

Since then, many other churches have send money and donated supplies.  I do not know any of them.  God knows and used them to do infinitely more.

4 schools have held school supply drives to help area schools.  I had one contact with those schools (1 in VA and 3 in PA).  Through ONE CONTACT in VA and PA, 37 boxes were shipped here, full of needed supplies.  God does infinitely more.

Mutual friends drove 13 hours to deliver supplies from friends back home.

A former neighbor was shopping for supplies and someone approached her, randomly asking about her items.  The lady proceeded to give more money for more items to be purchased.

A church in North Carolina donated 250 pounds of school supplies and backpacks.

How could I make you so small
When you’re the one who holds it all
When did I forget you’ve always been the king of the world
You will always be the king of the world 

God is not to be diminished, for he will do infinitely more.

King of the World ~ Natalie Grant

Flooded

The weather had been unusual the moment we arrived.  There was a rainstorm every afternoon around 4pm.  Humidity builds, the clouds give up, relinquishing all of the moisture they possess.  This pattern was ongoing for about a week, however everyone said that it was strange.

Thursday, August 11 it all changed.  The torrential rain began and didn’t let up.

Image result for louisiana flood

 

31 inches of rain

48 hours

146,000 homes flooded

In that time frame, we sensed that something was not right.  The rain didn’t slow down.  It didn’t drizzle or mist, it just poured out, like a damn was opened up with no warning to those in its wake.

Our eyes on the news, we immediately became familiar with local rivers, their names and locations, and whether or not a bayou was connected to it.  We especially searched our map app to make sure these rivers were well away from us.  Our road, thankfully, did not collect water nor did the neighborhood pond crest its bank.  We didn’t know the amount of rain, but we did know that it had to have been a huge amount, as we had to open the drain of our swimming pool 5 times.

The news reports poured in, of families being rescued and shelters opening.  Nearby fire stations were sandbagging and churches were mobilizing to deliver aid.   Our first Sunday at church, the pastor said, “First we’re going to worship, then we’re going to pray, and then we will mobilize.”  I emotionally moved by the immediate response.  Many lessons had been learned in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and there was no waiting, people needed rescuing and there would be a great many needs to meet.

Here we were, strangers to this land, yet it felt like God didn’t want us to remain that way.  4 weeks after the shooting, the people were again in turmoil.  My heart grieved for this community in a way I had never thought would.  I literally knew 3 people by name, other than my own family.  The church began a donation center and we volunteered as we were able.  It felt strange dropping my young girls off in a strange place to help a community they didn’t know, and yet it felt like it was exactly what they needed to do.

I felt great guilt that I wasn’t doing enough.  We had a home.  We had our belongings.  The need was so great and yet I wanted to do more.

Its as if the flood that escaped my home didn’t escape my soul.