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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