Friday, October 20, 2017

Hospitality

Oh, how VERY glad I am to have my husband home!

He and 15 others from our church just completed a short term mission assignment in El Salvador.  They came home exhausted and exuberant!  The vocational building project we started some six years ago is almost complete.

While he was away, I had the joy of hosting several people in our home for various reasons.

During our first trip to El Salvador in 2011, our original team assignment had to be scraped.  We were quickly re-assigned to work with a struggling little church positioned literally on the side of a mountain.

Within just a few days, our hearts were knit for eternity with the young pastors, their children and the beautiful people of that mountain community.  There was no government assistance for the families trying to scratch a living from the uncooperative soil.  That meant no water lines, no sewer system and sparse electrical service.

Yet in spite of the harsh living conditions, we found them to be some of the most hospitable people we'd ever met.  "Mi casa, es su casa!"   (Thanks to Margret Register, my eighth grade Spanish teacher, for that line.) 

We tend to hear that popular phrase and imagine some sprawling hacienda with Antonio Banderas waving to us from the grand staircase of the entryway, "My home is your home!"  But on the mountain of Portellious it has a different connotation. 

"Welcome!  Would you like a glass of rain water collected by my cistern?" 

"Have a tortilla, won't you?  She's frying another one on that stone in the lean-to kitchen now." 

"That's a long walk up the mountain.  Sit with me a while on this wooden bench.  My husband built it."  

"Oh, you need a toilet?  Yes, my outhouse is over there." 

"Mi casa es su casa!"

You get the idea. 

During one of our hikes up the mountain, we experienced a torrential downpour.  The rain started just after we'd arrived at the home of one of the church members.  They gladly made room for our team to join them.  We crowded together onto the narrowly covered areas outside their sleeping room and the shelter that served as a kitchen. 

They spoke no English and we knew only a few phrases in Spanish.  But we all smiled and sang for one another while their baby slept and the chickens clucked and the storm roared.  I left there feeling I had been hosted like royalty.

It gave me a new view on hospitality!

I grew up living in a house that was open to strangers and friends alike almost all the time.  Mom never worried much about her carpet or curtains or special dishes.  She just wanted people to feel welcome.  And they did!

Over the years, I somehow began to focus more on appearance than on atmosphere when entertaining.  And that subtle shift caused me to stopped inviting people to our home at random times. 

They could only come when I'd had plenty of notice.  Prepared a full meal.  Sanitized the guest bath.  Touched up the living room paint job.  The list went on and on. 

But this year, Frank and I made a decision to change that.  Now granted, with just the two of us living here it is much easier to keep things tidy.  And I must be honest, we also have more room to hide a mess quickly when necessary. 

Even so, we've decided to keep the priority on enjoying the company instead of impressing the company.  It makes for a much more relaxed visit. 

There was a season in my life when I would hand guests a set of clean sheets and say, "These are for the bed you'll be sleeping on in that room.  Welcome!"  I don't have to do that anymore.  But I don't rush for the paintbrush, either.

And we've discovered there's a hidden secret about hospitality that our friends in El Salvador know well.  When you open your heart and home to visitors, it breaks you out of the ugly prison of selfishness and moves you into the beauty of kindness.  That is a move worth pursuing!

Hope you find a little something to ponder for yourself as we approach the 2017 Season of Celebrating. 



What about you?  Did you grow up living in the house that was open to all the neighbor kids?  Do you enjoy hosting surprise guests?  Or do you prefer more notice?  I'd love to hear your take on hospitality in the comment section below.  





    


Monday, October 9, 2017

"She's Where?!"

We're overdue for a bit of humor at Embrace the Grace.  So, I asked permission to share this story from Meagan's baby file.

Actually since she was only five months old when it happened, the embarrassment is all mine - not hers.  But we've made it a rule in our family to never tell stories without permission.

You see, I grew up as a preacher's kid, too.  The most dreaded sentence to hear from my father was, "The other day at our house....."  My siblings and I would immediately freeze then start sweating profusely until we knew what story he was telling.  Whew!

Frank and I made a pact with our crew that we wouldn't do that to them.

It was the spring of 1988.  We were in the midst of our annual Easter production with our home church in Asheville, NC.  Our cast and crew, more than 200 volunteers, all gave hundreds of hours each year.  And with ten performances over two weeks, we celebrated the greatest story ever told with thousands in attendance.

Needless to say, it was equal parts exhilaration and exhaustion.

We had an amazing team led by Rita and Darlene ministering to the babies and children of the cast.  (Lots of young families participating in any church event means lots of opportunities for childcare. Amen?!)  They worked long hours right alongside the rest of us and we were SO appreciative.

As directors, Frank and I encouraged everyone to be considerate of the nursery/children's workers by promptly collecting their children after performances and during breaks.  We also tried to model that with our own tribe of girls.

Kristin (5) was actually in the play.  Joy (2 1/2) and Meagan just knew it as a time of being squeezed and loved on by surrogate moms.  Because I was still nursing, Meagan would often accompany me to meetings.

She contentedly endured many "meals" with her head covered and her mom talking fast.  "Wide Open" best describes our lives during those Easter seasons.

The team meal served between performances had just ended along with a quick meeting with our lighting crew.  Before heading into our pre-service prayer time I wanted to stop by the nursery and check on Meagan.

Of course, you NEVER let your nursery child actually SEE you peeking through the half-door entry.  Even babies contentedly playing will automatically melt into wailing if they spot mom, dad or a grandparent peeking at the door.

(Can I get an "AMEN!" from the nursery workers reading this?)

So I carefully stood back and surveyed all the bouncey chairs and cribs but didn't spot my baby.  It took only a moment to catch the eye of the vigilant nursery attendant.  I smiled and mouthed, "Where's Meagan?"  She gave a startled look my way then erupted in her signature laugh, "Oh, Sheri!  You're so funny!"

I stepped back further into the hallway, surprised by her response.  But then it dawned on me, they had obviously taken Meagan to the section where her sisters were being cared for.  Even as a five year old, Kristin had a great way of calming her baby sister. 

A glance at my watch told me to hurry.  Not much time to get all the way downstairs; check on my babies; then make it back in order to lead the prayer time.

Hurrying down the staircase. I was distracted by greeting arriving guests and responding to other cast members dashing by.  When I hit the doorway of the older children's play area, I wasn't as concerned about being discreet.  I just needed to confirm that Meagan was settled near her sister then get back upstairs.

My eyes swept the room.

Okay good, there's Joy.  And there's Kristin.  But Meagan was NO WHERE to be seen.  I checked the arms of each worker.  I looked into each corner but my baby was not there!

One of the workers glanced up and I called across the room rather intensely, "I don't see Meagan!  You guys don't have her?!" I asked hoping against hope.

The worker gave me the same puzzled expression as the nursery attendant, "Sheri, you're such a cut up!"  Her response made no sense at all.  Obviously, these people had been serving too long.  I turned and rushed back out the door.

One thing was for sure, my baby was missing and we were getting ready to lock down the entire church facility until I could locate her.

My heart was pounding and my high heels clicked loudly on the tiles as I started running toward the stairs.  My mind whirled with possibilities - none of them pleasing.

Frank would know what to do.  I ran a little faster.

Just as I reached the first landing, the worker who had been calling my name and running after me, grabbed my arm.  I whirled around to confront this lady who was trying to slow me down.

"Let me go!  I've got to find Meagan!"  Panic was setting in and my eyes had filled with tears.

"SHERI!" she was yelling now.  "Sheri stop!  Meagan is On Your HIP!"

"She's where?"  My voice trailed off as I looked down and realized, I had indeed been running all over the church while Meagan contentedly bobbed along beside me.

I know!  I KNOW!

I can hear you howling with laughter and cackling with disbelief, "No Way!  You did not lose your baby on your own hip!  That's impossible!"

Wait!

Before you judge me too harshly, please consider this.....all my little girls were born before the oldest turned 5.  I had lived for five years with some baby almost perpetually riding around on my left hip.  That way my right hand was free for stirring spaghetti, holding the telephone, grabbing siblings before they could fall.......

(If you're left-handed, your baby most likely rode on your right hip.  Women all around the world are nodding with agreement and understanding.)

For many years, this true story has been my inroad for the hearts of women attending conferences where I speak.  I open by telling about losing my child on my own hip and suddenly women love me.

I know their line of thinking. "I left so many things undone before coming to this retreat.  I've been feeling like an absolute failure as a mom.  But at least I never lost one of my kids on my own hip!"

It's okay.  I'm happy to be a measure against which they can be encouraged about their own parenting - it is the toughest job in the world, you know.

That was the end of this story until last month......

Most of you know Meagan is now a wonderful little mommy with two of my six perfect grandchildren.  She also nannies for two infants.  Her life is full and she is constantly on the move caring for her charges.

She called one evening recently and said, "Well, mom!  You'll be glad to hear that history has repeated itself."

"What are you talking about?"  I asked, settling in to hear her story.

It seems she and Joy had met for lunch.  They were loading all the children into their carseats when suddenly Meagan couldn't find Madi.  She started panicking because she just knew Madi had most likely stepped back out into the busy parking lot.

"Joy!" she screamed.  "Where's Madison?!"

Joy started laughing and said, "Well, 'Mom!'  She's on your hip!"

Meagan looked down and sure enough, Madi was looking back at her with the innocent expression of total contentment.

The two sisters stood in the parking lot and laughed until they cried!

I have no spiritual conclusion for this except the scripture promise that our Heavenly Father will never lose or forget us - our names are engraved on His hands.  I'm thankful for that, aren't you?!



(Any stories from your own parenting/baby days that would make us smile?  We'd love to hear about them in the comment section.)



















Wednesday, October 4, 2017

WHY??!!

It's the one syllable question being asked by millions, "Why?!"  And I have a response.

This horrific loss of innocent life at the hands of another human being is beyond our ability to comprehend.  Why would someone intentionally commit such an atrocity?

I'm referring, of course, to the unimaginable massacre of 59 souls in Las Vegas, Nevada on Sunday.  Well over 500 husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, cousins, friends, co-workers were deliberately injured by the methodical plotting of a madman.

And the cry of sorrow has rolled out over our nation and around the world.  We're all calling over the catch in our throats that one word, "WHY?!"

There still is no known motive behind the actions of this evil and there will never be a reason.

My purpose is not to dignify this atrocity with some attempt at explanation.  But I do want to continue to ask the question, "Why?"

WHY - did a young husband make a split-second assessment of the danger then react by throwing his own body over his wife becoming a human shield?

WHY - did another man stop while fleeing the carnage in order to help others over a fence before leaping to safety himself?

WHY - did a lady intentionally pull her car to the edge of the danger and urge strangers to throw their bleeding bodies into her pristine vehicle so she could drive them to a hospital?

WHY - did scores of first responders rush toward the open area where death was raining down?

WHY - did a man with family risk his life in order to knock down a door, knowing full well the shooter was garrisoned behind it?

WHY - did countless others react with valiant heroism while one coward worked toward destruction?

My response may perplex some.

Those who chose valor on Sunday night did not do so because we're all basically good at our core.  Quite the opposite is true.  We all have the potential for evil to rule in our hearts.

That's why actions of darkness are so terrifying.  Each one is like a mirror offering a faint glimmer of what we can be if not properly governed.  (Don't stop reading, there's hope ahead.)

Here's the good news -  while one man had no appreciation for human life, thousands of others sensed the divine spark in those around them and worked to preserve what they recognized and valued.  They chose life and offered their own frightened, quivering hands as an assist to others desperate to live.

A writer I often read had the experience of watching with sorrow as his dearest friend offered himself, a human shield to save others.  He wrote about the experience like this, "Greater love has no man than to lay down his life for a friend."

Beautifully said, don't you think?

There is so much uncertainty in this world.  Our children and grandchildren are growing up in a society our grandparents could never have fathomed.  Who can be sure of anything?

But in all the chaos there are still a few anchoring truths:

  • I'm SURE - Love wins out over hatred in every face-off!
  • I'm SURE - My own choices/actions matter!  Choosing to serve others keeps the evil of selfishness at bay in my life and makes me, instead, a carrier of hope.
  • I'm SURE -  Life is a gift which needs to be enjoyed and lived fully...not fearfully!
  • I'm SURE - Real life is found in the actions of that One hero from 2000 years ago.  The One who laid down His life in exchange for yours and mine, dear friend.

One short hour before darkness exploded out the windows on that 32nd floor, the crowd gathered below was awash in light.  22,000 people held up the lights on their cell phones waving them and singing in unison,  "God Bless America." 

Such irony.  And yet, how fitting.

For all our differences and disagreements as countrymen, we know deep in our hearts, God is the singular Hope for our nation and our world.  It's His divine spark breathed into us that calls us each to a higher level of living.  He alone can shield us from the death brought on by selfishness (sin).

As Frank and I sat silently watching the first reports roll out, we were too dumbstruck for words.  After the first story of a hero who stepped up to help another, I turned to my husband and quietly whispered, "You're that kind of man.  You would help others in a situation like that."

He whispered back, "I would certainly hope so."  

We all wonder how we would react.  But I'm confident of how Frank would respond because it's his habit.  I've watched for 38 years as he has put selfishness aside and offered himself to help others over the fences of impossibility.

WHY?

Simply put, he doesn't belong to himself.  Many years ago he chose to live the life offered by the Greatest Friend and that choice has made all the difference.

Do you know that to be true of yourself, dear reader?  Have you chosen LIFE?  Have you decided to be a carrier of HOPE as you journey forward?

It's my desire to offer a spot of joy today in this sea of sadness.  After reading, I hope you'll do the same.

God bless us, every one.






















Saturday, September 23, 2017

Irma (Conclusion)

So, I promised a storm related story you could use to encourage others.  Here you go......

One of the first hurricanes Frank and I experienced together was actually while we were living in Ocean Isle Beach, NC.  The islands along the coast of NC jut out into the Atlantic Ocean and end up catching wild weather more often than you would think.

We lived in a rural area with more pine trees than people.  It had been an especially rainy summer. So, by the time that hurricane made landfall with its torrential downpours and winds topping 80 MPH, we had trouble on our hands.

After the storm passed us, we were left with hundreds of fallen trees littering the coastal areas.  A couple of days later, we took the girls walking on a golf course so they could see some of the damage from the safety of the cart paths.

Huge oaks and pines alike lay stacked askew on one another.  Aerial views showed something looking like a giant game of pixie sticks covering what had been carefully manicured lawns and golf courses.

The most fascinating thing to us was how the root beds of these trees remained in tact; many towering 8-10 feet high.  Everyone knows tall trees must have a huge root system of support. But to see that circular pad exposed was rather awe inspiring.

Several months later, I was preaching in another church and used those massive root beds as an illustration for my sermon.  I talked about the importance of developing a personal root system for life.  One built on truth that will help us stay standing during the storms of life.

After service, the pastor (who had formerly been a farmer for many years) clued me in on "the rest of the story."

During years with lots of rain, water is abundant and trees will typically grow roots outward; just below the surface to collect it.  But during times of drought, trees are required to put their energy toward growing a single tap root deep into the earth.  Only then can they find the water they need to survive. Very little growth is visible above ground during those times, but the tap root keeps the tree alive.

When storms come, trees that have primarily developed only surface roots have nothing to anchor them.  Toppling happens easily.

But trees that have survived the harshest droughts have a deep root system to hold them steady.  They may bend and some branches will likely break off but when the storm passes, they'll still be standing.

Do you see the similarity between the trees and us as people?  (I have tears in my eyes writing this.)

We all go through times of drought and difficulty.  It seems everything takes so much more effort than it should.  But during those times, we grow.

If we're wise, we grow deeper in the truths God has for us.  We spend more time in prayer and reading the Word; along with books of encouragement.  We don't try to figure it out on our own, we search out wise counsel to help us decipher what we're experiencing.

Then, when the storms come (and they surely will) we discover that the season of drought helped us develop a deep root system that keeps us standing until the winds subside.  We may have to bend a little and we may come out of the storm looking a little different but we WILL Come Through!

The tap root of TRUTH will hold us steady.

My friend's experience as a farmer cultivating crops became wise counsel to me as someone who cultivates people.  I hope this is encouraging to you, as well.

Blessings for your Sabbath!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Irma (Part 2)

What do 100 mile per hour winds sound like?

They sound like a freight train throbbing all around you.  And during a hurricane, there's also a lower sounding "growl" competing for attention which hovers just above the freight train.  When the 100 mph winds take a breath, you hear the terrifying growl.

There is no mistaking their intensity.

We met with about 30 of our church last Sunday morning.  As usual, there were lots of warm hugs, words of encouragement and sincere smiles being shared.  But there were no greeters; no announcements; no band; no sermon.

We were there to ride out Hurricane Irma together.  Some had been forced to evacuate others just didn't want to be alone.  Two older couples had never experienced a hurricane before.

Our "service" that day consisted of simple acoustic songs of worship.  Songs that reminded us just how great God is and how faithful He is to His people.  Frank shared a well-thought out word of encouragement.  He described the dual pegs of Hope and Peace on which we could hang our worries.

John's love language is food.  So he and Joy prepared a wonderful lunch of pork, beans and rice.  We all added the food items we'd brought; then shared a make-shift feast as the rains began in earnest.

Babies were put down on pallets and pack-n-play cribs for a nap.  Some of us rested; others read or quietly played games.

Around 5 PM the rain started coming in discernible bands.  The sign on the business across from us began blowing perpendicular to the ground.  Tree branches started waving and the palms were flailing.  The howling and whistling of the winds grew in volume while rain literally poured over the roof.

Then the sun set.  Darkness makes everything more intimidating.

Thankfully, we didn't lose power until after 11PM - well after babies had been put to bed.  Six little angels fell asleep with the comfort of routine Bible stories, music and night time prayers with mom and dad. All they knew was that they were getting to share a campout adventure with their cousins in the room where they usually have kids' services.

It was later reported we had over 10 inches of rain in that twenty-four hour period.  For our friends up north, I'm told you can safely multiply that by 5 and liken it to  50 inches of snow.  Weather is a powerful force.

Our own hefty church church sign began to blow sideways and sway.  About that same time, the rain went perpendicular, too.  We maintained news coverage long enough to know the storm had weakened and the eye was coming directly over our county.

I tried to lie down around 11:30 but just couldn't get comfortable on the air mattress we've used many times.  It was more comforting to sit in the kitchen area with the others who were still awake.  There wasn't much conversation.  We just drew strength from one another's presence.

We watched the fireworks display as transformers around us began to "blow."  Much like a mini explosion temporarily illuminating the darkness with bright blue light.

When our power went out, we fired up a generator to keep the refrigerator and a couple of lamps going.  Several stretched out on chairs in the auditorium.  One or two sat in the foyer.  Six or seven of us paced or sat in the kitchen - waiting.

Irma reached her zenith over us between 12:30 and 3 AM.  The sign across the street tore off completely.  We started losing branches and whole trees (at the edge of our property) toppled over, exposing massive root systems. Pebbles from our roof constantly pinged against the glass doors and windows.

And, of course, the wind!  That ever present howling, screaming, terrain-altering wind.

Our church has a covered walkway about four feet wide but it offered little protection from the fury of those winds.  By 1:30, the rain was being driven in between the double glass doors of our foyer and kitchen areas.  It literally soaked the carpeting almost five feet in.  We sat watching as the doors "breathed" and prayed they wouldn't give way.

At long last, Irma churned on toward the north.  Winds remained strong but the worst of it had marched beyond us.  We all fell exhausted onto pallets, chairs and mattresses trying to doze for at least a couple of hours.  There would be plenty to do at daybreak.

At first light, we started collecting our belongings.  Everyone was eager to get home and survey their damage.  We stopped to spend time together offering prayers of thanksgiving; shared a hasty breakfast and hugged our fellow storm warriors farewell.  Our hearts will forever be knit together by our shared experience.

Irma is no longer impacting our weather but her effects will be felt by our peninsula for months to come.  A pastor we know has a family business providing frozen foods to larger outlets.  They babysat generators for days trying to keep the freezers going.

Although the change in trajectory spared many of our coastal cities, the torrential rains devastated our interior farms and groves.  Vegetables and citrus that were only weeks from harvesting were stripped from trees or now lie rotting in fields due to the unrelenting heat.

Farming is Florida's second industry behind tourism.  We'll likely all feel the impact of Irma's devastation when we begin buying imported vegetables this fall.

Today, we're collecting non-perishables for shipment this afternoon to our sister churches in the Keys. They have water, we were told but are having very real problems obtaining canned meats and other food items.

Some of our church family just got power back yesterday while others are still waiting.  We've been amazed by the strangers helping strangers.  Power workers who have streamed in from other states to help us.  First responders who stay steady in service even when many of their own homes have been damaged or destroyed.

Frank, John and Joe cleaned up all around the outside of our church on Wednesday.  Kristin and I covered the indoors and contacted members to confirm they were safe.  Our Sunday service yesterday was one of celebration and felt like Thanksgiving in September!

A couple of closing thoughts for today:

  • No matter how big the storms, they all eventually pass.
  • Relationships matter much more than things.
  • Our hope is built on the sure foundation of God's Love.
  • After the rain, we always look for the rainbow.
Thanks for stopping by today, dear reader.  If you happen to be living through a storm of your own,  I encourage you to ponder those closing thoughts again.  Let them soak into your heart.  God is faithful; you can trust Him!   



(My next post will have a great story you can use to encourage others!  Watch for it later this week.)












  



Friday, September 15, 2017

Irma (Part I)

For the first time in over a week, my morning feels a bit normal.  I have a hot cup of tea, a quiet house and a message of joy to share.

There just aren't words to describe how VERY Grateful I am today!  (My eighth grade english teacher said to never use the word "very" when writing.  This time it's necessary.)

Hurricane Irma was slated to be the biggest in Florida's history.  Visuals showed Andrew (which decimated Homestead, FL 25 years ago) easily fitting within Irma.

The storm bands for this hurricane were 500 miles across. That wasn't hype, that was fact.  The peninsula of Florida is only about 150 miles across and 350 miles long.  Irma was clearly predicted to swallow us.

Allow me to give you a few interesting facts I Lived this week:
  • Hurricane wind speeds are measured by incredibly brave people who literally fly a plane into the eye (calm center) of storms.  No!  I do not want that job.
  • Category 5 hurricanes have sustained winds over 157 mph  For three days (prior to landfall) Irma maintained a category 5 status, with winds often reaching 185 mph.  
  • Our governor started urging people in flood prone areas to evacuate early last week.  6.3 million people heeded his warning making it potentially the largest evacuation in history and clogging our two major interstate highways heading north for days.

  • Everyone was grateful to learn that Irma's winds speeds dropped when making landfall - only 135 mph.  (Everything is relative.)   

  • On Monday morning it was reported that approximately 5.8 million people in Florida had no power.  Many were also without water, including John, Joy and their four little ones.
All those facts would be just that, facts about nameless, faceless people you don't know.  Except we were right in the middle of it all and we became the "nameless, faceless" people you DO know through this blog.  Thank you for praying!

I want to tell you about the personal stories from our experience in the next post.  But for today let me skip ahead and say, everyone is safe.  All our houses made it with minimal damage.  Between us our family will need to replace:
  • a roof 
  • several fences 
  • a few trees 
  • a couple of appliances
  • lots of refrigerated/frozen food items
You know, the normal things one loses when one experiences a hurricane, its power outages and the subsequent power surges.  

One of the sad losses for Frank and me was the little playground we'd worked so hard to buy and build for our grandbabies.  The sturdy wooden beams were literally torn to pieces and the seven foot high tower was thrown onto its side landing some ten feet from where it had been built. 

But roofs and playgrounds and appliances can all be replaced.  

I spent most of Wednesday and Thursday calling to speak directly with as many of our church members as I could reach.  We served as a connector for those offering help and those needing it.  A few just wanted to know we were still praying for them.  Some needed a listening ear.  Others quietly wept as they told their own harrowing stories about the unwelcome visitor, Irma.  

Our extended church family includes first responders and power workers who are the heroes of every hurricane story.  One senior member was the victim of looting and one new baby was born this week. We have many who are still without power.  

We've shared generators, gasoline, spare bedrooms, ice, meals, showers, washers/dryers and air conditioning with anyone who wanted to come by.  Our bible study Wednesday night was unusually somber; a time of hugging one another and expressing gratitude to God.

I'll leave you with a powerful report from one of our local stations.  

(One more fact helps explain the story: hurricanes feed on warm, open waters; it's their fuel so to speak.  The Gulf of Mexico readily supplies this fuel to any storm that makes it across the outer islands.....Bahamas, Cuba, Keys)

But on Sunday night just as this monster storm turned to make landfall as a category 5 hurricane,  a mysterious dry wind started blowing from the west.  This dry wind successfully broke into the lower part of Irma's swirling and began to breech the concentrated, well-formed eye.  Within a very short time, Irma started losing power and came on the mainland as a category 2 instead of a 5.  

ABC weather meteorologist Denis Phillips reported, "There is no way to explain how this storm has diminished so quickly, except that a lot of prayers have gone up.  Twenty-four hours ago we were looking at the worst storm in history.  Now it's lessening and the eye has collapsed.  We are in a much better position."

Even the winds and waves obey HIS voice!

Don't get me wrong, we're totally aware of the devastation to the south of us.  Some of the islands report 95% devastation of homes and businesses.  We are heartbroken by the 23 deaths reported so far.  And we're well aware that the recovery efforts for Hurricane Harvey in Texas and for this storm will go on for many months.

But I don't want to miss an opportunity to express my gratitude before I start helping others pick up the pieces.  I also want to thank each of you who called, texted, emailed and messaged us with words of encouragement, letting us know you were praying too.  

Be sure to stop by next week.  The story will get more personal as I tell how it felt to sit and watch 100 mph wind gusts blow rain in through the center of our glass doors at church, wondering if they would hold.......





Saturday, September 9, 2017

Preparing

I managed to get to my prayer chair for this post but it took some navigating.  All our patio furniture is carefully stacked well, crammed is a more accurate word.....into our dining room.  The garage is full as well with all our potted plants, recycling bins, trash cans and lawn ornaments.

Our water and non-perishable food items are in place.  We've located flashlights and batteries.  We cleaned out the refrigerator.  Important papers are secured.  All the laundry is clean.  I even bathed the dog and vacuumed.

Frank and I came home around 5 today and I prepared a wonderful hot meal.  We may not be privileged to enjoy many of those for the next few days.

Yes, Hurricane Irma is slowly churning toward us.  And we've done our best to be prepared.

Hurricanes are part of living in FL.  If you live in New York, you know blizzards.  If you live in California, you know earthquakes.  If you live in Kansas, you know tornadoes.  If you live in Arizona you know haboobs.  (Ha-whats??!  That's what they call dust storms. Yeah, caught me off guard the first time, too.)

In Florida, you just know all the lovely sunshine will eventually give way to the wind, rain, tornadoes and flooding associated with hurricanes at some point.  So you do your very best to be prepared.

But our Governor, Rick Scott, has made abundantly clear that Irma isn't your average, run of the mill storm.  If fact, it's been called the most massive storm Florida has ever encountered.

Driving home today I saw something that immediately struck a note with me.  A board of plywood was hanging from one corner and providing absolutely NO protection for the window it should have covered.

The home looked deserted so it was unlikely anyone would be coming back to fix the problem. Whoever attached the plywood must have rushed not doing the job thoroughly and it took only a small steady breeze to knock the wood loose.

It was especially disturbing for me because we weren't able to obtain any plywood for our windows. By the time we finished taking care of all that needed to be done for the church, there wasn't any more available.

Well, I take that back.  Frank found a few sheets of plywood but the individual was selling them for three times the normal price.  No Thanks!

As we drove on, I pondered that lovely piece of now useless plywood just hanging there.

Someone went to great effort to purchase and deliver the needed protection for their home.  (May I just add here, there's only one way to fully protect your windows during a hurricane and that's to cover them completely.)

What the homeowner needs was provided but it won't do them any good at all because it hasn't been put in place.  The answer for the coming storm is right there and it can't help at all.

Truth is, that's just like your life and mine, dear friend.  This is a broken world full of storms and uncertainties.  But there is help for us.

The One who made us, has gone to great effort to provide the answer we need.  He's provided a wonderful form of protection.  All we have to do is accept the work He has done; covering us completely.  (May I add, there's only One who gave His life for us.  Following Christ is the only way to be fully protected in this life.)

After the storm, that homeowner will undoubtedly think, "Why didn't I follow up on this?!  I thought I was prepared.  The protection for my home was sitting right there but it wasn't properly applied!"

Tomorrow morning, Frank and I will drive over to our church where we'll stay for the duration of this storm.  We have several church members who needed a safe place away from potential flooding and manufactured homes.  So, we'll make a memory together.

All of us here in Florida would appreciate your prayers, dear friends.  And please take a moment to consider my story about being prepared for the storms we all face.  The help you need is available, just ask the One who cares most.




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