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.

Awakened

God was pressing on me to open my eyes to the community around me.  I felt his nudging as I looked at my surroundings and breathed in the simplicity of their offering.  I began to find humor and amusement in this random, yet quirky place.  I had asked God to open my eyes to his blessings.  He seemed to awaken every sense in order to fully grasp what a wondrous world he had brought me to.  I am sure there will be many more, but here are a few little blessings I have found in the bayou, that amuse this Virginia girl.

TREES – The trees here are enormous and mysterious, yet beautiful.  I had seen these live oak trees before, dripping with Spanish moss, but had never fully appreciated their majesty.  To be honest, I really didn’t know what to expect of the landscape here.  I knew it would be flat. I just assumed flat meant barren.  But there is lush greenery everywhere you look.  Which makes my heart sing.  Back home, I desperately missed the vibrant colors during the winter months, now it seems green will be a mainstay.  The trees here are broad and strong.  This journey has required more strength of me than I could have ever imagined. Before strength comes growth.  These trees have been growing for hundreds of years and were once not so strong.  I am sure they faced many hardships before becoming the symbols of strength they are today.

GOOGLE MAP – I had no idea how gratifying it was to be able to get to a location with out the use of map app on my phone.  I have never been so thankful for my Smartphone and unlimited data in my life.  (All the credit goes to my sister on that one).  Type in the address to get to where you want to go.  Type in the address to get home. Repeat. Relying on my GPS for going EVERY.WHERE. was frustrating.  Walmart, grocery store, gas station, home, I felt helpless.  But that moment, where I realized, “I think I can drive 5 miles without directions and return home” was HUGE.  I can be taught!  I can remember!  Then came a point where I actually gave my husband directions, well now that was pretty most glorious.

img_3080

FERDINAND the BULL – There is this bull, in the back yard, of a house around the corner.  Its not really in a neighborhood, but its not in on a farm either.  Its more like a side street with houses and a bull in the yard.  Every day we look for the bull. Sometimes he’s standing up and you can really grasp how massive this brown, hairy animal is.  Other times, he is laying down because it is just too hot to stand any longer.  No matter what however, he has his little buddies surrounding him.  There are beautiful, dainty egrets that stand on and around the bull, eating the bugs he attracts.  It is the strangest sight to see this vast bodied animal being tended to by delicate white birds.  He makes me smile every time we pass by, which is sometimes multiple times a day.  My kids always look for him.  I think they get my amusement.

BELLS – Behind our home there is a Catholic church.  Which isn’t so strange here in Cajun country, but this church has a bell tower.  Sitting on my back patio and listening to the bells is one of the most peaceful times of the day.  Sometimes the bells toll, announcing the hour or beckoning the parishioners to mass, but other times the bells play hymns. Either I’m humming along or feeling like Fraulein Maria running down the mountain with habit in hand.   Beautiful hymns reminding my of growing up years because I have known these hymns all of my life.  Its almost as if a piece of home still surrounds me, comforting me in the throes of this new place.

These little things I will ponder in my heart.  These little things will remind me that God is here, directing my path,  and in the process of showing me our purpose and place in here in the bayou.  No matter what waters may rise.

 

Wounded

Exactly three weeks prior to our moving truck arriving, three police officers were fatally shot in retaliation of a police shooting that happened two weeks before.  I knew we were entering what appeared to be a racially divided city.  Driving around the area, blue ribbons were on mailboxes and for sale in the grocery store, in support of the police officers.  I knew these people were hurting.  God didn’t just want me to know their hurt, he wanted me to feel it.

One of the men that showed up to move our items into our house was the father of Montrell Jackson, one of those officers whose watch ended just three weeks ago.  He left behind a 4 month baby boy and a sweet wife.  He left behind a Daddy who dearly loved his “Baby Boy”.  He said when he heard the news report that morning, he immediately called Montrell.  His son always answered and if he couldn’t talk, he would say, “I’ll call you later, Pops.”  His son never picked up, after three attempts to reach him.  He turned to his wife and said, “We aren’t going to church today, Montrell’s dead.”  I remember reading about this young police officer with a passion for his community.  He dreamed of being on the force in order to make a change in the world in which he grew up.  He had posted on Facebook after the first shooting, sharing about his love for his community and his love for the police force.  His father is convinced his son had prophesied his own death.

Later on, my 3 year old and I went to the store to pick out some items for that little baby who would never know his father.  I ached for the family.  I ached for the community.  I wondered why God placed this father in my path.  I truly believe God wanted me to bond with the community faster than I could do on my own.  Why, I have yet to figure out, but while I have only been here one month, it feels like I have lived here longer.  I miss home terribly, but God’s plan is not my own, and it never has been.

Arrived

Two months since I have written.

One month since we have moved.

I struggle to wrap my brain around all that has transpired.

In short, the move went perfectly.  As flawless as a move with four kids and 13 hours can go.  There was crying, screaming, whining, fighting, and utter craziness, but we survived without a hitch.  No one was left behind at a rest stop, nasty convenience store bathroom, or on the side of the road.  I call that pure success.

Wednesday, August 3rd, we pulled into our driveway, beyond exhausted, yet knowing we had a full night ahead of us.  Our rental house was empty and would remain so until the following Sunday when the rental truck was scheduled to arrive.  Other than the items that protruded from every crevasse in the vehicles, we had very little to move in.  No beds, no chairs, no tables, no kitchen items.  Our first stop would be Walmart for air mattresses and a few odds and ends to get us through breakfast the next day, then on to grab a couple of pizzas.  Finally we were able to rest in order to fully explore our surroundings the next day.

On Thursday, after a day of exploring and trying to occupy 4 children who didn’t have their belongings yet, our new friends, The Stones, came by and brought dinner.  Leave it to me to make friends BEFORE actually moving to a new place.  Especially friends who bring you a yummy meal and offer the use of their washer and dryer.

Friday morning was spent doing laundry and visiting, until the realization hit me that my plan for the kids’ schooling was not going to work out the way I wanted.  I had chosen an online option to give the kids a more relaxed transition into school.  I didn’t want to drop them off at a unknown place, in an unknown town.  But God had other plans.  The kids were wait-listed and I had no option, but to enroll them in public school.  I had to do it IMMEDIATELY.  School started on Monday.  Uniforms were to be found and purchased. School supplies were to be gathered.  I cried out to God, threw a fit, and took a deep breath, remembering the advice of a dear friend, “Just do the next thing.”  So, for me, the next thing was finding their schools and enrolling them.

Sunday didn’t come soon enough.  We were so thankful for that moving truck to arrive. Little did I know, with that truck, God would begin to immerse us into the aching heart of this community.

Unknown

One of the scariest words I know,  UNKNOWN.  It emits feelings of anxiety, fear, and nausea.  It means that I have no control.  No control over where I am going or what will happen when we get there.

I was lamenting to a close friend the other day and a name popped into my head, Abraham.

Abraham was sent to an unknown land.  God just told him to pack up and go, then he went.  I really wish he had written down his version of the story.  I mean, he had to have had some conversations with God about this.  “Really God, pack up everything?  I know you promised me my own nation, but you told me pack up and start walking to an unknown place.  Are you sure?”

Whether or not Abraham had this conversation or not isn’t really the point, I suppose. The point is that he obeyed.  He may have had anxiety, fear, and nausea but he went anyway.

At this point, we are waiting for more details to fall into place;  confirmation on housing, moving date, and schooling.  Details that fall into the category of “unknown”.

Much of our lives are unknown.  What IS known?

Psalm 46:10 says “Be still, and know that I am God.”

  1. Be STILL, be calm.  Don’t stress.  Don’t worry.
  2. KNOW that I am God.  KNOW with all of your heart and mind.

I think the little word in the middle is the most important:  AND.

“Be still AND know”  You can’t fully be still without the knowledge that God is God.  I can tell myself to calm down, but without the full knowledge that God is in control, my calm is not going to last very long.

On the radio the other day, I heard a great message,

“God’s way becomes plain when we start walking in it.”

So, onward I shall walk, into the unknown.

34 days

~Leah

 

Comfortable

I have willingly stepped out of my comfort zone.  The summer after my sophomore year in college, I flew to Miami with my buddy Katie, to embark on a summer of service.  We left our little college town and discovered the remarkable people of the inner city.  We were thrust into the lives of the homeless, people living in an AIDS Hospice, and children whose lives were torn apart by violence, drugs, and abuse.  Our world was shaken and the beautiful people we encountered in Miami will forever remain a part of our core.  That summer opened our eyes to a world so different from our own.  I remain incredibly thankful for that opportunity.

Then we returned home.  We slowly re-entered our comfortable world.  Our world of all things familiar and safe.  Katie and I chat from time to time, reflecting on that summer.  We are now both raising small tribes of our own.

18 years later, this comfort zone is about to be stepped out of again.  This time, not for a summer, not for a couple of months.  The first time, stepping out was easier, as we knew it was only temporary, we would be returning home as soon as our plane landed. This time, the move to the big city will be a more permanent one.  Our little tribe will be moving from the safety of a rural area to the great unknown of the deep deep south.  We are heading out of the familiarity of our home state to a strange land of swamps and gators.

This roller coaster life has taught me one thing, God’s got this.  Part of me wants to kick and scream to stay at home, close to my family.  Leaving my church home will be horrible, as I have known these friends for sixteen years.  They have walked with me through marriage and the birth of my four babies.  I could so easily be overcome with anxiety and worry.  It’s there, pressing in, waiting for me to open up to it.  I just keep pushing it away.  I have to trust God like I never have before.  If not for me, for my children.  They need to see my faith. They need to look forward to whatever God brings into their lives.

Although I will be leaving pieces of my heart behind, God’s blessings will abound in the bayou.

35 days

~Leah

Callin’ Baton Rouge

Writing is my therapy.  It is my way of processing this world.

As soon as it was confirmed that we were moving, I immediately felt the need to write, to process.  This isn’t just a move a few miles away, more like 922 miles.

922 miles away from family

922 miles away from friends

922 miles away from familiar

The extroverted side of me is looking forward to this new adventure.  Meeting new people and experiencing a new world is invigorating.

The introverted side of me just wants to stay in my comfortable little world.  I don’t want to be stretched. I don’t want to start over.

But, that’s not what God wants.

He is clearly paving this path.  He clearly has something new for us to see and experience. Staying will keep us from fully living this life He has for us.

Bring it.  I’m ready.

36 days

~Leah

 

%d bloggers like this: