Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Weathering the Storm

Last week my husband, two toddlers and I traveled down to Spanish Wells Island in the Bahamas to visit my sister, her husband and their four kids (age 9 and younger).  My mother went with us, so we were 11 in all.  At first, it was a dream vacation.  My mom graciously rented my family a beach house on the most pristine beach I've ever experienced. 

For two days we enjoyed the sand and sea, watching our two little ones run screaming and laughing into the knee-deep, calm, crystal-clear ocean (Lily yelling "POOL!" at the top of her lungs).  We met all of the wonderful folks on the Island, people who have welcomed my sister's family with open arms.  We went to church, went deep-sea fishing, sang karaoke, and more.

Then, on Monday the 22nd we heard the news: the men were on their way back; the storm was coming.

You see, most folks on Spanish Wells operate lobster boats.  The men are out to sea from August through April, filling and emptying traps.  They had been gone three weeks.  Their wives had heard from them on the satellite phones that morning: the guys were racing ahead of the storm and should be home in the middle of the night.  This was serious; Hurricane Irene was not going to miss us.

The next few days were a flurry of activity all over the 2 mile long x 1/2 mile wide island, where nobody's a stranger.  Neighbor helped neighbor as boards went up, generators were tested, food was cooked, and water was stocked.  Strangers in a strange land, we joined in as best we could, thanking God we were with 'locals' who knew exactly what to do.  By the time we knew the storm was headed right for us, all flights were either full or had been cancelled.  We had no choice but to weather the storm.

We were planning to abandon the beach house and ride it out at my sister's place, but she doesn't have a generator.  Some very generous friends of hers, Georgina and Nyles Roberts, invited all 11 of us to their place.  In total, we were 17 in a four-bedroom house for over 24 hours.

The following are some excerpts from my journal, written as I rode it out.  I'm sure I'll have more to say on this subject in future posts - it was a life-changing experience.

Wednesday, August 24th, 7 a.m. local time (Bahamas):
"All snuggled in bed with kids.  Justin's on the beach getting quiet.  The rain has started and it's starting to blow.  Hurricane should be here tomorrow.  I was terrified Monday, but now I feel like it will be fine.  Maybe I'm delusional, but I'm actually excited to see your majesty and power displayed.  I hope I get to see the waves crashing before it gets too dangerous and we have to leave the beach.  I hope everyone is safe, of course...."

Thursday, August 25th, 8 a.m. local time (Bahamas):
"Psalm 135 at 6 a.m. when I finally gave up and just got up.  Storm woke me up at 2, 3, 5, and (finally) 6.  It scared me last night, the creaking and moaning and gusting and rattling (of the tin shutters covering the windows in the small room where the four of us slept).  But now, when there's light and power and people are awake...well, now, I'm having a blast.

"I know it sounds strange, but there's a thrill that comes when standing in the middle of your majesty, quite literally.  It makes me happy to experience your power, to know - in the most real sense - how truly small I am.  There is freedom in limitation.  I may have no control over what's happening around me, but you do, and I can trust that.

"I wonder if I would feel differently if I were more exposed, like the Haitians in the shanty-town we visited yesterday.  This home is solid.  It made me think of: 'and I will hide you in the shadow of your wings.'  This gives a whole new dimension to that imagery.  I am hidden, sheltered, surrounded by - not a flimsy set of feathers - but a solid wall of steel and iron pillars carved in the shape of a wing.  Safe and secure and comforting like a mother's wing, and firm and reassuring like an underground shelter.  Yes, even as the wind and water whip around us, we are hidden because we are wrapped in you.

"Surrender.  That's what I'm feeling.  Earlier this week I was panicky and terrified, full of worst-case-scenario day-mares.  But, since yesterday, there has been a deep peace.  This thing is coming.  As the locals kept saying, all we can do is prepare the best we can and ride it out.  May I face all such sotrms in my life with the same attitude.

"There's a frog outside our window.  Its croak sounds like a duck's quack.  I can 'feel' the ebb and flow of the storm by the poor creature's cries.  When it's blowing hard out there, the croaks are fast and frequent, like rapid-fire gunshots.  When there's a reprieve, we experience silence together, as if we're all - earth, sky, and sea - taking a deep, communal breath."

Thursday, August 25th, 9 a.m. local time (Bahamas):
"Justin went out with Michael and Nyles and Luke earlier.  I think it's 9:15 right now, and we're in the eye.  It is dead calm outside, in an eery way.  The Boykins have gone to check on their house.  Mom is sleeping.  The four of us are now holed up in our room.  When Justin went out, he said it was truly awesome.  I can tell the locals are sad about the destruction that's happened already.  They have a lot of work ahead of them."

Thursday, August 25th, 10 a.m. local time (Bahamas):
"Eye has passed.  We're on the back side now.  Both houses and all boats seem to be okay.  Damage is mostly fallen trees.  Mom is sick.  Kids are hanging in there.  15 out of 17 holed up in this house are awake.  Please help Lily - she's showing attitude and seems to be overwhelmed."

Thursday, August 25th, 1 p.m. local time (Bahamas):
"Just had our first meltdown.  Gunnar lost it, poor child.  He's hot and sweaty and over-tired.  Justin is on edge.  I'm starting to faint.  Lily is sound asleep, praise you.  I didn't expect the heat - it's oppressive.  Please help Gunnar fall asleep.  And please let the storm pass soon.  We are weary."

Thursday, August 25th, 3:37 p.m. local time (Bahamas):
"Wheels are coming off.  Kids are stir CRAZY.  We're 18 1/2 hours into our sojourn to the Robers' home.  I'm so thankful for their hospitality (and their generator), but we're all a little on edge, even the adults."

Friday, August 26th, 6 a.m. local time (Bahamas):
"Back at the Boykins' last night.  The storm kept us up again last night.  That is, until it finally passed, probably around 2 a.m.  I was awakened by Lily at 3 a.m.  I thought the power had been restored, but no such luck.  I'm disappointed - we won't go home today."

Saturday, August 27th, 6 a.m. local time (Bahamas):
"Everyone's asleep.  Thank you for this alone time with you.  I got a hot shower last night thanks to some other friends of the Boykins.  My attitude immediately changed after that and some alone, quiet time with my nuclear family. 

"Power and water are now restored, praise you.  The locals have all of the major debris picked up (it was finished by noon on Friday!).  Now it's down to details and second homes/boats and such.  There are still roofs to be fixed, but it looks like we won't have rain today.  The way they have all come together to weather this thing has changed me forever.  Is this how people are supposed to live in the Kingdom?  Without complaint and with constant care for each neighbor?  I am humbled by their attitudes.  I will never forget them." 

Linking up with the faithful ladies at Soli Deo Gloria today.  Thanks for all your prayers, ladies!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Digging Down

I was in the kitchen mindlessly juicing some oranges while eating my lunch standing up while trying to answer my three-year-old's non-stop questions while trying to respond to my almost two-year-old's babbling commentary while also doing some dishes.  (For all you SAHM's out there, does this sound familiar?)  In the midst of this cacophony a line from a song on Bob the Builder drifted into my consciousness: "When you build a house, you first have to --."

As I listened my mind finished the line before the words played over my TV.  In my mind, the line went like this: "When you build a house, you first have to lay the foundation."

But that's not what Scratch and Scoop and Dizzy sang.  Nope, they sang "dig a hole."

I paused long enough to register the difference before going back to our multi-tasking lunch hour.  Now, both kids are down for a nap.  I'm in bed getting ready to nap myself, but the song from today's cartoon won't let me rest yet.  I need to write about it. 

I think this metaphor is deeply true.  I think about my marriage: the first years were often about deconstruction - uprooting old trees, tilling soil, removing rocks, aerating, turning over, and, yes, digging down.  Two were becoming one.  It started on our wedding day, but that was only the beginning.  It's a process for old to pass away and new to be born, to grow up.  And the process begins with removing the old and making space for the new.

I think about my faith walk, how over the years He has broken me down time and time again so that, when He builds me up, I am so much stronger, even in my weakness.

I think about how many lies and misconceptions - about myself, God, the world - have had to be dug up before something new, something true could be planted.

Today, in between lunch and nap, the three of us braved the heat to dig in the dirt and fill up old sand castle buckets.  A simple task, one that must have been inspired by Bob's song I guess.  Regardless of the inspiration, it was my son's idea.  In minutes he had us all dirtier than dirt pressing into dusty, dry, cracked land, trying to pry it loose from its packed home.  He said it best when he paused for a moment, wiped his brow and declared: "whew, I'm wore out; I need to rest for a minute."  Yep, digging is hard work.

It's slow work.

It's work that requires concentrated effort.  If you miss a rock or don't create a level bottom to your hole, the whole foundation will be off.

Perhaps this is why God so painstakingly, slowly picks away at our hard, packed, dusty places, pressing deeper into our soil as we yield only.  Perhaps He takes His time with this process because He knows how crucial it is.  Perhaps, in the end, all the whining about "how long will I struggle with ____?" or "why am I still walking in ____ old pattern?" should really be turned around to become: "thank you, Lord, that you will not give up, will not let this go, until I am truly, completely rid of it" or "thank you, Lord, for your persistance for without it, my foundation could never be laid."

Linking up with Jen and the ladies at Soli Deo Gloria.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Hodge Podge

My good friend (you all know her as Jen, the SDG guru) recently reminded me that the point of the weekly SDG meme is to share "what's really going on with you" (her words).

Hmmm...this has had me thinking.  I'm not sure where to start.  My mind is all over the place today, hard to get still, so this will be a hodge podge...

1.  As most of you know, God has been talking to me about faith v fear.  I'm following His lead on that and trying to step into the space He's creating.  I think it sounds more dramatic than it is in practice.  In practice, this is just another level of the onion being peeled back, of Him pointing something out that He's ready to tackle and me responding to Him.  In other words, I'm in a never-ending process; this is just part of it.  It doesn't feel painful or heart-wrenching.  It did a few weeks ago.  Now, it's...well...obedience.  An act of worship.  And, kind of fun.

2.  I'm obsessing over politics right now.  Today at the library I checked out: Fed Up! by Rick Perry; A. Lincoln by Robert C. White; America by Heart by Sarah Palin; and a documentary on the White House.  I tried to check out Obama's autobiography but it wasn't available.  Two weeks ago I checked out Palin's first book (her autobiography) and four historical documentaries on Washington, Adams, Lincoln, and Jefferson, after reading more in my own copy of John Adams by David McCullough.  (I know, I'm a nerd.) 

I do this every two years when it's time to ramp up for a presidential election, as my poor friends know.  I think we have a God-given grace in this country to participate in our own government.  I take it seriously, so I study, both historical and contemporary documents.  The information-gathering is the first stage for me.  I learn first, analyze second, and pray throughout.  And of course, I discuss along the way with anyone and everyone who is willing (and some who are not!).  Expect to hear more about this in the coming months!

3.  Other than that, things are pretty good.  We've seem to hit a rhythm around here.  I feel in balance when it comes to food and health, as if my body has recovered a bit and is able to function well now.  I've even been able to start exercising again, praise the Lord!!!! 

My kids and I have wonderful days together, full of pretend-play adventures, singing, and reading (in between errands, of course).  Yesterday my son dressed himself in a racecar driver's suit, swim goggles, a fireman's hat, and firemen boots.  He called this his astronaut's outfit, and he subsuqently took me and his sister to the moon (with packed suitcases and all), where we checked in at a hotel, rode the train, and ate in the 'eating car'.  It was a blast!

My husband and I have had truly awesome communication over the last few weeks, so, even when circumstances aren't great, we are because we're communicating well, praise God.  And, our Father is very alive to me right now, speaking clearly and consistently through the Word and His Holy Spirit.  I am grateful. 

Lest I paint too much of a Polyanna picture, I will tell you this: I'm ready for summer to be over and so are my kids.  Instead of dwelling on that, however, I'm trying to resist the temptation to complain and instead choose to enjoy the last, dwindling, dog days.  I'm sure when the busy-ness of fall resumes, I will be longing for them.

Linking up with the ladies at SDG today. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Space Between

Peter stands in the space between faith and fear.

The story is familiar to most of us.  Jesus' disciples have gone ahead in a boat, at his instructions, and a strong wind comes up, buffeting the waves against them.  They are frightened, understandably.  Then they see Jesus walking on the water toward them.  They don't recognize him and believe he's a ghost.  Their fear escalates to terror.  Peter, always the blustery, forge-ahead type, calls out, "Lord, if it is you, call me and I will come to you."  (I'm paraphrasing here...the verses are Matthew 14:22-33.)

Jesus says "come" and Peter does.  He had been afraid, he chooses faith, and, then, he walks on water.  Until fear grabs hold of him again, and he begins to sink.  Back and forth the waves rock them.  Up and down they float.  He is firm and then he is sinking.  It only takes a moment for the circumstance to change, for fear to turn to faith and back to fear again.

I've often read this story and thought Peter was a wimp.  Then, I move on to berating myself for also having so little faith (I know I'd sink right alongside him).  Why does he look at the wind and waves?  Keep your eyes on Jesus, I think, as if that's easy to do.  I never look at Peter with admiration for getting out of the boat in the first place. 

This morning in church our priest pointed out how impressed she was by Peter's willingness to leap over the edge of the boat.  She said, "I can relate to Peter.  Many, many times, like him, I have stood on the edge between faith and fear."

And so have I.  Her words resonated within me.  I'm in a faith/fear place now, in fact.  God is calling me to trust Him for provision.  He's asking me to step and believe, not trusting in what I see happening all around me, but instead trusting in His voice, His presence in the midst of the tumult that comes against faith every time.  I pray that as I engage the process, step over the edge, and choose faith, that I will continue to choose faith even after I have slipped and fallen back into fear.  That, like Peter, I will reach out and take hold of Jesus' hand and experience His faithfulness all over again.

Linking up with Michelle at Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday.