About Me

My photo
"For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." I lived on the banks of a river . . . and it captured my attention. These are my observations about the parallels between my life...and the river.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tornado warnings and flash floods

This spring and early summer have been incredibly rainy.  On the positive side of things, my surroundings are very lush and green.  The negative, well, I'm sure you can imagine what too much rain and a lack of sun will do to a community.

Especially a community still recovering from traumatic flooding less than eighteen months ago.

As I drove over one of the bridges tonight, the river was raging.  It has risen inches, maybe more, just over the last two days.  We now get emergency alerts on our phones, televisions and radios about possible flash flooding when there is an abundance of rain.  Just last week we also received a tornado warning.  It actually touched down briefly, although nothing even close to what occurs when a tornado touches down out west.  This was 'merely' an F2. It took down a number of trees, which in turn took down power lines, destroyed some cars and damaged a few buildings, but nothing close to what they're dealing with in Oklahoma. 

Natural disasters generally bring out two types of responses in people.  For some, the adrenaline hits and they go into "doer" mode.  There is no time to panic, there is work to be done, recovery efforts to begin, people to look out for, etc.  For others, the crisis is overwhelming and can be incapacitating, rendering them incapable of even making simple decisions for a time.  This can be initial shock, but it can also be a precursor to an individual allowing the crisis to overcome them. 

Disasters aren't limited to nature, of course.  Life has it's share of man-made disasters as well.  Some stem from breaks in the lines of communication, others from poor choices, still others are much more random, unexpected and out of our control.  Yet, one thing that is still in our control is how we respond to these disasters and crises as they occur. 

Today is only Tuesday, yet by noon I said to one of my co-workers, "I know this job can be stressful, but I can't remember the last time I was this stressed at work, and it's only Tuesday!"  Every time I turned around something outside of my control was falling apart -- and I had to pick up the pieces.  Make things work.

The good news is, just as I no longer run to the couch and hide my head under all the pillows when I hear thunder (yes, I did actually outgrow that many years ago!), I didn't run screaming, or quit my job when things got out of hand.  This is progress, people!  I haven't quit a job because of stress, but I've definitely had plenty of meltdowns!  But not today.  And after the crisis passed (yes, it did indeed pass), I was able to see that little victory and realize, yes!!  I'm still making progress!  The tortoise is still going.  :-)

So what DO you do when you get the hypothetical flash flood or tornado warning and the crisis hits?  [insert the details of your most recent life or work crisis here]  Well, in today's situation all I could do was take a breath, then verify the facts.  Once I did that I realized there was nothing I could do to "fix" it.

And panicking would not help.  However, I could determine alternate steps -- plan B, so to speak.  It took a couple of hours and many phone calls, but we were able to adapt and flex; it all seems to be working out in a manner of speaking. 

Thinking logically and clearly is not a gift that everyone has in times of crisis or high stress.  But, it can be developed.  Just do the next thing.  Everyone gets overwhelmed when looking at all the things they have to do, or the enormity of a crisis.  But it goes back to the simple saying we've all heard so many times, "how do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time."

Does this mean I'll never have another meltdown?  Probably not.  We all have our moments, don't we?  But today, as I reflect on the past few years, I can say that they are decidedly fewer and for that I am grateful.  Life is much more peaceful when we are anchored to the Rock.

My favorite hymn remains, "...rock of ages cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee..."

Monday, October 08, 2012

"Flood Evacuation Route"

Today I drove through a region that, just 14 months ago, was ravaged by horrific floods.  Much rebuilding has been done but the town, especially the center of the village, will never be the same.  Many small businesses lost, many homes condemned, historic places now damaged beyond repair. 

Yet around us the seasons keep changing.  Time goes on.  

Today was a lovely fall day.  The sun was shining in a partly cloudy sky and the trees were bright with color – shades of green turning to yellow, orange, and even some red.  The creek that flooded so incredibly on that day was down to a mild flow after a very dry summer. 

As I drove through the center of town I turned onto a rode I was unfamiliar with, following it through another neighborhood.  I came to a narrow, one-way bridge and marveled again that this small creek could have wreaked such havoc on the community.  But, as we all know, it’s not just one creek.  It is many factors.  In this case, a dam burst farther upstream causing the creek to overflow profoundly, creating an historic '500 year flood' with incredible amounts of damage to this particular valley. 

As I passed over the bridge I saw a blue & white sign by the road that said “Flood Evacuation Route.”  Never having lived in a flood zone, this sign was new to me.  As I continued on the road I quickly realized why this particular way was the evacuation route.  The road quickly became very steep as it wound up the mountainside. 

With the weather being as beautiful as it was today, my first thought was, “I can’t wait to get to the top so I can see the view of the valley and all the foliage!”  Then I saw another “Flood Evacuation Route” sign and I started thinking about the families that had made this trek fourteen months earlier with everything they could grab from their homes before the flood waters got too high, leaving them without a way of escape. 

They didn't have much time.  Those flood waters came FAST.  Dams don’t break slowly so you can have time to pack up your things.

Today was a day of very mixed feelings.  I did enjoy the drive back down the mountain.  It is a truly beautiful valley.  And I know many people that live there.  They have worked hard this past fourteen months to rebuild their homes and their community and they do not want our pity.  They have lost much, but many of them have gained incredibly deep perspective and even deeper appreciation for life and loved ones.

And that is what I end with today.  In life, floods come.  Disaster comes.  Sometimes we see it coming and can prepare, but most often it blindsides us.  We can let it destroy us, or we can come back stronger.  Coming back stronger doesn't mean you don’t cry, don’t feel pain, or take time to mourn your loss.  We are human after all, and those are necessary parts of healing.  But afterwards, we know we can make it through.  

Because we already have.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

When the Bottom Drops Out

     If you've never seen the movie, "The Emperor's New Groove", I highly recommend it.  If you have however, there's one scene in particular that I'm thinking of as I sit to write this post.  Actually, it's a scene that is repeated in many different movies.  The main character of whatever movie it is somehow ends up in a river unexpectedly -- maybe on a raft, or tied to a piece of tree trunk (as in "The Emperor's New Groove), or in a canoe, or trying mightily to swim to shore -- and then, the music changes dramatically, "Dum, dum, DUMMMMMMM!!!" and suddenly, a giant waterfall is just around the bend!!!  

     Time is suspended and it seems like each second lasts forever as we wait with anticipation to see if our hero survives the plunge over the falls and into the waters below, or if they resurface downstream, lifeless...broken...overcome by the violence of the river.

     Life is like that.  Except without the music to warn us of the coming plunge.  In life, the bottom often drops and the river ends suddenly and without warning, plunging us hundreds of "feet" -- which can be fatal to us emotionally -- and it can happen with just a phone call or an unexpected visitor.  Life happens that fast.  

     I witnessed this in the life of a dear friend of mine today.  She received a phone call, and moments later I received a phone call from her.  She couldn't even talk.  I only heard my name, and her broken voice, sobbing. "I need help."  I hung up the phone and ran -- literally -- to her side.  Held her while she sobbed over the tragedy that had struck her family so suddenly and senselessly.  I had no words.  I just held her tightly in my arms.

     But then she asked me to pray for her.  

     What?  Pray?  Well, of course, I do that.  Pray.  But I don't know what to say at this moment.  I'm at a complete loss for words.  I've never been in this kind of situation before.  This kind of tragedy is beyond my comprehension, really.  I'm just here to ... um ... uhhh ... 

     "Jesus. ... Jesus, help..."

     Uh, Lord?  Why did you send me here?  I'm not equipped!  I don't have the words!!  I just love her and I ache for her, I want to help her but I don't know how.  Help me help her!!!

     In His faithfulness, He answered my desperate plea for help.  He reminded me that He is our Father.  That He, too, has experienced tragic loss and He understands how it feels.  He knows our pain.  He aches and weeps with us.  He longs to comfort us.  In this world we will never be free from sorrow, tragedy, loss or pain, but He is here and will walk through the valleys with us.  He had to watch wicked men torture and kill His Son, all so that He could redeem us.  

     Life in the river is so unpredictable.  But we have a Father who loves us so much that He sent His Son to live life in the river -- with all of its twists and turns, rapids and waterfalls -- so that He could make a way for us to go through it and survive.  Not only that, but reach others who may be drowning along the way and offer them hope as well.  

     As I held my friend and prayed to our Father for His comfort, peace began to fill the room.  No, it wasn't fixed.  The tragedy was still real, the tears still came.  But we both acknowledged that He was there.  That He knew the pain, and that He would be the faithful Comforter.  The fear of the unknown was there, but it was less.  There will be many days of rapids, and maybe even more cliffs in the near future.  That's the nature of the river.  

     But we're not in it alone.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Please don't try to change me.

People in relationships are interesting.  Especially relationships of a romantic nature.  When we're younger, with perhaps less maturity, or more innocence, we approach relationships with abandon -- willing to do anything, lay aside self, for the sake of the other -- or at the very least, each other.  What we want to do gets lost in the desire to do what the object of our affection wants to do.

In plain English, girls end up watching football when they'd rather be doing their nails, and guys end up at the mall holding purses while their girls are shoe shopping.

Not that this is bad, there certainly needs to be some give and take in relationships, some shared experiences, even if the hobbies themselves aren't shared.  It's about putting the other first.  But something happens as people mature in relationships.  I've seen it in myself.

In the beginning we're willing to do all the stuff the other person likes because we want them to like us.  We want desperately to make a connection.  Women do this especially.  But after a while who you really are starts begging to come out again.

When you see more mature people in relationship, you see more honest dialogue happening -- rather than feigning an interest in football or shopping, or whatever else, someone who has been through a few relationships will most likely be quite up front about what they like and don't like!  By this time you'll probably see women shopping together and men golfing together!  Not because their relationships are in trouble, but because they know who to do what with!  He likes to golf, she doesn't, and that's OK!!  Of course, some couples BOTH like to golf, (or some other hobby) and they do that together!  That's OK too.

Why, oh WHY is all of this on my mind tonight, you ask?  Because, of course, someone tried to "change" me today.  Tried to tell me what I should like, what I should want.  And I had to, most assertively, yet, graciously, tell him "no."

It's hard to be assertive and gracious at the same time.  Especially when you're annoyed and offended!  So the entire evening, as I was making dinner and then doing dishes, I had a tirade going on in my head about men who think they can come into my life and just take over -- there have been a couple of them!!  They have these detailed plans of how my life is supposed to be and what I'm supposed to do and how I'm supposed to change -- and better yet, apparently God "told" them all of this!  Funny thing is, He hasn't told me yet.  Anyone who approaches me because of what I can do for them, or be for them -- especially "after a few improvements" -- is clearly not pursuing me with the right motivation and perspective.

So, imperfect as I know I am, God is the only one I trust to completely remodel my life.  He is the only one that I will ever allow to say "OK, so here's the plan I have for you and the areas I want to change..."  Anyone else that can't accept me with my imperfections will be graciously, yet humbly, refused.  I am not a good enough or strong enough person to be all that someone else needs or wants me to be.  So if they have an agenda, I'm probably not the one.

Please.  Don't try to change me.   Also?  When I say "No."  I mean "NO."

Thank you.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

God must think I clean too much...

I tend to have a little OCD.  If you've been reading this blog long enough, you've seen it come up once or twice already!  I like to clean, I like to organize, I have my little routine, I like my life to go just the way I plan it.  I'm flexible enough to be able to handle curve balls, I'm prepared for emergencies and the unexpected, but for the most part, I like to be in control (to put it LIGHTLY!!).

But when chronic pain comes into your life, it takes over and you no longer have control.  

I've learned that this past year and I must say, it has NOT been my favorite life lesson.  As you can see from my last post, I also moved in the middle of it all, which added its own set of challenges.  But when chronic pain enters in, you pretty much lose control of the organized, controlled, perfect life that you may have had before.  

For me, it was all I could do to keep my job as the pain took over.  The social life and house work that I was normally entirely on top of started to be done less often.  The social life went completely down the drain, and instead of vacuuming and doing the floors a couple times a week (as was my norm) it became less and less frequent.  Thankfully, since I don't have any animals, and with just myself in the house, it wasn't like I descended into living in filth!!  

The funny thing is, after months of an internal battle, I finally realized that it was OK!  The world hadn't come to a screeching halt because I wasn't vacuuming my carpets every day, or wiping down every last bit of counter top in the kitchen before I went to bed every single night, even if I hadn't cooked.  In fact, everything was just fine and my home was quite neat, clean and comfortable.  

Most importantly, during this very difficult, dark time in my life physically, as God has allowed me to experience this trial that has impacted my life so much, He has shown me many life lessons about what really matters.  

Cleanliness matters.  Organization matters.  

But what matters more is balance.  He cares about me for who I am, not for how often I vacuum my carpet, or how sparkling clean my kitchen floor is.  Does that mean I shouldn't do these things?  Of course not.  It merely means that I should not put too much emphasis on them.  

I should not become obsessed with them.  I should do them because they need to be done, not because I need to do them.  

Subtle difference there, did you catch it?

And when I do only the things that need to be done, rather than doing things that make me feel like I've accomplished much and have value because I'm such a wonderful, OCD homemaker, why, then I have much more time to rest, and to spend with my Master Jesus.  

Speaking of Whom, I also realized that sometimes when we're out of balance He allows things to happen that bring us back into balance if we are willing to stop for a moment so He can help us find balance again.  

Paul said it so well when he spoke of his thorn -- "But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you for My power is made perfect in weakness.'...That is why, for Christ's sake I delight in weaknesses, ...for when I am weak, then I am strong."    2 Cor 12:9-10

I have so much to learn, these are just a few musings from the past year.  My experience with chronic pain is not yet over, although my doctors have found and are treating the source, thank God!  I write this as a reminder -- I do not want to forget what I have learned; I hope that it may also encourage someone else to find the balance we need in our lives.  

Our value is in Him -- not in what, or how much, we do.  Never forget that.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Moving and Chronic Migraine

        Moving has a way of making you feel stupid.  Have you ever gotten up in the morning, gone into your new kitchen and stood there dumbly, unable to remember which cupboard to turn to for a glass?  Well, add chronic migraine to the equation, and the feeling goes on for weeks!

        I have now been in my new home for four weeks and I can finally move around my kitchen almost seamlessly!  It’s not quite like being in my own kitchen, it’s more like being in a friend’s kitchen where you’ve been often enough to have a good idea of where things are, so you only open the wrong cupboard about every other time.  :-)  


        It’s something you celebrate often when you live with chronic pain.  It’s the little things we used to take for granted.  Like this morning.  Being able to get up quite easily, without having to take it in stages.  If only today was a work day my week would have been so much easier!!  And yet, part of me feels guilty for being excited that I feel so good and it’s a Saturday – MY day!! 

        But this is the first Saturday since I moved in that I’ve felt good so I have MUCH housework to do!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Refuge in the Storm

As I write, I am curled up on my couch. The sliding glass door is open to let in the soothing sounds of a gentle summer rain and hummingbirds darting in for a few last sips before nighttime. It is nearing 8pm and already getting dark outside. The cloud cover is quite heavy.

But so is my heart. In fact, I find the weather to be a perfect fit for the day. It would almost be too cruel if the sun were shining, bright and warm.

Tragedy struck this weekend. A father’s life was taken in an accident while working on his home.

When I heard the news my heart immediately broke for the family of this man. Our families overlap, so I was grieving for the loss of ones I love dearly. I wanted to be transported there immediately to hold them, to comfort them. To DO something.

The feelings of grief were quickly joined by feelings of anxiety – “It happened so quickly and unexpectedly, what’s going to happen next? Am I going to lose another of my own loved ones?” were the questions that plagued my mind throughout the evening and into the next day.

Where is God when things like this happen? How can He allow such disasters as this, that tear families apart, not to mention disasters on a much greater scale like the recent earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes and tsunamis?

Where IS He? How is this part of His plan? Does He know how these tragedies break us? Or is heaven so far away that He doesn’t see us falling to pieces as one senseless thing happens after another?

I went to church yesterday morning looking for answers to these questions. Questions I’ve asked at least a hundred times before, but somehow the answers had escaped me.

My pastor referenced “The Saving Life of Christ”, in which author, Ian Thomas, says, “All that God IS, you HAVE, you can not have more, you do not need to have less”. Colossians 1:26-27 was then quoted“…The mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people… this mystery: Christ in you, the hope of glory…”

Christ in you.

Christ IN you.

No matter what happens, you never have to face it alone.

Deep in my heart I felt a whisper, “Don’t worry baby girl, I’m here.

We don’t always feel that He is there. We don’t always feel, or even believe, that He is good. We don’t always see evidence that He is on the throne and in control of all.

But He is.

He is here – IN me. He is good – ALL good. He is powerful – reigning over everything.

When we remind ourselves of these truths, His peace comes into even the darkest of situations. Does it remove the pain? Absolutely not. But it helps to ease the fear and anxiety.

As we worship God for Who He Is even when circumstances are trying to convince us otherwise, then His peace that passes all understanding comes in and sets up a guard over our hearts and minds. He carries us through, with tender, loving arms.

Psalm 91:4 “He will cover you with His feathers and under His wings will you take refuge.”

There’s no guarantee that we’ll be preserved from tragedy. In fact, the guarantee is that there WILL be storms in life! But the rest of the guarantee is that we can find refuge in Him. He is always there. He is always faithful. He is Love.