Sandy & Learning to give thanks
It’s 3:50 a.m. I am wide-awake with so many things I have been desperate to get down on paper. So many things I want to share with you. So much to pour out. Healing words.
What can I tell you about Sandy that you don’t know already know?
Last Sunday started like every other Sunday does. We had an amazing morning at Trinity church, followed by a delicious lunch at a sweet friend’s house. We played football and baseball with the kids in the backyard and enjoyed what had so far been a beautiful day.
But then the call came. The one that said we were under mandatory evacuation and had to be out of our house by sunset. Sandy had gone from bad to worse and everyone in our little neighborhood on the water was forced to flee.
We rushed home and packed up the things that matter most. Funny how times like this remind you of what “matters most.” I grabbed things like photo albums, the journals I keep for each of the boys, all of my research, my Bible, a few of the books I’ve been eager to read, and some essential files - and threw them in the trunk of the car. We lifted as much as we could off the floor in the event of a flood, and headed 30 minutes northwest to stay with friends who were on safer ground. It happened that fast.
And there we were- three families with a combined 11 kids between us- all settled in on Sunday night, bracing for what was ahead.
I remember curling up with a book that night – the one I started reading only several days before when the name Sandy meant nothing to me- called One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. And I remember thinking, “Fitting book to be reading as I wait for the water to rise and pursue all my earthly treasure.”
Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.
I read each page of One Thousand Gifts slowly, underlining amazing words of wisdom like:
Eucharisteo – thanksgiving- always precedes the miracle
Quoting Paul in Philippians 4:11-12 “I have learned to be content with whatever I have.” Learned. I would have to learn eucharisteo- learn to live it fully.
God gives gifts and I give thanks and I unwrap the gift given: joy
Life changing gratitude does not fasten to a life unless nailed through with one very specific nail at a time.
Something always comes to fill the empty places. And when I give thanks for the seemingly microscopic, I make a place for God to grow within me.
I closed the book and went to bed assuming this kind of thankfulness was something I was going to need to hold onto but having no idea what it would come to mean to me in the days ahead.
Mercy. Blessing. Grace. God.
As you know, Sandy hit late Monday night. However, we didn’t know the extent of the damage until the next morning when we woke to a text from our neighbor.
“It’s bad. The entire neighborhood flooded. We are going out to assess the damage and will let you know.”
We cried for what we assumed was lost- our belongings. And we gave thanks for what we knew remained- us. Our family. That is all that matters.
Not everyone in our sweet little town experienced damage, and some only lost power. But as word of our neighborhood’s damage spread, the calls began to pour in. “How can I help you? Please come stay with us. Let me watch your boys while you start to clean up. What can I bring you?”
Mercy. Blessing. Grace. God.
Around noon, we loaded the boys into the car and headed home to assess the damage.
As we drove thru the debris, the song “One thing remains” by Jesus Culture came on the radio. Worshipping God for what remained, I lost myself in the words and began to weep.
“Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me. On and on and on and on it goes. Lord, you overwhelm and satisfy my soul. And I’ll never ever have to be afraid. Because one thing remains………… Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me.”
I don’t think you’re ever really prepared to see your home, your neighborhood, as we did when we arrived. I’m not the type to freeze up. It’s all “get to work” with me. But I was frozen. “Where do we even begin?” Our flooding was minimal compared to our neighbors who will likely have to tear down their home, but nonetheless, loss is loss and pain is pain. It does no good to compare and it’s ok to admit it hurts.
Still, give thanks. I heard the words I read in Ann’s book. He gave thanks. Give thanks.
He took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.”
In the midst of the clean up, the salvaging, the questions about what we can keep and what we must trash, the bad news that our insurance doesn’t cover flooding and the good news that our floors may have survived the surge of water…. I am learning to give thanks. Not learned, only learning.
I am learning that if I look down- I see this…
The water line on my mailbox that reminds me how high the water rose.
I see the house torn apart, the sea-kissed furniture, and the walls lined with water stains.
But if I look up, I see this.
The rainbow painted in the sky over our house when we returned home to assess the damage.
The rainbow that reminds me that He is faithful. He is good. His promises are true.
And then I begin to look around and I see this, all of this:
My strong husband and beautiful children, safe and sound.
The text from our children’s pastor asking how he can help entertain our boys or assist with the clean up at the house.
The friends who brought me lunch while I cleaned the house.
The friend who sent her cleaning lady to me for the day while she watched my kids.
The countless emails and voice mails from friends insisting on taking our boys for the day so we can clean up.
The love- REAL love- and the prayers- the kind you can FEEL- from family and friends far away who wish they could do more.
The friends who have offered their homes, hot showers, warm beds, yummy meals, and make shift Halloween parties where the kids went trick or treating from bedroom door to bedroom door since it wasn’t safe to trick or treat outside in the debris.
Our boys bonding and powering through the chaos in our lives.
The friend who offered to loan us furniture while we decide what to do next.
And last but not least, the friend from church that I ran into while walking out of the grocery store yesterday afternoon. She could see it in my eyes – it was a hard day. I called it my “crying day.” I was frozen with “what now?” I was looking down, not up or around. But then Mercy. Blessings. Grace. God. This friend that I ran into is such a prayer warrior. She saw the pain I was carrying. She asked me if she could pray for me. Right there. In front of Balduccis, she prayed for me. And the burden was lifted. My circumstances hadn’t changed one bit, but my heart had. Give thanks. God knew what I needed and He sent an angel of a woman to pray for me - to remind me to look up and give thanks.
When I walked downstairs even now to grab my computer, I picked up my phone to find a text from a new friend - the friend we had lunch with on Sunday after church. She said her kids have been praying for my kids and then offered Psalm 94:18-19
I cried out, “I am slipping!” but your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me. When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.
Mercy. Blessings. Grace. God.
I am learning to give thanks.
And our boys, they are learning to give thanks. I have been so blessed by the way they have responded to the stressful nature of events. They too are learning to give thanks.
I won’t speak for them. I’ll let them speak for themselves. And I’ll share that with you in a moment.
I think one of the things I miss most about “home” is the ritual. I love our daily routine. It’s comforting to me. Wild mornings. Praying in the car on the way to school. Our yard full of little boys playing football and soccer after school. Wrestling with the kids before bedtime. Playing “Where did you see God today?” at the dinner table. And reading the Bible and praying together at bedtime. I love all these moments. They remind me of “home.”
So this morning, because it’s the best way I learn what is going on in my kid’s hearts (and it’s the best way they learn what is going on in mine) I asked the boys to play “Where did you see God today?” with me. Or better yet, “Where did you see God this week?”
It’s one of the most wonderful ways I know how to nurture their relationship with Jesus – to encourage them to keep their eyes open and their hearts tender to His presence throughout the day. It’s how we remind them that He is not only Mighty God and Blessed Redeemer, but He is also our very present best friend.
“Where did you see God today?” is a slight knock-off from the “high and low” game you may be aware of.
First we ask, “What was your ‘high’ today?” In other words, what made you really happy? Next we ask, “What was your ‘low’ today?” In other words, what made you sad or hurt your feelings? While my kids initially resisted the invitation to talk about the things that made them sad (they said they didn’t want to think about it) I believe it’s important for parents to know and speak into the places where our children struggle in their day, whether it be in academics, friendships, self-worth, etc.
And finally, we ask “Where did you see God today?” In other words, did someone say or do something kind, did you feel comforted or protected by something or someone, did you see something beautiful or awesome, did He speak to you or “nudge” your Spirit when you had to make a choice about something, did something or someone make you feel really loved? The list goes on but the point is simple: God is in the details, desiring your attention, longing to reveal Himself to you and speak words of love and freedom into your heart- so keep your eyes open for Him!
If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things.
And this is what they said:
Cal- I have felt God in my friend’s inviting me over for play dates
Brennan- I have seen God in Thomas who is sharing his room with us.
Owen who is only three is still listening and learning.
Ah. Mercy. Blessings. Grace. God.
We are learning to give thanks in all things.
One last thing…..
As I was walking out of our house last night with an aching body from a full day of scrubbing the salt water off the furniture, I found this.
You probably can't even read it because it is covered in ocean scum from the flood.
This post-it note is one of many that I keep above my computer and it holds one of my favorite verses.
The Lord will fight for you. You need only be still.
I think I’ll save it forever. A reminder. No matter what we face, no matter how small or how insanely defeating, the Lord will fight for us. We need only be still and ...... give thanks.
Mercy. Blessing. Grace. God.