Thanksday #94: Snowpocalypse Edition

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They’re sitting at the kitchen counter with snacks, giggling at the Dino-Puffles on ClubPenguin.com. She’s got her fuzzy peace-sign pants on and he’s changed his clothes for the third time — from pajamas to his football uniform to his soccer uniform. Earlier we watched Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 and then he had his “football game” while she and I snuggled in the chair.

The snow came to the mountains quickly yesterday and after just 20 minutes of school we all got our kids home — in our four-wheel drive cars on our unpopulated roads covered in powdery snow, not ice.

We’ve all been home together for more than 24 hours — warm, clothed and fed — and my heart is so full I could burst.

Meanwhile in Atlanta, my friend who’s pregnant was in her car for seven hours trying to get home, and her husband got home hours later after abandoning his car and walking five miles. I’m thankful she wasn’t the woman who gave birth in her car. I’m thankful her husband got home safely.

Family members of ours had friends who slept overnight at the school while jury duty kept another one from being all the way across town, inevitably stuck for the night. I’m thankful they were able to get home and were all together last night under the same roof.

One friend didn’t get home for over eight hours, which included abandoning her car and walking miles home with her daughter. I’m thankful she made it home safely.

Another spent the night work while her child spent the night at school. Her child thought it was the coolest adventure ever. I’m thankful they had warmth and shelter and could rest knowing each other was safe.

Some other friends live close enough to walk to and from school and were able to get to their kids quickly and back home quickly. I’m thankful they stayed outside helping cars that were stuck, and providing food and drink to those who needed it.

My news feed on Facebook last night was bleeding with people desperately trying to make it to their kids, to their homes, to any shelter they could find whatsoever. Prayer after prayer escaped my lips as my stomach wrenched trying to imagine not being able to reach my children, or my husband, or my home.

I cannot even begin to imagine.

And as quickly as my news feed bled desperation, it suddenly began bleeding hope as friends began offering homes to stranded strangers, as businesses stayed open and provided shelter, as four-wheeler owners offered to make runs anywhere possible to get people home.

“A giving person will receive much in return, and someone who gives water will also receive the water he needs.” (Proverbs 11:25)

I’m thankful that when it really matters, people put aside differences and simply see each other as brothers and sisters in need, and reach out like a good Samaritan to simply help.

I’m thankful that Facebook became a place of reassurance, help and hope. I’m thankful the news feed was filled the heart of Christ last night instead of arguing, gossip or slander.

“Get beyond yourselves and protecting your own interests; be sincere, and secure your neighbors’ interests first.” (Philippians 2:4)

As my kids are snuggled warm in our nest, and our house is filled with laughter, food and warmth, I know I’m blessed. But as I watch brother helping brother, and friend helping friend, I realize that those in the thick of it…they are the ones who are truly, eternally blessed.

“Don’t hold back—give freely, and you’ll have plenty poured back into your lap—a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, brimming over. You’ll receive in the same measure you give.” (Luke 6:38)

I’m so thankful to those who provided prayer, shelter, food, vehicles, provision and help in any way whatsoever. May it be poured back into your lap pressed down and shaken together. God is smiling on you.

“I tell you this: whenever you saw a brother or sister hungry or cold, whatever you did to the least of these, so you did to Me.” (Matthew 25:40, Voice)

Please continue to pray for those trying desperately to reach each other and home. 

What are you thankful for this week?

Fan or Follower Wrap Up

I’m honored to participate in our pastor’s current sermon series, “#1 Fan?” as a guest writer. Here is the eighth and final installment — you can find the others by clicking here.

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I boarded the plane from Seattle to Atlanta on a warm September day in 1997. I spent the next five hours watching the plane fly away from my pain and my hurt and my fears faster than I ever could have run. I arrived at the airport and was immediately greeted by my dad with a  hug and a “welcome home,” and I spent the next few months in a confused, depressed daze — wondering what on earth had just happened and simultaneously doing everything in my power not to think about it.

Or pray about it. Especially pray about it.

I loved God and believed in Jesus and was a fan of most things Christian. But it wasn’t my own walk yet — it wasn’t my own relationship. I wasn’t praying, I wasn’t seeking, I wasn’t in community, I wasn’t learning, I wasn’t reading. Everything I believed was based on residual fumes of my church-based childhood. My house was built on sand and nothing more.

I found enough distractions to keep me from the harsh realities of what I had left behind. And it worked…for awhile. I avoided and stuffed all the problems and carried on as if nothing was wrong. But the funny thing about avoiding and stuffing problems is that the root is still there — always there — and the weed keeps cropping back up and eventually you’re exhausted from trying to cut it and are ready for some deep seed to remove it completely.

So I began to implode. And my house collapsed right on the sand, and everything I owned had sand in it. There was sand in my mind and sand in my heart and sand in my hair and I just couldn’t get all the sand out. No matter how much I shook and how much I vacuumed, sand remained and irritated every area of my life.

And one summer day, completely broken and irrational over one single grain of sand I couldn’t remove, I reached the end of myself. I got on the floor of my glass-green-walled room and settled onto my knees with my head on my bed, tears soaking my white down comforter.

And I finally decided to pray.

And I gave up. And I gave it over. And I gave myself over. And I asked that God remove all the sand because I hated the sand but didn’t know how to get rid of it all.

And when I got up and walked out the door, there was peace in my heart. And I found a church and went every Sunday night — only Sunday nights, for six straight months — and sat alone in the very back and cried and wept and got all the sand out.

And when my time of weeping was over and all the sand was gone, I began to heal. And I began to pray and seek and read and learn and be in community. I began to remember where those childhood fumes came from and soon I was fueled by the gas itself, not just the fumes. And I began to really love God and really love Jesus and I became a real follower. It became my own walk and my own relationship. And I loved every second of it.

I was ruined for normal. Nothing has ever been the same since.

In the greatest way possible, absolutely nothing has ever been the same since.

For so long I believed that if I really decided to follow Jesus I’d have to give up so much, lose so much. But I had already given up so much and lost so much, and the things that remained were wisps of reality and puffs of truth. What I had been holding so tightly wasn’t anything worth holding. It was like trying to hold onto sand…and it slipped through my fingers no matter how hard I grasped. Even if I could keep it in my hand, all it did was create irritation and pain. Why would I continue to grasp pain?

But when I finally pulled up the root of that stinking weed and let it go, the scales fell from my eyes and I could see. I saw Truth and I saw Wisdom and I saw the deception for what it was — a thin veil designed to keep me from the hope and future already planned in advance for me.

There’s such freedom in following Christ, not simply being a fan. It’s hard yet yielding, painful yet peaceful, challenging yet clear. It’s a straight and narrow path protected by hedges of grace. The freedom that comes from walking that path is found in the absence of shame and the absence of condemnation and the absence of fear.

In being a fan we think we’re doing Him a favor — isn’t He so lucky we’re fans of His? But He wants followers. Because when we follow Christ, it is for our good, not His.