Saturday, October 6, 2018

The Great Flood

When I was in middle school, I attended my brother’s high school graduation. One young man incorporated a proverb in his graduation speech that still resonates with me today—25 years later. It goes something like this:

There was a man who lived in Mississippi during the time of the great flood. Before the storm hit, newscasters warned residents of the destruction that would occur because of the storm, but that one man had great faith in God. He just knew that he didn’t have anything to worry about because God was gonna to take care of him.

The storm hit. It rained like never before. The man stood on his lawn and watched as the water came down. It had already flooded past his boots when a little boat came by and the man on the boat said, “Sir, the dam’s gonna bust. Get on board and let me save you.” The man with great faith in God refused. “God’s a-gonna take care of me!” he said in his thick Southern accent. And so the boat continued on.

About six hours later, the dam had busted and the man stood on top of his roof watching as the water came down. Once again the water had risen past his boots. A larger boat came by and the man on the boat said, “Sir…the dam’s busted. There’s no way you’ll survive if you stay out here. Get on board and let me save you!” The man with great faith refused. He said, “God’s a-gonna take care of me.” And so the larger boat continued on.

About an hour later, the rain was still coming down. The man stood on top of his chimney and watched as the water fell. He was looking for God to intercede in a big way!

A helicopter flew overhead and the captain dropped down a rope for the man. “Sir,” he called through his bullhorn, “the dam’s busted. Grab ahold of the rope and let me save you.” The man with great faith looked at him and said loud and proud, “God’s a-gonna take care of me.” The helicopter flew on.

The man with great faith ended up dying in that flood and when he made it to heaven he could hardly wait to talk with God. On that great day, he pointed a finger at the LORD and said, “What happened? I thought you were gonna take care of me.”

And God said, “You dummy, I sent you two boats and a helicopter!”

I remember laughing out loud when I heard this. It still makes me laugh when I say it and use all the accents and sounds that I imagine. Oddly enough, I recited this proverb to a group of kids a few weeks ago. Shortly after that I was presented with a “great flood” of my own.

My daughter turns 16 in a couple months and she wants to have a Sweet 16. I’m a very frugal mom, so I told her years ago that I wasn’t doing anything big for any of her birthdays…BUT, I told her that she could have a really nice party when she turned 16. (And then 16 kinda snuck up on me.) :)

Anyway, one of my play sisters is helping me put everything together because she wants the day to be very special for Amari. She has been working diligently to solidify a location, decorations, and all that other good stuff. We had pretty much settled on one location not too far from where I live, but I wasn’t thrilled about the price. HOWEVER, it was the most affordable of the places she checked, so I told the manager of the venue that I would come in to pay the deposit in a couple of days.

As soon as I sent the manager that email, I cried out to God. I left the parking lot of my job and stopped at the traffic light between the parking lot and the freeway. While I sat there, I wondered how I would pay such a large amount for the venue without making unwise decisions with my money. I reminded Him that I am trying to be a better steward, but I had made a promise to Amari that I intended to keep. I thought about giving Him an IOU for my tithes money, but as soon as I thought it I reminded myself that God has been amazing to me and that was one area I wouldn’t compromise. I looked to my left and saw a 7-Eleven. The LOTTO, I thought. If I could hit that really quick…boom boom. Naw…that wasn’t it. Maybe I could ask my brother and sister if they wanted to make a donation towards her party. Naw. That wasn’t it. I thought about all the little treats for myself I would have to put on hold to make this make sense—my pumpkin spice fraps, my hairdos, my own birthday festivities. I didn’t want to make those sacrifices, but I would if I had to. The light changed and I begged God to work it out. I didn’t know what He would do, but I needed Him to do something. I got on the freeway and made my way to Amari.

Once she was in the car, we headed to the gas station and my phone rang. It was my play sister.

 “I have some great news,” she said. She told me that one of the places she had contacted had finally gotten back to her and the date we wanted for Amari’s party was available. It was less than half the cost of the venue I was planning to put the deposit on, and she was certain they would offer a bigger discount to paid club members. She also told me that we could rent the spot for the entire day and would not have to rush to set up or break down the event. She mentioned a few other perks, but I looked over at Amari and said, “I don’t know…That is a little further away and Amari really had her mind set on the place closer to us. Let me think about it and get back to you.”

I hung up the phone and said, “What do you think Amari? You look sad.”

She said, “Mommy…I look like this because I don’t feel well. It really doesn’t matter to me.”

I went back and forth with myself for a few minutes and then I realized that God was trying to take care of me and I was behaving like the man in the proverb. It had been less than an hour since I cried out and asked Him to help me—to make a way, and He had provided a MUCH more affordable alternative at a VERY nice location—one that is meaningful to me even…

The path He directed me toward wasn’t the “way” that I was expecting. I almost missed out, but I’m thankful I recognized His hand in the matter before it was too late. I called my play sister back and told her the story of the man in the great flood and how I could see that God was answering the prayer that I had JUST prayed. It would have been foolish of me not to jump on the opportunity. I asked her to go ahead and book the new location. I told her I would reach out to the initial place and let them know that we had found another venue.

(Side note: The next day, the initial venue reached out to me before I could reach out to them and said that the date I wanted wasn’t available after all. They had already received a deposit check from someone else and they were soooo sorry. I told them it was ok. We had already found another option. I SEE YOU, GOD. Wow…)

There’s still a great deal more planning to do, but I’m thankful to be taking this journey with God. He continues to work things out when I pray and then get out of the way and allow Him to do what He does! :)

Monday, September 10, 2018

A Simple "Yes"

During my time off from work I had the privilege of being a part of a weekday bible study (Life Group). Approximately 12 women would get together Tuesday mornings after we dropped our little ones off at school and we would fellowship, study, and pray together. It was such a wonderful experience.

When I went back to work, my schedule wasn’t flexible enough to be a part of that weekday morning Life Group experience, and the way my evenings and weekends are set up, I already knew that I probably wouldn’t join another one right away.

Shortly after I started working I felt a strong prompting to facilitate a bible study group at my job. Let me admit, I’m working on my immediate obedience. My reasoning prevented me from doing anything right away. My reasoning reminded me that I was just a temporary employee and my assignment could end any day. My reasoning told me that my fellow co-workers might not want to use their lunch breaks in such a way. My reasoning told me that even if the women I asked agreed to participate, it would probably just be because they didn’t want to hurt my feelings—especially considering they were just as seasoned or more seasoned women of God than I am. My reasoning said it would be difficult to reserve space for our study since I work for a non-religious company.

But still I felt deeply that I should take steps to make it happen.

Early one morning when I couldn’t sleep for thinking about the study, I bought a 7-week video series (and leader’s guide) and then I bought the children’s version of the study as well. (One thing that often forces me to move is when I have a made a financial investment in something. Spending my money meant I would have to do something.) I figured if the women at work didn’t want to do the study with me, I would do the adult version myself and then do the children’s version with my girls.

That week, I reached out to a few ladies who had been on my heart to see if they would be interested in studying with me. Everyone I asked said yes. A couple of them even invited others to participate.

Reserving the space made me a little anxious, but with the help of my co-workers (and after quite a bit of trial and error), I figured out how to do it. I emailed the ladies with a link to purchase their study guides along with information about how often and where the studies would be held.

Let me say…During that 7-session study period, God moved in each of our lives. It was such a powerful study that even before it finished, one of the ladies (not pictured) said that she would love to do another one once it was over. She even volunteered to lead. (Praise God!)

When the second 7-session study (which we realized from the first study would be better if spread out over a 14-week period) neared an end, everyone agreed that we wanted to do another 7-session (14 week) study. This time I suggested one that I had done with my Life Group in the past and I volunteered to lead again. (We are 3 weeks into that study now.) J Iron sharpens iron. We also share situations we are facing in our professional and personal lives, and we pray for and with one another. It’s awesome.

One thing that is interesting is that I don’t think any of us have started the studies thinking, “This is just what I need for what I am going through right now,” but as we have studied each of us has seen that what we are studying is just what we need for what we are going through at the time. A couple ladies admitted that they originally said yes just because they didn’t want to hurt my feelings, but they ended up being so blessed because of that yes. One participant did our first study with the women in her family, and another is looking to start a study with her family as well.

I’m thankful for this group of women! I’m thankful that God put it on my heart to ask them if they wanted to study with me. I’m even more thankful that He was patient with me during the couple months it took to build up enough courage to do something about His prompting. (I can so relate to Gideon, who needed constant reassurance from God that everything would be alright.) I’m always amazed to see what God can do with a simple (often timid) yes. To God be the glory!

(Three ladies are not pictured. J)