But I wonder what God wants to teach me during this time. The winter is a necessary part of the year and it must be a necessary part of my life.
I am reminded of where I was on a Friday afternoon 8 months ago. God had opened doors and miraculously allowed us (Allie, Emily and I) to go on an amazing adventure to Mexico. I had high hopes of what the Lord would teach the girls and myself while serving Him and the orphans with Back 2 Back Ministries. Little did I know (OK, not at all did I know!) that we were walking right into a hurricane. Literally. Hurricane Alex, the first hurricane of the season came early in the season and had a direct hit on Monterrey, Mexico. Right where God had miraculously brought us for His plan and glory. And little did I know that the Good Lord would still be teaching me from those days 8 months ago.
|First Day in Monterrey|
|Same view on Thursday afternoon (notice the "missing" mountain)|
|The beginning of the flooding on Wednesday|
|Thursday on campus|
|One of the roads out of campus|
|A hole in the wall to relieve pressure|
|Unbelievable water flowed through campus|
And the thoughts going through my emotional mind seemed just as devastating as the flood itself. We may have only gotten 39 inches of rain if I could have stopped the tears from coming! God had miraculously opened doors to bring us to Mexico for this? Really?? I had expected so much from this trip, but not this. I even expected danger. I mean, it's Mexico! I was nervous to take my young girls to such a dangerous place and was warned by so many. Never in a million years would I have expected the danger to come from a natural disaster. How could God to this to me? We worked so hard to raise the money and make this trip possible and God provided above and beyond what I had ever imagined. And yes, He brought us here for THIS. I wish I could say that I accepted that reality then and there, but I think it has taken 8 months and a really long winter to accept that.
Thursday night into Friday was one of my longest nights ever. I stayed awake listening to the pouring rain, praying that God would allow it to just stop. As I lay there in bed, I remembered standing outside Thursday afternoon watching the rain come down and thinking that it was just so relentless. The rain just would not give up! Then I remembered the words to a song we had sung that night during worship. There was no electricity, but there sure was power in that room and it was felt by all! The words we sang to our Awesome God, "And like a flood, His mercy rains, unending love...amazing grace!" Oh, my God, thank you that your love is relentless and won't give up on ME! I prayed all night that the rain would stop and we would go home as planned on Friday, but as a dim light returned the day I knew that it was not going to be possible. I was so homesick for Brian and my other two babies, and I was scared for our safety. Then, Emily woke up saying she wasn't feeling well. She had a fever and started throwing up. I could barely hold it together. At many times, I didn't.
Between taking care of Emily, helping Allie with all of the stress of the situation, and packing, I found myself sitting on a bench under an umbrella talking with Beth Guckenberger. She and her husband are the founders of Back 2 Back Ministries and if I could spend just one day listening to her words, my life would be richer. The woman is amazing. I had a five minute conversation with her that is likely to change my life. As I fought back tears, I told her I would endure this and that I would make it and be OK. I just didn't have to like it, right? She paused, in that kind of way that you know you probably said something wrong, and without condemnation, she said, "I don't know. I'm going to have to think on that one a bit. I wonder if maybe you do have to like it." Immediately James 1:2 came to my mind (although I didn't want to admit it!), "Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds". I'm telling you, I did not want to consider this joy! Giving birth? Yes, that's joy! But this flood? My baby being sick? Feeling out of control and helpless in a dangerous situation? I did not even want to try to find joy in it. I guess I am stubborn that way. I guess that's why God sent me to a third world country to experience a hurricane. I'm stubborn! And God's grace and mercy and love are relentless!
There were three roads to get us to the highway, which would get us to the airport. One was washed away, one was significantly under water, and one...the only one with hope...was starting to wash away and had at least a foot of water rushing over it. The National Guard had been called into Monterrey, and had deemed the route from our campus to the airport impassible. But the staff knew ways the National Guard did not and they were determined to get us out of campus (which was growing more dangerous) and to the airport hotel to get us home. We loaded our bags and my sick babies (Allie was starting to not feel well too, I think she was so tired) onto a truck and started our long journey to the airport hotel.
|The one "safe" road to get us to the highway|
|The streets the bus drove on to get us to the airport|
I have learned that God's love and grace are relentless, like a flood. And for that I am thankful. I have learned that God does open the doors for great adventures. And sometimes those doors lead you right into a hurricane. I have learned that I will walk through the floods of life. And when I do, God is right there with me. I have learned that if God is for me, who can be against? I have learned that God uses all things to work together for His good for those who love Him. And I have learned that nothing, neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation (floods!) will be able to separate us from the love of God! And I am learning to consider it pure joy when I face trials of many kinds, because we know that the testing of our faith produces perseverance, and perseverance must finish its work so that we may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
I wish I could have known all of this 8 months ago. I am so thankful for that time in Mexico and am even thankful for Hurricane Alex. I pray that the insight that was gleaned from this experience will carry over into the next trial, whatever it may be, and that in the midst of it, I will have joy and a peace that surpasses all understanding. I wish that God wasn't reinforcing all of this with a really long winter. But I suppose I need to give up my stubbornness and find joy in it.
Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again: Rejoice!