When the rain takes over…

We have lived in our new house for just over eight months. In the last eight months we have had a significant amount of water enter our basement at least four times. This is not just a basement, but our family room, with our couches, biggest tv, and lots and lots of Crosley’s toys. The first big flood came only a few weeks after bringing the boys home from the hospital, rendering a main part of our house temporarily unusable.

This is not ideal.

On at least two of the occasions, I stood by the sump pump watching the water rise. With a 3 gallon bucket and a few towels, I attempted to stop the impending flooding to no avail. I’m glad there is no video of how ridiculous I must have looked bailing out tiny buckets of water as the water continued to rise. I watch the weather radar almost obsessively, have stayed up entire nights keeping watch over the sump well, and searched for answers.

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I have had help. Church family has stepped in on several occasions, providing the tools that we need to try and fight against the flood. Folks with far more knowledge about such things have come and done everything within their power and we think we have a few fixes, but no way to know for sure.

One night as I was using a backup pump, sweeping out water, and cursing the rain, it hit me:

What do you do when your life feels like this? What do you do when the water is coming and as much as you’d like, there is no way to stop it?

I have had days in my life where there was a lot of rain but nobody else knew. Battling issues that I wish would go away, I knew there were times when I could not do anything other than watch life spiral out of control and then work on the inevitable cleanup.
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I haven’t found a basement solution just yet. But what I have done, I believe can help in other situations as well:
1) Accept it’s going to happen. This is not defeat. I am not advocating letting things happen without a fight. I am not saying we shouldn’t be angry when things happen. But fear is (sometimes) worse than the actual result. This past weekend after a flooding incident, I watched the radar, tracked the forecast, and held off plans because I needed to be there when the rains came. They never came. Until I can find a final resolution, I need to learn to accept that right now water is just a part of life. It isn’t forever, it isn’t ideal, but I can’t let it steal my joy. I know this is not easy. I don’t know what floods you feel like you are facing, but extensive worrying about things we can’t really control isn’t going to make things better, so at least try.

2) Fix what you can. This weekend with the help of others, I was able to make a few fixes that I hope will at least lessen the blow. Some water is now hopefully going to be diverted away from the house. The backup pump is in position and ready to go. We have towels blocking the doorway. While it isn’t a lesson I wanted to learn the hard way, I’ve gotten a little better about stopping the water. Last time, it only made it halfway into the basement. Progress. While I would like a permanent solution, right now the best I can do is fix what I can. Whatever you are struggling with, it might not get better immediately, but fix what you can. 

3) Rely on a church family. – Jenni and I have been blown away by the kindness and graciousness shown by our church family as we fight this battle. People have come over, helped make repairs, offered suggestions, and done what they can to find a solution. Unfortunately, when it comes to other issues, the last place people want to turn is to their church family. Fear of judgment, bothering someone, or shame makes it hard to seek out the church in times of need. If you feel like the water is coming in and you don’t know what to do, I encourage you to find a committed group of believers that will walk alongside you. In those moments in my life where I felt like life was out of control, I cherished having people that would walk with me, listen to me, pray for me, and encourage me. We can’t do it on our own. You can’t do it on your own. It was never supposed to be that way.

I don’t know your situation. I don’t know what flooding you are facing, but I want to encourage you to not give up hope. I’m going to close with one of the lines to my favorite songs by Needtobreathe:

“Even when the rain falls.

Even when the flood starts rising.

Even when the storm comes.

I am washed by the water.”  

–  “Washed By The Water” – Needtobreathe

Why my yard went from this to this…

When I was in seminary, I was fortunate enough to take all of my classes on Mondays, which allowed me to serve in a church and attend seminary both full time. As you might imagine, that also made for some very long weeks. One of my absolute favorite days of each year was the first Monday of spring where I did not have class and it was warm enough to work in the yard. I am by no means an expert gardener, but I enjoy being outside, working in the dirt, planting flowers, and watching it grow. This is done almost only for selfish reasons. Jenni likes flowers and I try to plant her favorite, but I don’t think she’d notice if I stopped planting them at all.

A few days ago I saw some pictures of the house where Jenni and I lived in Cynthiana: elmarch2elmarch
I don’t claim that it was the best looking yard in the neighborhood, but it was the most I had ever grown something on my own, there was lots of color, and I enjoyed looking at it every day when I would walk up the sidewalk to our front door.

Not long after seeing that picture, I went outside to mow the yard at our new house and snapped a picture of what those flowerbeds look like:

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Sure, it might look like the before picture of an extreme lawn makeover show…but that’s pretty much how they still look right now.

It drives me crazy. But, as with almost anything in life, it is my choice.

The truth is, the house before this one never looked as nice as I’d like. I planted a few flowers, but nothing seemed to stick. Working in the yard was just something to fit into a schedule, but not something to enjoy.

So, if I love working in the yard, why do I let it get out of hand?

Here are a few reasons:

 

These pictures do not reflect excuses. They reflect choices.
In Ecclesiastes 3:1 we are reminded that

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens”:

As much as I enjoy working in the yard, the amount of time that it would require to “do it right” would mean sacrificing time spent with those things that mean the most right now:

  • Hearing Crosley giggle as I chase her and fulfilling requests to read one more story.
  • Doing whatever ridiculous thing it takes to get both boys grinning at the same time and serving as the world’s lumpiest pillow as they nap.
  • Date nights with the love of my life.
  • Serving a church with some of the kindest people I have ever met.
  • And the list goes on…

 

In a social media world, we tend to feel an increasing pressure to have it all together in every aspect. We need picture perfect memories in picture perfect houses while taking picture perfect vacations while trying (and failing) to have picture perfect bodies and  on and on and on.

In the midst of that pressure, we try to do everything and in the end nothing is really done well.

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Churches feel this pressure. If only we add more programs, design our buildings a certain, if only, if only, if only….

Is there a need for balance? Sometimes. I would imagine 2-3 hours in the yard might make the flower beds seem a bit better. I think the neighbors would appreciate it (thankful to have very considerate neighbors who mainly ask us how the babies are doing). And I do my best to make sure that we don’t do things that harm the neighborhood.
At some point, though, we have to choose. What will you pursue the most today? If you pursue something with intensity, something else will surely fall behind. That means that the house might be a little dirtier than usual, the yard might seem unkempt, other folks might be questioning where you spend your time.

And that’s okay.

Someday I’ll have a yard with more flowers than I know what to do with and I’m sure I’ll sit there and long for the days that I have right now. I’ll miss my children and the craziness that life brings. And hopefully, I’ll have new and exciting ways to serve my place in the kingdom of God.

I love working in the yard. But right now, to do it well would mean missing out on the kind of memories that will last a lifetime.

I encourage you to examine how you are spending your time this week. What gets the most attention? What kind of things are you doing that leave you feeling burned out but in the end don’t really matter?

There is a time for everything.

That doesn’t mean that the time for everything is now. 

And that’s okay.

 

I’d love for you to learn more about what God is doing through First Baptist Church Fort Thomas. Check out our website to learn more! Click Here!

My Daddy Likes…

There are many things that I love about being a dad. Many of the things that I thought I would like turned out to be true:

Wrestling. Taking naps together. The fact that it is socially acceptable to carry snacks just about everywhere you want.

A few days ago, though, I was surprised by something. It was something that I didn’tstairs know would bring me a sense of joy I had never previously felt. We were not in the same room, my presence was not a thought in her mind. You see, my parents (her biddy and papaw) were downstairs with my wife eating breakfast while I got ready for church. Amidst lots of laughter, in the kitchen at the bottom of our stairs I heard Crosley say something:

“My daddy likes…” or “My daddy and me…”

Honestly, I have no idea what she said at the end of that sentence ( I think maybe it was that I like waffles?), but it didn’t really matter. I know that we have fun together. I know ways to make her smile. She’s still at an age where on most days she wants to be with me, to play, read stories, and whatever other random things that she decides we should do.

This was different.

As I was upstairs getting ready, I heard her say “My daddy likes…” and for a moment I smiled. But why?

Crosley1It’s because in that moment I heard her explain to someone else something about her relationship with me was memorable. Even better, I think it was positive. And even though I don’t know what that thing was, there was a connection made. It made me feel good that she thought enough of me to share a fact even when I wasn’t around.

Listen. I get that she’s a toddler and that one moment she shares a fact about me and the next is about Princess Belle and in her mind they might be on equal footing. I’m not going to let that steal my joy for now.

As I thought about that moment, it hit me. This has to be how God must feel when he hears us talk about Him. Sometimes we get caught up in saying the “right” thing or talking about our faith in a way that sounds just like everyone else. We begin to think that we aren’t good enough to share, that what we say isn’t interesting, or whatever other host of lies we allow ourselves to believe that aren’t true. We hold back.

Crosley shared something true and important to her. It came out of her experiences with me, her understanding of who I am, and she wanted nothing more to share it with others.

What if sharing our faith stories came in the same way? What if instead of making sure that everything was calculated and prepared, we talked about God out of the depths of our experience with Him? What if we shared everything, even the most random thoughts, simply because we couldn’t hold back?

It made me feel good to hear her speak. I imagine that is exactly how God feels when we share (with those who identify as believers AND those that don’t ) what is happening in our lives and how we have seen Him move.  I did not expect Crosley to have a well thought out, meticulously prepared statement about things that are important about our relationship. She shared what was happening then, at that moment.

This week I want to do a better job of sharing what God is doing in my life as I go about my usual day. I am firmly convinced that if we all did that more, the stories would be more interesting and they would be more real. 

And through that, God smiles.

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