Chasing Contentment

Friday, September 30

I've written about 'chosen family' before and about how we have these people in our lives who are not blood relatives but who are as much - if not more so - family as the people who share our blood ties.

I think God sends these angels to be with us, to fill in the gaps in our lives and to help us create a meaningful existence.

Mike and I are blessed to have wonderful relationships with our brothers and their families. We make an effort to stay close to them despite the distance between us all. My parents are loving Christian people who always mean well despite the way I sometimes feel after having talked or visited with them. I am, unfortunately, not what they have at times indicated they wished I was.

But there are all of these people in our lives who accept us as we are... flawed and all. And they fit in the cracks and gaps in our lives and make us stronger and better. And this week, a few of those people have been stronger for us than they probably thought they were. I am deeply touched by their gestures especially since they are all dealing with their own struggles right now, too.

Mandy and Josh went to dinner with all of us for Mike's birthday, after he had a really lousy day, and they laughed with us and talked with us and entertained our kids for a bit. And they didn't seem to mind when I uninvited them for dessert so I could instead shuffle my sleepy kids home and get them in the bed.

Without telling me, my friend, Aleece, has been praying for me to find a resolution to something I struggle with at church. When I was telling her about an impulse decision I made earlier this week regarding my future with that activity, she told me of her prayers and that she had been praying I would find the time and the action needed. I felt so much better about my choice knowing that she had been praying for it.

My friend, Mandy, took a stand for me and Mike today... did something in order to protect us... and I am humbled by her actions. By her love.

Without these people, we would not be who we are. And I am humbled by them and ... to say I am thankful for them would be an understatement. There are no words (and for me, that's a big thing!).

[  posted by Chel on Friday, September 30, 2005  ]

Thursday, September 29

God is in control. He is the only one who knows where all of the pieces of the puzzle of my life fit. He is the only one who knows the motives and intentions of the people in my life.

As this situation we are in becomes worse (by the moment it seems at times), I am realizing that the only thing I can really control is me. And for a bit of a control freak like me, that's a big realization.

The only thing I can control in this situation is my reaction to it. I can let it absorb me, control me, consume me or I can resist that.

I can let my opinion of Christians and of God be tainted by this or I can remember that these are individual sinners - like me - and they are not always the best reflection of Christ. Many times, they are no reflection of Christ despite their words to the contrary.

Mike and I are tense and agitated and concerned and uneasy, and all of these are certainly realistic feelings. But it is my desire to compartmentalize those fears and worries so that we can deal with them as aspects of our lives, not as our lives themselves. I want my children to be shielded from all of this, and the only way to do that is to try to contain it as much as possible.

I adore this man I married. I respect him more than any other man I've ever encountered. He is dealing with unkind forces in an honorable manner. He is standing tall in the face of adversity, though I know he doesn't feel as if he is. I can see the toll this is taking on him. I honestly don't know how to help him, though I want to desperately.

For now, I'll pray for him and do all that is in my power to make our home a calm and loving shelter from this storm.

[  posted by Chel on Thursday, September 29, 2005  ]

Wednesday, September 28

Happy Birthday to the most amazing and honorable man I've ever met. I love you deeply.

[  posted by Chel on Wednesday, September 28, 2005  ]

Tuesday, September 27

In doing a quick bit of site surfing, I found a magnificent post at Brooklyn and Beyond about the hurricanes. As a bit of a disclaimer, there is a quote from Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show," and as one would imagine, it's a bit PG-13.

[  posted by Chel on Tuesday, September 27, 2005  ]

I haven't posted anything in a few days as we've been dealing with Hurricane Rita and her aftermath. We - and our family and friends - were blessed to have been spared any significant damage, either to home or health.

My good friend, Tara, emailed today to check on us, and again I am touched by such concern. She said she had checked here but not found anything new, so I suppose it's time to take a few moments and tell those not here what's going on with us.

Our house was okay in the storm, though a house a few down from us currently has a tree through the roof as does one around the block. We were remarkably fortunate to not lose power during the storm, and that's quite a blessing given that there are people here in town who still do not have power. With the temps here hovering between 98 and 101 in the afternoons, it's a really horrid time to not have power or air conditioning.

We live in a twin city situation on either side of a river, and our sister city didn't have adequate water until today. Yesterday, in fact, a giant water hose was stretched across the big bridge across the river moving water from our town to the other.

Griff's been out of school since last Friday, and he's out again tomorrow. Several of the schools are being used as shelters, and we can't very well kick those folks out and ask them to live in their cars. But it means I'm burning through my vacation days. And I'm one of the fortunate ones who has vacation days to burn through.

There's not a gas station in town with gasoline, and the store shelves are bare. So much of our suppplies come from either New Orleans or the Lake Charles area, and both are out of commission. Traffic is incredible in town with all of the evacuees, both those now living here in shelters and those passing through here to get back home.

Our church opened as a shelter last Friday for those evacuating from Rita, and Mike worked at the shelter each day through the weekend and on Monday. I am so very proud of him. I appreciate, too, that when they ended up with extra workers the night he was to stay the night, he came home to be with us since I'm a storm scaredy cat. We could have all piled into the Goodnight home, but I did want safe shelter, I wanted my safe shelter. And that's Mike.

In the end, we have been fortunate to have not been anything more than inconvenienced. My prayers are with those in Lake Charles and Abbeville and those surrounding areas that have lost so much... with those from New Orleans who have endured their second storm in a month. God is still in this little state... I see it in the people helping one another, despite their own discomfort or lack of 'normal.' And for me, that's the way I want to see the face of God... reflected in the faces that face me.

[  posted by Chel on Tuesday, September 27, 2005  ]

Friday, September 23

And so we pray.

Hurricane Rita is approaching steadily, and people are evacuating en masse, thankfully. Traffic through town last night, and to an extent, this morning, was bumper to bumper. Parking lots in town look like trailor parks with people having parked their campers and trailors to ride out the storm. Many gas stations are completely out of gas, and the grocery stores are busy places with people waiting in the bread and bottled water aisles.

Friends from farther south have already evacuated, and I'm so glad. I feel better knowing they are safe, though I know this is hard on them. They took with them the houseguest who was displaced by Katrina.

We should begin getting rains and slight winds later this morning, with both picking up as the day goes on. Mike will work at the shelter - opened this morning - at our church all afternoon and into the evening. Then, he'll come home to wait with us.

There are so many needs already, thanks to Katrina, and this will create more and more. People are tired and scared and unsure.

And so... we pray.

[  posted by Chel on Friday, September 23, 2005  ]

Thursday, September 22

Yesterday, I had a wonderful email conversation with a pastor friend of ours. He was telling me - passionately! - about why he is so convinced his particular denomination is the one for him. I admire those who have such strong feelings of loyalty toward one denomination or another, mainly because I don't.

We currently attend a church in the denomination in which Mike and I were both reared. For me, the choice was based more on habit than conviction. To be perfectly honest, I probably could not adequately articulate the historical views of this denomination, though I am fairly well-versed in their current views. What I know for sure (thanks to Oprah for that particular phrase of modern language), though, is what I believe myself.

I heard an analogy once that described Christianity as a series of concentric circles. The smallest, inner circle held the fundamental tenants of the faith... those things that all Christians must agree on in order to be Christians... and the succession of larger circles held other beliefs - worship styles, preferances, etc., - that we could disagree upon but still be Christian. I love that illustration! It fits my way of thinking.

I read a blog recently that asked questions about what people would know about bloggers simply by reading their blogs. It posed a series of questions about faith and politics and love. I try very hard on this blog to not identify myself with any particular religious or political group because I don't want to be labeled in one way or another.

I simply want to be seen - and by extension have this blog be seen - as Christian. May people know me from my love rather than by my labels or affiliations. Because in my experience, labels have more to do with my surroundings than with me. Depending upon where I am and who I am with, I can be a conservative Christian, an artist, a mother, a working mother, a liberal Christian, a social conservative, and all manner of other things within a day's time. But I didn't change. The situations around me changed, and thus, gave people different opinions of me.

I don't want labels... on my person or my blog. I want to proclaim that I am a Christian, and I want to be known by how I love.

[  posted by Chel on Thursday, September 22, 2005  ]

Hurricane Rita is closing in on our little state and our big neighboring state. This is the second Cat 5 hurricane we've seen in Louisiana in a month. It is impossible to comprehend what this will mean for our state.

Our town is getting more and more evacuees from southern parts of the state - people uprooted for the second time (at least) this month. And now, our town is in the strike path. Rita will most likely hit Texas, but the forecasters are saying we'll have winds between 75-95 mph in our town. We're on the east side of the storm, and that's not the best place to be.

Pray for all of those who will be affected by this.

[  posted by Chel on Thursday, September 22, 2005  ]

Wednesday, September 21

Before Chasing Contentment, I had another blog that was private - my training wheels blog, as it were - and I've finally gotten all of the old posts that I wanted to keep moved to my archives here. So if you're interested in my back-story, the archived months of June '04 through March '05 are now available.

[  posted by Chel on Wednesday, September 21, 2005  ]

In the list of my difficult days this fall, yesterday will be a bit of a mile-marker. I had to do something yesterday that redefines me - in a way - at least to myself. And while I did nothing improper or unethical, it just felt uncomfortable. And ever since, I've felt a little like an exposed nerve - all tender and fragile and vulnerable. I cry easily. My soul aches.

I have officially hit my emotional wall in this situation, and I have that feeling of not knowing how to proceed, all the while continuing to put one foot in front of the other. Unfortunately, this is a feeling I've had before... this time last fall, in fact.

Now, I feel broken, spent, with my spirit lying in pieces on the floor. I know from experience, though, that God is the fluid that will come in and fill in the gaps between the cracked pieces of myself, and I know that He is the glue that will keep everything together. I know that the places where He mends my heart will be stronger than they were before.

And I am humbled and ceaselessly grateful for His unending willingness to mold me into who He wants me to be. And I am thankful that He is - as always - sending people to me daily to renew and refresh and encourage me.

[  posted by Chel on Wednesday, September 21, 2005  ]

Monday, September 19

Our individual personalities determine so much about us. Our family is currently in a church that encourages individual expression, artistic abilities, and personal introspection. In some ways, it's a good fit for us, but in others, not really.

The worship services feature sermons that are intelligent and intricately woven together. Though Mike doesn't always agree with the content, he's come to deeply appreciate the form, and thus is in his element in the worship services.

Me, not so much. Whether good or bad, I'm not the intelligent one in our family. I'm the heart of our home, and I miss worship services that carry more emotional punches.

We've talked for years that what each of us needed most from a church service or sermon was almost exactly what the other did not need. For the moment, the church we're in serves Mike's needs (at least in the worship style) more than mine.

Aleece recently sent me the "You've Got Style" quiz about worship styles based upon a study by Andy Stanley. It was no surprise to me that my strongest worship styles were as a Caregiver and Contemplative. Both of those descriptions, I think, describe me well.

Of course, Mike didn't score at all as a Caregiver, while two of his strong areas didn't register at all on my chart. The quiz just reinforced what we already knew - we have different needs and strengths.

I appreciate the quiz for reminding me, though, that the nurturing and caregiving I feel so drawn to are actually part of who God created me to be. Because my worship strengths aren't being met in our worship services, I am striving to fill those needs in other ways. And I pray that He find my willingness pleasing and that He use me in His ways.

[  posted by Chel on Monday, September 19, 2005  ]

Much like I am seeking contentment, I'm also always striving for balance. Balance isn't something I do really well. I tend to be an all-or-nothing sort of girl, very one way or another. But I know the value of balance, and I'm working toward it, even if those steps are tiny ones.

I don't usually do a lot of linking to other posts, but this morning, I found a few that I really liked and wanted to mention.

Mom in the Mirror talks about finding that delicate balance between saying 'yes' too much and saying 'no' too much and about the pitfalls of being too one way or the other. I completely understand that dilemma.

IreneQ poses two questions about what we would choose if we were given the choice between beauty, wealth, or intelligence, and I'm not at all sure my answer would be the noble one. Through the years, I've struggled a lot with my self-image, and that's one of the things I'd like to get all wrapped up in a neat little package. Those nasty little threads keep snagging, though, leaving me in the same place as before.

Again, a little balance would help me. The need for balance is one reason I think Mike and I work well together. We tend to fill in the gaps in one another's needs.

[  posted by Chel on Monday, September 19, 2005  ]

Friday, September 16

Last night, Mike finished writing the draft of his dissertation. This afternoon, I mailed it to his committee chair. Now, all that is left is for him to make any changes suggested by his chair and to defend his work. This is a really big mile marker on his road to being Dr. Mike. I am remarkably proud of him.

[  posted by Chel on Friday, September 16, 2005  ]

Thursday, September 15

Sometimes a rocky patch of life catches us off guard - without any warning! - and sometimes it's something we can see coming from where we walk on the cushy green grassy path. This latest bit of our lives has come at me both ways.

We knew this summer that we were in a really good place, and we worked hard to enjoy it, to suck the very wonder from it to store it up for this fall. And steadily, unfortunately, this fall has turned into what we expected. What caught me by surprise was my realization of how deeply this is affecting me. I had been moving along pretty well until one night last week when I just sobbed at something not really that moving. It was then that I saw how I am taking all of this external stress and bringing it into my heart and mind and body.

And I've wanted to write about it but I've also wanted to keep it close to me, to try to ignore the reality of how hard this all is. But the writing about it helps me, and I suppose that sharing it isn't either going to increase the stress I feel or decrease the opinions of me held by the ones who love me. For reasons I won't mention, I won't name the stress we are under right now. It'll be our little unnamed stress. But it is real, and it does weigh heavy on me.

Mike feels angry with the situation and the players in it, and there is an energy in anger that can propell a person from one thing to the next. I am not angry. I am sad. I am heartbroken. And there's just not really any energy in that at all.

I am thankful that God gave me the foresight to begin preparing myself this summer. When things were easy, I began to make the time for a daily time with God and His Word, and that has been an important foundation for me for this fall. I look forward to that time, and I am enjoying His Word more than any other time in my life. I know that is not a coincidence.

A friend of mine said earlier this week that this situation affects us but that it does not define us, and I love that. That may become my mantra for this time. I accept that it will hold a large place in my life for this season, but I do not have to allow it to control me. It can simply be one of many factors in my life.

And so I have to commit to pursuing other things... to continuing my own Bible study and journey of faith... to giving this new couple's Bible study Mike and I are in my all - to not shying away from asking questions because of my insecurity... to beading and reading and tv and movies... to having friends over for dinner... to playing. I have to be sure that the areas of my life that I want to define me are stronger and more vibrant than this situation that threatens to define me.

[  posted by Chel on Thursday, September 15, 2005  ]

Monday, September 12

Today's Foxtrot comic strip about New Orleans was wonderful.

[  posted by Chel on Monday, September 12, 2005  ]

We've all been under the weather lately, thanks to a stomach virus Eliza brought home (she's such a giver!). We're all feeling better - though not 100% yet - and I've got a better perspective on what we can be doing to volunteer.

Mike's dad and his wife live in Baton Rouge, and their church is active in helping with the Katrina Relief efforts. I see so many people from around our area pitching in and helping, and part of my guilt stemmed from us not helping more. Yet, when I consider those who are giving their days at the shelters, many are retired (like Mike's folks) and better able to give that time.

I feel better now because I believe that we are doing what we can. And that is enough. Certainly, we would like to do more, to give more. But for now, we do what we can, and that is something. That is enough.

[  posted by Chel on Monday, September 12, 2005  ]

Thursday, September 8

My home and my community were spared the wrath of Katrina. We are now the temporary - or not so temporary - home to thousands of evacuees. We see and feel the effects of this storm daily.

And we are collectively - at least if the conversations of my friends and myself are any indicator - guilty.

The situations in our lives that were difficult two weeks ago still exist and haven't diminished in difficulty... jobs that don't fit right, freedoms challenged, babies desired, niches sought, jobs needed, children seeking... and yet, we all feel guilty for struggling with them. And I mean all of us.

Guilt walks with me. I've talked about that before. Guilt is my traveling partner, much like God (thankfully God's the bigger of the two), so it's no surprise that I'm having this guilt. But a friend of mine talked with me about it last night, and I didn't know she knew my friend Guilt at all. We all have this survivor guilt of sorts, this feeling that we wish things were easier or different and this rush of guilt that washes over us as soon as we think those things.

Because who are we to wish for easier or different when we have jobs to complain about and homes to do that complaining in? The tragedy of Katrina has made us more in touch with the plight of others, more aware and willing to give what assistance we can. But because those thoughts are so present in our minds and hearts, we're all feeling overwhelmed and unable to either adequately help or realistically continue our lives as they were before.

I haven't read a book or magazine or watched a movie (or even non-news television until last night) or taken a long, hot bath (one of my very favorite late-night things to do) for more than a week now. We are consumed by this. I have thought about cancelling Netflix, about quitting this blog, about all manner of things because I feel so very out of sorts. I feel out of place in my own skin. And I've held off writing this post because feeling that way makes me feel guilty.

It's our own dirty little secret, the thing we talk about amongst ourselves - friends! - but not out loud in public because it's such an ugly, selfish thing. And logically, I know it's okay to feel this way, but the guilt says it isn't. The fact is we are all blessed. We were spared. It wasn't us. I told a friend that I'm all full of 'uns' this week - uncertain and unsure and unhappy and unproductive and unpleasant and unimaginative and unattractive and unloveable and unsympathetic and unChristianlike.

Because, really, if I were feeling and acting in a Christian manner, wouldn't I be volunteering more, wishing less? So there's our dirty little secret.

[  posted by Chel on Thursday, September 08, 2005  ]

Wednesday, September 7

A prayer for the morning...

My friend, LeeAnn, is at Children's Hospital in Little Rock today with her daughter, Emma, who will be undergoing a series of tests. Emma's been a sick little girl since her arrival last spring, and the whole family is weary. My prayer is that the doctors will be able to determine what is making her sick and that they'll be able to help Emma. And, of course, that God will sustain LeeAnn through this and will calm her fears.

[  posted by Chel on Wednesday, September 07, 2005  ]

Sunday, September 4

It's been a good weekend for us, full of sadness and joy, just as life is most days.

We heard of a family of evacuees staying here in town with three young sons and the mother nine months pregnant. Between my friend, Linda, and me, we had clothes in all of the right sizes for the three boys, so we gathered up clothes and books and toys for them yesterday. My Griff has been amazingly willing to give of his things. He has the most tender heart. My heart swells and breaks when I think of his tender little spirit.

I went through my closet and have a big bag of things to go to the shelter tomorrow. Mike has put his name on the list of volunteers to work at our church in response to the evacuees and their needs. We'll begin gathering school supplies this week for the children beginning Griff's school on Tuesday.

And I feel like we're doing things to help, and yet, I feel like we're not doing enough. I cannot imagine the helpless feeling of those who are too far away to do these basic things.

This morning in Sunday School, we listened and shared about what is going on here in our community. Two farmers spoke of full fields of crops, full and plentiful, that will not be harvested because there is no where to store and no way to transport the crops. The river is a lifeline for our farmers, and this season, they will see their crops die on the plant, with no way to save them. Such losses will touch us all.

People spoke of family members who were with the National Guard serving in NO, one of whom was flying a helicopter that was shot upon. A family member driving a bus to pick up evacuees received gunfire to his bus as well. Another family member is driving a busload of evacuees to Chicago and won't be home for days. People are going out of their way, risking to help others.

I feel broken for these dear people. My friend, Mandy, reported from a shelter yesterday and told heartbreaking stories, both of human loss and of human generosity.

A friend moved out of her home and into the home of a friend to give her home to the evacuee family of an acquaintance. Aleece and her family have invited a family of four to live with them. An older friend who has always lived alone has opened her home to a couple, along with their pets. People are helping people.

We've spent today with the kids, playing, watching movies, eating snowcones. When we pulled up to the snowcone stand, Mike placed our order. The older lady working the stand asked, "are ya'll from here?" and we knew that had we said 'no,' she would have given them free. We are seeing generosity from our community that humbles me and reminds me of the spirit of love and community that comes from living in the deep south where everyone is family.

I know we all have such questions (and criticisms) about how things have been handled, and those questions need answers. But not now. Now, we all need to focus on helping one another, on giving one another a hand up. One tiny little blow of the wind to the west, and my family would have been one of these.

[  posted by Chel on Sunday, September 04, 2005  ]

Friday, September 2

I've had people ask how they can help, and so I want to share ways. I want to help anyone and everyone help!

On a local level, we're gathering supplies - everything from toiletries to clothing to school supplies - to give to the shelters here in town (if anyone has infant clothing they would like to donate, leave a comment & I'll try to get with you to arrange that).

A local television station did a telethon yesterday and today and raise a really wonderful amount of money. Unfortunately, what is most needed from a national (international) perspective is money and time.

But I know that a lot of people can't afford to give much (we can't) out of their own pockets, and I've been trying to think of suggestions to offer those people. So here goes... please forgive me if these sound too 'youth group'... And in all of these, I'll use the word 'church' because it's easier. Substitute whatever organization you're in that is interested!

* Hold a bake sale at your church and donate the money.
* Gather all of your friends and have a big yard or rummage sale and donate that money.
* If you make crafts, organize a bazaar and sell your art. Donate the money.
* Have a service auction at church (offer to rake a yard, change the oil in a car, host a gourmet dinner for four, granma's famous cake) and donate the funds.
* Hold a free carwash and ask for donations for Katrina victims.

Mike and I agreed that for the month of September, every time we go out to eat, we will put aside an equal amount of money. On Oct. 1, we'll write a check for that amount to the Red Cross. Is there something you do that you could match? Every time you buy a new book or magazine? Every time you rent a movie or go to the theater?

If you are able to give financially, here are some creative ways to do that...
* The Truth Laid Bear is encouraging donations through its blogs this weekend.
* Buy used items through Ebay's Giving Works.
* Buy CDs from this online retailer which is giving the profits to the Red Cross.
* Watch and donate to tonight's NBC Concert for Hurricane Relief.

Obviously, you can still give to the Red Cross and others (please see the middle column here). If anyone has other ideas, please list them in the Comments on this post! I'm sure this is nowhere near as wonderful as Karama would do at So What Can I Do? but until she returns from her honeymoon.

Update... Habitat for Humanity is beginning a program to build homes around the country that will eventually be transported to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region. See if your community has a Habitat chapter and volunteer. Pick up a hammer. Help rebuild lives.

[  posted by Chel on Friday, September 02, 2005  ]

This has been a remarkably difficult week for us, and we haven't been directly affected by Katrina. I literally cannot imagine what life is like for those people still in New Orleans.

I'm feeling a little scattered today. Please forgive me if my writing reflects that.

First, my grandmother is having tests on her heart today. I lived 33 years with four grandparents and lost two in the last 18 months. I'd like for this to turn out to be no big deal, so we can keep this lovely lady with us for a lot longer. My friend, LeeAnn, is dealing with a very sick little infant girl who is having tests herself today and next week. My heart and prayers are with all of these dear folks.

We have friends who live in New Orleans and have no idea if they still have homes. We have other friends who have already been told that they've lost the entire top floor of their townhouse. No one is sure yet about their jobs or how they will manage financially from here.

These are people we know personally. There are stories everywhere. We all know someone who knows someone or who has someone living with them or who is search for someone. It is the stories of the children - dying, without parents, lost - that break my heart. I was sobbing in front of the television last night when Mike finally said, 'enough... turn it off.'

There are members of both the local and national political arena with whom I do not agree. I also know that there have been things done wrong, both in the anticipation of this storm and in the following days. But I think that now isn't the time to focus on those things. Now is the time to focus on these people who are in such despair.

My dad said yesterday that this brings out the worst in people (speaking of the dangerous sitation in New Orleans), and while I certainly agree with that, I pointed out that we're also witnessing remarkable acts of generosity and kindness. For me, I have to try to focus on that.

But what I focus on in the daylight and what my mind drifts to as I lie awake in bed each night are different things sometimes. A friend and I were just talking about how we can't sleep and if we do, we're having nightmares. And nothing bad happened to us. How must these displaced, discouraged people be feeling?

I've said it before, but it bears repeating now. I am blessed to live in a predominantly Christian area. Editorials in local papers advocate prayer. Our governor called for a Day of Prayer. Bus drivers taking evacuees to new locations talk with them about faith, about God. These are reassuring things that might now have happened in other areas. And for that, we are thankful.

People have asked how they can help (especially if, like us, they cannot afford to give much money), and I am working on a post of suggestions. Hopefully, I'll get that done today or tomorrow.

To those praying for us and for those we know and for those we don't know who were affected by this, thank you. (I know that the people in Mississippi are struggling, too, so please forgive me for not talking about them. We're just so close to New Orleans that this is the more personal aspect of this situation for me.)

[  posted by Chel on Friday, September 02, 2005  ]

Thursday, September 1

There's been talk, though blessedly not much, about a belief that some people hold that, amongst other things, Katrina was God's judgement on the city of New Orleans. I strongly disagree with that.

Unfortunately, I can't quite get past the emotional punch this has been to me to formulate a post responding to people who might believe that. Oddly enough, my Mike did. And so, for a momentary change of pace, here is his guest post. Enjoy.

I read something online that suggested that this catastrophe was God's judgment on the people of New Orleans. How can one suggest that the New Orleans' people and their reputation for sin and debauchery "brought" this on themselves? (Poor folks in Mississippi just happened to be too close, I suppose.)

I certainly believe God is at work, that God can turn this grim situation into something good for those who walk according to His purpose. But I don't think this is God's judgment on New Orleans or the Mississippi Coast.

Who among us is without sin? If we all got what we deserved, we'd all be suffering. Is every natural (or manmade) disaster judgment from God? Did every person stricken with cancer bring it on themselves?

It really bothers me when something like this occurs and those who believe it is somehow wrong to ask God "Why?" feel the need to answer the question themselves.

There, but by the grace of God, go I.

[  posted by Chel on Thursday, September 01, 2005  ]

I should have done this earlier... a big heartfelt thanks to those far-away friends and family members who have called to check on us and on Mike's parents in Baton Rouge. We do appreciate your love and concern. We thank you, too, for your prayers.

[  posted by Chel on Thursday, September 01, 2005  ]

If we all take little baby steps toward helping one another, then we can all begin the ripple effect of helping. That's what my little girls missions group and I talked about last night in church.

They were all really excited about making cards to put with the stuffed animals that will be given to the children in the shelters here in town. We also talked about being friendly to the new children who will be in their classrooms at school this week, about how being a friend to them could make a really difficult time a little less difficult for those boys and girls. Baby steps.

On the first day of the month for the last few months, I've either added or subtracted something from my life with the goal of doing that thing (or not) for an entire month. It's a self-help-Chel sort of thing.

This month, Mike and I have agreed that every time we go out to eat, get take-out, or eat on the fly (all things we do often), we will put an equal amount of money in an envelope and at the end of the month, we'll donate the entire amount to the Red Cross. We aren't in a position to do much to help financially, but we can commit to doing this.

Mike also became a Red Cross volunteer (there's a process to complete) last night at church, so he can now begin helping at the shelters. Many of the people who evacuated didn't expect to be gone more than a day or so, and they don't have enough clothing or necessities. A friend of mine and I are going at lunch today to buy supplies to give to a church (the pastor and his wife are friends of ours) which has welcomed evacuees.

There are so many needs, and I get overwhelmed if I think of them all. So I'm taking baby steps, doing what we can each day.

[  posted by Chel on Thursday, September 01, 2005  ]