If we’ve learned anything during these pandemic days, it’s the very constant need to be flexible. F.L.E.X.I.B.L.E.
We still have another week here at Lake Forest Ranch, and then our plans were to mosey over to Whispering Pines Camp in Citronelle, AL for our December SOWER project. It was going to be a new-to-us project and also a new-to-us area, so we were looking forward to the adventure. God seemed to have different plans. Due to damage to the RV park at the camp from the recent hurricanes combined with lack of resources as a result of no guests in recent months, the planned SOWER project has been cancelled. =(
Time to practice that flexibility thing!
We looked at some other options in the general area and decided that we’d head to Gateway Academy (Teen Challenge) in Bonifay, FL (in the panhandle, north of Panama City). If that sounds a bit familiar it’s because we spent two winters there ‘back in the day’.
We haven’t been back since May of 2008, so I know there have been lots of changes. In fact, I think we’ll be fortunate to find any familiar faces in the staff. But that’s OK. We are looking forward to seeing how God is continuing to work there at Gateway and as a bonus we’ll be trying to connect with some friends that live in that area! Pretty much a win-win as far as I can see.
I guess we’ll have to catch that Whispering Pines project another time!
‘In your heart you may plan your course, but the Lord determines your steps’ (Proverbs 16:9)
Generally speaking, the early part of each month I spend putting together the monthly SOWER newsletter. Mostly I’m just organizing items that folks have sent in and making sure that all the information is up to date, but each month I also write an opening paragraph/greeting and then a little “Dear Abby” column to help answer different SOWER questions. This month is coming together quite nicely, with the exception of that opening paragraph. I’m still waiting on the inspiration for what to share THIS month, but I thought I’d share with all of you my October opening. It’s a little October-ish, but I still think it speaks to these times.
“”I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” (Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery)
I feel that way about October, too. How about you? Pumpkins, crisp apples (or maybe apple crisp?), hayrides and Fall Festivals – it is such a wonderful time of the year.”
Friends, that’s how I began last year’s October newsletter. But with our current state of COVID restrictions, there will be few hayrides (or sparsely populated ones!) and probably no Fall Festivals either. Thank goodness those crisp apples are still part of our lives! Even as our days begin to return, in a slow and measured way, to a sense of normalcy, there are some things that may not be returning anytime soon. Things like being able to watch our grandkids play sports (limited number can attend if they play at all), full pews at our local churches (keep your distance, please), even visiting loved ones in the hospital or nursing home. It seems that everywhere we turn there are new (and often inconvenient) directives. I know our Canadian brothers and sisters are waiting for news that they’ll be able to cross the border and head south before the snow flies. (Our winter projects that count on you are waiting (and praying) for that too! As are we!)
But even as the list of pandemic ‘negatives’ grows, there have been some positive lessons to be learned. We don’t have to rush from one activity to another – families are once again enjoying dinners around the table (maybe even with homemade bread) and game nights. We’ve discovered the world of Zoom, and easily accessed virtual visits. We’ve learned to adjust our priorities and rediscover what is truly important – Family, Faith, Fellowship.
Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
The days ahead will continue to bring new challenges, of that I am sure. But through it all, we have a great and loving God who is not at all surprised to see us wearing masks to Walmart and stocking up on hand sanitizer! Let’s continue to lean into him, immerse ourselves in His Word, and trust in His never failing promises!
I will protect him, because he knows my name.
When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
This is a bit of encouragement I wrote for our SOWER family in the May newsletter –
Usually in May we’re looking forward to graduations and weddings and family reunions. We’ve gone past the redbud blooms and are enjoying the azaleas and rhododendrons blooming in our gardens and watching the tulips fill our flower beds with vibrant color. Maybe some hardy lettuce is already finding its way to your salad bowl. Ah, Spring! May 2020 is a different animal all together. It has us just trying to figure out what tomorrow will look like. Will it be safe to go to the grocery store? Is it safe to go to the park for a walk? How will our children make it through job loss and quarantining? And the biggest question – when will we be able to HUG them again?? These are unprecedented days to say the least, and no one – NO ONE- knows what the “new normal” will look like. But fear not – we serve a God who DOES!! Even amidst the uncertainty of these days, our God is not surprised, and He’s walking along side us as we go through these times. As we all do “Our Best” to figure out the most effective way to continue to serve Him through this pandemic and in the days to come, let us hold fast to His sure promises –
Fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)
May we continue to marvel at the beauty of this season, even as we fully trust our mighty God in the days to come!
Resting in His Grace,
I believe we are all learning the fine art of holding things loosely. In the pre-COVID-19 world we would have been leaving over the weekend to go visit our kids and grands in Ohio. The goal was to help out our son finish off a new bedroom and bathroom in their basement for their oldest daughters in anticipation of the arrival of a new baby due in early June.
We were really looking forward to not only being able to help, but to just spend some time with those kiddos.
“Stay at Home” orders meant we had to let go of those plans.
After that we’d planned to head off to our May SOWER project in the mountains of eastern Tennessee, where we were looking forward to working with SOWER friends that we hadn’t seen in a while.
But using an ‘abundance of caution’ our ministry has cancelled all of our May projects and asked us to shelter in place if possible. We’ve had to let the pleasant thought of working with friends go.
So far our June project is still on, but like so many small businesses, our ministry partners are struggling too. All retreats and activities have been cancelled through April, and many through May. Even Summer Camping Programs are in question. No one can really say what June will look like, so whether or not they will want us to come is still to be determined. We don’t know what June will bring.
And then there’s July. Last summer we scheduled a big family reunion at The Cabin for the middle of July. Everyone was on board, and plans were in the works. Way back in early March one of our sons asked if I thought this coronavirus thing was going to impact The Reunion. Of course not, was my firm reply. It’s way off in July! And yet, here we are in mid-April and July is looking just a little bit iffy. Oh, it’s too early to tell, and we are certainly moving forward with plans…..
but we are holding those plans loosely.
Perhaps these are lessons we need to apply regardless of a Global Pandemic. I’ve come to be believe that holding our plans loosely is what we are called to do –
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
Church again in the rig, where we enjoyed another great sermon by David Platt – Peace in the Middle of a Pandemic – Pt 2 from Mark 4:35-41.
The service finished with the classic hymn which reminds us that regardless of the storm around us, Great is His Faithfulness!
Music video by Veritas performing Great is Thy Faithfulness. © 2017 Veritas
“Great is Thy faithfulness,” O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
“Great is Thy faithfulness!” “Great is Thy faithfulness!”
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
“Great is Thy faithfulness,” Lord, unto me!
Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!