Sandy & Learning to give thanks

 

 

It’s 3:50 a.m.  I am wide-awake with so many things I have been desperate to get down on paper. So many things I want to share with you. So much to pour out.  Healing words.

What can I tell you about Sandy that you don’t know already know?

Last Sunday started like every other Sunday does.  We had an amazing morning at Trinity church, followed by a delicious lunch at a sweet friend’s house.  We played football and baseball with the kids in the backyard and enjoyed what had so far been a beautiful day.

But then the call came. The one that said we were under mandatory evacuation and had to be out of our house by sunset.    Sandy had gone from bad to worse and everyone in our little neighborhood on the water was forced to flee.

We rushed home and packed up the things that matter most. Funny how times like this remind you of what “matters most.”  I grabbed things like photo albums, the journals I keep for each of the boys, all of my research, my Bible, a few of the books I’ve been eager to read, and some essential files – and threw them in the trunk of the car. We lifted as much as we could off the floor in the event of a flood, and headed 30 minutes northwest to stay with friends who were on safer ground. It happened that fast.

And there we were- three families with a combined 11 kids between us- all settled in on Sunday night, bracing for what was ahead.

 

 

I remember curling up with a book that night – the one I started reading only several days before when the name Sandy meant nothing to me- called One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. And I remember thinking, “Fitting book to be reading as I wait for the water to rise and pursue all my earthly treasure.”

 

Matthew 6:19-21

Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

 

I read each page of One Thousand Gifts slowly, underlining amazing words of wisdom like:

Eucharisteo – thanksgiving- always precedes the miracle

Quoting Paul in Philippians 4:11-12 “I have learned to be content with whatever I have.” Learned.  I would have to learn eucharisteo- learn to live it fully.

God gives gifts and I give thanks and I unwrap the gift given: joy

Life changing gratitude does not fasten to a life unless nailed through with one very specific nail at a time.

Something always comes to fill the empty places. And when I give thanks for the seemingly microscopic, I make a place for God to grow within me.

 

I closed the book and went to bed assuming this kind of thankfulness was something I was going to need to hold onto but having no idea what it would come to mean to me in the days ahead.

Mercy. Blessing. Grace. God. 

As you know, Sandy hit late Monday night.  However, we didn’t know the extent of the damage until the next morning when we woke to a text from our neighbor.

“It’s bad.  The entire neighborhood flooded. We are going out to assess the damage and will let you know.”

We cried for what we assumed was lost- our belongings.  And we gave thanks for what we knew remained- us. Our family. That is all that matters.

Not everyone in our sweet little town experienced damage, and some only lost power.  But as word of our neighborhood’s damage spread, the calls began to pour in.  “How can I help you?  Please come stay with us. Let me watch your boys while you start to clean up. What can I bring you?”

Mercy. Blessing. Grace. God.

Around noon, we loaded the boys into the car and headed home to assess the damage.

As we drove thru the debris, the song “One thing remains” by Jesus Culture came on the radio.  Worshipping God for what remained, I lost myself in the words and began to weep.

“Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me. On and on and on and on it goes. Lord, you overwhelm and satisfy my soul.  And I’ll never ever have to be afraid.  Because one thing remains…………  Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me.”

I don’t think you’re ever really prepared to see your home, your neighborhood, as we did when we arrived. I’m not the type to freeze up.  It’s all “get to work” with me. But I was frozen.  “Where do we even begin?” Our flooding was minimal compared to our neighbors who will likely have to tear down their home, but nonetheless, loss is loss and pain is pain. It does no good to compare and it’s ok to admit it hurts.

Still, give thanks. I heard the words I read in Ann’s book. He gave thanks. Give thanks.

 

Luke 22:19

He took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.”

 

In the midst of the clean up, the salvaging, the questions about what we can keep and what we must trash, the bad news that our insurance doesn’t cover flooding and the good news that our floors may have survived the surge of water…. I am learning to give thanks.  Not learned, only learning.

 

I am learning that if I look down- I see this…

The water line on my mailbox that reminds me how high the water rose.

I see the house torn apart, the sea-kissed furniture, and the walls lined with water stains.

 

But if I look up, I see this.

The rainbow painted in the sky over our house when we returned home to assess the damage.

The rainbow that reminds me that He is faithful. He is good. His promises are true.

 

And then I begin to look around and I see this, all of this:

My strong husband and beautiful children, safe and sound.

The text from our children’s pastor asking how he can help entertain our boys or assist with the clean up at the house.

The friends who brought me lunch while I cleaned the house.

The friend who sent her cleaning lady to me for the day while she watched my kids.

The countless emails and voice mails from friends insisting on taking our boys for the day so we can clean up.

The love- REAL love- and the prayers- the kind you can FEEL- from family and friends far away who wish they could do more.

The friends who have offered their homes, hot showers, warm beds, yummy meals, and make shift Halloween parties where the kids went trick or treating from bedroom door to bedroom door since it wasn’t safe to trick or treat outside in the debris.

Our boys bonding and powering through the chaos in our lives.

The friend who offered to loan us furniture while we decide what to do next.

And last but not least, the friend from church that I ran into while walking out of the grocery store yesterday afternoon.  She could see it in my eyes – it was a hard day. I called it my “crying day.”  I was frozen with “what now?” I was looking down, not up or around.  But then Mercy. Blessings. Grace. God.  This friend that I ran into is such a prayer warrior.  She saw the pain I was carrying.  She asked me if she could pray for me. Right there. In front of Balduccis, she prayed for me.  And the burden was lifted.  My circumstances hadn’t changed one bit, but my heart had.  Give thanks.  God knew what I needed and He sent an angel of a woman to pray for me – to remind me to look up and give thanks.

 

 

When I walked downstairs even now to grab my computer, I picked up my phone to find a text from a new friend – the friend we had lunch with on Sunday after church.  She said her kids have been praying for my kids and then offered Psalm 94:18-19

 

Psalm 94:18-19

I cried out, “I am slipping!”
but your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me. When doubts filled my mind,
your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.

 

Mercy. Blessings. Grace. God.

I am learning to give thanks.

And our boys, they are learning to give thanks.  I have been so blessed by the way they have responded to the stressful nature of events. They too are learning to give thanks.

I won’t speak for them.  I’ll let them speak for themselves.   And I’ll share that with you in a moment.

I think one of the things I miss most about “home” is the ritual.  I love our daily routine.  It’s comforting to me.  Wild mornings.  Praying in the car on the way to school. Our yard full of little boys playing football and soccer after school. Wrestling with the kids before bedtime.  Playing “Where did you see God today?” at the dinner table.  And reading the Bible and praying together at bedtime. I love all these moments.  They remind me of “home.”

So this morning, because it’s the best way I learn what is going on in my kid’s hearts (and it’s the best way they learn what is going on in mine) I asked the boys to play “Where did you see God today?” with me.   Or better yet, “Where did you see God this week?”

It’s one of the most wonderful ways I know how to nurture their relationship with Jesus – to encourage them to keep their eyes open and their hearts tender to His presence throughout the day. It’s how we remind them that He is not only Mighty God and Blessed Redeemer, but He is also our very present best friend.

 

“Where did you see God today?”  is a slight knock-off from the “high and low” game you may be aware of.

First we ask, “What was your ‘high’ today?”  In other words, what made you really happy? Next we ask, “What was your ‘low’ today?”  In other words, what made you sad or hurt your feelings?  While my kids initially resisted the invitation to talk about the things that made them sad (they said they didn’t want to think about it) I believe it’s important for parents to know and speak into the places where our children struggle in their day, whether it be in academics, friendships, self-worth, etc.

And finally, we ask “Where did you see God today?” In other words, did someone say or do something kind, did you feel comforted or protected by something or someone, did you see something beautiful or awesome, did He speak to you or “nudge” your Spirit when you had to make a choice about something, did something or someone make you feel really loved?  The list goes on but the point is simple: God is in the details, desiring your attention, longing to reveal Himself to you and speak words of love and freedom into your heart- so keep your eyes open for Him!

 

Romans 8:31-32

If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things.

 

And this is what they said:

Cal- I have felt God in my friend’s inviting me over for play dates

Brennan- I have seen God in Thomas who is sharing his room with us.

Owen who is only three is still listening and learning.

 

Ah. Mercy.  Blessings.  Grace. God.

We are learning to give thanks in all things.

 

 

One last thing…..

As I was walking out of our house last night with an aching body from a full day of scrubbing the salt water off the furniture, I found this.

 

You probably can’t even read it because it is covered in ocean scum from the flood.

This post-it note is one of many that I keep above my computer and it holds one of my favorite verses.

 

Exodus 14:14

The Lord will fight for you.  You need only be still.

 

I think I’ll save it forever.  A reminder.  No matter what we face, no matter how small or how insanely defeating, the Lord will fight for us. We need only be still and …… give thanks.

Mercy. Blessing. Grace. God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  • http://Website Angie Tuel

    Beautiful entry, Jeannie! Although I am not a parent, I have been thoroughly enjoying your writing. I pass on the link to your website to my many friends who are raising children. I feel uplifted and challenged as I read. (My inner-child certainly relates!) And while reading today, a deep sense of thanksgiving in the midst of my own personal storms of life.
    I wish you and your family a continuance of the love, encouragement, healing and unity that Sandy brought into your life. Praying that restoration is complete and full of blessings.

    • Jeannie Cunnion

      Dear Angie, I love how you talk about your inner child. I am so thankful these words gave you a deep sense of thanksgiving. God is so good! Thank you so much for your prayers- we cherish them! Much Love, Jeannie

  • http://Website Heidi Hutchinson

    What moving words. I admire you, my dear friend, and pray for all of you as you pick up the pieces. You are an inspiration!

    • Jeannie Cunnion

      Your love and support is an inspiration to me! Keep praying please, God is indeed listening! Much love! J

  • http://Website Nicole zasowski

    What a lovely post…may the Lord bless you and keep you!

    • Jeannie Cunnion

      Thank you Nicole. And thank you for the beautiful and kind text with one of my most favorite verses. We do feel “kept and blessed” through the love and prayers of you guys! Much love, J

  • http://Website Susan

    It sounds like this storm made even more room in your precious heart for Jesus. What a gift! A wise friend once told me that we need to come to the end of ourselves in order to really experience God’s deep, unconditional, unfathomable love for us. Sometimes I come to the end of myself and find a crabbier more self righteous version of me. When I am still and rest myself in His arms, as you have done this week, I find unspeakable joy. Thank you so much for sharing your joy with us in the midst of the storm. I know that so many have been blessed by reading this!!

    • Jeannie Cunnion

      That is so true ~ Coming to the end of ourselves and knowing the next step is possible ONLY if He carries us ~ is where we find His wide open arms of unfathomable love. No matter what the “storm” is. You are such an encouragement to me Susan. SO much love, J

  • http://winnieconner@aol.com winnie conner

    So glad your mom and dad sent your beautiful life story. God is always on time! His hand is not too short! much love in Jesus, winnie and david conner

    • Jeannie Cunnion

      Thank you dear Winnie. Yes God is always, always on time!

  • http://Website Kristen

    wow, Jeannie. That was such an amazing entry. You are such an inspiration and I really appreciate you sharing your thoughts and practices. I was thinking of you, Mike and kids during the week and checked for an update on your facebook page. Am happy to know you are all well and hope the recovery of your home is going as well and fast as is possible. Look forward to reading your next post! XO

    • Jeannie Cunnion

      Thank you Kristen. It is wonderful to hear from you. Thanks for your kind words and love- so glad you connected with me here :)

  • http://Website Morella

    Wow! I see Jesus working in you, through you, and all around you! My heart hurts for what you and everyone up there is gong through but It’s so awesome to see God working in the midst of it. Thank you for sharing your heart. I love you

    • Jeannie Cunnion

      I love you more sweet Moe!

  • http://Website Kelley

    I’m so thankful Ann shared your letter in her blog! Not exactly sure what to say, but know that it rebuked my heart and encouraged me as well! :) Sometimes I wonder how I’d respond to such difficulty as you have, but know I’ve had my own difficulty and don’t necessarily need such a storm to reveal to me my heart, and how I’ll trust my Savior in time of need! Thank you for sharing your story of learning to be thankful in the storm…I think of part of the words to a song, “I will praise you in the storm!” You have done that well!

    • Jeannie Cunnion

      I’m so thankful you took time to read about how God is loving us through this story. I love the song you mentioned. It’s one of my favorites. Thank you for encouraging me today through your own personal trusting in our Savior. God Bless you!

  • http://Website karen

    Jeannie,
    I wandered to your blog from the www. Just wanted to comment that your writing is beautiful and touching, it was a blessing for me to read this morning. My family lost our home 4 years ago to Hurricane Ike, so I’ve walked much of your story. We too came out on the other side learning the lesson of what is truly important, and of being humbled by God shining through others reaching out to us. It WILL be ok, and there IS a plan! Hang in there!
    Prayers, Karen
    PS. Thank you for sharing Exodus 14:14, I needed to see that today!

    • Jeannie Cunnion

      Thank you for that encouragement Karen! I am so sorry for your loss in Ike- as you said, God is present and His glory shines in these moments. I see Him fighting for us every place I turn (Exodus 14:14!) Thank you for your very kind words and encouragement today. God Bless you.

  • http://Website Penny Vogt

    You touched my heart. I love the your “looking down, looking up” comparison. Thank you for inspiring me!
    Irene left me with water. Sandy just took away my power (as most of new jersey’s) and toppled some trees on my property. I’m calling them inconveniences. As there are many more people who’ve lost homes and perhaps loved ones.
    Blessings to you and your family.

    • Jeannie Cunnion

      I am so thankful to know that. I started the day looking down but God quickly said, “Up here! Look up!”

  • http://alifegivingmoment.wordpress.com Joy Martin

    Thank you for sharing from the bottom of your soul ! Your words bring hope and healing to the devastation ! May God restore double all that was lost and may He be the “Rebuilder of Walls” for you , your family and your entire neighborhood and town ! May blessings rain down in abundance !

    • Jeannie Cunnion

      Thank you Joy! He has certainly been the rebuilder of walls for us- we feel abundantly blessed in what matters most- His love.

  • http://Website Stephanie Rawlins

    Praise God for His provisions! Praying that you will continue to see Him in the midst of this trial. Thank you for sharing!

    • Jeannie Cunnion

      Thank you for those prayers- we feel them and He does continue to reveal Himself in the most amazing ways through this trial. He is faithful!

  • http://Website Robin in New Jersey

    I am sitting here in tears. I just want to go home, but Sandy knocked out our power and our home is freezing cold. Today I will give thanks for a friend who is letting us stay with her until our power comes back. And I will pray for you. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to have a flood and lose it all.

    Our family also has another situation going on that is causing us to have to be still and let the Lord fight for us and I am so thankful for this post and the gentle reminder to let the Lord fight for me.

    Blessings to you and your family.

    • Jeannie Cunnion

      Thank you for sharing your struggles as well Robin. I will pray for whatever other “storm” you are facing- that the Lord would mightily reveal His power in and through your situation. He is fighting for you!

  • http://none Jeannie

    Hello Jeannie,
    I linked your post through aholyexperience.com by Ann Voskamp. I always go to her for encouragement when I’m needing grace and truth. I was just as blessed by what you wrote! Thank you! I saw God yesterday at the ER. We just stepped through the door of the hospital in Salem, Oregon. We had barely given our name at the window and were met by the voice of a kind man, a triage nurse, who saw us enter, “These are my friends, I’ll take care of them.” Reflecting, it was the voice of God to me.
    And then, oh my, our names are spelled exactly the same, only one other person I’ve met with the exact same spelling. Thank you for blessing me today! Coram Deo, Jeannie

    • Jeannie Cunnion

      I am so glad you found me through Ann. Her words and wisdom bring endless encouragement and joy. Such a gift to us all! I just LOVE that you saw God in the ER yesterday. Isn’t it just amazing how when we are keeping our eyes open for Him, we see Him in even the smallest details. And it’s so nice to meet another Jeannie! Thank you for sharing that story with me! God Bless you! :)

  • http://Website Elisabeta

    Thank you for the blessing of your abiding and resting.
    Ann also sent me. All is truly grace! Love the note from Jeannie above as well
    We are ALL beholding His glory as we sit at His feet, living before His face, seeking His will, shaving His love and truths.

    • Jeannie Cunnion

      Elisabeta! Yes, all is grace!!! Another day to behold His glory and see what He will do!

  • http://Website Elisabeta

    “SHARING ”
    (not shaving)

    Always depending on Him!

  • http://www.transforme-cc.blogspot.com christa jean

    I sit here reading your post from my warm family room and my heart feels sorrow for you.
    Yet, I see that you are coming to a greater “seeing” of Him in this situation and my heart feels a longing to “see” it as well as you have.

    Of course, I will probably copy your promptings and begin asking my kiddos where they see Him in their days, for this changes the mundane to glory. We like to ask the Holy Spirit to speak to us and then “listen” with our spirit ears, but it’s sometimes hard to muddle through the self thoughts and opposing thoughts. I love what you have been doing!

    Thank you for sharing your heart song.

    ~cj

    • Jeannie Cunnion

      Heart song ~ what a beautiful way to describe the emotions we pour out! And I love the term Spirit ears- I will be copying you on that one! Thank you for sharing that! Awesome.

  • http://Website Katie

    Jeannie, I came here from Ann’s as well. Thank you for sharing…it helps me keep in mind how quickly everything can change and where we need to stake our faith. It is so good to have our hearts rest with the Lord and trust Him in every situation. I will be praying. <3

    • Jeannie Cunnion

      Thank you so much for your prayers! We DO feel them and know we are covered. He is good!

  • http://Website mgquilts

    Just beautiful. I too am reading Ann’s book but have put it down during a hectic period. Must get back to it-ASAP!
    God bless you…

    • Jeannie Cunnion

      Thank you! What a better time to be reading Ann’s book that now, as we prepare for Thanksgiving- as she says, not just as a holiday but for all of our days! God bless you!

  • http://vernabowman.com verna

    A beautifully written post (and picture) of trusting and resting. Thank you, Jeannie! As the threat of Sandy came our way, I loaded my car trunk with the same things you did (Bible, journals, kids/grands pics, files, and testimony quilt!). Thankfully, I didn’t need to take them to higher ground! Love your writing.

    • Jeannie Cunnion

      Dear Verna, Thank you for your kind words and encouragement. I am so thrilled to hear you were not affected by the storm! God Bless!

  • http://Website Heather S.

    WOWSERS!!! There’s a story that will go down in your family history!!! Thanks SO MUCH for sharing your hurts, sorrows, joys & gratitude…’count it all joy’!!! God’s richest blessings to you and your family who’s VERY blessed to have such a God honouring wife and momma!!!

    • Jeannie Cunnion

      Thank you Heather! I do feel like this is a time we will remember forever- a time when we began to understand, in some very small way, what it means to give thanks in the way our hearts were meant to praise. Thank you for encouraging me today in His love. God bless you abundantly!

  • http://Website Barbi

    Your words always leave me speechless…and teary. Thanks for sharing your gift, even in times of busy craziness.

    • Jeannie Cunnion

      Aw, thanks big sis :) I love you.

  • http://Website Kristin

    Thank you for this beautiful, heart-felt post – it brought me to tears! I just discovered your blog thanks to the link in Ann Voskamp’s email. I truly needed to hear those words of Exodus 14:14 today and now have my very own post-it note by my computer screen providing that reminder. I also really appreciated the part where you said, “Loss is loss and pain is pain. It does no good to compare and it’s ok to admit it hurts.” Often I find myself feeling guilty or hard on myself for being upset by my seemingly insignificant struggles when others have it so much worse. Though it is important to keep things in perspective, I appreciated that validation and ‘permission’ to feel hurt. God still cares about my struggles and pain no matter how big or small. Thank you for that reminder.

    • Jeannie Cunnion

      Kristin, I know exactly what you mean. I too used to feel guilty when I’d feel sadness over loss when I knew my loss was so much less then what others might experience. But we all suffer, in some small or big way, and God asks us to bring all of that suffering to Him. He never discounts our suffering, and He always uses it for His glory, and He is always present in it. No matter how big or small. I’m so thankful for your words and encouragement. And I am so thankful to Ann VosKamp for connecting us! God Bless you.

  • http://shellee-notsodeepthoughts.blogspot.com Shellee

    Beautiful testimony to God’s unfailing love and endless grace. Many prayers for your family.

    • Jeannie Cunnion

      Thank you so much for your prayers Shellee. We do feel them! Thank you for your encouragement.

  • http://...waterineveryform... Catherine

    Who is this lovely woman who finds herself on the same path of seeking Jesus above all? She is a godly Christian wife and mom and lover of water in every form.Thank you Jesus, for planting seeds of faith in our minds and mouths long before we ever know what sort of wispy reed or brawny tree they may become.You said it, sister. I pray that water, in EVERY form, continues to be one of your favorite things. The water of this world brings debris, the water from the well of God cleanses from all unricheousness. The water of this world drowns out, the water of the Holy Spirit is a flood of life. The water of the earth is salty and corrosive, the water from the side of Christ makes us the salt of the earth that will preserve and cleanse the people

    Continue to let Water be your favorite thing. I am so sorry for your losses and ever more blessed by your blessings.

    With love,

    Catherine

    • Jeannie Cunnion

      Wow Catherine. That is simply beautiful. I had to read your words several times to let it all so soak in. Thank you for blessing me with His love. Just beautiful.

  • http://Website Heather Taylor

    Amazing! just amazing! THANK YOU for allowing God to use you friend.

    • Jeannie Cunnion

      Thank YOU sweetest Swilley for your prayers and love.

  • http://Website Mindy

    Your story and experience as a result of Sandy is truly amazing. You are a beautiful writer. I found peace, hope and comfort in your blog. The verses you cited were so appropriate but your water stained post-it was by far my favorite. God bless you and God bless your family.

    • Jeannie Cunnion

      Thank you so much Mindy. I am so blessed by your encouragement, and I’m so thankful that God has allowed our experience to bless others in His love. God bless !

  • http://Website Rosie

    Such a beautifully written testimony of grace and a grateful heart. Thank you for sharing.

    • Jeannie Cunnion

      Thank you Rosie. Learning to be grateful and give thanks for His amazing grace.

  • http://Website Sue

    Hi Jeannie
    Your love and trust in the Lord is such an inspiration to us all
    I will continue to pray for you and your family

  • http://karenzach.com Karen Spears Zacharias

    J –

    I am so moved by your post, and so, so sorry for the devastation that has been Sandy. You are so blessed to be part of a community that surrounds. Such a community is an anchor for times like these. May you continue to look up, to seek the blessing.

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