Certain Captain

Transitions.

Storms.

Uncertainty.

Seasons of life come and then they go.

Welcome them all with open arms, and trust your Captain.

When questions abound, and you are not sure which way to go, look up; God is always with you, and you are never alone.  He is your Captain.   He will steady the rocking ship, calm the turbulent waters, and steer you into the right direction.  He is your Captain.

Captain by Hillsong United:

Verse 1
Through waters uncharted my soul will embark
I’ll follow Your voice straight into the dark
And if from the course You intend I depart
Speak to the sails of my wandering heart

Chorus
Like the wind You’ll guide
Clear the skies before me
And I’ll glide this open sea
Like the stars Your Word
Will align my voyage
And remind me where I’ve been
And where I am going

Verse 2
Lost in the shallows amidst fear and fog
Your truth is the compass that points me back north
Jesus, my Captain, my soul’s trusted Lord
All my allegiance is rightfully Yours

 

Thank you God for reminding me where I’ve been, and where I am going.

Photo: Murchinson Falls National Park, Uganda.

#standinlove

Cornerstones

As I gaze out the kitchen window and fix my eyes on a beautiful Japanese blueberry tree in the distance, I feel summer’s end nearby.  I don’t know about you, but my heart is eagerly anticipating the change of season, bringing with it cooler temps and lively conversations around a circular fire pit out back.   Over the course of 8 weeks this summer, I had the unique opportunity to witness the incredible transformation of our back yard by a team of hard-working landscapers and talented masons.   Not only did they endure sweltering hours of oppressive desert heat removing overgrown Mesquite and African Sumac trees,  they skillfully and artfully arranged combinations of decorative flagstone into functional architectural features to be enjoyed by friends and family this fall.

The unanticipated gift from this experience was contemplating the importance of cornerstones and how their selection and level placement during the construction process affects the overall design and stability.

What is a Cornerstone?

Webster’s Dictionary defines a cornerstone as: (noun) a basic element : foundation. Digging a little further, ( yes, I admit freely I have a bit of an uncanny obsession with language and vocabulary)  I found this definition and enjoyed the depth of explanation:

cornerstonethe fundamental assumptions from which something is begun or developed or calculated or explained; “the whole argument rested on a basis of conjecture” . Synonyms:  fundament, groundwork, basis, foundation, base. 

It’s as though I had discovered this word, cornerstone, for the very first time.  It is likely I have uttered it without fully understanding or assimilating its meaning.   Sometimes it takes an experience to bring a word to light in our lives, and I just love the illuminating feeling that rises up within when that happens.

Who or What is Your Cornerstone?

Cornerstones are used ceremoniously to commemorate people or moments in time we would rather not forget.    They represent firm foundations and solid ground.   The level, the steady, the shaping element, the framework, and the fundamental, whose underlying base of support is perhaps taken inadvertently for granted.

What comes up for you when you think about the word cornerstone?  Is it a particular person or value?  Faith or spirituality?  In what are you placing your hope, your joy, and your trust?  Who is your cornerstone?  Who is your rock,  keeping you on solid ground, providing for you a firm foundation on which to build your hopes and dreams?

Take a moment to think about these cornerstones and appreciate them.   Allow your heart to swell with gladness and overflow into all you do, think, and say.

“Doing what you love is the cornerstone of having abundance in your life.”

                                                                                                            – Wayne Dyer

What do you truly LOVE in this life?  What are you certain brings you joy, happiness, and a reason to get up and begin a fresh, new day?   What is that ONE thing that you just can’t bear to live without?  Are you feeling it? Living it? Doing it? If the answer is not a resounding YES, ask yourself why?

 

Jennifer Miller is a Las Vegas-based freelance writer, speaker, and marketing consultant.  She works as a  Community Partner volunteer for global nonprofit BeadforLife, whose mission is to provide entrepreneurial training to 1 million women globally by 2027.   Click here for a listing of upcoming events, or Follow her on instagram or Facebook @standinlovejen .  To host your own BeadforLife marketplace or essential oil party this fall, email deboughjl@gmail.com

 

 

 

 Using Talents for Great Purpose: Reflections from the Heart of Cajun Country.

What a great way to start a new week here in Lafayette, Louisiana: learning what it means to be a “bringer“.

Inspired by his love for golden retrievers, natural bringers, local Crossroads Church lead pastor Pastor Jeff Ables delivered the final part of a compelling series on “Bringers” to his congregation yesterday.

What is a bringer?

Someone who uses their God-given gifts and talents in service to others.   In a nutshell: being a Bringer is being useful.

In a crowded church auditorium, the air heavy with silent prayers and unanswered questions, the local Lafayette congregation shared seats and smiles with Samaritan’s Purse volunteers joining in joyful singing and praise.

Singing the chorus , “God is on the move, on the move, hallelujah!  God is on the move is many mighty ways..” folks raised their hands in joint surrender with grateful hearts, remembering that their mighty maker has not forgotten their needs.

We are asked to bring not only  our offerings to God, but also our praises.  We are created to praise.  In good times and bad.  And our praise, reminded Pastor Jeff,  is to “be sincere, sacrificial, and sanctioned”. 

It’s day 8 on the ground and I have seen people “bringing it” to southern Louisiana.

Welcome Alert Academy Volunteers

To date, over 200 dedicated volunteers from all over the US have passed through Crossroads Church to serve with Samaritan’s Purse, accumulating over 3,000 volunteer hours in the Lafayette community. Yesterday, I spoke with a young man part of  a 14-member team from Alert Academy– an organization started by a home school father in 1994.  A cross between a military boot camp and Christian diaster response training,  ALERT (Air, Land, Emergency Response Team) young men arrived ready to bring it.  He shared his passion for serving and wants to model behaviors he hopes others will want to emulate.

7 members of the 14 person A.L.E.R.T team serving in Lafayette, La.

 

Redemption Bringers

Krystal McKee, a 31 year old daughter of Lafayette residents Kathy and Greg McKee, decided to bring it after she discovered her parents home flooded the weekend of August 13th.  Greg, an active lineman for the electric company, traveled to Missouri to work on downed power lines from severe storms in the area.  Wanting to surprise him on his birthday, the family piled into a car and drove north the morning the rains began to fall.

Krystal and her husband were the first responders to the single story home inundated Saturday by the rising flood waters.  Now program directors for Teen Challenge, an 18 month program ministering to teens with life interrupting  addictions, they bear witness to the power of redemption and recovery.

In 2013, the young couple had hit their lowest point. Rampant drug and alcohol abuse ripped their marriage apart and resulted in the custody loss of their two children. Mom Kathy, after Krystal’s 6th arrest and incarceration for prescription drug use and possession, heard about Teen Challenge on the local SOS radio station and pleaded with her daughter to enroll.

Fast forward to December 2015, the couple reunites as graduates of the program and regain custody of their two children in addition to restoring their broken marriage.  Most impressively, Krystal and her husband featured below now head programs for troubled teens at the local Lafayette branch of Teen Challenge.

In efforts to quickly respond to her parent’s devastated home, Krystal rounded up a team of  Teen Challenge volunteers to help salvage belongings from the home,  paying forward the kindness and unconditional parental love she received for so many years during her years of addiction .

As Mom Kathy proudly shared this powerful testimony, her two boxers remained by her side .  Trixie, 6, and Zeke, 4.  A week before the flood hit Zeke was diagnosed with terminal cancer. It has taken over his lymph nodes- giving him 6 months to live.

Trixie on the left, and Zeke on the right watch as Samaritan’s Purse volunteers join for prayer in the garage after work completed.

Family members Kari, Kyler, and Kaleb joined mom Kathy and the volunteers in a customary prayer circle that concludes each and every  clean up mission with Samaritan’s Purse.


Hope was brought to the McKee family, and Kathy hopes her story will bring hope to those suffering with family members with addictions.

What do you have to bring?

Have you identified your spiritual Gifts? How may these gifts be used in conjunction with your talents to bring hope into your community and personal spheres of influence?

Join us in today’s prayer circle:


Stand in Love,

Ephesians 6:10-20

Jennifer ❤️❤️❤️

Love Survives Louisiana Floodwaters 

Love Gathers.

Each morning, the diverse group of volunteers working for Samaritan’s Purse, dressed in matching bright orange t- shirts,  along with the local congregation of Crossroad’s Church here in Lafayette, Lousiana gather for a time of meaningful reflection before heading out to a worksite.

It’s a time of welcoming newcomers, and enjoying a satisfying meal lovingly prepared by the volunteer kitchen staff on site.  I’ve met folks from all over the United States and while their geographical locations vary, their mission remains the same:  To show Christ’s love to those who are hurting and in need of community during times of distress.

Samaritan’s Purse operates in conjunction with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, a rapid response prayer team offering chaplain services to disaster areas where crisis management responders are needed.

Yesterday a combined team of 12 volunteers and two leaders, Lenny and Bob, headed a massive clean up project on Demanade Street, an area where standing flood waters still remain.   We arrived to the flooded street at 8:30am, assessed our work assignments for the day and began unloading the U-haul stocked full of the necessary supplies.

This was the scene when we arrived:

Burt and Erline’s front yard at the time of arrival

I was struck in particular by the soaked memories of this couple in their late 70’s and early 80’s.

Water logged photo albums floated in the home’s 4 feet of water.

Their single story home was inundated with 4 feet of flood water while they were spending the weekend near Lake Arthur about 50 miles west of Lafayette.

Albert, “Burt” as he prefers to be called, and his beautiful wife of 59 years, Erline returned home to find what Erline referred to as a mixing bowl of meatball ingredients swirling around inside her home.

After hours of cleanup inside the property, I was able to steal a few moments with the couple in their garage where they were salvaging photographs in albums soaked to the core.  The colors of the printed film swirled together like fresh tie dye.

Love Recalls.

We met in 1956“, recalled Burt when asked how he and his bride first met.

I was older than she was, and I remember the first time I laid eyes on her.  She had the best butt I had ever seen, and then I saw the face to match the body and I was well pleased!” 

Coming from a man in his eighties, I found this quite humorous, and appreciating his candid storytelling, let him share the love story of his life.

As Burt retrieved more warped photo albums tossed in the back of his pickup truck, Erline and I reminisced about her high school days and the beginnings of her infatuation with her dreamy husband who she claims, “was not just cute, but movie-star cute!”

I wasn’t allowed to go to dances, being a country girl and all…” Erline shared in a beautiful southern Louisiana drawl, “so I used my sewing skills to make up some of the prettiest skirts.  I remember the exact form fitting, white pencil skirt I wore that day that Burt noticed me.  It wasn’t polite for girls to accept invitations to go out on the first or second ask…. so I patiently waited for the third time, hoping he wouldn’t give up on me. ” 

As the Samaritan’s Purse volunteers removed drenched sheets of mold-infested drywall from the home, Burt removed saturated photographic memories of trips they had taken in the mountains in Colorado many years prior.  He loves photography.  She loves nature and animals.  Their love for one another in that moment was a testimony to the bond and strength of their relationship in light of the destruction surrounding them.

Love Endures.

I wanted to capture their essence and decided we would take photos under a big Oak Tree in the corner of their front yard.  To the immediate left stood heaps of crumbled drywall,  reams of moldy insulation, damaged furniture, swollen library books, bundles of soaked clothing, along with piles of soiled personal effects collected during their 59 years together.  But there, leaning on that thick tree trunk they were reminded of their roots, and felt the strength of their firm foundation rising up.  This tree stood majestically , symbolically, calling them to rejoice in their personal victory together.  The tears from the morning had turned to joyful laughter as they posed together rekindling the love they had for each other in their youth.

Burt, 80, with his wife Erline Daigle, 78.                                                                                  Photographed with permission

I thanked God for the opportunity to bear witness to this profound example of perseverance, and hope their story inspires everyone in the Lafayette community and in the world that there is hope on the other side of pain.

I recalled the words of encouragement shared in Wednesday night’s service at host church Crossroads,   “Pain leads to pursuit.  Pain leads to passion.  Pain leads to purpose.”

What is the pain in our life teaching us?  Is it a subtle reminder to go back to our roots, and take an introspective look at the things that really matter?

Faith, Hope, and Love.  And of these, Love is the strongest.

Going back today to finish  up and help restore a bit of their memories in the pages of the albums.

Stand in love, like Burt and Ernice.

Jen

 

Love that goes the distance. 

The rains in southern Lousiana descended on Friday, August 12th beginning around 7am according to homeowner Elizabeth Wedlake as we sat under a shade tree in her front yard on Pilgrimage Drive, soaked in sweat from the southern summer heat, the air thick with post flood humidity. The coolies just behind her backyard fence still full to the brim with the city’s backed up sewage, and the grass damp from continuous rainfall over the past two weeks.

Facing a heap of ruined home furnishings, torn dry wall fragments, and bags of trash, Elizabeth graciously shared her story with me.

Elizabeth and Sean Wedlake’s front lawn when we arrived

“My biggest concern is for my two children and my folks’ home that flooded about 1/2 mile up the road. “

That’s what Elizabeth shared with me when asked what troubles her most about the recent devastation.

As our 10-person Samaritan’s Purse disaster relief team, lead by kind hearted veteran volunteer Lenny Carr, began tearing apart her kitchen one cabinet at a time in search for mold spores, homeowners Sean and Elizabeth Wedlake looked on to see everything they have built up in the past couple of years ripped to shreds by crowbars and a variety of commonly used demolition tools.

Recently married and parents of two children, a 10-year old girl named Maria with autism and a baby boy of two years named Joseph, the couple had settled in this home four years ago.  Joseph lost his job last summer in the oil field business and the couple has been struggling to make ends meet.

Looking out her back window Friday morning around 8:30 am she saw this:


By 12:45 pm the same day, the water levels looked like this:


The water from the coolie, a type of drainage canal, located directly behind their home had backed up forcing them to hastily dig up bricks from their front lawn flower garden to form a makeshift barricade.

Worried about staying or attempting to evacuate in the midst of quickly rising flood waters they decided to wait it out hoping the rain would soon relent.

“Maria went to stay with my mom and dad down the way the night before the storm” Elizabeth told me, “because she is really afraid of thunder and storms. She has a great connection to my parents.”

By early morning on Saturday the 13th, the water had risen to this level:


Elizabeth, a high school art teacher at Nish New Iberia Senior High School in Lafayette, a town of just over 120,000 in the heart of “Cajun country” returned back to work in her school a couple of weeks prior.

Calling 911 for help that morning, she received confirmation that someone would be there to help evacuate her home.

City Marshalls as well as the local Cajun Navy dispatched boats for search and rescue.  Locals took out their own boats and started patrolling the area looking for stranded homeowners and pets.

Within an hour, members of the National Guard arrived to pick up Elizabeth and her husband, with 2 year old baby Joseph in tow.


8 days later Samaritan’s Purse arrived to help gut her flooded kitchen and pick up where her colleagues and friends left off.

It’s been incredible to see everyone come together in Lafayette.  We have been so blessed to receive an outpouring of support from both Samaritan’s Purse as well as friends and family of friends from work. “

Elizabeth started a “Go Fund Me” campaign on Facebook to drive support for her parents home – as they lack flood insurance like so many in this area.

Field Updates.

To date there have been over 1100 volunteer hours logged at the Lafayette location with Samaritan’s  Purse with over 100 volunteers checking in to serve on day shifts or take part of extended stay trips.

Volunteers arrived from New York, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Texas, California, and Indiana.

Today I heard a story from the field about a family who drove from Alabama to a flood affected area and set up a tent to grill and serve freshly cooked meals for dozens of locals.

It’s been one day on the ground here so far and I am reminded why I came here: the joys and blessings in service always outweigh the giving.  The people serving from this home base at Crossroad’s Church are united and committed to staying in the area until the work orders are completed.  The people of Louisiana are committed to each other and to their faith, supporting each other every step of the way.

With over 140 open requests for disaster help in the Lafayette area, and 6 job sites completed so far, the need for volunteers is great.

If you would like to help, or have a faith- based or community group willing to get involved , please Click here.  Please pray for all those affected, that God would bring restoration and healing for all those hurting.

Jen