A Winter Storm with a Southern Accent

Here in the deep south, we have our moments of winter weather. Heck, it may go three or four days without getting above freezing. But our encounters with the worst of winter are usually brief and we like it that way, to tell you the truth. Living in Alabama guarantees significant weather fluctuations. We may have 50 degree differences in temperatures in less than 24 hours. We joke about being able to get frost bite and a sunburn in the same day.

So, whenever the word snow is mentioned, we revel in the novelty of it. Half of us make a trip to the store for milk and bread (after all that’s a tradition of sorts). Imagine our surprise when snow was forecasted SOUTH of Birmingham, even including our beaches. Some were a bit disappointed to be missing the chance at the rare snow day. Children went to school and parents went on to work and it was business as usual, or so we thought.

I’m going to be honest, I was suspicious. The forecast just seemed odd and I felt unsettled. I scolded myself for expecting the worst and reminded myself that they were the weather experts, not me. Then, boom baby, as my youngest son enjoys saying, it was snowing. I called Henry and he said it was just a fluke, a flurry and no worries. Before I could convince myself of that, Henry called again, they were sending them home. Roads were icing up and temperatures were dropping rapidly. His normal thirty minute trip lasted thirteen hours and he walked in the door at midnight.

It was like a terrible apocalyptic scenario where things go wrong so in such rapid succession that it’s unbelievable. People trying to get to their children, children stranded at schools overnight (where they were well cared for), pregnant women giving birth in cars on the side of the road, ambulances wrecking in an effort to attend emergencies. I kept saying to myself, “Is this real?”. It didn’t seem real.

I did what I could. I prayed and prayed and prayed. I encouraged those I love. I cooked ALL things (we certainly weren’t going to starve). I collected containers of water, just in case. I found our stash of emergency candles. I milled fresh flour and the girls and I made dozens of whole grain muffins. We made snow cream. This thoroughly impressed all seven kiddos, no matter their age. We tended to goats and chickens. We waited for Henry although it didn’t look like he would make it home that night. .

I’ll be doggone if in the midst of this crisis the blame game started. Weathermen were blamed. The governor was blamed. The Department of Transportation was blamed. Finally, it must be the obviously senseless people stranded who were at fault and they were blamed. In the middle of a crisis there is nothing to be gained by playing the blame game.

Oh, and how about the comparison card? That’s always lovely. My hackles were raised more than once as I read comments and opinions of how everything was done wrong by everyone and this would have never happened to them. Well, alrighty then. You have a right to your opinions, however wrong they may be. I thought about retorting here on my blog that a few folks would read. But, decided I would not waste my time defending myself, my family and my neighbors. A long while back I taught a Strategies BibleStudy on not answering accusations. I decided to practice what I preached. 🙂

What I’d rather write about is the things I’ve learned about a Winter Storm with a Southern Accent. Southern hospitality is not deterred by snow and ice. I’ve lost count of the reports of acts of kindness from strangers, neighbors and even businesses. When we are in a mess, we are in it together. Quickly shelters began to open, warming stations, churches, businesses, even homes of individuals. Those children at the schools were seen to as one teacher said, as their own. Some grocery stores were giving away water and food to stranded travelers. Chic-Fil-A actually passed out free sandwiches to people still in their cars. In neighborhoods, people left the safety of their own homes to reach out to others by offering rides on ATV’s so those walking in the snow could get home.

I saw courage and kindness in full bloom despite the frigid cold. We may still be in the midst of Winter but, the warmth of Spring has sprung in this southern girl’s heart. We may not appear to be well equipped to handle an unexpected Winter Storm,but we know to extend a helping hand and we know better than to kick someone when they are down.

Anyone who has ever heard my voice knows it has a distinctive southern accent. A mixture of being born in Louisiana and raised in Texas and Mississippi before Henry imported me decades ago to Alabama after we married. It’s just how I talk and anyone who tries to imitate my accent sounds silly. It’s hard to replicate a unique accent. I think that’s how I feel about the way we have handled this crisis. We responded as a culmination of who we are and the worst of circumstances drew out the best in us. That’s a Winter Storm with a Southern Accent.

Worth Fighting For

This morning I was reading again in Nehemiah chapter 4. No matter how many times I read the words of this account, I am inspired and encouraged all over again. This particular portion intrigues me because of the formation of defense that revolved around families.

Families are, in my opinion, the foundation of society as we know it. When God created human kind, He formed the first family. All through Scripture we are taught of the importance of family. Even our belief system as Christians is based on the concept of being a family of believers.

Families can be frustrating and irritating. Families can sometimes look differently than what we would have hoped. Sometimes our closest family members have nothing whatsoever to do with shared blood lines. As an adoptive mom I can attest to that. But, families with all of their complications and demands are important. They are necessary. They influence who we are, remind us where we have been and hopefully give us the courage to press on to what we can accomplish in the future.

As I’ve mentioned before, Nehemiah is about the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. They encountered all manner of opposition as they went about this work of restoration. Chapter four details many of the tactics the enemy used to prevent progress. It was being discussed by everyone. The attacks were coming from every direction. The people were almost in a panic. They needed a plan. Something had to be done! Let’s look at what they did.

*****
The Jews who lived near the enemy came and told us again and again, “They will come from all directions and attack us!” So I placed armed guards behind the lowest parts of the wall in the exposed areas. I stationed the people to stand guard by families, armed with swords, spears, and bows. Then as I looked over the situation, I called together the nobles and the rest of the people and said to them, “Don’t be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes!”
Nehemiah 4:12-14 NLT
*****

Every direction! If you are a living breathing human being that’s lived a few decades on this earth, you know exactly what that looks like. This description always reminds me of the fiery darts mentioned in Ephesians chapter 6. So, here they are, an impending attack (from all directions) has been reported. Before we discuss what they did do, let me point out what they did not do. They did not march around with their hands over their eyes and their fingers in their ears refusing to hear and see what was happening. No matter who has convinced you otherwise, denial does not equal faith. As a matter of fact, denial equals vulnerability. If you won’t admit there is an attack, an enemy, an issue, an ensuing battle, how can you prepare for it?

I am thankful for the fine example in is passage of taking action and putting a plan in place to defend what is worth defending. I can so easily envision Nehemiah speaking courage and purpose into these shaken people.

“Don’t be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes!”

There are things worth fighting for. As we all know, while we would prefer peace, when peace is threatened, it must be defended. Peace worth having was never gained nor retained by refusing to take a stand. A peace that requires the compromised safety of your family or the tolerance of evil is a pretense and a cowardly, dangerous path to choose.

Before he gave his impassioned speech and after they had been given the report of the impending attack, Nehemiah did some other things. He had a strategy. After he identified the lowest parts, the exposed parts of the walls, he stationed guards. THEN he stationed the people to stand guard by families! By families! These families were armed; they had the weapons they needed and the reason they needed.

What about you and your family? Are you properly equipped to withstand the attacks that are sure to come? Have you identified the exposed, low parts in the wall that represents the integrity of your family? Are you ready to take a stand and prepared to defend it?

Rubbish!

Not much more than a week into the New Year and some of us are already discouraged about the broken resolutions that we see scattered about like a bunch of discarded rubbish at our feet. Now what?

One of my all time favorite accounts in the Bible is found in the book of Nehemiah. Within that book, chapter four has been the subject of much study over the years. Nehemiah has gone, with the King’s permission, to supervise the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. The walls of a city signified so much – protection, strength, importance.

At one point in chapter four the efforts to rebuild are being scoffed at. One of the offended laughs at the very thought of the wall being built again. Tobiah says that if even a fox were to walk on the wall it would crumble. Tobiah was a #peacethief . He liked things how they were. He had found himself a comfortable position seated in the vulnerability and neediness of others. He didn’t want things to change.

There’s so much more to share from this passage but, the verse I want to focus on is verse ten.

Then the people of Judah began to complain, “The workers are getting tired, and there is so much rubble to be moved. We will never be able to build the wall by ourselves.” Nehemiah 4:10

As the people who had committed to help with the work that needed doing began to face obstacles, they became discouraged. Not only were the nay-sayers around every corner and taking every opportunity to demoralize them, now they were stumbling on the rubble. Aka rubbish.

They wanted to move forward and were eager to work hard towards a fresh start, but the streets were impassable. The leftovers from the previous destruction were blocking the way of progress. It was time to put away the construction tools and pick up the clearing and cleaning tools.

I think this is where I am this fine January morning. I know what I want to do. I see clearly what it is that I want to accomplish. I stood at the crossroads and pondered the paths before me. I made my choice, the right choice. But, now the path needs clearing.

Don’t feel like you’ve been unnecessarily delayed on your journey to where you are going. This part is a very necessary part. Get a shovel and a wheelbarrow. Get a broom and a dustpan. Get a team of hard working, dedicated, trustworthy folks around you and go at it.

The rubbish of emotional disappointment, past failures and poor choices has slowed you down far too long. Do some house-cleaning in your heart and mind. When that is accomplished, you will be ready to run down resolution road.