Volunteer Labor

One of the guys at the camp is a member of the Cajun Navy – at least as far as the term “member” can be used with the group. If you haven’t heard, the Cajun Navy is an unofficial group of folks from south Louisiana who, at their own expense and on their own time, offer assistance in flood situations. To put it in a nutshell, they show up with their boats and rescue people.

While this has been going on for some time here around home (there are plenty of folks who fish, hunt, own boats, and flooding has happened for a long time), the Cajun Navy burst into public awareness last year during the flooding in Louisiana of 2016.

Cajun Navy in action

Cajun Navy in action

Now, the Cajun Navy is part of the rescue response to the flooding of Hurricane Harvey. Paul (one of the guys at the camp) was able to get to Vidor, Texas, and one simple word summed up what was going on: Catastrophe. Back at home, the rest of us are looking for ways to help.

I think that the president summed up the feelings of most Americans when he referred to the outpouring of help and support as a beautiful thing. From my point of view, there is nothing surprising there. Natural disaster = helping each other.

water everywhere

Water everywhere.

A few days ago the Sacred Sisters (my prayer group) prayed for all affected, all who were helping, and asking for guidance – what can each of us do? I commented that my only surprise in this response is the surprise of the rest of the world – wow, look at everyone helping each other!

Well, of course! That’s what we do, isn’t it? Is it a reflection on the world that so many are surprised at the outpouring of help directed towards “complete strangers?”

Compassion. For Christians, it is being the hands of Christ. A non-Christian won’t use those words, but it’s still compassion and kindness.

We are all seeking ways to help. Sorting donated clothing for distribution to evacuees far from home. Cooking for evacuees and volunteers. Rounding up helpers. Collecting water and supplies for those who can go to affected areas. For every helper we see on the news, there are hundreds and thousands more working quietly behind the scenes, doing whatever they can.

Cajun sorting 2

Sorting donations for evacuees in our area

The elderly lady making cole slaw in her kitchen. The overworked professional saying “what do they need?” and giving money. The school children collecting socks.

Maybe it’s because we know first hand the helplessness of floods. Maybe it’s because we know that there are thousands of large and small losses in each family, in each life. Perhaps we respond in part because we know the long, hard road that awaits the evacuees when they can get back home.

Rita flood

Why we build our houses “up.” Hurricane Rita.

Then again, maybe it’s just because that’s what we do.

Perhaps the “surprise” and the “news” expressed by the media, and all across social media, aren’t so much surprise as backlash reactions to the hate-filled stories that have filled the mainstream news media outlets. No, that narrative is NOT what America is about. It’s NOT what the southern states are about. It’s NOT who we are.

THIS is who we are: People who give a damn. People who care about others, regardless of their skin color or faith. People who will get creative and not sit around to be told where and how to help, but who will find a need and address it, even if it’s taking the bass boat on the road or buying extra toothpaste and underwear to share with those who left home without anything – or something as unassuming as shredding cabbage for cole slaw or folding, sorting and stacking donated clothing.

Cajun sorting 1

Clothes, food, toiletries, donations pouring in.

This Labor Day, there are many, many Americans who are giving of their time, funds and labor to help others. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the holiday.

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Stay grateful, my friends.

Here it is, Thanksgiving Eve, and I’d like to say that I’ve written an insightful, well-thought-out, finely-crafted post on gratitude.

However… an outdoor fire and a margarita called my name. I’m weak, human, and subject to temptation. Instead of writing, I sat around said fire with the margarita, family and friends, and a Sonic hamburger (and mosquitoes).

We’ve much to be grateful for in the simple things.  So instead of writing, I thought I’d just share some photos of just a few of the many everyday things I’m grateful for.

canal

An evening walk with my dog.

2016-flood-la

The August flooding didn’t get bad at all here.

planting-cane

Planting cane.

turtle

This little guy by my office. Fortunately, he’s not far from home.

avery-island-birds

Bird sanctuary at Avery Island, Louisiana.  Yep, I’m 15 minutes away from where they make Tabasco.

cane1

Sugar cane, by home.

hauling-cane1

Harvest time, hauling cane to the mill.

ribbit

This little fella by my kitchen door. He sings, too.

pecan-island

A route in Pecan Island, Louisiana.

stormy-weather

Rain for the cane. (Sugar cane fields)

sunset-1

Sunset seen from my front porch.

morning-walk-in-south-la

The view on my morning walk to work.

Life is filled with challenges, trials, fearful things, obstacles and broken dreams.  There will always be an unsoothed ache, a hidden hurt, a lost chance.

Thankfully, there will also be more beauty, chances, hope and love in life, in plain sight, waiting for us to grab it, share it, celebrate it.  The choice of where to look is up to us, and I prefer to see the beauty and hope in the world.

Stay grateful, my friends.

Armor of God

I recently met a lovely woman, V, in a centering prayer group. The group meets during my workday, but I attend occasionally when I can slip out for a while. While the group attendance fluctuates, we stay connected through the internet. I, a newcomer, have been welcomed with love, open arms and many emails.

During the recent flooding here in south Louisiana, several group members’ homes were flooded; V’s was one of them.  I’d only met her a few times, but my heart went out to her, as to so many.  Flood recovery is a wet, stinky, moldy, yucky mess and there are no words that accurately describe it. Part of the process of post flood repair is replacing soaked sheetrock.  The ruined parts are cut out, exposing the studs and timbers beneath. An email went out with a request from V to send scripture verses that would be written on the exposed beams before covering them again.

a-scripture

I thought of the V’ahavta:

 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. ~Deut. 6: 4 – 9

Favorite verses were shared, then an invitation – Monday, we’ll gather at her home to help write these verses on the exposed beams.

Monday arrived, and a small group of us had gathered.  We waited, but V never appeared.  One member tried calling, but got her voice mail. Well, phones and voice mail had been very messed up since the flooding, and we just thought that something had come up or AT&T had freaked out. Plan for another day.

Later that afternoon, I heard a news story on the radio that a car had crashed through the wall and into a local post office.

My phone began buzzing with emails.  V wasn’t at her house because she had been at the post office when the car crashed.  She had been pinned between the car and a desk, both of her legs broken.  We stormed the gates of heaven with prayer, waited for news of her surgeries – and continue to pray.

a-glass

Then, in the middle of this, I read a blog post from Beauty Beyond Bones; she is a young woman with a history of an eating disorder.  Prayer and Divine help got her beyond the bleakness of her deadly illness and into recovery.  In her post, she described how her identity had been stolen recently, and spoke of Ephesians 6 – about putting on the full armor of God.  Sometimes you need it!

What is it with these obstacles that fall into the way when one is seeking to fulfill Divine Purpose?  Is it “Satan trying to mess things up?” Or is it something within one’s self, deeply hidden in the unconscious mind that fears and hinders forward movement? I have heard both explanations – and all in between.

If I look at the first option, then “it’s not my fault.” It is something completely beyond my control, and I am a helpless, powerless victim.

If I consider the second, “it’s ALL my fault, but I don’t want this!” Yet on some deep unconscious level I must invite failure. I am responsible for my own downfall.  Gee, I have a lot of power, don’t I?  (haha)

Neither extreme makes much sense to me. It is probably the oldest question ever asked: Why do bad things happen to good people?  Well, we don’t know.  Sometimes, sh*t just happens.

a_god-beauty-camp

In spite of everything, God’s world is still a beautiful place.

Perhaps instead of trying to figure it out and control the outcome, we can just roll with the punches.  When you think about it, no matter what you believe, your response can be the same:  Get up, show up, keep going. Don’t stopPut on the full armor of God, and lean on the Spirit which is greater than us and keep going. You – alone – will sooner or later run out of steam, but if you tap into God’s love and power, you have an infinite source. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to risk it alone.

Somehow, some way, it will work out – and usually in a way that surprises us.  It may not be the way we would have chosen, but sometimes we have an outcome that is more amazing than we ever could have imagined.

Why do bad things happen to good people? I know I won’t get the answer anytime soon, and I’m not even looking for it anymore because I don’t think we can understand the answer (at least not in this lifetime). We cannot understand with our minds, but with our hearts and our souls.  Such things are of faith, and not of reason. I am inspired and deeply moved by faith such as V’s.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
~ 1 Corinthians 13: 11 – 13

Faith. Hope. Love. This is what the armor of God is forged of.  Put it on, and – like V, and  Beauty Beyond Bones – keep going.

How’d y’all do?

“How’d y’all do?”

It’s a query I hear (and use) often.  I ask my husband that when he calls from the boat landing after a day of fishing.  He’ll ask a friend that about their hunting.  Someone played football/softball whatever? Had a garage sale? Got through a hurricane, flood, tornado, storm?

How’d y’all do?

No one in Louisiana has had to ask what that question’s been about this past week Everyone around here knows about the insane amount of rainfall this past weekend.

Breaux Bridge

Aug. 13, 2016 in Breaux Bridge, La.  This was high ground.

A shrug, a slow head nod. “Did ok.  Lotta water in the yard/garage/shop/street but the house is OK.”

A shrug, a sigh, a slow head shake.  “Well, not so hot.  Everything flooded. House, cars.”

Then, there are the stories about someone waking up in the night, getting out of bed and realizing they’re in water up to there.  Or the folks who had to climb into the attic and out of a window, or hack a hole in the roof.  It’s a sickening feeling, watching the water rise and knowing there’s not a blasted thing you can do about it.  Been there, done that, no fun.

water dave rita

We’ve had high water before…

On the other hand, there are the stories of kindness.  Travelers stranded on the highways for hours were cared for by people living nearby.  Not just water and snacks, but home cooked jambalaya, red beans, etc.  When in doubt, bring food.  People helping neighbors and strangers.  Perhaps that’s why there hasn’t been a lot of national news on this story; Cajuns (and “adopted Cajuns”) know how to fend for themselves and each other.  Just do a quick search for “Cajun Navy” and you’ll see what I mean.

Yes, there is a certain amount of “self determination” and self-sufficiency in that, and this isn’t always seen as politically correct.  Too bad.  It’s what we do, it’s what many people do in Louisiana and beyond. It’s common human decency, although if you watch the news too much you may become convinced that this no longer exists.  It does, though, and is out in full force this week as everyone does whatever they can to help someone else who’s dealing with the flood aftermath. Self sufficiency doesn’t mean all alone; it means that there are people around you who will help – just as you help them when the need arises.

We did OK.  Family, house, business, staff, all ok.  Too many other folks we know – not all so good.  We’re on high ground (relatively speaking in south Louisiana) but a lot of folks live in new subdivisions that were “not in a flood zone” – and therefore don’t have flood insurance because no one ever dreamed they’d flood.

water in the cane

Cane fields don’t usually look like rice fields…

I read today that the equivalent of one and a half Lake Ponchartrains fell on Louisiana within a few days. That’s a lot of water.

So what are we doing?  What we always do.  Back to work, do what you can to help wherever you can, swat the mosquitos, and be grateful.  Oh, and bring food.

How’d y’all do?

Shrug.  We’ll get there. We always do.

onward

Want to help Louisiana and show some love?  New Iberia artist Paul Schexnayder has designed a print that expresses the resilience of Louisiana, and ALL proceeds go to the Community Foundation of Louisiana Disaster Relief Fund.  The 11 x 14 print is $45 and the T-shirt is $20, and comes in adult and youth sizes.  I love how Paul’s work shows hope and joy in even the darkest of circumstances.  To order, or for more information, look up Paul on facebook or find him via his website.