It was at camp meeting in 1996, the late E.E. Cleveland took to the pulpit and his topic that evening was Job. This tall, elderly, African-American man who lived during the segregated South began to sing “Dixie Land”. As the words flowed out of his lips, he directed us to the gem in that song: “Look away, look away, look away!” His point was that many of us, like Job, find ourselves in horrible situations, but we must look away from ourselves, from our condition, and from our suffering. We must totally trust in God, and reach out to our fellow man or we will never get passed our own tribulations.
Our situation was very traumatic and just left us feeling numb and helpless much of the time. But we soon came to realize that many others were going through similarly trying and some considerably worse, situations where they seemed powerless over life’s circumstances. Many of them were more dreadful than our situation and continue even now to need prayer and support.
My daughter lost a good step-father and her mother lost a good, loving husband to suicide a few days before the fire. The experience was very shocking for their family and left them with lingering pain and in extreme financial hardship.
Two of our very close friends had severe marriage difficulties for many years and it finally came to a head this fall. They have recently divorced and now struggle to deal with their split family.
My dad’s health had been going down for several years and he suffered from a large abdominal hernia and a bad hip. He had no health insurance until he turned 65 and was finally able to get Medicare. In November he underwent hernia repair surgery, but had lots of pain afterwards and some complications. Then in December he received his hip replacement. We are very happy he finally can get the care he needs.
A soldier that I went to Desert Storm with has been diagnosed with a brain tumor. She suffers from relentless migraine headaches and is exhausted much of the time.
A friend from work had their home severely damaged during the tornadoes that came through Murfreesboro in 2008. Their insurance company has just recently decided to pay their claim.
A close relative has struggled with prescription drug addiction and drinking for this whole life. He is getting the help he needs now.
A friend came under severe financial difficulties and lost their home that they have had for many years.
A close relative, who is a single mom with two children, got divorced a few years ago and has struggled to make ends meet since then. Recently she was forced to file Chapter 11 Bankruptcy.
Much of their pain and suffering was and still is more severe, longer lasting and/or more alarming. Our pain pales in comparison because it is temporary, and diminishes over time. Our marriage remains strong, our family is intact, the home we live in now is big and comfortable, and we have a clear title on our property. We tried often to look away from our own problems attempting instead to seek out, console, and uplift those who are suffering and grieving.
Another strategy that we implored was that of Out of Sight, Out of Mind. We continued to work, to do things with the family, to pursue hobbies and church activities, and to be as normal as we could be. (I do realize that many people who know us have never considered us normal in the first place.) These things kept our thoughts off of ourselves and made us work towards the future.
Becki went back to work right after the fire. She felt funny and had little desire to be there, but I thought it would be better for her to be there than to be at the house looking at all the rubbish and our ruined personal stuff. Becki loves her job as a weight loss counselor for Nexslim and was soon pouring herself into her work helping people obtain their BMI weight goals. She got an excellent evaluation and Nexslim has been breaking sales records during the past months. In the next part of this story we will be sharing of the blessings that came from our work places, organizations, friends and family.
The second week of August, I went back to work. It was strange at first, but just like Becki, I love my job teaching middle school students about inventions, basic engineering and building things. I applied for and received two grants from the Chamber of Commerce and Nissan, the first for solid buster rockets, and the second for models of Leonardo di Vinci’s Inventions. I wrote a lesson plan published by MTSU’s Center for Historic Preservation. I also continued to sponsor the Technology Club and started a Bible Club which is a bit controversial in a public school, but tenure has its advantages.
I continued to lose weight during this period and reached my goal. My goal was to get under 200lbs. In May of 2010, Becki started getting me to eat more protein and less carbs. On her plan, I went from almost 250lbs to 195lbs in around 8 months. I have gained a few back, but I’m still around 200lbs.
Both Becki and I found something to do that relieves stress and motivates us. She started running in competitions and this often turned into a family event. In November we all participated in the Heart Walk at MTSU. Late on Thanksgiving, she and Micah did a four mile run at MTSU. In January we all participated in the Winter Winds run in Huntsville, Alabama. Micah and Becki ran the 4 miler in 38 minutes. Alex and I ran the 2 miler in 24 minutes. Hannah ran in the one mile Fun Run. In February, Becki and Micah ran a 10k in 104 minutes at University of Alabama - Huntsville. Micah took first place in his age group and we were very proud of him. Then Becki took first place for her age group and came in 34th overall in a 5k run on May 22, at the Avenue in Murfreesboro.
Becki loves to memorize Bible text for different occasions because we know that God’s word is living and new everyday. Becki and Micah repeat a verse in Isaiah when they are running “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31) and they picture themselves on the back of an eagle just gliding to the finish line.
One of Becki’s patients that has lost weight and started running shared a verse with Becki from Habakkuk 3:19 which says, “The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.” This is the verse she thought of during the run at the avenue and it helped her to think of her feet as a deer and helped her go as fast as she could.
Becki’s mother was very encouraging and was a powerful source of strength for her. Her positive words, deep care and personal time spent with all kinds of help was extremely helpful to keep Becki positive and moving forward. Another thing that has really helped Becki during this time is memorizing different Scriptures. This whole experience has been an incredible roller coaster ride of emotions. With the anxious feelings and the uncertainty that has come with the turn of events with our insurance company these verses helped her to trust in God and remember His promises. She also shared those verses with her work associates.
While Micah is turning out to be a great runner, Alex is learning to play guitar. He started in July and is progressing well and can even play for morning worship.
Alex, Micah and I have been able to help several friends move. We meet the two great qualifications for moving friends: we have a truck and we have good backs. And Hannah has just been doing what she loves singing and lighting up every ones life.
On Mondays, we have the kid sitter stay late, so we have a date night. The Lions Club has been a nice distracter for Becki and me. We enjoy helping with the events and we have really appreciated all the club has done for us and our family members getting glasses. The kids also continued to attend Pathfinders and Adventurers also.
During this whole time I have been able to maintain the on-line Discover Bible School and several of my students have graduated. Teaching Primary Sabbath School class each week, and the adult once every 6 weeks has been a highlight of my weeks. I love to talk about the Bible and inspire others to pursue a deeper religious experience.
The thing that has been the biggest distracter for me is writing. I enjoy putting down my thoughts, researching and explaining different things. I have posted many articles on my Faith Writers page < http://www.faithwriters.com/member-profile.php?id=47903 >, and others on my FaceBook page in the Notes section. The Cannon Courier has published several articles and letters in their paper and on line. Over the winter and this spring I worked on Civil War fiction short stories, the winter one was called “Freedom Over Me” for a Christian writers contest and the spring one was called “Freedom at Point Lookout. Writing my own children’s stories and short devotionals has also been very rewarding.
Obviously it has not been easy though. As much as we do try to look happy, content, and normal, we have had our share of tears, depression, astonishment and anger. Nonetheless, through being a family, helping others, and doing constructive hobbies and activities, we have been able to Look Away, Look Away, Look Away……
1 Then Job replied to the LORD:
2 “I know that you can do all things;
no plan of yours can be thwarted.
3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.
4 “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.’
5 My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
6 Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.”
What is the conclusion of the matter? When going through trials: 1) pray, read or listen to the Bible, and spiritual material; 2) confide in a spiritual person; 3) continue to do those constructive things; and 4) seek out others to help and comfort.
Elder Cleveland had a story about an on old church elder that was asked what his favorite Bible text was. The old gentleman said, “That’s easy: ‘And it came to pass.’ When something bad happens, I just quote my text, and whatever is troubling me passes.” That’s how it should be for us. God has promised that during tough times, His is there to either remove it from us, remove us from it, or He would hold us through it.
“And it came to pass in AD 2010 that the Louden’s had a house fire. And they looked away through family, friends and the strength and power of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.”