LORD, WHERE HAVE YOU SENT US?
Another rambling piece to my little life puzzle
John and I moved our little family to Louisiana in August of 2007 with such excitement. We were happy to be back in the south after living in Nebraska for the last three years. Our families were now a day closer, the weather felt like home, and the timing of this move was perfect for our boys who would start school in a few weeks.
Little did we know that we would receive such an inhospitable welcome.
In Nebraska, we became friends with our neighbors almost instantly. On the day we arrived there were several people driving by who stopped to offer help in any way they could. During the first week after our move, we were surprised to receive casseroles and cakes from neighbors who welcomed us with heartfelt hospitality.
On the day of our move to Louisiana, we were shown to our rental home by the owner, who was a very nice man. We unloaded our possessions and settled in on our own. Our welcome party consisted of a large family of wood roaches, along with a threat to be sued for not renting a house we had looked at, but not signed an agreement for.
After living in the chosen rental for nearly three months, we purchased a house with great potential. By potential, I mean a house no one else would brave refinishing. We worked hard to restore the house into a home we were proud of. However, I could count on one hand the neighbors who welcomed us. It wasn't even necessary to use all five fingers. As a matter of fact, negative 'welcomes' far outnumbered the pleasant ones.
What happened to Southern hospitality?
One of the worst incidents occurred when a 'neighbor' called the police on us for burning in our yard. Before this call, we had been told by the mayor that burning limbs and leaves was tolerated in town as long as the neighbors didn't complain. Silly me, I thought that that meant my neighbors would come tell me if they had a problem.
Although the fire was put out, I did get a pile of leaves and small limbs to burn in a very small, old grill the next day. Not even thirty minutes later, I was visited by two policemen and two firemen. They asked if I had leaves in the little grill, I told them I did and questioned why someone wouldn't come and tell me they had a problem with my burning. They believed my little grill would be considered the same as an outside fire pit and said they would check the rules on such activity.
Now I'll admit that at the time of this second visit from the local authorities, I was angry. Not at the uniformed men, they were all very nice, professional, and seemed embarrassed to have to be making this call. I was angry that someone was watching me so very closely and calling the authorities rather than being a good neighbor and telling me if they were bothered. I probably closed and opened that grill more than I should over the next couple of hours and really got it smoking. I got it smoking so well that I burned out my limbs very quickly, put out my little fire, and went inside.
For being so vindictive, I would have liked to apologize. If only I knew who deserved my apology.
About fifteen minutes after I gave up on the grill, the nice policemen came to visit again. According to these gentlemen, my 'neighbor' called in a complaint stating they had evidence that I wasn't grilling at all, but burning limbs that they watched me prune. Apparently, the 'neighbor' had listened to part of my conversation with the police and heard us joking about my 'grilling'. Of course they knew what I had been doing and told me they interpreted the law as saying I couldn't burn my limbs in the grill.
OK, so no more burning, but now, not only was I angry that someone couldn't come and tell me they had a problem with the smoke, I was scared. Someone had evidence? That meant someone was spying on me with a camera or video recorder. I felt violated and insecure in my own backyard.
Unfortunately, our move to Louisiana was scattered with negative incidents.
We met doctors who were deacons of the church on Sunday and cursing their staff during the week. Of course this was of major concern to my husband, the hospital administrator, as even one negative attitude can deter positive perception of an entire facility.
Our boys saw at least one fight a week at school and that was a slow week. The teachers struggled to maintain control in nearly every classroom. I have never been more grateful for bright children, as the advanced classrooms seemed to be the only safe haven in that school of chaos.
When we first moved to Louisiana, there was one couple we met and thought were instant friends. They were struggling to keep their large and beautiful home and wanted to sell. We trusted them and put down a large sum of money as a security deposit for their home. The deposit was contingent on our home in Nebraska selling within two months. Our home did not sell in time, they decided to keep their home, and we never saw our money again.
I continued to question what happened to southern hospitality?
Perhaps I was asking the wrong question. My husband and I were confident that God had been behind our move to Louisiana. Why did God send us to Louisiana? What did He expect from us during this time in our lives? Those were the questions I should have been asking with positive confidence in Christ's plan for our future.
Rather than asking those questions and turning to Christ for strength, my prayers became desperate cries of misery. We were all miserable with memories of the close friendships we had formed in Nebraska and then left behind. My children were miserable because of the environment they faced each day in school. My husband was miserable with the tension and division in his work environment. We lived each day in a mode of mere survival.
We survived misery through weekend trips out of town and holiday vacations with our families in Northwest Florida. It did feel wonderful knowing that our visits home would not be canceled due to a surprise snow storm. Being nearer to family was certainly one pleasant distraction to our new location.
After our visit home for spring break, my dad called and wanted to speak to John one Sunday afternoon. A woman in Dad's Sunday school class was a hospital board member and wanted John to call her. John placed the call and was surprised to be asked to interview for a hospital that is twenty miles north of my parent's home.
Although we were happy to make another trip home for the interview, we convinced ourselves and our boys to consider this like any vacation. There was no need to get our hopes up as this interview would be one step in a process that could lead to nowhere. Of course our hearts were hopeful. We never imagined a hospital becoming available so close to home. The odds of actually getting the job were slim.
There are times when I forget how big God is. There are times when God chooses to remind me how little I know of His greatness. We moved to Alabama on July 5th of 2008. From our new home, my parents are just over fifteen miles away, and John's mom is less than a thirty minute drive away.
The misery of Louisiana is a distant memory. I still wonder why God chose to send us to Louisiana and fear I failed Him in my attitude there. It is certainly a blessing to know God is a merciful and forgiving God. Our journey to Nebraska had been such a wonderful experience. Perhaps we would not have appreciated coming home if we had not been deterred to Louisiana for a year.
Despite all my questions, I am now simply grateful that God has brought us home.
Since our move, I have reflected on some of the positive things God did for us in Louisiana:
1. He steered us away from the home we almost rented before we moved. We found out later that the owner was an angry, wealthy man who sued anyone for anything at the drop of a hat. He did get an attorney against us, but had nothing to back up his claim and the claim was dropped.
2. He kept our home in Nebraska from selling just long enough to keep us from buying a home which would have been difficult to sell - given the fact that He knew where we were headed.
3. He allowed us to find a very reasonably priced fixer-upper which sold to the first person who looked at it, before the home was even officially on the market.
4. He even allowed us to make enough profit to compensate for the money we had lost in our failed deal.
5. He did place some very nice people in our path. We were beginning to make some friends. It was our negative attitudes that hindered the process.
6. He gave John a wonderful group of board members who supported him in his job and were even supportive when we chose to leave. They were happy for us to have the opportunity to move so close to family.
(Our move gave that board the push to do some necessary changes within their facility. John has been grateful to hear about those changes, which he had suggested, being pushed forward.)
8. He made the move home seamless. We found a brand new rental, moved in the summer which was easy for the boys, and sold our home before we ever moved. (I know the home is already mentioned, but it's a big blessing.)
I'm sure there are other blessings hidden in our year in Louisiana. Looking back, I'm grateful for the ones I've seen. God is so very good to us. We are blessed.
Teresa Lee Rainey (October 2008)
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