In The Aftermath of Irma


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It’s been two weeks since Irma ravaged the islands south of Florida and made landfall only miles south of where I live. When power came on for the first time a week ago, I felt as if I’d entered an episode of the Twilight Zone.  The entryway light beckoned and a television voice spoke of a hurricane in the distance. Only the different name gave away the fact that days had passed.

It was as if time had stopped and started again with a normal week missing in between. Instead, we experienced a surreal week of survival that continues even now.

I emerged from the storm unscathed in body or material damage, but many were not so fortunate.  For the first week since early Monday morning, my church deployed a first responder team.  I had the privilege of helping organize teams to assist with physical needs, visiting shelters and helping with lunch service, delivering oxygen and fever medication,  taking water to dozens of hot and thirsty folks and praying for and encouraging them with the love of Jesus.

This week, I rested. And cried.

Everywhere is evidence of what we’ve all suffered through no matter the extent of the damage. Some houses are still under water, many massive trees lie across yards and homes. While clean-up efforts have made good progress, debris litters most streets.  Companies work round the clock to get electricity and water flowing. About half of the businesses in my town are functioning at some capacity. The other half need to relocate because of damage, or wait for power and internet to be restored.

While hope permeates and inspires, the reality of relief and recovery loom with a shocked sense of foreboding.

No one can deny the trauma we’ve experienced.

With another hurricane approaching in the distance, I confess the prospect is daunting at best. While I completely trust God and know he is in control, I wouldn’t be honest if I said I wasn’t emotionally affected by this past few weeks as well as whatever faces us in the days to come.

I’m not alone.

I’ve prayed with over a dozen people  whose lives felt chaotic, confusing and hopeless. And I’m only one person. Our church has ministered to more than 10,000 people collectively and that doesn’t count all the other churches that have impacted our state.

And let’s not forget the people in Houston, areas of California that have dealt with flooding and fires, Mexico City, Montana, and Puerto Rico.

So how do we move our lives forward in the midst of such destruction and heartache? I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve had some great counsel. Here are 6 ways to move forward:

  1. Cry. Yep. It’s a good thing to release the overwhelming emotions through tears. Grieving for the losses is healthy and helpful. In addition, pent up adrenaline causes anxiety. Tears may be your way of letting it go.
  2. Rest. It may seem impossible when there is so much to be done, but taking a break by reading, watching a movie, or taking a nap will rejuvenate your mind, body and soul.
  3. Take a walk. Exercise releases endorphins which create a sense of well-being. Exercise also relieves stores of adrenaline which helps return our bodies back to a balanced state.
  4. Talk to someone. Relating your experiences to a trusted friend(s) helps us process what’s in our heart and mind. Sharing stories can help us sort through the negative and see positive in the midst.
  5. Help someone else. When I’m listening to someone else and serving and praying for them, my mind focuses on them not my woes. But be wise about how much of others’ burdens you carry. A trusted friend reminded me that when I’m helping others, I’m also feeling their trauma as well as my own so I need to take time to rest in between.
  6. Pray and praise. I could not have made it through this without constant communication with God, other people praying for me, and playing worship music as much as possible. In the depth of a disaster, we naturally feel afraid and need the reminder that God is with us, sees us and knows our needs. He will hold us and provide for us as we wait on him.

Our pastor, Matt Keller, talked about three phases in a crisis: rescue, relief and recovery.

Immediately after the hurricane, as we were able, we began rescuing people who were trapped in homes or had trees blocking their way or puncturing their roofs.  While we can visibly see a physical need, we also need to be aware that our hearts need rescuing too.

 And not only in a storm.

The Bible tells us that God is our rescuer from situations in which we have sinned or people have hurt us with their sin. He rescues us by Jesus’s death on the cross which relieves us of the sin in our lives when we accept his action on our behalf. He then can also rescue us from circumstances by showing us a way out.

After the first few days of rescuing people, we met their needs for relief. Many were without power and water so they were sweltering in our unusually high Florida heat. They needed water, food, ice and basic supplies.

God promises to provide for our needs. He sees us and makes a way for our every need to be met. He brings relief through practical ways, but also through prayer, friends and community.

And then comes recovery.

Each person and situation is different. For some of us, power is back on, we’ve been back to work, and our homes are clear of damage and/or debris. Many others are still waiting for help, power or work to start again. No matter what our position is, recovery takes time.

Recovery for our emotional state takes time as well.

After any trauma, whether it is one of the recent events our nation and neighbors have faced or a personal tragedy, we must allow for God to take us through the process of healing and recovery. We may need more than our trusted friend and community. Professional counsel can lead us through that journey as well.

I pray that whatever you are going through in your life, you will seek whatever help you need.

And let’s keep praying for everyone who’s suffering right now. God is with us. He loves us and loves when we talk to him on behalf of others.

I’d be happy to partner with you in prayer if you let me know in the comments below or email me at laura@laurabennet.com

Farewell 2014


In the distance, fireworks staccato an overture to 2015.DSC_0033

As this year comes to a close, I’m reflecting on all the difficulties, the challenges and the blessings of the previous year. Through it all, the good, the bad and the ugly, God has been faithful to heal, discipline, restore and redeem. Nothing is wasted with God. No trial too small or too big. No delight left unanswered. No heartbreak left unattended.

So, with all the pain and joy, it has been a good year.

A very good year.

And I want to thank you, my readers and comrades in this life journey for walking with me, offering encouraging words and prayers, supporting me and allowing me to speak into your lives with words that I pray have come from the Lord.

Will you celebrate with me over these milestones?

  • I published my first book, The Miracle of Us: Confessions of an Online Dater. Yippee! And people like it. I am humbled and grateful beyond words.
  • I welcomed grandchild #7 and #8, a seven month old granddaughter who lives with mom and dad in Poland, and a grandson born one week ago yesterday. I have yet to meet Liwia, except on Skype for now, but we will become friends that way until I get to hug her in person. In two weeks, I will have the pleasure of holding my youngest grandson, Zion.
  • I finished writing my first novel, A Voice from the Past.  Double yippee! Looking for an agent, but may end up with another self-publish. We’ll see…
  • We got out of the moldy house!!!!!!!!! Feeling so much better, but still on the mend.
  • We moved across the country from California to Florida, and we all love it here. God has answered so many prayers with this move. (Though I sorely miss my family and friends – especially grandkids #4 & 6 – they grow so fast!)
  • My husband has 2 great jobs now which we pray will soon stabilize us financially. Thank you, Lord for provision.
  • I’m homeschooling our youngest two children in jr and sr high. I love having them around, and they are growing remarkably in every way.
  • I’m working on a new e-book which should be out in about a month or less….(you’re curious now, aren’t you?)
  • I’ve started work on three other projects: a non-fiction sequel called Beyond the Miracle: When the Fairy Tale Becomes Reality that follows the lessons learned in our first six years of marriage ; a biblical historical novel Rachel’s Son, and a suspense novel Silk Stalkings. Only God knows in what order they will be completed.

Thank you all for your wonderful support in every way. May God bless your coming year with fruitfulness and joy.

What are some of your highlights of the year?

 

Are You Ready?


It’s almost here.

The best of the best Christian writing conferences will educate and encourage writers in only two weeks; and it’s practically in my backyard!

There’s still time to register for Mt. Hermon Christian Writers Conference, but you have to act now.

Watch the video and you’ll see what writers are saying about this amazing conference. (And you can see two seconds – 1:13-1:14 of me attentively listening to a panel of agents.)

I can’t say enough about the wonderful people I’ve met at the conference. I’ve made friends and acquaintances and received some of the best writing advice in the industry.  Authors such as Sherry Kyle, Cheryl Ricker, Karen O’Connor, Kay Strom, Mary DeMuth, Lauraine Snelling, Karen Ball, James Scott Bell, just to name a few! (You don’t mind if I drop a few names…)

New writers, such as my friend and roommate from last year, Miriam Sarzotti, as well a seasoned authors, like Brandilyn Collins, who will be my writing mentor this year, mingle together in class, in worship and over delicious meals.

One of the best values of the conference is the opportunity to submit TWO manuscripts for critique or editor/agent review without additional cost. I’ve gained such valuable input from having my writing critiqued by well-known authors. And even if you don’t get your manuscript in before the conference (which I highly recommend), there are authors/editors available for critiques and questions during the afternoons.

In the evenings, a key-note speaker (this year: McNair Wilson) delivers an inspirational message that encourages you not only in your writing, but also in your every-day life. It amazes me each year how God speaks to every area of my life and ties it all together.

Everyone at the conference believes in you and considers it their privilege to encourage and uplift you. They will tell you the truth about your ability and help you find the right avenue for your particular writing goals.

Whether you consider yourself an amateur writer or a professional, there’s a place for you at Mt. Hermon. I’m thrilled to be able to attend again this year. I hope to see you there!

What’s your experience? Have you attended Mt. Hermon or any other conferences you’ve found particularly helpful?

Christmas # 5


A few weeks ago, I realized that this year is the fifth Christmas Brendan and I have spent together. Wow! The awareness made me think back, recapping each year and its unique joys. Perhaps you’d like to join me…

Blair making his favorite "Sandies"
Blair making cookies 2008

Christmas 2008 – I spent the ten days prior to Christmas in Australia. Brendan and I shopped for the children together for the first time. I introduced my pending Aussie family to my Christmas tradition of stockings and learned about Santa bags! The kids and I made Christmas cookies. Santa surfing in the mall surprised this White Christmas girl. Brendan proposed on December 22.  I returned home the next day; then watched Brendan, Brodie, Bella and Blair open their presents Christmas morning via Skype which was on my Christmas Eve afternoon.

Band Hero all night
Band Hero all night

Christmas 2009 – Our first married Christmas. Brendan and I enjoyed some special moments in front of the fireplace with our Christmas tree lights twinkling ambience. Bella and Blair scootered through the kitchen on new Razors. Brodie practiced shooting his new pellet gun. We all played Mario Cart and Band Hero with the grown up kids until way too late that night. My future daughter-in-law Sabina helped me pack up Christmas because of my increasing illness from the mold in our house (of which we knew nothing at the time!)

Christmas 2010 – We celebrated Christmas with our dear friends Jeff and Jo who had allowed us to live with them because of the necessity of leaving our moldy house. We had been trying to purchase a home here, but every offer and counter offer fell through. Our friends were blessed to have children in their home and we were blessed to have a home to stay in! They left for the holidays so we were able to enjoy spending the time with all but one of our children! Two new grandchildren added to the fun. It ended up being a great Christmas in spite of our not so perfect situation.

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Christmas 2011 – Our first Christmas in this house.  We enjoyed the delight of decorating our home with lights and tree and stockings even 245more because all of our things had been in storage the previous year. Brendan and I treated ourselves to new bikes and rode around the block freezing our hands and faces! We added a new dimension of music by replacing our dead piano (in pieces in our garage) with a keyboard from Santa. Bella and Blair still reveled in the double blessings of Santa bags and stockings!

Christmas 2012 – Here we are! We have a really tall tree and the house decked with Christmas around every corner. The weather has been bitterly cold for us Aussie/California types. Scraping frost off the windows in the morning in order to drive kids to school kind of cold! Bella’s old enough to have figured out the Santa “game” of Christmas and to help wrap packages and decorate at church. Brodie’s off with friends most of the time, and Blair is filled with the wonder of new discoveries.  As a family, we’ve chosen gifts to give to others in far off countries who have nothing. Some families far away will get to have some clothes, soccer balls, a goat and freedom from slavery. It’s been a Christmas for solidifying traditions and making some new ones. I love my husband more every day.  What a journey we’ve been on. What a journey we have yet to go.

261 Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
What are some of your favorite Christmas memories? Is this year different? In what way?

Traffic Jam Writing


Traffic in Santa Cruz, California this summer is at an all time high.

Come to think of it, all down the coast of California it’s been horrendous.  It took a combined total of over 30 hours heading down and coming back from our San Diego vacation last month. We’d cruise along at first, then grind to a stop. Bumper cars occurred in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Valencia (by Six Flags Magic Mountain), Los Angeles, San Diego and back again. Unless you live in remote areas, you’ve probably experienced the same.

At one point, after about three hours of stop and go, our nine year old son asked “Why do all the cars keep stopping? Why don’t they just keep driving? Then there wouldn’t be a problem!”

Simple, right?

Writing this week has been like the traffic in California.

The ramp looks clear, I press the gas and charge ahead to “enter the motorway” (said with the British accent of a woman on my husband’s GPS) only to apply the brake as I see the 15 mph crowd of cars. Then, within a few miles, the pace increases, a great fast-lane speed is attained, and I feel certain I will make my destination on time…for a few miles. Seeing red lights in the distance causes my heart to slump. After a half hour of rush and slow, I take my foot off the gas again with a frustrated WHAT NOW? I think about my son’s question. How simple the solution seems.

Why do (does) the cars (the writer) keep stopping?

Why doesn’t she just keep writing????

The entrance to my writing freeway looked clear at the start of the week. I accomplished a lot in the first couple of days. Brendan’s writing surplus has made up for my lack, and I could barely edit, insert his work and edit some more before he sent me the next email attachment. Encouraged by the progress, I typed away and caught up to him, shut down on time for a change and got in my eight hours of sleep. The next day I headed to the library to work away from home in an attempt to focus and finish my editing. But, between the time I arrived in the library parking lot and actually started work inside, life’s traffic standstill took two hours. I fielded unexpected phone calls, text message questions, and my computer battery inexplicably went into crisis mode and quit. So much for the idea of getting away from home to be more productive writing!

Most of the time when traffic piles up, I look for a side street alternative. Did I mention that currently, where I live, not only the freeway, but all those alternate routes are under construction? Doesn’t leave much option besides sitting in the traffic jam or staying home. One way gets me somewhere, the other simply postpones the trip.

Today, when the biggest jam of all took place (five hours of trying to find and book a hotel for an impromptu getaway next week to plan our schedule–the irony is not lost on me!), I thought about the correlation of writing, distractions and the stop and go of a congested highway.

If I want to get to my destination, I MUST keep driving. 

Or writing. Sometimes the going will move along at a fantastic pace, and I’ll revel in the progress. Other times, I’ll creep along and watch minutes tick by in hours as if I’m a lady bug crossing the length of a football field. The truth is that both are moving forward. It’s my mind and heart that get into a jam and want to postpone the trip.

What brings you to a standstill? How do you keep yourself moving forward? Are you in a jam?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Backtracking Continued…


Last week I recapped the many issues that Brendan and I faced as online daters. If you recall, we dealt with relationships, work/business challenges, children and housing. I also mentioned…visas and immigration; the dreaded, ominous monster and left it for another time. Well, the time has come Marvin K. Mooney. (For those of you Dr. Seuss fans, you know exactly what I’m talking about!)

Ahh…the world of immigration. It’s a touchy subject these days so I’ll limit my comments and concerns to my first hand experience without the political slant thrown in.

After Brendan proposed, and since we had already decided that he was to move here, we figured we should find out how that could happen legally. We genuinely (and ignorantly) believed that since America and Australia are friendly countries–they are actually on a list of countries for which you don’t need a special visa to visit–it would be an easy process for Brendan to move here, marry me and set up house. How wrong we were!

At first, when I looked for information, most of what I found addressed illegal immigrants and what to do after someone had already been in the country longer than his or her visa allowed. Everywhere I looked, I was informed about protocol if I had broken the law; the assumption being that I had, but I wanted to know what to do to avoid breaking the law. That was where the difficulty came. Imagine that…

I finally uncovered that first I had to apply for a fiance or a K-1 visa using an I-129 form, and of course a K-2 visa for each of the children of the fiance of a U.S. citizen, in order for Brendan to have permission to enter the USA to marry me which he had 90 days to do or they would kick him out.

Ok. Fine. A little more complicated than we expected, but still doable, right?

I did some more research to determine how long the process may take since we hoped that Brendan could arrive in time for Carol and Brian’s wedding at the end of February. Then we planned to be married at the beginning of April; after leaving Carol and Bri enough time for a honeymoon and to settle in before attending us at our wedding.

I cried when I found out that most fiance visas take anywhere from six months to two years to process. Seriously?? I was stunned to find that because hundreds of thousands of immigrants apply each year in California, the wait time has gradually been extended longer and longer, and for some it has taken years. I couldn’t believe it. Surely that couldn’t be true! But yes, the more research I did I discovered story after story of couples who had been waiting that long. I finally quit reading immigrant blogs and forums. It was just too depressing.

Once again, we felt like God said to trust him and proceed, so I printed out the papers and began filling them out. Along with multiple copies of birth certificates, Brendan’s late wife’s death certificate, my divorce papers, forms with all our names, addresses, birth dates, maiden names (mine, not Brendan’s – but yes, his mother’s!), every place we had ever lived, a signed statement about how we met and that we were legally available to marry each other, photos to prove we actually had met in person, copies of the stamps in our passports to prove we had visited each other to meet in person and all the same for each of the children. Oh,and I forgot to mention the form stating that I made enough money to support Brendan and the children, which I didn’t. In quadruplet. With a fee. A large one.

I confess that for a moment, I completely understood why people move here illegally. And I also wondered how in the world with all of this paperwork, any terrorist could ever get in! Of course, on the forms, they do ask if you are a terrorist or have ever engaged in terrorist activities. Give me a break! If someone were a terrorist do you think they’d admit to it on paperwork for the government issuing them a visa??

By the time we gathered all the paperwork, filled it out, mailed what we needed from Australia and checked with an immigration lawyer (thank goodness we did!) to make sure we had filled out everything correctly since some of the wording is pretty ambiguous, it was late in January and our hopes of Brendan getting here by the end of February were quickly diminishing. Still, we proceeded, trusting that God had a plan and mailed all the paperwork in with the check. Of course. It barely fit in the manilla envelope.

Believe it or not, that was just the first batch of papers. Then we began counting the days.

More to come next week….