Monday, March 2, 2009

Week Two - Lessons in Love

Hello everyone!!! First let me say how much I appreciate all of the positive responses to this blog. It is a little difficult to condense everything that is happening into one readable post, but I will do my best. I think in the vein of my first post, I'll give you a general update of my week, and then tell you about some of the individual experiences that have had a significant impact on me.

Last Saturday night marked the beginning of Week Two for me, as my new "family" rolled in in the form of 12 college kids from Canada and an extended family of 11 from North Dakota. I was very excited because I have never met people from either place, and as you can probably guess, they were all very lovely people.

As the work week began, Mardi Gras kicked into high gear - this is a very serious holiday around here, in fact, some have said that it's more important than Christmas! I caught my first Mardi Gras parade, called Orpheous, on Monday night -- as well as 29 strands of beads! It really is a lot of fun, and the floats feature celebrities which really gets the crowd worked up (we saw Josh Gracin, Joan Rivers and Jim Belushi).

On Tuesday everyone tried to stick around the house because there wasn't any point in trying to drive anywhere. I stayed busy making a 40th Birthday cake for my friend Ivan (we gutted he and his wife Scharmaine's house this past July) which of course had to be decorated in New Orelans Saints colors with a big Fluer De Lis in the center.

The rest of the week flew by in a flurry, which is an ironic choice of words, because it was between 70 and 75 degrees and sunny each day (Don't worry, it's only 45 here now so we're suffering with the rest of you - just no snow). On Wednesday night, Ivan and Scharmaine unexpectedly got moved into the Yellow House with me and the rest of the gang because the volunteer teams had started to work on their house, and it was difficult to work around their things. Wait - let me back up here for a second and give you some background on that situation. Ivan and Scharmaine moved to Houston, TX after Katrina, and returned just a few days before our team from EPIC arrived this summer. We gutted their house in 3 1/2 days, but unfortunately they had to wait on a long list to have their roof fixed, as well as some of the other services and repairs needed to make the home livable. During the Fall they were able to stay with Ivan's mother, but about a week before Christmas, they had an electrical fire due to some faulty post-Katrina wiring. They moved once again, this time to a nearby hotel. Keep in mind that when we left them in July, they fully expected to be hosting Christmas at their house, and by then they were only a little farther along than when we left.

Anyway, on the Friday before Mardi Gras they hit another bump in the road when the hotel they had been staying at informed them that their room had already been booked for the holiday, and they would need to vacate the premisis immediately. They were already expecting quite a bit of family to come in to town for Mardi Gras, so they had no choice but to buy propane heaters and set up shop in their house - which had no electricity, and only water running to one toilet and a bathtub. So, these are the events that led up to them, their two sisters, Scharmaine's mother, and four neices moving into the Yellow House for a few days. Like I said, this place is like a wonderful revolving door of hospitality - I love it!!!

On Thursday night we had our block party, this time at Ivan and Scharmaine's, and we had another great turn out. It's hard to communicate the sense of community here. There is no coming and going without anyone noticing, like in surburbia. When something exciting is happening, (or someone is giving away free food) people come out of nowhere and join in!

On Friday night I returned to Preservation Hall in the French Quarter - this time to show it off to some of the gang from Canada - we all loved it!! Live Jazz is so amazing - you can see how much love and passion each of the musicians have for their art!

So, in brief overview style, that was my week. But let me tell you about some of the moments that stick out to me in retrospect:

On Wednesday afternoon while I was preparing dinner (I have now mastered both Gumbo and Jumbalaya, by the way) a neigborhood boy named Shemare wandered into the house. Kids often stop by the house to hang out, and the policy is that if you let them in, you're responsible. I had simply left the door open for some air, and now had accumulated an 8 year-old -- while I was already knee deep in supper preparations :) Earlier in the week one of the staff had told me a little bit about Shemare's situation, so as much as I didn't really have time to hang out with him, I was determined to be patient with him and give him some much needed attention.

While I answered Shemare's many questions, and figured out how he could help me, my mind kept reverting back to one thought - this child smelled very bad. I knew it wasn't something worth getting hung up on, but I couldn't help it. What was worse than the smell, was that I knew it was getting in the way of me loving this little boy. In my mind, my mother's voice was saying "Don't let him touch anything!" and "Make him wash his hands!!!" (which of course Mom, I did). Luckily, there was another voice in my head (this one a little less practical, but even wiser) reminding me that oftentimes, for one reason or another, it's not easy to love, but we are commanded to do it anyway.

I've found that in most instances, we have to make a conscious decision whether or not we are going to let something as trivial as the way someone smells, or how they look, or maybe even the way they are acting, affect how we treat them. . . how we love them.

Not suprisingly, a few days later in church, the pastor read a passage in 1 John that addressed the exact struggle that I was having in my head just a few days earlier: "Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with action and in truth." (chapter 3 vs. 18) and more pointedly, "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son as an atoning sacrific for our sins. Dear Friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." (chapter 4 vs 7-11).

Later in the week I was thinking about all of this and I realized that I am Shemare. In fact, every one of us is Shemare. The problem is, we don't just smell bad. We are liars and thieves and murderers and manipulators, and yet God in his merciful love did more than just tolerate us for a few hours one afternoon - he sacrificed his very own Son in order to be close to us. Surely if He can do all this, then I can be patient with the extremely slow lady at the checkout counter, or the volunteers who can't seem to pick up after themselves, or the little kid from around the block who just wants to help me make dinner :)

I think that may be my post for today. I'll share some of my other stories next time. . .

Love you all!


  1. Friend, what a great testimony for how to put aside our personal agenda in order to love one of God's children. He calls us to love the lovely AND unlovely (in human terms). I love that reminder. Please know your posts are not just a story of what you're doing, but a ministry to the rest of us, too. I love you, Friend, and will continue praying you through this awesome opportunity.

  2. Hi Julie! I really do love reading about your life in New orleans! I love that God has brought Ivan and Scharmaine back into your life! Can't wait to read your next post!


  3. T: You're doing a LOT of loving in that comment of yours! But I guess that's just your style! ;) Miss you both!