Thursday, September 22, 2005

In Search of the Silver Lining

“As for me, I will call upon God; and the LORD shall save me. Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.”

~ Psalms 55:16,17 (KJV)

Several years ago, Keen and I appeared on a television show in Hollywood called “Judge for Yourself.” (The topic was abstinence.) During the taping of the show, we had the privilege of meeting an extremely talented Christian singing artist by the name of Steve Gooden. Steve gave us a compact disc of his original songs titled “From the Heart” – and these past couple of weeks I’ve been listening to one particular song over and over. It’s about finding a silver lining behind the clouds when everything around you seems to be falling apart. Here are some of the words to the song:

All the people say,
Soon the rain will go away.
So know within your heart,
There’s gonna be a brighter day.
Because the sun will surely shine –
So find your silver lining.

During times of crisis, it isn’t always easy to find the silver lining. But because of our faith in God, we believe that all things will work together for good. (Romans 8:28)

Shortly after we learned that Jared and Erin had lost everything in the hurricane (and no, they didn’t have insurance), I flipped open my Bible in search of inspiration and my eyes fell on the following verse from Job 42:10:

"And the Lord turned the captivity of Job and restored his fortunes. . . also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before."

That is my prayer for Jared and Erin – that they will end up better off than they were before – not worse off.

“And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.” ~ Matthew 7:25 (KJV)

Friends and family have been a great source of encouragement to Jared and Erin during this difficult time. Erin’s parents got the ball rolling by donating a cash amount, followed by Keen and I who gave the same amount (our first income from Keen’s law practice), and Josh and Lisa, who matched the same amount without even knowing how much anyone else had given.

Keen’s parents and siblings have been a Godsend by opening their hearts and homes as well as offering to donate all the necessary household items whenever Jared and Erin are able to relocate to a new apartment. Several of my siblings have also shared monetarily, as well as sending special gifts for Asher and Gabe, who just celebrated their birthdays. (Gabe turned 3 last Saturday the 17th, and Asher turned 6 on Wednesday the 21st.) On Sunday, Keen’s Aunt Helen also dropped off two blankets that she made for the boys.

I found the perfect plaque titled “Our Family” at a store in the Manhattan Mall called The Front Porch. I bought one for Keen’s folks and another for Jared and Erin.

Our Family is a circle of strength and love.
With every birth and every union the circle grows.
Every joy shared adds more love.
Every crisis faced together makes the circle stronger.
~ Author Unknown

Other encouragement has come from words of wisdom and comfort shared. One example is a letter I received from my high school friend, Scott, who recalled a lesson he learned from our former Bible study youth group leader in Singapore, Keith Lindaman:

“Keith used to say that our life on earth was temporary, like going camping and living in a tent. He said none of us would think about spending money to upgrade a tent with air conditioning, carpet, etc., and that we should have the same attitude toward this earthly life. We shouldn't wear ourselves out trying to build up THIS life as if it is eternal because we can lose everything . . . in the blink of an eye. Instead, we must concentrate on things above and know that THAT is where our hearts are and where our TRUE LIFE is. While Jared and Erin are surely heartbroken, and will face a lot of economic stress as a result of this storm, the memory of accumulation and loss of ‘things’ will fade over time. And when we begin our REAL lives, in heaven, we'll see that what went before truly was nothing to be concerned about.”

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” ~ Matthew 6:19-21 (NKJV)

Here is another thoughtful note I received from one of my new Circle of Friends in Seattle, Caroline:

“Eileen, my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. There are so many mysteries in life--to include Mother Nature and why she would take one path and not another. I have to remind myself that in the midst of mortal, earthly chaos (which can take many forms), that there is a Design that I don't have to understand. I just have to let go and trust in God. Not always easy, but life is such that we all get lots of practice! Oh, my, the Mysteries . . .”

“For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” ~ I Corinthians 13:12,13

Support has also graciously been offered from total strangers. I have shared Jared and Erin’s story with countless store clerks, simply because it has been such a huge event in our lives and I feel the need to talk about it. I can’t tell you how many of them have expressed heartfelt compassion with tear-filled eyes.

In one case I struck up a conversation with a couple in Wal-Mart and they ended up offering Erin and the boys some meat from a hog they butchered. Their last name is Stutzman and she teaches at St. John’s Lutheran School in Alma. Her husband said, “I’m serious. I don’t make idle offers. Just call ahead before you come and we’ll load them up with some of the biggest pork chops you’ve ever seen.”

Another total stranger from Cox Cable in Manhattan offered to donate some clothes for Erin. She said that her 22-year old daughter (who happens to be Erin’s size), just moved to New York and left behind lots of clothes. So we have all felt incredibly blessed by the enormous outpouring of love and support.

I’d like to close with this short story from the book titled Heart Throbs: The Old Scrapbook by Joe Mitchell Chapple:

Gratitude to God

By Orville Dewey

Notwithstanding all that I have suffered, notwithstanding all the pain and weariness and anxiety and sorrow that necessarily enter into life, and the inward errings that are worse than all, I would end my record with a devout thanksgiving to the great Author of my being. For more and more am I unwilling to make my gratitude to Him what is commonly called ‘a thanksgiving for mercies,’ – for any benefits or blessings that are peculiar to myself, or my friends, or indeed to any man. Instead of this, I would have it to be gratitude for all that belongs to my life and being, – for joy and sorrow, for health and sickness, for success and disappointment, for virtue and for temptation, for life and death; because I believe that all is meant for good.

“We are hedged in (pressed) on every side – troubled and oppressed in every way; but not cramped or crushed; we suffer embarrassments and are perplexed and unable to find a way out, but not driven to despair;We are (persecuted and hard-driven,) pursued, but not deserted – to stand alone; we are struck down to the ground, but never struck out and destroyed . . .

Therefore we do not become discouraged – utterly spiritless, exhausted, and wearied out through fear. Though our outer man is (progressively) decaying and wasting away, yet our inner self is being (progressively) renewed day after day . . .Since we consider and look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are visible are temporal (brief and fleeting), but the things that are invisible are deathless and everlasting.”

~ II Corinthians 4:8,9,16,18 (AMP)

Umbehr Family Reunion after Katrina (Back row - Keen, Eileen, Erin, Jared & Gabe on Jared's shoulders. Front row - Josh, Lisa, Asher, Keen II and Kirk Van)

Family Picture with Keen II's girlfriend, Emily. (Notice Josh is caught in the act of trying to give Asher bunny ears!)

Welcome Home! (Asher, Erin, Gabe & Jared)

Masked Party-goers at Chuck E. Cheese - where a kid (and adults) can be a kid! (Keen II, Emily, Asher, Gabe, Erin & Kirk)

Erin, Asher & Gabe with Asher's "Dragon Ball-Z cake"

Twins? (five years apart) Jared & Keen II

Mom with all four of her boys (Left to right - Kirk, 16; Keen II, 21; Eileen; Jared, 26; Josh, 24)