A Snowy Surprise!

We woke up to a surprise this morning in Sherman! Nearly three inches of snow covered the trees, grass and outdoor patio furniture! It's not supposed to snow in early November, but it did... again! Twenty-seven years ago the first of November, our family returned to Illinois after living in Texas for fifteen years. It was my calling to a new church field that brought us to Illinois after seminary and service in two good Baptist churches. Since three of the family members had been born on Texas soil and were thereby, and forever more, true blue Texans, we were technically only moving three back. Over those years in the Lone Star State, we never brought up the matter that our oldest was born in the Land of Lincoln. He was only thirteen months old when we took him to Texas and now, as a fifteen year-old, it could be expected that he was not altogether happy about our return.  By this time in adolescence, his whole identity was Texan and no one could persuade him otherwise!
"Git along little doggies!"

On our call weekend, November 3, 1991, it snowed 5-7 inches in and around Springfield. The weatherman explained that the anomaly was due to an Arctic Polar Vortex or something. Whatever he called it, we were in a weather-shock! I confided to a couple of the men on the search team, "I think our coming back home may be a mistake. We don't like snow!" They assured me, "This may be as bad as it gets!" They were right! I remember how the kids played basketball on the driveway during most of January of the that very mild "winter season!"

Since we hadn't prepared for this sudden change in the weather, a visit to the local Burlington Coat Factory was in order. The Kepplers didn't have winter gear! We needed coats, scarves, hats and gloves! I was not a "happy camper" and like Jonah, I knew if I followed God's will and came back to my home state that God would have some surprises for me! The weather over all of these years has been the lesser of the surprises. Call it global warming or that memory has not served me well, but the winters are not as severe as I remembered as a child.
The merging of two seasons!

What were some of the "surprises" we encountered with this return north? We were befriended by some very special people  in our church family who loved, encouraged and cared for us! I was able to make some lasting friendships among our associational pastors that continue and have only grown sweeter over time. God provided for us financially through the generous gifts of our church and as Monique answered her own call to teach in the local elementary school. Each of our children made the necessary adjustments and flourished in the local schools. It was a special blessing for all four of them to graduate from the same high school!

I believe that our ministry experience is truly a testimony to the fact that when you try to understand and follow God's will, He will work out all the details in His plan. He is the God who is always getting you ready for that next chapter in your life and the life of your family. Our daughter, Michelle, spoke the truth during a Thanksgiving testimony service years ago, "We hadn't planned to stay this long!" I later mildly admonished her, "Honey, you didn't need to say that before all of our friends!" But God had a perfect plan and time has rolled on until some of us have now stayed twenty-seven years!

Jesus told His disciples, "Come, follow me, and  I will make you fishers of men!" (Matthew 4:19).  I think the calling of God can be distilled down into this: as you and I follow God and His will, He will take care of the "making" of our lives. And that making, equipping and provision for service includes happiness, fulfillment, strength and purpose as well! What surprises await you as you follow God's leading in your life?

Mike Keppler, retired pastor,
active churchman and
doting grandparent.
Contact: drmjkeppler@gmail.com


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