Thursday, May 30, 2013

When the Sky Rolls Back on Us

I'm still meandering around somewhere between disbelief and the kind of gratitude that literally knocks me to my knees. I simply can't count how many times I had driven toward this street sign, depending on it to be sure I'd reached our road since the streets were identical. Never could I have dreamed that I'd take this picture.

I'm not sure how well this one will show up, but it is a shot my husband got of the devastation all around our home.

This is a view from our backyard looking through the house toward the front yard.

After we had begun recovering items. Some of those items were appalling. Among them were my Kindle, the iPad, various books that were relatively intact, random clothing items, small toys that were just dirty. But over all, it was complete destruction.

A view of Kate's bedroom from the hallway. Her headboard was at the neighbor's house.

The broken pieces of Kate's doll house.

Kate's bike was just on the east side of our front yard tree. (This was the item which brought on her first real break down. I felt so helpless sitting with her as her mind finally was able to comprehend that she truly had no home and no bike to ride there anymore.)

Caleb's crib.

The laundry closet. Believe it or not, we had clean, untouched clothes in the dryer!

The end of my kitchen counter. The bottom left of the picture is Wendy's dog bed.

This was the reading rug corner I had made for the kids. Under the wall was the tub where we kept our library books. I am taking them back to the library in a day or so.

What's left of the fire place. So many wonderful fires here.

This was one of my favorite recoveries. For me, it symbolizes that we made it and we WILL make it!

A look at the damage toward the kids' rooms.

This is looking to our neighbors to the east of us. I love the flag.

Tears spilled over this one. I loved this piece, but it means so much more to me now than ever before.

This is where our dog, Wendy, was for three whole days before being rescued. The story of her rescue showed me on a much deeper level just how very much God loves us, that He would even care for the small things just because He loves us. He always knew where she was, even when I didn't. I just knew we'd find her under the rubble, and she was so close to me all the while.

Our shower.

I found a skein of my yarn tangled in a tree.

Caleb's wagon along the back deck.

Matt and I were walking down the street and found my bike in a neighbor's pile. Just two days before the tornado, I had ridden it down the store three times for various things. For one, we were in the middle of an intense water gun fight, and we didn't have enough water guns. I can remember that bike ride through the neighborhood so very clearly. Sunday night's storm was coming, and I was trying to beat it. I asked God to keep me safe as I rode and to make it home before the storm hit. I get chills now, knowing just how He would answer that prayer.

We had a team from Samaritan's Purse helping clean and they recovered this from Kate's room. Kate adores Miss Whitney (the beautiful bride) and was delighted to be her flower girl.

The kids' picnic table in the back yard.

A tub of recovered subject portfolios from our first go at home school. I couldn't believe these were still there.

Look who else we found! She was hanging on our fridge, which is still nowhere to be found. But look what stayed behind. God is so good.

This one is hard for me. This is our bath tub in the kids' bathroom. It's where the kids and I would have been had we stayed home that day. I'm pretty sure you can tell we most likely would not have survived.

My sewing machine.

One of Caleb's toys in the back yard.

Matt and I standing in front of the house. We were so excited to move into the place last September. The day before the tornado (Sunday afternoon) I had sat under that tree on the right and written in my journal. It was a gorgeous day, and I was enjoying the shade, writing thanks to God because of all He had done in our lives so far. I am so humbled at the reason He would give me to praise Him barely 24 hours later.

It feels so futile to try and adequately express how thankful we are to each generous hand stretched out, to every prayerful heart and tearful eye on our behalf...but it cannot go without being said. THANK YOU from the absolutely bottom of our hearts. The immediate flood waters of provision and compassion literally lifted us from the depths. When our guts felt raw and we were reeling, God gave us remarkable people like you who walked as Jesus walked, who served as He served. I pray for each of you as the support has exceedingly and abundantly rolled in--that God will bless you more than you could imagine. And I believe He will.

I have so many little stories to tell about what has happened, where we have ended up, what we are learning in the midst of such devastation. The people we have met--the sights we have looked upon. They change a person. We certainly are changed. And I don't want to go back to how we were. To go back to holding onto these breakable, crushable, fragile--things--in life. We had just laid new flooring in the house, and it is still there. As I walked across the soggy planks of laminate, I didn't think of the price we had paid. And with each piece of painted wall I picked up, you know what I though of? I lamented the TIME I had spent on them. I had ignored the kids to do these things. We got stressed during the floor remodel and bickered some. And here was the fruit of our labor. I know it's not bad to do these things; but I believe I can see them with new eyes. May we labor over the things of heaven and not earth, where rust and moth destroy (and tornadoes).

I would love to share a song that has been utterly pulling Matt and me through this hard time. The lyrics are ridiculously rich and mean more to me than I ever though they could. It's by an artist named Josh Garrels, and it's actually a remake of an old song called "Farther Along." The part that means the most to me is:

"Still I get hard pressed on every side between the rock and a compromise, Like truth and a pack of lies fighting for my soul, I got no place left to go. Cause I got changed by what I've been shown, More glory than the world has known, Keeps me ramblin' on. Skippin' like a calf loosed from its stall, I'm free to love once and for all, and even when I fall I get back up for the joy that overflows my cup. Heaven fills me with more than enough, broke down my levee and my bluff, let the flood wash me. And one day when the sky rolls back on us, some rejoice and the others fuss, Cause very knee must bow and tongue confess that the Son of God is forever blessed."

Peace of Christ to you,

Sunday, May 26, 2013

We Are Changed

I have thought about a million times what my first blog post would be since our family lived through May 20, 2013--the day that has changed every single thing I thought I knew about our lives and our faith. I have decided to stop waiting for the perfect words--but to just open my heart to anyone who wants to read. The story is long and doesn't just begin that Monday morning (or even that month), and I'll get to that later.

For right now, I want to reflect on our evening. We had the privilege of going to church, and I do mean PRIVILEGE! We were just so overjoyed to be there, to see our South OKC Campus friends on the Host Team and staff. Never before have we truly appreciated the simple gift of being able to go to church and worship God. Earlier this week, Keagan asked, "Since we don't have a house anymore, will we still go to church?" We looked at each other with tearful smiles and told him YES, we will go to church because we can't wait to go tell God Thank You for rescuing us!

We sang a song that we have sung so many times before, but until tonight has never meant what it does to us. "Never once did we ever walk alone. Never once did You leave us on our own. You are faithful, God, You are faithful. Every step we are breathing in Your grace. Ever more we'll be breathing out Your praise. You are faithful, God, You are faithful." 

This may sound really crazy to some, but we feel blessed to have had this happen to us. Blessed? Why??

Because now we can stand and sing those lyrics, KNOWING what they mean. We walk around with our children, understanding what a MIRACLE life is. We can look into each other's eyes and KNOW more now than ever that nothing on this planet can tear our marriage apart. We wake up and hear our 2 year old's bare feet smacking the linoleum floor and we smile, even though it's 6:15 in the morning and he should still be sleeping!

We feel sadness, believe it or not, for those who cannot see life in this way like we can now. We certainly never imagined that God would reveal Himself to us in THIS way, but we rejoice over it because we know Him more deeply now, more richly. When I woke up Monday morning, He was my Savior. I loved Him then and wanted to live for Him. But today--today He is my everything.

Of course, we are sad that our world has been rocked, literally uprooted. I am not grinning constantly, I promise! One part of the day is bad--sometimes very bad, but it doesn't stay that way. Before I know it, He has done yet another miracle to wring the praise from my heart. We grieve over what we have lost. We are reeling still because the tangible evidence of our family's life together is...gone. But each time we visit and stand on the fresh dirt, each time we walk the street where we would pull our 2 year old in the wagon behind our bikes, as we stand on the planks left of the back deck where we had water gun fights--we walk away a little bit stronger.

There is so much more to share. Details that are too unbelievable not to share. Later. For now, this is where we are and we want to thank every last one of you who has helped us in any way. You have prayed for us, you have given to us, you have served us. Thank you. He certainly did see it, and you will be blessed for it.
Peace of Christ to you,