Tuesday, November 17, 2015

November 17...

Big feelings today... Remembering our sweet baby son Scott Andrew born November 17, 1986. He was only with us for a couple of hours but he will always be loved and remembered. 

Two years ago today 
Our first look at the destruction
And then November 17, 2013... 

Within a few days after the tornado I heard the expectation for rebuild was 2 years. I remember thinking #1 that it could not possibly take that long, #2 we would never survive two years. Two years later... It took that long and we indeed survived, sometimes feeling as if we were hanging on by a thread, but always knowing we were securely held by our good, good Father. I have been reminded how very weak I am, and how strong He is. I am fearful, He is trustworthy. I am ever-changing, He is never-changing and always faithful. I am anxious, He is peace. I am shortsighted, He is Sovereign.
Then and Now
We still miss the home that will always live in our hearts. At the same time we are more than grateful for our beautiful new home. So many people to thank like Joe, Chuck, and Caroline at CT Gabbert Construction (and a host of amazing sub contractors), Jerime Gendron of Gendron Landscaping, A1 Fence and more.
Cheery yellow door :)
We so much appreciate the leaders of our beloved community. They have been amazing. working tirelessly to help all of us get home as painlessly as possible, sometimes under next to impossible conditions. Washington as a community is well on the way to recovery and ready to move forward.
Making some new memories 
Support and encouragement from friends, family, and strangers held us up on the hardest days. We still feel worn physically and emotionally. We will never be the same people we were before this two year journey, we are better in some ways, some ways not. With home pretty much finished and our insurance claim finally closed (in spite of a rocky beginning they ended up covering us well) it feels like we are ready to turn the page and move forward. Hearts and bodies are not as easily restored as the wood and brick of houses, but thankfully we can continue to trust the One who promises: “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.“ Jeremiah 29:11 NLT. Two years ago today I posted a scary picture and the following words to let friends and family know we had survived: "This is what is left of home, but we are safe and God is good :)"   We still are and He still is. :)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Glittering Handful of Diamonds...in the Mud

I was challenged today by this familiar verse from Ecclesiastes, along with these words from Shauna Niequist: 

"I believe this way of living, this focus on the present, the daily, the tangible, this intense concentration not on the news headlines but on the flowers growing in your own garden, the children growing in your own home, this way of living has the potential to open up the heavens, to yield a glittering handful of diamonds where a second ago there was coal." 

I am so happy and grateful to be settling into our lovely, comfortable new home, but also find that I can be easily distracted by the mud that literally, completely surrounds us. Sucked in to the muck of a second Spring with no grass or flowers, things that made my soul feel peaceful. Obviously, patience is not one of my strong points :p  The yard is going to be a long, expensive, labor intensive process but wise King Solomon says it is time to eat, drink and be glad so joy can accompany the toil :) So here's to seeing "a glittering handful of diamonds where a second ago there was coal"...or mud :)

Friday, January 23, 2015

All Things New

I'm not a big resolution girl.  I've kicked around this "one word" for the year idea that is recently so popular but never really had the desire to jump on. However, the last few days and weeks one word has been kind of hounding me. I am surrounded by it or the need for it. That word is "new." The first verse  memorized for Beth Moore's Siesta Scripture Memory Team this year was Revelation 21:5 "And the one who was sitting on the throne said, 'Look I am making all things new..."  I realize the verse is talking about heaven but I think it might also have broader application. Scripture is full of reference to being made new. There are certainly many things that I personally need to have made new or at least improved a lot!  

The day is rapidly drawing near when we will finally move in to our new house. Anyone who knows me, knows how desperately I have been longing to go home, but it will be a far different home. As a matter of fact, about the only thing familiar will be the piece of land that home sits on. Not any familiar houses nearby (but thankfully many familiar neighbors), no familiar furniture, and very few familiar belongings. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to purchase new stuff. We have rarely ever purchased brand new furnishings.  Most of our things were either repurposed or refinished or something that had been in the family for a long time. This was partly from necessity and partly because I have always loved old things as well as taking something old and making it into something that is uniquely mine.   I truly look forward to our beautiful new home filled with furnishings I could only ever have dreamed of owning, yet part of me will still long for the old, worn out, familiar things that made home home. Our house will be a beautiful, convenient, shiny, new blessing.  I am sure it will fairly quickly, but not altogether painlessly, become home as it fills with the love of family, friends, and new memories. 

Even seeing the beautiful new things that await me in my new home I honestly would not hesitate for one fraction of a second to go back to our pre-tornado home. Maybe it won't always feel that way, but I suppose because of the trauma associated with home and belongings being so dramatically and completely torn away there will always be a little longing.  It has been work...long, hard, often full of tears and heartache
work to rebuild home and I plan to fully embrace and enjoy the beautiful new blessings we are being given. 

I think we (at least I) similarly tend to cling to familiar and comfortable habits and actions whether they are old and need to be replaced or not. I want to be the new person that God wants me to be, becoming increasingly more like Him, but too often I let comfortable and familiar win out over the work required to change for what is better.  

2015 is going to be the year of new, some things my choice, some things not, not only in our home but hopefully so much more. It will undoubtedly continue to involve work...long, hard, sometimes heartbreaking work to trade physical things as well as habits and actions that have become familiar and comfortable for what is new, but I believe God to be faithful to His promise to make all things new.  

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Learning to Wait...

Living Room Before and After 
Six long months ago our world turned upside down.  I really, really wish there was some progress to share, but once again there is nothing but a few more promises. I NEVER would have believed 6 months ago that we would still be in this place today, but here we are. The contents revision, that was to have been returned to us weeks ago, is still nowhere to be found. Our contractor and adjuster are scheduled to meet face to face (for the first time) for one final fight to the finish this coming Tuesday. Pray the contractor knows where to give in and where to hang tough and that he comes out with an agreement. 

Andy is out of town for a few days, so I spent several hours yesterday learning how to make an iMovie to distract myself from and help process the painful memories of the difficult anniversary day. I put together pictures (some of them I was seeing for the first time) of our post tornado mess intermixed with pictures of how those same spots looked before...some beautiful, joyful memories of home that can't be blown away.  You can see the video from the link below: 

Before, During and After The Tornado 11/17/13 

Here is the house plan that our builder is working diligently to get approved by the insurance company so we can finally finish digging out the basement and foundation and get started on the new house.  Maybe good news this week!  

Unfortunately, we are far from alone in this hard place of back and forth with insurance.  There are many others in the same uncomfortable boat.  I assume the size of the disaster has make insurance companies less willing to "give" what we need.  It, however, is not a gift.  We paid for it... for years.  So frustrating to have to fight for every little thing.  

So for now, we continue to take another step each day as God leads.  His faithfulness has never failed to be enough and we remain confident that His plan is for our good.  We are trying to patiently wait for it to be fully revealed...that is harder some days than others :)  Please continue to pray for wisdom for us as we make decisions that we will know clearly what to do next and when to do it!     

Monday, March 17, 2014

Tornado News...Four Months Later

I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken... Psalm 37:25 NIV

Four months today...On last month's anniversary date I confidently planned to have a positive news filled report on month four.  Sadly, things are pretty much the same. We are nearing approval of a floor plan so the back and forth dance between the builder (what it will actually cost to build) and insurance (what they think it can be low-balled at) can begin.  We have an experienced builder who will not be a pushover so that will hopefully work in our favor. It sure would be a blessing if this back and forth can move quickly so we can at least apply for a building permit and get a start date in view. Contents insurance news is much the same.  We have an appointment next Monday to begin going over the many items they changed to different lesser value items before the depreciation.  We are fairly confident this will be resolved in our favor.

Honestly, it is very discouraging to still be in a holding pattern when spring has arrived and we see (with joy) others beginning to make real progress.  Spring will be difficult as we long for coffee on the porch watching the yard/garden come to life.
We are trying hard to find and focus the positive.  Since that awful November day we have enjoyed the blessing of becoming much better connected with neighbors (some we knew/some we didn't). We also found out today that we were approved for a generous grant from a large credit union in Chicago that will help with some of the financial shortfall. That is a blessing for sure.

Maybe (said with significantly less confidence) we will be able to surprise everyone with a super positive report on month five. Until then we continue to trust (sometimes impatiently) in God's perfect timing and can always say with utmost confidence that "we have never seen the righteous forsaken".

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

We Lived to Tell...

It has been suggested that I resurrect the poor neglected blog again to document our crazy journey. So here goes. Backtracking to November 17, 2013 when everything in our world turned upside down.  I had spent the month of November posting things I am thankful for on my Facebook wall. This was posted the morning of the 17th, the day (26 years earlier) that our youngest son was born and passed away.
November 17: Today I am thankful that the faithfulness of God is ever present and never ending in every circumstance.

Shortly after I posted this we went to church. Just after the morning service got underway the tornado sirens went off and we were told it was a serious threat. We sat in the hallway with friends waiting for the all clear. Andy and a few others were outside for a bit and did some video of this storm. We could tell it was headed right toward our neighborhood. Once it was over we decided to head home to see damage (totally thinking windows or roof damage). It quickly became apparent that we were not going to be allowed near our home which is on the main road through town. We could see downed power poles and began to get really frightened.  We decided to try to go in through the back of the neighborhood. We got in...rescue workers had not yet arrived. The first thing I saw that really terrified me was a man driving a mini van that had every window blown out. As we got into the neighborhood the damage got more and more severe. When we got to within a couple of blocks of our home I saw a home I recognized (the others were mostly piles of wood). I started calling out names of neighbors and friends whose homes were gone. I was pretty much hysterical.  We saw no people. We were both thinking that everyone was dead.  We got onto our block but couldn't keep driving so we got out to try to walk to our house. We got somewhere within four or five houses from ours before we had to turn around because of debris that we couldn't get around blocking the road. We could smell gas and were stepping over live power lines. At that point, even though we couldn't see anything we knew our home was gone.  Looking back I'm sure we were both in shock at this point.

This picture was taken by our neighbor literally a few seconds before the EF4 tornado hit our lovely little home.

This picture was our first look.  It was taken within the first hour and sent to us by a first responder friend who was there.
There is much, much more to this part of the story but I'll leave that for another time.

We woke up the next morning homeless, in the comfortable guest room of our friends (our son Tom's in-laws).  It was our 34th wedding anniversary. The following is my Facebook post from that morning.
November 18: I made this picture collage on Saturday when our life was normal and pretty much easy and I believed every word. Today when nothing will be normal for a very long time and every little thing is difficult the words are truer than ever. I am so thankful and very blessed to begin my 34th year as your wife wherever the road may lead. There is no one I'd rather be homeless with  I love you very much. Happy Anniversary!

The next day we finally got to go see what was left for ourselves. Driving into the neighborhood was the most difficult thing I have ever done. I literally could barely breathe and Andy thought he was having a heart attack (which he didn't tell me till it was over).  The following was my fb status that evening.
November 19: I have more things to be thankful for today than words can say. So many volunteers today worked so very hard to help us. We retrieved some of our treasured family heirlooms, scrapbooks, my Bible, clothes, kitchen stuff, Christmas and so much more. Everything is filthy and much is wet but we feel so very blessed!

The following was written early the morning of the fourth day:
November 21: Awake when I should be sleeping because that is what I do best lately. When I shut my eyes I only see the devastation that was my cozy little home and my beautiful neighborhood and the faces of people I have grown to love. I am still fine. I am not overstating when I say that my number one emotion is still gratitude. In this incredible loss God has shown Himself big. He has blessed us with life and soul sustaining gifts from people like you, my dear friends. Your comments and prayers and encouragement have meant more than I can express. Knowing how much we are loved has lifted our spirits tremendously. When the panic feeling threatens to overtake me I have remembered a story from our recent Lysa TerKeurst Bible study Unglued about the woman who had just received some devastating news and the calm that came with just speaking the name Jesus...breathing it in and out. Doing the same has been life to me the last few days.

I am also so very grateful that God led me to spend 2012 reading and rereading and leading Ann Voskamp's Bible study One Thousand Gifts. Because of that I not only have a completely changed view of gratitude and the difference being truly grateful makes in my life but I also have (safely on Facebook, not lost in a destroyed home) 900 plus pictures, many of my home that no longer exists! The picture below was one of the last ones my husband took when we first arrived at our home after the tornado...only the jacket of a beloved book but seeing it in the rubble was a reminder and a gift in itself.

I thank you for your prayers, dear friends. Keep them coming for a long time. It is still hard to put one foot in front of the other sometimes. But I KNOW that God is faithful and good and kind and He can be depended on no matter the circumstance. He has shown that to me over and over and over theses last few days and I know He won't stop now!

To be continued...

Friday, January 13, 2012

Happy Birthday Grandpa

Goodness it's been a while since I have visited the old blog...let's see if I still know how :)

Olivia and I made a cake for Grandpa Andy today. It was an adventure!

She did great with the mixing and scraping
While we were waiting for the cake to bake and cool Olivia made Grandpa a card
Proud of her work
Once the cake cooled it was time for frosting...Grammy had some reservations but went ahead anyway
She took the job very seriously and it's going pretty well
Still not too bad --only a few crumbs in the frosting :)
Getting kind of scary
Not sure there is any hope
Best quote of the day...At this point Olivia looked at me and said, "I think this looks LOVELY...grandpa Andy will LOVE it!"
A little sprinkles cover a multitude of frosting sins :)
Grandpa Andy happened to call about this point in the story. The conversation went something like this-- Olivia: "You must come home soon because we are planning a surprise party" Grandpa: "For who?" Olivia: "You" (insert adorable giggling)

After supper it's time for two little girls to put in the candles
Ella's went in a little deep
All in a row
Looks pretty good a lit up
Time to make a wish and blow --I bet he's wishing for more evenings just like this one
The day ended with Olivia and Grandpa dancing after supper along with lots of other silliness
A pretty successful "not so surprising" surprise party!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thirty-two Happy Years Later

My sweetheart and I in 1979
Thirty-two happy years later!
What a blessing it has been to share every moment of the last 32 years with such a wonderul man...Happy Anniversary! I love you!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Crafty Grammy is in Over Her Head

No surprise that Olivia wanted to "do a craft" today. We decided on a turkey wreath.
She worked very hard...singing all the time :o)
Cute wreath completed...now grammy asks the fatal question...where should we hang it up?
She tells me we will hang it on our float. Silly grammy asks: "What float?" Darling grandgirl answers: "The one we are going to make...outside...big enough to ride on!" Yikes! Grammy is now in WAY OVER HER HEAD! Besides all the crafting, Olivia and puppy spent alot of time galloping and galloping on her stick horse.
This was (in Olivia's own words) the Ballerina Cowgirl--cute, isn't she?
Little Ella who is not so little anymore spent some time coloring...
And "reading" to the puppy...and dragging toys all over the house :o)
Olivia's plan is to make our float when she comes back on Friday...better stock up on some building supplies!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Beyond Measure

If everything was gone tomorrow but this...
I would still be blessed beyond measure.
"The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy!" Psalm 126:3

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Unexpected Blessing

Once again it has been forever since I have had time or the motivation to get something on my blog. The past few weeks months have been full of some very difficult challenges. Wednesday of this last week I was faced with one of the most difficult personal experiences I have ever endured, but God is good and faithful and I believe that healing is on its way. First thing Thursday morning Andy and I woke up to a sweet, unexpected blessing when another baby bird made its appearance in the aviary. Meet Sweet Little Baby Bird (named by Olivia of course)
These birds are zebra finches...the one with the bright orange cheeks is the daddy. Olivia named him Purdue...grandpa was happy about that.
The pretty little white finch is the mama, her name is Snowball.
Olivia was super excited to meet the new baby
She had to introduce "sweet little kitty" to "sweet little baby bird." Grandpa asked what we would call her when she wasn't a baby any more...she said I haven't decided yet!
She was telling me that looking at sweet little baby bird just made her want to cuddle her...so cute!
Grandpa Andy snapped a couple of good shots of two of my favorite blessings all dressed up in our homecoming gear. These girls never fail to make me smile.
Love this one of Olivia and I. I especially love the sweet, slightly stinkery smile.
And one of grammy and Ella...she's getting so big and her smiles are so sweet.
I'm sure there are some really hard days coming...but God has blessed me with the best husband, an amazing family, supportive friends, peace that transcends any circumstance and lots more smiles to come!