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...