Beauty for Ashes on April 27: The Conclusion

(Continued from Part 3)

I stared into the night.  Most of my children were asleep.  Some of the sweet, older girls with us held one here, helped another there.  I felt very numb.  I think I cried a few times, but not the sobbing kind…just quiet tears.  I wish I had been more in tune with my children.  I felt “far away”.  We just kept doing the next thing, trying not to think about what we were going to do tomorrow.

The men were out, cutting trees from the inside out so emergency vehicles could get in.

Our friends and church family began calling Aaron’s cell phone.  He told them, “There’s no way you can’t get in here. Don’t even try.”

Several hours into the night, maybe around 3 a.m., Jeff, a familiar face walked in.  We couldn’t believe it.  Friends and our church family had cut their way in and walked for miles on foot to reach us. Several others were at the Lees assisting them. I had asked several times, “Who is with Sherry?” I was so relieved when I knew women were with her.

All through the night people showed up bringing supplies–water, food, diapers, blankets–it was a really cool night and I remember how thankful I was for our friend who brought blankets and tenderly covered Avi who was shivering beside me.

There is something very humbling about being instantly destitute…that’s what we were.  We had nothing at the moment.  We were completely dependent on other people for everything…even our survival. And just when we needed other people the most, they were there, like an army rising up, to take care of us.

As dawn broke, the irony would parallel our lives at that moment…the welcomed light would brutally reveal what the night had hidden.  Tears slipped down my face again…barely able to see out the windows for all the fallen trees, where I did look was unrecognizable.  The breath-taking beauty of our whole valley demolished. Ugliness, complete loss of everything familiar that was home, and the deep sadness over our friend, Tom…there were emotions from every side.

And I feared to hear of more death.  I knew we would.

We would soon learn that our next door neighbors all died except for a son who was at work. Kevin Isbell , who suffered the largest cluster of fatalities, would come home, climb his way in the darkness through the valley for four miles until he reached his home.  There he found his wife, his daughter and his father dead.  There were also four elderly people living with them (assisted living) who perished as well.

The neighbor where we pick blueberries every summer lost everything he had including his son and daughter-in-law who lived next door, leaving behind 3 injured teen-aged girls.

Thirteen people lost their lives in our neighborhood.

More people flooded in as soon as the roads were clear. Many friends, neighbors, even some out of state arrived by morning.  It would have met the rising hope in my heart if The Hallelujah Chorus had started playing instantaneously when I walked outside that morning. It was like the Calvary coming in the valley from every direction and it didn’t stop.

The children and I went to an elder’s house that morning. The whole day was a whirlwind of phone calls, decisions and just taking care of basics like finding clothes for everybody.  But the flood of encouragement–people showing up at the door with money or supplies, people calling to tell me about the funds on-line that had been set up–the Lord ministered to us so much in those first hours through the love of so many.  It was like His arms around me whispering, “It’s going to be OK.  I’m not surprised by this and I’m walking with you.”

A gracious friend of my parents has let us stay in his lake house.  It is really small, around 1000 sq. ft., but it has a huge screened-in porch and a large, beautiful lake lot.  We are learning a lot about bonding in a new way 😉 We are making plans to rebuild and hope to be in our home by Christmas.

I am working my way through the emotional roller coaster of postpartum days married with a life turned upside down.

It’s getting better. I have dealt with what felt like a “childhood stage” where I didn’t want my husband to leave and felt angry about it.  I have tried to recapture some of our routine and schedule but it has been really hard to do in a place that isn’t home. I’m sure the acceptance of a “new normal” will come. In the meantime, I would covet your prayers for grace, strength and a serenity of spirit.

Below are some random photos of our “new life”.

Our temporary home–thank you Mr. Wilcut!  The house is small, but cozy and serene.  You are looking at the main area with two bedrooms and a bath on the right.  I didn’t want to be in this picture…but it’s the only one we have this tidy 😉 I thought smaller spaces were easier to keep picked up…mmm, not so much.

We get to enjoy a beautiful lake lot.  Such a balm to our eyes and souls on days we return from the scalped place where our home was.

Bria at her favorite place….the lake.  Beauty in our surroundings is necessary to a woman’s soul.  Much more than I ever dreamed until now.

Avi and Brooks

We don’t have a bath tub.  But boy do we have a stock pile of Rubbermaid tubs that have come in handy more than a time or two 😉  Don’t worry, we DO have a shower, she just hasn’t learned to take one yet.

Preparing to roast marshmallows in the late evening.

Thank you for peeking into this, the journaling of our experience.  There are many more things I could say, but will save for later.  When all is said and done, we continue to praise God for His protection, his grace–showered even on those of our friends who have lost loved ones.  And I thank Him for YOU. You have poured out your love in so many ways it is unfathomable.  I thank Him for the love of Christ and the way that love exudes from His church, the Body. I thank Him for knowing my frame and my weaknesses and not holding that against me. I thank Him that we feel His presence the very most in the darkest of storms…that He never leaves us or forsakes us.

(Regarding the family picture that mistakenly ended up in the video twice…it is our last family picture in front of our home, Easter Sunday.  Post-baby swelling–does this happen to anyone else?  And Jax is not in a dress 😉  It’s his baptismal gown.)

 Storm Strikes Again–2013

41 Responses to “Beauty for Ashes on April 27: The Conclusion”

  1. Emily says:

    Thank you Kelly for sharing with us. Thank for allowing us to see God at work. Thank you for bearing His cross and doing it with such grace and hope. It has been amazing to witness your family and the Lee family go through such trial and hardship and to see and hear you sing praise to the Lord and say to God be the glory. It has been such a testimony to so many and I am continually moved to tears when I pray for you all. We love you so much and continue to pray for you all daily. I pray that one day we may get together again. Tell Bria that mom and I said hi and her inside beauty makes her outside beauty twice as amazing. : )

    Much love,
    Emily

  2. Kelly L says:

    Still, still, still praying. Through all this, you have revealed a beautiful testimony of a heart that trusts God in ALL things. I am sure you’ve had moments, but you’ve discarded them and instead built a fortress of faith around your family. It is so beautiful. Although I pray that God forbid this type of thing would ever happen to us, I hope we would exude the same heart I have seen in you through this.
    Although I would have liked to be with those that got to bless you financially, I am remembering you in prayers. We have 1 missionary and 1 prodigal (not ours) living with us and it is a little harder. Your story has actually helped me keep a good perspective. AKA: I just shut up now….
    Love to you and yours!

  3. Sarah says:

    Wow, how sudden life can change! I’ve been following your blog for a while and am always blessed, encouraged, and inspired by the words of wisdom you share! Thank you for letting others have a glimpse into your family, you are a bright light for the Lord! It is wonderful to see even in the mist of such hardship your faith and trust in the Lord. I will be Keeping you and your family in my prayers!

    Blessings,
    Sarah

  4. Ann says:

    Continuing to pray for your family, neighbours and friends. I have so appreciated these beauty for ashes posts – they speak to me so much of who God is and how He works through His people. In the video what touched my heart was the scene of the teacups – teacups and tornadoes, not what you usually associate together! And not just any cups but beautiful china teacups set out upon on a table – a stunning reminder that in the ‘midst of affliction your table is spread.’ May God continue to pour out His love at this time and fill your cup till it runneth over and overflows once more.

  5. Precious, precious faith. Praying . . .

  6. Mrs. Santos says:

    Thank you for sharing your story with us and for your transparency. When one member suffers we all suffer, when one member rejoices we all rejoice. If you only knew how this has brought your family into our home. We talk about you and pray for you as if we knew you personally “Kelly says,” or “At the Crawford’s house,” etc.

    You are in our hearts and prayers.

  7. Kristen says:

    Kelly, you have such a poignant way of writing. Thank you so much for sharing this!

  8. Kate says:

    Grace and strength for you, your family, and your community. May you find peace and healing.

  9. Kathy says:

    Thank you for sharing your journey with us, Kelly.
    Your family has come to mean a lot to me, even though I have never met you. You inspire me. Your faithfulness towards God is beautiful. May God bless you and your family even more!

  10. Heidi says:

    Still praying for your family..Blessings, Heidi

  11. Jill Farris says:

    Thank you for sharing and for the beautiful song. I am so sorry that so many of your neighbors lost their lives. We are praying for you as you walk through this devastation and sorrow for others at the same time. I know your emotions and mind must still be reeling…plus you just had a baby.

    May you find many blessings in living in a small home even with the frustrations and adjustments. Your children will grow up to testify about this time and how they saw Christ made perfect in your weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). God will use it for great good.

    Jill Farris

  12. Renata says:

    Thank you for sharing & for your witness. We will continue to pray for you all.
    The song on that video was just beautiful – it spoke to my heart – thank you.
    Renata:)

  13. Thank you so much for sharing your walk through destruction and God’s grace with us. Video presentation was amazing and I think, especially the photos with your parents. How hard it must be for them to see their life work in this condition, but how much they much rejoice to turn and see you and your beautiful children alive and well…their true life’s work!!

    My own daughter’s home was destroyed in the early morning hours of April 27th so this is pretty personal for me. We praise God that her husband had taken her and the nursing babe to Memphis for an overnight birthday trip and the two little boys were overnighting it with his parents. How merciful God was to us!! While they lost so much as did so very many, their very lives were spared. We can say that God is indeed good and will indeed bring beauty from ashes. They were able to move into a FEMA trailer just last week and will now begin to contemplate what God would have them do. They have been surrounded with so much love and support that they in turn have been able to help others. In fact, I have a couple of hundred dollars my daughter left with me to send to the Lee family. As her husband is the oldest of 13 the video of Jordan Lee particularly touched her.

    Praying that God continues to bless you all with strength and dignity as you endeavor to piece your lives back in order. Bless you!!

  14. Corri says:

    I have been awed and amazed by the experiences you have shared with us. Thanking the Lord the safety of your family and praying daily for those who were not as fortunate. This is the second time a tornado has missed our home by less than a mile, and stories like yours break my heart, knowing that nature shows no partiality when causing destruction. But, all things work for good for those who love the Lord, and I know that you are taking this situation and turning it for the positive. Much love to you.

  15. Joy H says:

    *tears* That video was so very touching, Kelly. That song was perfect for it.(Who is singing?) My heart breaks for your family and your neighbors & the Lees. Praying for you all…

  16. Thank you for sharing your story. I’ve cried with each post. God is good to give you a place on the lake to stay …and the rubbermaid buckets to boot! Our prayers will be as you asked for grace,strength and a serenity of spirit.

  17. Nikki says:

    Wow! I knew you went through challenges, but the details never occurred to me. I hope you write a book about this experience some day. You are a truly gifted storyteller and your faith encourages and inspires many! My heart aches and grieves for those around you who lost loved ones, especially the Lees and Kevin. Continued prayers for you as you learn to live your new normal. I can’t wait to see your new place. I bet it will be like a bright, beautiful Spring day!

  18. Kim Ann says:

    My heart broke again for you all as I read this newest post, Kelly.
    The description of all that your family and neighbors have gone through would be unbearable to experience if you didn’t have the Lord to cling to. I am so thankful that you are feeling His presence in a mighty way and His help during your great time of need.

    I didn’t know there were other deaths in your neighborhood besides Mr. Lee. I am surprised at myself for imagining he was the only one.
    I am so sorry for all of those who not only lost their homes, but lost friends and loved ones, as well.

    I am continuing to pray for you, as well as your family, dear sister.

  19. jenny says:

    I almost like your new home better, sorry! What I mean to say is that it looks beautiful, relaxing and a place to heal. Your kiddos are on missionary training right now, seeing what they can live without and making do with what they have…………as always, God bless you abundantly!

    • Word Warrior says:

      Jenny,

      You are right…it is a relaxing place and we do feel healing taking place. I forgot to mention also that the man who owns the home, who lives just up the drive is an older, wonderful Christian man and he has “fallen in love” with my children as we have him. He drops by to visit almost every day, or walks them to the lake and we have him over for dinner. One more blessing God has tucked into our lives.

  20. Tiffany says:

    So heartbreaking but oh such a beautiful testimony you have. Thanks for sharing this. I am so glad my husband came to help over a month ago because this whole thing has blessed my family more than we could ever bless yours. I look forward to meeting you in person. God bless you and many prayers are still being said for you,your family,and all those affected.

  21. Lisa Ente says:

    oh kelly. it is almost too much – but i know that God is bigger than the storms.

    i was 10 days postpartum with my little baby Samuel when the twin towers went down. actually, my due date with him was september 11! i just happened to go early. we lived in westchester county at the time, less than an hour north of the city. we were living within commuting distance and it seemed like everyone knew someone that died that day. everywhere you went, people were completely shell-shocked and grieving.

    and i remember being afraid and not wanting my husband to leave, even to go to work. you just feel so vulnerable with a newborn, with not even an established feeding schedule. and yet when i look back, that was one of the times of my life when i most felt the presence of Christ in such a real and palpable way.

    you are all still in my prayers and weighing on my heart. it helps that you are my homepage 🙂 i will look forward to seeing the REBUILDING pictures!!!! i wish i could be there to help!

  22. Milah says:

    You are an inspiration to so many people. May God continue to comfort and protect you and your family. Thank you for sharing your story, I plan to pass it on thru facebook and my blog.
    Blessings! Milah

  23. Wendy says:

    You have such a wonderful way with words! I pray that I may be as strong a Christian, when trials come my way, and learn from what you have written. We continue to think of your family and pray for patience as you travel along this path.
    I like the cosy-ness of the cottage on the lake! Perfect for rebuilding family life and spending time together, thanking the Lord, that you were all safe!

  24. Just wanted to stop by to say that I’ve been keeping up on reading your posts, but haven’t had a chance to comment. Thank you for letting us have a glimpse of your life right now. Our family is praying for you and yours. **hugs**

  25. jen in AL says:

    love to each of you. such a blessing to read of the goodness of the Lord. you are right. His Body is here and we are not going anywhere. Loved the picture of you all and Jax looks boyishly adorable!!! Love babies in baby gowns! such a blink of an eye that they can where them! so thankful you all are surrounded by beauty and safe. continuing to pray over you all. hugs and blessings, jen

  26. rosie says:

    Hi Kelly, I can’t even find the right words to express how much your testimony has touched my heart. I am grateful that you have been able to share so much of what your family and others have been through. Throughout it all God seems to have given you a measure of grace and strength to hold onto Him and press on and at the same time through your words, encourage others. Thank you so much for sharing, and know that I am keeping you and your family in my prayers.

  27. 6 arrows says:

    *tears*

  28. Joyfull says:

    Here is a really awesome blog post about difficult times. I thought it might be an encouragement to you or to some of your readers.

    http://www.courageoushomekeeping.com/featured/god-will-never-give-you-more-than-you-can-handle/

  29. Laura says:

    Kelly, thank you for sharing your story. God is going to do mighty and glorious things through this, your testimony, your story. We belong to the same denomination as your family and our church is lifting all of you up in prayer. Praying for you.

  30. Margaret says:

    I am so glad you are sharing your story! I’m sure it’s cathartic for you to write it down, but it’s also good for us to read.

    I think one of the most wonderful things that is a thread through your whole experience is how you and your church are walking out what you believe. That is a hard thing to do when theory become reality, so all the more wonderful that it is happening. If every small church and community could take care of those in their midst who have been devastated, in the way that is happening in your church/community, it would be a very different world.

  31. Thank you for sharing so much of this change in your life with us, Kelly. It is a new normal that you are finding!

  32. Debbie says:

    I am still praying for your family… Your presentation of God is beautiful… How are you and the baby doing? prayers.

  33. Jenny says:

    Kelly, this slideshow is beautiful. We had a major flood once and so can relate just a little to the aftermath and starting fresh. May the Lord continue to strengthen you and richly shine His beauty upon you!

  34. AnneJisca says:

    I just read your story. I heard about the loss of your home (and the Lees’ lost) shortly after the storm, but just came across your story now. Thank you for sharing it with us. My family lost our home to a fire when I was 15. I remember it like it was yesterday! It was hard, it took years to really “recover” in terms of material belongings. Yet God blessed us abundantly! Our faith grew as a family, and we saw God’s love through the help of countless others. I am so sorry you had to go through this. Praise God that beauty comes from ashes! May God continue to provide for all your needs, as I’m sure you are still dealing with a lot.

  35. […] Beauty for Ashes on April 27 Conclusion […]

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