Sunday, November 07, 2004

It was the best of times. . .

It was the worst of time. . .

It was the time of God's amazing provision. . .

It was the time of incredible loss. . .

. . . And today, I'm feeling a little whiny about the whole thing and think I may give into those feelings a bit. But, I have made a compromise with myself. For though I may whine for awhile, I shall also recall my blessings.

It has been a tough couple of weeks. There is no way around it. I have been required to focus for hours at a time on our losses to compile a list for the insurance company. The process is grueling and depressing, but must be done and done quickly. Additionally, we had to clean out the house and we all had to let go of the treasures we'd collected, sometimes from childhood. They were unceremoniously flung into a pile at the curb, so a truck fitted with a giant claw could crush and devour and haul them away forever.

I had one of my toughest moments last Saturday when I had to unzip the bag containing my wedding dress, confirm that it was moldy and set it out as garbage. I had always dreamed that one day my daughter might wear that beautiful dress on her own special day. I lost that dream last Saturday. And it felt like a piece of me died. Tears stream down my face even now as I relive those moments. . .

I think it is harder to lose our dreams than anything else. . .

But, on the good side, the truck also picked up the very heavy remains of someone's home.

It was amazing to see the window in the wall as the claw lifted it into the air.

We had been concerned about whether we would be able to get that out of our yard.

In addition to having no insurance coverage for contents under our flood policy, we apparently have no coverage for cleaning up the mess caused by the storm either. And we certainly have no money to pay to have it done. But God is so faithful and His provision is wonderful. Yesterday, (and last week too) a group of people from our church showed up at our house to help us with the work! Wow! That these people, some with their own damage, would spend days at our home helping us, is an indescribable blessing! Yesterday, one of the guys even brought a bobcat!

I don't think he liked our azaleas though. . .

Another real challenge we've faced these last couple of weeks is looting. We have no real storage at the cottage in which we are staying so some of the salvageable things from our home had to be left. Well, the looters have been in our home discovering our hiding places. We have had 3 or 4 different looting episodes.

We have so little left and it is agonizing to watch that little bit be stolen. One time, someone stole our nice dolly and all of our shovels - the tools we were using at the house to dig out. Then Kurt lost some of his new tools and the front door he set aside to be re-used. But yesterday, for me, was the worst. Of of the things we enjoy most as a family are our bike rides. We ride on the path on the beach. The kids and I ride around the neighborhood or down to the pier to watch the sunset. We were glad that our bicycles were hanging up in the garage and probably salvageable. But since there was no place for them at the cottage, we had to leave them at the house. Yesterday we found they had been stolen. At least $1,000 worth of bicycles are gone. Another loss in so short a time. It felt like another door closing, closing on all of the fun family outings we might have otherwise had in our future. And with our camping equipment all gone too, I feel that all we have left to do as a family is watch television. Not exactly my dream of fun family times.

I'm having an identity crises. Who are we? We used to be a family living in a nice home in a nice neighborhood who enjoyed camping, going to the beach and bike riding. Now, none of that is left to us. (The beaches are still a mess and are dangerous.)

But on the bright side, I was able to pick up my knitting again on election night and do something I really enjoy. I think I have been having my own identity crises having lost so many of the tools and materials for the crafts and activities I love. But I am still a knitter! And I am close to finishing the wool socks I am knitting for myself!

As we clean out the house, we have been pulling out those things we think we might be able to save.

For the most part we have been able to save a few books and some dishes. We have had high hopes for a few other things, but most of the time once we get them to the cottage and start the salvage work, we realize things cannot be saved. And we lose those things all over again. There is just too much loss in my life right now. I know that one day it will all be over and that God's grace is sufficient, but this is a difficult season. Many days I have the peace and joy God gives which goes beyond all understanding. But I will confess, there are plenty of days when I just want to scream.

With all of the help God has sent to us these last two weekends, our house has undergone an "Extreme Make-over."

Walking in the front door, you can see Elmo, battered and rusted standing guard over the living room.

To the right of the living room is my "office." You can see right through into the pantry, then into the garage and then outside. This is our version of flow-through living space.

Looking through the dining room into the laundry room you can see one of the blessed men who came to our aid. He is sweeping out the laundry room.

Looking at my bedroom, I made a decision. If I visit one more person and she tells me her home is a wreck and it doesn't look like this, I really am going to scream. Now watch, having made this commitment, 20 years hence when all this is buried in our past and relived only in our nightmares, we will be invited to someone's house for dinner. . .

To dig out the lanai, our helpers used pitch forks! I didn't know anyone still owned pitch forks. What a handy tool when one lives in a hurricane zone.

Though I have always been able to come up with great excuses for not working out, I have really excelled this time. My gym is rusted! But just being able to get to it is amazing. I can't believe what one can do with a pitch fork and some hard work.

I have always thought it would be nice to open up the outer wall in our guest room and build a screened in patio off the back wall.

So close.

From the guest bedroom looking down the hall towards Gregory's room, you can see a couple of places where we lost the ceiling due to recent rain. We never did get our blue roof - or the FEMA trailer - for which we signed up a few weeks ago.

Another confession. The three closets to the left contain the soggy and probably moldy remains of my yarn, my sewing fabric and materials, and my fiber and materials. I have refused to allow anyone to clean out those closets thus far. I cannot let go. Sigh. I keep hoping we get water to the property so that I can try to clean out some of this stuff. I thought if we just got that FEMA trailer delivered, I might be able to save something. I did let go of the yarn though yesterday. It was pretty bad. I saved a little bit of it, but not much.

It is hard to believe how much smaller our house looks without walls. It is funny, when you take down the top of a wall, it makes a room look bigger. But when you remove the bottom of a wall, it looks smaller. Look how small Gabrielle's room looks.

I have a hard time getting anything done at the house. I have to keep track of the children who have lost all sense of boundaries with the loss of fences and walls on our property. But that aside, I seem to work for awhile and then find myself wandering, and looking and poking at the piles. But my husband on the other hand is wonderful. He works so hard and gets so much done.

Here is Kurt tearing down the walls in the hallway, Gregory's room to the left and the kids' bathroom. He is an amazing man and has been such a rock for me.

My flower garden needs a little work. I think the pond is so stinky no one wants to get too close to it. I may have to do this area myself. Yuck!

The kids' swing set sure looks good. A few bolts, some new tarps, a little, well a lot of cleaning and it will look good. But their trampoline didn't fare so well.

And as for my beloved magnolia tree. . .

It's not looking too good either. . . This is the tree that had split in two from the top down. Mark Stanton helped us get the bad part off when we first returned home. But the remaining part looks like it may not make it.

With all the looting going on, it is funny when stuff that doesn't belong to us shows up.

To whom does that table belong? I'm sure we never had anything like that before. However, one of the strangest things we've found is a sign from Pensacola Beach.

To the south of us is a wooded area and then a waterfront house. The "water" on which this house sits is the Santa Rosa Sound. Across the Sound is Pensacola Beach. On the south side of Pensacola Beach, which is the Gulf side, was a large parking lot for beach goers. I think that parking lot was once the home to this handicap parking sign.

After awhile yesterday, the kids started running around a bit too much. So I took them grocery shopping at our Wal-Mart in Gulf Breeze. (As compared to the Wal-Mart by the cottage which will never be ours.) When we finished our shopping, we stopped back by the house to look at the progress.

How many times have we returned home at the end of the day glad to finally be able to rest. This homecoming was so different. We weren't home. I don't know if we will ever be home there again. We may not have enough insurance. . . After everything, this may be the best our home will ever look again. . . But dreams die hard and we cling to hope. . . and to the possibility that there may still be miracles in our future.

A bobcat is an amazing thing. I haven't seen grass at our house in so long, well unless you count what was growing in the house and that turned out to be our whole wheat sprouting.

And the back yard has grass too. Where is the lawn mower when you need it?

With the fence down, it is almost like having a swimming pool of our own.

A friend stopped by as we were looking around so when I finished taking my pictures, the sun was setting.

As the sun set on my magnolia tree I could not help but wonder what other "endings" we would have to face. The end of the day. The end of our neighborhood. The end of our home. The end of our possessions. The end of many dreams. The end of life as we knew it.

Jeremiah 29:11 reminds me that God says He knows the plans He has for me. Plans for good and not evil, plans to give me a hope and a future.

But looking around my neighborhood,

seeing my neighbors' possessions in their yards and in the street to the east

and to the west seeing modern day dragons in the form of construction vehicles fat with booty collected from my dying neighborhood . . .

. . . I could not help but feel lost.

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