Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Friday, May 27, 2011


Saturday, May 21, 2011 my son graduated from high school! We participated in the Indiana statewide homeschool graduation ceremony.

After sixteen years of homeschooling, we are closing that chapter of our lives. Home education was definitely the right choice for our family. I am so thankful for the opportunity and privilege that we had to spend these last sixteen years together, learning at home.

                                                                       My precious children, Joshua and Jamie

Congratulations Joshua!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Stacy's Story and God's Amazing Grace

Wednesday, while we were driving around the block where my family lived, my sister saw a neighbor, (Stacy), standing in her yard. She wanted to stop and check on her. Along with her home, Stacy had lost her dog in the tornado and Diane wanted to see if they had found it.

There was so much devastation on the street in front of Stacy's house, and I walked around taking pictures while Diane talked to her friend.

This tree was down in front of Stacy's house. Just to give perspective, my son is 6 feet tall.

After I finished taking a few pictures, I joined them in their conversation. I am so glad I did! Stacy had an incredible story to tell!

Stacy and her family took shelter in the bathroom during the storm. As the tornado passed over, peeling the roof from their home, she felt the house lift off of the foundation. She asked God to please put it back down.  Immediately, it went back down. (All around her, homes are gone from their foundations, and her late aunt's mobile home that was in her back yard, a few feet from her home, completely disappeared.)

She took us in to what was left of her home. The floor was squishy from the rain and covered with debris. I was afraid to walk on it because I wasn't sure it would hold us up. Stacy wanted to show us her bathroom while she recalled what happened during the storm.

While her family was huddled in the bathroom, a 2x4 shot through the roof. Stacy was praying her heart out, the louder the storm got the louder she got. Her Bible had been in another room in her house, as the tornado passed over, it picked up her Bible and tossed it through the opening in the roof. It landed undamaged on the bathroom counter!

After the storm passed, (I'm not exactly sure of the time frame), a neighbor that had never spoken to her came over and told her that he had heard her praying during the storm. He apologized for being a bad neighbor and told her that God wanted him to give her some money. He gave her $100!

Stacy's husband has cancer and is going through treatments. Their home was not insured and they pretty much lost everything. The one material possession that Stacy cherished was a trunk that held treasured memories of her child that had died. There was no damage to the trunk or the treasured contents! 

As we stood there and listened to Stacy recount her harrowing story, she told us that none of the material possessions mattered to her, she was just thankful they were all alive.  She teared up and said the one thing she grieved over was her beloved boxer that they had found dead and had buried that day.

We walked back outside to listen to Stacy play herself singing Amazing Grace, (my sister had asked to listen to it). She has a gorgeous voice! As the song was playing she told us that she was singing Amazing Grace in her hotel room when another tornado victim knocked on her door and asked if she could come in and sit on her bed and listen to her sing. She told Stacy that people were coming out of their rooms and were just standing silently in the hall listening to her sing.

Beside Stacy's house.

After losing everything and seeing the devastating destruction and death all around her, Stacy could still sing Amazing Grace! I was so blessed hearing that.

While we were standing there talking, a fire truck pulled up. The firemen got out and walked over to Stacy's husband. They had been doing medical checks in the neighborhood, so I figured that was what they wanted. A few seconds later Stacy's son came running over and very excitedly said that they had a one year old boxer that needed a home. They asked them if they wanted it! We took that opportunity to leave so she could talk to the firemen to let them know that she indeed wanted the dog.

I would love to know if they already knew that she had lost her boxer, or if they were just asking families that they saw. Either way, it was a blessing to know that the one thing she was grieving over, God had provided. I am so thankful to have witnessed that special moment for Stacy and her family!

Stacy's house

Please pray for them. I can't imagine losing a child, dealing with my husbands cancer, losing my home and all of my possessions and not having insurance. It seems almost too much to bear, but not to Stacy. She had such peace; I know it is only because of God's Amazing Grace!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Miracle Among Many Miracles

The tornado hit Tuscaloosa on Wednesday, April 27; my husband, son and I arrived in town the following Sunday. In the hardest hit areas the roads were still closed to non-residents. The police and national guard were at checkpoints and you had to show your drivers license to enter those areas. I had access to the Holt area because my sister was with me.

My first cousin lived in the Alberta area, which was also devastated by the tornado. I was very concerned about them and could not reach them for several days. I was finally able to get in touch with their son, who told me that they were fine, but their home was gone. I wanted to see them before I left and on Wednesday, one week after the tornado, we were barely able to make our way through the back streets to get to their neighborhood.

We had trouble finding their house due to the mass destruction. All of our usual landmarks were destroyed and street signs were down.

We finally made our way there and this is what we saw:

There is no house at all! It is completely gone! The sand is where the front porch was.

Thankfully they had a basement and the four of them, along with some neighbors, were in it. Unfortunately, with the magnitude of this storm, the basement almost proved to be insufficient shelter.

They hid in the closet, but the tornado ripped the walls apart, the door blew in on their niece and the cinder blocks came crashing in on them. They are all fine but a few of them are bruised from the blocks. It truly is a miracle that they survived unharmed! Can you imagine what they must have experienced as that tornado passed over them?

This is the view from the back of the house. My cousin's husband and my sister are standing where the porch was.

This is the view from the porch area looking down to the basement.

Debris and the stairs in the basement.

Their neighborhood.

You can see the path of the tornado as it headed in to the Holt community.

Another view of their neighbor's homes.

This is an apartment complex, just down the road at the end of the block. It is sad that many people lost their lives in this storm but it could have been so much worse. The mayor of Tuscaloosa said, "I don't know how anyone survived". There are so many miracle stories. I am thankful that my cousin and her family survived and that they  have one of those stories to share! They are doing well and have a nice place to live until their home is rebuilt.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Diane, My Number One Hero

My number one personal hero is my sister, Diane.

Even though her own home was in shambles from the tornado and she had just tasted death. She did what she always does, try to help others. She truly has a unique heart of compassion.

After the storm passed, she and her husband immediately started rescuing people from the rubble. The tornado had lifted her home and roof and there was significant structural damage but her home was one of the few with a roof and still intact.

The majority of the neighborhood was completely destroyed.

Those who survived were in shock, the smell of gas was in the air and people were afraid. They began walking, many of them barefoot stepping on glass and rubble. Diane's home was the first one up the street that was somewhat safe. She invited people inside to take refuge until help arrived.

There were people who were injured and because of the downed trees and debris in the street it was several hours before first responders could get through.

Someone showed up and offered to take the injured on his four wheeler across a field to help them reach the ambulances.

In all of this chaos, my sister actually made a stranger a sandwich! She pulled bloody socks off of someone and gave them cleaner socks to wear. In her own debris, she tried to find shoes for people to wear.

While I was there, she kept wanting to go and volunteer to help other people. Since she didn't have transportation and there was a waiting list for rental cars, I kept telling her that I would feel better knowing that she had what she needed before I left town. She is selfless that way, always sacrificing for others.

She is my hero. I love her and I am so thankful that God spared her life that day!

My Personal Heroes- Part Two

Seeing the generosity and the spirit of volunteerism in the city of Tuscaloosa has warmed my heart and restored my faith in mankind. I am so thankful that I was there for a few days to see it for myself!

Since the tornado, my family has had no, (or very limited), Internet access and they are busy rebuilding their lives so I want to tell these stories for them. I also need to tell them for myself so that I won't ever forget how good God was to my family to keep them from harm and to meet their needs.

Wednesday evening, several hours after the tornado, the sheriffs department finally got into the neighborhood and told everyone to leave.

                         This truck is just a few houses away from my sister's house.

Most people had to walk out of the neighborhood, (many were barefoot), because just about every car was destroyed. A few people were able to drive their damaged cars with windshields broken. There was so much debris, my sister said she didn't know how they got out of the neighborhood.

For three days after the tornado my sister,(Diane), and brother-in-law,(Jack), stayed with Jack's cousin, Lisa.

Lisa's mom and dad lived across the street from Diane and Jack and they also lost their home. Lisa had sixteen people in her home after the tornado. I was so relieved to know that Diane and Jack had a place to stay for a few days until they could find a place to live. I think Lisa is a saint for taking care of and feeding so many people in her home. She is my hero!

On Saturday, Jack's boss let them move in to an empty condo in a small condo community that he owns. Before they moved in the boss and his wife bought groceries for them and stocked their cabinets with food.

Someone let them borrow air mattresses and Jack's cousin gave them a kitchen table, but they had nothing else. The day that they took possession of the condo, the neighbors came bringing blankets, pillows and quilts. They were invited to a cookout at a neighbor's home. One neighbor offered to wash their clothes. All of the neighbors have been amazing to Diane and Jack, but there is a very special angel of mercy in their midst. Her name is Hannah and she is twenty-four years old.

She was the one having the cookout and she washed their clothes. On Monday, Diane and I were unpacking and cleaning some of their household items that were salvageable, Hannah showed up at the door and said she had a few things for them. She had been shopping. She had clothes, underwear, cookware, flatware, Rubbermaid food storage set, towels, hand towels, washcloths, dish towels- which she washed for them, t.v. antenna (with a purchased one year warranty), I'm sure there were other things that I can't remember. I was so overwhelmed by her generosity, especially at such a young age, I was in tears. She also invited us to supper.

That evening seven of us, (Diane, Jack, two friends who came from Dalton, GA, my husband, son and me), showed up at Hannah's home for supper, (two neighbors and two other people affected by the tornado were there too). She, her roommate and a friend served us chicken tetrazzini, salad, rolls, and a beautiful strawberry cake. The meal was delicious! She was so calm and treated us like family. She is quite the story teller and kept us laughing. It was a wonderful evening for all of us. Can you imagine a world filled with Hannahs? I'm sure you can see why Hannah is a personal hero to me. Don't you wish she was your neighbor?

I have one more personal hero to share with you, hopefully tomorrow.

Friday, May 6, 2011

My Personal Heroes- Part One

We've seen the devastating effects of the tornado on the news, but in the midst of the rubble are incredible stories of those who are reaching out and and rallying around the victims of the storm.

All across Tuscaloosa, churches are setting up relief centers to assist the victims with clothing, food, water, tarps, toiletries, baby items and even sunscreen. I've been told by several family members that about every twenty to thirty minutes volunteers would offer them water and food.

My former church, along with another church also had a dessert drive so that they could bless the National Guard troops that are working very long hours in the city. From what I heard, they collected quite an assortment of treats for them.

Many people who were not affected  have been assisting those who were. I was amazed at the people who showed up with chainsaws to remove trees and helped people put tarps or roofing materials on damaged roofs. A lot of people, many of them University of Alabama students, just walked around asking if they could assist with anything.  They helped people move what few belongings could be salvaged. The community didn't wait for the government to step in and offer aid, they took matters into their own hands. It was a beautiful thing to witness.

There are so many heroes and angels of mercy in Tuscaloosa right now, but I have a few personal heroes that I want to tell you about.

My first hero is a manager at my local Walmart. When we decided on Saturday morning to drive to Tuscaloosa on Sunday, I knew that I could not go down empty handed with such great needs. One way or another I had to bring supplies to assist the people there. I didn't have much time or money, but I sent out a plea on a social networking site and we told a few of our neighbors about our trip. I knew that on such short notice not many people could help so I went to Walmart and asked if they could donate supplies for us to take down. I didn't really think they could, but I thought just maybe they would give us a discount. To my utter amazement and joy that precious manager gave us as much water as we could safely carry in our van. She said that she could also give us $30 worth of other merchandise.

I chose baby wipes knowing that many people had no water and could not shower.

(This picture was taken after we had already delivered some of the supplies.)

My local Walmart and that sweet lady, (I would give her name but I don't have permission from her to do so), are my heroes!

My next heroes are the two precious children that I babysit. The girl is six and the boy is five. These two cuties have been near and dear to our hearts for several years.

They wanted to help and used their own birthday money to buy four cases of water. They were so excited to be helping children who had no fresh water to drink. Heroes can come in all sizes.

My neighbors and friends who stepped up on such short notice to bring relief items to my home, one sweet couple even gave a personal contribution to help pay for our gas. All are heroes to me.

There are other personal heroes, but they deserve a post of their own. 

Edit:  I've been thinking about this post and I realize that hero may be a strong word to use for people who do nothing more than donate water and goods. Because the disaster was so devastating and the need so great and because my own family was affected, I used it for lack of a better word. To me a hero is someone who is selfless and goes beyond what is required of them to serve someone else. If people who do nothing more than throw a ball and entertain can be heroes, then surely people who give and serve those in need can be heroes too. I am truly thankful for all that people have done to help and the selfless acts that I have witnessed, especially those who have assisted my own family and their community of Holt.

Missy was Found!

I have just returned from a trip to Tuscaloosa. The devastation there surpasses anything I could have imagined. I thought I was prepared because I had seen so many pictures and news videos, but nothing could have prepared me for the magnitude of the devastation. So many people are dealing with tragedy, it's hard to understand why some people have happy outcomes and others do not.

While my family suffered significantly from the tornado, we have so much to be thankful for. My dad's beloved dog, Missy, was found alive! The tornado struck on Wednesday and every day my dad went through the rubble in his yard looking for her. Friday night he begged God to let him find her alive or at least find her body so he could give her a proper burial.

Saturday a man was driving slowly around the block and my dad thought he saw Missy in the car . I don't know all of the details about the situation even though my dad has told me the story twice. I am assuming  the man must have seen him looking and asked if he had lost a dog. When my dad realized it was his beloved Missy he collapsed to his knees crying. I wish I could have seen that reunion!  My dad has cried both times he has told the story to me.

Missy was found 3/4 of a mile away under a fence piece that was in a large pile of rubble. She didn't have a scratch on her, just a few ticks!

My dad has lost so much in the last year, first my mom and now his home. I am so thankful for this happy ending! It is a small miracle that offers great hope and courage in the face of very difficult times.

I'll be sharing some pictures and stories about my trip to Tuscaloosa over the next few days. Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers for my family during these last few days. Please continue to keep them in your prayers as they rebuild their lives.