On a frigid Tuesday, 9 years ago today, wearing masks and gloves, we entered into our house in Maine after it had been flooded with raw, untreated sewage from a town back up three days prior. In an odd twist of fortune (or misfortune), we were away from our home when the backup occurred due to our furnace catching on fire the Friday prior. We were crashing with friends for the weekend, waiting for the chimney and furnace to be repaired before returning.
Yes!!! That’s a house fire AND a flood in one week
Good times. Goooooood timezzz.
Due to the severity of the flood and the amount of time the sewage sat in our home unnoticed, we were forced to toss almost everything; about 90% of all we owned was ruined.
I’ll never forget walking into my home that Tuesday with my sister-in-law holding my hand as I cried…all the while an emotionally constipated town official stood close by taking notes. We said little but gagged till additional salty tears ran. The stench and site of sewage on all we called ours was unfathomable. Photos, clothing, baby toys, Christmas decor, and furniture were all floating with wet discolored toilet paper and other flushed foulness.
All day for two days, with help from professional clean-up crews and a ton of support from friends, we took our sewage-stained personal belongs, tossed them outside onto the snow-covered lawn, and waited for disposal trucks to cart it all away.
Insurance said good luck, (FYI: Policies don’t cover this type of thing), local disaster relief funds said it wasn’t a disaster of natural causes, and the town quickly side-stepped any liability by calling in the legal big dogs to “fix” and cover up anything of personal consequence. We were left to start completely over.
So, that’s what we did.
We learned who our friends were.
OUR people showed up.
We experienced community.
They let us borrow.
They held our hands and cried.
We lived in 4 different places over 5 months. We slept on floors, in bunk beds, a trailer, a lake home, and guest rooms. For real.
All 5 of us.
Also, a dog.
Caden was 6, Sofia 4, and Sy a baby. They, too, lost everything but what we had taken with us the weekend before.
Their blankies, lovies, and favorite cups…gone. No toys were salvaged-not a single one.
Not a photo of any of my babies or our wedding album survived.
Handprints, footprints, medicine, concert stubs, Bibles, jackets and journals….
Computers, certificates, heirlooms, beds, homeschool books and supplies, pantry food and spices, shoes, and underwear….
As hard as the following months were, I wouldn’t trade them for much. I learned how to fight for what mattered and forget what didn’t. I found beauty in secondhand and thrifted. We learned how to receive handouts and get by with very little. We thrived on simplicity, determination and humility.
Not ironically, the ark we built in 2008 helped us stay afloat in 2009, 2011, and 2016 when other unexpected challenges and loss came crashing our way.
It’s rare I miss what we lost. It’s often I rely now on what portion God became to me in that chaos.
I know for certain, that God stepped in the mess and began weaving a warm blanket from the few threads we had left. He was truth when I didn’t want his love and consistency when I wasn’t ready for truth. We didn’t cling to our faith, our faith clung to us. We are told in the Bible that enduring has a way of growing hope. Though infantile…my little tiny tree sapling of hope would agree.
I pray what we came to know and realize is always available for encouraging others a few feet behind us. And you.
I find the calluses caused by the rebuilding, rewriting, and remembering “life” to be attractive. Can’t you?
It’s the fine lines of a satisfied life after she spent her many years choosing to smile.
It’s soft, supple worn leather and creaky wide plank wooden floors; scarred and full of stories.
It’s a baby’s rough, worn, fat knees when they’re crawling and committed to exploring.
Life’s frayed edges are my favorite to recall and discover; it’s when I’m reminded what we are created for; so much MORE than we realize.
What say you?
How has your endurance grown when your faith was tested?
Have you ever felt like you were ONLY enduring?
Have you ever felt hopeless?
I’m praying 2017 is full of hope and restoration for most of us. Cheers to community and remembering a past that makes you brave for your future.