Wednesday morning I received a voicemail from a woman named Caroline. Caroline is a chaplain with the Billy Graham Association, working with Samaritan’s Purse in Bastrop for the next three weeks. She was calling to let me know that they had a gift for our family and asked if I could stop by to pick it up. In her voicemail she referred to our property as one having already been “cleared”, past tense. I realized that Samaritan’s Purse must have been out hard at work on Tuesday clearing our concrete foundation. Since I was going to be heading out to Bastrop today anyway to pick up our boys from Mema, I decided to head out to the property early and see how things looked.
When I got there here’s the sight that greeted me…
It was another one of those dramatic moments, seeing the property not just empty of the house, but now even absent of its very foundation. Strange. Since we weren’t the original owners of this house I had never seen the property without a structure or foundation on it. It is starkly different to see a house I once lived in for nearly a decade cleared down to the very earth.
Samaritan’s Purse had certainly done an incredible job of clearing the foundation in short order. It was definitely another blessing for us that they were able to come in at this point in time and do exactly what I needed done so quickly and with such servant-heartedness.
I stared at the debris pile out front. It was pretty amazing to see that huge pile of concrete that resulted from the clearing of the entire foundation. It was a small mountain in itself.
As I’d alluded to in a previous blog post its especially poignant to see this huge pile knowing that it is the last pieces of what was once our first “home”, and that soon they will be hauled away forever. I’m reminded of a scene in the documentary I produced for Concordia University, “Crossing Jordan”, where alum David Goeke picks up a piece of tile from the floor of the oldest building on campus, Kilian Hall, its demolition imminent, and he reflects, “All the feet that have crossed these tiles…” I could say that same thing as I stared at the remains of our concrete foundation. All the feet of family and friends that had crossed that foundation over the past decade, and the stories they represented. Tracy and I moved into this home shortly after getting married. It was the first home we owned. Both of our children spent their early years in this house. Extended family would sometimes come to visit and get away from it all by spending a night or two in the peace of our Bastrop piney woodland home, no matter how small. Holidays, birthdays, and other events were often celebrated on that foundation. Good memories.
When Mema arrived with the boys I watched for Ben and Matthew’s reactions as they jumped out of the car. I quickly realized that they would once again teach me a lesson in letting go. They had no wistful reactions, no sad looks, no concern over the missing foundation. Just the opposite. They were excited. They had a new huge sandbox to play in! While I had looked at the missing foundation and seen a lost home, Ben and Matt looked and saw a new place to play. While I wallowed in the past, they looked ahead to the future. I smiled at my own short-sightedness as they plopped themselves down on the dirt where the house once stood and started playing.
After Mema had left I sat down and let the boys play for awhile, watching them dig in the dirt and run across the acre. It was good for them. The truth of the matter was it was good for me too.
Then we loaded up in the truck. We had one more stop to make before heading back to Austin.
I returned the call to Chaplain Caroline. She told me the Samaritan’s Purse and Billy Graham Association headquarters was stationed at Timberline Church, just a little over a mile from our property. She asked if we could come by so she could give us the gift personally.
As we drove up to the trailer in front of the church property, Caroline came out. She greeted us and I introduced the boys. I told her we had just been to the property and seen the great work that Samaritan’s Purse had done in clearing the foundation and how grateful we were for the blessing of their work.
Then she held up a Bible and opened it. She said this was a gift from the Billy Graham Association to our family. Inside the Bible on one of the opening pages was something special. Each of the members of the Samaritan’s Purse team who had worked on our property had signed their names and written a special note or a Bible verse on the page.
Caroline asked if she could say a prayer with us and we gladly accepted. It was a wonderful prayer of healing for our family.
As the boys and I headed back to Austin I called Tracy and told her the story. I had texted her photos of the property shortly after I had got there. She said it was hard to look at and left her speechless.
As I drove I was reminded of one of the Psalms which says, “My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise!”.
Eight months after the wildfires we remained a family in transition. Some days are harder than others. Yet our hope is always in the Lord. As is our home.