This is amazing grace...

Sunday, May 18, 2014 | | 0 comments
May 20, 2013.  A day that will forever be burned into my memory.  A day that will always be one of remembrance and thankfulness.  Thankfulness that my family was safe.  Remembrance for all that lost their lives that day.

For those of you who don't know me personally, you may have never heard my story.  You may have seen it through Hope Raisers, or you may seen our story on the local news station. But, there is more to our story than just surviving a tornado.  There is a story of change, trials, and grown faith in the Lord.

The morning of May 20 would be just like any other for me.  I woke up, got ready for school, and told my family goodbye.  As I walked out the door I remember thinking that the weather was supposed to get bad, but I was unsure of how bad it would be.  A friend of ours had warned us to be prepared and be weather aware.  I made my morning stop at 7-11 for gas and a drink, talked to my usual cashier and told her to have a great day.  Little did I know, that exact 7-11 would have people perish in their store later that day.

  As I arrived at school, I prepared myself for the last week of the year.  It had been one of the hardest years I had as a teacher, mother and wife.  As I started that year, I would be a new mother.  That brought challenges in and of itself that I wasn't prepared for.  My heart longed to spend my days cuddling my sweet, chunky baby but I was unable to do so due to the fact that my husband was finishing next to last year of his PhD.  In October, my cousin had a psychotic break which would result in the loss of my sweet Aunt.  I would watch my Uncle endure pain and grief that I can't imagine facing at the loss of a spouse and the loss of a child all at the same time.  In November of that same year, we would lose my husband's Grandmother to a long fought battle with dementia.  In March of the following year, my mom's longtime boyfriend would be diagnosed with cancer, and faced many months of chemo, a colostomy bag and numerous surgeries to ensure that his cancer would be gone.  Throughout the year, I still had to manage a home and a classroom, all while not letting my emotions get in the way.  I've never been one to deal with change easily, but this year, the Lord would change that.  I learned so many things about who I am and who I don't want to be.  In my class that year, I would have two particularly special children who would forever change the course of my life.  I was warned prior to school about one child in particular.  One who would challenge my patience, kindness and classroom management.  As the year began, I realized that this particular child only needed to feel loved and have someone to trust.  Many students from my school come from environments that aren't particularly conducive to their well being.  Slowly, I would begin to chisel away at this student's heart, learning so much about who he was.  After learning more about his home life, I found out that his younger brother had been given up for adoption, but remained in his life.  After meeting this family, I was blown away by the Christ like love that they had for him and his family.  They will be an integral part of my story later on. Stay tuned.

The other student that would change me was the single most challenging student I have ever met in my entire teaching career.  He came into my class as a quiet, shy 8 year old.  I would later learn that I was very, very wrong.  After an episode one mooring involving this student and a fellow teacher, I was given some very gruesome details of his short life.  He had endured cancer, missed numerous days of school, had an older brother that is facing life in prison, and a mother who wasn't equipped to be a mother to her many children.  At first, I felt angry that she wouldn't take care of her children.  Mad that she could treat them they way that she did.  Then, as I prayed for them, I realized a very important truth.  She had probably never been trained how to raise a child.  I don't know her story, I will probably never know her story.  Who am I to judge her as a mother? So, from that point forward, I made it my mission to give that baby as much love as I could at school, so that he was full when got home.  He would challenge that mission each day, either by throwing things, cussing at teachers and parents, or just flat out refusing to do things.  After I worked my way into his heart, we had a relationship that I will cherish forever.  He respected me, he trusted me, and he loved me.  Just as much as I loved him.

So, as I said, it had been a tough year.  I was so ready for summer.  I was looking forward to the upcoming 1st birthday of my son.  One that I had been "Pinterest" planning for many months. (don't know you do it too!)  Then, at 2:56 pm, all of those things would come to an abrupt end.

My plan time at school started at 2:05.  It went just like any other day does, me scrambling around to try to get things ready for that busy last week of school.  Then, around 2:30, it started to rain really hard.  I had talked to my team about leaving early so I could beat the bad weather home.  Fortunately, the rain came before I could leave.  A few minutes later, the hail would begin.  I was corresponding with my husband, who assured me that all was okay and he was at home with our son watching the weather.  We have direct TV, so our satellite had gone out with the bad weather.  Around 2:45, the sirens began to go off in OKC.  I knew then that something wasn't right.  A team mate of mine had been texting me telling me that a tornado had been spotted in Newcastle, which isn't too far from Moore.  As I sat with my kids in our designated tornado area, I turned on my tornado app that I had downloaded only days later.  Between the app and the text from my teammate, I quickly realized that this very large tornado was headed straight for Moore.

  I text my husband immediately asking where he was.  Nothing. I waited and called.  Nothing.  Finally, I would receive a text that I will never, ever forget.  "I'm on my way to a storm shelter."  Then, a few minutes later, the tornado hit my neighborhood.  No confirmation that he had made it.  Only that he had left.  I was devasted.  In a state of shock.  I made sure that I got my kids where they needed to be and I left.  I frantically began driving, and the sirens started again.  I prayed out loud on the way home.

"Lord, I don't know what I'm driving home to.  I don't know if I'm even driving to a home.  Wherever I go, whatever happens, please guide me.  Direct my feet, direct my car.  Get me there safely and help me find my family.  "

After talking to family and friends, I kept driving until I found a place to park.  My phone died and there were people everywhere.  Cars everywhere.  As I started walking, I was stopped by a police officer who informed me that I was not going to be going anywhere else.  I needed to go back to my car.  At this point I had already walked about a mile.  So I walked back to my car, and drove to a new spot and got out of my car once again to walk.  As I walked, I tried to stay where no one could see me and tell me to turn back.  Again, praying the whole way.  I finally reached our neighborhood, hopped fences, climbed over debris and realized just what I was walking into.  I stopped and stared at what looked like a war zone.  Like someone dropped a bomb and there was no turning back.  I wanted to stop and cry.  I wanted someone to tell me it would be okay.  But, I was alone.  I walked to the storm shelter to try to find my husband, nothing.  No one was there.  So I started walking to our house.  Then, I walked upon Plaza Towers Elementary.

  As I walked up on the elementary school I will never forget the sounds.  Sirens, crying, and parents screaming for their babies.  I watched in horror as they pulled precious children out of the rubble.  As I stopped and watched, I knew I couldn't walk any further.  I had to turn around a go a different way.  I wouldn't make it walking past the school.  So, I turned around and took a different route.  As I walked towards our house, I saw the most beautiful thing.  My husband.  He was standing in our driveway as our neighbor yelled, there she is! My pace picked up, and I was finally reunited with the one person who I wanted to see more than anyone.  From the front, it appeared that our house would be just fine.  That we got lucky.  When I explained this to my husband, he told me to be prepared to see the rest.  As I walked to the back of the house, I noticed our belongings scattered amongst the field and our backyard.  Then I took it all in.  I looked at every house, everything I owned, out for everyone to see.  Strewn around like trash.  I looked down at my feet, covered in mud and debris.  My favorite leopard print shoes, ruined.  I was covered in my mud up to my hair, my husband dirty from cleaning up.  We went in and begin to salvage what we could fit on our backs and in suitcases.  My sons bottle from that morning laid in the middle of the floor.  His toys broken and wet.  Our entire life was damp, dirty and stained.

After we packed what we could, we began the walk back to a friends parents house to stay the night.  We talked to people on our walk.  We were rained on.  But we had NOTHING.  No umbrella, no jacket, no nothing.  I remember the feeling of no knowing what we were going to do.  How were we going to recover?  How would we get back on our feet.

The days that followed were a whirlwind.  My kids at school would surprise me with the most amazing, selfless gift they could give.  My coworkers worked hard to make sure that we had everything we needed.  My friends and family would come together to ensure that we were safe, fed and happy.  Complete strangers would donate their time, money and gifts to us.  I can't explain how blessed I felt and still continue to feel.  The Lord answered my prayers that muggy afternoon.  He directed my feet well before the tornado.  He took me to a place where I would be forever changed, Tulakes.  He kept me safe, he kept my family safe.  He knew what would happen long before May 20.

I make my share of mistakes.  I learn from some, while others take more time.  This tragic day not only proved to me the love of others, but also the ability to have a great faith in hard times.  I never thought that we would survive.  I never thought we would be where we are today.  I didn't get to give my son his perfectly planned pinterest party, but he received so much more.  The outpouring of everyone will be passed down to him in a way that only the Lord could have crafted.  Don't get me wrong, I still love pinterest, and I still love parties, but if it's perfect, I'm okay with that.  If I don't have time to make the best party favors, who cares!  He is a child of the Lord, who I am going to do my darndest to raise in a Godly, christian environment.

So, how will I remember May 20?  Will it be the horrible pictures, the awful devastation and the terrible losses?  Yes, those will play a part, but the biggest thing that I will remember is the faithfulness of our gracious God.

This is amazing grace
This is unfailing love
That You would take my place
That You would bear my cross
You lay down Your life
That I would be set free
Oh, Jesus, I sing for
All that You've done for me

Picture Saturday!

Monday, February 17, 2014 | | 0 comments
I had the privilege of spending Saturday with 2 wonderful families and one lovely friend!  Bethany & I are both interested in learning more about photography so we have decided to take the time to get better together! It has been so fun being able to run ideas past her and learn along with her! Thank you for inviting me Bethany!

The next picture was one of my favorites I have EVER taken!

Walkin' on Sunshine

Tuesday, January 14, 2014 | | 0 comments
Sunday was such a nice day here!  We had such a great time going to the park to enjoy the weather with our friend Eden.  Since the tornado, we haven't found a new park to make "our park".  Our friends suggested a park close to our house, so off we went!  Knox hasn't ever been on a slide before, so everything was a new experience! He wanted nothing to do with the playground at first but he eventually warmed up!  After lots of spills, running, and hair blowing in the wind, we decided to head home.  I cannot wait for it to warm up again!

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