According to Oxford Languages, I am not really a blogger...nor do I technically have a blog. By definition a blog is “a regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group, that is written in an informal or conversational style.” If it weren‘t for the “regularly updated” part of the definition, then I could embrace my dreams of being a blogger wholeheartedly because I love to write (a.k.a. ramble on) in a conversational style. It’s just the whole regular thing that causes a problem. I don’t do anything regularly (other than pray and read my Bible.) For one thing, nothing about the way my “post-stroke” brain works is regular. And secondly, regular is boring!!
So here we are months since I wrote my last official blog entry. See, the thing is...I can’t just write these posts without feeling inspired to do so, and I can’t write them when my mind is too busy to concentrate which is 99.9% of the time. BUT...today is a 0.1% day! I feel inspired, my concentration is spot on for a few minutes at least, and I just can’t wait to tell you this amazing story.
Three of my favorite communities were hit by a massive tornado on December 10, 2021. I heard today that weather forecasters have named the tornado “The Beast,” and even that name doesn’t come close to describing the utter havoc it wreaked as it tore through our state. The three particular communities that are dear to me are Eddyville (where I grew up,) Princeton (where I live now,) and Dawson Springs (where I taught for 8 years and probably would still be teaching if my own personal beast, my stroke, didn’t wreak its own kind of havoc on my life.)
My family owns a Christmas tree farm in Caldwell County. We were scheduled to sell our remaining 90 trees on December 11 at our county’s parade and at a local Christmas bazaar. As we began to hear reports about the devastation, it quickly became obvious our communities were waking up to power outages instead of parades, broken branches instead of bazaars, and chaos instead of Christmas cheer. As we drove to town on the morning of the 11th to see who we could help, we passed by our Christmas tree farm. There lying on the ground in nice, neat stacks were 90 beautiful trees completely unharmed by the storm. Even without parades and bazaars, we could provide Christmas cheer...and that’s exactly what we set out to do.
We posted on FB, and WPKY announced our search for a place to set up and decorate a few trees. After a couple of failed attempts to find a suitable location, a quick message to the pastor of Southside Baptist Church yielded the results we wanted. He (unknowingly at the time) agreed to let us turn the church’s youth suite into a winter wonderland.
I have seen the promise of Ephesians 3:20-21 play out so many times in my life, and this time was no exception. “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Here are just a few examples of how this project turned out to be “immeasurably more.” I wanted our location to have a sofa...the youth suite had a sofa. I thought it would be cool to have a fireplace...someone donated an electric fireplace. We wanted to decorate 15-20 trees...we decorated 51! (Actually, I only decorated one; and the rest were decorated by some of the most amazing people on the planet using 100% donated lights, ornaments, ribbons, tree toppers, and tree skirts.) We envisioned putting a few presents under each tree...we received enough gifts to open a free store with 8 rooms! We hoped to help a few families...110 families gave us the awesome opportunity to serve them.
I would love to share about each family; but at this time, I have only asked one of the families for permission. While I was teaching at Dawson, I became friends with a very sweet lady who was a substitute teacher there at the time. Now she is a teacher at Caldwell County; so like me, she has a deep love for people from both communities. She did not live in the direct path of the storm, but her daughter and sister did. They both lost their homes. Unfortunately since the time of the storm, the foundation of her house has shifted and will need some repairs. She came to see us at Southside very hesitantly because she prefers to help others instead of receiving help for herself. She had given all her gas to other people, so we were able to provide her with some donated gift cards to buy more gas. We begged her to tell us what we could do for her, and she said, “Could I please have a new towel?” In our eagerness to help, we brought her a whole tub of towels. She explained how she truly only needed one towel because she was unsure if she was going to have to pack up and nice if the structural engineer determined it to be unlivable. Praise God that didn’t end up being the case.
The time I got to spend with her in our makeshift living room in the middle of 51 Douglas firs in the youth suite made such a huge impact on me. I was very emotional after she left. With tears streaming down my face and my voice trembling from crying, I told the rest of our team that we needed to switch gears. We needed to stop and truly listen to what the people needed. Some of them just needed to talk. Some needed a few things, and some needed everything. I also shared with our team how there have many so many times since my stroke when I have been angry with God. Finally after 8 years of struggling with my situation and in the aftermath of a category F4 tornado, I was beginning to see how He had been preparing my heart to help other people whose lives, like mine, had changed in a matter of minutes. So many of the people affected by the tornado have said they hate to ask for help. Believe me, I understand how hard it is. I’ve had to swallow my pride. I’ve had to admit I can’t do it alone. I’ve been humbled time and again. One of the most humbling moments for me was when my teenage daughter had to drive me to one of my doctor’s appointments.
A very dear man who has since passed away once told me if we don’t accept help when someone offers, we are keeping the helper from receiving a blessing. So I want to say thank you to all the individuals and families who allowed us to help you. We received blessing after blessing, and we hope you did too. Thank you to EVERYONE who donated their time, their talents, their buildings, their gifts, their yummy food, and their financial resources. You are incredible!! Finally, thank you to God for orchestrating such a beautiful ministry and for giving me two of the most amazing, dizzy-free weeks I’ve had in the last 8 years. I don’t even have words to describe how absolutely mind-blowing it was for me to feel good for two whole weeks and to be surrounded by my family and friends as we served and helped others. Truthfully, though, my mind shouldn’t be blown because we serve a God who does immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine!