Having to be cleared by the National Guard to enter her neighborhood on Friday didn't shake me up.  I expected Guards to be there, as they were here this summer after the fires.

And driving down her street seeing house after house reduced to trash piles on the street didnt shake me up either.  It made me very sad and caused a solemnness to come over me, but I wouldnt say it shook me up.  I came expecting tragedy.

And even as I sat on an overturned bucket that day rinsing and scrubbing mud and muck off the items that were salvageable from her basement, I wasnt shaken.    Although I will say that the pile below (what was pulled exclusively from Ruths home) still stirs within me.  It was so much loss, so quickly (they had only 45 minutes to get out).  The houses just across from her are condemned.  

Seeing photographs and curriculum brought tears to my eyes for her family and all of their neighbors.  For whatever reason, those were "evidences of life" items to me.  They struck me differently than the larger furniture and appliance pieces strewn here there and everywhere.

But the thing that really shook me up, the thing that I will always remember and ever speak of, was getting out of the car and walking up to a house of smiles and laughter.  James and Ruth were smiling and laughing with one another, radiating with tenderness.  Their children were beaming.  There was Joy and Light in abundance (abundance!) in their home.  Where there could have been bitterness, I only found blessing.

I know not every moment since the flood has been a multi-colored rainbow.  I watched as they dealt with a million people streaming into their home like ants, some trying to get them to hire them, and some being contractors whom they had hired.   James shared that there had been many seedy ones coming around as well.  I guess devastation always brings out the buzzards.

I watched workmen interact with Ruth, workmen who wanted to be paid on the spot for work they had already completed.  They were needed at the 20 other homes they were scheduled to aid in that one 24 hour period.   Amazed, I saw how Ruth had become a quick expert on heating and air-conditioning,  ventilation and plumbing.  I admired her discernment and tact.

I watched those engagements and a host of countless other tedious decisions and distractions that they each were dealing with.  Not to mention the gashed open and infected toe that James was dealing with due to something in the flood waters that tore through his boot and waders allowing the septic water to contaminate as it was torn open.

But above the noise of the contractor chaos, the dump trucks, the bull dozers taking giant bites out of peoples lives, rang the song of Salvation and Hope and Love in and around my dear friends home.  Truly it was a different emotional climate than any other I witnessed.  They are resting in their Savior and it encouraged me beyond any sentence I could ever share.  It renewed my own Hope, honestly.  And that is what shook me most, and still does every time I think of what I witnessed there.