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Painful Archeology

Have you ever had a time when a month felt like a year? Where emotions were raw and lessons learned were hard? The last month has been like that for us. It began the very evening I last posted to my blog. 

My husband Larry was out of town, and I had gone to dinner with some friends from church. Larry and I were talking on the phone on the long drive home. It was storming and raining pretty hard, lightning striking bright in the distance. 

When I was a few miles from home, I could see smoke on the horizon. That surprised me because it was so dark and rainy, yet I could see smoke. As I got closer, I realized the smoke was near our house. I told Larry about it and pushed down the fear as I drove the rest of the way home. Dread filled my heart as I pulled up to the bottom of our driveway; I could see the flames. I thought it was our house and cried out to Larry. "It's our house!" He quickly told me to hang up and call 911, so I did. I drove up our long gravel driveway as fast as possible and realized it wasn't our house but our 30' x 40' workshop. It was completely engulfed in flames, and I could hear explosions as the fire reached the many combustible items stored in the workshop. 

It felt like it took forever for the fire trucks to arrive, yet it was just minutes. Once there, they got right to work trying to control the flames. 

I was in shock and couldn't believe how hot it was burning despite the rain. It took them several hours, but eventually, they got it out. Gratefully, they were able to keep it from spreading to the other buildings or the woods. They told me they believed the building had been struck by lightning, which started the fire. I couldn't help but wonder if some of the lightning I saw that night on the way home was the strike that started it all.  

Over the next few days and weeks, our hearts took hit after hit as we remembered different items that were lost. We were grateful - our house was safe, and the horse and the animal barns were safe. Most of our family photos were in the house - so much was spared. We were thankful, yet so sad. The trauma of the fire was terrible, but a lot of what was destroyed could be replaced. But, there was so much more that never could be restored. Our hearts continue to grieve those losses.  

Four green tubs held some of our late daughter Nicole's earthly belongings—tangible evidence of her life here with us. Now lay in ashes. 

Hit after hit. 


Then, my mind drifted to the Christmas decorations. I had been collecting them for years. Some of those decorations were packed up for us by friends just days after Nicole went to Heaven. The accident that took her life happened just three days after Christmas. At the time, we couldn't face going home and seeing all the decorations still up, so our dear friends purchased containers and packed everything up for us. Christmas has been a delicate season since then, but with the Lord's help, we were able to lean into the holiday once more. Our friend Cindy gave us ornaments to remember Nicole every Christmas for ten years after her death. There were also Christmas decorations passed down from both mine and Larry's parents. So many treasures were lost. 

The word kept coming to mind....treasure.

I kept reminding myself that it was just stuff, but I couldn't reconcile that fact with my sadness. Then, I received the following text from our daughter Megan. 

"I was thinking about your Christmas decorations and how you've spent years gathering them. The same years you were gathering them, you guys were making the Christmas memories that became part of who I am. Progressive dinners, Christmas PJs, taking time to read us the Christmas story, and hanging a blanket across the hall on Christmas morning. I remember the time we made homemade decorations for our Christmas tree out of gingerbread, cranberries and popcorn. Pokey (our dog) got into the house while we were at Christmas Eve service and knocked down the tree and ate the decorations. We cleaned it up and moved on. You didn't freak out and let it ruin Christmas. I can still see you cleaning up the cranberry stained carpet. You were teaching me to be a parent at Christmas. That not only goes with me all my life, but is a priceless heirloom I'm passing on to my kids. 

It made me think of this verse: 

"Don't store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in Heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. "  

You have been following these instructions all those years. 

The things in your shop, while precious reminders, are really just the receipts for treasure, already properly stored. They were your receipts, Grandma and grandpa's receipts, Nicole's receipts, but the treasure is stored securely."

...just receipts. 

The cleanup/recovery process is long and arduous. Larry calls it "painful archeology," but Megan's text has been a daily reminder. The things we uncover are not our treasures. Our treasures are eternal; our God-given purpose, life, memories, and relationships forged on this side of eternity are our treasures. The rest, while wonderful, are just receipts of those treasures.

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