By: Bryanna Martin
On August 11, 2016, I posted a video of my kids playing in the rain on Instagram because we were going on several weeks of a never ending, nonstop, steady flow of rain. It was the end of summer and we were all a bit stir crazy. So why not? We decided to embrace the rain and play in it: making lemonade out of lemons as the saying goes.
We could never have imagined the implications of that steady little rainfall or known that was my last post capturing what we knew as "normal life". I was about to discover a new normal and a complete redefining. I was stepping into a season I didn't ask for or want, but instead of resisting I learned to embrace it. God saw what I didn’t and knew what I needed. I needed to experience His unexplainable, unrelenting, unmoving kindness. The beautiful home God blessed us with only 14 months before was about to be baptized, so to speak: washed clean, purged, torn apart and rebuilt, but in the end better and stronger and more beautiful than I could’ve dreamed.
I remember waking up a few days after the flood, before we had been able to assess the damage of the water. I sat in our friend's home who had graciously taken in my family of six to merge with their family of seven. Slightly shell shocked and sobered, I began to reflect on what was happening. I was struck by the paradox of life. While only weeks before there was strife and tension in our city, now a flood that altered thousands of peoples lives, was bringing unity that only comes when you walk together through fire, or in our case, water. God allows trials to pull us together, when the enemy would love to tear us apart.
Little did I know what was happening in the natural realm, God wanted to do in the spiritual realm. He wanted to come and wash me clean. He wanted to purge, refine and rebuild me on the inside. He wanted to strengthen my inner man to believe I could carry more than I thought, because He is my sustainer and He is my strong tower. He wouldn’t allow me to be crushed under the weight of life. He wanted me to experience my shoulders broadening to carry this larger load. He wanted to teach me that what really matters are the lives around me and the people He puts in front of me. He wanted to rip all that I cling to, so that I could cling to Him. I experienced a jolting into reality, the reality of what matters. We really are living for another kingdom. He allowed me to lose what I knew as my home to find a more everlasting home in His presence.
It’s true that “there’s no place like home.” We all long for home, where we feel safe, nurtured, comforted and known. Where we can wear jammies all day and no one cares. Where people know our favorite snack and the sound of our walk down the hall.
Even as I write this, one year later, the story isn’t finished. I sit in a rent house that isn’t my home. I sleep on a mattress lying on the floor like I have all year. My bedroom looks as though a bomb exploded with clothes. Sturdy walls but naked ones with nothing to hang. Our third home in one year. But again, I've learned that this is not my home. Home is when I open His word, when I hear His voice, when I bear my soul and He meets me. Home is doing messy life with people. Letting go of things I can’t control. He has me in His grip and He wants me to trust Him. Here's what I've learned this year: home isn’t a location or a place. Home is His presence. Home is people. I didn’t just learn this, I lived it. I experienced home in the people of God who reached out and cared, who didn’t just gaze from afar but literally stepped inside the boat with my family.
It was as though time stood still and all that mattered were the people around me. I couldn’t fold laundry or clean out my drawer. I couldn’t organize my pantry or repaint my den. I couldn’t even go shopping or surf the web. All I could do was look at my people and give them my all. Nothing else mattered. Unsure of the road ahead, all I could cling to was the moment before me and the people in front of me. I saw, felt, and experienced the kindness of God like I’d never known. One day as I counted his kindnesses in detail I saw one common thread. Beside every number was a name: a person who tangibly displayed HIs kindness. From feeding my family, to caring for my kids, to holding me as I cried, to bringing supplies, to washing and washing and washing my clothes, to scrubbing and cleaning and demoing our house, to gift cards and money, to phone calls and texts, to hugs and cards at just the right time, we lived and experienced the kindness of God through the body of Christ and total strangers. I never will forget being carried by kindness and sustained though prayers.
I’ve never felt more indebted to people and incapable of expressing my gratitude. The glory of this trial has been the beauty that was drawn out in people. The way our city, our schools, our churches pulled together to help those in need. God loves to bring beauty from ashes and hope to the hopeless. He loves to restore what’s been lost, to bring light into darkness and bring life where there’s death. He’s done that for us. He’s restoring our souls. He’s renewing our hearts. He is rebuilding our house.