It seems like a lifetime has passed since I walked out of my precious little apartment in New Orleans. Almost 5 years later, I still have that moment in my head. My family was heading down the stairs toward the van, but I stopped. I just held the door open for a moment and took my very last look at the home I had created for my family. Then I whispered, "Goodbye," and let the door close. I can still feel the longing to be home and the painful tinge of losing it.
When I close my eyes, I can still smell the humid, salty air that is New Orleans, and I feel the warm breeze blow my hair in my face. Some days I wake up and long to be back there. I long for the gifts I received at my wedding, the train table Jay built for Benjamin, the crib we first purchased for Benjamin, the bedroom furniture my stepfather built for me when I was in highschool, the cheval mirror my husband gave me as a wedding gift, the first plastic flowers he gave me when we were dating, and my ugly rocking chair.
But those weren't the things that concerned me the first few weeks after we evacuated. I desperately needed one question answered, "What now?"
We stayed with my mom for a month and in that time we began to build a new life for ourselves.
Habitat for Humanity offered us housing on a cruise ship, if we would come back to work in New Orleans. But I couldn't imagine having a baby in a city with no doctors or hospitals, or raising two boys and a new baby on a cruise ship.
The seminary offerred all the students the opportunity to transfer to their Atlanta campus, where housing was being provided for any students who chose to live there. We considered the move to Atlanta to finish school. The administration, who also lost their homes and lives, had agreed to continue all classes online. New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary was the only school in New Orleans to continue classes following the hurricane.
Since Jay was in his last year and would be graduating in the spring, the Atlanta campus did not offer any classes he would need, so all of his classes would be taken online no matter where we lived.
So we had one question answered, we would live in Oklahoma... until who knows when.
I began to look for a place to live, without much luck, until one Sunday a friend told me about her uncle's church in Edmond. They had a parsonage they wanted to offer to a family that had been displaced by the hurricane. She put us in contact with the church, and by the beginning of October we had a home. The church even supplied us with items we were still lacking such as toys, clothes, dressers, a mattress, a TV and VCR, microwave, dishes, and even decorations. They even gave us a washer and dryer that was exactly like the ones we'd had. They paid all the utilities on the house, installed a dishwasher, and continually blessed our lives over and over again.
Indeed God was pouring blessings into our lives at a rate we could barely comprehend. Cards and money and donations flowed in from friends, family, and strangers. Our pastor asked our church to help out. "Amy and Jay are needing our help to get clothes for their family," He explained. "Although donations of used clothing would be appreciated, let's bless them with new clothes and give them some gift cards, so that they may be able to buy new clothes for their family."
We were overwhelmingly blessed to be counted worthy of such a request! God continued to surprise us. One day I received a call from a woman who told me, "Amy, I heard about you from my mother, who heard about you from her hairdresser, who heard about you from her daughter, who knows you from somewhere. I searched you out to ask if I could help you. I have a crib and changing table I would like to give you. Can you use it?" I could barely answer her through my tears. Why would God be blessing us in such a magnificent way when so many from New Orleans were still suffering? And I wondered if all of our friends were being taken care of so well.
The next task was for Jay to find a job. Many people told us of job openings, and put in a good word for Jay. But Jay only wanted to work one place, Habitat for Humanity.
He contacted the Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity and asked if he might be able to transfer. They had no openings at the time, and politely turned him down. It was a week of turmoil for him. He knew this is where God wanted him, and in typical Jay fashion, he refused to look anywhere else. As frustration began to sit in for all of us, Jay received an unexpected call from the director of Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity.
"Jay," She said, "I have not been able to get you off my mind for the last week. I believe God wants you to work here, so I have made a place for you. When can you start?"
Again, the blessing and favor God showed us was more than we deserved, or hoped for.
People would ask us how we were doing, and the only logical answer was to praise God and give Him glory for all that we were being given. Jay and I knew that we had more reasons to be thankful than to be hurt. We tried hard to deny that anything was wrong in our hearts, or that we were deeply hurting. Our family was all safe, we had a home, a bed, a job and food. Truly, what more could we ask for?
But the blessings couldn't counter the heartached and tragedy that we unknowingly suffered. Darkness was creeping in on our family, and it would take more of our life than we ever could have imagined.