A hurricane is hurtling towards my home in Florida right now and I am 1200 mile away. With the possibilities of damage and destruction looming, I can't help but feel incredibly grateful for that little home. It is the first house I have ever owned, an 1100 square foot house that had been in foreclosure. I could barely afford it, but it was mine.
A girlfriend was my realtor as we searched for close to 2 years for a house for me. Our relationship had been strained and this search for a house healed our friendship and brought us closer together. Today she is one of my very best friends.
My parents and my brother helped me financially, in ways I hadn't even thought possible, so I could purchase this particular house. My brother even helped me pick out appliances from a discount scratched and dented clearing house as well as furniture.
I remember my first night sleeping in the house. It had no furniture or appliances, except my bed. I woke up the next morning, sunlight streaming through the windows, and I clearly remember my first thought was, "It's beautiful, Lord! This is my little piece of heaven."
When I met Rick, he offered to fix the fence in the back yard that had fallen down. In fact, he made me a new fence all across the left side of the yard. A beautiful fence made by hand, by the one I love.
Days after I moved in, the skylight began to leak. A friend's dad who was a contractor came over with a friend and fixed it for cost. I was humbled by their gracious generosity.
One time Rick and I wanted to replace the junky sliding glass door in the master bedroom with French doors. We priced them at Lowe's and they were out of our budget, but Rick found some like new in Daytona on Craig's List for a deal. We just had to drive out and pick them up. We were thrilled!
We wanted a big framed world map for our office. We found the perfect one at World Market, but we didn't have the money for it. So we would visit it periodically. We'd stop in and look at it, smile, say it was perfect for us, then leave. And we'd wait. Then come back a few weeks later, admire it, and leave. One day we stopped in and it was on sale... that day we were able to bring it home!
We painted all the walls in the house. I chalk painted the bathroom cabinets. I painted all the trim, even the ceiling in the master bathroom. We built a patio in the back yard and tried to plant grass. But when the grass didn't grow, Rick created a wildlife sanctuary for us with lots of beautiful plants and flowers.
We worked. We decorated. We celebrated.
So today as a hurricane threatens all of Florida, including our dear little town of Winter Garden, I pray that everyone is safe and okay. And I am also thinking of my sweet home. Beautiful, peaceful, cozy, and perfect for Rick and I. We would love for it to weather the storm well. And we believe it will. But if it doesn't, the love that found the house, bought the house, fixed, painted, decorated, added to it and made it a home...that love is still alive. That love stays with us no matter what and that love will keep going, whether the shell of this home remains or not.
Jesus taught that lifeis more than things. He gave us abundant life. The love we share, the people around us, they are our treasures. The illusions of life are the things. Real life is time with our loved ones, helping our neighbors. Most people facing the end of their lives aren't wishing they had made more money or had more things. They wish they had spent more time with their families and loved ones. They wish they had forgiven more and loved deeply and enjoyed fully the time they had on earth.
My little brother lives in Houston and when Hurricane Harvey hit a few weeks ago, he and his family were okay. Amazingly, their house even made it through with only minor damage. But the thing I saw so clearly, watching Houston from afar, was people grateful to be alive. People helping other people. No racism or political parties, just regular people helping regular people. The divisiveness that sells news by pitting groups against groups had somehow turned to unification as together we rallied around helping our neighbors in need. Even a Walmart commercial brought it home beautifully: Texas, you are not alone. The incredible generosity, the resilience, and the concern for others is what makes individuals (and nations) truly wonderful!
We are not guaranteed tomorrow or a life free from storms, but we are guaranteed, as we walk through whatever may lie ahead, the unconditional, extravagant, perfect agape love of God. And that, my friends, is the greatest treasure of life.