Our country changed forever. And, the following December, so did I. Post-Katrina, Dave went to Mississippi 4 times. First, in April of 2006 to organize the logistics of bringing a group to help with the restoration of the devastated area. He returned with teams in August of 2006, December of 2006 and August of 2007.
I was able to go once. I was 6 months pregnant with Ashlyn and spent much of my time sifting though the rubble of destroyed homes, searching for missing treasures and lost heirlooms. Work that could only be done by one so disconnected from the memories that it was not overwhelmingly painful to find them all broken.
We spent much of our time at Paul and Stella's house. As the others worked to build a drainage trench around their property, I began sifting. Stella told me stories about her family, her grandchildren especially. About the fact that her husband, Paul was a writer. And about her famous french onion soup she had served every Christmas Eve in beautiful cobalt blue soup bowls.
Most of what I found that day was small, shattered and unrecognizable. But I continued to sift and dig. Later that afternoon, I saw a teeny, tiny piece of cobalt blue buried in what used to be their vegetable garden. I assumed it broken, but to my surprise, pulled out an entire soup bowl, perfectly in tact. The most beautiful soup bowl I had ever seen. I called over to Stella and she was thrilled. We hugged. We cried. She ran it back to her FEMA trailer, excited to pair it with its' top that a neighbor had found many months earlier.
We did other things that week. More important things. Like electrical work and fence repair. Lots of yard clean-up and debris removal. We sheet rocked and painted. We dug lots of trenches to prepare for their rainy season. But Stella and her cobalt blue soup bowl, I will remember forever.
God taught me many things in Mississippi. Earthly treasures can be gone as quickly as they come and it is important that I not find value or identity in them. I learned that every person has a story and if we claim to care for them, we need to listen.
And, I was reminded that it is not about what we DO. It's not about the scope or size of our job or how far we travel to complete it. It is not about our talents and abilities. We do not gain favor in God's eyes or earn our way to heaven by DOING. As Christians, we are saved by grace, not by works. In our good works, we show our appreciation for the grace we have received and our love for Jesus.
"For by grace you have been saved, through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is a gift from God. Not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Ephesians 2:8-10