The Cowboy Pastor’s Wife Norma Elliott: How Real Help……Really Matters
Long after the news crews left we were still there, making the drive to our land every evening to work on the house. We’d got the windows in and electricity on almost a year later. We stood in the yard to admire the work. The light shone on the new sheetrock that had yet to be painted. Our high school boys were scribbling on their homework after they had helped us lift windows into place. They see us standing in the yard and decide to join us.
“Just look at it….isn’t it beautiful?!” I said. The men in my life and myself lined up staring at barebones of a house, as if we are seeing the premier of the newest flick. We stand motionless as the light softly gave a welcome feel. A sight we had been longing for “….we will be home soon, she’s coming along.” When I hear that song, “The House that Built Me,” by Miranda Lambert, I’m overwhelmed. In the song a lady is returning to her childhood home and recalling certain memories. Her room where she did her homework and learned to play guitar. She recalls under the live oak her favorite dog buried in the yard. She says, “if I can just come in, I swear I’ll leave wanting nothing more than a memory from the house that built me.” Where she was returning to a home from her childhood, we were rebuilding our lives after a wildfire had taken our home.
The day was dry, without rain for months. The winds were particularly high as we left church to grab a quick bite to eat. We saw a fire in the distance, too far to be concerned. That’s what we thought anyways. We never knew what that day would hold. But by midnight that night, we along with several families would not return to our own beds to sleep. We would lay down at a friend’s, a pastor’s, a trailer that nobody lived in….a place that was not home. All the while with the unbelievable thought of losing everything pulsing through every inch of our mind. It was one of the hardest things our family had been through. It was one of the longest recovery periods in our lives. And for our family it was one of those times we witnessed the help of others in outrageous ways. You may wonder what we mean?
We had the help of our community, our church, our family and strangers. We received everything a person could need ….money to replenish our home goods, a place to stay for free while we figured it all out and rebuilt. Our boys were gifted a new guitar and drum set since they lost theirs in the fire. We also were brought meals, gift cards, and clothing. Our biggest monetary gift was a house that was to be torn down in town but instead would be moved to our place. Every step of the way, as scary and unstable as it may have seemed was met by the unbridled love of people and our Mighty God who provided (Phil. 4:19). An electrician offered to do new electrical, a plumber friend offered his serves as well. The outpouring was incredible!
Here’s the best advice we offer to those who want to help someone who is recovering from a major life event.
1. Show Up.
Many times people don’t want you to say the perfect thing. They honestly just want you to be there. They want you to walk through life with them, especially in a time of uncertainty. People who showed up and grabbed a shovel, brought us water or food, or just to gave us a hug made the biggest impact. Do keep in mind that this will be a long process so jot their name on your calendar for the next several months. Our church did this for us by assigning people to help as long as needed. We will forever be grateful for everyone who showed up!
Sometimes we assume that people want the ugliest couch we own just because they lost theirs. After the fires I saw so many ugly, peed on, dusty couches that hadn’t seen the light of day since the 50s hit the streets. Someone who already has too much on their plate now has to fake being polite and accept it. Now don’t hear me being ungrateful but honestly the amount of broken, unusable stuff we received made an overwhelming time even more overwhelming. Ask what they need or give a gift card to a supercenter or hardware store.
3. Pray and Offer Support.
Other than the work that you can physically do, pray for them. Prayer is the worker we can’t see and accomplishes plans that we know nothing about. Take time to listen, lighten their load, and even be comic relief when appropriate. The people closest to you know when it’s needed. Laughter is good like a medicine and give us much needed relief! Prov. 17:22