The Wedding Dress

by Dr. Amy Boe, contributing writer, In the Aftermath of the Storm: Stories of Hope and Healing.

In the Eye of the Storm, published in January, 2019 tells the story of Hurricane Michael’s brutal landfall along the Panhandle of Florida on October 10, 2018. A collection of poetry, stories, and images from survivors and residents, In the Eye of the Storm gives readers a poignant account of the events leading up to and in the days and weeks following the Category 5 hurricane’s destruction of the region. In the Aftermath of the Storm, released on October 10, 2019, the one-year anniversary of the day that changed the region and the lives of its residents forever, picks up where the first book ended. Telling the stories of hope, healing, and community, In the Aftermath of the Storm captures the resilience and determination of the residents and the many volunteers who continued to make a difference long after the camera crews had gone and the outside world had moved on. Both books are available through Amazon with all proceeds benefiting the Hurricane Michael Relief Fund, which continues to assist in relief and rebuilding efforts throughout the area.

We went back to Panama City this weekend so Daniel could spend his 14th birthday with friends. Since October we have tried our best to ensure the kids are able to still enjoy mission trips, youth camps, birthdays, D-NOW, prom, and graduations; all the things that were so dramatically taken away from them by Hurricane Michael.

It’s been hard traveling that much but I am happy we were able to do that for them. It has been worth it. After all the trips, camps, and parties, it is hard for them to leave their friends. We understand that. We try to make it as positive as possible and it is getting easier for them. Bethany even commented yesterday that it was the first time she actually felt like she was going “home” when we left for Birmingham. That gave me so much relief. As a parent, the last thing you want is for your child to be in pain.

Yesterday before we left Panama City, we went by the house to gather some more belongings. I always try to avoid 390 until I absolutely have to go to our house. I just do not want to see it, but this was our last day so it was time. I don’t know why but as it’s finally getting easier and easier for the kids to visit and leave again, it is getting harder and harder for me. I suppose in a lot of ways I was initially in shock (as everyone was). I honestly had no ‘feeling’ for the first several months after the storm. I could not cry, I did not feel sad, just kind of numb. Now, almost ten months later, I can’t help but feel sad constantly and cry uncontrollably, especially as I look at it, in person. It’s all part of the grieving process, I guess.

So many memories as I drove into the driveway yesterday, yet, not at all what I want to see; grass hip-high, porch dilapidated, holes in walls, unpleasant smells, no life in what was once a very happy place. I want to only remember the good things; of the kids running down the stairs at Christmas, Bethany going on her first date, the look in Daniel’s eyes when I walked in the living room as he had managed to empty an entire (Sam’s size) jar of peanut butter on his face, ladies Bible studies, youth swim parties, India planning meetings, and the love and laughter I remember so well. It makes me smile through the tears.

I spotted the box that contained my wedding dress back in November. It was trapped under the stairs with big brown water spots all over it. Even though the closet is in the center of the house, it managed to get drenched with rain. I told myself the dress was ruined, and I could not bring myself to open it and look at it. I just didn’t know if I could stand to see it. Every time we went home to salvage what we could, I would see it and look away. So crazy that out of all the things we lost in the storm that one thing would make a difference.

Steve went ahead of the kids and me to begin loading the trailer. When I walked in, there was “the” box. The one I had been ignoring and too afraid to open. This time it wasn’t in the closet, but right in the middle of the living room floor. Steve was emptying out the closet and had pulled it out. I guess this was going to be the day I would muster up the emotional energy to face the dress. So, I did.

I think I must have held my breath as I opened it slowly. Part of me wanted to take it back to the closet and abandon it altogether. Just forget about it forever; yeah, I can do that. But, no. I didn’t. I followed through and to my amazement, there was not one, single, tiny watermark on it!! It was perfect!! I couldn’t believe what my eyes were telling me!! Of course, I cried, I think mostly out of all the adrenaline that immediately left my body, but still, WOW! As I looked it over, careful not to let it touch the filthy floor, I couldn’t help but think of the powerful picture of the Church in the world. What a breathtaking visual representation it was to me.

God reminded me yesterday that this earth is not our home. As beautiful and comfortable houses can be, they aren’t forever. As there are weeds, and brokenness, shattered glass, sadness, and even death, He is there, continually making His Church into the Bride she is supposed to be,”So that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish,” (Eph:5-27).

When the storms come, He protects us. When the wars rage, He is there as a mighty fortress and a shield.  Even when our personal boxes that are often ignored, wear out on the outside, God is preserving for Himself a Bride! And that Bride stands in stark contrast to the world. When He sees His children compared, I can’t help but believe that picture is what He sees; a messed up, sad, world that is falling apart without Him and His gorgeous Bride awaiting His return.

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