Eleven years ago. September 24, 2005. I remember the day all too well. I remember the night even more. As I stared at the TV screen as a wind-blown Geraldo reported the damage to me that was occurring in my southeast Texas. All I could do was pray… for my husband, all the first responders trying to keep safety for others, those trying to keep the chaos at bay, and for all those in danger. Hurricane Rita swirled with fury into our community recorded as the fourth most intense Atlantic hurricane ever. A category five that tragically took over 100 people’s lives that day.
The boys and I had left Hunter earlier that afternoon and also left our first home, and our sweet lab Maggie behind and made our way to stay at my dear cousin’s home in Tyler, Texas. Reluctant wasn’t the word, as I pulled out of our driveway, tears brimming over in my eyes as I said goodbye. My gut told me that this was the end of something…. Or the beginning of something… whichever way I want to look at it, maybe.
The next morning an early call finally came from my husband, who sounded so exhausted. He was ok, and he was safe. My heart was so relieved to hear his voice! Maggie was safe, too! He hesitated as he began to tell me that our home was not ok. We had received severe high wind damage, resulting in part of our roof being peeled back, rain pouring into our home. Light fixtures fallen, sheet-rock peeling back off the wall… everything wet, wet, wet, wet. Our privacy fence, and roof to our pool outbuilding was found in various places… including across the road and field from our home. It was all a wreck. We comforted each other, “We’ll get through this, Joani. We have each other, and that’s what counts,” Hunter reminded me. So true. What beautiful truth.
The following weeks without electricity compounded the devastating damage to our homes effected by this storm. While my husband and all the wonderful community helpers, local law enforcement, fire departments, and disaster relief teams worked hard to clean up, re-build and help our community survive… the south’s heat and humidity continued to work its way with mold growing everywhere and anywhere Rita’s water and moisture had shown itself.
When I finally was able to re-enter the community, my heart sank as I saw such devastation everywhere. But, my heart was lifted high as I saw weary faces all around, with smiles on their faces, love for each other in their hearts, and hands to help.
To be honest, to write all of my thoughts about the journey we began September 21, 2005 would be a novel. So many beautiful moments, so many wonderful helpers, and some dark, dark days, too — all part of God’s road for me. And, honestly, I actually have written one! Just not ready to share it all yet… Haha! But, today being the anniversary I just wanted to share with you a bit of hope when days look dark, and the night even darker. When the storms swirl in, and fear makes us tremble. When so much is lost, that it’s hard to see what remains.
The One who calms the storm in my heart, the One who created the sea, and told it where to stop. The One who knew you and I before we were born, and knows every day that we will live on this earth.
He is greater.
There was a very sad moment of big realization for me as I held James’ blankie in my hand. In our haste and emotions as we left for Tyler, I left it behind. Now molded and ruined. He was four at this time, and my grandmother had crocheted it for him at birth. He loved that little green blankie. He slept with it every night (sometimes even brought it to the grocery store with us, but shhh don’t tell him I told you ;)), and he loved how his fingers slipped and fit right in between the stitching. My Mema is with Jesus now. I miss her so much. I sat and held the blankie close, ready to toss it in the trash with all the other debris of memories. Crying, I felt the pangs of the loss of innocence for my children in this broken world, I cried for the interruption of their joyful times spent in the pool, the normal routine with play-days and school days with friends, the loss of all their belongings.
And, then right there, that still, perfect, small voice whispered to me. Sitting on a moldy, wet carpeted floor, with piles of trash bags containing my home, mosquitoes buzzing in my ear… crying my eyes out holding a child’s little blankie…
I am greater.
Greater than all this. And, I am here.
Yesterday, as I woke up and opened my Bible, 11 years later, I searched for a verse of comfort for this season’s storms.. they aren’t a physical hurricane for me, but this world still has some swirling, whirling chaos trying to run my life some days. The verse I ended up reading wasn’t the fuzzy, feel good one I kinda was looking for, it was so much more. Deep meaning for true deep down comfort:
“At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:26-29, (ESV)
My life has been shaken. Shaken with things that felt like was shaking even beyond my core. Sometimes to the point of wondering how I will ever steady my footing again. My friend, what I have seen is that through my shaking He has been my rock that doesn’t move. Clinging to that steady rock, keeps me steady even in the biggest storms. I may shake, but my Father does not. An amazing part is that through my pain, through my sufferings, through shaking like a leaf and standing vulnerable and helpless before my King, He has not only guided each step by His hand, but He has shaken off many things that needed to be stripped away, and He has replaced them with things that can never, ever be taken from me.
A quote that has come to have more and more meaning for me through the passing years, written in a book called “A Grief Observed,” by CS Lewis is this: “God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already.”
He is greater. This I know.
Meeting Rita.. a new beginning.