Greetings from a very wet and windy Miami!
So this started out as one of those “I cannot believe it’s September already; fall is just around the corner” posts. I planned on talking about how this time of year evokes a lot of change that I could do without for a season, but still looking toward the future with a positive hope…
And then Hurricane Irma decided to threaten a little visit to South Florida. Cue the state-wide panic attack with cases of water flying off the shelves, unbearably long lines at the gas station, and news stations over-emphasizing the need to be prepared well and early.
Uhh, I’m from Denver, and the worst weather I’ve lived through is a small-ish, ten-minute long tornado that missed our home and blew through the mall down the street. Hurricanes are still a new monster to me. I’m grateful for the early heads up, because I’m definitely a prepare-er, but even still, I’ve been pretty anxious. Actually, very anxious. I might have had a few little “episodes” here and there. Time’s when I was by myself in the preparation process while the husband was at work, I drove myself CRAZY making lists, watching the news, making our home as safe as possible. It wasn’t until I was with people that I could finally be honest that I was scared, and could breathe a little knowing that I wasn’t alone in the process.
Something remarkable I noticed getting ready for Irma, both in myself and in others, via social media or in person, is how this sort of thing really enhances our deep need for connection and community. For some it meant taking to Facebook to express concern, offer prayers, or update others about their plans of action. For others it meant preparing a little bit extra, so that they could be available to host and/or help others who may need it. For me personally, it meant being in constant contact with my husband about what we needed and what our plans were, updating my out-of-town family so that they knew those plans as well, checking in on in-town family to see if they need anything, a couple minor emotional break-downs, and periodic giggles at the cornucopia of Irma memes scattered throughout Facebook.
After Hurricane Harvey barrelled through Houston not too long before this, I saw and listened to stories of people coming together to help their communities. A few folks I follow on Twitter immediately engaged in relief efforts, getting their hands dirty cleaning up flood-ravaged homes and lining up for blocks to help volunteer and hand out supplies. A lot of criticism rose up towards those who didn’t appear to be helping at all. My prayer for Miami has been that we would imitate the former in the coming days, not the latter.
On my Tuesday morning search for water supply (that’s 5 days before the hurricane was projected to hit, i.e. I thought I was getting ahead of everyone), I stumbled upon a massive crowd gathered at the doors of Costco waiting with shopping carts, and surprisingly my first thought wasn’t “This is gonna take forever.” My first thought was “These are probably people with kids and families. My household is only two adults. I can find another way.” In thinking about our plans going forward, my heart was torn between getting the heck out of Florida and wanting to stick around for the neighbors, friends, and family in need of a helping hand.
This is not meant to be a moment of boasting, but rather genuine surprise. As someone as selfish and anxious as I can be, the thought of weathering a hurricane SHOULD make me run for the hills and yet, eventually, I felt more at peace staying put.
What is that?? How does that happen?? I mean, I know people who live in other states thought we were crazy for staying. I kind of thought we were crazy.
The more I thought on it, the more I began to realize what happens to the human heart when our daily comforts and circumstances are threatened. Some panic. Some compete for resources. Some over-prepare. Some doubt and wait till the last minute. I did witness a lot of amazing hospitality: people opening up their homes, welcoming people in for refuge, urging them to be wise and join others somewhere safe. Friends and family far away reached out just to make sure their loved ones were taking the necessary precautions, offering their homes if needed.
Community became essential. As essential as food and water. Amidst the usual cloud of memes, political rants and being “too busy”, a deep need for real connection resurged into reality and out-voiced all the usual noise for awhile.
In the face of a real storm headed our way, the storm of my anxiety has been no picnic. But it is always calmed when I’m with my people. It’s also calmed by constant prayer. In the face of a hurricane, suddenly my prayer-life became minute-to-minute, without ceasing. Why is it that when things are good, normal, comfortable, we take “pray without ceasing” so lightly? Suddenly, with “normal” at risk, I went to God in prayer more than ever. Yet even then, reminders that He is in control felt so intangible.
TRUST became the theme for me.
On the phone with my distraught mother I had to remind her to trust that we had done all we can to prepare, and beyond that, God is in control. My husband had to remind me to trust that we had a good plan in place, that the family hosting us had a plan, and that beyond all that, God is in control.
I shared a little bit about this on social media a couple days before the storm:
“T R U S T . . . I sometimes feel like these kinds of phrases are a bit trite or unhelpful in these times. But maybe that’s because I struggle to truly believe them, or believe that they are good things. This is the truth: God DOES control the wind and the waves. This is a lie: He must have it out for us or doesn’t really love us. I have to hold on the truth in the face of storms (both literal and metaphorical), knowing that what God wants most from me is to TRUST Him…trust that he protects, provides, and is merciful. Especially when that protection, provision, and mercy don’t look the way I expect them to.
With Irma headed for Miami, I’m sure many out there, like me, are facing both a real storm and the storm of anxiety. Therefore I am praying extra hard for God’s protection, provision, and mercy, and for a community of compassion to come together to ride it out and recover. We need each other in these times, and we need reminders that a heart at peace comes with a heart of TRUST that even now, God is still God.”
Confession: For someone like me, it’s easy to write these words because my head knows they are true. It’s harder to actually believe them.
That’s why I NEED community. When we struggle to believe the things we know to be true, we need people around us living life in a way that reminds our hearts that those truths can be trusted. Then we find peace, regardless of our circumstances.
As I write this, we are safely waiting for Irma to arrive and get the heck outta here. I don’t know if we will feel the worst of it. I don’t know if or when we will lose power. I don’t know what we will return home to or if our apartment will remain unscathed. I don’t know if the cafe or the church will get flooded. I don’t know how long it’ll take for things to get back to “normal.” I don’t know when I’ll even be able to share this post. And I COULD spend the next couple days worrying about all that.
However, I DO know that God knows the answers to all these questions. I do know I’m with people I love, no matter what ends up happening. I do know we are as safe and prepared as we can be. But knowing is not enough. I have to also trust. I have to trust that God still cares for and loves us right now, and that he has made promises assuring us of that (Genesis 9:13-17, Genesis 21:1-2, 2 Samuel 22:31, Luke 1:54-55, Romans 4:20-24, just to name a few). Because it’s true, a heart at peace is a heart that has learned to trust. And not just in the face of potential disaster, but also in the “normal.” The day-to-day challenge of being human.
So I encourage you all, if you find you are struggling to have faith or to be at peace, make moves to be with the people who will remind you to trust, both in God’s provision and protection, and in each other.
And to everyone in Irma’s path, I’m praying that everyone is safe, that the damage is minimal, that you are all with people who will take care of you and remind you to trust in these uncertain days. Be praying for and with each other. We are told at least 80 times in the Bible, “do not fear.” Isaiah 41:10 says:
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)
Let us face the day trusting this command. Fear not, for He is with us.
For God’s Glory,