“The Storm” Nine Years Later

Tonight Charlie and I will sleep in my family’s home in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.  It hit me this morning what a blessing that is, considering nine years ago today, Hurricane Katrina tore through our state, our town, our neighborhood.

It was the first weekend of my senior year at Lee University.  We were so busy with hall chaplain training that I didn’t even know a hurricane was in the gulf.  My dad called Saturday to say he was going surfing in Gulf Shores because a storm named Katrina was churning up the biggest waves we’d had in years.  He told us later that he left the water when he saw a guy wipe out and get washed over the road.

My 82-year-old grandmother had just had knee replacement surgery in Biloxi.  She was still in the hospital a few blocks from the beach when evacuation orders were issued.

We didn’t have cable in our dorm, so I went to a friend’s house to watch the live coverage as the storm came ashore.  I drifted in and out of sleep all night on her couch, making it all seem like a bad dream.  When I really woke up the next morning, I screamed when I saw a live shot of places I knew like the back of my hand.  Only now I didn’t see them — I just knew that empty space was were they used to be.

The cell towers were jammed and I couldn’t call anyone with a 228 area code.  I knew my parents were in north Mississippi, but I couldn’t reach them.  My brother was just as helpless in Costa Rica.  I finally got a hold of my dad’s mom on Wednesday after the storm.  Then I wrote this scary entry in my journal:

Will and I just found out that we can’t be sure where my parents are. They last talked to my grandmother after their car got stuck trying to get around a downed tree. They abandoned it and were walking the highway trying to hitch a ride to shelter. We thought we knew for sure where they were…we don’t.

The storm had caught up to them by then and they were walking in it.  We heard from them the next day.

Neighbors who rode out the storm broke into our house (not difficult with the windows gone) and tore out all our carpet before more mold could set in.  One of them sent me a message online to let me know the extent of the damage.

I somehow learned my uncle Timmy was picking up my dad with a gun, $5,000 and barrells of clean water to make the drive back to the Coast.  They figured they could get through any road block with the cash and water, and the gun was there because they knew they were walking into a desperate situation.

My mom joined my dad sometime that week.  I learned that they went to our local hospital to ask to buy their leftover dinner rolls.  I cried like a baby hearing that.

I flew into Mobile two weeks after the storm and my Mom drove me home.   When we reached Pascagoula, I remember the air started to reek.  All the salt and mud was decaying everything it touched.

The first thing I saw was a pile of our belongings on the corner of the street before we pulled into the driveway.  My dad had spent all morning clearing everything out and sweeping the foundation so the house would look as clean and orderly as possible for me.  That sums up my father — doing anything he can to make any experience easier for his family.

We lived the next few months in an alternate world.  I was in a fog all semester at school and took the spring semester off to be at home.  Although not really home, since we lived in a one bedroom apartment in a retirement community until February and I slept on an air mattress on the floor in the living room next to our dog.

My parents and I navigated the devastated streets of Gulfport on Christmas morning, looking for people in FEMA trailers who might like a hot Christmas dinner.  One woman gave us her jade plant.  She explained it was a symbol of friendship, and that all of us who were living in Katrina’s aftermath were surely friends.   We kept that jade plant, a symbol of friendship, for almost 6 years.

When my dad started traveling for work again, it was nice to be home with my mom and slowly switch from “recovery” mode to “redecorating” mode as we picked out new paint colors and redesigned our home.  My parents were rocks, caring for my grandmother in her surgery recovery as well as caring for us.

I don’t know when conversations finally stopped including at least some discussion of the storm, but it took a long time.  For the next year, everything revolved around some aspect of Katrina.

When I walk through our front door now, it always smells like a new home.  I feel so grateful that we still gather in a place where we have so many memories.  I feel blessed that I walked through that same door as a fourth grader on my way to school and now I walk through it with my husband.

Our family didn’t suffer Katrina like some.  We were blessed that our home flooded but still stood.  The word I remember hearing over and over in my heart during that time is “faithful.”

God is so faithful.  He walked our family down a very hard road.  A road that we are blessed continues to arrive at a front door on Portree Place again and again, nine years later.


Sidenote:  As I finished writing these memories, I thought of one more that made me laugh.  My parent’s good friend, John Pittman from the Delta, called my dad a few days after the storm.  His first words, in his classic Delta drawl, were “Mark, it’s John.  Kathryn and I thought we’d come down for a visit ,” as if they were planning a relaxing vacation to the Coast to stay with their friends.  It cracked my dad up at a time when there wasn’t much to laugh about.  John was at our house that same week, sweating in the heat and sorting through what to save and what to toss.

Therefore, I have hope

Last night, as Charlie and I watched a movie, worry and frustration floated through my mind. After a rough two weeks, we’re not closer to figuring out why I have constant headaches and nausea. That afternoon, we learned that something we felt sure was causing it isn’t even a factor.  We are back to the drawing board.

So I was tired. Tired and frustrated that we seemed to be making progress and now everything was completely changing.  Frustrated that we’re not even sure this is related to the infertility or is a completely new issue.

That very second, my mom texted me several verses out of Lamentations 3.

“I have been deprived of peace;
I have forgotten what prosperity is.
So I say, “My splendor is gone
and all that I had hoped from the Lord.”
I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.”

Every time my head pounds or the nausea swells, I remember this issue and my heart gets downcast. Though I certainly don’t feel totally deprived of peace or all I’d hoped for from the Lord (huge progress from a month ago!), I completely sympathize with what Jeremiah is saying — remembering my difficulties pulls down my heart.

Luckily, Jeremiah wrote the next verses:

“Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:

 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
 it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.”

My heart gets weighed down until I call to mind that I am not consumed.   I am not defeated because God loves me and is compassionate to me.  His faithfulness toward me is great, even in the prescence of sickness and frustration.  I have to remind my heart that God is my portion — the answer to my symptoms, the relief of our worry — and I will wait for Him in quietness and trust.

“I called on your name, Lord,
from the depths of the pit.
You heard my plea: “Do not close your ears
to my cry for relief.”
 You came near when I called you,
and you said, “Do not fear.”

Trust Without Borders

I stood with my arms folded, mouth shut.  The songs were swelling around me, but I refused to be moved out of my anger and into worship.  As others sang about God’s faithfulness, my heart wasn’t so sure that was true.  How could I sing to Him when I didn’t even want to talk to Him?

Two weeks ago, I spent several days angry with God for the first time in my life.  I had real doubts about Him.  The things I knew to be true — that He is faithful, good, and able — suddenly didn’t feel true for me.  Instead, it felt like He was withholding goodness for no reason.  What is the point of not giving us the good thing we’re begging Him for?

I was so fed up with Him that I gave Him the silent treatment for a few days.  I wasn’t going to continue feeling like an idiot praying every morning for something He was clearly ignoring.

I was scared.  I’d never truly doubted Him before.  I’d never had my faith shaken like this.  This isn’t how I wanted to handle our struggle.  After a couple of days, I started talking to Him again.  I was still angry, but I figured I might as well fight it out with Him than be miserable without Him.

There’s a song called “Oceans” that I’ve loved the past few months.  It’s easy to get swept up in the melody, which I found myself doing once in the car during that week.

Then, the Lord showed me that these words were how He wants me to see our situation.  These words were what I should say to Him.  This is the right perspective.

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

I will call upon Your name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine

I had sung for Him to take me deeper than my feet could ever wander.  I certainly would have never wandered into the area of infertility.  It’s not a place I would have willingly walked near, much less rambled around in.  I realize He had to take us here.

When I sing for Him to lead me where my trust is without borders, I have to recognize that for a few days I said that this struggle was my border.  I wouldn’t trust Him past this point.  I wasn’t sure about Him at this point.  A baby became my border.

But oh the last part of that verse: “And my faith would be made stronger in the presence of My Savior.”

As I let Him in despite the anger,  He’s giving me the increased faith I need to move past the doubt.  I wouldn’t have chosen this place, but I can be here because of Him.  He can expand my borders of trust until I am free of anger and doubt.

This is the great unknown for Charlie and me.  When I sing that our feet may fail, I certainly know that mine did for a few days.  Fear surrounded me as I kept my eyes on the waves of disappointment, awful side effects from medicine after medicine, and anger.  But now I am remembering to keep my eyes above the waves, and let them rest on Jesus.

He has “never failed and He won’t start now.

In this ocean deep, His sovereign hand will be our guide.  He has called us here for whatever reason — a mystery to us — but He will let us walk upon the water and not be taken under.

 


We are sharing our faith journey through infertility because we know how much hearing others’ experiences has helped us.  While we leave out a lot of specific details, we feel God leading us to share what He’s teaching us.  On the worst days, knowing that others may be encouraged in Him through our willingness to share gives this experience value when we can’t see any otherwise.

Lost?

FMF | Lost

I can’t see where we’re going right now. We keep taking the next steps forward, but the destination — even the length of the road — is shrouded in fog.

Yet, I don’t think we’re lost.  Nope, I don’t feel lost at all.

I don’t know why the road we’re on is so long and slow.  I wish my life’s GPS would tell me how long until our destination.  I wish I could know for sure that disappointments are temporary and not full stops.

Even so, we’re not really lost.

We’re on the road He’s planned for us.  We’re making the progress as He allows.  We can’t see the whole map, but we’re not really the ones in charge of the directions.

We’d only be lost without a Leader.

If I’m lost in anything, it’s trust.  I’m so deep in trusting my heavenly Father that I can’t see out of it.  I can’t see beyond it because it stretches too far.  I wouldn’t even know how to choose another road.  Charlie, more so than me, is lost in hope, I think.  I can still sometimes glimpse the exit for hopelessness, but he seems firm.  Thankfully, we’re on this road together.

“You hem me in, behind and before, and lay Your hand upon me.”  Psalm 139:5

You surround us, so if we’re ever lost in anything, it’s only You.

 

Almost already done

Time isn’t very logical.

Days feel long. It makes sense that months of long days would feel long too. Yet months always feel a little shorter. Years — they fly. Fast.

It washed over me the other day that our travel nursing time is over. It’s been more than a year, but sometimes I still freshly remember that we won’t do that anymore. No more waking on Tuesday to head to the ocean without a plan. We’ve already ridden over the bridge, surprised the moose, picked the fall apples, and fallen asleep next to the fire in Maine. We’ve already done it. We waited and waited to get started and we’re already done.

I remember days when Charlie was at the hospital and I didn’t have anywhere to volunteer for whatever reason. Those days felt so slow sometimes. Yet all together, they flew by so fast.

We’re waiting again for the next chapter in our family. The days feel long as our hearts stay full to the brim with love that’s longing for a new place to grow. But I know in time (whenever that is), I’ll find myself saying, “I can’t believe the waiting’s already done.”

The waiting days feel long, but I’m hoping their season will somehow feel short.

It seems to work like that.

Not Nothing

FMF | Nothing

Five Minute Fridays — a weekly writing flash mob designed to keep the words coming, no editing, over-thinking, or perfecting allowed!

Nothing can mean emptiness or it can mean resolve. I’m going to choose resolve.

As in, “Nothing can separate me from You.”

Nothing can convince me You don’t hear us. Nothing can persuade me that You won’t be good to us. Nothing can make me believe You aren’t here.

My body feels empty some days. There’s nothing in that place where we long for something.

But my heart is not empty because You live there.  There is not nothing because there is always You.  And You are everything.

This week, You reminded us that You hear our cry and are moving us forward.  You proved to me that there is not nothing at the end of our prayers.  There is You.  Because You are with us and because You love us, our hearts and our souls will always be alive with hope.

The things I don’t want to admit

There are things about God that I believe are true, just as I believe that the sun will rise.

I believe His timing is perfect. I believe His will is best.

Sometimes though, I don’t want to admit those two things. They’re easy to affirm when we’re not waiting in tears and frustration. But when we’re sitting on the side of our bed sobbing on what sometimes feels like a dead end road, I don’t want to admit that His timing is perfect. I don’t want to admit that His will is best.

To my fragile heart, affirming those things lets in the painful possibilities that His timing will have us waiting even longer and that His will may be very different from what is in our hearts. If I believe those things, then I have to open myself to the possibility that we are on a long road.

It feels like accepting those truths about God might leave the door open to more heartache, more frustration, more disappointment and more tears.

Yet, my tired heart also believes God is good. It also believes He loves us.

His goodness and love are the hope that push us forward each day. When we don’t want to acknowledge that His road looks so different from ours, we’re able to keep walking it because we trust Him more than ourselves.

Some days we fall apart. I’ve done that enough to know there’s a sweetness in letting Him hold you together. Some intimacies with Him are only experienced sobbing on the side of the bed.

Easter People

FMF | Glue

Five Minute Fridays — a weekly writing flash mob designed to keep the words coming, no editing, over-thinking, or perfecting allowed!


Lent is a time for brokenness.  A time for realizing how flawed we are within ourselves, leaving us humbled.

This Lent has been really powerful for Charlie and me.  We’ve had three specific situations that have been difficult over the last couple of months — things that frustrated, confused, and saddened us.  We had been praying about them for awhile, but it just seemed like they all reached their peak of stress around the same time.

Then we realized we hadn’t truly surrendered them to the Lord.  Though we were praying, we still weren’t approaching them from a place of total surrender.

As we talked one night on the couch, we realized that we had come to the end of what we could offer to the situations.  We were out of ideas and out of strength.  We gave these broken things to the Lord, because we finally saw that we hadn’t truly released them to Him.

Then He came.

He came and began glueing broken pieces back together through His love and grace.  He literally turned one struggle around in a day.  Another, he brought opportunity after opportunity in an area of our lives that has felt bone dry.  In the last place, He brought unspeakable hope in the form of a phone call.

We were broken, and He allowed us to persist in our own ability because He wanted us to come to the end of ourselves.  We didn’t realize we were even doing this until we found ourselves exhausted and still unfulfilled.

I think it’s so sweet that He allowed us to start Lent deep in these struggles.  He showed us our need for Him as we gradually approached Easter.  He brought hope, life and strength into areas that were beginning to feel dead — and what a special time to realize He does that for us every day throughout our entire lives.

As I sit here on this Good Friday, I’m so grateful that Jesus allowed Himself to be broken so that He could become the glue that holds us together.  We are truly Easter people.

 

New Clothes

When we visit my grandmother, she occasionally likes to take us shopping for new clothes.  I used to protest because we always go to more expensive stores than I normally shop at, but I’ve realized it pleases her to spoil us a little.  When I open my closet back home, it is a treat to choose the new things that are prettier and more well made than what I normally purchase for myself.

But I also notice that after a few weeks, I begin choosing my old clothes more often.  Even though they look a little drab compared to the new, they’re comfortable because I’ve worn them so often.  I know just how they fit, I know just how to mix and match them, I just know them.  As pretty as the new things always are, they’re a little stiff since they’re new.  And sometimes it’s just easier to go with what I know and what’re more comfortable in the moment, especially when I’m tired or busy.

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”  Colossians 3:12

God tells us in Colossians that He has chosen us out of love to be new creations in Him.  We are to put off our old selves — for me, my easily irritated, impatient, perfectionist, anxious, sarcastic self — and clothe ourselves with things that look more like Jesus.  As Isaiah 61:10 says, Jesus is literally giving us His robes of righteousness.  This is expensive.  These new clothes came at a cost I could never afford myself, in that Christ died to give them to me.

Just like the clothes my grandmother gives us, I should revel in these new traits.  I should be throwing off my old self to slip into the more radiant, more beautiful clothes of Christ.

But just like with my actual clothes, my heart begins to fall back into what I know.  What’s comfortable.  What is my go-to when I’m too tired, too busy, too stressed to make a better choice.  I leave His beautiful clothes untouched sometimes because it’s just easier to do what I know.

But God is not going to dress me Himself.  Sometimes I wish He would.  I pray to be more patient, more loving, more content as if I think He will magically transform my heart with no effort on my part.

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But what I see in Colossians is the truth that these things come as the result of my choosing them.  Jesus gives them to me freely, but I have to choose to put them on.

Even when I’m tired, even when I’m stressed, I have to choose to wear the new clothes and not slip into the old.  Because let’s face it: the old clothes are ugly.  They’re worn thin and aren’t attractive to anybody.  The new clothes will never wear out.  They’re beautiful and attractive to people looking for kindness, mercy, love and forgiveness.

So my prayer is no longer for God to dress me.  He’s already provided new clothes of righteousness.  My prayer now is for the strength and presence of heart to choose not to think and act in the comfortable, old ways, but to choose to put on the new things of Christ every moment, trusting that they will become more and more comfortable with daily wear.

“I delight greatly in the Lord;  my soul rejoices in my God.  For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” Isaiah 61:10

Mighty Good

FMF | Mighty

Five Minute Fridays — a weekly writing flash mob designed to keep the words coming, no editing, over-thinking, or perfecting allowed!


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“The Lord your God is with you; He is mighty to save.”  Zephaniah 3:17

He is with me and He is mighty.

He is mighty to save me from anxiety and depression.

He is mighty to save me from the sin that took years from my life.

He is mighty to save me from selfishness, pride and worry.

He has been mighty in my life. I am up against a struggle right now, and I think I need to be reminded that He is mighty. I need to look back and testify to my own heart about His strength, His power and His goodness. Because He is mighty in His goodness!