Last September my corner of the world was rocked by one of the most massive hurricanes in history. As Irma came barreling down, The Weather Channel delivered a bleak report. No Floridian would escape its force. Too terrified to sit down and write in the moment, I took time in the aftermath to pen a letter.
September 16, 2017
Leaving Georgia tomorrow…thanking You as I go that Irma is over, and that no one I know had any significant damage. I pray for those who were injured or impacted in any way, and ask that they be strengthened by Your divine love, mercy and grace.
Living with Tampa Bay in my backyard, I had planned to stay with friends who were further inland, but last Saturday morning a nudge from You jolted me into action. Suddenly, I knew I had to evacuate. As I rushed to pack, my mind took me through rapid-fire scenarios. There they were, faith and fear, battling it out in my mind. At times it felt like I was running for my life—breathless with adrenalin.
Then, there would be faithful certainty that You could do anything—even turn the tide of a killer storm. Jesus had done it in the Bible, and years earlier, as another great tempest appeared to have Florida’s Gulf Coast in its crosshairs, a slight shift from You at the last possible moment sent Tropical Charlie hurtling inland.
This time, with Irma’s force imminent, the forecast was horrifying. Anticipating winds of up to 150 miles per hour, I had no idea if I would even have a home when I returned. You find out what’s truly important when you have to gather what could be your only remaining possessions. And yet pockets of peace began to settle in.
I asked myself, What is truly important? My faith in You topped the list. I knew that You had given me life and the ability to live in such a way that others could see Jesus in and through me. Second only to You were my family and friends. I hoped they knew how very grateful I was for their love and support.
And, oddly enough, I was grateful for strangers. Whenever we would pull in for food or gas while inching our way north on 1-75, I gave away smiles to the all who You put in my path. I wanted them to know that in spite of the fact that we didn’t know each other personally, we were held together by a mighty bond—our humanity.
We were all alive in that moment, breathing in and out, no matter where we were or what surrounded us. No matter what we thought, said or did, we were alive, right then and there. I thought, Wouldn’t it be grand if we could set aside our differences to embrace the truth: we humans are all imperfect and ever-so-fragile. Whether we know it or not, we all long to be connected.
You have my heart,
* * *
September 17, 2017
I’m home now. The storm is gone. Florida’s famous sunshine is flooding the scene. I am blessed by Your great mercy—blessed to be alive in Your abundant love and grace. Please don’t ever let me take that for granted.
* * *
A crisis often brings out the best in us. Hurricane Irma was no exception. My heart breaks for the innocent victims of its fury. Thankfully, I survived the days of roaring wind, torrential rain and the eerie silence in between.
Sometimes it takes the sky falling (literally) to teach us how to hang on to each other, and to know, without question, the gift and goodness of life with God.