This morning during my quiet time, I spent time thinking about Hurricane Matthew that has torn through Haiti, and is now apparently setting his sights on Florida. Anytime a hurricane develops, I feel a familiar pit in my stomach. Although it’s been 11 years now since the landfall of a hurricane on the mainland United States, the monstrous effects of Hurricane Ivan on me, and my family personally, remain. While I, my mom, and the kids evacuated from Hurricane Ivan just prior to its landfall on the panhandle of Florida on September 16, 2004, my husband remained behind to help with rescue and recovery efforts. The effects of that hurricane remain on my life forever. My husband stayed because he was a volunteer fireman in our local fire department and felt his presence was vital to help our community with recover. He and the crew evacuated just far enough inland to still be accessible once the hurricane had passed through as they were ordered to stay off the roads until the all clear. I’ll leave his escapades for a future post for another day, but suffice it to say he and the rest of the crew are true heroes and some of the most selfless people I have ever known. They were even featured in an episode of Storm Stories that the Weather Channel used to produce.
The kids, my mom and I evacuated, remarkably now in hindsight – since we now live here- to the Memphis area to stay with dear friends. It was a forever long week, and the recovery time even longer. It sobers me today to even think about it again. We had significant damage in our home, our community and elevated fears for myself and the children. Our future for the next few years was marked by distinct changes with regards to how we watched hurricanes. For me, I was constantly check the tropical waves coming off the coast of Africa, the naming of the newest “invest #” and tropical depression status all the way to hurricane. Once it had a track, I was tracking it. I watched the radar, and could tell you each wobble based on the eye movement. Literally obsessed with it, I remember vividly the anxiety of going through another Ivan brought me. Katrina arrived the next year and while the landfall was clearly west of us, I still evacuated once again because it was terrifying. For the kids, it was the fear of having to grab just a few items and evacuate again.
We have moved since then, and Florida hasn’t seen a major hurricane in years. I stopped tracking ever single movement of every dust storm off of Africa, and I’m thankful. I didn’t realize at the time how very fearful I was, it’s only in retrospect that I understand the grip it had on my heart.
So today, I feel great empathy for my friends in Florida and along the eastern seaboard. As they shop for essentials just in case there is no electricity after the hurricane, or make hotel arrangements in case they need to get off the coast. The added expenses if you are already financial strapped can be crippling. The anxiety of the “what if’s” and which way will it go can be unbearable mentally. I empathize. I have been there and done that. So I pray and ask the Lord, the one who controls the winds and the waves to quiet the storm. I pray for those in it’s path to dwell in the knowledge of His care for them, and for those who have already weathered the storm, I pray for them as the rebuild their lives once again. For a country like Haiti, it’s an even more devastating proposition because they already struggled to begin with.
Hurricane season doesn’t mean what it used to for me, but I will never forget. I have travelled that road and it wasn’t easy. I am thankful for the comfort of Scripture!
Perhaps you don’t actually have to face Hurricane Matthew today, but there is another circumstance in your life that feels as overwhelming as a hurricane. I wrote about my own experience with that here. I know that mentally the anxiety can build for you as well. I spent time praying this morning as well for my friends and family who are facing cancer and it’s treatments and surgery, for those facing the loss of a loved one, and those who are enduring financial burdens. I pray you keep your eyes on the One who will sustain you and carry you through those turbulent days as well!