Here I am sitting at my breakfast table, lit only by the few sun rays that are breaking through the storm clouds, looking at my back yard. Its lined with some hardwoods that seem more flexible than a gold medal gymnast right now. As the wind whistles and howls, the trees bend and sway and spin, the leaves hold on for dear life and those already golden for fall twirl and flip out of sight.
We are on the east side of the Irma, which I am pretty sure is just a tropical storm now. The kids and I are safe inside playing board games by the pale sunlight and telling ghost stories in the shadows of the house. We stop and watch the storm for a while and check in with their daddy who still had to venture to work today. We snack on hurricane food, and I think and pray a lot.
This storm, along with Harvey, has some devastating consequences, many of which I don’t even know yet, because I can’t watch television and I am conserving my cell phone battery. But without even watching the news, I know there are blessings swirling around in this storm too. Actually, I can say with confidence, all storms we face have troubling consequences topped off with encouraging blessings.
I sit here and watch Irma march her way across the South, and these are the blessing I am experiencing through this storm. I know your consequences may be much different than mine and the bigger the storm the harder the blessings are to find. But with time, I trust you can find these same blessings in any storm you face.
I know it may seem crazy that the first blessing I see in a hurricane is beauty, but I can’t help but see it. We have the advantage of knowing a storm is coming and in the days prior, I just looked around and marveled. The weather was perfect. The sun was shining, the temperatures were cooler. If it weren’t for the meteorologists on television, no one would have believed a storm was coming. Everything was just too pretty.
But even know as I watch the greens, yellows, reds, and browns of the trees sway and bend, ripple and relax, I see beauty. I see beauty in the power that God holds over all of creation. In Psalm 95:4-5 we are reminded, “In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.” The angry waves that conquer the beach are his beauty. The waters that keep on rising are his beauty. The unseen wind that leaves damage that cannot be ignored, that is his beauty too. I know it seems crazy – and probably little scary – but a storm like this just reminds me of the beautiful power of the God I serve. If he allowed a storm so powerful, imagine what he can do in my life. There is nothing out of his reach. Nothing he cannot turn beautiful.
But the beauty doesn’t stop outside my house, it makes its way in as well. This storm brings beautiful moments with my family. My little family of four talked by candle lite, snuggled in the bed, and shared an uncommon Sunday morning at home. We worked hard side by side, planning and preparing and cleaning up after the storm. We share rare moments that would have been plowed over by our busy schedule had the storm not slowed us down. But I also spend time with my extended family, as if we were celebrating the holidays, cooking (even without power), eating too much junk, and just catching up. The storm gave us a beautiful hurricane holiday.
With others I share beautiful words of love because of this storm. An “I love you” with family that usually keeps those words in their heart. A “Can I help?” or “Are you okay?” with many, many friends. And even lots of “Thank yous” for all the work both seen and unseen that goes into preparing and moving on from a storm.
Finally, I am able to see the beauty of God’s word during the storm. I have more time to study and explore His word, even if it is by candle lite. Because I teach a women’s bible study and write this blog, often times my Bible study has a very direct purpose. Sadly, I have limited time to just read and study the Bible. With this storm, I started a new Bible study and was allowed time for just pleasure reading. The Holy Spirit gave me many beautiful scriptures that I can treasure in my heart and I am sure one day share with you as well.
Beauty can be seen in so many forms during this storm, from helping the less fortunate to priceless moments with family. The same holds true in any storm in our life. Even when the storm is raging, beauty can be found.
If you haven’t already figured it out by now, I am not one who takes a lot of time to rest. It just isn’t in me, even though I know it is important and I know it is part of God’s design. Ironically, rest is something I have to work at. But this storm gave me moments of rest, moments of slowing down, moments of cherishing the moment because I don’t know how the day will end.
On the Thursday before the storm, I worked hard to get caught up on grading. My students were supposed to finish a writing assignment then next day after a unit test, and then around 2:15 we heard the announcement that school was cancelled. Sure, all those plans were put on hold, but in terms of my work load, it couldn’t have come at a better moment. We were in the middle of everything, I had nothing to bring home with me. It really was great. I had the blessing of rest from teaching. Irma interrupted all my plans, but God gave me the benefit of rest.
School was cancelled, church was cancelled, baseball was cancelled and I thought I would clean the house. But my husband talked me out of that too. He reminded me of the day I had my car detailed. It was sparkling and within 10 minutes of leaving the detail shop it was totaled. It was the saddest thing, my sparkling car all torn to pieces. He said, “That could be the house you know. You have no idea what may happen, so don’t waste your time cleaning.” That sounded like a good argument to me, so again I had the blessing of rest.
And then we were without power for most of the day, so many, many things were out of the question.
I work and I work and sometimes (many times…) I wonder if I am doing it all wrong, and I am still wrestling with that issue, but Psalm 127 reassures me that “he grants sleep to those he loves.” It may not come in the most conventional ways. We may not understand it at the time, but storms in our lives can carry the blessing of rest, among other blessings. I just have to remember to take advantage of that rest, as my husband reminded me, instead of trying to fight it, which I am so good at.
Another blessing I received from this storm is a reminder of all the support I have and really, we all have. I loved that prior to the storm and during the storm and after the storm, my phone is constantly going off. School friends checking on me, church friends touching base, extended family wanting a headcount, close family keeping tabs on my location. Hundreds of people, in very small ways, showing they care, showing their support through this storm. Their small acts of support become huge blessings.
I love that after a natural disaster many news outlets actually take the time to report positive events. After such a tragedy, they understand how important it is for us to see the bright spots in humanity. The media begins to understand that we appreciate the positive too. We can see countless examples of supports. From thousands of power trucks making their way south, to Game Wardens from around the country heading to the South with boats and resources, to just guy in Kentucky with a jon boat that wants to help, to the neighbor down the street with a chainsaw. The examples of support are everywhere, and I can’t help but think of the scripture in 2 Corinthians where Paul reminds us that God’s “power is made perfect in our weakness.” While we may all be weak individually, when we come together we can see God’s power through our collaborative work and support.
Which further reminds me of the support I receive through the Holy Spirit. Through the entire process, as I would draw near to Jesus, with my worries and doubts and questions, He would draw near to me,with His comforts and support. He reminds me over and over that He can handle this, that He is near, that He is my rock – a rock that cannot be moved by any storm. I feel entirely unworthy and blessed to have Jesus as one of my biggest sources of support and this storm was a great reminder of that.
Well, if you ever need a good reminder that you are not in control, let a hurricane come to town. Four hundred miles of storm will really put things in perspective. Top that off with traffic at a stand still, empty grocery shelves and empty gas pumps and you realize just how out of control you are.
Situations like that used to be incredibly hard for me – I am getting better – I hated the feeling of not being able to fix the problem. But this storm, as well as many storms we face in our lives, remind me of the blessing of surrender. I couldn’t do anything about this storm. I could do my best to prepare, and I could evacuate if I wanted, but really I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t stop it. I couldn’t turn it around. I couldn’t control this storm. But I could control me, and I was blessed enough to remember the best way to control me was to just surrender to God. Let Him handle the situation. Let Him guide my actions and reactions throughout this entire ordeal. And let’s be honest, it is a relief to know that I can just surrender to Him and let Him handle it. It is a relief to know that this storm and so many other storms in our lives are in His control. And he is mindful of us through it all.
In Isaiah 64:8 we read, “You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand.” And surrendering and allowing Him to just work in our lives and through any storms is such a blessing. It is so much easier than trying to fight it. I just hate that sometimes it takes winds at 185 mph to remind me of the blessing of surrender.
So often we want to figure the storms out on our own. We want to hunker down and fight our way through, but really, all God is asking for is surrender. He just wants trust and faith from us so that we will surrender to Him, and He will carry us through any storm.
Again, every storm is different and leaves a different path of destruction, but blessings can be found in all of the storms we face. As bad as things get, there is always good. Be careful that your expectations of the situation aren’t what causes the most damage. Focus on God, look to Him for those blessings. We may lose our physical possessions, we may lose our modern conveniences, we may even lose our perfect health, but that doesn’t mean all is lost. Instead of focusing on the storm we are facing, choose to focus on the one who controls it and the blessing He will provide through it.