Rebuilding After the Hurricane
Our football coaching family has only moved once. It was spring of 2018. We knew God was clearly calling our family to coach in Albany, Georgia. As we transitioned, I prayed Ephesians 3:16-20 over everything. It went something like:
“Lord I pray that from Your glorious, unlimited resources you will empower us with inner strength through Your Spirit. Help Christ make His home in our hearts as we trust in Him. Help our roots to grow down into God’s love and keep us strong. Help us have the power to understand how wide, how long, how high and deep Your love is. Help us to know the love of Christ and be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from You, Jesus. Glory to You, God, who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to Your power at work within us. To You be the glory. Amen.” His answer: a hurricane.
Fast forward four and a half months. A hurricane was headed our way from the gulf and a coach’s wife suggested I go to the store and make sure we were stocked in case the power went out. Challenge accepted. I actually made an adventure out of it with the kids and googled “what you need for a hurricane” and truly thought it was so fun. Flashlights, batteries, water bottles, canned goods, toilet paper, and a first aid kit. You name it, I got it. We even got Vienna Sausages because I told the kids they were “hurricane hot dogs.”
Reminder, we live in Georgia and NOT at the beach. Also, it was football season and we were in between games 6 and 7. I was not taking this serious and I had no idea what was about to go down. We weren’t expecting much more than perhaps a morning off from work and a possible power outage. So, I downloaded a weather app, prayed the obligatory prayer of protection, and we even had a football player over to stay with us and play games as we waited.
Hurricane Michael was a Category 5 hurricane when it hit the coast and these Georgia Pines didn’t even try to put up a fight when Michael came through Albany. When it was still daylight I saw one bend and snap like a toothpick in our backyard. It didn’t make a sound. Or maybe it did but the wind was so loud I didn’t hear it.
Crack...BOOM!! A tree hit our house. I heard that one. CRASH! I heard the second one, too. So, when that third tree hit, the terrifying sound was familiar. We told our kids that God was in charge and there was nothing to fear. Except why couldn’t I stop shaking? I was afraid.
The morning after was a blur. Power outage was an understatement. Trees everywhere. Roads were blocked in all the ways. Reality was sinking in that our house was really messed up and we had no clue how to be adults at this next level. Like we didn’t know what to do next. The good thing is we didn’t have to know.
“God told me to go to Maddie’s house so here we are. Now I know why!”
I was in my feelings standing in my front yard looking a hot mess because that’s what you do when a hurricane spits trees onto your house. My husband had left to get work and football sorted out so I got the pleasure of hanging out with my emotions, a collegiate football player, and my kids post-hurricane. We were picking up branches and debris.
A car pulled up in front of our house and stopped. They brought rakes and gloves. They just showed up. It was my friend and her parents. Her mama said God told her to come to my house. For real? Thank you, God because I literally had no idea what to do. Their arrival couldn’t have been more perfectly timed. One moment, I was feeling overwhelmed and alone but the next moment I was encouraged because God brought help and direction.
We worked, prayed, laughed and cried that day. More people came. Chainsaws are important. I didn’t know that. So, people brought chainsaws and picnic lunch and they kept showing up. I had help before I knew what I needed. It was so beautiful and messy. Hard but holy. We felt the hands and feet of Christ carry us through the church being the church that day and through the months to come. It was God’s grace that brought the hurricane and allowed us to be in a position where we needed so much help. I will be forever grateful for the hurricane.
We got a phone call informing us that if we needed a place to stay until insurance got sorted out, Mr. Irvin, a deacon from our church, had offered his guest home. He had never met us. We also didn’t know it at that time, but we were going to be displaced for 5 months. So, God provided a place to stay for our family and it was immeasurably more than we could have asked for or imagined.
We lived in a loft-style one room guest house for 5 months with our 3 kids after Hurricane Michael and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. In all honesty, the timing of the storm that seemed to “flip our lives upside down” actually came when we were already upside down. In our marriage. We couldn’t figure out how to move forward from past hurt and had been in our own storm for quite some time. God’s grace brought the hurricane that broke us. It didn’t just slow us down, it stopped us so we could heal.
“Come and see what the LORD has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth…He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” -Psalm 46:8,10
God divinely orchestrated our path to cross with Mr. Irvin who is such a “spiritual father-figure” to us now...but it was more than that. He arranged for us to BE WITH him. We lived with the guy for 5 months. He heard our kids squeal at the crack of dawn before school and I jacked up his washing machine because I overstuffed it with my laundry. That’s life on life.
Jesus called disciples so “they might be with him” and I wholeheartedly believe that there’s a level of impact that can only come by sharing life. Now he is like family away from family. I made hot dogs on a bonfire in his back yard for dinner so many times he probably felt sorry for my kids. Maybe that’s why he invited us to have dinner with him so often?
Our home was being gutted, rebuilt and renovated in all the smashed areas. The reconstruction happening there also needed to happen in our hearts. The month before the storm was even a thing, I’d been advised by more than one person to seek biblical counseling. Pride kept me from seeking help. When you live in a one room house during your first football season in a new town as a coaching family, there’s nowhere to hide. It becomes impossible to deny you need help. Everything comes out.
Insert counseling. We needed it. When an athlete is injured, they can STOP to have surgery, heal, and rehabilitate. They could also pretend nothing is wrong and keep doing business as usual through the pain. No one is able to be their best with that kind of hurt. We had been trying to run our race with about 2,114 injuries at that point and God used the hurricane to say STOP. Time for surgery. I’ll say more about counseling another time. Just know there’s a reason Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 that he delighted in hardships and difficulties. When I am weak, then I am strong because Christ’s power is made perfect in my weakness.
As our home was being rebuilt, so were the broken places in our marriage. The Lord began to empower us with inner strength through His Spirit. He helped Christ make His home in our hearts as we trusted in Him through that storm. Our roots are continuing to grow down into God’s love and we are learning to let Him keep us strong as we move forward.
We saw a glimpse of how wide, long, high and deep His love is for us through how He provided and revealed Himself to us during that time. We know better the love of Christ and the fullness of life and power that comes from Jesus because of a hurricane. Glory to God who did immeasurably more than all we could have asked for or imagined according to His power at work within us. To Him be the glory for Hurricane Michael.