Lasting Lessons from Hurricane Irma

I took one last look at my husband as my four children and I drove away from our home on Florida’s west coast. With his hands clasped in a prayerful pose and nervously lifted to his lips, I darted another quick prayer that we would be home again soon and find everything and everyone as we left them. I knew Ron and our family were anxious about my 500-mile evacuation to my parent’s home in Alabama. The last time I had set out on the solo parent mission was six years earlier. We didn’t make it even two hours into our journey when I  totaled our SUV and landed myself and two older children in the ER. That trip was an attempt to help victims of a devastating tornado in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. This trip was an endeavor to escape the potentially fatal winds of the category five storm dubbed, Irma.

Irma was the largest recorded hurricane to date. Our city, thankfully, was sparred the brunt of the winds and the storm surge, but not before wrecking everyone in the state’s nerves as we braced to see what path this storm would take and how strong she would come in. Irma resulted in the largest mass exodus of people from Florida. We were among millions driving away from the storm to seek refuge in neighboring states. With gasoline scarce and roadways pregnant with fleeing evacuees, we drove out early on Wednesday morning trying to beat the traffic. We were successful in that endeavor. Finding US 19 traffic free and momentarily plentiful with gas, the kids and I successfully made the 10-hour trip in 11 hours.

As the state of Florida experienced one of the slowest weeks in history, all Floridians felt the oppressive weight of uncertainty. Regardless of our geographic location, we were all considering the possible loss of life and property. We were reevaluating priorities and esteeming relationships above material possessions. So many of us wrestled with the question of evacuating or staying to assist in the aftermath. Hunkering down, or hustling away. Many for the first time realized that the cone of uncertainty is a real threat and not an ideology to keep people glued to their local weather forecaster nor a way to sell bread and water.

Now, nearing a month after Irma, there are a few lessons we must remember even as the debris continues to be cleared away and the aftermath begin to look more like the prior glory of central and southern Florida. Granted, our area was spared the most it could have been and the more southern portions of the state are still experiencing aftermath in ways that I cannot fathom at this point. Please consider as you read these thoughts that our home suffered no damage and we weren’t left to wrestle with the total ruin that some of our fellow statesmen, along with the Caribbean Islands, are dealing with. Prior to landfall, we prepared for the worst and prayed for the best.

  1. Community continues to be the cornerstone of civilization. It was amazing to see how much humanity is highlighted in the darkest hours. The community among friends and family was fully displayed as texts were sent, storm shutters and plywood boarded, water shared, and safety plans made. It was a beautiful sight to behold. We held each other’s hands both figuratively and literally, encouraged one another, and prayed for and with one another. We braced the storm with faith in our God and His sovereignty no matter the ultimate outcome. In today’s digital era, we can falsely believe that all you need is a deserted island, Amazon Prime, and a laptop to experience all life has to offer. Rest assured, physical community cannot be replaced, merely inadequately replicated online.
  2. Debris remains long after the headlines have shifted. We continue to require cleanup locally. Most people have cleaned their yards, but piles of brown limbs and leaves accumulated on streets, as well as many large downed trees, remain. News is purposed to sensationalize every situation for a season, but the seasons for real catastrophes linger dramatically longer than the seasons of national news headlines. When our Facebook temporary profile pictures move onto the next cause, people in affected communities cannot. Like a death in the family, the world moves on, but the day to day has forever changed for the family who lost a loved one; and in the case of Irma, loss of physical needs. Therefore, our eternal perspective and our service perspective are longer term than our television screens.
  3. We are smaller and more helpless than we daily imagine. When a category five hurricane is ripping through islands and countries and seems to never slow down, it is amazing to see how big God is and how small we are. Only God can calm the storms. Man can simply brace or run. We taunt our pride in self-sufficiency, only to find in the face of natural disaster we are ultimately inadequate. We can plan, pray, prepare, and protect to the best of our abilities but the outcome is out of our hands. We are in control of far less than we daily realize.
  4. We, the Church, are known by our love for one another. Local teams of people from our church were out immediately after Irma hit, cleaning up debris and fallen trees in neighborhoods. This service of sawing and cleaning up trees cost a reported $6,000 after the hurricane. When a neighbor of one of our church members realized the team at his neighboring home was a volunteer clean up team, his mind was blown! These teams helped people both locally, and some continue to assist further south in Naples. When we help others, Christ is glorified and people begin to question the reason for the assistance being offered.
  5. The objects of earthly importance are not those which we use daily. When we crammed our car full of items we wanted to spare in the event of total devastation, we took documents and photo albums we rarely consider or use. More importantly, we placed the people we care most about in the car to carry them to safety. Things can be replaced. Little we use in the day to day is so priceless it can’t be duplicated or done away with. Irma made us consider how little we really need and how valuable people are.

Ten days after we pulled out of our driveway, we were pulling back into our parking spot. The kids and I were probably among some of the last in our area to make the return trip. We had waited to make sure there was power, gas, and open roadways. This time, as I looked through the window of the car, Ron was wearing a smile and open arms. Hands of prayer had turned to hands of welcoming praise. I hope these lasting lessons linger longer than the headlines in our state and local communities and we place the most value where eternal worth lies.

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$1.00 Texting Challenge

$1 Texting Challenge

Texting. Most of us text anywhere from several messages a day to, at minimum, a few a week. I am completely guilty of checking social media on my phone, reading articles, emailing, and texting while “stopped at red lights.” Often this is the case for when I am driving alone, or sadly, all too often when I am transporting my kids.

As of September 10, 2015, I will no longer be able to text or check my phone in the car without a fine. Why the abrupt and decisive change of mind? Please watch this video and you will see. (Click here if viewing in a reader.)

A video similar to this one produced by AT&T got my attention late one evening this week. It was a tipping point for me.

As of yesterday, my children, my husband, and frankly anyone riding with me, can charge me a dollar if they catch me using my phone while I am driving. Long live the passenger’s seat! The only exceptions are using my phone as a GPS or answering a phone call. Truthfully, even then I am going to be very selective as to answering phone calls.

Four years ago, I totaled my car while driving with my then one-year-old son and three-year-old daughter. A complete accident for which my family is eternally grateful that God saw us through safely. Thankfully, I was not using my phone at the time of the accident. I know what it is to be a wreck and I know that I don’t want any negligence on my part to ever endanger our children or anyone else trusting me with their life while I am behind the wheel.

Accidents will happen. However, there are many accidents that can be prevented.

Another reason that I believe this to be a necessary stance for myself is the witness factor to my children. I want to set the standard for what my elementary age children will be held to when they learn to drive. When it comes to the overuse of our phones, parents have the ultimate standards of hypocrisy. We don’t want our children on their devices, or ours, all of the time, and yet, we too find it difficult to put down the cell phone or tablet and live in real time. (Side note: I think that is one reason why I like books so much. My kids don’t have to guess if I am reading a book or the Bible when they see me holding onto a real book. I read enough articles on line and eBooks that I feel I have to explain that “mommy is reading” quite a bit.) Going hands free in the car will be an example that the kids can return to when they are held to that standard in the future.

So what about you? Will you take the $1 texting challenge for your car rides? My kids can’t wait to catch me texting. Little do they know my iron will isn’t going to budge!

Maybe you are single and don’t have children, or maybe you are an empty-nester. That’s okay! You can purpose your own tangible loss to forgo if you break your commitment to drive hands free.

Put the phone down and enjoy the ride!

If a man vows a vow to the LORD, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word. He shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth. ~Numbers 30:2

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10 Reasons Why I Like Being a One-Car Family

 

  1. Added family time– The four of us rarely enjoyed family time in the car prior to becoming a one-car family a year ago following our devastating car accident which you can read about here. Being a (youth) pastor’s wife means Sunday is not family day, but a work day. It took some major adjusting on this mama’s part to remember that getting our children to church was my mission as a helpmate to Ron and his vocation. Now that we are a one-car family I continue to be a pseudo single mom on Sunday and Wednesday, but after church we return to our family of four status as we now enjoy riding home together most Sunday’s.During the week the kids and I enjoy taking Ron to work even though this means everyone is ready for the day a little earlier than we might be if this responsibility was omitted.  Together time in the car allows us to confer about scheduling, work out any early morning spats, or just enjoy our coffee and kids together for a few more minutes.
  2. No payments– We have enjoyed payment free cars for several years prior to our accident and had even entertained the idea of converting to a single car. After totaling my Rendezvous and purchasing the Trailblazer, Ron decided that he would sell his truck to pay the difference for the new purchase and therefore leave us with no payment. This is one of the examples of servant leadership that I so admire about my husband and saw modeled in my dad prior to marriage. Dad drove an old Chevrolet pickup for years so that mom, my sister, and I could ride in a newer reliable mode of transportation.
  3. Less maintenance– With only one car we have one to maintain including tires, oil-changes, and, as our luck has gone this year, minor fender-benders (one where an ambulance backed into us at a red light and another where a pickup truck busted my back taillight).
  4. The clean factor– Ron has the car on certain days of the week and I know this means he will more than likely being transporting coworkers at lunch. Therefore, I try my best to have the car clear of trash and most toys. This means we start our days with a clean car.
  5. Shared bedtime duties– As I mentioned earlier, on church days in the past I would arrive home before Ron and have the added responsibility of lunch or dinner preparation plus bedtime routines for both kids. Now since we arrive home together my work load on those days has been reduced by half. What a blessing!
  6. Community-With only one car this makes for carpooling with friends on a regular basis for Ron and occasionally for me. Anytime we spend with others develops relationships and furthers the bonds of community.  It is both humbling and encouraging to find that so many are willing to extend a helping hand to us. In fact, this week as I visit my family with the kids, a generous friend has loaned his second car to Ron for two weeks. We are so thankful for this act of brotherly love.
  7. Rising to a challenge-I have to admit contemplating the transition from one car to two and actually doing it are two different things. The reality is that an accident kindly forced our hand. While some have jested, “Why don’t you just buy another car?” We have found that though planning is required the truth is that one car makes life a bit simpler than two. We can actually do without the “more” we believe we require. Thankfully, rising to this challenge has required planning not pains.
  8. Added margin– Owning one car requires that we simply stay at home more. We find that there are certain days that play dates and outings can occur. This is good for me because otherwise the laundry would be neglected all the more and the toys we have at home would be played with all the less.
  9. A steady rhythm to our days – I love Jamie Martin of Steady Mom. She wrote the wonderful book Steady Days that speaks of having a rhythm to the schedule of our days. Being a one-car family has definitely enforced a rhythm into the dynamics of our life.
  10. At least one bicycle is used– Yes, this last point may be pathetic, but it is true. If Ron were not forced to ride his bicycle to work on Sunday’s it most likely would sit next to mine rusting in the sunshine. However, I am going to lean into the curves and bike our county’s trail if it is one of the only things I do in the next two months!

What about you? Do you think you could share the car with your spouse for a day or two? Maybe even a week? If you do, let me know your experience. Perhaps you too would find that the benefits outweigh the inconveniences.

Shotgun!

 

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Restoration Projects

When winds howl at 95 mph and storms rage, damage is inevitable. Lucky people may escape with mere brush to pick up. Others are left with gaping holes in their homes’ infrastructure or worse, no home at all.

Imagine if your hometown is declared a national disaster zone by the President of the United States.

News teams swarm in donned in their galoshes, rain-gear, and microphones in hand.  Everyone makes the assumption that the President will make a speech empathizing with the community, promising to send aid to restore what the hurricane destroyed, and recognizing with understanding some valuables cannot be replaced. “National aid is sure to come,” think all watching.

Consider their surprise when the President walks by the cameras and outstretched microphones and boards Air Force One with a wave and a smile. He leans over to his press secretary instructing him to tell the people they can attend his next press conference. “I want to put this disaster behind us and forget it ever happened.”

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What? Forget 95 mph winds blew through and crushed everything in their path? “Come on”, you think, “I am not the President, but even I know it is impossible to act as though this hurricane never happened.”

It is the same way in our lives when families have a blow up of any size. Regardless of who started or finished the argument. It is impossible to merely sweep hurts and memories under the rug and avoid restorative reconciliation.

Yes, forgiveness on our part, even unsought forgiveness, is necessary. However, merely pretending a hurricane never happened is impossible.

While denial may be the best option for our pride, it is not the way of our Father and it does not restore health to the relationship.

Matthew 5:21-26 and Matthew 18:15-35 have much to say regarding anger, repentance, and forgiveness among brothers and believers. I am still sorting them out.

Consider with me that every good and even questionable mother teaches her young children to say “I’m sorry.” Our children are instructed to say, “I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?” To which the other should reply, “Yes, I forgive you.”

If children can kiss and make up, why not grown adults?

How can we ask our children to do what we are not willing to do ourselves?

I know what it feels to be an angry bird. I have a black belt buried in my back yard as a coercion ninja. Yet, I also recall this:

Put on then, as  God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,  compassionate hearts,  kindness,  humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and,  if one has a complaint against another,  forgiving each other;  as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on  love, which  binds everything together in  perfect harmony. ~Colossians 3:12-14

God is in the restoration business. He takes our failures, our sins, and when laid at the foot of the forgiving cross of Christ turns them into something redeemed. Something profitable. What needs restoration in your life? I am praying for restoration in mine.

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