After the storm

What a strange week it’s been.

The scramble and stress of preparing for a hurricane of unprecedented size and strength to make landfall; the waiting (and waiting and waiting) for it to arrive where you live; the terror of sitting in complete darkness through the night listening to howling winds, cracking trees, and thumps on the roof; the feeling of relief washing over as we woke Monday morning to discover daylight had come, we were all ok, and so were our friends and family members.

We stepped outside cautiously that morning to assess damages and marveled with our neighbors at what had fallen where, confirming everyone had fared all right and asking who needed what. Then we all picked up our rakes and chainsaws and got to work, on our own yards and each other’s.

Fallen trees can be cleaned up, busted fences can be replaced, wet stuff will dry, broken things can be fixed. Electricity will be restored… eventually.

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And now, things are starting to return to normal, though our home is still without power and schools haven’t reopened yet. I got a reminder call this morning about my daughter’s orthodontist appointment tomorrow and was jerked back to reality—we’re not back to normal yet here, but life is moving along.

People keep talking about how they’ve bonded with their neighbors in the aftermath of the storm, and I love the stories. We’re on a group text with our next-door neighbors, updating each other on where we are and how we’re doing and whether anyone has electricity yet.

I love the invitations I’m seeing shared by those with power restored, opening their homes to people longing for some time to cool off, a TV show to distract the kids, a hot shower, hot coffee. I’ve been touched by the texts I’ve received offering those things to my family, too.

Yesterday our church office was open as a haven of sorts—one with pizza, donuts, coffee, wifi, and power strips to charge our depleted phones. We ate, laughed, and swapped stories with old and new friends while our kids ran out their energy and ate the frosting off of donuts (okay, that was just my kid). It made me feel human again, and I could have cried.

I’m not alone. You’re not alone. We’re all in this together—hot and sticky and unshowered, experiencing caffeine withdrawal, cranky kids in tow. IMG_0430

This morning I packed up a laundry basket with favorite books, beloved blankies, and clothes for my family and drove back across town to stay somewhere air-conditioned, and while I drove I thought about those who don’t have the option to do what we’re doing—take shelter somewhere. It’s hot out today. The post-hurricane breezes we were so grateful for seem to be leaving us, replaced by typical Florida-in-September temps and yes, humidity.

Sitting in a house full of stagnant, stuffy, warm air is unpleasant at best. Yet I realize for many, it’s nothing outside the norm. I’m overcome by the magnitude of the gifts I hold in my hands and have all around me on an average day—gifts I often forget to take note of or say thank you for.

I imagine I’ll have more observations in the days to come, and I’m praying some ideas to help those who are far worse off—but for now these reflections are all I’ve got.

Thanks for praying for the people of Florida. Please don’t stop. For many it will be a long, long time before life feels something like normal again.

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