She approached slowly, gradually revealing herself like a seductress. Absent weather data, no one could have known Irma’s ferocity or intent.
On Sunday, we woke to light rain and blustery winds. I cleaned the oven and finished the laundry, cooking and tidying the house as if guests were expected. We alternated between storm coverage and football on television, eyeing the hurricane snacks with longing.
Always the optimist, I hoped for the best even as I had prepared for the worst. Gallon jugs of water were frozen, ready to keep our food cold in the event of a power outage. The garage was packed with every outdoor item that might potentially be a missile thrust from the strong arm of this beast of a storm.
As evening approached, gusts picked up and at times the rain was horizontal. For a week, our focus had been on her, paths projecting she would scoot up the West coast of Florida. As if she knew she had a right, she changed her mind…Irma made a turn and headed right for us.
Occasionally the power blinked, but it kept coming back. Storm coverage continued and my favorite anchors were reassuring. At 12:50 a.m. it blinked and the house went dark and silent. I grabbed my flashlight and then lit three pillar candles…my blessed trinity of light and comfort.
Something was banging against the house. My imagination was spiraling out of control as the windows shook from the force of roaring wind. Local friends posted updates of downed trees and power outages.
Irma had unleashed her full fury. There was no escaping it. I was focused on the storm and my heart could surely relate to the words of the psalmist:
My heart pounds in my chest. The terror of death assaults me.
Fear and trembling overwhelm me, and I can’t stop shaking.
Oh, that I had wings like a dove, then I would fly away and rest!
I would fly far away to the quiet of the wilderness.
How quickly I would escape—far from this wild storm….” Psalm 55:4-7 NIV
Around three in the morning, the wind subsided significantly. Frogs croaked as crickets chirped in a strange harmony. The eye was passing overhead.
Suddenly I was no more than six years old. As Hurricane Donna crossed the state, my parents weathered the storm; they woke us when the eye passed over. They explained that the storm was still raging, but in those few moments, there was calm. We ventured outside to look at the sky in the complete darkness, to peer at the stars in the clear sky. I will never forget that night.
Again, I witnessed the calm that can be present even in a raging storm.
The day before the storm, I overheard an exchange between the Publix checker, the bag boy and a customer. As they chatted about the storm, the young bagger said he planned to sleep through the storm. The checker, with great enthusiasm, disagreed. “You see me? I ain’t Jesus and I ain’t sleeping through no hurricane!”
I chuckled, but I could relate. Too often, I get caught up in the storm and can’t find rest. And what about after the storm?
We suffer in our hot and humid homes, missing and appreciating electricity like the rich uncle we never realized we had. The debris is piled high along every road; technology is slow to recover but life beckons us return to normal. Groceries shelves are empty and gas station lines are long. Restaurants are packed and people are grumpy.
Irma has made her way North and fizzled out, but she left quite a mark. Lives were lost. Work was missed and the damages are still being assessed.
There is another hurricane brewing in the Atlantic. The good news? It’s not likely to have significant impact on the United States.
Life is a lot like that. One storm follows another and sometimes they pile up and you can’t even recover from the first before the next is raging. It’s a lot to handle.
I was thinking about all of this when I learned that our local eagle nest was destroyed in the hurricane. I never pass that way without slowing to look for those majestic birds. I was devastated.
But a friend captured this picture of the pair, perched above the pine tree where their huge nest once dominated the landscape. The nest is gone, but they are no less mighty. By nature, they will rebuild; if not in the same tree, nearby. Together, the male and female will bring sticks to construct the aerie (although the female manages placement, but that’s another post!) and over time they will raise more babies.
The minute I saw the photo, I remembered this:
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:30-31 NIV
I know you are tired, friends. This has been a harrowing and trying few days (and some of you even weathered Irma!). But our hope is in Jesus; I pray that the wind of his spirit comes up under your wings and you soar like an eagle to repair and rebuild the damage from the most recent storms in your life.
By grace we weather life’s storms,