I wondered if Jesus could hear me over the deafening roar of the Category-5, pounding wind gusts. I was praying frantically while Hurricane Ian removed half of our mobile home, like an angry toddler hurling a lego wall across the room. My husband and I watched the action from the window, front row seats to Dorothy’s tornado in Wizard of Oz. “There goes our carport, screen porch and patio!” “Isn’t that the Baker’s bay window rolling across our yard?” “Whoa, Lordy. I think that’s the Patterson’s roof on our driveway. Poor Mr. Patterson. Did it smash the car?”
I implored, “Dear Jesus, can you please allow us to keep our metal office roof, so our home won’t flood?” (The office ceiling was sodden and now collapsed on the floor). Bang, bang, bang, shudder, convulse, quake. I even phone-video’ed my plea, concluding with a shot of Jesus’ cross, miraculously still hanging on the wall. We felt like we were in a kids’ playhouse, and bullies were tipping it over from the outside.
Help! Scripture Verse. Right. Now.
How apropos yet challenging Psalm 16:8 NIV was to this moment. “I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” I grabbed God’s hand and held on tight.
I know, I know, my husband and I are crazy Floridians to try and hunker down in a mobile home during a hurricane. We’d been through two of them already; how hard could this one be? The secure clubhouse building a half block away in our park, was available to anyone who chose not to evacuate. We figured we’d see how it went –we could always wear our bike helmets and sprint over there. Definitely an ill-advised decision –at a half hour in, it was too dangerous to go anywhere.
We ended up in our narrow hallway, with couch pillows on our heads, petrified looks on our faces, and clinging together for comfort. As we listened to our battery-operated radio/flashlight, we learned quickly that this severe storm was a slow-moving, deadly monster.
A Mean, Nasty Giant
As Ian’s cruel performance wore on, we heard the newscasters report that both Sanibel and Pine Island’s only bridges were broken. Whoever had stayed on those islands was stranded. That evil storm also picked up the Caloosahatchee River, in downtown Ft. Myers, and thrust it right into building lobbies. I worked at one of those venues, FL Repertory Theatre, and five feet of water tsunami-ed inside, leaving mud and mold in its wake. Later we heard that one of our favorite ushers, who stayed on Ft. Myers Beach, hung on to a high palm tree for four hours, until he could be rescued by helicopter.
So. Much. Damage. So. Much Loss. So. Much. Sadness. Hard to believe that God was holding us when the world fell apart.
Help From Above
Cell phone service was mostly deplorable. But for some odd reason, my student, Anna, who lived over 1,000 miles away from me, was the only person getting through to me, cheering us up. I asked her mother to notify our daughters, in other areas of the country, that we were alive and okay. She got right on it. “Hi, I’m Beth. You don’t know me; I am the mother of your mother’s student, and your parents wanted me to let you know that they are doing alright.” We were so grateful to them and relieved. Isn’t God creative? Always behind the scenes, handing us solutions in the midst of an apocalypse.
A Literal Landfill
What a mess –a heaping pile of saturated, upturned outdoor furniture covered with pink fiberglass from multiple, jettisoned roofs, lay strewn about the yard. At one point during this debacle, I joked that a giant had attended a nearby carnival, eaten too
much cotton candy and puked all over Southwest Florida. That stuff was EVERYWHERE. Our bikes were buried in that. Tangled vegetation wrapped around all this to form a yucky, slimy mountain. We were astonished that only our Blessed Mary statue remained stoically standing, like she was giving a pep talk onstage, in front of her disheveled audience.
This wasn’t a fake nightmare. It was a real day-mare. I’ve watched disasters on TV thinking, how horrific. Let’s send some money to help, but PHEW, not us. This time it was us.
At long last, the storm moved away, and the flooding of our streets receded. We cleared away all road debris and swept away all nails and screws. We created intricate aluminum mountains in the grass, and hydrogen peroxide-d all of our cuts. We heard the American Red Cross truck pull into our neighborhood, making their bullhorn announcement, “Hot meals! Come and get them! Chili and biscuits!” This gift comforted our careworn souls. Again, God came through, quietly helping wherever He could.
For 11 days, we endured zero electricity. We were so grateful we had equipment, we hugged our camper stove (well, not while it was on – LOL) and kissed our propane tanks. Army Corps of Engineers gave out bottled water, tarps for our holey roofs and Meals Ready-to-Eat. God bless them. God will always provide, somehow, some way.
Our daughter, Shelley, created our FEMA claim, as we had no internet for 2 weeks. Our daughter, Christyanne, started our insurance claim. My family and dear friends Jim, Ashleigh, Tom, Colleen, the Ortegas, and Lynne, sent us water, mixed nuts and money as soon as delivery was up and running. We will never, ever forget their TLC for us during this chaotic experience. Again, God comes through others to deliver His help. Always.
What in the World Do We Do Next?
We looked around our damaged little home. Happy the worst was over, but wondering what was next. What could we do now? Insurance lowballed us for expensive repairs, which would take months to begin. After all, we were the one millionth customers in line. We ran our hands through our hair repeatedly and slumped in our chairs– utterly powerless.
“It’ll take a miracle for us to get another house.” I lamented.
“Yea, I know.” My husband rested his weary head on his forearm.
Aaah, but these are the hopeless scenarios God delights working in…
Within minutes our daughter, Caroline, called. “Mumbo and Daddio, I couldn’t wait to tell you! I just got approved for a mortgage, and I’d love to buy an investment home you guys can live in, wherever you want. Let me know, and we’ll start looking.”
Hearts thundering, huge smiles on our faces, and embracing one another, we looked up to the Heavens, incredulous.
The verdict is yes. Yes, I can trust God in any mayhem the world decides to throw at me.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV