August 30, 2019

Hurricane University

By Mary Odell

As I write this, huge numbers of people in my area people are frantically preparing for the impending arrival of yet another hurricane. Gas station lines are long, and grocery stores are packed as people desperately stock up on water and bread. And me?  I filled my car’s gas tank and secured anything that could become a projectile in high winds.

Beyond that, I ain’t doin’ it.  I’m over it.

This is the fourth storm in four years to impact our state. And when this one is gone, I am selling the farm and moving to the exact middle of Canada. 

Today as I read social media posts from people new to Florida asking for tips, it occurred to me: I am a veteran.  I’ve lived in Florida twenty years now. (I am still not sure how that happened.) I have endured far too many hurricane seasons and survived no fewer than six actual hurricanes. 

The process of earning my “veteran” status has taught me a few things. Some things are basic, like “hide from wind; run from water.” (In other words, stay off the dang roads unless you are evacuating the coast). 

Other lessons go deeper. The physical storms have taught me some beautiful things about spiritual storms.  

For example, storms are best weathered in community. We live on twenty acres with a manufactured home and a well, which is basically the worst possible situation in a hurricane. According to insurance reckoning, it’s a miracle our house hasn’t blown away yet. Statistically speaking, we’re overdue. Not only that, but a well means that when you lose power, you lose running water.  Our idyllic little farm suddenly isn’t when a storm hits. Consequently we have to leave our home for every single storm. I hate it.

However, every time I am floored by the number of friends who call, generously offering shelter. And as much as I hate being so vulnerable and having to leave my home and depend on others, some of my fondest memories and strongest bonds were created during the hours hunkered down with friends waiting out a storm.  

I’ve come to think of my flimsy house as a metaphor for my earthly life. It’s a lovely place, and I love it, but it’s not permanent. I’ve learned to enjoy the time I have here, but to recognize that it is temporary.

Also, every time I leave my home for a storm, I don’t know if it will be standing when I return. The first few evacuations were upsetting, but I notice, as I prepare to leave yet again, that I am not nearly as bothered this time. With each storm, I have had to emotionally “let go” of my home, so now I don’t cling nearly so tightly to it. It’s just stuff. I’ve come to think of my flimsy house as a metaphor for my earthly life. It’s a lovely place, and I love it, but it’s not permanent. I’ve learned to enjoy the time I have here, but to recognize that it is temporary. Likewise, although I know I should live each moment to its fullest, this life is temporary.  This world is not my forever home.

Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned from hurricanes, I learned from a dog. 

During the 2004 “parade of storms,” we had an 8-month-old chocolate lab that we adopted as a companion and tormentor for our aging dog.  As the storm intensified, the older dog huddled down in the corner of our porch. Not the pup. That crazy dog charged right out into the storm! She was in her glory: racing full tilt across the yard and turning complete flips in the puddles. A storm raged around her, and she was having a party. Every other living creature was cowering, and she was dancing.

I remember thinking, “I want to be like that!” I want to remember that if God allows a storm in my life, then perhaps I am about to witness Divine power in action. I don’t want to have a sense of dread over what I’ll have to endure, but a sense of excitement for what God is about to accomplish. Instead of groaning that I might have to experience discomfort, I want to thrill that I might get to witness a miracle!

Oswald Chambers said it this way:

We are super-victors with a joy that comes from experiencing the very things which look as if they are going to destroy us. Huge waves that would frighten an ordinary swimmer produce a tremendous thrill for the surfer who has ridden them…The things we try to avoid and fight against―tribulation, suffering and persecution―are the very things that produce abundant joy in us. We are more than conquerors through Him…IN all these things; not in spite of them, but in the midst of them. A saint doesn’t know the joy of the Lord in spite of tribulation, but because of it.

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