Battered By The Storm, Strengthened By Faith

September 27, 2017 | by Michelle Meier

In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, I found myself facing yet another mountain of emotions but, at the end of the day, God carries me through. Attitude is everything (our thoughts, words, etc). What is yours when nothing seems to be going your way?

It has been an all-consuming exhausting couple of weeks.  I'm physically, mentally and emotionally drained after Hurricane Irma came barreling through South Florida.  The vibration of mass chaos in Miami before the storm, long lines and outages at most every gas station, hours of standstill bumper-to-bumper traffic with people laying on their horns for minutes (not seconds), no water to be found anywhere, canned goods cleaned out, threats of the strongest recorded Atlantic storm in history to cover ALL of our state...at my wit's end, I screamed inside my car one afternoon.  

God and yoga are most helpful for me but sometimes you just gotta shout it out.  I'm not going to lie; I was scared.  I felt moments of panic. 

Then I prayed to the Lord and visualized Jesus' shield of protection--a golden bubble of light--covering our people and our homes.  I knew in my heart then we would be ok.  Nonetheless, it was a stressful time.

My dad was traveling overseas and, when we were uncertain if the hurricane would go left up the west coast where my sister lives in Naples or right up the east coast where I live in Miami, he was worried that either one of his daughters could be in grave danger being in the direct path of this "monstrous disaster" that the news kept calling it.

On top of that, he hadn't secured his balconies before he left town.  So I drove for over an hour down to his place to bring furniture, potted plants and trees, a rock garden, lanterns, you name it...just about all of it from two balconies to inside his guest bedroom and living room.  This was amidst the pandemonium on the roads (two words: Miami drivers) and helping neighbors, then single-handedly dismantling the insides of my apartment and moving everything except my couch inside the innermost room while mapping out a plan for worst-case scenario.  

"While I've got hurricane proof windows, it IS a Category 5 and what if, say, a palm tree came flying through my windows into my living room?  The concrete stairwells by the emergency exit would be safe...and if anything happens and I face death, I know that I will be safe in the arms of the Lord." These were some of my thoughts leading up to it.

I couldn't really evacuate; it was too difficult.  I mean, Irma was going to cover the state of Florida from coast to coast.  We had nowhere to go but out of state.  Gas stations were running out of gas.  Families with kids were stranded on the side of the highways, also having run out of gas and with no help in sight, and bumper-to-bumper traffic of millions of people trying to simultaneously escape through Florida's bottleneck-sized peninsula.

At first when it appeared the hurricane would hit Miami, my sister and brother-in-law in Naples urged me to come stay with them.  I didn't because they had nowhere safe to park my car and I felt I needed my car to stay in tact as it provides my livelihood to get to my clients, which of course didn't happen anyway for a few weeks thanks to Irma.  I also felt safe in my building.  It has withstood decades of hurricanes.  Being right on the water, however, I expected flooding and so I parked my car in an above-ground covered garage down the street just in case.

My neighbors and I came together and there were many helping hands.  It was refreshing to see the camaraderie and fellowship. 

On the day of the storm, I actually fell asleep on my lone couch covered in a tarp in the middle of the living room while watching the vicious winds whip outside my windows.  (Say that 5 times fast; LOL).  I must've slept for hours and then woke up shortly before the worst of it hit.  It was nowhere near as bad here as what we expected, not even flooding by us.  There were reports of tornadoes touching ground 20 miles north of us but we remained safe.

My sister and brother-in-law were forced to evacuate at the last minute once the storm turned, with a direct hit projected to Naples.  They left, having packed up everything they could including their 2 cats in just over an hour, and I prayed over them upon their departure.  I had a vision of my mom with her angel wings protecting their car and guiding them to safety.  They experienced so many miracles along the way, evading several hour-long lines at gas stations, getting free upgrades of food at a couple of brief pit-stops after almost 15 hours straight driving out of the state and eventually ending up safely in Virginia.  They had friends in Georgia who let them stay at their place to rest and then other friends who welcomed them into their home in Virginia.  They only just returned home to Naples a couple of days ago.  Even though they'd watched on the news the eye of the storm pass directly over their home and community, their house fared well having only minimal damage.  A miracle; God's shield of protection was over their home!

Days after the storm I got a message from my dad asking me to go down and check his apartment.  He'd heard news of some water damage.  I was waiting for the streets to be cleared from all the downed trees and power lines.  Miami looks so brown and bare now.  When the roads slowly began to clear, I begrudgingly drove down there.  I didn't feel safe on the roads with traffic lights out and Miami drivers even more on edge.  I may have had a mini heart attack about 6 times on the way down, with cars suddenly veering into other lanes, people blatantly running stop signs, not to mention the looting that was going on in parts of town...but God got me there safely. 

Dad's apartment was flooded through the downstairs neighbor's ceiling (his floorboards were bubbling up) and thankfully I had help from maintenance in his building to clean the majority of it up and then came the fun of personally clearing his moldy--and fully stocked--fridge.  It looked like a science experiment in there.

Coming back to my empty place I decided I like the white open spaces and have been getting rid of some more stuff. Before putting my furniture back I thought it'd be a brilliant idea to repaint my walls.  Wanting it to be perfect (shocker, given my proclivity towards OCD), I spackled my walls in 3 phases, sanded, washed, then taped the borders before painting.

By the end of the day when the paint was dry and floors were vacuumed and mopped, I moved a couple of pieces of furniture back myself.

The next day, when getting up, my body protested, "NO!" and I fell back into bed, sleeping, for most of the day.  A couple of nights since then I've slept for twelve hours straight.  For the first time in my life, I think I understand a sliver of what those with PTSD are dealing with.  Everything's becoming a blur but slowly and surely we're all coming back.  

My heart and prayers are with those who are now having to rebuild their lives and their homes after the devastation they went through.  Some people lost everything.  I can't even begin to imagine.  There are so many natural disasters going on, so much turbulence in the world.  There are major shifts happening.  I cleave to the Lord during this time of uncertainty.  He is our anchor, our rock. 

Even though I struggled emotionally from this most hellish month of the year, I believe the key in how we come out of the storm is how we are when we're IN it.  Are we focused on how bad it is or are we able to remain faithful that good will come of this?  Are we able to trust that everything will work itself out in the end, even when everything in the moment seems like it's falling apart?

I have faith that God has an amazing plan for us.  It is through the storm that He prepares us for greatness.  Are you ready to receive it?  

 

"Faith is praising and thanking God IN the storm."