I was drenched in sweat as I wandered around the houseboat aimlessly. What do I take? How long will we be gone? Lots of questions but very few answers. A wise friend once told me that when you don’t know what to do, just do something, so I started with the refrigerator. I knew all the food would spoil without electricity, so I started there, and so began the process of temporarily moving out of our home. As I walked around and randomly gathered our belongings John assessed the damage from the storm.
The first storm had come out of nowhere and hit us the hardest. The dock connecting our houseboat to the rest of the marina ripped in half and caught on fire. Large boats broke loose from their slips and crashed into the shore. Some news channels reported eight foot waves and 80 mph winds, calling it the worst storm in twenty years. Several people had to be rescued from the choppy waters after they abandoned their paddle boards and jet skis to try to swim to land. The storm had come out of nowhere and left a path of destruction in its wake!
The marina staff and members were still picking up the pieces from the first storm when another one appeared on the radar. There was nothing anyone could do to stop mother nature, so instead unstable boats were relocated, docks were tied together with cables, and everyone braced themselves for round two. The second wave caused extensive damage to the main village forcing people to evacuate the marina by boat. And just like that our neighborhood was destroyed. Late that night we received the e-mail that there was a mandatory evacuation at the lake and we couldn’t return home.
The situation was out of our control and there were no answers, so we took our belongings and moved in with our friends Jeff and Kasey until we could figure out our next step. When we saw a third storm on the radar we decided to drive to the lake. Like a boxer in the final round, barely able to stand, this unstable marina couldn’t afford another blow. Yet we sat at the top of the south ramp and watched as another storm rolled in. The shifting dock came loose and worked its way under the corner of our houseboat, with every wave our boat was getting beat up, twisted and damaged and there was nothing we could do. We continued to watch as the third storm wreaked havoc on our neighborhood.
Throughout our life we experience a variety of storms. They come unexpectedly, we do our best to brace for impact, but things are often out of our control. The storms we experience throughout our life can be devastating, turning our world upside down and leaving a path of destruction in their wake. These moments can often be overwhelming and discouraging – especially if our focus is on the dark clouds overhead. Right now we are choosing to focus on the good and trust God.
One of the most encouraging things to me in times like these is how everyone comes together to support and encourage one another. After the first storm, when our dock was destroyed, our dogs were on the boat alone. Our friends, Jeff and Kasey, got to the lake before us, so Jeff jumped in and swam through those rough waters to check on our dogs. Everyone in the marina jumped in to help secure dock lines, empty water out of sinking boats, and assist those that had sustained the most damage. Following the storm people learned that our family was temporarily homeless and we began to get offers to utilize spare bedrooms, RV’s, and homes. I love how God’s light can shine right through the darkness.
What now? Our boat sustained more than thirty thousand dollars in damage including holes in our pontoons, damage to the outdrive, swim platform and ladder. There is also structural damage that is causing our second story to cave in to our downstairs living room – so if we don’t fix that I could be living in a single story again! The next step is to pull the boat out of the water, which takes modifying a trailer, paying $4,000 and getting in a long line of others waiting to do the same thing. We are unsure when the marina will be functional again, we aren't sure when our boat will be fixed or how much it will cost. There are a lot of questions and the future is uncertain.
These storms have turned our world upside down and left us temporarily homeless. Not an ideal scenario with the church launch forty two days away. When I think about the growing to do list, shrinking timeline and challenges ahead I get a bit overwhelmed. So I choose not to think about those things. Instead, I focus on the blessings. I pray for perspective and can see God at work every step of the way. I think about my commitment to follow Jesus, despite the cost, and I keep moving forward. I choose to praise Him in the storm!
"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." Philippians 4:8