One year ago today, I made the first post on the Do A New Thing blog. It’s almost an unwritten rule on your “bloggerversary”, you have to write a post on what you learned in your first year of blogging. But I’m not doing that. Instead, I am marking a more significant date. One month ago today, the Great Flood of 2016 began to overwhelm my community.
One month ago today, I received a text from my daughter with silly pictures of her husband playing in the knee-high water in their backyard. An hour later, I received the tearful phone call. “Mom, the water’s coming in.”
A day later, we watched as the Amite River flowed down our street. As the water came higher and higher in the yard, we picked up and protected what we could, loaded ourselves, daughter, son-in-law, two dogs and a couple of suitcases into our vehicles, drove through 18″ of water and spent the night with friends in a higher part of the neighborhood.
Thankfully, when we went to check the next morning, our house was spared. The water came just to the door but not in. My daughter ended up with only a couple inches in her house … just enough to have to remove flooring and drywall, doors and cabinets and make a big mess. And while my husband lost almost the entire inventory of antiques and collectibles to three feet of water in his downtown shop, we consider ourselves so very blessed.
Even though we did not lose any personal belongings, reflecting on this last month, I feel like I have lost a lot.
I lost my attachment to stuff
The loss of “things” all around me is overwhelming. Most neighborhoods have a six-foot high wall of stuff in front of every house, waiting for the disposal trucks to come pick it up with their giant claws. Flooring, furniture, clothes, appliances … all the things gathered over a lifetime destroyed in a few hours.
I sat in my bare-floored church, surrounded by people who have lost everything singing praises about rising above, trusting and walking through the dark waters. And I was almost envious. What freedom there must be in starting completely over with only the things you really need. To be forced to break the emotional attachment to stuff that consumes our time, money and energy.
Some of what was lost was irreplaceable … important documents, family photographs, heirlooms handed down from generation to generation. But if I had lost everything, what would I really replace? A deep desire to purge is stirring in me. To go through all my belongings and only keep what I would have replaced, or what would have made me cry to see in a pile by the street. I long to start over with less.
I lost my balance
The food bank parked trailers at our church and we gave away food, supplies and hot meals to hundreds of people in our community. A long line of cars snaked through the parking lot, spilling out onto the major road and snarling up traffic. I was trying to help hand things into cars and keep that line moving. But our pastor’s sweet wife, Sheri, was stopping every car, introducing herself, asking how they were, what they needed and inviting them to church.
I seriously wanted to scream — LET THE LINE MOVE!! I had to walk away, telling a close friend, “I just can’t stand here and watch this. It’s making me crazy.”
I am painfully aware that I tend to put projects over people. Laying in bed that night, I knew that where I saw a long line of projects to be pushed over to the DONE side of the list, Sheri saw hurting hearts who needed a kind hand on their shoulder and a word of encouragement. She lost most of her home’s contents in the flood and still was able to reach out to others.
The next morning at church, I had a good laugh about it with Sheri. I told her how I reacted, but how much I admire her ability to zone out the long line and focus on the one person in front of her. She said how much she needs people like me in her life to stay on track and productive. It’s definitely a balance. I lost mine that day but I’m learning from friends like Lynette, Mickey and Leigh Ann who are able to be productive and loving at the same time.
I lost my delightfully empty nest
My daughter has always been offended by my blog bio that mentions my “delightfully empty nest.” It doesn’t mean that I was glad to get my kids out of the house. It’s more that I’m delighted at seeing what God is doing in their lives and mine in this new season.
She and her husband are staying with us while the repairs are done on their house. Old habits die hard and within a few days, I was already leaving the house saying, “Clean up your room, do the laundry and empty the dishwasher.” Just like old times.
We’ve walked with them through the maze of flood insurance and FEMA claims, a million decisions to be made for the contractor, adjusting to being a speech therapist on the move instead of in a classroom. I’ve been impressed by how they have handled the things that need to be done.
My son made supply runs from his nearby college town and made sure we had everything we needed. Both of my kids have have acted like real grown ups and it has been a blessing to see.
My nest is not empty (temporarily!) but it is still delightful. Even if she DOES need to clean up her room!
I’m thankful to be part of the 10% of my town who lost little materially in the Great Flood of 2016. But what I’ve learned from the 90%, from those who have lost so much, from those who still have so far to go, makes me proud to be part of this community.
Maybe you weren’t impacted by a flood or other natural disaster, but what have you learned in a time of crisis? What habits or attitudes have you lost that really are a gain?
**Thanks to my friends Jessica, Jimmie, Molly and Joanne for providing some of the pictures used in this post. Please be praying for them as they continue to recover.