After eight pounds of water are multiplied times thousands

The flood waters have all but receded in this part of Texas. Businesses, homes, and churches are marked with water lines like scars. The massive flooding left behind a testimony to the power of water. Cars on the side of the road with boats still attached, but flipped over. Thirty-something feet long Class A motor homes tossed about like toys or left bobbing in lakes. Kitchen appliances floating through doorways three grown men could barely squeeze them through on a moving day. “One gallon of water weighs eight pounds” my husband says in reply to my awe. One gallon. Eight pounds.

With all this water flooding in, I’ve been thinking about that person in Psalm 1:3 who is a like a tree planted by streams of water. The water I’ve seen weigh in with destruction and upended lives doesn’t appear to reflect biblical words. But maybe streams of water aren’t always beautiful. Maybe there are times when water washes away everything we think we hold dear and forces us out of our comfortable places. Eight pounds multiplied by thousands. We’re moved. And everyone around us takes notice.

Tonight’s the night after the highs and the lows. Our lives have been altered by the storm. We’ve weathered more in two weeks than we will the rest of the year. At least we hope so. We’re worn. The after has set in: that certain kind of introspective depression that follows a destructive hurricane. It’s in the calm, gentle breeze and the sunshine shadowed by the devastation. Two sides of a coin and we see both at once. Our lives feel lived in retrospect.

As I close my eyes, I’ll repeat verses from Psalm 1 over and over until sleep takes me. I’ll remember the floods and the mess. I’ll think of Florida and the Caribbean. I’ll remember fire devastated states right along with our water weary. I’ll be keeping so many in my prayers tonight.

Psalm 1:1-3  

1 Blessed is the one

    who does not walk in step with the wicked

or stand in the way that sinners take

    or sit in the company of mockers,

2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,

    and who meditates on his law day and night.

3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,

    which yields its fruit in season

and whose leaf does not wither—

    whatever they do prospers.

When waters rise, homes flood, and the weary grow stronger

This has been the strangest week, and it’s still just Thursday. In Southeast Texas, we’re in the recovery phase of Hurricane Harvey, or what became subtropical storm Harvey. The rivers, creeks, and bayous broke records as they rose as much as ten feet or more above the last record. More than thirty thousand people in my small corner of Texas are displaced, and that number is kind. The largest city near me, a town of more than one hundred thousand, is limping on a temporary water supply and has been for over a week, and there isn’t a correction date in sight. Every city within a fifty mile radius of my home suffered unprecedented flooding (and that might actually be a one hundred mile radius.) Everyone I know personally within this questionable radius either flooded or personally knows someone who flooded. 

You may think I’m exaggerating. You’re wrong. I know more than twenty-five families who lost almost all of their personal possessions in less than two days. Because you may not comprehend this, I’ll clarify. Staggering totals of six to eight feet or more of water in your personal residence drowns your possessions. 

It’s late now, and I’m weary to the bone. We’ve packed off the personal belongings of two families this past week. Storage facilities in space sizes of ten by fifteen run one hundred and seventeen dollars a month-and that’s before insurance and locks. Oh, and most families need at least two spaces. Pots and pans, blankets, clothing, hobbies, and memorabilia can be packed in a box, labeled, and stored without any idea of when anyone may see them again. 

Room controlled storage–the newest catch phrase: Stuff kept at temperature control. Except when the sliding doors open every few minutes to allow yet another flood victim to unload.
So, after this past week of watching others lose their homes and helping others pack what’s left, I’ve come to some conclusiins.

First, we have too much stuff. Second, we worry a lot about keeping stuff–just in case. Third, we have a lot of stuff that can be left by the road when the stuffs usefulness is gone. Fourth, we can strangely covet other people’s stuff left by the side of the road. Fifth, we are more than our stuff.

I’ve watched good people come together this past week to help one another tear down, pack up, and rebuild. I’ve watched good people butt heads over the coming together, tearing down and rebuilding, and they still come out okay on the other side. I’ve watched the broken healed, and I’ve watched the hardened break down. I’ve watched full pour into empty in ways that have nothing to do with water. 

I’ve also seen the negative this past week, and sometimes I’ve spoken in the negative. But this week, I’ve seen the good outweigh the bad far more often than not. I’ve seen darkness die in the presence of light. I’ve seen fear, and I’ve seen hope reborn.

It’s been a strange week. And it’s only Thursday. There are a multitude of storms headed inland. There are fires spreading. But we can be the difference makers.
I’m asking you to be the good in the rest of this week. Lend a hand. Encourage someone. Pray with someone. Help someone. Step out of your comfortable or uncomfortable home and be the hands and feet of Jesus this week. 
You are stronger, wiser, braver, and far more compassionate than you think you are. Run to the battle.

When waters rise and we learn an awful lot about letting go

This has been a hard day. My family is in the Hurricane Harvey zone of southeast Texas, and we spent the entire day cleaning out a flooded home. The Entire Day. I still smell the stench of rotten food, wet carpet, and the mud.

Water soaked four to five feet high of everything. The ground. The furniture. The walls. We set mildew covered shoes out to dry, and I thought about yesterday when I stopped to tell a total stranger how sorry I was about his apartment flooding. That man shook my hand and thanked me for caring. Simply for caring. I still tear up remembering.

But today, I lost a little of myself. And now I’m dealing with that left over bad taste of anger that somehow mingles with regret and makes you feel a little sick inside. So here I am, and I don’t even know you, but I need to tell you something anyway. See, we’ve come around this table. We’ve come here to a common place, and I hope you’ll bear with me.

I lost it today. We salvaged what we could from the flooded house. And then we salvaged water ruined things. The unsalvageable, the irreparable, the soon to be molded and mildewed. (Is that even a word?)

Yesterday, I spent all day traveling around the area, seeing home after home with piles of debris. I kept trying to fathom how you lay all your hard earned possessions at the curb, water soaked and ruined, and just walk away. Then, I spent today arguing with someone who needed to and wouldn’t.

Neither day felt right. I have this ache inside spreading slow though my veins. The grief for their loss. The heartbreak over my angry words. I’ve spent a week distraught over what others have lost and in one day, I’ve demanded that someone see reason, let it all go, and walk away. Turns out, for some, it really isn’t all that easy. It isn’t just stuff and those two benign sounding words are cruel.

I’m wishing hard this were someone else’s post, someone else’s day. I had expected to feel good about our labor today. Instead, I’m sore body, heart, and soul.

Floods take away more than stuff; floods take away pride, possessions, comfort, and memories. Floods leave behind ground that needs to be found again, turned over, and revived. It turns out that getting to the good ground is the real labor, and the stuff is the harvest of previous labor.

Tomorrow we’ll try again with the pulling out and packing up. Tomorrow I will find myself. I’ll apologize. I’ll extend grace. And I’ll quietly pray for the flooded out to find the ability to throw out and start again.