It all began with a text from a widow...On Friday evening. This sweet lady from Allen's office (She is known as "Ms Pat") texted us to check on us and our storm plans. Imagine that! As we got to talking with her, we realized her need for help...for someone to board her house that she would be sheltering in during the storm. So Friday night, off we went to the next town over to Lowes...hoping and praying they would still have plywood. Jackpot! We were able to get all we needed, then by 7am the next morn, we were headed to Ms Pat's house to board her up and secure loose items in her yard. What a sweet blessing it was to do that. Then home to make our own storm plans.
When we decided to evacuate, we weren't sure what that would entail...a long drive, heavy traffic, high winds? Would we pack enough? What should we take? What should we leave? So many uncertainties. But 1 thing we knew...that always remains the same....OUR GOD IS GOOD AND WE CAN TRUST HIM!
So off we headed - WEST - on Saturday evening at 8pm, after we finally got packed, to Gulf Shores, Alabama, where we were welcomed to "The Lodge" (as some call their beautiful home) by my brother & sisinlaw. To say we were a bit weary is an understatement. We had caravanned with Allen's sis & her hubby & 2 boys. We had to keep stopping for coffee & snacks and check in with each other just to be sure both drivers were staying awake. Our guys did a wonderful job getting us to our destination safely. They were completely exhausted tho, after 2 days of hurricane prep (decluttering the yard, tying things down, packing things up, and doing all they could to be ensure our house and belongings wouldn't blow away with Irma). Making the decision to leave was a hard enough one, but staying thru Hurricane Hermine last time (which was only a cat 1) was frightening, and we decided we didn't want to push our luck with the "forecasted" Cat 3 Irma headed our way. Then deciding where to go was even more confusing. Since that darn "cone of uncertainty" couldn't make up its mind, we weren't really sure where we would be safest. Do we head North? Do we head Northwest? Or just West? So many unanswered questions. We had my twin in Atlanta offering her place, my brother in Gulf Shores, Allen's Aunt in Macon offering hers, and sweet friends in Dothan offering to put all 11 of us up (our 5, + Allen's parents, + Allen's sis & family...yes, we really like to travel together. Safety in numbers. Hee-hee). Since all hotels were completely sold out, we were overwhelmed by the generosity and kindness in ALL the offers! How blessed are we?
Allen was an absolute rock thru it all, but to be honest, by Saturday night, I had worked myself into knots. I wanted one more night at home, but I didn't want to wait too long to evac. Finally, my amazing husband announced..."We are going to Gulf Shores. That's where we will be the safest....west of the storm". How grateful I am for his wisdom. If I will just sit back and let him lead...oh wait...I'll save that for a #marriagemondays post. LOL Soooo, Gulf Shores it was! What abundance and graciousness was shown to us! It really was like staying at a Mountain Lodge. We had our own huge bedroom upstairs, with full bath attached, all toiletries completely stocked...and even the kitchen downstairs was well stocked with snacks, drinks, and... COFFEE!!! Kuerig Heaven!!! Such gracious hosts we had!
Getting in at 3am tho meant sleeping til 9 or 10 & getting a slow start to the day, but once we got rolling, we headed to The Pier at Orange Beach! Although we got quite the spa treatment via the sandblasting (exfoliation!), we still had a great time. Any day at the beach is a good day, right? Haha!! Then that evening, as we kept getting reports from friends and family down south about high winds, flooding and tornado warnings, we decided it was time to gather for prayer. Although we were well out of harms way, our hearts went out to each and every person going thru the storm. This resulted in the sweetest Family Worship and Prayer time. Doesn't get much better than that!
A few hours later tho, I have to admit that my faith wavered a bit when we heard a report that water was being sucked out of the Mobile Bay by the storm. To be honest, one of my fears of going straight West was that the storm would keep going West and cause storm surges in the Mobile Bay (which is pretty close to where we were staying). So my brother (who is a Commercial Fisherman) went to check on his boat. All was well! The Fear was unwarranted. I could sleep in peace. :)
The next day, we were all anxious to get home and see how our home (and dogs) faired. Yes, we left them. With no way to transport them, we had no choice really but we knew they had plenty of places to get out of the weather and stay safe. So late afternoon/early evening Monday, we headed home. Traffic was heavy, but not unmanageable. It backed up a few times in places but really not bad, considering the situation. As we pulled into pur drive at 10:30 at night, the sweetest 2 sets of beady eyes welcomed us (our dogs!). We were so excited to see them!!! They did a good job holding down the fort. LOL
We had ABSOLUTELY no idea what we would be coming home to... no power? House damage? A flooded yard, or house? We really didnt know. But guess what?!! As we pulled into our drive and got out, we kept looking for some sign, any sign that a storm had blown thru (oh!!! I forgot to mention something VERY important...by the time the storm reached our little town, it had been downgraded to a Tropical Storm! Say what?! We really thought we would take a direct hit by a Cat 3!). So...back to looking for storm damage.
We couldnt find a single sign of a storm! We were absolutely positively in awe! The ONLY sign was No Power! Thats it? How were we so fortunate? We really don't know but we are so grateful. And pir hearts ache for those that were not. From the smallest of damage (limbs down, leaking roofs, etc) to the largest (loss of homes and lives), we keep each and every one who was somehow impacted by Irma (and Harvey) in our daily prayers. We know we dodged a bullet and certainly do not take it for granted. We will gladly take living without power for a week over the alternative. We are so grateful to have a dry home to come back to. Such a sweet blessing!
So, here we sit...windows open, generator humming, kind of sticky and smelly but hearts overwhelmed by gratitude for what wasn't yet could have been. And every night, we lift up those who weren't so fortunate...those who lost all they had...and also those lineman that have traveled so far to give us the luxury of power. Yes, America has its own problems and is not what it once was, but in the aftermath of a catastrophe like Irma, we realize we are so blessed to live in the Good Ole USA...where people come together to help one another. Its such a beautiful site to behold and to be a part of.
SO WHAT ARE THE LESSONS FROM IRMA?
1. Above all, our God is good and we can trust Him!
2. The "Cone of Uncertainty" has nothing on our Creator!
3. Fear is just that...False Evidence Appearing Real (yes, sometimes fear can be healthy, but fear is rarely warranted and trusting the Lord in a scary situation makes for a much more peaceful home than giving into the Fear - God is constantly teaching me this).
4. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.. .blessed be the name of the Lord! We know he holds our future in his hands, and he us worthy of our praise...no matter HOW we weathered the storm. Easier said than done in certain seasons of our life, but praising Him always brings Peace.
Thanks for letting us share our story with you. May you all be safe and blessed and hug your family a little tighter today than yesterday.
With grateful hearts,
Allen & Carol