JOY STORY #11
We live in South Louisiana… I’m mean way south! Approximately 13 miles from the Vermilion Bay, so we are very familiar with hurricanes and evacuations. When we hear of hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, it’s usually time to pack our bags.
I’m taking you back to September 2005.
The name – Rita.
The Announcement – Evacuate.
We left work, went home to secure things in the yard. The news was saying that because the storm was so strong, they were predicting a storm surge. That was new to us. In a few hours, we were on the road heading north, as was everyone else in South Louisiana. The traffic was unbelievable. Everyone was heading in the same direction. A friend was following us and had OnStar in her vehicle. We made it to Monroe, LA after close to 10 hours. Normally… 4 hours. OnStar was communicating to help us get a hotel room. Nothing was available unless we wanted to go towards Memphis or Arkansas. We kept moving ahead. Guess what happened? God happened? He spoke to a Christian lady telling her to call OnStar and offer her home to a family that was stranded with no place to go. We were connected and in another 3 hours, we were pulling into this sweet lady’s driveway. Her home was the previous home of the governor of Mississippi. It was beautiful. We became family right away.
Check out this house. It was our hiding place from the storm. Our new-found friend, Debbie was holding that big cross, singing “Onward Christian soldiers” as we pulled out of her driveway. She was a joy to be with! And then there was Lucy, the doggy she rescued and her cat, Mr. Biscuit. We had a blast in spite of the storm!
Hurricane Rita slammed into the coastline border of Texas/Louisiana. And just as they said, the raging water rushed into our home. One inch, one foot, two feet, three feet, stopping at four feet. It wasn’t beached water. It was muddy, gross, water. Hurricane Rita went down in the record books as the strongest hurricane ever in the Gulf of Mexico, beating a record that Katrina had set about three weeks earlier. While churning in the Gulf, the maximum sustained winds of Rita reached 180 mph. So you can imagine how forceful the water rushed in.
We watched the news from Mississippi, knowing that we may not have a home when we returned. When you go through something like this, you find out where your treasure is. (Matthew 6:21) My husband and I had prayed that there’d be no loss of life, meaning our cat. This is the honest truth – we remained at our new friend, Debbie’s, for a few days, enjoying the fellowship, never worrying about our home and our stuff! When you see God move in your life over and over again, why would this be any different?
Back on the road again… getting to our home to inspect the damage. Walking into the living room, we see that all the furniture is moved around. The end table that held our little fish, was in the hallway, close to the bedroom. He was happily swimming in his fishbowl. Our cat was on top of the washing machine, meowing. She was alive and hungry and we gave God thanks! The damage was unbelievable.
The JOY in my story:
The first week after the storm, the choir sang a new song our pastor’s son, Kristopher Neel wrote, Faithful God. The words to that song gave me wings to soar above the circumstances. It was a song of declaration for me as we went through the restoration process. (God above the world I know, God above all I hold dear. No matter what the circumstance, God above I trust in You. Though I walk through the darkest night, You hold my hand. I know the sun will shine again. My hope is found in You. Faithful God you stay the same. I know your promises remain. Though the future is unclear to me… Faithful God.) Psalm 32:7 says, “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.” This is one of those songs of deliverance. It took away any worry I tried to have.
Yes, it was a crazy time in our lives. One day we were planning to fix the house, the next we were told we couldn’t get the permit to do so. FEMA was telling us that we would have to demolish the house. One thing Phil and I learned about ourselves from this storm experience… that our hearts were not attached to the material things. I honestly did not shed any tears over the loss. Our hearts were fixed on Him and He brought a blessing out of the storm. We paid off the house with the insurance money… thinking we would never be able to fix it. Then FEMA said if you have volunteers to help you fix the house, you can have a permit to repair the damages. Because we had two cars that flooded from the storm, we were able to use that insurance money to pay for the repairs. Praise God for the Master’s Commission students and volunteers, who came to our area and helped us get started on the repair work. They helped gut everything down to the cement slab and beams. Then they treated the house for mold, replaced the insulation, and sheet-rocked and painted all the walls. My house was starting to look like a home again. While living in a camper for one year, all of our needs were met. We moved back into the house almost exactly one year after the storm.
Do these faces look depressed about losing everything? I don’t think so!
What you see wrapped in caution tape below is all of our possessions after Hurricane Rita tried to steal our JOY! But God restored us to even more than we could even ask or think! Did I forget to say, we are out of debt. The storm came and washed away all we had, and God gave it all back, better than before and paid in full! Lord, you do all things well!
I want to leave you with a verse: “The LORD rules over the floodwaters. The LORD reigns as king forever.” Psalm 29:10
There is so much to tell about this Joy Story, and I can’t fit it all in this blog post. You’ll have to come back tomorrow to hear more good news!
When I share our testimony, someone may say that they want that blessing. I say it’s the “Lose Everything You Have” blessing!
Living in HIS joy!