During a natural disaster, when one is forced to sort through their belongings to decide what to take and what to leave behind, it provides perspective. Tonight I sit on my parent’s windy patio in Blythe, Georgia, a quaint little community outside of Augusta, where my husband and I, along with our 10-pound Shih Tzu, Ewok, and my in-laws have evacuated from Savannah. It’s been a long, unsettling and anxious few days, traveling, waiting and wondering if our homes will be standing when we return and what path Hurricane Irma will decide to take. Watching the weather and the news on TV is grueling, as one of the most unpredictable and historically strong hurricanes makes its way passed Puerto Rico and the Bahamas up through the west coast of Florida.
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal called for a mandatory evacuation of Savannah on Thursday last week. That’s when we began packing our bags, praying for the best and preparing for the worst.
We set about bringing inside our front porch furniture and securing anything outside with the potential of blowing away during hurricane and tropical storm-force winds. We filled our bathtub with water in case the power is out when we return home.
We secured our city garbage cans and got out of town a day before the primary evacuation began to avoid heavy traffic as much as possible, joining the thousands of other Floridians already on the road.
As I sorted through my closet, I chose to bring my best work clothes, my fall boots and some other clothing items that are newly purchased and well fitting. I opened my jewelry box to gather only the most valuable and sentimental pieces – a Claire’s friendship necklace that two of my best friends and I share and gave to each other in the 6th grade. It hung on the rear-view mirror of my Z-71 Chevrolet Camaro throughout my high school years; a gold seashell necklace left to me from my late grandmother Betty; a gold palm tree necklace that my husband gave me on the day before we wed and a sterling silver six pence necklace custom made for me on a trip to London from a dear family member. I tossed in a few other pieces of value, before grabbing up some irreplaceable photographs.
From there, I made my way to pack a few things from the kitchen. Oh, my precious kitchen. How could I possibly pack up all the things I hold dear in the heart of my home? My favorite cookbooks, my treasured appliances, my cake stands and cherished dishes. I quickly realized how selfish and insignificant my dilemma seemed, as I considered what cookbooks were worth saving, when others’ homes in the Caribbean Islands had already been leveled by the devastation and catastrophic storm surge of the Category 5 Hurricane.
I found myself getting emotional as we locked up the house. Uncertainty and worry, anxiety and fear, all of these emotions whirled through my mind as I pulled out of the driveway. When would we be cleared to come home? Would we have a home to return to? Would a tree fall through the roof? Would flood waters overtake everything? Would my furniture and all the material possessions I’d worked so hard to attain be there when we got back? What would happen to my place of business? Would it too survive the storm? So many thoughts and questions…so much unpredictability.
The scriptures that are written on my heart combat these very thoughts as I pray for that peace that passes all understanding. Luke 12:25 says, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” I also think of Philippians 4:6-7 which says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
As of the latest tracking information, Hurricane Irma has weakened to a Category 2 Hurricane and has shifted west, further away from Savannah, although strong winds and potential tornadoes are still a serious threat. No one can really know the impact this hurricane will have on our city and our Nation until it has passed. What I do know tonight though, I am so grateful for: I have the shelter and safe haven of family, a place to go and the means and resources to get there. I am not unaware that so many evacuees are without these simple comforts.
Join me in praying for a weak and quick end to Hurricane Irma. I believe in a Jesus who can still speak to the wind and calm the storm.