That is what we Floridians had to look forward to as Irma approached our coasts. In the past we have had Category 2 and 3 storms hit the coast and, by the time they reached us, diminish to Category 1 or even mere tropical storm force (which is not as "mere" as it sounds when you are in the middle of it). This one was to hit as a 5. Everyone told us it would still be a 3 by the time it reached us. That is why we counted our home as lost, carefully packing what was most important to us in the car and truck and moving them as far from the trees as we could, out into the field.
That is also why we spent the night that Irma came through in the car. Would the car be blown over with us in it? Possibly. But far better that than being crushed under a thousand pound limb falling on the house, or being injured or maimed by the flying glass and debris when the roof blew off. So as darkness fell and the wind and rain picked up, we scampered out to the car and climbed inside.
The backseat was crammed with a cooler and two boxes, so lowering the seat backs for a better sleeping position was minimal. We clasped hands and said our final "together" prayer, and then did our best to go to sleep, which amounted to me being quiet for Keith, who was being quiet for me, as both of us sat/lay there with our eyes wide open, each praying our own continuous private prayer all night long.
We had left the porch light on for our trip out into the field. We are used to utter darkness out here in the country, no traffic lights, street lamps, or passing headlights, so that light was intrusive, but it also gave us a small sense of security. Imagining what was going on would have been much worse. Finally we both drifted off out of sheer exhaustion from the days of preparation before as well as a cold we had shared that week, and when I woke again I had to use the flashlight to see my watch. It was 2:30 and the porch light was out.
We had no idea what was happening, where the storm was, how strong it was. Several times in the night, the wind howled a bit more loudly and the car rocked. What surprised me was that behind those thick clouds a full moon actually filtered through, casting a soft gray light and it was no longer black as pitch as it had been earlier. Still, we could not tell what was happening.
After a couple of hours we drifted back off again, rocking in our metal cradle. At seven, almost as if an alarm had gone off, we both opened our eyes to dim daylight. We looked out the rain-dribbled windshield and saw a 35 year old manufactured home all in one piece. No debris, no missing roof, no broken windows. Lots of yard trash, but no monster limbs crushing anything. Keith got out into the rain to start up the generator and I flipped on the car radio. The storm had weakened much more quickly than expected. If it passed over Gainesville as a Category 1, by the time it reached us, it was to the west and down to tropical storm force winds.
Keith came back for me then, and we rolled up our pant legs. The waters were running off all around us nearly six to eight inches deep as the property drained, but we stood there and hugged each other and shouted a thank you over the slackening wind and rain, tears running down our faces. God had answered all those prayers, and if you think one thank you was all He got from us, you still don't understand hurricanes and the One who made them. Even now, over a month later, we are still saying thank you.
And what did we learn from that? A question popped up in our minds. How many times have we said thank you for the sacrifice our Lord made to save our souls in the same fashion we said thank you for his saving our physical home, and a humble one at that? How many times have we grabbed each other in pure, unadulterated joy and wept real tears over our salvation? Once, maybe, at our baptism; another time or two when a particular sermon or talk hit us right between the eyes.
We've been mulling that over for several weeks now. I hope this week has helped you consider it, too.
Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift. (2Cor 9:15)