10 Days of Hurricane Florence

On Tuesday, September 11th, several of us gathered at the church to pray for God’s mercy on the people of this area. Our area was where Hurricane Florence was predicted to make landfall and hover – perhaps for a couple of days – and at the time of our prayer was a Category 4, very nearly approaching a Category 5. The storm was moving toward us over warm water, and anyone with knowledge of hurricanes knows that they generally get more powerful over the water. We prayed for the storm to diminish and be still that night.

Sikki seemed worried about the impact of the storm and told me the next morning that she wanted to flee the area. I told her I would not leave southeastern NC. I have a conviction that God called me to this area, and I did not feel right about leaving it in a time of trouble, especially when many were staying. However, I told her she had my blessing to go to Delaware if she wished, and take the kids and pets with her. My sister in New Bern NC was also considering moving further inland, perhaps to my mother’s place in Kernersville NC. I told Sikki I would go and stay at my sister’s house in New Bern with my brother-in-law, and we decided that I would take Garrett with me.

We boarded up the house on the oceanside and did all we could to get our few possessions up as high as we could, anticipating that the garage at least would flood, and praying that the flood waters would not reach the house itself, which would most likely leave us homeless. Sikki left for Delaware, and Garrett and I headed to New Bern.

My sister decided to stay as well, with her seven children. I watched and listened to news reports when I could and, “inexplicably,” the storm was lowered to a Cat 2, and then a Cat 1. No one – not even the oldtimers in our area – could ever remember a hurricane diminishing in strength over open water. It was the goodness of God answering our prayers, and the prayers of many others who remembered us. As it turned out the storm surge hit New Bern very hard and the entire downtown was flooded; several people had to be rescued. But at my sister’s house we simply lost power for three days. The winds weren’t bad enough to even keep us from going outside. The kids played and laughed in the rain. My brother-in-law had borrowed a generator and we were able to have running (cold) water, refrigeration, and lights for a few hours each day. At night I slept in a puddle of sweat, and everything inside was humid and sticky, but we were all safe. I saw my brother for awhile on the second day.

The storm dumped an immense amount of rain because it moved very slowly over the region. On the fourth day, I was reading news reports that the rivers near the coast were expected to flood and overflow several roads as the water from inland moved toward the ocean. A family friend left a message on my phone not to attempt to return to Brunswick County – he said it was impossible to get back. My brother-in-law also advised against me and Garrett trying to go home.

So of course on the morning of the fifth day Garrett and I left to try and get back where we belong. It is typically a 2.5 hour drive from New Bern, but the trip took us 11 hours. I was trying to make a swoop from the Raleigh area down into the western part of the county, but the roads were just an impassable mess. It was like being a rat in a maze. I used two navigation apps and a state website that was supposed to have current road information with closures, etc., but all of our information was faulty and incomplete and it just became an endurance task. We came down in the central region and met failure. So we moved west. Then we came down in the western region. Again, everything was blocked. Finally I told Garrett we were getting the heck out of NC completely and set a route for Myrtle Beach SC. We had to cross a couple of roads with moving water, and at one time I disobeyed a “Road Closed” sign to get us out of the gridlock. Throughout the journey it was tough to find food, open gas stations, and gas. But eventually we made it to SC and drove north into Brunswick County without any problem. We had encouraging news when were an hour from home: a neighbor texted that the power had been restored. Perfect timing. As soon as we got home, we walked around the property with flashlights, looking for damage. There was an immense amount of tree branches and leaves, and two large trees were down in the yard, but nothing had hit the house and the flood waters had not risen very far at all. Not a single window was broken and everything was in order inside and out. We had a ton of cleanup to do, but I was really glad to be home.

On the first day back, Garrett and I went shopping and bought a lot of canned goods. There was no cold product of any kind at our local grocery stores. We took down the plywood from the windows. I cleaned out the fridge, which had been left with food and milk in it – all too gross and horrible to recount here. I bleached the shelves. We swept and vacuumed and straightened the house. There was so much debris in the yard that the driveway was impassable, so we raked and picked up all around the driveway. We cleaned up the garage. Then some friends from church came over for dinner and brought hamburgers, which was nice because we couldn’t buy meat.

The second day we spent 8 hours in the sweltering heat trying to repair our driveway, which had a massive trench caused by the erosion of water. We laid bricks and concrete and toted load after load of wet sand up the hill to put it back where the waters had removed it. We were both pretty beat afterwards, but we went to a “thanksgiving service” that night at the church to thank the Lord for His goodness.

The third day Garrett went to work for his employer and I stayed home, putting things away and working on fixing my chainsaw, which wouldn’t start. I did laundry and went sort of easy that day, as I was sore from the driveway work the day before.

The fourth day, I worked on cleaning the front yard. Garrett went to work on the island again with his employer. I spent the whole day piling up branches and still didn’t finish even the front yard.

The fifth day home, Sikki set out from Delaware to return home. It took her over 16 hours to get back, but she made it. I spent the day working on the front yard, cleaning the bathrooms, organizing the garage, doing laundry and dishes, and generally preparing space.

Sikki and I lost eight days of work from the storm and its consequences, but our family was kept safe throughout the time of Hurricane Florence. There is massive flooding in the interior of NC – just as there was with Hurricane Matthew in 2015 – but I cannot imagine the devastation we would have seen if the Lord had not been merciful and “shortened the storm.”

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Psalm 5:12

Eighth day on the job and I sold a $5000 piece of equipment. It was a bit of shock, even to me. But the Lord brought a scripture to mind after I’d sold the machine. It was quickened to me as I read it this morning, by which I mean my attention was drawn to it and I took special note of it as being significant, though I didn’t know why at the time:

For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O Lord,
You surround him with favor as with a shield.

The Lord is good and gives us little reminders sometimes that our lives are in His hands and He knows our situations. About six weeks ago, after I lost the dispatcher job with the trucking company, I woke up one morning with an old Pentecostal chorus in my head:

Jehovah Jireh
My provider
His grace is sufficient
For me, for me, for me
Jehovah Jireh
My provider
His grace is sufficient for me

My God shall supply all my needs
According to His riches in glory
He will give His angels
Charge over me
Jehovah Jireh cares
For me, for me, for me
Jehovah Jireh cares for me

Throughout that day the Lord sent me several confirmations that He is my provider, and that I needn’t worry about how I will feed myself or my family because His economy is different than this world’s. So I didn’t worry (though I did wonder) and now looking back I see He had everything well in hand. He is my father, and I’m His son. That means He has certain responsibilities and I have certain privileges. We don’t usually understand where He’s leading us until we arrive.

Anyway the boss was really pleased and perhaps it bodes well for my future at the company. I told Jessica when I was looking for work that whatever the Lord led me to would probably be temporary, because I think eventually I’m supposed to be in full-time ministry. The laborers are few, but I am one of them, and Father knows I would like to have greater influence and reach in service to the Body of Christ. (But of course I don’t know His definition of “temporary.”) For now at least this job affords me the opportunity to get acquainted with all of southeastern North Carolina.

Here As In Heaven

When I picked up the kids from the camp in Virginia, I had to take the little boys with me because it was early Saturday morning and it didn’t seem necessary to get a babysitter to watch them. We left around 5. I thought they’d get antsy on the ride but they slept for four hours on the way up, and when I stopped for gas I got them some breakfast sandwiches. We arrived at the ranch around 10. Catherine spotted us first and ran out to greet us. She and Garrett walked us around the ranch so the boys could see the animals. They had goats, pigs, chickens, sheep, donkeys, little horses and big horses. Winston liked the goats best, and the boys kept pulling grass to feed them. The kids were all fairly quiet on the way home: the older ones had been up late so they napped. My concern about the little boys was unwarranted, as everyone behaved and there was not a single argument.

Rebekah and Garrett had good things to say about the experience, but Catherine was still in a mood, as she was when I dropped her off. That bad attitude carried over to the next morning, when we were supposed to lead the worship service. During practice her negativity was so obvious I had to take her in a back office and chat with her. “You need to make a decision,” I said. “Standing before God to worship Him is always a decision we make – it’s an act of the will, separate from our emotions or whether we FEEL like worshiping.” I told her we could talk about whatever was troubling her later, but I couldn’t have her up front with us if she wasn’t going to participate from her heart. I told her to take a few minutes to decide, then I went back out to finish practice. I saw her walk toward the back of the church somewhere and figured she’d decided to sit one out. After the service one of the deacon’s wives told me that she talked with Catherine for about 45 minutes, and she hoped it was helpful. I didn’t even ask her what was said because I trust that woman.

Rebekah and Garrett shared some of their testimony from the camp. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the place, including mine. The audio link is here: https://app.box.com/s/t1xb7j0plfs2h0iy8g9dz0qf3jqu0dej

I wrote Catherine a long letter this week before I left for Raleigh, just trying to express my love and concern for her and hopefully get her talking to her mother and I. We did talk yesterday and a lot of what I hear her saying is stereotypical “middle child” stuff. She just doesn’t know who she is, and she has an iron will. I told her that will can either be a blessing or a curse to her life, depending on how she focuses it: I mentioned Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane, and the fact that sometimes our emotions and natural proclivities run contradictory to our Father’s will. She said the problem was drama with her boyfriend, and that she dumped him and has already started setting her affection on another boy, a dude I know was raised as a Mormon. I told her she needs to learn discernment. She will only receive hurt and disappointment as long as she is focused on boys rather than on the healing and wisdom she needs to receive from the Lord, and a real relationship with Him – especially if those boys do not share her faith. But even though she’s listening, I feel like my words are just splatting on the ground. It pains me to think she might be one of those people who just has to learn truth the hard way – by having it fall on her in its awful crushing power.

Yesterday and today I spent some time cleaning out the work truck. It wasn’t super-dirty, but I am averse to putting my hands on other people’s sweat, oil, and sneezes, so I wiped out the interior surfaces really well and threw a bunch of junk out, organized tools and papers, and generally put things where I’ll be able to find them quickly. The training in Raleigh was very useful, but I have to apply myself to serious study in the next couple of weeks as I need to become an expert about pressure washers in order to answer questions and sell them effectively. Everyone is off from school and work tomorrow, which is Labor Day. So hopefully we’ll have some family time together.