Snow in Texas? Indeed! As many of you know, Texas experienced a highly unusual and devastating snow/ice/rain storm in February. And as many of you also know, we moved to Texas a couple of years ago. So yes, we experienced about five days of utter devastation. We were without water for five days and without power for three days. The high temperature that week was 33; the low was 11—temperatures unheard of an hour from the Gulf of Mexico.
We survived by closing off as much of the house as possible and snuggling in blankets in front of the gas fireplace. Family brought us jugs of water to supplement our meager supply. It was a lot like camping. We lived simply, thankful for the fireplace and our gas cooktop.
Make a Party!
We even hosted the family for a pancake party one morning since the other two families have electric cooktops and were tired of cold food and we’re always ready for a party. I spent several hours per day in the car charging phones and computers (and staying warm).
We were thankful for our emergency supplies, for the assistance of friends and family, and most of all that our water pipes didn’t burst and flood the house. We have several friends who lost their ceilings, and therefore their flooring and furniture.
Plants Suffered the Most
Perhaps the worst and most pervasive devastation was to the plant life. Our part of Texas is known for its lush gardens and green trees. I even harvested a large bunch of bananas just a few weeks ago. And now, everything is brown and looks dead. It’s sad. It reminds me of God’s question to Ezekiel (Ezek. 37:3), “Can these bones (plants) live?” In Ezekiel’s case, the answer turned out to be yes. Ezekiel prophesied to the bones, commanded them to live, and they did.
That was my challenge Saturday as I went out and cut back all of the dead while looking for the live. There were few signs of life, but I worked with surgical precision to protect any green I found.
The Physical Mirrors the Spiritual
My garden always reminds me of spiritual life. Right now, it reminds me of devastation in my own life or others. Devastation almost always begins suddenly. Sometimes it’s prolonged. Like ongoing abuse or a life-threatening illness. Other times the instigating event is sudden, but the effects ripple on for years. Like a fatal accident or injury or an unexpected diagnosis. I’m thinking of real people, real names for each of these examples. I’m sure you are too.
Unfortunately, devastation isn’t rare. It’s actually going on all around us all the time if we have eyes to see and ears to hear. So what do we do when devastation hits?
Here are some practical strategies I’ve found helpful.
First, catch your breath. Breathe. You may not be able to do much initially, but your initial response will set the tone for how you handle the pain. If your initial response is screaming, crying, and allowing your emotions to run away, it may be hard to catch them. So breathe.
Next, remember Who is in control. I have a friend who lost her husband suddenly a while back. She says that when the state trooper came to her door and gave her the tragic news, her first thought was that God knows everything. He knew this was going to happen. He wasn’t caught off guard. He could have stopped it but didn’t. He loves her and her husband beyond measure. Therefore, He is in control and He will take care of her. Just setting her mind in that way gave her the ability to do all that needed to be done in the immediate and later. I had a similar experience when my sister was killed in an auto accident many years ago. My first thought went to my anchor.
Then, do what you can. There will be many needs depending on the situation. Do you need to take action or make phone calls? Do you need to protect and care for children or do you need to make a decision? With your mind anchored in your relationship with God, you will be able to do what you need to do in the immediate.
After you have done what needs to be done, be sure to feel your feelings. This is the part I often miss. You want me around in an emergency. I’ll make sure everything is taken care of. But I have a hard time stopping and feeling. To my detriment. It’s healthy to feel, especially if you can feel without being overwhelmed. Acknowledge the pain, the fear, the anger, the anguish. You don’t have to hide your emotions from God. He gave them to you. And be aware that depending on the situation, you may continue to have strong reactions for a long time. That’s OK too.
Finally, find your way back to God. You may be moving between the practical and the emotional, but before you go too far in either direction, find your way back to God. This is why we love the Psalms. David would pour out his pain or even accusations to God, but he always found his way back. He always had a “But God…” He always knew that no matter what was going on, God had him in the palm of his hand. This step will enable and empower you for the long haul.
So Saturday I went out and carefully examined my yard. I looked at the devastation and followed these steps. Then I needed to take action. To prune away all of the death. It was physically and emotionally hard. It left an empty, barren, lifeless space. I grieved what was but is no more. I looked for tiny signs of life. I’ll pray for resurrection. I won’t replant just yet, but I will begin planning and dreaming of what’s next. I know that what’s next won’t be the same as what was. But I also know that God will give me what I need to bring restoration to our yard. To bring life back into it. To trust enough to replant.
No one likes devastation. It’s awful. God knows that from experiencing the death of His Son. But we know that “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Ps. 30:5). This is His promise. We can trust Him. And we can and will recover from devastation.