When I told my husband goodbye in our foyer as the water was rising and we were rushing to evacuate, I felt that familiar uncertainty and fear of not knowing when I would see him again. Any time he deployed, I’ve felt it. This time, though, I felt despair, fear, even a little hurt and anger. I was saying goodbye because he wasn’t leaving the house or pets. My stubborn husband, the one who ordered my daughter and me to leave, was staying. I didn’t have time to process every feeling I had, so we waded through the water to my brother-in-law’s truck and headed out of town. Alexis, who was visiting for the weekend, started crying in the backseat as we drove away. That did it for me and I started crying also. The water was rising so quickly we didn’t even know if we’d make it through the driveway.
Just two weeks before, I was stuck in traffic coming home from visiting my daughter in New Orleans. I could see police and firetrucks ahead and knew it was an accident. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I started crying. Not the trickle I-can-recover-this-when-the-light-changes kind, the full on screaming kind. Less than a month before, one of Alexis’ best friends was murdered in cold blood only a few blocks from her apartment after spending the day before together. A couple of months before that, Alexis and I found a close family member after he’d committed suicide. So, I had spent the day with my daughter, wondering if this would break her.
Now, only a couple of weeks later, as we drove through the community watching it flood, I thought of my husband’s grandmother. Something important to know about Mawmaw Lock is that she tells stories that usually inspire two thoughts simultaneously: How blessed we are and how important the things we have are; and how blessed we are and how unimportant the things we have are.
A year and a half ago my in-laws moved Mawmaw Lock from her small town in which she’d lived for 55 years to be closer to all of us so we can better look after her. Mawmaw asked if I’d bring her to visit her old church. In trying to ‘prepare’ me, she said, “These aren’t folks like ones you are probably used to.” But I quickly interjected, “As long as they don’t bite the heads off snakes, I’m good.” So, I dressed in one of my best suits; donned one of my favorite pair of shoes and off we went. I really didn’t know what to expect other than it was a church she’d been going to for years and she’d said it was small. While I was parking in the compact, grassy area, I caught myself thinking that “small” was such a huge understatement.
When Mawmaw introduced me to the church members, which only consisted of around a dozen, they not only hugged me in earnest but knew who I was. Some asked about Larry, others about my kids. I felt like I was sitting on the front porch with family. Mawmaw held the hymnal in her lap and we sang together. Then the service, a simple and quick one, was about being yourself with God. Your true self. One of the scriptures to back up the service was about coming to God in “spirit and in truth.” Simple enough, I thought, at first. I’m myself with God. God knows it all anyway, right?
But the more I pondered over that one scripture sitting in that small church in that small town with that small congregation, the more I realized I had barriers. Not intentional ones, just life ones. I always thank God for blessing me. Thank Him for my kids and husband; you know all the things I truly mean. I pray for forgiveness, for all the people on my prayer list and over issues in my own life. I’m sure to ask God in what direction He wants me to go. Only once all the thanks were given and all issues were prayed about what was left between me and God?
I’m reminded of a character out of a novel I read years ago. The novel was about a woman who was raised in high-class wealth and propriety, yet she finds her true freedom in the working class. At first I felt her pain as she watched everything she owned burned during the Chicago fires. I wondered what would possibly become of her, since she was basically left with nothing. Everything she owned, every dress, every pair of shoes, jewelry, cash, her life was burned, and she was left with only the clothes on her back. To add to her trouble, she was kidnapped leaving her all but ruined for any decent man to want. She was truly destitute. I cried during those parts and couldn’t see a way out for her. Everything she had, including her reputation, was gone. Soon, though, I began to feel her triumph when she started to build a life from nothing. She worked hard and found her place in a community she never would’ve imagined she’d belong. She finds her freedom in the fact that she doesn’t have to hold herself to all the ridiculous standards of society. I somewhat envied her freedom.
I’ve learned more recently than ever before that there is a base side of us, a vulnerable and real side that simply needs the basics. That side values people Michelle Jester Blog 667554001dand life. That side brings every human being to the same level. No matter where they work or who they are. No matter what color or sexual orientation they are. That side is the side that when someone is rushed through the doors of an emergency room, the shoes they are wearing don’t make a difference. That’s the side God wants. He wants our raw, vulnerable self. That was the most difficult part for me and sitting in that quaint church, I realized it was just pride.
So back to two weeks before the flooding when I was stuck in traffic, hysterically crying in my car after visiting my daughter, I lifted my head to look out of my window and saw the most breathtaking sight. It was a cemetery. One I’d passed many, many times. This time, though, it was so beautiful with sunbeams shining through the clouds above it that I instinctively stopped crying at the beauty of it. I grabbed my phone and took this photo.
I am prompted to recognize, more than ever, that this world is fleeting. All that truly matters is my relationship with God and how God can use me to love others through it.
I think often about that little country church, especially the last few days. In that church, a pair of red bottom shoes was worthless to them and in that moment I sat there feeling they were just as worthless to me. Also, when we were leaving in such a rush to evacuate, none of those things I left behind in my house mattered, except my family.
There are a couple of things that will stay with me long after this disaster is over. One is how incredible people are. Louisianians stepped up immediately, not only in rescue efforts, but also to feed and provide emergency supplies to anyone in need. Once the water started to recede, it seemed every few blocks there was a station set up with free food, water, clothing and toiletries. I’ve seen the best in people from across the state who packed up immediately to come down here and help. It is astounding.
Another is how strong we are. I thought my daughter was on the brink of a true nervous breakdown just weeks before. Then I saw her rise up and gain strength through the evacuation. I saw my stubborn husband determined to stay behind. He didn’t know how bad it would get, but he was unwilling to leave our animals. That is something I’ll admire always.
The other thing is that right before we evacuated, my father-in-law thought while most of us were together, we needed to pray. So he prayed: “God, we love You. We ask that you protect our family wherever we are, so that we can come together again. God, we praise You. We aren’t asking You to protect our homes or cars because we know so many have already lost and we are no more deserving than anyone else. We ask for Your blessing so we may handle what’s coming. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
I’m impacted still with the amount of damage our areas suffered. Although it got close, our house didn’t take on water, but we knew we still had a long road ahead because most of our neighbors, community and surrounding communities did flood. I can see it all around me that people have a new perspective on life. Through this tragedy, many of us learned just how blessed we are and how important the things we have are; and how blessed we are and how unimportant the things we have are.
And when I saw my husband again, I just hugged him and cried.
“But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” -John 4:23-24
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