I wrote this email to a friend and then realized it could also serve as a good After-Ike wrap-up. Mindy, hope you don't mind me posting my letter that was intended to be just for you!
Whew...I made it! We're firmly in the period known as Post-Ike. Today is the first day I've had off in two weeks! Unreal. This week is nearly indescribable. But I'll try to describe it anyway. ;)
We got our power back on Monday night. Many, many of my friends still do not have power this weekend. That's really the hardest part for most people. It's not so bad for those of us who have plenty of money, transportation, family support etc. But all the people who live paycheck to paycheck, who rely on public transit, who can't afford to have their workplace shut down for a week or more -- they're the ones who are suffering right now. Not to mention the people who live in the coastal communities who lost nearly everything. My friend Jeanine has three feet of water in her apartment. She still has not been able to return to Galveston to see if anything is salvageable. We finally got word today that people can go back on Wednesday and assess the damage. My prayer is that our Bible study class would be supportive in her time of physical and emotional need.
Here in Houston, downed power lines and trees are the biggest problems. The city estimates 5,000 utility poles fell down. And that's not counting all the lines that came down as a result of tree branches that fell on them. I have driven all over the city this week. There is literally not one street in Houston that escaped damage. Things are slowly getting back to normal, but those first few days I couldn't even recognize my hometown. Even now I sit here at home with power and the people across the street don't have any. Most of the shops I usually go to are closed. I haven't even attempted visiting a grocery store yet because I know how much of a madhouse it will be. Plus I have no idea if they've even started stocking the dairy and meat sections. Most stores are only carrying produce, breads and shelf foods still...many are running on generator power and can't keep cold foods in stock.
Traffic lights are down on nearly every block. For the most part people are being patient and taking turns at the intersection. Every once in a while some jerk barrels through without stopping and the rest of us curse him. LL saw one guy give another guy the finger for bulldozing through an intersection. She cheered him on and said that was the first time in her life that she was proud of someone for flipping someone else off. :)
Of course with all the lights down and every intersection an automatic four-way stop, traffic is backed up like crazy. What should be a 20-minute drive home can take an hour because of all the slow-downs. But if these are the worst things we have to deal with, we are blessed.
The Lord has been gracious and merciful to us. I am amazed at the number of trees that fell down -- into yards and streets instead of into roofs and houses. Of course many people did have damage to their homes. But if you could see the sheer number of trees alone that fell...and then realize just how few of them caused any significant damage...it's incredible. Satellite images of Ike show how amazingly vast the storm was, but not as vast as our Heavenly Father. His power and magnificence were on display for all to see. It's as though He was saying to us "See how huge and mighty I am." Yet He shows His mercy by containing His power. He could have destroyed our entire city, but He chose to remind us that He has power to calm the wind and still the storm. It's as though Jesus stood again in the storm and said "Peace." I hope Houstonians tremble as the disciples did and ask themselves "who is this man who has power over the wind and the waves."
As you can imagine, along with the physical turmoil, emotions have been all over the place. I tallied up my work hours for Friday and Saturday alone. I worked 40 out of 48 hours. I put in an entire work week in two days! And still worked 12 hour days on Sunday and subsequent days. That led to stress and exhaustion which led to fragile emotions and sensitivity. I felt so alone this week. My friends had mostly left town when the power went out. I was working insane hours. My roommate was dealing with her own stresses and problems. I had no one to turn to. It's been a long time since I needed a hug that badly. I cried myself to sleep two nights in a row, just longing for someone to hold me and tell me things were going to be okay. I so wanted someone to be there with me through the storm, both literally and emotionally. Of course the Lord, in His gentle way, reminded me that I was looking to others for my comfort and security instead of to Him. It took having no power, bad food, no coffee, no friends, no hugs and unbelievable stress for me to jolt to the fact that I was, in fact, NOT alone and that Someone WAS there with me in the storm. I was reading Isaiah yesterday and the Spirit so sweetly convicted me that I was a lot like the nations who looked to Egypt for protection and sustenance...and in the end, Egypt is shamed and those nations realized they had nothing to trust in anymore. I don't want to let my friends and my comforts become my Egypt. I repented of my sin of faithlessness and told God I trust Him to be my strength. It is a lesson I have gone through before and will surely go through again. I pray I learn it quicker and better each time.
Of course, after an experience such as Ike, we all marvel at the loveliness of the simple things in life. Electricity is the most popular celebrity in Houston right now. Sitting on the porch with friends...talking to neighbors and finding out their names for the first time...watching the kids play in the dusk while the parents sit around the radio...expressing incredulity at the only September cool front ever witnessed in Houston...sleeping with the windows open...all of these things are already fleeting and fading away.
Tomorrow, or the next day or maybe next week, Houston will be back to normal. And that will be bittersweet...we'll lose the little bits of wonderment that have come from turning away from the television set and toward one another. We'll forget what it felt like to make instant friends all over the city and the joy that came from sharing our lives and homes with our neighbors and friends and even strangers.
But we'll also have hot showers. :}
And I hope we'll not forget how to trust in our God instead of our comforts.