But a funny thing happened on the way to landfall. The storm, which had a mind of its own (something hurricanes frequently do), decided instead to wobble west, slamming the lower Keys, Key West included, with a major devastating onslaught before coming ashore on the west coast near Marco Island and moving just onshore all the way up to the Georgia line. We watched in those last hours intently, knowing that here in Alachua County we would take a pretty good wallop.
As the storm neared Tampa Sunday evening, our power went off at about eight thirty, so we went to bed listening to the radio with the weather alert on. Despite the increasing winds and the heavy rain, we were tired from making preparations and stress and dozed off. About midnight I was awakened by the loud alarm on the radio, advising that our area was under flash flood alert until Monday afternoon. Walking to the front door and peering down at the pasture, the flooding had begun. At least four plus acres of pasture was under water and it was closer to the house than I had ever seen, but I had confidence that with the uphill incline and the floor three feet above the ground, we would be fine.
Unable to sleep, I got up, sat in my recliner and listened to the reports which indicated our worst weather would be just before daybreak. I dozed off, only to be awakened by a loud cracking sound as a large pine in the woods behind the house crashed to the ground. The wind howled and the rain poured but the house never shook or shuddered and at daybreak our home was intact. The winds all night had been in excess of sixty with gusts up to eighty six yet the house was unscathed. We said a thank you prayer and, when the winds reduced to below fifty, ventured out to survey what we could of the property.
The first thing noticed was the creation, at least temporarily, of a five acre lake near the house. Then we saw some large downed trees around the property, including one down on the fence, yet not collapsed. We were glad we had moved the horses to higher ground on a pasture at a friend's farm that had few trees to endanger them. Checking on them later in the day, we found them to be safe and sound.
Looking up our long entrance drive, we couldn't see the road as it was blocked by growth and that could only mean trees. Later we found some large bushes grown to the size of trees adjacent to the right of way on a neighbor's property down across the access along with power lines and an old tree. The only thing disheartening was that he never offered to assist removing the debris which was his responsibility since the fallen trees were on his property. But with the help of some friends we were able to clear enough to get my Honda out but not my wife's truck and horse trailer. Thank goodness we had moved them to the same higher ground where the horses were standing or we would have had a major problem.
But the worst results came after the storm passed by late Monday afternoon with the onset of clearing skies and rising temperatures and no running water (we are on a well) or air conditioning. Over the five days beginning late Sunday night until last night at nearly nine we sweltered, bathed in chlorinated water from a large cattle tub which we filled before the storm, and survived on bottled water and cold cuts, apples, grapes and yes, a little junk food. And I've got to tell you, last night when the lights came on the air conditioning and a nice shower were better than any Christmas present either one of us has ever received.
So, how do I make this story into a Sunday Morning Coming Down commentary or devotional? Well, it's quite easy. You see, God expects us to be the best we can be and prepare for the tests we will face in this life. A hurricane is just one of them, and we had plenty of food and water to survive despite the aggravation of lack of creature comforts. How did we do it? We did it by preparing in advance for whatever nature had in store and it made it livable if not enjoyable. And even then, the evenings sitting on the porch with no power required us to focus on our immediate surroundings in lieu of social media and electronics and it made for a meaningful experience.
And it's something to be remembered as it is just as God expects us to prepare for what He has in store for us. Have faith, believe and prepare yourself spiritually for the Kingdom. If you do, you can weather any storm you face in the hurricane of life and be ready for the joy and wonders that are available to those who accept His gift.
Dear Lord, We thank you for your grace and mercy in keeping us safe while also giving us the patience to weather the storm and its aftermath. Help us to use the things we witness in nature to make our lives stronger and wiser, knowing that you are always there for us no matter how hard the winds blow or how strong the rain becomes. We ask in Jesus' name, Amen.