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With only a battery-powered radio to keep me in touch with the outside world, I heard staggering stories of loss and devastation. I heard about the Boardwalk being washed away, houses sitting in the middle of the highway, and commentators referring to “what was formerly known as the Jersey Shore,” but assumed that they had to have been exaggerating. When I finally got the cable back and watched the storm coverage on television, it was far worse than I could ever have imagined.

It was hard to absorb it all. How did this storm uproot trees on my block and tear down my fence? I mean, it was incredibly loud all night long, like furious freight trains surrounding us, but the house wasn’t shaking or anything. How was this kind of damage possible? My neighbor’s pool was crushed by an enormous hundred-year-old oak. Wires were down, traffic lights weren’t working, power was out.

The first day back to a local grocery store was chaotic. The power was out and all the frozen goods freezers were cordoned off with yellow tape as if it was a crime scene. It was all spoiled, unsellable. The lights were out in the store and the few shoppers there looked at each other in the dark, shell-shocked. The skeleton crew of staff kept saying, “No refrigerated items. No debit or credit. No batteries. No bottled water.”

By the time I left the store, I knew it like a mantra. This was the case everywhere, so there was nowhere else to go to shop for food, and nowhere to put it at home if we did find it. We had no power for our refrigerator either.

Driving on Jersey roads after Sandy was treacherous; traffic lights weren’t working and cross-streets were blocked, so you had to drive a mile out of your way to turn around. Trees were down everywhere and debris had to be avoided. Gas stations were closed so you had to be judicious about expending the little gas you had left in your car. The situation seemed to bring out the worst in the few drivers on the road and it seemed best not to venture out unless absolutely necessary.

I kept reminding myself that we still had a house while many down the shore had lost everything. I tried to keep it all in perspective, but something just got stuck in my craw and I felt far – very far – from the Source of my strength.

Finally, I was able to pray openly and honestly. With all due respect – I began – why would You put us through these life-altering storms? It became a metaphor for the ongoing struggles in my personal life that seem to have no solution. How could I reconcile my belief that God is in charge and God is good with the chaos and pain in the world and in my life?

So I’ve had to learn to just hold on until I make it through. I tried to encourage others by updating my blog with information about the power outage in Central Jersey, just trying to find a way to be useful. As for me, I want to know what tomorrow will bring, but for now, I have no clue. I have to start right where I am, and get to work on re-building the foundation of my faith.

My spiritual house may have been renovated by the storms of life, but the load-bearing beam is hope. Even if today was surreal and soul-squashing, tomorrow comes, and brings with it promise and possibility. Sometimes it’s just a matter of making it through the night.

What a week! Between the ravages of Sandy and the contentious election — just over half of the country is jubilant, the rest bitter — what we would seem most to need is a good nap. Unfortunately, there’s no rest for the wicked or weary…or for bloggers, for that matter. I sat down with pen and paper in an effort to write something of meaning. This is what came to me.

We are not owed, we are owing.

Born to contradictions day and night,

to fall down, to suffer,

to lament, to be rained on

and crawl out of the muck

panting and straining but alive

and more in love with life than ever.

Over and over we rise —

phoenixes, miracles.

The heart does not fail.

Love does not fail.

God does not fail.

Whatever you are dealing with this week, I wish you the balm of kindness, mercy and love. Try to be good to others. You never know what they are facing.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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