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Hurricane Harvey: How We Fared + What Now?

Nearly two weeks ago, like most of Houston and the surrounding Southeast Texas area, I sat rendered helpless as Hurricane Harvey came to visit. While sitting on my couch in my untouched home streaming Netflix in the background, it felt surreal as my Facebook feed was flooded with photographs and news stories of the heartbreaking situations around us. From Friday night to Wednesday, I feel like I became besties with the County Judge. The Fort Bend Emergency Office Facebook Live updates enthralled me like it was my favorite TV show. I couldn’t shut my laptop for really any amount of time. As soon as myself or my husband answered a call or text with an update on our situation, another would come in.

Untouched. That was the state of my home. That is where I live. Unlike so many who evacuated or hunkered down just to find water coming too dangerous for comfort. I missed blogging on that Tuesday after Harvey hit. I’ve probably been sitting on parts of these words for a week or so now as they streamed themselves together and as I have processed the tragedy that has taken place in my beloved city and state. Rick and I are “okay.” We never lost power, we stayed dry, and our physical property remains undamaged. We are so not “okay” though.

A friend texted me last night to see how I’m doing in the wake of Harvey as well as how Houston is holding up in general. This is part of my reply back. “Streets that were once overflowing with water are now overflowing with the aftermath of destruction. It’s so tragic. The whole city is exhausted.”

It’s been a whirlwind of a little over a week now. We are Houston. We are strong. But we are tired. There have had many restless nights. We are a grief stricken city as not only lives were lost in this tragedy, but our hopes and dreams. We are diverse, and we are united in our recovery. #houstonstrong and #texasstrong are who we are.

The Best Facebook Post This Week

As I sat trying to focus on reading Kill the Spider, I really couldn’t keep my mind focused for long. Relaxing and reading on the couch seemed so ridiculous given the circumstances. My husband and I tried watching our favorite funny shows on Netflix. Rain continued to pound down from the sky and laughter was scarce. When the rain let up, this gem found its way into my Facebook feed.

“….After 7 more days Noah again sent out the dove from the ark. When the dove returned to him that evening, there in its beak were two Shiners and a rack of baby back ribs. Then Noah knew that the water had begun to recede from Houston. He waited seven more days and sent the dove out again, but this time it did not return to him because it was still in line at Killen’s BBQ in Pearland.

Genesis 8:10-12 LSV (Lone Star Version)”
– Bill Cooke

The rain had let up and with a taste of what Noah and all the citizens of earth went through that time, seeing the sun shine that day was way more exciting than the solar eclipse that had just happened days before. The sun coming out to play and water seeping into the ground is only the beginning of the days to come.

What Can I Do Now?
Pray.

Pray for compassion and empathy. Thank God for the sunshine. Pray for those who have lost their jobs in this tragic timing and the economy as it begins to rebuild. Thank God for those who jumped at rescuing neighbors, friends, family members and animals at a moment’s notice. Pray for strength to rebuild and for strength for those who are continuing to provide relief. Pray for those who had to make tough decisions that they are still second guessing. Thank God for the Cajun Navy, HEB and so many others who jumped into action. Pray for those who have no idea when or if they’ll ever see their homes again. Pray for those who don’t even know how they can help yet and those who feel helpless and guilty. Thank God for showing us what really matters – humans – regardless of race/religion/nationality/gender/sexual preferences and everything else that threatens to divide us. Pray for those who are experiencing trauma at the sound of water. Pray for the shame of being in the path and the shame of not doing enough. Thank Him for those who will be continuing to help long after the cameras are gone and Houston has slid from headlines. Pray for those in the path of Hurricane Irma as tensions are high after watching Hurricane Harvey. Pray with me now.

God, we’re so weary. The exhaustion for myself alone is overwhelming. Take care of those more exhausted than I am. Those who are still staying in shelters that have no time frame of getting home. Be with those who are watching their favorite pieces of furniture, their family photos and their literal dreams be scattered into trash piles. Give those who are running shelters and other relief spots a second, third and fourth wind to get through. Allow healing tears and safe spaces to process what is happening. Be with those who not only lost material possessions but lost dads, sons, brothers, husbands, sisters, moms, wives, and friends in this. Help us to grieve well.

Protect those in the path of Irma. Keep them in your arms of safety. Be with those dealing with wildfires in the Northwest. Be with all the first responders, nurses, doctors, counselors, government organizations, non-profit groups and religious organizations as they step into these moments. I pray for kind words from all and for all even in the face of exhaustion. I pray for compassion on all of us as we begin to rebuild our lives. Be with those who feel forgotten. Let them know that you haven’t left them, that you are near. Thank you for surrounding us with your love. Lord, let yourself be known in all of this. Amen.

Rest.

If you were in the path of the storm or have gone out and mucking and gutting houses in the beginning processes of recovery, please rest. Drink water. Take care of yourselves. This isn’t a quick fix. It will take self-care to make that long-term commitment of recovery which will take way longer than any of us want it to. We can’t flip a switch and get August 24, 2017 Houston back. It will take time. We are still figuring out what the storm took from us.

Don’t disregard your mental health in this process. News outlets and weather channel segments were the choice of tv viewing for days. Facebook feeds filled up with news, sad posts, and families trying to get help or be reunited with their loved ones. If you’re waiting for permission before backing away and focusing on something else, here it is. Turn off the news. Turn off Facebook. Read a fun fiction book. Watch your favorite movie. Cheer for your favorite sports team. Chat with loved ones. Go out to eat. Just disconnect from the tragedy of Harvey and invest in some mental health time for yourself. That doesn’t mean you don’t care anymore. It’s a sign of strength that you not only care but understand that you have to take care of yourself if you’re going to care for the long haul.

Give Responsibly.

Many of us have gone through our old clothes and unwanted goods to give to others. The heart behind that is absolutely beautiful. We have more than enough old t-shirts. Organization asks for certain types of items because they are usable and of top priority. While some items are perfectly good donations aren’t necessarily of top priority in that moment. Sorting, storage and proper distribution are all issues.You can read more about that here or here.

If you want to help, please for the love of Texas, please donate money to an organization you trust and know will be on the front lines of helping. These organizations are ones that I believe are trustworthy and are operating with integrity: UMCOR, Legacy Collective, or directly to a local church.

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