Monday, July 30, 2012

The Morning After: Seeing Beauty

Oh, righttt, that happened: my first thoughts as I woke up early Sunday morning. I rolled over in bed and remembered all the interesting details of the evening before…

After dark, on my way home from two of the four churches I am serving this summer, I got caught in a tremendous storm.  The torrential rain prevented any visibility out of my windshield, but out of fear that if I pulled off the road I would get stuck in an unseen ditch, I slowly scooted at less than 5mph to the home I am dwelling in for the summer. I arrived, scared to death, and parked in front of the home where I sat in my car and observed non-stop lightening all around me, especially into the distance over the huge field in front of my home. The thunder roared concurrently with the lightening, shook my car, and indicated to me that I was in the heart of it.  With every bolt of lightening lighting up my entire car through the rain, my nerves tensed.  I had pulled up directly in front of the front porch with the idea in mind that I could just hop out, run as fast as I possibly could up the steps and into my home.  I had done it before when caught in storms but this one was more intense than any I had been stuck in in a while, and the wind around me was drastically picking up and shaking my car. Questioning whether I was safer in my car, parked (under some power lines) or in the house, I called a friend to ask his opinion.  He suggested that I stay in the car for five minutes before doing anything, because it should just blow over quickly. 
So sitting, intending to spend the time in my car praying for those sermonizing, I got distracted by my concern that the swing a few yards in front of my car might blow into my car, breaking through the windshield.  No sooner had I completed that thought I watched the one hundred year old tree barely yards in front of me split and crash down onto the home and branches land right on my car.  Honestly, it happened so fast that I have no idea if I screamed or what, but I was in awe.  When I came to my senses, I contemplated the rest of the tree coming down so I threw that baby in reverse and backed that car up! But, that meant I was parked under the power lines.  Desperately dialing my friend back, panicked in the uncertainty of what the best course of action would be, I asked what he thought I should do.  Of course, he suggested I call 911 immediately and go over to the neighbors to seek shelter. 
I called 911 (barely but luckily remembering the address of the home I was staying) and explained the situation.  The kind and gentle voice comforted me that help was on their way and that I would be safest staying put in my car until they arrived.  So, I waited, all too aware of the trees swaying in the wind, the rain flooding around me, the power lines above me, and the tree’s unfortunate relocation on top of the house I was borrowing for the summer. Soon enough, flashing lights and about six cars and one fire truck pulled up to my home.  Anxious, I got out of my car to greet them and explain my situation.  Shinning their flashlights over the tree now laying on the home, they informed me that it had in fact pulled down the main power line and it was tangled in the branches.  They asked me a series of questions and if I had been the home. I responded no, and they helped me climb the bushes onto the porch in order to get to the door (the tree’s new location covered the stairs and half the porch).  I entered the home followed by six or so firemen, including one of my parishioners- David. Hooray, a familiar face!  They explored the home, brought in a ladder, and ventured into the attic I didn’t know existed. Others were outside inspecting the tree and power lines, calling the power people.
They deemed the house unsafe to stay in and suggested I call my supervisor to stay at the parsonage.  Unable to get a hold of him, and knowing he was exhausted from returning from our youth week-long mission trip, I asked again if they thought it was really unsafe, and they changed their minds, saying I should be fine.  Trusting in their judgments, I called the homeowners who lived part time in Charlotte, to inform them of the state of their home. After much chatting and inspecting, the firemen and I exchanged info and they were on their way. They expected the power guys would be by shortly. 
A number of phone calls and visits from the neighbor later, the power guys pulled up to inspect the damage.  He informed me that the rest of the road had lost power, so he was going to deal with them first then come back and remove the power lines lying on my home. (Somehow I managed to still have power…ironic considering I was the one with the power line lying on the house.)  It had been hours since I first arrived home and I was finally trying to calm down a bit by sharing the exciting events with a friend on the phone, when I began to hear dripping. Yes, in fact, over the course of the next hour, the entire dining room ceiling turned into a shower-head.  Hysterically laughing out of nervousness and at the reality of the entire evening, I grabbed every pot, pan, Mason jar, and container I could find, I moved all of the furniture and created a mosaic of rain collectors on the floor.   Eventually, hours into the morning at this point, deeming the house in some sense of order in which I could finally rest, I attempted to fall asleep to the sounds of water dripping in the dinning room.
Somewhat groggy from a less than ideal amount of sleep, I got myself ready for the morning’s services and explored the home to assess its current status. Grabbing my camera, I ventured outside, to see what it looked like in the daylight.  I must admit it looked even worse than the evening before. But, as I wandered around in the morning fog and stillness, I could not help but think Wow, this is beautiful.  Of course, these are probably not the most appropriate sentiments when looking at the destruction of one’s home, but I could not help it.  I felt like I had climbed a tree, wandering in its branches without the fear of falling.  I studied the beautiful rings of the tree, revealing its age and captivating my attention.  I wondered about how much that tree had withstood in its years and how many lives it had been a part of.  I pondered over the force of the wind, how much power it would take to split this massive portion of the tree apart.  And I couldn’t help but ponder the power of God. For some reason, all I could think of amidst this destruction was its beauty. That tree was absolutely beautiful, and the power of that storm was also majestic. I felt like a cliché only able to see the beauty in the mess, but I also did not care because for some reason, that tree lying on that home was incredibly moving.

         As I wandered back towards the direction of the porch I also thought about how Jimmy and Betty’s (the homeowners) cars were usually parked right under where that massive branch landed. And, as I walked to where I was parked, I noticed I had just been two feet forward, it would have smashed the car, with me inside.  (I should note, I didn’t park two feet forward because Jimmy had told me all summer not to park on the sidewalk because the oil may leak and would never come out of the concrete. But, if I had not listened to him, I might have been squashed. Thank God for his request.) I praised God for how blessed we were in the situation. It could have been so much worse. There could have been so much more damage done to the house and if the whole tree had fallen, the entire house would have been demolished.  I thanked God for my safety, and that no one else was home or hurt.  And I thought about how scared I had been the night before in contrast with the beauty I was overwhelmed wandering amongst the tree’s branches.  
Thank you God for the blessing of seeing beauty and the life experiences I have been granted. And, praise God for beauty in destruction!
The poor swing I was so scared of blowing into my car....squashed.

 The view from the front porch.

Another day in the life in Lilesville.


Marianne Romanat said...

No one told you Field Education could be life threatening!
Love you girl,
Marianne Romanat

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