Sunday afternoon. We had kissed my husband goodbye after church as he headed off on a trip. Feeling in need of a lift, I told the kids we’d swing by the store for pizza and ice cream, and watch a movie that night.
Our van loaded down with frozen groceries, we headed up piney Highway 21, the road that made me fall in love with our area when we were looking to move from the city. At a stop light, we noticed a large column of smoke.
“Mama, is that near our house?”
“Oh no, no, that is west of us. We live that way,” and I pointed ahead to the right.
We drove on and the road began to curve to the left. How could I have forgotten this part of the road?
We continued to curve, until straight ahead of us, right between the pines towering on left and right, a ferocious column of smoke billowed high in the air. The road was taking us straight toward the fire.
Within a few minutes, we were passing the fire just off the highway to our left. Not much longer and my phone was ringing, “Did you hear about the fire? Dee and Tim just barely got out, they can’t find their way out of the neighborhood. Patti, you need to pack some things right now.”
By the time the children and I left our house, the highway had been closed at our road and there were at least three more fires that had started. You may have heard the outcome of all those fires. Started by sparks and fueled with drought-weary trees and underbrush, those fires, and more, merged to become the tragically large Bastrop Complex wildfire that eventually took two lives, destroyed 1554 homes and scarred 34,000 acres east of Austin, Texas.
My husband turned around as soon as he heard about the fire. Our family was evacuated for four days. There was a time there I was quite sure we would not have a home when we returned. The fire came a mile and a half from our homestead.
I spent day and night on the phone, on the computer, searching for news, searching for people. You don’t know how a crisis will affect you, how you will respond.
For some this would have been a time when routine kept normalcy, but for me, there was no routine. Physically uprooted, with no idea what would come next, with spotty sleep and my phone ringing constantly, I found myself unable to even gauge the time of day.
My early morning quiet time routine was completely disrupted. What might have been a harbor in the storm was not there and I seemed unable to make it so.
But God in His mercy knows us each intimately. And though I would have prescribed a regular, uninterrupted quiet time as just the thing to soothe, He understood His daughter and provided in other ways.
In those difficult days, a steady of whisper of His Word wound through my thoughts. Scriptures that I had memorized came unbidden…
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you’…” Jeremiah 29:11
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me…” Psalm 23:4
“… all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:16
And on the second afternoon, when so many homes were lost, and the maps showed fire right over our homestead, I stood miles away and watched the massive roiling firecloud. I was overcome with awe by the power I was witnessing. “You are holy, holy,” sprung loud from my lips as I stood on a knoll in the trees and sung praises to our Creator.
Snatches of prayer conversation with my heavenly Father wove through the days, and prayers with dear ones flooded me with His peace.
There really is no way to fully prepare for a crisis. You can think you are ready, but there is no way to know how you will respond emotionally.
But a relationship with the Lord, anchored by habits that feed the growth of that relationship, offers shelter from the storm.
For me, orderly bible study, journaling and time-bound prayer were not the safe harbor in these days, though I would have thought they would be. Yet the fruits of scripture memorization, both in word and song, as well as the habit of conversational prayer throughout my day, met my needs in a stormy time. He knew that they would.
And how lovely indeed to be able to snuggle in my spot on the couch and have my quiet time routine, when we returned to our spared homestead!
None of us knows exactly how we will respond when crisis hits. But the habits we develop in our daily lives as children of the King lay a framework on the foundation of our relationship with Him. He will meet all your needs, all the time.
photo by Patti Brown