In the Eye of the Storm

There are storms brewing tonight.

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They roll in from the east, and as my younger son swims in the community pool, I eye the sky. But only to look out for flashes of lightning far off, or catch the fading rumble of thunder.

A week ago?

A week ago, Irma was knocking at Florida’s door, unwelcome and angry. Indecisive.

An enormous mass of swirling clouds, rain, and deadly wind tore across the Atlantic, pummeled the Caribbean Islands and Puerto Rico, bounced off Cuba, then plowed up into the Florida Keys. Originally forecast to slide up the east coast of Florida, Irma continued inching west, west, west.

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Toward us, us, us.

A week ago, my parents, grandparents, and my sister and her family gathered in our house to hunker down. They all live in southwest Florida, so our home was a safer location.

This is what ‘hunkering down’ feels like, FYI.

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A bit claustrophobic.

Many further north urged Floridians to leave.

“Evacuate!” They screamed.

We understood. We too, were shocked at the flooding and destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey a dozen days before in Texas. Energized meteorologists conveyed their amazement as the powerful storm maintained her category five status for days.

The tension and fear smothering the Sunshine State was palpable.

But logistically it was impossible for everyone to leave. We don’t live in a flood zone, so my engineer husband carefully boarded up our house and secured our yard, then cut plywood to board up our neighbor’s house–wide-eyed Chicagoans who had moved to Florida a few weeks prior.

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The afternoon before the storm hit, my sister and I took our boys out one more time to expel energy. As the storm approached the Keys–several hours south of where we live–the sky was already bloated with Irma’s clouds.

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Irma closed in.

Family and friends across the country prayed for a downgrade. A category three or less storm is “doable,” as in, concrete homes generally remain intact under those storm conditions. Irma was a four just as she hit the Keys, a daunting number to Floridians with memories of Andrew.

Even Mango watched the Weather Channel, wondering if he should fly the coop before the storm hit.

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The night Irma hit, sleep was an enemy. We all needed it desperately, but couldn’t allow ourselves to give into it. The angry, whipping wind and constant smatter of rain was a potent distraction. By 7:30pm we lost power, and the house was draped with candle light and filled with weary family.

Some of us slept peacefully. Okay, one of us.

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But for the rest of us, how could we sleep with this coming?

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But God is merciful, and He calms the storm.

Even the meteorologists were speechless at how quickly Irma broke apart and downgraded once she hit southwest Florida and began moving up the peninsula.

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Monday morning we awoke and hesitantly opened the front door. Leaves scattered everywhere and palm and oak branches littered yards, but our house was intact and our friends south of us safe, too.

I can’t describe what an enormous relief it was to have Irma gone.

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Thankfully we only lost power for twelve hours. But power still remains out for some in southwest Florida–please keep them in prayer as Florida recovers from this never-ending storm.

We’re grateful for God’s mercy, protection, and for all the prayers for our state and people.

“For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.” (Psalm 100:5)

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Count Up: Pushups & Pitchwars

 

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I dropped to the hallway floor with a grunt, my hands clutching carpet.

“Can you do ten?” Cole hovers over me, taller than the day before. My teenager won’t stop growing, and he’s a workout fiend knocking out twenty-five pushups without breaking a sweat.

I, however, sit sadly just on the right side of forty. And while I did many a push-up in my swimming days and have tried to stay in decent shape since, I don’t expect to keep up with my fit thirteen-year old.

“Yes, I can do ten.” Gulp.

I get into pushup position, hands flat, fingers spread and toes flexed. No knee pushups here. (Which is why I only do ten at a time.)

And so it begins. “One.”

I lower then raise my arms again. This is only two?

“One.” Cole calls out.

“What!? That was two.”

I lower my arms and raise them again, blood pounding in my temples. “Three!”

“One.” Giggles explode above me. Chase appears, a smiley blonde alongside his brown-haired brother.

I’m a boy mom—teasing is a given. But this? This is certainly torture.

I lower again, nearly kissing the carpet, then straighten wobbly arms supporting a body growing heavier by the second. “Four!”

“One!” Chase runs off, cackling.

I mumble something about making their own dinner then drop for my fifth pushup. “Five.”

“One.” Cole doesn’t grin very often, and as I look up, I can’t help grinning back despite my indignation at their poor counting skills.

“No, not one! That was five.”

He shrugs, nodding. “Okay, I’ll count right.”

So I begin again, or is it finish? Either way, the last five pushups prove ten times easier once he counts up. But on the last one, my arms betray me as a shuddering laugh takes over. That number–one–still resonates in my mind even though Cole’s not counting incorrectly.

I dissolve into a chuckling lump of limp mom muscles on the floor.

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It reminded me how much our encouragement toward others matters. How much we’re needed to count up.

***

During the month of August, I participated in a contest on Twitter called Pitchwars. Pitchwars includes a group of amazingly helpful published authors (mentors). Each mentor author reads dozens of entries, eventually choosing one to champion and prepare for an agent panel in November (along with keeping up with their own writing career).

It’s an incredible opportunity to meet and connect with writers in the same genre (I entered my middle grade story) and secure valuable feedback on your (submitted) story.

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I was thrilled when the author I submitted to asked for my full manuscript. Even though I wasn’t ultimately the writer she chose to mentor, it was an exciting three weeks of interacting and connecting, sharing about our stories, and meeting up with new critique partners—I have three now!

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After the initial sting of disappointment at not being chosen, I realized what I appreciated most was the community of Pitchwars–the positive words, funny GIFs & jokes exchanged, and especially the encouragement sprayed around like New Year’s confetti.

I’m reminded of James chapter three, about the power of the tongue and the strength of our words (spoken or typed) to bolster–or break down–others. “Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles!” (3:5)

Our tongues can start forest fires of gossip or send waves of much-needed encouragement.

Be an encourager. Count up.

“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another…” (Eph. 4:32)