Posts Tagged With: faith

Family

It happened 11 years ago this month, but I remember it like it was yesterday. Hurricane Katrina had flooded New Orleans. Every television station was broadcasting around-the-clock live coverage. Every photographer was pulling 16-hour shifts. There was no end in sight.

I went home that night, exhausted. I grabbed a beer and flopped in my recliner hoping for a few minutes to clear my head of the carnage I had documented over the previous month. My 9-year-old son wandered into the family room, gave me a hug, and asked me, “Dad, why would God let this happen?”

I honestly do know where the answer I gave him came from. “Sometimes, bad things happen, and it’s up to us to be an example of God’s love to other people.”

That seemed to satisfy him.

img_5135As we muddle through the recovery from our own flood, I’m struck by how true those words were then, and still are now.

My wife left our home with two duffle bags of clothes and no idea where we would lay our heads for one night, much less for the months it will take for us to get back into our home.

Friends took us in. They fed us. They sheltered us. They gave us a shoulder to lean on. Not just for a night or two, but an open invitation to stay as long as it took us to get back on our feet.

Three days in, they took in our son who had also flooded. They gave us a place to huddle together to regroup, to rest, and to prepare for whatever came our way. In our time of greatest need, they gave us what we needed most. A place filled with love and hope for better days ahead. They gave us a home. A family.

img_4843Even before the flood waters had receded, an army of family was making plans to help gut our house and speed us onto the road to recovery. Strangers from around the country poured into our neighborhood to help however they could, whether it was manual labor, supplies, food, or just to stop in to pray. They lifted our spirits.

It’s been two months since the Amite River invaded our home, and we still see God’s love all around us: in neighbors swapping cleaning supplies, the Red Cross wagon that circles our neighborhood almost every day with hot lunches, and the trash crew that is slowly getting our street clean.

Today, we are well on our way to rebuilding our lives. Thanks to talented friends willing to give their nights and weekends, our house again has doors, electricity, insulation, and walls.

God’s love manifest itself almost daily in our lives, mostly in the little things. We just don’t notice it until we are at our most desperate, our most vulnerable. It’s in those times, when we need Him the most, that we find Him in the people around us.

img_5170And if there was ever any doubt, this afternoon, while we were raking drywall crumbs out of our grass where our entire house was emptied and hauled away to the dump. My wife found this.

My grandmother’s rosary. It was a gift on our wedding day. At this point in our lives, we did not need the reminder. We have seen His love in the face of everyone who has helped and encouraged us along the way.

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Here’s Your Sign

northern_cardinal_7 Whether it was as a kid watching the scarlet blurs flit in and out of the pecan trees of my grandmother’s back yard, my fellow E. D.White High School Cardinal classmates, or the color a former news director’s face would turn when he yelled at me (which was pretty often), cardinals have always made me smile. And with all that’s happened since the Amite River invaded my home five weeks ago, I could use a smile.

Since the muddy waters have receded, my wife and I have heard a constant refrain. “I love your attitude.” “You are so strong.” The truth is, we are not strong. We simply have no choice.

Every day since August 13 has been an emotional roller coaster, unbelievable highs over the simplest good news, followed by unbearable lows when that good news turns out to be false.

The worst is the uncertainty of the recovery process. FEMA seems to be making things up as we go. In the morning we will not have to raise our home. By lunchtime, we will have to raze it.

15732101329_6d797462c2_oIt’s not that our house is that important. It is where we have raised our family, where we’ve weathered the storms of colic, adolescent angst, and watched our boys leave the nest. It is where we celebrated life through middle school sports, high school wrestling, and rock concerts. Where we have gathered with friends for Super Bowls, game nights, and New Year’s Eve parties in the middle of February. Crawfish boils, pool parties, and hammock time, our house was always alive.

It’s the place we slowly made our own by the sweat of our brow, stripping wallpaper, sanding sheetrock, painting, installing floors and lights and counter tops. But it is still only warehouse where we lived in with our stuff.

29147005140_88e571937c_oLast week, as I wandered inside the empty shell wondering if we would ever celebrate another birthday or choose another wall color here again, I cracked.

It was not the idea of bulldozing the life we had made here that drew the tears to my eyes. It was the thought of losing what little we had left in the world.

I walked into the woods behind our house and cried. We had been faithful. We had not questioned. And I would not do it now.

Through the tears, I prayed for strength. The strength to let go, to trust in someone stronger.

On a sun-dried limb 30 yards away, in the fading light of the day, the brightest cardinal I have ever seen perched. He cocked his head my way as if to make sure I had seen him, then he flew away.

I laughed until I cried. I had been leaning on someone stronger the whole time.

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Losing It

14232489_10208956828370825_7740601966627015887_nRain cascaded off of the hood of my slicker suit, past the eye cup of my camera, and dropped into the shin-deep water under my tripod. I barely noticed the reporter blinking behind water-speckled eyeglasses. It was the boat motoring down what, 12 hours earlier, had been a neighborhood street that had my attention.

An elderly man in a plastic, yellow coat wrapped his arm around a gray-haired woman shivering under an umbrella as they drifted toward me. On the deck, a garbage bag that I assumed held the couple’s only worldly possessions not soon to be underwater. At the aft, a middle-aged man wiped rain from his face as he steered.

I’m actually surprised I remember so much detail; my mind was not on my job. I was thinking about my wife.

I had left her just thirty minuets earlier. I had snugged the blankets around her as I kissed her forehead and left for work. Before leaving, I had checked the neighborhood. The weatherman had said water was on the way. Our neighborhood had survived the great flood of 1983, then the flood of ’91, and Tropical Storm Allison which had put so many others underwater. We would be safe. But how close would the water get?

The Amite River meanders through the dense woods between our neighborhood and the city of Denham Springs, a mile-and-a-half east of our home as the crow flies. At 6:30 that Saturday morning, it was just 80 yards from our back door.

img_4423
It was 7AM when I got the text. “The water is at the door. Paul and Eileen are helping me leave.” I told my wife I was on my way. She told me, “Why? There is nothing you can do. It’s coming too fast.”

Before she left, she took one picture, “I saved the important stuff.” A joke, something to lift my spirits while pushed down my emotions to focus on my job — getting information to a bewildered, waterlogged, and lost community.

Over the next two days, the Amite’s muddy water seeped past our locked doors and made itself at home. It left its mark at five feet, just above the light switches. I shot images of homes
with water to their roofs, newly homeless wading on flooded high ground with garbage bag luggage, reporters interviewing shell-shocked evacuees. I filed reports solo via cell phone. I sat at the anchor desk chatting with viewers about what I had seen. img_4674About what we had lost.

It was an on-air question by my friend, our main anchor Greg Meriweather, that did it. “How can you sit here and be so upbeat and calm when you just saw your house with water almost to the roof, and you realize that, like so many of our viewers, you just lost everything?”

For two days, I had answered anyone who asked, “We are lucky.” It wasn’t a cliche. We were.

My wife, son, and I were safe. Wonderful friends had taken us in and offered us their home for as long as we need it. We got out with two duffle bags of clothes when many had only the clothes on their backs. We were not in a shelter. Our employers had not been flooded. We would not miss a paycheck.

I don’t know where the answer I gave Greg came from that evening, but I talked not about the flood, or our luck, or our community. I talked about my childhood.

About a blue collar neighborhood where people don’t sit around complaining about work that needs to be done. They go out and do it. About faith. Not the kind we practice in church on Sundays, but the example of service lived by the Brothers of the Sacred Heart who ran my high school. I talked about lessons. Not not lessons taught in class, but those absorbed growing up in a small town filled with selfless people, that there is always someone more important than me. And lessons yet to be learned, like accepting God’s grace in the form of helping hands from friends and strangers.

I told Greg that what had humbled us most over those two days had not been the scope of the waters or the power of nature. More humbling for my wife and I were the number of people who launched their boats off the interstate to help. They were not marshaled by the police, or requested by the government. The Cajun Navy showed up on its own.
img_4830Boatmen like the middle-aged man in my lens two days earlier had come to help. They did not ask about race, religion, sexual identity. They just put people in their boats and brought them to safety.

Most humbling was the number of friends, family, and total strangers who offered prayers for our safety, our future, and our strength.

One week after the flood waters left our home, my wife, son, and I stood drenched in sweat inside the shell of our home. We looked around at the army of friends and family working pulling sheetrock, ripping out cabinets, and hauling debris to the curb. Greg’s question rolled through my head. “How can you be so upbeat and calm, when you’ve just lost everything.”

This time, a different answer came to mind. We may have lost everything we owned. But we have not lost everything.

 

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Flood

So many people have been asking about how we are doing here in Baton Rouge since the flood. I’m sure I’ll sit down soon and reflect, but right now, there is just no time. It’s easier to update everyone this way, so here it is.

We are doing swimmingly!

I got to my house yesterday. (Been out since Friday.) I was at work. Gail got out about 7:30AM with her car and two duffle bags of clothes. Brock’s car was too low to drive through the water. It went from dry street, yard and neighborhood when I left, to two feet in the streets that fast. We had a little more than 5 feet of water inside. Everything else is gone.

Life is amazing. The number of people praying for us is the most humbling thing Gail and I have ever experienced. Everyone we know, and many people we don’t know have and are offering any help they can give. The best are just the silent hugs when words fail. We are safe, dry, and well-fed. Some friends have taken us in and offered us the 2nd floor of their home for as long as we need it. We have a roof, soft bed, and hot shower. We may never leave.
We got back into our house yesterday. Outside, it looks like God sifted a giant can of Chocolate Quik powder over the entire neighborhood. River silt everywhere. Brock’s car is no longer black. It’s chocolate. We’ve got this heavy-ass, 12-foot bench made with laminated beams. It takes 3 men to move it. Well, it walked across the back yard for a better view of the flowerbeds.
Inside, smells awful. Hell, you can actually smell it from outside. It looks like our living room furniture decided it was hungry and migrated to the kitchen for a snack. Everything is covered in the same slimy silt. All of the sheetrock will have to come down. The wood floors will have to go. All of the furniture, appliances, cabinets — hell, everything will have to go. But that’s no big deal, we were going to remodel our bathroom anyway.
We haven’t totally decided on the clothes yet, but we’re pretty sure after 3 days in that crap, the smell will never come out.
Before Gail left, she threw a bunch of pictures and sentimental crap on the top shelf of our bedroom closet. All of that is safe. We are so thankful for that.
We visited the house late yesterday after work. We haven’t begun the moving out party yet.
Thankfully, we are insured. The adjuster will be here Thursday or Friday. Gail and I will take that day off to begin the clean out. I can’t call it clean up because there aint much to clean.
My youngest son, Nick’s, home was also flooded. He is with us now. Thankfully, Brock is in North Carolina at Marine Combat Training. He has no electronic device of any kind and is blissfully unaware of all of this.
We are the lucky ones. We are alive. And we are in a home surrounded by friends instead of a shelter somewhere. The flood has not taken our jobs from us. We will not miss a paycheck. So many don’t even have work to occupy their minds for a few hours a day, and have only what’s not there to think about.
People can’t believe that Gail and I are so at peace with all this, but really, there is not much to be upset about. It is beyond our control, and our faith tells us that God is in control. The most upsetting part of this is that we are usually The Helpers. We are the ones cleaning out someone else’s home, cooking dinner for a family that has worked all day, or helping out at a shelter. This isn’t supposed to happen to The Helpers. But again, it is a chance for us to learn about God’s grace. To learn to be on the receiving end.
People ask constantly what we need. We are not at the point where we even know that much yet. What we need most are prayers. With everyone’s prayers, we will get through this. Hell, we have no choice, we have to find out what happens to Ethan Lovett.
Categories: Life Or Something Like It, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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