The tears continue to flow. My heart is heavy with devastation. My soul is weary from the events of the week. My body is exhausted to it’s core.
We stayed out of the area for quite some time. It seemed best for Bernadette to keep her completely away from the smoke. It felt like a place of refuge but it was also hard to have so much distance between us and our home.
The first few days I was constantly glued to my phone. I wanted updates, I wanted to know where my people and their homes stood. I was still checking to make sure people were safe as the fires continued to rage forward. I wanted to check our neighborhood to make sure it was still their, standing strong.
I continued to learn of dear friends who lost everything. I sobbed uncontrollably each time I learned of another family whose possessions were claimed by the fire. As I saw their faces, my heart ached. I felt helpless being so far away and unable to control any part of it.
I continually begged God for mercy, that He would put an end to this nightmare. I felt the weight of the situation heavy each night I attempted to sleep. I held my breath every time my phone rang with an alert for our area.
I just couldn’t take it.
So much uncertainty.
So much unknown.
So much devastation.
Slowly, areas began lifting the mandatory evacuation zones. People were being allowed back into their homes, repopulating areas as I have heard it referred to. What a strange concept. Not being allowed in your own home due to a real threat, and then suddenly police officers were welcoming you home. At the same time certain areas were “open” others became evacuated as the fire continued to rage on. It was like this discord unable to connect. Happy for some yet beyond devastated for others.
Everything felt in an upheaval. My heart couldn’t take the sorrow. So many still fearing for their homes, their city, their people.
As I scrolled through social media, I was overwhelmed by the normalcy I saw. Everyone else’s lives were moving forward. If they did not live in our area, they were not affected like we were. Their daily lives were unchanged. Ours, forever changed. It was the oddest feeling. But remarkable close to how I felt when we lived at the hospital with Bernadette for 2 months during our time of heart surgeries. It was almost this same time a year ago. We began walking the uncertain road of heart surgeries, not knowing when we would be reunited as a family back in our own home.
I would sit at the bedside next to Bernadette’s isolate. Friends would check in to see the progress or lack thereof on most days on a regular basis. I felt like they were really there with me, they really cared and they were walking the road hand in hand with me.
I would then scroll through my phone and see everyone else’s seemingly unchanged lives continuing on. Which is completely normal. But hard. Time for me had stopped. I found myself this past week having the same feelings I experience a year ago. My area had just endured a natural disaster. Time had frozen in place for us. But for the rest of the world, their’s continued on. Ours lived on text updates, evacuations and the raging fires blazing across the land. Others involved play dates, getting their kids to school on time and work.
I suddenly thought back to last handful of world events and wondered if those people had felt the same. When the hurricane blew through their town, did they scroll through social media feeling at a loss as I posted the latest and greatest in my life? What about the shooting in Vegas recently. Did the survivors stay off of social media for awhile as they processed through the events they just lived through?
It really is a strange dance.
On the other side, we have watched so much love and outpouring for our community come in and surround us. Messages from people all over checking in. The donations I have seen being selflessly given on social media is astounding.
So many people have showed up in big ways to help our community and those that did lose everything.
Different than how we left it.
It brought all kinds of mixed emotions the day we returned. I was of course thankful we had a home to return to and our neighborhood was spared in this great tragedy. But there is an overall feeling of sadness in the air. The reality hit hard as we approached and read all the signs thanking those that have come to fight for us.
The air is still thick with smoke although patches of blue sky are beginning to peak through. The sun still burns red as it sets in the western sky. Fear still hits and nerves heighten with unfamiliar sounds. Sleep doesn’t come easy as the worry increases at night. Bags haven’t been unpacked and essentials are being kept close by.
Our community will get through this stronger. God is greater than all of this. He sees us. He is here with us. He is watching over us.
Kindess is welcomed and patience in necessary.
I came across this quote by Elisabeth Elliot. “One thing I am sure: God’s story never ends in ashes.”
This community is stronger together and we will rebuild. Those that lost everything will continually need the love and support long after the initial shock wears off, after survival mode settles down, when people begin the endless process of sifting through the ashes and begin rebuilding their lives.
There is so much uncertainty in the world today. So many great tragedies continue to haunt our world. One thing I can be certain of, the Lord sees us. He is the only Hope I have in the midst of the greatest tragedies and uncertainty of this world. I continue to look upward as I sift through and process my own emotions, my own story of what I experienced as the events of this past week unfolded.
I know we will all continue on, but we will not be the same as we were before this past week.
“If I say, ‘My foot slips,’ Your mercy, O Lord, will hold me up. In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comfort delights in my soul.” Psalm 94:18-19