Step by Step, Brick by Brick

Living on an island off the coast of Georgia, we closely watch The Weather Channel during hurricane season. As storms develop, we become keenly aware of our vulnerability. In recent years, Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Irma in 2017 forced mandatory evacuations of our county. Before we evacuated, we prepared our homes the best we could, gathered what we needed, loaded our frightened dog, then joined the long line of cars carrying people West and North. Days later, thrilled to received permission to return home, we joined the long line of cars travelling East and South. As we drove home, the girls and I chattered about getting back to our lives, naming all we missed and who we wanted to see. But as we got closer, anxious anticipation silenced us.

How much was destroyed? What would be left?

Nearing our home, we began to see the effects off the storm. Many of our ancient oaks and pines toppled, smashing roofs, blocking roads and crushing cars. These cherished giants lay dying with their roots exposed. Strange debris littered streets and yards. Someone’s back deck had landed in our neighbor’s yard. Bricks from the ocean walkway washed away, landing on a road in the village.

A feeling of chaos and confusion enveloped us…

Holding our breath, we pulled into our driveway, looking at days and weeks of clean-up, and months of rebuilding. Later, we strolled our beloved beaches. Sand dunes, built-up over decades had flooded into the sea. Wide beaches had narrowed, and narrow beaches widened.

When disaster, destruction, deception, or death hit like a hurricane…

… we stand staring, trying to make sense of the world around us. Our points of reference disappear. We try to do life like we used to but can’t. A tree lies across the road home. A wave crashes on our walking path. Mud and rot destroy our treasures and fill our nostrils. We begin picking through the rubble, assessing the damage and searching for remnants of our old life. Then, we must “dress the bricks,” a slow, tedious task of cleaning fragments of mortar off old bricks. We can no longer look to our former ways of holding our self together. We need fresh mortar to rise and live again.Perhaps, like me, in the loss of my sweet Garrett, the first brick you will pick-up is the fact that your children still need you. You start to get out of bed long enough to feed them breakfast and send them off to school. It is a step.Or maybe you hold onto an old hobby like a dear friend of mine. She lived through the year long process of husband, the father of her then 2 and 4-year-olds, die of colon cancer. Her first step forward was a simple gardening project. The pleasure she had always received from this hobby was something she clung to while the storm raged around her.These small steps don’t seem like much, but they are EVERTHING. Your choices at this point determine who you become. Do you choose to sit in the chaos, embracing anger and despair or to cling to the pieces of life you have left, reclaiming peace and hope? What will be your new normal? What steps forward will you take? What bricks will you salvage?When King David’s son was dying, he fasted, wept, and prayed for seven days. He agonized over the impending death of this treasured child. He felt every bit of the bitterness and despair that comes with the loss of a child, but when his son died, he got up, washed his face, dressed, ate and stepped back on the throne.

He believed in a power of life that surpassed the power of death…

… and lived according to that belief. (2 Samuel 12:16-23)The scriptures do not tell us how he felt going forward, how many nights he lied awake in sorrow, how many days he could barely think straight, overwrought with grief. They simply tell us what he did. He acted in hope. He picked up the parts of himself which remained, his duty as king, and stepped forward. Moving from victim to victor is a long, hard process. Gathering the bits and pieces of ourselves which remain is the first step. Taking these pieces and beginning to build something new is the next. The process takes years, a life time. We were going in one direction, and now we must go another. We had built a beautiful home, and from its rubble we must build again. Some questions I try to reflect on each night:1.Where did I glimpse God or Love today?2.How did I love today?3.When did I laugh at myself?

Reflections like these help us focus on the bigger picture of life, preparing us for and seeing us through the storms. For some, life is a storm. I started the GVB Foundation for these people, those whose life feels like a constant hurricane. We currently partner with House of Hope, a local shelter for women rescued from sex trafficking and La Fruta de la Vid Christiana, a school in Puerto Rico severely damaged by Hurricane Maria. Please read more about our partners and join us in helping others step on the path from victim to victor! Peace be with you,

 Dr. Anna Cabeca