As we prepare to “hunker down” in this part of South Carolina, Florence is making her path slowly down the coast in advance of her march inland across the state. Most Carolinians, as well as many around the country, following this storm may be ready for her to just get here and get the party started. Others, I am sure, just wish she would stay away all together.
Florence’s arrival coincides with two large anniversaries— Hurricane Harvey and 9/11. Most of my family and many friends were personally affected by Harvey and still viscerally remember the anxiety and aftermath of the water rising in their neighborhoods and homes despite their best efforts to keep it at bay. All of us were impacted by the horrific events of 9/11 whether we lost a loved one in the attack or our innocence in thinking we were safe from attack. We remember the shock, confusion, and sleepless nights surrounding the first days following 9/11 and hope we never experience anything like it again.
In preparing for Florence’s arrival, I noticed that people at my grocery store prefer whole wheat bread to butterbread and Jif peanut butter to other brands. Publix ran out of wheat bread and filled the shelves with what they could. People here are very concerned about keeping their phones charged and made a run on Target causing them to sell out of rechargeable battery packs. Early in the week you could not find bottled water and fights broke out, today there is an ample supply and you have the option to choose from a variety of brands.
As we prepare for this tropical storm we stockpile tangible things such as bread, milk, eggs, peanut butter, and propane. We cut down diseased or iffy trees. The gutters are cleaned out from the spring and summer debris. We gather anything that might blow away or become a weapon to be used by the wind to wreak even more havoc. We collect flashlights, cards, and a good book putting them in one place so we can pass the time in case the electricity goes out. The pantry is filled with non-perishable food, the electronics are charged, and the towels are ready to stop the leaks if they spring up.
But, one question keeps coming to mind, are we spiritually prepared for the storms of our lives? The storms that are not tracked by the Weather Channel. The storms for which we have no advance warning. The events which pop up and feel as if a tornado has whipped around everything that we know and hold dear. The storms of life may present themselves as the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, infidelity, addiction, relocation or some other unexpected, uninvited life event.
The preparations for these storms can look like a waste of time on a sunny, easy day, but will be the things that actually benefit you more than a jar of peanut butter and a loaf of bread. To be ready for the set backs, we each need to be dedicating time to prayer, growing in friendship, and taking care of our minds and bodies.
Daily prayer, time spent reflecting upon Scripture is a balm to my soul and I know that I am not alone in saying this. Consider resting for 15 minutes in the loving embrace of God in stillness and silence. When I am dedicated to quiet prayer, I have more patience to deal with the speed bumps in my day as well as the mountains which present themselves out of nowhere.
Many of us have pushed our friendships to the side as life responsibilities normally take precedence over our need to foster relationships with other women. Dedicating time to maintaining or growing new friendships is essential for each of us. Think now about who you would most trust with the heavy lifting of a life challenge. If you find it hard to name at least one or two friends, please consider reaching out and getting in touch with someone from your past or make an effort to spend time with someone you admire and think you would like to get to know better. I have written about friendships here, here and here if you want some more thoughts on that subject.
Finally, we need to prepare our minds and bodies for the onslaught of unexpected realities. This means learning new things, reading challenging books, moving in new ways, getting our heart rates up, lifting weights, and stretching ourselves beyond what we think is possible today.
Unfortunately, there are no daily metrics which tell you that you have been successful in these endeavors and much of it will seem like a good old fashioned waste of time. But, these preparations are vital to experiencing peace in our lives once we reach the difficult part of our journey.
Please join me in prayer for all in the path of Hurricane Florence and those who are currently experiencing hurricane force winds in their personal lives. May they each know the peace of Christ and joy in His presence. May He strengthen each of us to prepare for the storms that will inevitably arrive and protect our hearts and souls so that we can love others more each day. Amen.