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Surviving Hurricane Irma: The 7 Things I learned during the storm

Faith

Surviving Hurricane Irma: The 7 Things I learned during the storm

Hello, Fly Family! As we know, Hurricane Irma happened a few weeks ago. A lot of thing took place before and after the storm.

Here are the 7 things I learned from Hurricane Irma:

 

1. Where my foundation lies.

 

 

A lot of times, we run or become flustered when faced with hardship because…it is uncomfortable. Who wants to be uncomfortable? However, I’m hear to tell you that hardship is good. Why? Well, because It shows you who you are, where you are, and what you need to work on. This experience has showed me a lot of things I need to work on within myself. I was reminded that I too am not above reproach, especially when my faith and foundation were tested before the storm even arrived. At first, I didn’t believe that the storm would cause too much damage. I scoffed at the thought of Hurricane maintaining the status as a category 5 hurricane, especially once it made its way Florida. I mean come on. I’ve lived in Florida for most of my life and survived quite a few “big” ones. Most Floridians view hurricanes as a joke because they often change paths or lose “fuel” disseminating little to no damage more often than none, excluding Hurricane Andrew in 1992 or Katrina in 2005. Hey, We should be grateful; however, it’s a Florida thing. We’ve been through so many false alarms that we’ve become desensitized to the warnings. If any videos came across your timeline of people dancing in the rain and “putting on for lil saint,” during the hurricane, it was most likely filmed in Florida.

    However, after the recent devastation of Hurricane Harvey changed that narrative. Fear ensnared the hearts and minds of everyone in Hurricane Irma’s path fearing that Irma would leave the same devastation or worse. Schools issued early releases and cancelled class until further notice, our jobs released us to make preparations for the storm, groceries were scarce, water, generators, and shutters were sold out, most gas stations were out of gas, northbound traffic took over north and southbound lanes on every expressway, over 3,000 people showed up to the airport to purchase frozen flights, and evacuees from the Keys were running out of gas on their way northbound due to the lack of gas availability. My faith was challenged as panic incited around me. I even found myself crying on my way home from work. I felt such a strong empathy for the victims of Hurricane Harvey. I couldn’t imagine returning to my neighborhood and finding everything destroyed. Everything that I held dear to me…gone forever. I repeated to myself that “we’re going to be alright. God got us,” but the fear and stress of what might happen tormented me. After seeking the Lord, He reminded me that He is Lord. He is my sure foundation. He is my great reward and rewarder. The Lord reminded me that “If I lost everything. I would have lost nothing because I still would have Him.” God reminded me that He is the foundation of all things and that He is the author and finisher of all. If I lost all of my possessions, I would be sad, but all is not lost because I have Him. If I lost my life all would be well because I would be with the Lord. If I lost a loved one all would be well because to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. That conversation gave more weight to my “God got us” sayings. All in all, our life is more livable when we are properly centered. Also, with God as our foundation our perspective and view of life changes; therefore, aligning things into their proper place.

2. Hardship is good.

 

During the hurricane, my family and I experienced things that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. The boisterous thunder and howling winds would were so frightening that I had awakened from my slumber and took cover on the floor. At one point, it sounded like a freight train was about to hit my home. I also, had trouble sleeping due to the fear that the winds would pick up my car and smash it into my house. In particularly my room, because my car is parked like 10 feet away from my bedroom window. The wind also broke a branch from a tree broke our light pole leaving us without power for 10 days. We, along with 3/4ths of Miami-Dade county were out of power for weeks. Yes, Miami, Florida, heat and Humidity, with highs of 85 to 90 degrees and We didn’t have a generator to fuel AC and fans. During that time, we had to throw away everything in our refrigerator and freezer, cook meal by meal, if we could, and we sat outside because the inside of our home was intolerable at times. I could barely sleep because the heat was so bad. I showered multiple times a day to stay cool. Speaking of cool…yes, cold showers. How uncomfortable as they were, by the end of it I had taken so many that the temperature became normal. Food was another issue. It was hard to get and maintain a hot meal. My family and I don’t eat much fast food. Plus, buying out everyday really strained our budget. We had to buy just enough because the food would go to waste because we had no refrigerator to store it nor oven/microwave to warm it up. Fortunate for us, a neighboring block received power about a week before us and the Lord touched the heart of our neighbor to cook dinner for us every evening for about a week! God Bless Mrs. Hortense!

    It was in these hard times that I was able to see myself in my true condition, how blessed I am, and the things I needed to work on. These times forced me to believe what I’ve been speaking, preaching, and quoting. I worked harder than ever to love God despite my current circumstances and focus on his goodness through my struggle. It was a choice to believe in God’s goodness and trust that he was going to take care of me and supply all of my needs instead of cower about the things I wish I had.  God took care of us.  He showed me that if I chose To trust Him he would be good to me even if my circumstances were not. This experience also taught me the vast differences and value in wants and necessities. There are hundreds of thousands of people that have never taken a hot shower. There are hundreds of thousands of people who struggle to find food on a consistent basis. They don’t have access to clean water and wouldn’t be able to cook a meal without the support of others and here I was saddened because of a temporary discomfort.

    Often times we run from hardship because we don’t want to deal with the discomfort that comes with it. It is that very discomfort that shows us not only who we are, but reinforces who God is. How would we know that we serve a God that would part the Red Sea for us if the Israelite’s were never cornered by the Pharaoh’s army? How would we know that if we posses total confidence in God we can slay giants? How would Joseph have saved nations from famine if he had not been sold into slavery,  lied on by Potiphar’s wife and thrown into the jail? Or that God will send his angels to stand with us in the fire as he did with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? How would we know that God is in control? That he will defy social norms and shatter glass ceilings? How would our faith ever grow if we never stand to be tested? Hardship is good. We should take the time to redefine hardship. Instead of running or complaining when faced with it maybe we should run to it with the boldness of Joshua. Joshua 1:9 says, “This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (NLT). God has never left us…and never will.

 

3. Stop Complaining  

 

    As uncomfortable as this whole experience was, God was with us through it all. The Post effects of Irma were the worst for me. I had gone through so many changes that I had forgotten how Good God actually was. I focused so much on my “hardships” so much that I complained, instead of operates in a state of gratitude. I even forgot to tell God “thank you.”

     Irma was Category 5 Hurricane with winds over 185 mph. I wasn’t supposed to be here. Florida wasn’t supposed to be here. God changed that. Inconceivable damage had been caused by Irma; however,  she had not even scratched the surface of what she was predicted to do. Even when Irma had changed her path, my family, neighborhood, and I were still in a clear path of danger. Our excrement was short lived after the news explained that we were in an even more dangerous position at the “back” of a Hurricane than entering the eye.  We were expecting to endure a series of tornados and surges from 15-18 feet high. Once again, God spared us. Irma turned in a way that the most dangerous part of the storm was off shore miles away in the ocean! I remember speaking with my mother during the storm. She did not rejoice in Irma’s original change in trajectory. Instead, she asked “is it really God moving when calamity transfers from one place to another?” It really made me wonder and redirect my prayers. I began not to just pray for my area and the surrounding areas, but that God removes the danger of the Hurricane altogether. When the second change happened, I rejoiced because I felt like that was true move of God. The Hurricane still came, but she came at a Category 2.5-3. Some damage was made, but not nearly how much was expected. Through it all, I thanked God for my immediate relief and forgot about it through the rest.

   Once brought to my attention, I immediately apologized and wondered how many times had I done this. How many times had my gratefulness lasted longer than the freshness of a loaf of bread? How many times have I lost focus?

 

4. Never give the enemy a foothold

 

The most important lesson that I have learned from Hurricane Irma is that Spiritual warfare is real and most of us do not take it as serious as we should.We have an enemy that strategically studies us and waits for the moment to manipulate us…or give us exactly what we want. As stated in “G.O.E; except our Desires,” we can only be tempted by our own desires as stated in James 1:13, “And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, ‘God is tempting me.’ God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else” (NLT).

This lesson is about how I to fell prey to my own desires, but most importantly of the redeeming power of Jesus Christ. I have been single for a little under 4 years now. Before choosing a life of purity, I had always been involved with someone and although I have maintained my virginity throughout the years, It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that my last relationship was anything but pure. We tried for a time, but it’s hard to maintain a pure relationship when one party cares about it more than the other. Soon after deciding to fully commit my whole heart to God I renewed oath of purity and I decided to no longer date or show interest in any man that did not hold himself to the same standards or better. I had learned my lesson. I was doing fine, until Irma. Hurricane Irma occurred during one of my weak moments. I began flirting with a really cute guy I had recently come in contact with. I knew the guy and I had no future, we have completely different foundational truths and we view God differently, yet I continued to flirt with him. (A lot, I might add.) It felt good to have someone to talk to, check on me during the storm, and show interest. I enjoyed the attention. The flirtation continued after the storm. The more I talked to him the more my “guards” relaxed.

I was playing with fire and I knew it. I sought advice but believed what validated my actions. I would say, “I’m young. I can have friends. I can flirt. I can have fun. I shouldn’t take life so seriously. I’ll be fine. I know what I’m doing.” The thing about sin is we can’t control it the way we think we can. The bible says run from the sin that so easily entangles. The enemy is so much better at this game than we are. Before I knew it, I had kissed the guy. I beat myself up for a week. Thinking to myself “this is not you Shanea. Get it together. Pray it off.” Well you can’t exactly pray and fast away desires that you entertain. I found it hard to fight my flesh. I battled and battled and failed again and again.  What shocked me was that I was making mental decisions to choose my flesh over my spirit. For once, I didn’t care. I had allowed my circumstances to manipulate my emotions leaving me open to an attack that I obliged into. I gave the enemy a foothold. I allowed myself to be depressed and allowed myself to believe that I was single by default and not by choice. Instead of fighting the enemy with scriptures, I listened to him and allowed him to shape my reality.

The enemy had tried to tempt me with this same strategy; however, this time he tried me at the right place and the right time. I beat myself up and attempted to fight a thing that I felt I wanted. It was hard. It was depressing.  It was fun. It was consuming, but it wasn’t satisfying. I realized that only Christ can truly satisfy me. What I really wanted and needed, that young man couldn’t give me. God was kind enough to show me that and even kinder to show the guy, as well. It was God. I was shocked. He told me that I was too good for him and dating him would be a huge disservice to me. Wow. Who says that? That was nothing but God.The opportunity to take advantage of a “good girl” fell into his lap and he didn’t take it. At the time, I didn’t feel like a “good girl” at all, but he was right.  Like Saul, God gave me ample warnings and showed me things along the way, but unlike him I decided to make the right decision. I leaned on God to satisfy me. I trusted that my wait would not be in vain and took it upon my self to refocus on what truely mattered. Saul didn’t make the right decision, but we can. We can start by running from sin and not allowing our emotions to dictate our actions. Like the old saying goes, “If you give the enemy an inch he will take a mile;” however, I find comfort in knowing that God has the last say and He is good to us even when we are not good to him.

 

5. God is good even when we are not.

 

To make matters worse, throughout this internal depressing ping pong match, God never left my side. He still spoke to me and even woke me up between 3-5 am to talk and pray, as usual. It was almost like nothing had ever happened. God was treating me like I wasn’t cheating on him with my flesh and making irrational decisions. I was definitely behaving badly. I was playing with fire. If the enemy approached God like in Job, I was clearly embarrassing him in front of the enemy and his angels, but He didn’t care. He had even spoken to me and told me “It’s never too late to change your mind and make the right decision.” There he was pursuing me…through my mess. Christ was showing me, yet again how much He loves us. He knows our desires and struggles. He knows our imperfections, but He makes a mental decision to pursue and love us anyway. It was his faithful and merciful love that encouraged me out of depression and out of my sin. I had spoken, read, and heard about God’s redeeming love, but this was a moment in time where I was able to experience it all over again.

    God offers us true redemption and forgiveness everyday. Experiencing His love  through my sin brought the scriptures to life. Twi of which were Romans 8:1‭-‬2 saying, “For Jesus did not come to condemn us bit give us everlasting life. So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death (NLT).

 

6. Take life seriously. Live Boldly, Refined, and Unashamed. 

 

I learned to not be so hard on myself. I am human. God understands that. It also taught me that I can be so hard on myself that I forget to experience life with others. My family were going through the same thing I was. Communing with like believers is more helpful than not and talking with a few of my sisters in Christ really helped me understand that failure is common. Jesus doesn’t condemn us, so we shouldn’t condemn ourselves. Instead, we should take correct ourselves and learn from our mistakes, even if our mistakes are currently happening. Hebrews 12:4, 12-13 states,” After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin. So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.

Also, Let us never become too proud to unearth our misfortunes, but valiantly boasts about them like Paul in James 1. Our weakness allows us to be perfectly pliable medium for the molding hands of God. Dings happen, but we serve a God that specializes in washing his children with his blood and smoothing out imperfections. We should live as boldly as Paul. Paul rejoiced in the death of Stephen and was gathering Christians to jail in Acts Chapter 8 and was converted and preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ in chapter 9. Let us not be ashamed by our transgressions, but freed through the redeeming power of the Holy Ghost. Romans 5:1‭-‬4 says, “Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation” (NLT). Though we may fall, what is important how we respond. Our real, transparent, honest,  authentic response to our shortcomings is what will encourage others to continue to fight this good fight of faith with us.

 

Glory be to God in the highest.

 

Shanea Longley

Shanea Longley is a graduate of Florida Atlantic University with a Bachelor's Degree in Multimedia Journalism, concentration in Broadcasting, and a Minor in Theatre. Longley aims to use her skills to cultivate and inspire a culture of believers who actively pursue God.

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