Editor’s Note: This is adapted from a post Jeannie Cunnion wrote in the days following Hurricane Sandy. Like many Americans living on the East Coast, she was directly impacted by the storm. We hope you are encouraged by her trust in our God in the midst of devastation.
By Jeannie Cunnion
What can I tell you about Hurricane Sandy that you don’t know already know?
The Sunday started like every other Sunday. We went to church and had lunch with friends. But then the call came. The one that said we were under mandatory evacuation and had to be out of our house by sunset. Sandy had gone from bad to worse and everyone in our little neighborhood on the water was forced to flee.
We rushed home, packed up the things that mattered most, and headed 30 minutes northwest to stay with friends who were on safer ground. It happened that fast.
And there we were—three families with a combined eleven kids between us—all settled in on a Sunday night, bracing for what was ahead.
I remember curling up with a book that night—the one I started reading only several days before when the name Sandy meant nothing to me—called One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. And I remember thinking, “Fitting book to be reading as I wait for the water to rise and pursue all my earthly treasure.”
I read each page of One Thousand Gifts slowly, underlining amazing words of wisdom like:
“Eucharisteo—thanksgiving—always precedes the miracle”
“Life changing gratitude does not fasten to a life unless nailed through with one very specific nail at a time.”
I went to bed assuming this kind of thankfulness was something I was going to need to hold onto, but had no idea what it would come to mean to me in the days ahead.
Mercy. Blessing. Grace. God.
As you know, Sandy hit late that Monday night. However, we didn’t know the extent of the damage until the next morning when we woke to a text from our neighbor.
“It’s bad. The entire neighborhood flooded. We are going out to assess the damage and will let you know.”
We cried for what we assumed was lost—our belongings. And we gave thanks for what we knew remained—us. Our family. That was all that mattered.
Not everyone in our sweet little town experienced damage, and some only lost power. But as word of our neighborhood’s damage spread, the calls began to pour in. “How can I help you?” “Please come stay with us.” “Let me watch your boys while you start to clean up.” “What can I bring you?”
Around noon the next day, we loaded the boys into the car and headed home to assess the damage.
As we drove thru the debris, the song “One Thing Remains” by Jesus Culture came on the radio. Worshipping God for what remained, I lost myself in the words and began to weep.
“Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me…. And I’ll never ever have to be afraid. Because one thing remains.”
I don’t think anyone is ever really prepared to see their home as we did when we arrived. I was frozen. “Where do we even begin?” And yet I knew our flooding wasn’t as bad as others. But loss is loss and pain is pain. It does no good to compare and it’s ok to admit it hurts.
I heard the words I read in Ann’s book. He gave thanks. Give thanks.
In the midst of the clean up, the salvaging, and the questions I was learning to give thanks.
I learned that if I looked down, I would see the water line on my mailbox that reminded me how high the water rose. I would see the house torn apart, the sea-kissed furniture, and the walls lined with water stains.
But if I looked up, I saw the rainbow painted in the sky over our house when we returned home to assess the damage. The rainbow that reminded me that he is faithful. He is good. His promises are true.
And then I begin to look around and I see this, all of this, and more:
A year later we can say we have been carried. We have been held in the arms of God. And I am learning to give thanks.
Jeannie Cunnion is passionate about rising up a generation of children who know they are extravagantly and unconditionally loved by Jesus Christ. Her professional career combines counseling, writing, and speaking about parenting skills and adoption issues for both Bethany Christian Services and the National Council for Adoption. She was raised as a “Preacher’s Kid” and she currently serves as the Council Co‐Chair at Trinity Church in Greenwich, CT. Jeannie’s greatest joy is being a wife to Mike and a mom to her three active boys. You can find Jeannie on Twitter at @JeannieCunnion or on her website at www.wholeheartedchild.com.
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