As Hurricane Harvey’s first wave of devastation landed, news media began to flood my television twenty-four hours a day with picture after picture of horrific damage and loss in the Rockport and Victoria areas of the Coastal Bend. All the while I sat cool and comfortable in my home. My elderly parents and youngest brother were safe, temporarily riding out the storm with us. After checking in with my family located all along the Gulf Coast, despite some lacking electricity, all were safe and accounted for.
I knew several others with damage to their recreational homes at the bay, but most felt blessed because they missed the eye of the storm.
Then Harvey did his dance along the Gulf Coast and the torrential rains flooded Houston. More lives were at stake and heroic scenes flooded my television, Facebook and Instagram feeds. People on rooftops because floodwaters had chased them there. Boats filled with first responders and volunteers trying to get there before it was too late. All the while, I had electricity. I had water and food. Yes, continued threats of possible flooding in my area of the Gulf Coast created challenges in preparation of our offices, but it dimmed in comparison to the plight of others.
We were high and dry; yet, as we strategized preparations for our office, just in case, I watched television footage of one of my partner’s elderly loved ones being rescued from the floodwaters in Houston. There was a name. A face. A connection to this unfolding tragedy.
Harvey’s dance wasn’t over.
With Houston underwater, now Harvey danced with the rivers and streams surrounding my county–Wharton County. Warnings of flooding threats amped up and filled Facebook and social media. Local radio stations worked to warn our residents. Harvey had made landfall on Friday. It was now mid-week. Our local store shelves were empty, barren aisles. Fuel was in short supply. My husband had been working long hours for over a week delivering fuel in preparation for Harvey and now he worked 15 hour days distributing fuel where most needed as Harvey danced along the coast. Fuel pumps were wrapped and closed, out of gas. How could all this be?
Our office had staff members in harm’s way. With all that we had seen so far of Harvey, no one knew what to expect. Harvey did. Flooding reached near record levels and our county seat, Wharton, was underwater. Small communities in our county like Glen Flora, East Bernard, and Spanish Camp were ravaged with floodwaters, animals and livestock stranded and lost in the high waters.
Fortunately, our office family members were spared water in their homes, though they were surrounded by floodwaters. At the worst of Harvey, my home was surrounded by cotton fields turned into lakes, but we were safe and dry. Now, Harvey flooded our major thoroughfare, Highway 59, as it sat underwater and closed to traffic less than four miles from my home. The blinking red & blue lights warning of floodwaters visible from my living room window.
Half of our county (El Campo) was spared, but cut off from the other parts sitting underwater. Road closures were everywhere. Harvey didn’t want to stop dancing.
As the week progressed, I felt small. Helpless. Overwhelmed by the widespread devastation. I worried about my husband’s lack of sleep as he continued to work long hours. I struggled with my emotions and why I sat in a home with the comforts of air conditioning and running water while others all around me, in every direction, were dealt tragedy. My email and social media were filled with financial requests.
My head spun, my heart ached. Who could I help? How could I help?
El Campoans stepped up in full force. Many doing the backbreaking work of cleaning and clearing the muck of Harvey’s floodwaters. Heroic, hard work. But some of us, like me, may have physical limitations that prevent us from doing that kind of work. Some were at workplaces, trying to keep small businesses open and available, providing supplies and services to those in need, despite the challenges of potential flooding and a shortage of employees due to Harvey’s wrath.
As calls for help continued, I felt useless. I felt guilty because I couldn’t get into the muck and mire to do the backbreaking cleanup. I cleaned my daughter’s closet and donated clothing. That was not enough. I made financial donations. Not enough. I made sure my husband was fed and taken care of so he could get a few hours rest before heading off to work another 15 hour workday. Not enough. I cooked a homemade meal for a displaced family. Not enough. I made a financial donation to another worthy cleanup cause, but the dollar amount seemed insufficient.
As night fell on the eighth day of Harvey’s wrath, I sat alone waiting for my husband’s return from another long day of work, a hot, home-cooked meal waiting for him. The hours slowly ticked by and the restlessness and struggle of how to help overwhelmed me. I needed to do MORE. What could I do?
In those moments, I’ve learned to turn to God. I prayed and then picked up a book by an encouraging, loving Christian author, Suzie Eller. My bookmark was at Chapter 6 of “Come With Me” so I simply started there. That was God’s wink at me. He’s so very good at that because the words were relevant and just what I needed. In that chapter, Suzie talks about how “our not enough becomes more than enough when we give it to God.”
These words calmed my restlessness and focused my mind on the situation at hand:
Whatever big thing you’re facing, God not only sees it, but is waiting for you. Step toward him with your hands raised high, no-holds barred, bringing him every uncertainty, every hope, all your fears, all your strength, every aspect of your situation. The “big” is birthed inside you as you believe that he can do something with the little that you do have.
Eller, Suzanne. Come with Me. Bethany House, 2016.
Harvey finished his dance in East Texas, leaving a wake of devastation and tragedy in a huge area of Texas. Everyone here knows the name of someone personally devastated by Harvey. Recovery will be a long, challenging, tear-stained road. It’s “not enough” will cross your mind, and mine, many times as we all work together to help rebuild and support those who have lost so much.
We all have different gifts and different capabilities, but there is a time and place for every kind and every type of help we can offer.
Today, backbreaking, sweaty, mosquito-filled work is the priority to clean the muck. Opening homes, shelters, offering free campsites and RVs to provide a warm bed and roof over those displaced has been key to make sure everyone is safely housed. Hot meals offer hope, love, and kindness at the end of a long day.
Tomorrow as we return to the workplace, we’ll help maintain and rebuild an economy that can financially support recovery efforts and those in need. In the days to come, the focus will shift to returning as many to their homes as possible, re-opening schools, handling insurance claims, rebuilding where necessary, and a very lengthy return to some type of normalcy.
In the aftermath of Harvey, we’re facing a big recovery effort, but remember God sees it.
Step toward him with every fear and every need. Keep doing. Keep giving. Whatever that may be. Whatever you can do. Though you may feel your efforts are “not enough,” remember God will turn our collective “not enough” into enough.
“Our not enough becomes more than enough when we give it to God.”