Monday, May 10, 2010

The Ring Around Our House

Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found;
surely when the mighty waters rise, they will not reach him.

You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me
with songs of deliverance.

- Psalm 32:6-7

The last week has been filled wtih heartbreak, praises, hard work, and every emotion I can think of. I am just now coming up for air, and all that has happened is sinking in. Here is our story.

Last weekend in the Nashville area, it rained 13 inches during a 48 hour period. So much rain in so short of a time caused unbelievable flooding in not only the big rivers, but also the smaller streams and even tiny creeks as well. Homes and businesses all over middle Tennessee flooded, the vast majority having no flood insurance. They are calling it the 1000 year flood.

We have the Harpeth River in the back of our property. Our backyard slopes down quite a bit, putting our home just above the level of the 100 year flood plain. When we bought our house 7 years ago there was a dispute with our mortgage company about whether or not we were required to have flood insurance. We are just outside the range, and so we “won” and did not have to purchase the expensive insurance.

Last Saturday evening we watched the river rise, thinking it was fun and exciting. It was unthinkable that the water would ever reach our home, and unlikely that it would affect any of our neighbors. However the one road that leads in and out of our neighborhood is very close to the river. Before going to bed we were wondering if we might be “flooded” in and unable to go to church the next morning. Oh, we had no idea.

When my alarm went off at 6:30, the first thing I did was look out the window at our back yard. “Oh my goodness, that’s a lot of water!” I said, waking up Daniel. I jumped in the car to survey the neighborhood and found that already the road leading out was under four or five feet of water. You could barely see the top of a car that had been submerged while trying to cross the flooded road. The houses at the other end of our street were right on the brink of flooding. And the torrential rain wasn’t supposed to stop any time soon.

Still, I had no idea just how bad this was going to be. None of us did. I settled in on the couch to do my Bible study and have a few quiet moments before everyone else got up. I watched the water rise and just casually started to think through what we would need to do if it began to seem like the water might actually reach our house. But there’s no way that would REALLY happen, right?

Daniel got up and marked the water level. In an hour’s time we found that the water had risen a vertical foot. Wow. It rose at least another foot in the next hour. We started doing the math – the water only had to rise another 8-10 feet to be at our back door, and the downpour wasn’t supposed to stop for at least that long. We got in the car to survey the neighborhood again and found that houses were beginning to experience significant flooding. At that point, it sank in – this was really happening. Unless God chose to change the direction that things were going by his mighty hand, our home was going to flood.

We hurried home and kicked it into high gear. The first thing that would flood would be Daniel’s workshop in the backyard. He started cleaning everything off the floor and moving as many of his power tools into our two vehicles as he could. I got all the toys that were scattered in our backyard up by the house, and then started inside. In a matter of about 3 hours, I packed up our entire house and put every single thing that we own on top of furniture. I pulled out the lower drawers and put them on top of the dressers. I emptied cabinets and put everything on the counters. I moved clothes out of closets and piled them on top of the mountain of stuff on our bed. We put the legs of our kitchen table in pots and put taped plastic bags around the legs of all other furniture possible. We unplugged everything in the house, and moved all our electronics to higher ground. It’s amazing what you can get done in a short time when you have to.

Meanwhile we watched the water rise. It was inside the back of our fence by 9 am. It enveloped my precious vegetable gardens by 11. By 2 it was at the level of the floor of Daniel’s workshop. The unthinkable was happening. Within about 3 hours it would be in our house.

At first we thought we would just ride out the storm in the neighborhood. Madeline and I would go and stay with friends on a higher street, and Daniel would keep watch over the house. Then we got word that an emergency team had been evacuating people by boat and by ATV through a muddy field to a local church. The water was getting too high to continue doing it though, and it was now or never. Having done all we could at the house, we decided to leave. There was no electricity, phone service, or cell phone service anyway. We wanted to be on higher ground. We packed our backpacks with a change of clothing, toothbrushes, sleeping bags, a little food and our wallets and headed out. We told Madeline we were going on a big adventure.

Just down the road, a hero whose name I don’t even know picked us up on an ATV. Daniel held Madeline and hopped on one side of the rack on the back, and I jumped onto the other side. We held on for dear life as he took us through someone’s yard, through new creeks that had formed that day flowing to the river, and through a muddy field to the road that leads out. I don’t mean to over-dramatize, but it really was every bit as dramatic as something you see in a movie.

We were so grateful to make it to the church. You know, you just never picture yourself as someone who will seek refuge at a public shelter during a natural disaster. The unthinkable really was happening.

Madeline had a blast throughout it all. There were lots of people, lots of dogs, lots of chaos. What could be more fun? As Daniel clung to her on the ATV in the pouring rain, she pointed out flowers that we passed in the field and sang songs. Her childlike innocence and trust was so refreshing.

At about 8 pm, the emergency team chose to move everyone at that shelter to a middle school 30 minutes away because there was power there and cots available for everyone to sleep on. The roads were inaccessible, and so people were moved by ATV down the railroad tracks beside the church, two at a time, and then they crossed the highway in a boat to make it to a bus that took everyone to the school. What an ordeal for all of these tired, stressed people. Even elderly and handicapped people had to do this. We felt extremely grateful to be invited to stay with some friends who were at the church running the shelter. They lived closeby and their road was the ONLY one that could be reached from where we were. Instead of sleeping in sleeping bags on the floor, we ended up on their couch bed with a pack and play for Madeline to sleep in.

It was a long night, but there was peace. We were safe, and we were together. I was so thankful for my precious family sleeping together all in a row. We had everything we needed. The Lord was with us. We felt that in a tangible way.

At about 9:00 the next morning, I got a text message from a friend who was in our neighborhood with a photo of the front of our house. It showed that there was water very close, but NOT IN our home. It was our first indication of the truth that had now become unthinkable – OUR HOUSE DID NOT FLOOD. Soon I got another text message from another friend telling me that they thought all was OK.

We headed out at about 10 am to see if we could somehow make it back into the neighborhood. We hiked through the field and waded in mud up to our ankles, but we made it back. It was true – no floodwaters had reached our home. All three of us got on our knees in our backyard and praised God. Our home was the only one on our side of the street that did not flood.

Why were we spared? I wanted to know. It didn’t make any sense. Our house was just a little bit higher than our neighbors, but not that much. Even our next door neighbor had three feet of water in his house. As I closely inspected our property, I found that water had surrounded our home on three sides. It had come within 2-4 feet in most places of reaching our walls. Immediately I could picture angels standing around the perimeter of our home, holding back the water. I thought of the story of Elisha and his servant: The army of an enemy surrounded the town that they were in. The servant was afraid, and Elisha prayed that his eyes would be opened to see what was TRULY happening. There was an army of angels standing between them and the enemy, protecting them. There was nothing to fear. I could almost see that same army around our house.

I talked to a dear friend a few days later, and shared our story. She was completely undone upon hearing what happened. Here is what she sent to me in an email later that day:

“You see, the night of the storms, in the midst of prayer for those I loved in
the storm--God laid you, Daniel, and Madeline on my heart and just pressed and
pressed you all there--CONSTANTLY.

He VERY specifically gave me Psalm 32:6-7 for your family and as I prayed for you. The prayer over and over was for God to place a ring of His angels around your property, and that He would keep your specific property dry. I also prayed that this line would be apparent around your home. Also, that your home would be a place of respite and island of care for your neighbors. I could see in my spirit them coming to your home for help and that you would be safe enough that you could give out to them. As I
heard about the line around your property and the chili and stew you gave out to
your neighbors, the peace that you all had in Him, and the peace you are able to
share with others--I am completely undone.

He has greatly been in our midst.”

There is so much more to tell, but this blog post has gotten a little long. I will share more stories later.

God is good. He is with us, and he has been merciful. I don’t know why he chose to spare us from the destruction of the flood and did not do the same for others who prayed to him. But I know that he is with every one of his believers and followers, and he works in our lives in different ways. His mercy looks different for every family. “He works ALL things for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
You can see the debris line through the middle of our driveway.

The debris line was about two feet from the corner of our house here.

The water got to the edge of the bricks along our landscaping.

The flooding reached the top of this gate, closest to the house.


Anonymous said...

Wow! I love how the hand of God is evident. I read a blog and she does a thing call Memorial Box Monday posts. You should consider starting a Memorial Box with a reminder of how God has protected you and used you in this storm.


Gillian said...

That line...Holy chillbumps,more thankful tears and JOY, Sarah...still undone by His incredible majesty in this.

Pastor Scott said...

WOW! Our God is an awesome GOD!

Praising Him for all that He did to protect your family and home!

Praying for those still affected by this storm.

Blessings and Happy Mother's Day!
Praying also for your adoption!

Mom to 9 Blessings! said...

Ooops! I was signed in as my husband!

Truly in awe of God's protection of your home!

He is always with us!


E.T.'s Mom said...

Incredible! I've got tears and goosebumps reading your story. Praises to God for sparing your family, your home, and giving you a testimony to share.

ItsLainee said...

Praise the Lord . . . so glad your neighbors have you as a beacon of hope in all this mess! Elaine

Robbins' Nest said...

wow! What an AMAZING story. Thank you for sharing, I'm speechless. He is so good.

Wendy said...

Tears are streaming down my face... what a story! May you always stay true to your heavenly Father and may he always shower his blessings upon you and your precious family!

Debidoodl said...

I think I'll just say AMEN. Debbie

Grandmother said...

Thank you for sharing your story. So thankful that the angels protected your sweet family and your home.

Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow!

Crazy Roots in Africa said...

Chills! God is so amazing, and I love it when His mercy and miraculous rescue is so undeniably visible!!!! PRAISE YOU LORD!

KT said...

just now reading this, didn't know your story and so glad you took the time to write it down.
Praise the Lord you have a home to come home to and bring your little boy to! I cannot imagine having to delay him coming home any longer...I did think about people this may have happened to, I suppose they would have to update a homestudy and who knows what else. thank you for sharing this, I loved what the Lord showed you.