From Connections: Darlene's story: Storms aren't all bad

By Darlene Warren

BIG SANDY, Texas--Living on the Gulf Coast is one of the nicest blessings given to man. Beautiful beaches, comfortable temperatures much of the year, gorgeous sunrises and sunsets, lovely landscapes, fresh fish, local citrus--am I missing anything? Oh, yeah, five months out of 12 there's just a slight chance you could be pelted by one of nature's strongest forces, the hurricane.

I guess you could blame my roots, my coastal Mississippi heritage, but I love a good hurricane.

"There's such a thing as a good hurricane?" you say.

Well, of course there is. On occasion here in East Texas (far, far away from saltwater and jellyfish) we might feel some residual effects from a storm that hits the Texas coast at just the precise angle to cause us an abnormal amount of rain or a maverick tornado, but my children have never experienced the thrill that comes from being caught in the middle of a hurricane (pronounced hurra-kun).

I'm not saying I would have the same feelings now as an adult (burdened down with all my "grown-up" knowledge and cares of this world), but the innocence and ignorance of a child is a wonderful thing.

Where life began

My ancestors, especially those on my father's side of the family, have lived near the water for many generations. My father and brothers were boat builders and boat captains. My grandfather's grandfather enlisted in the Confederate Coast Guard and served on Mobile Bay, Ala., during the War of Northern Aggression. The Gulf Coast is where my life began.

Growing up on the coast left me with plenty of memories of nature's wrath. But as a child I didn't look at it as all bad.

Sure, during a hurricane water completely surrounded our low-lying house, but we knew it would. We expected it. And of course we always took precautions.

There were times when my father and brothers would ride out the storm on their boats to do what they could to secure our livelihood.

My mother, sisters and I took refuge at my grandmother's house about a mile north of our home.

One thing we always did before we left was to hang our parakeet's cage as close to the ceiling of our home as possible.

Looking back on those times, I often wonder why we just didn't take him with us. (Must've been one of those old miner theories: If we saw him floating past Grandma's house, it was still too soon to return home.)

At Grandma's house nobody slept. We all just huddled on her tiny living-room floor and listened to the driving rain and the howling wind outside.

Sitting up with Grandma

Of course, there was no electricity and no telephone service; the storm had knocked that out hours earlier.

You might think it stupid that we evacuated such a short distance, but where could we possibly find shelter 30 years ago? Today many people jump in their cars and just start driving north until they find a hotel with a vacancy sign, plop down a credit card and enjoy a few days of vacation.

We never even considered doing that. We had no money, and who was going to look after Grandma? She was not about to leave her house. Grandma died a long time ago (it was her heart, not a hurricane), but on my last visit to the coast, in a nostalgic mood, I drove by her old house. Most people today wouldn't even call it a house, maybe a shack would be more descriptive, but it is still standing (though barely), a testimony to the storms it's weathered over the years.

The morning after

When the sun rose the next day after our night of vigilance, the storm had subsided and moved inland, and we left Grandma's and headed home.

Things had changed drastically. The wind had died down, and there was lots and lots of water.

Of course, the drive back wasn't as far as it was the day before, because the road was submerged and we had to park the car quite a ways from our oyster-shell driveway. For us ignorant and innocent kids this is where the fun began.

What a great dad I had! He somehow met us at the car with a skiff and escorted us to the front door, knowing that my mother would take control of things from that point on. He then disappeared to who knows where while our mother cleaned up the damage to the interior of our house.

Meanwhile, my sister and I stayed out of trouble by paddling around the yard in the skiff. It was a great adventure. We had no fear of drowning or getting snake-bit. We had survived a night of howling winds and doubled-over pine trees; life was good again. (And, until Mama let us know otherwise, the parakeet had survived too.)

Rough Sea of Galilee

What I've just described is a compilation of many storms I've experienced in my past. In my immediate family no one died, and everything that was damaged could be mended. Wouldn't it be wonderful if all the storms we face in our life had the same result?

The Bible tells the story of Jesus' disciples experiencing rough weather on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus appeared on the water, walking toward them, apparently without a care in the world.

I think He must have had a childlike attitude when it pertained to the excitement of a good storm. I can imagine the disciples were already nervous about the squall they were caught in, and, to top it off, they thought Jesus was a ghost hovering over the water. Jesus had a lot of fun that evening!

Sometimes the storms we experience in this life come in the form of physical trials and tests. Many times there is loss of life, debilitating disease and parts of us that can't be mended.

This is when we lose our childlike innocence and ignorance. We find ourselves in the position of Peter, who exuberantly stepped out of the boat to join Jesus, but sheer terror overcame his ability to concentrate on the only one who could save him.

Acknowledging his weakness, Peter cried out for help. Thankfully, Jesus reached down and saved Peter. Hopefully, in the storms of your life, when you cry out for help, He'll reach down and help you.

That's what I mean by a good storm.

This issue of The Journal includes many photos and several other graphics, besides the Connections advertising section. Don't forget to subscribe to the print version of The Journal to read all the news and features previewed here.

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