“NOOOOOO!” I scream, as an indoor waterfall gushes from the ceiling…
I’ve been hearing a strange background noise for the last 15 minutes. I’m sitting on our worn out couch, nursing another splitting migraine. It’s the weekend, and I’m trying to relax while surfing the internet in search of a new sofa. In the background, I hear a rushing sound. I think it might be coming from a video game being played in the basement, or the racetrack which sounds like rain when it slides along the slick hardwood floor.
The unfamiliar rushing noise continues, and I suddenly realize that no one is in the basement anymore. My 19-year-old son, Jake, recently walked past me to head upstairs; followed by his little sister. His twin brother, Nick, has gone to help my husband run an errand and buy some groceries. My husband, recently back from business in Mexico, is still getting over pneumonia. We are depleted from illness. We’re hoping to finally rest, relax, and do some online shopping for our brand new family space; the basement.
The basement. Just the word ties my neck muscles into a knot, making my head hurt even more. It’s been a source of contention for the last four years of our marriage, as well as a disappointment for our children; all of whom have patiently accepted the long wait. We’d promised to create extra space for practicing music, watching movies, and playing games with family and friends. Bad communication, medical issues, tough trials, and life itself; all delayed our plans for finishing the basement. With a little blood, a lot of sweat, and even more tears; we have finally accomplished this mighty feat, by the grace of God.
The basement. Is that rushing sound coming from the basement? I gingerly hold my pounding head and get up from the couch. Standing at the top of the stairs, the rushing sound becomes louder. Yet, it still doesn’t register… not until I see a tiny pool of water snaking its way around the bottom stair.
Suddenly I find myself, migraine and all, flying down the stairs like a freight train. My eyes are flitting everywhere, searching… looking… finding. “No… Noooo..NOOOOO!” Water is gushing, GUSHING from the ceiling right over the stage, right next to the expensive musical instruments.
Climbing back to the top of the stairs, I scream at the top of my lungs, “Jaaaaaaake!” He probably has his headphones on…. “JAAAAAKE! In seconds, I somehow manage to grab a plastic tote from the garage. I swiftly glide back downstairs to place the tote under the gushing water, and I dart back up the stairs again. I’m panting, hand over my heart, doubled over in pain. I’m going to vomit! I’m heaving, and breathing and suffocating all at once. Am I having a heart attack? My son is there immediately. His little sister is right behind him, and I scream:
“Thebasement’sfloodingapipeburstandIhave aplastictotecatchingthewaterweneedanotheroneinthebssementnooooowhyyyyy? GOD!”
I hear my son in the distance, even though he’s standing right in front of me. He’s calm. “Mom! MOM! Call Dad! Do you know how to turn the water off? Mom, calm down. Mom it’s ok, I’m here. My hero. I’m crying. I never cry. I’m crying really hard. I run down to the basement. The plastic tote is filling up with water. I quickly survey the damage. What can be saved? The waterfall from the vent is gushing full force onto the music stage where the guitars sit and the drum kit stands. I see the bass proudly standing next to the deluge; its red velvet case already soaked and filling with water.
In mere seconds, my mind flashes back to my husband teaching himself to play guitar after our twin toddlers were tucked in bed. I see our son Nick’s fingers flying fast as lightning over the strings of the baby blue electric guitar which belongs to his dad; but that we all know really belongs to Nick. I see Jake’s drumsticks, rolling like rhythmic thunder, all over his drums and cymbals, beating as fast as my heart is beating now. And lastly, I see my precious long-haired little girl, who at age nine, picked up the bass, only yesterday. It’s bigger than her skinny little self, and she had played it well; announcing decisively, that this was the instrument she wanted to play.
My family’s place, my family’s gear, my family’s music, my family in the worship band over the years… my family! My beloved family who has experienced so much trauma, tragedy, and injustices; even though we serve Jesus Christ. “GOD! NO! Why?”
Dismayed, I whisper, “No!” I don’t see my husband’s two favorite electric guitars, but I see their closed cases. One of them has water dripping onto it… “Goldie!” My husband’s beloved electric guitar. It was a sore spot at one time in our marriage, due to its outrageous price, having been purchased without the two of us discussing it. But it was also a time of my seeking God, and asking Him to grant me forgiveness towards my husband. For I knew I’d eventually see him playing that guitar for Jesus on the stage at church, where our two sons eventually joined him as members of the worship band.
I rescue Goldie, bringing it all the way up to the third floor, oblivious to the fact that the second floor is actually already a flood-safe zone. I lay the unharmed guitar across my bed, where it will stay high and dry. Seconds later, I speed like a race car; back down two flights of stairs, and then back up again with more instruments. I’m trying not to vomit, trying not to slip; reminding myself that I am 50 years old; with chronic stress and health issues, pain in my head and chest, and three screws in my lower back. I cannot afford to have a heart attack, and I can’t fall.
I’m back down in the basement. I’m crying, while removing soaking wet rugs and pillows, and throwing them outside the basement door where it’s getting muddy. I’m overwhelmed. In the meantime, my precious, sweet, oh so beautiful little girl calmly comes to me with the landline house phone. Where had I put my cell? I don’t know.
“Mom, call Dad!” Her voice is small but steady. She holds the phone in front of my face. I’m screaming, “Where are You, God?”
“Mom! What’s Daddy’s cell?” Her graceful, slim fingers are poised, ready to push the numbers for me. “It’s ok, Mom… Mom, it’s not that bad.” Her arm is around my waist. Her hug; comfort. We’ve taught her all of the phone numbers. She knows them, but usually she just clicks on Dad’s name in contacts. Instead, she’s holding the unfamiliar landline phone in her hand. My brain is moving 100 miles an hour, but I’m frozen.
Somehow I call my husband, and find that Jake’s already called him. I tried him earlier, but his phone was on speaker. Thinking it was his voice mail, I’d yelled into the receiver, in panic. Yet, somewhere, in the deep recess of my mind, I’d still known to first assure him we were all in one piece: “No one is hurt… the basement is flooding… come hooooome!” Later I’d find out that the reception was so bad, it still caused Nick to initially think his sister had been hurt. But he and my husband, Dave, had remained calm. They’d listened carefully, figured out no one was hurt, and headed home immediately to deal with the flood crisis.
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, Jake has made his way back down to the basement, after calling my husband and quickly figuring out how to turn off the entire water system. Later my husband will reassure me that the system is complicated, not something I would have known how to do without being shown.
“MOM!” It’s a deeper voice, a man’s voice; authoritative, but not disrespectful, nor disgusted. It’s Jake. “Mom! Stop it. Mom, I’ve turned the water off. I’ve switched out the totes. It’s gonna be okay. Mom, you have to calm down…for Abby… You’re scaring her!” I know it. I love my daughter with all my heart. Yet even with my hero there, and my tiny, young comforter; I still can’t stop cussing (still a stronghold from childhood) and screaming, and then I say the worst; “God hates us! WHY??” Now my daughter’s finally crying; “weeping,” Jake will later recall, as we discuss the tragic ruination of the whole bottom floor of our home. I feel terrible for my behavior, but all I know is I can’t stop crying from way deep inside, and I can’t stop it from coming out. It’s sorrow.
During the time I’ve been feeling lost, alone, and abandoned; I haven’t been on my own at all. In the chaos Jake has replaced a water-filled tote for an empty one. He’s wisely called his dad, and we are now frantically in action with brooms and towels. My daughter obediently brings another tote from the top third floor. I’ve instructed her to dump the contents regardless of what’s inside. In a couple minutes, she also shows up with a child’s plastic wading pool to catch the extra drops and overflow. Where did she get that? How did she find it so fast?
Dad is home! Dave. And my other calm, collective son, Nick. In spite of knowing my husband is going to lose his temper, I’m relieved. And then he loses it. And he says things I can’t write here, things that I’ve already said too; things that none of our children said, and that none of them should hear from us. He kicks the plastic tote. It flies across the room. And though I know exactly how he feels, I’m angry, and say, “That’s not helping. Start cleaning up like the rest of us have been doing!” This includes my other son, who has just arrived home, and has immediately stepped into high gear, by coming down with a broom before his feet even hit the wet, flooded floor.
I’m dry heaving outside in the frigid air. My head is pounding. I think I’m finally, actually, really going to have that heart attack. My feet are bare and freezing in the snow. I’m sobbing. I envision mold taking over as our house collapses and we’ve no choice but to abandon it. Fear, anxiety, guilt, and anger fill my chest; the spirits which lead to depression. These are the same things my husband felt as he surveyed the disaster. Later I will realize that I have had a panic attack. I’ll realize that the reaction of my husband and myself was not good, not good at all; but would be a normal reaction under the tragic circumstances; especially lately, after enduring so much overwhelming stress. God will reveal that we both felt abandoned, because we were each abandoned in different ways as children.
The immediate crisis has been dealt with, and we are dealing with the next stage. We are mopping, sweeping, and removing storage boxes, guitar pedals, furniture, and instruments. We toss pillows, couch cushions, soaking wet blankets, and throw rugs onto the cold, muddy ground outside. Some are too dirty and wet to save. I can’t believe I haven’t vomited. I run upstairs exhausted, and there he is. My knight. My husband, Dave, is on the phone, and he means business. He’s in control. “I need a plumber and a cleaning crew. Now. Today.” My breath comes back a little. I’m not alone. He’s taking care of this, he’s taking care of us, he’s taking care of me. He’s bringing in the right people to help. And the right people are both up and downstairs helping now; my people. I breathe again. My people are safe!
In two hours, the cleaning crew arrives. I feel like running outside and giving them a huge hug with homemade cookies. They rip out drywall and bring gigantic fans which make the wooden planks on our floor puff up like a balloon. The next day the great guys who finished our basement over those long months will be back. I’ll hear the familiar laughter and find it comforting. The insurance adjusters will come and take care of us too. We will find out it was a freak accident; an inside pipe that burst, even though it was built to withstand sub zero temperatures.
It’s evening. Our last job is hanging blankets and rugs to dry outside on the back deck. Exhausted, and coming out of the shock, we comfort ourselves through the numbness by ordering Mexican takeout, a family favorite. We now have two TVs in our living room which looks ridiculous. But we laugh and decide to set up the bigger one and watch a family movie. The foosball table we surprised our kids with on Christmas Day, is now in our kitchen bump out. So we play foosball on teams, and we yell and scream in the good way; because it’s fun. We pray, thanking God that the damage wasn’t greater. We thank God for not losing any sentimental or expensive items. We thank God for taking care of us. He was there the whole time, no matter what it looked like or what it felt like. He already had a plan in place for helping us through our disaster.
Later, I will understand that the panic attack came because of past trauma. My husband and I both have an inner child that freaked out, with a valid reason. And only now do I realize that our own three children did not react in the same way. At first I think it’s because they are level-headed. And though they are, I realize that they did not freak out, because they have never been abandoned; nor will they ever be. They have been brought up in a new heritage in Christ.
Later, I will bury my face in my daughter’s long, soft, sweet-smelling hair. I’ll ask her to forgive me when she looks at me wide-eyed and whispers, “Mom… you said God hates you.” She doesn’t say “us,” because she hasn’t been abandoned. I tell how I’m sorry, and how I’ve healed so much, but still need more healing from the past pain of childhood. She nods. She is wise beyond her years. She holds me. Oh, God is so here!
She will also tell me how she prayed for the water to stop and it did. She prayed, and I forgot! I thank her, and I cover her face with kisses. At first I feel terrible about my previous outburst, but then I remember that I have poured onto my daughter everything I know about Jesus. I’ve taken her to church, been her Sunday School teacher, and spent hours and hours praying with her and for her, and reading the Bible with her. I’ve watering her with my godly wisdom and watched her seed of faith grow tall as a tree. I now get to enjoy reaping the benefits of the gifts God has given to her; including mercy, wisdom, and compassion.
Now, still more healing must occur for both my husband and myself; as Jesus continues to heal the pain and suffering of abandonment. We are never alone, because we have Jesus; and God did not abandon us in our disaster. He never has, and he never will. He loves us. He loves me! Yes, it’s been a disaster, and it still isn’t all fixed, but God is greatly, and magnificently, in the details. God is going to bring something great from it; something better for us than if the disaster had never occurred at all. Because when bad things happen to godly people; the silver lining is that Jesus uses it for our good and for God’s glory. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:26 New International Version).
It’s like the song I learned about Jesus in Vacation Bible School, the song that got forgotten because of all the abandonment and rejection, both in my past, and out there in the world… “Oh How He Loves You and Me! “
No matter what you’re going through, God loves you! Run into His everlasting arms! 💙
” ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the LORD. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope’ ” (Jer. 29:11 New Living Translation).
Prayer: Oh God, forgive me in Jesus’ name for not trusting You! Grow my faith and let me know without a doubt that you love me, really love ME! Not because you have to, but because you just do!
Choosing to trust God in our trials will reap us great benefits. It will help us as Christians; to continue healing, grow our faith, and develop a stronger relationship with Jesus Christ. Eventually we will get to the point where “Why God?” will instead become, “God, what do you want to teach me?” (Part 2: Disaster Series, coming soon.)
Related blog post: Spiritual Growth Through Suffering Adversity