I spent this evening wrangling my children through dinner and bath time, through ‘just one more’ bedtimes stories and snuggles and kisses goodnight. And then more goodnights and at a certain point, the inevitable Mom/Batman voice: I SAID GOODNIGHT! Bedtime while it’s still light out is a whole damn thing and we are working on it (thanks for that, summer.) I spent tonight distracted, switching back and forth from washing grapes and folding laundry and making mental lists of what to pack for our upcoming trip to Arizona. I also spent a lot of time thinking about yesterday. And the basement. The basement!
All day long there had been warnings of ‘The Storm”… there had been rumors of tornados and threats of a torrential downpour. My friends and I joked late that afternoon at how dramatic our news people are here in Chicago, because at that point the storm was just a bunch of pitiful harmless gray clouds. Little did I know, there was more in store for me later that evening. At about 9 PM my darling son, who had eagerly climbed downstairs for a special movie night, yelled frantically, “MOM! There is water in the basement! It’s like a river!”
Good people of the world, this is about the very last thing you want to hear from your child. I had just finally gotten Mercy to actual sleep and was tiptoeing downstairs when he broadcasted the news. No. NONONONONO.
Now might be a good time to mention that this particular evening was a Wednesday, and that on Wednesdays Willow has their MidWeek service, of which Steve is a part of. And as such, his phone was off and he was completely unreachable and oblivious to our clear and present disaster. Perfect.
I should also mention that I grew up in Arizona, where it is very hot and very dry. Like, we almost never have this thing called rain. It is a desert, people. And also we do not have such things as basements. So I have basically no idea what to do at this point.
Mercy had awoken, because she is an eternal socialite blessed with some sort of maniacal internal alert for when she’s missing out on something exciting. She is up and she is dancing and singing and splashing through the sloshy carpet, her Frozen nightgown dragging at her feet.
I panicked a little and then called Steve about a hundred times. Yes, each call went directly to voicemail, but at this point it was more or less my only move.
In a desperate attempt to reach him, I posted a grainy, sad photo of our water-logged situation on Instagram. Within minutes, seconds even, I had texts and messages coming in from people offering to help. Somehow, through the wonders of technology, my unreachable husband even caught wind and called me back. Miracles upon miracles!
As I scooped up toys and boxes and raced to move them to higher ground, friends arrived armed with Shop Vacs and dehumidifiers and industrial fans. The next several hours were a blur of rolled carpet padding and extra large trash bags and roaring fans blowing air over our poor pooling carpet. Those hours were filled with something else as well. Abundant hospitality.
Here it was, ten o’clock at night and an entire family showed up for us. They brought what we needed, in more ways than one. They met our practical, immediate needs but they also offered us a sense of belonging and relationship. I was caught up in the simple profound beauty of it. Mercy was snuggled in my arms at this point, too tired to stand but too stubborn to sleep. Emerson had long ago jumped in to help, enjoying being able to stay up and hang with the grown-ups.
Usually, usually – I am the one meeting the need. I don’t mean that in a weird self-appreciative sort of way. I think one of the outlets for how I handle the stress of pain is by meeting the needs of others. I can’t fix what is wrong, but I can offer the gift of presence, of validation. I can find a way to help ease the loneliness that I think often accompanies struggle. But that role isn’t the one I’m am always meant to play. It isn’t supposed to be my default. It’s good sometimes, but not always. Sometimes I’m supposed to be the one who sits, openhanded, unable to solve it myself, willing to be led and loved by another who knows more than I do. God gave me this strange gift in the middle of my Noah’s Ark moment last night. He invited me to be the recipient of grace. He let me remember what it feels like to be cared for by others.
For all the drama and excitement, we are hopeful that the damage is minimal. The fans are running even still as I type this, working hard to dry up all that water. The kids slept in until 9 AM, and we’ve had several precious check-ins and donut deliveries and offers to help through out the day. I sometimes struggle with understanding the ways the actual, tangible purpose of the church is put on display – and then I have moments like last night and I realize that is love right here. It is people showing up, regardless of the hour or the need, ready to serve and give what they can. That was church last night, in the most beautiful and inclusive sense of the word. Perhaps, in the very way it was meant to be used in the first place. Church shows up, with Shop Vacs and cookies and hugs and laughter. That’s love with boots on. To everyone who lived church to our family last night and today – thank you for putting on your boots and showing up in our hour of need.