On April 25 a major tornado passed over our little town and hit a nearby town. We saw the edges of the storm and were grateful for the hand of God protecting us. About two hours after the tornado threat had passed, I heard a woman yelling outside and we opened our door to see that about two buildings over, there were high floodwaters and many people were moving their cars to higher ground. The water never reached our building and never came into the houses but it did damage some vehicles. In three years of living at this same address, flooding has never happened in our neighborhood.
On Saturday, April 30 my mom called in the early afternoon to see if my kids could come spend the night with her and Dwayne and I could go on a date. We accepted gladly (as we don't seem to get many date nights now) and dropped them off about 4:30pm. We left from there and walked around downtown NLR and went to eat dinner. More storms were starting to come in so we decided to rent a Redbox movie and just head home to hang out. When we got home (about 7:30, I guess) there was a Batman movie on TV that we hadn't seen so we decided to watch it. It was pouring rain and storming outside and the lights went off once but came right back on. That movie was over about 10pm and we decided to watch the Redbox movie because we needed to turn it back in the next day. The Redbox movie was over at 12am and we started to head upstairs to bed.
I don't know why, but I decided to look outside the downstairs window on my way upstairs. Maybe it's because it had flooded a few days earlier. When I opened the blinds I saw that flood waters were covering the entire parking lot and were halfway up the tires of our Honda Accord sitting in the parking lot. I started panicking and told Dwayne we needed to move our car across the street. (Aside: Part of the reason I was panicking is that we lost one vehicle last week. Our Saturn Vue's transmission went out on Thursday and was going to cost $5000 to replace which is much more than the car is worth.) Dwayne grabbed some rain boots and an umbrella and went wading through water in the lightening to move the car. I started running through the house picking things up off the floor. I think I knew water was going to come inside. I looked out the back door and water was about an inch from coming in the back door.
By the time Dwayne got back from moving the car, water was coming up over our front porch. He came in and we frantically were picking up the furniture/electronics/things we could and moving them upstairs.We were banging on neighbors doors trying to wake them up and get them to safety. Within 15 minutes water started coming in. Not just through the doors but all along the wall line on both the front and the back. I was absolutely terrified and shaking. Dwayne did so well trying to keep me calm but we both realized that we had to get out because of worries of electrical issues and how high the water would rise. We quickly threw a back of clothes together and grabbed our dog and headed out. When we opened the front door several inches of water came flooding in and I started crying. Lightening was going off all around us, very close, and it was pouring ice cold rain. We tried to stick to the higher ground but were still in water over our knees. We held hands and prayed out loud that God would protect us and see us safely to the car. We walked about a block to the church across the street where our car was on dry ground and got in. I was sobbing and said, "Where do we go?" We wanted to go be with our kids at my moms but were afraid the roads were blocked because of all the rain. So we decided to go to my best friend's house in Maumelle. It was about 1:30am.
As soon as we arrived there I was having a panic attack. My chest was tight and I felt like I couldn't breathe. Our friends graciously gave us a bed to sleep in and we dried our clothes in their dryer, but neither of us could sleep. About 3am the electricity when off there and since we were still awake (but our friends were asleep) we called the electric company for them. We laid there talking about what was getting ruined. I remembered while laying in bed that I had left our children's baby books on the bottom shelf of the bookshelf as well as our wedding photos and scrapbook. I still couldn't get rid of my panic attack. Dwayne prayed and we told the Lord we were grateful to be alive, that we were grateful the kids weren't with us when all that happened, and that we knew all our stuff was going to burn one day anyway. We asked for peace. I had to do some spiritual warfare regarding the panic attack and finally at 4am was able to go to sleep.
The electricity came back on at 6am and we got up at 7am. Dwayne went over to our townhouse to survey the damage and to get us some clothes because what we threw in the bag when we left was just odd mismatched stuff. We decided to go to church because obviously we needed some Jesus time. We ended up going back to the townhouse so we could drop our dog off upstairs while we were at church. The maintenance manager was already there and was just walking around grieving over the damage. I could immediately see a grass/floodline across our front door that was about a foot tall. I opened the door to absolute chaos. Notebooks strewn about, mud covering the entire floor, water everywhere. I couldn't bear to look at it so I ran upstairs to take care of the dog and to get myself some clothes and then we left.
We got to church about 9:30 and I was so shellshocked I just sat there and stared. I talked to Jesus. I read the Word, but I could not focus. Towards the end of the service I asked Dwayne if he wanted to go up and ask for prayer and he told me he actually felt like he should go to the house right then and see what he could salvage. Our insurance agent and friend was going to meet him there to help salvage what we could because unfortunately, though we had renters insurance, it doesn't cover flash flooding. Dwayne told me to stay and rest in Jesus, so I did.
While we were waiting for the second service to start, the Lord told me to go to Isaiah 43:
But now, this is what the LORD says—
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
2When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
3For I am the LORD, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
16This is what the LORD says—
he who made a way through the sea,
a path through the mighty waters,
17who drew out the chariots and horses,
the army and reinforcements together,
and they lay there, never to rise again,
extinguished, snuffed out like a wick:
18“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
19See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I put my Bible down and bawled like a baby. He sees. He knew. He has a plan. He rescued us when the lightening could have killed us. He is our Daddy.
I worshipped and praised His Name for rescuing us. About halfway through the sermon though I had this anxiety and texted Dwayne. I asked how it was going and he sent me this text message: "Just received notice that we have to evacuate the premises asap. Electrical issues abound. They are telling us to move out." I asked him to come and get me and I quickly wrote a note to my friend telling her what we needed and asking her to go up to the front to have them pray for us. In the note I said we needed boxes and people to help us get out.
Within 30 minutes of arriving at my house (I guess about 12:30pm on Sunday) 50 people showed up with boxes and supplies to help pack. I have never seen anything move so fast in my life. There were people there I had never met before. It was incredible. We actually sent some people to go down and minister to our neighbors who were having to go through the same thing. 60 of the 72 townhouses in our complex were forced to evacuate and move out because the buildings were deemed unsafe.
At 3pm it was done and a Uhaul was on its way to a storage unit with our stuff that was salvageable. There were about 6-8 people still with me wrapping all the loose ends up and suddenly someone comes in and says a news crew wants to interview me...
Basically all of our downstairs furniture, kitchen items/electronics were destroyed. We opened the bottom cabinets in the kitchen and downstairs bathroom and water came out. Water went in the fridge. Water went in the dryer. Water was everywhere. This is probably the first time in my life I was thankful for stairs because all of the items on the second floor were safe.
I went through the house one more time before I left and as I entered my kids' bedroom I almost lost it. It was empty. Nothing there from the last three years that we have made this place our home. My kids didn't even get to say goodbye. They have grown up in this house. We have too. I survived cancer in this house. We are building a house that should be complete in June, but it doesn't change the fact that this was traumatizing on so many levels. To pack and move slowly and say goodbye is one thing, but to be forced out because of a significant disaster is another. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around it.
We are now at my mom and dad's house. We are all sharing one bedroom, but we are making it work. It should only be 6 or 7 weeks until our house is finished being built. We DO still have to get new living room furniture. The irony there is we were trying to do that anyway because we had cloth couches and they just don't work so well with kids and a dog. We were wanting to get leather because it will help with everyone's allergies and cleaning. At this point that is all just stuff though. More than anything we need peace and Jesus to help us process all of this. I know He has a plan. My Spirit has not quavered in who God is or His goodness. It has been my flesh crying out from what I've witnessed and had to endure.
Please pray for us: for peace, for clear communication between Dwayne and I, that we would remember where all of our stuff is and be able to get to it, that God would provide the finances we need to replace our lost items, that we would have rest here and still be able to minister. That we would respond well.
Thank you all for your love and concern. I pray I look back at this story in a few months and lift up my hands to praise Him because I know He is going to use this for His good and perfect plan. I can praise Him now too. We are alive. We were protected. We have a shelter, food, clothing. He is good and faithful. Love you Abba.