Welcome to the New Normal…For Now…

Welcome to the New Normal…For Now…

Hurricane Irma blew through South Florida on Sunday, September 10.  While many throughout Florida suffered major storm damage, Coral Springs was mostly just inconvenienced.

Some were without power for a few days.  Some had damage to trees, fences, and pool screens.  Some lost internet and cable.  There were hurricane shutters to take down, and a fair amount of clean-up to do.  But, with a few exceptions, most Coral Springs residents and residences were relatively unscathed – thankfully.

The greater impact of Irma, in this community, was the many days of disruption she caused.  Store shelves were emptying as early as Labor Day, and are still being re-stocked.  Broward County schools were closed for a week and a half.  Many, facing the possibility of a Cat 5 hurricane, chose to evacuate.  Businesses were closed.  Church services were cancelled.  Those who stayed to face Irma hunkered down, watched the Weather Channel for days on end, chomping on hurricane supplies of junk food.

Just as a new school year was starting, and church activities were gearing up for the Fall, Irma forced everything and everyone to come to a screeching halt.

Inconvenient.

The common refrain I’ve heard from many, since Irma, has been, “I was so ready for life to get back to normal.”  What a strange statement.  Back… to… normal.  Back?  Normal?

How do you go back?  Time travel?

I will confess I had a difficult time reengaging my work after the storm.  Irma consumed so much time and mental energy, I’d mostly taken a mental holiday from work.  After a couple of days of re-adjustment, I was happy to engage a more familiar work and life routine.

That’s the word – familiar.  I think that’s what people mean when they say, “Back to normal.”  Back to familiar.  Back to regular.  Back to routine.  Back to predictable.  Back to comfortable.

Honestly, in most ways, my daily/weekly routine closely resembles my pre-Irma life.  But, if Irma had come closer, I might still be recovering today.  The old familiar “normal” might not be an option – ever.  And, as familiar as life is now, post-Irma, my new normal includes both gratitude for making it safely through the storm and dread, knowing that future storms will surely come and we might not be as fortunate.  Normal might not be as easy to resurrect, next time.

The problem, in my mind, is you can never go “back to normal.”  We can only go forward.  Life only moves onward, not backward. No matter what normal was, good or bad, you can’t go back to it.  It’s gone.  It’s over.  It’s in the past.  Forever.

I  do understand the longing for “normality.”  We all need a certain degree of stability that comes with familiarity.  Lack of stability is unsettling.  We all need firm, stable places in our lives.

But, dogged longing for normality is living with one foot in the past.  We can’t live, always looking backward.  Yesterday might have been normal.  Today might be normal, or not.  But, who knows what tomorrow will bring?  Tomorrow might bring unexpected changes to our normal.  Tomorrow might be the beginning of a new normal.

One thing is guaranteed – change.  Change is a certainty.  Normal never lasts.

So, if you need stability, familiarity, and predictability in your life, grab it wherever you can find it.  I can’t criticize you for that.  But, don’t become too comfortable with normal.  It won’t be around for very long.

And, just because yesterday’s normal was familiar, doesn’t mean that the new normal is bad or wrong.  Possibly, the new normal is actually better, if you’ll give it a chance.  Likely, someday, we’ll be looking forward to getting “back” to the “new” normal.

Except, we won’t be able to.

There’s no going back.

Welcome the new normal.

 

Hoping for the best. Prepared for the worst. Praying, no matter what happens.

Hoping for the best.  Prepared for the worst.  Praying, no matter what happens.

All we can do, now, is wait.

Hurricane Irma – a historically strong, potentially-catastrophe-causing storm – is heading this way.  All forecasts indicate that Southeast Florida, where I live, is very likely the target.  Maybe not.  Likely so.

For now, all we can do is wait

We’ve purchased hurricane supplies.  With the help of friends, the hurricane shutters have been hung.  We’ve gassed up.  We’re taking this storm seriously and, short of evacuating, we’ve done all we can do to prepare.

Now, all we can do is wait.  All we can do is hope for the best, but be ready for the worst.

Surprisingly, as a 50-year-old Floridian, I’ve never experienced a major storm.  We were in graduate school, in North Carolina, during Hurricane Andrew.  We’ve been on the far-outskirts of a few hurricanes and tropical storms – but, nothing significant.  Last year, we fully-prepared for Hurricane Matthew – but, barely saw a cloud in the sky.  If Irma visits Southeast Florida, this will be my first.

Honestly, I won’t mind if Irma decides to just had out to sea!  I don’t think this is a life-experience I need to have!  I will be sincerely happy if all of the storm preparation was unnecessary!

Waiting for a storm of this magnitude is a vulnerable feeling.  Fortunately, we live in a safe home, and could afford the needed supplies.  But, are we prepared enough?  Is this house strong enough?  Will Irma’s impact exceed our preparations?  Are we prepared for the potential aftermath and clean-up? I don’t know.  I just don’t know.

I am aware that many are far more vulnerable than we are.  My heart goes out to them.

Not knowing, for sure, what’s to come, all we can do is wait.

No.  That’s not true.  Prayer is also an option.

While I don’t really believe that prayer will push Irma out to sea (If I did, how would I explain Harvey’s impact on Texas and Louisiana?  Lack of prayers?  There are probably more Christians in Houston than just about anywhere!  How would I explain the devastation Irma has already caused in the Islands?), I do believe that God is bigger than the biggest storm, and that God is present, with us, in the storm.

Throughout the Psalms, God is called “a rock, a fortress, a hiding place, a strong shelter.” Honestly, in this context, I’m not sure what those metaphors mean.  But, that’s what I am praying over my family, my church, my friends, and my community.  “God, please be our rock, our fortress, our hiding place, our strong shelter.”  Whatever comes, may we experience the peace of God’s presence, his strength and courage to endure the storm, and the faith and hope in his power to redeem and restore whatever is broken.

And, in the days to come, I am praying for the Church to be the Church.  It’s times like this that reveal the very best of humanity.  In the face of catastrophes, the best of the human spirit shines forth.  If we somehow, someway avoid this monster storm, thank God!  Someone, somewhere will still need the compassionate generosity and kindness of Christian people.  If we don’t avoid this, and find ourselves climbing out of the rubble in a few days, may we be people of hope, love, and generosity, as we recover and rebuild our lives and community together.  Let’s be the Church, and demonstrate to the world the very best of being the hands and feet of Christ!

For now, we wait.  We hope for the best, and prepare for the worst.  And, we pray to the God, who is our shelter in the storm.

My prayers are with you.  Be safe.