I was recently asked to speak on resilience. I wondered how the person who asked me to speak had come to the conclusion that I was a resilient person. I found myself asking myself, “Do I have resilience?” By definition, a person with resilience has the ability to bounce back in difficult circumstances. As I reflected on various life circumstances, it occurred to me that God has allowed me to face some very unique circumstances that reveal that I have the ability to bounce back. I realized I am a resilient person.
One moment that wrought great havoc in our lives occurred when Tropical Storm Francis dumped 25 inches of water on Houston in less than an hour. Greg and I were sound asleep when the phone rang. When I picked it up my sister-in-law was frantic, “Get up and prepare! A tornado is coming toward our neighborhood!” We lived in the same subdivision, but in different city grids. It was 5:30 am in the morning and I was almost six months pregnant with Grant. Fast movement was not on my list of things to do at 5:30 am.
Greg jumped up to go see what he could see, and he came back running into the room before I had fully stood up and said, “Forget the tornado! We are flooding! We need to get out of here!” Greg immediately started telling me what to gather. It was all very fast. I packed up a bag for Mikayla, who was two at the time, while Greg packed up important documents we would need. He had the forethought to place some files in the attic.
We had just bought and had delivered a few days before our first pieces of real wood furniture. They were in the garage because Greg was in the process of staining them. I do not know how, but the two of us lifted them onto sawhorses so they would not be standing in the water.
One hour later when Greg went to open the door, it was already two feet high outside. We realized that we couldn’t open our door without flooding our home. He ran and flipped off the circuit breaker so that we wouldn’t risk getting electrocuted and we called our neighbors to get them up. We had two dogs and a cat. There was no way we could manage all of them, but we had two floaties and a little life preserver my mom had just bought for Mikayla that summer. So, Greg climbed through the window and held the floaties as I passed the dogs and Mikayla through. Somehow, I hefted myself up over the ledge and out the window.
At this point, the water was now waste deep. Greg carried all of the bags while I carried Mikayla. We had the two dogs laying perfectly still on the floaties between us as we began our journey of wading out to safe ground. We had no idea how far we would have to go, but we hoped to make it to our family that lived in different sections of the subdivision.
It was so surreal. Mikayla kept crying, “Swim! Mommy, swim!” We passed by neighbors that refused to leave. I started to cry when I saw Samantha in her diaper looking out the window at us crying. I wondered, “Will I ever see her again?” We kept walking. We discovered that fire ant mounds were floating toward us and we had to dodge them. It was the craziest thing. They were fully intact and flowing rapidly with the water. We were very alert to the debris, tree branches, and the possibility of snakes because we lived right off the bayou. Fortunately, for us as we approached my parents house about eight city blocks away the water was only up to their front porch. It had not reached the inside of the house.
When it was all said and done our house filled up on the inside about two feet deep with sewer and mud. And yes, we had a few surprise moments with snakes. Anything the water touched was destroyed. Our cat was rescued by a speed boat and we found ourselves to be homeless and very uncertain about what tomorrow would entail.
What held me together? What held us together? How were we able to bounce back? It was a devasting time. Our neighborhood looked like a war zone. All but three families on our street ended up divorced because the journey of returning to normal was more than they could push through.
The ability to push through starts in our thoughts. It was our faith in God and the truth that God uses all things for our good when we are in Christ Jesus that gave me hope when it seemed so bleak. I immediately started praying and asking God what He wanted from us in this moment. I remembered the that the God of all comfort and compassion will pour into you so that you can pour that same comfort and compassion into others (2 Corinthians 1:3-11). So, I asked God to show us how to pour out His comfort and compassion to others. I also started praying and asking God to show me how to give Him glory through this and how to give Greg glory. These were the core spiritual truths that made me strong inside when I felt very weak. I held onto them and believed them to be true. Some might call this positivity, but I call it faith walking. I believe that my faith walking made me resilient.
The other thing that made us resilient was our family. When we were wading out, we knew that if we could get to our family, we would be safe. We knew our family would take care of us and help us through this even if they were going through it too! Fortunately, we were the only ones in our family of four families that lived in that subdivision that flooded. Our family carried us. We knew if we could get to them, we would not sink. It was our family community that made us strong when we were weak. Our lives were filled with hard labor for many weeks and lots of rebuilding for nearly seven months. In that time our family housed us, fed us, helped us, did laundry, hauled garbage, packed up items that were salvageable and comforted us. And when little Grant was born everyone took turns caring for the baby.
That first night as Greg and I lay in bed with our two-year-old snuggled up sleeping and our baby nestled deeply in my womb, I whispered to Greg, “Babe, we have all we need. I could not be more content than I am right now. We are together and we are safe. We are going to be okay.” I believe without a doubt that another reason I stayed resilient was because I made a conscious choice to think from Greg’s perspective and other peoples perspectives of what they must be going through and this caused me to want to serve others. I made a choice to find ways to help others. Greg found ways to help others, too. So, when our church started showing up to help us, we started sharing people to our neighbor’s homes so that they had help, too. This gave us a sense of purpose and healing. It helped build our hope because we were able to get outside of our own pain and consider another’s pain. This grew a spirit of thankfulness and gratitude in us for others and each other. We discovered the gift of gratitude.
Resilience is something that we all want, but the reality is that resilience is not something you even know you have until you are pushed beyond your limits and discover you must find a way to bounce back and push through. I remember walking into church two days later to give a testimony for an event coming up called, Friend Day and thinking, “No one in the church knows that my life had changed. I am not who I was when I was asked to share this story, but I will not disappoint them. It doesn’t matter what I have just been through, I have a chance to encourage my church to become a people that seeks to build friendships with someone different than them.” I wanted my church body to see that I was still able to see the value in being a good friend to those around me even when I was hurting. I look back now and realize that if I could have put a word to it that day, resilience would have been a good word to describe what I hoped to model.
Resilience is born in adversity. It receives its ability to bounce back through faith. It is empowered by community to push through and emboldened by serving others to keep moving forward. Resilience is forged in the battlefield of the mind. It does not allow itself to settle for being a victim or a whiner. It makes the choice to seek God, live in community, and serve others even when it hurts. Resilience when practiced births the gift of gratitude and thanksgiving. Resilience finds hope and pursues hope at all costs, and this is why it has bounce back strength. Adversity grows our resilient intelligence.
Do you have RI? Are you willing to pray for it and ask God to grow you?