Diana Vallette" />

Where is God in the middle of the storm? Everywhere

A statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is seen outside of St. Pius X Church in Ragley, La., Sept. 1, 2020, with signs of damage from Hurricane Laura. CNS photo/courtesy Father Jeffrey Starkovich, St. Pius X Church

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A couple weeks ago, I wrote a piece about sending kids back to school in a COVID world. I said, essentially, that, as parents, we could do hard things because parenting is just a series of hard, unprecedented events over and over. We are used to doing hard things. You should know, I meant everything I wrote in that article. Or, I thought I did.

But the me who wrote it was a different person. She was the gal who lived in her 2,400-square-foot southwest Louisiana home. The me who wrote that piece lived in a world where electricity, air conditioning and water ran plentiful. I had school supplies ready for the kids’ first day and backpacks hanging on the special hook area (I’d stolen the idea from Pinterest, as one does) and I was ready.

And then Hurricane Laura turned my world (and the world of every human living in southwest Louisiana) upside down, as a Category 4 hurricane absolutely wrecked my community.

When we evacuated a few days before, the hurricane was projected to be a Category 2. Being without electricity for a couple days with five kids sounded impossible, so we threw three outfits per person into a bag, booked a house in Austin, Texas, and decided to ride out the storm in the Lone Star State. I will never forget the progression over the next couple days. Each update from the weatherman was more somber than the one before it. In 2005, Hurricane Rita absolutely decimated our corner of the United States, and now the words “worse than Rita” were being thrown around. Eventually, when the weatherman evacuated himself, we knew things were going to be bad.

I stayed up all night watching footage of the storm and crying. They were right. This was worse than Rita. Hurricane Laura was the fifth strongest hurricane to ever hit the United States.

The next morning, my husband and I huddled around my phone staring at aftermath videos. Our community looked like a war zone, and we were devastated. There was not a single building anywhere that wasn’t affected. Many homes were completely wrecked, and only the foundation was left of others. Roads were littered with telephone poles, trees and debris. Today, we are 12 days post-hurricane and still under a mandatory evacuation, and it will take many months for Louisiana to rebuild.

In hindsight, all of my previous COVID school advice was dumb. We cannot handle things. We can’t. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that we can’t handle a single thing. We’re trying to juggle, and we’re dropping all the balls, and 2020 keeps tossing us more.

But I’m so grateful that even though I can’t handle any of this — at all — God can. Even when it feels like nothing is working out, I know that God is good, and I know that he holds all of us. I will not say to you that this hurricane was “God’s plan” because I cannot imagine how hurtful that would be to those in my community who lost everything. What kind of God would do that? Not mine.

This hurricane might not have been God’s plan for us, but he also isn’t shaken by it. He isn’t thrown off course. He is the God of this moment, and the next moment, and he is here, crammed into this tiny home we’re living in temporarily. God lives in the space between myself and my stressed-out husband. He is in the puzzles I build with my oblivious kids. God is in the linemen working to restore electricity and the countless volunteers who have shown up from across the country to feed my community. He is where he’s always been: in both the tears and the laughter.

This time has been heartbreaking, but it’s also been beautiful. My children’s steadfast faith in their father and me has been a living, breathing example of the childlike faith to which we’re called. God is with us, always. That doesn’t mean things won’t go wrong; it simply means when things do go wrong, he remains.

Diana Vallette writes from Louisiana. Except this — this she wrote in Texas.

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