By Marva Smith
Brave Women Series - Marva's Story
Living in paradise has it perks, but the day my family spent six hours huddled in a closet fearing for our lives, was no fun at all. It was September 6, 2017, and I remember it like it was yesterday because it was the scariest day of our lives.
Hurricanes used to be just another part of life here in the islands, but this one was different. The impact was such that it became a permanent fixture in time, and to this day, everything is marked by life before Hurricane Irma and life after.
"Hurricanes used to be just another part of life here in the islands, but this one was different... To this day, everything is marked by life before Hurricane Irma and life after."
According to the Royal Meteorological Society, Hurricane Irma has been recorded as one of the most powerful Atlantic storms in history. Topping the scale as a Category 5 hurricane, it wreaked havoc on the west coast of Florida, and pummeled more than a dozen Caribbean islands and territories, including my home country of the British Virgin Islands.
As the storm raged, there were times I wondered if we would make it out alive—and it’s not because I was overreacting. Even while we sheltered in the closet, we could tell that our roof had been compromised. The water forced its way inside and had begun pooling at our feet.
It wasn’t until we made our way out of our makeshift shelter that we realized how bad things were. We also became very aware of our relatively good fortune. Many of our neighbors no longer had roofs. Windows were blown out, furniture missing – gone with the wind.
Our islands were devastated.
With widespread damage to nearly 80% of the territory and our infrastructure in a mangled mess, we quickly reverted to survival mode. Our top priority was to take care of our basic needs, such as figuring out what we would eat or drink, ensuring we had a shelter over our heads, a dry bed if we could find one and securing our safety.
Once we started to feel a bit more settled in taking care of those priorities, it was weeks before we could turn our attention to things like our children’s education and jobs for us. It would be months before any sort of rebuilding begun and another five months before electricity could be restored.
The road to recovery was long, but I learned some valuable lessons in the process. For one, I thought braving the storm took all the courage I had. It turned out the days, weeks and months that followed required a whole new level of bravery I didn’t know I had.
"I thought braving the storm took all the courage I had. It turned out the days, weeks and months that followed required a whole new level of bravery I didn’t know I had. "
You see, no one likes to go through a storm, whether it be a ‘storm of life’ or a real storm. Storms of varying sizes bulldoze their way through our lives. If you manage to make it to the other side, you’re usually so worn out that you barely have enough energy left for life after the storm. But I found that God is able to fill in the gaps and meet your needs when you feel like you can’t go on.
"God is able to fill in the gaps and meet your needs when you feel like you can’t go on."
Consider Moses, who faced a difficult situation when asked to go back and rescue the Israelites from the hand of Pharaoh. Despite Moses’ initial misgivings, He clung to God’s promise and found the strength He needed to embark on what seemed like an impossible mission.
“But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.””
(Exodus 3:11-12 NIV)
Getting the people out of Egypt and across the Red Sea must’ve taken every ounce of courage Moses had. But the difficulties didn’t end there. In fact, they were just beginning, and the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years with challenges on every corner. Yet, through all the twists and turns, including the death of Moses, God remained faithful, and the people were delivered into their new land, just as God had promised.
Our recovery after Hurricane Irma was a long, twisty road, but I can't help but notice God’s hand in all of it. When I felt worn and weary, God sent help from places I least expected. When we didn’t know what to do next, God showed us a way and opened a door of opportunity. He was faithful during the storm, and He faithfully helped us get back on our feet after the storm was long gone.
"When we didn’t know what to do next, God showed us a way and opened a door of opportunity. He was faithful during the storm, and He faithfully helped us get back on our feet after the storm was long gone."
If you visit the British Virgin Islands now you might not know what we’ve been through. Buildings have been rebuilt, schools back in full swing and many jobs have been restored. I wasn’t sure we’d get this far, but God is the restorer of all things.
As you go through challenges in your life, know that your storm will not be wasted. God can use it to draw you closer to Him and faithfully complete the work He started in you.
"As you go through challenges in your life, know that your storm will not be wasted. God can use it to draw you closer to Him and faithfully complete the work He started in you."
I pray you will be encouraged by the words Moses spoke as passed the baton on to His successor:
“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
(Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV)
Take heart, friend. God will be with you too, not just to get you through the storm but to help you thrive on the other side.
Brave Woman Manifesto
Make sure to check back next week as another courageous Sister shares her story. And by the way...
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Marva A. Titley-Smith is a management & leadership consultant, work and life coach, writer, and author of the best-selling book, Time to Thrive: A Busy Woman’s Devotional Journal. She is passionate about equipping, inspiring and empowering women to thrive beyond the nine to five so they can fully live with purpose and passion. Marva starts her day with coffee and her Bible, while soaking in the view from her hilltop veranda. She lives in the British Virgin Islands with her husband and two teen-aged children.
Follow Marva on Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook, including her Facebook group Time to Thrive Women. Connect more with her on her website, where you can take her free Thrive assessment at: https://www.marvasmith.com/thrive/