My heart hurt when I was up in Vermont and I could not be home to help. I could hear the cries of a city that had been ravaged, with pieces of its landscape scattered in places it never should have gone. I could feel the chaos, and the confusion. Emotions I didn’t know existed swirled around me, in me, and through me. And I prayed. I prayed in a way I have never prayed before. Words just spilled up into me, and I cried out to God to help. Very specific things came into my mind, and I could see them, hear them, feel them. Now, I don’t remember what they were, but I now know they were given to me so I could storm Heaven with the needs of the city.
This, for those of you that have known me a long time know is not typical for me. I am a wanderer. I have lived many places. And even when I have stayed one place for along time, it has never been home. I might say home, but truly, until now the only other place that has been home to me is where I grew up in NJ. I don’t attach to places. I don’t attach to a people even though I have friends. I wander. Often alone, as my nature I have a little bit too much of a tendency to isolate.
When I returned to my home, and had been able to see my beloved animals, instead of what I usually do when I get back, I got busy doing whatever I could to help out with relief. Out of respect I stayed out of the affected areas other than places I would usually drive. But I was blinded over and over again with the need to drive right into town and just pray. So I parked in the lot of a store I go to, and just talked to God about everything and everything that came to me. I was moved to tears, I was moved to scream, I was moved to laugh. To laugh? I would only come to understand that later. But more then anything else, I felt love. And I fell in love with the city. Because it had come alive to me. I did this many times before I had to return to work. Even after I returned to work I would cross the bridge in the evenings and just sit in a parking lot and pray. [I had not yet hit the drive around and pray routine].
I don’t have the same amount of energy most other people do, thank you fibromyalgia. As a result, I don’t tend to have a lot to give during my work year. But up out of me spilled this call to do something to help. As luck would have it, my Facebook habit found a good use, as social media played a huge role in relief efforts. And then my church got involved in helping out at a relief center. And somewhat despite my usual self, I was one of the people helping coordinate it. Where was this energy coming from? Only God could have done this through me, because by my own power I would have been able to do very little.
I felt a peace wash over me the first time I went to work at the relief center. I still find it a place of tremendous peace. Like, this is exactly where I belong. Instead of standing by the sidelines, like I have done much of the time in recent years, I was put into the midst of the recovery process. And was blessed to meet the most amazing people, some of whom had lost their homes, but not their light. This was not just a place, or a location on a map. This was a community, and they took (and take) care of each other. Often without a second thought. And I fell more in love with the city.
I had the chance to go to the award banquet the city’s chamber of commerce holds, to represent our church. Because the city was choosing to recognize churches for their help. And somehow I got to go, which was one of the biggest blessings I have had to date. I got to sit with a long term firefighter with the city’s fire department. At the end of the meeting he wanted to thank those of us at the table from churches for the service of our churches. This man had been on scene the night of, a first responder. And he wanted to thank us. What an amazing lesson in humility.
It also warmed my heart greatly that although we were all dressed up fancy (which lends itself to all sorts of posturing in many events like this) every person there was just so real, and their love was palpable. You know, everyone in the audience stood up when the churches got recognized, and stayed standing up for like, 5 minutes. (Yup, should not have worn those heels). A city standing up for its churches. Was this real?
I am sure some are weary of me being so excited about this city and all it is. If only they knew that I have waited my whole life to find this. A place where I can be myself, and people still like me. A place where I fit, and where I matter. A place where I can make a difference, and I don’t even have to try. Because when you love something like this, you just give it your best and instead of wearing you down, it builds you up.
The other day I asked this: “Rowlett, how is it possible that you lived through an F4 tornado and you are still the kindest most welcoming city I have ever been in?” The responses I got were amazing.
I love you Rowlett. At first I thought I was helping you. But the truth is, you were, and are, helping me.