It’s so funny to me how the smallest things can have the biggest meanings and memories in our lives. Hurricane Katrina, for example, was an awful time for us in southern Louisiana. It was a time of devastation and loss and hopefully lessons learned… but that’s not what stands out in my memory about it. We were living in Baton Rouge at the time, so we did not experience the destruction that New Orleans did (although we still got a beating from the storm). Our family in New Orleans was able to get out in time and head to Atlanta (which was a hardship in its own right but that’s not my story to tell). Once the storm passed, both of my aunts came back to Baton Rouge and stayed with us for a little while until it was certain they could get back into New Orleans.
My mom and I went with one of my aunts back to her home not too long after the storm was over. When I say that it was unreal… that’s only because I cannot find words to describe to you just how unsettling and disturbing it was. I have not traveled to a third world country (yet) but from what I’ve seen in videos and pictures, New Orleans after Katrina was not very far from one. Army tanks lined streets and FEMA trailers filled parking lots and empty fields. Pieces of the city that I’d grown up with were shut off and the parts that were open were covered in fallen branches and the debris of someone’s lifetime of memories. Refrigerators and freezers were thrown at the end of driveways. Boats were caught up in trees in the middle of streets. It was eerie to see the water lines stained along the sides of houses as the water settled and then receded and settled and then receded again and again, my old childhood home included. Sometimes the water lines would be all the way up to the roof and I would have to ask myself how anyone could survive that. Can you imagine your home completely submerged in water? It still gives me chills to think about.
But the most unsettling image was that “x” the army left on the windows of every home after they explored it. I can’t remember what every space stood for now but the bone-chilling one I do remember is how many dead they found when searching the home. I couldn’t believe that this was where I grew up. It didn’t look anything like my childhood recollections any more.
Despite all of the devastation and desolation, there’s still something else that stands out in my mind even more: the entire city was covered in sunflowers. I didn’t understand why at first and then it hit me – it was from all of the bird feeders left out during the storm. Bird feed usually has sunflower seeds in it and the storm had blown them everywhere. And when I say everywhere, I mean everywhere! As we walked around a family friend’s broken and destroyed home, I could see the sunflowers growing tall in their backyard and it was such an important reminder to me that in the midst of tragedy, beautiful things can grow. It didn’t matter where those seeds had been thrown; it didn’t matter who was going to water them. They took root in the middle of that storm, in the depths of the ground, and as the rain poured down, it provided them with enough water to grow strong. They didn’t worry about the sun finding them now that they were buried in a different place… regardless of the circumstances of that storm, they bloomed right where they were planted. And it was truly a striking, life-changing memory for me.
Although we did not have a hurricane like Katrina here in Frisco, in the beginning of the summer we had unexplainable rain storm after unexplainable rain storm. No one understood it. They seemed to come out of nowhere. The storms have been over for a few months here now but there are lakes that are still closed off because the water is not going down. And to my most wonderful surprise, the city is now covered in sunflowers. What an amazing reminder to my blooming heart: beautiful things can grow here. Beautiful things can grow in me. Beautiful things can grow in you – even if you feel like these storms might overtake you. Take root in God and let Him shower the seeds He’s planted in you. Beautiful things will grow.