Floodgates Wide Open

September 13, 2017

For the past month, my mind has been a jumbled mess. While I am used to living with a jumbled mind most of the time, lately it’s been more like a wound up, tangled ball of yarn.

I am just now able to find the string to start unraveling the wad of yarn.

Two words explain my current psychological condition: College and Harvey. Not to be confused with Harvey College.

First, college. The planning, organizing and actual moving a child to college takes more time and effort than I think it should. You would think I would have it down by now since I moved Jack off two years ago. But there’s something different about moving a girl to college.

Something way different. Boys don’t care how their dorm rooms are decorated, which pictures they want framed and which clothes they bring to college. Boys just want a comfy bed and food.

We got Caroline settled in Austin on the Monday before the infamous Saturday of Hurricane Harvey making his grand entrance to Houston.  I dropped her off knowing I would be returning the following Monday for sorority Bid Day. Then Harvey hit with a vengeance and the skies opened up and poured an unrelenting and historic amount of water.

My plan of going back to Austin on Bid Day was not looking good unless I could slap an ark together a lot faster than Noah did.

As I was praying about being able to get to Austin amidst the massive flooding, I read a verse in the Bible that hopped off the page to me. It was Psalm 107:29 and I don’t recall ever reading it before.

Lizzie and Caroline on Bid Day

It said, “He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm and He guided them to their desired haven.”

I claimed that verse in my heart, but my head was telling me it was pointless to pray such a prayer, given the road conditions in the city. But my heart trumped my mind, and I trusted that the big bully named Harvey would be stilled to a whisper and the roads would open up to my desired haven, just like the Bible said.

And it happened. I was able to get out of Houston on Monday with my youngest daughter, Lizzie, to get to Bid Day. It was a bit dicey in certain areas, and at one point I thought we would have to turn around and come back, but we made it.

As I was standing on the street in front of the sorority house where I received my bid 32 years before, I could hear the roar of excited new members running down the street with their freshly minted bids in hand, waiting to storm the gates of the sorority house. Just as I saw the first pack of running girls, I got a phone call from my sister back in Houston.

With a very measured tone in her voice, she said, “Mom and Dad have just been evacuated from their house by boat.”

This was the first time in my life where I had to consciously compartmentalize stuff in my mind. Mom and dad and the boat went in one box of my head, while Caroline’s excitement and new sorority sisters occupied the other box in my head.

Apparently, the square footage of my mind will allow just two boxes to occupy it at any given time. Picture a No Vacancy sign flashing above my head the moment I hung up the phone with my sister. There was no room left in my mind. I was unable to carry on a coherent conversation for the next few minutes.

My parents’ living room. Or what’s left of it.

Thank goodness Lizzie was there to take pictures of the joyful madness.

We made it back to Houston two days later only to find the closest thing to Armageddon I’ve ever seen. The unimaginable amount of water. The widespread need. The loss. The massive amount of homes flooded from the release of water from the two reservoirs. The shock. The awe. The anger. The confusion. The trauma. My parents had three feet of water in the house they have lived in for 41 years.

Who needs curbside service when you can have front door service…


Even though Harvey caused a lot of harm, God revealed a lot of good.

I know there have been so many things written about the human spirit that has arisen in Houston since the storm. From my measly perspective, that sentiment cannot be overstated.

While Harvey’s water technically opened up the floodgates (thank you, Addicks and Barker reservoirs), it also opened up the floodgates of many people’s hearts.

Strangers actively and lovingly reaching out to strangers. People who might tend to stay behind their closed doors were opening their doors and hearts to others in need. The church being the hands and feet of Jesus. Friends coming out of the woodwork offering help to my parents. The list can go on and on.

Now, at the grocery store, local Starbucks or post office, my greeting to others isn’t a simple “Hi”.  It’s now a “Hi, did you get water in your house or are you high and dry?”

Cleaning bayou muck out of the kitchen

A postal worker from Denver, who was on the phone with my dad for something business related, offered him and my mom her Marriott Rewards balance when she learned they were flooded. She wanted them to go stay in a hotel for a few nights on her rewards points. It’s that kind of stuff that’s been happening.

The floodwaters drowned a lot of stuff and washed a lot of sentimental and material things away. It will take thousands of people (my parents included) a long time to rebuild what was destroyed by Harvey. But from my perspective, a lot of great things have risen to the surface. Witnessing first hand the love of neighbors, strangers, friends and family has been a beautiful thing to see.

One unexpected benefit of Harvey is that I don’t have to walk past Caroline’s empty room, which I had been dreading from the moment we dropped her off at college. My adjustment to her being gone has been tempered by the fact my parents now occupy her room, and for the time being, they are the ones leaving the light on in there.

So, as my community and my parents enter the physical rebuilding phase, I also hope to remember and build on all the good that was brought to the surface of the murky waters Harvey left behind.


**I’ll be adding more recipes to my website soon, so please check back if you want to!















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  • Jill Bechtold September 13, 2017 at 11:45 am

    What a beautiful recap of the horror that Harvey brought to our city and the hearts that rose above it!! Thank you for your insight, JuJu, and for sharing it with all of us!