Build Your House on the Rock: The Aftermath of Hurricane Harvey

No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.”

~ 1 Corinthians 10: 13

As I sit here and try to put the last 18 months of my life on paper (or digital paper if you will), I realize that my story contains all of the following: suffering, peace, loss, animosity, disbelief, confusion, love, hope … a true saga of emotions.

If you had told me two years ago that my life would be where it is today, I never would have believed you. In April of 2017, I got a call from my husband that we were moving to Houston, and I had no idea what was in store. I was excited for a new adventure and man, that is exactly what I got! In May of 2017, we put an offer on our dream home and didn’t get it. I struggled and prayed to God for direction. Three months later (and more than 50 homes researched and/or looked at), we finally found the home for us.

It was a cute grey colonial with black shutters on the front windows and a pool in the back. It was across the street from the very first home we looked at when coming to Houston; somehow it seemed meant to be.

We spent two weeks in the house before Hurricane Harvey barreled toward Houston. Our neighbors eased our fears; many had lived in the neighborhood and community long before we did. They said prepare with food and water, hunker down, and power up your devices. Harvey came and it rained and rained and rained. Our pool turned green and we quickly learned about siphoning when we discovered our pool didn’t have a backflow system (file that under “things to ask if you buy a home with a pool!”).

Our streets flooded a little, but nothing too bad. The worst part of the flooding was the highway system. There was literally nowhere to go without flooding your car on an access road or the actual highway (the water just sat and pooled in areas). But our neighborhood was safe, and as far as Chad and I were concerned, we were safe.

On Saturday night, we went to our neighbor’s house (directly across the street in the house we almost bought). We opened a bottle of wine, hung out, played with his 6-month-old daughter, and watched the news.

At about 7:30 p.m., a broadcast came on of the Army Core of Engineers and the Houston Flood Control. They discussed rainfall somewhere around 51 inches and the breaching of the reservoir system and how they were going to let water out to lessen the damage to upstream neighborhoods. They listed a bunch of neighborhoods that were going to be affected by this release of water that would happen at 2 a.m. the next morning. They told everyone not to leave their homes that night. The dark and the heavy rain would be a recipe for accidents, but first responders would not be able to get to us if we got stuck, so it would be safer to leave in the morning.

They did NOT mention our neighborhood during the broadcast, or any neighborhood in the Memorial area (where we live), which is considered downstream. In addition, we do NOT live in a flood plain and there has never been flooding in our area (which is why many people in our area never even considered flood insurance).

I started feeling very agitated and anxious watching this news report. Something didn’t feel right about this situation. I called my second dad, Craig Lindelow, and asked his opinion. He said, “Emily, pack up your things and get to a hotel immediately. This does not look good, and I’m watching the broadcast here (in Dallas) and they are saying things like catastrophic and intentional flooding. You need to leave now.”

I was literally shaking while trying to put towels and blankets down at the doors in case water seeped in. We moved some small stuff up the stairs and stacked as much as we could up a little bit higher, but I thought I would be back the following day so everything would be fine.

I grabbed a night’s worth of clothes, my dog (and her dog bed), and Chad and I left our house.

The next time I saw my house would be two and a half weeks later.

They started releasing water from the two reservoirs at midnight. By 6 a.m., our entire neighborhood was flooded – you could no longer drive in or out. Chad waded back with a group of neighbors to try and move things higher, grab the necessities, and save as much as possible. At this point, he couldn’t get anything else out of the home, however, because the currents were too fast. All he could do was move it up and hope the water didn’t touch it.

We lived at the Embassy Suites for five days overlooking the Addicks reservoir – the very reservoir that was flooding our home. The hotel looked like the movie Ace Ventura when he calls all the animals to come to him. There were dogs, cats, hamsters, birds… animals everywhere! The staff was so awesome to accommodate everyone at a hotel that doesn’t normally allow animals AND they never ran out of beer and wine during happy hour every night, which was amazing because it was like a country concert with people just trying to drown out their sorrows (no pun intended).

This was the aftermath … When the flood gates opened …

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the waters receded …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we finally dumped the trash.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Though this two-and-a-half-week period, my First Rate Family mobilized at the direction of Christy Kendrick, Julie Windom, Jud I Stone, and Marshall Smith.

The minute water enters your home the damage starts, and the longer it stays, the more damage is done. As soon as we were able to get back in our home, we started demolishing, throwing away, and moving as fast as possible to save what we could and get it out. The First Rate team that came to Houston saw it at its absolute worst, but they packed boxes, sanitized everything, demolished walls, and moved us into our apartment … all while I was standing on my front lawn (on what was not occupied by trash), taking pictures and trying to process what was next.

My First Rate Family came for three days, staying at the home of our family friends, Cindy, and Donnie Marion. Cindy and Donnie have been through many hurricanes and floods in Houston, and they were there for Chad and me from Day 1 – providing love and guidance when our biological family couldn’t get there. They never complained, they encouraged us, they held my hand when I cried, and they reassured me that life would change, and it did. Chad and I owe so much to them, as well as to Jud I Stone, Virginia Franklin, Molly Braden, Angela Baudis, Jon O’Ferrall, and Bland Smith plus my friends and family Beth Harvell, Chuck Traxler, Jay Harper, Craig Lindelow, and Andrew Killien.

We moved back into our home a week before Thanksgiving in November of 2018 – a total of 14 months after the flooding. We are still rebounding in this aftermath, but God is Faithful, and we are Faithful to Him.

I tell you this story not to elicit sympathy or to brag about how great a company First Rate is and proclaim that everyone should work for a company like this (even though I hope they can). I tell you all of this because Chad and I have the opportunity to share a testimony now. It is a testimony that shows God’s faithfulness, His grace, His mercy, His hope, and His love through pain, suffering, and desperation.

God is light, my friends.

He is the ONLY one that knows your tomorrow today and He is the peace that overwhelms you in the hard situations. God is there. He is always there.

In my darkest hours, I cried out to Him. My husband cried out to Him. We got down on our knees and asked, “God, why are you forsaking us?” – just like Jesus did … but the minute we realized He was blessing us with something unbelievable, we opened our hearts to His full mercy and love! We are better because of this … we are whole because of this … we are faithful because of this.

God will come into your life and change it. It might not be easy, but it will be a blessing to be on a journey that supports his kingdom. #faithfulnotfearful

“These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock.”

~ Matthew 7:24-25

 

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