It has been three years since The Anchor House flooded during Hurricane Matthew. I’d forgotten that milestone until Facebook memories popped up with pictures on my iPhone screen. I scrolled through the images, staring at the soggy carpet and water-stained walls, while sipping coffee and packing Asha’s lunch. I could not believe it has been three years, for that scene, the people, and the responsibility of ministry feels like a lifetime ago.
The home flooded just weeks after Chris and I returned from a two-week vacation where we spent our time backpacking in Yosemite National Park, driving down California’s famous Highway 1, and drinking a lot of good wine. I felt refreshed and encouraged. With my master’s behind me, my mental health restored, and our marriage in good standing, I was ready to take Restore One to the next level and get The Anchor House open. Also, Chris and I wanted to start trying to have a baby. Everything felt renewed. Little did we know our plans were about to be rudely disrupted.
You can do all you can to prepare, but I learned that hurricanes have a will of their own. When they come, all we can do is submit to the force of Mother Nature.
Hurricane Matthew came rolling in at night, as most dramatic storms do. It shook Eastern North Carolina and demolished low-lying homes and communities. Our area was in a state of disaster; many people were displaced; and some lost their lives to the devastating flooding. I did not sleep that night for fear water would come into our home. Instead, I made chocolate chip cookies, a band aid to my anxiety and uncertainty.
The next morning the sun rose, and flash flood waters receded. Chris and I immediately drove the fifteen-minute distance to check on The Anchor House. To our surprise, no water had entered the building. We both breathed a huge sigh of relief and moved on with our day.
Within hours the tides turned (literally), and we were inside the homes moving furniture to the second story as water quickly entered the buildings. The higher-ups had let the northern dams out, sending rising waters to the lowing-lying communities, furthering the devastation. Despite all the best prayers and efforts, both buildings flooded. To cap the day, Chris and I were heartbroken and had little sense of where the goodness of Jesus was in the midst of this terrible situation.
It’s interesting who remains silent during a tragedy, who tells you it’s spiritual warfare, who tells you to look at the positive side, and who joins you in lament. Chris and I got all of the in-between from our nationwide friends, but being a Christian leader in a conservative community situated in the Bible-belted South left little space to mourn, process, explore our doubt, or enter into the devastation of the season. Chris and I were shell-shocked—fatigued, confused, bewildered by what happened to the building that God entrusted to us, and impaired to move forward. It took every inch of what we had left in our hearts to rebuild the home, but sadly, we did not return to belief. Instead, we grew exhausted and unsure.
Looking back, I see the flood was the tipping point of our burnout that eventually led to our resignation and departure from North Carolina to Colorado. I wish I could say I’ve returned to the renewed, restored state I was in before The Anchor House flooded, but I haven’t quite gotten there yet. I am still wavering in faith and just now beginning to explore God outside the realms of traditional ministry.
On the day the home flooded, something shook me, the ideas I had about God, and my thoughts of who I am in the midst of this grand life.
Now I am riding the waves of reality, waiting for the Spirit to resurrect places in my heart that feel dormant and far gone. I’m learning that I cannot control the future or make a path certain. Instead, I am letting my soul relearn God and reacquire the common trust found in faith.
Anna Smith is the Founder of Hope Bound Collective in Ft. Collins, offering trauma informed yoga, counseling and retreats. Anna has a resilient passion to see trauma survivors experience healing and wholeness. Mother to Asha and wife to Chris she enjoys biking with her husband Chris, reading, cooking, throwing pottery, running and yoga. Learn more about Hope Bound Collective here.