By Lori Ubowski
I’ve always been the planner, organizer, coordinator, and host of so many things that make it seem like I always have it all together. I have fond and proud memories of my mother, saying that from a very young age, I coordinated the whole family. In hindsight, someone probably should have staged an intervention by the time I was ten.
Now in my adult years, I enjoy the luxuries of a Google calendar that looks like a rainbow threw up on it. Every detail is in its own specific color-coded calendar carefully marked with locations (if applicable) and alerts set so that I won’t forget anything, lest I throw the delicate balance of our five-member family’s fast-paced life into a tailspin. Sigh, those were the good days. Or were they?
One year ago, all of my planning, goals, coordination, and attention to detail suddenly and instantly ceased to matter when our entire community got practically leveled by Category 5 Hurricane Michael. We had lived on the Gulf Coast for almost two decades and had dodged a lot of big storms, but when it was finally our turn, we got one of the biggest on record.
Our community continues to suffer from the lasting effects of the hurricane to this day. There are many, like us, just moving back into their homes. There are many more not even able to begin to rebuild because of delays or issues with insurance or contractors. I often say that Hurricane Michael is “the ‘gift’ that keeps on giving” because the ramifications are more than just loss of physical property.
We’ve lost time, we’ve lost stability, we’ve lost our jobs, we’ve lost our schools, we’ve lost friends and neighbors who weren’t able to come back, we’ve lost our places of worship, we’ve lost our ability to cope with simple everyday things, we’ve lost faith, and the list goes on. In the aftermath of this natural disaster that made our home and our church (also our workplace) uninhabitable, I found myself, for the first time ever, incredibly lost. There was no planning to be done or coordinating when you didn’t know where or when you were going to get power, or water, or food, or a working bathroom. We didn’t know if we would continue to have an income.
We didn’t know if our insurance would cooperate and help us fix our house. We didn’t know if we would be able to find an honest contractor who wouldn’t run off with our money. My Google calendar became so small and insignificant. In my dazed existence even months after the storm, I found myself saying out loud when I would let yet another person down because of some detail that fell through the cracks,
“I’m just dealing with life chronologically right now.”
I actually considered turning the phrase into a tee shirt I had said it so much. It has been the most humbling and sometimes embarrassing place to be for someone who “had it all together.” I literally could only deal with what was right in front of me or what was happening no more than an hour from the present, and I beat myself up for having to apologize all the time.
As I’ve wrestled through this time of personal inadequacy, I have seen God in his infinite wisdom and mercy teach me some valuable lessons. I have learned, I am not always going to be able to keep it all together. I’ve experienced much growth, especially in the trust in letting go of that expectation for myself. I also learned that the body of Christ is genuinely compassionate when one of its members is experiencing something beyond their strength. We all deal with different levels of suffering, but no matter to what degree, it’s all still suffering.
We shouldn’t feel ashamed if it’s beyond what we can handle, and we shouldn’t be afraid to say to those around us, “It’s just too much.” These are the times we lean on the faith and prayers of others when the words won’t come, and God seems so far away. My prayer for you, you find the courage to cry out to God and those around you in your times of suffering. Be blessed by the body of Christ that seeks to lift you up when you are down. And finally, know that you are beautiful and still have worth even when you feel like all you can do is live life chronologically.
About the author:
Lori Ubowski is a Catholic musician, speaker, and author. She is part of the duo, Out of Darkness, leading worship with her husband, Adam. She recently co-authored Side By Side: A Catholic Mother-Daughter Journal (Ave Maria Press) with her daughter, Ava, and is a contributing writer in Our Friend Faustina (Marian Press).