Today’ s post is the second installment of my 7-month interview series entitled “Resilience & the Bible” which is about how Scriptures can be used to bounce back from the trials we all have to go through from time to time. Once a month, I feature someone who has used Bible verses to bounce back! If you know of someone who has bounced back using Scriptures and would like to be featured on my blog, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to bounce back from losing your home is the focus of this month’s “Resilience & the Bible” blog post. I don’t know about you, but at this time of the year, the Thanksgiving season, I am especially thankful for my home, and I couldn’t imagine if I had no home, but that is what Kimberly Atkins faced in August 2005 as she, her husband and three children lived in New Orleans. Ten years ago in August was the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Kimberly credits three Bible verses with helping her to survive this storm, both literally and figuratively, in her life.
And she vowed a vow, and said, O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head. 1 Samuel 1:11
Please describe what happened when you and your family faced losing your home in Hurricane Katrina.
The storm hit Aug. 29. That was early Monday morning. My cousin who is a pastor in Cincinnati visited us about a week before Hurricane Katrina hit, and she saw a vision. She saw men who were boarding up the house, and she woke up the next day and said, ‘When did those men leave?’ Also in her vision, she saw, I guess they were angels pushing water away from the house. And when she shared that with us, of course, it was before the hurricane, we thought, ‘Maybe she’s going a little wacko.’ But we didn’t say anything because I respect her as a woman of God.
Two days before the hurricane, I had an eerie experience. I had a feeling something was going to happen, but I had no idea what it was. I had no idea there was going to be a hurricane that was a category 4 storm. I had an agitation in my spirit. I thought it could be the group of kids that my son was hanging around. I couldn’t sit still. I was on edge. And I saw my neighbors plowing down the street with loads of plywood. I thought, ‘Well, what is that for?’ I’m from the Midwest, but apparently, they were from the area and knew what to do when there was a warning of a hurricane.
It was also really interesting because my niece was scheduled to have a wedding in Cincinnati during Labor Day weekend which would have been the weekend after Hurricane Katrina, but we had to evacuate because the mayor of New Orleans said to evacuate. We evacuated on Aug. 28th early Sunday morning. And so as we were preparing, I felt compelled to get my garments for the wedding in Cincinnati because I was in the wedding and take them with us. My husband said, ‘You don’t have to take those. We will be back.’ I said, ‘No, I just sensed that I needed to grab them.’ My girls were in the wedding too so I got their dresses, shoes and jewelry. I just felt like we wouldn’t be back. Sure enough, about 5:30 a.m. that morning the 29th, the storm hit, and by then we are at my mother-in-law’s home in Birmingham, Alabama. And we were watching the storm, and we didn’t know what to think. Probably a week later, I had tons and tons of friends who were calling me because they were worried. Cell phones weren’t like they are now, and people couldn’t get through to me. The path of the storm mirrored the path of our evacuation so once we got to Birmingham, we saw trees that had been uprooted. I mean huge trees. And my father was calling my sister saying, ‘They haven’t gone far enough. They need to go to at least Tennessee.’ And if you go back and look at some of the news records during that time, you’ll see there was some devastation even in Alabama and in Georgia.
What did you think about your home and everything else as you watched the news coverage?
As I watched the coverage, I was pleading the blood of Jesus over our home. Actually before we left, I remember going outside in our driveway and just like Jesus, I spoke to those winds. I rebuked the winds. I believe we have power in the name of Jesus. I invited God to sit on our window sills, our roof and to protect our home.
And as I watched CNN, I was amazed. I was thinking about my church members. I was thinking about the kids that my children went to school with. I thought about my friends and where we had just gone to dinner a week or two before. And I knew they were closer to the storm because they were in the central part of New Orleans. And I just wandered would everything be okay. It was so devastating to see people holding the signs and looking for helicopter rides to safety. I was totally numb because I was thinking about the people. I couldn’t believe it. It was literally unbelievable. We were glued to the TV.
How did these Scriptures help you to cope?
In Psalm 91, these scriptures help center me on that space in my home that I basically created as an altar where I can go before the Lord and spend time with Him and become intimate with Him. And when I am in that secret place, I have oneness with God, I am encouraged and I am built up. That is a Scripture that I take with me. I share it with my children. It was a scary time. I mean there was an opportunity to be fearful.
And in 1 Samuel 1, it is Hannah saying, ‘Lord help.’ She went to the Lord, and she laid out on the table, ‘here’s my affliction. I need You to remember me. Don’t forget me.’ And I remember having a conversation with God before the hurricane hit. I went into my bedroom closet, and I said, ‘Lord, please, if everything else is destroyed, please spare my photos because those photos can’t be replaced.’ We have three kids so we had a lot of boxes. And I remember having that conversation with God. I guess it was just an act of faith in itself to leave them, and I trusted that He would protect them. Looking back, I guess I could have just grabbed them and thrown them in a big garbage bag. It was a unique and different experience, and I just didn’t know what to do. That’s why I was just encouraged by this verse to go to God and say, ‘Help me, help me in my affliction.’ Also, during that time, I had been diagnosed with a medical condition for which there is no cure. It was a trying time – a perfect storm. No pun intended.
Psalm 121:1-2 are my mom’s favorite verses. I was really clear on where my help comes from because at that point, I really couldn’t even describe what I was feeling so Scripture really helped me get through it. Despite the circumstances, my help is in God.
What happened after the storm ended?
Once we understood the extent of the devastation, we knew we needed a more permanent solution than to stay at my mother-in-law’s home for a week. So we moved back to Cincinnati back into my parents’ home. The kids slept with grandparents. The two younger kids. And my son and I slept on my couches. I mean we just kind of made do. I wasn’t working at the time so my husband came to Cincinnati and just stayed with us a couple of weeks. Then, he had to go back to Louisiana. He worked at a Folgers plant in New Orleans, and he had to help get the plant up and running again. And that was an ordeal in itself. When my husband went back to our town, he said it looked like it was war torn. He said he had never seen anything like it. Power lines were down. Everything was flooded. Our church was flooded. Our first lady of our church. Her Porsche was floating in water. Our children’s schools were flooded. All of the infrastructure was gone. There were no grocery stores. There were no ATM machines. There were no banks.
How were your children affected?
Our son was more resilient than the girls. I remember taking the kids to a school in Cincinnati for the first time, and one of our daughters was just screaming. It was just the new surroundings and not understanding why we couldn’t just go back home. The school system gave us donations because we just had the bare essentials. We had to start all over with new school supplies, not having birth certificates, all of the critical things we needed were in Louisiana. We had a wonderful woman named Pam Abrams who adopted us. I remember the first dinner that she served us. I mean the love and the reception from the community was just awesome.
When did you find out what happened to your home?
About couple of weeks later, we found out our home had been spared. I mean we had some damage in the back and maybe a couple of shingles were gone, but that was it. I remember my husband telling me that when he went to our house, he saw a water mark on the house that was about seven feet in height. Our yard was flooded. Debris was everywhere so you could tell that water had surrounded the house, but it wasn’t damaged inside. We thought about the vision my cousin had about the men boarding up the house and the angels. It was just a miracle that we give God all of the praise and glory for!
You and your family moved back to New Orleans in 2006 but then permanently relocated to Cincinnati in 2007. Why?
It was very slow in the whole rebuilding process in New Orleans, and I had tried to get on at the Folgers’s plant in New Orleans but I didn’t get the job. So I felt like it was God saying to move back home. Also, I know my mother was praying for me to come back too because she wasn’t comfortable with her daughter living on the Gulf Coast anymore.
As it is the Thanksgiving season, how do you feel now every Thankgiving knowing that you have been through this ordeal?
I am very grateful, and now I see Thanksgiving as just not an opportunity to stuff myself with carbs, but I actually see Thanksgiving as a time to bless others. I have a friend who has a son with an illness, and I called her a couple of days ago. I said, ‘Let me know how I can help you.’ And she said, ‘You know if you could make a couple of sides for me and bring them over, I would really appreciate that.’ That’s just an example of something I do to not focus on my problems and focus on the needs of others because someone did that for me 10 years ago. And I want to make sure I give back.
Kimberly Williams Atkins is an author, Bible teacher, and inspirational speaker. Her articles have appeared in Applause! Magazine and The Albany Journal. A survivor of a debilitating disease with no medical cure, Kimberly boldly proclaims God’s healing power, love, and glory. For over 20 years, she has served as director of women’s ministries for her church and passionately ministers to many women who are rejected and abused.
In her recently released first book Empowering Women To Walk In God’s Glory: A Practical Guide for Real Life Situations, Kimberly helps women find the path for walking in God’s glory. Thanksgiving is a great time, Kimberly says, to consider and learn about God’s glory, because when we understand His tremendous power that works on our behalf, we cannot help but be thankful as we ask for His help. To enter a random drawing to win a free copy of her book, click HERE to subscribe to my blog and receive an email whenever I post AND leave a comment on this post! I will choose the winner next Wednesday!
Kimberly is a senior manager for a Fortune 100 company. She and her husband, Brian, have three children and live in Cincinnati, Ohio. For more information about Kimberly, go to kimberlyatkins.net.
For more Bible scriptures online, go to BibleGateway.com.