By outside measures, Brooke and Randy Keeney look like deceptively ordinary people.
They have four kids and live in a quiet neighborhood on the West side of Houston. Randy works for an oil and natural gas company and Brooke is a stay-at-home mom who homeschools her kids on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
But when the flood waters rose and their home went under, Brooke and Randy Keeney showed just how extraordinary they really are. I can’t even write that sentence without crying. Because if you look at the picture at the top of the blog, while standing in their water-logged living room, every square inch of their house soaking wet, Randy holds in his hands a picture of a verse that says, “And He shall be the stability of your times” (Isaiah 33:6) and Brooke holds a plaque that says, “Choose Joy.”
And for all the world and their submerged neighborhood to see, they have walked out that verse with quiet humility and patient trust in the Lord.
They walked it out as they waded onto their street with three kayaks and a paddle boat and for three straight days, salvaged all that they could from their home.
They walked it out as they consistently spoke kindly and respectfully to one another in the tenseness of ripping out flooring and sheet rock and deciding what possessions to keep and what to throw away.
They walked it out as neither one of them uttered a word of complaint or self-pity or despair in the two days I was with them in the moldy dampness of their home.
In fact, the words I heard them speak most often were, “Thank you. Thank you for being here. Thank you for helping us.”
That, my friends, is extraordinary. Because let me tell you something: speaking kindly to your spouse when every single square inch of your floor, your carpet, and your sheet rock is being pulled out from the aftermath of a storm, speaking kindly to your spouse when every article of clothing, every damp book, every single piece of furniture, scrap of paper, photo book, and memory that represents your lives is in black trash bags all around you to either be taken to the curb, taken to the car, or floated over to a neighbor’s dry house for storage is not normal. It requires supernatural intervention.
And the radical dependence that Randy and Brooke showed on that supernatural grace that was not born in the moments of a flood or water filling their house. It was born in the months and days and moments preceding the flood, when quietly, persistently, consistently, they chose to make the fear of the Lord the stability of their days and the bedrock of their home. So when the hurricane hit and the flood waters rose, although their floors crumbled, their faith did not simply because their foundation was securely attached to the only floor that cannot fail – the saving, faithful character of Jesus Christ.
The Saturday before the hurricane, Brooke and I met for lunch and ate chips, salsa, and fajita grilled chicken (the best kind of lunch) while catching up and sharing stories about our summer. Brooke shared how disappointed she was at the beginning of the summer that their family was not going anywhere on a vacation. They chose to stay home and brave the summer heat in Houston to focus on establishing rhythm and routine with their four children and in their own lives before the school year started.
Spending a whole summer in Houston is not an easy feat, out-of-state and out-of-country friends. It requires lots of Sonic ice, air conditioning, and two showers a day to simply clean off all the sweat. And Houston heat means you are either inside or in a pool. Outside on the concrete is simply not an option. There is no telling your kids, “Go outside and play. You are driving me crazy.” They are either inside with you or outside in a pool in a bathing suit with you. And inside with you can feel really cramped really quickly.
But Brooke used her summer to…are you ready for this…pray.
She used her summer months to attach herself securely to God in the daily rhythm of prayer for herself, her husband, her children, her community, and her world. Prayer was the essence of her summer. and she spent that Saturday lunch testifying to me how much prayer had not only changed her life but the entire climate of her home. She was so thankful those months had been spent not in packing and unpacking and vacationing…but in praying…to prepare for the school year ahead.
Or a hurricane.
Little did Brooke (or anyone) know that the hours she had spent in prayer were laying up a treasure for her that could not be taken. A treasure she would need to draw on and from in the coming months as her family was displaced and her world turned upside down. She had day in and day out faithfully chosen “the one thing that was necessary…and could not be taken from her” (Luke 10:42). And she chose well.
David Platt says this about prayer: “Prayer won’t just change your prayer life; prayer will change your life.” And Brooke’s choice is living proof of that statement.
We all have so many choices to make on a day in and day out basis. And we all have so many things we could do with our resources and our time. Good things. But when it comes down to it, like Jesus told Martha in Luke 10:42, only one thing is really necessary. And like Brooke, the time that you and I choose to spend at Jesus’ feet, connecting to Him through prayer, praise, repentance, supplication, and surrender, is the only time that will bear lasting, eternal fruit in our lives and in the lives of those around us, and prepare us for the seasons and storms ahead in ways that scratching things off of our to-do lists and responding to emails and taking vacations never can do.
Today, this week, this season, choose the one thing. Put all your other things down; they can wait. I promise. And like Brooke, choose the one that cannot be taken from you, even when the flood waters rise.
Brooke and Randy Keeney are not perfect people. But they are praying people. Extraordinary people. Because they have made their treasure God rather than their comfort, or the things in their house, or the things of this world.
The rest of the verse Randy is holding in the picture says this: “And He shall be the stability of your times, a wealth of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is his treasure” (Isaiah 33:6).
That pretty much sums up the lives of Randy and Brooke. Underneath the water-logged pieces of wood in their home was not despair or grief or a torn foundation; underneath was a secure foundation of salvation, wisdom, knowledge, and the fear of the Lord. And that, my friends, is the ultimate treasure. It just took a hurricane and a summer of prayer to pull up the floorboards and see what really was beneath.