Hurricane Irma: Our Beach Cottage

Hurricane Irma has been devastating to so many. My heart breaks for the lives lost and for those who have lost everything. For those who are suffering damage and turmoil. Something like this shakes you to your core.  If you are reading this and you have suffered because of this terrifying storm, I am so sorry for your pain and suffering. My prayer is that you will find comfort and strength from God to carry you through.

He certainly has made His presence known to our family. One truth that has resonated so profoundly with me over these past few days is the power of prayer. I know that God does not always give us the answer to our prayers that we plead for, beg for, and hope for. What He does promise though is that through steadfast prayer and through our cry for help, He changes our heart.  Shapes and molds our heart to look at whatever outcome we face differently. Through a different lens. Through God’s eyes.  Through His lens.  When we look to God for strength, He will give it to us. The storm I face may feel unbearable, yet leaning on Him is the only thing that can carry me through with a sense of peace when the storm is raging around me.

The first news we heard of hurricane Irma and her steadfast path to Naples was last Tuesday. My mom texted me to alert us since she knows that I rarely have the TV on and am typically not up to speed with the news. I’m changing that now. Ignorance is not bliss.  I think in the back of our minds, we didn’t realize how serious this hurricane truly was going to be.  We called a few people who overlook our beach cottage to see if they could board up our windows and doors.  No one was returning phone calls. Everyone was focusing on their own homes and getting their families to a safer place. We knew at this point, this was serious. Our neighbors had already boarded up and secured their homes and evacuated by Wednesday. Our home is set one mile off of the gulf coast, an area in Naples expected to be hit pretty hard with the expected flood surge. Panic set in but even more so, a feeling of helplessness.  We felt like we had abandoned our little beach cottage that I affectionately call our “little treasure box.”  We were leaving it to battle the hurricane without protection.  A gut wrenching feeling. We even had plywood stored in our garage over the past 10 years, cut to specifications for every door and window, yet no one to hang them for us. We didn’t expect anyone to help us at this point. We just wanted everyone to get to safety.

What I’ve learned through this experience is that the feeling of losing a home to a catastrophic event isn’t about just losing the “structure.” People will say in efforts to give you some encouragement words like, “at least you have insurance to cover it.” I know those are well meaning words but nothing “covers” the memories of life that happened within that home.

This home was more than just a vacation home.  We had poured blood {literally}, sweat and tears into this home over the past 10 years. We bought it as a charming home that needed a ton of TLC. It deserved to be restored. This home was special.

Our first summer in our beach cottage. The boys were 3, 6 and 9. Tim looks 5′ taller than us…lol.

In this home and the beautiful yard surrounding it is where the boys discovered a whole new world outside of Colorado.  This would be our Florida life.

The first week and no furniture. Just a few swimming pool noodles and coloring books. What more do you need to make a kid happy? Priceless moment. If you want to go down memory lane and read the story of how we found our beach cottage, you can do so HERE.

Almost every single trip and “vacation” time to our cottage over the past 10 years involved work, back breaking work for Tim.  The renovation we did on it two years ago was really the final layer of work that we had been working on since day 1 of owning the home.

Over the years, we gutted the crumbling swimming pool, tore down the old lanai, ripped out the old concrete and brick patio and installed a new travertine patio.

We installed a new metal roof about 5 years ago as our old one was so old that insurance companies wouldn’t even cover us until we replaced it. Tim has torn out 2 big trees because of the non-edible fruit that they kept dropping in our pool. That’s where the blood comes in because he’s almost lost a finger or two in the process with a chainsaw. Our neighbors look at him like he’s crazy because he’s always out working on something on the home, covered in sweat and dirt, instead of “vacationing.”

As windows would rot away, Tim would replace them with new, hurricane proof windows.

During the remodel, we replaced the kitchen windows and front bedroom windows, but the remainder of the windows and french doors were still old. Definitely not made strong enough to hold up to 148 mph winds from Irma.

When the roots from our massive trees, including this banyan tree, continuously grew into our plumbing system, we fought constant overflowing toilets.  Even worse, it happened on Christmas day, Mother’s day, and the time we had 7 family members visiting. You can imagine how fun that was not being able to use the bathroom and Tim digging trenches in our yard to replace the plumbing lines.

We can’t forget about the time about a year or two after we bought the home when we found mold in the kitchen wall. We were getting a new refrigerator since the original one was pretty old and had leaked. This is what the area looked like before we did the big kitchen renovation.

As we we were pulling the old fridge out to make way for the new one, we found that the entire wall behind it was covered in mold and had extended to behind the cabinets on that same wall. So instead of enjoying a nice day on the beach, at that very moment, Tim took a sledge hammer to that entire wall that opened into our garage on the other side. I’m so thankful he is so hands on and can pretty much build or fix anything. By the end of that day, he had cleared all the old drywall,  2 x 4’s and cabinets. He reframed the wall, installed new insulation and new drywall.  All in one day. I sometimes watch him and think I married superman.

10 years later, that wall looks much different and definitely mold free. That’s always good, right?

I have to mention the termite issue too. Ugh…termites. Not uncommon in the south. Not the best day in your life when you see them swarm out of your bathroom during the same time two toilets in the home are overflowing (because of those dang tree roots) as your son is showering and the water is backing up the plumbing in the whole house.  Let’s just say, that day I wanted to light a match to the cottage and walk away. I had a moment. I got over it…eventually, after we decided to renovate the whole house and take care of those termites.

So much more has gone into this home that I could talk about, but most importantly is the fact that we grew to love our cottage even deeper despite the money pit it had become.  We were creating a legacy for our boys. A place where they have grown up and have more memories than any other home we have lived in.

I could see the sadness in their eyes when we told them we may lose our home to hurricane Irma. It broke our hearts as parents.  All the dreams we had planned of our boys bringing their own families to our beach cottage one day was shattering.

Our second summer in Naples

As the days and hours drew near for hurricane Irma to hit Naples, an overwhelming sense of sorrow settled into our hearts.  We knew what was predicted and it seemed like everyone had made preparations and planned except for us. I know this blog post is turning into a novel, but I feel like it’s a story I need to share. Maybe it’s good therapy for working through the sadness and grief we were experiencing. So many of you have emailed, messaged me on Instagram and texted expressing your love and concern for this little beach cottage that you’ve grown to love with us over the years.

Our prayers had shifted from “God please save our home” to “God please give us the strength to face the aftermath.” With the expected 10-15′ flood surges, we were envisioning our home being flooded beyond repair if the hurricane winds didn’t blast through our old rickety windows and doors first. It felt hopeless.

On Saturday, I started searching through the hashtags on Instagram for #naplesflorida.  I wanted to see what people were posting during the final hours before the storm. I came across an Instagram post from a “Good Samaritan” offering to extend help boarding up homes.  I took about 5 seconds to consider and I instantly direct messaged him.  It was a far stretched plea for help but within one hour he was at our home.  Those old pieces of plywood we had been storing since we bought the home were the biggest blessing! All of the home improvement stores had run out of plywood. I am beyond glad that Tim insisted we keep them and not throw them away when I was on a decluttering, cleaning spree during the renovation.

All the patio furniture got put safely inside. You can see the storm coming in and the wind had already started to pick up.

We felt an enormous sense of “relief” once the house was boarded up. At least we had peace that we did everything we could to protect our home. The young man, Andrew, who helped us out as a selfless act of kindness made a big impact on our life. He may not even know how much.  We are forever grateful for the care he showed to us and our home.

I sat in church Sunday morning in a fog. Hurricane Irma was approaching in a matter of hours.  The fear of knowing something horrific is about to happen is indescribable. All I could do was pray. The pastor’s message was about serving. How we are called by God to serve others. How ironic when we were just served so graciously by this young man.  Actually, there is no irony when God speaks to us and how he allows moments to happen in our life. He always knows the outcome.

After church, we came home and I sat on the sofa and glued my eyes to the news the rest of the day and night. I watched the Weather Channel live as the weather man was practically being blown away by hurricane Irma. This hurricane whipped through Naples with such fierceness. We watched and analyzed the direction the wind was blowing as it bent trees sideways. Anticipating exactly where the wind was hitting our home.  I felt sick. My heart hurt for the thousands who were riding the storm out in their homes or shelters. It must have been terrifying. I’m thankful my family wasn’t there, but watching far away was difficult.

The storm came and went. We waited for the flood surge. It never reached the levels predicted. We saw a glimpse of hope. Maybe our house wouldn’t flood. The roof may have blown off from wind gusts through the door that didn’t get covered by plywood or our massive banyan tree, that extended its roots into our plumbing over the years, may have fallen onto the home and crushed it. Not knowing is an awful feeling.  All we could do was wait for some news.

On Monday, the sun came out. We waited for a phone call. Life goes on during those moments and hours. Even when you want everything to stop and you just want to know what your new reality is.  Through so much prayer, Tim and I had come to a peaceful place that God was going to pull us through no matter what. Prayer may not always give us the outcome we hoped for but it can change our heart and give us strength to face the trials and hardships.

Andrew was kind enough to go back to our home to see what the damages were.  He called me mid morning and gave us the news. From the exterior, the house looks like it was spared from major damages. I cannot express what that moment felt like to hear those words. I feel like a miracle swept over us. From what he could see, no serious damages to the property. Not even our ginormous banyan tree fell. So many trees had fallen during this storm. There is a lot of debris.  We will be assessing any damages within the home soon. We’re hopeful that it will all be okay.


Tragedy and devastation still happened to many. Naples was damaged and many are facing great loss. In the moment of relief for our home, there is still sadness for the reality of others. Not just in Naples, but everywhere that Irma stormed her fury through.

My prayer for everyone who battled this storm and who’s outcome may not have been as positive as ours is that you will have the strength to get you through each day. I am truly so sorry for your loss. Tim and I want to pay it forward the kindness that was shown to us. I know that many of my loyal readers live in Naples. Let us know how we can help. You can email me directly through my contact page or leave a comment below.

If you stuck through this story here to the end, thank you. I know I rambled. This is a story I will keep sharing. I am so incredibly grateful for all of you who have faithfully read this little blog of mine. The messages I received asking how we are doing and how our beach cottage held up humbles me.  If you are new to the blog and would like a tour of our cottage, you can do so HERE.

Thank you again friends, family and readers (who feel like friend)s…we are truly touched by your kindness.










  1. God is good Shauna. It really is a miracle your little cottage was spared. Thought of you and your family along with the many other families worrying about their homes. I’m happy to hear she made it! God bless that Good Samaritan! Sending love to you and the people of Naples.❤️❤️

  2. Praise the Lord. I’ve been checking last two days to see how you are doing.. you inspire me with all your posts. I remember getting so excited to see all the renovations on the beach cottage. Sending more prayers for minimal damage and many more years of memories.

    1. Thank you so much Debbie! Truly, so sweet of you to be checking in on us and for your concern. Thank you for following along with us over the years! I love to hear from readers and am humbled that you loved reading all about our beach cottage renovations.

  3. You have been on my heart and mind these past few day. Praising God for all the miracles surrounding your home, for Andrew who truly was the hands and feet of God, and for the lives saved through your story. God is good. May He continue to use your story to minister to others. Much love to you, sweet friend! xx, Emily

  4. Wow, shauna! So thankful Andrew found u and u found Andrew…. I feel like I want to meet this good citizen:) maybe he will let u do a blog post. Truly amazing to offer help to others like that.

  5. Wow! I live in Land O Lakes Florida which is north of Tampa Bay. Our house has no damage, we just had a few papaya trees fall over. I am so thankful that we did not lose power or water as I know many people did. I’m so happy to hear that your house was also saved. My husband was able to board up our windows on Saturday, as only half of them are hurricane proof and it was reassuring to know that we had done all that we could to protect our house. I am so glad that you were able to find Andrew, it was just so amazing of him to help! I have been thinking about you and was hoping that you had as good a fortune as we did !

    1. Thank you Carla for thinking of us and your kind words. I’m so happy your home is undamaged. At least we know that trees and torn out landscaping will grow back quickly in our beautiful sunshine state!

  6. Shauna I’m in tears…tears of joy that your little cottage survived this storm! And thank God for this young man, Andrew!! What a blessing and an answered prayer he is! Also praying that once you get to the cottage there will be no further damage and that you’ll be able to resume normal life there soon! My nephew is in the COast Guard in Islamorado and they are holding their breath to see what things will be like when he gets back to his rental…I fear the worst but praying for the best for all affected by this storm. Thanks for sharing your story and for letting God’s light shine through your sweet soul my friend:) xoxo

    1. Bree, thank you for reading our story and for leaving such a sweet comment. I believe that at times like this, when there is overwhelming anxiety and sadness, God can shine His light through the pain. Our story could have been different but for some reason we were spared. I thank God for that daily. We will have another squad reunion there again, friend, and it will be even more special with a heart of gratitude that the beach cottage still stands. Love you!

  7. ” He will not leave you nor forsake you!”
    So happy your home was spared! We have family in Florida. Watching from CA was torture. Their homes and they are ok. Your story brought tears to my eyes.
    Praying for those who lost so much in the wake of Irma.

  8. I am so relieved to know that Andrew was able to lay his eyes on your precious beach cottage and tell you it’s okay. I know how much you love it and how many wonderful memories you have there. Andrew is such an amazing young man. I can only imagine that he will lead! I hope you are able to keep up with him and perhaps meet him one day. Cant wait to hear about it if you do!

    1. Thank you Jen! This was scary but we got through it! Andrew was a true God send in our life in our most vulnerable moment. We will forever be grateful. Still thinking of you and Houston and living through the devastation and sadness that has happened from Harvey. We just have to lean on God through it all. Love you friend.

  9. Shauna, so happy to hear this update today! God is good and He has spared your cottage and that makes me so happy for you all. I loved reading about your family memories and those cannot be taken away. It was such a harrowing storm, but so glad you came through better than expected. Hugs my friend!

    1. Hi Rhoda! Thank you!! God is so good and we are so thankful. My prayer is for those who weren’t as fortunate that they will still be able to see God’s goodness as they pick up the pieces of this tragedy. Hope you’re doing well my friend!

  10. I teared up reading through your post. I was worried about how it would end, but so happy your beach cottage was spared major damage. We experienced many of the emotions you described as we too have a home one mile in from the gulf and were back in the Midwest for the storm (we had left just the week prior), along with worries for friends who were in Irma’s path. Your guardian angel came through when you found help in Andrew and what a blessing!

    1. Hi Lori, thank you so much for your kind comment. I hope your home is okay and that your heart is more settled now that we’ve walked through the storm. Best of luck returning to your home and getting everything cleaned up.

  11. What a gift you are my friend! Cheers to a beautifully written tale of love, strength, perseverance, a kind stranger and God’s hand in it all. So thankful that your beautiful home survived the storm and excited that you/the boys will continue making memories… for many years to come! xo

    1. Tana, thank you for reading our story and for your kinds words. You know how special this place is to us. I think it grabs a piece of everyone’s heart who comes to visit. Looking forward to another SQUAD reunion at the cottage soon!
      Love you!

  12. Thank you, Shauna, for allowing yourself to be used to bring comfort to others. I am a victim of H. Irma (in Miami) and although we ourselves only suffered landscaping and fence damage (thank you, God!), many friends in the Keys and family in Cuba suffered catastrophic loss. Perhaps because of this hurt for others or perhaps just from the anxiety and struggles of the past week, I have been feeling so very depressed. It’s frightening, unnerving and discouraging to have hell raging around you and be totally helpful to do anything. I want to let you know that your words at the opening of this post have helped me so much! My prayer will be adjusted to ask our God to change my heart. To, as you wisely say, shape and mold it to look at whatever outcome we face through a different lens – His lens. Thank you, dear lady, for lifting my heart so much! I am so thankful you and your adorable family are doing well. We are Florida Strong!

    1. Maggie, I am so sorry for the hurt and sadness you are going through! I’m praying right now for you and your family in Miami, the Keys and Cuba that God’s comforting grace will sustain you through this. This scripture has been of great comfort to me: “I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God.” Psalm 40
      I know that God never allows us to go through any trial without giving us the strength to endure. Look to Him for comfort and I know he will be with you and your family, Maggie. God bless you and stay strong!

  13. Shauna I’m so beyond grateful that your beautiful cottage is safe! What a true blessing and miracle! Your post was beautifully written and I felt like I was going through the same thing worried for your home away from home and so many others’ homes. I’m so grateful you have had peace during such a crazy time in your life. Looking forward to giving you a huge hug soon!! XO

    1. Erin, we are so incredibly grateful to God for His outcome in all of this! The whole time I was having flashbacks of every sweet memory in the cottage, including when you and the SQUAD came to visit. I feel so fortunate that we will have the opportunity to do that again one day! Love you friend and am SO EXCITED to have you visit us in Colorado next week!

  14. Shauna, what a beautiful message. Thank you for sharing your story with us, it truly touches my heart, and I’m so happy that your cottage is safe! Andrew is a true blessing from God, and clearly, quite a selfless young man. The power of prayer is just an amazing thing and your story warms my heart in so many ways! You and Tim are so generous to offer your help to others in need – clearly you are both also selfless, just like Andrew! I love you my friend! xoxo

  15. Glad you found someone to help you. The storm was scary even here in Orlando. We had our home boarded as did others and I was glad we did. We didn’t lose power but my kids did and alot of our neighbors and friends. We had broken trees and branches but no flooding in my area. Some power was off for 4 days and some still off around here. Our local Publix is still running on a generator and there are lots of trees down. Our schools have been closed all week. This was the second scary hurricane we’ve had. The last one we had that was worse I’m thinking was Charley. Glad everything worked out for you. Feel so bad for the people who lost everything . We were blessed.

    1. Hi Donna! Thank you for your sweet comment. I’m happy to hear you had a positive outcome through hurricane Irma. We still have no power in our area in Naples and so may trees and branches are down and scattered. Feeling so incredibly thankful. Still praying for everyone who is struggling with much more devastation and destruction than we had. Blessings to you!

  16. Hi Shauna, so happy your home was spared from the devastation. It is a beautiful place, makes me smile knowing you can continue to enjoy the home you have spent so many years fixing up and continue to make memories with your family.

  17. Shauna,

    Thanks for sharing your story! I’m so glad you’re special home survived the storm, and that you found the help you needed. What a blessing! Still praying for everyone affected. Take good care and big hugs!


  18. Oh, we were spared as well in Sanibel. And why us and not other families just miles away, whose lives are in shambles now?

    I read this with great appreciation and gratefulness. And with thoughts of those who were so badly affected, realizing that we are all vulnerable to devastation.

    Take care.

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