Many of you have heard about and seen some of the devastation from the storms in the last couple of days. With teary eyes, I must share my own story.
The morning of Wednesday, April 27 began like most stormy evenings and early mornings. The thunder woke me up first. I was not a bit surprised that it woke up one of the children, who crawled into bed with me. Ms. Quality Time whispered off and on, and I told her to try to go back to sleep. Within five minutes, the tornado siren went off, so we went to our safe place. The rule in our house is to let sleeping dogs lie. Unless the storm or siren wakes a child up, we leave them in their beds, sleeping peacefully through it. The siren lasted only about a minute, and Ms. Quality Time and I headed back to my bed. Within five more minutes the thunder woke Little Man up. A real surprise! This is the same child that once slept through lightning striking and breaking the tree right outside of his window. (That one even woke up Bru Crew Dad, who can sleep through most anything!) Bru Crew Dad was on a business trip, so there was plenty of room in my bed for the two awake children in the wee hours of the morning. We weren't very sure of the time because the power was out. I remember checking my cell phone as some point in this, and it was around 5:30. I do know it was still dark outside. The siren went off yet again, and the three of us went to our safe place. Again, the siren lasted only a minute or two, and we drowsily went back to my bed. Within ten more minutes, the siren went off a third time. By this time, Ms. Quality Time was getting very concerned about her sisters. I must admit, I was surprised they weren't awakened by the thunder. The three of us stayed in our safe place while I prayed for wisdom. My husband was the one who made the rule about not waking them up, and I feel that it is important for both his authority and the example I set for my daughters to be a submissive wife, not only when he's around, but also when he isn't, to keep his rules. When the siren continued to wail past the two minute mark, and I began to hear what I have heard that tornadoes sound like (a freight train), I decided that even my husband would have agreed if he were there that it was time to wake up Tenderheart and Smiley. The five of us crammed into our safe place, and even our cats, sensing the danger, came and huddled with us. I am not sure I have ever crammed so much prayer into just a few minutes. God spared us, and we were so grateful. The house behind us and the one across the street both had huge trees fall over.
We were still without power, so we headed to town to McDonald's because we were hungry, I needed coffee, and I wanted WiFi to check my facebook and see how my friends managed. I also wanted to keep a watch on the weather. I pulled up the local storm radar and watched from McDonald's. We had carried our school books with us because homeschooling is portable. :o) Later, I heard that because the trees had knocked down the power lines on the highway, that the southbound lanes were closed except to emergency personnel, so I was stuck in town. We stayed at McDonald's until the next line of storms looked close, then I went to the grocery store, bought a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, some trail mix, Gatorade and juice, then I headed to my church, where there is a basement. That line of storms missed us. We ate lunch at church, in one of the basement rooms, continued to work on school, and then I let them play. While I was taking of the kids to the bathroom, Tenderheart was rocking in a preschool sized rocking chair. It happened to be half of the hard floor and half on the cushions placed in the preschool room to protect the munchkins when they fall. This made the chair unsteady. It tipped back, and she hit her head so hard on the cinder block wall that I heard it down the hall. She calmed quickly, and I didn't feel a knot or anything, so I just kept an eye on her. Within an hour, she threw up, was dizzy and having a hard time staying awake. Knowing that these are signs of a concussion, I knew she needed to stay awake. I debated the best route to take. I prayed for wisdom. She wanted to go home, and I'd been told the highway was open now, but I thought the church was safer than home, so we stayed a while longer. When I couldn't keep her awake at church any longer, I decided it would be easier at home. I helped her up the stairs and into the van. Not long after, our pastor's family came to the church because they felt it was safer than their house as well. We were sorry to have missed the opportunity to fellowship with them, but I felt that being home was the best choice for our family at that time. Tenderheart seemed much better now. No longer dizzy and staying awake was much easier for her. In addition, power had been restored at our house, so we were able to get online and watch the approaching storms. I had facebook on one tab to keep up with my local friends, and the live stream from the local meteorologist on another tab. Suddenly, we saw on the live stream that a tornado was forming and heading straight for our town. Not long after, the siren went off, so we carried my laptop to the safe place and prayed for our town and our friends. We heard their was a second tornado spinning off and heading toward our part of town, and then we lost power. Thankfully, we were again not hit directly at our house. Without power, it was difficult to check on people, but we had hit or miss cell phone service. I texted my mom, and my father-in-law called to check on us as well, and inform us about other family in the state. Both sets of our parents were concerned about Bru Crew Dad and his safe arrival at home since our airport had also been hit. His flight was delayed, but he made it home around midnight. We were still without power. He informed me that the loss of power was widespread. It was odd for none of the store signs to be lit, no street lights or traffic lights, etc.
After having PB&J again for breakfast, Bru Crew Dad called the office and discovered they would be closed down for a couple of days. We called my sister who lives about four hours away, and invited ourselves for a long weekend. We felt that since we had a place to go and enough gas to get there, we should leave the few supplies that could be purchased in town to those who couldn't go anywhere. Early Thursday morning, I had received a text with a picture of our church gym, so I knew it was damaged, but my friend didn't know the status of the other buildings. We packed up our stuff for the weekend, but stopped by the church on the way out of town. We couldn't even get down the street it was on because of the debris on the highway. We parked a couple of blocks away and walked to the church. We had to step over down power lines and crawl under an oak tree that was at least 100 yrs old to get there. As I arose from under the tree, I got a glimpse of the church, or what was left of it. I couldn't move. I stood there, tears in my eyes, looking at what was left, and knowing that we had almost been in that building when it happened. I know that buildings are just things and they are replaceable, but I love my church and the memories we have there. It felt like a death to see the destruction. I pulled myself together quickly for the children's sake. When we got there, our pastor was there, and looked as distraught as I felt for a moment, but he pulled himself together quickly as well. His son waved at me from the baptistry, which we could see from the outside of the church. The pastor's family and the church secretary came by while we were there and told us we left too early and missed all the excitement. I quickly informed them that this was excitement I was glad to have missed. Upon seeing their vehicles, it struck me that we would have lost our van if we'd been there too. We would have been rather stranded, with Bru Crew Dad still out of town and no mode of transportation. I'm sure the pastor and his family would have let us crash in their living room, but it would have taken multiple LONG trips to get us all home in Bru Crew Dad's pick-up truck. Several of our friends came by that Thursday afternoon and were as distraught as we were at seeing the church as it was, as well as the rest of the destruction in town. We love this community, and to lose restaurants that have been in town for almost 100 yrs, and these HUGE trees, to see the destruction everywhere, it's devastating!
As I continue to process this emotionally, I am grateful for the safety of my family and friends. I frequently find myself teary-eyed, but I found myself reminded of Corrie Ten Boom. If you don't know her story, I highly suggest reading The Hiding Place. Corrie Ten Boom grew up in Holland. She and her sister were both in a concentration camp in Nazi Germany. Growing up, they were taught to thank God for everything. The bunkhouse they were in at the concentration camp was filled with fleas that bit the Ten Boom girls when they slept and they found themselves itching frequently. Corrie complained about the fleas, and her sister reminded her to thank God for all things. Corrie wasn't sure she could thank God for fleas, but decided to try. Later, she discovered that the only reason their cabin wasn't checked regularly, and the small Bible they had smuggled in wasn't confiscated was because of the fleas. The guards didn't want them, so they avoided the bunkhouse. I never would have thought that I would thank God for a mild concussion (Tenderheart is fine, by the way), but it was because of that concussion that we left the church when we did, and we were safe at home when tornadoes struck both north and south of us on Wednesday evening. I am grateful to our pastor, who saw the possible danger and had cancelled Wednesday night services ahead of time, and I'm grateful to God for His protection. I'm also grateful at the way we've seen the community rally together through this terrible time. CVS is giving away water and diapers to those in need, neighbors are helping neighbors, those with gas stoves and hot water heaters are inviting friends over whose facilities are all electric. We might remain without power for an extended period of time, since our power plants were hit, and we will have to borrow another church's facilities that wasn't hit and change our meeting time for an extended period of time while we rebuild, but I feel confident that not only will our community survive and pull through this, we'll be stronger for it! Please pray for us and all the communities that are regrouping, rebuilding through this time.