Tuesday, April 29, 2014

In sunshine and in the storm

I grew up in Tuscaloosa.
Home of the University of Alabama and the Crimson Tide.
Where the Black Warrior River runs and Cypress Inn sits proudly on its bank.
Where puddles were made for splashing and parks were made for picnicking.
Where backyard campfires blazed and marshmallows were roasted.
Where mosquitos and fire ants were the only potential home invaders.
Where Friday nights were made for football.
Where roses and hydrangeas and magnolias and gardenias perfumed the yard.

Where severe weather threatened to disrupt all.
Where tornado sirens were as commonplace as the familiar ring of Denny Chimes.
Where anniversaries of past storms were acknowledged.
Where hope in the Lord and fellow neighbors was restored.
Affectionately, and appropriately, named Tornado Alley.

I was no stranger to bad weather.
Our family spent many nights hunkered down, barricaded by pillows and mattresses. Heads covered with bicycle helmets. My mother always made it a party. I never remember being scared. All we knew is that we were having a slumber party.
On a week night.
In the basement.
I'm sure there was popcorn and Oreos and cherry Kool-Aid.
Our favorite party guest, and weather extraordinaire, James Spann, was always first to be extended an invitation.

Fortunately, our family always weathered the storm safely.

Several years later, from another state, I watched as the April 27 storm demolished my hometown. Buildings were ravaged. Lives were lost. Families were broken. People were displaced. Schools stood no more. Churches crumbled. I felt helpless as I watched that mile wide tornado tear through my precious city.

Then, something amazing happened. Tuscaloosa began to rebuild. Bigger and stronger. People united. Christians shared the love of the Lord. It was incredible to watch as peace was restored.

Fast forward three years and one day.

School was dismissed early due to the threat of severe weather.
I picked up Baker, my almost two year old, and we headed home.
The familiar voice of James Spann echoed throughout our home.
We prepared supper early, in case power was lost.
We watched in horror as a tornado tore through Columbus, MS, the place we lovingly called home for 5 years.
About 8:30, they issued an all clear for all areas surrounding Tuscaloosa.
Not knowing what the rest of the night would bring, we decided to call it a night.
We strategically placed flashlights within reach, made sure our weather alerts would sound, and prepared for bed.
Around 10:15, our phones screamed warnings in south Tuscaloosa.
They called the name of the community college and elementary school within a mile of our home.
We lost power.
I grabbed Baker and headed to our safe place.

With my entire being, I covered him. I soothed his cries and calmed his fears.
My mind immediately ran to trivial things.
My purse was still in my car, the cash Brian had picked up on the way home was sitting on the kitchen table, my wedding ring was beside the sink.
I sat unmoved.
I began covering our space, our bodies, our home, our neighborhood, our city in scripture.
I quoted my favorite ones.
I quoted ones from memory that I don't remember memorizing.
They just came oozing out.
Flooding our hearts, flooding our home.
I prayed with a fervor I had not previously known.
It got eerily quiet.
We were safe.
Praise the Lord for His hedge of protection on our family.

We got back into bed, this time with Baker clutched tightly in my arms.

I wept. I held it all in during the storm. But then, I wept. I realized this was something not even I could protect my family from. I text one of my dearest friends to check on her and her five children. They were safe. As were we. I responded with, "This is different when you're a mama."

And I wept some more. I began to hear of reports of entire neighborhoods destroyed. Pictures flooded social media. Pictures that told of the strength of the storm, of the terrors of the tornado.

In all the things Brian and I can shield Baker from, a tornado is not one of the them.
We can batten down the hatches, we can cover his little body, we can put us in the safest place in our home, we can use pillows and mattresses and bike helmets.

Then it hit me. I need to teach Baker to call upon the Lord in times of need.

Sure, I can hand him his milk, I can bandage a skinned knee, I can kiss a tear away, I can hold his hand. But the Lord is our strong tower. He is our protector.

I want Baker to know we are his biggest fans.
We love him oodles and oodles.
We will always do our best to keep him safe and healthy.
But there are things out of our grasp.
Mommy and Daddy cannot fix everything. We cannot shelter him from every one of life's storms. As much as it renders me positively helpless, there are some things bigger than us.
Things in which he will need to call upon His Heavenly Father.

I pray I raise a son who clings to Jesus.
In the sunshine and the storm.

"My God is my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation.
He is my stronghold, my refuge and my Savior.
From violence, You save me."
2 Samuel 22:3


  1. This post is touching!
    I am a student of the University of Alabama and Tuscaloosa is my home. I was here when the April 27 tornado hit and now I am patiently waiting to graduate this weekend.
    I know the eerie feeling in the weather and the fear a tornado installs.
    I love how you look to the Lord in these times because that is all we can do.
    Amazing post.



  2. This post gave me chills. Thank God you all are okay.