I have Bible study with my friend Jana every Monday at noon. We begin our time together with prayer and even though those prayers differ depending on who says them and what is going on in our lives that day, one of us always says "Father, we have no idea just how blessed we are. Let us never be caught with an ungrateful spirit." Never have the words "we have no idea just how blessed we are" been truer than now.
This past Wednesday April 27, an outbreak of tornadoes ravaged Alabama. Believe me when I tell you this...never has such death and destruction hit so close to home. Some of the communities that were hit the hardest are literally a 30 minute drive from my front door.
Although our community escaped with little damage (minor structural, and some trees down), the day was terrifying. The local meteorologist had warned the day before that these storms would be rough, but you never really know, do you? We sat under pitch black skies that dumped inch after inch of rain on us the entire day. Hail rained down at other times and then the winds would come. And there were sirens. All day.
The warnings started early in the morning. Four a.m. Tornado warning. The ominous siren. We got the kids up and put them in the closet that is under our staircase while the The Golden Boy and I stood in the nearby living room watching the forecast. Soon, the warning was lifted and we all retreated to our cozy beds. We sent the kids to school a few hours later but then by 9 a.m. more warnings, more rain, then hail. More sirens. I wondered what my girls were doing. The Golden Boy called to make sure I was watching the weather. I was glad Little Brother was home. I missed the rest of my family.
At 10 a.m. a break in the clouds, and what do you know? A little sunshine. I needed some things from the store so I quickly hustled Little Brother into the car and headed to Wal-Mart while things looked promising. I didn't need much, around 5 items. We made quick work of the list but just as we headed for the register the tornado sirens started again and then a voice came over the P.A. system. "Attention all Wal-Mart customers and employees. We are currently under a tornado warning. Move quickly to the center of the store." And there we were me and Little Brother and ironically, Jana and her little girl who had thought the weather looked promising enough for a quick trip to the store as well. I chided myself for not checking the weather before I left. 10 minutes later, the warning was lifted and we were permitted to check out and leave. As soon as I stepped into the parking lot, I regretted my decision to leave. The sky was darker than I had ever seen it and the clouds looked scary. I rushed Little Brother into the car along with our shopping bags and turned toward home. My thoughts were that we didn't live far and surely we could beat whatever that was home. Let me just stop here and say that after the stories I have heard this week, I will NEVER EVER THINK THOSE THOUGHTS AGAIN. Here we are on the road and the wind is blowing so hard that there are times I can barely keep the car in my lane. I started to pray out loud and from he backseat I hear "Dear Jesus, please get us home." We pull into our neighborhood and the winds are bending the smaller trees nearly in two and the larger trees are swaying. I start to pray that that is all they so, just sway. We pull into our driveway just as the worst of the rain hits. And it hits HARD. And then more hail.
Shortly after we arrived home the call came that schools were closing at one. Thank You Jesus. I quickly retrieved the remainder of my babies and got us all home safely. We remained glued to the T.V. for the next couple of hours. I made sure our shoes were all close by. The Golden Boy called and he was on his way home and wanting to know where the worst of the storms were. To my dismay they were exactly where he was traveling through at the time. We hung up so he could concentrate on driving but I prayed continuously for the next 30 minutes. When he got home I could tell from the look in his eyes that he had been a little afraid. Later that night, when the kids were asleep, he told he that he had seen one of the tornadoes in the distance.
Until 6:30 that night we were either watching the T.V. for updates, keeping the kids occupied or taking phone calls from concerned relatives. The power flickered a couple of times but never went off. We lost cell and Internet service but other than that we had been spared.
The reporters then began to deliver the bad news. As they had suspected multiple tornadoes had touched down leaving destruction and heartache in their wake. It would be the next morning till we heard the worst of it. Homes completely gone. Lives lost. Missing loved ones. Business gone taking with it the jobs of so many. To say we were spared is an understatement.
As I sit and type this 5 days later I am still struck and the magnitude of lose that is all around me. I haven't been to the scene myself but the pictures tell the story. There are people who literally have nothing. They have lost dear ones. Their homes are gone, their cars are gone. But even if they had their cars, where would they go? Their places of business are gone. There isn't a job to go to.
And as devastating as these storms were. God is still in control and there is a hope and a future if we believe in Him and trust Him. There is a reason why He allowed this to happen. We may never know why this side of Heaven. But we have to hold on to the hope that He is our Rock and our Salvation, a very present help in times of trouble.
Jennifer and I both plan on traveling to one of the hardest hit communities on Saturday in hopes of finding a way to help. Our church is collecting donations of various supplies that are to be handed out while we are there.
After reading this, I hope you come away with 2 things. 1) God was, is and always will be in control. He is there are beautiful blue skied day when you think that life couldn't get any better and He is there when the skies are dark and ominous and the winds are howling and you feel like you don't know weather your next breath will come or not. He is the great "I Am", the Alpha the Omega, the Beginning and the End. 2) Don't stay in your little bubble and feel sorry for the people of Alabama and sit and wring your hands and wish you could help. You don't have to live close to help. And let me remind you that this could just have easily happened in your back door and if it did wouldn't you hope that help would come? You can help. Here are just a few of the ways to give:
If you live near the area of Alabama that was hit by the tornadoes and would like to donate supplies,food or clothing, go to www.waff.com to find donation drop off locations.
If you don't live nearby here are 3 ways to give monetarily.
American Red Cross: www.redcross.com, click on the donation link and you will be directed to a page where you can give directly to a fund that is set up specifically to go to the Alabama tornado relief effort.
The Southern Baptist Convention is accepting donations on behalf of the North American Mission Board. www.NAMB.net or you can call 1-866-407-NAMB. You can also make a $10 donation by texting NAMBDR to the number 40579.
The Alabama State Board of Missions is heavily involved in the disaster relief. To make a donation go to www. alsbom.org.
"The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, For You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You." Ps. 9:9-10
"Bear one anothers burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." Gal. 6:2