Wednesday, May 04, 2011

My storm week later.

My storm story isn't much of a story at all. We were awakened by Winfield's tornado siren at 4:00 a.m. on Wednesday, April 27. Our satellite wasn't working, so I pulled up radar on my phone. We saw that the storm was north of us, in the Hamilton/Hackleburg area, so we knew we would be okay. School ended up being cancelled due to the expected bad weather to come. Jason had to go into work since our Internet got knocked out in the morning storm, and he couldn't work from home.

The kids were glad to be home. I was glad to have them here, but I worried about Jason. Turns out, Birmingham had fared much worse in the morning's storm. His office had no power, no Internet, and their generator had been hit by lightning. He hung around until it was clear no work could be done. He made it back home by noon.

As the day went on, we watched James Spann show community after community go under tornado warnings. Each storm went just barely north or south of our town. A couple got close enough to make us seek shelter in our poured concrete closet. We watched in horror, disbelief, and sadness as we watched Cullman get hit by a terrible tornado, live on camera.

Time after time, we headed for shelter, but never had any problem until our power went out at 5:00 p.m.  It was probably a blessing in disguise.

At 5:13 p.m., a massive tornado destroyed a huge portion of Jason's one-time hometown of Tuscaloosa. It played out live on tv and radio. We were blissfully unaware.

Our power didn't return overnight. We had no phone, no cell, and no Internet. Concerned family nationwide tried to call, e-mail, and text, but nothing could get through.

School was cancelled on Thursday. Landlines worked, and I found out that my parents' power was back on. We decided to see if we could pick up breakfast in town. We were stunned to see the lines all over town at the gas stations and restaurants. We still didn't understand the local scope of what had happened. With the new dawn, radio stations were reporting the devastation in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, but no one knew exactly what was happening in our own county.

We headed to my parents' home. Dad provided coffee and tv coverage. I sat in front of their tv screen, dumbfounded. How could this have happened in my beloved Alabama? Why were we spared? Literally, you could draw a circle around my hometown and from every compass point around us, there was death, damage, and destruction in every direction. Hamilton, Hackleburg, Smithville (MS), Jasper, Tuscaloosa, Cordova, Birmingham, Cullman..."Oh, Father, have mercy," was the only prayer I could voice, and I prayed it over and over all day.

Our power returned later that afternoon. My gratefulness was saturated with sadness for my county, my state, my region. "Why, Lord, why?," I questioned, not out of anger, but grief.

I changed my mindset come Friday. I wanted, no, NEEDED to help. I'd heard that local stores were wiped out, so I raided my own stash of personal goods and baby items. For once it was good to be something of a hoarder. :)

When I finally mustered up enough courage to go to the store, I just couldn't make myself want to buy anything for my family. We had a full fridge, freezer, and pantry. We were all healthy, had clothing, and a roof over our heads. We filled up one cart with baby food, formula, and toys. Our other cart had little because we honestly needed little. I guess I have something akin to survivor's guilt. At the same time, I realize just how blessed we are. I don't deserve God's favor. None of us do.

The clean-up, rebuilding, and healing process have begun. It will be a long, painful, slow ordeal. As I was reminded yesterday as I watched Anna Beth take her first slow, shaky, unsteady steps, I realized that our state's recovery process will be shaky, uncertain, and slow, but we WILL come back from this. We WILL have the opportunities to be God's hands and feet to show His love to our fellow man. God WILL be glorified in this.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Picking Roses

Last Saturday morning I needed to fill two empty vases for table decorations at our Ladies’ Conference.  I first walked out in my garden to my white roses, since our decorating theme was all white.  My white roses looked dingy, old, and slightly wilted.  I settled for the more colorful miniature roses that grew on the other side of the garden.  They were in much better condition.  They showed no signs of decay.  They didn’t have any ragged edges and were brightly hued.  They held their petals tightly.  Most were blemish-free, looked healthy, and smelled lovely.  “Yes,” I thought, “These will have to do.”

I’m so glad that God doesn’t look at Christians the way I looked at my roses.  Sure, we all get dingy in our sin; we get tired in our Christian service; we even show signs of decay in our faith.  But God doesn’t walk away from us, even in our worst state.  He knows that we were “wonderfully made” to serve Him (Psalm 139:14).  No matter how blemished we become from sin, He can still wash us clean through the blood of His Son.  Even on our most ragged days, God can see our potential.  Romans 5:8 tells us that But “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”  He mercifully looks at our hearts and says, “Yes, these are the ones that I have chosen.” 

I am so thankful that he picked me!