Sunday afternoon I flew to Memphis to meet my sweet friend Julie (of Sisters Abby & Julie) who would take me on to Jonesboro, Arkansas to serve the Ministry Wives at their SBC State Annual Meeting/Pastor’s Conference. I’ve been looking forward to this trip for several months because I love me some preacher’s wives. Julie and I left Memphis in bad weather, ate at a fabulous little Mexican restaurant in West Memphis and prayed we wouldn’t get caught in a tornado the rest of the drive. We giggled our way to Jonesboro and all was well.
Or it was for the time being anyway.
So Sunday night I slept comfortably (the bedding at the hotel was divine and a king-sized bed to myself warrants a ‘hallelujah’) but I dreamed hard. In this particular nightmare I had decided to step into the hallway in my pj’s (why?) and subsequently locked myself out of my room. I knew my ride would pick me up at 8:45 and so I dashed to the front desk to get another key. That would have been fine except the hallway did that thing in horror movies where they get longer and longer the harder you run. Every time I finally arrived at the end I would be lost as to which way to go next. After an extended ordeal I finally made it to the desk, went through the same horrifying journey on the way back to the room realizing all the while I only had about 5 minutes left to shower and get ready. I can’t change my mind in 5 minutes much less blow dry my ridiculously fussy hair so panic doesn’t cover it. I got to my door, swiped the card, and red light. Dern desk clerk has given me the wrong key so I dashed off again to do it all over. By the time I was back in my room and presentable it was about noon and I was suddenly mortified that the program had started hours before while Iwas busy running around the hotel in my Georgia Bulldog t-shirt and flannel pants. (Can I just insert a congratulations here to my boy Mark Richt who is coaching the life back into my laboring team?)
Imagine my relief when the wake up call came and I opened my eyes to find it was only 5:45 a.m. I had washed my hair and straightened it really well on Sunday before I left thinking I wouldn’t have to wash it Monday morning to save time but dude, I was wringing wet. All that running in my sleep ruined all my flat-ironed hair! Blast! And that was about the only thought I had time to think before a text message from one of our teens at church came through that just said, “Hey, are y’all okay??”
Consider this with me: It’s 5:45 a.m. It’s a teenager. Awake. Asking if we are okay. That can never be good. I didn’t even answer her before I called and without taking the time to say hello asked Luke – a tad frantically – “WHY AM I GETTING A MESSAGE ASKING IF WE ARE OKAY? WHAT IS WRONG?”
“Now, honey, don’t panic…”
(Not the response I was hoping for.)
“..but we’ve had a tornado.”
I started bawling immediately. I’m horrified of tornadoes. As in I have an unhealthy phobia of them. When the babies were little and we were under tornado warning I used to belt them to me so if we flew away we wouldn’t be separated. I wish I were making that up. So to think a tornado had swept over my family and I wasn’t even there to be neurotic with them was my undoing.
Luke assured me over and over the family was okay, that our fences and some trees were down around the house but according to the officer he had already spoken to, there were no reports of serious injury. And get this, Luke said, “I wasn’t going to call you because I didn’t want you to worry before you had to teach.” Because no one else in my town has a cell phone and if he didn’t call me surely no one else would. I would have been sarcastic about it if his intent weren’t so perfectly selfless and sweet.
It’s important at this point to note the passage the Lord gave me to teach the precious Arkansas girls. He and I get to know one another in themes so it seems and this season has been about His assurances of protection over my family as that relates to ministry and life in general. Psalm 57:1 has been particularly dear to me and was never more relevant than it was as Luke described having my babies in the bathtub with his arms wrapped around them as the tornado appeared to have literally jumped over our home: “Have mercy on me, Oh God, have mercy on me. In the shadow of your wings I will find my refuge until these storms pass by.” I’m confident the wording I just quoted to you is a blend of about four different Bible translations but the application is the same: Whether we are being protected from unseen calamities taking place in the heavenlies or the heavenlies are crashing down upon our heads, our life is bound up in Christ’s. The worse thing that could have possibly happened that day would have been for my family to have been delivered safely home. With that said, I’m far more comforted that God chose to spare me that unspeakable horror but I also praise Him knowing my suffering and longing would have a marked end.
And yes, I’m bawling again.
I shared much of this with the women at the conference and frankly, I was afraid I would be too discombobulated to make one lick of sense. I think those darlin’ women comforted me much more than I ever could have comforted them. If any of you are reading, thank you. For your forbearance and for being a part of this wonderful sisterhood we call Ministry Wives. You get me. I get you. Spending time with you fed my soul and I won’t soon get over it.
Here are a few photos:
Me and the literal Sisters Abby and Julie (I adore these girls so much!) eating our delicious O’Charley’s on the way to the airport. My food was just so great. I am always famished after I teach and everything tasted like it was made for my mouth that day. I was also thrilled to meet Abby’s darlin’ baby boy Henry. That child looks like the Gerber baby and I just don’t say that about anybody. And can I mention he let me hold him straightaway? He smelled Boy Mom. I don’t know if I should say that about myself?
The field house at the football stadium. Which is behind my house I should add:
That press box used to be on top of those bleachers:
The concrete bleachers = rubble.
What’s the score? Tornado 1 – Scoreboard 0
Feedstore across the road from our house:
Our back fence:
We were also under tornado warnings for a good part of the day Tuesday. Deedra snapped this photo outside her house. Luke took one of the same cloud but his isn’t nearly as freaky. Smoke Monster from LOST anyone?
I can’t say enough about the importance of Code Red – an emergency notification system that will call your home when dangerous weather is heading toward your area. Even though our home wasn’t hit, because of this phone call Luke had all the children out of bed and as protected as they could be where otherwise they would have been sleeping in different parts of the house. If you haven’t yet enrolled and are local, visit www.dekalbcountyal.us and follow the instructions. It’s free!
Okay, I’m done.
(p.s. Football field photo credits: Times-Journal)