April 27, 2011

God's Storm

I tried to shift into a more comfortable position, and focus on the book in my lap. It wasn't easy in the noisy crowded room. Around me, my classmates read, prayed, or speculated together about the possibilities and ramifications of being stuck in this basement all night. Teachers, interrupted from the middle of their classes, scurried in and out, asking us to count how many noses we have, and trying to track down any missing students. Singing drifted from the next room where the academy students were singing scripture songs in 6 part harmony.
Outside, the weather didn't really look all that threatening. It had been stormy all day, and the severe weather notification system had been beeping periodically all afternoon, warning us that we were under tornado watch.
No big deal, I thought. They say that all the time.
After all, being under tornado watch only means that  the conditions are right for a Tornado to possibly  form. It doesn't mean that it will...

But this time, it did.

After 40 minutes in the basement of the cafeteria, we were told that a tornado funnel was on the ground near Lake Greeson, only 10 miles from us and traveling 35 miles per hour. Fortunately, it didn't stay on the ground long. Another half hour and we were given the all clear.
"It's not over," we were warned. A chain of tornado-forming storms were chasing each other through this corridor on their way east. Another one was expected within an hour. I jumped in my car and came home to find the radio blaring severe weather alerts and my dad looking uneasily at the radar map on weather.org. Outside, the sky matched the green color of the brand new leaves on the maple tree. It was eerily silent. Then the tornado siren down the street began to sound as 70 mile-per-hour winds suddenly blasted the house and ripped a limb out of a nearby tree. The radio announcer was saying, "Find shelter now. FIND SHELTER NOW!"
Dad said, "We better go"
The tense note of fear in his voice gave me a chill. Dad doesn't get scared.
I threw on an old pair of jeans, boots and my jacket. (You never know what you might have to do after a storm, and I definitely didn't want to be in my white skirt.)

Holding my cat tight under a blanket and my bible and some homework under my arm, I stayed close behind Dad as we ran to the van. I had to laugh in spite of myself. Apparently, he had already prepared for this; every seat of the van protectively cradled one of our computers or hard drives... That's my Dad!

The rain was falling so thick we could scarcely see our way into the little storm shelter behind the neighbors house. My cat let out a howl of terror as I carried her down the ladder and the little metal door closed over us. Above us we could hear the wind pick up, then subside. The pouring rain calmed into a drizzle and then stopped altogether.

Mom was in Hot Springs shopping when the storm hit. She called to tell us that she was stuck in the employee break room at Hobby Lobby. They weren't allowing anyone out until the storm passed. We stayed in touch with her until the storm moved through Hot Springs several minutes later and she began the challenge of finding a road home that wasn't blocked off or covered in 6-12 inches of water. Eventually, she made it.

The storm swept on towards Little Rock, wrecking homes and even claiming a few precious lives. Other storms were scheduled to come through during the night, but we slept in peace. After all, there's not much sense being afraid of how one might die, when one isn't even afraid of death.

The next morning revealed that numerous trees had been blown down, and other small damage had occurred but no funnels had actually touched down in Amity. The power lines had been severely damaged, leaving the school without power all day long, but that's no great trial. The only casualty on campus was a poor little peach tree which got snapped off its trunk and carried over 50 feet to be dumped in the middle of a garden.

We thought it was over, but late in the afternoon, it was announced that a second wave of storms was scheduled to hit at 1 am that night. The weather radars showed conditions coming together for a storm far worse than the one the night before. Again, preparations were made for people to sleep in the safety of the cafeteria basement. But although precautions were taken, anxiety wasn't high. Instead there was an atmosphere of peace, and an atmosphere of prayer.

As the hours of the night passed, the weather radar showed the storm lessening in force and danger as it came into the area. But then, as if to simply make a statement of the power of the One who controlled it, as the storm neared the school it split into two neat halves which flowed around us to the north and to the south and then merged again on the other side.

My God amazes me! He may not always choose to redirect the storms of life so they don't affect me--it wouldn't be good for me if He did--but He is always in control of them.


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