A year ago today, a precious friend of mine lost (almost) everything in a tornado. She, her husband, and her three children survived by taking shelter in their bathtub.
Last week, my friend, Amber Che, shared her testimony from that day. This woman never ceases to amaze me with her spiritual insight. I thought I would share her testimony with you.
When I began searching for God in the middle of my tornado rubble and throughout the aftermath of the life storm the tornado left behind, I was overwhelmed by His presence. We didn’t recover more than a handful of our belongings or find much of material worth digging through our rubble but we have found priceless treasures that have sustained us. You can find God anywhere if you are looking for Him. Here are some examples…
A few very significant words found on signs or pictures we recovered: Simplify, Life is fragile handle with prayer, Let us give thanks, Christ is All, Grow
Another one in particular really spoke to me. I found a wooden ‘Welcome’ sign broken into a few pieces. I put the pieces back together and set it in the middle of my living room floor with the rubble of our home around it. This is such a good picture. So often we hide behind the walls of our homes, hiding our hearts, hiding our hurts, not wanting anyone to see the mess in our lives. I found it freeing in so many ways to have those walls disappear. There was nowhere to hide. Our family, our friends, and the whole world were in the middle of our mess. We had no choice but to be dependent on the body of Christ, to be vulnerable, and open to those who wanted to help. I pray we are never closed off the way we were before the tornado again.
I found only one of the many Willow Tree statues I had collected. It was of a Mother holding her baby close. There are visible scars left from the storm and yet it is still in one piece. Mother and child together. So much like the way I held my babies close through the storm and even more like how our Heavenly Father held us.
We recovered the wedding ring quilt that I had folded under the girls inside the tub. We loved this quilt and referred to it as our ‘happy quilt’ because it was so colorful and cheerful. It was our go to snuggle blanket. I love that it had the wedding ring pattern representing the interlocking of lives. During the storm we literally locked our arms around each other as a family and rode out the storm together. This is the only way to go through our life storms. Embracing each other, staying connected and sharing the strength between us.
The tub itself was caved in from the pressure of being shoved against my knees as I knelt beside it, yet I was not moved. When we are on our knees in prayer, riding out the storms of life, no amount of pressure from the enemy can move us.
The foundation of our home was all that was left and the only thing not ripped apart or destroyed. We took refuge on a firm foundation of faith, and even after enduring a raging storm, although battered and bruised, we remained together and strong.
While rummaging through the rubble looking for anything salvageable we uncovered some beautiful roses that had bloomed underneath the crumbled bricks. New life can continue to bloom in the midst of our disasters even if it takes a little time or needs a little help to be uncovered.
I had a special locket that my husband gave me years ago. I had taken it out of it’s safe place and set it on top of my dresser unprotected intending to put it on. I forgot to put it on before the storm. Miraculously it was found almost a week later. My locket represented years of love. The message Nathan had written on the inside read, ‘I love you, God loves you even more’. He does love us and He loves those we love more than we ever could. We can trust Him. I don’t want to waste the time I have with those I love, hiding my love to keep it safe, worrying about what tomorrow holds. Our loved ones are His not ours. If my locket had been safely in the drawer, I would have surely lost it, but because it had been set free, I still have it. The same goes for our love.
It is safe to say that I haven’t always appreciated my hips or considered them in any way, a personal strength. During the tornado as our house disappeared around us leaving us vulnerable to the debris flying through the air, I was hit by something on my right side. I have no idea what it was but I suppose anything hitting you at over 200 miles and hour is dangerous, right? Of all the places I could have been hit…. my neck, my back, my arms or legs… I got hit on my right hip. It was excruciating and I have never before seen a bruise like I got then but I was okay. I decided I should never despise my hips again. God can use what we see as weakness as our saving grace. He is made strong in our weakness.
I have a picture from the night before our tornado where the girls were outside happily playing in the puddles the storms had left behind that day. They were wearing yellow and white Sunday dresses. I typically would have not let them make a mess in those clothes but that day I did. I am so glad I did because those dresses disappeared the next afternoon and they wouldn’t have had the wonderful memory of playing in the puddles. I want to say yes more often, let them make more messes, not taking everything so seriously. Taking time to enjoy the moment, mess and all. We aren’t promised time beyond the present.
After the tornado, I remember Zoe showing me a picture of a huge tornado she found in a book. She brought it to me and said, ‘ Look, Mommy, here is a big tornado like what hit you and Daddy.’ I said, ‘Wow, where were you and your sisters?’ She looked at me and very matter of fact said, ‘Under you and Daddy.’ She didn’t even consider that she had been hit by a tornado even though we took a direct hit as a family. She was safely under her mom and daddy. When we take refuge in Him, He takes the hit of life’s storms for us.
I remember Nathan and I talking in the days after the tornado, being so thankful we were alive, realizing how unimportant our ‘stuff’ was. I said, ‘Well, if all we had was for the Lord and He allowed it to disappear, we must not have NEEDED it, after all. He has no doubt supplied our every need since.
We have never liked the term tornado victim. We are tornado victors. We can enjoy His victory as He is glorified through the very storm the enemy wanted to use to destroy us. I have no doubt we are here for a reason. Just as each of us are each time we come out on the other side of one of life’s storms, and the same loving father who kept us safe in the storm will continue to carry us, saving us over and over again, one day at a time.