A sudden twister threatened her and her grandson. But prayer bolstered her faith in the midst of the terrifying chaos.
Posted in , May 27, 2021
I live near Omaha, in southeastern Nebraska. If I ran to the basement every time I heard a tornado siren go off, I’d never get anything done. So when a siren wailed one Friday in June, just two days before Father’s Day, I didn’t pay it much mind. I wanted to get my dusting done before settling down for the day. Besides, it wasn’t even raining, with barely a cloud in the early-evening sky. Maybe they’re testing the system, I thought. They do that a lot around here.
Asher, our 12-year-old grandson who lived with us, winced at the insistent wail. “Are we going downstairs?” he asked.
I looked out the window, the sky still blue. “Let me do a little more work,” I said. “Then we can get a snack and go downstairs and turn on the TV.”
“Maybe we should pray?”
I nodded but stubbornly polished a spot on the bookcase. Truth was, I’d been feeling spiritually stuck lately. I used to wake up early every morning and devote the first half hour of my day to prayer and Scripture reading. But it had been months since I’d prayed intentionally. I barely opened my Bible anymore.
It’s not as if I were angry at God. I’d simply fallen into the habit of checking my Facebook feed first thing in the morning, then checking my e-mail. By then it was time for breakfast with my husband, Jake, seeing to Asher, getting the chores underway.
Over the din of the siren, I could hear another sound, distant yet unmistakable. A speeding freight train. There were no railroad tracks anywhere near our home.
“Run!” I yelled to Asher. “Get downstairs! Now!”
We barreled down the steps to our basement and sat on the floor. I held Asher tight against me, my heart pounding. Asher’s fists were balled, trembling. “Do you think Grandpa’s okay?” he said.
Jake! He was at church for a pre–Father’s Day men’s event. “I’m sure that he and everyone at the church are fine,” I said, hoping my shaky voice didn’t betray my fear. “They’re probably praying.”
I looked to the two small windows in the cinder-block wall. The light shining through them had an eerie shade of green. My mouth went dry. Why hadn’t I taken the siren seriously? Asher and I were in the safest part of the house. Still, if those windows shattered, it would send shards of glass everywhere. I stood, legs shaking, searching for something solid to cover the windows. No luck. I sank back onto the floor. The roar was right on top of us.
The house shook. The windows rattled as if they would give way any second. I thought of The Wizard of Oz, how Dorothy had dreamed of her house being sucked into the funnel cloud. Or, just as terrible, what if the house collapsed on top of us? The green light, darker and more ominous, pervaded the basement, evil and deadly.
Praise me and speak my word. The words penetrated the tumult with brilliant clarity. I tried for a second to make sense of it. I was too scared to praise anything. Maybe if I got through this….
Praise me and speak my word! Not a suggestion. A command.
I wobbled to my feet and croaked out, “Great are you, oh Lord, and greatly to be praised!” I shouted above the roar of the tornado, raising my hands above me.
The winds bore down on us relentlessly, but my fear? Gone. God had taken it from me. It was as if he held Asher and me in his mighty hands. Even Asher could sense the change. He looked at me in amazement.
I strode confidently back and forth, the length of our basement, calling out every biblical promise of protection I knew. God’s covenant with Noah. Daniel in the lions’ den. Jesus taming the Sea of Galilee. “Why are you so afraid, you with little faith?” Jesus had asked the disciples.
I’d always thought of faith as a cloak one would wear, a physical assurance that would never forsake me. That cloak had slipped off when I’d let my relationship with God slide. But faith was the only thing now standing between us and the tornado.
“Great is thy faithfulness,” I shouted. The louder the tornado screamed, the more my confidence grew. “Father, I praise you!”
Then, as suddenly as it started, the storm stopped. Dimming light filtered through the windows. Slowly it dawned on me that the room was silent. The chirp of my cell phone shattered the stillness. It was Jake. “Honey, are you and Asher okay?”
I took a deep breath. I couldn’t remember when I’d felt more okay. “Yes, we’re safe. Be careful coming home.”
Asher and I climbed the stairs. Through the dining room window, our yard looked like a war zone, with massive tree limbs, trash, patio chairs, pieces of insulation and shingles strewn everywhere. I walked about the house in a daze. The shaking had shifted furniture nearly six inches, but our home’s foundation had held. I felt as if I had found my own foundation.
The storm wreaked havoc across the Omaha area, though thankfully no one died. Two twisters with winds estimated at more than 110 miles per hour had hit. No wonder it took Jake more than an hour to make the short drive home from church.
In the driveway, I collapsed in his arms. “I was so worried about you,” Jake said. “I hated the idea of you and Asher being alone.”
I could hear the sound of chainsaws filling the air around me as neighbors helped neighbors. Just two days from now would be Father’s Day. I couldn’t wait to celebrate—beginning with my Father above, first thing in the morning.
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