Storms tore through the state of Tennessee, as well as other southern states, last night with a fury seldom seen in this area. It was such a tremendous storm that the National Weather Center issued more than just tornado warnings....they issued a TORNADO EMERGENCY ALERT. Now if you don't think that will get your attention, think again!
This storm had been brewing and heading this way for days and as it got nearer and nearer, the more ominous it appeared to be. Weather forecasters pre-empted broadcasting at 4:00 pm and did not go off the air til near midnight.
The skies had been growing darker and darker all day and as the storm drew closer, the winds picked up. Just last week, we had experienced high winds, with gusts up to 70 mph which downed trees and powerlines throughout the area. So the prospect of high winds, tornados, extremely large hail and heavy rains was cause for great fear.
We have a small wooded area at the rear of our property so I was watching as the trees swayed back and forth, waiting for one of them to snap. It was nearing dusk and I don't like not to be able to SEE what is happening outside. If a tornado IS coming, I want to see it and KNOW it. At night when it is so dark, you can't tell. You just have to listen for the "freight train". With winds howling, I beckoned to my husband to come from his shop into the house.
Our daughter called and was out running errands when she heard on the radio a tornado was nearing her home. She was stuck in a line at the drive-through section of the bank...unable to go forward or backward. I urged her to get home as quickly as possible. She is terribly frightened by storms, so I knew that her stress level was rising. Later she would call to tell me that her husband was en route to the hospital where he works as a paramedic in the ER. He was having difficulty getting there due to the massive amounts of debris, downed trees, and flooding. That gave me cause for greater alarm, knowing he was not at home with our daughter and granddaughter because I knew how fearful she would be in such a devastating storm. We offered to go and stay with her, but she refused, saying there was nothing we could do anyway. She was hunkered down with her 21 month old daughter in the hallway with her baby's little chair facing a children's movie in the den and she, watching the weather from the other direction in the bedroom.
Our son and his wife were unable to get service on their phones except for texting, so they texted to check on us and to let us know they were ok. What a relief! Their home sits high on a hill and we had heard reports of tornados in their area. Our daughter kept calling and calling them and FINALLY was able....miraculously...to get through. He sent word to us and his wife's family by her that they were fine.
All evening I was checking on others as I heard more reports of damage in different parts of the city. Only morning light would reveal the real extent of the massive damage. Union University in Jackson, Tennessee was practically obliterated. All of their buildings but one were heavily damaged as were most of the vehicles on campus. Estimates are over 30 million dollars in damages. Students were in the dorms which received the greatest damage. Thankfully, only 9 remain hospitalized and there were no deaths. Faculty retrieved all of the students, taking them home with them. That is the beauty of a small Christian campus. They came together as family...because, in fact, they are!
As I reflected on this storm this morning, I thought how like the storms that often blow into our lives. Sometimes we see the storm clouds gathering well in advance of the actual tumult. In those cases, we can begin to prepare....praying, gathering our prayer team around us to lift us up to Heaven's throne. Our church family gathers around us and meets our most pressing needs without even being asked.
Sometimes, however, the storms come unexpectedly without warning. Those knock us off our feet, turn our world upside down and leave us reeling in the aftermath. Yet we still need the same resources. We need people to pray. We need arms to wrap around us and encourage us with kind words and prayers. We need practical needs met...meals prepared, children cared for, groceries bought and houses cleaned. We need daily encouragement through phone calls, emails and cards.
Most of all, we need God to hold us close, to assure us of HIS presence and to know that He is in control, that He will see us through the storm. Thankfully, He promises just that!
"I have called you BY NAME. YOU ARE MINE! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you and through the rivers they shall not overflow you; when you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon you. For I am the Lord THY God, the Holy One of Israel, THY Savior....you are precious in my sight...and I love you....fear not for I AM WITH YOU!" Isaiah 43: 1b-4
"Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage, be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed for the Lord THY God is with thee wherever you go." Josh. 1:9
"Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning!" Psalms 30: 5
"Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble and he saved them out of their distresses." Psalm 107: 13
"Fear not for I am with thee, be not dismayed for I am thy God. I will strengthen thee, yea I will help thee; yea I will uphold thee with my right hand." Is. 41: 10