And so after roaming about like a gypsy………oh, so fun! and more about that later……….we are home. Home, where there are four walls around you and you can shut out the rest of the world, put your feet up and just be. I told my kids today home is not the structure we call our house, it is where love creates a haven from the world, home is where they are.
Of all the cool and amazing things we experienced on our trip everything dulls in comparison to the tornado. That’s right, we met up with a real life twister. Coming right towards us across the field as we chugged along in our old van. And I would love to tell Christina Rossetti that I have indeed seen the wind.
My husband’s family was hosting a reunion at a camp ground near his home town in eastern South Dakota. After three days of swimming, horse back riding and cousins galore we were packing everything up when we heard that a severe storm and possibly a tornado was coming our way. We threw the last of our stuff haphazardly into the vehicles, rounded up the kids and headed out.
We were lagging behind because we went back to the camp ground to get a wicker chair that had been brought for rocking my sweet new born niece and been left behind. As we set out towards my in laws we could see the storm black and brewing on the sky line. Blue eyes thought we had plenty of time to cut across the storm before it reached us. We weren’t too worried, they have tornado and thunder storm warnings quite often. I was thinking it would be pretty cool for the kids to get to experience a good mid western storm and the van would be a safe place to be during a thunder storm.
We had the radio on to listen to the storm reports. They were telling people in certain areas to get into their basements or to emergency shelters. They said they were getting reports of golf ball sized hail and that a semi truck had been blown right over.
Our plan would have worked except that the tornado had split into three and we missed our road. As we turned back towards his parents the storm appeared to be right at our side. Everything was strangely still and we saw animals gathered in dips in the fields. Then to our alarm we actually saw a tornado. It looked just like in the pictures, big and dark on the top with a tail low to the ground trailing along behind it.
Within minutes it started to get really dark and eerie looking, rain started to fall. The air felt oppressive and broody. I asked Blue eyes three times in the next minutes if this was normal and if he had seen other storms like this. He reassured me that he had seen a lot of storms. It wasn’t until later when we were safe that he told me he had never seen a storm quite like this one.
Then all of the sudden the fury of the storm was upon us. It got almost as black as night and we could see the wind. It was like huge waves billowing across the prairie. The rain was beating against us. Our whole van was rocking back and forth, even though the windows were shut the rain was streaming in onto the kids. Willy was whining and growling and the kids were screaming.
I just lost it, it was as if I had not a grain of faith. For a few horrible minutes I was completely overcome with fear. I kept saying over and over again that I was so afraid. My body felt like melted wax. We didn’t know what to do. There were no houses anywhere. Blue eyes decided that as long as he could see the road he would try to keep going. He told me later that some of the time he had the brake on and our fifteen passenger van was being pushed along in the wind. He told me I had to get control of myself and talk to the kids. He reminded me that God with us.
As soon as I turned around and saw all the dear little faces of my children, white and terrified, I was able to pull myself together. Our five year old daughter was saying,”I just want to go to heaven and be with Jesus! I’m so scared, I just want to be with Jesus!” I thought Wow! The faith of a child…here I am afraid we might die and she is wishing to be with Jesus!
Several years ago a family from our church was in a terrible car accident. Both of the parents and five of the nine children were killed. I thought of them at that moment. I thought all or some of our lives could be taken today. Here we are all together and what do I have to offer my kids? I thought if today I should stand before the Holy God would I be ready?
I began to examine my heart and saw really quick that my own righteousness was off by a long shot but just when I started to doubt the Spirit reminded me that there is a Good Shepherd who has given his life for his sheep. I thought, “Yup, that’s what it’s all about. My faith is real and my Savior is real and there is peace in the midst of the storm.”
Just like little Much afraid in the story when I called for the good Shepherd there he was. I told the kids, “Remember in the Bible when Jesus was with the disciples and there was that awful storm and the disciples were so afraid? Remember Jesus said to the wind “Peace! Be still!” and it was still?” (Mk 4:39)
Just as I told them that there was a few seconds lull in the wind. All their little faces relaxed and they started smiling and saying to each other, “He is with us! Jesus is here!”
I told them this is what it’s all about. This is why we believe because “whether we live or die we are the Lord’s” ( Romans 14:8). I asked them if they were ok. If they knew in their hearts that Jesus had died for their sins and in turn each of them said, yes, they believed.
I asked them if they wanted to sing.
Almost every night at their request one of us sings “the shepherd song” to our little girls. I think they like this song so much because we have read the book Hinds Feet on High Places a couple times aloud. That book really made an impression on my kids and we refer to Much Afraid a lot.
Also we recently were able to baby sit our friend’s baby goat, who my son told me was a “Wilbur”( his way of saying a runt). My kids loved that little goat so much! I let it sleep in their room during the night so they could wake up to give it it’s bottle and in the morning they told me that they “lullabyed ” it to sleep.
Because of that experience we are currently reading The Tangled Woods Secrets by Patricia St.John. A beautiful story about a little girl who meets a real life shepherd who helps her know the Good Shepherd. My kids really get the shepherd analogy that is used so often in God’s word. It comforts them to know that they are God’s little lambs and they relate to Jesus as a shepherd.
We all know “the shepherd song” by heart and as our van was pitching in the wind and tree branches and things were whipping by our windows we sang, really loud.
“There were ninety and nine that safely lay in the shelter of the fold but one was out in the hills away far off from the gates of gold. Away on the mountains, wild and bare, away from the tender shepherd’s care, away from the tender shepherd’s care.
Lord, thou hast here thy ninety and nine, are they not enough for thee? But the shepherd made answer this of mine has wandered away from me and although the road be rough bad steep I go to the desert to find my sheep, I go to the desert to find my sheep.
But none of the ransomed ever knew how deep were the waters crossed nor how dark was the night that the Lord passed through ere he found his sheep that was lost. Out in the desert he heard it’s cry, sick and helpless and ready to die, sick and helpless and ready to die.
“Lord, whence are those blood drops all the way that mark out the mountains path?” “They were shed for one who had gone astray ere the shepherd could bring him back.” “Lord, whence are thy hands so rent and torn?” “They are pierced tonight by many a thorn, they are pierced to night by many a thorn.”
But all through the mountains thunder riven and up from the rocky steep there arose a glad cry to the gate of heaven, Rejoice I have found my sheep! And the angels echoed around the throne, Rejoice, for the Lord brings back his own! Rejoice for the Lord brings back his own!”
Written by Elizabeth C. Clephane
You know, as we sang that song I thought, I cannot pray that God will spare our lives. It says in the Bible that our days are numbered before we are even born. I only want the Lord to be with us. I would never want to be outside of his perfect will “and though He slay me, yet will I trust him” (Job 13:15). “Because His loving kindness is BETTER than life my lips will praise Him” (Psalm 63:3). And, of course, He was with us. Later on one of the girls said to me,” Mom, how could anyone ever turn away from God after something like that because now we know he is REAL!”
Finally we made it to a gas station and parked with the wind at our rear. We told the kids to stay buckled up in case the van was thrown. Right across the road a full grown pine tree was completely uprooted and tossed down. Other huge trees were snapped in half. The roof of the bowling alley was blown off. Sections of chain link fencing was blown flat down to the ground.
Most of my husband’s family made it safely over to his parents before the storm hit but one of my sister in laws was also caught in the storm not far from where we were. She and her husband had driven separate rigs so he made it but she was alone with their seven little kids. They ended up taking shelter in someone’s garage. She put bicycle helmets on the kids and left a note telling the owner that they had been there.
Another one of my sister in laws climbed into a country church through a window with a little niece.
Then as quickly as it had come the storm was over. The temperature went from 90 something down to 65 in the space of a couple hours. The next day my kids found 12 birds nests on the ground, many with broken eggs inside. My son told me he was surprised that the birds were still singing. But like my heart they go on singing, maybe like Elijah they saw that God was not in the “great and strong wind, that rent the mountains and brake in pieces the rocks” (1 Kings 19:11). Maybe they heard the still small voice that says “peace, peace to those who are near and to those who are afar off”.