By Sue Duby —
Buried under hanging jackets, Chuck and I wiggled to make room for each other in our tiny “safe place” closet under the stairwell. With a small blanket tucked underneath us as a barrier from the cold tile floor, we glued our eyes to the live weather feed on my phone.
We’ve done this drill before. “Tornado Alley” living in Texas, Tennessee and now Arkansas. Five closet visits in the past 6 months. Jolted awake from a deep sleep with phones blaring another weather alert. Usually just thunderstorms or flash flooding to watch. This time, “Tornado Warning!”.
We stumbled upstairs, snuggled under blankets and clicked the remote to a local news station. “Circulation spotted… storm heading toward Pinnacle Hills in Rogers…take shelter now!”. That’s us! Down to the closet yet again.
Once settled, we paused to listen. We turned to each other, exclaiming at the same time, “This sounds different!”. Wind sounds we’d never heard. In the quiet, both of us pondering, “This could be really bad!”.
Finally, after 20 minutes, sounds diminished and we ventured out of the closet. Grabbing a flashlight, we peaked out the front door to see a debris strewn street and our porch bench next to the neighbor’s front door. In the backyard shadows, a tree lay sideways next to our toppled garden swing. With nothing to be done in the dark, we headed back to bed.
Tossing and turning, with head spinning and adrenalin pumping, I finally saw light peaking through our shutters. I headed out to the street, just in time to join other neighbors emerging from their homes. Chatting erupted, as if in a group convention. All of us blurting out stories, making sure all were ok. Wide eyed, anxious, comparing damage, shaking our heads.
Leigh’s front door buried under 4 downed trees. Bev’s loaded apple tree snapped in two. Massive oaks and maples uprooted. Tips of pine trees pointing skyward, looking like giant sharpened pencils from the wind shear’s furry. Head of Security driving by with a wave and shout, “This is going to be one long day!”.
It’s so very strange. Journeying on the “other side” after years of disaster response work. Coming up for air after the event, instead of watching from afar for a moment to come alongside with encouragement. Knowing others suffered more damage and struggling to be ok with grieving my seeming minor losses. Trying replay the words we so often spoke to disaster survivors…”Your disaster is your disaster. Don’t compare. It still hurts“. Easier to say, than to absorb in my head and heart. Knowing the landscape of our very own neighborhood will look different for years to come.
As I sat staring out the window this morning, 3 days later, heart pumping a bit slower, I heard a whisper…”The view is different. Put on a new filter”. Hmm. Different indeed! Neighbors behind us lost 5 trees. Limbs buried their pool. Their yard sits bare, with stumps dotting the space. I looked and sighed, knowing the sheltering green vista we once enjoyed is gone, replaced by the now ugly concrete fence line, once hidden. “Lord, help me to adjust my lenses!”
I paused and sensed a shift. Trees gone, piles of debris and yet… gratefulness welling up. Even a tiny chuckle. Then the “thank you” flood began.
Sunshine. The quirky chinaberry tree towered over our swing. Delightful summer shade on cool mornings, while I rocked with my cup of coffee. White winter berries hanging like ornaments through the winter months. Now, totally uprooted, the trunk smashing our fence and toppling the swing. And yet… realizing my flower garden next year will have 3 more hours of sun! Already dreaming of what to plant next!
Mysteries. Our green bench sits tucked in a corner next to the front door. The swirling winds lifted it up, away from our house, over a 4 foot bush, then sideways to the neighbors walkway. And yet…not a scratch. Left standing upright. Who can understand such wonder?
Mercies. Driving through the neighborhood that first morning, we gasped at uprooted trees lying across nearly every yard – some 50 feet high! Huge limbs torn from trunks flung far, smashing cars, crushing landscapes. A confirmed EF 1 tornado. And yet… not a single roof torn off. Not a window shattered. All houses still standing.
New vistas. My view out back brings waves of sadness. I’ve bragged about the lush green surrounding our yard. The concrete wall stands stark and dreary. And yet… the lost trees were old and scary. Ready to fall into our yard with a puff of wind. A landscaper is already at work to create a new oasis for our neighbors. Now I’m excited to discover what fresh wonder will soon peak over that crazy wall!
Community. We’re all sad. Scrambling to clean up debris. Pondering how to fix fences, check roof shingles and broken sprinkler pipes. And yet. . . we’re bonded. We’ll be swapping stories for months to come. We can smile and nod with a new connection that says, “I understand!”.
“Vision filters” determine my view at all times. God knows our hearts in struggle, in suffering, in unexpected circumstances. Honest wrestling is good and healthy. Then, in the midst, He wants us to being willing for a perspective shift. Sliding on the gratitude filter. Not just slapping a quick, “I’m fine now! God’s got it!”. Rather, an open heart that says, “God show me Your perspective. This still hurts, but remind me of where You’re at work. Let me see as you see.”
True wonder comes in such release. Making way for His whispers in the midst. Trusting that good will come, His presence will be felt and that you’ll even find yourself breaking out with a smile.
I’m grateful to be on “the other side” of the story this time around. My understanding is deeper. My heart is more tender. I can see more clearly. The wonder of His grace continues.