It was already 86 degrees as I pulled out of the driveway, ready for the adventure ahead. My hope was to hit five stores before my youngest two would need their afternoon naps. Of course, none of the stores were nearby, so first we had to drive the 45 minutes to get there.
I felt like supermom as a stood in line at Sam's Club for my receipt to be checked--four stores down and only one quick stop to go. In fact, this stop was on the way home, so it almost felt like we were done for the day. And it was not yet 2; we were doing great on time! My two oldest children were happily slurping their quickly melting vanilla ice creams (as, by then, the temperature was up to 95) and I was feeling uber accomplished. At the last stop, things went even better than expected and I hopped into the car delighted, but by now, equally exhausted. As we headed out of this neighboring town to finally trek home, my 4 year old son and I noticed some ominous weather approaching. It was about time we got some rain, I thought.
Rain indeed. And thunder. And lightning. And worst of all, wind.
When we first moved to Indiana, my oldest was intrigued by the tornado siren. We had moved from Boston, so he was very familiar with loud noises--people, traffic, subways and emergency vehicles. But this siren was something "other", and he very much wanted to understand it. My son has a wondering mind like his father's, and so he wouldn't let it rest until he could understand the concept of a tornado. My explanations insufficient, we finally went to YouTube. This was my undoing. Since then, over a year ago, my son has been deathly afraid of tornadoes. At the sound of the tornado siren, even simply on days when they are just testing the alarm, he goes into mass hysterics. He insists that we all run to the basement (which, by the way, is ill fit for general habitation, as it is crawling with bugs and walls covered in webs), and hide there until the danger has passed. Many times it takes me a quarter of an hour just to calm him down and help him see that it was simply a test, and that with a clear blue sky, there certainly would not be a tornado.
It's one thing to calm him down when the sky is a beautiful shade of blue; it's another to calm him down when we are in the heart of the storm, protected only by the walls of our Toyota Rav4. Suddenly, my ability to control the car was coming into question, just as I saw huge swirls of dust and gravel flying from a nearby driveway. The rain had gone from a plop to a torrent in all of one minute and the wind was moving nearby trees as if it was just doing a simple test of the durability of their root systems. I was afraid. It's overwhelming to be afraid when your four year old is already terrified. Three rows back he was screaming as if his life depended on it--"WILL WE BE SAFE?! IS IT A TORNADO?! ARE WE OKAY?! WILL WE BE SAFE?!" His siblings were crying too, probably more because of the horrified shrieks of their brother than anything else. I was exhausted. I had gone from a wonderful supermom high to a terrified low too quickly to deal with my emotions. I, too, started crying. But as the car was pushed one way and then the other by the wind, I straightened up and pushed that fear down. We needed to get home. Now. And there was only one thing for it: pray. Over and over again when my son yelled to me at night because he was afraid of the dark, I'd go to his room and tell him, "Be strong, and of good courage, for the Lord your God is with you WHEREVER you go." (paraphrase Joshua 1:9) I even made him a bracelet to wear at night that says, "God is always with me."
That was it. That's what we had to do. So, over the top of my screaming and crying children, I started to pray. And I just kept praying. Strong and fast, my voice cried to the Father for protection and comfort in the storm. My son yelled, "Will it work?! Will that keep us safe?! Will God keep us safe?!" I just kept praying. I didn't even stop to answer him. But soon, he grew quiet. In fact, I realized, all the kids were quiet. There were only the sounds of the raging storm and my voice, almost like we were battling for a victory. If indeed it was a battle, I knew that I wanted to win. So, I kept praying, loud and continuos, giving thanks for every new road we reached on our way home. We were almost home when I started to feel a sense of relief, that we had made it. That feeling quickly dissipated as we met one huge tree across the road, and then another. For a moment I wondered if we had gotten so close, only to find that every road to our house was blocked. On went the prayer until finally, finally,
we pulled into our driveway. My son screamed, "Get me out! Get me inside!" As quickly as I could, I rushed him inside. Then back again for the next kid. And then once more. At last, we were all inside.
I wanted to slump on the floor in relief, snuggling my children and thanking our Lord. My four year old, though, had different thoughts. To him, we may have been home, but we weren't out of danger. He was shocked that I took off my wet sandals. And even more surprised to hear me say that I was going to put his younger sister in bed, upstairs, for a nap. "But how will you get her in time if there's a tornado? And how will you put your shoes on in time? There won't be enough time mom!! We have to go downstairs NOW!" Much to his terror, I disregarded his concerns and carried his sister upstairs. I just wanted a chance to breathe.
I was so thankful to see a glimmer of light through the window as I came back downstairs. Quickly, I rushed my son to the window--See that? See that?! It's light! The light is coming! The storm is over! You do not have to be afraid anymore!
It took some persuading, but I could see his face finally hint at a smile. At last. The calm.
We took a walk in the evening to see the damage that had been done. One of the trees that had fallen across the road had in fact broken through the fence below it, and even cracked the sidewalk. As I looked at the debris, I thanked God again, that He kept us safe and brought us home.