Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Eye of the Storm

On Tuesday night, I was packing to leave for the funeral of two of my best friends' dad (Jennie and Julie). Although it was a very sad situation, we were all REJOICING in the miracles we saw in their dad's life before he died.
I worked with Jennie and Julie at Disney World. None of us were walking with the Lord then. I gave my life to Christ soon after our time at Disney and called them and told them I had fallen in love with Jesus Christ. That He was real and that I knew I was going to heaven. They thought I was a NUT.
Then, Jesus called each of them by name into a personal relationship and they accepted His Proposal. They both fell in love with Jesus. God brought all 3 of us godly husbands and blessed us abundantly in marriage. Now, we are all mothers and RADICALLY changed since our days at Disney World. They are 2 of my best friends in the world. We have been through everything together. I adore their friendships.
After they gave their lives to Christ, they shared the gospel with their mother and she also gave her life to Christ. We began to pray for their dad's salvation. He was VERY not interested in Jesus Christ. Almost 15 years of pain, betrayal, and prayer go by. Stay tuned on Jennie's blog to hear one of the greatest stories of redemption and reconciliation you have ever heard. God moved in a MIGHTY way on behalf of their father and their family. It was a time of celebration and I HAD TO BE THERE with them. Jennie, Julie and their mother Mayo exuded grace and beauty as they sat at the funeral. What an honor to be a part of.
On Tuesday night, before I left, I really began to struggle. Hope had a cough and Lake had an ear infection. Not only that, they were predicting very severe weather for Wednesday. I NEVER leave my children and these circumstances were making me very uncomfortable. I was WRESTLING and sick in my Spirit about whether I should leave the children. But, I decided I would not live controlled by fear. After agonizing about this decision, I chose to go and trust God to protect my family. I packed the little rental car and walked back into my home and prayed for God to protect Tim and the children. This was a HUGE step for me. I can't tell you how I wanted to call and tell them I just couldn't do it... but I didn't. I walked out the door and started my 5 1/2 hour trip to South Carolina. I was VERY anxious about leaving the children. I put my "big-girl-FAITH-panties" on and left.
I got to my beautiful friend's home, Mellette, late Tuesday night. She is such a gift to me. We do ministry together and she actually came to know Christ through reading this blog. Awesome how powerful the Word of God is! God has grown her so much so fast and now she is on our ministry team to reach single girls. I am so proud of her. Her apartment was full of Scripture. Post-it notes stuck everywhere. Every time I turned around, there was God's Word speaking to me. Even when I was in the shower!!! There was Philippians written on a note card in a baggie speaking to me as I washed my hair.
Wednesday morning, I woke up and called Tim and asked him to check the radar. He said it looked like a storm was about to hit but that it would be short and quick. The funny thing with my husband is that he NEVER thinks anything is a big deal or the least bit alarming so he tends to downplay everything. We got off the phone and I told him to protect the children. Little did I know that a tornado was seconds from hitting his office. But in my Spirit, I knew something was wrong. I was praying for God to protect but mostly just very antsy and wishing I was home with my family. My 4 children were with a babysitter at our home 2 miles away from Tim's office. I called the babysitter 100 times to check on them. The storm was hitting our home. We don't have a basement.
I called Tim's hygienist to find out what was going on. She told me that a tornado had hit and that they were hiding under a table in the back of the office as the roof of the bank next door got ripped off. Her car windshield was shattered. Surrounding buildings demolished. It looked like a war zone. No power. Electric Poles snapped in half. HUGE trees with roots the size of cars laying on the ground.
I called the babysitter. Children were safe. I talked to Tim (who was a little stunned) and he was surveying the damage to his building.
Another tornado was coming. Predicted to be worse than the first.
I was 5 hours away.
I begged Tim to look at the radar and put the children in the van and just drive to safety. Anywhere. To Atlanta. Just GO. Please get the children out of of the eye of the storm.
People in our community had lost everything. Their homes destroyed.
Tornadoes were forming and being spotted everywhere. It was like nothing the weathermen had ever seen before.
I wanted to puke from fear. I wanted to go home. But, I wanted to trust God and think it was not as bad as it seemed.
I stayed at the funeral and it was BEAUTIFUL. More like a wedding than a funeral. :) Very worshipful and God-glorifying. I loved being there watching as the light of Jesus Christ flowed from Jennie, Julie, and their mother and blinded people.
At home, Tim was in the van driving aimlessly to Atlanta... only because he loves me- not because he thought it was necessary.

Tornadoes continue to come.
At 4:00, I jump in my car, to start the drive home. I am a nervous wreck. Pregnancy isn't helping my emotions at all. I just want to hear my children. To smell their skin and to get my chicks under my wings.
People were texting and checking on me after seeing that our community was the hardest hit in the Chattanooga area at that time. They didn't know I wasn't even with my children that I was driving a little rental car as fast as it would go trying to get home.
Had I made a foolish decision? It felt like it. I knew that I wouldn't be wearing my "big-girl-panties" for a LONG time.

I am NEVER leaving my children again.
"God, help me. Protect my family. Please."
Tim and children come home after a few hours and another storm hits. I am so scared as I call and can't get a hold of Tim at one point. I read about emergency crews going from house to house in our neighboring town looking for survivors.

I started to LOSE IT. "Oh, God, please help".
I finally get to Atlanta. I am on 75 headed to Chattanooga. Ahhhh, the home stretch. Only an hour and a half and I will be home. It was about 7:00 pm. I talked to Tim on the phone and my parents. Somewhere during that time, I looked up and realized, this is not familiar.

"Where am I?"
I had somehow taken a wrong turn. But I don't know how or when. I was on the right road-75. I know it. "How did I get on this road? I just want to get home!".

Tim gave me directions over the phone and navigated me back onto the right road. That was about a 30-45 minute detour. I was so frustrated.
My parents were calling me constantly. They said, "We are praying for you and YOUR GRANDFATHER IS UNABLE TO SLEEP AND HAS BEEN PRAYING FOR YOU." I was getting weather updates from friends. More and more tornadoes were aiming directly at Chattanooga.

It was about 9:15 when traffic on the interstate came to a halt. And, stayed completely stopped for hours. I was stuck on the interstate less than a mile from the Ringgold, Georgia exit. On the radio, they said a massive tornado had struck Ringgold, Georgia at 8:45 and they had declared a state of emergency. Fire Engines, police, Red Cross, Vans with lights roared by. I sat and waited. As I sat there, thoughts began to race. I would have been at that exit at the time of the tornado... HAD I NOT GOTTEN LOST IN ATLANTA. People were praying for me. My grandfather had been in his assisted living apartment on his knees praying for me. After a couple hours, the traffic began to move. I got about 1/2 a mile ahead and saw 18 wheeler trucks strewn on all sides of the interstate. The guard rails looked like they had been rolled up like fruit roll ups. Sirens and lights were going off. The McDonalds at the exit was GONE along with gas stations- so was the Ruby Tuesday's, hotels, a complete neighborhood and the WHOLE downtown. Many people had died. I was overwhelmed by God's protection. I still am. I cry as I type this. I posted a video of the Ringgold tornado on facebook. It sent chills down my body as I thought of my location at the time it hit.

Click HERE and watch the video if you think I am exaggerating.

There is no explanation for me not being at that exit at the time of the tornado other than God's hand of protection redirecting my path. There is no explanation why all the buildings around Tim's are damaged but not his.

I am quiet today. I am reverent of our Holy and Powerful God. I am burdened for the suffering but mostly for the ones who don't know Jesus Christ as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Now is the time to share the gospel. Creation continues to cry out for it's Creator to set it free from the bondage of sin.

"The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time."
Romans 8:19-22

As I watched the videos of the tornadoes and see the POWER, I think of what is to come. The weather is going to get worse. The Bible prophetically tells us of famines, earthquakes and wild weather before the return of Christ.

The clock is ticking.
People will mock the return of Christ.

That is just additional confirmation that we are, indeed, living in the last days...

“First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.
Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat."
2 Peter 3:3-12

These tornadoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis are nothing compared to the coming wrath of God being poured out to judge the world of sin. They are only signs that it IS coming SOON. The "storm" is on the radar. The Bible is shouting louder than the weather men to "SEEK SHELTER!".

"The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe."
Prov 18:10

I am warning you right now that if you do not know Jesus as your personal savior from sin, you will not escape the wrath of God that is coming. Let today be the day of your salvation. Believe in Christ's death and turn from your sin so that you will be hidden in Him on that day.
As much as I wanted to protect my children from the violent storms and get them out of harm's way. SO GOD WANTS TO PROTECT YOU. If I, in my sinful/fallen state desire to protect my children in such a protective way, how much more does God desire to protect us? Please respond to such a great love. God is just and days are getting darker. God is Holy and He will punish sin. He does not desire to punish you... HE TOOK YOUR PUNISHMENT. He conquered death so that you may live. Respond to Him today. Do not be in the eye of the storm that is coming.
I know this is a heavy post but I am heavy-hearted and greatly burdened to share the GOOD NEWS that you can be saved from the wrath we all deserve.

God is so good. He is kind. He will not force you into a relationship with Him. You have to receive it and believe.

He is gentle. He is patient. He desires that none should perish.

What love is this that we exchange our sin for His forgiveness, protection, and eternal life?
"The LORD says, “I will rescue those who love me.
I will protect those who trust in my name.
When they call on me, I will answer;
I will be with them in trouble.
I will rescue and honor them.
I will reward them with a long life
and give them my salvation.”
Psalm 91

Nothing is worth hanging on to that prevents you from knowing Jesus Christ.

I heard a cool presentation in the boys' Sunday School Class on Sunday of the gospel.

The teacher shared how when Adam and Eve were in the garden, they were like magnets with God. Walking so closely with Him... One. Until their sin came and separated them. It flipped our magnet so that we could no longer be one with God because of our sin. Our sin kept us from God.

We were stuck in our sins unable to save ourselves.

In God's great mercy, He sent His beloved Son to die for us on the cross so that we could cry out for Him to save us. When we cry out to him, He flips our magnet back over, and we become one with Him again. The relationship we were created for that got messed up because of our sin.

Cry out to Jesus today so that you may be reconciled to God. Restored into the beautiful love relationship you were created for.

May today be the first day of your new life with Christ.

"If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."
Romans 10:9


Taylor said...

Ohhh God is AMAZING. The storms are heart-breaking, and incredible i their power. Yet I know they are only a tiny, tiny glimpse of God's incredible power. So thankful for your safety and this testimony of God's care.

renee said...

Tears running down my face as I read this. What a mighty God we serve, who will NEVER leave us or forsake us. So thankful for your safety and that of your family - and what a sweet, sweet grandfather :)

HIS Child said...

Oh the Glory and magnificence of our Lord Jesus Christ.
My heart is overjoyed that His Mighty hand protected you. I had no idea that it hit your home town so horribly. I was glued to the weather channel as they were showing the path through Alabama & Georgia.

I kept saying over and over to myself, please Lord don't let Steph be in danger or the path of this storm.

He is sooooo good. May you rest in Him today.

My heart goes out to all those who's lives have been
turned upside down and to the families that have lost loved ones. Lord let us pray and give according to your providing hand.

I love you,

Ann Katherine said...

Steph, I am so thankful you and your family are safe and well. God is good and his mercy endures forever!

Ellen Williams said...

Thank you for sharing!! AMAZING story! WOW!! God IS SO GOOD!

FlowerLady Lorraine said...

What a wonderful post of God's love and tender mercy.

What a loving sermon to those who may not know Jesus yet.

We are living in perilous times, but Jesus is with us every step of the way.


SWKdiana said...

AMEN and AMEN! Keep proclaiming the MESSAGE! I was caught in a tornado several Easters ago; God led me to a safe place and protected me as I watched trees fly by like sabers!