I have always wanted to start a story that way and this time I can. You see, the night I am going to share with you was a dark and stormy night. For several days leading up to this one particular night, the forecast for the weather was for “potential” severe storms. As a California transplant living in the South, I have learned to have reverence for severe weather. When I first moved to Tennessee, I did not think about tornadoes being a factor. In my mind, tornadoes mostly occurred in the Midwest. However living in the Nashville area, I learned when the atmosphere sets up for severe weather, it is not will a tornado touch down, but where. Starting with my first tornado experience in 2006, I have learned a lot about storm damage.
For many days in April of 2006, the forecast for the weather was for tornadic activity. Instead of the meteorologists keeping alarm out of their reporting, they wanted the local area to have a plan and be ready. On April 7, 2006, an F3 tornado hit Gallatin, which killed nine people.
Having worked only one disaster prior to this storm, which was the Loma Prieta earthquake, I was not prepared for what I would find as I walked through the aftermath armed with my chainsaw, determination and a lot of prayer. In every neighborhood you walked into, you saw people whose lives were changed forever in an instant. The devastation was almost overwhelming.
On February 8, 2008, another series of super-cells came through the Nashville area and the town I lived in, Castalian Springs, was hit with an EF3 tornado. The most terrifying part of that particular tornadoes havoc, was the Gulf Natural Gas Plant in Hartsville took a direct hit, which caught fire. Fifty miles away in Nashville, the flames from the burning plant shooting into the night sky were visible.
On April 10, 2009, which was Good Friday that year, an EF4 tornado hit Murfreesboro with winds of 170 mph, leaving a 23-mile long trail of destruction.
Because of these storms, when it comes to severe weather in the forecast, I have learned to pay attention and have a plan. While I do not get myself into a terrified emotional state when there is severe weather in the forecast, I have learned to give heed to the wisdom of meteorologists, have a plan, and stay calm.
Living more than half a century, life has taught me that it too has storms. The wisest man to walk the earth said in Ecclesiastes 3:1, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” In October of 2014, for almost a week God revealed to me a new course He was laying out for me, and I was the most excited I have ever been. Another person confirmed this course, because they had also been given this course.
Prior to this revelation, I had been in a quiet season of renewing and growth of faith, living a recovered life after divorce, counseling in the Word after surviving an abusive marriage, and settling into a way of life that “I thought” would prevent me from any further heartache. In addition, I had determined to serve God wholeheartedly as a single woman and refrain from any sort of relationship that would cause distraction.
November 2014, the atmosphere began to change, and storms began to form. Within one month of experiencing the high of God’s revelation, my life started to change in a way I did not see coming, despite walking on the very road that God set me on. For the record, I do not believe in coincidence and I will add no leaflet has fallen out of the sky showing me God changed his mind.
The heartache I thought I had avoided was immune to death of people and pets I love, or the free will of others wielding its self-oriented sword cutting a mile wide swath through my life. During this period, I learned the hard difference between friend and acquaintance. Job’s friends either ignored me or surrounded me. When present they were telling me that I was out of God’s will due to disobedience, or that “I needed to eliminated from my life the situations/people, which were the source of my pain, as they weren’t deserving of me.” Nowhere in my spirit did God ever make THAT action a confirmation. In my personal prayer time, I kept asking the Lord to show me what to do in order to pass through this storm. Not one time did He give me a direct response. What I have always known to do, when I do not know what to do next, is to continue doing what I knew to do last. You see, as times got harder and harder, and the pain deeper and more personal, I literally cried out. The Lord responded with one word, “Purpose”. From that day forward in almost every devotional, every sermon, every conversation with counsel, the word “purpose” comes to the surface. In October of 2014, there was direction and purpose given, but nothing about that revelation was coming to pass and will share, it has confused me. God’s revelation was an all-encompassing path to living out my heart’s desire. It is important to add that I have learned not to ask God for things that do not line up with his Word. The Scriptures say, in Psalm 37:4, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” At the end of the day, I have asked God to show me what is the purpose state of isolation with so much stripped from me when He himself had revealed the opposite and my purpose has been to delight myself in Him.
On December 23, 2015, we had a forecast for severe weather. This projection started earlier in the week as a slight risk, but on that day the weather system was perfect for convective weather. It was 68 degrees on a day that it should have been in the 40’s. As the day progressed, it became not will it hit, but where. Our bosses released us early from work for the holiday break, which prevented me from being stuck in the inevitable holiday rush hour traffic. Once home I pulled the weather up and realized this was one of those nights that I would use my tornado plan. My plan is more like a scenario, “if this, then that.” Step one of my plan is to gather items (pillows, flashlight, emergency paperwork, my cat’s carrier, water, shoes, my glasses, purse, and a change of clothes). If the weather progresses, I then put these items in my safe place, if they issue a warning with the timeframe to my location, I then put my cat in her carrier and into the safe place. This keeps me from chasing a frightened kitty around my apartment, while being blown to Oz. Little did my precious Cat-O know that on that night she was going to be a direct answer to my prayer, “What is going on in my life?”
As calm as I remained as I approached Cat-O, when I picked her up and headed to the carrier, she started to panic. She hates the carrier; it reminds her of bad things like the vet and relocating. Because I know this about her, I am very gentle and calm when I try to put her in her carrier. However, this night I could not relent, because I knew it was for her safety she had to go into the carrier. As gently as I knew how, I spoke to her and she resisted. The battle to put her into the safety of that carrier almost had me in tears and I was sweating. Yet, I would not relent due to my experience I knew I was doing something that would preserve her life and was good for her. The more she fought me, the more concerned I was that somehow she would be hurt as I kept prodding her into the carrier. Finally, I was successful in getting Cat-O into the safety of her carrier, and put into our safe place. The inevitable wailing of a frightened and contained cat came next, which broke my heart to hear. Shortly after I got Cat-O in our safe place, it was time for me to enter as well. We were in our safe place for about 30 minutes and right in the middle of that time, Cat-O stopped wailing. For a short moment, I feared that she had gotten herself so upset that something had happened to her. When I called her name, she answered me as if I was talking to her when she is on the pillow next to me at night. You see, she calmed down and accepted the carrier when she realized I was alongside her.
We all know the “Footprints in the Sand” poem. The last portion says it best, “This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it. Lord, you said once I decided to follow you, you would walk with me all the way. But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life, there was only one set of footprints. I do not understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.’ He whispered, ‘My precious child, I love you and will never leave you. Never, ever, during your trials and testings. When you saw only one set of footprints, It was then that I carried you’.”
While I have yet to be privy of the great and mighty works God is doing on my behalf so that I might do great and mighty works, I know that this season of “being in the carrier” is for my safety and preservation. It has shown me to trust God in the dark times when I am terrified of the storm crashing around me. Recently, He reminded me through my precious cat, to be still as He shields me, and know that He is God.