Friday night, my husband graciously gave me the emergency diaper run saying "you've been with Miss Chilipepper all day! Leave her with me and take a break from her for five minutes!" So I'm in Wal-Mart at 10 PM when suddenly they announce that a tornado has been spotted.
My cellphone had a dead battery. So I sat down on the floor in the boys clothes section, took out my rosary, and started to pray. A young man next to me said "I bet you never expected to be stuck in a tornado at 10 o'clock at night when you woke up this morning... right?"
I looked at the rosary in my hands. I looked at him. I had all of these thoughts in my head. I didn't even know where to start... Something like "Well, actually I'm a follower of Jesus....and today is the Feast of Saint Peter and Saint Paul....and even on more a usual day when I get up in the morning, I never know what is going to happen to me by 10 o'clock at night, only that its going to be an adventure... so actually the surprise of a tornado doesn't throw me all that much...."
I couldn't explain any of this in a coherent way, so I just smiled.
There were two women who kept pointing me out while I was praying the rosary. They kept mentioning to other people "we should be siting down, like her!" I don't think it was that I was sitting cross-legged on the floor that surprised them. I think it was that I was praying, and had some measure of supernatural peace. I'm not even a big prayer of the rosary. I just happened to have my trusty plastic beads in my purse and I thought "what else am I going to do during a tornado warning"? That interaction was a real reminder how rare it is to see someone pray the rosary in public, and how needed it is in the world.
My prayer to Mom was "You know I'm the only one in my family who takes these warnings seriously and gets everyone into the basement. My poor husband probably doesn't even realize what is going on. Since I'm away from my family right now YOU have to move this tornado away from Martinsburg!"
After 30 minutes they let us out of Wal-Mart. The drive home was actually the most scary part-worse than the tornado drill. The rain was intense. There were trees down all over the road. There were flash flood, which you couldn't see because the street lights were out. I parked my car at a gas station a block from my house. I had one free hand so I grabbed the box of size 6 diapers which could fit both my little girls. I giant tree fell across the street, so even the side walk was blocked. Out of nowhere a guy came off a porch with a flashlight to help me navigate his yard. I walked home the extra block in the freezing rain.
Never was there a home-coming more sweet!
After the storm ended we looked outside, a tree had crashed in our backyard!
In the morning, the sight was even more amazing. My husband had sat in our first floor bedroom with our five kids during the storm. The tree had missed this room by three feet. In a St. Boneface move, the tree should have fallen on our house. Instead, the tree "somehow" fell at perfect 90 degree angle missing our home completely. This massive tree fell perfectly between my house and my garden in my tiny 12 foot backyard. When I saw that the tree had cleared by precious basil plants by exactly 2 inches, I said "Man, She's good!"
Even my secular neighbors said "I don't understand how that tree didn't fall on your house. The crack shows that it should have fallen this way, and even now the tree trunk is leaning towards your house!"
That would be the power of the rosary!
I'm writing from a hotel room in Martinsburg. Life with 5 kids, a dog and a cat during now 90 hours without power during a heat wave has been a bit of penance. Thank heavens we are a family who goes camping. We had lanterns in our basement and kids who were used to playing UNO by candlelight. On Sunday, I almost cried during Mass. The Church had finally gotten power back on and we have a new priest who is a 3rd Order Carmelite. Then we went Bob Evans and I had my first cup of hot coffee in 48 hours. Later, we went to a movie for air-conditioning. God bless my local Target. We hung out for over 4 hours with other "refugee" families at the eating area on Monday.
Enough power finally got restored in Martinsburg, that we were able to finally get a hotel room last night. I'm in a King Suite, but it's like a frat part this morning. It's crushed Dr. Pepper and Mountain Dew can instead of Bud Light cans, but tired bodies are asleep every which way on the floor this morning. Everyone is so happy to be sleeping in cool comfort at last. Electricity is not a right, but boy is it a delicious luxury!
For anyone who knows me in real life, I'll have spotty communication for another one to two weeks The tree ripped out all of our phone and power cords and did damage to whatever machines connect them to the house. It will be a major project to get everything reconnected again.
Yet we're all cheerful! Its hard not to be when you see what powerful protection the Lord rains down on his beloved. May you feel his love in your hearts as you wrestle with all the aftermath of the storms.