It’s a beautiful morning – the sun is out, the windows are open and the birds are singing. The 60’s temperatures feel more like February than June, but I’m not complaining. I’m sipping my coffee in a calm house, my girls are playing sweetly, singing and dancing to worship music… Be still my heart. I’m still reeling from a crazy-busy dance recital weekend. It was emotional on many levels.
Friday was dress rehearsal for my girls dance recital and my parents were in town for the show. The weather called for severe storms with chance of tornadoes and the dance staff was keeping us informed on the weather, as we watched the classes take their turns in a local high school auditorium. After several hours, someone got on the mic and announced with a shaky voice that we needed to take cover…a tornado had touched down close by and we were under a tornado warning.
There was a lot of commotion and noise after the announcement and my heart was beating erratically as we made our way to the exits and to the safe areas. All I could think was that I needed to get to my babies. My worst fear was realized – my girls were not with me during an emergency. They had just been on stage working on the final bow, but I couldn’t see them anywhere. The dancers were the first to be ushered off to safer areas of the building.
As Ryan and I filed down a hallway packed back to back with other parents and grandchildren, Ryan said, “We need to split up. Who are you going to get?” I had less than a second to think and I knew my youngest would need her mommy now more than ever…she is terrified of tornadoes. “I’ll find Cammie. You get Chloe.” Before I knew it, we were going in separate directions. My hands started shaking. My legs were weak. I fought back tears. I needed to be holding my girls. After what seemed like an hour, but was only about 10 minutes I was frantically asking teachers which room the 5-8 year olds were in. I was herded into a classroom and scanned the room for my sweet girl. I spotted her but couldn’t get to her because there were so many people in front of me. Finally, she looked up and pushed her way through legs and bodies and was in my arms. I picked her up (after kissing her face a gazillion times) and rushed to a spot by the wall near a desk. She had a lot of questions about the tornadoes, so I was careful to use my most calm “mommy voice” as I told her everything was going to be all right.
As Cammie rummaged in my purse for a snack and the iTouch, I braced myself for the reality of what I would do if the walls started shaking and things started looking bad. I quickly “devised a plan” to pull the desk on top of Cammie to shield her from falling debris and put our multiple bags of dance gear around and over us. After reading about the Moore, Oklahoma tornadoes, I was shocked at how many survived just because they were careful to cover themselves (especially their head) during the storms. As I waited, I felt a strange kind of fear creep over me. There was a lump in my throat and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up with each crack of thunder and shriek of wind. Chloe’s dance teacher came in, gave an update on the weather and said a powerful prayer over the room. I don’t remember the exact words of her prayer, but I do remember my soul feeling lighter and peace filling the room. I was scared and separated from my family, but God was drawing in close. My phone wasn’t getting service, but I continued texting Ryan to see if he found Chloe or my parents. After what seemed like an eternity, I got a text. He had found Chloe and they were with my parents in the bathroom down the hall from us. I took a few deep breaths and said a few more prayers.
I held Cammie as tightly as I could as we sat in the classroom for over an hour, hearing reports of tornadoes touching down just a few miles away. My nerves frayed and my stomach rumbling, I looked up and there he was – my sweet husband and Chloe, puffy eyed and red-cheeked. We could all breathe a little easier again – we were together. As we waited, I busied myself by organizing their dance outfits so everything would be ready for the following day’s activities. Even in a crazy storm, I’m still in the corner organizing and cleaning something. Go figure.
Finally, we were told that the storms had passed through our area and we could go home. As we made our way through the windy night, Chloe started telling me about the nights events. “After we were taken off stage, the teachers grouped us up and asked our names. Then one by one she would yell out the name of the child, hoping the parents would hear and come get them. We were huddled up in the girls bathroom and she called my name out loud a few times. Daddy was around the corner in the hallway and must have heard my name. He came running in to get me. As he ran in and picked me up he told the teacher, “She’s mine. She’s with me.” I couldn’t stop crying, Mommy. I’ve never been so happy to see him in my whole life. I have never cried when I was happy before, but when I saw daddy, I couldn’t stop crying.”
She hadn’t cried when she was told of an impending storm, but when her daddy picked her up and held her tight…she let her fear go. She was safe. It was her very first time to shed legitimate, “happy tears”.
With rain pounding on my windshield and lightning shattering through the dark skies, it was everything I could do to not break out in tears while my 8 year-old spoke of her experience. Not only was this an amazing story of my sensitive girl and a deep bond with her daddy, but her words immediately evoked a spiritual yearning in my soul. What a beautiful picture of God’s grace and love for us, not only on this earth, but in eternity. I told my girls that is what their heavenly Father will do someday for them. At the end of this life, when the final chapter of their lives are finished and God calls out their names – Jesus will come running to find them. He will see their faces and a look of intimate recognition will fall on his face. He will scoop them up in his loving arms and tell the Father, “These girls – they’re mine. They are with me.”