It was going to be a major storm day.  James Spann told us to keep a close eye on the weather – and I did.  I watched the tornado slam into Tuscaloosa.  I read the twitter tweet of a dear friend as her house crumbled around her and her neighbor’s home was ripped from the foundation and torn into thousands of pieces.  I watched the skies darken as the storms heading closer to us and I heard the roar and felt the incredible winds as it passed us by. 

More reports of areas all around us – Shoal Creek, just up the road and Blountsville, where my daughter and her husband live.  On to northwest Alabama and off into Georgia.  Hundreds dead and more missing.  Thousands in the hospital and more suffering minor injuries.  So much loss, so much pain.  So  close to home – just a few miles in any direction will put you in the midst of catastrophic  damage.  So close, but completely untouched. 

Guilt, frustration, and thankfulness – those seem to be the three emotions I’m running on right now.  And in all honesty, it’s mostly frustration and then guilt with the occasional overwhelming wave of thankfulness.

Guilt because we suffered no damage – we didn’t even lose our power.  Today I read that the storm lifted just as it came near and then sat back down about 10 miles north of us. I am so thankful, but then I wonder why?  Why us?  Why were we spared?  And the guilt sets in.   And I wallow in that for a few minutes or hours and then comes the frustration. 

What can I do?  How can I help?  Where can I serve?  Who needs what? 

Sure I can buy supplies and deliver those – and that’s important.  I can give money to the relief effort and that is important, but I want to do more.  I want to hold a baby, cut down a tree, dig through the debris, and I want to hold hands and listen to stories.  I want to cry with and pray with the survivors.  I want to sob with the grieving and rejoice when a loved one is located.  I want to help – in a personal, relational way.   It’s just my nature. 

And it’s also my nature to be upbeat, fun, lighthearted, and funny – I’m none of those right now.  I’m heart sick and I’m frustrated. 

I get frustrated that areas are overwhelmed with people out sight seeing – really people?  Put down the camera and pick up a shovel. 

I get frustrated at people using this tragedy to further their global warming agenda. 

I get frustrated when I read the facebook posts that neither request for aid nor a offer of help.  Seriously, does it really matter if it was an EF4 or an EF5?  Right now, let’s just get busy and we’ll figure out the details later.  And on that note, please STOP posting on James Spann’s Facebook page and asking about the death toll.  Why do you need to know that?  We will all find out soon enough.  Knowing the number isn’t going to make it any easier for anyone – so stop. 

(FYI—James Spann is our local weather guy / hero.  The Red Cross is monitoring his public page to see what needs are out there).

So, yes, I get frustrated – but mostly at myself for not doing that disaster training that I promised myself I’d do after 9/11 and then again after Katrina. 

And then I am thankful – to the God of the universe who holds us all in the palm of His hand.

I’m thankful for people across the state and beyond who are reaching beyond themselves to help.  I’m thankful for people like the members of Casting Crowns who are playing a benefit concert tonight – Sunday night.  All the money raised goes to the relief effort. 

I’m thankful for the beautiful stories of HOPE! 

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring.  I know that many of my fellow Alabamians are hurting today. I know that many are grieving the loss of loved ones and others have lost everything – homes, jobs, and a way of life.   I know that I don’t understand – because I’ve not been there.  But my heart is still heavy and I will praise God in this storm.  I will praise Him because He is Hope!

And I’ll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I’ve cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

(from Casting Crowns song – Praise You in This Storm)