As I locked my door and turned to go down my steps Monday morning, I prayed that God would protect my home, my sons' homes(all of us live in mobile homes, one built decades ago!), our families and our pets. The clouds were blackish gray and bloated with wind. The weather forecasts were unnerving, warning that tropical storm Colin would likely come bearing at least a few tornadoes. My husband called to say he was leaving work early, heading home to beat the storm. Soon after, as I was preparing to close up shop, a tornado actually bounced around the intersection where my workplace is, tearing off nearby roofs, snatching wires and cables from the street poles, even dropping a couple of small treetops on our metal building.
I watched it all unfold on our security monitors, my heart racing and my mother's "worst-case-scenario" mind imagining my sons' homes flipped on their sides, with who knows what going on inside them. I thought of my husband at home, (although built pretty well, still a mobile home), and my three fur-babies who I love SO much (who cringe at the sound of a typical summer storm), and prayed again for God to protect all of those.
At that moment my husband called. He was breathless and sounded panicked. "A tornado just went through here," he managed. "Big trees on top of our house." I couldn't process it. I left as soon as I could, driving in crazy zig zags to avoid the pieces of twisted metal and wood that dotted the roadways. As I turned the last big bend on our little road, I saw that a big tree had fallen across it, taking a power pole and some wires down with it. I couldn't get through. I parked my car and walked through a neighbor's yard to get to mine...and when I saw it, I stopped thinking and started crying. Trees down. Big trees. My trees, laying on top of my house, obscuring two-thirds of it all the way to the ground. My husband standing in the yard, waving me away from more wires in the road. I felt sick. More huge trees down in the back yard. I fretted and fretted over the trees. As irrational as it seems, I fretted more for the trees than for the roof underneath them. I fretted over the trees even though I later learned that six sets of windows, completely covered in tree branches, had not a single crack or break. I cried over my trees even though the inside of my house showed no signs of what had happened: no cracks in the ceilings, no leaks anywhere, no crazy tilt to the frame. I walked around my house and sobbed aloud as I looked at the trees.
I realized about 24 hours later that I forgot to thank God for doing exactly what I had prayed He would do: He protected me, my husband, my sons, their families, our homes (my boys' places were in the tornado's vicinity but they were unscathed), and our pets. God answered my prayer as if He were using a checklist in my handwriting.
I hadn’t asked Him to protect my trees. He knows I love them; they're my favorite thing about our property. The exact 60-or-so-foot-long stretch of trees that had just toppled had over the years become a vibrant, busy, twittering, tweeting, chirping, buzzing habitat, surrounded at its base by a thicket as tall as it was long, all moss-draped shrubs and fragrant honeysuckle...alive with creatures, giving us shade, and serving as a natural, 50-foot-high privacy fence. It was my own slice of Eden.
But, the storm came, and something had to go. He remembered my prayer, and He laid down the trees. Yes, He laid them down. That’s what the tree surgeon said, as he stood on our dinged-up roof and scratched his head. As he cut away more and more of the heavy trunks laying there, with only some wood and green metal separating them from our month-old new bed, he marveled that there was no puncture anywhere that he could see. Nothing went through. On the inside of our house, no ceilings were cracked, not even a hairline. No leaks that we could see. The tree surgeon said that the roots of the trees had grown so intertwined that when the wind tried to snatch them, it grabbed them all, but as tightly as they were entwined, they were too much for the tornado to toss around. So they just tipped over instead, and laid on our house.
Yes, it was quite a thump, according to my husband, who had been sitting at his computer by the window in his man-cave, watching the hard rain come down on the back yard he has made beautiful through many years of hard sweaty work. In almost an instant, the rain shifted to horizontal, the wind started shrieking, and after about 10 seconds of creaks and thuds, his view changed from a pretty stretch of landscape to a mass of leaves and branches.
But, those trees didn’t crush our roof, or punch through our walls, or break our windows. They laid down. They didn’t tip over or damage our large propane tank that was directly below. They missed my husband’s truck by centimeters, and my car wasn’t crumpled by the limb that came down in my usual parking space, because my car wasn’t there.
The trees on the other end of our house, not as numerous but at least as large, were not touched by the tornado winds. They took a whipping but they didn’t break, or even bend. Had they fallen, they would have fallen on top of the room where my dogs were, injuring them or worse. The trees would have broken the railings (at least) on our little deck, come through our sliding glass doors, and probably would have damaged our air conditioning unit. But while their sister trees across the roof held on to each other and then just laid down, these others stood.
Those who would consider this story too dramatic, too maudlin, have already stopped reading, so I won’t apologize to you for overthinking what happened to us on Monday. But I owe it to you to have a point. So here’s my point: I asked God very specifically, from the most honest part of my heart, to protect my home and my family. He did precisely what I asked, and He was glad to do it. But as surely as I feared for them with the storms bearing down, I just as surely forgot His goodness when I found them safe, and let my mind be distracted by lesser things. Things I love and enjoy, things that give me pleasure and delight, but still… just things.
The enemy knows that we can be distracted from acknowledging God’s goodness, His provision, His faithfulness, His protection, His very presence, and that distraction can be in the form of “good” things: simple wholesome pleasures, exciting ministries, activities and entertainment. My mind jumped from relief for my family and home, right to despairing over my trees, and God’s very obvious intercession was lost somewhere in between. He knows I am ashamed and I am sorry, and He knows it won’t be the last time. But He has forgiven me…and He expects me to do better next time.
Look around you, folks. Has the Lord delivered you and/or your loved ones from something, or protected some of you from something? Has He answered an urgently-whispered prayer that it took you awhile to realize He had gone to the trouble to handle? Think of the accidents and injuries He has protected you from, that you have never even known might have happened. Think of the people and relationships and situations that He has prevented you from experiencing, for your own good and for His glory. He cares about both, you know. Your good (and mine, as demonstrated time and time and time again)…and His glory. It is HE Who gets the credit. HE is the One Who’s behind every close call, every just-in-the-nick-of-time. HE is the only One Who is able to come through, 100% of the time. Which entitles Him to glory. Plenty of it. ALL of it.
I’m so grateful He heard my out-the-door prayer that morning. It was a bare-bones, no-frills prayer. Just the way He likes them. I’m equally grateful for what He has reminded me of as He has watched me first weep for “my” trees, then brought me through the fallen mossy mess of my forgetfulness, back to this place of enormous gratitude. He knows, better than I do, what my “enough” is. And He kept it for me, safe and sound. Thank you, Lord. It turns out those were YOUR trees, and you have more where those came from, and when the time is right you’ll give me some. Because you love me.