There are three words you never want to hear in the same sentence from a meteorologist with an urgent tone in his voice on the radio talking about your little Texas town. Those are ”active tornadic supercell”. Other bad words to hear shortly following those three are “imminent” and “get immediately in your shelter or the center of your home”. But that is what we heard just a couple of days ago, on Saturday evening, December 26, 2015. When I did, my priorities became crystal clear again.
We had just arrived home from a visit to our daughter’s in the north Houston area. Listening to the radio all the way home we knew of the weather situation. Our area was no longer just under a tornado watch but now a tornado warning. When that happens it means that not only are the conditions ripe for a tornadic event but that one has been spotted. When we got in the house we began our quick preparations. The tornado sirens in our community were blaring. We unloaded some of the things in our pantry under the stairs to make room for ourselves and got our rubber boots and coats, blankets, flashlights and candles, and patio furniture cushions to cover ourselves. We moved the radio to the closest electrical outlet to the pantry. I also grabbed the December Ensign in case we would be in there for a while, and of course, our cell phones. With supplies in place, I settled in while Chad was still scurrying around. That’s when we heard those words. A touchdown was imminent in our area as best as they could tell.
(Yes, this is really me sitting in our pantry on Saturday night.)
Did You Think To Pray? You Bet We Did!
Have you ever wondered what you would think about in a crisis such as this? I can tell you, and I’ll be right. Not even knowing you, I know what you’d be thinking of. It would be just one thing; your family. Though I’d been praying in my heart as we drove home with the storm on our tail, when I got into the pantry I sat down on the big thing of paper towels from Costco and said a vocal prayer. I prayed for protection for our youngest daughter and her family whose home was also in the storm’s path. She is due any minute with their third, and our sixteenth. I prayed for our second daughter. Luckily she and her family were safely vacationing at Disneyworld, but their home was also in the direct path of the super storm, later named Goliath. Our oldest son and his family were in the area also, though further from the immediate danger. I had been texting with their oldest daughter trying to reassure her as they huddled under their stairs. I prayed for my in-laws and other extended family members who were together up on their farm and in the storm’s path. I prayed for my husband’s safety. And I prayed he’d quit running around and looking outside and get into the pantry with me. These were the only things that mattered to me. The things that matter most.
(Our youngest daughter, Cailey, her husband Tyler, with Dale and Annabell taking cover in their bathtub in their home on the south end of the storm.)
Now, a couple of days after the storm, we are beginning to fully see what happened in our area. Winter super storm Goliath spawned eleven tornados in our area. The biggest part of the storm, and it’s F4 tornado, hit in an area that we had driven thru just 20 minutes before on our way home. Eleven people are dead. At this point over fourteen hundred structures are reported damaged or destroyed. Meteorological plotting maps show that the tornado lifted about 2 miles from our home and then set down again, bouncing around on the ground as they typically do, about 5 miles past us, continuing it’s destruction. Thankfully, our family and homes, were spared any damage.
Not once did I pray for, or worry about, my belongings. Not the cars, our house that is for sale, or its contents. None of our business offices came to mind. Other things that have been occupying my thoughts lately weren’t there then… my New Year’s resolutions, the new house plans I am working on with our architect, the buyer for our home recently backing out, the chaos in the Republican party, our ward boundaries being changed the week before, and my Sharing Time lesson for the next day. Nothing else was there in my mind and heart but my family. I know nothing but your family would be in yours either.
A General Conference address titled “Of Things That Matter Most”, given by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, came to mind early this morning. In it he says the following:
“As we turn to our Heavenly Father and seek His wisdom regarding the things that matter most, we learn over and over again the importance of four key relationships: with our God, with our families, with our fellowman, and with ourselves. As we evaluate our own lives with a willing mind, we will see where we have drifted from the more excellent way. The eyes of our understanding will be opened, and we will recognize what needs to be done to purify our heart and refocus our life.”
I don’t believe that my motives, desires, or priorities are far from where they should be. Though I admit I can too easily get caught up in the whirlwinds of life. But, sitting in our mostly dark house, in our pantry under the stairs, with the tornado sirens blaring, and the weatherman telling us an “active tornadic supercell” was passing over our little town, things became very still and clear in my mind and heart. Everything I need to be focused on must be about my relationship with the Lord and my family. Period. Everything else is extra. And I can choose how much ‘extra’ I focus on.
I’ve revised my resolutions and goals for next year. I may or may not end up doing several of the things I was planning on challenging myself with. But I am going to spend more one-on-one time with my children and grandchildren. I’m going to read that big thick Church book I’ve been starring at on our bookshelf for several years and pray that it increases my understanding and testimony of the Savior and His atonement. I will not miss a month of reaching out and serving those I visit teach. And I’m going to love on my husband more fiercely. (I’m just crazy about him!) Perhaps these aren’t very flashy goals, but in the end, these are the relationships and things that matter most to me. And my life will be more enriched by focusing on them; my God, my husband, my family, and my Church and community members. They truly are my priorities.
This coming week I invite you to sit in your pantry or closet with a flashlight, some water, rubber boots, and a blanket, imagining the sirens sounding around you and see if your head clears and your goals for next year change when you rediscover your priorities and what matters most to you.