For the past few weeks I have been immersed in a hands-on education in waiting. I’ve written more on this subject here (Life Lessons – Patience), here (Waiting Room), here (Learning to Wait), here (Minding Your Ps [Pauses] and Qs [Quizzes]), and here (Finding Hope to See in the Dark).
Today we’re going back to 2011 to a stormy Spring afternoon to discover how to wait out a storm.
May 18, 2011, I set out from my little North Texas town to drive to Columbus, Ohio. That’s 1076 miles or just over a 16-hour drive. My final destination was my best friend’s wedding in Goshen, Indiana, but I was picking up my boyfriend in Columbus, Ohio “on the way.”
I know. You can do a Google Maps search and see that it wasn’t “on the way.” Oh, the things you do for love.
On May 22, 2011, I was driving back home to Texas from Ohio. I left early in the morning, heartbroken over what I could probably write a bestselling novel about, and had driven through Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. I only stopped once, so I was making great time. Driving through Springfield Missouri, I was all cried out and exhausted. It was less than 7 hours to home, and I was determined to go the distance. I wanted my own bed and my babies. I put in a CD and kept driving.
Just as I was about to call home, the sky changed to an eerie shade of green. I’m a Texas girl. I know what a squall line looks like coming and going. I know what green skies mean: hail or a tornado.
The wind from this storm began pulling the car down the road. Not pushing – pulling. I’d never driven in that kind of wind before, nor have I since.
I turned off the CD and turned on the radio. This was before smart phones were so smart. That weather warning signal – the one with the beeping and squealing – was on. It was on every station.
I heard the weather guy say something about a supercell, a tornado, and to take cover if you’re near Joplin, Mo. I had no idea where Joplin was, but for sure I was in Missouri. I pulled off the highway into a hotel parking lot and looked at a map. I was in Mount Vernon, MO – about 40 miles from Joplin. I got a room and stayed for the night.
I turned on the local news and saw that about a half hour after I had pulled off the road, an EF5 tornado had hit Joplin. In fact, it leveled most of it and killed 158 people. If I had not pulled off and taken cover, I would have come face-to-face with this massive tornado.
Why am I telling you all this?
Some of you are just about to hit the storm of the century. Some of you are worn out, think you’ve gone through enough miles already, are all cried out, are ready to get home, and are singing 90s breakup ballads at the top of your lungs over your car stereo. When all the while an EF5 tornado is taking aim at the road just ahead.
I’m suggesting you turn off the distractions and tune in to some reality. Look at the atmosphere around you. Is it changing? Are the people you love trying to tell you something? Are there meetings going on at work that you’re not invited to? Is someone you love pulling away? Are you having health symptoms that keep nagging you?
Stop. Pray. Ask your friends what you’re missing. Ask your loved ones. Tune back in.
Doing this may help you to stop heading toward a huge life-leveling storm.
As it turned out, I couldn’t go through Joplin the next day. The roads were packed with emergency vehicles and insurance agents all scrambling toward the devastated city.
I backtracked and took back roads to my grandparent’s house in Arkansas. It did me some good. I needed a couple of days to let my heart heal after what I’d gone through in Ohio. Nanas are always good for healing hearts. Nanas and a good road trip will cure what ails ya.
Do you need to backtrack? It’s okay.
Do you need to stop and look at a map? It’s okay.
I just wanted to share my story and ask you to stop and look up a minute. Assess your life.
It’s okay to need to stop and wait out a storm.