Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Hello to all of you who are still reading this blog. Thanks for that, by the way. You're cool. I like you. No really...thank you.

Anyway, I just wanted to pop in to let you know I'm working on a story about the Little family. I heart the Littles and I can't wait to tell you about them. But until then...here are a few fun tidbits.

1. My roommate(Anna) and I counted 43 American flags on our very short ride home last night (on ONE street). Forty-three. Most of which were tattered...and hanging off of rubble. I sure do love me some Joplin, Missouri these days. Forty-three...did I say that? One street.
2. My roomies and I are working out a plan to be out past curfew several times a week. Because, as it turns out...there are very fine looking police officers guarding our fair city. We salute you very fine looking police officers! Also...I drive a silver Honda Civic...
3. I was sorting donated clothing last week at one of the donation centers when I stumbled upon several bags of "teen" clothing. I pulled out a t-shirt that said, "I'm done with him. You can have him now." And I said aloud..."oh no, not on my watch." That t-shirt, 5 pairs of freakishly short cutoffs, and one string bikini all found their way into the trash pile. You're welcome, Joplin.

The Littles are coming up next. Get ready, people.

Monday, May 30, 2011

A Call to In-Action

Before I say anything else, I want to personally thank every man and woman who has ever served in our military. I’m kinda in love with all of you. High five.

Today, in honor of Memorial Day…I took a nap. A beautiful, blissful two hour nap. And what’s more, I claim it as an act of faith. Yes, you read that right…an act of faith. There may be some of you out there reading this post who think your “to do” list is too long for the luxury of a nap. Or maybe you even view my nap-taking as an emotional act of treason against the city of Joplin.

Some of you spent yet another day in the midst of the chaos…digging, cutting, burning, sorting, lifting, and loving your way through Joplin. And I want to hug and high five every single one of you, but I also want you all to take a moment…and nap.

The mess will be here tomorrow…and the next day...and the next. Do you trust God enough to rest? Do you trust Him enough to believe that He’s capable of taking care of people for two hours…without you? I think the great lament of our citizens is that no matter how much we dig, cut, burn, sort, lift or love…it doesn’t feel like enough. I think that is a good thing. The moment we believe that we’re powerful enough to restore this city with our own hands…is the moment we’re in big trouble.

There is much work to be done…and I’m SO proud of serving alongside each and every one of you. But the God of the universe is asking us to trust Him enough to rest. And when you begin to feel that niggle of guilt creeping into your mind…remember that He can send a circus elephant to work in your stead. Yes, that’s right…circus elephants moved rubble and cars today. Heh. I think the God of the universe was making a point. Do we trust Him enough to take care of people…with elephants?

So, to everyone out there reading this blog…I have good news. It’s not up to you. Rest.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Today I Became Southern Baptist

One week ago today...all hell broke loose.

My morning began with the familiar machinations of a Sunday morning...hit the alarm 17 times until exactly 45 minutes before church. Only this morning...my alarm buzzer competed with chain saws and bulldozers. I shuffled to the shower...and washed and conditioned my hair twice. I'd like to blame my malfunctioning short term memory on recent events, but admittedly...it wasn't the first time. I skipped mascara this morning because I find wearing mascara these days is a completely wasted effort. And then...a silent drive through a wasteland...where mattresses are wrapped around trees and cars are piled like Lincoln Logs.

As I sat in that sanctuary surrounded by a hundred or more believers...something happened to me. Something miraculous. My body began to sway...my hands began to wave. My head fell back as tears started streaming down my face. Words like "amen" and "Jesus" came out of my mouth...I started "mmmhmming" and "yes-ing" everything that the pastor said. My body took over in worship...seemingly without my permission. It's not that uncommon for me to raise my hand or shed a tear during really good worship, but I think I've always maintained some shred of control over my body and heart. Heh...not today. Today I turned into a 70 year old black woman in a Southern Baptist Church. Today I gave myself to my Abba in reckless abandon...without thought or intention. Today the grief inside me turned to rejoicing...because for the first time in my 34 years, gratitude literally poured out of every fiber of my being. And what's more? I wasn't alone. When I looked around the sanctuary this morning...I saw the first sparks of revival. Believers are glowing with the Light of Jesus in Joplin, Missouri...and all I have to say about that is...mmmhmm...yes, Jesus...and Amen.

Later in the afternoon, President Obama toured our ruins...and at 6:00 (the exact time the Tornado touched down) the nation recognized a moment of silence in honor of the fallen. I was sifting through my garage full of dirty, soggy treasures pulled from the rubble of a friend's house. They were coming to look through their only remaining possessions for the first time...and I had this insane need to "stage" their belongings in neat and orderly piles. Granted, I did all this silently...so, I totally think it still counts. Steve and Aliene were overjoyed with some of the recovered family keepsakes...and the cortizone cream. I'll tell their story soon...keep reading.

So, what did I learn on this somber, grief-striken anniversary? Well, one week ago today all hell broke loose...and now we have a clearer view of heaven. Mmmhmm...yes, Jesus...and Amen.

A Severed City

I hear writing is therapeutic. It’s almost midnight and I’m in desperate need of some relief. So, I write.

On May 22, 2011 my community was severed…literally torn in half by a savage, merciless EF5 Tornado. It tore through homes, businesses, churches and schools…unrelenting and lethal…leaving a six mile bleeding wound down the center of my home. Joplin, Missouri will now forever be marked as a place of devastation so profound that any attempts at description will be grossly insufficient. Words will never suffice.

It was also a day marked by stories…hundreds upon hundreds of stories. Some of them so tragic that they literally make me dry heave. Stories of such catastrophic loss…that the only humane response is to put your head in your hands and cry. There are also stories of life…and reunion. Stories wrapped in hope and faith. Others stories are still unfolding…and some have yet to be told.

This is my story...

I was in a closet with two of my closest friends. Three grown women and one dog… packed hip-to-hip in coat closet. We heard the tv broadcasters breathlessly screaming at us to seek shelter…we watched in horror as a news skycam caught the first glimpse of the monster. It was coming toward us. We heard it coming. The roaring freight train…the monster twister. I tried to pray…but I was gripped by profound fear. I think I may have chanted the name of Jesus…or maybe that was someone else, I don’t remember. But I remember the silence in the closet…the horrible silence…and the waiting. Years from now the memories of that closet may fade...but the waiting…the intense, mind-numbing waiting…that I may never forget. For me…that night was marked by the intensity of the unknown.

Outside of our closet we were met with a scene out of an apocalyptic movie. We barely had time to absorb the gratitude of our home and lives before the chaos set in. It began with a desperate search for a friend’s son…then sirens…injured people wandering down the street… more sirens…desperate attempts to reach loved ones…constant sirens…devastating glimpses of destruction mere blocks from our home…unbroken, unceasing wailing of sirens. They’re still in my head. The nights are now eerily quiet…but I swear I can still hear the sirens.

The hours and days that have followed have been…well…beyond description. Wave after wave of heartbreak…and numbness. I know my life has changed…and I feel almost a desperate urgency to record my thoughts before the newness of tragedy wears off…and it becomes my normal.

This is what has changed:
1. I no longer feel safe…anywhere. I now know there is something out in the universe that is powerful enough to chew up any structure. That knowledge has stolen my sense of security…and frankly, it pisses me off.
2. I used to love Sunday afternoon thunderstorms…now the sound of a storm makes my blood freeze.
3. “I’m ok” is my new favorite sound.
4. My city now has a perimeter and 9 o’clock curfews. It doesn’t feel like “home” anymore…it feels like a war zone.
5. I now believe that looters should receive the death penalty.
6. In the moments after a tragedy…having a sense of purpose becomes paramount to almost everything.
7. Not only did the tornado sever our city…it just as effectively split our population. There are now new citizens in Joplin…those who lost property or loved ones...and those who didn’t. Those who escaped with their lives…and those who just had to leave the closet.
8. I now believe in the value of human touch.
9. We are a city of grief…our language of life and death has changed. I now have to learn how to love my friends and family differently.
10. Even in the midst of such tragedy, I truly believe that God is good. That truth is more acutely real to me than it’s ever been. My eyes and heart will forever be scarred by the tangled, ravaged remains of that Tornado’s path and the lives it stole…but I can now weep with the knowledge that I am not meant for this place. My city is broken…but my Home is waiting.

In the coming weeks…months…and years, I believe that God is going to give Joplin rare glimpses into heaven. I also believe that we will all begin to absorb the trauma in profound ways…emotions that we never knew existed will haunt our hearts and minds. The enemy is going to try to take even more from us…but we NEED to drive a stake in the ground by claiming the goodness of God every…single…day. Abba is going to remind us in unique, staggering ways that He is preparing a place for us. A place without pain…without loss…and without fear. We will be tempted to let the tragedy of our wounded landscape define us…but I truly believe that if we are ever watchful…we will witness His majesty displayed before our very eyes.

I, for one, resolve to keep my eyes open. I’m going to use this blog to bear witness to the stories of His tenderness and care as Joplin begins her slow journey of restoration. In the months to come, if you need a good laugh or a taste of hope…visit this blog. Let’s rest together…and tell our stories of Home.