On Sunny Days

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On Sunny Days

On Sunny Days:

I was young, but old enough to fear tornados. It was May 1, 1954, a typical afternoon for my family on our Oklahoma farm. My dad worked in a field, my mom and sister hung clothes on the clothesline. And I jumped rope on the dirt road that led to our farmhouse, and the nearby cellar. It was sunny.

And it was muggy. Unlike other spring afternoons, there was no breeze to carry the smells of livestock, or of hay. The air seemed to reflect an eerie green cast. The blackberry bushes and oak trees did not stir. The dust, I kicked up with my feet, stuck to my skin. And as I glanced across the field toward my dad, I noticed clouds forming in the sky. But I continued to run and jump rope, up and down the road until I heard my mom call.”Tomi – Tomi.” I glimpsed toward her, supposing it was time for supper, then I looked toward my dad. He pointed toward a distant cloud. It held the shape of a funnel.

My legs seemed to race ahead of my mind. By now, I could see Mom opening the cellar door and hear her voice yelling my name. I watched as she and my sister entered through the cellar opening. Their heads bobbed as they went down the steps before disappearing from my sight. I opened my mouth to answer Mom, but words stuck in my throat. I slowed my pace. I dreaded that creepy cave almost as much as a funnel cloud. My dad and I reached the cellar about the same time. No way was I plummeting to the floor of it, not without my dad. So I stood on a step, near him.

For me, the cellar was both a bad and a good place. It was a bad place because I imagined that spiders roamed in and out of the cracks on the walls and in the floor. But I also believed the cellar was a good place. It protected my family from storms. And it was where my mom stored her prize strawberry jams.

With my dad’s feet planted on two cellar steps, he held the door open so he could watch the storm. Soon we heard it. It sounded like a runaway freight train was coming. It would surely slam into and snatch our house, barns, cows, chickens and anything else in its path. The wind howled. It whistled. It was fierce. My dad fought hard to keep the door propped open. Dad was strong. And he could see what I couldn’t. Storms and spiders were too big for me, but not for my dad. Soon the whistling softened, the wind hushed. “It stopped – – turned.” Dad announced. He gasped for breath, as he added, “It’s headed toward Meeker.” Sweat dripped from his face.

Within minutes, my family rode in our Ford sedan to the neighboring community, Meeker. There devastation greeted us. Houses and shops were split in half. Splintered pieces of wood, ripped clothes and mismatched shoes, mangled furniture and car fenders were scattered across green lawns. Power lines and trees no longer stood tall. A big bus rested on its side with debris piled against it. Children cried. Adults stunned. Lives were shattered—like the glass windows of their homes. My mom and dad helped those who could be practically helped, others they comforted. I stood motionless, trying to ignore a naked, torn doll that lay at my feet with one bulging eye. I knew that doll once belonged to my friend, but she was nowhere near it.

It was dark by the time my family climbed back into our car and headed toward our farm. My dad drove and my mom sat in the front seat. My sister and I sat on the backseat. Silence swallowed my tongue. I can’t tell you what I was thinking. I suppose I was in quasi shock, trying to grasp terror that even adults couldn’t comprehend. While driving along a two-lane highway, my dad shouted. “There’s another twister.” The wind began to rattle the windows. My mom whimpered. At the sound of a distant locomotive, I fell to the floorboard behind my dad’s seat. My sister curled behind Mom’s seat. I wished for the spider-infested cellar. No doubt, we would soon be whirled into the sky and dropped to the ground. I wasn’t Dorothy from Kansas. I was Tomi from Oklahoma. I didn’t need to awaken from a dream about Oz. I just witnessed the aftermath of a tornado. My world spun backwards as my sunny day turned into terror.

My teeth chattered.

After Dad guided our car over bumps and into a ditch, he braked. Then reached his arm over the seat and gripped my hand within his. Still my teeth chattered. But in that moment, the only thing that mattered was that my dad was with me.

A second tornado passed us by. But other bad events on this earth would not. My dad died two years later. During that time, I came to know another Father who loved me like I had never been loved—my Heavenly Father. He comforted and stayed near me in my grief. He guided and directed each day of my life as I grew into a teen, a woman. I have survived breast cancer and numerous disappointments with Him at my side. Yes, still I’ve been fearful, even devastated. But never have I been as frightened as I was the night my teeth chattered.

And this chapter of my life began as a sunny day in 1954. I don’t know what surprises await me today, tomorrow. Nor do I understand the suffering that comes and goes with living on earth. But I do know the Creator of earth. He doesn’t promise that all my days here will be sunny. Other storms are bound to enter my path. He does, though, promise to be with me.

And neither spiders nor storms will separate me from Him, or from His love.

“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39 NASB).

(I post this personal story in honor of those standing in the aftermath of a tornado.)