This morning my parents are packing up their car to make the first leg of their journey back to Atlanta. We’ve had a really great visit, and as always, I’m sad to see them leave. I think that no matter how old you get…there’s still a part of you that wants your parents around, so watching their brake lights zip up my street is always a little poignant for me.

This past week has been chock full of events for us:
I ran my first virtual half marathon…
My stepmom ran the Joplin Memorial Half on her own….
My brother and his wife brought my 7-week old nephew up to meet his family (especially his aunt)…
Two of my dear friends lost their parents…
My kids finished 10th, 7th and 4th grade…
We went to Jefferson City to watch my eldest and his team compete in the state track championship…
My middle son flew to Florida with his other grandmother for a special vacation….
Many of my friends’ babies graduated this week…
My daughter went to her first big overnight concert with a friend..

My heart has been overflowing with ALL kinds of emotions. Honestly, my heart reminds me of the weather this spring…snowy on one day, blistering heat the next, pouring rain the following day and bluebird skies at the end.  All of the gamut.

Then, add today to the mix. May 22nd. The sixth anniversary of the Joplin tornado.

Geeze.

To be honest, it hasn’t been at all on the forefront of my mind. Maybe it’s because I didn’t get to see the 161 balloons released before the race this year, or run through the name-flags at the end of the Memorial Run.  It could be because it’s beautiful weather today and it’s not Sunday like it was 6 years ago. Maybe it’s because there are just too many things going on and my mind is on overload?

Whatever the case, it took my by surprise. Last night we went for a walk and ran into a neighbor who started pouring out her heart about how she got through the few days after the tornado. Her stories shoved my reluctant memory back to when we expected to hear every person’s tornado experiences as soon as (or before) we were even greeted properly. I’d forgotten what that was like. This morning I awoke to a few “thinking of you on May 22nd” messages and I had such a feeling of guilt that it wasn’t the first thing on my mind today. Honestly though…I think that’s part of the healing process.

If I pick at the memories I most certainly can re-feel that bone shaking fear, the terrifying feeling that my baby was out in the middle of a monster, the way I lost all control of my legs when I heard they were safe, and the sound of sirens and a thunder that never seemed to end. If I let my mind slide back to those moments, my arms will get goosebumps and my cheeks will be wet. The scar is still very real, and it still reminds me of what happened six years ago today.

It also reminds me of what God brought us through, and how He has restored peace to my family and our lives today.

May 22, 2011 was life-changing.
But you know what? A lot of those events I listed in my “busy week” statement above were life-changing too. Some big changes, some small…but many of them changed the direction that lives were going and put them on paths that no one had planned for. Some of these paths are beautiful and easy, and others are rocky and treacherous and awful.

But we keep walking. We keep hiking along…sometimes with our chins on our chests and sometimes with our eyes lifted upward because….eventually…that path will lead to another one that will again change our direction and let us look back and see how far we’ve come.

Life changing. So many things do that for us and to us. A phone call. A conversation. A disease. A storm. A committment kept or a promise broken. Suddenly you’re walking a path you didn’t expect to be on (or you expected but still didn’t want to walk) and you have to trust God to hep you navigate it until it comes to a stretch that you can climb on your own.

So as my parents leave today, just like they did six years ago today, I’ll probably cry a little. I am going to miss them. And then I’ll prepare to go help a friend say good-bye to her mother until they meet again on the other side of heaven. And I’ll probably cry a little then. At some point I’ll re-read the accounts of our city from 2011 because I promised I would do that every year, and I’ll probably cry a little as I remember and realize what God’s done for me. Above all though, I want to focus on the peace that can come, that has come, and that WILL come each time our lives change.

After the tornado I was pointed to this Psalm.The first part so vividly and accurately described what had happend…but the  part in the middle (in all caps )is where I’m focusing now. Return to rest. What a good end to a hard life change.

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;
He heard my cry for mercy.
Because He turned His ear to me,
will call on Him as long as I live.
The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came over me:
I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the Lord; “Lord, save me!”
The Lord is gracious and righteous;
our God is full of compassion.
The Lord protects the unwary;
when I was brought low, He saved me.
RETURN TO YOUR REST, MY SOUL,
FOR THE LORD HAS BEEN GOOD OT YOU.
For you, Lord, have delivered me from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living.

Psalm 116: 1-9
(capitalization mine)

Our story from May 22, 2011

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