prepared for a storm, never the aftermath {okie girl}

The last two nights I’ve found myself sitting on the roof with a boy or two watching storm clouds roll in across the sky. I spent a summer in Kazakhstan. One in Alaska. A year in Hawaii. Other than that I’ve pretty much been in Oklahoma. I’ve grown up with tornadoes. It is just part of spring around here. Schools have a tornado plan along with fire drills. Neighbors gather on front lawns, looking at the sky watching the clouds change. Honestly, many times we joke about how weathermen get too excited about the chance of a tornado. Because the thing is, we have a lot of tornado warnings, a lot of tornado watches, a lot of tornadoes, and usually not much ever comes of it. But, we always take it seriously. We also always carry with us the knowledge and fear of what a tornado can do.  The vast devastation my state is facing now, is rare and horrific.

The thing about tornadoes is you know when they are coming. Countless lives have been saved because of the incredible job the local news stations do to urge people to take cover. Typically you don’t evacuate, you hunker down. You prepare for them to come. You pack up essentials. Grab bike helmets to protect against flying debris. Pack some food (or smoothies).

You watch the news. You listen for tornado sirens. Tornado shelters aren’t big. Sometimes it is a closest, a bathroom or an inner room. Sometimes it is an above ground shelter. Sometimes underground. Regardless, shelters aren’t big. Several times a year I’ve grown up grabbing a couple items to take in the shelter with me. There isn’t much in my life that gives me perspective like the chance of a tornado destroying my home. When you can only grab a couple of things, you realize it is all just stuff. When you look at your house and hope it is still standing when you come out of the shelter – it makes it hard to become too attached to stuff.  All I really care about getting in that shelter is my family, photographs and important documents. My kids are old enough now that they get to choose what to take in the shelter with them. My five year old picked two pictures. My seven year old picked a picture too. Photography is a treasured item even among kids.

My home has never faced major destruction. I can’t imagine the grief that would be associated with losing all you own. After we prepare, we sit and wait. Before I knew the devastation these recent tornadoes would cause, I was sitting on the roof thinking a lot about the storms of life. I share happy pictures on my blog because photography is a gift in my life. When personal storms rage around me, there is something about photography that helps me find beauty. Helps me gain a healthy perspective. Right now you will see happy pictures of my kids playing on my blog because photography is healing to me, but my family is facing some personal storms. Big changes, future uncertainties, Little One’s major palate repair is in two weeks, insurance issues with her past surgery…just stuff that feels hard. Feels heavy. Things, like a tornado, we kind of knew were on the horizon, but like a tornado, we couldn’t really prepare for. Two nights ago the personal storms we were facing felt so big and sad.

Today they feel small.

The things most dear in my life – my family and friends – are strong, healthy, and safe. So many of my neighbors are aching to hold a loved one again. They were prepared for the storm, but no one can prepare for this kind of aftermath. It is gut-wrenching. I cannot fathom being in a tornado without my children in the shelter by my side. I can’t fathom waiting for news about my child outside an elementary school search and rescue. These are horrendous days for my state. Oklahoma may not be known for it’s natural beauty, but as a lifetime Okie, I’m telling you this state is full of the most beautiful people. Salt of the earth, take care of your neighbor, smile and wave kind of people. Thank you for your prayers for those in my state that must move forward today after losing everything. Thank you for praying for those that could prepare for a storm, but never this kind of aftermath.

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  • Karen - I’ve been sitting in my home in Australia this evening waiting for your post to come online tonight. So glad to hear your family is safe. Devastated to hear that so many families are grieving. We’re thinking of Oklahoma. You’re not alone. x

  • Kimberly Troth - My heart aches for your State. I can’t even begin to think how what most are going through. So glad you & your family are safe. Prayers

  • Pam - Good morning Ashley. I thought about you all yesterday and wished I had a way of emailing you to say “I’m praying for you and all those surrounding you” so I’m thankful for the chance today. I pray God will send the Comforter for you in your personal storms and for those experiencing loss and devastation. Have a great one and thank you for being an inspiration.

  • fran luxton - God bless you guys out there, my heart goes out to you , cant even begin to imagine what it must be like with so much devastation and loss of life , you are in my thoughts and prayers xxx

  • Christy - Praying praying praying for your home state today. I’m so glad to hear you and your family is safe!

  • Amie - I’m so glad you guys are ok. My thoughts are with you and your community. Much love!

  • kate - My husband read about the tornado’s this morning in the news (we’re in France) and you were the first person I thought of. I’m so pleased to know you and your family are ok – and sending all my love to Oklahoma.

  • Ari - I remember being in the OBU basement in 1999- then hearing of Kim’s family’s devastation (I can’t remember her last name). It was hard then and I can’t imagine what it is like a 2nd time. My family in OKC is fine- but poor Moore and Shawnee. Glad you guys are ok too!

  • Pamela - As soon as I heard the news about the tornadoes I thought of you and your family and friends (I dont know anyone else that lives there) I was very happy to read your status update on FB. Thinking off all of you in “Okie”.

  • RachelC - Praying for you today as you face change and uncertainty. Praying for peace as you face another surgery and miraculous resolution for your insurance issues.

  • Andrea - Prayers for your neighbors and state!! So glad to hear you’re ok. Love your post and perspective. Really like how you note the positive of those who took cover thanks to the warning. Thank you for updating so that we know you weren’t hit by the devastation. Sending much love!!

  • Kathy - Your state is in our thoughts and prayers. I live in Alabama and we went through the same type of storm in April 2011. Devastation but to see people come together is an amazing thing. Families are destroyed along with the houses..but the sun will shine again. It takes years to recover and find a new normal. Blessings to you and yours!!

  • Sophie - Sending our thoughts and prayers to Oklahoma. Sophie Xx

  • Martina - I too have been waiting on your post to make sure you guys were ok. When I heard the news of the tornado my first thought was for you and your family. Thoughts and prayers with everyone in Oklahoma.

  • Sarah W. - So so glad you and your family are safe. You wrote this beautifully, you always express things so well. Last year I huddled in a bathroom on top of my kids while a tornado flattened and destroyed homes in a neighborhood next to mine…we were blessed to be safe. And the people of that neighborhood and the kids and teachers in the school that got hit were safe too. It was a miracle. No deaths or serious injuries. Yesterday, i prayed the same for oklahoma. It was scary as I wondered about family and friends hoping they weren’t in the path. i was thankful that they were all safe. Too close for comfort but safe. And then sadness and feeling so helpless for all those who were affected. For those parents and those kids of that school. For the entire town. My heart broke. I’m praying for Oklahoma, for peace and strength.

  • Adrienne - Ashley, it has been so hard to see photos of the devastation and read reports of children dying. I can’t imagine living through that kind of loss. I am praying for your state and hugging my kids a little longer today.

  • karen - deep breath. glad you are safe.

  • Yolanda Campbell - Ashley, like you I have live all but 5 years of my life in Ms and Tn and like you I know storms are part of the life we live in our part of the US but I know just like my state your state will be strong and dust them self off and move forward . It’s what we do here . What makes our states so strong is we band together and help each other . My prayers are with your state and you . I feel we are all from OK today. Over the last 5 years we have lost everything but like you when faced with the losses all I really treasure are my friends, family and pets . Everything else just pales in comparison . I’m sending the state and you a gray big jig from TN.

  • Debbie - I’m in Mississauga near Toronto and I was holding my breath til i found your blog today. Thank god you are all safe. We are praying for all of your neighbours. Tough days ahead for everyone there. Makes every thing here very small and insignificant.

  • Elaine - So glad you and your family are okay; the scale of the devastation is hard to fathom. Love to all you Okies from us here in Namibia.

  • Katrina - Ashley I am so relieved that you and your family are ok. I have been reading your blog for quite a few years now, but I rarely comment. When I heard the news all I could think of was I hope my friend Ashley is okay. Then I realised you don’t even know who I am, however you are the only person I know of who lives in Oklahoma. The Internet makes the world so much smaller. I live in Australia and spend my summers living with the very real threat of bush fires and I agree with you that it helps you keep a healthy perspective on what matters. My prayers go out to you all at this time.

  • amber - Heartbreaking. I can only imagine what a hard, devastating week this is for so many. Praying for overwhelming peace & comfort for them… As more storms roll in today, I’m grateful that He knows.

  • colleen from alabama - Oh Ashley, I am so sorry. I live in the part of Alabama that was devastated spring 2 years ago by tornadoes. The kind of loss that God redeems but it is never the same. The kind that leaves you changed. It was not the first time for me though. When i was 7, my small town in South Carolina was pillaged by a tornado. Kids in my school died, houses two blocks from mine were no more. I rode my bike to the end of our street with jars of iced tea for the national guardsmen who were standing watch there in the aftermath. I still remember it all so well. I am different because of it. I will be praying. I know God will redeem and heal, just praying for the process and the hearts of those who face such loss.

  • Lynn - Sending prayers to your home state of Oklahoma during this difficult time. Gald to hear you and your family are all well.

  • Seamingly Sarah - When I read about the teachers and children in the school I couldn’t talk about it out loud without crying, I couldn’t really think about it without crying either. I can’t imagine searching for my children, hoping they’re alive. My heart aches for those who are searching.

  • Molly - being an iowa girl i know what you are talking about. we have spent time in our tornado shelter (basement) the last two nights. luckily nothing has come of it, but we take the tornado siren very seriously. my heart is breaking for your state. so sad, so devastating. sending our love and prayers to oklahoma!

  • Julie - Praying for Oklahoma. I’ve lived in Texas my entire life (minus one year) and just last week we were hiding in our closets. I think it does change your perspective when faced with the unknown and unpredictable. I also loved what you said about people in Oklahoma being salt of the earth, smile and wave people. I think that’s what I love so much about living in Texas also.

  • Lisa M. - So glad to see this post, Ashley. You and your sister have been on my mind the past couple of days. So glad to hear you and your family are well. I live in Western PA and Oklahoma has been in our prayers. It is so hard for us to imagine such disaster and devastation, but our hearts and prayers will continue to go out to your state.

  • Sarah - A Nebraska girl here. We know all too well about tornadoes also. I was born in Grand Island, the town that was devastated by seven tornadoes in one night. We like to poke at weathermen too, because they are always so excited, but you always take cover when they say too. Yours was the first blog I checked this morning. I don’t know where you live in Oklahoma, but I read every day and I wondered. Glad you and your family are safe.

  • katygirl - i am praying for your personal tornadoes today.

  • Michelle W - Beautiful post for such a heart wrenching topic. It is funny, I feel the same way aboiut these tornadoes but would never be able to put into words that would make much sense. You sure have a way with words. What a beautiful skill. Continued prayers for Oklahoma, The Heartland.

  • nancy - In times like these there are few words that seem appropriate. No words that are good enough. I am praying for you. Praying for those in OK. A whole nation is.

  • Sherry Eckblad - So glad to hear that all of you are safe. I can’t believe the devastation the tornado left behind. We had one rip through our neighborhood two years ago and it was an F2, I can’t imagine an F5.
    I am an Okie at heart living in Minnesota although my roots are in Kiowa, Oklahoma as is some of my family. We need to all pray for Oklahoma and the families that are suffering from this horrible event.

  • Alice H - Beautiful way to talk about this Ashley!

    I have a lot of family (or family of family) that were in Moore. Their homes might be destroyed but they are alive. My heart aches for the babies that were in those schools. And I agree with you about how wonderful Okies are.

  • Suzanne - So beautifully said, Ashley. I’m in Enid but I used to live in Broken Arrow. So glad you are a fellow Okie. I wish I could have known you when I lived in BA. I’ll be praying for Little One, her upcoming surgery and for the insurance issues to be worked out. I enjoy your blog so much! Hope you have a blessed day!

  • Mel - You and your family were the first people I thought of when I heard about the tornadoes. So glad you guys are safe and well. My heart breaks for the people of Moore.

    Best of luck with Little Ones surgery in the coming weeks and stay safe.

  • Kelly - We’ve watched in horror and sadness as the news is coming out of Oklahoma. Such heartbreak. We’re praying!

  • Marsha in OK - Thanks for sharing your heart, again, Ashley. We were sideswiped by the Catoosa tornado in 1993 and surrounded by tornadoes in Kingfisher in 1999. Without a doubt the only thing that matters when you’re a little too up close and personal with an F4 are the people you love, and then everyone else once you know your loved ones are safe. Even treasured family heirlooms and (gasp!) photos become incidental. I remember, after the Catoosa tornado, thinking how the Lord is so much more powerful than that tornado was. I’m so thankful for that perspective in the aftermath of the most terrifying moments of my life.

  • RachaelB - My heart is grieved for those who experienced loss yesterday … especially the loss of a loved one, a child. My heart hold out that miracles will come from the rubble of that school.
    Praying for your family, too as you travel through uncertainties.

  • Emily - Ashley – You have such a beautiful heart and way with words. Thank you for sharing this post.

  • Kelsey Gilliam - I feel ya!
    That tornado was literally miles from my in-laws. My husband and I just moved to Texas. It has been such a bitter-sweet couple of days. I’m so thankful we were safe and away from it, but my heart has been aching to get home and help out :(.

  • Emily - I’m so glad you’re safe. Keeping you all in my thoughts. <3

  • Lisa - So beautifully written!

  • Tami Parry - So glad your family is safe. All those affected by this storm are in our prayers! May God’s comforting hand be upon them!

  • Ruth@GraceLaced - So well said, my friend. I so relate to what you’ve said here about personal storms…because we all relate to loss and suffering, uncertainties and disappointment. I have not yet had to experience loss in the way these fams in OK have. Praying and sending hugs.

  • Courtney - You have such a gift with words. Thank you for always sharing your heart.

  • Kathryn - So devastating — the kind of heartache you can’t fathom. Beautiful tribute though to the people of your state.

  • Darlene Griffin - When I heard about the damage from the storm on the radio…I instantly thought of you and your family. As soon as I got home I checked your blog… I am glad you all are ok! My thoughts and prayers are with you and the many families in Oklahoma. PLease let us know if we can be praying anything specific for you all.

  • Jenni - I am from Ok but now live in California. My whole family is still out there. My parents live one mile from the damage. They are safe, thank God. What I really want to say, though, is this:
    I can’t tell you how many times people hear say to me that I am so lucky to have finally “gotten out” of Oklahoma, and there have been times in my life when I would have whole-heartedly agreed, but this is not one of them. I am lucky (blessed) to have been raised there,and to know what caring, God-fearing people are really like. I cherish my raising. I pray for my home now.

  • Dawn - Sending lots of prayers to Oklahoma.

  • Marsha Cannon - I enjoy reading your blog. I have a close friend whose child is also facing her final palate surgery. We live in Mississippi and are also familiar with the tornado preparations, so sad about the devastation in OK this week and praying for all.

  • Teresa - I’m an Okie by transplant…and proud to be an Okie, because you are so right about the kindness and resilience of the Oklahoma people. Praying for all the people affected plan on diving in and helping this weekend, cause that’s just what we do. I also lived in northern Alabama in April 2011 where there was so much destruction, and I have to say that I was proud to live with alabamans because they are just about as great as okies!

  • Bee Girl - Love and light to you and yours and everyone living through the aftermath.

  • tara pollard pakosta - I am sorry you are going through personal hardship. I can really relate to this. In the past year, my husband lost his job, we lost the only home we have ever owned, we moved to Michigan for a new job and then my husband was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor and we made yet another move to be back by his family, 9 months after the first move. It’s been a really really bad year, full of trials, but also full of beautiful heart wrenching moments that make you feel alive.
    much love and the best to you with all that you face.
    tara pakosta

  • AshleyAnn - Tara – goodness, I am so sorry for the year you have faced. I can’t imagine all that change, all that hardship you have and are facing. I am so sorry you are on that road…thank you for sharing that with me, with those of us reading your comment. Thank you….praying for you and your family right now.