Monday, June 3, 2013

Perspectives (part 2)

In my last post, I ended by talking about prayer.  Prayer during a storm.  Storms happens frequently in this part of the country (especially this year, in this particular spot.)  Since I'm talking about perspectives, I'll let you in on a little secret:

Everybody has one--a perspective, that is.

 And it's different, not only from person to person, but also from time to time.  An overweight mother of four does not have the same perspective that a skinny, single, college girl has.  Does that make one of them wrong?  Not necessarily.  That makes them different.

The sticky thing you get into with perspectives is when you decide that someone else is wrong because of the perspective they have.  Some call it judgement, but I call it not holding your tongue.  "Just because you can say something (and it might be truthful), doesn't mean you should say something."

It seems as though everyone and their grandmother have an opinion about these storms, about the storm chasers, about those who lost everything, about the teachers who prayed.  No problem.  Does everyone need to share those opinions with the ones who just went through this horrible tragedy?  Not so much.

I'm going to give a little rebuttal to some of the things I've heard in the last couple of weeks.
(Disclaimer: I am writing this from my perspective....on the fringe.  I haven't lost everything.  I didn't lose a loved one.  This time, I didn't even have any damage. But my friends did, and these are some things I learned by listening--not talking--to them.)

For the teacher who prayed: Good for you!  Not because you went "against the rules about prayer in schools", but because you protected those kids to the best of your ability.  You didn't force your students to pray (as if there was time for that!), and you didn't lose your job because of it (contrary to the unbelievable Internet rumor spreading wildly.)

For those who would protest at a child's funeral:  I won't mention you by name because that would just give you the publicity you desire (even though there's only 3 people who read this blog.)  What you are doing does not accomplish anything.  You are not what you say you are, and you turn others toward your hate by inciting them to anger.  I wish I could say that I would be the one to give a cup of cold water in the name of Christ, but I'm afraid that I would only accomplish your purpose, not God's, if I ever meet any of you.  All I can do is pray for you--that you don't turn anyone else to hate with your religion.

For those who criticize people who live here:  You've obviously never weathered a storm of any kind.  While these storms are the most brutal thing nature can bring, they also bring something amazing--the helpers.
There is nothing that can swallow you up with both pride and humility at the same time as being approached by a stranger who says, "I am here to help you."  There are those who do this for a "living" like the policemen, firemen, and military; and there are some who stop what they are doing just to make sure their neighbor is okay.  ALL of them come together, work together, and accomplish great things together for the benefit of someone other than themselves.  You should try it sometime--putting someone else before yourself--it is truly an amazing thing.

For those who come to sightsee:  Go home! If you are here to help cleanup, thank you, but please put your cameras away.  If someone wants to take pictures of their destroyed home so they have a memorial of what they survived, they have that right.  And, while you have the right to take pictures of their stuff, it is incredibly tacky to film their loss for your pleasure.  I know the devastation is incredible, and it is hard to turn your eyes away when it stretches as far as you can see.  Please don't take for granted, though, that this is someone else's home turned inside out.  If you wouldn't normally see it driving down the street, don't take pictures of it laying out in their neighbor's yard.

For those who criticize the weatherman: Storms like this cover miles and miles.  They damage or destroy thousands and thousands of homes, businesses, and sometimes schools.  Every single life lost is a tragic thing, but if you look at the storm's path, it is truly unbelievable that there weren't more lives lost.  Truly.  Had it not been for the scientists, the weather reporters, and the storm chasers that number could have been so much higher.  And, while I know the feeling I get in my gut when there's going to be a bad storm, and I know the look of the sky when the clouds get black and start to swirl; there is no way I could warn others on where to go, how bad it might be, or what direction it's heading.  That's why I listen to someone else with a more experienced perspective.

For those who want to introduce immediate legislation to get everyone a shelter less than 24 hours after a storm (and this is where I'm probably going to make people mad): It's not the government's job to get everyone a shelter.  When you live in this part of the country, you have to make choices based on what is important to you.  Do storms like this happen every week, every month, or every year?  No.  These storms are rare, but they do incredible damage.  From my perspective, this is another opportunity for neighbor to help neighbor.  If you have shelter, let someone else in.  It's as simple as that.  You have to decide if a shelter is worth the money you'll have to spend.  What is a life worth?  What is it worth if this only happens once every 10-15 years?

As far as the schools, those teachers are not to blame.  Neither are the administrators.  Nor the school board, builders, etc.  We learn from history.  Unfortunately, we learn when we lose lives.  These storms don't happen every day.  We also knew from the time we woke up that these storms were going to be bad.  While you can't keep your children home every time there's a risk, there are times you get to be the parent and override any other deadline you may have.  Some parents kept their kids home, some picked theirs up early, and some left their children there.  None are wrong.  Not even the ones who are now grieving.  They did the best they could, and they don't need our criticism or our suggestions right now.  They need our friendship and our love.  We'll learn from this, and maybe we'll make different decisions, but now is not the time.

Wow! This turned into a long post.  I'm guessing you probably get where I'm going with this.  During times like these, it's easy to have all the answers--especially when you're sitting hundreds of miles away. This isn't the first time this has happened, and I'm sure it won't be the last.   We don't need answers right now.  We need helpers, love, and a little time to make sure we keep things in the right perspective.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Perspectives (part 1)

Since most of the people who read this blog are friends of mine, you all know where I live.  Most everyone who doesn't live under a rock knows what happened on Sunday and Monday.  Something that happens when you live in this part of the country--tornadoes.  Since then, I've seen all kinds of posts: from "what are they thinking..." to "why don't they..."  to "don't mess with us".  I'm here to tell you that people have all kinds of different perspectives when it comes to events like this.  These are some that I've seen, some that are my own, and some that come from some wise friends of mine.  

First, a little history....

I was born in Pueblo, CO, but I have lived 30 of my 35 years in Oklahoma (3 of the other 5, I lived in Kansas--another state in "tornado alley") so I have experienced my share of severe weather.  Four tornado events have made an impact on my memories so I base most of my tornado knowledge on those.  The first was when I was in 1st or 2nd grade.  I do not know exactly when it was or how powerful.  I know it hit in Ardmore, OK where we were gathered with another family in their hallway.  Their daughter was dropped off from a school event, and she received a nasty gash on the head when she fell over a fence that had been flung into their yard.  But, she did make it in safely, and their house did not sustain any damage.

The second tornado that made an impact on my life was on May 3, 1999.  I lived and worked in Blanchard, OK at the time, and I watched the storm from the south as it tracked across the county.  I had friend living in Bridge Creek, Newcastle, and Moore at the time, and it completely rocked our little communities.  A young man that was a good friend stopped by my house a few days later.  He had first aid training so he had volunteered in Bridge Creek, only to be put to work in the makeshift morgue.  He stopped by to "talk" and tell me about some of the things he had seen, and he wept as he recounted the stories.  Thankful that God had shown me this young man's heart, I married him the very next year :)

The third tornado was only two short years ago (on this very day).  I blogged about it here.  After a day with lots of kiddos at my house, I was left with only my four children.  Thankfully, my father-in-law was also there to get into the cellar with me.  Seeing the tornado headed straight for us, we locked the door, prayed and waited.  When we emerged, we saw that it had taken a sharp right turn, missing us, but hitting our neighbors, friends, and family.  It's hard to describe how we can be thankful that something so powerful missed us but still so very heartbroken about the devastation to those who we love. Those are amazingly complex emotions.

This last tornado has also made a profound imprint on my life.  It dropped out of the sky just three short miles north of my Mom's house.  Once again, that complex mix of thankfulness and sadness are flooding my home.  We are close enough to be affected emotionally, but far enough that we weren't affected physically.  

Now for the perspectives:

This is my home, where I grew up, and where I make my life now.  I drive down the highway that first felt this monster on a weekly basis (my husband drives it on a daily basis.) As we follow its path, I see that it destroyed the place where my Mom used to work when we first moved to this town. I see that it narrowly missed the part of town where the Walmart, Braum's, my bank, the first place I held a job, and several other often highly populated areas (thankfulness, because it could have been so much worse.), but then it ripped through the homes that were sitting right behind those stores (sadness for those who were losing everything--possibly even loved ones.) I see that it ripped down the old bridge--the one that has stood for years, the one that we used to sneak onto when we would go out with the girls, the one that has been a landmark seemingly forever. I see that, as it passed over the current bridge, that it tossed cars off of it like they were children's toys. It's path traveled down 149th, "the shortcut to Moore", took out the farm where my daughter was at a field trip less than a week before (MAJOR thankfulness), and then it headed for more homes, one of which belonged to my very best friend, and still a list of others who lost their homes or sustained major and minor damage.  It tore through schools, neighborhoods, a hospital, and the movie theater.  It scattered debris along side streets, main streets, and across two major interstates.  And then, it just spun quickly as it came.  And you turned around, and all you could see was destruction in its wake.  

That is my perspective.  How I saw it from the outskirts.  I imagine that the feelings were magnified 100-fold for those who had to ride it out in the closets, cellars, hallways, bank vaults, and even cars racing out of its path.  Minor damage or major damage, it would be absolutely terrifying to know that monster was heading in your direction.  People will be insensitive, derogatory, and questioning; but the fact is, until you've been in that situation, you can't tell anyone else what to do.  Yes, there are right things and wrong things, but sometimes the right things aren't available, so you have to do the next best thing.  Just ask the teachers that did the best that they could, but still lost their students.  Ask the family of the mother and child who sought shelter, but that shelter didn't protect them.  Everyone in the state of Oklahoma knows that you shouldn't try to outrun a tornado in your vehicle (except the storm chasers, but that's a whole different story!), but when a vehicle is all you have to get you out of the storm's path, then you do what you have to do.  

And you pray...

A school teacher is getting a lot of publicity for what she said about prayer in schools, but it's true.  When a storm is bearing down on you, you pray.  You pray OUT LOUD.  You pray until it's over.  And when it's done, if you're still around to pray, you pray some more.  Period. At least, that's how we do it here, in tornado alley, where the storms come.  

Monday, April 29, 2013

Disappointed? Not so much!

Yesterday, was the day of my second half-marathon.  Last year, I ran the Oklahoma City Memorial Half-Marathon just 20 days after my Dad passed away.  I had trained hard for it, and I ran it for him :)  This year, life was a little more complicated (hard to believe, but true) so I didn't train as faithfully*** This is an important note to remember as you read this post. These are the completely random thoughts that I had as I ran/jogged/walked/limped my 13.1 miles yesterday.

1. I've never been to any other "big" races before so I don't have much to base this on, but the OKC Memorial Marathon is the most moving and amazing race.  It truly honors and remembers those who were lost on 4/19/95.  
2. Almost 25,000 runners in downtown OKC.  If that won't motivate you, nothing will!
3. Everything about this race is amazing: the runners (top-notch!), the spectators (unbelievable), the volunteers (completely selfless, really!) Yes, I'm gushing, but there was not a single bad moment at all in the whole time I was downtown.  From the guy who let me park for free because I was a runner to the woman who handed me my finishers medals to the people along the course who were holding signs to cheer on complete strangers, the whole experience was inspiring.
4. I totally believe God had complete control of my playlist.  As I got to the bottom of Gorilla Hill, and I was looking at the banner above it wondering if I would make it, "Dear X, You Don't Own Me" by Disciple came on.  Not my normal music, but it works great on a running playlist.  Just passed mile 9 (the EXACT same place as last year), I heard "God's Not Dead" by Newsboys--exactly what I needed to get me on to those last few miles.  And, as I rounded the corner to head to the finish line, "The Final Countdown" by Europe--no lie!  It was awesome, and I'm really thankful that I managed to get music before the race, because the little training I did, I didn't have music.
5. There were amazing people along the race course.  We honestly didn't go fifteen feet without someone holding a sign and cheering.  I LOVE those people who came out on a Sunday morning to cheer us on.  No, they weren't running, but they were a HUGE part of helping so many people finish.
6. I don't know the name of the neighborhood, but it is one of the nicest in OKC.  There are people who sit out on the sidewalk, offer water bottles, and hold signs for the runners.  Of course, they don't have many options: leave the neighborhood before the race starts and the road is closed, or stay and enjoy the festivities.  Thank you!
7. The sea of red sox--completely moving!
8. I didn't get to see an old friend because of the mass of people, but he saw me running and cheered for me.  There's just something about knowing someone is cheering you on (even if you don't see them) that motivates you to keep going.
9. He was there cheering for his brother, who finished 3rd in the half-marathon just a couple weeks after an amazing finish at Boston.
10. Even though I am a totally slow half-marathoner, the moment that I hear the sirens to tell me to move over because the super-fast marathoners are PASSING me, I am so excited.  I do not think, "Oh, running is so easy for them."  All I can think is how much blood, sweat, and tears they have put into training, and I cry and cheer them on.  (Yes, I cry while running. Don't judge me.)
11. My husband, who does not run, always says that he is going to start running after I finish a big race.  That makes me smile to know that even though he sees me hurting or bummed about a slow finish, I have inspired him to do what I love.
12.  My husband also takes on the huge task on that Sunday morning of taking our four children, getting them ready, and off to church on time without me.  He does it without complaint, and he is always encouraging me along the race course by text.  I am so thankful for him and his support!
13. My kids, four of the many reasons why I run, are amazing! They are ALWAYS asking when they can do a race with me, and I love getting to run with them.
14. Back to Gorilla Hill....I know if I can make it to that yellow house on the corner, the rest of the race is downhill (for the most part.)  Best water stop ever!
15. This year I did the race completely alone.  I had friends that were running it, but we had different paces so we just did our own thing.  It was nice, but hard to get pics!  However, when I approached a total stranger to take my picture at the finish line, he happily obliged.  I'm telling you, EVERYONE was amazingly kind at this race.
16.  To the firefighters in full gear, I applaud you.  I was so happy to see the people cheering you on, patting your shoulders, and showing you respect.  
17. To the officers, in uniform and in plain clothes, thank you for allowing us to feel safer. I tried to thank as many as I could, but there were just too many.
18. To the volunteers, thank you for giving of your time to work at this event.  You made it great!
19. To the survivors and family members of the victims, thank you for allowing us to run in memory of your losses.
20. To the runners who finished before me, great job! I have no grand illusions of a first place finish (although those who know my competitive nature might argue), but hopefully next year, I'll be hot on your heels.
21. To the runners who finished behind me, great job! Even if you finish in the very last place, you did more than millions of Americans yesterday morning.  Be proud of your accomplishment, and wear your medal with pride.
22. To all my friends and family who offered prayers and encouraging words yesterday, thank you! I received so much more support than I deserve or expected, and you all made me feel so special.  I truly have an amazing support system, and you make me want to do the same for others.  
23. Since I still can't find anything bad about the race, I will say that the muscles on the ride side of my body from the waist down completely locked up around mile 12.  I really had no choice but to keep going, but I'm sure I looked awful to those who were watching.  Thankfully, they were numb by the finish line, and I managed to run/hobble across.  ***See note above, and remind me of it when I start training next year!

Having said all of that (and it was a lot, but you have a lot of things run through your head when you run that far), I just want to say my finish could have been disappointing.  I finished 30 minutes slower than last year, but I can't be disappointed.  Someday, I'll run for time, but right now, I just run.  So if any of you want to run it with me next year, I'll totally be ready!