Under the Stairs, and the Storm that Wasn’t

The week after the hailstorm, tornadoes threatened to destroy Kansas. As dire weather forecasts poured in that Thursday, I moved restlessly about the house, putting things in order. I don’t know why I felt like I needed to tidy my nest—if a tornado flattened our house, it wouldn’t matter how clean the house was. But I picked up dirty socks, washed dishes, swept crumbs, and worried.

With no change in the foreboding forecast, I began packing bags. A clean set of clothes for everyone. The charger for my implant. One file of our most important documents. Our phones. Snacks and water bottles. All I thought we needed for survival was packed into two backpacks and a large purse.

I’m always complaining about having too much stuff, I thought, as I surveyed our meager pile. Could we really make it with only three bags?

Will came home from work, and as the sky darkened we closed everything down on our house. We have no basement, so staying home was not safe. Like vagrants on a pilgrimage, with our dog running along and children clutching our necks, we walked several blocks to our former neighbors.

Just as we got into the basement, our phone alarms went off. Tornado warning!

Safe in the stairwell, our mood changed. The kind neighbor lady brought pizza, and we ate together, our napkins wiping pizza sauce off our mouths as we laughed. Out came a case of pop, and the little ones proudly clutched their very own can—a rare treasure. We felt happy and expansive, scrunched like pretzels on the concrete floor under the stairs.

The storm passed, and God neatly sent the tornadoes back where they belonged. At least we never saw any. All we got was plenty of rain!

If we had known the storm would dissipate, we could have stayed home and eaten supper at our own worn table, settling squabbles and feeding broccoli into unwilling mouths.

But as I thought about our neighbor’s kindness, I knew I wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything. She served us, allowing our wild, messy family into her home, because she loved us. I remembered how we ate together, squished in the tiny space like a too-full suitcase.

That was communion, I thought. We weren’t in “church”, but we were church. In the warmth of kindness and camaraderie, we sat on the hard floor, ate our pizza and drank our pop and were grateful to Jesus for giving us life.

Even if we had lost our house and everything else we owned, no tornado could destroy the love and friendship shown to us by our friends. The storm pushed us underground, but love cannot be confined by a small gray square under the stairs.


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