I met Amy Brock McNew through writing friends and was thrilled to sit next to her during lunch at an ACFW conference. In that crowded restaurant in Nashville, seated at a long table filled with enthusiastic writers, Amy huddled over her phone and looked very worried. I asked what was going on and she was waiting to see if her step daughter was all right after a second tornado struck her community, and crushed the Starbucks where she was inside. I’ll never forget Amy’s heart for her family and we all stopped right there to pray for them all to be well. She not only writes about amazing, strong warriors but, indeed, has taught me much about resilience. So glad you get to hear her story first-hand today as part of the Let Resilience Arise guest blog series.
By Amy Brock McNew
“Please seek shelter immediately. A tornado has been spotted on the ground in Kokomo.”
The alert sounded and the sirens blared. I gathered our supplies, my son, and the dogs, and corralled them in the bathroom while I kept an eye on the sky out our west-facing kitchen window.
Suddenly, rain poured in buckets. Then a wall of hail came. Then dead, calm.
My brain said, “Get to the bathroom, here it comes”. At the same time, I looked up and saw an EF2 tornado barreling toward us. I literally jumped over the table and ran. The next few minutes stretched to an eternity. I sat on the tub holding my son, hoping the music from his ear buds would drown out the nightmare bearing down on us.
The house rocked. Debris slammed our home. Wind roared at a deafening pitch. All I could do was pray while wondering if I’d be able to get the door open, or if there’d even be anything on the other side. Or worse, would we get blown away and opening the door be the least of our worries?
As suddenly as it began, it was over. I opened the door, thankful everything seemed to be mostly intact. But there was no time to investigate. My son and I lit out the door and into the now freezing rain to check on our neighbors. As soon as we stepped out, our world stopped.
Debris was everywhere. Houses reduced to rubble. Parts of our own home and others, and pieces of businesses a few blocks away covered the ground. The Bob Evans restaurant sign sat drunkenly in our yard. We took a moment to collect ourselves, then off we went. When each house had been cleared and everyone reported in, many of us huddled in the middle of the street, praying, crying, and praising. Despite the devastation, we only had two minor injuries.
Our material possessions were severely damaged and much lost that day. Some lost everything. But though the storm had ravaged our homes, we’d been protected. Sadness set in after the shock, but so did thankfulness. We latched onto it, and set about the months-long task of recovery. Slowly, life returned to a new normal.
Until three years later, when we were hit again.
This time an even larger tornado followed an almost identical path, destroying homes just repaired, and demolishing both those untouched last time and those recently rebuilt.
This time, I was away at a conference. I sat down to lunch with friends and received a text from my son. “Mom, just wanted to let you know I love you.” Then the phone calls began. Disbelief consumed me. My seventeen year old son was home alone, and had just sent me what now seemed like a goodbye text. I listened while the wind roared over the phone as friends tried to reach him. We couldn’t get hold of my daughter.
So I waited. Clinging to my sisters, barely breathing.
Once I learned everyone was safe with, again, only minor injuries, anger slammed into me with a vengeance. How could God let this happen? Hadn’t we been through enough? We’d just put our lives back together, and now there was more destruction than before. The chances of getting hit by two tornadoes so close together were astronomical, yet there we were. What had we done to deserve this kind of “luck”?
I’d always been a fighter, doing my best to stand strong and face any battle head on. Not this time. This time I wanted to sink into fury and despair. I wanted to drop my sword and run away, raging at God. But He had other plans.
I happened to be at the American Christian Fiction Writer’s conference. My husband insisted I stay, not wanting me to have to deal with the mess until I absolutely had to. My fellow conferees agreed. They rallied around me, prayed with me, and yanked me out of my funk. I absorbed the peace around me. I clung to the words God had given others for me. I relished that time of joy and stored it as strength, so I could be fortified to head home and share it with my family and neighbors. With their help and God’s patience and love, I was strengthened so that I’d not only be able to endure, but conquer the recovery before me.
When I returned home later that weekend, my resolve was severely tested. They informed me that close friends of ours had lost their home. Then they revealed that my daughter had been in the Starbucks that was destroyed, the one I’d been watching on the news. The only thing left standing was the bathroom the guests had been herded into. As soon as I was informed, I got back in my vehicle and drove to the restaurant she manages. I walked right back on the line and squeezed the absolute soup out of her for several minutes. Having just seen pieces of the cooler from Starbucks in our yard, the place the manager was originally going to shelter the guests in, I was overcome. I realized I’d almost lost my stepdaughter, the only baby girl I’d ever have. I could have lost my precious baby boy. My older son and his family. My husband. My friends.
That’s when I lost it again. It took all I had to pull myself back to that place of peace, that haven of faith I’d found over the weekend. In doing so, I realized a few things.
This life will never be perfectly peaceful. Bad things will happen, our world may be destroyed, and peace may seem elusive. But His peace is always there. Even in the middle of the most violent storms. His peace is not dependent upon what’s happening around us, or whether pieces of our home are strewn across the countryside. It is only dependent upon our willingness to accept it and cling to it.
A Scripture was pointed out to me that weekend, and I’ve kept it at the forefront of my mind since. “Fear not, for I am with you. Be not dismayed, for I am your God. Yes, I will help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 (NKJV)
I will face more storms. I will be tested in battles that threaten to destroy me. Yet I will face them head on. I’m a warrior. I have power and peace through Christ, and I know with a surety born of faith and experience, He will see me through. Even when I feel as if I’m standing alone in the screaming darkness, He is holding me.
He has made me resilient.
Amy Brock McNew
Author. Blogger. Fighter.
Former nurse and martial artist.
Amy doesn’t just write speculative fiction, she lives and breathes it. She enthusiastically explores the strange, the supernatural, and the wonderfully weird. She pours her guts onto the pages she writes, honestly and brutally revealing herself in the process. Nothing is off limits. Her favorite question is “what if?” and she believes fiction can be truer than our sheltered and controlled realities.
This wife and mom is a lover of music, chocolate, the beach, and cherry vanilla Coke. Her home is a zoo, filled with teenagers–both hers and those she seems to collect–two dogs, a cat, and various fish and amphibians. Strangely enough, her kids are the ones who have to tell her to turn the music down.
It is her firm belief that everyone should have a theme song.
Originally from Arkansas, Amy currently resides in Indiana. She and her Taekwondo-instructor husband are constantly acting like overgrown kids–and loving every minute of it. She longs for the day when her husband retires, so she can write her adventures of love and war on a back porch overlooking the ocean.
In flip flops.
Some ghosts from the past refuse to stay dead.
Finally. Finally everything is coming together for Liz Brantley.
She’s marrying Ryland Vaughn, the man of her dreams. She’s embraced her calling and battles the minions of hell bent on her destruction. And she’s left her dark past far behind her.
Or so she thought.
A secret she holds close, stuffed down deep, surfaces at the wrong time for everyone in Liz’s life, leaving a trail of devastation. Left reeling, Liz wonders if she made a mistake, putting her trust in God, her guardian Arie, and Ryland.
And the demon Kade capitalizes on her shaken faith. With a vengeance.
Torn between her tortured past and the future she craves, Liz is desperate to defeat every demon that stands in her way.
Before all hell breaks loose and swallows her whole.
What is the Let Resilience Arise series all about?
Elizabeth Van Tassel is a wildfire survivor who lost every possession and her home in 2007. Since that time, she’s been cultivating fiction and nonfiction projects of her own to inspire kids and adults alike with her lessons. But she’s also developed a wonderful network of amazing authors in all different genres and professions who have compelling stories to boost you or perhaps a friend you know who’s struggling with a similar challenge. Subscribe to this blog (on the home page HERE) for these articles and a monthly newsletter to come to your email or stop by again for more amazing stories. Also have your teens and tweens check out their own page and posts HERE. Want to share your story with others or have Elizabeth share hers with your group? Contact Elizabeth HERE and she’d love to discuss bringing lessons of hope and new beginnings to your group too.