I Was in a Tornado at Dunkin' Donuts
When I call Brandon, it doesn’t say my name on his phone. It says one of my nicknames (Scrawls), followed by a tornado emoji, followed by another one of my nicknames, “Ol’ Reliable” (it’s an ironic nickname). The picture that flashes up is an off-brand Elmo with fire behind him. Each of those details is attached to a lot of long stories that are probably not interesting, but my point is, tornados are such a thing for me that I literally have one attached to my name on our phones. So, much of my identity for much of my life has been tied to fear and panic - and specifically, tornados.
I’ve lived scared as long as I can remember. When I was five, I collapsed dramatically in aisle six of the grocery store because I was convinced I had appendicitis. It’s something we kind of laugh about in my family now, but I was a wreck. It was just after my parents got divorced and my drives to school were always terrible because I was nauseated. Doctors said “nervous stomach.” Adults said “hypochondriac.”
The fear morphed and changed as I got older. But, I always had things to be afraid of. I’ve had seasons in adulthood when I was on medication for panic symptoms. I couldn’t stop hyperventilating.
I had a black widow phase.
A sinkhole phase.
A rare infectious disease phase.
A bad guys phase.
But tornados have been a constant. They’ve always been number one on my list. They’re super creepy looking and deadly and unpredictable. Seriously, you don’t know when the death wind is coming for you. My husband jokes regularly about my frequent YouTube deep dives into tornado destruction videos.
“Just watching a tornado swallow a warehouse in China three years ago.”
“Got to stay vigilant.”
I knew there would be storms today. But, I didn’t think they were starting until 8am. At least, that’s what my weather app said when I woke up at 6-something. I noticed last night that we were out of coffee, so I decided today I would take the girls to Dunkin’ Donuts.
I didn’t know tornados were a possibility. I didn’t even think we’d get caught in the rain.
We pulled in at Dunkin’ and ordered donuts and coffee. I asked the lady who was helping us how she was doing and she paused before saying, “I’m running...but not on Dunkin.” We chuckled and took our donuts.
Ever wanted a seat by the huge glass windows, but I said, “Eh, it’s supposed to storm soon, so let’s sit away from the windows.”
As soon as we sat down, the sky got weird. Let me remind you, this particular Dunkin’ is ALL windows. It was suddenly dark and it felt like everyone in the store with me held their breath. I remember saying to Ever, “Wow. Maybe we should go home...the sky just got really weird.”
As soon as I got the words out, the wind threw the door open and shut and our napkins flew everywhere. Then, the hail started.
It was all so sudden. The power went off and tornado sirens went on. All of our iPhones started buzzing and “TORNADO WARNING: TAKE SHELTER NOW” flashed on the screens. There must have been eight of us in the Dunkin’ and we all instinctively huddled near the bathroom, gawking at the huge windows. It looked like we were in a cloud that was rushing by horizontally. The trees were bending. It was loud.
A real tornado was really outside the donut shop, touching down a street over.
The Dunkin' Donuts lady who was “running, but not on Dunkin” wrapped her arms around my Ever, and we were all silent.
I held my girls and asked God, out loud, to please protect us. Ever was crying and shaking and Brooklyn was motionless, like she knew something was happening. And then, it was as if a light switch was flipped. Everything was still. People started moving again.
“Did that just happen?” we all mumbled.
It wasn’t until then that I had time to text Brandon and tell him what was happening.
This is what was happening.
So, there it was. My biggest fear, materialized. And the funny thing is, I wasn’t really afraid. Ever was afraid, and I just kept telling her that God is in control of the weather and He is good and He loves us and we can trust Him. Even when bad things happen.
It’s just so crazy.
People have been asking me if I’m nervous about what we’re preparing to do this month - fly overseas as a family and adopt a little girl with special needs. And my answer is no. I’m not nervous.
God has been so faithful. I will write more about all the ways at some point, but He has just been so clear and loving and generous to us, in such personal and miraculous ways, I can’t even be afraid.
If all our scenarios end up being worst case, I can still trust God because He has proven His love and goodness to us, just like He’s been doing since the beginning of time.
It’s just an incredible thing. This Christian life. I look back at the layers and layers of sin and fear and disobedience that He has helped me through and I am just in awe. Even in the middle of a tornado in a Dunkin’ Donuts, I’m in awe, as I experience this gift He loves to give His children - the gift of perfect peace.
“You will keep the mind that is dependent on You in perfect peace, for it is trusting in You.” Isaiah 26:3
So yeah, my adrenaline was through the roof, and it is even more so now that I’m watching the news footage of what was happening while we were snuggling strangers in a donut store bathroom. But, I didn’t have to be afraid. I knew that if that tornado sucked us up, we’d still be okay. We’d be more than okay.
“For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21.
God is so gracious. Also, I’m going to ask Brandon to change my identifying emoji from a tornado to a donut.