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Birds Sing in Storms

July 17, 2012

I began this post June 18, 2012

This time last year I could see the tornado siren on its pole across the wide street behind our house. The siren was so loud I felt sorry for those who lived in the development behind the pole. My ears rang for minutes after our county’s monthly tornado drills and I comforted myself with the thought it must be louder still to the folks who lived over there.

Now I live over there. And even though I think that as the crow flies, we are closer to that siren than when we lived across the street, I can barely hear it inside this house.

But I heard it early this morning in my sleep.

When I opened my eyes, I saw the unnatural dark of night without filtered street light, without the glow of the alarm clock. My ears registered no air purifier, no throb of ceiling fan. Only crazy shriek of wind and tornado siren in pitch dark.

We did well. Got everyone to the windowless basement room in the dark. Found flashlights. My husband’s Blackberry suggested that meteorologically, the worst was almost over.

Twenty minutes later we were back upstairs, tucking children back into bed.

Mercy (who was having a sleep-over in our room) and I were wide awake with adrenaline. As we laid there in the very-dark –the power did not come back on for six more hours –Mercy observed, “Listen, Mom. The birds are singing.”

The sky beyond the shades was dark. But the birds were singing their morning praise.

My feet hit the floor and I groped my hand toward her bed.

“Come with me, Sweetie,” I said. She found my hand in the dark.

“Lets go see what the birds see.”

We walked to the window that faces east, the window where some days, when I lift my eyes, I watch the sun rise over the bluffs in Wisconsin.  I raised the shade on an artificial dawn: the sky illumined as far as we could see with cloud to cloud lightning in the wake of the retreating storm.

*****

Until a few years after Joy came home, when the realities cerebral palsy finally sank in, we did not imagine we’d ever live anywhere else but in the house we’d built, among the trees and flowers we’d planted, under a roof with the mortgage paid off. We had grown accustomed to life there: in the bottom of a shallow bowl of land with a high berm at our back creating a micro-climate for apples and deflecting straight-line winds, even if it did not block the sight and sound of the tornado siren.

But God had another place in mind for our family, on the other side of the busy street, in a community of people I once pitied because the siren was in their back yard, not mine.

The tree that blew down in the windstorm the day before closing was a sign.

I didn’t add it up until this spring, after nine months in this house getting my bearings. This house is the tallest on our block, a block that straddles the highest ridge of land in our city.

We moved in last October and it took two seasons to catch up with the reality of the weather here. Multiple blackouts have taught me the merits of solar torches and camping lanterns. The budget is guided by the imperative of taking down the old trees with rotten cores before one falls on the house.  We’ve had to study new trees  to plant in this place: with roots suited to the boulders hidden beneath the top soil and trunks supple enough to withstand the weather.

Something like living with disabilities: a home with a view more scary and more glorious than I ever imagined before we lived here.

*****

That morning, my hand in Mercy’s as I raised the shade on the birds-eye view of the storm, this was the anthem on my heart.

It’s still there.

How Can I Keep From Singing?

–Chris Tomlin

There is an endless song
Echoes in my soul
I hear the music ring

And though the storms may come
I am holding on
To the rock I cling

How can I keep from singing Your praise
How can I ever say enough
How amazing is Your love
How can I keep from shouting Your name
I know I am loved by the King
And it makes my heart want to sing

I will lift my eyes
In the darkest night
For I know my Savior lives

And I will walk with You
Knowing You’ll see me through
And sing the songs You give

How can I keep from singing Your praise
How can I ever say enough
How amazing is Your love
How can I keep from shouting Your name
I know I am loved by the King
And it makes my heart want to sing.

I can sing in the troubled times
Sing when I win
I can sing when I lose my step
And fall down again.

I can sing ’cause You pick me up
Sing ’cause You’re there
I can sing ’cause You hear me, Lord
When I call to You in prayer.

I can sing with my last breath
Sing for I know
That I’ll sing with the angels
And the saints around the throne.

How can I keep from singing Your praise
How can I ever say enough
How amazing is Your love
How can I keep from shouting Your name
I know I am loved by the King
And it makes my heart want to sing.

From the Chris Tomlin CD See the Morning  Six Step Records, 2006

Photo credit: http://www.extremeinstability.com/storminfo.htm

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