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Surviving the Storms of Life

“That ain’t no natural wind! Everybody run!” My young teen grammar blurted out the warning as a super strong wind bore down on us kids who were playing at the park playground where our family reunion was being held during opening day of the Clarion County Fair in the late ‘70s. Just minutes before, I heard thunder in the distant darkening sky, announcing the arrival of the late afternoon storm which typically occurred every year just prior to suppertime. However, as we ran for our pavilion with the wind whipping us, this storm was not typical! My father beckoned my younger sister and me to hop in our car for shelter. Our mother remained under the pavilion where the ladies had been busily setting food out for our meal. By the time the storm passed, it had left in its wake quite a scene of destruction. A large, heavy branch had broken off the tree towering our pavilion, crashing through the roof and injuring one of our reunion party. Trees were down everywhere, having pulled live wires with them and smashing cars. My mother had dove under a table, holding onto a crying girl, and emerged splattered with food. Those in the bingo building emerged bewildered upon seeing such a sight because they were unaware that anything had happened! We later heard that a trucker witnessed a funnel traveling up RedBank Creek and, knowing the fair was underway, called for help immediately.

I do not recall if this particular incident triggered in me what gradually became an irrational fear of storms or if it was growing up with a mother who was so terrified of storms, she waited them out while sitting at the top of the stairs between my parents’ room and the bedroom shared by my sister and me. However, one night, Mom’s “coping ritual” came to a frightening end when lightening struck the looming old pine tree in front of our house, splitting the tree and bouncing from it to enter the upper corner of my and sister’s bedroom, zipping above our heads and over our mother’s head, lighting up the light switch directly above her head and at the bottom of the stairs! Mom screamed and I hid under my covers.... I find it somewhat fitting that the month of May heralds both the start of the tornado season for Pennsylvania and also National Mental Health Awareness Month because I gradually overcame my irrational fear of storms and developed a healthy respect for them. Over time, I learned to employ three strategies to cope: education/preparation, de-sensitization, and faith in God. I find it helpful to learn about these type of storms from the National Weather Service Skywarn Trainings which instruct the public about how these storms develop, conditions to watch for, and what/when to report to them. For example, a tornado is only classified as such when it is on the ground, most often identifiable by the accompanying debris cloud indicating air-borne evidence of its destruction. Untrained spotters often call in to report scud clouds which can appear scary and resemble funnel clouds but they are loose, wispy, and do not rotate. Whenever I hear a tornado warning that a tornado was spotted in the area, I look around and, if I see no imminent threat, I assume it was a false report but I remain alert. Also, preparedness education is vital for empowering those who are fearful. When one learns how to develop a plan for preparedness and how to respond, one begins to build confidence in their ability to handle potentially life-threatening situations. De-sensitizing oneself to a fear likewise works well to help one cope. I’m a disaster movie buff and also am fascinated by weather survival shows such as Storm Stories, Storm Chasers, Tornado Alley, and Weather Gone Viral, to name a few. Watching real footage of tornados in action and hearing the stories of survivors helps me to realize that many, many people have survived direct-hits from a tornado descending upon their location! I once saw a show about a woman with a debilitating fear of tornadoes who overcame her fear by watching videos of them in action. Although education and de-sensitization strategies are key to conquering fear, my number one strategy is developing a workable faith in God. I’ve always believed in God, but it wasn’t until I developed and began “living out” my faith that I began to truly calm down during threat of violent storms (or any other threat, for that matter). Acknowledging and embracing the fact that God is our true Protector and Provider is the cornerstone for my firm belief that nothing can happen to us that He has not permitted for whatever reason. However, I also firmly believe that The Lord expects us to do our part: to educate ourselves, practice mindfulness of our surroundings and circumstances (be alert), make a plan, and prepare according to our ability to do so. I have found that as my faith grows and my knowledge and preparedness increases, my anxiety and fear decreases. The National Weather Service offers free online trainings and occasional community-based trainings. The American Red Cross, FEMA, and Ready.Gov offer excellent preparedness resources. Having a plan for how to respond while at home or away is essential in helping one to cope with and prepare for any emergency. And, most importantly, the following are calming Scriptures about God’s protection: Matthew 8:23-27/ Psalm 107:29/ Mark 4:35-41/ Psalm 91:1-16 and these three are very good to memorize: Psalm 57:1. “Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed. I cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills (His purpose) for me.” Deuteronomy 31: 6. “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is The Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” Psalm 56:3. “When I am afraid, I put my trust in You.” May The Lord bless you and keep you in His loving care this storm season and always!” Disclaimer: Blog posts reflect the opinions and experiences of the specific blogger and do not reflect the views or beliefs of Peerstar, LLC as an organization.

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