Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Week of Changes

One week ago today, my life was very different.  So many things have happened around me that, to be honest, I am having a hard time processing everything.  So, this post is really just a journal...a way for me to begin to process all of the events of the last week.

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011
It started out as an ordinary Sunday, really.  The kids and I went to church and then to a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese while Trevor finished building Camden's bunk bed.  I commented to the other mommies that the weekend had felt very busy, yet unproductive.  We got home around 4:00 to prepare for the other members of our home group to come over so that we could discuss the fourth chapter of David Platt's Radical.  That conversation never took place. 
Four of the six families in our home group met at our house at 5:00.  The weather was questionable and we kept the t.v. on while the kids went downstairs with the sitter to watch a movie.  It was probably about 5:30 when we decided we all needed to head down to the basement {well, the moms headed downstairs while the dads stayed up and watched the weather on the t.v.}.  It got pretty eerie outside and then it was a little better, so we headed back upstairs.  At that time, we did not realize the extent of damage that had taken place just south of us.  The cell service on all eight of our phones was sketchy at best, but when we could get a call or text, we all had concerned parents, siblings, and friends asking if we were ok.  Some of them were from other states watching coverage we hadn't even seen. 
We quickly figured out that we could get on where a storm chaser was just blocks away from St. John's hospital.  That was our first glimpse into images that will haunt us for the rest of our lives.  We all frantically tried to reach our loved ones, turning to facebook since our phones were basically worthless.  One of the families in our home group was concerned about their house since we were hearing reports that much of Joplin had been leveled and they live in the middle of the city.  Everyone was on their phones posting on facebook to try to find out if any of their Joplin-dwelling friends had been hurt or worse.
Joplin's graduation had been held that afternoon and it occurred to me that my cousin would have been there.  Had she been hurt?  Had my grandma {who lives in Joplin and whose house sustained damage} been at home?  Was she at my cousins graduation party?  Who was I not thinking of?  Was everyone safe?  There were so many questions and as we watched the images of a demolished hospital, a street of sticks where there used to be homes, and cars resting upside down, crumpled and destroyed from debris, I felt this strange feeling.  Shock, maybe, horror, maybe, disbelief, maybe.  A mix of emotions came over me and as our friends left our house to assess the damage and make sure that all their loved ones were safe, I thanked God that we were alive and well, that we had been spared, and asked for His protection and comfort for the people who had been so tragically effected by this horrible act of nature.
Once all our family and friends had been accounted for, we went to bed, knowing that our lives would be forever changed and that when we woke up, there would be so much work ahead.

Monday, May 23rd, 2011
I woke up hoping that what I'd seen the day before was all a bad dream and realized quickly that it was not.  We listened to the radio as we got ready for work {like we always do}, but the airwaves were much different than normal.  Uplifting songs had been replaced with frantic voices, reporting on the devastation, taking phone calls from some people looking for missing loved ones and others ready to spring into action to find out what they could do for those effected by the storm.
I was sad that I was headed to work, sure that there was somewhere I could be used more than as a counselor at the Junior High.  I quickly realized, though, that Carl Junction Junior High was exactly where I was needed.  Many students were effected by the storm and I began to see one student after the next after the next in my office, trying to process what had just happened.  Some lost their homes since our school district runs all the way down the west side of Joplin.  Many were in stores that suffered damage or were visiting friends or family in the heart of the tornado when it hit.  Miraculously, none of our 526 students in 7th and 8th grade were injured, but many of them had family or friends who lost everything and a few lost family members.
To top it off, more severe weather was in our forecast and we were on edge.  Around 8:30 a.m., our central office called for us to take shelter, so we took our place in the hall, waiting for another disaster that{fortunately} didn't happen.  Towards the end of the school day, it was looking bad again, so we held the students an additional 15 minutes in hopes that it would pass.  Before that round, I'd had enough and went to get Camden and bring him to the school with me.  I felt he was safer at the Junior High than at his pre-school.

I also got some sad news from one of our CHI adoptive buddies.  She and her husband had just accepted a referral for a precious 3 year old boy a couple of weeks ago.  Well, they received a phone call from their adoption consultant who informed them that there was an issue with their little guy's paperwork and he was no longer available for adoption.  I cannot imagine their heartbreak!  I'm definitely praying for them and this situation has really weighed heavily on my heart.

I came home mentally and emotionally exhausted.

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011
Tuesday at school held more of the same {minus the extreme weather}.  Lots of processing and stories.

That evening, Melia had an awards night and got her Kindergarten diploma.  It was so precious, but because of the threat of *more* severe weather, we were all on edge and Mrs. Schmidt kept the program shorter than normal.  The kids didn't really seem to mind, though! :)

Melia with Mrs. Schmidt

Receiving her "diploma"

Bailey, Melia, Jaylin, and Ashlyn

Melia and Hannah
After the "ceremony", we got home and got the kids in bed in just enough time for them to fall asleep so we could yank them out of bed and rush them downstairs as the tornado sirens wailed down the street.  We quickly pulled a mattress over to the storage area and surveyed the area.  After seeing the mass destruction in Joplin, we weren't taking any chances.  We noticed that we were too close to the hot water heater, so we quickly shifted some things around so we were next to the interior wall.  We were there for about an hour before we decided it was safe to head back to bed.

Oh, yeah, and we moved up on our waiting list!  We are now number 19 {with six of those asking for siblings only and twelve asking for a single child}.

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011
After eight hours of more stories and counseling, I needed some therapy for myself.  I had my parents watch the kids after school and I headed over to our church, which had been turned into a major distribution center.  My therapy came in the form of toothbrushes and toothpaste.  I spent three hours organizing these commodities getting them ready for distribution while people walked through and shopped in the halls of the church. 

Though I had come to terms with the fact that I was right where I needed to be at work each day {without our staff, the 500+ students' parents would not have been able to go into the community and help with the mass destruction}, this hands-on task was exactly what I needed to feel like I was doing a small part of the relief effort.

Thursday, May 26th, 2011
The stories began to get more personal on this day.  Bodies were being identified and stories were being told of their lives {and deaths}.  It was hard to hear all of it.  One of my students in foster care had not heard from his estranged birth mother.  He knew he wasn't allowed to talk with her, but was struggling not getting to hear her voice. 

My therapy this time came in the form of baking.  I needed to prepare meals for my family, meals for my co-worker who had just left for MD Anderson to find out what to do about her newly-discovered cancer, and baked goods for the workers at church.  So, I baked.

Friday, May 27th, 2011
With all the craziness of the week, I hadn't thought much about Friday until it was here.  Friday was a day filled with a lot of lasts:
Melia's last day of Kindergarten

Camden's last day at the Learning Center 

My parents' last day as teachers
{They are now RETIREES!} 

My last day as a Junior High school counselor
{please ignore Melia's chocolaty smile!} 

Nana's last day to walk Melia to school 

Yes, a lot of lasts.

Saturday, May 28th, 2011
I finally saw it.  The destruction that I'd been watching virtually non-stop on t.v. became a reality in my mind when we drove into Joplin down two of the major streets that were devastated by the tornado almost a week prior.  We went to get our little friend, Clara, so that her parents could work kid-free on their damaged home, so this was the route we took.  The kids didn't know what to think, and, quite frankly, neither did I.  Melia just kept saying "OH MY!" and, honestly, that's about all I can say, too.

Sunday, May 29th, 2011
We had church this morning.  I had the opportunity to serve in Toddler Town leading singing with the precious gifts God gives us in the form of Toddlers.  We then took our friends, Kinley and Hunter, home with us so their parents could go to the memorial service that was lead by President Obama, Governor Nixon, and three local pastors {including our pastor, Randy Garris!!}.  On our way home, we stopped across the street from the airport and saw this fly in:

Air Force One!

Kinley, Camden, Hunter, and Melia wait for the President's plane to land

We then had the opportunity to fellowship with our home group as a "going away" thing for our friends who are preparing to go teach in Korea.  One more good bye for the week.

Whew!  Lots to process.  A week of lots of downs and a few ups.  But, we will get through it.  I will process and move on.  We have so much to be thankful for!

Praising Him in the storm,



  1. Great idea Jen...I keep thinking I need to journal or somehow document this past week...just haven't had the "time" to do it yet! Love you friend and thank you so much for all that you do for your students and for your friends! You are one amazing woman! Thank you for allowing Christ to shine through you in ALL you do!

  2. 100% agree. I feel helpless so far away---knowing how my hometown has been changed, yet having no idea what everyone there went through. Love you and praying for you. So is the friend who lost the referral (which would be devastating) different than the previous lost referral. Ughh.....hate to see two of those in recent weeks. Praying for all churches, communities, etc. in the Joplin area. Love ya.

  3. Oh wow! What a week for you. I can imagine how drained you are. Praying for everything you need during this tough time!

  4. Wow, I'm so glad you and your fam are all right--what a scary, awful situation. Sounds like you all are holding up--we are thinking about you here in the Pacific Nwest!

  5. Oh, and for some reason I can't comment unless it's anonymous--should have added my name--sorry!
    Molly :-)