On My Thirtieth Birthday

My thirtieth birthday was less than a month after our wedding and a few days after we “fell back” for Daylight Savings. I’d had a pretty good day at work and was looking forward to going out to dinner that night with Tyler and a few friends, including a couple of my bridesmaids. About 4:00, however, I noticed it was getting really, really dark outside. Like night. Surely it hadn’t been that dark at 4:00 the day before? I checked the weather radar and saw a huge red-cell thunderstorm growing as it approached us. I left work exactly at 5:00 and arrived at our apartment complex just before the bottom fell out. I texted, then called by friends and canceled our dinner plans. The storm was just too rough. Then Tyler called me.

He works at the next town over, usually a 35-45 minute drive. That day, he’d left work on time but was still far from home when the storm hit. He was unable to see more than a couple of feet in front of him. Other cars were stopping in the middle of the road. He was scared, afraid of cars and downed trees he couldn’t see. When a tornado warning came over the radio, he called me and told me his plan to make it to the parking lot of the place he used to work so that he’d have somewhere safe to wait it out, and to get inside if he needed to. The wind howled and the rain pounded the side of our apartment building. It was so loud, I couldn’t tell whether the wailing I could sometimes hear between the thunder was just the wind or a tornado siren. Tyler told me about the tornado warning on the radio, and a friend texted that she could hear a tornado siren, so I took a candle and a lighter and locked myself in the bathroom, the innermost windowless room in our apartment.

I grew up on the Atlantic coast, so I’m more familiar with hurricanes than tornados, and I’m glad for it. Tornados come fast, erratically, missing one house and hitting the one next door. And most of the time you have no idea they’re on their way until they’re right on top of you. I loathe them. I’m afraid of them. I know the second floor isn’t a good place to be if one hits.

Tyler talked to me until he got to the parking lot he had in mind. We told each other “I love you” and hung up to wait it out. It was my thirtieth birthday and all I wanted was for my brand new husband to get home safely. No gifts, no dinner, no big trip or special dessert. I just wanted him home.

I called my mom, told her the situation, and asked her to talk with me to keep me calm. As the storm lightened, I hear the tornado siren more clearly. I lit the candle. Soon after, Tyler texted that he was getting back on the road, but he planned to avoid the interstate so it’d take a long while for him to get home. Mom and I stayed on the phone together until he walked through the front door, half-soaked and shaken but safe.

That night, we watched a movie, ate a frozen pizza, and cut two generous slices of the ice cream cake we’d intended for our friends. I couldn’t have been happier.

That night, as Tyler and I lay in bed, we talked about what we’d felt during the storm, how we’d worried more about the other person than ourselves, and then we prayed together, thanking God for protecting us and asking help and comfort for the people whose night had gotten worse when ours had gotten better.

Happy Thanksgiving! May you experience the joy of sharing food with others and may you find rest.

The LORD is my Shepherd…

My sleep schedule has been a little off lately. I’ve struggled to stay awake at 3pm and lain wide awake at 3am. Around midnight last night, as I waited (and waited) to fall asleep, I enjoyed a good long talk with God. Somewhere in there, I took out my phone and used voice-to-text to rewrite Psalm 23 one line at a time. In the daylight, I’ve enjoyed my midnight brain’s insights and priorities. Instead of continuing the shepherd imagery, I named simple ways that God cares for and blesses me.

It’s not my intention to belittle this gorgeous and beloved song of praise. This was simply an exercise in thinking through a familiar passage in an unfamiliar way, personalizing a Scriptural prayer while giving a formal structure to my own prayers of thanks. (Additionally, I’ve been trying to step away from using male pronouns for God in my personal prayers, as God is neither male nor female, so I avoided them here.)

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not starve for anything.
God encourages me to lie down and take a nap,
God reminds me to drink water,
God restores my soul.
God guides me toward righteousness paths
because that’s God’s character.
Yea, though I walk
through the darkest news cycles,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
rom coms and my roommate’s dog,
they comfort me.

You prepare chicken casserole for me
in the presence of the racist Twitter followers I had to block.
You bless me with cat videos;
my laughter overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will find me
all the days of my life,
and I will call the house of the LORD “home”
forever.

What would your version of Psalm 23 look like? What comforts you? What does God prepare for you? Who are your enemies and when are you most afraid? I’d love to hear your variations!