It all started with me, our 6 children, and my niece and nephew... yes... it's true. Because my husband had to work, it was just me and 8 kids.
We embarked on our long journey to drive from southwest Missouri all the way to Utah. We had been excited for months to go on this trip, but we traveled only 45 minutes before we had to stop to get a flat tire fixed. There we were in a car shop in Joplin, MO for several hours waiting for our tires to be set right. It was a bit disheartening knowing I had wanted an early start in order to reach Denver, CO in good time that night. At one point, a technician informed me that I had severe problems with the front axel as well, and he explained that it would be a significant cost and take the whole day to fix. I was in literal shock for a few minutes until he returned to tell me that he had mistaken which vehicle was mine... ours was fine except for the flat tire! Phew!! Feeling that stress even for a few minutes put my nerves on edge a bit!!
After that encounter, I prayed harder for our safety. I was feeling the weight of all these precious lives in my hands, and I began to question the prudence of taking this trip. All of a sudden, I realized that we hadn't had our scripture study. There was only one other person in the waiting area, so we held our scripture study right then and there. I read in the Book of Mormon in Alma chapter 58.
All of us were in awe as the following verses stood out in our hearts and minds:
Verse 10: "Therefore we did pour out our souls in prayer to God, that he would strengthen us and deliver us out of the hands of our enemies, yea, and also give us strength..."
Verse 11: "Yea, and it came to pass that the Lord our God did visit us with assurances that he would deliver us; yea, insomuch that he did speak peace to our souls, and did grant unto us great faith, and did cause us that we should hope for our deliverance in him."
(I could feel the energy in my soul begin to swell! I felt trapped in this lobby with no functioning vehicle, so deliverance was important!)
Verse 12: "And we did take courage with our small force which we had received, and were fixed with a determination to conquer our enemies..."
(At this point I said with passion to my 8 kids sitting in the lobby, "We are a small force!!! We will take courage and conquer!" Right then, the only other person in the lobby scanned the kids and said, "Ummm... I don't think your force is so small!!" We laughed and felt renewed by the message given in the scriptures. We were certain that those scriptures were meant for us to read at that very moment.)
Little did we know how important those words would be as our trip continued! Our flat tire was only the beginning of our troubles!!
We were finally released. They assured me that all was well with the vehicle, and we piled in the van again to head west.
As we drove, we noticed the sky darkening around us. We were in Kansas, and it continued to darken more and more looking quite scary. I had a very sick feeling in my stomach and turned on the radio to see what the weather conditions were. Yes... there was a tornado warning in the area, and they named a town where it was worse with a possible sighting of a tornado. They said the name of a small town. I don't recall the name of the town now. However, I do recall that right as they said the name of that town, we looked over at the sign on the road, and it was the exact town we were headed into at that very moment!!!!
I yelled out for the kids to pray!! I handed the phone over to one of the older kids and told them to call Abe. I didn't talk on the phone; it was storming too bad. I had to use every bit of my concentration to drive. They told him our situation, where we were, and to pray for us because we were going to drive as fast as we could to get out of there! I wasn't about to get off the highway and enter the town!! The darkest portion of the sky was north of the highway.
There was a strange energy in the van... it was exciting yet very real and life-threatening. Again... We needed deliverance... and faith!!! We passed the area of tornado watches but the storm was not yet over....
We drove through hail, horrible downpours of rain, winds, and segments of road where it seemed like we were entering nighttime. The weather updates said the storms would continue for hours, but we were going in the right direction to escape the worst of it. We could see clear skies in the distance, so we continued to drive and pray.
Just when we couldn't see any storms in our close proximity, Mariah needed to stop to go potty. I had everyone pile out to go to the bathroom. We were only in there for a few minutes! By the time we came out, the winds were blowing so hard that we could hardly stand up straight. There were lots of people at the gas station, and everyone started jumping in their cars to get out of there. We did too!!! We were not chasing the storm; we were running away!! This one was a dust storm- no rain. It was so strange. The kids kept commenting on the swirly things on the side of the highway.
We drove away from that storm as well, and it was peaceful for a while.
At one point of our trip, we saw a golden eagle in the distance. I thought, "Oh how majestic and graceful." It was gorgeous, but it continued to come toward our windshield!!! I thought, "Surely it will change it's course any second now!!!." My niece in the front seat, the kids in the back, and I screamed at the top of our lungs as if we were in a horror movie!! I put the breaks on hard- but not too hard or else our big 12 passenger van would have flipped. Because we swerved a bit, the eagle flew upwards right at the last millisecond. The eagle would have shattered the windshield! We actually saw its wings span across the windshield!! We couldn't believe its size! We couldn't believe the miracle of our safety.
As nighttime approached, we drove through a different kind of storm. We witnessed the most beautiful lightning storm of our lives. There was no rain- just lightning. I had always been told that the car is a safe place from lightning. In my entire life of growing up in southern Missouri where thunderstorms rock the entire base of a home, I have never seen the sky light up like this!! We were traveling in Colorado at that point. It was amazing to watch!! Because the landscape was flat, it felt like we were in a light show under a dome. I blasted the music, and the lights in the sky danced to it. We later found out that those lightning storms were the cause of the devastating Colorado fires last summer.
The lightning storm died down as we drove our last 45 minutes into Denver, Colorado. We were truly strengthened as the scriptures said we would be. I made my phone calls to all those who were concerned about us and told them we were all well. We checked into the hotel and "poured out our souls in prayer to God" giving gratitude for our safety, for the peace, for the strengthening of our faith, and for our deliverance.
What a miracle that all 9 of us were safely sleeping in a quiet hotel... the storms were gone.
What a miracle that because we remembered to read the scriptures, we were able to receive the strength we most definitely needed through the literal storm just as God's words return to me throughout my spiritual storms. Some storms take me by surprise, some I know are coming- so I try hard to get out of them as fast as possible, and yet others I am able to see the beauty/blessings within the storm.
...but in the end, we see the power of God in all.