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Storyteller. Grace Dweller.

I’m Jennifer — wife of an Iowa farmer, mom to two girls, new book author. I believe in you, because I believe in Jesus. You matter to Him, and you matter to me. more »

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Tuesday 30th June 2015

#TellHisStory: When You’re Going Through a Storm

storms

It was the year 2000. A Friday morning. My newspaper editor had called.

“Jennifer. How quickly can you get to northeast Iowa? More than a dozen twisters went through.”

I fumbled for my glasses. Slipped on blue jeans and tennis shoes. I kissed my husband goodbye, and grabbed a stack of notebooks.

In less than two hours, I was in Dunkerton, Iowa. The town had been turned inside out by a tornado. The morning sun cast an eerie, happy glow over the sad and twisted innards of people’s lives.

I remember with startling clarity how a John Deere tractor, caked with mud, sat atop a barn, rather than inside it. I stood on a woman’s concrete front steps that led to nowhere but sky. I saw a little girl’s Sunday dress draped in a tree.

I helped some guy pick up photographs and manila folders strewn in his yard. He didn’t know what else to do. Neither did I.

storm2

I gathered all the facts for my story: deaths, injuries, houses destroyed, buildings demolished.

And then I went looking for the helpers. Their stories would be the stories that would give someone hope.

“Look for the helpers.” Mr. Rogers said it first. “When I saw a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

So that day, I looked for the helpers. Someone suggested I drive up the road to a 120-year-old country church that had been torn to shreds. I found the church between a couple of cornfields. Most of it was destroyed, but the glass doors were, remarkably, still intact. The doors weren’t shattered. Just scratched. 

Inside, I found the pastor. His black pants and minister’s collar were covered in dirt.

He introduced himself as Pastor Dean. I asked a few questions, wrote down his answers. Two men stood up by the altar, one of them wiping tears with the back of his hand. Women, who had overseen potlucks and bridal showers, carried out kitchen utensils and coffee cups. A few guys walked by us, carrying the pulpit.

These were the helpers. look for the helpers, mister rogers

The pastor told me he didn’t know what he was going to preach on Sunday; 200 people would look to him for spiritual guidance. He figured he’d be bold enough to make this promise: “We’ll be back up and running again.”

That was 15 years ago. I always wondered if his words about rebuilding that church were the product of wishful thinking or stubborn faith.

A while back, I called around Dunkerton to find out. The new pastor, Bill, told me that the church made good on the old pastor’s promise. That church had rebuilt after all.

My heart quickened. It was like an affirmation that a storm can’t destroy everything. Like it can’t destroy hope.

Pastor Bill told me it hadn’t been easy. The pastor said he once heard a therapist speak about the difficulty of divorce, and that there was only one effective way to deal with it —

“The only way out is through.” 

That advice, he said, also works for anyone in the middle of a storm.

The pastor said that “through” hadn’t been easy. In 2008, a second tornado hit that church, causing $65,000 damage.

But they made it.

And get this. Remember the doors I told you about? They still have those same glass doors. They stand at the entrance to the nave.

Those glass doors, scratched and marred as they are, are a poignant reminder to everyone who goes in, or who goes out. They remind everyone that the good pastor is right: the only way out is through. And Christ is the way. 

There’s a reason I’m telling you that story today.

I’m writing to you about a storm, because some of you are in one right now. It’s swirling about you, and you can hardly see the hand in front of your face. For some of you, the storm has passed, and you’re picking up the pieces.

It is so tempting to tie a neat theological bow around our storms. I will resist the urge to do that today, because that would be like putting a fresh coat of red paint on a leveled barn.

So let’s just sit in the rubble a while, together, right down in the mess.

We shall weep together, and we shall go “through” together. We shall walk through the door, and the door is Christ, and that’s a door that always stands.

I don’t know what your storm is today. But I have to assume that a lot of you are in one right now. The news is a constant swirl of turmoil. And some of your storms are happening behind closed doors, where no one else can see.

Maybe we could promise each other that God can rebuild what has been broken. Maybe we can remind each other that the door still stands. Maybe we can look for the helpers. Maybe we can BE the helpers. Maybe we can remember that God is greater than our roughest storms.

And together we can know this: The storm will not destroy us. It will prove the strength of the One who holds us.

 

storms

 

#TellHisStory

Hey Tell His Story crew! It’s always a joy to gather here every week. The linkup goes lives each Tuesday at 4 p.m. (CT). If you would use the badge on your blog, found here, that would be great. And if you would visit at least one other blogger in the link-up and encourage them with a comment, that would be beautiful! Be sure to check the sidebar later. I’ll be featuring one of you over there! Our featured writer this week is Dolly at SoulStops. She writes how even our small acts of kindness can make a huge difference. Find Dolly here! To be considered as our featured writer, be sure to use our badge or a link to my blog from your post. )

xo Jennifer


  • Maybe I’m just in a tender spot today, but your words brought tears. Not because I’m in a storm (assume prayer position – “Lord, this isn’t an invitation to bring one!”) but because I know so many who are. People who are trying to find their way through – who are looking for that happy light to shine in the midst of their rubble. Our anchor is strong and our hope is steady, but it really does just take one wave, sometimes even just a ripple in the water or a far off dark cloud. Your words make me sink down and give thanks for this moment, right now, for storms that have passed. And, it’s quite safe to say that storms will come again – but for today I’m just so exceedingly glad that He has delivered blue skies and that I’m here to see them.

  • yes! YES!!! thank you for this, dear!

  • Mary

    I am blessed by your words today! The only way out of a storm is through it. Amen! I also loved how there are times we need to sit in the mess of our own storms and ask for the helpers as well as turn to God to pull us through. I have been there. I am praying with you that all facing storms today feel the strength of God that comes in the mess and in the calm.

  • Karlene Arthur

    Tears for me here, too. Thank you for this. So well said, of course. We keep our eyes on Him – and we stand!

  • I needed to hear those words today: “The storm will not destroy us. It will prove the strength of the One who holds us.” Just thank you.

  • My sister is in the thick of an unrelenting storm. I want to drag her out of it. But I can’t. All I can do is hold her hand, be a helper, and walk with her through it. It’s so so hard. But I will gladly choose the realness of God’s strength than a coat of shiny red paint any day.

    Thank you for these words.

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  • Our only way out is through. Yes. I’ve discovered that through the years too. Sometimes it seems like it’s the long and hard way, but in the end, it ends up being the best way. Thanks for sharing this story, Jennifer. I’m glad that church survived two tornadoes. Wow.

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  • Kristi Woods

    “Look for the helpers” <— love this. It's finding what's right and good in a situation, what's helpful…Jesus. Soaking in your whole post today and being renewed by its encouragement. Seriously, there's a unfinished book staring at me and a publisher appt. next month..both are not jiving with the kids' summer schedule. I was ready to give up this weekend, cried in fact. Today I'm reminded that the door still stands. Amen. Thank you, Jennifer.

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  • What difficult sights you must have struggled with on that trip, Jennifer. I have always adored that quote from Mr. Rogers about looking for the helpers. It’s such a great perspective change. Thank you for the important reminder that “that God is greater than our roughest storms.” Unfortunately we will always struggle with them, but we can hold on to hope that He is so much bigger.

  • This is so hope-filled, Jennifer. Thank you for sharing this story. “The only way out is through” especially moves me. And Christ Jesus being the only way, the only door. God be with you and bless you!

  • “The only way out is through.” Love that. 🙂
    Thanks for sharing this lovely post.
    (P.S., I love that you write longer posts too…a girl after my own word-lovin’ heart. 🙂

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  • I enjoyed reading this post! I love how you remind us that we don’t have to put a theological bow around the storms in our lives!!! That hit home… to just be in the moment, moving through the storm with Christ. Thank you for sharing these words for us personally and for us to be reminded of as we minister to others, as well.

  • Look for the helpers. Love that. And, The only way is through. Even better than over, and definitely better than under. Just shared on FB -thank you.

  • Love the reminder that we are all facing one aspect of a storm or another but the key to our survival (and subsequent growth) is knowing that God is with us through it all. May He continue to bless our cups to overflowing as we strive to keep our eyes, not on the waves, but on the Creator of those waves and the one who will carry us through them. Blessings to you and yours.

  • I love so many parts of this! Shortly after the tornado that destroyed our home our very young granddaughters were talking with their daddy about why God let the tornado knock our house down. He asked them what they thought and the the 6 year old responded that she thought God wanted to help teach people to be good helpers. Praise God for the helpers!

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  • Jennifer,
    Thank you for this absolutely beautiful post.
    A reminder that the door still stands.
    To look for the helpers.
    To be the helpers.
    And that God is always greater than our storms.

    I needed to be reminded! ❤️

    Blessings and smiles,
    Lori

  • Bonnie Lyn Smith

    Oh, man, wow! This —> “It is so tempting to tie a neat theological bow around our storms. I will resist the urge to do that today, because that would be like putting a fresh coat of red paint on a leveled barn. So let’s just sit in the rubble a while, together, right down in the mess.” Thank you for this because in our storms, we need people to sit down and not rush us through it. I have a relational storm and a medical storm going on, and sitting down in the mess is where I yield to God’s strength and not my own. Beautiful words from you! Just lovely! Love your ministering heart! Blessings!

  • As always, friend, thank you for your beautiful and encouraging words. I feel the truth in them today as I look back over just the last couple months and how our family has walked through a storm. And we’ve walked through with Christ. We aren’t fully on the other side but in the midst of it I’ve seen the helpers, I’ve felt God’s presence and I so see this:
    “The storm will not destroy us. It will prove the strength of the One who holds us.”
    Thank you for all the ways you encourage. Blessings to you. Beth xoxo

  • A timely and hope-filled word for hard times. Thank you Jennifer.

  • “Look for the helpers.” What words of encouragement, Jennifer! The storms may rage, but we need to remember we have the Lord and each other to lean on as we go through them. Blessings!

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  • The only way out is through.

    So very true, Jennifer. The day I saw evil enter the event at the Boston Marathon finish line in 2013, the only way out was to move through a throng of panicked people filled with fear, step by faith-filled step.

    Jesus was my guide with each step and THE WORD I whispered with each breath I took that fateful day. He is enough.

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  • Beautiful–I love this thought that sometimes the only way is THROUGH and that Christ is in the way. Amen, sister!

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  • saltshakmk@msn.com

    A good story. A scary storm. We’ve been having severe weather again this year in South Jersey. Two of them just last week. Thunder and lightning and rainfall and rushing winds. But, isn’t that how the Lord is described on the throne in heaven? Trying not to jump in alarm, but to see Him in and through it all–whether literal or figurative storms. He’s not only got this–He is this. And the sun comes out right on time.
    Joy!
    Kathy

  • Kamea Hope

    “The storm will not destroy us. It will prove the strength of the One who holds us”. Beautiful truth! I loved this post today. I loved the suggestion that sometimes it is enough to sit with someone in the rubble, rather than trying to hide the brokenness with ‘easy’ Christian answers.
    Blessings, sweet friend,
    Kamea

  • A powerful read, Jennifer. I am finally on the ‘out’ side of my ‘through’. Jesus was with me as I went through, and He faithfully held me and wiped away every tear. I couldn’t always ‘feel’ His presence, but by faith, I knew He was there because he promised He would be. And, He always keeps His promises. I know there will be other storms in my life, but for now, I have walked through the biggest of my life, and I was never alone.

  • CM Hazelwood

    I’m in the middle of a storm now.

    Just got laid off April 30, 2015, looking for jobs.

    Heat wave in Montana! Yes, in Montana. 90 degrees for the last week, we made records–102 last week, a record for the month of June here. More days without rain than since the 1970s.

    The heat saps my energy, along with neck problems. But I know that God is faithful, and indeed He will carry me through.

    Thank you for the encouragement. “Look for the helpers.” Yes, lots of good helpers–church friends, etc.

  • Thank you for being a helper, Jennifer, an encourager. One who points us to the “doors” of our faith and reminds us of the Truth.

  • Although scarred and wounded, we can be doors for Christ to help others see their ways through their storms. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Nancy Ruegg

    I read your post with hindsight, thinking back to the last storm in my life. Your words ring loud and true, Jennifer. “Look for the helpers” is an excellent piece of advice, because hope is crucial to survival when dark suffering envelopes us. And to BE that helper for others is a precious privilege. Thank you, Jennifer, for your inspiration.

  • That’s a really scary picture of nature. But the message is true. When things aren’t going well, that’s when God’s story is actually written well, and so that’s when we can tell His story loudly.

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  • Pauline Murray- Russell

    Thank you very much…as sometimes I really do feel like I am all alone. Thank You God for this reminder that I am only going ‘through’ to get out!!!..I am blessed….thanks

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