Monday, June 27, 2016

A Lightning Strike, A Devastating Flood, and The Mercy of God

"It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not."
Lamentations 3:22

Tonight, I sit, surrounded by the Allegheny Mountains, 
at one of my favorite spots in the whole world.
I am sitting on the front porch of my in-laws' home in West Virginia,
laptop on lap, the porch swing gently rocking and swaying, as I pound away at the keys.

There is nothing quite like night fall in the mountains.
 Earlier, Kevin and I were out here swinging side-by-side, with Zach nearby, 
watching the fireflies light up the darkening sky.
I have never seen so many lightning bugs, as I have seen lately.
Zach, Austin, and their cousins have been having a great time each night, coming out and collecting them in mason jars, with holes poked in the lids.
It takes me back to when I was a kid, doing the same thing.

In all of our years of living in South Carolina, I don't ever, not even one time, remember seeing a firefly.
I miss seeing them.
Sadly, I truly believe the mosquito control kills them all off.

But, here in the mountains of WV....they are abundant, and I love watching them.

Cattle are lowing nearby.
I hear a croaking bullfrog not so far away.
I even hear what we think we have identified as raccoons in the field across the road.
Crickets are singing a nighttime lullaby.
It makes me think of one of my all-time favorite songs that I will share with you here.

If video doesn't load, click here.

I am drawn to the mountains like a moth is attracted to a flame.
Mountains make me think of Dad.
I suppose it is because he grew up in the mountains of Tennessee.
Dolly Parton's songs about her home always make me think of him.
I miss him and Mom so much.
Somehow, I feel so much closer to them...and to the mountains.

This calm...this peace...this serenity seems so surreal, 
in light of the awful devastation just a few miles away from where I now sit.

This beautiful WV mountain area has taken an awful beating over the past few days.

All of you have probably seen/heard the news about the horrible storms and disastrous flooding here.
God has shown mercy to us time after time over the past week.
The storms started on Tuesday, with one of the most scary things I have ever personally witnessed.

Kevin and Austin were standing on the front porch, close to where I am swinging now,
and Zach was standing in the room where he sleeps a few feet and two walls away from them.
We had all just said good-bye to loved ones, who were then backing out of the long driveway
that runs alongside Mom and Dad Smith's house.

I had just sat down to work on my computer for a bit,
when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, came one of the most horrendous storms I have ever experienced.
There was a huge noise, like an explosion, followed by a huge, BRIGHT ball of light.
It felt like it was literally right in front of my face.

Immediately after, we all noticed that it began to smell like an electrical fire in the living room.
Upon closer examination, we discovered that lightning had struck just inches away from Kevin, Austin, Zach, and me.
There were black marks on the wall and the electrical outlet,
and when I say the modem that was plugged into the outlet was literally fried,
I mean it was literally fried.
The jolt had actually knocked the plastic casing off the modem plug.

As we assessed the damage, the miracle of God's mercy began to dawn upon all of us.
It was like He had specifically directed that powerful bolt of lightning,
and guided it away from all of us and allowed it to strike right in the midst of where we were all positioned!

We all began to immediately praise God and thank Him profusely for His protection and mercy to us,
but it was not until I sat across from my mother-in-law eating breakfast this morning that the total impact of what God has spared us from really hit me.

She began to tell me that her friend and neighbor had come to her back door this morning to talk,
and she told her she had stood on her porch the other day during that awful storm and watched, with her own eyes, as the lightning literally made a circle, as it struck this house!

When I heard her say that she saw it make a circle,
the magnitude of the miracle hit me with force.
God, in His loving, kind, infinite mercy, literally commanded that lightning bolt to circle around all of us and strike in one particular spot in the middle of where we all were in such a way that it would not injure any of us!

Oh, how we praised God together as we realized that any of our lives could have been taken that day,
and this house could have gone up in flames, without a doubt.

I am SO grateful that all of us are safe.

All of this happened on Tuesday....before the flash-flooding started on Thursday.

I can't even remember exactly when it began to rain.
I can't even tell you that it felt like such an abundance of it was happening.
But, somehow, the skies opened to such a degree that roads are completely washed out,
houses have been lifted right off their foundations and floated away,
(one of them was on fire, as it floated, click here to watch),
other houses have burned on their foundations,
a tunnel that has been in place for many years on the road where Kevin grew up has completely collapsed,
cars have been flipped and tossed about as if they were little, toy matchbox cars,
at least 25 people are dead, and there are countless others still missing.
It is hard to tell when the waters will completely recede or how long it will take to recover.

The Greenbrier Classic PGA Golf Tournament that was to soon take place at the famous Greenbrier Hotel Resort has been cancelled.

This beautiful, lush golf course where Kevin and his dad used to caddy, 
now looks like a raging, muddy river.

Click here, and here, and here to read more.

Kevin's sweet uncle and aunt, who lived right in the downtown part of White Sulphur Springs, 
have lost everything.
She just found out she has lung cancer and is facing surgery, and now this.
Other family members of Kevin's have severe flood damage and are facing a horrible aftermath.

A friend's sister was driving along, and one minute, all was well.
The next minute a huge gushing wave of water had flipped her car,
and had two men not been standing nearby, she would have drowned.
They threw a rope to her and told her to hold on and not let go,
and they were eventually able to pull her to safety.
Her car was washed away, and it still has not been found.

Another acquaintance had been missing for 24 hours after her car had been overcome by the current.
A kind stranger had managed to turn his truck sideways to block her car from being completely swept away.
Thankfully, she was found and is safe.

Yesterday, Kevin and Zach talked to a guy whose best friend is still missing.  

A mother was doing her utmost to hold on to her two young children, 
but the tide was just too strong, and her little son was snatched away from her.
His body was found down the road.

An 81 year old acquaintance of Kevin's aunt was sitting in her home and swept away with the current.
Her body was found later.

We are hearing story after horrifying story, just like these.

It all happened SO fast.
I have never seen anything like it.

Each time I hear more about it and see the devastation on the news,
my mind keeps going back to Jesus' words in Matthew 24:39, 
when He was describing what happened in the Old Testament flood.
"And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; 
so shall also the coming of the Son of man be."

I just keep thinking how quickly life can change.
How one minute, life can be so calm and normal and routine,
and the next minute, one's whole world can be turned completely upside down.

And, this is just how quickly Jesus is one day going to come for us.
To say that we need to live in a state of preparedness for that event is such a huge understatement.
There will just be no time to make adjustments to our relationship with Him.

We were finally able to get out today and drive around, and, dear friends,
there just are no words to adequately describe to you how horrifying and devastating the conditions are in
Greenbrier County, West Virginia right now.

Google the pictures, and just imagine that it is even worse than what you see.

All I can do is cry when I realize how very, very blessed we are.
My heart just aches for those who have lost their loved ones, their homes, their vehicles,
and whose lives have been totally uprooted and permanently altered.

Please, please pray for the dear people here in West Virginia.
Only God can send the comfort and healing they so desperately need.


  1. So much loss. It always hits home more when it's right around the corner. I am so sorry Cheryl.

    1. Thank you, Caroline. I appreciate your kind words and visit!

  2. I am so sorry for these people in West Va and all they are contending with. How sad for you guys to witness so much destruction. I am happy you were protected. I'm praying for the people there.

    1. Oh, my, it is just awful. My heart just breaks for the many I keep hearing about who are suffering such terrible losses. Thank you for your sweet visit, Mary!

  3. Oh Cheryl, what a heart wrenching post. I'm so grateful and happy that God in His infinite mercy was watching over you when the lightening struck. I am in prayer for the people of West Virginia and have been for days. I fear more and more disasters will be coming on us as this world turns further and further from our Heavenly Father.

    1. Oh, thank you so much, dear Betsy! I so appreciate your compassionate heart and prayers. I agree with you totally that more and more things like this will be happening. May the Lord bless you abundantly.

  4. Oh, Cheryl, we can relate here in Southeast Texas and flooding is just so tragic. I saw a snippet about your part of the world on the news tonight. I am praying for all who are affected. Thank the Lord you and your family are safe. What a miracle.

    My heart breaks for those who have lost everything.

    1. Oh, dear friend! I am SO sorry you all had it so hard out there, too. YES, it surely is a miracle how God protected us. We are SO grateful to Him. May He bless you, dear friend.

  5. Dear Mrs. Smith,
    I am so sad to hear of all the flooding. I heard about it on Sunday from a powerful preacher, Scott Pauley, who came to preach at our church. He lives in West Virginia.
    I'm so thankful Jesus was watching over you all, and kept you safe. What a scary experience. I am so sad so many lives have been lost, and sad to hear people are losing everything. I am earnestly praying for them.
    May God bless you, dear friend.
    Ps. I am going to be sending you an email soon. :)

    1. Thank you, dear Ashley. Your prayers are so appreciated. Sending you much love and gratitude.

  6. We had several similar storms inn SW France, and it was quite terrifying to see the power. One time a wooden bench and a concrete parasol holder were swept into our pool by ferocious winds. Floods in northern England have been bad over the last two Winters but nothing quite like the ones you describe.
    What a blessing that none of you were hurt.

    1. Oh, my, I am so sorry you had to experience such fierce storms. Surely God is in control. We are SO grateful that the dear Lord kept us all safe. Thank you so much for your sweet visit, my friend. :)

  7. Praying and Praising God that you are well.

    God bless.

  8. I will be praying for the people of WV and also Kevin's family. This is so devastating! I know I've been out of touch here lately, but you're all in my prayers and thoughts. Daddy is doing better, and we may get to bring him home from the assisted living place before long. Life changed all of a sudden for us, so I know what you mean. It wasn't a literal flood though. Even though your post shared these horrific events, I was glad to read it and to catch up a little bit with what's been going on with you and your family. I always love to hear how God's been working within your family. I how to catch up with you more soon. Love you!

    1. Oh, it was so good to see comments by you today, sweet friend. I think of you so often, and, oh, it is wonderful to know that your Daddy may be coming home!!!!! That is such wonderful news!! I do hope all continues to move in the right direction. Love and appreciate you so much!

  9. I'm so sorry to hear about the horrific loss. I'm praying for the people and the state of West Virginia. I too am thankful for the sovereign grace and hand of God in sparing you and yours from disaster. Thankful for miracles. Continued blessings for you and yours.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words and faithful prayers, Floyd. We are very grateful for God's mercies to us. May He bless you and yours abundantly.

  10. Oh my, Cheryl!! I am so thankful to hear you are OK. I was thinking about you and wondering if you were there. How scary that lightning strike must have been. God surely was watching over you all.
    Yes, you know those are my 'old stomping grounds'. It's still hard to believe all the destruction that has happened.
    I love you, friend, and will be sending you an e-mail. God bless you all. *big hugs*♥

    1. Oh, dear friend! It was utterly terrifying. I can still see that huge light right in front of my face. If my laptop had been plugged in, I seriously wonder what would have happened. For some reason, I had the cord attached, but didn't have it plugged in, and that hit me right after it happened. You are such a dear blessing to me, and it touches my heart deeply to know that you care so much. I so enjoyed your sweet email and love you very much.

  11. Oh, Cheryl. This is so heartbreaking and tragic. I have escaped from the news lately, but I did see one image the other day, and it was devastating! Reminded me of our area here in Houston. I'm so grateful God kept his hand upon you and your family, and I pray for those who experienced great loss during this flooding. As you said, life can change in a heartbeat. I'll be praying for the victims and for you and yours.

    1. Oh, dear friend! I am so sorry you went through this out there. Yes, praise the dear Lord for His infinite mercies. I cannot thank Him enough. And, thank you so much for your kind words and caring heart! I appreciate you so much!

  12. Oh, dearest Cheryl, what a horrific tragedy to read about all the loss of lives and also the loss of homes and businesses. I praise God that you, Kevin, and Zack are fine. God is always in control, and He certainly decided you were not to have your laptop plugged in. I'm so sorry to read about Kevin's uncle and aunt losing their home at such a difficult time. I will continue to pray for all the people of WV, and thank you for putting a face and bringing it to home with your first-hand report from WV. May God continue to bless and encourage you all as you continue to shine His light! Tender hugs and love, sweet friend!

    1. Dear friend! How we do praise the Lord for His protection, too! I have relived those moments over and over, and I still don't know what made me NOT plug in the laptop...well, we both know what really caused me not to, but it just wasn't logical. Sending you much love and gratitude and many hugs!

  13. I will be praying for the people of West Virginia. I hadn't realized all that has been going on there. What a wonderful blessing that you all were spared when the lightening struck. We have an amazing God! I have never visited West Virginia but it sounds beautiful.

    1. Yes, praise our amazing, dear Lord for His abundant mercy upon us! Oh, it truly IS beautiful here! Thank you ever so much for your prayers and sweet visit, Abbi!

  14. Praying for the people of West Virginia, Cheryl and praising God for the miracle He performed to save you and your family from the lightning.

    1. Amen, and amen! Thank you ever so much for your prayers and concern and kind words, Julia! God bless you abundantly.

  15. Cheryl, Oh how I loved the description of your time out on the porch and all the beautifully peaceful sights and sounds. I could picture it so clearly in my minds eye and hear it in my minds ear. You brought back wonderful childhood memories of similar scenes and sounds.

    My love for the mountains and the outdoors came from my dad. He is almost 80 and is still out hiking every week. I was just telling my husband tonight on our evening walk, listening to the Robin's night song, how it takes me back to when I was a little girl, freshly bathed, clean cook PJs, laying on crisp clean sheets, loving the sound of the Robin lulling me to sleep. I'm so happy you are having this special time with your husband's family.

    But I was so sorry to read about the devastation and heartache that has touched near your family, but am rejoicing with how God hedged you all in and protected you when the lightening struck.

    I loved how you related the flood waters to the time when Jesus will return. The Word picture bringing the reality of it all to light.

    Thank you for faithfully pointing us always to Him, our great redeemer.

    Blessings to you sweet friend.

    1. Dear, precious friend! It always blesses me so much when I see a comment from you! Thank you ever so much for sharing your kind heart here and for being such a consistent encourager to me. That is so wonderful that your Dad is still able to enjoy walking like that. Thank you for your prayers and sweet friendship. Sending you much love and many blessings!

  16. It is amazing how in the blink of an eye, floods, lightening and other tragedy can happen so quickly. We are reminded to ever be ready for that is how our Lord will return in the blink of an eye. Yes, praying for those who have missing family and friends and have also lost possessions. I am so glad your family was kept safe when the lightening struck your home. Thank you for sharing with us here at Tell me a Story.

    1. Yes, "in the blink of any eye"...that's how quickly things can change. So true. Thank you for your kind words, encouragement, and prayers, Hazel. God bless you!

  17. Oh Cheryl, I can't even imagine the devastation and heartbreak that you are experiencing around you, and just KNOW that the Lord placed you in that place for such a time as this, to be a blessing and help to Kevin's parents, and to those people around you who are going through so much! I am so thankful that the Lord protected you, and kept you safe, and that you didn't have the laptop plugged in... oh HIS care for us is beyond amazing! I give thanks to the Lord for protecting your life, and keeping all of you safe during this time of turmoil, and will continue to pray that the Lord will use you as His vessel during this time to be His hands and feet outstretched to those in need around you! You are always in my prayers dear friend, much love and many hugs to you today!!!!!!!

    1. Oh, dear friend! It is truly horrible to see all of the ones who are so devastated by this calamity. Surely God is in control. It is raining hard again today. I don't know where all the water will go! Thank you for your kind, precious encouragement and comforting words. May the Lord bless you abundantly. I love and appreciate you so much!

  18. Oh Cheryl! What a frightening ordeal! Just goes to show how life can change in the blink of an eye, and also how God protects us. I cannot imagine how scary this must have been. And I cannot imagine how devastating this flooding has been. I had no idea. Oh, how your hearts must be breaking - especially since the tragedy has touched so closely to *home*. I will be supporting Kevin and his family in prayer, and you and Zach, and all the people in West Virginia whose lives have been changed in the aftermath. God help them all.

    In the beginning of my comment, I used the phrase "blink of an eye." Like you, I also think about the coming of Jesus. About how it will happen when it's least expected. How it will happen in the blink of an eye. When I hear about all the things that are happening around the world, and in the heart of mankind, I can't help but think that He's coming for us soon. I'm ready, let's spread the word to others.

    GOD BLESS you, dear friend.

    1. Oh, my, it surely can change in the blink of an eye! Everything can change. These dear people are so devastated. We keep hearing of more loved ones who have lost everything or nearly everything. It is hard to know what to say to ease their pain. Only God can send the deep-down comfort they need. Thank you for your dear, encouraging words. Love you so much!

  19. My heart breaks for this news. This has to stop.
    Thanks for this beautiful tribute.

    1. Thank you, dear Lux! Your kind heart is such a precious blessing! May the Lord bless you in return. Sending you love and hugs!