In the month of May, Oklahoma was hit—HARD. Every single day, I drive by areas of tornado destruction. On every street, there are piles of trees by the road. Fences are blown down or propped up with pieces of wood. Roofs are covered with tarps. Signs are blown out or down. Trees lay across fences. In the hardest hit areas, cars are still piled, nothing more than twisted scraps of metal. Homes and business lay in mangled heaps. The path of the tornadoes is painfully obvious, the landscape permanently altered.

I’ve yet to travel into the hardest hit areas, in part because I don’t want to be guilty of just gawking at others’ loss and devastation. There’s also a part of me that doesn’t want to see it—the hurt and pain experienced by so many is more than my heart can bear. But, it is impossible for me to work without seeing bits and pieces of the destruction. The damage is so unbelievably widespread.

Today as I drove through my hometown, the stark contrast to the past was once again a painful reminder of what we have been through. The old bridge that has stood for my entire lifetime and is permanently emblazoned on the city seal is now nothing more than a memory. The exact path of the tornado is obvious by the trees that are stripped of leaves, split down the middle, pulled from the ground.  As I continued down highway 37, the once beautiful homes that stood just west of my brother’s dental office are a reminder of how close it was to the ones I love. As I drive by those heaps of wood and brick, I can’t help but imagine how overwhelming it must be trying to figure out how to begin the process of starting all over again.

And yet, there are signs that Oklahoma is beginning to move forward, to put the devastation behind us and rebuild. Last week, I took my oldest son to the movie. The theater took a direct hit from the EF-5 that devastated Moore, but it survived with only aesthetic damage. However, the hospital just north and the bank just east—both in the parking lot area of the theater—were completely destroyed. As the hospital still stood, a mangled mass of shattered glass and brick with huge chunks missing, I noticed that some of the businesses had been completely wiped clean. The piles were gone, and nothing was left but the slab of foundation.

At the credit union, employees and customers survived in the safe. It was the only thing that remained standing after the storm. The safe, however, is now gone—along with the rest of the building. It has been completely wiped clean, as if it had never existed. A fence now surrounds the area in preparation for the rebuilding process. It will be a long process, but it has begun.

How do I know the rebuilding will happen? Oklahoma is not a stranger to the destruction of tornadoes. Fourteen years ago, another huge tornado wiped out my hometown of Bridge Creek before traveling into Moore. Over 40 people lost their lives on May 3, 1999, in what was then the largest ever tornado to hit a heavily populated area. As I drive through my hometown today, there are areas I don’t even recognize. Everything has been rebuilt. It’s newer and better. But, it is so very different from the place I once knew as home.

As I contemplated the destruction from the tornadoes, I began to reflect on my own life. About four years ago, I was completely unprepared for the tornado that hit my life. My perfect life as pastor’s wife and mother was hit by an EF-5 known as adultery and divorce. I stood looking at my life, overwhelmed, trying to figure out where to begin. I looked at the heap of bricks and mortar, and I could do nothing. The tears flowed so freely. The pain was so unbearable; I couldn’t pray or open my Bible.

But, the Holy Spirit was interceding for me.

In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings (Romans 8:26).