lukeandmanda

The most amazing love story since Romeo and Juliet haha

Archive for the month “April, 2017”

My Reflections on 4/27/11- The Day I Thought I Would Die

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a]have been called according to his purpose,” Romans 8:28

April 27, 2011 was a typical Wednesday afternoon in Tuscaloosa, AL. The clouds had been a bit overcast, and there was a certain humidity in the air that was a little unusual. But hindsight aside, I had no idea that this day would alter not only my life, but thousands of others as well.

I was a sophomore at the University of Alabama, and it was the week before finals. I had pulled an all nighter studying the previous evening and was exhausted, with more studying ahead.

My mom sent me a few texts about the weather during the day; apparently tornado warnings were in effect all over the state, but as any young, naïve college student such as myself might have told you before April 27th, tornado warnings in Alabama are as common as pop quizzes.

As the newly selected News Editor of the student newspaper, I planned to head to campus to edit the day’s stories. But, when I called my assistant editor around 2 p.m., I distinctly remember him saying, “Amanda, do not drive over here right now. We are all about to die! ”

I figured he was exaggerating, but the wind had picked up a little and I could hear it through my bedroom window in my second story apartment. As I sat down on the bed to finish sending some emails, I heard a tornado siren. My roommate came in and asked me to go downstairs with her to wait out the storm. I remember becoming a little frightened at this point, and this was the first time I uttered a quick prayer, “Lord please keep us safe,” I silently thought while trying to devise a plan to finish all of the work that loomed ahead after the storm passed.

I quickly grabbed some sandals, a jacket and my cell phone. When we got downstairs, our neighbors were watching the local weather. I saw a huge funnel cloud on the screen that was clearly picking up speed as the meteorologist described the storm’s path across Tuscaloosa. My heart began to beat faster. All of a sudden the power went out, and the TV went black. Simultaneously I saw a huge bolt of lightning through the glass doors to their balcony.

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I texted my boyfriend and told him I was really scared, as I hustled to get inside the closet with the others. There were about 9 people in total, squeezed into the narrow space. We huddled together on the floor sinking as low to the floor as possible. I was fervently typing text messages, but nothing would send due to lack of service. I was still trying to text, and then I heard the roar of a tornado. It was as if everything happened at once.

My body became paralyzed with fear. I could no longer read or type. I hunkered down in the closet and prayed for dear life. I could hear my roommate whimpering beside me, as the air pressure intensified, and glass shattered. It was as if all of the air was being sucked out of the closet. My ears popped from the pressure. I thought the tornado was going to suck all of us up into it at any moment. I knew I was going to die. And then just as suddenly, it was over. We slowly ventured outside and found broken tree limbs scattered about. One girl found a chair inside her car. All around us, trees were down. Pieces of siding and roofing had come off of some of the buildings. But, that wasn’t the worst of it.

A few brave souls ventured out onto 15th Street, which was a main area of town populated with restaurants and businesses. They came back almost immediately. “It’s all gone,” they were saying, incredulously. “Everything across the street is completely flattened.”

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As I walked to the edge of the complex, I saw the stop sign was almost lying down, and the apartment’s gates twisted sickeningly inward. The car dealership next door had collapsed in on itself, and across the street, the homes and trees that made up the skyline were simply gone. It was so deadly quiet. The verse, “Be still and know that I am God,” from Psalm 46:10 encompassed my spirit, and I knew at that moment that despite the total wreckage and decimation of a city, He had a plan for my life and the lives of those around me. He would again form beauty from these ashes.

I later learned there were 64 fatalities that day, six of whom were UA students like myself. One person died just 250 yards from where I lived. For a while, I struggled with why I lived when so many others perished.  I have had faith since I was a young child; I was baptized at age 5, as the youngest person my pastor had ever baptized. But, I didn’t understand the purpose in this yet. But, then again, I didn’t have to. I just needed to trust God to work something even as ghastly as this for His glory. I then accepted that God has a purpose for my life, and know with 100% confidence that I am alive for a reason.

In the aftermath of that horrific day, I made a renewed commitment to share Jesus with all of those around me in my words and my actions. April 27, 2011 reaffirmed for me the brevity of a human life. Even when it seems that you have the whole world in front of you, and nothing but time ahead, everything can vanish in the blink of an eye or in the roar of an EF-4 tornado. A near death experience helps you take less for granted and realize that in that final moment of your life truly nothing else matters–not a career, not family, not friends, nothing, but your personal relationship with the Savior. As long as you have that relationship, you can release that paralyzing fear of death once and for all through the knowledge that your final destination is already mapped out. I find comfort knowing that even though I don’t know the number of my days, God does, and He has a purpose for each and every one! Keep your eyes on the prize, and you will find Him there, beside you, every single time, when chaos reigns, when tragedy strikes and when nothing else matters but the cross.

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“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD. “plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.” — Jeremiah 29:11

 

**Note The tornado photo credits are not my own. I pulled them from a news site several years ago, and I cannot remember which one currently. The story ran all over The Associated Press for over a week and in local news for much, much longer. Our student team of Crimson White reporters won awards for diligent reporting in the aftermath of this tragedy, and I was proud to be part of the team writing some of the stories that we were never supposed to have to cover and were by far our hardest, most emotional to ever write.

 

 

 

 

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Easter Weekend Reflections, A New Family Tradition and Exciting Changes Ahead

At our house, we absolutely adore holidays (mostly Amanda, but Luke gets into them some, too.) We love decorating, sharing food and fellowship with friends and family, and just the opportunity to unwind from work and the daily routine and focus on things that are truly important in this world.

Easter is one of our very favorites because it is the true meaning of all joy: Jesus’ resurrection and victory over death and the only way that we too can conquer death and have eternal life in Heaven with Him. We invited my Mom and brother out for Easter a few months ago, and we were excited at the idea that we could all reunite in the same city and be together again after my brother’s big move to Arkansas to work for Wal-Mart corporate.

Additionally, the military has opened our eyes to a lifestyle where many people don’t get to go home for holidays or have others nearby to share them with, so we always try to open our home to as many people as possible when we stay in town, just as they do for us. We always see it as the more the merrier! Our space-constrained historic on post housing is not really equipped for hosting large parties, but we always find a way to just make it work. God has really been speaking to my heart lately about maximizing meal time and inviting other families into our home to break bread with us. So, with that being said we prepped for a group of about 8-15 people, not sure who would actually be able to join us but utilizing the opportunity to reach out to church family, neighbors and co-workers.

In the end, we had this wonderful group join us for Easter Sunday.

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And, we had a blast!

Now, to back up. My holiday weekend started early Friday morning. I knew I would need most of the day to prep, so I ran to the commissary to skip the lines and get the ingredients I would need to make the various dishes. Then, I knocked out some work for Chick-fil-A while my cleaning lady helped prep the house. (Yes, I cheat and get her to come about once a month just to help out, and it is SO WORTH IT and is such a STRESS RELIEF. I could not have picked a better time to book because I knew we would be having company, and she even helped me put my tablecloth on and fix some of the little decorations on the table. Absolute life saver!!)

After she left, my good friend, Rachel, and I headed out to pick up the food table and folding chairs from my church. Can I just say that THIS happened recently?

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Since we had literally just traded in our truck for a more gas efficient Chevrolet Equinox, Rachel was so sweet to drive me in her husband’s truck to haul the table and chairs. We LOVE our new car, but will most certainly miss the truck for occasions just such as this.

It all worked out though since we made it into a girls’ day, tried a new (to us) Thai place in Lawton and then visited Hobby Lobby. We both wanted some pretty Spring flowers, so we also went to Flowerama. They do fresh flowers for Chick-fil-A each week, so I knew she (Jackie) could help me design a pretty centerpiece for Easter. I was trying to decorate on a pretty tight budget, so I took my own basket and plastic eggs in earlier in the week, and THIS is the design she came up with for less than $15.

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They are so talented at Flowerama, so I definitely recommend them for any floral needs around Ft. Sill. And, they work with any budget and create beautiful custom designs.

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I spent the rest of the afternoon moving furniture, arranging tables and chairs and trying to maximize space. The group of 9 (10 with baby) we ended up with was the perfect size for the space. I used my dining table and just butted a card table up to the end for a couple extra seats, and then displayed appetizer, dessert and food tables in the living room to keep a nice flow. Our kitchen is very tiny and gets very hot, and so any time I can redirect people from gathering in there, the better. 🙂

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I got the colored flower-shaped chargers on sale at Hobby Lobby, and I loved them because the variety of colors would be pretty for many occasions beyond just Easter! The mix-match end result was vibrant and eye catching.

I went with paper goods this time for easier clean up, festivity and cheer, and I am so glad I did. It was certainly worthwhile last night when we just swept everything into the garbage including the tablecloths. Forget handwashing crystal glasses until the wee hours. Even the silverware (in the adorable bunny shaped container–thanks Hobby Lobby!) was plastic. I got a couple pieces such as that silverware holder that I plan to save and use again next year.

After finally getting my table set up, I ran to get ready for West Point Founder’s Day Dinner, which was held at the Patriot Club on post Friday night. We had a good time reuniting with some of Luke’s classmates he hadn’t seen in years and meeting some other grads. It was kind of special and also bittersweet because it was our last official Army gathering while Luke serves active duty (MORE ON THAT IN A MOMENT! Or skip to the end of this post to find out what’s next for our little family).

Saturday morning dawned dark and early as I got up to start prepping some of the cold foods while waiting for my Mom and Ethan to arrive. Since they would only be visiting for about 30 hours, I didn’t want to spend the whole time cooking.

I made really good progress, and Luke helped tidy up the house for them to arrive, so team work makes the dream work! When they arrived just before lunch, I was at a good stopping place and we headed off to explore.

We went to Ann’s Country Kitchen for lunch (best homemade pie this side of the Mississippi!) and then out to the Wildlife Refuge for a bit of hiking.

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It was a perfect day for the outdoors, a bit overcast but not rainy, and temperatures were comfortable in the 70’s without being unbearably hot. Of course this time of year in Oklahoma, snakes and all kinds of critters are out and about, so the guys kept a good eye out for us. We hiked to the end of a short trail with a pretty natural waterfall, and really enjoyed our little adventure. Ethan and Luke climbed up to the top, while Mom and I preferred to relax toward the bottom.

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(Those tiny little figures up there are the two of them. Ethan is to the right in the blue shirt!)

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We really enjoyed each other’s company, and my brother got to utilize the skills he learned as a certified rock climbing trainer, so it worked out well. We then walked over to look off above Treasure Lake near the trailhead and then finally headed to the Holy City where they were setting up for the Easter pageant scheduled for later that night.

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We had heard rave reviews about this pageant all year, and apparently people drive from all over the region to see the performance at the Holy City of the Wichitas. When the pageant first started, it began at 3:00 a.m. and ran until sunrise, when Jesus would Rise. Now, they begin around 8:30 p.m., and Jesus rises at midnight to officially welcome Easter Sunday.

We had an early dinner reservation at the Dry Beaver Supper Club (some of the best steaks in Texoma, but it’s only open one night a month!), and after savoring shrimp, steak and homemade bread pudding, we headed back for the pageant. We brought folding chairs and set up on the hill overlooking the City. The pageant organizer we met earlier in the day suggested we bring blankets, and Mom and I both did because we get cold easily. But, at a balmy 74 degrees, the guys didn’t think they would at all need blankets. We were wrong! That wind was whipping, and the hills get cold at night. Even though the forecast showed 74 degrees, it felt much cooler. Poor Luke shivered his way through the second half of the pageant, but stubborn male that he is, refused to share my blanket. haha.

The production was lengthy but well worth it, as it depicted Jesus’ life from birth to death and Resurrection. Definitely a Must-See if you are ever in the area.

We got home after midnight, so Easter Sunday was again a dark, early one for me as I got up to finish the food prep. I found a new themed breakfast recipe I wanted to try also–Resurrection Rolls or “Empty Tomb Rolls.”

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Basically you put a buttered, cinammon-sugar covered marshmallow inside the roll, wrap it up and bake it, and the marshmallow bakes away leaving an Empty Tomb! I thought it might be a neat concept that we could use when we eventually have kids to teach them about Jesus and how his body disappeared from the grave. They were soooo delicious and easy! I paired them with some boiled eggs, and wah-laa, perfect Easter breakfast. I will definitely be making these every year, children or no children. I have linked the recipe above if you want to give it a look.

We loved the service at Crossroads Baptist. Pastor Curtis did an excellent job as always, and the service ended with a baptism, which was so fitting. Of all the things in Oklahoma, this church family is one we will miss the most. It was great to have my Mom and brother join us for church, along with a couple of friends.

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Lunch wasn’t until 2:30 to give us some post-Church prep time, so I decided to do a few appetizers and have people come whenever.

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This pink sparkling punch was one of the easiest and best I’ve made, and people seemed to LOVE it. I’ve linked the recipe here, in case you are looking for a nice Spring-y recipe; the mint sprig garnishes really helped to dress it up.

All of the food turned out pretty well, I think! Most of my recipes were tried and true, but I did try a new dish: Pineapple Casserole. My boss’s wife gave it to me, and it was really delicious with the Ham. 🙂

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My sweet friends all brought the most delicious dishes, and these bunny cupcakes by Rachel, were some of my favorites of the day. They are just so darn cute! I had “Make-Your-Own Mini Strawberry Trifles,” and so these two dessert options were more than plenty, and really hit the spot.

 

All in all, it was the perfect Easter Sunday. And, as mentioned, one of the best parts was that clean up was such a breeze. 🙂

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As the work week begins again, we have some exciting news…We will only be in Oklahoma for about 9 more weeks total. Our time here has gone so quickly, and we are now officially beginning our transition to leave both this post and the Army as a whole. (Well partly–Luke still owes them 3 years of Reserves time, but he will be leaving Active Duty service this summer.)

What’s next?

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Team  Bradshaw is moving to Florida!!! Amanda will be starting her Ph.D. in Communication at UF this Fall, and we are ecstatic about this upcoming move. In addition to the Reserves, Luke is also actively looking for a civilian job utilizing his systems engineering degree, so if you know of anything in the central Florida area, give us a shout! We are excited to be closer to family, and while it is bittersweet to leave all of the wonderful people we have met here and grown close to in a short time, we look forward to staying connected through social media. We are anticipating lots of beach and Disney World visitors, too, and are even fixing up TWO guest rooms. So, make plans to come down and see us.

I will write again soon as I transition out of both teaching and Chick-fil-A and devote my time to (hopefully) finishing a book I began writing last year and orchestrating our move in addition to finalizing an exciting international vacation that we see as a big Second Honeymoon in the time between leaving OK and settling in FL. More to come about our big excursion to……ITALY. 🙂

 

 

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