Harpers in front of their home. Photo by: Morgan Preston

By Michelle Harper

At 12:54 a.m. on March 3, 2020, our lives were shaken in a way we’d never imagined they could be. With little advanced warning, an EF-3 tornado ripped through our subdivision and our community of Mt Juliet. A night we’ll never forget to say the least.

Jason and I woke up when the power went out. I heard the rain start. Then, I heard the wind pick up. I told Jason, “I think we need to get the kids and get to a safer spot.” As soon as I finished those words, windows began to shatter, debris came flying down our bonus room steps and into the master bedroom. We ran to the family room and woke our daughter Abbie Clair, who was sleeping on the couch. I remember it being so loud that I couldn’t hear myself screaming. Just as Abbie Clair was getting off the couch the side of our house blew out. We immediately headed to our son Will’s room. Thankfully his window was still intact. We stayed there until we knew the storm had passed and all had become quiet. Jason went outside to survey the damage and see if our neighbors were okay. I began sweeping up glass and debris so that we all could head to the master bedroom. The door to Abbie Clair’s room had flung shut with a metal rod sticking out, unable to open. Soon after, it began pouring rain and about 6-8 inches fell in a short period of time. Rain was flooding into our home even through the fixtures. The smoke detectors began blaring. In an effort to silence them, Jason managed to get a ladder from the garage and unplug all but two of them.

Waiting for daylight seemed like an eternity. We were huddled in our bedroom watching the news on my cell phone. Jason called and spoke to his parents who live very close by, thankfully they were okay. Once it became light outside, the utter devastation was apparent. Many homes sustained damage, some more severe than others. Other homes were a total loss. Our home had sustained severe damage, but we were alive and unhurt. I finally managed to open the door to our daughter’s room and tears flooded my eyes. I saw shrapnel and glass embedded in her walls. A fence post had come through her window knocking a hole in the wall. Both of our vehicles had windows blown out and heavy exterior damage. It was a war zone. Jason’s parents were unharmed, with lots of trees down but minimal damage to their house. Yet, we were all alive and unhurt. God protected our family. God protected our daughter who could have been seriously injured. God protected so many people in our subdivision and in our community.

The outpouring of love and support has been overwhelming. That Wednesday, my close friends, many of Jason’s coworkers from HCA, and several nurses/staff from Wilson County Schools came out to help us with the clean-up. Over 40 people came and packed up what was left of our home, cleaned up debris outside, boarded windows, and placed tarps on the roof. My sister’s friend informed us of a rental home not too far from ours. I went to look at it and immediately agreed this would be our temporary new home. She had told us that someone was supposed to sign a lease just days before and never showed. When all was packed, friends completely moved us into our new home. And the love and support continued. Multiple calls, texts, donations, prayers were upon us. Once more, God protected us, and He continues to provide.

In the days soon after, a friend shared with me “Lift Up Your Hands (When You Can’t)” by Mark Schultz. These words have sunk in and taken hold of my heart as we recover.

Well I know that your heart is past broken
And it feels like you got nothing left
And you can’t find your song cause you can’t even speak
You’re just trying to take the next breath
And you find yourself here in this moment
Where we have all gathered to praise
And though you wish that you did you’ve got nothing to give
It’s enough that you’re here anyway

So let me stand up and sing of His goodness
Let me lift up a song in your place
Cause I know that He’ll always be with us
Even when we can’t see His face
I’m gonna sing to the One who is faithful
Though the battle is not over yet
And I’ll be your voice till you’re able
And I’ll lift up your hands when you can’t

One day I’ll walk through the shadows
Too weary and worn out to stand
And I’m gonna need you beside me
To lift up this song once again

So let me stand up and sing of His goodness
Let me lift up a song in your place
Cause I know that He’ll always be with us
Even when we can’t see His face
I’m gonna sing to the One who is faithful
Though the battle is not over yet
And I’ll be your voice till you’re able
And I’ll lift up your hands when you can’t
When you can’t

Hallelujah, we’ll thank Him for all that He’s done
Hallelujah, we’ll thank Him for what’s yet to come
Hallelujah, we’ll thank Him for all that He’s done
Hallelujah, we’ll thank Him for what’s yet to come

I’m gonna stand up and shout Hallelujah
Though the battle is not over yet
And I’ll be your voice till you’re able
And I’ll lift up your hands when you can’t
Yes I’ll be your voice till you’re able
And I’ll lift up your hands when you can’t

Tribulations and clean-up will continue in the days and weeks ahead. Time and love will eventually heal and restore. Please pray for our neighbors, our community, for the students, and teachers of the two schools which were destroyed. We have much rebuilding to do, on the outside and inside our hearts. The one thing we hold steadfast to is GOD protected us and He will always love us. #MJStrong


Michelle Harper has been a member of Nashville First since 1983. She and her husband Jason attend the Open Door Sunday School Class. Their children Will and Abbie Clair are active in our children’s ministry.