What Tornadoes Have Taught Me
Founder, Refined Family
Kerry Tittle is a mother of 10 children and a 20+-year homeschool veteran. She is the founder of Refined Family. Her desire is to honor Christ while comforting others with the comfort she has received from the Lord.
My son, Noah, is an Eagle Scout. He has had “Be Prepared” ingrained into his very fiber so when an EF3 tornado ripped through a friend’s neighborhood in Little Rock on March 31, 2023, we jumped into action and he led the way. We were feeling an urgent need to get to Little Rock and help, but it seemed like it took forever to get things packed, to load the ATV on a trailer, and get the chainsaws ready. He looked at me and said, “Mom we were in no way prepared.”
Those words hung with me the rest of the night.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells a parable of 10 Virgins:
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps.
As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’
And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
That parable always causes me to examine myself. Am I prepared for what might happen? I feel that weight more profoundly as a single mom than ever before. I have many friends who are meteorologists. As you might guess, I take physical preparedness for storms very seriously. It’s insanely important.
However, even more importantly we need to have plans and be ready for the many spiritual storms that this fallen world throws at us. Spiritual preparedness needs to be at the forefront of our minds and conversations daily.
Am I prepared for the Lord? Am I ready for the Lord’s work? Then comes the stark reminder that I am living in a home with those that may not know the Lord. I shouldn’t tarry because I believe. I live in a world that is not prepared. My children, my friends, my neighbors, and the stranger in the grocery isle.
I looked down at my dangling dead headlamp that was of no use and realized my son was right on many fronts.
MAKING A WAY
One of my dearest friends is married to a firefighter. He spent much time clearing debris from the roads left in the wake of storm. She paralleled Isaiah 40:3 with the clearing of the roads.
A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
I can’t think of clearing debris from roads now without thinking of “Making a way for the Lord.”
Again, I was convicted of the many types of “debris” in my life that need to be cleared: screens, TV, religion, fear of man…. Well, a list of idols would be a long list to type, but you get my meaning. Am I preparing a way for the Lord so that I can be focused and ready?
Many know my story. On this day in 2014 I lost my husband and 2 of my children in an F4 tornado. I didn’t think there was life beyond devastation. Even as I type this, I feel like being a survivor somehow cheapens the life of Rob, Tori and Rebekah. I hate it. More than anything I want them back. There is such a gaping hole in my life.
But as much as that storm destroyed my life…..it also cleared my path. The Lord stripped everything away. All the things of this world that I loved truly did become strangely dim. Even through the years of trauma and grief, my gaze finally rested on the One from whom my hope comes.
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
BEAUTY FROM ASHES
As the sun set that night in Little Rock, we found ourselves looking for ways to help those who had been impacted. Looking around, all that could be seen against the brilliant sunset was the ugly terrain of random splintered trees. It was getting dark (no electricity) and quiet with some droning of chainsaws. It provided a vivid reminder of what sin can do to something that was once beautiful. The consequences of sin can come quickly and leave irreparable damage.
The next day…….
I was at a loss for words. There were people everywhere putting tarps on homes, nailing makeshift walls to destroyed structures, pulling wagons loaded with drinks and sandwiches to be given away, and even grills with people cooking.
People set up drink stops at random businesses. I couldn’t even tell really who these efforts were for because everyone was mingling – the workers, the responders, the volunteers, police directing traffic, machine operators and those who had suffered the loss. It was an incredible portrait of kindness and compassion.
I have little memory, but I can only imagine this is what it looked like in my community after the storm in 2014.
As a person who enjoys being alone and gets drained easily in crowds, I couldn’t deny that these people needed each other. It was a reminder to me that we were not created to be alone. Little Rock exemplified amazing brotherhood.
For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!
We get the phrase “Beauty from Ashes” from the book of Isaiah. Isaiah speaks of beauty in a Hebrew language that can’t be translated to English. It translates as a headdress or tiara. The prophet says that in times of sorrow the Lord will replace the ashes on our head (that represent mourning) and replace it with a beautiful head covering! Heads will be anointed with oil (representing celebration) and we will be responding in the garment of praise!
What a beautiful picture!
to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.
They shall build up the ancient ruins;
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.
Tornadoes have certainly been a refining fire in my life. The lessons I’ve learned from them have been heart-rending, but though my circumstances haven’t changed my perspective and the joy set before me have.
I pray that you will also find that through the refining fires of your life, you are able to more clearly see the Savior’s loving face.