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Our Too-Close-to-Home Tornado
is it just me or... are things getting spicier around here?
I live with an acute awareness of the fragility of life.
A day can feel ordinary and mundane in one moment. You could be pouring your second cup of coffee, responding to your hundredth email, or changing another stinky diaper. And, suddenly, everything can change.
Professionals probably have some sort of diagnosis for this sort of thing; this acute awareness of life’s incredibly precarious balancing act. Some people might see this sort of cognizance as a sort of curse. Because, to be sure, it can stir up incredible feelings of fear if left unchecked. But, some of us… call it a gift. Because it also doesn’t allow you to stay comfortable for long.
If you wield it right, this awareness can help you live into a truth-filled life. Sugar-coating things is ignorant when you’ve seen the darkest sides.
In my world, growth is necessary. Flexibility demanded daily. Courage required constantly. And my faith, which I almost lost for a time about 8 and a half years ago, is truly the main thing that keeps me sane.
Having an unpredictable auto-immune disease will give you this awareness. Losing someone close to you way before their time will sharpen it. And, as it turns out, having a tornado touch down not too far from home will, too.
It’s not so much living life wondering when the other shoe will drop, but more living life knowing that at any time a shoe - or a boulder - could crush everything you’ve ever dreamed of. And you’re somehow, okay with it. In fact, you’re great. Better than fine!
I honestly think growing in flexibility and courage is something everyone should possess, at least a little bit, these days.
Let me tell you about something that happened here last month and try to explain…
Maybe you’ve seen some of the latest news reports on lightning strikes, wildfires, earthquakes and hurricanes around the world? Did you hear about our new home state getting hit by natural disaster?
I bet you didn’t, but… last month, our little slice of East Tennessee was hit by a tornado!
You might shrug if you’re from one of the coasts, as I would have a year ago… thinking that tornados are probably normal for the whole of this state. But, they actually aren’t! Not for the eastern side of Tennessee, where we live, close to the Smoky Mountains. We actually partially chose this side of the state because ‘nados are so rare here!
This was entirely unexpected.
My phone had beeped with a Tornado Warning early that afternoon. It surprised me. The first one we’d seen for our area since the move. So I immediately messaged some local friends and asked how seriously we should take the warning.
“Don’t worry about it. We get warnings occasionally but nothing ever comes of it here. Probably just some rain and wind.”
One after one, my friends chimed in. Their answers were unanimous. Nothing to worry about.
My husband, Jay, and my dad (who was in town visiting) were out working Jay’s business. I’d been home with the kids all morning and we’d just finished lunch after our lessons and schoolwork for the day. The winds were picking up just as I was about to send the kids upstairs to do naps and quiet time.
Usually, the kids are in separate rooms for quiet time. They can play, read, color (depending on their age, I’m not quite crazy enough to give a three year old markers unsupervised!) - whatever they want as long as they are quiet so baby brother can nap. This hour and a half for independent play each day is SO good for everyone! (Especially me!)
On this particular day, despite my friends’ assurances, I scrapped our usual quiet time. Hearing the winds’ howls increase outside, I smiled as I announced the change of plans. “Grab a blanket and a stuffy, girls, and meet me and Cayson in the living room downstairs, as fast as you can!”
They were surprised (and pumped) to be doing things differently than our usual routine! Ha! (Though Austyn (10) was definitely aware, I don’t think the littler kids (5, 3 and 1) even realized these clouds were looking like something more than a usual Southern summer storm.)
By the time they were downstairs a couple of minutes later, the wind had picked up, so I pivoted again. “Ah! You know what?! I thought of something better! Time for a closet movie party!” The girls were so thrilled at this suggestion (we don’t usually allow tv on weekdays) that they whooped and hollered, barely noticing the rain that was now pummeling the windows with force.
I gave each girl a job (to carry pillows, blankets and snacks) and quickly pulled everything out from our under-the-stairs closet, which sits just off the kitchen in the middle of the house. I balanced my laptop on a rolling cart that holds a bunch of our restock items (diapers, wipes, paper towels, etc) and started a show. They settled in easily and baby boy was surprisingly (and uncharacteristically) calm. I think it was the novelty of a closet-movie and the fact that it was nap time helped, I’m sure!
Two minutes later, what looked like a wall of water and wind was rushing sideways across our front windows. It was like looking through a rushing white-water river! I couldn’t see a thing.
The magnolia tree, just 15 feet or so away from the glass, was invisible. The concrete front porch was finally getting a pressure wash (ha!). Out our back windows, the wall of water ran the other way. It was early afternoon but the sky was black. Lightning strikes flashed and illuminated the kitchen while the lights flickered.
I was glad I had the kids tucked away (I was right by them, just outside of the closet). But I knew Jay and my Dad were probably still in Jay’s work truck, who knows what strapped to his flatbed. In situations like this, it would be very easy for me to spiral and imagine the worst - especially because I’ve lost a husband before. But, spiraling never helps anything. So I stayed focus on what I knew - or rather, Who I knew.
Despite the loud noises and the theatrics outside, I felt incredible peace in the midst of the storm.
Things don’t always (read: rarely) work out the way I plan. Weekdays, weekends, holidays, life seasons, Mondays… HA! But, it’s okay. Again, I’m better than fine with it! Because… I know my God. And Yahweh always has everything in His hands.
When I look back over my life, I’ve trusted God with fearful things greater and lesser than crazy storms before. Again, everything doesn’t always work out how I would hope. But, even when the worst has happened, His love prevails. (Hallelujah!)
I took a moment to pray Jay that had taken the Tornado Watch seriously and that he and my dad had found somewhere to be indoors. The winds were so loud - like a train going past the window - I didn’t even think of calling. But if I had, I wouldn’t have been able to hear anyway.
When the winds finally started to subside, I dialed Jay. Luckily I didn’t have to wait too long for him to answer.
It turns out, he and my dad had been pumping gas when the winds had picked up. They’d decided to seek shelter inside the gas station when they saw a number of locals doing the same. And they were glad they did!
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Within hours we’d see footage of homes with their roofs completely ripped off, not far from where they’d been. Another local gas station’s roof had been torn off and flown blocks away, slamming into a resident’s backyard.
The friends I’d texted earlier reported they’d seen trees ripped from the ground and apologized for telling me to underestimate the warning. They were clearly shaken. But I didn’t hold it against them! How could anyone have known?!
You better believe I gave Jay and my dad extra big hugs once they got home that day (by that time, the sun was back to shining and the sky was blue - amazing how quickly the weather changes here)!
It would take 24 hours for us to hear the official report. A category EF2 tornado with 130 mph winds. The first one to touch down in August for our area in over 70 years.
It could have been so much worse. No lives were lost. Damage was severe for some but relatively minimal on the large scale. Praise God.
But, just because we were safe that week, doesn’t mean everyone was. Just a few days later, we heard about the fires in Maui.
One of my dear friends who lives on the island sent a text asking for prayer. She lives in upcountry Maui and their home was being threatened by wildfires. Hurricane-force winds were pushing flames across the island at an incredible speed. Another friend who lives not far from Lahaina echoed the same concerns.
We prayed for God’s help and mercy as our friends faced a powerful foe - completely out of their control.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the destruction. I think many people are still so tapped out from all the hardships of the last four years or so, but the latest numbers on the dead and missing from the Maui tragedy are devastating. Innumerable people have had their worlds turned upside down.
The Hawaiian islands hold incredibly special memories for me and I know so many others. This tragedy hit hard and reminded me just how important it is that we stay watchful. Just like that tornado.
We need to watchful. We need to be aware. And we need to be wise. Because there’s more going on here than meets the eye. And I’m not just talking about the theories as to how or why the Maui fires may have started…
I’m talking about the importance of being aware of what is going on in our world today, how it relates to history, how it relates to scripture and how it relates to our future. In short, I think it’s pretty important we realize where this earth is headed.
The world will give you an explanation for the increase of natural disasters. They’ll use the theories of science to try to explain it away but, whatever the origins, those of us who study the Word of God know that increased natural disasters are a sign of the times.
I know this subject makes a lot of people uncomfortable - I get it! I used to be one of them, but I think it’s incredibly important that we all examine our hearts - especially if we fear the end of this world.
When I named this corner of the internet “Almost Home,” I didn’t know we would be moving our family of six cross-country to find a new home. I just knew that life is short, every day counts - and every day I am one day closer to life with Jesus. And everyday that passes, we are all one day closer to seeing His Kingdom come.
Now, I might be wrong, but I think a lot of us can feel the heaviness mounting. The closer you are to His heart, the more in-tune you’ll be to spiritual warfare. And it’s everywhere these days. Evil is carried out in broad daylight. The world is calling what is evil in God’s eyes “good.” And what God calls good - the world claims as “evil.”
Prophecies from the Bible are quickly coming to pass, at an accelerated rate.
Can I tell you when exactly God is going to start the exact series of events that will bring the new Heaven and the New Earth? Nope.
Can I tell you exactly how it’s going to happen? Nope.
I have my own guesses on these things based on what I’ve interpreted from Scripture, but I don’t know for certain. In fact, the Bible tells us that no one, aside from our Heavenly Father, knows the day or hour. But Scripture does give us signs. And we are meant to know when His time is near.
Our good Father lays it all out for us to be able to interpret the hour in which we live.
Scripture calls these signs of the times “labor pains.”
Now I’ve given birth to four babies and I can tell you that when a woman goes into active labor, something shifts. In early labor, strangers might not be able to see the difference, but I assure you, the ones who know her do. And she can feel it too (even if she doesn’t want to admit it to herself! Haha! I’ve also done that a time or two). A woman groans and moves differently when she’s in labor.
And so does our earth when she’s on the cusp of rebirth.
There’s ‘bout to be a new creation!!
But, not before some serious tribulation.
Just like a mama has to work through some very real contractions before she brings new life - we’ve got some very real work to do.
Maybe you kinda sorta remember some of this stuff from Sunday school long ago.
Or maybe you see the darkness getting darker and you can tell the world isn’t headed in the right direction… but you aren’t too sure about whatever it is that I’m talking about. That’s okay… stick with me.
Whether you live near Tornado Alley, on a volcanic island, or in the “safest place” on the planet - we all know none of us are immune to trial.
Being afraid about this stuff isn’t necessarily wrong. If we are leaning into our flesh, it’s more than natural.
But, if we are true believers who wants to follow Christ, it could be a sign that we’ve got some work to do. Instead of just being afraid, my friend, I want to challenge you to be prepared.
How do we do that? By studying - in spirit and in truth.
The Bible says over 365 times not to be afraid. It’s an undeniable calling - and can be one of the hardest to live out in this world. I believe it’s actually impossible to live out, without our Creator - Yahweh - on our side.
Would you join me this month, my friend, in reading your Bible? Would you join me in asking God for discernment as you read His story and letter to His children? Would you pray for wisdom? For revelation?
There is SO MUCH COMMENTARY out there. So many preachers and teachers and bloggers telling you what they think. And while I am SO GLAD you are here, reading my little blog, I also want to encourage you to check everything I say against scripture. I want to encourage you to check everything ANYONE says against scripture.
Getting in the Word has always been important. It’s ALWAYS been the bread of life. Can I encourage you now to take your fill? Don’t put it aside any longer!
Can I also be specific? I want to encourage you to pray for discernment and truth before you read. I want to encourage you to read entire books of the Bible at a time to help understand context. (The little names in the Table of Contents are considered “Books” and the Book of the Bible is made up of many.) At the very least, I want you to read full “Chapters” at a time, in one sitting. (These are the big numbers in each book that sort of separate things out into sections.)
There is something stirring in the Father’s heart for His people. And as I watch the world running from thing to thing and see Christians trying to keep pace - I grieve knowing many may miss it.
God is a gentleman. He won’t shout in your ear or make you listen. He is whispering - and you have to want to hear to catch what He’s saying. You have to sincerely want and love the truth before He’ll speak it.
Friends, it would be so much easier for me to have a blog that tickles ears. It would be so much easier for me to stay away from the tough subjects. Did you know I begged God not to make me the “grief girl” and I still shy away sometimes for things that are less than fun to talk about? But, I’m also so incredibly SOLD OUT to our Savior. I’ll talk about and type out anything He asks of me - because He deserves my everything.
To be frank, if you haven’t been following me for long, you should know now. Jesus is the only reason I’m still on this planet. He saved me, and lifted me up from the dark pit, when I was deemed beyond saving. I owe Him my all.
Just so we are on the same page though, it would be much more fun to encourage you to just spend your time shopping and playing and working and being a busy busy bean. It would be much more fun not to talk about the real, the raw and the ugly. Because I really do LOVE making people smile and laugh. I LOVE having fun! And I love people! But not sharing the hard truth wouldn’t be loving. It would be the opposite. God is leading me this month to get real REAL with my readers.
I care about you and I love you.
And as I’ve gotten closer and closer to the Father’s heart, I can so clearly see that He does too.
If you want to go deeper with me, make sure you’re in our private paid community and be on the lookout for more emails. If you want to go it alone, that’s okay too! You don’t need me, though I’d love to walk with you if you are looking for a friend.
Almost Home with Alyssa Galios is a reader-supported publication. To receive posts to your inbox and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber! :)
However you choose to do it… just don’t neglect it. Go deep with your Bible. Get near to the Father’s heart. Be ready to open your door. Keep seeking Him. He’s always got something new to teach us. We just have to make sure we are ready to hear it.
Until next time, my friends… Stay brave - by leaning on Him.
Some photos and snippets from our summer month! :)
Last month in Tennessee was beautiful and wonderful and amazing!! I took some time off to spend some extra time in The Word, with family, and in prayer! My dad visited for a week, homeschool is in full swing, the weather has been gorgeous, and Austyn and I started a new unit study on the continent of Africa!
I won’t shine a light on the good and pretend there wasn’t some hard mixed in there too. Last month also held some incredibly challenges for me personally and for our family. I experienced an auto immune flare I haven’t had in years. My kids caught a number of summer colds. Jay dislocated his knee cap, and ended up on crutches for a week. We had unexpected house expenses and truck expenses. Never fun!
I could easily look at everything that’s gone wrong and get mad, but instead I’m praising God through the good AND the bad - because I KNOW He is where my joy is anyway! :D
Almost Home with Alyssa Galios is a reader-supported publication. To receive more posts, dive deeper with our private community, and support my work, consider becoming a paid subscriber! :D