Where will they die? Not in that tornado

We rarely know how we will die. What will take us out?

We also can’t accurately predict where we will die.

I never would have imagined my sweet mama would die in Priceville, Alabama. It’s been 5½ years since she last took in earth air in assisted-living there, and although I still miss her terribly, I’m grateful that she’s breathing clear-headed in heaven space now.

Jeff and I were in Priceville again Sunday afternoon. It’s a place where many could have died last Thursday night. Suddenly. Unexpectedly.


But they didn’t die there.

And they were grateful.

Tornados Change Lives

An EF-2 tornado ripped through, staying aloft enough to bother roofs, but still strong enough to uproot many roots and break apart numerous trees.

Despite not taking lives, the devastation leaves lives changed anyway.

We went with our local disaster relief group this weekend to clean up debris from people’s yards. It’s meaningful work (even though my muscles provide little help compared to the men).


When tornadoes fly into your home, it changes you.

So it’s the stories that make the biggest impression on me.

Stories Change Us

And in their stories, I, too, am changed.

The older gentleman in the corner house said six people had gathered in his home, the two youngest grandkids tucked in an interior closet surrounded by pillows. They took on damage to their roof. They had outside vehicles picked up and put down in new places. They had too many trees down to count.

But they were fine. It wasn’t their time or place to die. For now, they live on another day, to clean up and talk to each other and be there when one awakens restless now from bad dreams.

Neither was Thursday night in Priceville the time or place for Joy to die, although she thought death was coming.

With electricity was knocked out, her phone told her to take cover: a tornado warning had been issued.

She and her husband took shelter in their bathtub and she called her two grown daughters.

In case she didn’t survive the night, she wanted to say “I love you” to her girls one more time before she died.

Joy’s husband told her then to hold on to the rails in the tub and not let go for anything.

Then they heard the noise, the tornado flying over, the many, many trees crashing down all around them.

But they, too, were spared from death. And they were grateful, not only for their lives, but also for the people who had been coming out daily to help them clear their land of all the trees and debris covering their neighborhood.


Welcome Gratitude

Welcoming gratitude in a time of crisis is not easy.

But it’s a choice. A deliberate one. I heard it in the voices in Priceville Sunday.

And I want to hear “gratitude” more in my own voice for my One Word “Welcome” theme for April.

  • I want to write more in my 3-blessings journal.
  • I want to say, “I’m so grateful for . . .” out loud, over and over.
  • And I want to let the people that I love know how I’m grateful for them.

None of us are guaranteed details of our end-of-life moments. We rarely know details of how even the next hour will work out.

As believers, we only know that in what comes afterwards, we will be victorious.

What we know is grace. For now, for later.

God will provide what we need in this hour and in our final moments and whatever comes after that.

God’s knowledge of the details is enough. Enough in this time. Enough in this place.

Seated in sufficiency, we make peace with uncertainty. We can release thoughts of scarcity and replace them with gratitude instead.

Thank you, God, for that.

* * *

If you had one final call to make, who would you call? Please share your stories in the comments.

Thank you, sweet readers, for the lovely way you continue to bless me with your prayers and words. I am grateful for YOU.


40 thoughts on “Where will they die? Not in that tornado

  1. Mary Geisen

    Wow! How powerful is it for you to hear firsthand the stories of the survivors in Priceville. I know that you listening to these people share their hearts was just as important as the physical labor that needed to be done to clean up the debris.

    I would call my sons to tell them I love them one more time if faced with a situation like this. Both would probably pause and pray for me if there was time because that’s the kind of hearts they have. Thank you for sharing these beautiful stories.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I do count it as a blessing as well as a lesson to be able to hear the survivors’ stories. They’re usually quite eager to retell them, so it works out well for all of us. How comforting for you to know that your boys would be praying for you in that moment. You must have raised them well, Mary!

  2. Rachel Q

    What a scary time. I am so thankful I have never had to live through such an event. I am also thankful for God’s hand upon your friends and their safety.
    Thank you for these great words and encouragement! (stopping by from #IntentionalTuesday)

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’ve never actually been in a tornado either, thankfully, although I’ve had quite a few come nearby. Yes, I am indeed thankful to God for that and thankful also that he spared all lives during this past tornado in our area. Thanks for stopping in today, Rachel.

  3. Susan Nowell @ My Place to Yours

    Oh, how I love God’s economy! You bless these precious people with your gifts of work and listening—and they bless you—and then you bless us with the telling of their stories. I am grateful they were spared, grateful you were there to listen, and grateful to be reminded this morning of God’s faithful provision in the midst of life’s storms—weather-related or not.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I so agree with you, Susan. God’s economy is the best, yes? I love how he works things out for our good and his glory, even when we can’t see it at the moment. As in this case, after the storms have passed and we’re still standing, it’s easier for me to see.

  4. Bill (cycleguy)

    When you talked about tornadoes which come through the house I thought for sure you were going to mention my grandson. 🙂 It is amazing to me, as you have pointed out, how we become grateful for things which matter rather than those which don’t.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You made me literally laugh out loud, Bill. 🙂 I’ve had quite a few kids rip through my house that have made me wonder if a tornado has been through too. And oddly enough, I kept noticing I was saying “It looks like a tornado came through!” in my mind as we looked at the actual tornado damage last weekend. There’s a reason it’s a saying! Continuing to pray for the tornado of a different kind that ripped through your community last week.

  5. Sherry Stahl

    Lisa, We’re on the same wave-length 🙂 My post this week was about how to change your perspective on the hard times in our lives and see God’s purpose in them. Glad to be connected through #IntentionalTuesday Have a blessed day!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, we are on the same wavelength, Sherry. I love when that happens. 🙂 And I love how God can work through us the most when we open up our perspective to see things from a different viewpoint than just our natural fleshly one. Easier said than done, but always a miracle and a blessing when it happens!

  6. Kathy

    Oh Lisa, this really grabbed my heart strings! What a powerful post remindin us of how grateful me need to be for our precious lives! How brave these people are and what a beautiful ministry!!! And I know how much you must miss your dear mom.
    May God Bless you fully!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Kathy. I do still miss my mom so much. She was always a supporter of all us kids and a great example of a follower of Christ. Yes, I do want to be more grateful too for each day of life that the Lord gives us—we take so much for granted….

  7. Sharon

    Wow. I have had many people say to me that I must be *brave* living in California with our earthquakes. However, I’ve never really been that afraid of them. To me, living in tornado country is much, much scarier. I loved your personal stories about this incident in Priceville. And loved your lessons in it. Yes, gratitude is so important – as I am learning in my year of *GRATEFUL*. It’s a chosen attitude sometimes, an intentional focus. But it can change many things.

    One last call? A conference call to my two sons. And yes, I would tell them how much I love them, but I would also tell them how much they are loved by God, and to keep following hard after Jesus. And I would end by saying that I wasn’t saying good-bye, but only “See you later…”


    1. LisaNotes Post author

      For better or worse, sometimes we grow too lackadaisical here about tornado warnings, thinking it would never hit *me*. We usually have a few minutes warning and I always think I’d be able to run into the basement in the nick of time if needed. (Probably not the wisest plan! ha) Hope earthquakes stay away from you, Sharon, and tornadoes stay away from me.

      I love the words you’d say to your sons. You’re a good mama!

  8. Ceil

    Hi Lisa! These stories are so heart-touching, I felt like crying for them. How wonderful that you and your husband could go and help them at such a stressful time in their lives. That’s something to be grateful for, that’s for sure.

    I think I would call my daughter (I’m assuming I’d be with my husband). She lives out of state, but we are close. I would love to hear her voice before I die, she is such a lovely, loving person.

    Who would you call?

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      It is touching to hear these folks tell their stories. They’re so gracious in repeating them to any who ask. I suppose it’s healing for them to tell them, and it’s gratitude-producing for us to hear them.

      Your daughter sounds wonderful, Ceil. I would call my daughters too (yes, assuming I’d be with my husband). Not sure they would answer though; maybe I would have to text or Snapchat instead. ha.

  9. ~Karrilee~

    Wow… the power of stories! Praying for the community… I too have been feeling a pull to the return of actually slowing enough to jot thanks down! I know for me, it helps me keep perspective and slow to breathe! Great post, Lisa!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Karrilee, for your prayers for the Priceville community. Our team is returning these this weekend to clear some more trees, but I won’t be able to go. It’s sometimes in the weeks after a crisis that the hard times come for those in crisis, after the crowds and helpers have left.

  10. Brenda

    “Seated in sufficiency, we make peace with uncertainty.” Love that, Lisa. It’s easier said than done, but how beautiful a gift it is realizing that it’s only uncertain from our side…not His. Love your phrase “What we know is grace.” Amen, praise the Grace-Giver for the generous measure with which He extends His hand. Prayers for the tornado survivors. We lived in the midwest for 10 years, and those tornadoes…mercy, they are scary. Thanks for sharing, Lisa. ((sweet blessings))

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Your prayers are appreciated, Brenda. You know what it’s like to hear those tornado sirens go off if you lived in the midwest. I can only imagine how horrifying it would be for the tornado survivors the next time tornados come.

      “It’s only uncertain from our side…not His” – beautifully stated!

  11. Kristi Woods

    Stories do change us – tornadoes too. I’ll be praying for that community. We had a twister twist its way through our community last week as well – just 6 miles from our house. Fortunately no one died in the midst of its swirl, but there are a few stories here that changed folks as well. Gratitude is certainly a good way to end the chain of storms. Go God, go! #tellHisstory

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I guess it was the same storm system that brought our tornado and yours. Six miles from your house is very close. 🙁 The many and huge tornadoes of 2011 came very close to our house; I was so grateful that all we had were downed trees.

      I’m always glad to hear when no one dies from the twisters. Sounds like both our communities were spared with this latest round. Praising God for that!

  12. Jean Wise

    wow how scary and inspirational at the same time, Lisa. You are so right we do hear gratitude especially for the things that matter after a tragedy. wow

    At my retreat this past weekend, my spiritual director and I talked about even welcoming, loving and accepting our egos – took me awhile but once I visualized my ego as a young puppy – capable of making lots of errors yet so lovable – I knew I could welcome that part of me. Made me feel human. Whole. I also listened to a new podcast this morning – Becoming Wise, Krista Tippet – love her work. They were talking about welcoming your physical body. interesting. I knew I want to relisten to several lines about having compassion or I would say welcoming our bodies. looking forward to your words as you explore welcome!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      What wonderful imagery to imagine your ego as a young puppy. That definitely is a welcoming image. 🙂 Yes, certainly capable of lots of mischief, but all as part of the process of growing up. I’ll try to remember that! It works so well into my Welcome year. I hope your retreat was a success all the way around.

      Krista Tippet’s interviews are the best, yes? No matter who is on her podcast, I find myself enthralled and learning something. I want to read her book soon.

  13. Pam

    Thanks, Lisa, for putting faces and stories to this tragedy and being Jesus with skin on as you reached out to help. It is different than simply hearing or seeing news bites. Story is a powerful tool and gift, whatever the content. Blessings on your day and week!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Pam. It definitely makes a difference to me to be able to talk to someone who has lived through these experiences. It’s still not the same as experiencing them ourselves, but it’s the next best thing (and I don’t want to live through those experiences! ha. I have enough dreams about tornadoes as it is.).

  14. Debbie

    Such inspiring words and I try to be grateful for everything I have…every single day. God bless you for sharing this story and for going to help the needy. You are a wonderful person Lisa!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thank you, Debbie. As is often the case, I received more than I gave that day. It was such a blessing to talk to homeowners and get to be with the guys who sweated a lot more than I did in cutting up trees. 🙂

      It’s a gift that you are grateful in your daily life. We have received SO much, and often when I look at the hard things that others are going through, I’m convicted anew to be grateful for the life God has given me, even with its own troubles here and there. His grace is just right for each life.

  15. floyd

    Excellent reminder, Lisa. For all the times we were spared death here and didn’t have a clue His grace saved us, Thank Him for that.

    This is a good reminder to put life back in its proper perspective which is a place of humility and joy for the One who spares us until our time is come.

    Bless you and all the hands that helped.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I love your reminders this year of “humility”…the one year I chose humility as my OneWord was a year that had some very difficult things in it! ha.

      Yes, we are blind and deaf to all the things that could have happened to us, but God spared us from. May I be more grateful every day…. Thanks, Floyd.

  16. Jerri Miller

    Thanks for sharing these stories! Events like tornadoes help us see what’s really important.

    I’d text my daughters, probably in a group text, if I was facing death … I’d tell them I love them, I’m proud of them, and Jesus is the way Home. But I hope they already know that …

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      That would be a beautiful text, Jerri. Even when we do “already know”, it’s still good to hear. There are many things we never tire of hearing and those three things fit on my list!

  17. Beverley

    Sometimes all we need to do is listen to the stories of others. This is what i found after i returned home after the Boxing day floods which hit the local areas around where i live, but thankfully not me. Everything only became real when one day sitting in a local coffee shop i overheard a man telling one of the baristas that his home had been flooded, his clothes were borrowed, he had no heating, clean water or electricity and no one was listening, no one was doing anything to help him put things right. As i said, sometimes all we need to do it listen, his words made everything real and scary.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks for sharing this story, Beverley. I’m glad the barista was able to listen to the gentleman—and you listening too—because yes, sometimes that’s the very thing we need. It seems like the very least that we can give, so I wonder why I’m sometimes stingy with giving my attention….

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