Generation Cedar

It’s been almost a year since a tornado radically changed our lives, and we still talk about the storm like it just happened. It feels like it just happened, and we measure time in relation to it…“Was that before the storm or after?”

Sorting through the emotions of an event like this has been….interesting. The very night brought instant terror, elation and devastating heartbreak, all in a matter of minutes as we shuttered through the experience you think only happens to other people, then realized the miracle of living through it, then grieved over the news of friends snatched away from us, joined by the weight of losing everything normal in life.

And still, after all this time, all those emotions rise and fall, dance and collapse, invading in waves as one day we feel all gratitude for life, and the next just death, change and destruction.

So it is a part of life, and I’m sure all of you have walked similar paths, rejoicing and grieving all at the same time. The Lord is so good to bring us here, though, to teach us about Him, His steadfastness so starkly apparent against the backdrop of life’s uncertainties.

Life will always be uncertain. Storms can come any time, in any form, and we must hold loosely to the things, yes, even the people we love so much, and remember that things here are all “hay and stubble”, while souls and legacies survive the severest of storms.

Trees. (This is a tiny snapshot of the view behind our house. Try to imagine that the panoramic view is spread across miles…literally thousands of “tooth-pick” trees as far as one can see.) In a rural place like where we live, a tornado of the magnitude we experienced did so much damage it’s impossible to imagine the sight. And while “they’re just trees”, somehow, it feels like more. Something I’m not able to fully articulate. Someone mentioned that the ugliness “slaps you in the face” every time you drive through, reminding us of that awful night. I think that’s it. The sight jars in me actual sensory reminders of that night and again, the gamut of emotions are hard to sort through.

The heavens still declare His majesty over the mess, a visible testimony of His sovereignty and faithfulness when life around us looks upside down. Leaning against our porch rail, taking a work break, the evening’s view softens the angst. This picture was taken just a few days ago, almost a year after the storm.

So we just brought the trees inside! Every piece of wood is a “brokenness redeemed”. Walking across the very floors is a walk across a story…our story mingled with the numerous faces, hands and hearts so full of love, they spilled all over us and are etched in every board and every nail.

You! Them! There are so many! Do you know that I lie awake at night grieving for all the notes I know I didn’t write? For the addresses misplaced? For the people about whom I didn’t even know? I still think of the details…the healing words written in cards, the gifts made and sent with love, the warmth and the compassion that so surrounded us for so long…I meditate on you all daily….even now.

Do you find even the smallest joy in knowing that I am visibly reminded of your love every time I look at this house? Do you know that so many will “live here” with us? Many dear friends we know and many more we do not. Do my tears, even as I write, thank you enough?

You may remember that the fateful day began with my healthy, spry Dad brushing death in a hospital that morning. Incapable of coherent thoughts in my terror, my lips began uttering, “God is mighty to save…God is mighty to save…” all the way to the OR as I jogged behind the gurney.

You might guess which words came first, just a few hours later, sitting in a cold, dark basement that dripped with water?

So I painted the words on this barn door, a surviving artifact of my father’s. I want our home to breathe His faithfulness and His compassion.

And every visitor who enters will surely hear the story, won’t they? And I will tell them about you. You are forever a part of telling HIS story.

I pray that makes you as happy as it makes me.


We are working furiously to finish our house to be able to move. My husband is working day and night (sometimes a “real” job during the day), and the older children and I are taking turns assisting. We still have a few volunteers pulling late, late nights as well. (Wave to Kyle and Ben!) We are doing well just busy, busy!

Several of you have inquired about the Lees, our dear friends and neighbors whose father went home the night of the storm. They have found a quiet place a few hours from here and we are so happy for them, yet grieving for yet another change. They are doing well, it seems, but this valley will never be the same without them.

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32 Responses

  1. Kelly, thank you so much for this beautiful post. It bought tears to my eyes. I am perhaps one of those who you didn’t know about, and though I gave only something small, I’m honoured and blessed to know that you even still think of us all – all that responded to that desire to give and support in some way. I have told your story to so many of my friends, and always, always, I have to tell them of your husband’s and your own faith and trust in God. It inspires me, impresses me, encourages me. Thank you for being such a steadfast, faithful, Godly couple.

    1. What a blessing for me to put another name with a gesture of love toward us…thank you! And thank you for coming here and “touching” me again. We are so grateful!!

  2. Kelly, I am so thrilled at what God is doing in your lives and how he has upheld you and your faith through all this. You managed to write me a note after we sent a donation in, and just receiving a note from you was so special to me. God bless you for your efforts. I wish I could meet you and your family! Your blog has touched my life and helped me grow in my faith. It is so awesome that you live in a house that “many hands” have built. What a monument to God’s provision!! Much love in Christ! xx

  3. Kelly, this is a beautiful and heartfelt thank you letter you’ve written right here. Please don’t lie awake at night thinking about thank yous that didn’t get written! (Said lovingly by the one who wrote the book on lying awake at night worrying about what I have and haven’t done 😉 Give yourself some grace…we’ve all been there. You especially deserve that grace since you had SO MUCH to deal with…the tornado, your dad’s heart attack, your postpartum recovery. I can’t begin to comprehend the enormous effort it must take to process all that, especially when it all happened within such a short period of time. Go easy on yourself, my friend 🙂

    Love you.

    1. It means so much for you to extend that grace and permission…I would so love to “check it off the list”, for my mind’s sake, but my heart wants so much to tell every single person, personally, what their kindness meant to my family and me.

  4. I and a friend of mine made little shoeboxes filled with goodies for all of your children, hoping they would have something of “their own” at a time when so much was uncertain. When we drove into your drive and saw where you house once stood, what I had to give seemed so small. We left the boxes and drove away. I didn’t even attempt to find you, because I knew there were no words to express how I felt. I am SO thankful that you are able to move back into your home! I think you have reminded us all of where our true treasure lies. You and your family are a blessing to so many.

    1. Lisa,

      Thank you for giving me a change to “thank you” 😉 There is nothing small about going out of your way to love someone. It is very big to me, those shoeboxes!

  5. Beautiful post! I love the pictures. Everything is so beautiful. I love the salvaged barn door and the message it holds.

  6. I am one of those who had to come out and bring a small
    token of our love to your family. I will never forget that
    day either, it was my Birthday, and just 20 days before that
    I had to give up the tiny body that gave up his life just days
    before. He was the second child I had to lose before I was able
    to hold. I remember so well keeping up with you and your pregnancy
    and the first thing that I thought of was that tiny baby
    in the mist of the storm. I thank God that he protected your
    whole family. That day we came by was the first time that I have
    ever been to the valley. Yet through all the destruction, I could
    see the beauty in God’s creation of that small piece of earth.
    Now here almost a year later I am so thrilled to see what God has
    done for your family. I am also thankful that through our own
    sorrow, we now hold our precious baby girl.
    Debbie Wingo
    mother of 6, 4 here and 2 in heaven.

    1. Oh Debbie, to read this…it is a tender, hard thing, and I am so sorry for the grief you have been through. And thank you for coming that day, in the midst of your own heart-wrenching grief…what love.

  7. Kelly , you know Billy and I are so happy that you are almost in your house for good. We have done so much praying for you and your family and are so glad to have met your family. I wish it was through other circumstances though. We hope to visit with you guys again. Let us know if you need anything. Billy really has a heart for your family .

    Love in Christ,
    Tiffany on behalf of the Ballard family

    1. Tiffany,

      Did you know I was thinking of you all JUST yesterday?! As I thought back over all the labor gone into the building process, I thought of Billy’s time and work poured in and both your sacrifices on our behalf. We can’t thank you enough 😉 Much love to your family.

  8. There is a song I used to hear, based on Scripture but maybe not word for word (sorry, but I’m not going to look it up right now for a good reason 🙂 trust me) that I thought of as I read the first paragraphs of your post, Kelly: “As for man, his days are but as grass; as the flower of the field, he flourisheth. The wind passeth over, and it’s gone, and the place thereof shall never know it again.” But we who know our Saviour know we’ll all be together with Him in His time, and that helps us weather any storm.

    God bless you and your friends.

  9. I know the emotions that you mention, even about the trees. Though we thankfully received no damage, we lost a friend and know so many people who lost everything. I am constantly reminded of that day as I run errands and drive through my town. Not a day goes by that I don’t cry when I drive through these areas. It is something that I still feel like I can’t process, even a year later. I am thankful that God shouts to us in our pain and that He has given me a spirit of compassion and love and sensivity that I never had before as a result. I am so excited you are almost in your new home and love the barn door!

    1. Jennifer,

      It’s amazing how we were ALL so affected, even is you did not personally ride through the storm. It is so true…God does shout in our pain and mold us into more compassionate, sensitive people through the trials.

  10. Kelly,

    As we drove through the valley to your house we all commented that the trees were a reminder of God’s mighty power, tender mercies and great sovereignty. The trees are a testimony to what the Lord has done through this storm. Thank you for the example your family is and the Love you have for the Lord! We miss you and hope to visit you back in the valley soon!

    Learning to let Him lead,
    Melisa for the Bubba Bunch!

  11. The picture of the beautiful sky and the trees is breath taking! Your house is beautiful and I love that you are using the broken trees in your house! God makes beauty from ashes! That such a beautiful reminder in your home.

  12. Hi!
    This is the first time I visited your blog!
    What a story!
    A testimony to God’s Enduring Faithfulness for sure.
    “I will never, never, leave thee, nor never, never forsake thee”.
    Amazing blog…many pearls to be found among these posts!

  13. Dear Kelly,
    The bible says to “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”

    I echo the comments above who said for you to PLEASE never lose any more sleep worrying about any personal notes you never wrote! Please know that everyone who gave, gave from their heart, never expecting to receive anything! We all knew the loss, the grief, and the trauma you all were going through, as well as the overwhelming tasks of dealing with death, life and the rebuilding of it.

    I do want to let you know something that you may not know. My family did receive notes on behalf of each family we gave to. It seemed to be from some you know, who knew the impossibility of you all being able to respond personally yourselves. It was very nice, but I do also want you know that even if we had never received any reply, which we were never expecting, we KNEW that whatever small gift we gave was going to help our brothers and sisters in Christ who needed us to pull together.

    We are rejoicing with you that you are so close to moving in to your new home. It is very beautiful and very special. God’s word says that He makes all things beautiful in His time, and I know that through all that you’ve been through, God is fulfilling that and will continue to do so.

    I have learned a lot through your experience. I have grieved with you and have rejoiced with you and want you know that though we have never met, you have been in MANY of my thoughts and prayers this past year.

    God bless you, dear sister.
    Mama of 8 from N. Calif

  14. Kelly, I know how terrifying those storms can be first hand.
    I’m from North Alabama and I remember that day all to well. I was home alone with my two kids when the storms went through, God spared our home and our lives that day. I am forever grateful, but my heart broke for my neighbors that weren’t so lucky. My kids and I will never forget how we prayed and trusted in God for His mighty protection.
    We’ve moved since then, but still own our home down there; and the storms that went through earlier in the month got our home this time, though not completely, Thank God!

    It blessed me to read how your family is rebuilding and moving on, and thanking Him for His protection and trusting for your future.

    oh, and I love that you are using the wood from the trees to build your new home. You will never forgot God’s protection or that day!
    God Bless,

  15. Natural disaster is always gut wrenching but it makes me think sometimes. It makes us clutch and place more emphasize on whats most important to us. The items destroyed from disaster we take for granted. Just thinking

  16. Kelly, I think this was hard for all of us who love you to read because we would never want you to feel that we were “slighted” in any way because you hadn’t sent a card. You are so gracious in every way, and you certainly find so many ways to reach out and connect with your readers and friends.
    This post was also a tremendous blessing to read and hear how the Lord continues to keep His love and faithfulness as your central focus. I’m so excited your move-in day is just around the corner, and continue to praise God for His gracious provision for your family.
    I love you and your precious family, and hope we can spend time together soon.

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