Yesterday many of you woke up to the news that my family experienced the devastation of a house fire. Similarly, we were awoken just before 1:00 am in that situation. In an instant, all of our plans came to a standstill and we were at the mercy of the circumstance in front of us. Our path took us down an unfamiliar and unexpected bumpy road.
The day prior began unlike others. Both my husband and I had great anticipation of this week, as we had been planning it for months. We were on vacation from our jobs and the plan was to wake up, get all of the Christmas stuff put away and dive into minor home renovations. Ben’s main focus for the week was to tear out the existing ugliness surrounding our fireplace, put in drywall, build a new mantle and reassemble. My main focus had to do with back-splashing the kitchen, though that wasn’t as well planned out. When finished, we’d take on repainting the entire main floor. At the time, we didn’t realize how extensive our renovations would become.
With our 2016 Christmas put away and the main level of our home cleaned, the eyesight of cedar shingles on the fireplace came down into a box, to appropriately be burned later that evening.
(My post on Instagram just hours before the fire.)
Sometimes our journeys instantly take us down a road that is bumpy, but our faith doesn’t have to experience those jolts. If you’re in this situation, here’s some tips that have helped us:
- Be still. In the chaos, God’s voice can quickly drown out. Take time to praise and seek Him.
Around 9:30 pm, as Ben was preparing to put more wood on the fire, I asked him to just let the fire burn out. After a long day, I was fatigued and didn’t know how much longer I could stay awake. As the fire burnt out, my youngest son came to me with a tummy ache. He thought he might throw up, so I decided to sleep in the living room with him to keep an eye on him.
Just before 1:00 am, Ben woke me with insistence I come upstairs. What actually was a few moments of confusion for me likely felt like a lifetime to Ben, as he had incredible concern. He asked if I could hear “that”. Hear what? It sounded like there was still a fire in the fire place.
I went upstairs with no urgency and walked into our bedroom. Again, Ben asked if I could hear “that”, and pointed to where the chimney ran through our bedroom. I could hear crackling and popping, as I had earlier that evening. We also noticed the ceiling turning black around the chimney.
What parts of my mind were still groggy instantly awoke and adrenaline and control took over. A former 9-1-1 dispatcher, I knew communicating my needs well could be the difference of life and death, and of saving our home. As calmly as I could muster, I informed the dispatcher of our situation while I ran around to the bedrooms to get the kids up and outside. Each of us has our own experience with what these moments were like. It’d be interesting to me to hear that 9-1-1 call.
When we got outside, it was unseasonably warm and quiet, or so it seemed. We could see the glowing of a fire in the attic, but no flames were yet visible.
Chaos quickly ensued and the quietness of the evening was lost. Our street was lined with fire trucks and ambulances and police. We watched as the fire broke through the siding of our home and the fire fighters planned an attack. We answered questions from the police, the district fire chief and then the fire marshal. And in the breaks of questioning, we praised God.
- Look for the lemonade. Or coffee.
It’s my limited understanding the fire was caused by a crack in a liner in the fireplace, which allowed embers to get into the attic and smolder until it kindled into a full blown fire. My understanding is very limited and may be further developed in the coming days. What I did understand was even though we had replaced all the batteries in our smoke detectors just a couple of weeks prior, they never alarmed. We were safe and out of our home because Ben, in his sleep, had heard the crackling and awoke to protect us. If my son hadn’t felt ill, instead of hearing the crackling, Ben would’ve been hearing my coughing and snoring, brought on by a cold I’ve been battling. As we stood on the cold pavement of our neighbor’s driveway and watched the scene unfold, we could see the blessing in the events that accumulated to bring us to this point.
We’ve been displaced from our home for awhile. “A while” being a subjective term depending on who you ask. If you ask the insurance adjuster, he’d tell you a couple of weeks. My husband will tell you we will be home tomorrow. In our displacement, I have found a free 24 hour coffee bar. How’s that for lemons, or coffee beans?
- Allow others to help you. You don’t have to walk this path alone.
The outpouring of support from our friends and family has been greatly overwhelming. We have been so overwhelmed with calls and texts and Facebook posts. We haven’t been able to thank each of you individually, but we know we are not alone. Last night our church provided pizza for us at the hotel. After a really long night of no sleep, followed by a long day of meetings with the various people who are working on our behalf to restore our home, it was nice not to worry about “What’s for dinner?”, as my growing 15 year old son loves to ask.
We have organized a schedule for people who want to help us in this way, and again feel overwhelmed that it is filled with volunteers already. We don’t want to burden anyone and honestly have no idea what our needs will be, but will do our best to communicate how you can come along side of us as we find we have needs. Thank you for your generous and loving hearts.
- Lean in and look for where God wants to use your situation.
I’m excited for how God will use this situation to help others. I don’t know the scope of this, but we do have a new home for awhile and will develop relationships with the hotel staff. It’s my hope that as the staff sees the outpouring of support from our friends and family, and as they get to know us, they will be intrigued to ask more questions beyond the fire. I am praying for these conversations to happen and for God to be gloried. God knew we would have a fire in our home, and he chose to allow it to happen for a greater purpose.
Currently we don’t have any clean clothes, but we have our lives. We don’t have our beds, but we have a bed. We don’t have our plans, but we have a plan. We don’t know what bumps this day will hold, but we do have peace that surpasses even our understanding. When things seem out of our control, we know Who is in control.
On a side note: Ben has kept me in the loop of the many of you have posted on my Facebook wall. I can only imagine there are many personal inboxes to my Facebook. I have been on a much needed Facebook fast since mid-November and cannot see those messages. Thank you for your caring thoughts and love. If you’d care to communicate, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment on my blog post. God bless you.