Tuesday, November 29, 2005

What you learn in the split seconds you never want to have....

A fire broke out behind our house yesterday, due to the high winds. A man who has been helped by some in the church a few times asked if he could store his car there while away on business - and we said sure. It caught on fire as an electrical line went down due to high winds. I heard it and went to look - and saw the car just go up quickly in flames...then some trees caught fire, and the neighbor's barn. It all happened so quickly. I realized that we were going to be next in line, along with our neighbors, as we were downwind and the treeline connected both of our houses to the flames.

I think most women, in their minds, at least, mentally prepare for these moments. The fires, or the car accidents, or the funerals. Whatever the scenario, we try to prepare as best we can. Reality didn't play out as gracefully as my imagination always had.

Those split second moments really tell you a lot about yourself.

Get the kids dressed. I realized later I only put one shoe on Julia.

In the meantime, call 911... wait and wait and wait for them to answer. They were swamped. We weren't the only ones with a fire, I discovered later.
Be transferred to the fire department....wait even longer. It was not my calmest moment. Eli later related to Jason that he could tell no one was answering the phone when I called for help. Yeah....

Got to tell the neighbors. Make sure they're out.
Wait.... got to get the fire department first to get them on the way. The phone wont reach.

Got to get out of the house. Got to get the kids safe.

What do I take?

Put the kids by the door, next to the car.
Run back.
Get insurance files. ( Why have I procrastinated so long about getting important papers into a safe deposit box?!) Threw them in the car.

A man on a motorcycle drove up & banged loudly on the door. I opened it and he ran in - yelling at me to get the kids out of the house. Somewhere in in there he apologized for running through my house. I think I saw him run out the back to the fire, but I don't remember for sure.

And somewhere in there the phone rang.. and I answered it. (?!?)
Thank goodness it was Theresa - she understood when I just said there was a fire and had to go & hung up... and she hung up and came over to see if if she could help. Never saw you but I love just knowing it is like you to not sit still.

I ran back to take one last look. What else do I do? I stood for just a second I am sure, but it seemed like 10 minutes. I looked around, at all that would be gone, I feared, in just a few minutes. That picture... looking around.... is stuck in my mind.

That was my clearest, calmest moment. I can't describe the fact that I felt intense peace in that exact moment.... that it was okay to lose everything. I thought about the picture albums - but there were just too many, and I had the real things standing at the door.

I grabbed the video of our daughter Jessica's life and funeral. And two bibles.

As I ran to put the kids in the car, I knew whatever happened, by that evening we would have more than enough offers of a place to stay. I knew we would have clothes on our back and food to eat. I knew we would be surrounded by people who loved us. His people. His provision. Nothing we owned compared.

Looking back, I don't know why I grabbed the video. I never watch it. My family has copies I could've had. I had to waste time to dig for it.
I think, like the bibles, it represents one of the closest connections I have to our God. That experience defines why I trust Him now. Why I could trust Him in the midst of this without knowing the end or what would happen, and feel peace. With her, I thought I had to know the end. I thought it had to be "good". I didn't realize that sometimes the most painful things you go through become the most treasured parts of your life. Those most unstable moments have the potential to catapult you to your most solid state of belief and confidence in Him.

So I put the kids in the car and we pulled out of the driveway.

The fire department got there. They started to put out the car, then realizing it was beyond saving, moved to the barn.

Only later do we realize that this move was critical. That barn, which was already on fire, was filled with gasoline tanks and paint.. for the neighbor's lawn business and rental houses. The fireman told Jason late last night that he knew everyone thought they were crazy for letting the car burn and trying to put out the smaller fire on the barn, but they saw right away that if the barn went up, our house and the neighbors house would be gone. They would not have been able to stop it for the winds. And that was before they knew there were flammable materials that would have caused an explosion.

(Our neighbor said he had a box of smoke detectors and CO2 alarms for his rent houses just pumping their little hearts out with beeping in the barn - but no one could hear. The irony struck us all funny.)

The fire department sat out there for six hours around the lines that still were sparking, until the electric company could get away to shut them down. Others are still fighting fires tonight. Some lost their electricy. Some lost their homes. We ended up losing neither. Humbling isn't an adequate description.

Fred's car is gone. He showed up unexpectedly today, after being gone for 4 weeks, and after much discussion about how to contact and tell him. The car was all he had. The only other possessions he had were in the truck he drives. Thankfully, the burnt papers we tried to save were unecessary - he had the important ones with him. But everything else is gone. He didn't cry, but from what Jason said, he thought he wanted too. He had to be in Oklahoma City by 7 pm, and had just stopped in to check on it. So he just had to leave. Jason wrapped a heavy winter coat around him.

The contrast burdens me.

Jason and I are nobodys... to have this grace is beyond us. To have confidence in Him that we could have nothing, and it be okay, is peace. To have confidence that we are surrounded by so many who would refuse to let us remain with nothing, brings my heart prostrate before Him.

But Fred has nothing... and noone, as far as I can tell. That aloneness is what Christ rescued us from. How desperately I want him to know that what we have is for him too. How much I want him to want that for himself. God may use this dark moment to bring him there, if he will allow it. Satan's voice is loud in this world.

May God's, even through us, be louder.


Anonymous said...

WOW Heather. Theresa already told me about this and I can't believe it happened to you. But I was so uplifted as usual to read your words on how it all unfolded. And of course, I cried when you said
"I didn't realize that sometimes the most painful things you go through become the most treasured parts of your life"...you are so right, sister.
I am SO GLAD you guys are safe and sound. Praise God! Love you!

Danna said...

OH MY GOODNESS! Thank GOD that you all are safe!!! WOW! I cannot even imagine! I was so touched (as I often am) by your honesty and openness. I am a day behind on our Bible reading and read this verse this morning that just seemed to fit what you wrote:

"In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect (complete, qualified) through SUFFERING."

Hebrews 2:10

This is talking about Jesus, of course, but in the next verse it talks about the One who makes men holy and those who are being made holy are of the same family. We don't often think of suffering and pain and grief as something that is making us more like Jesus, that is making us HOLY.


Theresa said...

Beloved friend! I love how you can turn even a scary situation like this into a lesson in how personal and powerful our God is! My prayers for you and your family did not cease the entire 6 mile drive, and I couldn't think of any other reason why I would pick that moment to call except that I needed to know. And when I saw you across the parking lot talking with the fireman, all I could think of was, "Thank you, Lord. They're safe!" And I didn't leave until after you called because I wanted to make sure. (How I hate that tiny seed of doubt!)

God's voice holds the power that created the universe, but He speaks in whispers. We that want to hear Him do, but He desires that desire in us!

I love that you have that desire! I love that you're my friend. And I praise Him that you are safe and that He lives in your heart. You and your family are so precious, and while I know it would be an amazing thing if He decided it was your time to go to Him... I would miss you.

I still have a lot to learn. And I know He speaks to me through you. We who have so much should be grateful for our blessings!

"A friend loves at all times" - Proverbs 17:17. Not just when it's convenient.

Thank you for being my friend. I love you!

Angie Burns said...

Talk about a close call... I just got an e-mail from Stuart & he asked if I had read today's blog, but I hadn't gotten around to it until now. You paint such a clear picture of things... not only the events that unfolded, but also the bigger picture that God is painting. You know, when I was in 6th grade our house burned to the ground (due to some faulty wiring in the attic). We lost everything. I remember that it was right after Christmas. Fortunately we weren't home because I had been in the hospital. This was the "butt cyst" incident. Seriously... you gotta wonder what good could come out of having a cyst on your butt... Well, that's when God showed me how to be thankful for even the painful things! I'm glad you didn't have to go through the mess of replacing lost things... but I have no doubt you would've been well-taken care of. (and I love that Jessica still lives on in everything that happens in your lives! She was such a little fighter! We'll never forget her!)

Love Always,

Michelle said...

Amazing! i have never been so enthralled with your words as i was in that entry. i am in awe of you of your family. and maybe because i got there after the firemen did that i felt there was no need to worry. but you had to be there at the beginning when you had to take that last look at your house. you had to be at peace without knowing if that would all still be there in a few hours. The peace you have i can see comes truly from your maker. you knew that despite things going up in smoke your God was still there and you were at peace. I think i wrote that just for my own understanding. It means so much to me to see this part of you. to see your peace. that is where i want to be. peaceful inspite of everything. thank you for that post. i love you a ton.

Vanessa said...

Wow. I can't even imagine. Thank God you are all safe. And thank God for your sense of peace and clairity in that situation. It's also interesting to know what you took from the house in those last few seconds. It shows a lot about you. God bless Heather. I love you.

Rick said...

Wow! God is so good! You and your family are such an incredible blessing to me. Thank you for sharing your heart and your hope. I did not realize that the fire had gone beyond the car. I had written the evening off as a loss since I had missed out on being with my church family. And then God speaks through you to remind me how incredibly blessed I am. I have my home, my family, my friends, my cars, and all that stuff, my health, and if that was not enough, I am a child of the King. It is almost too good to believe. But I do. I love you guys.