A House in “H- e- double hockey sticks”
A house fire is hot! The smells of chemicals, wood, plastic and all sorts of other burning things is over bearing. Heat, smoke, and flames of a house fire was being fought by the hard working fireman in our neighborhood. They have trained for such a time as this.
I had not.
I mean, I ran the fire drills, made the escape plans, even went to a seminar about smoke alarms and causes of house fires. I was not prepared for the actual event. I was not ready to be in that situation.
Seeing the firemen fighting to put out a fire and all the time you know…. there’s not going to be anything left to live in and tomorrow you’re not going to go home and it all be a normal day.
What 3 things would you ask for if your house was on fire?
Standing there gazing at the synchronized working of the Chelsea Fire Department and my house being consumed, It seemed quiet.
I guess I wasn’t sure what to expect in this situation. Silence is what I heard. It made me feel surrounded even though I was standing alone.
I began praying.
“God, thank you for saving my family. Thank you for allowing our pets to escape.” Oh how I Thank you!”
“God I want to be selfish and ask for 3 things.”
“Could I have some pictures to have for the memories?”
I’d really love to have all the Bible studies, research and creative ideas that Nina and I have worked on for years.”
“And Father, there’s a hockey bag under the pool table…. you know how much that means to my son and how he wants to try out for hockey. This week after not being able to play for a year with a broken femur.”
That was my 3 things
Oh, I know, those were weird requests. I mean people think they know what they would ask for, but in the moment, you really go to a place in your mind where you don’t think what you think you will think!
I raised my head and the fire chief was standing in front of me. He asked me if I lived here.
Then he too put his hand on my shoulder and said, “You will be blessed through this.”
You will be blessed in this!
Alright. If you are told something it’s important to listen but when it is repeated, there’s something there needing closer attention.
As the fire chief walked away, I dropped to my knees in prayer. “Father, I know you will bless us through this. I will look for you.”
Then I stood with confidence and a peace that surpasses all understanding. I knew I was loved by a God much bigger than that fire. Even though I didn’t understand the entire situation,I knew He was there.
God’s fingerprints were everywhere in our house fire
God tells us so many wonderful words in His Word that are important for us to hear. But there are those words or themes He repeats that are imperative for us to meditate on and grasp.
“You will be blessed through this.”
Think about those words for a second. You will be blessed through a house that is on fire and you will lose everything in it,
I began to pay more attention to what was happening around me, looking for God’s fingerprints. He had a hand in this and if I looked with eyes only for Him, I would see Him.
I almost missed Him in the neighbor who had come home from work early that day.
Almost missed Him in the deputy and fire chief offering words of comfort.
But I began to see Him more clearly when a fire fighter walked toward me carrying something in his hands.
I cry typing these words ten years later.
In his hands was my Bible.
The Bible I received one year as an anniversary present from my husband. I laugh at the title on the Bible because it is imprinted with “Woman thou art loosed.” He bought it for me because it was a purple leather Bible and not for the gold inscription across the front. Still, it’s funny.
That Bible was placed in my hands with words spoken to me, “I believe this is important to you!”
I had never met the man before, but he was correct in his assumptions. That Bible and the words it contains were important to me and still are today. He also had a bag in his hands with the research and files of Bible studies we had written.
Another man came towards me with the spare keys to my house and car along with some pictures that hung on the walls. He asked me if there were any more pictures that he could get to in the front bedroom of the house.
It was the only room that wasn’t engulfed as badly as the rest of the house. My bedroom was where I had stored containers of photographs that had not made it into frames or albums. He quickly retrieved those buckets and brought me the pictures.
Next came a hockey bag. I’m not kidding, a hockey bag.
Why would a hockey bag be so important?
Does God care about a hockey bag?
Well, my son at the age of 14 had broken his femur bone in a hockey game accident. After almost a year of surgeries and therapy, he had been cleared to play hockey again the day before the fire.
Yes, you read that correctly. On Tuesday, he was cleared for hockey try outs for the following Sunday. You better believe this momma prayed for a hockey bag full of equipment for her son!
I was giddy…. jumping and clapping at this silly yet meaningful display of God answering prayers. Oh, He didn’t have to provide those items for us to know He was there because we could see Him in other areas too.
At the point where the entire house is covered in a blanket of flames and there is nothing else that can be done to save it, our family and friends stood watching.
The fire ate our home. I guess I was intently staring at one room because a fireman came over to me and wondering what was that room of the house.
I replied, “Our homeschool room. Eleven years of memories and books.”
Immediately he jumped into action by gathering other firemen and forming a line. It turns out that fireman was a homeschool dad! He understood the years of study, collecting and financial investment not to mention sentimental value that was in that room.
Several men held a water hose over the area while others passed stacks of books down the line. Every single book was removed from that room.
We saw God’s fingerprints in the people standing with us.
Friends and family immediately began praying and offering help in any way they could. People were standing there in shock with us because none of us knew what to do. Seriously, you don’t know whether to cry, scream or grab the marshmallows.
We stood quietly watching.
Friends left to get us supplies from the local Walmart. Deodorant, toothbrushes, underwear… just some of the things that were purchased for us. I remember saying that the hands and feet of Jesus bought us underwear when at the moment we had not even thought about what we would wear the next day.
Pink cotton panties in my size were purchased for me.
I would never have purchased pink panties for myself… it’s just not my color. Those became a favorite pair to me and I saved them. Still have them in a drawer to remind me that even underwear is not forgotten by God.
We left the burning embers with bags containing all we would need for the night. Surrounded by dear friends, we were prayed over, hugged as we all cried, ate a meal, and slept in a home shared by family. We had food, a bed, and a roof.
The following Sunday, Nina and I were to teach a Sunday school class of middle schoolers. I laugh because our lesson that had been pre planned was a study we had written called, The Word in the Herd.
It’s a study about being God’s sheep. The lesson for that Sunday? Psalm 23:.
“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”
See, God never lets me just teach a lesson, He likes to walk me through it first hand. I was able to tell the children, “When the Lord is your shepherd, you will not want for anything.”
Every single thing we needed was provided in abundance.
For weeks, friends provided meals and drinks.
Family provided a place to stay.
Friends called and visited us.
Funds were raised to help us with the financial needs that we encountered through the waiting period. For a while after the fire, it felt like we were held captive. There was an investigation because an accelerant was found in an area near the source of the fire. (more on this in a bit)
Even in the waiting, our needs were provided by God’s people.
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat,
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,
I was a stranger and you invited me in,
I needed clothes and you clothed me,
I was sick and you looked after me,
I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
The morning after the fire was somber and surreal. Was it a bad dream? Did it look worse in the evening than it would in the morning? Would daylight make this all feel better?
It looked a worse in the light.
Driving up the driveway we were a tad apprehensive to say the least. What would we find?
People in our yard and the remains of our burned home was not what we expected.
Tables were set up in the front lawn with paper towels, cleaning supplies, garbage bags, notebooks, snacks and tarps. Friends were digging and searching for anything that could be salvaged.
Upon entering what was our master bedroom, a stranger was digging with a shovel. I remember experiencing a territorial feeling. “Who are you and what are you doing in my bedroom?” My mind was all over the place with silly thoughts. Seriously, when you think about it, who wants a pile of burned rubble?
The stranger was a neighbor digging to recover what he could for us. Definitely an interesting way to meet a precious neighbor!
More friends and family arrived and our salvageable belongings were laid out on tarps to dry.
Strange memories plant in your mind during these times. My dad, a funny man, opened the refrigerator and ate a bag of thawed strawberries, chugged a gallon of over night room temp milk and ate a couple of bananas that had been roasted in the fire until the peelings was charred.
He felt sick at his stomach for the rest of the day.
We were all grossed out watching him.
We worked that day in the heat, dust and ashes. We stunk. We were all covered in soot and grime. You know, when you are digging through the ruins, nothing is hidden. People are digging through your home and seeing your yuck. I felt like I needed to clean before people helped me clean. Strange what our minds process.
If you have never experienced a house fire, several events happen that seem unnatural in the situation. We weren’t able to remove anything from the premisses unit the insurance agents and claims department had come to inspect the remains. We did take our pictures with us because I was not going to leave them to the elements.
But everything else sat in yard for weeks.
I would not say our insurance situation was ideal. The fire started in my daughter’s bedroom by a outlet that had a loose wire connection. The exterior wall where this plug was housed, shook occasionally when the ac condensing unit kicked on and off through out the day.
Mostly likely, this caused the plug’s wire to loosen, touch another wire and arc causing an immediate fire in the walls of her bedroom. The fire then ran up the ceiling and fed on 75 year old thick beams that had dried through the years.
There would be no stopping the flames.
The reason for an accelerant found in the soil near the source of the fire, was due to my husbands extreme aversion to ants. Yes, ants.
The day before the fire, he discovered sugar ants in our master bedroom closet. He went into high gear and sprayed all along the exterior perimeter of our home and the interior.
If you are wondering, ant spray will NOT accelerate a fire. Due to the restrictive policies chemicals are under, there is more water in ant spray than anything that would cause a fire to burn hotter!
The investigation by the state fire marshal took a week and then the insurance took 8 weeks before a settlement was issued. Delay, deny, defend seemed to be insurance’s way of handing a house fire. It was a long drawn out time.
We went through worry, anger, frustration, disbelief, and fear. Even still, God was working. The waiting is really where He was working on us.
God’s grace and pursuit of His children is a refiner’s fire. He burns aways the dross or things that are impure and unholy in us. The purpose is so that we will reflect His image.
He knew there was “things”that needed deeper attention. God was refining us for sure!