Last week at 3:12 AM a police officer rang our doorbell. That is never a good sign. He told my husband his parents' house had been in a fire, and that they were okay. I quickly began checking my phone for text messages that I had indeed slept straight through.
A whirlwind of emotions and activity swirled around us, as we divided and hoped to "conquer" our jobs. John jumped into his truck to take care of his parents, while I sat in shock watching the news reports on television. I was trying to figure out how I could help when one of the news stations stepped out of line. They dramatically exaggerated the square footage of the house by including the garage and attached storage/former warehouse from the roofing company, AND they gave out the exact address of the property. A protective instinct welled up inside of me for my family.
My first order of business was to start praying. I prayed tears of joy that John's parents were alive and safe and tears of sadness that they had one more thing to deal with on top of his health and tears of frustration that God allowed Satan to add another layer to Sharon's plate and tears of thanksgiving that they were saved again.
While John was helping his parents replace all of his dad's medications, I was trying to get on the property to protect all the equipment exposed to looters. So I texted Chad, a firefighter friend from church, to ask when I would be allowed to go, and he made some calls for me. Once it was cleared of hot spots, I called my dear friend Denell to tell her I was headed to the property (really wanting to ask her to go with me), and she offered to meet me there. Chad also offered to meet me there. I readily accepted their offers. (NO ONE SHOULD GO THROUGH THIS ALONE!)
When I pulled up to the house, I began crying at what I saw and didn't see. The house was/is built on a gorgeous lot with four ponds that are stocked with fish and surrounded by beautiful landscaping. John's dad has painstakingly overseen the planning of the design of the landscaping since they moved there. Because the firefighters went on the defensive, they soaked the outside of the house to keep the fire from spreading. So all of the flowering bushes and shrubs are still lovely even right up to the charred remains of the house. It is an eerie sight to behold! And that was all that was left - a charred wall frame on the outside with nothing in between.
I parked my car to see several other cars and people there: two ladies from their church, Chad and his little girls, the amazing neighbor Lori from across the street, a TV reporter, the insurance adjuster, and my friend Denell. Crying, I hugged each of them...except the reporter, who was quite respectful (and from a different TV station...I might add!). I was so glad to have Chad and Denell there with me to stand beside me while I absorbed the reality of the loss. In addition to fighting fires, Chad has a video company. Misty (John's sister) had requested a video of the house, which turned out to be a great way to prepare John's family before they arrived. So Chad was using his video skills while I just absorbed.
Denell was by my side the entire day, willing to do whatever I needed. She helped me call the fire department when the fire reignited in two spots that were smoldering. She took pictures of trucks and cars that were circling like sharks checking out the merchandise. As we were walking around the property one last time, I was telling her about how my in-laws have used it for God's glory.
John and Sharon have had Christian Care Center's residents out several times by the busload to spend an afternoon. When they come, the residents would fish in the pond for a while. Afterward they would all come inside to the garden room - a glass enclosed room that overlooked the ponds - where Sharon would pass out her hymnals, and they would enjoy singing hymns together.
While I was telling this story, we were standing on the back porch looking into the glassless garden room window frames. I pointed to where Sharon kept the hymnals. "I think that is a hymnal!" I exclaimed to Denell.
We stepped into the house through the opening and sloshed through the ashen slush to the charred pages. It was indeed her hymnals! We grabbed three of them and climbed out of the house because it really wasn't safe to be in there yet, but we needed hope. I opened the cover of the first book, and we could read the words! We couldn't choose what page to read because of how wet the books were, but we didn't care. I opened up the second hymnal, and it landed on p. 382 Living By Faith and p. 383 Have Thine Own Way Lord. Well, we both started bawling more than we already were! We took pictures like crazy, and I texted them to the family, especially Sharon, who needed to see God was in control.
Okay, Lord, You have a plan. Satan won't win this one. You will turn what Satan meant for harm into good. I see that now. We will trust You.
This past week, God has shown us parts of His plan. Certainly not all of it. He has blessed us with unexpected treasures...almost as if He sent angels to wrap their wings around the memories inside the house. The hymnals, the closet holding the pictures, some special jewelry pieces, the china cabinet and its contents, John's pinewood derby car, the hand-painted plates from the grandchildren, and John's granddad's pliers were all saved. What mattered...the memories...the people...God saved!
Within a day I was humbled to see how truly blessed we are. Friends and family who love the Lord are the hands and feet of Jesus. They can help us Live By Faith so that He can Have Thine Own Way.
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.
Proverbs 17:17 (NIV)
One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Proverbs 18:24 (NIV)
If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
I Corinthians 12:26-27 (NIV)
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NIV)