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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

House Fire in New Hope

As we were packing the U-Haul in Waynesboro, to come home to Alabama to stay in John's mom's old rental house (the house John grew up in), we got a strange and scary call.  That house we were supposed to move into the next day, was on fire.  It was a big fire.  The breaker box had old, faulty wiring, and had caught on fire in one of the back bedrooms where we had stored several boxes of our belongings.  It was unclear how long it had taken the fire to spread, but it is highly likely that the smoke detector batteries were old and not working.

For a few weeks now, I have been praying specifically for protection over my family.  John has been running in the rain a lot lately it seems, and I found myself praying against freak accidents (thinking lightening striking or a car swerving and hitting him or something).  Then, random thoughts of my car accident from a few years ago kept coming back, and I prayed again several days in a row for God to protect us from "accidents" (car accidents in my mind).  I thought I was just being a little paranoid, or an over protective wife and mama, and felt even a little silly for what I thought were shallow prayers.  Then, less than 24 hours before we were to move in to the old house, a dangerous accidental fire consumed most of the house.  I am so amazed at God's protection and grace to allow this to happen when our family was not inside.  I am impressed at the Holy Spirit's leading in pressing me to pray for protection.  I am awed and humbled by what could have happened if the fire started while we sleeping, or even awake but not able to escape, or injured.

Initially, we were very confused and sad about this, and felt homeless.  Then, we thought about our options, and knew that John's father lives alone in a 3 bedroom home.  We hadn't wanted to intrude on our parents by living with them, but we also don't want to wipe out our savings by spending money on renting.  All of this is in light of the fact that we have no real clue how long we will be here at all, as we are actively looking and praying for John to find a job in full-time ministry.  John's dad, Stanley, graciously and happily agreed to make room in his home for us.  He is putting new carpet in two of the bedrooms and hard wood floors in the living area and hallway, so we can't move in just yet as the floors are slightly under construction, and Jonah is walking well, but trips often, we know he would just fall all the time.  So we are staying at John's mom's, Nancy's house in her spare bedroom until Stanley is ready for us to move in over there.  He seems genuinely excited for our company, and glad to have us.  We are so blessed to have family that we can count on for times like this!

I came across this on facebook the night we found out about the fire, after loading 90% of the U-Haul.
photo credit
It was very reassuring because I felt like Satan wanted to make us confused, frightened, discouraged, and worried.  As soon as I saw that picture, I stopped and let God just speak encouragement, comfort and calmness to my heart.  I feel like He is going to use this for His glory.  I am looking forward to getting to know my father-in-law a little better, and add a woman's touch to his bachelor pad. ;)

We made it to Huntsville tonight by 7 pm, so it was still daylight enough for us to go to the old house and walk through and see the damage.  I had to keep my shirt pulled up over my nose because the overwhelming smoke smell was so strong.  We used flashlights to look at the smoke massacre because all power and water were turned off.  The walls were rippled, peeling, and black ash and dust covered everything.  The fire department moved most of the remnants of all of our boxed belongings outside, so there was a huge pile of partially melted and burnt items in the yard that our family had been sorting through to find what was salvageable.  The items I was most excited to find still intact were our wedding picture album, some of Jonah's newborn pictures, and my grandmother's China she had given me.  The saddest lost items are all of Jonah's newborn clothes up through about 9 months that he had outgrown, along with the total smoke destruction of our big, fat comfy L-shape couch that had been my "Congratulations on getting a job!" present when we first moved to Memphis. However, the total health of my husband, myself and my two babies, is far more valuable and important than any thing the fire took, and I would not trade the timing of this catastrophe for anything.  We will find a new couch whenever we actually have somewhere of our own to put it!

As we drove away from Waynesboro today, I was not sad.  The last few months have been so exhausting.  I was not worried about where we would be sleeping or unloading the truck.  I just felt absolutely free for the first time in a long while.  I had some great praise and worship time in the car on the way home as I drove in our vehicle and John drove the U-Haul.  I felt like so many people were praying for us, and I had complete peace.  I am not worried about the house situation or the job situation, at all.  I know God has totally got this! I was moved to tears of gratitude several times, but blinked them back so I could drive safely.  Baby #2 wiggled so much on the drive, it was a sweet reminder of this new little person we have been given.  I felt happy and grateful and blessed to be given this season to spend with my family.  This all could have been so easily taken away if the fire happened today.

Then, walking through the smoky, blackened house tonight brought to mind this passage:

Isaiah 61:1-3
61 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me,
    for the Lord has anointed me
    to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted
    and to proclaim that captives will be released
    and prisoners will be freed.[a]
He has sent me to tell those who mourn
    that the time of the Lord’s favor has come,[b]
    and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.
To all who mourn in Israel,[c]
    he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
    festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
    that the Lord has planted for his own glory.

I'm not saying we were prisoners, but we definitely felt like captives sometimes in that house. With 5 kids, and no breaks, and little money to be able to take them to do things outside of the house very often, and two babies to make many outings frustrating and difficult, some days felt like there was no escape. Then, finding out about the house fire definitely put us in a brief period of mourning. Now, being here, resting, just watching Jonah play with his grandparents, relaxing with no thoughts of paperwork or discipline or making reluctant kids go to bed, bathe, or go to school (other than our own little guy), it is a time of beauty and festive praise for sure! John is still unloading the truck with his dad after 11pm, so I know he is going to be exhausted when he finally makes it to bed tonight.  He will be awfully tired, but in one handsome piece, totally untouched by fire, praise God!

Thank you to everyone who prayed for us!  Thank you so much! What could have been far more stressful, has really not been that bad.  Moving is exhausting.  Changing your moving plans at the last minute because a fire destroyed the place you were supposed to move into, does not help.  However, I can tell that the prayers of many people covering us, along with the grace of God, led to peace in our souls that will not be taken away.  We appreciate your prayers so much!  Thank you, friends! We appreciate you!

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