About Me

 

 The greatest thing we can do is to show up for our lives and not be ashamed.

 -Anne Lamott

 

I'm a creature of the word, learning to tell my honest story.

I offer it here because telling stories is the road back home.

Motherhood is not a biological designation
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« Farmhouse Kitchen: what is the heart of a home? | Main | Farmhouse: Dining Room renovation and lessons of peace »
Sunday
Nov132011

The story of the fire


I thought I smelled a funny burning smell on Sunday morning, right before we left for church.
We checked the outlets, unplugged appliances, opened the wood stove and checked inside, felt the chimney pipe....all seemed to be well, so we left.


After church, we stayed and talked to friends, and then stopped by Noodles and Company so the boys could trade in their leftover Halloween candy for a bowl of mac n cheese.

When we turned onto our road, still five minutes from home, we got stuck behind a fire truck filling up hoses with water.

I said, hah, wouldn't it be weird if that was for our house?

Then, when we got to the top of the hill, to the turn off for our road, there were three more fire trucks and an ambulance, and that's when I just started saying, Jesus, please Jesus. Please God please.


I didn't know what I was asking for.

We turned down our road and rolled down the window to ask the neighbors what was going on.

Before we could get a word out, they said, you won't get very far. There's a house on fire.


We said, it might be our house. We live down here.



Which one is yours? they said.

The one with the tobacco barn.

And they said, it's your house.


And still, all I could say was Jesus, please God, please Jesus.  Oh, please.



We sped down the road, gravel spitting up behind our tires, veered around a fire engine, just trying to get a glimpse, to get there in time.
A fireman yelled at us to stop driving; Michael rolled the window down and yelled back, It's OUR house!

I had to stop the car; Michael jumped out and started running, and I backed up into our neighbor's driveway.

The kids in the backseat, frightened by the urgency, kept asking Mommy, what's going on? Why are all the firemen here? 

And my response, It's okay babies. Our house has a fire, but it's going to be ok.




I didn't say it to placate them; I was telling MY kids it would be ok, which already meant that no matter what, ultimately, it would all be okay.


the shed on our property, captured by Michael, shining like the holy manger on an early fall morning




The little neighbor girl was playing in the front yard with her dog; I asked her, honey, do you know how bad it is?


I thought, even as I begged for details, that I couldn't base my hope or despair on what she said; that she was young, she might not know.

She said, my mom and dad saw smoke coming out the windows. They're down there now.

I asked her, Honey, would you watch my kids for me so I can run down there and see?


And I took off running through the woods, trying to find a path down the hill to see my house, to see if there was any house to see.

I hadn't run in months but there I was, both hands trying to hold up my pregnant belly, tripping through the leaves and branches as I prayed out loud over and over, Jesus God, please. Please please please Lord. Oh Lord, please.

The first thing I could see was the house, still standing.


But everything was black on the inside; the windows like black boxes, and the light that used to shine, gone.

No dimension, no view.
Just black boxes.

my favorite tree


I saw Michael talking to some firefighters and I lumbered over, wondering briefly what I looked like- this wild-haired very pregnant woman holding her belly and stumbling over gravel.

Is Buddy ok? the first thing I asked.


Michael looking at me, shaking his head.



I remember choking a little, not asking anything else about anything.

I think I said, I can't leave my babies in the car.

And I turned around and started walking back up the gravel road, the same one I've driven almost every day for fifteen years.

I walked that gravel road alone, right down the middle, taking in all the firemen sitting on the side, talking to each other.

I looked up at the trees, so golden, so red and fiery and beautiful, and I heard birds.

And I thought, the earth keeps turning. 
The sun keeps shining.


And I swear, deep down in my spirit, I had such surety, such gratefulness.

I am walking back up this hill to my van filled with my children who are alive.




I held my hands out, on either side of my body, and I said in my soul, I take it God. 
Whatever you give, I take it. 
Because I know you love me.




The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.
Blessed be the name of the Lord.


What else can we say in the face of loss?

If I can't believe in this, then I have nothing.


I got to the van and I grabbed my babies and I held them, and Malachi asked me, first thing out of his mouth, is my dog alive?

And I shook my head no, and I said, No baby, but he is with Jesus, and we are safe, and we have each other. 




And then the neighbors came over and asked if my kids could play with their kids, and just like that, my children ran off into the yard to be kids, because life goes on.

I stood next to the open van door and called my parents, and then Michael's family, and I kept hearing the birds and I kept staring at the glowing beautiful trees and I kept thanking God for keeping us safe, for knowing all along that this was the next part of our story, and preparing us for it, somehow, for some reason.


And then I saw my husband, slowly walking up the gravel road next to the fire chief, holding something small in his hands.


It was his mother's Bible, rescued from the ashes.

Sara died from cancer twelve years ago.
Her Bible is the testimony of her love, filled with prayers, scribbles in the margins, and over and over again, her exclamations of awe over God's goodness and love.

I know it's the most important possession in Michael's life and I saw my husband with this one thing in his hands, the only reminder he needed that God is good, held out like an offering to me, tears streaking his dirty cheeks.

Later, we found out that four different fire stations showed up at our house: Buckhall, Manassas Park, Manassas City, and Lake Jackson.

The fire chief was a high school friend of Michael's; it was him who let Michael into the house to get Sara's Bible.

He said our fire was one of the more intense ones he's seen in a long time.

It was the fire inspectors, both believers in Jesus, who told us that if our farmhouse had been built nowadays, it would have gone up like kindling.

There would have been no Bible to rescue.
Nothing salvaged.
Nothing left standing.

But our house was built on a strong foundation; the beams were so thick they actually put the fire out.

The only reason I saw anything when I ran down the hill through the woods hoping for a glimpse of something still standing, was because the farmhouse was built to withstand great suffering.




I want to share with you the note we received from our bestie friends, Mike and Hope Harms, last night:

As you guys were talking last night about the work you had put into the farmhouse and how it was still worth it, the following verse came to mind,

"Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain."
-Psalm 127:1


You guys are so right.
Your labor on the past house was not in vain.

And your labor on your future house won't be either because your home stands strong in the Lord.
Not moths, nor rust, nor even fire can touch it.

Your lamp of faith still burns bright.

And we're excited as we watch your phoenix already rising from the ashes.





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Reader Comments (3)

I'm grateful to you for taking the time to post these updates, for continuing to include/inform us all in this life experience and for being the most graceful example of discipleship to our Lord. I read these posts, emails and the FB updates and am frozen, speechless...thinking that I would never be able to carry this load. Yet, your faith endures, your hope inspires and your gracious heart loves.

November 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmy A.

Amen. Amen. My heart echoes the Harms' beautiful words.

Still praying for you guys with all that's in me. Much love.

November 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCara

My girlfriend and I were just speaking about How the Lord protects His written word and wondering if your bibles had withstood the fire. Amazing. Mrs. Wilbourn (Sara) was a truly amazing woman, and it makes my heart smile to know Mike married a woman as wonderful and Christ like, like his mother!! Always praying for you guys!!

November 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

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