Lives Turned Upside Down

A hint of fall was in the air on that Sunday morning, October 7, 2012, as I walked from our guest cottage to the big house. Birds sang and squirrels scampered among the oak trees while I paused to sip the hot coffee laced with cream. Smiling I looked around one more time before opening the French doors.

Not wanting to wake anyone I quietly made my way through the hall to the desk in the sunroom where I started my computer. Immediately I turned my chair to face the serenity of the slow moving river wending its way to the lake just around the bend.

After only a few moments, I realized Lynn had come into the office with her coffee. She and her five children had been living in the big house since the first weekend in August, 2011, and I cherished the few times we had alone. That morning our talk meandered from one subject to another before she said, “Mom, it is time for us to move out. I don’t know how or when, but I believe that God will make a way. This isn’t fair to you and Dad; you need your space.”

My daughter looked so weary, and once again my heart ached for her and our five grandchildren whose lives had been devastated. They came to us broken-hearted, rudely uprooted from their home located in a beautiful resort of sunny Florida. Their security had been ripped from them. Now after fourteen months they seemed to be settled with their sense of security restored.

Looking at my daughter who had been slowly regaining her self-confidence I said, “Lynn, dad and I are doing fine. The cottage is comfortable, and you are welcome to stay here as long as you need to. This is more unfair to you and the children; you need your own space, something you can call your own. Our God can make a way where there seems to be no way.”

She made a decision that she, Katherine (9) and Luke (7) wouldn’t go to church, which was unusual for her. Chandler Grace (14), Griffin (12) and Emma (10) had stayed in town either with their dad or friends. With all the activities and school, the drive back and forth “from the middle of nowhere,” they needed a do-nothing-kind of day.

Everette and I went to church totally unaware that our lives would be changed, turned upside down in a few short hours. After church we had lunch at the “old folks’ restaurant,” Cracker Barrel. Our drive home was peaceful until I saw two fire trucks with flashing lights approaching the road into our subdivision. A sense of foreboding began escalating, especially when the trucks followed us. Everette pulled over to the side of Forks Road to let them pass.

My phone rang. Lynn screamed. “Mom, Mom, the house is on fire!! I’m so sorry; it wasn’t enough that we disrupted your entire lives. Now we have destroyed your house.” Katherine and Luke were hysterical. (I didn’t know they were not home, and that neighbors had contacted Lynn.)

We rounded the curve to see the fire trucks stopped at the dead end…I was trying to get my window down, screaming, “Turn right! Turn right! It’s our house! Follow us!” Thinking Lynn and the children were at the house I yelled over the phone, “We are on our way!” It was some time before I got my hands on my phone again.

Parking on the street, we ran down our driveway where we saw more fire trucks, firemen, friends, neighbors and strangers. Smoke was pouring from one of the upstairs bedrooms. I was frantic as I searched for Lynn, Katherine and Luke, and was relieved to learn they had not been at home.

When Lynn and all the children arrived they experienced the devastation of being uprooted again. Not only was the house where they had lived for fourteen months destroyed, but this time they lost most of their things. I’ll never forget the fire chief kneeling down in front of Katherine who blamed herself for causing the fire. He looked her in the eyes and said, “Katherine, you are not to blame for this fire. Look at me, little one. You are not to blame for this fire. How would you like to go for a ride in the fire truck?”

Loving arms reached out to give us hugs, our pastor, Dr. Jimmy Long, and members of our small group came and stayed with us all afternoon. Luke and William, friends from our church, put a tarp over the section of the house that was burned.

A big “thank you” to the local Red Cross who sent a couple out with stuffed toys for the children and care packages for everyone. They gave us a credit card to buy emergency clothing, meals, and found a local motel where we could stay.

Lives were turned upside down that day due to an electrical fire that began in an upstairs storage area. Lynn and the children were homeless for the second time in less than two years. It was five weeks before we found a place where they could be together again as a family. Many gracious friends have helped make this possible. Once again the children are wondering where they will live when the six-month lease is over. I don’t know what’s ahead for Lynn and these five children, but I know that they have a future and a hope. God is hardening them to difficulty preparing them for their destinies. In the meantime our house is being rebuilt.

The outpouring of love from church family, neighbors, family, friends and strangers continues to be overwhelming. Our house was damaged, but our home still stands, and the wind chimes are singing, “God is good and His mercy endures forever.”

NOTE: No, I do not believe God caused the fire, but He never fails us or leaves us without support.