On Tuesday of last week, I had hair and nails appointments at 2. So, I left my house a little after 1 to be on time to my appointments. Little did I know, but a fire had started in the Black Forest, where I live, right about the same time.
At the same time, my husband left with one of our children to run some errands in the other direction. He actually drove past the start of the fire and took some pictures.
That left three of our kids at home.
While I was getting my nails done, my hair stylist had her computer out, checking on the news. She gasped. And then told me there was a fire in the Black Forest. The location was quite a bit away from where we live, from what I could tell. I assumed that it would be contained and taken care of quickly. I had no idea of the magnitude of it all. I texted my son, and he said everything was fine at home, no need to come home.
So I got my hair done. When I was half way done, my stylist stepped outside, and then she called me to come look. We were about 20 miles from the fire, but it looked so close. It had grown to such great magnitude already.
I didn’t get home until nearly 7 that evening. As I was driving home, I started to get a better idea of what I was failing to understand. Here is the view of the fire on the road leading to my house:
The radio station announcer said that the plume had risen to 30,000 ft and 70 miles long.
I wept on the drive up that road as I saw police officers at all the houses along the road telling people to get out. The coming destruction was so heavy on my heart.
Mike was home and was packing things for an eventual evacuation: guns, clothes, one of his telescopes, seminary books.
Mike had already briefed the children that the evacuation notice was coming soon, so they needed to pack up the things they wanted to save from a fire that could possibly burn down the house. Faith immediately went for her Bible. “I have my Bible, Daddy, which is the most important thing of all. Maybe I should take two, just in case.” And then she also picked a flower with a leaf to remember what our property looks like. She shoved them in her pocket, but pulled them out often to show people the treasure she was carrying. I had to ask her sisters to pack her doll and some of her toys as it didn’t seem to be on her radar at all to do so.
My other daughters packed their clothes for me. And Peyton grabbed a needlework picture her dear friend made for her. She also packed a bin of hangers for me. She knows I love ironing, but I’m still baffled over that one.
I was grabbing my clothes, tossing them into my suitcases. And the jewelry that my husband had given me over the years. I prayed that the Lord would bring to my mind the things that I would want to have out of the fire. I packed photos. Then I remembered Mike’s grandmother’s brooch, which his mother gave me when Nana passed away nearly 25 years ago. And my grandmother’s crocheted tablecloth and bedspread. Precious to my mother, I thought.
Reed, my 17 year old son, grabbed things he thought I would want. I didn’t see him worrying about any of his things. He packed my sewing machine, Bosch mixer, grain mill, Vita-mix.
We texted our older sons who aren’t at our home during the week, or at all.
My oldest son wanted the quilt his wife had made for Mike. And then he remembered some old books if we had room for them.
Peter wanted a blanket that I had made him.
That was it. Nobody wanted any of the other stuff that fills our house.
My heart was warmed by the realization that my children are not so consumed by stuff. They wanted things that have meaning.
The police came by to let us know it was time to go. We went to a friend’s house about a half hour north of here. It was tremendous to see the fire at night.
The next day, we headed up to Denver, as it was time for our state’s homeschooling conference, which we help run. We kept so very busy with the details we needed to see to. It was a tender mercy of the Lord to have our hands and minds so busy serving others while the forest was raging with fire within about 2 blocks’ distance from our house.
I was overwhelmed.
And the love of friends and family. That was the part that really got to me.
I wasn’t afraid for our stuff. Faith had commented to her brother as we were driving away, “It will all burn up one day anyway.” Have I mentioned that she just turned 7?
I was so overwhelmed by the love, the offers of help, the outpouring of compassion and care. So many people offered us places to stay.
I’m overwhelmed that the God of the universe saw to it to provide us with His people surrounding us and supporting us and letting us know that we are not alone in this.
I’m overwhelmed that we were informed that we could go home again on Friday (or was it Saturday? I don’t remember as it is mostly a blur to me.). We thought we weren’t going to get to go home until Thursday the next week at the earliest. We didn’t go home until Sunday because the conference wasn’t ending until Saturday evening. I wanted to go home in the light of day because I didn’t know what we were going to find.
So, we spent Saturday night with friends after the conference. After church on Sunday, we went back to their house, packed up our belongings, ate lunch, and made that trek home again.
And I was overwhelmed. At our house, you could smell a whiff of wood-burning stove smell in the air outside. Just a hint. Inside our house, it was perfect. Not a single scent out of place. Our property doesn’t appear to have any ash residue at all. You would never know that there was a fire burning so near to where we were.
I had driven further down the main road from our house to see if I could see what remained from the fire. Right there, so close, were the National Guard parked in their trucks, blocking the roads to keep us safe. It was real, all right. It wasn’t some horrible dream.
And God was in the midst of it all. On Thursday night, I felt a bit weepy. We had heard some news that made us think that out house was probably going to burn that night. We were tired, emotional, weepy. I cried with my friend.
But on Friday morning, I awoke so refreshed, so filled with great peace. It was astonishing to me. The Lord had renewed my mind, gave me such a lightness of spirit. I praised His name continually that day. I was filled with the joy of the Lord, which was nothing short of a miracle. I read and meditated on Psalm 103 that day.
Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless His holy name.
And I had such peace. It is hard to comprehend and even harder to describe.
I would never sign up for the trials, but I am so thankful for what I learn in them. I learn something of God that is difficult to grasp on paper. I can nearly touch Him. I can taste His goodness, and it is so sweet. And nobody can ever take that away from me.
I pray that my children will be forever changed by this experience. I pray that they will always know without a doubt that God meets their needs above and beyond anything they could even think to ask.
I heard people talking all week about my children. They observed a peace about them. Many wondered if they fully grasped what was happening. They were happy, joyful, helpful, kind. No tears, no bitterness, no fear.
And yet, I believe they completely understood what was going on at home. But they *knew* that God was in it. They know that He is sovereign, and that if He sees fit to allow our house to burn down, then He will see fit to provide something else for us. It’s what we believe, and what we teach them. I love it that they got to experience the rubber meeting the road. And the provision of peace that doesn’t come from us and our strength, but from God alone.
Every ounce of courage came from God. My prayer is that the hope that we have and the faith that we showed in God will be multiplied in others. I hope they know it wasn’t an act. I hope they know that it wasn’t from us. I hope they know that God supplies all of our needs, from big to small. And this is not from ourselves.
And I hope that they will lean on Christ for all things.
I pray that this fire isn’t wasted. I pray that for every pine needle that was burned, that a life will be changed. Given new life, hope, joy, peace. That they will see that God is bigger than a forest fire, even the biggest one Colorado has ever seen in its history in regards to damage.
In the aftermath of fire, there is regrowth, renewal of the land. That is a beautiful thing. I pray that while the life returns to the forest, that Life returns to the people. That they will repent of their sins and embrace the gift of Life eternal, life that will never be burned up, like all the stuff will be.
Don’t waste the fire with more death. Live in the renewal of life eternal. Which is found in Christ alone. Run to Him for your shelter and protection. Don’t wait for the fire to be licking at your heels. You will find rest and peace with Him. Rest from the daily pains and sorrows.
I pray that you will awake with that same joy that filled me this week. That joy that comes from the wellspring of Christ’s love. For there is no fire hot enough to destroy it.
The latest update says that 502 houses burned to the ground, 14,280 acres were burned, which is 24 square miles. Two people lost their lives. The loss is staggering. Please continue to pray for the people who lost their homes, and the family of the two who lost their lives. Such heartache. I pray that they all will know the peace of Christ also. And that the fire won’t be wasted in their lives.