On a gorgeous May evening, the night before our middle son Spencer’s high school graduation, our house caught on fire.
Our family and our pets are all safe. Uprooted, but doing well overall.
In the past two weeks, our family, church family, friends, and community have absolutely bent over backward to anticipate our needs and meet them. We have been first-hand witnesses and beneficiaries of the body of Christ working together, each member doing its part (1 Corinthians 12:26-27). It has been breathtaking and humbling.
I wanted to write a quick note to inform or update you, and to chronicle God’s goodness to us so that we will remember and testify to his faithfulness.
Saturday afternoon, May 21, we had gathered around our outdoor fireplace on our covered patio. My parents were here to celebrate Spencer’s graduation. It was cool out, and it was my mom’s birthday, so a relaxing afternoon by the fire seemed like a great way to celebrate.
The fire had burned down to coals, and we were preparing to leave for dinner. My parents, Zach, and I were inside the house. Spencer was at baseball, and Levi was attending a friend’s graduation reception. Kurt was outside winding up the garden hose when he smelled “non-campfire” smoke.
He hollered into the house for me to call 911, and I did, even though I didn’t yet know what our emergency was. I ran outside and saw Kurt hosing down the roof of the covered patio.
The garden hose couldn’t keep up. The breeze blew the fire into Levi’s bedroom, and Kurt had to abandon the garden hose as the fire grew.
Inside the house, I grabbed my purse, some important papers, and my laptop. Smoke was curling up through the floorboards in my office, so I decided not to crawl under my desk to unplug my charger. (It was a good decisions, but it also meant my computer was dead for almost two weeks before I got another charger).
Since Zach and my parents were visiting, all their clothes were packed in duffel bags, and they quickly grabbed most of their things. Our dogs’ kennel was upwind from the fire and was never in danger.
As I was running out, I saw the 20 pounds of sloppy joe meat I’d made for Spencer’s graduation reception thawing on the counter. I thought, “I’m going to need that tomorrow.” My arms were full, and as I considered how I could grab it, I started breathing in smoke and quickly decided to leave it.
Zach has always been a quick thinker in emergencies. Though I didn’t know it at the time, he was throwing the most flammable items, like the mattress, out of Levi’s room.
Levi was in town across the river and saw smoke. He called and asked, “Is our house on fire?” and in a surreal moment, I answered, “Yes.”
Spencer was in the dugout at his baseball game. I called a friend at the game, and she walked to the dugout and had him call me.
The Pierre & Fort Pierre Volunteer Fire Departments arrived and expertly took over. The rest of us stood in the yard feeling useless.
One by one, friends and family began to call, text, and arrive, and the body of Christ sprang into action.
As the house was burning, a church friend called to say, “I’ve got Spencer’s graduation party covered.” Another friend texted and asked how many pounds of sloppy joe meat I’d need for the reception. My mom stood by me, and we cried. Then we laughed because we knew the sloppy joe meat was “thawed.”
I had already loaded all of Spencer’s graduation decorations, memorabilia, and reception food (minus the thawing meat 😊 ) into my vehicle, so our friends loaded it all into their pickup and took it to the reception venue.
More friends texted to say they were praying. Several families who were out of town offered their homes to us. The text messages and calls offering support, prayer, and housing just kept rolling in.
With the help of many friends who donated furniture, household items, and muscle, we’ve settled into a little rental house in town. Several friends had it completely furnished and set up for us. When we brought our bags in, I felt like I was on an episode of Extreme Home Makeover!
How extensive was the damage?
When we contacted our insurance company, they asked, “What is the extent of the damage?” I didn’t exactly know how to answer. Everything looked ruined to me. Water and black soot ran down every wall, but the house was still standing. We’ve begun the process of sifting through some belongings to see what can or should be salvaged.
As I lifted a book on my side table, I found this book beneath it.
I sent the photo to the author, Lisa Appelo, and she wrote this beautiful post that captured thoughts I couldn’t put into words at the time:
Maybe like this book you’re forever marked by the heat and flames that took so much and you want to believe it didn’t take everything. That ashes aren’t the end. And that if you’ll do the grueling work of grief, you’ll see God not restore life as it was, but bring new beauty you never would have had otherwise.Hope woos us to sift through the ashes, not sit and stay in them. To grieve deeply over all that’s gone even as we take tender steps forward. And to trust that God is not now resigned to Plan B. There are no Plan B’s with God. This is Chapter 2 — a chapter God has allowed and as such it is filled to the BRIM with purpose, abundance, joy and goodness. Our life may be marked by flames, but may they be marked far deeper by God’s grace.
Many people have reached out to ask how to help. The Lord continues to care for us through the kindness and generosity of his people. Every need has been met! He has even tended to some of our “wants,” and it feels like we are experiencing the over-the-top lovingkindness of God, which I had hoped to write about in Remarkable Love. But as you can imagine, the book is on hold indefinitely. We will be out of our home for a minimum of six months, and probably much longer.
Please pray for wisdom as we make decisions in the coming weeks and months. Please also pray that God will be glorified and that he will bring beauty from ashes just as he has promised (Isaiah 61:3).