Fresh snow-covered the mountains around our farm community. I’d just helped 9-year-old Austyn start a big fire in our wood stove. I was laying on my bed under a soft blanket sipping tea, with him sitting next to me, doing his school work. Landon, my 11-year-old, had gone out a few minutes earlier to do his school work in the other room.
Suddenly, I heard our neighbor, Adam Langford, ran in yelling “Natalie, your house is on fire! Get out now!!! It’s ready to blow up!”
At about the same time my older daughter, Tiffany, who was sitting by the warm fire, heard an explosion coming from the attic. We all ran for our lives! I was looking for Landon and yelling for him to get out but there was no sign of him anywhere. I thought he must still be inside and feared for his life. After a few moments, which felt like an eternity, he walked out the front door, asking “What’s the matter?” He’d been in the back room with the T.V. on. Oh, what a relief to find him!
My husband, John, and our son, Thomas, were gone at the time but got there later. After thinking we could have lost Landon, the thought of losing the house and everything in it paled in comparison. It was just “stuff” that could be replaced. And I was so grateful we were all alive and safe!
I felt peaceful in the midst of the calamity and kept just giving it to God. I had dedicated our home and everything in it to Him and His purposes long ago. Now if He chose to take it I was willing to let it go. Still, I pleaded for it to be saved if possible.
The house didn’t end up blowing up and within minutes it was surrounded by people rushing to help put out the fire and to save as many of our possessions as they could. Family and friends from Alaska to Cancun watched video clips as it happened. It was quite the spectacle! Being four hours from the nearest city, with no fire trucks around, they resorted to a few garden hoses and some small fire extinguishers. It was a frenzy of activity as they tried to save what they could, regardless of the dangers involved. It soon became obvious the fire could not be contained, so after all they could do to save it, everyone stepped back and watched it burn.
John was devastated! As he cried in my arms I told him “Love, we didn’t lose our child. It will be okay!” His brother Sam and my sister Catherine had just lost their beautiful daughter, Caitlyn, in a car accident a month before. Losing our home could not compare. How could we complain?
Everyone was so sweet as they tried to console us. My dear mother in law, Diane Langford, offered us her home, saying she could move elsewhere. Several others said we could live in their empty houses, while others offered their time and services or funds to help us rebuild. Their love and support meant so much and really touched our hearts.
Still, it was hard! Our lovely home that we’d dreamed about, planned, and worked on for over 20 years was gone. The house we started with no money but lots of faith, and had never gotten a mortgage or insurance on, now in a matter of minutes had come tumbling down. It was only a house, but so much living had happened between those walls… so many memories… the love, the laughter, the music, the trials, and the tears. Although we’d moved around many times, we’d always had a sense of stability, knowing we had ‘Our Home’ in Mexico to go back to.
I’d relinquished it all to God, but I was so grateful for each thing that they were able to save. Tiffany’s piano and the gorgeous mirror above it were gone, along with my lifetime collection of favorite books. But we were able to save the most important things: journals, all the family photos, and other items that were special to us.
It takes so many little things to make a house a home. We’d escaped bare foot and without our coats, just grateful to be safe, but now the smallest items would be missed. All the little comforts of life that we’d come to depend on and taken so much for granted. Like something as insignificant as my chap stick, where was it? My lips were so dry. But what I missed most was a spot of my own – I felt so displaced.
Darkness fell and a long night followed. Lights from the burning flames kept flickering through the window as I lay listening to the cans and bottles from our pantry explode in the distance.
After finally falling asleep, I woke with a scare from a nightmare of our house going up in flames, only to face the reality of it once again. Then towards morning rain came down and quenched what was left of the flames.
A new day was dawning as I looked out at what remained of our home. Such a sad, nostalgic feeling swept over me, seeing only the strong adobe and brick walls standing amongst all the rubbish and dying embers.
Later, as I walked through the ashes, I found a page torn from a book with these words highlighted, that I felt were more than coincidental:
“Life isn’t to be found in things- but in Jesus Christ…for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of things which he possesseth.”
These words comforted me as they reminded me of my initial feelings and of the peace I had felt. Surely, God still had a plan for our lives and would work things out for our good. I knew that with everyone’s love and our trust in the Lord we would go on, looking with hope to the future.