Saturday, October 22, 2011
Four years ago today, our home and all our belongings went up in smoke. That event started a chain of events that changed our life and brought us where we are today. Such a crazy whirl-wind. It's strange to think about, actually...that if our home hadn't burned down, we wouldn't have had to take out a loan against our property and we might still be living in Washington among our family. The constant "what ifs" keep swirling around in my mind. What if I had unplugged the heater before I went shopping that day? What if I had put my wedding ring on before I left? What if I hadn't left at all but had been there to stop it? Or the worst, what if I had left my kids at home with a sitter instead of taking them with me?
If I close my eyes, there are some very vivid memories that flash like movie scenes in my head. As I wrote a year later: "So many memories are coming to me as I type this...so many emotions. My dad crying in the parking lot of Wal-Mart because he was so glad we were alright. Pushing a shopping cart around the store, dazed and trying to think about what I needed for my babies. Leaning against a DVD display, crying my eyes out because I realized that our wedding rings were one of the casualties. Letting my siblings and parents take over as they one by one showed up and filled my cart with things that they payed for out of their own pockets. Going home only to realize that "home" was gone. Getting phone calls from friends who wanted to know how they could help. Holding my babies, afraid to let them out of my sight for fear that something would happen to them, too. That was a dark night. I lay in my husband's arms, unable to sleep, listening to the steady breathing of my children. They had no idea that their entire world just changed. The tears just kept falling...I couldn't stop them. It was all so overwhelming, so shocking."
I was mad at God for a long time after that. To be honest, I've been angry a lot in the past few years for many things. Nothing has turned out the way we thought it would. I wrote not too long ago: "When is life supposed to work? When does the whole "all things work for good" promise actually come into play? For years now we've done what we thought God wanted us to do, followed Him with everything we have, and for what? To get patted on the back and told "well done"? Yeah, that'll put food on the table. I know that God still works miracles. Is it too much to ask that He could work one for us?"
But I've learned something since then. Sometimes miracles happen in tiny steps instead of big bangs. Sometimes they take years to come to fruition, a building and swelling of little moments that one day become something grand. Or even something ordinary and unnoticable to passers-by, yet understood in the hearts of those who notice; every-day miracles that we wake up to and forget are just as extraordinary as the grand ones. Sometimes it takes tearing down to build up. There is no formula for a life of blessings. The rain falls on the just and unjust, time and chance happen to us all, suffering is no respecter of persons.
Of course, hindsight is always 20/20, as they say, and the day I stood looking at the ashes of my life smoldering before me I had no idea that it was the first of many unfair, unhappy events that would make us feel like we lost all control of our lives and leave us standing in unfamiliar territory wondering what was next.
I've learned something else about life. There is a time for every season under heaven. A time to be born, and a time to die. A time to laugh, and a time to cry. A time to tear down and time to build up. I can complain and be angry about what I perceive as the "bad" things, but that won't make them disappear from my life. They are part of life and we can't change that. Sometimes they serve to bring us to a place where we wouldn't have gone without them. Would I be in Montana now, surrounded by great friends and more beauty than my soul can hold, with hope for the future if my home had never burned down? Would I have ever found this place of peace with life if I hadn't known unrest? Would I be the strong person I am now if I hadn't fallen to my knees, crying in agony a few times, my legs refusing to hold me up any longer? Would I appreciate freedom as much if I didn't know bondage? Would my marriage be as strong as it is now if we hadn't been stripped of everything and forced to face things we were ignoring? Would I be enjoying the moments of pure bliss as much if I didn't know what raw pain felt like? I don't know. Ask me 30 years from now. Hind sight being what it is.....
This journey isn't over yet. I have no idea where we're going from here. I know less now than I thought I did the day I was digging through the still-warm ashes looking for our wedding rings. But I think I'm OK with that. I'm enjoying the journey (most of the time), enjoying looking back and understanding what brought us to where we are now. It sure as hell wasn't much fun getting here, but here we are. Everything beautiful in its time, everything redeemable by the God I follow who makes all things new. Thank God for hindsight....I think it give us hope.