Now that I think about it 30 years later, it was funny, but it wasn’t at the time. My first son had a hard time accepting the fact that he had to share his home with his little sister. When they were both very young my daughter came running into house screaming and crying. I asked her what was wrong, but she couldn’t speak. I interrogated her brother. He said that he took a board and put it across a log and told his sister to stand on one end. He then climbed on top of the dog house and jumped onto the other end of the board and she went flying. I was furious. I yelled at him and asked why he would do such a thing. He said, “But, you wouldn’t believe how high she went!”
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Late one spring night, my daughter Elizabeth woke us up with screams of “Fire! The house in on fire!” My wife and I got up and walked into the hallway, which was filled with smoke. We got our youngest son Erich from his bedroom and the four of us descended through the thick smoke and out of the house. But when we got there Elizabeth was missing. I was told that Elizabeth had gone back inside to get her cat. I went back into the house, calling her name, and went to her room. I couldn’t see anything so I felt around and kept calling out her name. She didn’t answer and I couldn’t find her. I had to crawl down the stairs and back out of the house. To my surprise, there she was with the others on the sidewalk. Still one missing!
Our oldest son had a bedroom on the first floor in the back of the house. I sent the family to our neighbor’s house and went to find him. I ran to the back of the house and to the outside of the missing son’s room screaming his name. I smashed out a window with my fist and tried to climb in, but the heat and smoke drove me back. I broke through another window, thinking that the smoke would go out the other window, and tried to climb in again but was driven back. All I could do was stand there screaming his name. At that time someone found me and told me that he had been at a friend’s house and was heading home. I then went to the front of the house and just stood looking, wanting to do something. A neighbor pulled me away and brought me to his house where I found my family being cared for. They were covered with soot and looked awful. An ambulance took us to the hospital and we were given oxygen. We were told that the Red Cross had arranged a motel room for us for the night, so we found our way there. We showered and didn’t sleep, but sat around trying to grasp what had happened.
The next morning at dawn, I went back to the house. One cat had died in the fire and one was unaccounted for. The house, garage, and the two cars that were parked next to the house were in ruins.
We spent the next two nights at one neighbor’s house. Another neighbor offered us the use of her house for following week, while her family went on vacation. After that we moved into a motel. We hunted for a local place to live so that the children could go to the same school and have the same neighborhood friends, but couldn’t find one.
Dear reader, this was a very tough time for us. Yours truly was at the end of his rope. I could see that the family desperately needed a place to settle down, but I couldn’t find a place to live. By chance, I remembered that a nearby church owned the vacant house next to it. One night as it was raining, I went to see the congregation of the church during their bible study night. I sat in the back to wait until they were done. They stopped their study and asked if I needed help. I said yes, but that I preferred to wait until they were done. When they were done, I asked who I should talk to about the house and was directed to the deacon. I presented my case and he said he would think about it. His wife was there and looked me in the eyes. After a short pause she said that we could live there. The deacon just looked at her and said, “I guess that’s it then”. They drove away and I started to walk back to my car. Suddenly, for no reason, my legs gave way and I dropped to my knees. I knelt there in the rain crying from relief. We moved in the next day.
The entire Town rallied to our side. People gave clothing, furniture and money. One man even gave us his car. I remember that when I thanked him that he said, “We’re all connected right?” The local school children collected cans to raise money for us, and the local stores had jars to gather donations. One neighbor arranged for a local television station to air our story and gather donations. Everyone gave.
About three weeks after the fire, I was driving through the village. A man was sitting in a stalled truck at the intersection, blocking traffic. I pulled over, and we pushed his truck off the road. I had jumper cables with me and we were able to start the truck. He told me that he was from another state and had just bought the truck and he was headed home. He pointed at a car that had pulled up near us, and I could see what I presumed were his wife and child waiting in it. They looked tired and hungry and so did he. He was concerned that the truck would stall out again. I gave him the jumper cables and told him that if he was ever in the neighborhood again, he could drop them off. He asked where he could drop them off. I pointed at my burned down house and said, “Well, I used to live there, but you can drop them at my neighbors house right there.” About a month later, my neighbor gave me those jumper cables back. She said that when the man dropped them off, he started crying. Apparently, he was overwhelmed by the fact that I would give him something after I had lost everything else.
Four weeks after the fire, I was where the burned house stood and was planning the new one. I was talking to my son, and started talking about the cats that we had lost. I was talking about one of the cats, mentioning him by name. This very same cat suddenly appeared out of nowhere and sheepishly came to us. He was very frightened. We brought him back to the family and he settled in with us.
We decided to put up a modular home where the old home had stood. A modular home is assembled in one day, the various parts of the house fit together like giant Lego pieces lifted into place by a crane onto a prepared foundation. The night before it was to be assembled, I received a call that my mother had passed away. I drove across the state to where she lived, just to be near where she had been. When I got back home, they had assembled the house, and my family took pictures of the event for me. After one month we were able to move in.
We lost a cat and all of our possessions in that fire. Some of them were precious. Family pictures, heirlooms, children’s keepsakes. But we saved the most important things; life and hope. If you have those, everything else will work out.
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TO ALL THE KIDS WHO SURVIVED THE 1930s, ’40s, ’50s, ’60s and ’70s!!
First, we survived being born to mothers who may have smoked and/or drank while they were pregnant.
They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can, and didn’t get tested for diabetes.
Then, after that trauma, we were put to sleep on our tummies in baby cribs covered with bright colored lead-based paints.
We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, locks on doors or cabinets, and, when we rode our bikes, we had baseball caps, not helmets, on our heads.
As infants and children, we would ride in cars with no car seats, no booster seats, no seat belts, no air bags, bald tires and sometimes no brakes.. « Continue reading »
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Recently, my 7-year-old daughter made a mailbox out of paper and taped it to the outside of her room. I began using this as an opportunity to send her notes of love and encouragement. So, at various times of the day, without her seeing me, I would sneak a note into her mailbox. That night, I put in a note for her to find in the morning. I awoke the next morning with my daughter jumping on my bed saying, “How did you do it Mommy? I got a letter from you in the night!”
Excited, she busied herself in making a paper mailbox for me, taping it to the outside of my room. And the written communication began in earnest. Notes of love continued through the week.
Two days ago, I bought her a small toy while we were out shopping together. We came home and after supper, she quickly disappeared saying, “Don’t come into my room, Mommy.” Knowing that she was working on some little project, I busied myself washing the dishes and cleaning up. Excitedly, my daughter then appeared saying, “There’s a letter in your mailbox!” And as we went to my mailbox together, I could see a rolled up piece of blue paper sticking out.
Unrolling the paper, I read her crayoned message: “Dear Mommy, I love you. Thank you for the toy. But just becuse you got me a toy dose not mane I love you more than I did be for. I could never tell you how much I love you.”
Tears welled up in my eyes as my precious girl flung her arms around me in a big hug.
As I stood there enjoying the embrace of my daughter, I was reminded that our Heavenly Father also receives such joy when we offer our love to Him with the excitement and simplicity of a child.
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It’s that time of year again. What is it that you are planning to work on? What is it in your life that you have decided needs to change? What things need your attention? This time of the year forces us to take stock of our lives, besides the incredible media push to discuss our “resolutions” for the new year. After all, we have just come through an amazing period of time where we are shown quite explicitly the miracle of just how good God has been to us each every day. « Continue reading »
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When I was a kid, my mom liked to make breakfast food for dinner every now and then. I remember one night in particular when she had made breakfast after a long, hard day at work.
On that evening so long ago, my mom placed a plate of eggs, sausage and extremely burned biscuits in front of my dad. I remember waiting to see if anyone noticed! Yet all my dad did was reach for his biscuit, smile at my mom and ask me how my day was at school. I don’t remember what I told him that night, but I do remember watching him smear butter and jelly on that biscuit and eat every bite! « Continue reading »
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Let us labor for an inward stillness–
An inward stillness and an inward healing.
That perfect silence where the lips and heart
Are still, and we no longer entertain
Our own imperfect thoughts and vain opinions,
But God alone speaks to us and we wait
In singleness of heart that we may know
His will, and in the silence of our spirits,
That we may do His will and do that only
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
« Continue reading »
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I sat with the sand between my toes last week, watching my kids tumble in a pile across the beach on a lazy vacation day. It was the first time in years that I can remember being able to read my own book while they played amongst themselves, happily. My eyes wandered a lot, to them, and their growing, tumbling, sand-covered bodies, fearlessly conquering the waves of the Atlantic. « Continue reading »
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My mom passed away two months ago. I have not been the same since. Not just because I lost her, but because of what I learned about my two college age sons.
The first thing they each said when I told them of her aggressive cancer diagnosis was, “How soon can I go see her”, halfway across the country. Neither had the time or money and neither gave it a second thought. They spent an entire weekend devoted to creating last memories with her, building a snowman in her front yard as she watched from inside with her oxygen and cane until she couldn’t contain herself anymore and ran out in socks to have a picture taken with them and the now famous snowman. They baked Christmas cookies and threw pieces of dough at each other until she joined in laughing. When they had to say their final good-byes, both were incredibly strong. « Continue reading »
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We just got married June 27th. Took the kids and went to Alabama home. We have also only dated for 3 months. I came with 3 kids and he did also. So 5 boys and one girl ages 4-17. It is a great life! Kids do great together and connect well. We went to a local high school to watch fire works. They had bounce houses and games. The best part of the night was snow cones. Each child had a different color. Unknown to us, it stained your lips the color of your cone. We had red, blue, green, purple, yellow, pink and black lips.
The fire works went off at sunset. Our youngest child was scared of them. I set him on my lap explained how far away they were and told him I would protect him. He sat up, looked me in the eyes and said, “I know that” and then took my hands to hold his ears. He had a blast and has now become more of my shadow LOL. After fire works we went to the parking lot and sat for almost one hour to get out. We talked about our favorite ones. How loud and what was different this year from the past. His children had not seen them this close up in the past. They said they liked how we walked around, laughed and how silly we were when there was music. How we made more noise then anyone and each child replayed who said what LOL. It is never dull in our home!
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