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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It is not known who replied, but there is a beautiful soul working in the dead letter office of the US postal service.
Our 14 year old dog, Abbey, died last month. The day after she died, my 4 year old daughter Meredith was crying and talking about how much she missed Abbey.. She asked if we could write a letter to God so that when Abbey got to heaven, God would recognize her. I told her that I thought we could so she dictated these words:
Will you please take care of my dog? She died yesterday and is with you in heaven. I miss her very much. I am happy that you let me have her as my dog even though she got sick..
I hope you will play with her. She likes to play with balls and to swim. I am sending a picture of her so when you see her You will know that she is my dog. I really miss her.
We put the letter in an envelope with a picture of Abbey and Meredith and addressed it to God/Heaven. We put our return address on it. Then Meredith pasted several stamps on the front of the envelope because she said it would take lots of stamps to get the letter all the way to heaven. That afternoon she dropped it into the letter box at the post office. A few days later, she asked if God had gotten the letter yet. I told her that I thought He had.
Yesterday, there was a package wrapped in gold paper on our front porch addressed, ‘To Meredith’ in an unfamiliar hand. Meredith opened it. Inside was a book by Mr. Rogers called, ‘When a Pet Dies..’ Taped to the inside front cover was the letter we had written to God in its opened envelope. On the opposite page was the picture of Abbey &Meredith and this note:
Abbey arrived safely in heaven.
Having the picture was a big help. I recognized Abbey right away.
Abbey isn’t sick anymore. Her spirit is here with me just like it stays in your heart. Abbey loved being your dog.. Since we don’t need our bodies in heaven, I don’t have any pockets to keep your picture in, so I am sending it back to you in this little book for you to keep and have something to remember Abbey by…
Thank you for the beautiful letter and thank your mother for helping you write it and sending it to me. What a wonderful mother you have I picked her especially for you.
I send my blessings every day and remember that I love you very much.
By the way, I’m easy to find, I am wherever there is love.
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I think summer is the by far the best time of the year! Not just because the weather is warm and the days long. I love it because my daughter is home all day long. Now, for some people that may not be exactly a good thing but I really believe it is a matter of perspective. In the grand scheme of things, we have these children for such a short time. I want to enjoy and appreciate every moment. Sometimes that means playing a video game I don’t necessarily want to play. Sometimes it means watching a show I don’t necessarily want to watch. But if watching that show or playing that game gives me a moment where my daughter snuggles up close to me… I’ll take it every time. You see, I know and accept that there will come a day (all too soon) when she will be too old for snuggling and video games with dad. She will be talking on the phone and focused on her social life and that is how it should be I guess. I just don’t want to look back with any regrets… longing for a time when she wanted to be with me but I was too busy. Summer allows me this time more than ever and that is why it is my favorite time of the year!
One safety note that is just as applicable in summer as during the rest of the year. Our children will face more and greater risks/threats out there than ever before. It can leave us feeling overwhelmed and helpless. Luckily technology has provided a way to mitigate much of the risk to our children by helping us directly identify the exact individuals that should not be associated with them to begin with. Online background check sites (the good and reliable ones at least) can help you learn tons of information such as criminal records or even a quick nationwide sex offender registry check. There is a wealth of information you can access in a single report and it can be done online, anonymously and it is completely legal. Prices for the background check itself costs a minimum of $14.95 but can also be a bit higher depending how deep of a search you wish to perform. I use http://www.CompleteReviews.net to help me find the best possible background checks on the market today. They conduct in-depth testing on all the major background check providers and then recommend the best options. They will also answer any questions you might have related to background checks.
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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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What do you allow, as gate-keepers if you will, to put daily into your child’s body? This is fully, 100%, your choice, your responsibility, your failure if you are not actively choosing wisely. As parents, we tend to claim God’s protection over our children, but God never intended for us to blindly follow the world in any way, no, not one aspect of our lives. I am noticing a failure among us to educate, and continue to educate ourselves about anything and everything regarding these children given to us for a short time that we are responsible for nourishing. He intended for us to use discernment, use His teaching, to bring us to an educated understanding of what is best for us. This is not happenstance. This is not a lottery to see if we “get” healthy kids. You play “the” role, not just “a” role, in providing for these children as the Lord has provided for you. « 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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If there is anything we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could be better changed in ourselves.
– C.G. Jung
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Like coal miners, parents plunge deep into dark and untrammeled spaces, searching for nuggets of goodness and truth along the way. And sometimes, like coalminers, we get lost. We hit a dead end. And the canary chirping happily in it’s swinging cage, goes silent.
This summer, I lost my way as a parent. Between moving and leading a top-to-bottom renovation of our new apartment, between writing grant applications and taking care of legal issues related to my nonprofit, I took a few wrong turns, caught up in the To Do’s and Didn’t Do’s scratched onto my notepad. Thankfully I have not one, but two canaries on my shoulders. When they stopped tweeting, I knew it was time to pause and reevaluate. « Continue reading »
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It was a sweet and simple ceremony.
Perhaps it was the beauty of the day with its cool pre-summer breeze and sunny afternoon , but most likely it was the picking of the pretty yellow flowers in the backyard that prompted the sudden proposal. “Mom, let’s get married,” he said holding the big bunch of yellow beauties. A few days before, I had noticed the shock of yellow in the corner of our backyard that we refer to as “the swamp”. I knew it was some kind of weed, but I had no idea the magnitude of it until I was right up on it. It grew high and had coiled, thick, purplish vines with the sweetest little yellow flowers with orange centers. I had asked Riley about coming with me to cut the flowers and he happily agreed. We grabbed a scissors from the kitchen and meandered our way to the swamp avoiding doggy land mines to reach the mammoth weed. He didn’t know, nor did he care what it was, he was just as enamored with the yellow flowers as I was. And, I suppose, that is was prompted his desire to wed. So, there it was, actually the third proposal of my life (but that’s another whole story!) and I thought, do I decline? « Continue reading »
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