I'm not one who feels the need to share every little detail of my life in the hopes that my audience will find me so fascinating they will read everything I have to say about church communications.
That's just silly.
But it's the end of an emotionally exhausting day and more as a fellow pilgrim and follower of Jesus, I wanted to share this with you.
Last night, just before bed (I was up working later on some ministry things online), I checked my phone and found a fire had started in Santa Paula, the town next to us. I went outside and you could see the flames in the sky. Scary, but when I turned around my heart started beating audibly.
In the other direction, at the other end of town was an equally red explosion of fire. From miles to the east, to as far as I could see to the west was fire.
Then the power went out. Then the phones went dead.
I woke up my husband, we found the emergency radio and learned that a fire had started in Santa Paula, the town next to us. Fueled by the Santa Ana winds (dry, fast-moving) the fire was traveling at 59 miles and hour, eating bush, structures, anything in its way. It was literally stretching from one end of our community to the other.
We couldn't use the phone or access the internet.
My husband drove out of our little community, found some police who said they were evacuating many areas, but as yet ours was not one of them.
Imagine a town with three parallel lines going from left to right. The top line Foothill, above which is where the fire was traveling, the wind driving it in a straight line. The second line, the middle of the city, the third line, Telegraph Road is the lowest, closest to the coast and the area we live in. We hoped we were safe.
My dear husband said he would stay up all night by the window, keep an eye on the fire and keep checking the radio reports. He told me to go to bed and get some rest.
Laying in bed at times like that, the peace of God is a tangible reality. Real also was how I was telling myself that if God granted mercy in this, we needed to get the details of life more organized. If we had to evacuate, what would we do? What would we take? A certain numbness sets in when you realize how little you have is worth the trouble.
I woke up to an alarm on extreme fire danger blaring on my phone. The power came back on--I felt it was a personal mercy to me from the Lord because we were able to make coffee.
We were able to reach family. Half had to evacuate and were with friends; my adopted grandkids were on their way over to our home to be with us.
The fires had already burned over 40,000 acres. They were racing across the neighborhoods at the top of our town, burning house after house. Hundreds of homes were lost. Evacuation centers were open. The kids came over and were nervous and scared. They brought their two little dogs who thought it was a great vacation as we allow them to jump on my husbands lap and the couch, which they are forbidden to do at their home.
The fire was staying well north of us. The winds were blowing away from the ocean containing it. Fires were spreading to neighboring communities, homes continue to burn. There was no possible containment. So far, no deaths. People listened and got out.
My granddaughter asked me why this happened. She had big events at school this week and was very upset that she was going to miss them.
"Imagine, with no disrespect, that you are God. What do you think He would want you to learn from this?
"We shouldn't be surprised, I continued, "Remember Jesus said, 'In this world you will have trouble.' --that's a promise.
" We need to remember in times like this that we are eternal creatures if we trust Jesus as Savior. We have all eternity ahead of us. What we have here, what burns here, what we miss here really matters little.
"We need to think of this as our first assignment. The challenge is how will we respond in it? How are we going to act with this situation God has given us. That's what's important."
Their dad said he felt so out of control.
I replied that we are; we have no control. But God isn't; he is totally in control, and in that we rest.
The fires are dying down in our town, but continuing to rage as they move on. A home burned on my sister's street. They were spared.
That's for now. We have a week of this weather and things can shift in a moment--my husband is on the phone now--a friend's neighborhood may be in new danger. Embers can fly for miles on the winds we have.
In thinking about my advice, if God is merciful and we get through this week in our home, what have I learned?
One thing is that I want to get rid of stuff cluttering my home. Really do it, not just sort, maybe, when I get time. I want to clean out the extras of life that the Rescue Mission could sell to feel hungry people. I don't need that extra set of china, though so incredibly beautiful, that was recently given to me.
I need to be prepared for emergencies. We need a "go bag." I need to figure out what to eat if the power stays off. I need some way to make coffee without power--silly maybe, but I do love my coffee. I need to figure out lots of life details I've put off (copies of birth certificates online, etc.). But most of all, tomorrow, I will get back to working on this ministry. I'd planned to get some things out today, but didn't make it--I'll get them posted tomorrow. Most of all, I'm thinking about and praying that this verse be real in my life:
But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. Acts 20:24
Follow up note:
The Thomas Fire ended up being the most destructive fire in California history. It burned for over a month, destroyed over a thousand homes, damaged hundreds more, disrupted lives and businesses. One fire-fighter died during the fire and following it a horrific, sudden mudslide from a rainstorm on the bare slopes killed 21 people.
It will take years before people can rebuild completely and lives are returned to a new normal.
Though not directly affected by the fire (as in nothing burned) my husband's business and our livelihood ground to a halt for a few months because of it. We didn't expect that. It has been very difficult recovering for us financially as our loses were not covered by any kind of insurance. But we are OK. I still have a lot of cleaning out to do.
But as always, God is so good. He gives us His comfort, his peace, and we press ahead each day working to be pleasing to him no matter what the chaos in our lives and hearts. As the song says and it is so good to sing, "it is well with my soul."