It's 2am, and again I cannot sleep. It seems to happen quite often since the fire. I wake up and my mind won't turn off. So here I am, pecking away at the keys, sharing my heart because I don't know what else to do.
Grief or Joy. It’s a choice I’m faced with each day as I wake up and stare at walls that are not my home, at belongings that are unfamiliar, and look back at once was and is no more. Watching my home be destroyed by fire could consume me, the flames could have overcome me; but as I watched everything burn that fateful Monday two weeks ago, I realized that I have the One thing that is most important to me… I have Jesus.
I stood there across from my apartment and watched the firemen work tirelessly to put out the flames and I realized that all I owned… I was either wearing it, holding it in my purse or had it in my car (which in this one time, I wished I kept a stash of shoes in my vehicle like my friend who shall remain unnamed!). My cat was still in the apartment and I didn’t know if she was alive or consumed by the smoke and flames. Even my Bible was in there. I stood on that hill with tears streaming down my face, grief hitting and yet felt His peace consume me because I still had Him. I had friends and coworkers standing by my side, holding me up in prayer and taking care of my basic needs (although I was unaware of this at the time). I was not alone. God did not leave me. Even in the midst of the fire I knew in my gut that He is good and that He is still God. I had a choice to make: let this fire overcome me or choose to overcome it. I chose the latter. I’m not going to lie…I still have moments where grief strikes and I cry over temporal things, the familiar things that are lost. But then I do the only thing I know to do, I count my blessings and I share them with Him. I speak out what He has provided, what He has done, and what He will do. I cling to His promises for my life.
Waking up the next morning in borrowed pajamas, I again was faced with that choice: be overcome or be an overcomer. I stood in the make-up aisle of Walmart crying because I couldn’t even remember what color foundation I was using. I was wearing unfamiliar clothes that people bought for me, unfamiliar shoes, and crying. I let that grief hit and I stood there and prayed in that Walmart aisle. I prayed that God would take all this pain, grief and devastation and use it for His glory. I prayed that His promises would prevail and that others would come to know Him because of this. I had to choose to overcome by His strength and His grace.
I’ve also had to learn to receive. That’s been the most difficult lesson in all of this. I find it so much easier to bless others than to be on the receiving end. But this time, I needed to receive. God has used so many people to bless me but it has not only been a blessing to me, but to my family as well. My family has witnessed (from thousands of miles away) people showering me with gift cards, finances, prayers and encouragement and it is causing them to turn and thank God.
I have also seen God’s provision and favor. Six hours after the fire, I went back to the apartment and spoke with the fire chief about my cat. Before the firemen left, he asked them to check my apartment one last time and they found my cat...drenched but alive. And then when I met with my insurance a few days later, we were standing in front of the apartment and found out that no one was allowed in. The fire inspector “just so happened” to be there and overheard our conversation. He began showing me pictures of my apartment and when I saw my grandmother’s paintings untouched by the fire, I told him that’s all I wanted. Unbeknownst to me, he had the authority to allow us in. He decided to take me into my apartment to retrieve those paintings. At the same time, I was able to grab my Bible which was untouched by water or fire (while everything else around it was soaked). The kindness of the fire inspector allowed me to retrieve sentimental possessions and provided me with my Bible again (3 days without one in something like this is difficult…I am thankful for His Word tucked in my heart!).
So even in the midst of devastation and destruction, God is still good, He is still God and His promises never fail. I can overcome because of His grace, mercy, strength and power working in and through me. And I’m learning that those treasures stored up in heaven are the things worth fighting for. All these things on earth can be replaced, but the lives of my family and friends…. that’s what matters. My prayers for people are more fervent now than ever before.