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Ashes of Gratitude

Good morning. It is Friday, October 8, 2021.

Have you ever suffered a tragedy or loss and looking back, you would not change a thing?

It seems silly to ask such a question, but I have lived it.

I want to encourage you to trust God through all things, even the hard things. Even the things that make you gasp for air or cry so hard the palms of your hands hurt.

It was July 27, 1993. I had worked an 8-hour day and rested on my bed for just a few minutes before running errands.

My two oldest boys were preparing to go to Colorado for a big Pathfinder gathering and they needed batteries for their flashlights.

After resting for a few minutes, I headed to the Dollar Tree, now the Dollar Store, looking for batteries.

As it turns out they did not carry batteries at that time, so I headed out to my car, headed to Walmart. As I changed lanes, I looked to towards the SW section of town and there against a cloudless sky was a HUGE mushroom cloud of smoke. It looked as if a bomb had gone off.

That still small voice told me I needed to go home.

I changed lanes again and headed toward my house. As I got closer, my heart beat faster. Could this possibly be my home? I began to think of my four children that I had left at the house.

I soon realized that I would not be able to pull up to my house. Throngs of people and cars and blocked the way and of course fire engines. I could now see flames leaping above roof tops. I parked my car two blocks from my home, and I ran as fast as I could.

It was my house! And it was fully engulfed in flames. People were sitting in lawn chairs watching my home burn. Groups of people were standing, all staring in the same direction. One man was running his video camera. The only thing missing was someone selling popcorn and cold drinks. It felt so surreal.

I began yelling no! no! No! Dear God, no!

A neighbor approached and quickly told me the kids were safe and at another neighbor’s house.

Soon I had friends and family pull up who had noticed the smoke, and, after coming to investigate, realized it was my house.

They discovered that a window air condition in the master bedroom had over heated, the breaker did not do its job, but instead allowed everything to overheat. The air condition then caught the curtains on fire which then led to the ceiling.

The police chief would call it “The hottest house fire in recent Grants Pass history.” He said flames were leaping 100 feet in the air. Entire walls and the ceiling disappeared. About the only thing that remained was the stucco exterior walls. You see, the ceiling and walls were made of a dark wood. Every time a renter would move out, the landlord would oil that wood to clean it up and keep it healthy. The house was a matchstick.

It was a large home, ranch style, over 2,400 square feet. The entire home was ablaze in less than 10 minutes.

I had one good cry over loosing every and then I began to count my blessings. All four of my children were safe, unharmed. Even the family cat got out safely.

I knew that if the fire had happened at night when we were all sleeping, chances are things would not have ended as well.

Then, God used this community in mighty ways. We received enough donated items to furnish an entire 3-bedroom home. I even had a call at the radio station from a local woman who said, I have a rental on Gaffney Way, the renters are moving out in a couple of weeks. It is yours if you want it.

We stayed at my grandparents until the rental was ready. And the donations came pouring in.

“And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:19 NKJV

One couple gave us a brand-new couch and love seat. They had purchased it but did not like it. They stuck the pieces in their garage and bought something else.

One person donated a recliner. Another a rocker. Another a cabinet television. Another dining table and chairs. End table, coffee table, sheets, blankets, towels, clothing, coats, kitchenware, home décor. I had one lady pull up with a toaster, blender, waffle iron and blender.

I had one lady pull up and apologize for what she had brought. She said I know you are a family of 6 and this is not the type of thing you should donate, but I felt impressed. She opened her backdoor and there was a backseat full of house plants! I cried. You may not know this about me, but I love plants. I had lost many beautiful house plants in that fire. Some I had for 10-12 years. I told her it was the perfect gift!

God used this community is the most remarkable way! We did not receive a duplicate of anything! Not one single thing!

It was odd setting up house with all these things that had never been mine. But we started over and I would not change a thing. I really wouldn’t!

I had to drive by that burnt shell of a house every day on my way to work and every day I would start singing “God is so good. God is so good. God is so good, He’s so good to me”

We are told to give thanks in all things. Not some things. Not just the good things, but all things.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – NKJV

I believe when we give thanks, we are showing God, and others, that we trust Him. That we know He is watching over us, that everything will work out according to His plan and purpose in our lives.

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 NKJV

If you are going through a trial, if you are overwhelmed with what life has thrown at you, trust God. Tell Him you trust Him. Put it into words and say it repeatedly: “I trust you Father”. Tell Him you know He sees you. Tell Him you know things will work out according to His plan. Ask Him to give you more faith. It is there for the asking.

“…“Increase our faith.” Luke 17:5 NKJV

Most of all, remember He will never leave you.

“Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 NKJV

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