It was a snowy night in December 2000, and schools had already canceled for the next day due to more snow and ice coming.
That December 14th, eighteen years ago, would bring unexpected chaos, momentary terror, disruption in our lives — and remind us of the mercy and faithfulness of God … all in one night.
Our 13-year-old son, Josh, had just walked down the street to spend the night with his friend, Nick, excited that school was closed again for the next day. My husband, Hank, was in the living room on the computer. We were thrilled to finally have internet, as it had only recently come to our town. It was “dial-up”, of course, meaning you couldn’t use the home phone at the same time you were on the computer.
I was standing on a little wooden chair in the den (a converted garage), putting items in the Christmas stockings hung over a window. Suddenly, I heard a “pop” noise like a firecracker, then a whirring sound, like a small rocket flying through the air. I jumped off the chair and ran toward the living room, just in time to see Hank opening the furnace closet door in the hallway.
My heart froze with terror, and I screamed at what I witnessed.
Huge flames of fire jumped out of the open furnace closet door, and Hank slammed it shut immediately.
“Get the kids, and call 9-1-1!” he shouted. Little 2-year-old Nathan had gotten out of bed moments earlier, claiming he was hungry. He was sitting on the sofa with a mouth full of cheese crackers, so I ran to the boys’ bedroom to rescue 4-year-old Aaron, first. I scooped him up in the comforter from his bed, then grabbed Nathan as I ran back through the living room.
Their bedroom door — and Nathan’s toddler bed — where he’d been lying only ten minutes earlier, were right across the hall from the burning furnace closet!
Holding both children in my arms, I grabbed the kitchen telephone and stretched the cord as far as I could to get away from the fire. If there was an explosion, I wanted to be as far away as possible, and able to escape out the back door.
Of course, I couldn’t call 9-1-1, because Hank (who had run back to our bedroom to get car keys and wallet) was connected to the internet! I screamed, “Shut the computer down! I can’t call 9-1-1!” He momentarily started to shut it down “the proper way”, then jolted into reality and just pushed the power button! (This was before we had cell phones, of course!)
As I stepped onto the crunchy snow-caked back porch with my children in tow, the Holy Spirit spoke very clearly to my racing heart.
“This is going to be a blessing.”
Hot tears were running down my face as the 20-degree outdoor air instantly cooled them. Audibly thanking Jesus that I was safely out of the house with my children, my heart was torn as I prayed for Hank to also make it out safely. Thankfully, I’d had the forethought (by God’s mercy) to grab my purse, since I needed the keys to our van to drive away.
By the time I got the kids in their car seats and got in the driver’s seat, I couldn’t control my sobs. I didn’t want to be a young widow, raising babies alone, not to mention our five teenage children.
“Jesus, PLEASE send angels to get Hank out of the house!”
Just then, the front glass storm door opened and smoke came billowing out. I heard Hank coughing before I could even see him, through the thick smoke. But he was alive, and he was safe!! He told me to go, and he promised to follow in his old Jeep, as soon as the fire trucks arrived.
Only seconds after Hank safely escaped the house, we both heard a loud BOOM! He made it out JUST before the water heater exploded!! My sobs were a mix of thankfulness, shock, fear (of what was burning and being forever destroyed), and continual conversation with God about all the above.
Finally, we heard the sirens of help on the way. Incredibly, considering the ice and snow that covered our city streets, it only took about 4-5 minutes for the fire trucks to arrive from the time I’d called them. I needed to move my van before they arrived, and the cold engine started the first time. Whew!
The snow and ice were packed 4″ thick on my windshield, so I rolled the window down and hung my head out to see. We drove 10 mph down the street to my friend Ellen’s house. It was around 10 p.m., but thankfully her lights were all on, and she welcomed us instantly into her warm house, with hot chocolate and lots of hugs.
Even amid tears of shock and thankfulness, I actually laughed at my own joke at Ellen’s house.
Ellen: “Come in out of the cold! It’s nice and toasty in here.”
Me: “Yes, but not as toasty as my house!”
Sipping hot chocolate and holding my children close, I noticed that little Nathan still had the same mouthful (and also a fistful) of cheese cracker (Goldfish Crackers) that he’d put in his mouth thirty minutes earlier, before the fire broke out. He was in shock, as we all were!
I called my mom, once safely in Ellen’s house, to tell her “our house is on fire!”. Little did I know that she and my stepdad were only one mile away, not nine miles away at their home south of town. They’d come into town that very morning to stay at their empty rent house, since the ice storm would prevent them from making it in for several days.
They wanted to put the finishing touches on the renovations they’d been doing. The kitchen had just been remodeled, and it had two bedrooms, two full bathrooms, a formal dining and living room. Mom had packed dishes, groceries, pots and pans, cleaning and hygiene items, and clothing to stay a few days.
Of course, Mom immediately welcomed us to stay with them at the rent house, with thankful tears and praise to God for protecting us. When we arrived just before midnight, it was quite chilly in the house. I asked my mom, “You wouldn’t just happen to have a pair of house shoes I could wear, would you?”
Mom began to cry, hugging me tightly.
“Oh, honey, you won’t believe this!
As I was packing my clothes, I felt prompted to pack a SECOND pair of house shoes! I questioned the Lord, why He’d tell me to bring another pair, since I already had one. He sent them for YOU!”
Humbled by God’s faithfulness, mercy and love, we all slept pretty well that night, even on air mattresses. Two days later, my parents were able to get home, as the ice began to thaw. We remained in that house for 3 1/2 months while I’ll house was rebuilt.
Our 13-year-old son Josh stayed for a few days with his friend Nick’s family, and stayed with us on the weekends, since our house was in a different school district than the rent house. I missed him terribly, but we made the best of it. Another friend’s family also helped care for Josh, and we’re all friends to this day.
In the days that followed, I can’t forget the stench of smoke that permeated everything we owned. Thanks be to God, the firemen arrived and extinguished the fire before it burned all the way through the roof! I recall seeing a 20-inch round place where the snow and ice had melted, but the roof was intact!
Walking through our burned house brought more tears, of thankfulness and loss. God sent two sweet Christian ladies with the restoration company who showed great compassion and skill as they worked to salvage, clean and store (until we could move back in) the belongings we had left — which was actually mostly everything. Nathan’s one-year-old baby photo collage in the hallway burned completely, of course, but the portrait studio (even though it had been 18 months since they took the portraits) just happened to still have ALL the sheets of photos of our baby! These were all the portraits that we couldn’t afford to purchase at the time! When they heard about the fire, they GAVE them all to us — for free!!!
Our insurance company, USAA, (they should pay me for this, haha!) is the BEST in the world! They not only paid out $77,000 to rebuild our house and replace and clean our belongings, they paid a generous amount every month for us to RENT (and amply cover utilities) the house we stayed in! So our God-fearing, self-sacrificing mother and stepdad were blessed along with our blessing!
People from our church who’d never been to our house showed up to help. As we were walking through the house salvaging things and assessing damage, Sue Galdamez drove up. She opened the hatch of her van and pulled out a huge turkey and several bags of groceries for us. Through humble and grateful tears, we loaded them directly into our van, so we could take them to the rent house.
Not skipping a beat to help in any way she could, Sue then took several baskets of smokey laundry away, washed them all for us, then delivered them to our rent house. Wow!! Some of God’s angels are invisible, but this one had hands and feet, hugs and hard work.
Some of God’s angels are invisible, but this one had hands and feet, hugs and hard work.
As I finish this post, I’m recovering from surgery, that actually took place four days ago, December 18, 2018. It was scheduled (and I showed up at the hospital in Tulsa) on December 14th, exactly eighteen years to the day of our house fire in 2000. Once again, God is showing His faithfulness and kindness, provision and love through others. Thank you to Karen and Joe, Vallerie and Brad, Neal and Sarah, Andy and Polly, Tracy, Buddy and Michell, Timothy and Jhansi, my mom and dad and children, and (likely to be) others who have and are helping us with meals, pet care, errands, and PRAYERS GALORE!
We have friends around the world, as far as India, who have been praying for my healing, before and during my surgery, and continue to pray for us. We have received a good pathology report (no carcinoma indicators!!) concerning my appendix, thank God, and are awaiting the full report on the tumor that was wrapped around it. I believe it will also be a good report.
Regardless, here’s what I know: Through every trial, fire, sickness, injury, grief, loss or heartache, God is faithful, and He is good! He is LOVE, and He promises to take care of His own. I am His and He is mine.
This Christmas, and even in the often gloomy days of January, He is my Prince of Peace. He is my Hope when things appear dismal. He is my Provider, my Protector, my loving Heavenly Father. He is my Healer and the Door to Heaven and eternal life!
As we celebrate the moment that the God of the Universe condescended Himself to clothe Himself in frail humanity, I pray that everyone reading this will come to know this Jesus, Who came to save His people from their sins. This same Jesus promised, “I will never leave your or forsake you.” I’m so glad I have that assurance, through whatever happens.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
EXCITING NEWS! Our 2018 Annual Ministry Newsletter is out! If you’d like to receive one (in the mail), please CONTACT BECKY HERE and let us know! Wright Ministries/ Artists in Christian Testimony, International is sharing Jesus around the world, creating new music that points to Christ and changes lives, writing this monthly blog and other publications, and helping orphans through various ministries, both local and international. We’d love for you to be a part, and to know what we’re accomplishing, together!