Friday my bay sister Sarah got married. It was a beautiful ceremony. It was perfect! We will never forget it. It was a Celebration of what the purpose of the true Godly union of marriage is all about. What a special time for our family.
It was also a celebration for our family in another way-- A celebration of the body of Christ coming together, in so many indescribable ways, for one special day. You see, 9 days before the wedding, my parents home burned to the ground, along with every preparation for the wedding.
Last Tuesday I was working on a couple of projects for the wedding, in my own home. My phone rang and I answered "Hi mom!" I was a little surprised, because it was a little after 4 pm and my mom usually didn't get off of work until 4:30. She sounded frantic.
"Rachel, I just got off the phone with your dad. I'm racing home. The house is on fire!" I said, "NO". and the breathe in my chest was gone. I couldn't breathe. My mother said, "Just pray honey. Pray for a miracle". I told her to call me when she got there and told her to drive safe. Then I prayed. I marched around my house praying outloud and pleading with God. NO! NOT AGAIN to my family! Not that house. All the wedding things, everything my parents had worked for in their life. I prayed the fire would be put out before it reached the main part of the house. I prayed my dad was safe. I prayed Sarah's wedding dress could be saved. I prayed my mom would be safe getting there. I prayed for the fire fighters (volunteer fire department in the rural Ozark Mountains). I prayed and pleaded outloud. I called Tony and he came home.
About 25 minutes after my first call with my mother, she called back. I answered. She said, "It's all gone honey. Your dad is safe, but everything is gone. The whole house is enfulfed and I can see through it to the barn. There is nothing left. We have lost everything. " I started sobbing and even then, she said it would be okay. She told me not to come to Arkansas, but just to pray.
We hung up. I collapsed and cried. I couldn't believe it. How could this happen?
What I didn't know then... After calling 911, my dad ran back into the house several times to try and get things. He got his guns and Sarah's wedding dress. He emptied the kitchen trashcan and took photos off of the walls and filled it up as much as he could. He was going to go back in and it was smoky so he decided it was too risky. I am SO GLAD he didn't go back in the house. His life was spared.
It puts things into perspective again. I felt like my scars and scabs were ripped off and bleeding again. I was devastated for them, for us, for my siblings and my children. I was also thankful. I was in shock too. It's strange the series of emotions that can hit you in just a few moments.
The next week was filled with chaos pretty much. I started working frantically to try and recreate anything I could for the wedding. I made phone calls, sent emails and texts, and facebook messages. We borrowed things and bought things and thrifted items that we would need. Three of my Aunts showed up to help with anything that they could. People we knew and people we didn't know, rallied around us and provided meals, and money, and items from photo frames and vases, to plates, glasses and place cards. We worked hard, made memories we will never forget, and the wedding was absolutely perfect.
What do I do now? I know my parents were distracted and are now grieving. They are still dealing with the investigation of the cause of the fire, and insurance people. What a headache. I know (sadly, from experience) that they are going to need help for at least a year. Each new change of the weather will be heart ache for them. Holidays are going to be really rough. My parents home was the center of holiday gatherings for our family. This year, and probably many to come, will be different.
Their house was more than just walls. It was home. It was the home I grew up in. I remember the day we moved in, in December 1989. It was a cold day. We moved from California and I remember wondering "what in the world is this place?" It was a place my family could always go to and feel loved and comforted. After our fire (august 2012) it was a place we could go to and feel stable, the place that never changed-- Nonnie and Papa's house. It was home for my kids. It was security. My family is grieving another loss.
The main thing is that we are all so thankful my dad didn't die in that fire. He really could have. And, honestly... if my mother had been home she may have too. She probably would have tried to save everything she could. So, I'm thankful both of my parents are safe. I'm thankful that my parents taught us what to value in life. I'm thankful that this world is not our home, we are just here temporarily.
So, what do you do when someone you love loses everything too? Count your blessings, be positive, and pray. I may not know exactly what my parents need or what they are feeling, but I remember the pain I felt. I know God has a plan and purpose to everything. I know he is our healer and provider and comforter. I urge you to focus your effort and purpose on things that are eternal--things that matter. Everything will burn eventually, but no one can take our relationship with the Lord away. Tell people about HIS goodness and focus your life on things above.
For those of you who want to help, there is a gofund account set up. Please pray for my parents- Jon and Diane Alen. Please continue to pray for them in a month, in six months, in a year. The pain will still be healing.