Recently, I started co-facilitating An "Aspiring Writer's Forum" on Wednesday nights at my church. We gather together in our church library and after a topic is presented, we journal on it for ten minutes and then share with each other our inspirations. We have created a short story already, all adding our own endings or versions, We encourage and teach writing skills and present challenges for the next week. Our class is full and we are blessed and feel the presence of the Holy Spirit moving us all to share our stories and bring Glory to God who has seen us all through many different journeys. I am privileged, along with my friend Linda to be able to be serving God in this way, using the gifts he has given us. This last week, I shared an old story (well not that old really) I had written about the day when our house caught fire. The subject we were to write about was "changing seasons". I am going to post it here now, so you all can read it as well. I did not think of doing this until Friday morning of this week when I was awakened by the news of a potential garage fire once again. Thursday night going into Friday morning God made sure that this family and our very dear close friends whom we share a wall with, (we live in a townhouse) would not have to experience a fire. Without going into detail...a smoke filled garage (my neighbor's) and a few sparks from the back of a dryer at 4:00 in the morning could have been tragic. But the God whom we serve, protected us that morning. We were able to pray together and thank Him for an averted disaster.
Ronda and Raul Jordan and Dylan
James 1:2-6 Consider it all joy my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
At the time of our fire in '03, there was no way I could understand why, but I chose to seek Him and find out. The following three years were very difficult. The restoration project though, was not my home, but myself and I praise Him for showing me that.
Do you feel like you can't find God for the smoke in the air? Is there something in your life you need to "kick to the curb?" I hope you will avert an eternal disaster. It may just be a small spark, a bit of stubbornness, a habit hard to break, peer pressure, busyness...whatever...If God is trying to get your attention, be on the safe side; leave a nice space for Him in your heart, and you will become shiny and brand new, equipped with an everlasting guarantee!
Here is my fire story; a sad day in the VanTilburg family life, but a time I can look back on and say I needed a restoration from God in my heart, I needed some right perspective and priorities... and although there were many painful and disappointing days, God rebuilt hope into my life.
S.A.D.: A S.anta A.na D.ay
That "pre" Santa Ana wind feeling was present in the air; brightness, clarity and a smell that is earthy yet electric. Thanksgiving was in two days, so this weather is expected. By mid morning, the winds will be rushing down the pass, through the valleys and over the hills to the ocean. Tumbleweeds and garbage would be gathering up against fences and layers of dirt would find its way onto the windowsills. Truckers would huddle under overpasses waiting it out or if some braved it, they could easily find themselves blown over, looking like so many dead farm animals waiting for "pick-up."
I began my day like any other, busily doing household chores while getting ready for work.
"Corey, do me a favor hon." "Please take that basket of laundry out to the garage."
My son is home from school, instead, electing to do independent study through the high school. He is in his senior year.
I glance at the clock, and I need to leave for work in twenty minutes. I dislike the Santa Anas; another too warm Thanksgiving, and all that dirt. My thoughts drift towards my mother who had died three years ago on Thanksgiving Day.
"Please Lord, I pray, get me through this month of November." "I just need your grace today..."
Cancer had pirated my father's lymph nodes and blood cells twenty-one years ago, taking him one week before the "big feast." My oldest son, Tim, was diagnosed with kidney disease in the fall of his fourth year, and these Santa Ana winds just whip up the layer of sadness of these life-changing seasons in my life.
"I am just going to get this laundry switched and then get to work," I am thinking, as I dump the basket beside the appliances.
The garage is a wood workers workshop, but not the kind you would see on television. There are stains and staining rags lying around and a lot of sawdust amongst unfinished projects. The combination of the stain smell, the sawdust and the November air is warm and pungent and I can feel my sinus tighten up for a sneeze.
I start the dryer, head for the house to grab my purse. "Bye Corey." "Call Rodney for a ride, or maybe I’ll come at lunch.
Corey heads down the hall to the bedroom where a "morning nap" is his plan. Like a cat, he is soon curled up with the TV as the wind begins to rattle the windows.
"Coleene", my supervisor says, "Pick up the phone, it is an emergency."
"Hello," I say, as the nerves in my body begin to do their dance in my stomach.
"It's Connie, hon." "You need to come home; your house is on fire." "Corey is OK.”
As I race through the parking lot, and into the streets breaking traffic laws, I think..."Lord, it's November, of course..." The prayer stops as I look up, see the massive gray smoke out my windshield, and approach my barricaded street.
There are massive amounts of people, and fire trucks, but I am searching for Corey. "There he is, safe with the dog." Big tears are rolling down the cheeks of this six foot, 280-pound football tackle. He hugs me tightly and we are crying. He begins to babble on how he was asleep. Rodney, his best friend since Kindergarten, woke him up, and how they had tried to extinguish the fire with the garden hose to no avail.
The firefighter approached me; my cat "Puff" in his arms. "Ma'me, she sustained some smoke inhalation but we gave her oxygen...get her to your vet right away." "Thank you, thank you,” I say, as I cuddle my frightened kitty.
I make those necessary phone calls, and then through my tears looked up to see the destroyed garage, my smoldering roof and broken windows. What remains are the lingering clean-up crews, the yellow caution tape, looky-loos and vulture insurance adjusters. I begin to come to my senses as my own "smoke" begins to clear.
"OK Lord, you have my attention." ...about that grace I asked for this morning...did my prayer get stuck in some tree like a grocery bag after the Santa Anas?"
The winds die with the twilight, but my journey towards restoration and a grounded walk with God had begun that November day. The winds of change can bring renewal and refreshment when you begin to surrender to the Source.
Psalm 46:1-3 “God is our refuge and our strength, a present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth should change, and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.”
The actual fire was 11-25-03
C. VanTilburg 7/28/07