A few years back, when we were pastoring in Virginia I was in a tornado. I was truly almost killed and so I remember how I had to talk about it to help process it. It was therapeutic.
I thought maybe you, my bloggy friends, wouldn't mind being my sounding board this morning. I am hoping that talking can help to begin me to process it and help with the grieving and begin the healing.
I have to back up quite a few years though so that you can understand what all this means to me. My mother was in three fires when she was a girl. It turns out that her dad (my grandpa) was setting the fires to collect insurance. He was not a nice man and even told my mom and grandma to go lay down because "nothing was wrong" after he had set one of the fires. It appears he hoped that they would perish.
That being said, my mom talked often about the fires when I was growing up and I am became very fire conscious. Almost every single night of my life I think about escape routes being clear. I think about stuff being in front of doors at night. I move stuff off the stairs. I move stuff away from the top of stairs. I think about what I would do if there was a fire. And I buy smoke alarms. I have (well they are melted beyond recongition now) a collection of smoke alarms upstairs on top of the book shelves. If I heard of someone who didn't have one I would give it to them. I have given many, many away.
I was talking to one of our staff pastors, Mark, yesterday about this "giving smoke alarms away" as our house was burning and he smiled and said, "Linn you gave us two." Totally forgot. Yes, I had given them two.
When I sent a care package to Bill and Lynsay in China I enclosed one or two smoke alarms (can't remember) and a carbon monoxide alarm.
I have given them to kids who are my kids friends when I hear that they don't have one in their home and I ALWAYS ask when our kids are invited to spend the night at someone's home if they have a smoke alarm and is it working properly??
And I have prayed many, many, many, many times, "Lord, please don't let our home ever have a fire."
So with that as a backdrop....
We have a security system in our home. Just a few years ago I had a man stalking me. We had just moved here to pastor (literally days before) when he saw me and started stalking me. He eventually entered our home. He was up to evil and we had to go get a permanent protective order. At the court hearing he was clear that he was waiting for the PERMANENT protective order to end so he could come "talk to me" again. It is another Memorial Box Monday story, for another day, but suffice it to say that that is why we had a security system installed in our little log home.
On the security system there was a smoke alarm. To me it was a "back-up" since we had several other smoke alarms that we had put up. Well when we were in California at Abby and Ryan's for Thanksgiving we got a call that the alarm company was saying that there was an error with our smoke alarm. It happened several times and eventually we had to call our neighbor and ask if he could come and unhook it.
We returned from Thanksgiving and three days later I left for Africa. We didn't even think about the alarm (after all we had several battery operated ones around).
I returned from Africa on December 18th and we had two new babies and Christmas and New Years and somewhere in there I had a dream. I woke up with a start. I dreamed that our home had burned down. Because of Africa, the babies, Christmas, etc., I don't know exactly when that dream was, but I do know that it was probably about 2-3 weeks ago. I woke up and started praying. I was exhausted and don't remember much, other than I prayed and prayed (once again) that our home would not be lost to fire. I should have taken note because I had never dreamed that our home had burned down before.
Somewhere around this past Saturday night I again dreamed that our home burned down. When I awoke I felt such an urgency that we needed to get that alarm system fixed, re-hooked up and ready to go. Dw was about to leave for his prayer retreat and on Sunday I asked him to please call Kyle about coming to fix the alarm.
Dw called him on Monday morning. Infact, a couple of posts ago I mentioned Kyle coming. Well Kyle is our electrician and owns the Alarm company. He is a tender hearted young man and he said he would come first thing Tuesday. Before lunch he had come and gone having fixed the smoke alarm hooked to the Alarm Company system. I was thankful he came before lunch because that afternoon I had to take Emmy and Graham in to town to band practice.
Emmy and Graham are on the worship team and I drove them in to band practice. I thought, since Dw was away, why not have some fun? I took the four little ones to the grocery store and bought stuff for subs. When I went back to pick up the big kids we decided to go picnic upstairs in the conference room. Because THEN we were going to go to dollar scoop night at Baskin Robbins.
I didn't eat any ice cream because I was beginning to feel uneasy. I can't explain it, but I knew something was wrong.
When we got home I got the babies jammied and into bed. In the meantime Emma had been spearheading (on her own) a major clean-up by the kids in the kitchen/living room. I came out and was so thankful. It looked awesome. Sparkling clean. I thanked the kids. I have awesome kids.
When Liberty and Isaiah were tucked in I was in the kitchen and I said to Emma, "I don't know what it is honey, but I feel so uneasy." I can't say when I have ever said that. I felt so uneasy. I actually said it to her a couple of times that evening.
Emma and Graham were Facebooking and I was on my computer and eventually around midnight I went to bed. Before long I was awoke to a steady beeping. I had a hard time waking, since I hadn't been asleep long and went downstairs to see what was up. It was the smoke alarm that Kyle had fixed. I kind of stumbled around, still very sleepy and thought it must just not really be fixed and that I had better call Kyle in the morning and they probably should just replace it. I went back to bed and wondered why the alarm company hadn't called because it had beeped probably more than a minute (they call after one minute of any alarm to see if everything is okay.)
About two hours later I woke up again to the smoke alarm going off. I went down again. And again, before long it stopped.
I woke up again around six to it going off again. I got my bathrobe on to check it out and also spend some time alone with the Lord. I love my early morning times with my precious Lord with the whole house asleep. He has ALWAYS been soooo faithful to me.
But this time the alarm didn't just quit. So I got a photo album and started fanning it. I thought how weird it was that the alarm company didn't call. I kind of smelled some smoke coming from the laundry room so I went down there to look. Yes, it smelled like there was smoke in there. But the alarm had quit. I went to build a fire.
We heat our home with hot water baseboard, but mostly the wood stove. Within minutes the alarm started going off again. I looked at the clock. It was about 6:15am. I tried to think of someone I could call to come and see if there was a problem.
Within a minute or two it was really going off. I went back to the laundry room and got down on my knees next to the box that heats the water for the baseboard. It is an old box, but I distinctly remember the home inspection man tapping it and saying, "This thing will last forever. It's old, but they never give out." So as I looked under the box (it is raised off the floor a couple of inches) I saw that there were two little trails of smoke inside heading up. I thought, "that's weird, I wonder if that is normal?" I ran back out to fan the smoke alarm cause I didn't want to wake the babies.
I looked at the clock and thought, "I will call Dw at 7. He is so exhausted and I don't want to wake him out of a sound sleep." I tried to think of someone who could come and see if they thought those little trails of smoke were normal. (I am kicking myself. How could I have been so silly? I should have called 911 right then. Please, dear friends, learn from my mistake.)
So for the next 40 minutes I stood fanning the smoke alarm which was now going off steadily. I kept looking at the clock waiting for 7 to call Dw. Then I noticed that there seemed to be smoke I could see near the laundry room door. It was almost 7. Only a couple of more minutes. I also couldn't figure out why the alarm company hadn't called.
At 7 I dialed Dw. He had been sound asleep. I told him what was going on and in his sleepy stupor he told me to turn some dial off. I had no clue what he was talking about. I went down to look at the hot water baseboard box in the laundry room. I couldn't figure it out. He was still on the phone with me and then the alarm started beeping faster. NONE OF THE OTHER ALARMS IN OUR HOME WERE BEEPING OR BLARING - ONLY THE ALARM KYLE HAD FIXED!! So I ran to wave the photo album at it. It stopped. I ran (still on the phone) back to the laundry room and this time when I opened the door there was lots of smoke. I yelled to Dw, "Oh Dw! I have to call 911 there is so much smoke." I hung up on him. I ran for the house phone (which I found in my hand) and ran back to the laundry room. At this time I entered the laundry room and saw the flames. The floor was on fire!!
The 911 operator answered and said, "What is the address of your emergency?" I tried to speak clearly and told her. Then I said, "I am home alone. My husband is out of town and I have SIX children sleeping. I have to hang up."
She said, "I can't understand you."
I said, "I - AM - HOME - ALONE....MY HUSBAND IS OUT OF TOWN....THERE ARE FLAMES IN MY HOUSE...I HAVE SIX CHILDREN SLEEPING....PLEASE COME AS FAST AS YOU CAN.
She said, "I cannot understand you. What is your emergency?"
I repeated myself - enunciating every word as slowly as I could yet knowing there were now flames, the laundry room floor was on fire and the babies were asleep right next to the laundry room.
Right next to the flames is the hot water tank. I wondered if a gas hot water tank can blow up? (I still have no clue, but I guessed that time was of the essence.) I was getting frantic.
After repeating myself that second time she again said (to someone near her): "I cannot understand her."
At that point I began to feel hysterical. Why could she not understand me? I was repeating things slowly and enunciating carefully.
Another lady came on the phone, she said, "Are you trying to report a house fire?" Oh my gracious I really got hysterical....my house is on fire, I can see the flames and they can't understand me. (In hind site our home phone is muffly, so maybe that's why...cause although I talk fast anyway, I was enunciating as slow as possible every word.)
I am so panicked even as I type this. The emotion was so powerful and I was desperate for them to understand.
I, again, as slowly as possible repeated the same thing. "MY HOUSE IS ON FIRE. I AM HOME ALONE. MY HUSBAND IS OUT OF TOWN. I HAVE SIX CHILDREN SLEEPING. I HAVE TO WAKE THEM AND GET THEM OUT."
She seemed to understand and said, "Stay on the line." I screamed crying, "I CAN'T - I HAVE TO GET MY BABIES.' and i hung up on her.
I ran down the hallway: Boys door first on the left - Girls directly door across the hall on the right - I was banging the doors and screaming, "Get up, get up, get your coats on...help me get the babies...get up..get coats on...grab some blankets..get coats on..get the babies..the house is on fire..." The bathroom door is next on the right and next on the left was the babies room. Across from the babies room is the laundry room. I opened the door and the smoke was choking me.
I ran back to the phone and called Dw (although I don't remember this). I said, "The house is on fire." He threw his stuff in the car and ran toward the cabin owners, yelling, "My home is on fire." and he sped toward home (which is about an hour and a half away.)
I could not find my purse. My cell phone was completely dead. I frantically ran around the kitchen/living room trying to think what to do. Emma and Graham were getting the babies coats on. Liberty was crying hysterically. I yelled at her, "You can't get hysterical you must think - get your shoes on and your coat." I had no idea where Isaiah was.
All the while the ONLY smoke alarm that was blaring was the one that Kyle had fixed less than 24 hours before!! (Yes this is a Memorial Box story and I will have to think about what to put in our Memorial Box as a symbol of God prompting us to have Kyle fix the only alarm that worked.) If you are new to A Place Called Simplicity here is the background on a Memorial Box.
Seriously, I could not have done it without my big kids. They could think much clearer than I. I couldn't find my purse and I needed my keys so we could start the car for the kids to stay warm. It was no where.
Graham appeared with our handheld fire extinguisher. He went with me to the laundry room and on the way we realized the extinguisher wouldn't work. Dw had mentioned flour so I ran to the kitchen for flour. I know how rural we live and knew that the trucks would take awhile to get here. I thought (foolishly) that maybe I could slow the flames.
Emma was with me this time and as I opened the door we saw the flames leaping and the smoke was so thick. I closed the door. I then yelled to Graham, "Do you think I should try to run through the laundry room and open the outside door of the laundry room?"
I again, opened the hall laundry room door and the smoke made me choke and cough and it was more than difficult to see. To go through to try to open the door would be stupid. And now, in hind sight, how could I have been so stupid to think that I should open the door? My house was on fire, a broken door in the back was not going to hurt anything.
It must be part of denial. I was already thinking that we would be back in our home in a few hours...and Dw would have to repair a broken door....it would be maybe a little smokey. What a ridiculous thought!!
Somewhere in there 911 called and I guess one of the kids answered. I didn't talk to them but yelled to the kids to tell them to 'hurry up'. She said that they were in route.
I had a nightgown and bathrobe on so I ran to my room to get a pair of sweatpants. I couldn't find any. I ran back and forth trying to think of a pair of pants I could pull on. It has been about 1 degee in the mornings when I had last looked. It was bitter. I ran back downstairs to see where the kids were.
I looked around. I wondered if I should try to get my photo albums from upstairs. I didn't know but Graham ran upstairs to start carrying them down....but the smoke up in the loft was so bad he couldn't breathe.
Emma finally found my purse (she had put it away in the cleaning the night before). The kids were in the car. I couldn't think of what to take and I was so concerned that the gas tank would blow up.
I ran out of the house and made sure the kids were in the car. And then we sat and waited for the fire department. Smoke was coming out the back of the house. In a minute or two smoke was coming out of the crawl space vents. In another minute it was pouring out. Just pouring and pouring.
I made some phone calls. I called Tiffany to see if she could bring diapers to Kims. Tiffany answerd her cell all chipper...I was hysterical. I tried calling Kim (friend and neighbor) to see if the kids could come there. I called Jo (as of JoJo) my dear old friend who has been through thick and thin with me since I was young. I knew she would pray. I was sobbing and sobbing and wondering what was taking so long as I watch my home burn and smoke fill the air. I called Bill and Lynsay, but they didn't answer. I called our grown kids. I called, Chelsea, my prayer partner who is away because her husband's job has taken him out of state.....Many didn't answer...so I'm sure I sounded like a hysterical nutcase while I was leaving them a message. I then called Lori and asked her to put it on my blog so our sweet friends around the world would be on their knees for our home to be saved. I knew you guys would pray and I don't say this lightly..I love you all. I wish I could personally thank you for praying for us through the fire, through Uganda and through our sons upcoming depl*yment. You guys are the best - how gracious of God to give us such wonderful friends here in our church, community and bloggy community.
When I realized I didn't have diapers for the babies, clothes, anything, I felt so unprepared. It is starting to make me cry just thinking about it. It is just so weird to have your home burn up. Simple things we take for granted, just gone. I eventually wanted to brush my teeth. No toothbrush. I wanted to put boots on. Inside and gone. Yes, these all can be replaced; BUT it is overwhelming to this mama to even think of going to the store and getting 8 toothbrushes, deoderant, diapers, underwear, clothes, floss; much of it dumb stuff but all necessary.
When the first person arrived on the scene it was the sheriff. He was very nice and so concerned that the kids were all out. (Yes, Nelly was safe in the car, as was Polly.) I assured him they were all in the car. A firetruck arrived next, and like I said it got completely stuck in the narrow plowed drive that is embanked with snow. They could not move it. They started laying hose around the truck and had to set up a pool at the road which they had to fill with a pump truck from a neighboring pond I guess. The set up pool was about the size of a long backyard pool. Before long 15 fire trucks were there lining our country road. The smoke was pouring out and they were carrying oxygen tank after tank from the road back to our little log home.
Dw arrived about an hour later. He had sped as fast as he could. As he approached an intersection about a mile from our home he looked in the direction of our home and saw the huge cloud of smoke billowing up into the sky and said, "Oh no! THat's our home!"
Our neighbor, Curt, was wonderful. He loaned me a coat and hat. Friends of ours started arriving: Mark (one of our staff pastors), Jerry, Durango Joe (owns several local coffee shops), Terry, Pat, Dane. Thank you gentlemen for holding up our arms.
We watched as fireman/woman after fireman/woman came out of our home took off their mask, red-faced and coughing and spitting junk out. They would switch tanks and go back in again.
I asked the Fire Chief if he thought they would save the house? I held my breath. I wanted him to say, "yes, no problem. Everything is going to be fine." He didn't. (I guess they only do that in movies.) He said, "I don't know. I am concerned for the safety of my people. I am concerned that they will be trapped in the crawl space. There is a danger that the floors will collapse." (Which they did in the hall and laundry room.)
The kids were taken early on to Kim's. My sweet friend Jill went to Kim's as well to help care for all the kids. Carie showed up at Kim's with donuts and chocolate milk for all the kids - oh and stuffed animals. Little did the kids know that their treasured stuffed animals and dollies were all burning up. Carie then came and held my hand and cried with me. Deb came and checked on our horse Daisy. Someone came and got Daisy and took them to their barn for us.
Friends started texting and calling. The news had traveled fast. Seth called the Christian Radio station here and was put on the air asking the Christian community to pray because our home was burning down at that very moment. Dw and I have ministered here now for almost five years and people in our community started praying. Prayer chains were mobilized *tears welling* - oh how thankful we are.
After two hours the fire was still going. I called some to keep praying. The fire captain said that there were multiple fires still in the crawl space that they were having trouble getting to them. Eventually they were put out.
Hours later we were allowed to go in our home. Like I said in yesterday's post, it appears that the inside is a total loss. The outside we are not sure.
We have to find a rental. Please pray that God will give us clear direction. We have to find furniture. Being a Mom of Many it is not so easy to outfit beds for eight people. Don't forget we have no sheets...and no spare sheets incase someone throws up or has an accident. Like who thinks of that when there is a fire??
We went to see the kids at Kim's eventually. Elizabeth looked at me (sucking her thumb) as if to say, "I am not sure what is going on, but are you leaving me here for good?" I scooped her up and told her over and over how much I loved her and that I was her Mama FOREVER! She started to smile. She seemed relieved.
We went to Seth and Maria's to stay the night. By the time we got there to shower and for me to get out of my nightgown and robe (it was now 2 in the afternoon) there on the couch in the living room was a set of clothes for each of us. Jogging suit for me with underwear and even a bra in my size. I was so thankful. The ladies from our church had already been shopping and had picked out an outfit for each of us. Thank you: Irma, Sara, Linn(same name and same spelling as me!). Kim and Martin brought us dinner.
There is so much more I need to say. But I am feeling a bit sleepy. I will try to go sleep for a bit. We are going at 9:30 am to begin doing an inventory of the contents of the house. We have masks to wear as it smells horrible. We will need to get some gloves as everything is black with soot. We have to sift and count what's there and take pictures of everything.
Your prayers are not only needed, but deeply appreciated. Thank you for all of you who posted it on your blog to ask people to pray. We are truly humbled by your love. Please pray that the babies will know peace and that this disruption will not interrupt bonding. Thank you so much!
We stand in awe of God's Faithfulness in Allowing us to Be Prompted to Fix (less than 24 hours before the fire erupted) ONLY smoke alarm that would work....
HE, again, is our Miracle-Working, Mountain-Moving, Awe-Inspiring, Gasp-Giving God - we continue to PRAISE HIS NAME - though our world, as we knew it, has drastically changed - He is completely faithful but oh how desperately we need your love, kind words and prayers!