“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven;” Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NKJV)
There have been few moments in my life where I could feel my world change. Often, when I thought it should feel that way, life hasn’t—like my college graduation day or my wedding. Yet the day my house burned down, on February 19th this year, I knew things would be forever changed. I felt it in every adrenaline-heavy nerve in my body—a sense of finality, like death.
I stood coatless at the end of my parents’ driveway, clutching my puppy tightly in my arms to keep him warm from the biting winter air. My younger brother stood beside me in a tank-top, basketball shorts and slippers staring, like I was staring, at our flame-engulfed home.
“It’s gone…” He said, his voice breaking. “Isn’t it?”
I couldn’t look at him because I didn’t want him to see the shimmer of tears in the corner of my eye that I was fighting so desperately to control.
“Yeah…” I said in barely more than a whisper. “Everything’s gone.”
A firefighter strolled passed us as if he were walking leisurely in a park, but I felt no anger. I hardly even noticed. My eyes never left the black-winged flames that licked thirty feet into the air from the upstairs windows of my parents’ bedroom. After nearly thirty years of being married, and nearly twenty years of working themselves raw to reach the level of success they now enjoyed, they had collected quite a few things for themselves. Strangely, though, the first thing I thought of was a relatively inexpensive stained glass trinket my mom kept from the first Valentine’s Day my parents shared. Just a few days before she had told me the story with a shimmer to her own eyes because the trinket, although relatively worthless in terms of money, meant a great deal to her. I kept thinking now it was gone, and she could never again look at the picture of the bear with a tender stroke of her thumb while she relived fond memories of my father.
“I burned down our home… Sis. I just burned down our home.” Jake said to me. He began to cry again and my heart ached. Jake was a tough kid. He’d been through a lot in life and rarely shed a tear. To see him like this, so defeated and hopeless, was almost enough to shatter my flimsy control. What could I tell him? Nothing I could say would ever be able to fix this. Nothing I could say would change what happened that day or his part in it. I could already see the guilt eating away at his soul.
After almost a month, it didn’t seem to get easier. Between battling with an insensitive and tactless insurance adjuster, and having to physically catalogue our life on an excel spreadsheet breaking the years and memories down to dollars and cents, everyone was on edge and at each other’s throats. If it wasn’t nightmares about the fire keeping my mother and I up, we would be up at night sick with worry about the tension between my father and Jake that boiled just beneath the surface. Although we kept telling ourselves everything was okay, that starting over was really a chance to reimagine our lives, I wasn’t sure there was ever going to be a light at the end of the impossibly long, dark tunnel.
Yet, if I have learned anything from my continually metamorphic life, it is that nature seeks a state of balance and God isn’t a cruel unjust god who takes comfort in the suffering of his people. He gives when he takes away.
On March 16, we finally spotted the light at the end of the tunnel. My husband and I learned that we were going to have our first child. We wanted a family since the day we decided to spend the rest of our lives together, but this pregnancy was unplanned and came as quite a pleasant shock to us. My parents had wanted to be grandparents for several years, and with having two children older than me, they expected to be. But life happens according to God’s schedule. Seeing that positive test staring back at me sounded like a message from God saying, “I have not forsaken you. From this sorrow I will make new life.”
The pain from what we lost in the fire still stings when we find ourselves remembering, but the news of the baby makes it easier to move forward and I believe God knew it would. We fell down, but God is here to help us back to our feet. My husband and I are currently looking at names that mean gift or blessing because out of this time of deep sorrow—almost quite literally out of the ashes—God has blessed us with the greatest gift of all: life. For all things there is a season. A season to mourn and a season to rejoice. Today, we choose to rejoice.
Amy San Nicolas