I thought the tornadoes and hail storms were all I could take in the way of natural disasters for the summer. But then, it got worse. I was at my orthodontist appointment in Utah and I saw smoke on my mountain. I called everyone at home but no one had seen it. I could barely see the road as I drove home, because the tears wouldn't stop flowing. We've had to deal with a fire on the mountain before, and I think all those emotions just came rushing back. By the time I got home, it was spreading fast right near my house. From my driveway:
Lizzy and I started panicking, and my dad (the calm one in the family) told us what items in the house we should start gathering. With heavy hearts, we loaded up important documents, photo albums, home-made pieced quilts by my mom and grandma, my grandpa's army suit, electronics, etc. Our dear friend, Val Goodrich came by and told us it was time to prep for an evacuation. A little while later, the bishop of our ward stopped by as he was making the rounds in our neighborhood. He said he had just gotten the official word that we needed to be out in 15 minutes.
Pretty soon after, my mom got home and helped us. A little later, Emily got home, (she was in town speaking at EFY), and then Jesse arrived. He lives in Salt Lake now but he rushed here and was able to help us get the boat out. We went to Melissa's in-laws in Alpine and just watched from their backyard.
It was really weird not knowing what to do with ourselves. There was nowhere we could really go or wanted to go, but we didn't want to just keep watching because it was too painful. Here is the view from our friend's house in Highland:
Fortunately we were able to stay at their house and I loved that we had a good view of the flames. I couldn't go very long without checking to see where the wind was pushing the flames.
On the 4th of July, we went to a movie near I-15 and this was the view from the theatre.
On the night of the 4th of July, we went back to our neighborhood for the annual bbq. Some of our neighbors had been let back in, so we gathered at their home. The feeling and tone of the whole event was much different than other years. Of couse we all just talked about the fire, who had been evacuated, where people were staying, when we would get back in, how we could help the fire-fighters, how it started, etc. It was so nice to be with such an awesome ward family. It felt like no one else could really understand what was happening and the feelings we were experiencing. Just another reason why I love my neighborhood.
The next morning, I had a flight back to Dallas. The fire was still going strong and we were still evacuated from our house. I couldn't sleep and I kept telling my mom that I could cancel my flight and I could stay. She reminded me that there was nothing I could really do, and it would be better to go and be able to think about something different. So I went outside before the others were awake and I just looked at the fire and prayed that our neighborhood would be ok. I have always been a believer in miracles, but nothing quite reaffirmed my faith by what I experienced next. Right as I was ending my prayer, I felt a rain drop on forehead. I was overjoyed. It truly was a miracle. It rained all through the day and stopped the flames from progressing near our home. That night, when I got back home in Dallas, my little sister sent me a text message with this picture.
Right as the sun was setting, the rain stopped and this double rainbow appeared right where the fire ended. It was absolutely amazing.
As I reflected on my experience of the fire and bore my testimony at church this Sunday, I came away with a few thoughts that I wanted to share. It's a bit personal, but I guess it's my blog so I can post whatever I feel like sharing.
1. I love belonging to a church who so readily cares for its members. I love that the organization allows for not only a way for my spiritual needs to be met, but also my temporal. We are assembled by geography and organized by a leader and an emergency coordinator. This is a beautiful thing.
2. I love being part of a family that didn't panic at the sign of an evacuation. Of course we had anxiety and didn't want to lose our home and possessions, but we were OK. We had each other, we had a few important belongings packed in our cars but we weren't worried about getting back in and getting that one more thing, etc. It was really lucky that we were all around to be there to help.
3. As I started packing things in my own room, this phrase kept running through my head, "The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away." As I put our photo albums in boxes and looked around at all the other things I was leaving, I truly looked at them in gratitude. It was as if I was saying, "Thank you for the pin collection I have collected in my travels. Thank you for the books that shaped my childhood. Thank you for the dolls that furthered my imagination." I was so grateful to feel peace at a scary moment. And how glad I am to know that whatever happens to me is indeed God's will. From the experiences I have, to the people I get to associate with, to the stuff that fills my environment.
I have since been back to my house since the evacuation and let me just say, few moments in my life have compared to the feeling I had when I was able to walk back into my home. I hugged the couches. I stroked the floor. I spent more time in the backyard. I observed more of the details of my neighborhood when we took walks. I am so glad to have a home. I guess now I am technically supposed to say my parent's house, but it will always be my home no matter where I am.
Thanks for your thoughts and prayers during the fire.