Paradise and the Camp Fire

Camp Fire

“Mom, you have to see the sky!”

I stood in my PJ’s watching the horrifying black cloud crawling through the skyline from our upstairs windows, fear and helplessness overcoming me.

I rushed downstairs and hopped onto my computer to see if I could learn of it’s cause, a fire had begun in Pulga and was rapidly heading up to Paradise. My heart sunk.

Here I sat in my living room less than 25 minutes away from so many who were in danger and there was absolutely nothing I could physically do to help them.

I started listening to the online scanner of the ongoing efforts made by the incredibly brave men and women who were present and I began to pray, fervently.

Tears poured down my face as I listened to the words pouring forth…

Children still at school.

A woman needing assistance who had gone into labor, a high risk pregnancy.

Traffic not moving as the fire raged.

Cars being abandoned.

People fleeing on foot.

Vehicles catching on fire.

Everyone working on just trying to get everyone out.

I felt ill. I thought of every single person trapped in those moments and I prayed again and again and again.

I started to check facebook and began seeing people posting of being trapped around the flames, uncertain if they would make it out. It wasn’t long before the pictures started surfacing of the charred and abandoned vehicles. I was undone and I could not wrap my mind around the reality of the horror.

November 8th, 2018. A date that most in this area will never forget, a date that will be seared into some souls like a branding mark. The day that Paradise, CA burned and tragedy struck.

So many have lost every earthly possession that they had. Too many lost their very lives.

As I write this I am watching as people are walking humbly by with food in their arms, given by a shelter a block from my home. The home we wondered if we would loose as the fire headed toward Chico, our home that still stands, and I am struck again by an overwhelming feeling of helplessness. But we are not helpless despite the feelings that may pervade us.

My heart has broken for all of these precious people; my neighbors, my friends.

God can do a lot with a broken heart though.

In fact, I am amazed as I watch so many people and businesses work hard to help, pour, serve, and love in anyway that they are able.

This is the beauty in the ashes.

The stories pouring forth make me weep anew at how beautiful it is when people lay it all on the line for each other.  And so we keep praying, we keep showing up, we keep pressing in, we keep serving, we keep connecting, we keep talking and listening and holding our dear brothers and sisters as the next weeks and months unfold. We give, and we lay ourselves out. We CAN help. While no one person can do everything, together everyone can do something and that is profound.

This is love in the unspeakably hard places.

 

Time Hop

Rachelle age 15, Ariana age 14, Emily age 1

A photo can act like a time machine set on mute. In a instant it can send you through time, replaying different moments and scenes, sometimes even playing on your senses–but you can do nothing but watch.

Welcome to 2005, near the beginning of our parenthood story. A time of optimism and naivete, a time of hope and hard, and a time when I still didn’t realize I could never be a savior. Of course, at 25, that is NOT how I would have worded it–it would have sounded more like, “If we love enough, work hard enough, fight for enough THEN…the story will FOR SURE have a happy ending.”

Sometimes I have to remind myself that it is not yet the end…

That when hope lies deferred and my heart grows sick that God is still able…

That even though I have no answers to a long list of why’s it is all still worth it.

Sometimes I have to remind myself several times a day.

But woven through the hard is the beautiful–gleaming like Christmas tinsel among the darkened tattered places…

This cheap wally world studio shot is our first family photo. I remember trying to find matching clothes for two teens and a toddler, being frustrated but excited that I even had the opportunity at all.

I remember Ariana and Rachelle allowing me to curl and braid their hair for the very first time–humoring me in my desire to dress them up like dolls (see age 25).

I remember staring at them while the photo was shot, overcome with emotion, and in awe of how beautiful all three of them were. They were not yet officially ours at the time of this photo…that would be a long road…yet they were ours. They were already sealed in our hearts, forever.

I remember whispering to God, “please let me be their mom, let there be no more good-byes, not because I am deserving but because I know the love I have for them only you could create.”

And I remember the whisper of that moment: then you will become a fierce warrior…

and I have been learning how to fight for them ever since.

Love Wins

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I don’t remember the first person who told me about God.  I was invited to many churches and heard many things during the first 12 years of my life.  I didn’t doubt there was a God because I knew there was evil. For some, that is a stumbling block–the problem of evil–for me, it was proof.  If there was evil, but not ALL was evil then there MUST be the opposite and that opposite was God. He was just an idea until junior high; an idea that I wrestled with often.

My first memory of evil was when I was 4.  He was 15 years old and promised it would be “fun” but that I would get into big trouble if I told.  I would ride to school with that evil for years. There were so many moments of evil in that first decade of my life that I could never doubt its existence.  It crossed gender lines and age limits; it knew no bounds.

But God?  What about him?

If you had come to me and told me I was going to hell, I would have laughed and told you I was already there.  If you would have tried to explain to me that I was a sinner, I would have shaken my head and asked you to tell me something I didn’t already know.

When you live in the darkness you need not be reminded of its presence….you need to know that there is light.

Love.  Just as I was, right where I was, I needed love to wrap around me and promise to walk with me as it changed me.  And it DID change me…one bit at a time.

That is the Jesus I know–he meets you where you are, as you are, and calls you to himself.  People can represent him imperfectly, but they will never replace him. And so, my 7th grade year, several circled ‘round me -for a time- to represent him, his love.  Their love was beyond my understanding. Yet, I was SO hungry for it.

Love won me.

True love always wins, in the end–not the love offered by the world, that is temporary and conditional– but true love.  Love that gets down in the gutter where you live and raises you up, and then holds on, without end– THAT is the good news. That he loves us, and took it all upon himself to save us and he never, ever let’s go.

What are you known for?

The truth and love are not enemies, you don’t have to trade one for another, in my experience they go hand in hand.  After-all, wasn’t that what Jesus modeled?