There is a time and a place for everything under the sun (Ecclesiastes 3:1): a right place for time and how we allocate it, and a right place for money and how we use it, a right place for people, and a right place for everything else. If we don’t have these straight, life becomes a big mess.
And as much as God values time and money–and we ought to do the same–there is at least one value that matters more.
My house burned down to the ground in January 1994, and my family lost everything. Mind you, we were dirt poor at that point and still on food stamps, so we did not own very much of value, but still–all was gone. All we had left was each other, our car (because it was parked outside) and the clothes on our backs. Here is the article that I wrote at that time:
“Barb, the snow is glowing orange!” My husband’s voice sounded like an echo in a long tunnel. I tried to focus my eyes in the dark. The alarm clock said it was 1:46 am.
“The house is on fire!” he yelled, staring out of our bedroom window into the dark winter night.
“Fire?”That couldn’t be. That happened to other people, not to us. Besides, my husband has a tendency to overreact, or at least exaggerate.
“Just relax, Rich; it can’t be that bad,” I said, slowly sitting up in the bed.
“It’s the house, Barb!”The urgency in his voice shook me out of my drowsy state.“Get dressed and wake the kids up!” My stomach began to do somersaults.
“God, help us,” I prayed, wide awake now. I jumped out of bed and looked outside. Indeed, the snow was bright orange, and the orange was moving. I quickly slipped sweatpants and a sweater on.
“What should I take with me?” I asked, my heart pounding in my ears. I couldn’t think of anything.
“Just get the kids!”
I shook them awake and helped their sleepy bodies into socks and robes as fast as possible. As I hurried them down the stairs, my ten-year old daughter exclaimed, “Look, Mom, the fire is inside the house!”Flames were beginning to lick the ceiling in the living room. “Please, God, keep us safe!” I begged.
My legs were shaking a bit. “Quick, let’s go!” I said. We made it to the first floor, and I swiftly shoved boots onto their feet.“Let’s have a race to Betsie’s house; let’s go, guys!”I pushed them outside.
The painful cold bit us at the front door and took our breath away. I found out later that it had been 27 degrees below zero, the coldest night in decades. I rushed the kids to the neighbor’s and pounded on her door.“Please watch them,” I asked when she finally came. “The house is on fire! I’ve got to go back.” I noticed that I was shivering violently, but I no longer felt the cold.
“And call our friend Butch,” I added, hastily reciting his telephone number for her.
When I turned around to go back, I saw our lovely home—our place of refuge–engulfed by a hungry blaze. The loud, crackling sound of fire running rampant was deafening in the perfectly still January night.
“Rich, where are you?” I screamed.“Come out now!”Somehow as soon as I said the words, he was standing there, at my side.
“We’ll be all right Barb; God is good,” he said, hugging my trembling body.“The fire department should be here any moment.”
The entire second floor was gone already, and the voracious flames were now attacking the first floor. I suddenly remembered my children’s pictures and my husband’s love letters meticulously filed and stored in the old cedar chest. And my favorite worn-out Bible, the one I knew how to find things in. And my brand-new ring my mom had just sent from Europe for Christmas; why had I taken it off last night?
Trapped outside, I wished for tears, but my body was far too stunned for them. How will we survive? I wondered, as the insatiable blaze continued to feed on all I held dear.
Exhausted firefighters fought the blaze relentlessly, but to no avail. Our home was gone–utterly gone. And the fire scorched the very center of my heart.
Butch and his wife made room for us in their home, but sleep escaped me for three long nights. I tossed in bed, considering my many losses: my wedding gown, the pregnancy journal I had kept for my first-born, all my precious heirlooms from Europe; why hadn’t I thought about grabbing some of these as I left the house? Everything I loved was destroyed, swept away as though it had never existed.
“This is too much to bear, Lord,” I confessed.“Please help me through this.”Exhausted, I finally dozed on the fourth night.
The first thing I saw when I woke up the next morning was my husband’s face, gazing down at me in kindness. I heard my children giggle right behind him.
“Good-morning, Princess,” he said, his eyes smiling at me. The kids sprang from behind him and leaped onto the makeshift bed, faces filled with laughter and arms extended, thirsty for hugs and kisses. And it was at that moment, with little arms reaching around me to squeeze me and little hands poking my side that the Lord revealed this simple, precious truth to me: I had lost nothing. The fire had destroyed every single thing I owned; yet I had lost nothing!
“Thank you for life today, Father,” I whispered. I let myself hug and be hugged.
I am truly blessed to have learned one of life’s most important truths: people come first.
And you are welcome to join my closed facebook group where we dig in deep and find the joy of reclaiming our finances and time.