Thank you all for your sweet comments on my last post. I am just now getting to update, although most of you I'm sure have heard the stories by now and have seen and been a part of the overwhelming support! You are all so generous and giving and my family is forever grateful.
Thursday is a day that lives were changed forever; my aunt Amanda lost her home and everything she owned, minus a laptop, a Disney World photo album, and a picture of her kids' hands that was given to her on Mother's Day about 7 years ago; these were the 3 things she managed to grab while leaving the house. Only 45 minutes later, everyone watched as her beautiful home came crashing to the ground. Everything in it. Gone. In an instant.
I am glad I was not at home (as in Florence) during the actual fire. I just don't think I could take seeing something like that. I can't imagine how it felt for Amanda, her husband, and their 3 children (Annsley, 13; Ann Marie, 10; and sweet Charlie, 7). Amanda and Chad, thankfully, were the only ones home at the time. Charlie was riding the tractor with my Grandaddy and the girls were being picked up at school by my other aunt, Kristi, who also lives on the Compound. I am so, so thankful that the fire did not start during the night; the fireman said it happened so quickly that it is likely that no one would have made it out of the house. That is unbearable to even think about, so I just praise God that it happened during the day.
I was able to go up the next morning (Friday) and spend time with the family all day Friday and Saturday, and there was an overwhelming sense of peace and gratitude amidst the obvious devastation. There were so many people who came to support Amanda; friends from church who immediately showed up just to be there; friends who brought food; people immediately showed up with clothing and donations, and within a few hours Charlie man had new work boots, a new tractor & excavator collection, and even a pair of Crocs! The girls were able to go to Target with some sweet angel friends and buy necessities. All day Friday we saw people giving, giving, giving, and it was truly amazing to see such love for my family.
Here are some of the things that I don't want to forget:
-There were 2 young men who showed up at the beginning of the fire and they asked if the cars were in the garage; my grandaddy told them yes, but that they couldn't go in, but they ran into the smoke-filled garage anyway and backed my aunt and uncle's 2 vehicles out. They asked if there was anything else they could do, and then they left a short time later. We don't know who they were.
-When the house was ablaze, there were about 6 fire departments called in to help. During all of this, a lady showed up with a bag of hamburgers from McDonald's for the firemen. A little act of kindness that will be forever remembered. Another man showed up with a box of frozen corn dogs and a bag of frozen french fries. Said his wife didn't have time to cook. He just did what he could do; no one asked him to do anything at all. He just showed up. Blows my mind!
-There was a man who came to my grandparents' house afterwards and handed my aunt $100 cash. No one knew who he was, and he said he didn't know anyone involved. He told my aunt that his house has burned a year ago and that he "knew how she felt." He handed her the money. And then he was gone.
-Charlie, on Friday morning, made a list on his yellow legal pad of things they "needed" to build a new house. The first things on his list were windows and doors. Bless him.
-Charlie was also convinced that the house-building crew was going to come first thing Friday morning and build them a new house. Mom said it was so sweet listening to him talking about it. They told him they'd have to wait until it quit smoking. Saturday morning he woke up and said, "I think it quit smoking, now. I guess we can build our house today." I love him! It'll happen before you know it, Charlie man!
-A lady from down the street that knows our family showed up with a Target bag full of new excavators, bull dozers, tractors, etc. for Charlie.
-The photographer who took all of Amanda's children's portraits happened to still have all the negatives and is going to replace all of her photos and framed prints. :)
-The 8th grade class (Annsley's class) took up a collection of over $700 on Friday alone and used some of it to buy the entire family new Bibles.
-The Crosspoint family took care of some of the family's upcoming expenses, including Annsley's mission trip and cheerleader camp, and Ann Marie's church camp fees.
-A friend has given them the gift of hotel nights at the Marriott Hotel in Florence.
-A friend bought the family a new Canon DSLR camera, memory cards, a camera bag.
-The manager at Best Buy in Florence, Brandon, DONATED an iPad (which is what my uncle used constantly to do his work, stuff for church, fun stuff for the kids, etc.) as well as $100 in iTunes gift cards. We do not even know Brandon. (He was told about the fire by the same friend that bought the family the new camera.)
-There were, like I mentioned before, COUNTLESS people who brought food, who sent gift cards, who brought clothing, shoes, toys, toiletries, who called to ask what they could do, etc. We are FOREVER grateful for these people and you will never know how much you are appreciated and how much this helped my aunt and uncle get through this. You know who you are!
I made this video late Friday night and I want everyone to watch it. There are several pictures of the aftermath, the ashes, the intensity of the flames and what the fire was able to destroy in such a short amount of time. But even more importantly is the message of hope that is clearly portrayed, even amidst the devastation and despair. The message that CHRIST IS OUR HOPE. That we have such an incredible gift in HIM. The gift of CHRIST is the ultimate gift, and I pray that we can all say, like the song says, "Take my very life away as long as I get Him." Because He is truly all we need. He calls us His own and He rescues us. He offers us life. Heaven. Himself. And in the words of a friend, "protection from the fires that threaten our very souls." What a gift we have in Jesus. His word gives us promise after promise of God's goodness, of His sovereignty, and of His divine protection; and I have seen it so clearly in the last few days.
[Music is "In Your Arms" by The Church at Brook Hills, and vocals are by the sweet and talented Mandi Mapes.)
This I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:23)