December 8, 2010
Dear Family and Friends,
Dear Family and Friends,
A Christmas letter is often used to highlight the achievements of family members throughout the year or to provide a travel log of excursions taken. During any other year, I would be content to tell you how Rick and I continue in our respective jobs, that Hunter is still serving a mission in Montana, that Wil is a senior and started lifeguarding this year, that Jon continues to excel in his academic pursuits, that Lela took up swimming competitively this year and truly rocked the pool, and that Emily remains my sunshine and brings joy and love to our family.
But this year was so much more. On June 26, 2010, our neighbor, based on advice that he had been given, decided in 115 degree heat to burn weeds and yard clippings. Within a very few minutes, our home was totally engulfed by flames. So instead of the normal Christmastime chatter, I want to spend some time letting you know how truly blessed we are and how a kind and loving Heavenly Father does know and care for his children.
Right after the fire, we often heard people tell us how sorry they were for our tragedy. This was not a tragedy in our minds. Yes, we had lost everything but a few photos and other memories that were able to be pulled literally from the rubble, but we were all alive. At the time of the fire, all of us were home except for Hunter and Wil. From the time the girls saw the flames in the carport till the home was completely surrounded was not even five minutes. It only took ten minutes for the first fire truck to arrive on the scene, yet by then our home was gone. The tragedy would have been if instead of just things, one of our children had been lost. And from this experience we have been truly blessed.
We have learned that the Comforter spoken of by Christ to his disciples is a true being. Rick and I felt Him with us that first night as we lay on a borrowed air mattress trying to sleep and He has been with as a constant companion throughout the last six months. Once we were recognized His presence, we could also see where He had been with us during the proceeding year. Some of His gentle promptings we heeded, such as the monthly fire drills Lela had suggested, others we disregarded or delayed, such as getting a storage shed for Hunter’s belongings. Yet we know we were protected and He continues to guide us as we work to rebuild.
We have also had our faith in mankind restored. Everyday at my job, I am faced with the worst that one human being can do to another. I see the results of those who have chosen to give in to selfishness and greed. It has become too easy for me to not trust and to look for the negative before the good. Yet this experience has taught me that in the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep. The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men.” The flames on our home had not been extinguished and I had not returned from the doctor before we were inundated with offers of places to live, furniture, clothing, groceries, toys, etc. After taking me to the doctor to be treated for smoke inhalation, my friend took me to the local WalMart to buy the basics. On every aisle, I was greeted by someone who had heard what had happened and put their arms around me. Rick, who remained at the fire was surrounded by friends who kept him company.
Wil wrote the following in a paper for school, “Facebook, my one way to get away from what was going on, was also a way for everyone who were my friends and were online, that knew what was going on, to tell me how sorry they were and asking if they could do anything to help. That’s what everyone was saying. People would come over with a bag of clothes and ask if they could do anything else to help. People came over with food they had in their fridges and asked if they could do anything else to help. People would come over, people I didn’t even know, some I still don’t know and give us their condolences and hugs and ask us if there was anything else they could do. None of these people, none of them will ever know how much they helped. For weeks after the fire my family was asked everywhere we went how we were doing. And we would always say we were fine and thank them for their concern, but in truth we were far better than fine, because we had so many people there for us that we were just overwhelmed with love.”
So now we are in the process of rebuilding. I wish I could say it has always been smooth, but it hasn’t. Insurance companies are businesses and are not there to readily give money away. But we have started our new home, have enough money in the bank to complete it, and expect to be back there in February/March. Every day we make progress in rebuilding the emotional foundation of our children as well. Eight-year-olds should not need to know about firewalls, but we have told our contractor, that when it comes to that point in construction, he will be tasked with explaining how our firewall is constructed to reassure Lela that her new home will be as safe as possible.
What we know after this year that Heavenly Father does love us. He does hear and answer prayers, sometimes in very unexpected ways. Our testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ has been strengthened. Christ taught us to love one another, to love your neighbor as yourself. He did not say to only love your neighbor if you belong to the same political party or attend the same church or go to the same social club. We still continue to see the love of Christ expressed by those around use. As Wil said we are doing far better than fine.
And so as a family, we wish you a Merry Christmas and that the love of Christ may shine for you, just not in as dramatic a fashion as it has for us this year.
Rick, Ann and family