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What Remains After the Fire

Janene Roberts

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A Fire Rages

Two weeks ago, a fire raged through a canyon about a half mile from the home I purchased eight years ago with dreams of starting my life over after going through the trauma of a divorce two years before that. I had decided to rent for a few years and really take my time in finding a place I could call home. When the brochure for an area called Del Sur landed in my mailbox while I was renting a townhome in Santaluz, just one community over, I realized that was the place I wanted to live. The brochure featured artisans creating handmade tiles and a community focused around parks and a walkable community center–just what I was seeking.

Trying To Start Over

I bought into the idea and a plot before I even knew exactly where the home would be located. There wasn’t even a road built yet to get into the area. They were holding auctions to be a part of the first phase. I couldn’t wait and signed up after the bank approved my loan amount even though it was a little more than I thought I could afford. My business was taking off and I just knew it would keep getting better.

After the Fire

A Shaky Foundation

Things were exciting at first. I got to go to parties and special events to watch the house being built. I made friends with some of my neighbors. The first year we were all designing back yards and hanging out together. It appeared this was the idyllic place for me to be.

The initial hint my decision may not have been a good one was one Fall morning in 2007 when I woke up to cars honking and screams of “fire” from my neighbors. I jumped out of bed, turned on the TV and saw homes in flames just one neighborhood over. I grabbed my computer, my two cats, and a bottle of wine a vintner had recently given me, and jumped into my car still in my pajamas and not sure where I was going. I had left the TV on in my panic and hadn’t even packed a toothbrush. I decided to head toward the ocean.

That fire, what the news was calling the 2007 Firestorm, was what propelled me into my faith walk. I had just read a book called God is Closer than You Think.  I hadn’t realized how close God really was at that point.

A Second Fire

So, when a text from a friend warned me about a fire in my neighborhood two weeks ago the panic that had been felt in 2007 wasn’t there, only a gratitude that I had a friend who was concerned about me.   I was working in an area in San Diego called Liberty Station that wasn’t being affected by the fires and another friend was offering a bed for the night near the ocean.  Luckily, the evacuation was lifted that evening and I was able to return to my home. A home, that in the past six years had been been a point of constant worry as the economy and my business went down with each passing year.  I had gotten to a point that I told myself whatever happened with my home, I would still somehow survive.  The second fire showed me how far I had come from the stress and worry of the first one.  In the seven years since the first fire, my possessions hadn’t become my main concern.

God Speaks Through the Hand of a Child

A day after the evacuation was lifted with the smell of smoke still in the air, I walked around the neighborhood. Wind was blowing fiercely and I was praying as I walked.  I came upon an index card that a child had written.  In pencil the left side of the card said what was my responsibility “Make Shack” and “Level Ground”. The right side said what the group needed to do “Get Firewood”, “Help Shack”, “Make Tools”, and “Make Skeleton of Well”.

I looked at the card in a sort of unbelief as if God were speaking to me through that child.  I had made my shack from the ground up and had worked through leveling the ground by learning what it means to live on the Rock.  Maybe God was trying to tell me my part in the matter and I needed to let Him help with the right side of the card–that any remaining worry wasn’t mine alone.  He would get the firewood to bring me to Him. He would help with my shack and give me the tools to do so.  Maybe the well had already been created by Him.

“…You will draw water from cisterns you did not dig…” Deuteronomy 6:11

An Entrance

As I walked, I pondered these thoughts in a state of wonder.  I came to the entrance of the concrete path to my front door. A branch from a tree that was different from any of the branches in my yard or the neighbors, stood across the entry to the path.  I picked it up and was reminded of Noah’s olive branch.

This time the dove returned to him in the evening with a fresh olive leaf in its beak. Then Noah knew that the floodwaters were almost gone.  Genesis 8:11 NLT

Somehow, God was making his point quite clear to me through the hand of a child.  I didn’t need to worry.  He was in control.

I’m not sure what material possessions will remain after this fire.  My house is still in danger, although not by a fire.  I do know perhaps what’s most important of all though, that I will continue to have faith like a little child.

Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.  Matthew 18:3 NLT

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