The righteous cry, and the LORD hears
And delivers them out of all their troubles.
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the LORD delivers him out of them all.
He keeps all his bones,
Not one of them is broken.
Evil shall slay the wicked,
And those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
The LORD redeems the soul of His servants,
And none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned.
(Psalm 34: 17-22)
This fire is the probably the hardest thing my family has endured in a season of some really hard stuff. But—and this is not what I ‘should’ say, it is the truth—I am overwhelmed by God’s grace and the kindness of people. I can’t get over the little things like people bringing iced coffee (light cream and one raw sugar), breakfast tacos, and meals for us and the Sherman’s (no dairy or gluten so that they can enjoy the meal with us). There is such kindness in that kind of attention to detail.
I can’t get over people just showing up with water bottles, sunscreen, and work clothes knowing we need the help and wanting to serve. It has been incredible to see all the people who’ve brought bags of clothes to get the three of us through these first days before we have time to clean/restore or shop for them. People have brought toiletries like shampoo and deodorant. My mom’s hairdresser even sent a big bag full of products for curly hair just for me. Her Sunday school class gave Torey some brand new clothes. Someone (I think it was Jo) brought a package of q-tips. She also brought me a bible. (Praise God, mine can be saved once I can get to a place that will replace the charred cover. And, by the way, several people have helped me research who can do that best.) Kate brought me another copy of Stream in the Desert (the devotional we’ve been reading and praying over together for the past year or so).
When my parents found out about the fire, my dad immediately got ready to smoke pork loin and brisket so he could bring us something good to eat. My sister Bonnie just came and hugged me and was there. She made sure Barnes stayed safe while the fire raged and I answered questions and prayed and was interviewed by the investigator. My sister Meredith and her sweet family took Barnes for most of that first week when we were at the house covered in soot from sun-up to sun-down. They all came and helped me sort for hours. My sister Lauren and soon-to-be brother in law Michael drove from near Shreveport to see if they could help and just be here. Even though they are both schoolteachers and work started the next morning.
Other’s brought financial help. Envelopes with cash or gift cards have been slipped into purses, quietly handed over, mailed to us, delivered by others. The most amazing was brought from Tyler. My dad oversees a company that delivers oil and gas to convenience stores in east Texas. The men who drive the trucks heard what happened, took up a collection, and handed it to my dad. We don’t know what to say to such love and grace from people we don’t even know.
And what can I say about Doug and Jan Sherman? They took us to their home while the smoke was still rising from our home as if it were the most natural thing in the world. They have welcomed us and made us feel as if we are part of the family. They have invited us to family dinner with their kids who live in Austin and watched a few goofy movies with us so we could laugh. Jan has cooked for us and done our laundry and prayed for us. She went to Target and office depot to get me an office chair and short-term desk and office supplies so that I’d be ready to get back to writing when my computer came. She went shopping with Torey so that I could work on sifting and Torey would have things to wear when the semester starts next week. Doug has kept working and kept up communication on my behalf with our publisher as our manuscript deadline approaches unabated.
Jason and Mark worked to figure out where and how to replace all our computers and saw to it they were safely delivered to the Sherman’s. And my faithful friend JRF has just been there. She’s brought most of those iced coffees I mentioned. She’s told people how they can help best. She went with us to buy pj pants and deodorant and t-shirts on the day after the fire. She made sure Torey and I didn’t come home with 20 shirts and no pants in the shock and grief and exhaustion of that first day. She’s made me laugh and stayed by my side when I needed a friend for the hardest parts of the last two weeks. I can’t imagine getting through this without her!
I could keep going with all the ways God has loved us well through His people. Just know that this isn’t even close to all the people who have reached out. It only scratches the surface of the wonderful things people have done for us. We know this is people living the best parts of what God put inside them and Him loving us through people He made. We are full of joy even as we process unspeakable loss.