As my neighbors and I neared the last home in the Parade of Homes, we saw and smelled smoke in the air. We learned from people passing by that the buses taking people back to their cars had stopped running due to the fact that there was a fire burning nearby. What?! The event was not far from our homes. One neighbor was on the phone to her husband quicker than you can say, “house fire!”
We were not about to wait for them to decide when to resume the buses and since no one was allowed to drive their car to the gated and policed event to pick us up, we made the decision to start walking. One of the husbands met us along the road and took us back to my neighbor’s car. Moments after we got out of the parking lot in her car, police blocked off the road behind us. This is what we saw as we drove out of the parking lot:
This is what we saw when we got home:
We received a call to evacuate voluntarily. I couldn’t imagine the fire making it up the hill and down the street to our home. But then again, anything is possible with fire. In the moments that followed, I hastily started throwing snacks and clothes and toiletries for six people into bags. The age old question, “what would you grab if your house was on fire?” was swirling in my head. As I looked around at the house we had just built and all of our possessions, I was faced with what it would be like to lose it all. And I felt very unattached to all of it. In an instant, none of it mattered. I felt an incredible peace about losing it all. It was strange because I love our home. It makes me happy to walk through it all the time. And I thank God with all my heart for it. But the only thing that mattered was making sure my family was safe. There wasn’t a single vase or ceramic animal that crossed my mind. As for photos, I put my laptop in my bag and was content with it being enough.
We kept a close eye on the fire and chose not to leave. Fortunately, our street was spared and the fire was extinguished before even making it up the hill. It wasn’t too long after that a terrible fire raged through Bastrop County (about an hour and a half from us). It was the worst fire in the history of Texas. Two people lost their lives in the fire that burned close to 1,700 homes and businesses and 1.5 million of the area’s beloved pine trees. My heart broke. And not just for the people, but also for the beautiful trees. I have slept among them in Bastrop State Park and walked along paths padded with a thick layer of their pine needles. Now I drive through them, burnt and non-existent in so many areas, on the way to see my parents and sister each time I visit. And it makes me sad. I know they will grow back. But it still breaks my heart.
If getting a phone call to evacuate your home is not enough to give you a fresh perspective on what is most important in life, then seeing the destruction a bolt of lightning can cause will definitely push you over the edge.
My youngest son, who is a storm chaser in his own right
was on the covered back porch with me watching an incredible lightning storm and listening to peals of thunder echo through the hills one afternoon. The lightning on this day was occurring quite frequently and was incredibly loud. Then a bolt struck that shook the ground and left a loud sound in the air. I knew it had to have stuck very close. Shortly thereafter, we heard sirens. I wondered if it had anything to do with the lightning.
Then my neighbor sent photos to my phone of a house down the street:
And this is what everyone in the neighborhood drove past for months since the home is at the entrance to our neighborhood:
Our neighborhood rallied together in the weeks that followed and held a fundraiser to collect money and home goods for the couple that lost their home. Just recently, we have witnessed the completion of the reconstruction of their home.
These experiences have definitely impacted me. They are incredible reminders to me to be all the more appreciative of my family and my home.
There is rarely a day that I don’t thank God in some way for my family and my home. I know everything could be gone in an instant. I strive and struggle to keep this at the forefront of my mind and attempt to be a good steward with the people and things in my life. It is not always easy and at times I fail. But it is where my heart lies. And if ever I need reminding, a lightning storms whips me into shape because I can’t help but jump a little now whenever lightning strikes!