I’m not really even sure how to begin this post because there has been such a sway of emotions over the last month since the Carr Fire came barrelling into our neighborhood. But since that fateful night I have wanted to share my experience, my conversations with the Lord and my testimony from that night. Before I begin though I feel it’s important to say that this was my experience. I am in no way implying that because someone didn’t have the same conversation that they lost their home, or because they had a similar experience that they didn’t lose their home. I’m not implying anything, I simply just feel it’s important, and maybe a little therapeutic, to share my story.
Rewind back to the morning of July 26, I woke up excited because we were leaving town that day to go to my first music festival with 3 other couples. I was quickly faced with a reality I didn’t see coming when I looked at my phone to see I had 20 voxers from all our friends saying they weren’t sure if they were going to leave town because the Carr Fire had taken a tragic turn over night.
Then I spoke with a friend of mine who lives about a mile down the road, in a more rural area, and found out they were being evacuated. After speaking with Matt we decided we’d still leave town which would open up our home for our friends to have a place to stay.
As I got ready to go Matt went around the house filling a suitcase with some of our important items, just in case anything might happen. We “knew” there was no way the fire would get to us because it would have to burn through multiple subdivisions before it could get to our house.
So our friends showed up, we showed them all the important things, like how to work the TV, then we hit the road. We dropped our daughter off at my in laws, then headed north to Medford.
When we reached Medford we checked in to our hotel, took a little nap, checked in on the fire updates – and felt good about what we saw – so we headed out to the festival. About 4 hours later we got a call that rocked our world. Our friends were being evacuated from our house, the fire had taken a deadly turn and was barrelling right toward our old house, which is only 1 street over from where we currently live.
As Cole Swindell took the stage we raced out of the venue, tears streaming down my face. As soon as we got back to our room we plugged our phones in and started trying to get any, and all, information we possibly could. I started texting my old neighbors trying to get details about what was happening, if they were okay, if their homes were okay, and it went on for hours.
Hours and hours of watching our local news station on Facebook for live updates and videos. Hours of texting friends and neighbors to check on them. Hours of not knowing what was going to happen in the next moments and whose house you were going to watch burn down next.
I will never forget sitting on the bed watching videos of the fire take out all the houses on the street I used to drive every day to get home. I went from crying, to praying, to worrying, to checking in on my friends and then back to crying… for hours.
Visions of our old home, which I still love so much, danced in my mind, I was imagining it burning and it broke my heart. (The house ended up making it).
And then around 11pm the next video appeared and it was live video of houses on our street burning.
My heart sank.
I watched as 3 houses very close to ours burned, not knowing where the fire was heading next.
At some point Matt and I decided we needed to try and sleep, if we were going to be headed back to Redding in the morning, so we turned off our phones, turned out the lights and just laid there. I think the idea of sleep is a joke when you know your street is on fire, so instead I just laid there. The first thing that flooded my mind were all the things I hadn’t grabbed from our house because I “knew” it wouldn’t get that far. How stupid I was! As I thought about each thing, and where it was in our house, I started to get anxious. As a gentle reminder the Lord reminded me to have Peace, but in that moment I couldn’t remember a single Bible verse about Peace so I opened my phone to the Bible app and clicked on the search icon. Philippians 4 was what appeared.
Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a thing. Be saturated in prayer throughout each day, offering your faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude. Tell him every detail of your life, then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will make the answers known to you through Jesus Christ. So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always. Follow the example of all that we have imparted to you and the God of peace will be with you in all things.” Philippians 4:6-9 tPt
I read this verse over and over again and then closed my eyes to let it sink into my spirit. When I closed my eyes I saw a vision of our house with a clear dome over it (like in Bio-Dome, the ridiculous movie from when we were kids). And with the vision came a peace that truly transcended my human understanding.
But then I would get distracted and I’d start worrying about our house again, fearful of it burning, and the vision of the dome would change and I’d see flames on our house. Not liking that vision I’d mull the verse over in my mind again and the Peace would be restored and I’d see the dome protecting our house again.
At some point the Lord also planted a worship song in my head. For the life of me I couldn’t think of any of the other words, just the chorus and the bridge. So over and over again I sang them in my mind,
You are good, oh oh
You are good
You are good, oh oh
You are good
You are good, oh oh
You’re never gonna let
You’re never gonna let me down
You’re never gonna let
You’re never gonna let me down” – King of My Heart, Bethel Music
For hours I went back and forth between singing the song and reciting the verse, and when I did, I would have the most incredible Peace. But as soon as I would stop, fear would creep in and I’d see my house with flames on it.
At some point in the wee hours of the morning I also had a very interesting conversation with the Lord. You see before we bought our current home Matt and I had been talking about buying some property, waiting on it, and then building some day in the future. We built our first home and I’ve been itching to do it ever since because I love all things house related. So that night the Lord asked me, “Will you be jealous if your house doesn’t burn down and you watch your friends all build nice brand new homes?”
That question stopped me in my tracks and really made me think. I want to build again, but would this be how I’d want it to happen? Would I be jealous? I honestly didn’t know the answer when He first asked me. But I mentally walked through our house and thought about all the fun things our house has that made us fall for it in the first place. Like the chair rail down the hallway, the built-in bookshelves in all the bedrooms, the original hardwood floors from the 50’s, etc. If I were to rebuild I would do it completely differently but is that really what I wanted? It was the strangest feeling because I feel like the Lord was actually giving me a choice but first He was asking me to examine my heart. Could I, would I be content?
After really thinking about it and imagining what it would be like to watch as my friends and neighbors rebuild their new, beautiful homes, I felt like I could be content. I felt like this was not the way I wanted our building story to play out.
And then the conversation was over and I went back to singing the worship song and praying the verses from Philippians 4.
Finally around 4am I told Matt I felt like it was time to go. I had a sense of urgency that we needed to head back to Redding so we packed up and hit the road. On the way home I was telling Matt about my dome vision and he looked over at me and said, with a look I didn’t quite understand, that he had had the same vision. (WHAT!?)
Then I went on to tell him about the verses I’d been praying and the song I’d been singing, and he looked over at me again and said, “I’ve been singing the same song all night too.” (WHAT!?)
And what’s even weirder is that the only words he could remember from the song were the same words I could remember, neither one of us had a clue what song it was or what the rest of the words were.
Then around 5:30am a good friend of ours, who is California Highway Patrol, called us and said he was in front of our house and it was still there, unharmed. He said the median in front of our house was still smoldering but it looked like our house was going to make it.
All I could do was cry. Tears of gratitude, tears of thankfulness, tears of so many emotions I couldn’t put words to, tears for my friends who wouldn’t get the same call, lots of tears, but I was finally able to let out the breath I’d been holding all night.
A couple days later we were able to be escorted by a local police officer into our neighborhood so we could get some items from our house. Seeing it in person only brought more tears because it meant it really was there.
But the most sobering thing was walking around the outside of our house. We don’t have any significant damage but we do have a burn mark on the backside of our house where an ember embedded itself between the siding and the door frame. We have a couple burn marks on the fence Matt had just finished building, and we have a bush right off the deck that has lots of burnt leaves.
As I examined each of these burn marks I couldn’t help but think about the moments in our hotel room when I was laying in the bed giving into fear, where I would see the dome lifted off my house and our house burning. Were those moments when these embers fell on our house?
I won’t know all the details of that night until I get to Heaven but I feel it in my heart that our prayers, our worship, and also my moments of fear and Matt’s moments of doubt, were directly correlated to what happened at our home.
It is a surreal night that I never want to relive but if I had to go back I wouldn’t do it any other way because I got to experience the Lord in ways I never had that night.
There have been so many more tears and waves of emotion since that tragic night that devastated our city, at moments I feel like my heart will explode from the weight of it all. But even though it is chaos, pain and tears for so many right now, I know that God is moving and I know His Peace that surpasses our understanding will encounter so many in the months to come. I also know that He is a good God and His endless love will be there with us in and through the tears.
By your mighty power I can walk through any devastation and you will keep me alive, reviving me. Your power set me free from the hatred of my enemies. You keep every promise you’ve ever made to me! Since your love for me is constant and endless, I ask you, Lord, to finish every good thing that you’ve begun in me!” Psalm 138-7-8 tPt
Aunt Patti says
We were all praying for you and the people of Redding. Michele’s daughter barely got out with her life when the fire in Santa Rosa swept they her neighborhood. Many of their neighbors didnt make it. They lost everything, but feel blessed their lives were spared. We are so thankful that you all were kept safe and the good Lord spared you the agony of losing your home and belongings. We love you guys.
Thank you and wow, I didn’t know that about Michelle’s daughter. I’m glad she was okay!
Kristy Miklas says
Thank you for sharing your story. I am so grateful that your house was spared. What in incredible story.
Thank you Kristy!
Thank you for sharing your incredible story. What wonderful witnesses you and Matt are to the sovereignty of God. He is the supreme authority and all things are under His control. I pray that this event has a positive, life changing impact on the many people who have survived the fire.
Thank you Carleen!
Thank you for sharing your heart once again. Emily kept us all informed here in Canada and there were several churches here praying for Redding. So glad you were all protected and safe.
Wow, thank you so much for your prayers! I know many around the world were praying for our city and we are so thankful because I know the damage could have been MUCH worse! There are houses that the only way they made it was by a miracle because there’s no way to explain why the fire stopped where it did, and our old house is a perfect example of that. I know it was only by a miracle it survived as much as it did.