The Ashes of This Walk

I sit here unable to write/speak and yet, feel compelled to write/speak of our last 24 hours and more. Lord, give me the words to write.

Three weeks ago yesterday, Steve got up to go to work on a very snowy day. I felt extra concerned that day and God prodded me to start praying as soon as he left for work. I prayed for 10 minutes for Steve’s safety down our drive, and on his way to work. Then I felt as if my prayer was over and I could either go back to sleep or get out of bed. My body wanted to stay in bed, but I felt pushed to get up. I did. Within seconds of my feet hitting the floor, the phone rang. It was Steve telling me had been in a wreck! While I was praying for him, he was following about 4 or 5 other cars on the interstate. For some reason he hit a patch of black ice. He started sliding towards the concrete divider that would then cause him to flip over it and down a ravine. He turned his wheel toward the mountain and the truck suddenly turned all the way around, facing back home, heading straight into the mountain. He went airborn, flipped, and landed on his driver’s side after scraping the roof of his truck in 6-8 inches from boulders. He said for a brief second every thing was silent and then a big THUD happened and he was there. He turned off the engine, looked to see the topper thrown off, all windows broken and out, except the front one, which was hanging on by a thread, all his material possessions were scattered all over in the snow, and there he sat, trapped. He pulled himself up and out from behind the steering wheel, turned and literally walked out what used to be the back window. He walked away with no cuts, scratches, bruies, and not one speck of dirt on his clean clothes! He went to work in the same clothes hours later. The rest of the day, he spent pulling dirt out of his ears and glass shards out of his hair and jacket. Praise God, Steve is alive! The truck was totaled. It was our only 4×4 vehicle to get off our mountain. However, the Lord provided through our insurance greatly. Not the norm, but we were given $3,000 more than what the value of the truck was. How did this happen? Only by the grace of God. All we did is provide them repair receipts from the past year and they paid.

We were able to take the money and turn around and buy two 4×4, used vehicles! Praise the Lord! Now we are able to both get off the mountain in the snow! Although, I am still very leary of driving on our drive as it is a 10% grade and scary. Ice I can’t do though.

Fast forward to a week ago today. Steve had his knee replacement His last words as he went into surgery to the doctors were, “I want you to do a good job on my knee and I want you to straighten out my leg.” Straightening out his leg took some extra time as they had to cut ligaments/tendons. His leg had been crooked for close to 25 years, getting worse each year. They did it! They straightened it out and now we are blessed with having to buy him new shoes and boots! Praise God!

Steve has had some very scary days since the surgery. In the hospital he was not treated well. He was left to suffer in pain for extra hours in-between his pain meds. I ended up getting involved every time I could be down there. It wasn’t all sweetness either. šŸ™‚ But, someone had to stand up for my husband who was bed-bound and needed help for his pain.

Since he came home, we’ve seen scary things-severe swelling (due to lack of hospital sending us home w/compression hose), bleeding from the wound 5 days out, redness, high pulse rate, and more. We do have a home nurse and a physical therapist that come daily to check on him. I keep telling him that each night as he goes to bed, he needs to remember that tomorrow will be a tiny bit better and step by step he will get there. Yesterday was more tolerable half the day. Then his first physical therapy session started with the PT coming to our home. His pain was out of this world after that.

Please continue to pray that Steve will have less and less pain each day and recover quickly. Pray for his strength to keep pushing through. Pray for my strength to keep serving him with a joyful heart as I help him walk to the bathroom, bring him pain meds., lift his leg up on the bed, ice his knee, etc. I have learned more about my wedding vows of “in sickness” than I ever imagined. Steve told me last night, “I can’t say I love you more than you love me anymore.” See, we have always had this fun banter of, “I love you more than you love me.” “No you don’t, I love you more.” and back and forth we would go. I asked Steve why he said that last night. He said because he had seen how I have fought for him and our family through this hospital stay, surgery and now yesterday our barn burning down. He said that I had been serving him and the children so much through all this and that he could no longer say that. It was a sweet comment/compliment, but I know we will still banter after he recovers. I miss my husband’s jokes and laughter. I miss his smiles. I miss him coming up behind me and hugging me tight. I miss hearing him walking down the hall. I am so blessed that he is still here, but I miss a part of him right now immensely. He will be back after he gets over the pain and begins to walk again. No doubt about that. God can and will do this!

Yesterday morning at 4:35AM, Seth woke me up to feed and change him. As I stumbled out of bed, bleary-eyed, I saw an orange and red glow in our bathroom window. I went to it as I also heard a loud truck. My eyes beheld the sight of our beautiful horse barn engulfed in flames as firefighters were fighting the fire. I screamed/yelled/ran/cried/talked/became a frantic mess. I threw on clothes and Steve tried to jump out of bed, but could not walk. He was saying, “what? What is it??? What is going on???” “Our barn is on fire and it’s almost gone!!!!” is all I could say.

I ran outside to the fire chief. I grabbed him by the arms and started crying and rambling, “What happened? I can’t have this…my husband just had knee replacement surgery…he can’t walk…I have 7 children to care for…we just adopted a baby that spent almost 3 weeks in NICU going through withdrawals…my husband almost died in a wreck 3 weeks ago….our animals in the barn…our hay…..NO, NO, NO, NO!!!!!!!!!!” All the stress of the past few months came pouring out and I just grabbed the chief and hugged onto him sobbing. I cried and held onto him for a few minutes, unable to control myself. Then we began to talk. God had a passerby on the interstate look up and see our barn ablaze. He had that person call for help. We will never know who that person was, but we pray God greatly blesses them in their life. Thank you passerby, whoever you may be, you saved our family of nine’s lives. You saved my new baby’s life, you saved my six older chidlren’s lives, and you saved my husband’s life, who would not have been able to get up and run out of our house if it had burned. God bless you for listening to the Lord to call for help for us.

The firefighters said as they drove up our drive, they were fearful that it was our house ablaze and that we were all dead since we had not called for help. They had actually been told to go to a different address than ours at first, and had lost a few minutes. It was hard to figure out where exactly we were in the middle of the night without an address.

They brought in tanks of water. Our town does not have enough water to fight large fires such as this, so tanks had to be brought in. I began to worry about that as on Steve’s eighth birthday he had to watch his house burn down due to the fact the ran out of water tankers. Then I told the fire chiefs that my God would provide the water needed for this fire and that you can’t keep my God in a box. He is amazing and can do this. Later in the day, a firefighter told me that sometimes God slaps you in the face. I said, “No, not my God. My God doesn’t do that, but the devil will show up often.” He didn’t have a comment back.

The town was asked to cut back on water use until yesterday afternoon due to our fire. Scary!
We never realized how little water we had here in this town.

Our two oldest boys were outside with me. I asked if we could get our 2 livestock guardian dogs out of the pen (LGDs) as the third must be dead in the barn at that point. They let our boys go to the corner pen and grab them. Then I began asking the deputy if my son could get our ram, ewe, and milking goat out that were in the corner of a pen outside. He wouldn’t let us. I kept pushing for it…I told him that my son had shown our four-horned ram in the fair and won a couple years in a row…they were his babies and he could handle the ram and ewe. No, he didn’t think so. The fire chief finally came towards my direction and I went to him with my plea to let us save our 3 livestock animals-one being a milk goat that could provide milk eventually for my baby! I explained how we could all work together-my three(third one came out) sons and me. He agreed. We got them out!!!!

Then suddenly our missing LGD male showed up out of nowhere! He was ALIVE!!! I grabbed him and hugged him as I cried into his beautiful, white fur. He is the son of Leo, our beloved LGD that died a year ago. These dogs were puppies that lost their mother at one week. Our Great Dane mix inside our house, took care of these puppies while we bottle-fed them hourly. These are beautiful dogs that protect our sheep and goats. They are gentle giants that love our children with all their fur, tails, and “grins”. So thankful he is still alive.

I went inside, where Steve anxiously sat propped up looking out the window, asking me what was happening. I know it was very hard for him to just sit there and totally trust that I could take care of things. I know that had to be so hard for him. Meanwhile, I was on “fire” myself, making sure all questions that the fire chiefs had, were answered, our animals were moved, someone was changing Seth and feeding him, all children had clothes on ready to go in case the fire spread to our house. Making frantic calls begging for prayers! Posting on FB for prayers. The barn is just yards from our house. God was merciful and protected our family and house from any flying sparks. He made the wind blow away from our house. If sparks had landed on our house, they would have hit the corner area-our bedroom where I would have had to get Seth and Steve out of if a fire started during the night. God protected us. Again.

We lost all 800 bales of hay that we had stored for winter and during Steve’s surgery time. Steve and the boys had worked so hard getting the bales of hay, stacking them up in the barn, and Steve spending days suffering in extreme pain in his knee from all the driving and working. All of our hay gone in a moment’s time. All of our hay for the winter. We continued to hear our sheep bleating, goats baahing, and horses for the next few hours, asking for their hay. We were so blessed to have dear friends show up with 16 bales of hay, along with another donation of 10 bales, and then a neighbor went and picked up some hay that we paid him for. We have enough hay to get through the next week or so. We are in desperate need of hay. We know hay is scarce this time of year and prices are higher, but we have to feed our livestock. We have around 20 sheep, 12-15 goats, and 3 horses. Most of our sheep and goats are pregnant and are in need of extra hay during this tough winter time. Please let us know if you know anyone that has hay or someone who could transport hay for us. Steve cannot drive for 3 weeks or more and I cannot leave him to go pick up and transport hay. Please pray for us to replenish our hay. We need that much hay, 800 bales, to get us through the winter. Then Steve will be driving and in less pain by spring. We could travel to get hay at that point.

We also lost our milking stand, milking machine, tons of totes that were still unpacked from our move that included children’s clothes for hand-me-downs, ornaments that were bought through the years (including special historical, irreplaceable ones from Steve’s hometown given to us from Grandma), blankets, coats, tools (I had years ago started buying Steve antique woodworking tools) for various purposes, a bar stool, a new dishwasher that the former owner had left, buckets, troughs, and I continue to try and go through every tote mentally to remember for insurance purposes what we have lost. I am sure we will be remembering for years to come…things we will never see again that were sentimental to us at one time.

Our son lost almost all his poultry, including 3 geese. One goose was a champion at the 4H fair, Leif. Leif was a white Pilgrim goose with gorgeous blue eyes. He would fold his neck and head down into his feathers as you held him and stroked him. I cringe at the thought of them trapped in the barn. Our son is at times forgetful about putting his poultry all in the barn at night. Steve and I have had many talks with him about this. The night before the fire, he went out to milk and heard the coyotes in our ravine. He also saw one of his geese out. He quickly put him in. Never to be seen again. I just want to cry for the guilt that he may carry the rest of his life. I know how our flesh can hang onto guilt over such tragic things. He also lost his two young geese that our sweet neighbor had just given to him a few months ago. They were getting so plump and we were hoping for babies in the spring.

We lost all of our dog food and milking goat grains, that we had stocked up on to use during Steve’s recovery time. We lost pitchforks, shovels, etc. We lost a gorgeous barn that the former owner had worked hard on. We lost a place that had held the last year’s memories for all of us. We lost a place to keep horses in a stall for our horse motel. We do still have 5 acres and an open barn on another part of our property. So, if you know of anyone wanting to board horses, please send them our way still! We just can’t provide stalls now.

The flames continue to burn as I type. They said our hay will be burning until Saturday or Sunday. It’s hard to look out the window and expect to see the barn and livestock and then see nothing but ashes.

I had started to make a post about walking away from the wreck, earlier this month. I will just sum it up here. Seth has “walked” away from a wreck (that would most likely have included a birth mother still on drugs and/or the state taking him in) a little over 2 months ago. Steve walked away from his literal wreck of the truck three weeks ago. Steve also is “walking” away from the wreck of severe pain in his life for the past 25 years with his knee replacement. And we are all walking away from the ashes left from the wreck of our barn. We all have “wrecks” in our lives, but the question is, how do we deal with them? And after we walk away from them, do we praise God? Do we give Him glory? Or do we go on silent, never acknowledging his hand in our lives? What wreck are you dealing with? Will there be ashes afterwards? And will you be able to pick yourself up and dust off those ashes? Or will you cling to your ashes? Yesterday, as I went out to see the ashes of our barn for the first time, I fell to my knees. I clung to the fence rails around our barn and cried, “I will not let go of you Lord. I will NOT let go.” I am clinging to the Lord. He will carry us and He will provide for us. He has proven this over and over (look at Seth’s Story) to us.

I also know that all of this has happened since we brought Seth home. Does this mean you will have this happen if you adopt? No, but adoption is spiritual. Look in your Bible. Read about your adoption. The Lord pulls you from your wreck and dusts off your ashes when you become His. We all know the Lord wins in the end. Sometimes, we just get a little close to the flames and touches of ashes are felt, but Jesus wins in the end. Would we do it all over again? You better believe it! All of this-adoption, wrecks, ashes, has given us even more testimonies to share and grown our empathy for others in these situations that much more. We are so thankful for this. We do not want to be empty, perfect, flesh. May God be glorified in all we do and live through.

Thank you for your prayers. We so appreciate them. Today is such a wonderful day to thank God for His Son, Jesus.

We continue to pick our way through the ashes of this walk.

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2 Responses to The Ashes of This Walk

  1. Rhoda says:

    Praying for your family as you go through these trials. It isn’t fun to lose things, but when we do, we are able to look back and see how truely blessed we are. God will supply ALL our NEEDS, not our wants. Also, praising God that your family is safe! Hugs

  2. Alison Griffiths Samuels says:

    Dear Michellle,
    School break started, all my licensure class homework finished, and I could finally take a moment to get in touch with you. I just finished reading your harrowing story. I started to cry from feeling so overwhelmed by how much suffering your family has had to go through. I have wanted to be a part of your helping team, and I so wish my life would allow me to be able to physically help. Unfortunately, my schedule and family’s emotional challenges prevent me, but God has made it clear that I MUST pray for you guys, especially now. Our family will be lifting you up in the coming days and weeks, and I have started to spread the word of your needs to others through my Facebook.

    Eric and I know a Christian contractor from another church who we will ask on your behalf if he would be willing to get a team together to build a barn, or maybe extend your other barn. Begin to pray about this, and we will update you as well.

    I know your prayers are heard by our God, who is mighty and able to do all things above and beyond anything we ask or imagine. I am so thankful for your example and love for Him. These Job-like struggles are an example to everyone. Wish I could give you all a hug right now – just imagine it!

    Last Sunday, I had many comments from CPC attendees that your family is missed by our congregation. We are looking forward to seeing you all again. In the meantime, we’ll pray…….
    Love, Alison

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