About forty-five minutes after putting the final touches on last week's A Norvell Note and mailing it, our lives changed dramatically. [Should you want to read the whole story go to this link at the bottom of the page.] To put it bluntly we had a house fire. One minute I'm sitting at my desk drinking a cup of coffee while planning my day, the next I'm dialing 911 and yelling, "Help!" as I helplessly watched part of our house go up in flames. Within hours we were talking to inspectors, listening to insurance agents and contractors, and discovering new phrases that relate to insurance, damages, what can be restored and what cannot. Those things that could not be salvaged are referred to as "Total loss items." That list now includes a car, a set of golf clubs and several other types of golf equipment, a lawn mower, our daughter's bed, numerous clothing items, and the list continues to grow as we complete our inventory. By the time we are finished in four to six months, our house will basically get a complete (a rather extreme) makeover.

During the last seven days people from all over the community and the country have called, emailed, sent notes, given gifts, prayed prayers, made visits, and filled in the gaps for me, and for us, due to our confusion, frustration, and sadness. All agree that the fact that no one was hurt was the greatest blessing, that my being at home and the rapid response of the fire department is what prevented even greater loss. And, that we will eventually see great blessings and learn wonderful lessons from the experience. I'm not completely there yet.

But, I am at the point, and have been long before the fire, where I know that although many of the things that we valued are a total loss, this life we are living is far from a total loss.

During the last week we have been literally showered with blessings from above. The many friends and loved ones that we already considered our greatest possessions have affirmed us and confirmed that God does not leave us in our time of need. He is always near. Never have we felt deserted by Him. Never have we thought that we are being punished for wrongdoing. Never have we entertained the thought that bad things should not happen to good people. We have lived enough life to know that bad things, and good things, happen to all people. There are no exceptions. No one is completely immune. Never have we felt the urge to blame anyone for this semi-tragedy. And never have we considered for a second that this difficulty will defeat us.

Of course, we are weary from the displacement and inconvenience the fire has caused. There have been times when the emotional fatigue has drained us and caused us to question our sanity, but God has revealed His power clearly. We now understand why we have paid insurance premiums for years. We now understand the tremendous value of people who do clean-up work that most of us would never consider doing. We now are reminded of the value of family, friends, and the family of God. And we are once again not only seeing, but, truly experiencing God doing His mighty works in the midst of what some would declare a total waste, if not a total loss.

God is real, God is alive, and God is working in the midst of struggle and in times of peace. With God, life is never a total loss.

For more on Tom's not so excellent but faith-filled adventure, see "Rolling" Of East Brainerd Home Leads To Damaging Fire http://www.chattanoogan.com/articles/article_101067.asp