On the morning of February 4th of this year, I experienced some of the most distressing feelings of my life as I watched a significant portion of our house being devoured by flames. On Monday, June 18, we began the process of moving back into our house. Though we are still walking, sitting and sleeping in the midst of boxes filled with who knows what, we are walking, sitting, and sleeping in the house we know as home. (Before and after photos will be posted on my website: http://www.anorvellnote.com/uploads/83/5548.jpg.)

Needless to say, there have been several lessons that I have either been reminded of or learned from the fire.

People don't always know what to say.
Well meaning people often struggle for just the right words to comfort and encourage someone going through a difficult time. Sometimes people try to be clever, or humorous, or unique. Most of the times, the words are not as important as just being near, available, and willing to listen. We will forever remember the young men across the street who brought me a coat, and stood with us as we helplessly watched the house burn. We will remember the neighbors who opened their homes to us as we tried to grasp what had just happened. And, we will remember the friends who showed up on the property, put their arms around us, prayed with us, and stayed with us. Their words are mostly forgotten. Their faces are not. The lesson: Be quick to listen, slow to speak.

Some things are harder than you think.
Almost everyone has a story and advice.
"I remember when I was 9 years old and my next door neighbor's second cousin's brother-in-law's nephew's brother had a house fire. They said it was rough." "You should have ... " "You need to ... " "You ought to ... " My question? How do you know what I should, need, or ought to do? Lesson: You should save your story, you need to be careful with your advice, and you ought to be careful what you say.

Some things are harder than you think.
We can prepare ourselves, we can talk ourselves through the worst scenarios, and we can act like everything is just fine, but the truth is some things are hard, and some things are harder than we think they will be. Yes, I know, it could always be worse. Some things take longer to adjust to. Some things make you sadder. Some things require help to get through. Some things are hard even if you have a good attitude, a positive outlook, and a strong faith. Lesson: Give yourself (and others) time to heal.

God is our hope.
Things were lost. Things have been replaced. The house was damaged. The house has been restored. Some of it has been very difficult. People have helped us. God has sustained us, refreshed us, protected us, and He has constantly reminded us of His presence and His love.

We wait in hope for the LORD;
he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name.
May your unfailing love rest upon us,
O LORD, even as we put our hope in you
(Psalm 33:20-22 NIV).