Five Things I Learned From My House Fire

I haven’t been writing for a while. A while is actually an understatement. It’s been a year almost. At the end of July 2016 my house burned down. First question is always if everyone is ok. Yes, we are all alive and well. Pets included. Second question is always if we lost everything. The answer to that is mostly. If you’re talking about “stuff”. We lost most of our stuff but we gained so much more.

It was a Wednesday night. We were all asleep. I woke up to what I thought was someone throwing pebbles at my bedroom window. I got out of bed to find that the upper level of our home was on fire. The alarms didn’t go off until we were all out of the house. I ripped the kids out of their beds and screamed for my husband. You can watch the full video story here. Nine months later, I am sitting at my new kitchen table, in my new home, ready to tell you the things I’ve learned over the past few months.

1. “Stuff” Means Nothing!

Material items are just things. Stuff. Stuff Means nothing. Nothing in the world mattered to me at that moment than my family. Things can be replaced, people can’t. I think all of us have, at one time or another, asked ourselves, “If my house were on fire and I could grab one thing, what would it be?”. I can now tell you from experience that I grabbed four: Hailey, Malachi, Brayden, and Noah. Not one single other thing was on my mind. Not one. (Except my husband who I screamed for.) Well, about  two minutes later I cared about one other thing. Pants. I wasn’t wearing any and I knew our yard would momentarily be filled with people. No worries though, no one saw me in my underoos. I was fully clothed by the time anyone got there.


2. Your Kids Copy YOU!

A lot of people have asked me how my kids are handing this. If they are traumatized, anxious, and if they can sleep at night. It didn’t faze them much. They were pretty much their normal selves after the initial shock. What I realized was that they were responding as Nick and I were. They were copying us. Other people were freaking out. Crying hysterically. I can’t tell you how many times I heard “What are you going to do?”. To which I’d reply that God will make a way. We’re all ok and that’s all that matters. I’m not entirely sure but I think it was more than just our own kids watching us. Remember that whatever you say is planting a seed in your child’s mind. They are watching everything you do. They will mimic you. Be worth copying! (Take a look at Romans 5:1-21.)

3. Anything the Devil Means for Harm, God Turns to Good!

I’m pretty sure the devil did this. He saw our faith growing. He saw Nick beginning to love Christ. He sees our potential. I was getting ready to be a camp counselor at our church’s kid camp, running a small group, volunteering at an inner city ministry. Whatever else my family and I will do in the future to magnify the kingdom of God, I think the devil can see that. So he tried to destroy it.  He’ll do whatever he can to make you question God. Genesis 50:20 says “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.” I won’t know the extent of how this effected anyone else until I get to Heaven. But I do know that so much good came out of this situation. Not only did we get a new home, a much nicer home, but I watched the faith in my kids grow. We lost everything we had but we go back over 10 times more than we had. Ever heard that saying “God will give you double for your trouble”? Well, He did! Monetarily yes but also in relationships being restored, a stronger marriage,  and just abundance in very way.

4. God Does Provide!

Immediately after the fire, “stuff” started manifesting. God used the people around us to supply all of our needs. Before I even left the scene that night my van had boxes of clothes in it. My parents and one of my girlfriends set up donation sites and the donations just started flowing in. My bonus kids’ mom was there nearly every day with the little things that I needed just to get through each day. We actually were so blessed that we were able to pass on the leftover items that we did not need to the inner city ministry I volunteered for. We had enough to bless two entire communities and still had some left! For the first week after the fire, it didn’t matter where I went, there was a steady flow of people stopping in to give hugs, donations, money, and well wishes. I felt so undeniably loved and cared for during that tough time. A lot of people I haven’t seen in years stopped in to just help. Several people who I didn’t know but that knew a friend of ours even helped. Small towns are amazing that way. God does provide. We never went without anything we needed. (Phil 4:9, Matt 6:31-32, Matt 7:11, Lee 12:24, Ps 34:10)

5. Everything Goes Full Circle!

As I sat in awe at the generosity around me, I wondered aloud why so many people were so quick to help us so freely. A friend said to me, “it’s because you’d do it for me”. Then I started noticing in several of the cards and letters that people would write something I had done for them in the past. Usually things that I forgot about. One package arrived from someone I use to be very close to who really did something terrible to me. I hadn’t heard from her in nearly 18 years. She sent a letter apologizing and that letter meant more to me than the money and the gift she sent. My husband cried on several occasions and told me that if it weren’t for me or for my family that he would have nothing right now. The love received was not only a result of seeds I had sown in the past, but my family as well. Some people helped simply because someone in my family had helped them in the past. This was an incredible thing to witness. I’m not sure if I found all of them but I found 66 verses in the Bible on the law of sowing and reaping. I am definitely not going to cite all of those but I will cite one. 2 Corinthians 9:6 says “Remember this, whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.”

It took nearly a month to demolish the burned house, a few weeks to itemize everything I had in the house for the insurance company, (shout out here to State Farm’s Brett Younce for being so amazing. If you’re in the Grand Rapids area and you switch to him, make sure you tell him Julie Harnish sent you 🙂 and five months to rebuild. (You can watch the rebuilding video here.) We have been in our new house since Christmas Eve. I’m not saying it was all peachy keen. There were hard days. It’s still weird reaching for doors that aren’t there anymore and light switches that are now in a different spot. I often go to grab my (fill in the blank with some random item you need) and realize I don’t have one of those anymore. I wouldn’t wish a house fire on my worst enemy. What I am saying is that there is positive in it. It all worked out okay. It turned out to be a blessing. Mostly, I am so happy to be home.

P.S. A friendly suggestion: raise your contents coverage in your insurance plan. You do not realize how quickly every little thing in your home adds up. We were under insured in the contents department. 


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