December 10, 2017
Yvonne posted this pic of Grace as a throwback on Facebook. The pic was from her cheer competition at Disney in 7th grade in 2011. She is smiling and her hair is up in the cheer ponytail. I spent the next half hour or so texting with Yvonne about how difficult it is for me to look at old pics of Grace because Grace’s story seems so divided into Before, During, and After. Before we knew about her struggles, During the active battle to win, and now we live in the After. Cheer was one of the last truly happy times in the Before. There wasn’t much to be happy about During. And the After has been full of ambivalence.
Thursday night after 10:00, Grace started texting me and Paul that there was smoke in her college dorm building. Neither of us woke up to the text alerts. She called me after 11 asking me to come get her from school. It took a minute to process what she was telling me. The building had been evacuated because of smoke, and all the students were just hanging out outside. She wasn’t able to grab anything as she left the dorm, and there was smoke coming down the stairwell. She had nothing but the clothes she was wearing. She didn’t even grab her car keys, so she was just stuck on campus. I grabbed her extra car keys and left for the school. There were several firetrucks and police but we couldn’t really see what was going on. I gave her the extra key. Grace got in her car and we both headed home.
The last time firetrucks were called to the dorm was when Grace was popping popcorn and it set off the alarm system. There was no fire, no damage, just a very embarrased girl. It was a non-event. I expected Thursday night would be a non-event as well. Grace and I got separated on the drive home, and just as I was pulling in the driveway at 12:30, she called to say the school contacted her. She could go back to the dorm if she wanted. She thought she might eventually come home but she would get some clothes from the dorm first. Then at 1:00 Friday morning, she called crying saying that there were 2 dorm rooms destroyed by the water from the firetrucks, and hers was one of them. She took her school keys and ID and her wig and came home.
Rumor has it that the fire started with a lit cigarette that somehow got inside the walls of the dorm. Grace and others noticed a foul smell as early as noon Thursday, and it worsened through the day. Then smoke was noticed coming out of the wall in the evening and students were evacuated. I’m guessing the smell was the fire smoldering inside the walls during the day. And I’m guessing someone is really going to be in serious trouble because the dorms are smoke-free.
Grace and I spent Friday at the school. Her dorm room was a stinky wet mess. I think the damage was from the water hoses spraying the room above Grace’s. There was a soaked ceiling tile that crashed into her floor. The water damage was thankfully limited to mostly one side of the room. Grace and her roommate had their beds lofted, with their desks and other things under the beds. It was the bed side that had the water damage. All their bed linens, pillows, blankets, sheets were soaked. Water spilled over their beds, and the string lights Grace had strung under her bed to light up her desk area were ruined. Her graduation gift laptop was on her desk. Nobody should sleep on an unprotected dorm mattress, so before school started months ago, we bought Grace a plastic mattress cover, like a giant plastic pillowcase for the mattress. That plastic mattress cover mostly protected all of the things under the bed on the desk. The desk area wasn’t completely dry, but her laptop was dry. Some clothes were drenched, but all her clothes had smoke damage. The school is taking care of dry cleaning everything that smells or was wet.
Her electric blanket was drenched, and since we can’t trust the wiring in it, we trashed it. Her floor rug will be thrown out. Some extension cords have been sacrificed. The “dry” side of the room had her refrigerator, television, printer, coffee maker, and microwave. They are all fine. Grace was the first displaced student the school spoke with Friday morning, so she had her choice of new living quarters. Instead of pairing with a roommate, she chose a single room in the next building over on the same level, so moving was just an easy walk without stairs.
Grace’s friend Anna showed up first thing and stuck around until we were done. We worked her hard and she never complained. She supported Grace like a true friend, and her help only cost me a McDonald’s meal. Grace’s advisor, Christal, assured Grace that her grades would not be affected if Grace needs some time to get resettled. And Christal told Grace that if any of her wig and makeup supplies were damaged or destroyed that Grace could have access to Christal’s personal supplies. In Christal’s words, if Grace lost anything that would prevent her from being “successful at school,” Christal would restore those things for Grace. She offered to pull students off of school projects to help with packing or moving if needed.
Somehow we got EVERYTHING done that needed done before the snowfall was too heavy. But since everyone in town was headed home early to beat the snow, the 20 minute drive home turned into an hour and a half. The traffic was awful and the roads were getting bad. When I was nearly half-way home from Grace’s school, Emily’s school called to tell me that Emily and lots of other kids were stranded at school because the buses couldn’t navigate the roads safely, so I’d need to come get her. And just like everything else that somehow fell into place on Friday, one of Emily’s former teachers, our neighbor Connie, offered to drive Em home. That offer saved me probably a half hour of traffic and slippery roads, and only cost me a bag of homemade fudge.
Could we have a Christmas without water damage and displacement maybe? I guess not. But this theme of water damage and destruction makes me wonder what God is trying to reveal to us, to me. Last year we spent 2 nights in a hotel the week before Christmas, and then 2 weeks in a hotel in January and February. This year we are dealing with water again just a few weeks before Christmas. Am I missing something about the Christmas holiday? Is there something I need to understand about this Christ Child who is coming? We have 3 Advent calendars at the house, so we count down until Christmas. We are in this amazing time in history when we can celebrate the Advent anticipating the Christ, while still living in the blessing of His accomplished life, death, and resurrection. Advent is the Before. We know what Christ accomplished During his life and death. And the After of His resurrection gives us the promise and surety of eternal life. I’d prefer to not have to drown just to fully understand what God is trying to show me. God preserved a remnant of His people and animals in the great flood. It reminds me that though we have lost some precious items 2 years in a row from water damage, we haven’t lost anything that keeps us from moving forward successfully.
And despite dealing with loss, incredible inconvenience, and cost from water damage, I’m reminded that this Christ Child is coming, He has come, to be living water to me. My experience with flowing water has been destroyed hardwoods last year, and a soaked dorm this year. But Jesus comforts me with His promise of eternal life through His living water. “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'”John 7:38 ESV. There’s no loss to me because it’s His free gift of salvation. There’s no inconvenience to me because I can count it all joy. And it doesn’t cost me McDonald’s or fudge or anything, because He paid it all.
I’m trying Lord to learn your lesson because selfishly I really don’t want more water damage next year. But mostly because I want to know You better. Be patient with me.