It’s been almost three years since a devastating fire wreaked havoc on the sleepy little town of Yarnell, AZ. A couple of days ago I listened to an interview with Brendan McDonough, the sole ‘Hot Shot’ survivor of the Yarnell Fire. His story, while one of overwhelming heartbreak, is also one of restoration. We are praying for this young man as he continues to heal and search for his new purpose. His book, My Lost Brothers, just went on sale.
Today we revisit the original post…
The stories are all over the news. Natural disasters, shootings, acts of terrorism… Events too horrible to wrap our heads around. They seem far, far away. Our mouths drop and our hearts sting, but we’re often sitting in the comfort of our living rooms sipping a cold beverage watching flat images on a television screen.
Sometimes though, a situation hits home, not just because it ‘feels’ too close for comfort, but because it ‘IS’. It’s in our community, devouring our neighborhood and hurting our friends. It affects us.
Just ten days ago my hubby and I were surfing through channels and a headline caught our attention. ‘Yarnell Wildfire’. “There’s another Yarnell somewhere else besides in Arizona, right honey?” I anxiously asked Lindon. Slightly irritated as he flipped through more channels he shot back, “I don’t know. I’m trying to find out.” The mood was instantly tense; we both knew the odds of the grim reality.
It was ‘our’ Yarnell.
We own four beautiful acres in neighboring Peeples Valley, just three miles down the road. We spend quite a bit of time in the area, know a few people, frequent our favorite diner, The Ranch House, and are in love with the small, sleepy town of Yarnell. Needless to say, we were transfixed on the television.
After all was said and done, 19 Hot Shot Firefighters lost their lives, 129 homes were destroyed and over 8300 acres were burned. It wasn’t the biggest wildfire in Arizona history, but it certainly was one of the most devastating.
I watched several memorials and tributes for the fallen firefighters. Sons, husbands, dads…three even with babies on the way. It was heart wrenching. They risked their lives for land they didn’t own and people they had never met. The loss of property and land would have been far worse if not for their efforts. They are heroes; each and every one. And they paid the ultimate price; so did their families and friends.
We drove up to our property last weekend and got our first look at our small little piece of heaven. Yarnell proper, including The Ranch House, was virtually untouched. Our land was saved. The gorgeous ranch land in Peeples Valley was still lush and green.
But it was bittersweet.
Remnants of the horrific fire that recently had engulfed the countryside were everywhere. Entire mountain ridges completely barren where color and fullness had once been. Huge expanses of land with nothing more than black skeletons standing about. It looked like a forest graveyard. I suppose it was.
We wondered, for those personally impacted, how do they pick up the pieces? Where do they go from here?
Ruin or Restoration
It made me think of the series our pastors are currently teaching – Ruin or Restoration?
When we are faced with ruin, we have a choice. We can succumb to the loss. We can crawl up in a fetal position and detach from the world. We can become incapacitated and overwhelmed. We can give up.
Or we can choose restoration. We can rally support, seek healing and choose hope. We can press on knowing the promises made to us. Very few things in life are guaranteed and we must stand strong and have faith in the ones that are.
God promises us that:
- He is with us always! Deuteronomy 31:8, “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
- Prayer will draw him close and bring us peace. Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
- He will soothe our soul in times of sorrow. Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
- Our temporary afflictions pale in comparison to the glory of eternity! 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
- Even in the worst of circumstances, we will receive complete restoration. Psalm 71:20, “Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again. From the depths of the earth, you will again bring me up.”
We MUST turn to God.
I want to leave you with a favorite song of mine from Casting Crowns, “Praise You in the Storm”. Sometimes the same words we read feel much more powerful and impactful when put to music. Click here to listen.
When faced with a grim circumstance, impossible task or debilitating life situation, what will you choose – Ruin or Restoration? Remember, God does his best work when we are fully relying on Him – when He is not just the best answer, but the only answer. Choose restoration. Choose God.
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