Today’s Truth

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…”

Isaiah 43:1-3

Friend to Friend

Thunder cracked the sky when a lightning bolt ripped through the roof of our home, igniting a fire that redefined our normal that Tuesday night in March. The house snapped dark and shook. It was as if a bomb had gone off.

“I think we got hit!” Hunter screamed from the family room.

We hurried outside to see if it was true. Our neighbor Jeff ran across his yard to ours yelling a confirmation, “I think you got hit! I saw lightning hit your roof!”

The next few minutes were a blurry race against the clock. Get the dogs out! Get the cars out! I’ll grab the computers!

And that’s pretty much all we had time for.

The flames and smoke kicked us out of our home and far from warmth or comfort.

Sirens. Red lights flashing.

Fear and helplessness stood in the rain right beside me as I watched it all play out from across the street.

My feet were naked. In the chaos and commotion I didn’t think to put any on. Someone noticed and placed a pair of leather boat shoes before me. I had no idea whose they were, but I gratefully slipped them on.

The minutes seemed like months in the moments between the arrival of the fire fighters and the point at which they had the hoses hooked up to a water source. Hurry up, guys! Flames raged wildly from my closet window. The house glowed bright with orange. Was this really happening?

Two trucks. Three. Four. Firemen running and shouting. Police on the scene. News cameras and reporters.

Why was it taking so long?

Neighbors everywhere. Soaked. Stunned. Standing in support. Offering prayers and a place to stay. They’d all felt the earth shake within their homes when ours was hit.

Once the fire was contained and fully out, we were allowed to go back in to grab any personal items. It was almost 1am. Darkness hung thick in the air. It is standard procedure for the power to be cut, so the firemen led us through the ashes, debris and water with handheld lights.

The upstairs looked like a smoldering freight train had passed through, hurling darkness and destruction. Soot and debris was all around. Water and smoke everywhere. And ashes. Heaps and heaps of ashes. Could this really be our home?

Yet God’s peace was in the midst of it all, calming me. “When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…” (Isaiah 43:2-3)

To say that the night of the fire was surreal scarcely begins to describe it. Since then, my family and I have been in a holding pattern of sorts. A series of hurry-up-and-wait scenarios that tenderize and stretch a heart like a steel mallet.

Displaced is such an odd term.

But, then again, odd words and phrases seem to fit like a pair of well-worn jeans when the storm brings fire. We’ve had to learn a whole new vernacular of terms: contents, textiles, claims, recoverable depreciation, non-recoverable, restorable…

Recover. Reject. Repair. Replace. Restore.

The smoke and smells seared my eyes for days. People I’d never seen from companies I’d never heard of were sifting through the ashes of our personal items, determining what was salvageable and what was damaged beyond repair.

Strangers. In my home. After the most horrific, traumatizing night of my family’s life. Tearing down walls. Ripping up carpet. Packing up box after box after box.

I felt exposed. Vulnerable. Uncomfortable. Did they know they were throwing away and packing up memories?

Did they realize that the big red hatbox in my closet was filled with personalized birthday and anniversary cards from my husband and crayon-written notes from my now grown children?

It was all too personal. Surely this was just a bad dream I would wake up from.

But, no.

Now, many months later, our home is being rebuilt and we are grateful. We’ve seen and are in the process of witnessing beauty rise from the ashes on many levels.

We’re thankful for the ways we have seen the Lord protect and provide for our family.

We’re grateful for the ways we’ve seen our neighbors and the body of Christ rise up in love, and for the ways we’ve experienced a depth of community that we will treasure for life.

The lessons from the fire are being seared like tattoos on the hearts of my family. And the learning continues each day as we press through the trials of construction. Delays, mistakes, sub-contractors that don’t show… a move in date as fickle as the Carolina weather.

I want to learn every lesson that the Lord has for me – I really do – but the waiting can sure discourage a heart. Do we need to learn so much, God?

I just want to go home.

But through it all, in this season of hurry-up-and-wait, God is bidding me to trust Him. To trust His timing, His plan, His sovereignty and His ability to restore and make new.

Maybe He’s bidding you to trust Him today to? Perhaps not with a house fire, but with a prodigal child, a crumbling marriage or an aging parent? Maybe your waiting involves a health battle, singleness, an employment frustration or a financial burden.

In spite of our struggles, God is at work. Even when questions loom and pain is present. He is faithful and powerful, able to do more than you and I can even ask or imagine. Let’s ask for and imagine a fresh rising of strength and hope today as we trust God’s goodness even when our circumstances burn like fire and smell like smoke.

Let’s Pray

Dear Lord, Thank You for promising to never leave or forsake Your children. Please strengthen me to face the fires before me today with courage and honor. Help me to trust You.

In Jesus’s Name I pray,

Now It’s Your Turn

Read what God told His people in Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” How does this speak to you today? Tell me – or write a prayer of response – in the comments section of my blog.

PERSONAL UPDATE: So many of you have prayed for my family since the fire. I can’t thank you enough. We have just moved back into our home and are swimming in a deep sea of boxes and in an even deeper sea of gratitude. God is faithful and always good. Love you guys! Thanks for doing life with Sharon, Mary and me!

More from the Girlfriends

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15 Responses to “Hurry Up and Wait”

  1. Malloy Cathy says:

    Lost my house in Dec 2002 to a house fire. Feel your pain and anguish. But also feel your gratitude for the support from friends, family and strangers. So much of who I am today has been determined by the life lessons of that tragedy. Our God is soooo good and his grace immeasurable. May you become stronger from your walk with him at your time of need even when you don’t remember him being beside you. May you show that love to everyone you meet. God Bless you and your family.

  2. Sherri McKnight says:

    My family went through a house fire a number of years ago. When my husband w allowed to go in, he found my Bible on an old church pew we had with a handcrafted plaque above it, The plaque read “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord” and had silk flowers glued on it. These items were on the main level were the fire started. Everything else on that level was destroyed. These 3 items had nothing on them, except some after from the fire hoses. Items on the next level were also destroyed. We knew then that God had signed our fire and told us it would be alright. We had nothing but the clothes on our back. “I am with you, always”, He tells us and we found that through the coming days as our comfort.


  3. Senny says:

    Hi Gwen,

    Glory to the God almighty!! So grateful that the Lord provided for you and your family! God is Sovereign!

  4. Kristi says:

    This speaks to me in my marriage. I am going through a fire but it gives me hope that God can bring beauty from ashes!

  5. Kathy M says:

    I was watching you on live feed the night your home was hit by lighting. It was so unbelievable!! I am so sorry for the losses that resulted from that experience. I have been watching to see how Grace would take you through this time and praying for you as you traveled this path. I was and am in the middle of my own “waiting on the Lord” and your examples, through your posts on Facebook and your devotions here, have given me hope and peace. Thank you for being a woman of God and a girlfriend in God. May the Lord continue to bless you!

  6. Dee Jolliff says:

    GIG was an unknown devotional until a friend of my sister’s was led to share today’s :Hurry Up and Wait. I live in Santa Rosa CA where a fire sweep through our community on October 9 destroying over 5,000 homes. Mine was one of them. The reading today was uplifting for me, a senior widow. I went though the horrific short notice evacuation in the middle of the night with the clothes
    on my back, purse, pillow and Bible. So I am in my “waiting on the Lord” and your devotion was a great encouragement. I know what God has done for you and your family He will surely do for me.

    • Gwen Smith Gwen Smith says:

      Dee! Thank you for sharing your heart and your story. I’m so sorry about your loss! I am stopping to pray for you now and want to encourage you to keep reaching for the strength and hope that God provides when we call out to Him.

      Warmly in Grace,

  7. Kelly says:

    Thank you God for providing me and my family with your abundant blessing, spiritually and physically. Continue to use Gwen and her family as a blessing to others, her strength will encourage people to trust in you through good times and bad, happy and sad. These disasters turn into small miracles that are capable of producing a large abundance of fruit. I know it is hard fro me to understand whey bad things happen in this life, but I pray that you hep me to trust you fully with all my heart and lean on you for all wisdom and strength. In Jesus name.

  8. Kara Brown says:

    A friend just posted this on my facebook. I just lost my home in the Tubbs fire (Santa Rosa, Ca) last month along with 1300 homes in my neighborhood. This brought tears to my eyes.

    • Gwen Smith Gwen Smith says:

      I’m so sorry for your loss, Kara! And for the loss of those in your community. I actually prayed for you guys when I saw the news coverage. I’m sure your head and heart are swirling… but hang tight and constantly reach for the strength God promises. Even in the ashes He shows up. Can’t wait to hear more about your rise to recovery.

      Warm Blessings,

  9. Danielle says:

    Hi Gwen,

    Gosh, when I saw today’s verse, the tears started rolling! We are currently facing a very big, potentially life-altering decision for our now four year old little boy. We have been praying for direction and still have no idea which decision is best. So your message of trusting in God’s plan and His timing is a welcome reminder to me at this time! (Thank you!)

    But that verse… Isaiah 43v1-3… That’s the verse that someone gave us when our son was born. He was born at 24 weeks and there were massive complications. My friend’s mom had this verse on her heart for us and gave it to us the day after he was born. We clung to it throughout the entire time (115 days!) he was in hospital.

    So I just wanted to say, although it looks like (from the comments above) that God has spoken to and touched many hearts through your devotion today, it’s almost as if this was written just for me – and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Thank you x

    P.S. If you would like (no pressure), here is the testimony of our little boy. Excuse the South African accents!

    • Gwen Smith Gwen Smith says:


      What an incredible testimony about Jedd! I don’t what decisions you need to make, but I am stopping to pray for you and your husband – and for precious Jedd – right now!

      Love and Prayers from North Carolina,

    • Jenny Allen says:

      Thank you for sharing Jedd’s story. I am family doctor in the states & love hearing how God still does intervene. Jeremiah 29:11 is one of my favorites as well and I know He has proven it over and over since it was inspired thousands of years ago. Thank you again!

  10. I saw some of your lighting fixtures before and your pets, I;m sure your home will be a blessing and you’ll settle in and have a wonderful holiday season, beauty for ashes.

  11. Jenny Allen says:

    I see we are not alone in our house fire experience. Ours was 1987 in December. God got my mother out safe as she was alone while Dad worked as our old wiring lit up the house in a new way. There are many things I miss but I know now I will not need in our new life beyond. My niece loved me staying in her room and the family was together. Good memories now. Always faithful.

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