This year the feeling of gratitude is overwhelming. At times it takes my breath away with how much I have to be thankful for. Tears come easily these past few days, and not just from chopping onions for the stuffing. You see, two nights ago our family was endangered by a reckless, foolish man who was shooting at police and set fire to the house he was holed up in. It was like the ending of the movie "Young Guns" come home to roost, and it was literally right next door.
It was two in the morning when my husband awoke to gunfire. "What was that? Car backfires? Where is it coming from?" These were the thoughts that prompted him to check the bathroom window, which overlooks the street below our house. "Oh, it's the police. They've blocked off the street. They're working on the road."
Huh? Well, that was his less than coherent thought and when he woke me up getting back into bed that was what he told me. We both decided to go back to sleep. Less than a minute later, our motion light illuminated our bedroom and I heard two "POP"s.
"Jon, the motion light is on!"
Jon got up to check and told me, "There's a man in our driveway."
I yanked back the covers, leaped from bed and ran to the window. I was trying to not let him see me, staring at a dark figure through a slit in the curtains. He was standing next to the driveway, arms down; a creepy silhouette looking up at our house. The fear I felt in the past from watching horror movies did not compare with the pure terror which rushed through my body at the sight of that man. I grabbed my phone and quickly dialed 911. The lady on the other end assured me that there was police activity in our neighborhood already. Right then, the man started up the driveway, stepping into the light of the motion detector. He was dressed in all camouflage, putting on a gas mask as he walked. I informed the 911 operator of his movement and she reiterated what Jon had already ascertained, that this was a SERT officer (think a more PC title for the SWAT team). She told us to stay away from the windows, to stay inside, and to do whatever the officer told us to do.
I thanked her, hung up, and immediately the doorbell rang twice.
Jon pulled on his jeans and ran downstairs to check his badge and see what he needed. They were monitoring a dangerous person next door, he said, and could we please turn off the motion lights.
Stay away from windows?
This is not supposed to happen at my house.
I sneak a peak at the backyard and see the SERT officer standing next to our swing-set, rifle drawn.
This is the yard where our children play.
Where we, where they, are supposed to be safe.
Oh, Lord, I am so scared!
I run to their bedrooms to check on them, making sure they are sleeping through this commotion. Then I sit on the stairs and try to breathe. Where's Jon? Help me, Lord!
Then, "Bang bang" on the door. Jon runs down to talk to the officer again.
"You're going to need to get warm clothes on, get your children, and leave. The neighbor's house is on fire."
Sorry, that was the solitary thought that entered my head. You always like to think you will be able to keep it together in situations like this, that you will keep a level head and keep your cool. . . Didn't happen here. Not in Elisabeth-ville. I was on the verge of losing it, big-time.
I ran into my room to get a coat.
"Jon, I don't have a coat up here!" I sobbed.
Then a reassuring thought came: I have socks on.
You see, I never sleep with socks on. I was so thankful for those socks.
I grabbed a sweater, threw it on, and ran to get the baby.
"Jonah, wake up! We have to leave! There's a fire next door!"
Jon was waking up the girls, grabbing Brynne off the top bunk, turned around and Ava is stark naked. She thought it was morning and she had to get dressed for school! She's picking out underwear from her drawer! "No, Ava, we have to go. Throw these clothes on, quick!"
I grab a blanket and coat for the baby, rush downstairs with Jonah ahead of me, grab my purse and Jon's wallet, and head onto the front porch. The gas-mask-wearing, rifle-bearing SERT man was holding the screen door open for us, and the smoke was so thick we could only see about two feet ahead.
As we are walking out of the house Jonah looks up at the man and says, "Today's my birthday!"
"Happy birthday, Buddy!" he replied. So nice. So thankful for this man who could've yelled at my son to get in the d@*m car.
Well, it just so happened that all this not only happened on our son's birthday, but also on the coldest night of the season so far. Since it was so cold, the van doors were iced shut. We couldn't get into our get-away car! Jon was able to get the passenger door open and was throwing kids over the seat into the back, then he and I hop in our seats, with Abram on my lap.
"Are all six out? You have all six?" SERT man says.
"Yes, we have everyone. Is my garage on fire?" (there was a LOT of smoke).
"No, it's the neighbor's house. Go east. Just go east."
Jon backed down the driveway escorted by two SERT officers with their rifles drawn. I remember thinking: They are protecting us.
Jon drove past the police barricade and away from the danger. The kids were talking quietly to themselves in the backseat and that's when I really lost it. I started semi-hyperventilating and heaving dry sobs wracked my body. I bent over and touched Jon's leg, "Please. I can't bear it. I don't know if our house is burning down."
"Babe, it doesn't matter. We have everything we need right here in this van."
It took me about one second to realize that what he said was absolutely correct. All my loves, all of my heart was right there with me; safe. Did anything else matter? The rest was just icing on the cake.
We ended up crashing in our friend's living room and "sleeping" a bit. By seven that morning we were able to call the non-emergency police line and get permission to return to our untouched, albeit smokey home. Not one fence-board was burned. Not one tree singed, even the ones that hang over into the neighbor's yard. Praise the Lord!
The kids were excited that school was canceled due to ice (that's Portland for ya), and we were in shock as we watched the firemen cut through the roof of the house next door to let the smoke and gases escape. The house was completely destroyed. The homeowner and his wife, along with the wife's daughter were apparently able to get out safely, while the son shot at police and set fire to everything they owned. The son died that night.
It's ironic that for days we had been preparing to celebrate our shining, happy, lovely boy and on Jonah's birthday the neighbor's son not only takes his own life but everything they have along with him. Needless to say, we have such a treasure in following God's Word. In the reassurance that though discipline may be difficult for a time, in the end it heaps blessings and rewards upon your head. That's not to say that because we follow the Lord we take it for granted that our children will, but we are resting on our Father's direction and trying our best to give them a godly, stable home.
So we are thankful this year, not only for His provision, and our health, and a loving family as we are every year, but for His care and protection in such a tangible way, as well.
Happy Thanksgiving to you all; may you know His care for you, as well.
"The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness;
He will quiet you by His love;
He will exult over you with loud singing."
He loves us.