After the Fire


At 9:00 a.m. on November 8, 2018, my fingernails embarked on a journey unlike any they’ve experienced before.

A pounding on our door woke my roommate, and only roused my sleep enough to barely lift my head. I heard voices, then fell back to the pillow. Then an urgent shout, “wake up Beth—wake up—there’s a fire!—we have to go!” Jumped into street clothes, ran down to the carport, sped inch-by-inch, stop-and-go down the road toward the exit out of Paradise. And there was the fire, nearing my mobile home park. I was entranced by the sight of it. I pulled out my cell phone, took pictures of the living, breathing behemoth. It spat, cracked, and exploded. No-no, it wasn’t alive but it preened for the pictures.

I’m not going to tell you my fire story. Every evacuee from the Camp Fire has a story. Of fear. Of bravery. Of sorrow. Of saving. Of losing. Instead, I’ll tell you about my aftermath.

My roommate and I were fortunate to find a Chico rental with help from a friend while we were decompressing in a Roseville motel. The majority of Camp fire evacuees have scattered far and wide to family, friends, every rental available for miles, and even to strangers offering a room in their homes.

I’m angry about that scattering. After decades of running from God, of fighting Him, I’d gone back to church and reacquainted myself with Him. I love God, and have learned to love others whom He loves, Christian or not. Now the Camp fire has forced many of these people to set in motion new horizons temporarily, and for some, permanently. Disenchanted by brutal absurdities of life, even so I know in my heart that this is good for God. A diaspora of sorts, “those that were scattered went everywhere preaching the word of God (Acts 8.4),” often to a hostile world.

My fingernails have grown longer than they’ve ever been; they scrape along the floor when I walk. Consciously or subconsciously, I haven’t cared about doing my nails because, well, my nail clippers and file were incinerated in the fire. And I feel like this rental is not my home.

Which I guess is an oxymoron:

“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens (2 Cor. 5.1).”


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