I know that many of you want to know about the cause of the fire and the insurance claim. I will get to that part soon. However, I really hate rehashing all those ugly, stressful details, and because we just moved into a wonderful house and would like to talk about something very positive.
The first 10 days after the fire:
The first night, Becki and the kids stayed with her mother in LaVergne while I stayed at her brother’s trailer near our house. The next morning I contacted the Red Cross, and they came out to the house later that morning. One of the Red Cross volunteers was my friend, James Goodman, who I work with at Adventist Community Services. He gave us a $300 debit card, three nights at a hotel in Murfreesboro, and a referral for other agencies that help fire victims. We are very grateful to the Red Cross.
We stayed for three days at the Value Hotel in Murfreesboro. Hotels are always a great treat for our kids. They love swimming, watching the cable TV (parent approved of course), the snacks and the breakfasts. I drove to the house to work on salvaging our personal property, and Becki stayed with the kids. I purposely tried to keep her away from the house so she would not see all the sentimental items we lost. During this time, we used the Red Cross debit card for food, clothes, and a fourth night at the hotel. In addition to the debit card, we were given cash from several people and our work organizations that we needed and were so thankful for.
Our friend Don Walterhouse, who had sold us our house, was going out of town for a week, so he offered us his house while he was gone. This gave us the extra time we needed to look for a house that the insurance company would pay the rent on. There was one house in Woodbury that was the size we needed, however, they would not take less than a one year lease. The insurance company was not willing to do more than a 3 month lease, so the house fell through. Next we found a nice newer duplex in Murfreesboro, but it was too far from Woodbury, on a busy road in town, and very small.
Our 1st Rental house:
It was Friday and our friend was coming home on the following Monday. Our house hunt did not seem to be going well, and we did not want to still be staying at his house when he got back. A friend had a friend, the Wrights, who had a house that they needed to rent out. The family had moved to Tullahoma for work and was struggling financially. They had a large family, but their van had broken down and they did not have enough money to have it repaired. The insurance company agreed to pay 3months in advance at $850 per month. The family now had enough money to fix their van.
Very good friends made lunch for our family and the owner’s family as we helped the owners move their items into storage and get the house ready to move in. We believe the Lord lead us here because the timing was perfect, it was big enough for us to live very comfortably, had a wonderful country atmosphere with a big front porch that was peaceful and great for reading and we were able to help another family in need while they helped us.
After living there for a while we discovered that the water pressure was bad and the 2nd shower would not work, while it was large, it had a lot of unusable space, and the shared driveway was a problem with a neighbor that liked cursed around our kids. It wasn’t quite as perfect as we thought, but we were still blessed there, and we know that God had opened that house to us.
The 2nd Rental house:
Our neighbors, who had rented the house next to us for 12 years, called us about two weeks before the 3 months were up in our rental house. They had been “called” to be music ministers at a church in Indiana. They were to be out by the end of October and our 3 month commitment to the Wright’s was also up by the end of October.
The house was right next door to our house, and we were sure the insurance company would pay our claim “soon”. I planned to run electric extension cords over to our house to work on it and also planned to run a water hose over for cleaning also.
We were convinced that God wanted us there because it came open at the perfect time, the landlord let us move in on the word of our neighbors without meeting us, and it was a month by month lease for $450 per month. Again, the insurance company continued to pay the rent while we continued to pay our monthly mortgage payment.
This time in our life should be themed: The long, hard winter. The house was way too small for the 5 of us; the pipes froze twice and left us with no water; the electric bill was over $300 per month; there was mud everywhere; there were plenty of mice, the water was brown for weeks after it rained; it was too cold to do much work over at our house next door; the electric breakers would trip almost every time you plugged an extension cord in; the bathroom was way to small; and the shower did not work well.
Nevertheless, we believe that God lead us here in spite of our less than pleasurable experience. We had free rent, with no lease or deposit; we were able to be near our house to work on it and ward off dumpster divers; we had hope that our claim would be settled soon; we were taught perseverance and endurance of hardship; and we learned to praise God and be thankful no matter what the circumstance. We weren’t always upbeat, but we sure tried to act like it and found a number of things to get our mind off our situation. (this will be another part of this story). Usually when one of us was down the other was up and it balanced out very well. Also, the Lord blessed us with many scriptures, devotionals and encouraging acts from many, many people, our employers and different organizations!
3rd Rental house:
The insurance company told our attorney to expect a decision by the end of February. I had given them a letter requesting reimbursement of a lap top, but they were not responding. Then when I called about the rent during the last week of February, as I had done a week before the 1st of each month prior, I was told to go through my attorney for everything. I had a very strong feeling that they were going to deny the claim.
I decided to prepare for the worst, and the first thing we would do if they denied to pay our clain was to move to a more comfortable house. The task would be a difficult one since my wife wanted to live close enough to the church school so the boys could ride their bikes there. I wanted something big enough for us all to have a bedroom. We also have those four dogs and a cat. It did not seem very likely that we would find a place to fit all that criteria. I started on Craigslists since it was the easiest to search. I typed in Woodbury in the rental search box and one house came up that said Woodbury/Manchester area for $800 per month. I emailed back, and the lady gave me the address: 6040 Hollow Springs Rd. It was 3 miles down the road and only ˝ mile from our 1st rental house. The house was 2,000 sq ft with a huge front yard and a garage/basement that is the full length of the house. For an added bonus, it has a swimming pool. The owner was there working on the house and said it wasn’t ready yet. He plans to retire in the house and has plans to do a lot of work on it. All of our criteria were met in this house.
Every house we lived in at each stage after the fire has been a true blessing. After each of these experiences it made us deeply appreciate many things about this roomy house. This house is truly a blessing. Most of the furniture, clothes, toys, and household goods were given to us and we have virtually everything anyone could need to furnish a home. The day we moved some 20 or so friends came out to help us. The only downside is that our kitty is now an outside cat, and there is a house in the backyard rented by the landlord’s sister.