Two weeks ago my sister’s life was forever changed. On an ordinary Thursday she lost her home and barn to a fire.

My sister and her family live a simple life out in the country where she loves to tend to her garden and animals. She fiercely loves her husband, three kids, grandson, and all the children she cares for as a Children’s Ministry Director at her church. She is kind, loving, and a wonderful sister.

Why her?

Three weeks ago, we met at Ikea, had lunch and looked at all the stuff we might need. Then we went over to the mall and looked at all the clothes and accessories we might need.

Smoke and fire clearly mark priorities.

She is thankful. She has nothing, nothing material left. But she has her family.

The morning after the fire, I wrote a post on Facebook explaining what happened and telling everyone she needed help. Beginning that afternoon people who have never met my sister started leaving clothes, shoes, diapers, cash, and gift cards on my front porch. My e-mail and phone were overflowing with messages of concern and love. My sister’s friends went to the store for her and bought all the necessities that we don’t think about: underwear, toothbrush, hairbrush, shoes. And silly things like Chap-stick, hand lotion, and nail clippers. Friends offered her a place to stay. Family arrived to care for them. Her church (and mine) began praying. My sister and her family could feel God’s love and care for them through the people in their lives.

Powerful prayer. Powerful care. Powerful community.

The last two years in Colorado have been brutal with all the damage caused by fires. I would read stories in the news about these families and think how sad for them. There were times when I would stop to pray and ask God to show them love and care. Then I would go on with my day. Now it is my family people are reading about.

How different it is when tragedy gets personal.

During a hard time most people don’t know what to do, so they do nothing. They may give the open and empty promise of “Call me if you need anything”. Having faced difficult times myself, I never called those people, because I didn’t even know what I needed. Friends and strangers who just show up are the ones who blessed me beyond words.

Next time God gives you an opportunity to be his loving arms, try these 4 ways to be a blessing:
Just show up. Even if you don’t know what to say, express that. Don’t wait to be asked, just do something.
Listen. Let them tell their story
Realize trauma is messy and hard , suspend all judgment and criticism. You really don’t know how you would react to something until you are in the middle of it.
Don’t forget them. Continue to show up for the long haul.

Two items were salvaged from my sister’s home. A prayer angel carved of wood. (My nephew found her sitting in the kitchen as if she was praying for all of them.) And a pewter bookend that is a replica of the famous Philadelphia sign of LOVE.

Tragedy reminds us, we need prayer and LOVE.

As a family, we stood in a circle outside the shell of my sister’s home. We cried. We laughed. We held hands. We prayed. Then we cheered. We cheered for new beginnings!

What are some ways you have reached out when tragedy strikes?

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD,
plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11

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