Posing in front of the burned-out house

Cathy (r.), with her mom and little sister in front of the burned-out house, showing off new dresses they were given, after losing everything they owned

So much depends on perspective. Part of maturity is learning to see situations from another person’s perspective.

For instance, in Journeys to Mother Love I wrote about the time our house burned down in the night and we barely escaped with our lives. My memories and perspective of the fire are those of the four-year-old child I was at the time. Walking through the flames, and later poking through the ashes, left real trauma and fear in my psyche. But the whole experience built real faith in my parents! And their busyness—re-establishing a home while planting a church—didn’t leave much room for helping their quiet little girl with her emotional needs. My parents’ call to ministry was the over-arching purpose and focus of our lives. They had committed their lives to the Lord and the church, and he would take care of us.

One week after Journeys to Mother Love was published, I was rummaging in my mother’s old cedar chest and found a letter she wrote soon after the fire. At the time, Mother was a 24-year-old pastor’s wife, and the mom of 2 preschoolers, living in California. It was the 1950s. Here is what she wrote to her parents back “home” in Colorado:

Dearest Daddy & Mother,

I’m sitting here at the table eating my breakfast…

Yesterday was the organization day for our church. We had 52 in Sunday School and about 60 for the church service (in our living room). It was wonderful. Our house was really crowded. Rev. Brown and his family were here to organize the church. It was thrilling.

God has certainly blessed us since the fire. It seems like the blessings have already out-weighed the terrible calamity. All the churches on the district took up offerings for us. A man at Central Church gave us a beautiful chrome dinette set…. We’re going to use the money we’ve received to buy some of the things we lost, such as a mixer, pen & pencil set, toaster, lamps, etc. … We never realized that we had so many wonderful friends and that people were so good – even complete strangers.

The baby pictures were all ruined. Do you suppose you could visit the different places we had them taken and see if they will make us some more? …

We’re going to get a settlement on the insurance which we’ll use to start building our new church. People have joked with us about starting the fire, the way things have worked out so well. We just know God has made the best of it and is using it for his glory.

We all still have a terrible dread of another fire and feel very strange at night when we go to bed. The sound of a fire engine sends cold chills up me now. I never did like the sound anyway and you know how I’ve always been so afraid of fire….

Well, I’ve got to go and get busy.

All our love,

Talk about perspective. I didn’t know Mother had such a fear of fire, or that she felt “very strange at night” when we all went to bed. I only remember my own childhood fear, panic and feelings of helplessness, and my parents’ preoccupation with the church work.

The fire wasn’t the only trial the Lord brought us through. And he is still “bringing me through”—giving me new perspectives.

Have you gained the perspective of viewing your story through the eyes of another person (perhaps your mother)?

~ Catherine Lawton