About a year ago, there was a terrible fire in my apartment building. Although there was damage to my apartment and I was unable to live there anymore, I was one of the lucky ones. Friends of mine upstairs had lost everything. I was on the first floor and was given the opportunity to enter the building and take some permitted belongings. I had lost a lot, but I was blessed to see my home one last time and take the things that I considered to be important.
I was allowed only 10 minutes in my apartment, due to the carbon monoxide alarm going off and the unsafe condition of the building.
This is what I took when I had just 10 minutes to go through everything that I owned.
Sentimental objects. I grabbed souvenirs from my trip to Italy, post cards and letters from family members, photographs of friends. I grabbed a shoebox that was hidden underneath my bed that held memories from an ex-boyfriend. I reached up to my top shelf for my grandmother’s jewelry that had been passed down to me. I scrambled for refrigerator magnets that were given to me as gifts. Yes, refrigerator magnets.
Clothing and shoes. I yelled to my mom to throw me my duffle bag and stuffed in as many outfits as possible. I didn’t choose my most expensive outfits. Instead, I took those that held meaning to me. The dress I accepted my college diploma in. The romper I rocked on my 21st birthday. Sandals that touched the sand of Mexico. Stilettos that killed my feet on my luckiest New Year’s Eve. I grabbed sporting sweatpants from playing softball in high school. Yes, sweatpants.
Items off the walls. Just two. I looked up and saw my wall piece that reads, “FRAME YOUR LIFE WITH FAITH.” I immediately hopped up onto the couch and ripped it down. I turned around to find another wall piece my mother had given me when I was having a hard time. It was the “Footprints in the Sand” poem. I quickly read the last line. “When you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.” I tore it off the wall with tears in my eyes.
Both of those wall pieces are perfectly hung in my new apartment. I occasionally take them down to inhale the scent of smoke.
I was not allowed to take furniture, heavy objects, items nearby the collapsed ceiling and anything electric.
Although the apartment still appeared full, I had all that I needed in my mother’s car.
My mother drove me to her house and I looked through everything we took. It all had to be sterilized. I kept listing the things I hadn’t taken, kept repeating that I wish I had more time in there, kept asking if there was a chance I could go back in. My mom told me to take another look through my duffle bags and try to think of the good in all of this.
So I did.
I looked through those photographs, held those memorable outfits, read those wall pieces. I remembered all of the good that came from all of the things I took. And I smiled because I truly was one of the lucky ones.
I also found my box of condoms buried between everything. When I questioned my mother why she took it, she said she felt it was important. And that was the end of that conversation.
Needless to say, I threw out that box of condoms.
That apartment was my home. I never felt comfortable in my house growing up and I never quite fit in when I lived away at college. But this apartment – this apartment was all my own. My sanctuary. I was so young and so blessed to live in that apartment! Countless pre-games with friends, numerous visits from family members, tons of birthday festivities and graduation celebrations, etc. etc. – all of those fantastic times happened in that apartment. I sat on that kitchen chair when I received the email informing me I landed my first real job. I had a one-night stand with a hot tourist from London in that bed. I collapsed onto that couch when my sister called me telling me that my father passed away.
But if there is one thing I learned from this experience, it is that God does not take something away from you without granting you something better.
I got my security deposit back, that month’s rent, and saved money for the next month until I moved into my new apartment. Everything in it was foreign to me. Just purchased objects. These things in this new apartment were not mine.
But with time, everything in this apartment became mine. I faced reality, and every time I walked through my door, I felt more and more at home.
My new apartment is beautiful.
I feel safe here.
I feel at home here.
For a while, there was one set of footprints. I know He carried me throughout this occurrence, and I know He helped me adjust.
But what I really, really know is that He watches over me. After all, I made it out of a burning building. And just incase you were wondering, so did my cat.