By Noelle Rhodes
I look out my living room window and see shattered glass everywhere. My eyes blur with exhaustion, but for the moment, I am sobered by the sight before me.
The night before, Troy and I had been lying in bed watching a television program together. The plot was set in Venezuela. I turned to Troy and said, “The Lord knows me well. I don’t think I could be a missionary to Venezuela. Thankfully, He sent me to Northern Ireland. I’ll take the rain and the riots over hot weather and big bugs any day.”
Literally, five minutes after I had made the comment, we heard an explosion. Our house shook and shards of glass pelted off our bedroom windows. I jumped out of bed and pulled back the blinds only to see the house across from ours on fire.
“Noelle, pack a bag. Now.” My husband exerts calm in the crisis.
He always chooses practical over panic in the midst of uncertainty. A quality I am still working on...
My voice shook with panic, “Was that what I think it was? A bomb?”
“Get clothes for all of us. We need to leave right away.”
Smoke fills our street. I hear sirens in the distance. In the background, people are yelling, but I can’t make out the words. What are they saying?
I gather clothes and grab our passports. Troy heads outside to get a better look. I hear popping sounds. Is that gunshots I hear? My brain scans for this week’s newspaper headlines. I knew there had been tension with the flag protests, but I didn’t think the tension would hit so close to home. Ahem, like 30 feet away our home....
Our kids sleep soundly in their room. Their sweet innocent faces are a stark contrast to the chaos that is happening around them. Troy gently wakes them up and with his most enthusiastic voice says,
“Guess what guys? We are going to have a sleepover at our friends’ house right now! Isn’t that fun?”
Our kids wake up cheering. “Hooray!” our six-year-old son shouts. My daughter hugs me tight and says, “Thank you, Mommy! This is the best ever!” I can feel a lump in the back of my throat and I squeeze her tighter.
An hour later, we learn there was a gas explosion and an investigation is underway. The man in the home was critically injured. The rest of the neighbors on the street had been evacuated. We could return to our homes in the morning.
Our friends make up a bed for us on their living room floor. The four of us try to close our eyes and steal some sleep before the night gets away from us. My six year old leans close to me and whispers, “You okay, Mama?” He pushes the hair away from my eyes, and catches one of the tears I try to hide from him.
“I am okay, darling, ” I whisper back.
My son kisses me on the check and closes his eyes to go back to sleep. I think of all that has
happened. I think of how far I am away from home. I think of how grateful I am to have close friends nearby to put us up for the night. And I think about how even though the house across from my own has literally exploded, there is no place I’d rather be. Though I am far from far my own home, I have found a home here.
God has called me to Northern Ireland and I can close my eyes to sleep. More than ever, I can this sing this Psalm,
“I look up to the mountains—
does my help come from there?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth!
He will not let you stumble;
the one who watches over you will not slumber.
Indeed, he who watches over Israel
never slumbers or sleeps.
The Lord himself watches over you!
The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.
The sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon at night.
The Lord keeps you from all harm
and watches over your life.
The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,
both now and forever.”
Psalm 121:1-8 (NLT)
Noelle Rhodes is married to her best friend, Troy, and 'mama' to two of the most hilarious human beings to exist: Silas and Olive Pearl. She and her family reside in Derry/Londonerry, Northern Ireland, as missionaries. When she is not wrangling her children or beating her husband in a game of Scrabble, you would probably find her doing laundry. Noelle blogs at Coffee with Noelle.