Carolyn Wing Greenlee

Fire, Rain, Foreclosure, and God

When I signed the reverse mortgage papers in February of 2015, I had no doubt I’d be able to satisfy the requirement attached. Years of dog nails, footsteps, and weather had worn paint away in a number of places on my two decks, but I had twelve months to get the exposed wood covered. The contract stated that failure to complete the repairs would result in a default on the loan, followed by foreclosure, a frightening thought except I had all the time in the world.

Summer came. In July I hired a young man to paint the deck. He was here three days and then suddenly moved to New York. I was dismayed, but by then the Rocky Fire was browning the air with so much smoke no one could have worked outside anyway.

Even before the Rocky Fire was contained, the Jerusalem Fire began. It was what we had feared. Drought, strange winds, years of unchecked undergrowth, and desiccated trees created conditions for the perfect firestorm. We made the national news.

When those fires were contained, we celebrated with cautious relief, but there was more to come, and it was worse.

The Valley Fire, whipped by violent, hot, dry winds, brought into people’s living rooms TV images of crackling walls of fire, exploding trees, neighborhoods disappearing in minutes. Once more we made the national news.

Some people had minutes to flee. In other areas, evacuations were going on in a carefully orchestrated way. Where I live, there is only one road out. We had an hour to pack. I took a small suitcase, some mementos, and my guitar. Dan packed the hard drives, the dogs, and one sock. People I hadn’t heard from in years were calling and emailing. They said they were praying.

Then it rained. Gently, softly. The air cooled. The winds stilled. The fire slowed. Firefighters surrounded it and left nothing to rise up and destroy ever again.

More rain fell. Temperatures dropped. We were heading into winter. I started thinking about my deck.

Lake County was in shambles and contractors were scrambling to meet the needs, but Dean of Dean’s Painting listened to my plight and made a point of coming over as soon as he could to give an estimate. He sent a very reasonable bid the very next day. He had only one concern. On the bottom of the bid, he wrote that there would have to be at least a week of temperatures above 70 degrees and humidity below 50%. Otherwise he could not, in good conscience, do the work. The paint simply would not stick.

In October, I asked the Lord if my deck would be done in time. He assured me it would. Perhaps that meant I would get an extension for extenuating circumstances. I called the Reverse Mortgage people. I thought it was a reasonable request since we were in a Nationally Declared Disaster Area. The Reverse Mortgage people were nice, but they said no extension had ever been granted where the provision for repairs was set at one year. They suggested contacting HUD or the FHA. Dan helped me do that. What we ran into was a mountain of resistance. It blocked our way in all directions. We got nowhere.

Hearing about my troubles, a friend called Brad Onorato, District Director to Congressman Mike Thompson. He immediately contacted me, saying he would see what he could do. I was hopeful. Surely this unreasonable requirement could not stand before such a determined representative of the Federal Government. Alas! though he truly did his best, Brad Onorato was thwarted by the same mountainous inflexibility we encountered before. It didn’t budge an inch.

Since “in time” to me had meant an extension, and no extension was possible, I asked the Lord, “Will I get my deck painted by February 17?” He said, “Yes.” I asked when it would happen. He said, “February.”

It rained most of January and the first two days of February. Then, miraculously (and I don’t use the term lightly), it stopped. Days were sunny and clear—over 70 degrees with humidity less than 50%. Hopeful now, Dan called Dean. Dean told him he was tied up on a job in Middletown. He couldn’t come till it was completed.

I asked the Lord, “Should I call someone else?” He answered, “No. Dan and Dean will get it done.” Well, all righty then.

On Friday, February 12, Dean called. He asked, “When’s the deadline?” I said, “Wednesday, February 17.”
He said, “I’m tied up here, and I can’t leave the people hanging. I can come as soon as I’m done.”

A man of his word is worth hiring. More than ever I felt God wanted Dean to have the job. I told him God had told me it would be done in time, and had said, “Dan and Dean will get it done.” Dean said he would be there Tuesday. In my head I heard God say, “Monday.”

I asked the Lord, “Who do You want to be to me in this situation that You couldn’t be if things were different?” He said, “I AM the God Who moves mountains.”

I started clearing off the decks. When God says He’s going to do something, we need to act on it, right? On a day that was slightly overcast, Dan power washed the decks. The next day was sunny and gusty. The deck dried in the bright warmth and wind. Dan called Dean to tell him the power wash was done. Dean said the store was out of the right paint, but they would have it on Tuesday. Monday he would drop off his son, Dylan, who would do what he could with the paint we had. Then, Tuesday morning, he would come with Dylan and the paint, and finish the job.

By 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, February 16, the deck was finished. I couldn’t even see where the exposed wood had been. Dean assured me the paint would not come off, and he deducted $250 from his original bid because Dan had done the power wash ahead of time. It stayed warm for the rest of the day, and even into the evening.

Late Wednesday afternoon it rained. The paint did not come off.

In my nearly forty years of following Jesus, I have never seen this kind of intervention. I had a feeling He wanted to make a point, but I still had chattering doubts that tried to steal my sleep and trouble my days. Why would God do such a thing for me? Lake County was still in drought. Why would He stop the much-needed El Niño rains for one little old lady who needed her deck painted so she wouldn’t lose her house?

God said it wasn’t just for me. The people of Lake County have suffered so much. He said they needed a break—to go outside, put their hands in the dirt, smell fresh, growing things, and feel the sun on their faces. He said He did it for them as much as for me—that we might know we are greatly beloved.

By the way, when I first asked about my deck, I also asked, “After my deck is painted, will it rain again?” I was worried that it would mark an early end of the rainy season. The Lord said it would rain again, and indeed it has, even more than before. Clearlake is almost up to its normal level.

One more thing. The Lord told me there would be a bountiful harvest, a special blessing for Lake County in this Year of Jubilee.

The two painters and Carolyn smiling for the camera after the job is finished
Job Completed – Dylan, Dean, and me

16 Comments

  1. Marie Brown

    March 13, 2016 - 7:30 PM
    Reply

    OMG! Carolyn, it sounds like a story my mother would have told about life up Live Oak Canyon Road, and you know what that means. I’m so glad for you that miracles do exist!

    • Carolyn

      March 14, 2016 - 12:25 AM
      Reply

      Marie, I remember standing with my parents in their front yard looking over at the hills across the canyon glowing orange in the night. I could feel their fear, and now I live on a mountain where fire is a danger every year. It truly was a terror for all of us, with ash falling everywhere. Sometimes the Valley Fire threw small chunks of blackened trees, still smoldering, into the street. One could easily have landed in the dense, dry underbrush. But miracles were everywhere during this critical time. We lost only four people, and two of those had plenty of time to leave, but chose not to till it was too late. It was a miracle that more lives weren’t lost, that firefighters stayed mostly unscathed by the extreme conditions, that rain came early, and people were able to get out with the fire raging behind them, just a few feet away. I keep hearing stories, and many will be coming out over the years as people rebuild their lives. And even this present rain is miraculous. “Lake County News” reported that there had been no major flooding and no serous accidents. Last time we had these conditions, we had plenty of both. It’s so amazing to be living here in this astonishing time and place.

      Much love to you, Marie, friend of my childhood!
      Carolyn

  2. Lori and Pat McGuire

    March 13, 2016 - 1:43 PM
    Reply

    What a wonderful story, Carolyn! You inspire us all! Love, TSL

    • Carolyn

      March 14, 2016 - 12:27 AM
      Reply

      I hope it helps everyone know that God wants to move their mountains too—one way or another.

      Love,
      TSC

  3. Marissa Leinart

    March 11, 2016 - 4:38 PM
    Reply

    Your writing and your faith combined are such inspiration to all of us! Thank you for loving the Lord so much that everything you do is a blessing to those who have the privilege of knowing you Carolyn! Glory and praise to God!

    • Carolyn

      March 14, 2016 - 12:26 AM
      Reply

      Marissa,

      You make me smile. Thanks for the encouraging words! I feel the same about you!

      Love,
      Carolyn

  4. Mary E. Trimble

    March 11, 2016 - 3:07 PM
    Reply

    Oh, my goodness, Carolyn. My heart was pounding throughout your whole story. Whew! Your faith is marvelous, my friend.

    • Carolyn

      March 14, 2016 - 12:22 AM
      Reply

      Are you kidding me, Mary? When Dan read me the prologue to your book, “Sailing with Impunity,” he said that is the way to start a book. You had us gripped in suspense. So, for you to say your heart was pounding, well it’s just the best compliment you could give me from one wordsmith to another. Thanks for the delight you gave my writer’s heart this day!

  5. Cathy Ford Miner

    March 11, 2016 - 11:59 AM
    Reply

    Carolyn,

    God answered and your deck was painted – and still there was rain, and even more rain coming today, March 11th! Yes, what about the sock?
    Love You,
    Cathy

    • Carolyn

      March 14, 2016 - 12:19 AM
      Reply

      Even this rain is a blessing. Not so much that we have terrible floods and mudslides. So far, no serous accidents, only a few spin-outs on the slippery grades. My fruit trees are still full of blossoms even though we’ve had more rain than earlier. The lake is nearly full. We are all feeling relief. God is graciously and abundantly blessing Lake County.

  6. Don Fallick

    March 11, 2016 - 11:37 AM
    Reply

    Carolyn, I’m so glad you are OK. You are right, God did have a message for you: trust Him! As a full-time missionary, I see this often. God works on His timetable, not ours. And faith always precedes the miracle. Just one question: what was Dan going to do with one sock?

  7. Kathy Gee

    March 11, 2016 - 7:57 AM
    Reply

    Oh, Carolyn–good comes to those who have patience and faith. You are such a person.

  8. Betty Helf

    March 11, 2016 - 7:19 AM
    Reply

    I’n so happy that things worked out perfectly for you. Praise God!

  9. Kathy Engstrom

    March 11, 2016 - 4:30 AM
    Reply

    Your faith is astonishing, and you remind me of how much God can always be trusted. Thank you, Carolyn.

  10. Kathie Fond Yoneda

    March 10, 2016 - 11:15 PM
    Reply

    So happy your prayers were answers!

  11. Carol McCune

    March 10, 2016 - 10:25 PM
    Reply

    Love it! The Goodness of God in the land of the living, without a doubt!
    Love,

    Carol

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *