Saturday, December 3, 2016

Thanksgiving Blessings, Tragedy, and God's Grace

On November 19th, my husband and I drove to Gatlinburg, TN to begin a week of thanksgiving and gratitude to our Savior. It was a long 500 mile trip, but the expectation of seeing the mountains and hoping for a little leftover color kept our hopes high.

God showed up in a mighty way! As we wound around one curve after another, we oohed and ahhed. Red, orange, and yellow clung to the trees. When the thicket of trees thinned, the valley was still ablaze, rich in color. My heart beat faster, my prayers came in worship. Creation sang its endless song to the Father, and I sat amazed with wonderment and joy. God provided.

When we pulled up to the rental cabin, it was nestled in the side of a mountain. The sweetest little cabin I’d ever seen. I wanted to cry. And when we got inside I almost did. It was a nightmare. Half the furniture was gone. It was filthy, and there were dead bugs on the floor. Our daughter and her family met us there. Disappointment was an understatement.

Three hours later, we were in another cabin on another mountain top, and it was the cabin we had envisioned staying in over Thanksgiving. But we couldn’t. We could only stay there until the day before Thanksgiving. The cabin assistant worked earnestly in order to get us into another cabin by late Wednesday.

All of us chose not to be discouraged and to head out and see as much of Gatlinburg as we could. I hadn’t been to Gatlinburg in a few years and couldn’t wait to see the village, go Christmas shopping, and take the tram up the mountain to see more of God’s glory. We went hard for three days.

On the eve of Thanksgiving, we were faced with a dilemma – either we get into another cabin or we travel home. At the eleventh hour the assistant called and we moved into our third cabin. Glory Hallelujah! Thanksgiving in the Smokies!!! God provided.

Thanksgiving was joyous! I managed to find a grocery store the night before, and presented a decent meal the next day. All twelve of us sat around the table giving thanks to God for all His intervention in our lives. We lifted up my grandson, Hudson, who would be having surgery on December 5. Life was grand! God was good! The color was still hanging on, and outside the gorgeous full-length windows, we sat amazed and humbled by God’s blessings. God provision.

Here’s a picture of a beautiful Smoky Mountain sunrise (and my granddaughter taking pictures)

Within twenty-four hours, the fire that had threatened the Smokies raged and grew. When eighty-plus miles per hour winds hit on Monday night, the ashes swirled around the mountaintops, landing, and creating more fires. By ten o’clock, an evacuation was called for our area. Smoke thickened, and visibility was limited to only a few feet. We could see the red glow of the fires in the mountains. All the beauty turned into a beast, a fiery beast threatening everything in its path.

Below is a pictures taken of the thick smoke.
I cried at the loss. My heart sank thinking about the locals and visitors who were scrambling to get off the mountain and into safety. We chose to leave early Tuesday morning. Images of downed trees and backed-up traffic on the TV kept us back. It was a harrowing night filled with fear.

Tragedy. As I stood and looked out over the smoke and fire, I cried again. The landscape would never look the same. The cabins lining the mountaintops were gone or burned too badly to be saved. On the tram ride we took earlier in the week, we sadly realized our images of a peaceful mountain town were gone forever. Now everything was in chaos and destruction.

I prayed. And as I prayed, God revealed His blessings, one-by-one, providing for His people and eliminating my fear.

Volunteer helpers poured into the area. Firefighters from all over Tennessee and adjacent states arrived and went right to work. Churches opened their doors for evacuees. Money began to pour into the coffers of the Red Cross and local food banks. Blessings heaped upon blessings that were broadcast during the night. We watched and marveled at God’s people laying down their commitments and lifting up their resources to help a needy mountain area. God provided.

Tragedy to blessings. God was on that mountain. His hands and feet were working miracles. Many people were saved from perishing. A lot of establishments were saved from destruction. Even the eagles at Dollywood were taken care of. The acts of courage and kindness continued. The hands and feet of Jesus moved throughout the area.

Every day we are called to be a blessing. Opportunities abound. Even small gifts of kindness are multiplied and the harvest grows. God provides.

Many blessings to you. In Christ’s name I pray,


  1. Sometimes a tragedy renews our faith in the goodness of strangers.

    1. Oh yes! All throughout history tragedy has drawn people together and faith has been renewed. Sometimes we forget how good and generous people really are. The news makes us fearful and judgmental. Thank you for your response! Blessings to you, Angela