One year, while waiting to move into our own home, we rented an older house in town. It had bedrooms for our children, a nice kitchen, dining area and large spacious living room and enclosed front porch. Our bedroom was at the front of the house, and the children's were next to the kitchen near the back.
Similar to other older homes, this one had a large attic that had been converted into a small studio apartment. The young man who lived there was always polite but would soon be moving to another area and new job.
The children walked to their schools across the street, and the playground and library were close by. The apartment upstairs remained empty for sometime.
With the coming of Thanksgiving, I was busy with preparations for the children and the activities they were involved in, so I didn't notice the young mother and her little girl until after they had moved in upstairs. I immediately placed some cookies on a plate and took our eighth-grade daughter Mandy up the side stairway to greet our new neighbors.
A young woman in her middle twenties stood in the doorway, and, stepping back, asked us to come in. Her young daughter spotted the cookies and gave us a bright, cheerful grin. You could tell they were mother and daughter--each had lovely blond hair and a kind smile.I introduced myself and my daughter, and we talked about the area for a few minutes. Before leaving, Mandy volunteered to watch the little girl if her mother was in need of a babysitter. It turned out that she had her daughter enrolled in day care while she was at work, but Saturdays she might need to call on her. We assured her that was fine.
A few days before Thanksgiving, I realized how much I missed our own stove, which was packed away while we were renting. I made a mental note to clean the oven before baking my pies. It was a gas stove, and although I liked cooking over gas, I'd always had an electric one before.
We were planning on grandparents, aunts, uncles and other family members to come and share the day. I also sent a note to the gal in the upstairs apartment and invited them to join us. She stopped by later and thanked us, but said they would be going home that night to visit her family for the holiday. Thanksgiving was just a few days away!
That evening after the children were in bed, I remembered the oven and asked my husband if he would spray the oven cleaner inside and lay papers under it. He took care of it while I busied myself with other things. Then we went to bed.
A little after midnight, we were awakened by someone banging at the front door. While grabbing our bathrobes, we realized there was smoke all over the place. I ran to the children's rooms as my husband went to the door.
There stood our new neighbor and her little girl. They had just arrived home, and she smelled smoke and called the fire department. Within minutes the firemen came with the siren on and burst into the house. I had gathered the children onto the front porch, wrapped in blankets, far away from the kitchen area.
Immediately, the firemen realized where the smoke had started and what had happened. In my haste to have a clean oven, I forgot that the paper which catches the grease doesn't go under a gas oven. Although it had taken a few hours, it caught on fire and the smoke was spreading through the house.
We felt awful, but the damage was minimal. Most importantly, our three children were safe. After airing the house out, with the help of our friendly fire department, we went back to bed, thankful everyone was okay.Thanksgiving came and we enjoyed pies and a turkey, roasted in a clean oven, along with sweet potato souffle, cranberry sauce, and other vegetables and favorite dressings and trimmings. We were truly grateful for the Lord's protection over us and for our kind neighbors upstairs.
As we looked forward to the Christmas holiday, I watched for our neighbor and her little girl, having made some eggnog and cookies. I also had a special gift for each of them. But, the truth was, after that fateful evening when she came and knocked on our door, I hadn't seen them again.
I made a trip up to their door and peeked in through the window. The place was empty, as if nobody had even been there. I tried contacting the landlord, but he didn't know anything about them. It seemed incredible. The more I thought about it, the more I realized their short stay had possibly saved us all in an old house that could have gone up in flames so quickly.
A Thanksgiving Day doesn't go by that I don't think about the young mother and her entrance and exit in our lives. I will never know why she was coming home so late that night--she had been going to visit her own family for Thanksgiving. I know God brings many people into our lives for various reasons. An angel? Perhaps.
What I do know for certain is that each Thanksgiving I remember an old house with young children, and I especially give thanks that we have celebrated many more Thanksgiving Days. That is a special blessing from Him.
"Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." (Hebrews 13: 2 KJV)