Christmas in the Basement part 1: An Unforeseen Surprise

"Christmas 2005 should be a day to remember!"

This was the thought on each of our minds as we prepared to go to church Christmas morning. We had recently returned from an emergency trip to California, where it had been necessary for us to say good-bye to my brother-in-law, a victim of a sudden, untimely death, and we all felt the need for a good Christmas! However, little did we know how prophetic that statement would become . . .

It all began when one of my children went down to the basement just before leaving for church to get the candied yams and the pumpkin pies out of the freezer. He was stopped in his tracks: "Euh…Mom! Papa! I think we have a problem, a big problem."

We came to his rescue to discover that we did, indeed, have a big problem. Sometime in the last three hours, our basement had been visited by an unwelcome guest named "Flood". Or could it be that my wife had decided to give me an indoor swimming pool for Christmas? No, the water was way too brown for that, and besides, who would like to have a swimming pool decorated with floating ice chests, soaking wet school projects, and flooded bookcases…? Bookcases? Did I say bookcases? Oh no! My books! All books on the bottom shelves were soaked with the filthy yard water. My books! Oh no!

But wait. It was tine for the realization to set in that this was no intentional plan whatsoever. We did NOT have an indoor swimming pool, and the water level was STILL rising. I put on my rubber boots and waded towards the cold room where the sump pump was installed. "At least the flood took care of the cover," I thought as I rolled up my dress shirt sleeves and dipped my entire arm into the abyss. Brrr, it was freezing cold, and I couldn't see what I was getting into. I touched a slimy, metallic object near the bottom, and hoping it was the sump pump and not a slippery creature of the abyss, I shook it vigorously. To my delight I heard a purring sound, and it wasn't a cat. In fact, we don't even HAVE a cat! Instead, it was the welcome sound of the sump pump motor, finally coming to life! The water immediately began to retreat into the yard where it belonged. It was a long, slow process, but we could tell by looking at the water marks on the wall that we were on the right track.

Instead of going to church that Christmas morning, we played the role of sanitary technicians, retrieving anything and everything that was lost to the wet, uninvited basement guest. It was hard to throw away all of those great books. It was even harder to discover that one of our photo albums was ruined. Quite naturally, it was the one of my last visit with my dad before he passed away. One of my sons went into rescue mode and tried to salvage several of the pictures. What a sweetheart. In the end, we had 40 garbage bags full of stuff, to say nothing of the ruined furniture, etc. Oh, and of course, the freezer! For some unknown reason, our freezer went on strike as well!

It was around one o'clock when we went back upstairs to prepare diner for our Christmas guests, and we could truly say that Christmas 2005 was, indeed, a day to remember. Between thoughts of my beloved brother-in-law and thoughts of our recent basement adventures, it was hard to concentrate on the good food. Amidst all of our trials, however, we felt peace. God's presence was evident and we felt His warm and comforting hugs.

I don't know how people who do not know their Heavenly Father can survive amidst heavy trials. Thanks to Him, we were able to laugh amidst out tribulations. In fact two days later, when the basement was finally dry enough to scrub out with vinegar and water, we were laughing about the entire event. It was unbelievable, but we did, indeed, have fun. Even when I cleaned out under one of the build-in shelves in the cold room, only to discover that my hand was covered with filthy, slimy leftovers, we couldn't stop laughing. In fact, my oldest son, who was sick with the flu, got teased non-stop about the fun he was missing! God was with us and His presence made it possible to face our trials with a smile.

Years ago I would have been devastated and upset (ask my wife). Now I savored the unusual moments that I enjoyed cleaning out the basement with my family, and I especially savored the encouragement I received from my Heavenly Father, who held my hand the entire time.

I would like to share one text with you: "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Phil 4:4-7 NIV)

These words are true. I have experienced them over and over these last few years. Jesus is real and He loves you!

We didn't file a claim with our home owners insurance. We lost a lot of books and some furniture, but the only thing that REALLY needed to be replaced was the freezer, and its cost was about the same as our deductible would have been. Our bookshelves are a bit warped at the bottom, but we won't replace them. They will be a friendly reminder of our adventures with our indoor swimming pool on Christmas day!

P. S. Would you like to join me to for a dip in my new interior swimming pool? Boots and rubber gloves ARE advisable . . .

Rob Chaffart

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