I love the 4th of July!  All the red white and blue, the gathering of friends and family, and–despite our differences–coming together as a country to celebrate what independence really means. In our neighborhood we have the cutest parade: Americana at its best!

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I’ll tell you a secret though: the older I get the more I start to “not love” a certain aspect of this awesome holiday.  It’s the part that I loved as a child when I had someone else there to make sure everybody was safe…when I didn’t have to be the adult that worried about catastrophes and tragedies…when the beautiful colors and sonic booms outweighed the dangers:  Fireworks.

Every year I get more and more nervous as I watch my babies (yeah, I know one of them is 16) run around and light things that some dude in some factory from who knows where threw together and pray that their fingers won’t be ripped off their sweet little hands.

I realize part of my neuroses might just come along with aging….but the more you think about it the scarier those suckers can be! My family makes fun of me sometimes (all good-heartedly I am SO sure) about the “precautions” I make the kids take.

This list includes items such as:
You must wear closed toed shoes.
Put the punks in the grass and not near the firework collection from which you’re picking.
Nothing can be lit without an adult watching.
Have a water source nearby just in case (my neighborhood set someone’s yard on fire when I was a kid…..seriously….pine straw burns quickly!).
Make sure everyone is standing back BEFORE you light something.
Never put the hot debris in a trash can–always stack it on the ground in a pile until the next morning.

Sure, my list gets some eye-rolls and groans (from kids and select adults alike) but so far everyone on my watch has all of their fingers and toes.

Anyway, this year we celebrated on the street in front of our house.  It was a super loud and crazy night that ended with a bunch of happily exhausted and filthy kids and a relatively frazzled mom (me, in case you were guessing). We got most of the big stuff cleaned up and stacked next to the trash can by the street.  Someone asked me if I wanted to bring that trash can back to the house since the collectors wouldn’t be by for a few days and I said no…that it would be easier to put the “hot trash” in there in the morning if we left it out there.  I put a broken lawn chair next to the trashcan and we called it a night.

image(a similar trash can to the one I used)

I fell asleep a little bit after midnight and was awakened several times by ‘huge booms.  This was around 2 and 3 in the morning.  I always love it when people are so excited about their independence from England that they keep celebrating hours after everyone else went to bed! (Said no mother ever,) In the morning I decided to go for a quick run while it was relatively cool and the kids were still asleep. I snuck out the front door, locked it, and walked down the driveway.

It was then I noticed that my trash can was gone.

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Seriously? What special kind of creepy hoodlum steals a big ‘ol trashcan?  AND a broken lawn chair?  Geesh. Then I got a little closer. Here’s what I saw:

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Yeah. That smear of black ashy gunk is my trash can. And the chair. And the trash. And those “booms” that I had heard that I thought sounded awfully close?  They must have been the artillery shells I tossed in there because I deemed their fuses too short. See this?

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These are chunks of melted trash can.  The thing literally exploded.  I found these chunks 15-20 feet away.

I looked at this and looked at this and felt totally sick to my stomach.

What if someone had been walking by and gotten horribly hurt?
What if it had been drier out and the grass or electrical pole had caught fire?
What if these pieces had flown onto a house or car?
What if I’d moved the trashcan back into our little garage?

I literally sat down on the driveway because I felt so awful. I had tried so so very hard to be safe and careful and THIS had happened. I had heard those “booms”…why didn’t I go to the window and look?  It was my house! I was in charge! It was my fault!

What if what if what if what if kept running through my head. I got up and walked back inside and sat down. That could have been so bad.  SO BAD.

Then the words of Psalm 116 popped into my head:
Return to rest, Oh my soul,
For the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.
Oh yes He had. He gave us a huge lesson without allowing anything horribly awful to happen. He kept our neighborhood and my family safe.  If I had gone outside when I saw the probable inferno I might have gotten really hurt.  As it was, all was ok. God had dealt bountifully with us, and as I realized that, my anxiety eased and my heartbeat gradually returned to normal.

I didn’t clean it up right away; I waited for the kids to wake up so I could show them. I wanted them to see what had happened and realize first hand what God’s protection looks like. Perhaps they would learn why my “silly precautions” were so important after all. We all also all learned that even with every possible precautions–bad things can still happen.

For us? We were BEYOND lucky that the end result was nothing more than a melted trashcan and a nasty glob in the gutter.  The other result is that we learned to NEVER EVER EVER put anything remotely warm in a trashcan. It’s also a very bad idea to put un-exploded fireworks in there…on the remote chance that someone accidentally tosses something hot in as well.

Part of the reason I’m posting this is to share our lesson with others–be careful! The other reason is to share about God’s super-cool provision for us. That black glob will remain there by my driveway for a super long time.  I’m going to let it serve as a little monument that reminds me of how God protected us.

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