Our little historical clocktower building before the earthquake

Every once in a while I will run into an old customer that asks me if we are ever going to re-open our little gift shop, Rose In The Woods (the name was supposed to mean A thing of beauty in an unexpected place) that was destroyed in the San Simeon earthquake in 2003. The other day, someone asked me that again, they even told me that they saved an old receipt from my store that day and that she still carried it around with her all these years later, as a reminder of just how short life is.  That is when I  realized that I hadn’t talked about it for a long time.  But it is good for me to be reminded where we have been and where we are now and to remind myself that even  today… I am a survivor. Maybe you could even refer to my whole journey as a thing of beauty in an unexpected place.

But for those of you who don’t know my story…. I will tell it here…to share with you and to remind myself once again… to be grateful. And hopefully soon I will get this lesson I am supposed to be getting or quite possibly should have already gotten!!!!

It was a few days before Christmas, my daughter Brooke and I planned to drive about an hour away to a neighboring town with a mall, to go Christmas shopping. As I wrapped up each customer’s purchases in our special bags with ribbons and tissues, they would announce that “this was their last gift that they had to buy.” And I’d think to myself, how I hadn’t even started shopping yet and panic just a little!

 We’d planned to leave our little store in the hands of our employee and sneak away to take a stab at our own Christmas shopping that day and were looking forward to spending the day together shopping at other people’s stores!

As I drove up in front of our store, my daughter Brooke who was 15 at the time, asked if she could wait in the car. It was before ipods and maybe even texting but I knew that she could entertain herself with the FM radio and CDs for the time it took me to open. I used to put cookies and hot apple cider out during the holidays and for some reason, I was able  coax her into coming in that morning, explaining that if she helped me open, the sooner we could get out of there. Our employee happened to be late getting there that day and so she surprised me by jumping out of the car agreeing to help, and followed me in.

As we were opening,  a customer walked in and the Federal Express guy pulled up with a back order of quilts for me as my daughter pleaded, “Pleeease mom, DON’T open that package NOW!”  I used to hang all my quilts on a fat dowel with ribbons in order to be displayed better, and I told her that I had to open them because it was so close to Christmas and they were already late but that we could just price them in their plasic zippered bags and asked her to just put them in a basket up front to at least have them out.

About that time, our employee showed up as another customer walked in and my husband who was in his office across the street, above the chamber, called and asked Brooke to run an errand for him. We both rolled our eyes as if to say “We are NEVER going to get out of here” but she ran out the door to do as he asked. As  I finished pricing the quilts and my employee started dusting,  we heard a loud bang that exploded outside, shaking our building.  For some reason, I yelled for everyone to get in the back and they did. At first we thought it might be a bomb because we were in the midst of talks about terroists during those days back then, but as soon as the ground began to rumble and our painted little wooden floor seemed to roll like a wave was beneath it, I knew it was an earthquake. The women screamed. It was all just a little too surreal. Suddenly everything stopped after what seemed like minutes and once it was over, a wall of bricks fell through our roof right where my daughter would have been placing the basket of quilts.

Outside was mayhem. As we stumbled out, unhurt, I found my daughter crying as my husband held her and I ran to them and hugged them both tight. Brooke was in the middle of the street when my husband  found her still clutching the coffee cup that was an order for a customer, she’d been bringing back over for pick up . She watched the whole thing. She said after she walked down the stairs and started crossing the street, she heard the building crack and then saw our awning in the front of the store snap around to the side of the building and then felt the rumble and watched as the clock tower fell from our historical building

and then saw the roof slide down onto all of the cars below.

Someone told me later that my husband barely touched the stairs as he flew down them, knowing that our daughter had just walked out the door and went to find her. He immediately asked “Where’s your mom?” And she sobbed, pointing  across the street where the wall of bricks had just fallen into our store. They just stood there for what seemed like hours but was maybe just a few minutes until I opened the door and we all ran out.

My husband’s  brand new truck, was parked a few spaces from mine. The dust was similar to what happened during 911, it was hard to see. People immediately started pulling bricks from cars and my heart stopped as I saw my car and pulled the sleeve of a good samaratin explaining through my tears that no one was in that car. It was flattened to about the height of my waist. No one would have ever survived. (It is the blue Explorer above)

And that is when I realized how God had spared my baby, our whole family. Sadly they found two women who were working at the store next to ours. They had run out the front door and were found in-between our car and another. For several weeks I kept hearing how people had thought that they had been Brookie and I.

Cars Parked on Park St. after the earthquake

I am not sure why I knew to tell everyone to get in the back but I know it was not me. My daughter told me that she had cried to me later asking “Why did God make this have to happen to us?” And I replied. “He didn’t make this happen. He SAVED us.” A conversation I don’t remember ever having but one that impacted her in a special way, ever since.

I have no doubt that God sent HIS Angels that day

For a while I thought that the experience would have changed me. It has in a way. I realize that those two women could have been us. I realize that my baby could have been waiting in the car that day or putting the quilts in the front of the store where the wall of bricks fell. I realize how everything was finely orchestrated that day. Every step, every phone call, right down to our employee being late to the spot in the road where my daughter safely stood as if Angels surrounded her there as she watched the world as she knew it, come crashing down around her with not so much as a scratch on her.

I don’t know why not us when the two other ladies were found dead, but I know that I learned that day that stuff is just stuff and even though we lost everything materially (though our vehicles were covered by our insurance)  this story would be totally different if it had ended another way. I know that dents in cars, spots on carpets and material things are not as important as they used to be to me. I also know that we were pretty spoiled back then and I didn’t appreciate then, what I do have half as much as I do now. And that if nothing great happens ever again. THIS is ENOUGH.

 I don’t know why bad stuff happens to good people, but I do know that God did save us and He can take anything and make it beautiful again. Even a little rose in the rubble. Even me. As I am…..still and always will be…

a work in progress!

90 thoughts on “A Thing of Beauty in an Unexpected Place

  1. Hi Diane 😀
    Wow ! What a testimony ! And what a shock for me to read about what happened to you, your daughter, your employee and the town. Thank heavens you had a guardian angel working really hard for you at that particular moment of your life. You must be blessed. Many of us have experienced ” earthquakes ” in death, personal relationships, war and geophysical events. All life changing. I know I have and I know I would not be here now writing to you if I had not gone through my personal experiences. Thank you dear ones.
    Have a lovely weekend my friend.
    Ralph ❤

      1. That’s okay my friend, easily missed. In fact I quite like bloggers to comment in old posts so that I can reread them as well and think to myself, ” Did I really write this ?”
        Have a lovely week Diane. xox

    1. Oh my, I just went to your yelp page and I am going to have to call you! I am opening up a shop in the hotel that I work for and we want to do a small section of local flavors! I am so glad you found me and took the time to comment! Would you be interested? Probably something like spices or something since our shelves won’t be in the refrigerated section. Do you do wholesale? LOL. My address is crafterdi@aol.com If you could email me, I’d be excited to talk with you!

  2. Wow, I have goose bumps reading this. Thank you for sharing. I can also testify of God’s protecting hand over my life, and thankful for every day of being alive and for my two children as well. Angels saved my daughter from drowning when she was two. She is now eight.

      1. No, I haven’t written about it as it happened a few years ago, and I was only prompted to think about it last night again when I read your post. We were swimming in a public pool, and I was watching my six year old son who had just learnt to dive, my daughter had armbands on and was nearby. Next thing my head was turned (and I’ve always believed an angel turned my head), I saw her armbands on the side of the pool, she had removed them and must have tried to dive in too, she was submerged and a double lane away from me (we were in a public pool, the life savers were standing right by her and no-one even heard or saw a thing), instead of screaming I just waded to her as fast as I could and yanked her out. It kept me awake for nights afterwards. Now I know how quickly a drowning can happen (it is silent), if my head hadn’t been turned, a few seconds later could have been too late.

        1. wow what an awesome story! Our friends were having their friends over and the dads took the kids to the pool and some how the three year old little boy drowed in the jacuzzi. They saved him but he died later. Just so sad! Soooo glad your story was different! I truly believe God turned your head as well! Thanks for sharing!

          1. Yes, it felt like my head was physically turned, not of my own doing. For some reason I was totally wrapped up in my son and his diving. I’m sorry to hear about you friend’s child, my best friend from school and her neighbour’s child both drowned in 1999 at the age of two. So tragic. They have managed to heal though, and have been blessed with two more children.

  3. I can’t imagine the courage needed to go through what you went through. To start over, and in spite of it all to count your blessings. You are definitely a rose in the rubble.

    1. Svelte,
      Thank you for reading! I know it is long and I appreciate when people actually take the time to read! Thank you for wandering through my words… I love your blog! You are soooo talented! Keep writing! I am so glad our paths crossed!

  4. This must bring up a wave of conflicting emotions, of experiencing a disaster and yet being spared the full impact of the disaster. I read a quote by Maria Belon Tsunami 2004 survivor. It goes “”If you survive, you can tell the story, you can go on. If you don’t survive, that’s it”
    She said that when interviewed regarding her family telling their story (in the movie “Impossible”) and it seeming disrespectful to those who didn’t survive. She described how after suffering several years from ‘survivor’s guilt’, she then saw it from the point of view that she owed it to those other people (who did not survive) to tell her family’s survival story, simply because she was alive to tell it.
    I think it is the same for you. You have survived this disaster (and others) and your whole outlook on things has changed and because of that you are sending out clear positive messages to others like myself. This is an inspiration.You are an inspiration. Thank you

    1. Wow Elizabeth…
      I am constantly getting gifts from people like you who validate my journey! I love it and I am awed by how the messages come like gifts at the times when I need them most. Thank you for taking the time to wander through my world here and leave me gifts that mean so much! You are a treasure yourself. My email address is crafterdi@aol.com
      If you ever need to chat in private.
      You are a jewel!

  5. A very impressing story. My first post was about “Some things happen for a reason” and I believe that someone up there loves us and He knows why is doing some things. I am glad that you were fine and can enjoy life as it is so amazing to be lived.

  6. simply amazing! I told my wife when I woke after my stroke after she spent two days being told I may not live…..”if God wants to call you home…nothing in this world is going to save you….but if he wants you to live – has a reason for you to live…nothing in this world will kill you.”

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read it! I know it is a little wordy… how some of my posts can be… and I appreciate the ones who stop and give me there time here! It means so much!

  7. This just is such a wonderful share of God’s protective hand… when our house was devastated by a flood in 2001 the following day I sat and looked realising we’d lost everything… I really felt sorry for myself and did the why me God speech… only to be reminded how lucky we’d been when the Police divers pulled the body of a 6 month old baby from below the bridge near our house… it was then I realised that we had lost nothing, and to be honest since then all my possessions have no real value, well nothing like my wife and my life…. I lost everything that day, with no photos, videos or the like of our previous history, no children s photos or marriage photos… but nothing can erase all of that from my memories, God made sure of that… Some say it’s luck that we all survive, I say it is the protective hand of God.. My wife has been battling Cancer now for 20 years yet she will attest to having the Jesus Hug that she fells every now and then that just tells her she will be a survivor… I loved reading this story and pleased you are all ok and that you are now a Grand Mother… another Blessing God bestows upon us… thanks for sharing this…

    1. What a wonderful comment to wake up to! Thank you! I just got done doing my bills and have to get ready for work… and not feeling as spunky as I did in my last post this morning… And God is so good! He uses these amazing vessels such as yourself to come in and boost me up! Thank you so much! Thank you for sharing. I feel that those of us who have experienced “life” have a different perspective… especially those of us who know first hand the emotions that we go through in a natural disaster. It is an interesting process to say the least. I never view another disaster where ever it is… quite as removed as it may seem to others. I always stop and pray for them. I will never forget standing in the cold when my daughter and I were interviewed the next early freeeezzzing morning on Good Morning America… I felt like just a little clip of our life passed through all those TV screens watching all over the nation and wondered… if they’d even notice that our lives at least for that time… had changed. But like you pointed out about that poor little baby and it’s family… not quite as much as the ones next door who were killed.
      I will be praying for your wife and you! Have you happened to meet Bill on this blogging family yet? I am sending you his link. He is an amazing man. He loves the Lord so much and he writes the most inspirational posts. I just felt led to send this to you. http://unshakablehope.wordpress.com/2013/06/14/why-me/
      God bless you!

    1. Mary,
      Thank you for reading! I believe that too. I think someday in heaven we will be rewinding our lives saying…..”Oooooh, NOW I see!” to God a lot. 😉

  8. What a blessing you could see God’s hand in keeping you and your family safe through the earthquake. So glad he did so we could meet, at least here through cyberspace 🙂

    1. Ann,
      Thank you for reading my story! It is quite surreal even now when I look back. Sometimes I re-visti it when I need a poke in feeling grateful! I too am thankful that we met! Your comments are always a blessing!

  9. Wow! God is good, isn’t He? What an amazing story. I love how He works all the details – what others would call “coincidences” – to care for His children.

    Thank you so much for sharing your miracle! 🙂


    1. Thank you for reading! Gonna go visit your site now! I agree! God does see to the details! Even when we are whining about them… HE is tending to them!

      1. When we go to the coast for a bit of a break, we spend lots of time on the beach. Every time I come home with a pocketful of heart-shaped rocks. My husband gets a kick out of it, for he never finds even one.

        Last month we went, and my hubby was ill. We spent the four days of our vacation in our hotel. Nevertheless, there were shells for me…in the parking lot! During the single 20-minute walk on the beach I found two beautiful heart rocks!

        Details…He specializes in them!

        Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

        Praise Jesus

  10. Wow. I’m holding back tears of joy as I think about God’s saving grace in you and Brookie’s life. Praise the Lord! Now I have a better understanding of your story and I’m so glad I do!

    God bless you Di! xoxoxo Love!


    1. Patricia,
      I just saw this and your reply here (I am just getting back to blogging!!!) made me re-read the story. I think I need to every so often to remember God does answer prayer even when we don’t know what to ask for!
      Thanks for taking the time to read this. Funny I have about 100 posts here before we met… that you probably never saw… It just feels that we know each other so well, I assume you knew this story. I know as a young mama there’s not a lot of time to even take a bath let alone read a bunch of posts so I am touched that you read mine! 🙂

  11. What a story! The thing I have been realising, is that God (Goddess, Universe, the Divine, whatever) doesn’t just look after us in emergencies, but in all things, every day. When I rest in Divine timing and ask for help, it comes, and for the littlest things xxx

    1. Thank you for reading! I know my stories are a little long (smile) so I appreciate it when I KNOW someone truly took the time to read!!!
      I also believe or have been learning about Divine timing! It has been a hard lesson but God is patient and that is a very good thing! 😉

    1. I am so bad about finding these and thanking everyone! Reblogging is one of the best compliments on wordpress besides tears! 😉
      Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      I am glad for our friendship!

    1. Matt,
      thank you for stopping by and reading! Your photographs are an example of God’s grace as well! You are in touch with your heart when you find the perfect shot. I can tell!

  12. It’s good to read more about your story over here Diane. I’m touched by your story — it was truly a miracle in how it all seemed synchronized. I am constantly amazed at the unexplained daily events and wonders of life giving everyone a personal story to tell if they choose.

    It warms my heart at least to know something bigger is going on and in charge even if I can’t see or understand it.

  13. An amazing story! We are always right where we are meant to be and in your situation, it was the right place. Your Spirit Guide and the angels were definitely watching over you. Obviously there is more work for you here on Earth! Beverley from LinkedIn.

  14. Oh! I cried reading this story. YOU are an amazing Lady. Yes, God was watching over you and Brooke, and there were Angels amongst you. It is beautiful to see you took so many positives from this horror. Big hugs. Renee 🙂

  15. Lives are often changed in these natural disasters, I guess it is the realisation of how insignificant we really are upon this earth and how tragedy for some can be a life changing experience for others.

    The main thing is that you and your family survived this earthquake and although personal and material things were lost in the process it has also strengthened your resolve. Thank you for sharing such a private episode of your life with us and do have a very nice rest of evening 🙂

    1. Thanks you for reading such a long post! You are right. I never ever hear about natural disasters and feel the same disconnect that I used to! I know how they feel. Your world stops for a while… sometimes for a lifetime!

      1. I know that I am new to your blog but I am pleased that you have taken the positives from this happening and are using them to rebuild your life. everything is precious when we take the time to look deeper 🙂 Be well my friend…

          1. Thank you for your kind thoughts
            and it has been a pleasure reading
            your blog. Friendships are forged
            in many ways and here in our WP
            we have the opportunity of adding
            many friends. I look forward to the
            times that I will read your postings
            and thank you for calling me your
            friend 🙂 Have a wonderful evening
            and a delightful start to your week 🙂

  16. Wow! This was such a fantastic read! It gave me goosebumps! I’m not sure of the right words to say because so much emotion filled me as I read this…so much to take in! Thanks so much for sharing this story! It is truly amazing what happened that day!

  17. Isn’t it amazing how one thing can shift everything. Seeing your ‘like’ on my blog this morning brought me here — and I am so grateful. Finding you here I now have anothr place to come and be inspired and to connect and share and know — when we all shine our brightest we create a brilliant light for all the world to see in the dark.

    1. Alyssa, Wow… what a gift to find these words here… after reading your blog… I am touched beyond words (and that obviously, is something I can’t say a lot lol.)

  18. I’m going to be insensitive now, so be warned. (Note to self: only do this in the evening from now on, when I’m mellower and kinder.)

    When we look for a place to live we take certain things into consideration. In no particular order:

    1. Is there good internet?
    2. Is there a natural source of water nearby?
    3. Is food grown nearby?
    4. Are there natural disasters that commonly or even rarely hit?
    5. What is the cost of living?
    6. Are adequate stores nearby?

    I remember in the upper peninsula of our state of Michigan many houses have 20-foot tall poles with a mailbox about 3 feet off the ground and another mailbox near the top of the pole. At first I thought it was a joke and after seeing a lot of them Cathy verified that yes indeed, the snow really gets that deep up here. So I ruled out the upper peninsula for a place to live.

    In California I hear of wildfires, mudslides, earthquakes, storms, flooding, and blondes in bikinis rollerskating on sidewalks. Hazards everywhere! So as a state I would never consider California. Never.

    Given that God created the universe and is in control of all things I think your daughter was correct in thinking God caused the hurricane and also spared you all. Be there a lesson to be learned or some purpose impossible to divine, I would think God did it all or God did none of it.

    I am very grateful that you all survived intact. Your lesson about what is really important in life is one I am very glad you took away from that. So many people would just be resentful of what was lost and leave it at that.

      1. First off, we didnt’ choose California, we were both raised here… We certainly could have moved. My dad moved my mom away from all her family to follow his career… During my moves due to my dad’s transfers, I have lived in Missouri and Illinoise where there are tornadoes. I have lived in Washington where there is Mt. St. Hellen..etc… I remember Jim was going to move us once to Florida and once to Alabama due to his business. My dad once was going to move us to South Africa when my mom who never challeged my dad, put her foot down… but every place has it’s floods or natural disasters,
        My step dad actually found this place where we live. My husband actually vacationed here as a kid. when all that Y2K stuff was going on my step dad figured we are by a water source and 12 miles away from town, close enough to emergency assistance (our community has it’s own fire station) and far enough away from public rioting if that ever happened. Granted no malls for over an hour suck!
        As for our take on if God causes disaster… I will stand firm on my belief that we live in a fallen world. I wrote about it on my blog today (that I know you haven’t read yet.) But I have mentioned it before. I know that God could stomp us out or stop a war. But I don’t think that He is up there deciding who wins the Super Bowl or saving a parking place for us. We have free will in our life due to HIM. We don’t have to sacrafice the lamb anymore. It has been done for us. But in the mean time, we don’t get the garden of Eden anymore either. That’s just how it is. Illness, accidents, earthquakes all happen but I think that He does step in and protect us and answers prayers…
        I do know on the day of the earthquke ~ where Brooke stood was a devine intervention and protected place I know… 😉

        1. Michigan is pretty clear of natural disasters as most anywhere goes. I was born here and I did NOT ask to be born. Of all the gall!

          I do try to make my own luck, but I am still one lucky SOG, er, B 😉

          1. LOL… oh no, please don’t tell me that you are one of those babes… My son has a theory… he wasn’t asked to be born so he figures I owe him my life. I was thinking it was the other way around. 😉

            1. I am so very glad to be alive. The best time of my life is most clearly now. I feel free to be myself and care about what matters to me. No pretending, no living up to assumed expectations, no going along with the crowd. I’m not only glad to be alive but grateful.

  19. Wow! What a story! I’m speechless (and for me that takes a lot !!!). Some would just say that you were really “lucky”, but that was more than luck. That was Divine Providence on all levels. Gamblers get lucky. Real people like us depend on more than luck to get past lifes little (and big) challenges.

    1. Paul.
      Thank you for taking the time to read a rather long story. It is always humbling to realize that someone actually took the time to read my ramblings! Yes, it is hard to beieve that it will be nine years on Sunday! Proves that we do get past those challenges. Thanks for the reminder!

  20. How did I miss this one? I hadn’t read about your daughter Brooke before so I was scared to keep reading, just in case. What an experience Diane. You took it so well. I had something similar and was traumatised for ages afterwards, but you took it with good Grace. Hugs

    1. You are so sweet! Yes, this was a life changing event… changed our course forever. But God had angels all around my family that day and the course could have been such a different one! It’s all just stuff and even money, when it comes right down to it, I needed a new perspective and I pretty much got one!

  21. I enjoyed this, and I know that God is the author, the creator, and that all things are woven into His grand design, and I know that I was meant to read this, and to be blessed by it. God is beyond good. I Praise Him for His work in and through your life.

    1. Wayne what a wonderful post to come home to. Thank you for your time in reading it. I know it was wordy! I look forward to wandering through your wonderful writings as well!

  22. Protector, provider…He is! Wow!! I’m out here on the left coast:) and don’t remember this. This was around the time I was being rescued by our Jesus! He is so faithful. Believing God that every good and perfect thing He has reserved for you to be released continuously. Bless you my sister!!!

    1. Arlene, He was busy with both of us!!!! It was what they called the San Simeon earthquake centered near Cambria. It was a weird one. It devestated our street where our store was but right around the corner, business was as usual. It kind of put the brakes on our Christmas. But that was about the time when we looked at “gifts” a lot differently!

  23. I realized that though I have shared my story before, I share little snippits of things going on with me now, I am not sure that I ever shared it here on my blog at wordpress and have referred to it in other postings so wanted to take the time to share here today. Maybe if it helps just one person realize that the world can come crashing down around you and you may feel you have lost everything…. you haven’t. Even Job rebuilt! God bless you….

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