See, I have set the land before you; go in and take possession of the land that I swore to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give to them and to their descendants after them. Deuteronomy 1:8
Dear Red Vine Family,
How are you? I’ve been missing our Friday talks.
I realize I’ve been a little MIA lately.
I guess it started the week before Thanksgiving when we thought we’d just meet with our real estate agent to see about selling our house in the next six months. By the time the meeting was over, we’d agreed to put money down on a lot in Puyallup and put our own house up for sale the following week. We signed papers full of contingencies, wondering if any of this could even be possible for us.
But, we found this neighborhood. And this plan that felt like home. And this plot of land we felt we already belonged to. And for the first time in a very long time, we wanted to see what it would feel like to reach forward in faith for something just plain amazing. To stretch forward into promised land dirt, to feel it grow between our toes. To plant, and to yield. To live in the land.
But first, before the land and the toes bit, we had to sell our current home. With the same determination we had used to buy this blessed house we endeavored to finish it up: every last project, every unpainted corner, every inch of trim still needing replacement. We painted, remodeled the last bathroom, decorated, and staged. And two weeks later (it took a little longer than we originally thought it would), they dug the hole in our front yard and put up a “For sale” sign.
It’s funny, really: this was supposed to be a flip house. You know, the kind where you move in, work your butts off, and in a few short months or years make a killing?
That’s what we thought was going to happen, anyways.
We bought this house at the peak of the market, with zero down, spurred on by our first baby growing in my belly. It didn’t matter if every surface had to be removed, painted over, remade. It didn’t matter that I would spend months walking barefoot and pregnant on concrete and years carrying our babies up and down stairs without a banister. We had no idea we really couldn’t afford to make the changes this house begged for. We had no idea we wouldn’t have the money or the know-how or the energy to make it all over. We bought it anyways.
We bought it even though we couldn’t make a decision–any decision–without a knock-down, drag-out fight. We screamed at each other in closets as our families painted adjoining rooms and pretended not to hear. We fought over the apple tree, the broken-down fence, the rats in the attic, every closet organizer.
We had no idea how crazy an unfinished house can make a pregnant woman on bedrest. But, we found out.
And I’m not saying I tried to chop the dilapidated fence down in freezing temperatures while I was six months pregnant. Or that I got my big-bellied butt carried in the house by my husband as I kicked and screamed at said-fence. But I’m not saying it didn’t happen, either.
We agreed on one thing: there were enough rooms in this house for babies galore. We wanted a whole crew. We said we’d stack them like Hewey, Dewey, and Louie: 3 to a bunk.
And then we lost Caleb: this house we’d bought in a hurry just for him. And his nursery, with its fancy doors it took both grandfathers to install, this nursery with two family’s worth of shower gifts, stood still and empty.
This nursery stood empty for months as his memorial. And when I was ready, and certain that my first son was climbing his way through the hills of heaven, I found a place in my heart for another. I took his nursery down, all in one day. And I made room for a rainbow.
We didn’t know pregnancies could be cruel. That our deepest dream could cost so much. That we would age and crack under the pressure, that we would count weeks as if they were lifetimes. We didn’t know that high-risk meant high-cost, and that I would sit still on the couch for months. We couldn’t have known the costs would stagger, demolishing our remodeling budget and making a mockery of our five-year plan.
But then Abraham was born. The day we brought our Rainbow home: ah, that had to be this house’s best day ever. His Daddy carried him in the house, and it didn’t matter that the kitchen cabinets were still that ugly brown. It didn’t matter that the hill out back was waist high in grass.
As aunts and uncles crowded in around us at the kitchen sink for his first bath, this house swelled with joy. And when we crammed over fifty people into such a small space to celebrate Abraham’s baptism, this house stretched.
This house has known a pulsing, beating, always-stretching life. It has been remade while enduring a litany of beatings in the process. Its walls and floors have been covered in everything from squash puree to black sharpie, stuck with nerf darts, and taped over with miles of art projects. For every nail pounded in, a hole was patched. For every picture hung, another dish dropped to scar the hardwoods.
This house has held its breath. Those months we waited day after day to see if Sam’s heart would keep beating inside of mine, this house held us close.
The grass grew green and lush that summer as Abraham toddled through the yard oblivious to our fears for his unborn brother. We fenced the yard as my belly grew, believing that there would be a miracle, believing Abraham would have a brother to chase around the yard.
This house heard prayers: the aching, middle of the night prayers of a mother begging for relief, the screaming and throwing beer steins prayers of grief, the breathless, tear-soaked prayers of gratitude, and the sweet-voiced prayers of little boys first acquainting themselves with Jesus.
This house hosted overnight and long-term guests as well as a family of guinea pigs, three baby showers, Dumbo and Neverland and Mickey birthday parties, two baptisms, gingerbread house parties, Christmas Eve shrimp fries and Christmas morning glee, Thanksgiving feasts and Passover Celebrations, three cousin camps, countless girl’s coffee dates, and families of friends for Saturday night dinners. This house has known filet mignon and fish sticks, with equal gusto and the perfect wine pairing.
This house has screened siblings’ future spouses. Something about this house: it knows who should go, and who needs to stay.
I have dressed this house up like a child in her Sunday best, and I have learned to live in its undone and unfinished and unmade.
I have learned to accept friendship that comes into my mess, into a house that may be almost sterile but is always messy, too. I have learned that true friends want a spot on my couch more than a spotless me. I’ve learned that the best friendships don’t see dishes in the sink. Best friends come and sit on your front porch when you can’t even let them in the house. They bring you coffee and swing on the porch swing and listen to a mama trying to normalize her baby’s open heart surgery tomorrow.
This house has brought me to a kicking and screaming humble. Of accepting that I’m not the most or the best because of where I live. Or what I drive. Or how much I weigh. Or where I buy my clothes.
This house has taught me patience. Or maybe that was just these years wandering through the desert. In this tabernacle. Of always having just enough, and learning how to say thank you and be grateful and have that be enough.
And this house has taught me to trust. To believe that God can break hardwoods to provide a new kitchen. That He provides in ways that don’t make sense. That where He wants us to go, He carves out a way.
This house has seen my deepest grief and highest joys, cradled my two living sons, and provided all the hard clay soil any grieving mama could ever need to shovel the sadness straight out of a heart. Every inch of garden dug in sorrow now buds in gratitude.
And on the eve of leaving this house, I marvel that so much life can be lived and so many lessons learned in 1600 square feet. I marvel that so much of what we thought would come, didn’t. That so much of what we thought was a given, wasn’t. That the people we thought we would always have can be taken from us. And that no matter what we brave, God is always with us.
So I leave with a decade of memories and a heart full. And I ask God to bless this house, for all the blessing and shelter and lesson it has been to us. May it be all that and more for the next family. And may God’s Spirit linger here, and lead us on.
Lead us on, to greener pastures for two growing boys. Lead us on, to an easier way and brighter days.