In honor of saying goodbye to this house in three days.
This house became part of my story the day we got engaged. It started out as an exciting adventure, something to spice up our lives. We began our marriage with a bathroom, an oven, cabinets, and a mattress on the floor that Joey had half finished late the night before our rehearsal dinner. Oh, and lots of dust.
For so long, it was a place we slept and ate. It was a project. But it was not a home. It could not carry the weight of that word. We were barely there, for one thing.
Somehow, along the way we shared enough experiences with it that it did feel like home. We’ve celebrated almost every holiday in this house: Thanksgiving with Lifegroup in our first year (at which I failed the turkey and spilled an apple pie in the oven), Worship Team Christmas parties, Valentine’s home dates, Fourth of July, and birthdays, including Arden’s first. And the weightier events: Joey proposing to me in this house, starting our marriage in this house, bringing home two babies to this house. We celebrated my college graduation. Ups and downs and everything in between. The miscarriage. Homework as I worked on graduating. Movie days. Trying my hand at cooking.
And in the midst of life, the house slowly–and I do mean very slowly–evolved, during spaced out weekends that felt like an eternity of inching forward but now exist in my memory as a feeling, a blur that only pictures and thinking really hard can help parse. We’ve shuffled our things through every room of the house. For most of our marriage the entrance to the house was also the junkiest room in the house. We’ve lived with our refrigerator in the living room for months while the kitchen floor was in process. We’ve done dishes in the bathtub for a few months (seriously, EW). We’ve frozen our buns off in the winter because of the wood floors and poor insulation and expensive heating bills. We’ve delighted in the small things as they came one by one like curtains and pictures on the wall and towel hooks and a kitchen sink and toilet paper holders and cabinet knobs and crown moulding and doors and door knobs and couches and a kitchen table and a coffee table. And a front door that you don’t have to kick open.
Blood, sweat and tears. Painting, my agony over the hair stuck to the kitchen floor, taping and floating, installing and finishing floors, installing so many windows, holes in the walls, finding out it really is best to get doors in the door jamb, work weekends with Donnie, installing ceilings, installing various fixtures and appliances, Joey’s grunts of frustration and holy patience. Measuring twice, cutting, having to re-measure and start over yet again. So many mistakes. Painting the wrong color on half a wall. Splattering paint on the new vanity.
Apparently making a house a home does not happen overnight. Renovating a piece of junk is hard work. Maybe you have a romantic view of flipping houses because of HGTV shows. I’m sure it can be fun if you have a lot of money and someone else does the work for you. This was definitely not the case for us, so it was not as fun as I originally thought it would be.
Not always fun, but certainly valuable. I have learned so much. For one, patience. Or maybe just how impatient I tend to be. Mostly from Joey, to whom I asked this question countless times: “Remind me again: why did you buy this house?”
Make no mistake, I’ve declared that I was DONE with the house over and over again. I never knew you could be truly deeply angry with an inanimate object like a house. It has almost felt like a person at times, like an unwanted house guest who knew all the wrong buttons to push and never cleaned up their messes.
I’ve wanted to live in it forever and I’ve wanted to burn it to the ground and collect the insurance.
It’s been very mean to me, putting every conceivable obstacle in our way and insisting that every single project must take four times as long as you predict it will. Oh, I have taken it very personally. Nevertheless, slowly but surely Joey has tamed it, with the vision only a true craftsman can have. It is beautiful now, and that is no small thing.
But we know its secrets. We know that hidden in between the walls are plastic bags and Joey’s old jeans to help insulate. We know that some of Arden’s balls are lost forever in the opening where the adjacent cabinets meet. We know its humble beginnings–like the apple wallpaper in the kitchen that continued onto the oven.
And as much as I look forward to moving on to the next chapter for us, I know that I’m going to miss it and one day look back and only see the good things that came from it. If I’m honest, no matter how often I have said I hate it or called it stupid, I can’t help but love it. I look around and I see the hard work and pain and tears, but I also see the laughter and craziness of this adventure and our babies learning to roll over and crawl on these wood floors. I see three and a half years of getting to live right across the street from our best friends.
The truth is that at the end of the day, it’s just a house. It’s just beams and floors and ceilings. What made it a home was us, our story being woven in its midst. Though we do not get to keep it, we do get to keep the story of God’s redeeming work in our lives the past four years. It was the vessel in which our breathing and laughing and words and playing and sleeping and living and the tender start of marriage and parenthood were gently held. And now it is a vessel ready to receive its next life story. I pray it will always be a place where people learn to be good stewards of God’s good gifts and that they are pointed to God and his faithfulness.
Perhaps the greatest lesson this house has given me is that sometimes you get the adventure you never asked for or thought you would have, but it becomes part of your story nonetheless. And such is this life on earth. We were never meant to experience perfection or completion or a life free of frustrations this side of heaven. This house has made me look forward to eternity with Jesus more than any other experience in my life, and that’s one of the greatest gifts I could ask for.
So, here we are, and now it’s time to let go. It’s going to be so easy and so hard, I think. The Molly who had to live through dust and chaos and long days and nights of working and weekends that never quite felt restful is a voice in my mind saying, “REJOICE!! This is what you have wanted this whole time, sweet relief.” Isn’t that true? Isn’t this what I have wanted? I honestly never imagined us living here very long or walking my kids to the elementary school a couple blocks away. 13th street is far too busy, not a great place to raise small children if you don’t have a fenced yard. This house was always one step in our journey, in my mind.
It’s not just saying goodbye to the physical house, though. It’s leaving a city, a season. A place that was at times so rich and fun and at times so very hard and taught me that life is rarely just one or the other. I leave Belton no longer expecting anything in particular, whether to always experience abundant provision and big moments or to always have to walk through disappointment and grief.
I did not imagine we’d be leaving so soon, yet it feels right now like a long time coming. Goodbye is so weird.
I can’t predict what the exact feeling of leaving will be, but there will be no indifference.
Even so, this I do know:
“Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:6
May my eyes be ever more fixed not on my earthly dwellings but on my heavenly dwelling, fixed and eternal. Praise be to God.