Dust rises softly as I pull books from the shelf. It floats up with the heat from a sunbeam,and I watch it for a second, waiting.
Each book holds a memory for me, and I look at the covers and run my hands along the spines, prolonging the decision that must come. Does it stay, or does it go? I wish I could keep them all.
There’s a box on my bed for the ones that are staying, and a box on the floor for the ones that are going. The box on the bed is winning.
There are piles in the hall, too, where I’ve been rooting through closets and bedrooms, and stacks of our things down by the garage door, waiting to go to Goodwill.
Jonathan has taken it upon himself to sort through his treasure collection. The trash can is full to overflowing with rocks, rusty nails, and broken bits of toys. I notice, with a twinge of sadness and relief, that Jonathan has finally decided to throw away the shredded aluminum cans he’s been saving since last summer when he got to shoot a .22 with his dad in the field. The bullet had gone in clean. But it didn’t come out that way.
That’s a little how I’m feeling these days. The bullet went in clean. But it didn’t come out that way.
This house was our first house. The housing market had just taken a huge hit, and the house was in foreclosure. It was owned by a couple with two kids, and things had not turned out the way they had hoped. I noticed the pencil markings on the kitchen wall and saw how their two babies had grown since they’d been here, and my heart broke for them a little bit. The leaving couldn’t have been easy. There was something special about this house.
It was the first house I had seen that was anywhere near adequate for a family with three young kids and two more on the way. We couldn’t stay where we were living with five children, and we couldn’t rent for less than the cost of a mortgage, so on Valentine’s Day, after we’d worked our budget out on paper a dozen different ways, we decided to buy it.
We called the realtor, but she had news of her own. “You won’t believe this,” she said. “Someone else put in an offer on that house today.”
I hung up the phone and looked at Jeff, who put his arms around me and said, “It wasn’t meant to be.”
I blinked back tears. That was my house. Whoever was trying to buy that house did not love it the way I did. They did not have three babies and two more on the way who needed that house.
I could not give up on it. Secretly, I watched the house online and waited for the “Sold” sign to appear in place of “Pending.”
It never did.
A month later, after viewing a dozen inadequate homes and very nearly giving up hope that we’d be able to find a decent house in a nice neighborhood for the money we had, that classic gray house, my house, was back on the market.
We bought it.
Then, we watched God provide.
The house was in need of some serious repairs and upgrades. We found free paint at a paint recycle station, a bathtub for $10 and a pedestal sink for $25 and a chandelier for $50. We found hardwood flooring on Craigslist and a brand-new stainless steel Samsung refrigerator for $100. There were solid wood doors for $30 each at a local liquidation store, strapped to the top of our minivan, and a series of scavenger hunts for just enough discounted tiles for the downstairs bathroom.
There was the carpet we saved for, agonized over, and ended up getting for free when it turned out to be defective enough to void the warranty but not defective enough to replace. We were given beds for the children, dressers that could be painted, and even a dining room table when we outgrew the one we had.
There was a brand-new lawn mower that had been returned to the store and marked down just before we came looking for one. The yard is bursting with plant starts from my mother-in-law, spring bulbs from my neighbor, and even a free rose bush from a lady who likes to talk to the children when she walks her dog past our house each day.
And everywhere, in every part of our house, there was the handiwork of people who came and helped, just because they love us.
I see it as I’m packing up and sorting through, preparing for the move we know will come. God is leading us on from here. I know it, and I am grateful, but I am shredded too. The bullet went in clean, but it did not come out that way.
In my humanity, I want to dig my roots in deeper instead of yielding to go. I want to hold on to this house because I have seen God here. I have been loved by God here. There’s a part of me that hurts to prepare this home, my home, for someone else, to share my neighbors with someone else, to leave my friends and my church to someone else.
I turn in my Bible and I read of all the wanderers, all those God called out of the places that were safe and comfortable, called out of the places where God had revealed His glory, shown His hand, and showered them with provision. There are many. Some seem to go without a second thought. But others ache with the going.
It is so tempting to stay.
But it is an act of faith to go, even when it hurts.
So I sort through the years of things that have filled our home and I yield to the sharpness that comes from leaving the places that have been most pleasant and I trust that even though it hurts, God’s going to make it come out clean.