supposed to go.
We came here broken, out of a ministry situation that ended poorly, torn apart by church politics and greed and the special kind of pain that comes from being wounded by brothers and sisters in Christ who are supposed to know better. We had almost nothing. After house-sitting for one of my husband’s seminary professors for the summer, we were essentially without a home and had no idea where we were headed.
We accepted an invitation from another professor, a pastor at a church in a tiny town about 40 miles north of ours, to visit his church. He wasn’t even there the Sunday we showed up, but the little congregation welcomed us. Some families from the church took us out to lunch, then over to see a house that one of them was renovating. We spent a nice afternoon, then headed back to our borrowed house.
That evening, we had a call from the man who was renovating the house. He felt like he was supposed to rent it to us. Were we interested?
We rented that tiny house (about 800 square feet) and moved to the little town in which it sat. It was temporary, we said, maybe for a year, just for a time while we awaited clarity about our next steps. We learned our way around, navigating by unfamiliar landmarks that everyone but us seemed to know. (“Turn left at the pond” is hard to follow when the pond has been dried up for 15 years!) Both being from bigger cities, we marveled at the skinny red telephone book with its columns of Koontzes and Gochenours and Sourses and Dingeses (and how almost everyone we met had one of those last names and/or was “kin” to someone else we knew). We bought our groceries week after week in the local Wal-mart (usually getting the same cashier who always asked where we were visiting from).
My husband started working as the associate pastor at the little church we'd visited that first Sunday. Eventually, he was ordained there and called as their lead pastor. Christmases went by. Countless meals were cooked in the little blue kitchen without a dishwasher. Four foster children came and went from the extra bedroom. We washed cars and checked mail and shoveled the gravel driveway when it snowed. A lot of life happened in those years. So many loads of laundry...two cats...the birth of our first child, his first words, first steps. My husband's eventual decision to leave his pastorate and work as a therapist in the schools here. Although the town eventually started feeling like home, the tiny house never quite did. Even while our life was unfolding within its walls, it was never our house. It belonged to someone else- we just lived there.
Ten years. It took that long before we realized that we actually were meant to stay right where we were. Here. Where we are.
Around the time we figured that out, we learned we were expecting another baby.
Right after that, we learned we were actually expecting two babies…and staying or not, we couldn't actually stay in the 800 square foot house.
The new house was also once someone else's house. Another family built it, lived in it, and lost it to foreclosure. They took everything - every appliance, every light fixture, every towel bar, every cabinet knob and shelf. My husband and our friends painted it, and we packed our belongings and moved them the mile and a half between the two addresses. We put in knobs, appliances, shower curtain rods, beds and dishtowels and mirrors. The house became our house. I hoped once everything was unpacked, it would feel like our home.
Then, three weeks after we moved, I was put on bed rest until the twins were born. 12 weeks. I didn't get to finish unpacking or settling in. Friends and family came every day, unpacked boxes, brought meals, cared for my toddler, cleaned windows, hung curtains, arranged things. I didn't leave except for doctor's appointments.
It wasn't until after the girls were born and I was up and around that I could start to claim the space as my own by putting things where I wanted them to be. I arranged and rearranged the furniture, hosted dinner parties, celebrated our son's third birthday. I bathed our three children, baked cookies, and mopped the beautiful hardwood floor in the kitchen. We saw what the house looked like with snow on the roof. We had our first Christmas here, hanging five stockings and a wreath on the door and setting up a new train set. I exploded a Pyrex casserole dish on the stovetop when I set it on a hot burner on Christmas Day.
As the babies got bigger and the weather got warmer and I started to come and go a bit more with the children, I realized that part of being at home in a place is being able to leave it and come back to it and have it still be there, just as you left it, waiting for you. The more I came and went, the more at home I felt.
Home is here, right where we are, and I'm very grateful.
In the end, I think the reason we live where we live is because we’re supposed to. For how long? I don’t know. I’m still not sure what my purpose is here. But when I look around at the relationships that have taken root and blossomed during the last ten years, I know that this isn’t an accident. This little town may never claim me as one of its own, but it is my home now, even if I still don’t fully understand why.
www.survivingourblessings.com. To keep her sanity, she enjoys running, fiber arts, baking, and going places that offer free refills on coffee or Diet Coke.