Tuesday, August 20, 2013

When a House isn't just a House


We cleaned out the closets and scraped the baseboards.  We painted the walls and power-washed the front porch.  We carefully piled all of our art and photographs and tucked books and journals into tall, brown boxes.  We tried to rid our house of us in order to appeal to others who might want it for their own.  We were going to try to sell our house.    

I tell myself all the time that a house is just a house.  It’s nothing more and nothing less.  It has very little to do with who I am or who I am created to be.  Like everything that I can run my fingers over, it will one day turn to dust, and I certainly will not take it with me to glory. 

But when I first walked into our house with fresh, cream walls and hardly a trace of all the moments we have woven under its roof, I felt it hard as brick: sometimes a house is more than just a house.  It is more than the bricks and mortar that form its exterior and more than the wooden planks that make up its floors.  It’s more than the square footage or the countertops. 

A house is much more.  It is the fingerprints on the windows from babies using the glass to pull with their wobbly new legs.  It is smudges on the walls from babies turned to boys, running wild laps through the kitchen and dining room, banging into each other and bracing themselves from falls.  It is the early morning creaking of old planks in the hallway beneath tip-toed feet and bated breath.  It is the oak tree out back that sprawls over the yard like a protective mother.  It is the memory of my heaven-boy looking up to find where the branches end in the sky.  It is all of us here, digging into the smallest moments and pulling up a life and a family. 

I can dream about a little bit more space and a kitchen that better reflects my style.  I can dream about a street full of children, perfect playmates for my little ones.  But I would be passing by all the ways that I am living the dream right here, under this roof.  And precious moments would be lost down that slippery, subtle desire for always wanting a little bit more.  But more is happening right around me, banging into walls and climbing out of beds.  More is right here in front of me, settled deep in the walls of a little, brick ranch.

So instead of selling, we are staying.  And now I begin to unpack those boxes and re-clutter our house.  Now I start hanging the art on the walls and arranging the photographs again on the tables.  The new paint will only remain fresh and clean for about another week.  My boys will continue to be roughly five steps away from my room when they need me in the dark of the night.  And the old, oak tree, the one the grabbed my boy’s imagination and curiosity, will rain colors of red and orange in no time at all.  We will all bathe in its shedding for another autumn and likely several autumns still to come.  Moving houses can feel too much like moving on.  Because a house is never just a house. 

All of life is pulled by currents of seasons.  Knowing when the seasons will change and when the tide will roll in can feel like a guessing game.  Maybe this is the right time, or maybe not just now.  Knowing when to move and when to stay, in all things, is sheltered beneath a grace that is deeper and wider than any decision to make.  But I also know that choosing to remain in this house, deciding to watch the leaves fall and the flowers bloom again from our front porch swing, is so comfortable and right, that now, just the knowing feels like home.