I write fondly of this beautiful, crumbling old house, but the actual crumbling makes me want to run away crying.
I crop and edit my instagram photos to emphasize beauty, but the truth is often a whole lot less beautiful. The truth is original wooden windows layered with paint. There are rotting sills and decrepit, ill-fitting storm windows. The truth is decay around the roofline soffits. The truth is window shutters so deteriorated I worry they’ll turn to dust if we remove them for repair.
Last week I stood on the lawn with a local carpenter. We craned our necks toward rotted wood three floors up. He heaved a deep sigh and said, “Honestly? I wouldn’t know where to begin.”
He told me some houses are like Hondas. You go to the shop, you buy a new part. But my house was a fancy sports car. Every replacement part costs more and is harder to find.
Is our home the shelter version of a foolish, midlife crisis? Because that isn’t the life I would choose.
The life I would choose is safe and sensible. It’s modestly priced. It’s manageable. Never overwhelming. In this dream life my sister and her kids live nearby. Showing up in the gap (the great and terrible gap) where Shawn once stood, would be easy and natural.
Life would be easy and natural.
In Roots and Sky, I write that “I am living an adventure in stability. Mine is a pilgrimage in one place” (184).
When Jonathan and I arrived at Maplehurst with our three kids (and one on the way), we didn’t only feel called to come. We felt called to stay.
Jonathan is an engineer, I am a writer, our kids tug us in the direction of a dozen different hobbies and interests, but together our life as a family is about place-making. Together, we are cultivating a place; we are tending it, transforming it, and sharing it with others.
I always assumed our faithfulness to this vision would be tested. Perhaps I would resent the chickens and the gardens and wish for a summer-long road trip instead. Perhaps I would grow tired of canning tomatoes, cooking for others, and changing bedsheets for guests twice in one week.
Now, almost four years in and with this house on the cover of a book, it isn’t weariness but fear and desire that have caused me to question all of it.
This house needs more than we have to give.
What if we can’t keep up?
My extended family needs more than we have given in the past.
Shouldn’t we put their needs first?
While I was in Hawaii, someone asked if I would be willing to move to live nearer to Kelli and the kids. It broke my heart to say it, but I said it.
I may be willing, but it still doesn’t feel like my choice. Or, if it is my choice, I will not choose to ignore the voice that has, for so long and so consistently, whispered only one word: stay.
We came to Maplehurst with vision. We knew our future was planted in this place. Yet the strange thing about vision is that sometimes you carry it around like a pair of eyeglasses in your pocket. The weight bouncing against your leg is the only reminder of everything you cannot yet see.
After the carpenter came two craftsmen. One loves old windows. One loves old plaster. They salvage the parts, or they make them with their own two hands.
I stood with one, our necks craned three floors up, and he said, “This isn’t a house. It’s a home.”
And I knew then he saw what I had seen, what I wanted to see again. Not rotting wood or peeling paint, but a home open enough for neighborhood Easter egg hunts and reunions of family and friends. A home spacious enough for nieces and nephews to spend every summer here.
A home powerful enough to draw us all away from the sensible and the manageable and on toward something much more terrifying, much more beautiful, and altogether more abundant.
Oh, thank you. I remember when I used to write like this. I remember when I would strain to see what the bigger picture was. Ministry. My husband is in ministry. Most of my marriage find myself standing quite alone in a new place such as now. This old house in the middle of nowhere with not much of anything around..I’m struggling. No family, no friends. 6 kids struggling with transition. My sister about to have her first child and in need of a nanny in another state where I wish we had moved instead. The “what am I doing here’s” and the “please Gods” are flowing freely these days and I force myself to crop and edit my attitude and pour love into a home I can’t imagine living in for years to come. Thank you for writing my heart today. Sending prayers to you from an especially familiar place today.
“Crop and edit my attitude.” Wow. Well said, Lisa. Praying for you this morning. May God’s presence pour into all the empty places in your life.
I live in 100 year old home in upstate ny and this resonated with me deeply today. Thank you.
It sounds as if you know my pain. And my delight. 😉 Thanks for being here, Darci.
Oh Christie… ((hugs)). It seems to me that some people’s lives are littered with easy choices and simple paths. I am not one of those people either, and I often feel a little envious of those who can just walk those easy roads and not wrangle with difficult choices and snuggle. You and your family stay in my prayers.
Thank you so much, Beth. xoxo
So beautifully written.
Thank you, Emily.
Before we ever had children (our oldest is 24, so a LONG time ago), my husband and I read a book called “Tender Warrior” by Stu Weber. In one chapter he talked about how he and his wife had made a commitment early on to NOT move while their boys were growing up. Stu was a pastor, and he had had several offers of jobs in other places, but they decided to stick it out and stay. He talked about community and how he wanted his children to know the people in their community and for those folks to know their children. He talked about how they wanted their boys to have a childhood home that they would remember with fondness.
My husband and I read that book and felt called to the same thing–one community for our daughters for their lives. It has been hard at times (the weather in Chicago, you know), and we’ve wanted to leave at times for someplace warmer. But we’ve stuck it out–same house (for the most part), same schools, same church–for 22 years. It’s not perfect here, but it’s home.
Now that our girls are adults, they have talked often about wanting to end up together–whether that’s here or somewhere else. But what they know is that they want roots and they want to have family around them. They want community.
And that’s what you’re building for your family, Christy. I just want to encourage you that the house doesn’t matter (ours has some significant issues too)–it’s the home and the community that you are providing for your kids that they will remember forever. You get it, I know. 😉
I do know that Chicago weather. Well. 😉 I appreciate your testimony. It’s an encouragement to me and gives me a focus for my prayers. I pray that this house can be a still point, a rooted place, not only for my own kids but for their cousins, too.
Christie, I recently found your blog and it grabbed me hard because my sister lost her husband quickly and unexpectedly last fall too. Like you, I would do ALMOST anything to ease her pain. I was shocked by how much I miss him, what a huge hole is left in our family, how very very sad I feel. And I have it a little easier than you do: my sister only lives 30 miles away and her children are mostly grown. Somehow it helps me to read about your similar situation.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts, experiences and photos. You write very well, and I’m looking forward to learning more.
Jana, I am so glad you found me and so sorry your life has mirrored mine in this regard. The enormity of the hole, the depth of my sadness – these have surprised me, too. May God be near to you and yours. xoxo
Beautiful. and we are staying as well, no matter how much I curse this old house we moved into almost 2 years ago…. we will stay, we will try to keep up with the to do list and we will try to live more simply…… but sometime I want to throw in the towel 🙂
Me too, Melissa! And you are right to bring up simplicity. I am finding that only by the disciplined pursuit of simplicity are my hands (and my closets and my calendar) empty enough to receive the abundant life God wants to give.
I really relate to this with living far away from my extended family. I often feel guilty that I am not nearer to them when they want me to be (I live on the opposite coast), but that is not where my husband and I feel called to be.
It’s a hard thing, Amanda. May you and your husband be encouraged as you continue to follow where God’s voice leads.
Love this post like I love them all. I love too that you know you are supposed to be where you are, that is such a good thing. Love you
What a beautiful story. My first rational, analytical thought after reading the first carpenter’s opinion was – get a second opinion. Sometimes a second perspective is what we need.
So true, Kent! And thankfully validated by my experience this past week.
Love the eyeglass image Christie… One interesting life we lead. Apparently God does not want us too terribly comfortable here- no matter how we ache and try. Blessings and prayers- excited about the sweet affirmation of your book in the midst of it all
Thank you, Laurie. It’s true. I sometimes think being comfortable is like chocolate cake. Lovely now and again, but too much really can make us ill. 🙂
To stay, we are having to tear our old home down. What an emotional journey. We are dedicated to staying close to my mother-in-love but our house has lived it’s life. To clean out my grown children’s’ rooms and sift through memories is sometimes more than I can take. I know we can create a new home with new memories. I’m thankful that my children will drive in the same driveway when they come home to visit. My brain knows that we will have less stress and financial pressure with a smaller, new house. But oh my heart……..
So lovely, Christie. I love the eyeglasses-in-pocket image. And yes, it is so hard to be away from family. I am not sure if my husband and I will stay where we are forever, but we are here now – and that is sometimes hard. And also beautiful.