I always know just how long it’s been since we moved to this old farmhouse called Maplehurst. I can judge it by the length of her curls and the stoutness of her legs.
I was eight-months pregnant when I watched the London Olympics surrounded by teetering piles of unpacked cardboard boxes. Elsa Spring was born six weeks after we moved in. This week she and I watched Olympic “gymtastics” while I held her on the sofa in the family room.
I wrote about our first year in this place in a book called Roots and Sky: A Journey Home in Four Seasons. I wrote about how small and slow this new beginning was for us. We had such big dreams. I wanted to see them realized immediately, but before we’d even unpacked all of the boxes, I had a baby daughter in my arms. Not long after that, winter settled in. Ice on the windowpanes. Ice in my veins.
That first year was a year for slow and small. Those first four seasons were all about be still.
And since then? The days have continued to feel slow and small and ordinary. It is only when I look back, only when I take in the full sweep of four years all at once, do I feel that explosion of new life.
Nothing has been small. Nothing has been slow. Nothing has been ordinary.
All along, God has been doing a new thing. And I am a witness.
What has happened in four years? We welcomed a daughter, we watched four children grow, I wrote a book, we built gardens, and we have almost filled our guestbook with names. I wrote about that, the guests and the flowers, in a recent piece for Art House America. You can read my quiet manifesto here.
We continue to dream new dreams for this place and for those who join us here, which means we continue to wade through the small, and the slow, and the ordinary.
The house is wrapped in scaffolding, but thanks to the care of two men, the one-hundred-and-thirty-year-old bricks haven’t looked this solid since the year they were laid. The worn, black shutters have been removed, and the day when we will reinstall them, either repaired or remade, feels impossibly far away. One by one, a local craftsman is restoring our windows, but it could be years before every window in this house is repaired. Yet once stripped and repaired, these old windows with their wavy glass will welcome cool breezes for another hundred years.
It feels, four years on, as if we are still in the messy middle. Those words I wrote in Roots and Sky have lately come floating back into my mind:
We love beginnings, and we privilege endings, but we live most of our lives in some sort of middle. Life is perpetually unfinished. That is its nature. – Roots and Sky, p 122
Unfinished it may be, but I can say with confidence that here at Maplehurst I have seen the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. And that is enough for me.
God’s goodness and the world’s grief are not as irreconcilable as I sometimes think. Four years ago, I could not have anticipated the sorrows that would visit us in this place. I wrote about the grief of that first, hard winter in Roots and Sky. I have written about other sorrows here on this blog.
Four years ago, I could not have anticipated how much would be given and just how much would be taken away. It is good that I did not know. It is good because I would have weighed it all in some balance. I would have asked if the gains compensated for the losses. Would there be more laughter than tears? More happiness than grief?
But I have learned that joy spreads its roots through laughter and tears. I have learned that sometimes we receive the most when something precious has been lost. Abundant life is mystery, not mathematics. Or perhaps, mathematics, which I’ve been told is the language of the universe, is more mysterious than I knew.
There is a wise woman in Proverbs. She is one who “can laugh at the days to come.” What will the next four years bring? I feel too sobered by the recent past to laugh. Considering time, I cannot help but tremble. It is so clearly held in hands that are not mine.
I may not be laughing, but I do feel very small and very still. Four years on, I am no longer fighting the wisdom of this place. So much has grown here in these four years: a baby girl, a book, a ring of apple trees. The soil here was always fertile, but we have watered it faithfully with our tears. I cannot say with certainty what we will harvest next, but I think the harvest will be a good one. Perhaps our best yet.
Perhaps our next harvest will be laughter.
Love, love love your words here. Especially after writing in my last blog post about our home search. It’s hard to be at the very beginning of our search for our first home and to envision the future when standing at the beginning. Your words ground me and remind me of what is true: mystery. Tension. Laughter and Sorrow. Winter and Spring. All held in the four walls of a home, all held in the invisible walls of a family. I hope there will be more books.. I love your writing.
Thank you so much, Martha. I am glad these words were an encouragement to you. xxoo
loved this. I enjoyed letting your beautiful words of truth, openness, and kindness soak into my soul today.
I am so glad to hear it. Thank you, Melissa.
“But I have learned that joy spreads its roots through laughter and tears. I have learned that sometimes we receive the most when something precious has been lost.”
In a season of unspeakable loss, this is a lovely life-ring… Thank you Christie.
Thank you, Judy. Peace be with you!
Thank you Christie for your beautiful words that feed my soul and remind me to say thank you more often.
Thank you for reading along with me, Laura.
So lovely. I am struggling through a transition to a new apartment (right after starting a new job) and things are so messy. But there’s lots of goodness here (and Olympic-watching amid stacks of boxes, too). Thank you, Christie.
It is so hard to embrace the messy. It looks so much lovelier in retrospect. May God give you eyes to see what he sees happening. xxoo
Love this: “Nothing has been small. Nothing has been slow. Nothing has been ordinary.” I’m taking some steps right now that are smaller than what I’d hoped for yet I have a sense of peace about them. That, because of my Savor, they are not small or ordinary. Thanks for this post 🙂
You are welcome, Emily. May we both remember there is nothing truly small about a mustard seed!
Ah! I, too, am
marking a 4-yr anniversary,
measuring the changes,
navigating the messy middle,
musing the future,
hopeful for the harvest of laughter.
but your words are a perfect fit.
So lovely when that happens, isn’t it?
We will run into each other at a conference at some point, I feel certain.
Oh, Christie….may God’s equation this year to come include laughter, such a healing medicine.
Such wise and thoughtful words. Thanks Christie.