"'And you've quite given [writing] up?' asked Christine.
'Not altogether...but I'm writing living epistles now,' said Anne, thinking of Jem and Co."
- Anne of Ingleside, L.M. Montgomery


Packing Up Memories

Just over two weeks and we'll be moving away from our home of the last 8 1/2 years.  Not far, just across town.  We'll send the boys to the same preschool, use the same doctors, frequent the same places.  But still, we're moving and it breaks my heart.

I couldn't be more excited about our new place - a little old house out in the country with plenty of space for our 4+1 family to roam.  We call it "the farm" to denote our dreams of all the adventures we'll have there.  Still, I'm heart-broken.  I don't want to leave.

I hear the words of what I think was John Wesley's story of his encounter with a Native American.  The man asked, "If you Christians believe in eternal life, why do you build houses like you will live forever?"  Those words keep floating through my mind and I'm horribly ashamed of myself.  Why am I clinging to what I have now when the promise of what is to come is so much better?

I know why.  It's the memories.  I've called this place home longer than any other and as I look around at these walls, I see a store-house of memories. 

This was the place we bought just before we were married.  The place Jeff moved into with all of my stuff.  The place I dreamed about coming home as a bride.  This was the home we came to fresh from our honeymoon.  Where we learned to be man and wife, crammed into one tiny room while the rest of the house was a chaos of reconstruction.  This was the place where we worked to make everything perfect only to find soggy walls and leaky pipes.  My grandpa helped Jeff to hang every board of drywall and every piece of wood in the living room floor months before the stroke that made him unable to work with wood again.  It was here that I learned that Grandma was cancer-free and later that the cancer was back.  It was here I returned in the early morning hours after her struggle was finally over.  In this place I found comfort in sorrow - grief over loved ones lost and deep betrayal and shattered dreams.  During the most painful days of my life, this place was my sanctuary.

And, oh!  The joy!  In the confines of these walls I found out I was going to be a mother.  We planned and dreamed of our little love - making a space perfect for him.  I paced the floors in giddy anticipation and numbing fear as I labored.  And a few days later, we brought our little bundle home.

I remember a house awake in the middle of the night.  Bouncing up and down stairs to soothe a cranky baby.  This house saw all his firsts:  first roll-over, first smile, first teeth, first steps, first owies.  Now his firsts are bigger - learning to ride a bike, reading words all by himself, pouring his own glass of milk.  How he has grown under this roof!

Two years later, this house saw all those baby firsts over again.  A second time we learned we would be parents.  A second time we planned and dreamed, now making our house perfect for two little boys.  We brought our second little love home and again the house was awake at night.  Again it witnessed baby cries and giggles.  Here he has learned to roll and crawl and walk and talk.  He has grown from an infant to an independent little man, sharing in our conversations and eager to learn to do it all himself. 

This place has been full of the joy of two little boys - best friends who can't stand the thought of being apart.  The stairs have been mountains to climb, the floors have been seas and jungles and deserts and fields.  Vents have been bumpy roads and deep dark dungeons.  The whole place has been alive with the laughter of tickle fights and chases.  The bathroom has been saturated with splashes.  Tears have been shed here of lessons hard-learned and squeals of delight have resounded at the first I-did-it's.

And there are countless other memories:  chats with friends, birthday parties, bubble blowing, kiddie pools, cookie baking, cupcake stealing, and backyard fires. 

Looking at the yard I see the careful arrangements of all our favorite plants:  the Clematis that we inherited, the surprise lilies, grape vines, rhubarb and a vegetable garden, ivy and herbs, daisies and mums, the lilac bush my mom planted for my 21st birthday, the cosmos that Cap grew from seed this year, the blueberries, the apple tree and the plum tree and the river birch and the butterfly bush. Eight-and-a-half years of growth.  My kids have picked flowers for me from those plants.  They have run hard, barefoot in the grass.  This place is full of memories.

But, they are my memories.  Surely they stand apart from this place - this place which is really just a shell:  wood and nails and various building materials fit together to provide a structure.

I think the thing that makes it hard to leave is that it is a reference point.  I look at the garden out front and remember Jeff, Grandpa and I laying cloth, spreading rock and planting on our first wedding anniversary.  I look at the corner of the living room and see my little man standing there shoulders slumped, learning a new lesson or remembering an old one.  I look at the wall upstairs and picture Jeff painting I <3 you in green over white-primed walls.  I see Christmas trees and Easter eggs.  I hear the sounds of yesterday.  And I wonder, without this place will I remember all of these little moments?  Mostly insignificant, everyday occurrences filled with abundant joy.  When we break ties with this place, will we lose a little of our tie to those memories?

As we pack up the contents of this house, those memories will be carefully packed as well.  In this place they sat out on the shelves in plain sight - times past, but still connected to our surroundings.  There I suspect they will stay boxed in the attic - something to rifle through on lazy days of storytelling with our children and each other.  But they won't be sitting on the shelves and hanging on the walls.  That place will have it's own stories, it's own adventures to display.

I can't wait to uncover the joys "the farm" will have to offer us.  It too will know lots of firsts - even those wonderful baby firsts.  But, in the meantime I have something to savor and a deep loss to face.  I will grieve the surrender of this place.  More than wood and shingles, it is the cover of my storybook - my fairytale.  It will be difficult to close the first volume, even if it is to jump into the second. 

I will treasure my last few days here:  romp with the boys in the yard, race down the sidewalk to school, cross the street to Grandma and Grandpa's, meander down the road to the library.  I'll drink in the nighttime rituals and the morning breakfasts and all the daily happenings.  And then, with some tears and trepidation and excitement, I'll leave this wonderful place behind for something else wonderful.  Trusting God to guide me through it all with the knowledge that it doesn't really matter where I am, because he will be with me.


Overwhelming Generosity

Driving across town this morning, I passed a lot of rummage sales.  Thinking about all of that stuff spread across all of those lawns led me down the path of thinking about our own stuff.  As I mentally sifted through our possessions I noticed a common theme - generosity.

Just about everything we have was given to us.  In fact, It doesn't take long at all to count the material possessions we have that we have actually purchased ourselves.  Take the furniture for example.  We bought a discount sofa set,  a set of storage shelves, a small end table,  a potty chair, 2 booster seats and an art desk (a Christmas present for Cap).  Every single other piece of furniture was given to us.  In our 27 (yikes) combined years of driving, we have purchased 1 vehicle.  We have had 5 vehicles given to us.  I think Jeff bought the computer he took with him to college.  If he did that's the only time either of us has ever purchased one.  And yet we've always had a computer at home.  The trend continues to very nearly everything we own, with the only exceptions being the food in our pantry and my children's book obsession.  Our cabinets are full of wedding presents and hand-me-downs.  While we've bought some of our own clothing, many of them have come in the form of Christmas and birthday gifts.

It's incredibly overwhelming.  It was all I could do to hold back the tears as I considered how incredibly blessed we've been.  What's more, except for gifts we've received from wedding and baby registries I'm pretty sure we haven't asked for any of it.  There have been times we have expressed a need and been knocked off our feet by the generosity of a family member or a friend who responded with a gift we never imagined.  But most of the gifts we completely spontaneous, "Hey, do you want this ____?" kind of things.

Looking around our house, things are pretty eclectic.  We've got oak and walnut and pine and particle board and I don't even know what else. Some of our furniture is very nice and other pieces are very well worn (mostly the stuff we bought).  And yet, it makes our home beautiful.  Not so much because of the aesthetic properties as the incredible testimony to the generosity of people and the blessings of God.