by jen erickson
I love our home. It’s been home to me my whole life. My parents brought me from the hospital to this place. My entire childhood was spent here, weekends during college, the night before my wedding.
Eighteen months after Jeremy and I were married I was five months pregnant. We would soon be outgrowing our one-bedroom apartment. That same summer my mom was moving out of our modest family home so Jeremy and I decided to rent the house from her, although we had no intention of making it ours for long. Then, life happened: babies, jobs, illness, a community of friends…and we stayed. A few years later, when we realized it would be best for us to remain local due to Jeremy’s (unwelcomed) medical hobbies, we purchased the house from my mom. Life in the city allowed for easy access to clinics and hospitals, despite a desire in both of us for fields and sky. It was a great provision for us to have a place to make our home.
If I were to design and build a house from the ground up, this wouldn’t be the one. But it’s been all we’ve ever needed: a gathering place, a place of rest, a place of song, of activity. The walls have sheltered us, encompassing our hardest days, our deepest joys, and every moment of life in between.
But these boys of mine are growing — outgrowing their beds, outgrowing their room. And it’s not only them; my heart feels as if it’s outgrowing this space as well, a feeling I’ve had for quite some time. I long for more breathing space for me, for them, for others. I’ve prayed long and hard over these desires, trying to decide whether to move or to stay, hoping to discern what the Lord might have for us (or, even better, what He might have us for). I’ve wrestled with how to merge what I’ve understood to be God-given desires with our present-day reality. I’ve spent time re-envisioning our own space and drafting addition plans for our home sweet home, as well as looking at other houses for sale–a dozen or so–over the past few years.
Last August, I nearly put down an offer on one of those homes; but on the very day that I was beginning to pack up in anticipation of the first real potential move, water began seeping out onto the floors in our basement. Without warning, the bottom of my water heater had rusted and gallons of water poured out, causing enough water damage that it required something to be done. Within mere moments all that was being put in order became disorder and our smallish space suddenly became smaller. From that day forward our basement has either been wet, overcrowded with furniture and storage, or under construction. The water damage led to a renovation project that finally wrapped up in February, nearly six months later.
I knew that renovating the basement wasn’t my only option. I could have more quickly and easily ordered new carpet, repaired the walls, redone the baseboards. But our basement wasn’t in great condition to begin with so, although it’s never been priority to renovate that space, it quite suddenly became a priority. I didn’t want to merely patch it up, leaving the possibility of having to do it again a few years down the road; I wanted it up-to-code and up-to-date, the first time. So I put my house-searching on pause late last summer and decided to focus on the mess at hand.
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted…A time to break down, and a time to build up…” (Ecc. 3)
With our basement space now livable, we can breathe again. Be, again. Or at the very least, be able to start from square one again. And whether we stay, or whether we eventually go, a part of our space is now renewed and restored for us or for whoever it is meant to shelter.
Sometimes it takes tearing down the walls to get fresh vision for how a place could be transformed and made into something better. I think the same is true for our hearts; or for mine, at least. Sometimes hearts, just like homes, need to have panelling taken down and solid walls built. Some walls need to come down all together, allowing new spaces to be created. Some windows need to be sealed up, while others need new panes. Sometimes, more working outlets are needed.
Although I had never been a part of a renovation, it seemed I already knew what to expect. I knew the project would take longer than planned and that not everything would turn out the way I thought it would. I knew my schedule would not be top priority, nor would my space remain mine alone. I knew that I would have to be patient, flexible and available, again and again. Items in my home that once provided comfort and a familiar atmosphere would be temporarily or permanently rearranged, or removed altogether. Countless decisions would need to be made — some by me, some by others. The work would be costly (it seems the greatest works always are). And it would be messy: the dust would travel everywhere, leaving nothing untouched. Even still, the hope was that–Lord-willing–it would be better than what was.
It didn’t take me long to realize why the renovation process felt so familiar. I knew what to expect because I had been living it, in a sense, for the past six years. My heart had needed a renovation of sorts after Jeremy’s death. His death was a sudden undoing of the tangible framework of my life. Perhaps in response I chose (consciously or not, I do not know) the heart renovation in hopes that my life would be made stronger and more suitable and longer-lasting, to hold whatever the Lord deems fitting. Or perhaps the Lord chose it, knowing that it would somehow be best for me. The renovation of my heart and life these years has been devastating and comforting, wrecked and beautiful. It’s been costly and painstakingly slow. The spread of the ashes from his death has left nothing untouched. But I’ve also seen and known glimpses of goodness, of hope, of the richness of God’s mercy and comfort. I have seen green sprouts emerge upon the surface of my life. Although I often ask God for more clarity, quicker action, and a sit down session with a blueprint of my life, it seems more often than not He’s keeping those blueprints rolled up and bound, holding them close to His heart, unable to be seen by me, but well within His care.
The process of sanctification is a holy mystery that I don’t claim to understand, but I do claim, and have known, it to be true. And as much as I desire to be a good steward of my home, I desire even more to be a good steward of my heart and life.
My mother-in-law and I are struck at how similar we are in the making of a home. We want to pick one paint color, one piece of furniture, and have it last — forever. This form of homemaking has its challenges because…it’s impossible. The things of this world will grow dull and dusty and fade with time. Seasons will come and go; at times our needs and desires will, too. We cannot order things perfectly and expect them to remain that way.
Even still, we shoot for the impossible every time.
For me, I think the desire to choose only once is really a desire to never have to choose again and to live within the safety of something that’s decided; for a structure that is solid; space that is finished; for something that is timeless (or, better yet, full of time). Perhaps I should call it what it is: a longing for the eternal.
These days, it seems I’ve circled back to the beginning with regards to our home, being somewhat frustrated at the lack of movement in our life, with no other home on the horizon and no remodeling plans on the table (and a basement that has been made new but still reminds me often that there is always more work to be done). Yet I am slowly welcoming the idea that if I can’t round up more space, then I need to learn how to view and use the space already provided for us differently. There’s definitely no place like home.
God knows the plans He has for us; I expect they are better than mine. So I try to hold my heart the way that God does, to view the future and my present days the way He does, to view my space the way He does. He sees and knows so much more than I can, or ever will.
Because of this, I have to remind myself often: I can be flexible and moldable in the hands of God. He holds the beginning and the end — of not only my life, but of the whole world — therefore I can trust Him to disrupt my plans when they aren’t His. I can wait for His blessing. I can seek His face and His presence while I wait for His calling. Although so much in life shifts and changes, He doesn’t and He won’t. If I’ve chosen to give Him all of me, then all other choices are less weighty, because He is with me. He will lead and guide me and help me to choose wisely. And despite a desire for more (more space, more time, more opportunities to give), we have everything we could possibly need for today, which is exactly what He has promised.
“Abide in me, as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches…” (John 15:4-5a)
“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:3)
God cares about the details, even more than I do. He is an architect. He loves to build. And what He builds lasts, because He cares deeply about the foundation. He will not merely patch us up; He will repair and restore our lives in a way that benefits our future while making full use of our past. And all of this, for His glory and His kingdom.