Old House, New Heart

Ephesians 3:20-21 – Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.

What a week!  Our family has really enjoyed getting away and seeing dear family and friends.  There were many joys experienced and memories made, but one in particular stands out for me.

We had just gotten into town, and I wanted to show the kids my childhood home.  We slowly drove down the familiar street, looking at all of the houses to see which ones were original, remodeled, or torn down and replaced.  My house was at the end of the street.  I was nervous to look.  After my mom died, I had no dad to care for me, so legally I had to move out of my home because I was a minor.  From there, the house fell into disrepair by renters; then it was sold and was completely let go.  It has been years since I had seen it, but the last time I did it was downright painful to look at it.  Shudders hanging on by one nail, paint chipped off, the yard a disaster of weeds and dirt.  There was nothing at all maintained, much less nice, about my old home.  I could only imagine what the inside looked like.

My mom’s words from over two decades ago haunted me, This is the only house I will ever own.  I plan to live here until I die.  Her terminal illness cut that vision short, but I knew what she meant.  Now, her azaleas were gone; her one beloved rose bush was gone; the quaint white ranch house with black shudders was a wreck.  It would’ve broken her heart.  I thought about the “weed parties” she made us do as kids pulling up weeds for hours; roller skating on the driveway; garage sales under the carport; Sunday afternoons on the back porch reading the paper in her church dress and house slippers; first-day-of-school pictures at the back door; birthday parties; watching the royal wedding live on her 13” color television in her bedroom; my great-grandmother’s vintage furniture in our living room; Christmases; Saturday morning cartoons;  trick-or-treating; Friday night pizza; good times with friends and family – our house was truly a home.

The last time I saw it, it was in shambles.  Although it is just a structure, its poor estate gripped my heart because it was quite symbolic of my life in the aftermath of the extreme continuum of overwhelming tragedies that befell our small family.  Parked outside several years ago, I simply stared at a house that reflected so much of how I felt for years – unloved, forgotten, left behind, rejected, uncared for – a mess on the outside and vacant on the inside. Indeed, the world had moved on, but I was stuck with a heart and life in disrepair…just like my old home.

Through the years, however, God redeemed my life.  He gave me a faithful, loving husband, amazing children, and friends that are nothing short of hand-picked by Him for me.  I put in a lot of homework to grieve and move to the next season God had prepared for me.  It was hard work.  Really hard.  God put just the right people in my path to help me through a maze of mourning, and little-by-little the healing began.  Today, and for many years now, I am healed, whole and am fully embracing the abundant life Jesus spoke of in John 10:10.  I’m in a better place than I’ve ever been in my life, and I have often thought of my old home and wondered if it, too, survived.

Last week, my family warily drove toward my house.  My heart pounded and palms sweated.  Could I handle what I was about to see?  I had no idea.  We pulled up to find a delightful surprise!  It looked great!  It had a fresh coat of paint, shudders hung proudly, new roof, new fence, new driveway, and cut grass.  The old pines were gone and landscape beds were healthy and blooming.  I got out of the van to take a closer look.  My husband took my picture in the front yard.  I smiled as I told the kids about Mom’s rose bush and azaleas, where I roller skated, and named the trees in the backyard that we could see peeking over the fence (I gave our trees names when I was a child).

I took a deep breath and stared at the door.  It was the same red door with fresh, glossy paint.  I turned to my husband and said, I have to.  He knew what I was talking about because he knows me that well.  I have to knock on the door, I said.  Go for it, he encouraged.  I walked up the steps to the door.  The kids and he followed behind.  Ding dong the doorbell rang.

A young mom cracked open the door, looking wary at five strangers on her front stoop.  A young girl hid behind her leg, quizzically peeking at us.  Hi, I began with a big smile.  You don’t know me, but I used to live here. I grew up in this house, I explained.  Oh, she said, a little taken aback.  I just wanted to tell you how beautiful your house is.  The last time I saw it, it was in disrepair.  It’s so great to see it cared for and loved.  The little girl stepped forward and invited us in.  I politely pretended not to hear and just smiled.

We heard a man in the background mumble something, and the young mom surprisingly said, My husband said you all are welcome to come in.  I nearly jumped for joy!  But, I held my composure, Are you sure?  I know it’s dinnertime I said as we smelled food wafting from the open door.  Yes, we’re sure, she replied with a smile.  Thank you so much!  I said eagerly.

She opened the door and we stepped inside.  It was the first time in what felt like forever since I had walked into my home.  It was very different.  Walls were changed, an addition on the back, new kitchen, but it felt quite familiar nonetheless.  They let us walk through every room, and I was able to tell my kids which rooms were which – including my old bedroom.  Although it had changed inside my heart’s eyes saw it just the way it used to be.  This is where the Christmas tree went.  This used to be a back porch.  There was a door here.  I had so much fun reliving the memories.

I was aware of their dinner waiting on the table, so we didn’t stay long.  But, we had great conversation with the new owners about the history of the house.  I filled in historical gaps, and so did they.  Together, we painted a complete picture.

Complete.  That’s exactly the way I feel.  Not only did I get to see the outside of my house beautiful again, the inside was as well.  In fact, it looked even better than before.  The mom apologized for seeming standoffish at the door.  I reassured her that our spontaneous visit was unusual.  We made new friends that day.  Ironically, she said, It’s funny.  I never ever answer the door.  I don’t know why I did this time.  I know why.  God planned this divine appointment.

I got the closure I have looked for all these years.  The house is a home again.  A young family is filling its walls with new memories and lots of love.

A second chance.  That’s what my house got – and I did, too.  My old house was once a vibrant, fun place to be.  It suffered a huge loss and spiraled downward for many years.  Then, someone came along and decided it was worth something and should not be torn down for a bigger, newer model.  Sure enough, a young family agreed and is taking tender care of it.   That’s pretty much my story… and that someone was God.  He told me I was worth redeeming, not letting life utterly demolish me.  He gave me a second chance with a precious family of my own.

I feel like my home finally got the happily-ever-after that I was granted.

When we began our trip, we had no idea this was going to happen.  Oh, but God did.  Don’t you know He counted the minutes until our van pulled up to the front yard.  I can see it now…God shushed the angels as I approached the front door.  With His hands grasping the arms of His throne, elbows high in the air, and eyes looking downward upon the earth, He leaned forward and said under His breath,  Wait for it.  Wait for it – as the doorbell rang.  Yes?  the mom said from the beginning…God, quite pleased with Himself, sat back with His hands folded on His lap and grinned as He watched everything play out.

Had He not nudged me to ring the doorbell, I still would’ve had the blessing of seeing the exterior of my yard and home being well-cared for, but I would’ve missed the enormous blessing of being able to walk through it and seeing for myself that all has turned out beautifully.  If we take a step of faith (literally!) and ask Him for what we normally wouldn’t dare, who knows – our request may just be granted!

What big thing would you like to ask God for today?  Do you believe He is able answer it?  Are you willing to step out and ask?  God knows best, and He loves giving good gifts to His children.  Step out today and ask.  You just never know what door may open.

5 thoughts on “Old House, New Heart

  1. Thanks, Stephanie for writing! 🙂 If only we could see ourselves they way God does – worth enough to die for and never give up on.

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