…because we fill our homes with our spirit.
The email went like this:
Okay, so don’t roll your eyes or panic or get frustrated…..I found a house I want to look at. I said don’t roll your eyes.
We were worlds apart. Mark in Africa, me in Michigan. But our hearts were comforted knowing we journeyed the same road of transition. Six months prior we had moved home. Home from what had become home. We had been away for four years. Long enough for a move home to initiate a time of struggling, a season of reinterpreting.
We moved back to the same city, our same community, same church and the very same house we had packed up and tried to sell. There was something really comforting about this, and something terrifying. I was so afraid that one day I would wake up and it would seem like we had never left. Never experienced Africa and all the ways it shaped us.
It was strange to nest again in the house we once lived. This time as a family of seven. This time knowing what I really want. There’s a spiritual journey wrapped up in this house. These walls create a symbol of the person I used to be, the marriage not rooted in grace, and the earthly things that kept me longing for more.
So though it was home – the place our baby boys grew to toddlers, the place we welcomed Lydia Jane, the place we learned how to be creative with our space, the place we learned how to fix what broke, and the place that settled us near neighbors we love – I was haunted by the fear that I would become the person who used to live there.
And the question of my heart was How do I live as a new person in an old place?
I had once fervently prayed for God to sell this house. And now I am thankful he didn’t. For it gave me an opportunity to redeem the place. To live more fully in it. To fill it with a spirit of hope, replacing the lingering discontentment I had left there. These walls had once provided an environment for struggle, for searching.
And we all need places like this. Places that don’t keep us, but actually propel us toward new places.
That’s what this house did. And I traded this house of brick
for a house of cement in Jinja, Uganda.
Plot 2 Kisinja Road became our home in the truest of meanings.
It was for me an environment of grace – a place that was forgiving. There were many days this house didn’t have electricity or even water. Ants crawled on my cement floors. On my countertops. In my bathrooms. And everything was dirty. Everything.
For a girl who loves her house clean, this could have been the thing that sent me running home. But instead, it was freeing. It forced me to lower my expectations – of everyone, especially myself.
Lowering expectations is absolutely essential to being and shaping environments of grace.
In this home, I learned how to give my children freedom to dig and grow, explore and get dirty. In this home, our family welcomed people. We had fewer boundaries, and greater community. And it was in this home that I discovered the old me, and how she hindered emotional and spiritual intimacy in marriage. This home became the environment where our family learned to be family.
And there stood the house of brick in Michigan waiting for us to return. A provision I once resented, and am now thankful for.
Six months after making this house our home again, Mark traveled to Africa to teach, and my heart traveled to the feet of Jesus to pray. To seek, to ask, to dream, to envision a future for our family. A future committed to receiving life and submitting to the will of God — his will that feels less like submission because it is slowly becoming our very dreams.
I fasted from food for one week, feeding my spirit, praying for God to speak truth into our future. He revealed my consumer lifestyle, and gave me visions for how our family ought to live and relate. My friend Rhoda encouraged me to read Radical Homemaker, and it was a good companion to what the Lord was teaching me.
On the last day of my fast, I pulled into a driveway marked by a for sale sign.
As the windy drive led me forward
and I viewed the white house waiting just behind the willow
I knew I was home. I knew this would be my new environment of grace.
And so I sent that email to Mark. My Love who had worked so hard to make the brick house home again. I dreaded asking him, telling him. But I also knew that if it was from the Lord, he would see it and know it too. And he did.
For the past eleven months we have waited and prayed and watched God make a way forward. The confirmation we needed was him releasing us from our current home. After one year of it not selling before, we now received 10 offers in three weeks. And we give God the glory.
By the end of May we will be driving up the windy drive everyday to get home. And we can’t wait.
This house, it spoke to me. It had a familiarity about it that drew our family in. And we would later hear its story. How a husband and wife built it in 1962 for their family of seven children. How they tried for ten years to conceive a child and when they couldn’t they adopted their first son. And how the Lord opened her womb six times after that. How the wife was in her 30’s when they moved in. And how they believed in God and family. The family that once lived in the home infused the space with a life receiving spirit. And now it’s our turn!
#164 A house that couldn’t keep me
#165 A house that shaped me, grew me
#166 A house of our future, a place to create living spaces