"It took me by surprise
this old house
and these old feelings.
Walked around and looked inside
familiar walls, and halls,
I've always dreamed of giving my children a sense of home that would evoke the same feeling Sara Groves sings about in "This Old House."
I've dreamed in houses all my life. Fairy tale houses in the piney woods. Log cabins above tree line. Clapboard farmhouses with wide front porches under a stand of cottonwoods along the Platte River. Gingerbread victorians, craftsman style bungalows, mesquite-thatched adobes that blend into the arroyo. I love them all.
As a girl, we grew up in rental housing. We'd just get moved in -- walls freshly painted, furniture artfully arranged, warm and cozy -- when the landlord would see that my parents' hard work had increased the value of his property. Their sweat equity -- combined with mom's ability to add charm to a cardboard box -- made it the perfect time for selling.
Finding my "forever" home, became an obsession for me. Owning a house meant that no one could sell your memories out from under you. And although I've been blessed to own at least one house I truly loved, it was never my forever house. I've moved often. Far too often.
For years, suggestions of homelessness could still poke through to a very tender place of vulnerability. I'd try to catch them before they pierced my peace, but I was not always aware of what the triggers were. And once it hit, it could make me feel irrational and frantic. In those moments, I just had to find my forever house so that I never had to move again.
And considering that this is my 58th house, in 58 years, I've got lots of experience with moving. I'd joke about it. I'd pray about it. I'd try to convince myself that owning a house didn't really matter -- it's the spiritual sense of home that I carry in my heart that makes all the difference...right?
But someone would say something, and I'd be in a puddle of tears searching realtor.com for something we could afford...in a town/village/city we'd want to spend "forever."
For years I'd worked long and hard to find my peace about this. Probably more than any one issue. It could send me into tailspin that was very hard to pull out of.
It was my Achille's heel. Just when I'd think I was "over it," it would come in through a hidden back door, and I was toast.
It actually happened not so terribly long ago.
We lived in a sweet neighborhood, in a lovely little cape cod-style farmhouse with a big front porch.
We'd charmed her up as much as any rental property could possibly hope for. She'd been blinged out with re-purposed, dumpster-found, shabby chic-ish porch furnishings...painted shutters, window boxes overflowing with wildflowers and herbs, adirondack chairs, and, what my daughter refers to as my menagerie of stone pets...turtles, ducks, birds of every size, squirrels, and a fox -- yes, quite literally -- a stone-cold fox.
One afternoon as I was raking leaves, someone dropped by to welcome us to the neighborhood. And it was soon clear they'd assumed that -- because we'd invested so much of our own resources, time, creativity, and energy into this property -- we must be the new property owners.
Before long, "congratulations on your new home" turned towards a social commentary on the devolution of our former, more urban, neighborhood. One we'd loved dearly.
Our visitor went on to say that, in his opinion, urban decline was caused by renters who weren't willing to make the financial sacrifices necessary to become property owners. His careless remark about the "those people who are foolish enough to get caught in the rental trap," drove me to my knees in prayer.
Little did he know how many of us were investing everything we had in our childrens' educations, a parent's eldercare, fiscal solvency, helping a friend, a job search. And for those of us who just wanted a sense of home that was warm, beautiful, and welcoming...a landlord's property.
But thank God for musical angels. Sara's song speaks to me about the real value of home and it's spiritual foundation.
In light of the recent housing crisis, the true, spiritual value of "home" is something I pray about daily. Not just for myself and my family, but for all families.
And I am finding that this more inclusive kind of prayer has made a difference in the way I feel when circumstances poke at my tender places. I can no longer be found curled at the foot of the bed in a fetal ball when I hear that someone has just closed on a new house purchase.
I no longer cry while watching HGTV's Property Virgins. I no longer believe that my life will be better, "if only," I could finally move into that forever house I would never have to leave.
I'm no longer haunted by questions like: "What if we'd never left that house?" "What if my children had never had to move?" "How would I be different if I knew how it feels to experience the emotions Sara sings about in "This Old House?" It's taken me a long time to get here.
In times like these, it's critical for me to remember that none of us are alone in facing these fears. There are millions of men, women, and children who don't know where they will lay their head tonight. And millions more who will never know another night because of poverty, toxic water, civil war, global unrest, poor healthcare, and ethnic cleansing.
Each day I try to remember that our life's journey well-prepares each of us for helping others. God has never lost touch with us or our desires. He has never forsaken us.
Every step of my path has been designed to foster compassion, understanding, humility, grace...not home ownership, professional success, a ticked-off bucket list of human accomplishments.
Because of my path, I understand what it's like to face uncertainty. I know what it feels like to discover that there's not enough in the checking account to pay the rent and buy food.
Letting these experiences inform my heart -- and not define me or the way I think of myself in the context of others -- has turned humiliation into humility. The desire to stand under my own roof, into a heart full of understanding. And I really do understand.
So tonight -- as the temperatures drop and images of cozy fires with families around a table piled high with bounty parade across television screens and pepper the dreams of children living in shelters -- I pray that the happiest, warmest, most beloved "place" in every child's life becomes the security found within the circle of her divine Parent's arms.
I pray that the safest place she will ever know, is under the shelter of God's wing. And that the most perfect spot on earth for her, is the kingdom of heaven.
Happiness, peace, security lives in, rests upon, abides with, and resides within God's capacious Love.
In her spiritual interpretation of the 23rd Psalms, Mary Baker Eddy translates "I will dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life..." into:
"I will dwell in the house,
the consciousness of Love,
This is my forever house. This is my forever home.
And in fact, it is yours too. The man huddled in the cardboard box, the child on the streets of Bangkok, the woman driving aimlessly to avoid an abuse, the couple feeling trapped in an upside-down mortgage...they have it as well.
We all have a forever home in the consciousness of Love. It's really the one true, sure, certain, secure home we will ever know...unmovable within our hearts.
In this "consciousness of Love" there is a memory in every corner...and they are all very good because they always include Love.