Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing? But now be strong … my spirit remains among you. Do not fear. – Haggai 2:3, 4a, 5b
We had clearly entered a new season of life. Our two oldest had married, and both had moved a few times, settling in the South – Joanna to Louisville, Kentucky, Ben to Nashville, Tennessee. I had retired from teaching. Kelly, our youngest, had graduated and left the nest to attend college. Two years later she transferred from a Michigan college to one in Kentucky, at Joanna’s “suggestion.”
And now Marty was retired, leaving us with the question,
Why are we still in Michigan?
It made sense that we should move south to be closer to the children and the grandchildren that were starting to arrive on the scene. It also made sense that without a houseful of kids and their friends, we should be selling our large home. I for one did not want to spend my golden years taking care of a place that big!
The house had served us well for over thirty years, with plenty of room for birthday parties, sleepovers, s’mores and storybooks by the fireplace, Christmases and Thanksgivings with extended family, and Joanna and Ben’s friends from church gathering around the piano to sing worship songs. We’d had two weddings there, but they were not our own children’s, so it was a special place for a couple of other families, as well.
The large back yard seamlessly connected with the yards around us, where our children and the neighbors’ children would play for hours, jumping into piles of leave in the fall, building snow forts, and running down to the beach with their “boogie boards” the moment school was out for the summer. Summer afternoons would find me lying in the hammock with little Kelly, finding shapes in the clouds, smelling the “cotton candy dandelions” (peonies) we had picked, and singing our favorite songs together. We invented our own games, such as trampoline dodgeball with water balloons, or “Buddy baseball,” where I was the pitcher, Kelly was the batter, and our dog Buddy would cover the yard, playing every other position.
The beach on Lake Huron had provided thousands of sunrises. I had always told the children that sunrises were God’s saying, “Good morning! I love you! Have a wonderful day!” Some days He’d whisper it in the morning fog, others He announced it with beams of gold, and occasionally He would splash colors all over the sky, and it felt as though our heavenly Daddy had picked us up and was swinging us around! Countless memories of these ordinary mornings run together like watercolors in a beautiful blur.
Some of my favorite times were spent sitting by the lake with my guitar, singing to the Lord and sometimes hearing Him answer with a soft breeze or a dove that would sit on a branch overhead, listening for what seemed like hours.
Perhaps best of all, there were dozens of people baptized in the lake in front of our house. To hear these “baby Christians” tell how they had come to believe in Jesus and then to see them publicly seal their commitment – this to me was the greatest privilege of living on the lake.
But now it was time to downsize and move south. It was obvious where we were moving. Joanna had been by far the biggest hinter, persuader, and nagger about wanting us to be close to her…
“It was so good seeing you,” I would say at the end of each visit.
“Well, Mom,” Joanna would say, “if you lived here, you’d see us any time you wanted.”
Joanna lived in the part of Louisville called the Highlands, apparently the most desirable part of town when it came to buying a house. Marty and I would search the real estate sites for houses in that area, but when one went on the market, by the time we had packed up to go see it, the house would be snatched up.
At one point we found ourselves in a bidding war over a house we hadn’t even seen yet! We looked at each other and asked simultaneously, “What are we doing?!“
Finally, we went to Louisville, camped out in Joanna’s guest room, and hired a realtor to find us a house in the Highlands. We looked at houses, apartments, and condos. A few were “close,” but the fact that they were a fifteen-minute drive from Joanna’s was unacceptable. She wanted us close enough that her children could walk to their grandparents’ house! So, the search continued. The house across the street from Joanna and Sean was up for sale, and Joanna strongly suggested we look at it. But the fact that there was no bathroom on the first floor was a deal breaker. That and the image of “Everybody Loves Raymond,” and my popping in several times a day, saying, “Don’t mind me, dear, just pretend I’m not here.” (I am not going to be that mother-in-law!)
One night I was sitting in our room with my laptop open to a map of Louisville. A thousand red dots showed where houses were for sale, and they covered the map, except for one blank spot in the middle … yep, the Highlands. When Joanna walked in, I told her, “Honey, I’ve been praying, and I’m willing to live wherever God wants us – house, condo, trailer, cardboard box – but I’m looking at this map, and there’s nothing in the Highlands.”
Joanna got that tone in her voice that told me she was both defiant and close to tears. “Well,” she said, “I’m going to start praying, too! And I’m going to pray you get a house right here!” With her finger she circled the small blank spot in the middle of the map.
We should have had her pray when we started all this, because early the next morning …
(To be continued …)
Prayer: Lord, take charge of our lives. Send us where You want us. In Jesus’ name, amen.