Our boxes are (mostly) unpacked and we (mostly) know where everything is here at the Lighthouse. We can even find obscure utensils in the kitchen. But up ‘til now we had plenty of frantic moments trying to find stuff – for example, when you’re on the phone and need to write down information and the only thing in sight that even remotely resembles a pen is a blue Nerf dart.
Or when a child falls outside and comes in bleeding, and you can’t find the bandaids anywhere – not in the boxes, not in the cabinets or bathroom drawers, not on top of the fridge – until finally one of the boys confesses he has a stockpile of them in his closet, which turns out to be a good thing because in lieu of a real bandage I was this close to cleaning out the wound and slapping a feminine hygiene product on it.
Before we moved, I cleaned out all the neglected catch-all spots in the old house – those places that accumulate old papers and nostalgic items, the stuff we don’t know what to do with but aren’t sure we can throw away. And you may not believe this, but I was actually looking forward to the prospect of moving twice because it would force me to purge through these items more than once and really get them weeded out.
It was a brutal gift to be able to sift twice through things that had been shoved aside and buried, a forced priority that I knew would bring freedom once I put the work into it. And cleaning out the physical spaces dovetailed with cleaning out the heart spaces – What am I holding on to? Why am I holding on to it? Are my motives pure? It’s life-giving routine maintenance if we can bring ourselves to do it.
All the closet corners, neglected cabinets, and old boxes were examined. I went through art projects, physical records, old correspondence, concert tickets, birth announcements, photos, and obituaries. The Keep file was slim; the Burn pile fed the woodstove for several nights running.
Some of it was easy to get rid of. Some of it was emotionally hard to sort through. And some things I wanted to keep for the wrong reasons, but He reminded me Love keeps no record of wrongs and I didn’t need to pass a legacy of offense onto my children. So those were burned, too.
I was pretty ruthless about it. Newspaper clippings, letters, a high school friend’s obituary – most of it was prayerfully tossed. I didn’t even keep all my old notes from Vince.
One particular letter I kept, and I never even knew the person who wrote it.
Through an odd string of events, in college I became friends with an elderly woman who I met through a mutual friend at the airport, back when you were actually allowed to meet people as they got off the plane, and say goodbye when they left again. We must’ve been there to see off our friend, but I can’t remember the details. I do remember that afterward, she took me out to lunch. She listened to me talk about my struggle living as a flailing, failing, compromising Christian, living with my unsaved boyfriend. And she didn’t lecture me, she loved me.
She told me to pray for him. She told me, picking up the glass of water in front of her, that every time I took a drink, to pray that my boyfriend would be thirsty for Jesus. And that I would be thirsty for Jesus.
She must’ve known I wasn’t, but I wanted to be.
We exchanged phone numbers and caught up every few months or so. She sent me cards, and mentored and counseled me through my fledgling relationship with Jesus. A couple years later she came to our wedding, and mentored and counseled me through my fledgling marriage with that unsaved man. Then I got pregnant, and during that pregnancy the man came to know Jesus. And seventeen years ago when the baby was born, I sent her a birth announcement with our Christmas card.
The following March a letter arrived. The handwriting was unfamiliar, but I knew the last name.
Her husband wrote to tell us she had died in her sleep a month earlier. He wrote, Her death was as unexpected as it can be at our age. Our marriage was the best 30 years of my life and I miss her. We received your Christmas card. Congratulations on your new baby. He included a copied slip of her obituary.
I kept it, envelope and all. I knew her for less than five years, but she was one of a few women who poured into me when I had less than nothing to offer back and needed the investment desperately. She helped shape me.
I looked up her husband, thinking he must’ve died years ago. He did; it was shortly after we moved out to the Valley and his obituary said his memorial service was held at our church. We were so new here I’d had no idea.
At that same church a couple of weeks ago I got to help a friend teach a class on prayer. She had collected a bunch of books to give away to the students at the end of class, and after everyone had chosen one, one was left for me – a little green paperback about a Welsh missionary I’d barely heard of.
…the first thought that came to Rees was, Had he correspondence with God? Could he say the Saviour was as real to him as his mother? Did he know God as a daily Presence in his life, or did he only think of Him in the prayer meetings?
– Norman Grubb, Rees Howells Intercessor
I took it home, thumbed through it a little, and put it aside. The next morning I was drinking coffee with Vince and picked it up again. The inside of the front cover had an old bookplate with another friend’s name on it, which was a happy surprise. Houses or books, it’s a joy to live among things that have already been loved by people we love.
Then I noticed that there was another, smaller bookplate under that one. I held it up to the window to read through the page, and I recognized that name and address, too.
Before it belonged to me, or my friend, or the church library, or my other friend, it belonged to my mentor, Virginia.
And it turns out that since God played the nicest trick in the world on us and we’re not moving twice but instead we’re buying the Lighthouse (the story’s here in the newsletter if you missed it) we still had to purge twice. We cleaned everything out when we packed it up, and we combed through it again as we unpacked, before we even knew we were staying.
We’re holding on to the things that make a home – our books and projects, plants and pets, and each other. But if you come over and need a bandaid, well…
Just kidding. We’ve got those, too.
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