"That home was 'a perfect house, whether you like food or sleep, or storytelling or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all'. Merely to be there was a cure for weariness, fear and sadness."
To simply say 'thank you' seems inadequate. And the only way I know how to truly thank you and pour out my heart to you both sincerely and properly is to do so in writing.
We have called your house our home for 2 1/2 years now. In that time we have named it many things. At different times it has been affectionately called, "our house on the hill," and "our house of healing." As you know, this is the home that we moved into, knowing that our youngest (and very sick) daughter would die. We approached you in a time where she was suffering greatly and looking back I think you had to have known that this would be the place we would say goodbye to her earthly body. I prayed hard before uprooting our family from the little house that we loved across town and moving us here but God made it really clear that this is where He wanted us for that season of our lives, and the days, months and 2 years to follow.
Oh, if the walls of this little home could talk.
They have seen more suffering, agony and sorrow than I believe most will ever see. The walls of this little home hold so very much. They hold the grief and anguish of a mother's fears, a sick child's wails, a disease that would inevitably strip her of her earthly being, the loss of innocence from siblings watching, the grace of a thousand tears covered by God himself-in spirit and truth. They hold the memories of the days leading up to death and the begging for a Savior to come! To rescue!
And then, these sacred walls held us tightly as they wrapped us up, all together in such an intimate and perfect privacy as we watched our baby breathe her last breath and we all surrendered to a God that we know is the giver of life and the One who takes away.
This house has held me as I've crumbled time and time again in total self destruction and mourning. I have cried out SO loud in the ache and missing for my baby. And yet, here we sit...alone and separate from the world around us, on top of a hill that seems it was made for the grieving family's cries. And so in those times, I was free to do that without restraint.
And it healed me.
It has helped heal us all.
We have rocked back and forth, back and forth, moaning for the love that sits in Heaven while we rest on the other side of the veil here on earth; so thin we can almost touch her but gosh, just not close enough. The pain is so intense some days that all we can do is cling to the familiarity of this space and the joy it has also brought during these days of total empty sadness.
Because there HAS also been joy.
The two do go hand in hand you know. They are intimately and delicately intertwined in our lives and in this little home we have experienced such a depth of both that it's almost unexplainable. We became a family here, merging lives that were messy and broken and damaged and hurt. Those jagged pieces of our hearts started to mend together and in the moments that make up our lives, redemption followed. This family, the one who will pack up and leave this little house soon...
we are a family who knows the One True God.
We may not be packaged up neatly with a pretty bow in a pew on Sunday but the Spirit of the One who directs our steps, He has revealed Himself in so many ways to us and has fulfilled our lives here. He has been the center of it all.
This home set boundaries for our life. It gave privacy that we didn't have once before, and oh my goodness I am so thankful to you for that. Thank you for allowing us the time and the space to be here and to just be. Thank you for trusting me to take care of this house and make it our home and knowing that I would treasure it's spaces as my own. I want you to know that I have.
There have been moments here that will never be forgotten or recreated anywhere else.
Mabel lived here with us.
And then she died here with us.
Chris and I were engaged while living here and then married while living here, too.
Both girls were baptized during our life here.
Braden found his passion in basketball on the concrete slab right outside our garage here. Right where I could see and hear all of his triumphs, frustrations, victories and breakdowns.
My brother lived with us for a few months here.
I found out I was going to be an Aunt here!
Nora started Jr. High here.
So many amazing big memories were made but the little memories in between the big ones are the ones I treasure even more.
The Christmas trees cut (far too big for the living room), the campouts in the front bedroom (office/Mabel's room), Braden's first experience with stitches (thanks to a head through the wall) and so, so much more. The hundreds and hundreds of cups of coffee that warmed my cold heart on days where I thought I may die of actual sadness. The familiar feel of the carpet under me when I found myself curled up on it anywhere the crying consumed me. The morning light and the evening light that pours in through the windows, providing the coziest feeling for our family to just breathe.
Sometimes that's all we could do to survive these last couple of years. The front porch that was just big enough for 2 perfect white rockers, both where I rocked my baby in her last days and where I have sat without her, feeling the ache and weight of her missing. The flower bed that Chris and I dug and tilled and planted together just days after she left earth and the hope that it brought to me; knowing that together we would make it through anything. We would fill this giant and desperate void with things that the earth provided our souls-a kind of natural nourishment.
And we have here. In this place we've called home.
Thank you for allowing me to use your garden as my own.
Looking back, in the days after Mabel died, if I did not have that space to go and dig my hands deep into the earth, I would not have survived, I am certain. But I did have that, and I know God planned that long before we moved here as well. You were gracious and kind and generous with so much more than just this house that sits on top of the hill. You allowed us to use it freely and as we wished and I will forever and ever have such deep gratitude for those sweet, mercy-filled gifts that you gave me in a time when my heart was so incredibly needy and tender. The sunflowers that grew tall toward Heaven at the end of that first summer without her will forever be etched in my mind as a symbol of encouragement...
"Keep your eyes fixed toward Heaven. Follow the light. I am here"
Thank you for allowing me to make this house uniquely ours.
When I moved here, Mabel was screaming for hours upon hours most days. She was in so much pain and discomfort and nothing would stop the crying. But...
when I would turn on the music and sing loud, the crying stopped.
It was miraculous.
But in the moments between, I was maddened.
And among other things that helped to calm me, painting always seems to bring the most release to the mania.
So, she screamed and I painted.
And I painted.
And though it may not be the color that you love or even what you would want, please know that I am forever grateful for those days that I got to paint while my very sick, almost 5 year old 'baby' smiled up at me in between screams from her bouncer while I painted.
And when the job was done, I felt peace. I felt like I had, once again, done something that would make this house feel like a safe place for our other children. A place where they felt comfort and ease, seeing the walls a color that they were familiar with.
This week, I am writing from the room that was once our girl's. It now serves as an office and a space where our older children go to sit and feel her.
With a lot of prayer and knowing that it is time (and everything working out just exactly the way it is meant to...because God...) we will be leaving this little house that we have called home and embark on a new journey as a family.
In all honesty, I didn't know if I would ever say that. Chris and I moved here with the full intention of never moving the kids again. They've endured so much and we don't want to uproot them time and time again. We want them to live in stability. But we also want to lead our lives with integrity and by trusting that the decisions we make are part of something far greater for our lives.
I have left many homes in the past several years which is strange, really, because my parents still live in the same house I grew up in. But, I think that my heart and spirit have always been more concerned with going where the Lord leads and never being so firmly planted somewhere that I miss whatever He has planned next for me (and in this case, for our family). I don't quite know what that is just yet, but I do know that we all feel total peace about this transition and are very excited about what it might mean.
Without a doubt, I will miss the back country road that I last walked Mabel on (and still walk down frequently). The butterflies greet me and it's like a kiss from Heaven, feeling her near. I will miss the sunsets from behind the house and through the trees and the rainbows that stretch far across the front of our house after a summer rain. I will miss the view from the front door; the one we saw the morning after her last breath when the clouds broke and peace walked through straight into our hearts. I will miss the apple trees and the huge back yard where soccer was played and drones were flown. I will miss it all, indeed. Deeply, in fact. But I have learned that our memories go with us wherever we go. Just like the Lord does. Just like Mabel does.
And so I leave this house feeling abundantly grateful for all of the gifts it has given to our family.
In ways that I can't even adequately express but I sure hope I have come close. Please know that we are grateful beyond explanation and will forever hold the most special and intimate place in our hearts for this 'house on the hill' that was indeed, our home. Though it has not fully healed us as that will never happen on this side of Heaven, it has come close. We move forward with great anticipation of what life holds for our future until we meet our Mabel again in Heaven and we leave this place with peace, knowing this home served us well and with such sweet purpose.
With great love and so much thanks,