Our three year anniversary of moving from the Motor City to the Dairy capital came and went without any pomp or circumstance. I didn’t even realize we had barreled through another milestone until I called our own snow day yesterday when it became clear our district wasn’t going to cave. I looked at these three happy faces, slurping hot chocolate while they loudly recounted their adventures in the newly fallen snow. And all at once, I recalled a series of snow days the winter we first moved.
Later, I walked into my laundry area–which until my parents came over Christmas had looked like this:But after employing my mom’s eye for design and my dad’s skill now looks like this:
This transformation reminded me of an even more dramatic transformation my parents and I imposed on the farmhouse we rented when we first moved. So I dug out these thoughts I had recorded at the time, but never shared. Reading them through filled me up with a renewed gratitude–not just for the transformative work done to my various homes, but for the transformative work God has been doing on my heart.
So much change–location change, job change, school change, church change. Even my grocery store has changed. Every time I enter the new place, a wave of loathing washes over me. It’s too big. It takes forever to walk through. There are too many options. I don’t even recognize these brands or products.
I wish the dramatic changes in my circumstances mirrored the changes in my heart. But some changes occur much more slowly, almost imperceptibly over time. In my life, sanctification has been a slow, painful process. But over the course of the last 15 years or so I can see the mark of God’s transforming power as it first reveals the hardness of my heart, and then through various circumstances and difficulties begins to soften it. Some nights–when I once again fall prey to insomnia–I lie in the quiet dark feeling cold-hearted toward God. In those moments I can only offer up this small prayer of desperation and repentance: “Oh God, don’t you care?” And then, “My faith is small–I don’t love or trust you as I should. Please forgive me and teach my heart to love and trust.” I know that my heart can’t help but be touched by the power of God’s word, so I half-heartedly reach for it. Even in this tiniest act of faith, I sense a small blessing and feel a layer of deadness drop from my heart. Sometimes I read the words, muttering them out loud, willing myself to pay attention to what I know are life-giving utterances from the mouth of God. When I do, I feel another spark of life inside me. After I’ve read and my mind begins to pull away, ready to tackle the to-do list of the day, I remember I have not yet disciplined it to pray. A million excuses leap to mind, but something compels me, so I drop to my knees and throw a few words out there–hastily, sloppily, unthinkingly at first, but then I pause, remembering that it’s the God of creation, the holy, just and merciful judge who is my audience. He has inclined his ear to me. I repent of how selfishly and carelessly I address him. And then I’m struck again at the wonder of my salvation and feel the familiar stirring of my affections. My heart springs to life, my tongue is unleashed and I lift up hands and voice in praise to this God, who offered up his son to bear the penalty for my sins. I feel a longing to understand him better and to speak with him more. These are the little heart transformations that make up my days, my life.
Our house has been undergoing a transformation of its own. We came to look at the house last Fall and were very discouraged by what we found. We are not afraid of a little hard work, but we lack the know how to really transform a place. For one week we set out to rip up old carpets and outdated linoleum. Our landlord offered to put in two bathrooms upstairs and to refinish the wood floors. I’ll never forget the day we moved. It was a lonely day. We loaded up the last of our stuff from Grandma and Grandpa’s house. (Move date had been postponed a couple times and they were in Turkey for the holidays) and hit the road. I took Haven and Jude in the van and Jared took Asher in the car. It began to snow shortly after we started and it didn’t let up all day. When we first saw the house, it was already blanketed in snow. It seemed an evil omen of the winter to come. We arrived at dark to a house in shambles. The floors were only just redone and a layer of sawdust covered the house. The bathrooms were working, but unfinished and covered in drywall dust. All of our boxes were sitting either in the garage or the three seasons room where they had been unloaded over a month ago. Some well-meaning helper had unwrapped our furniture but in the process had misplaced much of the hardware for putting it back together. It was dark, the place was filthy, the temps were dropping, and I didn’t know where anything was. We couldn’t move anything into the house until it was cleaned. So I began to search for cleaning supplies. I bundled up for the task of combing through the maze of boxes in the cold garage and at last found them: frozen solid. We washed the walls in one bedroom, dusted and vacuumed the ceiling fans and floors and then dragged in a few mattresses before beginning the hunt for bedding. Bundled up again, I picked through our frozen belongings until I pieced together bedding sets. Once we got the kids down, Jared and I set to work on our room. We felt pretty low that night. We fell asleep on two side by side twin mattresses making a plan for the coming day and pinky-swearing to be kind to each other in the stressful moments to come. The next morning we woke to the deep freeze that closed down schools and broke water pipes and would hover over us for almost two months. Bev had dropped off dinner the night before, but we needed breakfast and we needed to purchase a washer and dryer before we could even think about moving in. So we feasted on hotcakes and oatmeal at McDonalds–that was enough to boost the spirits of the little ones–but it would take a little more for Jared and me whose spirits flagged a little under the load in front of us. We did our usual consult with Consumer Reports before discarding all our research and buying the models that were on sale at Home Depot and able to be delivered before the end of the week. Then we raced back home (don’t think I called it that then!) where we had a few hours to clean before the muscle came to help move in the furniture. Over the next couple days, Jared began his new job, and I slowly cleaned each room and unpacked boxes. In the evenings Jared reassembled furniture and installed lights. We had to make a trip to Home Depot before the table could be reassembled and another trip to Ikea before Haven’s bed would work, but slowly things began to come together. My parents arrived on the scene two days later and instantly breathed life into us. They came with food and gifts and energy for house projects. They repaired walls, cleaned, stained trim, replaced trim and door frames, painted, tore down wall paper, re-calked, put up toe kicks, and installed the washer and dryer. We did an unprecedented amount of work in three weeks. When the last goodbye was said and the last tool re-packed, I turned around and for the first time since we moved thought, “I like this place.”
That farmhouse isn’t even our home anymore. Last summer brought another change–a new place to slowly transform into our home while God slowly continues his transformative work in our hearts.