I fell in love with a 1936 farmhouse on 1.25 acres a few years back. It was vacant, in need of repair, and was covered in various 80's wallpaper schemes. It didn't take much for S. to convince me it was just what we needed so with the help of some friends willing to invest, we bought it at an auction in the front yard one summer day, 2003. We went strong; new roof, new windows, stripping wallpaper until we steamed up the windows.
That fall our dreams were devastated as a Ford Explorer roared into our house at approx. 90 mph. When we woke at midnight to our bed shaking along with the rest of the house we went tearing out into the kitchen, panicked. We saw cracks, split linoleum, smelled gas. We left the house with only essentials and no idea what would become of our dream house.
The next week the construction guys came out to have a look. They showed us that the Explorer had hit the main foundation beam head on, moving the entire house 6 inches off the foundation. We had thought the wall cracks could be patched with sheetrock. They informed us that the cracks were too deep. "When a foundation gets hit, you have to strip the structure to the studs, re-lay the foundation, and start over."
We packed everything and put it in storage. Insurance paid for a duplex so we moved to what we affectionately coined "our winter home". Though we felt daunted by the task at hand, we were able to move forward and get excited about insurance covering the next round of repairs to our farm house.
Then the flood hit. "The worst flood in 100 years" the neighbors proclaimed. We jumped in the car to see how our house faired. We found we couldn't reach the door without hip waders. Ironically our address sign, 911, floated by. Our Christmas picture was taken with us standing in the water next to the gaping hole in our house.
When the water receded we took a trip back for "cleaning day". We found remnants of the roof we had replaced, an old window, paints, rotting wood, thick flood muck, a neighbor's garbage, some dead rodents. We looked around the property with sighs and dejection. We kicked around some garbage and wandered with empty eyes and sapped resolution. Cleaning day was over. Was this place ever appealing? Why did we ever want to live here? Will we ever be able to live here again? Do we even want to? We left the eye sore of a home to rest at our "winter home".
The duplex was a sweet season. It was strange; removed from our real home, knowing we were in transition. We didn't have all of our stuff and we never hung a single picture. But we were together. Everyone else was worried, "How are you going to get through this? What if insurance won't cover it? Aren't you exhausted? Aren't you scared to live there again?"
But it's amazing how God gives you the grace to trust Him and not rush past the day you're in. He met us, spoke to us, and gave us hope. I didn't know if I'd want to live there again. I didn't know how long or what the next season would be. But I knew God's faithfulness and that was enough. Some days we were discouraged looking behind us and some we were encouraged at what was to come.
It took 9 months. When they tore the house apart we found much more was wrong than we thought. There was asbestos under floor boards, plants growing through the walls, dry rot and some very scary wiring going on. We thanked God for not letting us go through life in ignorance thinking "we did the roofs and wallpaper so it's fixed." Heck no- it needed a major overhaul. It wasn't safe to live in and we didn't even know it!
We did move back in. It wasn't as scary as I feared. In fact, it brought healing emotionally to the whole traumatic year. God spoke to us much about the importance of a True foundation. It was gorgeous, functional, clean, and the grand total (paid by insurance) was a $100,000 remodel. Ahhh, the restoration was worth the brutal, long process.
S. and I feel, figuratively, as though a Ford Explorer has 'hit our house' in the last few weeks. Anxiety, lack of direction, poor choices; all these small little fractures have been appearing with close examination. I have prayed, more adamantly in the last few months, for God to reveal the roots. I've given Him permission to "do what it takes" to get to the foundation.
He is. Unfortunately, when God starts exposing all the ugly parts of your life, your marriage, your motives, your roles, your job, it feels less like beautiful surrender and more like you're waking up to your house being knocked 6 inches off the foundation. As I've looked around at us laid wide open and messy I've thought, "How can we live here?! How have we ignored the bad wiring, the rotted floor? Get me out!" We've spent the week kicking around the garbage and ruins.
We're moving into the duplex. It's unfamiliar ground, we're beat up, but we need to re-lay some foundation. We know 911 is not a safe place to live. God has been speaking certainly and clearly to us both constantly. We've been talking until at least midnight, sometimes woken up in the night with more thoughts and much to share. We've sat with coffee, Bibles, and journals early morning before the patter of little feet. When we have to review the fractures, hurts, years of anxiety and high paced ministry, I remember what our Hampton house was when it was a few boards and tarps in the gray winter months.
Then we look ahead to a house of wholeness and we have hope. We have fight left in us and we know the Ultimate Warrior has gone ahead of us. We know that our God is a restorer.
Today I love what God promises the Israelites in Joel 2:25-27, "So I will restore to you the years that the locusts has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you. You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied. and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you; and my people shall never be put to shame. Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel; I am the Lord your God and there is no other. My people shall never be put to shame."
I love the obvious things about that passage; that God gives promises, that God wants the best for His people, that He is a restorer. What I love most today is that the Israelites did nothing to deserve to be the chosen. They were idolatrous, unfaithful, complaining.
I have the absolute privilege of clinging to a God who has been waiting for my arms to be open in surrender, not for my act to be pulled together. So I'm going to enjoy the sweetness of my "winter home", allow myself some painful visits to the house in ruins, but also plan to be amazed as God lifts our house, re-lays the foundation, and goes to work on the frame. In the meantime, I'm going to start a pot of coffee at my duplex and not get ahead of myself to hang any pictures.