“Remind me why I’m moving,” Elizabeth looked up from the armload of stuffed animals she was packing.
“You found a wonderful new house,” I reminded her. One she and Mike had picked out. They invited Duane and I to see it. We loved it. Contracts signed, they were preparing the ‘old house’ for a showing.
” When you’ve spruced up your house so much that you wonder why you’re selling, then you know your house is ready to sell,” I thought. Duane and I have sold eight houses.
I never had a moment of sadness about leaving the old house behind. I was always eager for the next blank canvas; the new dream.
Until now. I walk through the quiet rooms of 4851 Cross Pointe Drive, where we’ve lived the last twelve years, and wonder if I could ever leave. I remember the weekend Duane’s Mom flew here to visit; we drove to Jacksonville with her and my Mother to celebrate Mother’s Day at Pam’s house.
I painted every wall and trim in whites I love, displayed all the items in my life that bring joy, and even remodeled the kitchen with the handmade tiles we carried back from England.
I used to be restless for the next house to fix up. I love new places. I inherited that from my grandfather. He brought his family from England to America. To Philadelphia, then Minneapolis, then Australia, then Florida. Nana had penciled, “Aren’t we smart looking in our new hats?!” on the back of this picture, taken at the Newcastle train station the morning they left. (April 1947; a family friend, Nana, Pawpaw, Aunt Ruth, Dad)
I like making things, like granddaughter Addi. My hobby since childhood has been making houses beautiful.
I hand sewed red gingham curtains and hung them on strings at the windows of my playhouse in Abington.
Then, fixing up houses went into high gear. In 1979, Duane and I moved into a condo in Rochester, Minnesota for three years while he was a Resident at the Mayo Clinic. In those days before HGTV, we loved watching “This Old House.”
“One day we’ll be able to buy our own house and fix it up,” we dreamed. After being married seven years, we bought our first house: 7209 West Shore Drive, Edina. We tiled the orange formica counter in the kitchen, removed the center cupboards, and painted them white.
Hardly finished with this house, I was dreaming of remodeling a house on Lake Cornelia, a mile away. One day while I was biking along Cornelia Drive, I saw the “For Sale” sign. I called our realtor the minute I got home. His impression of the house: “I won’t see you guys for six years.” It needed work. The kitchen floor was covered with pink bedroom carpeting. The living room and dining room floors were tiled with thick brown Mexican tiles. The owner smoked heavily; all the walls needed painting and screens scrubbed. We had to replace the roof. But the back of the house faced onto Lake Cornelia; and it was only two blocks from Southdale mall and six blocks from Duane’s office.
It did take us six years. Then Florida beckoned. We were finished with Minnesota’s 9 month winters. We bought a house on a golf course with a swimming pool. Mike and Jeff were in high school; we put a pool table in the living room and opened our doors for church parties.
When Mike was a college freshman and Jeffrey a senior at Countryside High, we stopped in at an open house at a high rise condo out on the beach, and fell in love. A former model, the views of the Gulf and Intracoastal were spectacular. We lived there three years. If you ever ask yourself about a new real estate purchase, “Is it too far?” it’s too far.
We moved back into North Pinellas, a maintenance free two bedroom with study villa home on a lagoon.
Mike and Jeff got married. Our parents would visit. We needed another bedroom and wanted our own pool.
After a huge fight, where Duane made me swear this was the last move and sign a contract in blood, he conceded we could contact a realtor about our next house. “It has to be on a beautiful lot, with water behind it,” he insisted. We prayed about it. In four months, our realtor called. “I think I found it.”
When we walked in, we knew immediately. The house was light and bright with a beautiful lagoon and golf course view. We put in an offer before we left. I was excited about making all the changes that would make the house our own place. The black and white checkerboard pool trim had to go.
One of my favorite Psalms is, “How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of Heaven’s Armies.” (Psalm 84:1) We’ve lived in some lovely places. I’ve enjoyed making them lovely; so has Duane. We’re homebodies. When asked, “What’s your favorite restaurant?” we both answer, “We’re not that ‘into’ going out to eat.” We’re happy eating at home.
Lately I’ve started wondering why we’ve stayed at this address so long. Wonder why I’m feeling sad about the day we’ll sell. This isn’t like me. I know this house is just four walls and a roof. It’s the people that make it home.
Jesus said, “I am going to prepare a place for you. I will come and get you… so that you will always be with me where I am.” It’s being with the people we love that’s the big thing.
Grieving the loss of my parents, and some close friends recently, has distracted me from dreaming about our next place. Instead of checking out real estate online I’m often staring at photos of past places and the family and friends I love who are gone.
I turned 63 this May. I also realize that this next move may be my last. Ouch.
The ability to change, to be flexible in all life’s events, is a mark of emotional health. Look at the most emotionally healthy person ever: Jesus.
“…he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.” Philippians 2:7
The old chorus, “Out of the ivory palaces…” reminds me that Jesus left an incomparably better home than the new one he had on earth. He came, out of love, to give us life and hang out with us. “The joy set before him,” the cross, meant he was excited about his plan to bring me into his life and home.
In March 1970 the Mitchell family gathered at Aunt Marian’s house for Sunday dinner and a family photo (Mother, Wendy, me, Jennifer, and Pam seated on Dad’s lap.) We moved that week cross country, from Philadelphia to our new house on Abbott Avenue in Edina.
Mother’s attitude about the new house, which lacked a formal dining room (one thing she really wanted) and had carpet so old it was like walking on linoleum, was: “What joy for those who can live in Your house.” (Psalm 84:4) Since Jesus was with her, she couldn’t wait to go.
A while ago, on our bedroom wall I painted “I AM here,” (John 6:24) in translucent white acrylic. When the light catches the letters at a certain angle, the hidden message appears. Where ever we’ve lived, and where ever we’ll live in the future, when Jesus is there, it’s home.