For the first time, I cried as I drove away from a house. On Friday June 28, we sold 4851 Cross Pointe, our address since October 31, 2005. A long time record for us.
Our first home: a third floor one bedroom apartment in, as Pam said, “the poverty section” of Broadview, Illinois. Duane was in medical school.
When Duane graduated, we couldn’t wait to move. We bought our first condo, in Rochester, Minnesota. Two bedrooms, with new carpeting and no cockroaches! Unit ‘D’, was the second floor left half of the building on Viking Drive.
Mike, then Jeff’s first home.
Duane graduated from the Mayo Clinic Pediatric residency, and we moved to Milwaukee for two years to serve the Indian population with the Public Health Service. We rented a duplex for the temporary assignment.
In July 1984 Duane joined Southdale Pediatrics in Edina. We bought our first house at 7209 West Shore Drive. I painted the kitchen cupboards white. We tiled the countertops. Ripped out the perfect condition olive green carpet because olive is a horrible shade of green and hardwood floors hid underneath.
After a few years, I dreamed of fixing up a house on Lake Cornelia, a few blocks away. I biked or walked past potential homes in that neighborhood regularly. One day a “For Sale” sign was posted outside a painted white brick rambler. I happily ditched the house on West Shore. We moved less than a mile away to 6700 Cornelia.
I’d never seen pink plush carpet in a kitchen. It’s ugly, but soft on bare feet. The pink stove was from the 50’s (I should have kept that), Pink boomerang formica covered the countertops. The dark cupboards had to go, too.
I got tennis elbow stripping the brown oak, then stained them white. We chiseled out the Mexican tile in the great room and replaced that and the pink carpet with hardwood.
Minnesota winters pushed us into a new dream: Florida. We prayed and planned over our new stairway to heaven for over a year. In January 1995, I joyfully shoved my dirty down coat in a garbage can at the Minneapolis airport before we flew south. The pool house we bought in Clearwater was Party Central. Jack Piquette surrounded by the church youth group.
Then Mike and Jeff graduated from high school and went to Wheaton. We were ready for peaceful sunsets overlooking the beach and gulf. We sold the house and bought a 15th floor condo on Sand Key.
After three years, we understood the real estate maxim: “If you have to ask if it’s too far, it’s too far.” We moved back ‘into town’ to a 2 bedroom villa on a quiet street overlooking a lagoon in Oldsmar.
Then Mike and Jeff got married, and my parents moved to Florida. Our family was growing. I thought we needed another bedroom, a pool, and more garage space for Duane’s bikes. Duane wasn’t sure. “We’re not moving unless we see the perfect house on the perfect lot.” We prayed for several months, and asked a realtor to keep her eyes open for us.
When we walked into 4851, we knew immediately. The windows admitted more than sunshine. They highlighted a sparkling pool. Beyond that, oak trees framed a lagoon and golf course. We signed a contract that day.
4851 needed work. The pool was edged in black and white tiles.
The owner chose black countertops in the master bathroom to complement the yellow walls?
We replaced all the black countertops, painted every room, and refinished the pool. It was the perfect house for us. The right size for the days it was just Duane and I, with room to expand for family and friends.
Then Ethan, Addi, Sophie and Henry arrived. Whenever they burst in the front door, our home became as festive as Joseph’s coat of many colors.
Baby days with a crib, stocks of diapers and naps.
Dinners at the kitchen table with telephone books on folding chairs, melamine plates, and spilled milk.
Cartoon watching instead of naps so Nana could have a break.
4851 threw its arms around more family. Nieces.
Grandparents, aunts and uncles.
We stayed put almost fourteen years. Was that because 4851 was prettier than our other houses? It wasn’t. Or because of the great times with family and friends? Our other houses were filled with family and friends. The house on West Shore Drive.
The house on Cornelia Drive.
Our condo on Sand Key was a great family gathering place.
In my surprising new reticence about our move to our condo on Indian Rocks Beach, I fell into the story of Jacob.
Last Wednesday afternoon I stood at the kitchen counter of our condo, alone, after leaving 4851 for the last time. I had spent the previous three days cleaning the house for the final ‘walk through’ before the closing. I started to cry. Duane was at the office. His place of employment hasn’t changed. Mine has. I missed that house. The light shining through the new window we had recently added.
But I missed more than pretty lighting. I miss my parents, who enjoyed the house with us.
I’m still grieving that loss. Truth be told, and the truth is always our best friend, the grandchildren and Mike and Jeff and their families are growing up and away, too. Addi’s in a Science Olympiad now, Ethan swims on a team, and Sophie flings her body over all kinds of bars and beams in a busy gymnastics schedule. Henry’s just plain busy. A distance replaces those early grand parenting days when the grandkids were with us often.
“Occasionally, weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Then wash your face. Trust God and embrace the life you have.” – John Piper
God stepped in to comfort me. For ‘some reason’, I started reading about Jacob’s life in Genesis. For the first time, I realized that when Jacob ran to Laban’s house, it was a long distance. A big move, away from family. Jacob never saw his mother again. In a time of fear and loss, God spoke to Jacob.
“At the top of the stairway stood the LORD, and he said, “I am the LORD, the God of your grandfather Abraham and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I am giving it to you and your descendants… all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants. What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go.” Genesis 28: 13-15
“Surely the LORD is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” Jacob said.
Jacob hadn’t asked God for anything, but there was God, reaching out to him with good promises.
I remember meeting Jacob in a Bible Study Fellowship class at Christ Presbyterian Church when we moved to the house on West Shore Drive. It was my first year in BSF. We were studying Genesis. I was blown away when we got to chapter 32, where Jacob wrestles with the Angel of God.
“… Jacob was all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
And God did bless him. (verse 29)
Sharing Night, at the end of the BSF year, is an opportunity for whoever would like, to briefly tell what has been most meaningful to them during the study. With heart pounding, I stood up in front of the class of four hundred women, gathered in the sanctuary.
“Jacob’s words, “I will not let You go until you bless me,” is the kind of faith in God I want to have.” That idea, a desire for God’s blessing, is what I still want, all these years, and houses, later. In seasons of loss. Or new beginnings.
God’s blessing means I have his approval, no matter what challenges face me. And when Jacob was 130 (!), God told him to move again. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt…I will go with you …. and I will bring you back again.” Genesis 46:3
In our new home, some mornings I wake with a disoriented jolt, wondering, “Which bedroom am I in?” Today, after daily phone calls to the delivery service, Duane’s Wall Street Journal finally found its way to our door.
God is here, in all our changes, at 2618 Gulf Boulevard, unit 307, just as he was at 4851.
Until August 1. Then we move to unit 508, in the same building. But that’s another story…
“… And Jacob named the place Bethel (which means ‘house of God’) because God had spoken to him there.”
“Jacob always had an unquenchable desire for God’s blessing. Blessing enables, enhances, and enriches life. Blessing is issued publicly by a benefactor and provides power for prosperity and success….All blessings have their source in God’s love.” from the NLT Study Bible notes, “Blessing.”
“The LORD did not set his heart on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other nations, for you were the smallest of nations! Rather, it was simply that the LORD loves you, and he was keeping the oath he had sworn to your ancestors. That is why the LORD rescued you with such a strong hand from your slavery and from the oppressive hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt.” Deuteronomy 7:7-8