My kids love Camellia trees. The way they burst forth with a million blooms and drop them generously to the ground for little hands to gather in abundance entices my children every time they come across one. Seeing their joy and their beautiful bowls of blossoms throughout the house, I have told them “in our next house we will have a Camellia tree.”
When our real life begins.
Knowing we want to sell soon has kept us on hold. I don’t hang many pictures, keep things somewhat staged and worry about wall holes and the inevitable wear and tear that a young family brings to a home. I am ready to settle in, for a long time, hang the vacation pictures that only we care to see everyday, plant perennials and trees and look forward to how they will look next Spring, not care about those knicks and flaws of an energetic family life. I know how to paint and spackle, and will worry about that again when they are grown, as it will come too fast and the perfect looking house is not my goal.
The hope is to sell our house soon, to move further north, near the new church where ministry would feel more whole, closer to my elementary aged children’s school and with all the hopes that go along with change and possibility. We of course would like more; more space for our growing family, friends and guests to gather and play and be. We live on 40 acres for 3 months of the year and find it a nice balance to our postage stamp city yard. It is in our souls to crave space inside and out. We love to see our kids roam and run and explore and all of us absolutely love to host a house full of people.
So that is our hope, be it “grass is greener” and possibly covetous, we pray, and aim to be pure in out desires, are generous in our giving and seek to follow the unpredictable formula of our faith, knowing we don’t deserve and can’t plan such a thing. Still we believe God loves us and has good for us, not that we can begin to claim to know what that might be. At this stage of life I do know some of the ways in which God has given me to be in this world. Planning, organizing, hosting and giving to large gatherings is one of my things, dare I say gifts. God has always given us the ability and desire to do that, even in our 750 square foot first home where we would shove every piece of our living room furniture into the kitchen in order to host a whole group of high school kids and mayhem for Young Life. We know it can be done anywhere and by many means, but space is on our hearts.
The perfect house hit the market this week. An amazing huge house for our growing family, on a huge piece of property complete with rock patio, play structure, sport court and creek running through the back of the big grass expanse. Exceedingly and abundantly more than we could ever ask for, but all that we could hope for. There were faults to be sure, much work to do to make it the envisioned dream home, a few broken windows, no insulation, old crumbling bathrooms. We’d done this work before and despite one member of the couple dyad claiming he’d never do it again, he wasn’t deterred and spoke excitedly of all the potential.
We imagined preschoolers on bikes, and high schoolers shooting baskets, muddy boots stomping in the stream and our very own slide to whiz down over and over and over again. So many daydreams of craft projects in the unfinished attic, family dinners around the table that overlooked the patio and “very own rooms” for my oldest girl and boy who have always shared. From the kitchen window I saw a blue heron poised out by the stream and it felt like an omen. We see them so rarely, the presence of this peaceful beast of a bird was telling of the safe expanse of space tucked into a city we’d grown to love. As my daughter launched her umbrella upside down in the creek like a bobbing boat to my son waiting near a small foot bridge to rescue it, we oohed and awed over the landscaped yard, lovely trees and quaint old shed complete with fireplace, I saw it in the corner of the yard near the back of the living room window. A long-lived abundantly bloomed camellia tree. I took it as a sign this was meant to be.
It was seemingly so of God how I found the house, only a few days on the market and I happened to take a look at what was out there on a bit of whim. It had been many months since our house was last on the market and I had felt it worthwhile to search. We can’t buy until we sell, so it is not a good practice and really is a time waster to look. But I did, felt led to, and the timing was phenomenal since it would only be on the market for a few days before it would go into foreclosure. Being a short sale we could safely make an offer pull out at any time, and have many months to sell our house. The circumstances were just perfect, signs all along the way it seemed. We were told there would be one other offer but it wouldn’t be strong so we wrote ours full priced and with gusto. The house was worth so much more, but full price was right in our budget and had good stewardship in mind. “When we move into our new house…” was how we’d all started to talk. The signs were everywhere and the circumstances too perfect to not believe God was in this.
Just before we got the news, after a parenting seminar on how to raise boys, where advice about space and activity and adventure were the themes, we talked of how God might be at work. The realist of us said “I am not so sure God wants this for us, maybe His best for us is smaller, missionary work, less stuff, more about the eye of the needle than the life of abundance.”
The optimist theologian said “I was just thinking about how much God loves us, how much He has always blessed us with more than we could imagine, so why not now. again, even after we know how tragedy works?”
The call came at 9:30 that evening. The other offer was stronger and they’d accepted it. That was it. No counter offers. No second chances. The house was not going to be ours.
We were disappointed to be sure, and each had a few hours of funk over the course of the next day. We thought of all the possibility was gone, but, and not too soon to have been disappointed for a genuine bit of time, we realized that possibility also meant alot of work. We remembered the hours and hours we put into other houses when we’d rather have been enjoying fun and down time of from the already full work-week. We saw our kids getting older and all of us playing together outside but realized we’d be inside tediously replacing old plumbing and broken windows, or we wait years and years to afford help with it and live with the run down energy efficientlessness of the place. That can be wearisome too. Much as we were excited, much as we were disappointed and much as we saw God in all of it and therefore felt it was meant to be, we still could see God’s hand at work. This is really all I can ask for. For God to be in control is of course the given, but for God to let us have some awareness of that is a blessing. I can get on board with that.
Today I was at a gardening store where new plants were being brought in and a few winter plants were on clearance. The ever thrifty shopper that I am perused the winter plants rather aimlessly, knowing there was no good purpose in plant shopping in our impermanent state. Until I saw a just one Camellia tree, small enough for a good sized pot and still with a few large blooms waiting to burst. That felt like a sign too. I bought it.
Life in between can be lived well regardless of our circumstances. I will praise Him in all things and trust the days to come.