The following article is a guest post by Rebecca VanDoodewaard, author of Uprooted: A Guide for Homesick Christians, Your Future ‘Other Half’: It Matters Whom You Marry, and Reformation Women: Sixteenth-Century Figures Who Shaped Christianity's Rebirth.
I didn’t expect last Christmas to be my last time at “home”. I thought that my husband and I would bring our kids back for a week in the spring, a camping trip in the summer, and fall break, as usual. But 2020 threw a lot of things off, didn’t it? We were at our house in the States when lockdown happened, when the border closed, when my grandparents decided that they needed more care, and my parents decided to sell this house in order to meet that need. It sold quickly, my mother packed quicker, and before we can make it back, you’ll be living in the house that I’ve thought of as home for two decades.
The loss of this home will change a lot for us. Even when the border opens, we’ll have to find new routines and traditions. It was the place we had our last meal before moving to Scotland with a baby. It was the place we had our last meal before moving to the U. S. for work. It is—was—the place that my five siblings and I head back to when we want to be together, not just with Mum and Dad, but with each other.
My kids have not known a Christmas without this house—crowding into the warm hall after the Christmas Eve walk, eating my brother’s cinnamon buns in the dining room on Christmas morning, squealing at my Dad coming through the French doors into the living room, loaded with gifts for 14 grandkids and counting. It was the base that they started from every summer on the annual camping trip that my parents did for grandkids over 5. We have moved a lot ourselves through the years, so this house was the home that my kids took as the unchanging anchor—the place where they could always sit at the table and assume the love, support, and Rheo Thompson chocolates that were always tucked in a cupboard. They are a bit adrift with this change.
I expect that they will adjust. They are young, and thankfully, my parents don’t go with the house! It’s a bit different for those of us who grew up there. This house runs deeper into our lives. Six of us, all leaving for summer jobs, university, and our weddings from that front door. We have great memories of campfires in the backyard, prayers and singing in the dining room, milkshakes on the porch, lily of the valley along the path, long talks and good books in the living room, fun guests in the kitchen, bathing suits always drying in the back, date pick-ups in the hall, the happiness that comes with being a family. The practice of life in that house is something that I seek to emulate.
And this house itself seemed to play a role in pivotal things: I met my husband on the front lawn (it’s a long story, involving Josh Harris and the Taliban). My youngest sister met her husband in the kitchen (it’s a long story, involving the Amazon jungle and a cello). Three brides used that big mirror above the sink with tulips as a make-up station before three weddings. That living room has seen a lot of pregnancy announcements over the years. This house has been a beautiful setting for joy.
But life gets more complicated, doesn’t it? And this house seems to be particularly connected not only to the joys, but also to the things that were hard. And I don’t mean the time that my sister accidentally broke up with her amazing boyfriend and ran upstairs crying (it’s fine, they’re married), or the time that the cops showed up and asked to speak to my youngest brother (returning a stolen wallet). And not even when my mother broke her ankle in eight places when playing soccer with the youth group, and lived on the couch for a month.
No, I mean standing in the kitchen and finding out that a cousin had been stillborn. Or standing in the same place in the kitchen and looking right into the basement where the floor had burned up: my parents were in my living room when they got the call that this house was on fire and my brother was in emergency surgery for severe burns. Or in the back room, saying goodbye to a beloved grandfather who we knew would die before our next visit. And yes, the hardship of conflict that comes between family members, even ones who believe in repentance and forgiveness in Jesus.
Sometimes the hard things were secondary: this house has been a place of safety for people from all over who were grieving or suffering. Widowers, abused wives, bereaved parents, neglected children, grieving strangers, couples in hard marriages, people with a terminal diagnosis, and a lonely RMC cadet have all found some measure of comfort and love in this house.
As I look back on this house, my family has so much for which to be thankful. God blessed us with happiness in this house. But He blessed us with more than that. Through the good things and the hard things—perhaps especially the hard things—He taught us about Himself, through the love of my parents and the church. God used time in this house to mature us, grow us, help us love each other better, be better at serving, and hopefully more like Jesus.
My hope is that when the time comes for you to leave this house, you’ll be able to say the same.