A dear friend from church has stage-four cancer. She still posts cheerful thoughts on Facebook and wears a big smile when I see her. Helen wrote me recently that she had disconnected her telephone landline because she didn’t expect to spend much time at her house anymore. (She’s mostly with her family in a city a couple hours away.) She made no big deal about it, but it started me thinking what it would mean to say good-by to your home—maybe forever.
Oh, we have said good-by to our house many times, but it's not the same when you have definite plans to return. We were in Brazil when the house was built. We lived here for a year when the kids were small between Brazil and Mozambique. We have often come for a few weeks at Christmas only to return to Mozambique or South Africa or wherever we were living at the time.
Twice during the days when we heated primarily with a woodstove we experienced chimney fires. Our township has a great volunteer fire department and both times the fires were safely confined to the metal pipe. Those fires made me very conscious of how easily the Lord could take away my little cabin in the Northwoods if I got too attached—if I started to put it ahead of his call on my life.
“Hold it in an open palm,” I reminded myself each time I left.
“Thank you for preserving it,” I whispered each time we returned.
During the seven years we lived in Indianapolis we made frequent trips north to see my father-in-law whose health was failing. I loved my house in Indy as well as my house here in the Northwoods, and it was always a frustration to have to pack up in one place and go to the other. Then came the day when we moved back to South Africa. We sold the house in Indy and moved the things that were important to us here to the woods.
I remember distinctly the feeling when I opened the door the following April on a brief visit to the States. For the first time in many years, everything that was me was here in this one place: my grandmother’s china cupboard, the dining table I finished to match it when we lived in Minnesota, the stained glass window from the house where my husband grew up, the needlepoint my mother made when we lived in Brazil to match the dark blue of my living room drapes, the carpet we brought back from Ethiopia.
It makes me think how much my friend is giving up when she expects to spend her remaining days with her daughter or in a nursing home. It is not just a house in rural Wisconsin; it is all the memories associated with that house, all the little (or not so little) reminders of a life fully-lived; all the bits and pieces that make up Helen. They say a man’s home is his castle, but I think for a woman her home is an expression of her identity and of all that makes her the person she is.
And so I salute you, Helen, as you hold your life in an open palm and give it over to the King of kings. Your cheerful attitude is a reminder to me that “[She] is no fool who gives what [she] cannot keep to gain what [she] cannot lose.” God bless you!
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.
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