In this blue house with black shutters and a screen door that slams– we are home. The newish paint covers old masonite that crumbles as squirrels sharpen their teeth. The deck was painted this side of five years ago, but with each hard rain a few more shards of colonial grey wash through the life-worn beams.
Surrounded by odd electrical wiring and a handful of mystery creaks– this blue house has become the thing we always have to work on.
Last year we installed locks on a bay window that consistently crept open. From first light until bedtime, the window slowly opened about two inches. Amidst the hum of the dishwasher and the din of our day, soft little slams could be heard as we walked through the kitchen, closing the window as we went. Grab the electric bill from the counter, slam. Pull a mug of rewarmed coffee from the microwave, slam. Stir the marinara, slam. Find the forgotten baby-doll before nighttime prayers, slam. One trip to Lowe’s for window locks and no more slams. Problem solved.
The next day I noticed a spidery crack in the wall of our bedroom and one more by the doorway. Because, it’s always something. No matter how many Friday nights we spend at the hardware store, we will never have a brand new house. It isn’t really a problem, it just is. We can remake every single board and roof tile– but we will still have an abode with many years to its’ credit. And I love that. It is more than character– it is tangible life. It is the evidence that we not only live here, we love here.
My eyes choose not to see the chippy front porch paint because it is the evidence of a house stretched to fit more. With every footfall that scrapes a few more slivers of black, I count us lucky. Beyond lucky to be here in this house that is our home. Shards of paint equal more feet scaling our steps.
With every new issue that appears, my sighs of exasperation are often sighs of delight. Because this house, this family, this marriage– I’ve known it all long enough for things to need to be repaired. And even though these four walls around us are much older than our family of four– I see similarities between this house and us.
We’ve known this love long enough to wear out many of our wedding gifts and we have begun to feel the age in our couch.
But it’s all a gift. This favor of one more day, month, year.
I find it a gracious beauty that this life keeps going. And though the toaster may need to be replaced for the second time, we are still just getting started.
Because the longer we live, the more we get to fix. The more we know life within this house, it fills us with more than snapshots and splinters. For every time we discover something to be improved that makes us groan and ask, “how much–” there are at least a dozen moments of deep, happy, sighs, just from the living. When we sit on the porch and read or share waffles at the kitchen table. When we dog pile on a tiny twin bed to pray out the day— or nestle our whole family on aforementioned couch– I know the messy is magnificent.
I know that life as a family– with its’ frenzied, complicated elements is more perfect than perfect itself could be. And I know that each and every time we glimpse one another’s ugly bits, we come face to face with grace. Why we needed Jesus. Why we need Him still.
In every moment of frustration and work, we know it is worth it.
Worth the effort. The sweat. The elbow grease. The guttural sighs of not again.
It is only in the privilege of time that we see that very work as a gift. That an investment in something, somewhere, someone we love– is always a bestowal of kindness to us (perhaps even more than to them?)
It is a treasure, not an imposition. Whether old house or humanity-frail family, the long, slow growth is the path to what we truly need.
In only nine years of marriage and a few less with this house, I know. I know that new love is exciting but growing in forever love is settling. If new love is a jolt of espresso— nine years love is a pot of soup– warming me to my toes and possessing the deep savory of simmering slowly for a long time.
I choose soup. I choose soup and walls that need a touch up any day.
“I don’t want sunbursts and marble halls. I just want You. … Sunbursts and marble halls may be all very well, but there is more ‘scope for imagination’ without them. …We’ll just be happy, waiting and working for each other—and dreaming. Oh, dreams will be very sweet now.” –Anne Shirley, in Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery