Where the Hearts Are

I sit at my desk like I usually do: chair swiveled around, feet propped on my bed, laptop balanced on my knees. I start my computer, hold my fingers over the keys as I mentally run through all that I want—need—to say. Ready, set, blog.

But this time it’s different.

I look out the window on my left and see some trees, some houses, some cars driving down the street just beyond the charming white picket fence. The back of my chair rests against my desk, and if I swivel around I can see my lamp, my homework assignments, my printer, and evidence of my obsession with sticky notes. Just like usual.

But something’s different.

I turn around to face the desk, look up, and take in the space on the wall where my large cork board used to be. All of the story ideas, inspirational quotes (on sticky notes, of course), and plot outlines are all gone, along with everything else on the bright green walls. Across the room, my bookcase stands tall and white and  empty. All traces of framed high school snapshots are gone from my mantel, along with all of the souvenirs from vacations. The top of my dresser is smooth and clean, and the lanyards from conferences and mission trips no longer hang from the corners of my mirror. My paintings, high school diploma, and collegiate honor society certificates are noticeably absent, along with the other tangible proofs of what I’ve done and where I’ve been…of who I am.

The boxes are beside me. I can reach out and touch them if I stretch far enough. They’re in piles and stacks, labeled with Sharpie and secured with thick strips of tape. They contain t-shirts from mission trips, conferences, vacations, and 5ks. Well-loved dolls and art supplies and picture frames. Trinkets and board games  and stuffed animals. A lifetime of journals from the days of “Dere Direy” entries to the more recent, “Dear Heavenly Father” entries.

Elementary school, middle school, high school, and college.

Years eight through twenty-one.

Childhood, adolescence, and the fringes of adulthood.

My family is moving, and as we pack up our lives, I often think of the old saying “if walls could talk.”

If walls could talk, what would ours say? Would they tell of all of the giggly secrets exchanged by little girls during sleepovers? Or the hours spent pacing the floor while on the phone with a best friend, trying to figure out the most recent high school drama? Would they tell of intense games of hide-and-seek and frantic prom preparations? What about stomping feet and exclamations of “My sisters are driving me crazy!” and whispered “Will you forgive me?”

Would they talk about dragging a Christmas tree up the steps and into the living room? What about hugs exchanged that first time one of us left town without her sisters? Or staying up way too late watching ridiculous movies, or playing oldies music way too loud or crowding around a couple guitars and a sheet of lyrics? What about that muggy summer day when we found out our family of five was about to become a family of six, and when that sixth member was carried over the threshold and into our lives, rocking our world forever in the best way possible?

The walls know countless stories, precious memories, and cherished moments…

It’s the place where three little girls did most of their growing up and a little tag-along experienced the first four years of her own adventure.

It’s the place where arithmetic lessons turned into SAT prep sessions.

It’s the place where the backyard gazebo hosted birthday parties and graduation parties.

It’s the place where bickering sisters became the best of friends.

It’s the place where dress-up was exchanged for make-up and make-believe turned into possibility.

It’s the place where childlike faith grew into trusting Him wherever He leads…even if it’s to the ends of the earth.

It’s the place where ideas became dreams and dreams became passion and passion became purpose.

It’s the place where, for thirteen years, a family loved and laughed and cried and learned and felt and lived.

And now as we pack up all of our material possessions, we also tuck in all of our most cherished memories of life in the old house with the big front porch and tall ceilings and hardwood floors. We leave a house built at the cusp of the twentieth century and move into a house built near the end of 2013. No one has lived in our new house yet – we will be the very first family. The driveway hasn’t been bloodied by scraped knees, the floors haven’t been scuffed by rearranged furniture when little girls pretend to be interior decorators, and doors haven’t been slammed by frustrated preteens. Family meetings have never happened on the sofa, The Andy Griffith Show trivia game has never found a place in the middle of the living room floor on a summer weekend, and no one has burned lasagna in the microwave. The new house has never been a home. It’s just a skeleton of brick and beam, stone and plaster. It doesn’t have a heartbeat.

Yet.

In a few short days, six beating hearts will take up residence in this skeleton. Six pairs of eyes, six pairs of lungs, six pairs of hands. Six souls. It’s up to us to fill the skeleton with life. To make it a home.

But we won’t forget the old house with the picket fence and sprawling backyard. We’ll carry with us the memories of magical Christmas mornings and dinner theater productions and days spent under the Southern summer sun. We’ll bring along all of the moments—some painful, but so many wonderful—that shaped us as a family. All of the times the Lord proved faithful.

One of us still goes by the name of Dad, and one by the name of Mom, but two of us are almost done with college now, one of us will graduate high school in the spring, and one of us just turned four last Sunday. All of us are wondering how we managed to blink, only to discover thirteen years have flown by. Moving is bittersweet, but this new season is  beautiful. Because home isn’t an old house filled with dolls and blanket forts and homemade spas in the bathroom, nor is it a new house filled with academic transcripts and scholarship applications and graduation tassels waiting for their moment to shine.

We don’t, after all, live in a home. But rather, home lives in us. We give home its heartbeat; its breath; its pulse of life; its soul. We give words to the walls, so when they talk, they declare: Life happens here.

What do the walls of our new house say? They’ve yet to hear secrets and witness the six lives God wove together in a tapestry called family. But I have a feeling that, if these new walls were to speak, they’d say, We’re listening.

So get ready, new walls. You don’t want to miss a minute of what comes next.

– Anna

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11 thoughts on “Where the Hearts Are

  1. That is so sweet and so touching!!! Home truly is where the heart is!! (or the hearts) I will be praying for your move this week!!! I know you are excited!!!

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  2. Somehow that made me kind of sad. I remember feeling like that almost four years ago when we moved halfway down the east coast of the U.S. and somehow landed here in this place, which now feels like home.

    I guess it made me sad because it made me think of North Carolina, where I used to live, and how it is no longer home. We’ve been back to visit a few times, but it’s not the same. It feels uncomfortable most of the time. It’s hard to see the fond memories in the places that have changed. It’s easier to remember them here, in my head, not there, where they no longer exist. I think that’s the main reason I’m secretly dreading our visit up there in March.

    Anyway, that’s what it made me think of. Still beautiful even if it’s sad. ;)

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    • Thank you, Amanda! I actually started writing this post several weeks before the move, then had to stop because it just brought up so many emotions. I wrote it gradually over the course of about a month, and finished it two days before we moved.

      Thanks for sharing your experience! I know you get where I’m coming from with all this. We didn’t move too far away, so I know I’ll be back to our old town before long. But I know it’ll be strange going back and knowing that’s no longer where I belong. The last time I moved, I was eight, and I remember it being hard to drive past our old neighborhood for a while. It’ll be different when I see the old house again, that’s for sure!

      So what do we do? We hold those fond memories tightly and thank God for the chance to make them…and for the opportunity to make new memories where He’s placed us right now :)

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  3. Wonderfully written, Anna.

    As a college student and in my early adulthood, I had occasion to visit several places in which I had lived as a child. I discovered for myself the truth of the statement “you can never go back”. It, indeed, is not the same. What made it so special existed only for the time I was there. Mountains in my childhood mind were only slight elevation changes to me now; deep ravines had become mere rivulets. Gone were the pirates and the playmates, Cowboys and Indians, the adventures waiting in the woods, and…family.

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    • Thank you for sharing, Mr. Tom!
      It’s so strange thinking about how the old house will soon hold somebody else’s home. And how another set of kids might grow up discovering the same things we discovered, just in their own way. And how one day those kids will grow up and move away and feel the same bittersweet heart-sting. And how the process will repeat itself as long as the old house stands.
      I’m thankful that, though we leave, the memories don’t…and neither does the One who blessed us with those memories in the first place.

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  4. Pingback: Fully | Anna Schaeffer

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