Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Perfect Imperfect House

It's half-past two in the morning, and I'm scrunched like a ball on our grey double-recliner, the final remnant of furniture we have in our living room area. Around me are two large, sturdy suitcases, one military-issue duffle bag, and two roller carry-on suitcases - all filled to the brim with our current supply of clothing, toiletries, nursing supplies, and baby toys - along with an unusually long cardboard box and a handful of cleaning supplies. It's safe to say that we are in the final stage of moving out of our sweet little home here in Anchorage, Alaska. The few things we have left - a third of a carton of eggs, our toothbrushes, my in-law's camping cookery, and Ruby's most essential play item, her Jumperoo, will all be coming with us later today, as we say goodbye to the first house that Ken and I bought together, just under two years ago.

A wave of emotion passes over me, as I consider the ways this house became a home to us in such a short time.

After years of saving (which Ken started long before we got married), we put a down payment on this house and in faith, stepped into a new season as homeowners one late January afternoon, in 2014.

It was here that we joyfully welcomed friends and family and neighbors - for vacations, birthdays, holidays, weekly community group, potlucks, and bbq's. Our neighbors became close friends to us, in such a short time. They are the kind of people we could call or whose homes we could walk over to, if we needed anything. What a huge blessing, especially during Alaska's dark and long winters - I knew that we were safe, and that people near us were happy to lend a helping hand if anything came up.

In this house, we spent countless hours playing tug-o-war, fetch, and tag with our first pup, Penny - our rambunctious rescue dog, with her larger-than-life personality and love for running. Our yard was great for chasing (or rather being chased) by our fun-loving dog, who only wished that we could stay out all day to play with her.

Two summers ago, it was here that I tested my limits for the first time, to see how strong I really was, and found out that through discipline, consistency, and God's grace, I could in fact run a half-marathon. I have many fond (and not-so-fond) memories of running long stretches of trail near our house, tightly clinging bear spray in one hand, praying that I'd never run into a bear or moose (which I never did on those long runs.) I conquered mental fatigue and my own inward demons during those runs. I pushed through, and realized that God could do way more in me than I had ever imagined.

It was here that I became a mom for the first time. On a lazy Saturday morning, in August of last year, I gently nudged Ken awake to the words, "I'm pregnant. You're gonna be a Daddy."

And this was the house we welcomed baby Ruby home to, once we left the hospital for the first time nearly 7 months ago. My precious gift from God, who taught me in mere seconds upon her arrival, about God's unconditional love and joy - how much He must love me, His child. Life is sacred, and I didn't understand that in the ways I do now, until holding my baby girl in my arms for the first time.

It was in these walls, that Ken and I cooked meal after meal of fresh-caught salmon that he skillfully collected while dipnetting last summer, another first for us.

Here, in our home, Ken and I practiced fighting for marriage (rather than against one another), as we worked through misunderstandings and arguments, sometimes - or oftentimes, battles that came up while we were cooking or cleaning in our little kitchen. Heated conflicts or "opportunities for growth," as Ken calls them, were resolved through extending grace, practicing time-outs, and striking compromises, along with bear hugs and realizing our need for forgiveness (or typically, my need for forgiveness.) We celebrated our fifth anniversary in this house, which is a testimony to God's faithfulness.

The past couple weeks, we've spent hours sorting, decluttering, packing, moving, deep-cleaning, and getting our house ready to sell. I've felt overwhelmed and anxious, scared but also excited, nostalgic and yet hopeful. I've cried myself to sleep a few times, replaying memories in my mind of all the "good things" that took place in this house. Particularly in regard to Penny. She was our first dog, and loved us deeply.

When I think about moving, I feel a deep sense of loss over Penny. In recent months, she's been increasingly neurotic, at times destructive, and always wanting more attention than I could give her with the baby. I've worked through feelings of shame and embarrassment, over us not being able to give Penny the life that she wants, and also processed the very real need that she has to be exercised more than I can do for her in this season. It's been one of the hardest decisions that Ken and I have had to make, but deep-down it's a decision that reflects our desire to give Penny what's best for her - a home where she is the main attraction. With heavy hearts, we are giving Penny to a sweet and adventurous high school senior who lives near us and the trail system that Penny enjoyed these past couple years. I think that Penny will be a great fit there.

Ken's Dad shared some words of encouragement that really stuck with me, as I continue to work through my sense of loss over Penny. He pointed out that perhaps Penny was meant to be our dog for a season, and now she is moving on to another great home. She was our gift for a time, and now we can share her with someone else. I'm so thankful for the blessing that Penny was to our family. Here's the story of how we got her, if you're interested.

In leaving Alaska, I'm excited to see how God meets us in this new chapter, as we move to Eastern Washington in just a couple short weeks. As I mentioned earlier, in this big move, I'm feeling overwhelmed and anxious, scared but also excited, nostalgic and yet hopeful.

Perhaps, though, I'm mostly hopeful.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

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