When I was a little girl, my family lived on forty acres in an old farm house far from town. I was told that it had been a house in Chicago that was moved in pieces to West Michigan many decades ago. I wish I could prove that story, because it seems like it would have been quite the adventure!
That big, ol’ house which contained a covered front porch complete with a porch swing, a barn, an old ramshackle cabin, a garden, and a bag-swing upon which I twirled for hours offered me room to safely roam and play and explore and hide. As I’ve mentioned before, the atmosphere in that house was far from ideal for a little girl, but the aforementioned places provided refuge for little me. We moved from there when I was ten, and afterwards, I longed for what I had allowed to be idyllic in my mind. I dreamed of that house often as I slept — even as a grown woman. Often, I dreamed that Christian and I bought the house back and fixed it back up and raised our children there. Sometimes, I would take a drive and just go see it. It’s perplexing to me that a place so full of bad memories holds such an elevated place in my mind. I wonder what it is about us, as humans, that needs to do that. Like when a person passes away and the reality is quickly discarded, and all that is remembered has softened edges and becomes better than it really was.
I wonder what the reality would be if we could go back and revisit a place from our past. Like visiting your elementary school after 20 or 30 years absent. It feels like some misadventure from Alice in Wonderland with all of the proportions skewed. Doors with knobs that used to seem to take two hands to manage are now tiny, and hallways that loomed like caverns are now crowded and strangely normal.
I didn’t realize for even one second how I was being given a gift, a surprise — my dream fulfilled — until recently.
You see, for all of our marriage we lived with too-close neighbors. In our first cozy, noisy, apartment, there was the much-too-friendly-for-Alison-to-be-comfortable, stripper who lived across the hall from us and made sure to stop by and tell my husband he could borrow a *pan or whatever* anytime.
Then there was the one-armed man who shared our driveway in our first rental house. He stared from within forever-closed curtains and only left the house to go to and from work. Didn’t speak. Left a lot to my wild and frightened imagination.
Then, we bought our first house in a quiet-ish little neighborhood. It sat on a corner and could be seen from all sides. On two sides we had neighbors who didn’t mind their massive fights being heard by the whole area. On the other side was a man who needed to know everyone’s business. He took note of what time we turned the lights out to go to bed and when Christian had been traveling!. “Oh, you two were up late last night!”and “So, you were gone for a while last week!” (!?!)
We then built our house on 3 acres. Felt like solitude — for a minute. Until one neighbor complained about our dirt bikes being too loud and another began construction of a garden of questionable produce, and dogs barked, and all of the woods behind us were ravaged to build a possible subdivision.
For the little girl who grew up with her dad hanging laundry on the line in his underwear, this was a struggle. Too many people. Too many things. Too much noise.
And then my son had a dream that trickled throughout the family. A dream so outlandish to most that most still haven’t even heard why and how it is coming to fruition. The more we talked about him living his dream, the more we wanted onboard. (Not trying to be mysterious or anything, but you can watch it unfold here. It’s a whole ‘nother blog)
I must admit, I kicked and fought many of these steps. I wasn’t crazy about the thought of being *dragged* somewhere cold and far from my normal. I wanted my friends and my Biggby and my easy life. And then there was the epic battle that it took to land us here. I kept wondering why I was fighting so hard for something I wasn’t even sure I wanted.
And then, one warm, early summer morning, I found myself alone in the loft of my new, old barn. The only sounds were a few early birds singing with abandon. The dust motes filled the beams of sunshine like so many snowflakes in a blizzard. The wind sighed through ancient boards and creaky beams.
And I worshiped.
There was One Who knew the longings I had even more than I did. I had forgotten my dreams of living far from neighbors, but He hadn’t. I had set aside my longings for covered porches, and a swing, and a garden, and old ramshackle cabin, and the woods for miles. I didn’t even remember to dream for that again in my world. But He recreated it far more epically than my own little ideas and multiplied it by a thousand! As I breathed in the smell of the barn, I was transfixed and transported. It smelled so familiar. Somewhere I had been. Somewhere pleasant. Who knew barns smelled alike? I hadn’t been in one since I was nine. And here I stood, given back with excess spilling everywhere.
And I can most certainly hang laundry in my underwear.