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Monday, August 11, 2014

In my father's house

 . . are many mansions.  I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am, you may be also. (John 14)

This idea of home and family and place is pretty fundamental to the human psyche.  Jesus even used the image to explain to his followers his post-death trajectory.

In a small way, that's where we are now.  Literally in my father's house, preparing a place.  And since West Virginia is called "almost Heaven" . . .well, the point is that all this preparing is so that we can have a place to be with people we love.

In 1973, my parents bought a farm up in the hills of central WV.  It was a half-mile from property where my grandfather and great-grandfather had been born in log cabins.  As the youngest of 15 himself, my dad didn't wait around to inherit any family property.  Instead he found two inexpensive, deteriorating farms.  One he fixed up as a family "camp" where we spent weekends and summers in the vicinity of our relatives. The other, this farm, he rented out to people for a small income, until it became more of a liability (like when the schoolteachers who lived here were busted for growing marijuana on site).  He added a bathroom and started some other projects to make the hundred-year-old house more liveable, but then became ill and died and the place sat unoccupied, a bit shabby and crumbling.

Last year Scott and I anticipated that with more kids in college every year, we would eventually need a place to gather when we're in the States.  Our parents have moved out of childhood homes with lots of bedrooms and space, into smaller retirement homes, which are not really available for extended stays by a family with four teen/twenty kids.  We have never owned a home.  So with my mom's blessing we decided to invest in a new roof and floors for this farmhouse, and to make it a home-away-from-Africa-home.  From a distance we contracted with a local builder.  In May Luke moved umpteen boxes of mostly photo albums and dishes, and some furniture we had inherited when my mom down-sized.  He fixed the hot-water heater, and met the neighbors, and hooked up the coffee machine.  A good start.

So this week we've been sorting, cleaning, painting, fixing, running errands, and making progress towards making the place home.  Scott put up a clothesline and I washed all the musty quilts that have been in storage 20 of the last 21 years (we lived one year in the US, in 2001).  We unpacked some dishes and pots and pans and linens that were wedding gifts 27 years ago.  We visited the local furniture store where the proprietor and his wife, in their 80's, went to high school with my dad and uncles, to order beds and mattresses.  We peeked into every box and then stacked them, filling two closets with the accumulated photos and scrapbooks and letter-jackets and souvenirs of our childhoods. We put the remnant of our books onto a shelf.  We now have an account with Southern States for propane, a fridge, and a wood-burning iron stove.  We hauled the few pieces of junk left in the house from former occupants off to the dump.  We took walks and invited our nearest neighbors over to visit.

In short, we came to prepare a place, and though it's far from a mansion it is becoming a home. We aren't leaving Africa (as far as we know) for a long time, but we are thankful to have a spot that connects our souls to a particular patch of American soil for the times we are on this side of the ocean.

And as the passage makes clear from John, the essence of the concept of home is a physical location where people who care about each other can enjoy each other's company.  It may be a tent, or a mud-brick building with no water or bathroom.  It may be a guest-house room or a rented house or a century-old handed-down farmhouse.  Our home has been all of those things.  That where Jesus and our kids are, we may also be together.



bill said...

I'm glad you guys are doing this. It will really help you and your kids to have an image of home in the USA, no matter where you are at. We had that in Macedonia with Breck and it was very nice.

Brad & Stacey said...

May your family make many sweet memories in this home:)