You can no longer live in a place, yet that place can still live in you.
From 2004-2007, our family lived in this little house outside of Dayton, Ohio. For the first time in nearly twelve years, I visited our former abode earlier this month. When I rounded the corner and saw that humble tri-level home, I teared right up. I could see tiny James and Ethan climbing the crabapple trees and running rings around the house. I could see toddler Faith chasing them, always trying to keep up with her big brothers. When I drove past the house, I could see all three kids playing on the swing-set out back underneath the towering maple tree.
Until that visit a few weeks ago, you know what I usually reflected on from our family’s Dayton days? My bonafide exhaustion from chasing little people. With David’s busy work schedule, I was terribly lonely. By the time I found friends, we weren’t far from moving again. I also struggled with the exasperating weather that frequently draped heavy clouds, cold and damp, over everything, including my mood.
Sure, I could name good things from that time. Our church family, whom I still miss, for one. My friend, Sherri, and her daughters, Allie and Cassie. The fall festivals chock-full of some of the best tasting pie I remember eating. Ever.
But in my memory bank, the Ohio years held more hard than happy. And while that’s true, it’s also true that going back and standing in a sliver of our family’s history reacquainted me with many good memories.
While the cloudy skies were (from my perspective) a shadow side of living in Ohio, the ability to grow good things there was a strength. The frequent moisture meant our grass stayed green year round. In the summer, the peonies and tomatoes grew with little to no effort on my part. As I stood outside our former residence, I could see how my good man and I grew good things well beyond flowers and fruits. With much effort on our part, we grew three children from seedlings to saplings. We grew a sturdier marriage and a hospitality philosophy that sheltered all we welcomed inside our home.
There’s a passage of Scripture in which Paul tells the Ephesians: “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better” (v. 17).
That trip held several telling moments in which the Lord revealed His goodness to my family and me in the past. So, I stood there on that janky, uneven sidewalk outside our old house, tears streaming down my face in gratitude for all the blessings of before that I couldn’t even name till long after.
Like the shock of a sunny Ohio day in March, my trip back took me back to all the ways God’s grace showed up for us daily. Somewhere around the year 2040–if I’m still drawing breath–there will come a time when I’ll probably say the same of 2023. Time softens the edges of the past, as it’s wont to do. But it also gives us a perspective we can’t always see when we’re neck-deep in the daily demands of our present life.
My trip to Ohio didn’t only reveal good things I couldn’t see at the time. It also revealed how God has turned many of the hard circumstances–the shadows of those years–into beloved strengths as mysteries of the past become clearer in the present. Read the rest here or listen to the rest via the (in)courage podcast.
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