Saturday, November 17, 2007

This Old House

This old house has lost its heart, the very thing that makes a home a home.

With each step my heart sinks. This very home that I so looked forward to living in eight short years ago, has become an empty nest of the past - holding more memories than I can ever hope to remember. The green shutters and the wide front porch are as inviting as ever under this cold canopy of overcast clouds and slim rain showers. The lights are on inside the big house, and both levels are swarming with people coming in, and people coming out. It's a Friday morning, and the last I will ever spend in the shelter of my old home.

I enter the cheery kitchen with a song, and a wave of memories flood me. This little kitchen, the first large one we had ever known, reminds me of all the growing up years of happiness. Even the unpleasant memories, like staying up until two o' clock in the morning on Thanksgiving washing the dishes all by myself, what I considered a mighty feat for a ten-year-old, has the tiniest hint of happiness attached to it as I think of the character my parents were building in me. Most of the memories are delightful, even the embarrassing ones, like all of the baking mishaps I had, dumping bowls of flour all over the floor, or forcing myself to eat every single one of the muffins I had made with too much baking powder and not enough salt. All of the holiday festivities of our home were centered right here, where Mama made eggnog over the hot stove, where Rachel enlisted the help of the little boys to stir the fudge, and I sat happily in a corner packing away tins of little goodies for our dear friends and neighbors, a tradition we have happily kept since we first moved here. I smile as I remember the many happy hours of baking, followed by the many more hours of sampling the fruits of our labors, those times when my big brother would lean over my shoulder and stick his finger right into the pie filling. Ah! He knew exactly how to make me upset! (I always forgave him... and he always forgave me.)

And the dining room, that little corner of our house that always made me smile at mealtimes. It was the sweet place where my mother would serve us with the greatest delight, and though we helped her, she ever was the queen of the art of servanthood. My father, true to his delightful character, ever kept the table lively with his many stories and funny ideas, but even through his humor he kept his strain of seriousness, his passion and fervor, to raise a godly generation. When my father blessed us at the dinner table, praying the blessings of our Heavenly Father upon the little bowed, (and sometimes not bowed) heads of his children, I remember the savoriness of that moment. I would squeeze my eyes shut, and my soul would pray the words of my father, while my heart throbbed with the love and assurance of God. Now these happy memories disintegrate, while reality slowly sets in. I'm staring at the dining room and the kitchen by turns, but there aren't any children sitting around a table; in fact, there isn't any table at all. Friends of various ages are packing boxes - that cold, dismal art of moving, and they are laughing and talking in lively tones, but it isn't the same. It isn't home.

To escape the noise and confusion, I run upstairs to my bedroom, the little hole-in-the-wall I called mine. Though I am perfectly delighted with the concept of sharing a larger bedroom with my three sisters in our new home, yet somehow a fond farewell needs to be spoken to these walls - these walls who have heard all of the dearest thoughts of my heart, although they do not remember any of them. 'Tis strange, that so dead an object, so lifeless a piece of matter, can provoke the greatest memories to come alive. 'Tis strange that something so without feeling can be so sentimental. My bedroom - with the one little window overlooking our vast Idahoan forests, in other words, my backyard. That one thought makes one of the greatest memories come alive. I can remember, as a nine-year-old little city slicker, what a terrific change we had taken by leaving the streets of Los Angeles behind for a backyard like this one. The thrill, the exhilaration, the elation, the greatness - of freedom, is only truly tasted by one who has been truly bound. And then I remember how I prided myself in being a little run-everywhere, climb-everything, do-anything tomboy, although I truly wasn't, as no girl truly is, having been created distinctly female with a different design and different abilities. My brother was so manly, and I, not truly understanding the gift and power of womanhood, fell to the idea that I was made to be manly as well. Until my bike accident...but that's another story. Anyhow, people today are shocked when I tell them that many years ago I was a fiery little female with strange, unnatural masculine tendencies. Many years ago. That tells me that God's sovereign work of grace in me is doing something, as it always does, no matter how much I dare to doubt it.

But back to my bedroom. I glance around the room. All is silence, but as I stare at these bare walls I hear the sounds of my past rising up in my memory. Laughter, tears, laughter, tears. With my childish ways, I rarely had anything else. Usually, either I was very happy, or I was very NOT happy. But then, I can't honestly say my extreme temperament was without reason. Although I would rather excuse it, my life was full of troubles, my heart torn at times, and I can vividly recall the times it felt as if my life was shredding apart. Some of it was just the old fashioned "growing up" stage, and other parts of it were very real troubles indeed, large enough for my tiny shoulders and yet perfect in God's sovereign plan. The days I didn't know who I was, the days I felt the world was against me, the times when I felt tempted and even longed to walk a different road, with a different crowd, a different purpose, and a different destiny - all of it was sobbed out in this little room. The thin, worn pages of my journal speak volumes for how I felt, but right now, just sitting here in the quiet, remind me of my struggles enough. I feel I am there again, a struggling thirteen-year-old, wondering where in this great big world did her little self fit in, which path would be best for her tiny feet to travel? And why did this little person in a little place with a little church and a little life have to have such big dreams? Was I wrong to dream them? And the family that I loved - why did God have to make me different than them? Not intellectually or spiritually, but with a biological father different than the only father I had ever known and loved - the father of every one of my siblings? Forget what theologians say, but why did this world have to have so much suffering and pain in it? Why did life have to be so hard to live? I know all of the questions; they form the very real past of mine. I once again feel the pain of uncertainty, the scary and stark realization of tragedy, and the throbbing heartache of wanting to be loved, all of it circling around the question, "Who am I?" But this time, I feel it with the very answers rising inside of me. To each question, I hear an answer. For all the darkness, there is a light, there is a Hope. I feel the urge to speak up. I feel passion rising in my soul. I raise my hands and shout my identity to the walls, "My name is Sarah Elizabeth Byrum," and then, "My name means princess and oath of God! I am a visionary with dreams that I am delighted to dream and I only care to serve the Lord Jesus Christ as long as I live, and with His grace He will do great things through me! And yes, even the bad things are part of the greater plan of my Heavenly Father. In that, I choose to believe. Now unto Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen!" Jude 24 & 25. The very typing of these words sends shock waves throughout me. I sit on the ground, my head against a wall, my heart full of worship towards my Heavenly Father, my Solid Rock, my Shield, my Comforter, my God. Though all forsake me, yet will I follow Christ.
And the light dies away from where I am sure it streamed into my window. The moment takes on reality once more, and I am faced with today, with tomorrow. This tiny little bedroom has become a monument to the grace of God and the everlasting love towards His own. I stand today, a recipient of the blessings of God, bestowed by Him through the prayers of my parents and by those He has raised up as a cloud of witnesses to light the way for me.
As I look at this little bedroom, I remember you, Dad, sitting on my little couch with me, reading me scripture and teaching me the wisdom of God. I choose not to remember the times when you were rightfully angry with me, just as you have chosen to forget the times when I was so cold hearted and rebellious towards your leadership and protection. Your perseverance and the love you have shown to me has won you my heart as your daughter. I love you, Daddy! You ARE the best Dad in the whole, wide world.
Mama, the dearest earthly best friend the Lord has seen fit to give me, the memories of you sitting on my little pink bed, talking life over with me are countless. You are my heroine, and the wisest woman I know. I know you're not perfect, but neither am I. You chose life for me, and after I was born and until now, you still choose life for me. Mama, I want to be just like you when I grow up. Saying "I love you," will never say it enough.
Jonathan, my dear big brother, you may never know how often your life has stood out as a beacon of hope for me. Just you choosing right - to honor your parents and your Lord, have inspired me beyond words. You are one of the best friends I've ever had, could ever ask for, or ever will have. The man in you has made the woman in me. I love you.
Auntie Lizzie, you too sat in this little room with me many times, helping me with my many perplexities, always encouraging me to honor from my heart and to go to the Lord with my troubles. You always encouraged me to do right, and then praised me whenever I did. You have been a cheerleader for the song of my life, and I wish to thank you from the bottom of my heart, which, because of you, has become deep.
Rachel, my sweet little sister, you keep me laughing as the day is long. May you never stop shining the joy inside your heart. I can't say how many times you've pulled me up from that "Slough of Despond." I've enjoyed every moment we've spent together as the sweetest and dearest of friends. You are the dearest fourteen-year-old in the whole world and I love you.
Sarah, Jordan, Lindsey, Kindra, Leah, Noam - and all of my friends who know me inside-and-out, I have the best circle of friends ever! You inspire me and remind me that this world really does have the brightest, most aspiring, diligent, happiest, most fulfilled, wonderful young ladies left in it! You are the hope of the next generation, and the prayers of my heart go out to you as we grow up together and raise a mighty generation together, side by side. I believe in you & love you all!
And to the many unnamed others who stand, unknowingly, incredible masters of inspiration in my life. To the ministry of Vision Forum and its associates, your ministry uplifts me, challenges me, and makes my spirit throb for joy while shouting "Huzzah!" You are some more people I want to be like when I "grow up," as if there is such a thing. Run hard, and never stop! Persevere, persevere, persevere.
But back to this old house. My alone time is up. My little brother is pounding on the door. That's okay with me, though. I recognize that this is my calling. Back to the first line of my post, this old house has lost its heart, the very thing that makes a heart a home. What is it? The table and chairs? The clock on the wall? The fresh milk in the fridge? The couches where we spent countless devotional time with Dad? No. The heart of this house is the very little feet that pad around in it, the hands that clap for bedtime stories, the prints of fingers on the door, the cries that welcome family members home, and more. The heart of this house is its children. My mother expects that when her children are all married and raising their own children, her house will truly not be that much of a home anymore. Not with just her and Dad in it. But when I come to visit, when my brother comes to visit, and all the others...it will be! Grandchildren will swarm the house we're now living in with happiness and life. That old house will indeed have lost its heart then, but it won't be that far away. I can almost here the children say, "Grandma, Grandpa, can't you come sit with me?" "Can you help me find a book?" "Tell me how my dolly looks." "Will you tie my shoes again?" "Can I help you bake those cookies?"
Then, even then, that old house will be home again.
And until then, we wish a beautiful farewell to all of the memories we have made in this, our happy home. My heart is filled with the goodness of God, in the land of the living.
For the Kingdom,
Sarah Elizabeth Byrum

1 comment:

Leah said...

It's tough leaving the house you grew up in, isn't it? It was that way for me moving from CA to CO when I was 9.. and I'm sure it'd be all the harder for me, if I was to move away from CO!

I ::know:: you guys will make your new house just as home-y as the old one and before you know it, you'll have just as many sweet memories at your new house. ;)

*hug* It was good to hear your voice again tonight! Miss you!