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  • Rebecca

The House that Built Me

Mom, Kathy, me, Dennis & Jennifer in front of the house I grew up in on Easter morning

The holidays are upon us. This is without a doubt my FAVORITE time of year, and my hardest for obvious reasons. I long to be back at home in the kitchen with my mom watching her cook for Thanksgiving and her making me do all of the cutting and peeling. I still smell her incredible cooking and hear the laughter from all over the house. I see kids running in and out and grownups telling them to slow down. It was loud and crazy and cramped and so, so beautiful. And it’s gone.

The house I grew up in was sold after my mom passed away. My family lived there for over forty years. It was only a year old (and so was I) when my parents bought it in a new neighborhood. They added on a couple times over the years and my mom was constantly fixing it up. I have helped nail siding, lay brick, hang wallpaper… I feel like I grew up at the hardware store. My mom and dad actually built our den from a Stanley Hardware do-it-yourself book we had in our living room. I remember looking at those pages and pictures with them while they planned out every step wondering how in the world they understood what to do. They saved back a little money each week, bought whatever supplies they could with cash, and stacked them in the backyard. When they finally had everything they needed, they got to work. I remember helping them hold boards as they sawed and framed the house and nailed sheetrock and then finally one day it was done and we had a den with a fireplace! I got to hang stockings for the first time on the mantle and I remember feeling so happy and cozy. Later, they had my brother Rick, who at that time owned a construction company, come in and add on a master bedroom, dressing room, dining room and sewing room for mom. It’s funny because it seemed like no matter how much we added on, the house was always full. During the holidays there would be people sleeping everywhere – in all the bedrooms, on the couches, on pallets on the floor. And no one cared, because we were together. And together was the best place in the world.

Duane sitting on the fireplace hearth being goofy on Christmas morning in the den my mom and dad built

I drove by there a few months ago. I was visiting my niece Jennifer who lives just a few blocks away from there and forty-plus years of muscle memory will make you turn on the wrong street when driving to her house. I found myself driving home and when I realized what I was doing and saw my house, I felt the wind being knocked out of me. It was different. There was MY house, the only house I remember, with strange cars and different paint and my mama’s rose bushes gone and trees cut down. The brick fence Dennis and I helped build and spent hours playing on was gone. The yard that both me and later my babies hunted Easter eggs in was changed. A lifetime of memories and it didn’t even seem like the same place.

My son Dylan sneaking someone's headphones in the dining room before Christmas dinner when he was a baby

And worst of all, my mama wasn’t there walking out when she saw my car drive up. No one I knew was there. And my heart couldn’t take it. I drove on, angry and heartbroken and crying out to God like a little kid, “I want to go home!! I want my family!! I can’t take this!!” And God, in His oh-so-gentle way, once again wrapped His love around me while I cried. He whispered into my heart, “I know you do. I see you. I’m here. And one day, I will bring you home. I will give you your family back, and I will make everything right. You see, this house was not really your home. Your FAMILY was your home. This house was just brick and mortar. It was always the love that made it so special. Your family is still here, waiting for you to come home like they always have been. Keep going, sweet daughter. You have a story to tell. Your work is not done yet, but I will be with you every step of the way until it’s finished. And when it’s time to come home, they will be all be waiting for you and what I have for you will NEVER pass on to someone else. I promise.”

My family was my home. My family IS my home. I am home to my children, just like my mom was to me. I will carry on that legacy and fill this house with people and memories and laughter spilling out everywhere this holiday season and every holiday in the future until we all get to our real home. That reminder is my Christmas gift from God, and His gifts are eternal. LOVE is eternal, and the greatest gift of all.

My beautiful Mama on her way to a Christmas party with a friend

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.”

~ John 14:1-3

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