A House Becomes A Home

Enjoy this excerpt from "I Have Some Things To Tell You: A Pastor Says Goodbye During a Pandemic."

Parsonage living is a unique animal. As a human navigating the already stressful season of life transition, it’s helpful to know there’s a house waiting for us. We don’t have to shop, visit, or purchase a potential home. It’s a relief to know we can give our full attention to helping our family acclimate, getting to know a new town and a new faith community.

And…you never know what you’re going to get. Aaron and I grew up as pastor’s kids so we know how this works. We made the best of leaky pipes, peeling linoleum, confusing floor plans, and faded furniture. We didn’t know anything else. To this day, the only time I’ve gotten to choose where I lived was an apartment I shared with good college friends.

When we were first given the address of the Marysville parsonage, we scoured Google Earth to see photos from above. We zoomed in until the screen went blurry, looking for clues to our new life. All we saw were trees and a dark gray roof. Marysville leaders sent us a floor plan for our new home and we envisioned each room full of life and furniture.

After our introductory meeting with church leaders, Kim and Kass took us to the parsonage. Wesley napped in the car as we pulled up and parked. Lifting his carrier from the car, I looked to the right toward the house we’d been eyeing online for months. I admired the dense trees with light streaming through. I smiled and took a deep breath. Our new home. I positioned Wesley’s carrier on my arm and took a few steps toward the front door. Kass called out, “Jenny over here.”

We’d been looking at the wrong house.

Aaron and I caught each other’s eyes and smiled. Oops. We sheepishly walked over to Kim and Kass as we talked about our new home. In the coming months, over fifty friends from church would paint, remodel, clean, plant, and prepare this home for us. Our new home.

One hot day in June, we arrived. I set Wesley down and he crawled around the empty living room. Isabella ran upstairs. We walked around, oriented ourselves to this new space, and imagined what might happen here. Over the next five years, this house became a home. We always knew it was temporary but it felt like ours.

We give thanks for BBQs in the backyard with friends laughing and enjoying warm summer days. We loved that the garage became Aaron’s “Happy Camper Wood Shop.” Well, at least three-quarters of the garage did. We give thanks for Aaron building us a camper in the driveway. We loved Trick or Treating in this neighborhood. We slowly figured out which houses gave the best candy! Beloved babysitters played and entertained our kids for our date nights. We give thanks for the well-worn pathways walked around the house while on long phone calls. We drew hopeful messages with chalk out front during quarantine. We loved walking our daughter to Pinewood Elementary for her first and second grade school years, a short ten minute walk away. Wesley learned to walk and ride a bike here. Our dog, Gracie, came to join us in this home.

This house was full of love, laughter, shouting and arguing. We grew in all the ways that mattered here. We welcomed new friends and talked for hours with old ones. This home was our sanctuary and we filled it well.

Soon, we’ll take one box at a time out to a truck. This house will grow empty again. Voices will echo off the vacant walls. Tears will fall. Memories will be named one last time. I’ll load the kids and dog in the van. I’ll pretend I forgot something inside the house. I’ll run in one last time, look around and smile.

God, we loved this home.

It sustained our family.

I rocked babies who somehow became kindergartners.

We watched too much Netflix.

We rocked on the backyard swing until the sun went down.

It’s where I finally stood still.

This is the place I allowed life to love me back.

Thank you, church, for this home.