Moving… I walked up the stairs, past my bonus-son’s room and down the hall to my office. It had a different sound this morning. It echoed. As if hollow. It even smelled different. A mixture of cardboard and forgotten dust. Why? Because we are moving. There’s a piece of me that is so excited I’m beside myself. There’s another piece of me that starts crying if I think about it too long. So much life has been lived here. So much life… Philly told me he loved me here. Told me he even wanted my dishes in his cabinet. I met my bonus-kids here for the first time. I was a nervous wreck. I’ve never changed clothes so many times over meeting adolescents before in my life. We met over Philly’s extensive culinary expertise of spaghetti and edamame. (I know… I didn’t know those went together either.) And I thought the edamame was sugar snap peas, because I’d never eaten edamame other than at an Asian restaurant. Did you know edamame grows in your mouth when chewed? And as my middle bonus-child studied me from across the table with those suspicious eyes, she finally asked with a slightly snarky tone, “Have you ever eaten edamame before?” I shook my head as my eyes bulged, my cheeks swole and my mind swirled trying to figure out how I was going to get it out of my mouth before anyone noticed especially with little miss, I’m watching you,” across the table. But by the end of the night one of them declared, “Dad you’ve got to marry Miss Denise.”

This roof held our engagement celebration after Philly proposed in a slightly surprise kind of way redeeming Valentine’s forever. It held our wedding night and the death of my Maggie girl only two weeks after we got married right in the middle of the Nashville flood. She’s buried in the back yard and Philly and I are still arguing over the fact that I want him to dig her up because I just can’t bear to leave her.

It held our first argument and the subsequent ones that followed. It held the writing of a book that launched a ministry and gave me a space and a place to be able to say, “Good Monday Morning” as each week began. It’s held birthday parties with Philly’s prized home-ec chocolate cake. (I will say he’s got that one down.) It’s held all the fears and tears and failures and breakthroughs of being parents of a blended and broken and healing family. It’s held movie nights and game nights and 4th of July parties with Philly’s redneck swimming pool. (Three slip-n-slides all lined up across the backyard.) It’s held the best Sunday dinners with the kids and friends where we’ve lingered over homemade biscuits and unhurried conversation. It’s held all of the kids gathered around the Christmas Eve table as Philly would read his authored version of The Night Before Christmas where he had placed each one of us in it in some way. And Christmas morning around the tree as each one opened a gift one at a time and we oohed and awed and lingered and loved.  

It’s held tears… lots and lots of tears. From the pain of the hurting hearts of our own family and other’s families. Our sofa’s been a refuge, Our guest bedrooms have been a refuge, our kitchen table has been a refuge, our offices have been a refuge and our back porch has been a refuge. We’ve cried with them and they’ve cried with us. We’ve prayed with them and they’ve prayed with us.

It’s held laughter… lots and lots of laughter. I mean the “I can’t take it anymore you’ve got to stop or I’m going to wet myself!” type of laughter. One of the moments that still horrifies the kids and makes me and Philly come undone was during the summer Olympics when my dad and mom and my mom’s best friend Miss Shirley were in town visiting. We were all sitting around watching the Olympics in the family room and Miss Shirley was crocheting one of her many prayer shawls, (I have three of them and they are treasures as she is with Jesus now) and Philly had disappeared. (This is never good.) All of a sudden, a flash came streaking through the family room and started running around the fireplace. Philly, who has enough hair on his chest that our oldest when she was little asked if it was a sweater, had on a royal blue speedo he bought the summer before to terrorize the kids on a beach trip, and an American towel wrapped around his shoulders like a cape. He kept running in circles around the fireplace. The sight was so shocking I look over and Miss Shirley has thrown her in progress prayer shawl over her head! I literally can’t even type this without laughing.

It’s held stories… lots and lots of stories. The funny kind. The hard kind. The holy kind. From friends and family and to each other.

And it’s held prayer… so many prayers. Prayers for healing. Prayers of repentance. Prayers of protection. Prayers for answers. Prayers for provision. Prayers for justice and truth. Prayers for surrender and brokenness. Prayers for wives to come back home. Prayers for husbands to come back home. Prayers for children to come back home. Prayers for our nation and our state and our city and our churches and our pastors and our friends and our family and our children. Oh yes, these walls will be whispering prayers until Jesus comes back or the wood planks are disassembled and then they will still whisper from wherever they find their resting place.

This roof is the longest one Philly and I have ever lived under. My family moved a lot with my dad’s calling as a pastor. And Philly’s family moved a lot with his dad’s calling as a football coach. Then in both of our first marriages, buying homes, fixing them up and then flipping them kept us always keeping moving boxes in the garage. Even when I moved in with Philly, I kept my moving boxes having no idea they’d get to be nestled quietly in the attic for a decade.

I’ve watched the peonies go from sprouts to splendor. I’ve watched Sophie go from adolescence to twilight years as her hearing is gone and little of her eyesight is left. (I’m praying she’ll learn her new home easily.) I’ve watched the most breathtaking sunrises here and sunsets that make you feel like you need to pray. And I’ve learned even more what it means to live with a reclaimed heart and in the abundant life Jesus died to give me.

Now I’m going to finish packing. I’ll leave this place as beautiful as I can, patching the holes where the pictures hung, pulling the weeds, and touching up the paint. I’ll do my best to make sure that when the new family drives up and walks in, they will feel honored and excited for the life this house will hold for them. I cannot guarantee that there won’t be a lingering residue of grease from all the fried chicken that has been enjoyed here, but they are relocating from out west, so it will be like an introduction to the captivating aromas of the south.

Philly and I lingered longer in bed this morning and I recounted memory after memory of our life lived here. I started crying then and I know I’ll cry when we lock the door for the last time. But all of the memories I remembered were about the people and the lives and the hearts that lived and walked through these halls, not the halls themselves. And all of those treasures are going with us. Because hearts make a home. Yes, we’re moving… but everything of ultimate value is moving with us. Even Maggie.