If my lifespan is a house then I am quite convinced I am “stuck” in one of the hallways.
I can look back onto seasons of my life as rooms in this house of my life. I had the room of being a daughter, a student, a teacher. Each season it was not as if I had changed who I was, but merely that I had entered a new room. Some I have loved more then others, some have been entirely unexpected and some have been filled to the brim with grief.
If I were to take you on a tour of my “house” there are several rooms that would jump out as significant to me.
There is the room of my growing up years where I felt so loved and secure, where hospitality was demonstrated in a million ways and a life that seeks God was spoken about and more importantly modeled. That room is decorated with horses, with books and with a floral bedspread. It shares many fond memories of times with my sisters and is filled with giggles.
There is the room of my college years where I learned who I was apart from my parents. It is decorated with WSW letters and Torrey books line the walls. Photos fill it of days in the park, breakfasts with the neighbors and of course abstract art that was collected from living and learning from the H. family as we stayed in the art professors house.
There is a hidden room in my house, one I didn’t know existed. It is a small room but as you pass through it you enter into the rest of the house. It is the room where I fell in love. It is small because it happened quickly, and surprising because I didn’t think I ever would. As you pass through it you find it is hardly a room at all but more of a hallway leading into all the other rooms in the house. It smells of curry poured over rice, burnt heart cookies and a deck of cards midway through a game of Rummy. A bible lays next to them on the table full of notes from the book we are leading study on together and it is full of light and happy memories.
From here the house gets big and complex. There is a small nursery all set up for twins. This room is quiet, clothes still hang in the closet and it is still decorated in Noah’s ark theme. There is a cross-stitch I sewed on bed rest hanging on the wall and pictures of my daughters. One side has eight photos lined above a bed, and the other has an empty crib with just one.
There is the play and school room filled with alphabet posters, and drawings, and bunk beds so all four kids can be together. This room is full of mess, and laughter, and mistakes and forgiveness. It is full of firsts, first steps, words read, experiences and joys. It is the biggest room in the house (so far) and the little treasures we’ve accumulated along the way line the shelves, there is the deck of cards for playing war, the arsenal of tickle bombs, there are volumes and volumes of Myrtle and Mike stories. These crazy monkeys are the main characters in stories we tell our kids when we are working through transition or stress or just for fun. I think we could almost fill a library with their antics.
There is a sick room off to the right. It has x-rays from multiple doctors visits, broken arms, stitches on heads, typhoid, malaria, roto virus and a whole slew of in between. It has old growth charts showing that our preemie has not caught up yet, it has reports from when we had had to make sure her lack of growth wasn’t from malnutrition. Framed above the mounds of paperwork is the chart that showed that she had made the 2nd percentile after five years of struggle and it symbolizes our ability to pursue working overseas.
There is the room of South Sudan. It has some mementos back from Abuk’s college days, prayer journals and newspaper clippings. It has plans for moving and working in North Sudan. Apartment contracts signed and items packed, it has denied visas and pre-fab house plans thrown over a work table. It has boos fences and water pipes and sketches from bible studies. It has graduation caps and headlines of fighting breaking out. We haven’t shut the door to this room, it stays open, and I keep everything dusted in the hopes it will be used again soon. It has a bit of a musty smell to it, the smell of anticipation, mixed with hope and disappointment. There are knee imprints on the mat in the center of the room and a slight aroma of deep brewed coffee over charcoal.
There is a small closet off this room with a North African flag over the door. It is filled with commentaries on Luke and Arabic books. It has metro routes and taxi fares crammed into corners and a few cats have taken up residence on top of some papers. There is a child’s backpack in the corner full of books and a torn photo of a group of folks all studying together to dive into language.
And then there is the hallway, that spot in between each of the rooms. The crazy thing about the hallways is that I have lived periods of my life in them just as in the rooms, even though they don’t carry with them all the comforts and space the rooms hold. I am quite convinced that right now we are in the hallway. I have had many moments of hallways in my life, where I am in a bit of transition from one thing to another, where I really don’t know what the future holds and folks our whole family is crowded together in the hallway again.
God meets us in the hallways, maybe even in ways we cannot see him when we are in the rooms. But hallways are a hard place to live for a long time.
We cannot return to Melut at this time, it simply is not safe for our family right now. We don’t feel like that door ought to be locked or closed for our family so we are taking moves to set ourselves up to re-enter that room when the time comes – but for now that room is closed, and we are feeling a bit sad about it.
We know if that door should open again it will look different, time changes places, and people and things and we know that instead of entering the same room we evacuated from we will be entering a different looking room when the builder opens the door.
Friends I have been contemplating how to live life well in the hallways of life. I am not really sure yet, but I know it means taking each day at a time, and then setting ourselves up to be in a position to walk through the next door that opens in our house. Remember this life, this house of mine I didn’t build so I don’t really know what each door brings, or even which ones will open, but I trust the master builder, by His grace, and it is this trust that lets me stay in the hallway leaning up against the wall a bit longer then expected.
All this room talk is one way of making sure you know what our hallway looks like faithful friends. We are going to our passport country for nine months this next year. We are coming back to connect our children to their family and share pictures of the rooms we’ve been living in the past few years, but we are also doing so because we feel that it positions us to best walk through the next door that opens for us. We prayerfully believe this is a step that positions us well to faithfully walk through the next open door, and we hope you will pray for us that this door is South Sudan, that we can dust off the coffee pot and the building supplies and get all dirty from the dust we love the most. But if that door stays closed friends, we know the master builder and He is not in the business of building something ordinary with our lives, but something fit for a King. *
So friends sometimes part of that building process is spent in the hallways of the unknown and resting against walls that were so lovingly designed by their creator waiting to see the beauty that lies behind the next door. Leaning against those walls and trying to remember that it is not the rooms themselves that bring the joy, but the creator who loving leads us into them and then fills them with memories. So as we lean against whitewashed walls wondering which door will open next we are seeking to cherish the stillness and peace in the hallway, and as we wait we even find the master builder, in His love, has filled even the hallways with joy.
*credit to CS Lewis for this thought taken from his book Mere Christianity *