Inhaling the aromas of fresh paint mingling with unadulterated wood and carpet, I step inside the still, empty house and wait for the new homeowners to flick lights on in every room. A canvas of quiet green in the entryway welcomes when wall scones illuminate the darkness.
As five friends gather in the kitchen to bless the house, my mind becomes a filmstrip of memories freeze framing between fragments of conversation. I am in London but my mind is traveling back to a season of life in North Carolina.
“God’s promises always intersect with places. To remember is to return. To return is to remember. Rootlessness is a kind of forgetting. And home is the dwelling place of memory,” writes Christie Purifoy in Roots and Sky.
If our true home is in Christ, then what is it that He wants us to remember?
Fourteen years ago, we arrived at dusk on the curb of our brand new, fully lit house; weary after a cross country drive from Phoenix, Arizona, the birthplace of our two children. From the passenger seat, I gushed over blue hydrangea bushes flanking the door. Always too hot in the desert to grow them outdoors.
With cautious optimism, we stepped inside our new home only to discover our builder standing at the bar in the kitchen, cleaning up after completing some finishing touches. The twang in his voice instantly reminded us that we are strangers in a new culture.
Tears threatened to pour from tired eyes during that first glimpse of beautiful contrasts. From shiny chestnut wood floors against tall white base boards to polished stainless steel appliances and granite countertops, every detail declared, “I love you.”For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God. (Hebrews 3:4)
On a random Monday evening, we meet in an empty house to wallpaper every room with prayer before five children take up residence. But first, we eat freshly fried fish and chips from paper bags while standing around a giant island. Passing condiments and pouring soda into plastic cups, we marvel over the beauty of architectural lines and generous white spaces.
“Why did you decide to stay in London when so many couples move to the country as they have children,” I ask inquisitively as a hunter-gatherer of back stories.
They tell us about a random moment during an intermission at the National Theater that becomes a marker of God’s providence. Drawn outside on a veranda overlooking the Thames, their eyes capture the cityscape. And what they see intersects with their heart.
“We realized we are not in London by accident, we are here because we love it.”
“I have had that same experience,” I quickly admit with alacrity.
Before moving to London, I often scrolled through photos captured by Londoners on Instagram. I was living in a tropical resort town on the Atlantic but my heart was longing for British culture. And every time my eyes landed on an aerial view of London, my heart physically ached with love for the city and its people.God is planting seeds of hope before providence is ready to bloom. I may be a stranger in a new culture but in my heart, I am home.
Two years ago this week, I left a spacious open floor plan and two car garage in the US for a terrace house in London that is too small for an overstuffed leather couch. We arrived to see the kitchen walls painted in a familiar shade of blue.
Mired in nostalgia, I can become lonely in the longing to recreate the past. And remembering crosses the threshold: from doubt and regret into hopeful new stories God is writing for us.
In the contrast between the past and where we currently stand is the beauty of our authentic self.
Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope. (Hebrews 3:6)
What are the smells, tastes, sounds, and sights that remind you of God’s faithfulness?