cleveland: the last chapter.

At this exact moment, my computer is sitting on top of a black and yellow Sterilite tote. To my left are two cardboard boxes labeled “Master Bedroom Misc,” and directly below me on a completely different floor are 20 more boxes carefully stacked in the corner of our living room—teasing our kids to come climb on them. Unfortunately for the kids, too many of those boxes are labeled “Fragile,” and, come to think of it, the main place they play probably wasn’t the best storage option for breakable kitchenware.

In a few days, I will watch as our house is emptied of these boxes. I’ll stand in the empty rooms left in the moving wake and feel the fullness of the memories each wall holds. I’ll hear the laughter of our kids, the cries of newborn babies, and sound of Jake’s footsteps coming up the steps in the middle of the night. I’ll breathe all these memories in, and then we’ll load up the van and drive away from this house for the last time.

I’ve been trying to figure out what there even is to say about this chapter as we close and move on to something new. Where do I even begin? How can I possibly sum up everything the past four years has taught me as it’s all about to go in the rearview mirror?

I can’t in this small space, but what I can say is this: Just because something can’t last doesn’t mean it can’t last.

This story, after all, isn’t about me. It’s about God. And, whatever God does endures forever.

Take our living room, for instance, even in its boxed-up state.

A cream-colored carpet square covers most of the floor. It’s not very soft—scratchy to your face if you lay down flat on it. I know this because, when we first moved here, it wasn’t unusual for Jake to come home from a long day at work to find me facedown on the carpet, crying and defeated after another hour-long bedtime battle at the end of another long, lonely day.

The walls are empty now, save for a lone painting in the corner. The textured pink walls we never got around to painting are chipped from nail holes and scuffed from the shelves we recently took down.

Then there is the oversized red leather chair and ottoman which I have claimed as my own. They sit in the corner of the room next to a small, antique side table, stacked tall with books, bibles, and journals. They’re right across from the biggest window in our house and where I sit almost every afternoon during rest time.

We’ll leave all this behind. The carpet. The empty walls. The corner of the living room I claimed as my own. But we’ll carry with us the things that last.

Those first months in our house were filled with long days and lonely nights—made more exhausting by our two-year-old’s bedtime screams reverberating through our house. I’d never choose to go back to that season where I ended many days flat on that scratchy carpet, but I’m forever changed by the way those days pointed me toward God. The ways they taught me to rest in his unchanging nature despite the fact that everything else had changed around me. I found strength in what should have been an unbearable circumstance because I could set my feet firm in that which wouldn’t change. The carpet stays, but the lesson goes.

I’ll never look at the badly painted pink walls again, and I’m sure the nail holes and scuff marks will soon be filled in and painted over by whoever moves in next. But those walls will always remind me of the good that comes when you make the effort to put holes in your walls. Not only did we make this house our home, but we also made Cleveland our home. We’ll leave the empty walls and a lot of good people behind, but the important reminders of community and how much better life is when you let people in will stay with us.

And then there’s the chair. That comes with, but it leaves behind my corner—the place where I learned how to rest. I’ll never read my bible with the same wide open window in front of me, but I’ll carry the habit along, always grateful for the ways Cleveland taught me to lean into God’s word before anything else.

Solomon is the one who says that “whatever God does endures forever” in Ecclesiastes 3, but there’s more to his point. “Nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it,” he goes on to say. “God has done it, so that people fear (see: revere, stand in awe) before him.”

This Cleveland chapter isn’t about me. It’s about the work God has done in my life—work that lasts even though the chapter doesn’t—so that people will stand in awe before him.

We are standing on the other side of four particularly challenging years and an eight year journey that very easily could have broken us. I’m so proud of our family for all that we’ve endured—for the choices we’ve made and the hard work we have accomplished. But the credit is not ours. God has done it. God has done it, so that we can stand in awe before him.

I can’t pack that up with the glass kitchenware, but, thankfully, I can carry it with me forever.

It lasts.

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