One of my earliest reading memories is turning the pages of this classic children’s book, The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton.
The story is of a little house built in the country, where the owner hopes his family will live for generations, enjoying the sun and trees and birds and flowers. The image of the little red house fixed on the center of the page of this little book is one of few images etched on my memory.
Once upon a time there was a little house way out in the country. She was a pretty little house, and she was strong and well built.
Over time the house remains but the city and progress move closer to its green surroundings until finally it is enveloped into the dust and busyness of progress itself.
This must be living in the city, thought the little house, and didn’t know if she liked it or not. She missed the field of daisies and the apple trees dancing in the moonlight
In recent days we are discovering, like the little house, how the whirlwind of life has pushed our limits, has moved us past recognizing the dust and rush of the clock that has dilapidated our schedules and our home life.
Now it was not so quiet and peaceful at night…..everyone seemed to be busy and everyone seemed to be in a hurry
Everyone and everything moved much faster than before.
The retreat to our homes, our little houses, whether they are in the city, suburbs or countryside, is forcing us to redefine our concept of home.
In the quiet do we find peace here?
Not only the peace of our surrounding but the peace of our souls?
In the nights she watched the moon grow from a thin moon to a full moon, then back again to a thin moon; and when there was no moon, she watched the stars.
In the extra hours my husband and I declutter life, fifteen years in this house where we have raised four children, one dog and three cats. All are gone now except for one cat, our only companion as we rewind favorite movies during quiet evenings on the couch.
Weeks before this pandemic broke open I prayed for peace, for my home, for my husband who gratefully is always planning for the future. I encouraged him to count the blessings of raising four children, for them giving the gift of great educations, that they are able to stand on their own.
And as life slows, the sun rises and falls, time is measured by silences or conversations by phone or actual face to face time with those in our household.
Were we meant to return to this pace of life? Was there nothing else that could slow down the treadmill we were on? The demands of technology: phone calls, texts to answer, emails, had us rushing by people. Places. Moments. Blue skies.
During this crisis time and space move much more slowly. Our planners are not quite as full. Not quite as pressing.
Day followed day, each one a little different than before…but the little house stayed just the same.
We return to the joys of simplicity. Completing puzzles. Revisiting a sonata we were able to play years ago. Trying new recipes. Bringing out old recipes passed down by our mothers and grandmothers. Long walks around the neighborhood. Conversations that happen when we walk side by side alongside a loved one rather than face to face.
As the Little House settled down on her new foundation, she smiled happily. Once again she could watch the sun and moon and stars. Once again she could watch spring and summer and fall and winter come and go.
This is a time when we build a new foundation. For the foundation we had has been torn out from under us: our jobs, our bank accounts, our mortgages, our rent. Our home is not just four walls but a shelter where we hunker down, stock our pantries, and prepare meals at home. This is what home meant generations ago, when everything we needed was gathered and prepared within the walls of our own house. This crisis is forcing us to reexamine the definition of home.
One definition: home: noun: any place of residence or refuge
Our residence has become our refuge.
The story of the Little House brought joy to me when I was a little girl.
But the truth that the Lord God has been our dwelling place, our refuge, has been passed on for generations. It has been passed on from the time God’s created dwelt in the garden, to the time he led His people through the wilderness by a pillar of a cloud by day and fire by night, to the dwelling place God’s people built for him as a tabernacle.
Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.
There has been no greater time of uncertainty for our generation than now. Our parents and grandparents faced uncertainty through two World Wars and the Great Depression. We have been a generation and are raising generations that believe we are in control of our destiny, our progress, our future.
This crisis forces us to search for something larger than ourselves, for this pandemic is greater than anything we have experienced.
In the midst of this thing that is greater than ourselves, will we seek out the One who is greater than we can ask or imagine.
He is our dwelling place. Our refuge. He longs to for us to be His dwelling place. For Him to fill our hearts and lives so completely that we will not be overwhelmed by the uncertainty and the unknown.
Do we know what we believe during this time of uncertainty? Do we believe that there is an eternal home, a refuge?
Now, more than ever, I believe there is an eternal home. I witnessed with my own eyes the struggle of my mother to leave this world and move towards her heavenly home.
We had been keeping vigil with her at night after hospice had been called in. One night I walked into her room and felt this heaviness, this presence.
In Hebrew, the word is kabowd.Weight. The weight of glory. God’s glory.
My mother’s weak hand reached toward the window, as if she was reaching to cross over into glory. But as she saw me, she hesitated, as if she was not ready to let go, just yet.
She crossed over into glory two mornings later. I was not there with her.
I am grateful is dwelling in her eternal home now, away from this crisis that compromises those who are homebound as she was.
Before she left, she would often say, “I want to go home.”
I would say, “Mom, you are home with us.”
She would shake her head, no, smile and silently point one finger up. “No, that home.”
I pray that home uncovers different meaning for us as we find refuge here in these days.
And I pray that we are preparing our hearts, as we have been readying our homes, to reflect upon the doorway to our heavenly home.
Italicized text from The Little Houseby Virginia Lee Burton, 1942, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company