She started hearing voices across the property line just after the chill of Spring lifted and the evenings turned warm enough to open up the windows.
Two voices wafting out from behind boarded up windows and then the sound of muted music coming from some device…
She mentioned it to me at breakfast one morning a couple of days later.
This house that has stood empty for two decades has stood for over a century beside my own, silent and dark and ugly.
While other homes on our street have stood filled with life, this one was grey with rot and age and dirt while rumors swirled of all the evil that happened inside.
Hope feels fleeting and it seems to have flown away. The lift that met me when I woke on my birthday is gone and a heaviness has reappeared.
The bulky frame of that house cast a shadow over my own and I became used to the shadowy dark and this sadness is no different. A noticeable pall over a life surrounded by life.
No one warned me that ministry would be lonely.
So brutally lonely.
There are days I feel as though I can hardly breathe and I sometimes wonder what Jesus is doing.
What we are doing.
Because all I seem to be doing is flailing and failing.
The house beside mine was boarded up 15 years before we came to Madison House. And I think back to where I was 15 years ago. Married for almost a year and turning to my husband and whispering, We need to go. We can’t stay. And the process of slowly beginning to end my time as a citizen of my own country and becoming a stranger in the one of my husband.
The thing is, with that house, with all that was wrong with it and within it, life still grew around it. It wasn’t beautiful, it wasn’t pretty, but still, life couldn’t be stopped.
When we first moved in and I began putting our belongings away, a landscaping company came in and cleared out all the underbrush around that house, anything that could catch fire was carried away and the grass left behind scorched yellow in the heat of the August sun.
But that following Spring, shoots began appearing all up and down the property line and 24 months later, the tallest of the trees reaches past our first story and brushes against the second when the wind blows just right.
Life can’t be stopped.
Neither can change.
Late last week, I was called outside onto the front steps of Madison House by the words I received in a text. I stood there and watched as the bucket from a large yellow digger tore into the roof of the house that has stood watch beside my own for over 100 years, and I couldn’t keep the tears from coming.
There was joy, because that meant the danger that the house represented would soon be gone.
But there was a deep grief that caught hold and I ran down the street because I didn’t want to ever forget what was there before it wasn’t anymore.
I don’t know when this season of sorrow will be over. I don’t know if there will ever come a point again where I think, Here. We all belong. All six of us belong here.
Because, if I am to be honest, it is easy to focus on times that it is obvious that we don’t, and when it begins to affect my little ones, that’s when I dare to question the plan and intention of my Heavenly Father.
Why would He call us here to die?
But there is this thought that wraps around my heart and won’t let go,
But why wouldn’t He?
Didn’t Jesus Himself say ( And didn’t I even quote this when I stood in front of a church to share about this ministry given to us?),
And I have failed enough in these last few years to know that this is a lie. I am not enough. I will never be enough.
On my own, I stand broken and rotten and decaying like that house that stands on my street no longer.
On my own, death is not defeated, but it grows in reach and stench and decay.
On my own, I am easily torn down, broken, defeated and completely ruined.
We are never enough.
The One Who spoke to Moses out of a burning bush, the One who declared His Name to the broken, sandal-less man bowed low before Him, He alone has the authority to say,
He alone is enough in the season of sorrow,
in the barren desert of loneliness.
He alone is enough when I walk up our front steps feeling defeated and broken.
He alone is enough when He brings me to the end of myself so that I see clearly that He alone brings life in the dead places.
He alone is enough to lead me to 1 Peter 2 when the pain of rejection stings:
The house that stood beside my own, long before I was born now lays in a heap outside my kitchen window, the shadow it cast no longer there.
I walk into my kitchen to pour myself a mug of coffee and I stand completely bathed in light.
I don’t know when this season of sadness will end, but I choose to trust in the goodness of my Savior. What weighs heavily on my heart can never separate me from His love.
So I will wait and in the waiting I will fight to proclaim His praise.
For He is good. And His mercy is never ending.
And life continues to grow…