Saturday, June 27, 2009

This Old House

Yesterday, at long last, our old house at 12310 Walmer Street, in Overland Park, KS, sold. Closed. The money is in the weekend-long process of wire transfer into our checking account, or at least that's what they say. It brings a rush of thoughts and feelings.

On the one hand, it was a money pit. The climate of Kansas City demands a lot of a wood house. Wood rot is continuous; every year demanded changing sills, brickmolds and pieces of siding. The wood windows were a constant challenge. The wood deck screamed for help every few months. Spraying against termites ever coming was a part of normal life. Inside, the house had been neglected, poorly painted, poorly maintained, for years before we got into it; far more than we realized, actually, and it took years to get it to a level of respectability. The truth is that we put so much into the maintenance and bringing the house up to a reasonable level for living, that we never did do some of the projects that really would make the house marvelous. . . until we had to, to sell it. All in all, we put $10,000 a year, average, into that house for upkeep and remodeling, with about $1300 per year of that coming from insurance monies. Sigh.

Not only did that claim a lot of money from our family's life, but it also claimed a lot from Susan and me. I found myself, in looking for a new home in Colorado Springs, only willing to look at homes that are wellbuilt, reasonably kept up, and made of the kinds of materials that will mean less upkeep in years to come. I am tired of working on my home as a second fulltime job.

BUT. . . on the other hand, 12310 Walmer was a home, too. It was the home of Jeremy and Ashley and Micah and Tyler Parsons for two different seasons, and the home of Carol and Jenny Walker for two seasons. It was home to some of the most fabulous young adults we have ever met, who frequented our home for meetings, Bible studies, and parties. These are great, precious memories. It was home to a lot of Womens' climbers' meetings, and Womens' retreat meetings, and a lot of other gatherings with people who matter in all the universe. And above all else, it was the gathering place of the Parsons' family, who sat around the huge pine kitchen table and laughed and loved our way through all of life's curves and challenges for 6 years. It leaves an indelible mark on us all. It was and will always be "Grandmom's house," where the grandsons awakened to the meaning of a grandparents' home. It rang with their cries and learning to run stairs and playing in multiple rooms at once and always having enough space to fling wide their imaginations.

It was a real home.

So, on the one hand, goodbye and good riddance, Walmer house.

But on the other hand, goodbye and sweet memories, Walmer home. Above all, this will be the larger, more weighty memory for us. We will always love you and miss you. And all of you who occupied that space with us.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


A few years ago, struggling with God's call on my life to leave western Colorado and move to Kansas City, I shared the lack of peace because of "place" with a colleague. To which he immediately replied, "It's a good thing you came to KC, because otherwise you would be guilty of geographical idolatry." What he meant, I believe, was that love of a place can never be more important than one's love for God.

I agree. . . but. . .

The Celtic Christians, so many of whom were called by God as monks to abandon their beloved Ireland/Scotland and to travel to lands where, as one author named it, the "saved civilization," never got over missing their "place." They had a term for the separation: the white martyrdom. That sounds like place can be ominously important.

The Jews in exile, held captive in Babylon, never got over it. From the day they were hauled off to that foreign land, the Psalm that tells the story is Psalm 137, in which, when they remembered their "place," they wept. In fact, as N.T.Wright so marvelously unveils in The New Testament and the People of God, coming home was the only way they would ever know that their sins had been forgiven, so important to the Jews is the land they call "holy."

The question is, "What is the importance of place?"

I believe that one can never "get" the Age to Come, what awaits us, our true home, without falling in love with "place" on earth. It is always and only in the context of community, culture, and yes, geography, that we ever have the raw material to see beyond. We can't even envision the "homeland" of which the author of Hebrews 11 speaks without having been given the category by living in, and being removed from, a homeland on earth. The "place" of our life awakens in us the desire for its fulfillment. Our "place" teaches us what home could possibly begin to mean. It is all important that we are passionate about "place," or else we seek some disembodied spirit world that only the Gnostics could love.

For me, God used the ecosystem above treeline in the western U.S. to teach me about place. For every time I ever have walked there, I have the unnerving sense that that place is where I belong, where I am truly who I was made to be. And, I believe, it is there best of all, where I am invited into a place in the heart and mind and reality of the Trinity that adores that part of creation, and where God assures me that I was not only made for that place, but will drink deeply of it in the Age to Come.

Where is your "place"? I am back in mine.