On October 31st, we sold our house.
It was profitable to do so. It was probably wise in the long run, and hopefully a way to create a better living plan for my parents as they age and for my children as they grow up.
But it wasn’t easy.
Over the course of 2 intense months, we prepped, packed, and moved the nine of us to my parents’ current home about 15 minutes away. They graciously shifted possessions around so that we could plunk down mattresses while we look for a new home.
We pared down the physical pieces of our life and packed them into storage. I threw out pounds and pounds of slightly used food staples, knowing there was no space for them in my mom’s overflowing pantry. I walked away from hundreds of dollars’ worth of flowers, shrubs, and trees I’d planted over the years. I looked around and saw countless hours invested in gardening, painting, cleaning, and maintaining a home that would no longer be mine.
I gave away the family cat.
I walked down to the stream one last time, to the unmarked grave of my son, born into heaven but buried under the old oak. One last time.
I finally worked up the courage to tell my dear old neighbor who just put her husband in a nursing home a few months ago. Now we were leaving her too. She cried. So did I.
I still wake up wondering if she’s ok during storms.
I’m struggling with the loss. I'm homesick.
Our house wasn’t perfect.
It wasn’t financially tenable to keep up the white picket fence appearance. It was costly to maintain the appearance of the American dream. But it was home for 7 years. It was the place I worked like a mother hen to make into a safe and welcoming nest for my chicks. It's where my daughter was born. Where my older sons became men. Where my younger sons built all their memories. Its imperfections were comfortable in their familiarity.
I miss even the creaking deck that had a ramp for my son with a wheelchair.
I miss the view across the back field that needed mowing all summer.
I miss the constant bang of the door as my children ran in and out to the expansive backyard.
I miss every light being on while the chatter and chaos of a busy family orbited around the kitchen sink where I always seemed to be standing.
I miss the messy routines we’d molded into a life.
I miss my home.
I don’t mean to sound like a refugee. We have a place to be together. It is warm and safe. My parents are gracious and incredibly accommodating, and my children are making valuable memories with people who most likely won’t be present in a couple decades.
But it is not home.
It’s the switch from being queen of the castle to a shadow in someone else’s. I feel like someone pressed pause and I can’t function until they push some button that gives me a kitchen again. I feel like I’m stuck. It’s not really true. But it feels like it. I was willing to take this step (hopefully) forward. But I am apt, like Lot’s wife, to look behind me longingly - wishing for what once was.
I understand a little of what Mary might have felt. She knew she had been given a great and sacred gift to be the mother of God’s son. She took the gift willingly. She accepted the commission and stepped bravely into the uncertain future.
But it came at a cost.
Her fiancé wasn’t buying it. Naturally. She had a story absolutely no one would believe. I mean, if a 15 year old girl told you that she was a virgin carrying God’s baby - would you believe her?
Joseph needed help to accept his girlfriend’s pregnancy. Supernaturally. Once he’d been assured her story was legit, she had his full support. But he was the only one who got a visit from a heavenly messenger. Mary’s mom and dad didn’t get that assurance. Mary’s siblings and friends could only take her at her own word. All her relatives would have certainly believed she was carrying an illicit baby. The gossip would have been thick. If they were good, obedient Jewish citizens, they would have believed it was their duty to punish her for adultery. They might have wanted to stone her to remove the blot on their family character.
She was the black sheep - carrying the spotless lamb of God.
I doubt she really had to go to Bethlehem to be counted herself. Usually, a census is to count men of taxable or military age. Especially in those cultures, women didn’t count for much. I bet Mary went with Joseph - not to be numbered in the Roman census - but to avoid being removed from the family head count by her righteously indignant relatives. Maybe she went to Bethlehem to avoid being killed in Nazareth.
So the 15 (ish) year old girl couldn’t be home to have her first baby. Mary couldn’t stay in her own bed, surrounded by the comforts of her previous life. They’d kicked her out. She couldn’t have her mother there. No sisters. They didn’t need to go to Bethlehem to be counted with the family. But Mary did.
She wasn’t a refugee.
But she had no home.
She and Joseph were on their own, disgraced, left to fend for themselves, and now forced to take a journey. We have no record of them being able to afford a donkey. She probably walked, carrying on her own back some extra cloth and a good knife she might want for her impending labor. (She didn't have all the fancy onesies, disposable diapers, and sterile equipment we take for granted). Her only support for delivery would be her young husband - with whom she hadn’t even consummated their marriage yet.
Talk about awkward.
Talk about loss. This gift, this baby not yet born, had already cost Mary so much. She must have been lonely, scared, and certainly uncomfortable. Worried about how they’d pay for what they needed. Maybe she was angry sometimes, frustrated. And of course she was hormonal. But there was no childhood house to run to when she wanted to bury her head in a pillow and sob in her room. There was no room. No home.
I bet Mary’s mama heart yearned to give her baby son the same thing I do for my kids - a home.
But she couldn't. Not immediately.
First there was an extended stay in Bethlehem.
Then an impromptu vacation in Egypt.
Eventually she returned to the place she’d once called home. But of course, you don’t go back home once you’ve left. Not really. Things change. Time must have dulled the tart gossip and malcontent. Jesus was a delightful child, the picture of helpful obedience, which must have quieted the dark-eyed relatives at family gatherings. But it wasn’t the same. They never forgot his origins (or at least what they thought they were). They never totally accepted Him. Or her.
Home, though I’m sure it was as cozy and full of life as she could make it, wasn’t really the place of her dreams. Later, Jesus Himself would say He could claim no place on earth to lay His head. Others called Him Jesus of Nazareth. But He never identified Himself with an address at all. He considered Himself homeless. I wonder how that made Mary feel.
When Mary did have a house, it probably wasn’t the balm her soul expected it would be.
I'm sure having her own kitchen must have been glorious. Maybe she even had a mudroom. But it didn't fix her troubles.
It was just a house.
God didn't ask Mary to give His Son a perfectly manicured farmhouse on 2.5 acres with enough bathrooms so her kids wouldn’t fight over the sink. No. He didn’t need His Son to be raised in a good neighborhood, have a big backyard, or even have access to clean running water.
God didn't call Mary to be a homemaker first. He called her to be obedient first.
To fulfill her calling, God didn’t require Mary to have a perfect house.
She didn't even need a house at all.
She was what He needed.
He simply asked her to love His Son where she was, as she was. No pretense. No plans. No perfect kitchen with a big island. lots of storage, and a coffee station. Mary probably didn't even have coffee!
But she had God's favor.
God wanted Her.
But all of her.
Her past. Her current circumstance. Her hopes and dreams. All of her.
Instead of laying out a feast for the family holiday in a big kitchen was stone counters, she laid her son in a borrowed stone manger. Instead of planting a garden and putting down roots, she packed her meager possessions and walked away from everything she knew. Instead of painting a living room just the right shade of white, she painted a dark silhouette against the sunset as she looked back at her childhood home - where she was no longer welcome.
Mary, highly favored woman of God, would not have a home. But God would have her.
He would take her loss -and turn it into a legacy.
He would take her personal sacrifice - and change it into immeasurable gain for millions of people.
He would take her out of her comfort zone - and give her the Comforter for all eternity.
I don't think that giving up my house equates me in any way with Mary. But this Christmas, while I long for a home, I feel her homesickness. I can't see the future any better than she can. I haven't been visited by any angels promising me a child who will save the world. But I have a commission to raise children who will point people to the Savior of the world. And that doesn't change whether we have a home or not. And I trust the same God she did.
He took care of Mary.
He will take care of me.
But He will require all of me.
And it will be worth it.
I count everything as loss compared to the surpassing knowledge of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord - I consider it all dung - that I may gain Christ and be found in Him. Philippians 3:8