With tears in my eyes, I started this post back in July of 2016. I haven’t opened it since.
But it’s time. I know it’s time. And so with a deep breath, today I find myself re-reading drafted words strung into sentences that have somehow stood the test of time. Well, maybe that’s a stretch. But they feel just as true today, in May of 2019, as they did nearly three years ago.
In a way, it’s laughable. After all, I had only just graduated a year before. The rug beneath me was still new, the bedroom one I had lived in for just fourteen months. (If I knew then what I know now, all the ups and downs to come and how much longer I’d call those walls home, I would have wrinkled my brow in confusion, maybe even teared up in sadness before smiling with joy.)
But it is true… a lot can happen in a little over a year. As different pieces of my life began to move and shake or fall into place, I knew change was inevitable and I wanted to learn to welcome it with anticipation and hope instead of fear.
And so I marked the moment. I stumbled through the paragraphs and cried over memories, knowing full-well that one day when the rug laid atop a different floor and I opened the drafted document in another apartment, I’d be grateful for the words that help me remember.
Today, I am grateful.
Four yeas ago, I moved into my first apartment. Four months ago, I moved out.
It wasn’t my childhood home, but I grew up there.
For me, home is where my people are. And so places matter to me, but they hold weight because of the people who live there. There’s more to it than that, of course. I vividly remember driving away from the first home I knew, sitting in the backseat of the minivan and refusing to turn around until I could no longer see the roof out the back window. Places matter. But it’s the people, the memories, the moments, the laughter and the movie marathons and the ordinary days, the feeling of safety and the invitation to simply be yourself… that’s what makes it special.
I’ve lived longer in other places, but a whole lot of life happened within those walls.
I know exactly where I was sitting on the couch on a Friday night when my phone rang, she said “are you sitting down?” and the next sentence left me sobbing for twenty minutes.
And I know exactly where I was standing in my bedroom, walking laps around that little space, on the rug and then off the rug every two steps, when I heard “it’s cancer but they got it all.”
I learned how the lamp light grows brighter the longer it glows. I taped monthly calendar pages on the wall next to the closet door and then moved each page one by one to the back of my bedroom door, unable to get rid of them for some unknown reason. Eventually, four pages turned into a mantra of sorts, one that I would repeat before opening the door to face the day.
I colored pages and lettered phrases and paid bills and wrote a book and cried tears and dreamed dreams at the little white desk from Salvation Army, the one I painted on a plastic tarp in the dining room. The middle is sagging in and there’s a line from a purple marker that went off the page, but I never did end up painting over it.
My “office” shifted from the desk, to the couch against the wall, to the dining room table, to the couch beneath the window, and back to my desk — all in one regular work day. There were ant problems and A.C. problems and window problems and shower drain problems and the dishwasher door never closed quite right. The dresser arrived and I put it together in the living room, only to discover it weighed exactly seventy-nine pounds, which isn’t even a joke, and the living room suddenly seemed so far from the bedroom.
I can still feel the all-too familiar feeling of surprise mixed with confusion and a twinge of frustration at the rug that moved, seemingly all on its own every single day, away from the bed and toward the door. I would lean down and tug it back but then the next evening I’d find it seven inches toward the left and I’d move it over again.
The television was tiny, the cabinets were filled with more mugs than could ever be used, the countertops were never clean for longer then five hours, and at least fifty plastic grocery store bags were stuffed under the kitchen sink at all times. The key rack to the left of the front door only held one set of keys, always on the hook farthest to the right. The coat closet held our winter jackets, a sewing machine, and every other bulky item we didn’t know what to do with.
I walked figure-eight laps around the dining room table and the living room coffee table while talking to my grandparents several states away.
I packed suitcases for Haiti and for Israel. I recovered from surgery, barely moving from the couch for three full days. I painted ornaments at the table when my artwork was stolen and mass produced, wrapped Christmas presents on the floor with Meredith Andrews playing in the background, woke up to a winter wonderland outside my bedroom window and arranged flowers in a vase because I decided to take the dare.
For almost four years, I called it home. It held possibilities and more unknowns than I knew possible. The walls heard muffled, frustrated screams into pillows, howling laughter, questions raised and endless hours of Netflix. The couches held friends and family and too many late night conversations under the lamplight when we should have been fast asleep. The doorframe had scuff marks from all the moving boxes and furniture, in and out, in and out, as five other women settled in or packed up. The dining room table was never without crumbs no matter how many times I wiped it down and we waited until we were planning to move (the first time – ha) before we hung up artwork with push-pins and washi tape.
I can still feel the nervous newness and excitement of possibility while eating my first meal there, a beach towel spread out on the living room floor with a Chick-fil-A picnic, no furniture and bare walls but so much hope.
Four months ago, I stood at the kitchen counter and remembered that simple dinner in an empty space. The walls were bare again, all the furniture moved out, the carpet lined with the tell-tale marks of being freshly vacuumed. There was nothing to see, every box in another apartment, one last light switch to flip as I walked out the door and turned the key for the last time.
But I stood there for a minute, in the middle of the emptiness, and I saw so much.
Tears that turned to laughter. Laughter that led to tears. Smoke. Flames. “It’s cancer”… twice. 2am chats and one dozen movie marathons. Losing my best friend. A book written. A book released. Difficult goodbyes and hopeful hellos. Dozens of night terrors. One hundred songs sung into the night. Grief and deep loss. Courage to keep on hoping. A totaled car. Learning to rest. Comfortable silence. Reading parties. Dessert nights. Redemption. Bible study gatherings. Christmas music in May.
All the little moments that make up a life, all the ordinary days stringing together, crazy surprises I couldn’t have anticipated and heartbreaking moments I never would have chosen… all of it, right there.
I never meant to stay that long. I couldn’t see the future of course, but if you would have asked me how long I’d call apartment 828 home, I never would have guessed nearly four years. That was never the dream. I also wouldn’t have guessed that I’d leave 828 only to end up where I am now, because this wasn’t the dream either.
But you know what?
It is good.
One of the first posts I wrote within those walls is this one: When Life Doesn’t Look Like What You Imagined
It was written from a little bit of a different perspective, just a few weeks after graduation, but I still mean today the words I wrote then:
I’m actually living my dream – it just looks a little different than I imagined. This page has me whispering “What do You have for me here? This is not a mistake. This is not a misstep. This was the plan all along. My hands are open… let my story read back one day that even yet, I chose to choose Jesus above everything.”
Taken the day I signed the lease and then after we moved out… both blurry, a whole lot of life in between the two, but the reminder of hope stayed the same.
Four months ago I turned the key and locked the door, glancing up at the numbers that have felt like a promise since Day One.
I can’t begin to count how many times I walked through that doorway after a terribly long day or a difficult conversation, only to see 828 and smile.
There’s no telling how many days I left the apartment feeling like I was carrying the weight of so many unknowns on my shoulders, so many questions in my hands, only to pull the door shut on my way out and see the reminder staring me back in the face.
Eight twenty eight.
It was there every day, and just in case I thought it might not follow me into the next chapter…
I couldn’t fall asleep on our last day there, so just before three a.m. I opened the YouVersion Bible app to read the devotion and Scripture for the day. Lo and behold:
All things work for good, because He is good and He is working in all things.
Everything is unpacked at the new apartment now, but there’s one specific piece of artwork I designed that is now added to the mix. I bet you’ll never guess what it says.
I’d love for the words of Romans 8:28 to be on your wall, too. You can click HERE and the print will open in a new tab for you to download to your computer. Additional prints and freebies can be found on this page.
The print is for personal-use-only and is not to be sold or offered elsewhere.