Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Spaces We Save

The season of Advent challenged me to make room for the Savior. Ironically I once again found myself spending much of that season doing quite the opposite, filling every nook, cranny and open space inside and out of my home with something festive. Preferably something glimmering with Christmas lights precisely synchronized on an intricate network of timers and extension cords. Truth be told with a tree crammed full of musical ornaments, the nightly lighting event can be rather jarring. The overall effect, however, is festive and homey and I look forward to enjoying it each year.

In the aftermath of the holiday season, the abundance of decorations began to feel weighty and imposing. Only then did the true desire to make room begin to motivate me to find a space that is clutter free and peaceful. So as I enter into the season of ordinary time I find myself reaching back in search of a space that is safe and peaceful with plenty of room for my faith to expand, or at least to discover a clutter free end table to rest it on. As I reach back along the path certain spaces come to mind, one of the dearest ones is my Aunt Martha’s house.

Aunt Martha’s house sat adjacent to the town square in a Midwestern town of about 11,000 people. It’s not her house anymore, legally anyway. But to me it always will be. It took Uncle Chris along time to convince Aunt Martha to sell the house and move five miles “out to the farm”. It also took gutting the farm house and remodeling its interior to an almost exact reproduction of the house in town. The tendency to fill nooks and crannies must be genetic. Aunt Martha, to appease her new found banishment to the countryside, dedicated the next two years to the pursuit of constant eBay purchases, until she’d bought out every piece of red Depression glass available online and filled every nook and cranny of the new, expanded version of her home. That was okay with Uncle Chris. He had worked long hours as a physician as long as I could remember, and I guess he figured if few crates of red glass would make the transition easier, than so be it.

Long before eBay and moving out to the farm, all the foundations of what will long live in my heart as “Aunt Martha’s House” were firmly laid. No matter where it was, or what color Depression glass filled its many antique cabinets, her house would always be her house. It was Aunt Martha’s house when I was a little girl. We would make ice cream in the back yard, and play with my cousin’s toys in the basement. The house was over one hundred years old, with great wood floors and narrow hallways and staircases; a perfect place for a city kid’s imagination to run wild.

It was Aunt Martha’s house when I was five and my Dad, who was her only sibling, left for what seemed like forever and came home with a new wife, a new baby and a new “home” where I could visit him. It was Aunt Martha’s house the next year when we sat at her kitchen table eating toast with homemade peach jam and she explained to me that she would always, always be my Aunt, no matter what.

It was Aunt Martha’s house when I was 15 and my cousin, her oldest daughter got married. My Dad drove the three of us down to the wedding, my brothers and I. He rented a convertible and we laughed as he backed around the block, honking the horn, which made quite an impression on the neighbors. Folks don’t back around the block much in Independence, Kansas.

It was Aunt Martha’s house after my older brother died when I was in college, and my already fragmented, grief stricken family began to dissolve in the wake of the loss. Just knowing it was still there when my immediate family was in such a state of transition gave me a sense of stability and permanence.

It was Aunt Martha’s house when her family room floor was covered with Havilland China and silver serving pieces, all treasures to pass on to me to celebrate my wedding. Each piece bearing a hand written note, reminding me of my heritage and that no matter what happens, family endures.

It was Aunt Martha’s house when I brought my children to make ice cream in the back yard and we drove just outside town to see the new K Mart, which at first opening was a pretty big deal. Right up there with the time Martha’s brother backed all the way around the block honking the horn in that convertible.

Aunt Martha’s house remains a space that I save. Through all the loss and transitions in my life, the space she created for me there always welcomed me in with open arms. It is a space that is safe and a space that represents for me the unconditional, unwavering love of God. Long before I attended a church or opened a bible, an understanding of God was forming from the love I received there. As I make room in my home during this season ordinary time; free of bells and well synchronized lights, I hope to welcome my family and friends in with the same unyielding joy that Aunt Martha always welcomed me, so that someday my home will be a space that they save.

What are the spaces you save? The spaces that welcomed you, where you experienced the love of God?

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