Oh you guys, I can’t even begin to tell you how much your reactions to our story of buying our first ever house meant to me this week.

I cherish each of your beautiful comments and emails and I’m still working my way through all of them because I want to respond to each one with tears and gratitude and room on the sofa to chat over tea. Thank you, thank you friends for multiplying our joy by joining into it with us. 

But most precious to me were the comments and notes from fellow lifetime renters. Oh dear friends, I feel your ache and I carry you in my heart. I do.

And I wanted to share this story with you. One I wrote more than three years ago now when I didn’t even have the hope of anything other than the tiny rental house we lived in with three kids, the dog, a hamster and the wildest, most embarrassing back yard ever.

I so hope it encourages you in your journey. Our God is new mercies every morning and we can trust Him with our dreams. We can.

Here is what I wrote three years ago when the idea of owning a home was buried in a deep hole of our own debt and hopelessness and all the shame that can go with those feelings. Because, no matter how we feel:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

There are dandelions in our back yard. A ripe, fluffy crop.

We didn’t intend to farm them. But we didn’t intend to do anything about removing them either. We figured come summer they’d be some other family’s problem.

It’s been nearly five years, one hamster, a new baby girl, and the puppy called Wolfie since we moved into this rental house with the faux bricks that keep falling off the kitchen walls.

Pete had come out for that new job and had only four weeks to find his family somewhere to live. He chose a white, rental house in Northern Virginia because it had a back yard and was a close commute into the city. A house that felt small already when there were still only two kids. On the first night between the stacks of boxes we’d told each other it would only be for one year.

We’ve kept telling ourselves that every June. Just one more year and then we’ll be able to move.

I really still believed it two years ago.

Last year I laughed and then I cried.

This year I watched my new daughter waddle from dandelion to dandelion and waited for the panic to come with the impending “why we still won’t be moving to a bigger space” conversation.

She walks and is starting to run now. Micah says, “Zoe walks fast, she doesn’t run.” I watch her waddle her way through a constellation of yellow. She bends down nose-to-nose with this harvest we didn’t plan and grins.

The puppy is right beside her.

We didn’t plan to put down roots here. We didn’t plan to paint or garden or change the sixties light fixtures. We didn’t plan to unpack those three boxes that are still stacked against the utility room wall. We planned to move on to something bigger and better.

And when that didn’t happen I spent years letting this small house stunt my hospitality and eat away at my contentment. I believed that large expanses of hardwood floor and flowerbeds would yield a sense of home, of having arrived, of being ready to call ourselves grown ups and embrace our community.

Instead, each June the dandelions bloom and we don’t move.

But this year I discover to my surprise that the house has started growing.

Where there were only three bedrooms I noticed this morning that there are eight long, strong arms and legs of brothers who climb that bunk bed as much as they sleep in it. Two boys who grew through ages three, four, five, six and one of them teetering on seven still share bold declarations of love for their mother, their mattresses, their light sabers.

At nine o’clock every night our world exhales as the bathtub rings dirt and my sons whisper prayers in voices that bear no resemblance to a whisper.

This house is growing.

I know because the room that I hated for its awkward brown paneling and windowless air cradles the daughter we didn’t expect. A bosom of a room it has grown into a beauty. I would write this in between, non-room love letters if I could. I write them anyway with my bare feet at 2am – nightly – as I dance my girl back to sleep. The rock and roll of mothers the world over has tattooed my love for this room into the carpet.

At the sink the kitchen comforts. It offers glimpses into who the boy I fought so hard to learn to like will become – as he pleads to wash dishes, to chop, to stir, to mix. Even the falling bricks feel more like the sign of growing pains now than anything more offensive. He and I laugh as they come unstuck. And we super glue them back together.

While the dining room table comes apart from pieces Jackson has unscrewed and forgotten to reattach, our family grows tighter. And we eat off those red plates with the big promise,

“I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10.

I am starting to believe it despite the house.

I am starting to believe it because of the house.

So much life spills out of this small house the very walls have stretched to accommodate it. And with them my small heart.

I get down on my knees on a gravel path in an upside down backyard till my lens brushes the delicate bloom that serenades me with summer. I want to see what she sees. Our unexpected life. In all its glorious disarray.

Zoe – Greek for life.

Zoe Grace. Daughter. Teacher. Gift giver.

Life and Grace.

This house. These people. One small dog and a smelly hamster.

I bury them in my heart and walk inside to unpack the last three boxes.