Feathers from My Nest
A Mother's Reflections
By Beth Moore
Broadman & Holman Publishers Wood, Brick, and Mortar
Copyright © 2001 Beth Moore.
All rights reserved.
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"Do you have a normal home just like anybody else?" The question caught me off guard. My first thought was of how few "anybody else's" I know who have the illusive "normal home." Does a normal house count? Now, that I've got. Just a regular, family-raising enclosure with no few pets in the yard. A little wood, a little brick, a little mortar, and a lot of fur. Same house we've had for seventeen years and most of the same pets. Yes, I'd say the Moores qualify for a normal house, but it's the home part that might stick an ab onto the front of that aggravating N word. Let's be realistic. If the experts on Christian family dynamics are looking for "normal," they might want to skip the Moore home.
Normal? Not particularly. Functional? Uh, what does that mean? It sounds more like an appliance to me. My dishwasher was functional, but it still broke after seven measly years. My children, who are certainly "fun," if not the poster children for "functional," are still kicking ... and sometimes even screaming. No, I'm not sure we're particularly normal or perfectly functional, bur happy? Ah, yes. At least we were this morning. We've got alot of daylight yet for all that to change. Anyway, if we're not happy, please don't tell us. We're doing just fine thinking that we are.
Maybe we have a skewed idea of what happy is, but something is working for us. All four of us possess salvation in Christ alone and will spend eternity together in heaven. We practice mutual respect. I might add that practice has yet to make perfect. We laugh our heads off. And gladly at the other person's expense. We agree on some things. Disagree on plenty of others. And, right or wrong, feel some measure of freedom to express it. Did I mention passionatety? On top of all that, none of us spent last weekend in jail, but even if one of us had, I suppose we would make it through that too.
Maybe that's the key phrase. Making it. I don't know how you feel about those two words, but I happen to think they're huge. Since the first day my children went to Mother's Day Out, I dreaded the proverbial empty nest like a terminal disease. I literally collapsed on the mailbox when the school bus had the gall to kidnap my kindergartners. Honestly, I worried about myself. I thought, If you're acting this way now, what in the world are you going to do when they go to college? Sure enough, that day came way too soon, but I did not sink into despair. Oh, I cried all right. But that first quiet morning when I had no children to awaken for school, I felt some things I didn't expect. Like gratitude. Overwhelming gratitude. I sat before God with tears streaming down my cheeks and three words fell unexpectedly from my lips over and over:
We made it. And not just by the skin of our teeth. I might as well confess that I'm not much of a martyr. Even when I sacrifice something for Christ, I go running to the throne as fast as I can to gain all the more of Him. Somehow, I have to hope there's more to life than simply surviving misery and just barely making it through life.
I realized that first morning in my empty nest that we didn't just survive. We made it. Our children loaded up their cars for college and pulled out of a driveway made of concrete solidified by time. Our girls left a home made of more than wood, brick, and mortar. Oddly, we never even realized how solid it was until years of harsh weather were unable to destroy it. No few times life had come to huff and puff and blow our house down. Keith and I took turns holding up walls depending upon who had the strength that season. At times I feared we were the four little pigs (some bigger than others) in a house made of straw, but time proved otherwise. You can be sure that the reason we made it wasn't because we held up the walls but because, to do so, we had to stand squarely upon the foundation beneath our feet. A certain Rock.
The first morning I awakened to a house with no children, my home was quiet, but to my surprise it wasn't empty. Suddenly it felt full. Full of memories. Full of anticipation. Full of a love that can somehow go with them to college and beyond yet stay back home with us. A love that has a name. Jesus. I knew we had made it because of Him. My heart poured forth like a busted pipe saturating every room and soaking the carpet with gratitude. I glanced at an old picture on the wall that Keith and I had received as a wedding gift. It was hanging on the dark paneling of our first little dwelling when we came home from our honeymoon. The picture has moved from place to place with us and only grows more conspicuous. While all the surrounding furnishings change, the orange and brown paint on this picture reflects the same 1970s style that marked the groomsmen's tuxes at our wedding. Let's see if I can say this nicely: It's just plain ugly. The words on the picture, however, are pricelesstimeless. "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it" (Ps. 127:1 KJV).
That picture has hung on the wall through every fight, every struggle, and every battle for control we've ever experienced. Sometimes it hung lopsided because someone slammed a door, but it always hung in there. It was nailed to the wall when everything else was shaking. I find it so peculiarand so like Godthat our remedy was right there all along, speaking truth over us and calling out to us in a quiet but powerful inflection. Its words were the still, small voice in the midst of the rolling thunder. Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it. Perhaps you may be as relieved as I am that the Hebrew word for build in this verse also means "repair." At times ours was a home in desperate need of repair because ours were hearts in desperate need of repair. The process has been painful, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. God could have performed an instant miracle of healing upon our hearts and our home, but I hate to think what we would have missed. We've been right there with Him, holding the shingles in place while God nailed them down. Holding the sloshing paint bucket while God slapped a new coat on the walls. We haven't missed a thing. Neither has the picture. It has hung there long enough to see not only the struggles but to witness the change, hear the laughter, and feel the warmth of the sunshine pouring through the opened windows. The chill is gone.
That we've made it several decades doesn't guarantee we'll make it several more, but we've still got all the tools for rebuilding out in the toolshed. And we certainly know whom to contract for the labor. After all, He's a carpenter by trade. We know how to make it if we're willing: start handing Him the pieces. If we don't, it will be a lack of obedience, not a lack of knowledge. To us, making it means that we each cast our votes in favor of family ... even when we vote for different things in life. We love and confess our love to one another almost daily. We don't just let love and mutual concern develop naturally. I've learned that the things that develop "naturally" are usually the things of the human nature, not the Holy Spirit's. We've worked hard at "family." We've had to. We had so many strikes against us that the umpire was practically yelling "Out!" before we stepped up to bat.
One of my deepest desires in putting these thoughts on paper is to encourage you in your own family journey. Beloved, with the intervention of God and a lot of cooperation, unstable families can become stable. Emotionally dangerous homes can become safe houses of gentler candor. Homes shattered by loss can echo once again with laughter. Peace can replace chaos ... but you must promise not to confuse peace with quiet. The goal is not building a monastery. Remember, God's peace is like a river, not a pond. In other words, a sense of health and well-being, both of which are expressions of the Hebrew shalom, can permeate our homes even when we're in white-water rapids.
God can change the entire dynamics of a household. He really can make an unhealthy family healthy. I know because His Word says it's true. I know because He's done it for us. Centuries of generational bondage can be broken and descendants blessed because of one generation's willingness to work hard with God to change. Those who welcome the healing work of God can "rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated" (Isa. 61:4). Keith and I brought enough accumulated baggage into our house to crack the foundation ... except that inch by inch the foundation became Christ. And He's simply uncrackable. You don't have the one family God can't transform. And, no, not every person in the household has to be willing and cooperative for change to begin. I will ask you this: Are you?
Remodeling a home often begins with just one who is willing to pray, believe God, persevere, and be personally remodeled. Don't start trying to rebuild your whole family. Life's far too short to "labor in vain." Just allow God to rebuild you. Thankfully, health can be as contagious as sickness. Slowly you will begin to see the contagious effect of God's healing work. Perhaps you're thinking, My marriage has already ended in divorce. It's too late for my family to make it.
Beloved, do you still have family? Then it's not too late to start developing into a strong one. Not all members of each household have to be present for the remaining members to make it. I have a missing person too. A boy we raised for seven years. The son of my heart. Our household could have toppled to the ground over the changeall the complicated emotions and regrets involved. But what a tragedy it would be to sacrifice what remains on the altar of what is missing. Search your house for what is presenteven if it's the solitary person in the mirror. Single, married, divorced, widowed, orphaned all of us are invited to relocate from the shifting sand and rebuild upon the Rock. No better time than before the next flood. In His account of the wise and foolish builders in Luke 6, Christ didn't imply the possibility of a flood but the inevitability. Rains will come, the waters will rise, and life's currents will pound furiously against our homes. Count on it. But there's one thing you can count on more than an inevitable flood. The Rock. "Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal" (Isa. 26:4). "No, there is no other Rock; I know not one" (Isa. 44:8b).
Excerpted from Feathers from My Nest by Beth Moore. Copyright © 2001 by Beth Moore. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.