A Sanctified Refuge

We bought our house in “as is” condition because it’s in the same cul de sac with Cana & Ennie and our grandkids. We were also okay with “as is” because we have been blessed with the will and ability to labor, more than with funds to pay for work already done. Besides we like the idea of renovating a home together, designing spaces according to our preferences and needs.

So far my labor has been sorting through the previous owner’s personal possessions. It’s been heart-wrenching to throw away her children’s baby albums, school records, and family photos from generations past. All her precious keepsakes no longer hold meaning for anyone here. At the estate sale planned for this weekend we will dispose of everything from family heirlooms to, clothes and bedding and a working iron and ironing board.

We found keepsakes telling of a trip to Paris our house’s tenant made when she was young, Wedding photos tell the story of her marriage and the births of a daughter and a son. Years later her husband was part of a thriving country band and she saved all the newspaper clippings and memorabilia from those days. In photo after photo she is beautiful, strong and vivacious. But on Mother’s Day weekend last year she died naked and alone on her back patio.

She divorced once and later remarried the same man. We found letters from him with declarations of his lifelong love for her. She never recovered from his sudden death about 12 years ago. She was addicted to alcohol. Grief sometimes does that to people; even good Christian women with children and grandchildren. She taught at a church school and served as an assistant to a pastor for years. Among her possessions was evidence that she battled repeatedly to overcome her addiction. Sadly, her two adult children were unable to sustain more than a distant relationship with her, a situation worsened by the restrictions of the recent pandemic.

I am convinced that the old woman’s sorrow, her years of isolation, suffering and her tragic death have not “haunted”, but sanctified this place that is to be our new home. She was a child of God and she did not rage or weep in vain.

“For as long as this world lasts, and men live and love and suffer and die in it, the passion of Christ will go on and he will suffer it in the lives of men.”

Caryyll Houselander

Perhaps some would see this view as dangerous; reasoning that if suffering is redemptive, we need not go out of our way to alleviate suffering in this world, but only endure it as best we can. But when we see Christ’s suffering present in each human being we actually have a greater motive to alleviate human suffering.

The redemptive view helps us understand the Gospel where Christ teaches that it’s especially those who are least esteemed, the sick, the beggars, the prisoners, who “stand in” for Christ. He assures us that whatever we do for these, we do for Him.

Doug blessed our house before he returned to Arizona and he’ll bless it more formally in a few months after the remodel is complete. In the meantime, the suffering of a woman I’ve know only through her possessions, our church’s blessing via my deacon husband, and my own tears and prayers sanctify this place.

Yesterday was the eleven month anniversary of Evan’s river accident. I can’t help wondering what his part is in this. I like to think he’s doing his part to sanctify time and space since they no longer limit him.

May our Houston home, even before it’s finished, be a joyful refuge, a shelter for all who need a place of peace and healing and rest.

Those who sow in tears will reap with cries of joy.

Psalm 126:5
The back patio where the previous owner of our house took her last breath.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. As usual, a beautiful perspective from a loving Christian mother. Isn’t it telling how life’s circumstances require us to shed our valued possessions. Most people would discard those possessions without a second thought, Lani in your inimitable way won’t allow that, those “things”, that “stuff” to most people would be a nuisance. With you it’s a gift and your return gift is honoring a life that no one else took the time to value. mc


    1. lanibogart says:

      Your encouragement is a gift to me, Mike. Thank you!


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