Here's our farmhouse from the back garden. I love the way the bare trees' shadows make patterns on the lawn. Our home was built as a Baptist church in 1887; that's my favorite thing about it, even though I didn't know the history until after we bought it. It had been my romanticized dream since I was in my teens to live in a renovated country church building. Ryan and I used to take long date drives through the countryside back roads, looking at old churches and older barns. We loved Craftsman architecture, and five houses ago we owned a lovely Craftsman bungalow in an urban Portland neighborhood of bungalows, foursquares and infill lofts.
When we decided to leave the city for the college town of Eugene, it seemed the only vintage houses were also crack houses. So we bought a couple of deeply unsatisfying ranchburgers in a row and then a new construction mcmansion with a nice garden and a view of the mall, followed at last by a move to a wonderful Dutch Colonial in small-town Cottage Grove.
The 100-year-old grand dame had a huge yard, an enormous covered back porch, family and living rooms, an office and four bedrooms, not to mention the smallest bathroom possible outside of an RV bathroom, and a south-facing bay window seat that could seat 12. I truly loved that house. It might seem as though in renting half a dozen places, followed by owning five, we've had some wanderlust. Or house lust. But I did believe the Dutch Colonial was our "last house."
So of course it wasn't. Because, on a detour during his commute, Ryan drove past this farmette. The sellers had nailed a "for sale by owner" sign to the picket fence, the woodwork was gleaming, the maple trees created an oasis of cool greenery... it was the quintessential vintage farmhouse in a tiny old-fashioned community. It was within walking distance of school, church, grange, "general store" and more. The horses could stop boarding out and I could stop working real estate. This house, it seemed, dropped from heaven as an answer to our long-ago wishes and prayers.
We made an offer with lots and lots (even more than a Realtor would normally) of contingencies. I didn't want to move. I was happy where we were, the girls' school was unbelievably excellent and friendly, we had too much STUFF to move, etc., etc., etc. I threw out fleeces left and right. I really didn't want to move, but I knew I needed to seek God's will. And of course I liked Ryan's vision of our lives in the country. Even more than that I liked that he had found the house and taken the lead in the decision-making. I loved that he believed he could provide this whole new lifestyle for us, and that he wanted to stretch in that way. I really didn't want to move, but I wanted the things I saw on the other side of the move.
Even in the midst of uncertainty and the lack of selling our beloved Dutch Colonial in town, I declared the first Sisson Year of Peace. Whether it was the declaration or just the fulfillment of God's promise (probably both), I had never felt more peaceful and content anywhere. Possibly we all romanticize our memories a little, but the experience of moving here was exactly as I remember it: fully conscious that we were making a leap of faith, I believed that God would bless our trust in Him. I believed that God would bless Ryan's desire to give me the home life I'd always wanted. I didn't believe that it would take this property to do that, but I knew that we had sought God's will quite exhaustively, and we believed we followed it.
Now, before you think I'm moving again (!), I want to say that (as far as I know) we're staying physically put. However, I have experienced a shift away from that time of profound peace and rest. Even though in this past two years we have experienced a very sad miscarriage, some financial disasters, challenges with vindictive neighbors, the negotiation for and purchase of a business, the girls' first heartbreaks as we realized the difficulty of being "new" in a centuries-old community, to name a few difficulties -- even through all of this, God was amazingly gracious to me. I lived for most of the past two years with a feeling of being shielded. Peace beyond my understanding padded our lives.
I maybe shouldn't blog this. I struggle to put words to the way that I feel, the shift that I recognize but can't name. I know that God is still our Protector and Provider -- I am profoundly grateful for that. I am afraid that the Year of Peace is over, has been for a while now, and I am trying to wrench it back from the jaws of the monster who stole it. The struggle is antithetical to peace. If I could name what the new year is about, I'd be better prepared. Should I proclaim peace again -- would that work? Or should I wait and see. Be still and know... what? That God is God, unchanging and unmoving.
Of course it's normal. I know there's a time for everything, that stasis is boring. Heaven forbid I should get complacent rather than content. But I do miss the peace, and I want it back, in whatever form our lives are taking now.
Oh! And the news for today: Yesterday's meeting was OK. It was contentious, as I feared, but I am happy to report that we came out the other side not only unscathed, but with our heads held high. My hope was that I could say the hard things without being hurtful, and I really feel blessed that I did so. There was even an awesome confirmation afterward! We should not be afraid to continue stepping out in faith. It's just that those steps seem to get bigger and scarier. Of course the same God who can move me physically when I don't really want to move can move my heart to do things I couldn't fathom otherwise.