…We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame… Romans 5:3,4
We just returned from our annual summer kick-off road trip from Portland to Acton, California. We spent two days driving down, spent seven full days with our family, and then took two more days to drive home. For the last three years we’ve skipped town the week after the kids get out of school because you can never, ever count on Portland weather til after July 4th… and, so, we’ve learned: no reason to sit around wasting the first couple weeks of summer in June gloom!
While we typically journey the I5 for ease, this time we took the ‘scenic’ route and headed down the 101. We made a journey through the Redwoods – a journey my man and I last made when we were 21 and just out of college. Back then, it was just us – holding hands, hiking through the massive trees, making stops along the way to picnic and savor ‘dating’ in the ancients. This time, however, we saw it through our babies eyes… eyes that said ‘wow’, and then about 15 minutes into it said, “now how much longer to grandma’s house?”
We spent the night not too far from the Redwoods and the next morning continued down the 101 to the 5 – a route that took us smack dab through my childhood hometown of San Leandro, California. San Leandro was home for me from when I was about 3 ’til I was 8. It’s where my dad had his gyms; it’s where I tap danced; it’s where I had a best friend Beth; it’s where a neighborhood boy took me home on his bicycle handlebars and hit a bump so hard I went flying and scraped off the entire side of my face; it’s where I picked raw sunflower seeds out of the huge sunflowers that hung over the fence two doors down. And, since I hadn’t seen the house since we left over 33 years ago, I knew I couldn’t drive through without going back home.
I had no clue what our old address was, so I called my dad. “It’s on Corvallis St,” he said. “I don’t remember the number, but for some reason 356 sticks out in my mind. I think it must be 356.” I mapped it – we were less than 5 miles away.
As we routed to Corvallis street, I didn’t recognize a thing. I drove slowly with hopes something would jog a memory, but even as we drove down Corvallis, nothing seemed familiar. I remember a tree-lined street, yet the street was very sparse on trees. I remember a quaint little road, but Corvallis had a double yellow line down the middle and was obviously a main thoroughfare. I remember kids playing in fronts of houses and swings on trees and kids on bikes, but I didn’t see one child – just aging folks on slow missions. I started to think maybe my dad had it wrong… but then I saw it. I slowed – and then I stopped right across the street to take it in and make sure. The skin on my arms stood up and announced loud and clear I was officially on the sacred ground of my childhood.
It was so much smaller than I remember… much, much smaller. I didn’t remember it sat on a corner, either. The fence was gone – the big fence that held us kids and all our problems hidden from the world. The big tree was gone – the tree that sat just beside our front door where I’d swing for hours as my nana would cook our meals on her outside wood burning stove. It was not everything I remembered, but yet my heart knew the instant I saw it that I was home.
My eyes welled with tears and I fought the urge to weep. “That’s it. That’s my house,” I said through my tears. “That’s it…” I just sat there, window down, hoping the little man of the house painting the front concrete wall wouldn’t turn and notice me. I didn’t want to be noticed.
Being there instantly overwhelmed me. I felt a rush of anguish from the pets my young heart loved and lost there: two dogs we put down because of a rare skin disorder, a kitten that died in my lap on our front porch, a rabbit that my dogs got to and played to death, and numerous hamsters to who knows what. I could see my Holly Hobby bedspread on my hand-me-down antique brass bed; my plastic yellow record player that sang to me when yelling filled our halls; nights in front of the TV watching Hardy Boys (and my heartthrob Shawn Cassidy); and, I could see my nana – my rock. (Oh, how I miss that old lady.) I felt the pain of being told on my 6th birthday, “If you’re always this bossy you’ll never have friends“; my mind’s eye saw my parent’s fights and struggles in those early years, and the ackwardness and angst I felt in that home.
Seeing my home created an emotional whirlpool and I simply couldn’t hold back the tears. “Are you okay, mommy?” my little guy asked as he reached his little hand over my seat and touched my neck.
“Yes, honey, I’m okay.”
As I sat there staring at the new life that corner was obviously living, my tears fell, not because of hard memories (although there were many), but because of the realization of the new life I live today. I cried not because I hurt from remembering – I cried because, by the grace of God and nothing else, the little girl who lived there made it out. I cried because, by the grace of God and nothing else, my babies have a better life than I did. I cried because, by the grace of God and nothing else…
He has given BEAUTY for the ashes of my childhood
He has given STRENGTH for the fear of my childhood
He has given JOY for the mourning I once felt
He has filled my life with PRAISE instead of the despair I was destined for.
While I don’t revel in the trials of my 41 years, remembering where I’ve come from (and what I should have and could have been had my Father not saved me) humbles me and fills me with gratitude and thankfulness. That’s why I cried… because by remembering where I’ve come from, I am overwhelmed by the kindness, grace, mercy and love of my great big God.
Life will never be easy or perfect – even though Facebook wants us to think it is and should be. No, there are struggles, and misunderstandings; we hurt people, and people hurt us – often unintentionally; and, every single one of us comes from a past with disappointments, failures, and things we wish we could just wipe away. No matter where we’ve been, however, every day is a new day… a new day to love, to forgive, to let go, to appreciate.
Every day is a new day to choose joy and find HOPE in this Great Story we are part of… every new day is a new day to be thankful.