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Seed, Space, Sky!

I stood by my kitchen window, watching the giant steel mouth bite through the roof of the house next door, a tape measure still clasped in my hand from my last activity.  I realized I may never again watch a house outside my kitchen window being eaten like a lunch of roadkill, so I stopped what I was doing and leaned against the sink, as the massive jaws closed, ripped, and opened again.

I think the house has been abandoned ever since I moved to Elkhart four and a half years ago.  In the last few years though, it grew uglier and uglier.  Window glass cracked.  Plywood appeared beside the ugly green siding.

A “For Sale” sign appeared on the house, promising ridiculously low payments.  But when I called the number, the total purchase price was an exorbitant number for the situation.

Once when we were standing in the back of the house, I looked up at the green house, to see a cat sunning itself on the window sill of a broken upstairs window.  I have no doubt that raccoons lived there as well, possibly building nests in the bedrooms and using the kitchen for late night parties.

It must have been about last spring that a few shady characters showed up one day and began going in and out of the house.  Soon the poster board sign appeared: with a black marker, someone had written “No trespassing”.

I had been wishing the house would be taken down, so it was disappointing to think someone had bought it, and they didn’t exactly look like neighbors who would move in with a toddler bed and cookie sheets, or for that matter, even linen.

But soon it seemed to be abandoned again.  Perhaps it would be taken down.

One summer week, an overpowering odor of death hit my front porch.  I finally determined it was coming from the house next door.  I left (probably to see Marnell, I can’t remember), and when I returned at 10pm, the smell was still so strong that I called the police on the non-emergency number.  I told them about the smell, the appearance of the house, and the shady characters, and they agreed that they should pay the house a visit.  They arrived in minutes, and told me to return to my porch, while they forced entry, calling out “Police!”  Soon they reappeared.

“Dead cat in the basement!”

Then, to my relief, a demolition order appeared in the window sometime this fall.  Utilities personnel arrived and spray painted the location of gas and electric lines, and I thought, “Great!  It’s going to be gone before winter!”

But no.

Instead, about once a month it seemed, the utilities people came back and repainted their encryptions on the sidewalk or on top of the snow. Each time I thought, “Now!”

The house stayed.

The asbestos crew arrived.  I can’t remember if it was right before our wedding or after.  They fenced the house with yellow tape and cleaned out all the harmful chemicals inside.  I’ve lived in “the hole” long enough to know the routine a bit, and this time I was sure the house would soon be gone.

But the house stayed.

We got a notice on our front door that the house would be taken down by December 30.

Finally, I thought, we are getting rid of this eyesore.  But the New Year passed, and the ugly house stayed.

Then one morning I was almost done washing dishes when I happened to glance out my kitchen window and I think I may have actually jumped in surprise.

A large piece of yellow machinery was sitting behind the house next door, nearly under my nose.  The ugly outbuildings and fences that had been in the back were already gone, apparently taken away while I had been at work the day before.  We arrived home in the dark, and never noticed that the process had begun.  I began working around the house, and soon I heard noises, which led me to my kitchen window, tape measure still in hand.

The jaws closed again, ripping into the the kitchen. I caught a glimpse of spindle trim work neatly lining the tops of the kitchen cabinets. Snow and dust mingled in a cloud around the insides I had never seen, like the plundered vital organs of an animal. I saw patches of brightly colored walls, and a piece of checkerboard that looked like linoleum.

The operator was not on his first day. Less than ten feet from where I stood, his jaws chewed the outside walls then released their burden into the center. The entire house shook as the jaws worried the skeleton. Rumbling and ripping followed me through my house even after I left the window.

Have you ever had something ugly in your heart or life? Something you hoped would go, thought might go, and then despaired would always be there? I’ve had sections of my heart uglier than the raccoon-infested house giving asylum to dead cats.

I think often God wants us to grapple with things, to learn by waiting, to struggle well.  My battle with over-eating has been a little like that.  There were times I was sure the struggle would finally be done, but then I wake up and the ugliness is still there. I think it is perfectly possible that God could heal me from those temptations in a moment, but I think it’s also possible that he wants me to continue to struggle with it as a reminder of my fallibility and reliance on him.  Maybe God needs us to understand how weak we are so we can fully appreciate His effortless power.

But. There are times…

There are days when God reaches into our lives, just like this excavator reached into our neighborhood.  It’s as if God says, “That’s it. You will never struggle with this again. It’s going, it’s going, it’s gone.”

I know, because it has happened to me.  Once that finger of God touches something we thought was impossible to erase, we are never the same.  When Satan comes at us again, we can say, “Yes, I’m weak, thank you very much, but do you happen to remember what God did in my life that time?  Do you remember that death-smelling house on that street in my heart? It’s gone. If He can do that, why would I listen to you?”

The house fell into the basement, and metal was picked out of the rubble and thrown on a pile.  When the back hoe was done, a bulldozer pushed fresh dirt over the jagged hole.  All that remains of the house are a few cement steps leading up from the sidewalk to an empty lot.

He even saved my tree! Technically I doubt it’s mine, but I’m so glad he left it.

Finally, the operator of the machinery downsized to a small green tool filled with grass seed. He walked back and forth across the smooth lot, turning the handle to spread seed evenly over the new dirt.

Seed.  Space.  Light!

“The bathroom!” I told Marnell.  “It’s so bright!”

From my kitchen window, where before I could see only bleak green siding, I can now see sky and trees.  I can see both the alley behind our house and Brady Street as it makes its turn right before our house. We now need to find a curtain for our stairway window. The next house is a place where people live and cook dinner and water their flowers.

Our Operator is like that. He brings back sky. He plants grass. Light, seed, space, hope, where once was death and destruction.  Praise God!!

16 Responses to Seed, Space, Sky!

  1. Kelsie January 20, 2018 at 6:36 pm #

    This was an encouragement. Can’t wait to see the difference in/around your house for myself!

    • 500Admin January 20, 2018 at 6:48 pm #

      Come visit! 🙂

  2. Sherri January 20, 2018 at 7:05 pm #

    This was a beautifully written piece!! Thanks!!

    • 500Admin January 20, 2018 at 7:17 pm #

      Thanks to our Operator. I had some ideas about what to write but they were tangled and I was feeling stressed. I asked him what I should write and this is what he gave me.

  3. Kerra January 20, 2018 at 8:14 pm #

    Wow! That’s amazing! Glad you can see out your kitchen window now that you’re a dish-washing housewife. 😄 (Not saying you didn’t wash dishes before!)
    And I liked the analogy.

    • 500Admin January 20, 2018 at 9:34 pm #

      Ha! I am washing more dishes than I had been.

  4. Anonymous January 20, 2018 at 9:37 pm #

    So should I miss this house? Good read Katrina. Like Kerra said, great analogy!

    • 500Admin January 20, 2018 at 9:38 pm #

      See my comment above… what God gave me when I finally went to him for help!

  5. Rachel January 21, 2018 at 10:08 am #

    Thank God that He cares about us weak humans more than we can imagine! And that He so patiently works with us…
    N thank you for the blog posts n also the Christmas/New Years card that arrived in our mailbox!

    • 500Admin January 21, 2018 at 10:17 am #

      You’re welcome!

  6. Laura Hawbaker January 21, 2018 at 4:06 pm #

    New reader here. Love your writing style. As a wife of a home builder I have a strange fascination wiith demolition. Knowing how long it takes to build a house, I am amazed how quickly all that work can be destroyed. Always makes me wonder about the people who lived there in the past. Who made that spindle trim you saw? Who filled those cabinets? Surely someone before the cats and coons took over! Keep writing!

    • 500Admin January 21, 2018 at 6:36 pm #

      Thanks Laura! I also had some thoughts down that avenue as well.

  7. Angie January 22, 2018 at 9:38 am #

    Oh wow… good blog, Katrina! I did find myself being a little bit nostalgic. I had a lovely Mexican meal in that house once, learned Spanish in the living room, built relationships with the former tenants.
    Only the children could speak English. We were strangers who showed up once a week to play games with neighborhood kids, teach them Bible lessons, and just love on kids in “the hole”, but the parents of the children living in this now-demolished house, welcomed us with open arms. Dad could understand a little English, but mom couldn’t understand anything. We communicated through the children. Eventually, we traded words… us learning Spanish and mom learning English. And, later, they invited a bunch of us into their home for a lovely Mexican meal. Good memories of times gone by.
    Makes me wonder… where is the family now? How are their souls? I pray the seeds we planted took up space in their hearts, and they have allowed the light of Jesus to shine brightly in their hearts… as the light now pours into your bathroom window.
    So glad you have a little more space next to you… nothing quite like more natural light in the home and more “space” around you!
    Love you friend!!!

    • 500Admin January 22, 2018 at 10:34 am #

      Yes, your Dad just told us about that meal! And they are still our neighbors, in the house on the other side!

  8. Karli January 22, 2018 at 3:37 pm #

    What a satisfying story. I’m a little OCD or maybe just a control freak but there is something so satisfying about getting rid of something old, ugly, and neglected. That smooth dirt in the last picture looks so good!

    • 500Admin January 22, 2018 at 4:05 pm #

      Thanks for sharing your OCD! Perhaps we’re all a little OCD 🙂

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