There are small miracles taking place right outside my window and several under my roof. Jenna’s house is being torn down and rebuilt. Of course, it’s Jenna’s and Chris’s house, and if you ask my two-year-old nephew, Ronen, it’s most definitely his house. But, to my mind, it’s Jenna’s house, she’s the one who will live there, raising her babies, trying to live her life with purpose and intention; of course, each family member will support the household in their way, but her spirit will be its gravitational center.
When they began to plan the house, Dad took over and with his brother, Uncle Ralph, they overdesigned it, then reeled their dreams in, they did this in several iterations. Every now and again, Jenna gets phone calls, and regardless of her current circumstance, she must be ready to supply opinions about outlet locations, which sink is better, how does she feel about shiplap? Where do you want it? We have some leftover from a job and we need to figure out if we have enough square footage, depending on where you want it. So where do you want it? If you do want it. Do you want it? She looks down at her growing belly, at the whiny toddler clinging between her legs and heaves a sigh and tries to answer.
They took the house down to the foundation in some places, walls came crashing down and out, chips of splintered tile became compacted into the hard earth as the machinery rolled over it again and again, the boys spend hours digging this up as treasure. The men leveled the foundation, got rid of the mold, for a while, only the front doorway stood up, with a partial brick sidewall, floor joists completely exposed. We walked through the house, or what was left of it then, like dancers up on tip toes, taking strides from beam to beam.
“It takes imagination,” I said to Jen, “to see the house it will become. Right now, it looks like a natural disaster hit just right here, nowhere else on the street.”
The light of the setting sun lengthened through the stand of trees in the small glen where we live. The forest glowed brilliant gold and a soft breeze shook the leaves on their branches, making them sing.
“There’s a big row of glass windows right here,” she pointed out the back. “And that’s my view. I can see what it’ll be like.”
She’s taking a lot on faith these days. As the framers and her father and husband and brothers work on building the structure of her house, so inside, her body builds and strengthens, frames the life of her unborn daughter, Zelda. My role in this is simple: provide food and shelter.
I watch Jenna watching the men build her house. Sometimes our children swarm around her, chattering. Sometimes, it’s just her, watching the walls going up, watching the roof going on, watching until the work stops when the stars come out. For her, it’s a season of waiting, of expectant anticipation. When will the baby come? When will the house be done? There isn’t much for her to do but wait, expect, watch this new life coming for her, weeks, months away. She can only stand, her hands on her hips, now and again on her belly, and watch, imagine how the late afternoon light will pour into her kitchen, her living room.
As she waits her commonplace miracles: home, family, slanting autumn light in a quiet moment, I see the state of my heart, my life, in her waiting.
C. S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity, writes:
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
I hear the sounds of hammering, the constant presence of loud, rhythmic knocks ringing out through the hollow where I live, sometimes, I feel this in my heart too, when God is at work, and isn't He ever? I learn, by watching Jenna, that what I must do when God is at work is wait. Wait with ceaseless endurance, wait with breathless anticipation, wait for the time to come, whenever it does, for the blossoming, the flourishing, the finishing, which is never really an end, but a beginning, a continuation. It's a beautiful balance beam of letting go and holding fast, imagining the way light will fall, how shadows will move across the floor (which one do you like again, Jenna?) as the days grow old and fade into night. I think this waiting, the frenzied work, seen and invisible, painful and meaningful, is very simply called living. And what a miracle it is.