In Peggy's House are Many Rooms

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In Peggy's House are Many Rooms

3RD PLACE IN ENSPIREME: PASSION PROJECT’S SHORT STORY CONTEST

In 2003, the population of Union, Oregon rose from 1,926 to 1,928 when, after forty- three years of marriage, Lyle bought Peggy the house of her dreams. The 1,240 square foot, Victorian-style house had been around since before either of them were born, and Peggy knew just from looking at its crisp white paneling, spacious wrap-around porch, and high arching windows that she had finally found the one. If she hadn’t been convinced before, the original claw-foot bathtub, narrow-yet-intricate sloping staircase, and four perfectly sunlit bedrooms confirmed it.

Peggy wasted no time. Even before their boxes had arrived, she was painting each bedroom a different color—deep maroon, mossy green, bright rose, tiffany blue. She was wallpapering the bathrooms and tearing up the downstairs carpet to reveal a century-old, perfectly preserved hardwood floor. The kitchen, which featured an original stained-glass window, was outfitted with new glass cabinet doors and crystal knobs shaped like grape bunches to match.

As soon as the paint had dried, art was hung—mostly Monet, but Peggy placed some of her own work beside, and for most, it was difficult to tell the difference. She framed the windows with layers of sheer and lace curtains—to let the morning in, she explained—and placed antique vanities just-so in every room, knowing precisely where the natural light would make anyone look their best.

She installed a crystal chandelier in the center of the dining room—one that shook with even the softest steps. She brought in Tiffany lamps and placed them in every corner: one next to the high-backed sofa in the living room; one next to the pink velvet chaise lounge in the sitting room; and a smaller one on the writing desk directly beside. Next came the porcelain: Diana of Versailles in front of the sitting room mirror; da Vinci’s David on the fireplace mantle; and a ballerina, her slippers cast in bronze, welcoming newcomers from the entryway’s marble table.

It was nearly perfect. Her glittering, colorful, pristine home was missing only one thing: people to fill it. And because her family, big and beautiful, was spread throughout the world, she took the next best thing—photographs—and set to work. The upstairs hall that connected the maroon, pink, green, and blue bedrooms became a chronological timeline of her family’s history.

On December 24, 2004, the population of Union, Oregon went from 1,928 to 1,943 for two days only, and Lyle and Peggy were happier than they had ever been in their entire lives. Peggy’s table, illumined by the shaking chandelier, was bursting with people—sons and daughters and brothers and sisters and grandchildren. Her family was amazed at the house, amazed by her hard work, and she was amazed by how right it felt—how each room was made to be filled to bursting.

The adults of the house played cards and drank coffee and sat in the living room, laughing and talking and telling their children “it was a grown-up joke” when they didn’t understand Uncle Terry’s punchline. The children of the house ran up and down the stairs, thundering through the narrow hall, chasing and hiding and hiding-and-seeking. There were so many of them that Peggy could hardly keep count, but she loved it that way—loved how her grandchildren poked around corners and popped out of closets and snuck candy from her well- stocked stash of almond Kisses and Werther’s caramels.

After presents had been unwrapped and bellies had been filled, it was time for the picture—just to remember, to be together, Peggy said—and the entire family squished and sat on top of one another and layered and smiled while the camera flashed. Peggy had it printed and framed and added it to the wall, and when she walked past it, long after everyone had left, she could almost hear the thundering feet and the clinking coffee cups and the laughter coming from downstairs.

On July 3, 2005, Peggy’s dream house was once again empty and expectant. Cookies were in the oven, corn on the cob was boiling, and the fridge had been stocked with root beer and Pepsi and Mountain Dew. All day she had vacuumed and dusted and baked and baked, and just as the sun was starting to throw color into the kitchen’s stained-glass window, she heard it: the car’s rumble, the doors opening and closing and opening again. And then her house was full of thundering feet and laughter, and she and Lyle felt once again happier than they had ever felt in their entire lives.

They ate corn on the cob for supper—a proper corn feed, Lyle said—chins dripping with butter, fingers salted and wet. The sun was nearly down but they stayed on the porch—it was finally cooling off—and the adults drank soda and fanned themselves and sat close together while the children ran around and around the yard, chasing grasshoppers and each other. The next day they set off sparklers and whistlers and golden willows and poppers and when it got dark enough and the kids had been up way past their bedtime, they watched the sky fill with fire and light, and Peggy saw the show reflected in the wide eyes of those around her. That night, huddled under a quilt, Peggy insisted, just one picture—keep your eyes open! Just to remember—and everyone squinted and smiled into the dark.

Every family visit, every school picture, every major and minor milestone made its way onto Peggy’s wall. Soon the pictures were hung floor to ceiling, and when Peggy’s grandchildren visited they spent hours admiring them, amazed that their forebearers had not always been old.

They saw their button nose in their Grandpa Lyle’s, who sat tall and handsome on his graduation day, clean shaven with a jawline that none of them had ever seen quite so square. They found their eyes in their Grandma Peggy’s as she laughed, looking up at the sky in her wedding dress. They saw their dimples in their aunt Tami’s as she smiled and held her first baby, their oldest cousin, who was then new to this world. And they saw many people whom they had never met— great people, great-great people, old beloved pets, and even Sea Biscuit the horse—whose picture was framed beside a tidy lock of his tail.

As they moved down the hall, further in time, they saw their dad growing up—a chubby- cheeked baby, to a youngest brother, trying so hard to be as tall as his siblings, to a mullet- sporting high schooler, standing proudly next to his motorcycle, to a brand-new husband standing proudly next to their mom. They saw their parents with teased hair and dark lips—“It was the 80s,” they said, and their children nodded solemnly as if they understood—and they saw themselves growing up, too—each school picture placed right beside the next, as if baby cheeks had disappeared and lost teeth had been replaced in the blink of an eye.

Peggy’s grandchildren came to know her hallway as the “Hall of Fame.” They would count how many pictures had themselves in them—Matthew had seven, Mariah had six, Amber had three, but Kayla had eight because she had been born first and had been in pictures the longest. Matthew was quick to point out that, even though Kayla had eight, their cousins all had more—because they were even older. But it didn’t matter, and Peggy told them this, because there on the wall, everyone was always together, and everyone was always happy.

When Peggy’s house once again felt too big, too quiet, and too pristine, she would frequently wander down her hallway, pausing to smile and remember times when she had been happier than she had ever been in her entire life. There was her bursting family, crowded together around her Thanksgiving table filled with turkey and potatoes and cranberry sauce, and there was her bursting family licking melted ice cream off of their wrists in her backyard, and there was her bursting family standing in snow up to their knees, clasping innertubes and bundled so tightly that you could only see their smiling eyes. She was looking at a picture of her bursting family all crowded together in a hot tub, the water threatening to pour over the sides, steam rising over their heads, when she got the call that her son, Terry, was in the hospital.

It was an aneurism, the doctor explained. Painless and unforeseeable and irreparable. Peggy’s grandchildren, too young to comprehend, felt the gravity of the situation when they realized that Terry’s count of pictures in the Hall of Fame had become permanent, fixed. Peggy never again considered her family to be bursting. She never even considered it to be complete.

Soon, another call—this time, Peggy’s granddaughter, Danielle. She had been in so much pain, they said. We’ll see her again, they said. Kayla, Matthew, Mariah, and Amber realized that their cousin had become another fixed number. They realized that they would never lay in the grass, share soda, or have sleepovers with her again—sleepovers with flashlights and shy conversations about boys and love and the greater mysteries of life. They felt this loss deeply— they felt her age, so close to their own, and they felt how much time they had left to live without her.

With each unspeakable loss, Peggy felt her family continue to deflate. And still the calls continued: Arissa needs surgery, Kayla’s been diagnosed, Mariah’s dropped out of school.

Tami’s out of work, Lorraine’s in the hospital, Phil’s in jail.

The weight of it all was almost too much to bear. Peggy felt it in the way her bones ground together as she slowly walked up her sloping staircase. She felt it in the way her hands and head had started to shake, at first imperceptibly, and then noticeably. She felt it in the way her body was begging for rest. And all at once, her perfect house had become impossibly imperfect. It could never be bright enough, warm enough, loud enough. It could never be full.

Even though there were other moments and other days where Union, Oregon swelled from 1,928 people, Peggy never again insisted on a photograph. She loved her family, and she loved the togetherness—the thundering, the laughing. But she didn’t put any new pictures up. Well-meaning family and friends reminded Peggy that “in [her] father’s house are many mansions,” and that there would soon be pearly gates and streets of gold and no more tears. At this she would smile and nod, and look away.

As Peggy’s grandchildren grew, so did their understanding of her, and their understanding of themselves and of God and the mysteries of the universe. And they realized that, instead of pearls and precious jewels and mansions, all they wanted was their grandmother’s house with her multi-colored rooms, Tiffany lamps, and shaky chandelier. They wanted her cookies, corn-on-the-cob, and coffee. But most of all, they wanted her Hall of Fame because there, everyone was together. There, everyone was smiling. And there, everyone was healthy and whole and alive, and Peggy’s family was bursting.

Kayla Gonzalez is the third place winner of EnspireMe: Passion Project 2019 in the short story category.

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Nostalgia

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Nostalgia

Home Part 2

According to the all-knowing Google, nostalgia is defined as a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations. Such poetic words for such an intense emotion. Have you ever been at a loss for words for the emotions that you were feeling? After having a great experience, I would find my mind wandering scrolling through my memories and feeling my heart miss that time. My Brazilian friend taught me a term that helps to describe this emotion. The term is Saudade. It is defined as a dreamy wistfulness. Where nostalgia is a missing of something in the past, saudade can define a longing of something that has never happened.

With that being said I want to ask you a question, what is the term for longing or missing something that you didn’t even know existed. Your imagination is unable to comprehend this place or state of being. Is it possible to have nostalgia or saudade for the future or something that your mind and heart have never experienced? How do we describe that desperate desire for something that is indescribable. What is it? Why does my heart and mind drift towards that unknown?

I’ve had these questions. I’ve had these emotions. A belief that there was something more than what I already knew, and hope that that something was more beautiful than I could describe. You understand this feeling too, don’t you? You’ve felt it before. You’ve been there--whether you were in nature or sitting in your room, with tears in your eyes and clasping your chest not knowing why you missed this… thing, but knowing that you did.

In 2 Corinthians 4 Paul talks about the visible and the invisible. I remember working at summer camp thrilled to be surrounded by all my friends and surrounded with inexpressible joy but a slight sadness in the back of my mind. That sadness coming from the knowledge that one day this was going end, and dealing with that end was slightly unbearable so I would continue to push that in the back of my head. Everything here on earth comes to an end. All the visible things are temporary. With every freshman year is a senior year; with every sunrise there is a sunset, and with every hello there is a goodbye. And then that’s it, the end of an era. I’m here to tell you that despite this sad reality there is a joyful truth. Even though the visible is temporary the invisible is eternal. That longing in the deepest crevice of your soul… the one that hopes for no goodbyes and hopes for eternal hellos exists. I’m here to tell you that never-ending joy is achievable and it’s even easier than you think.

So what is it? What is that thing? It’s home. It’s rest,..joy...belonging… it is a place and a person. What your heart craves can be found in Revelation 21:4. It is there that we read about that beautiful promise that gives us comfort. A place that is almost unimaginable, no more tears no more ache, no more pain, no more goodbyes. All things that make us sad vanished forever. Fortunately, that’s not all that promised. In the verse just before we read the most beautiful promise ever given, it is that Jesus will be there with us, Jesus our Home.

The origin of the word nostalgia comes from the Greek nostos. The definition of nostalgia means homesickness, but in the original Greek you can find that the meaning of the word was homecoming. Think about that. Homecoming. A return. Dear Friend, we are almost there, almost returning to where we were always meant to be. Keep the faith, keep hope, we are almost Home.

Chantal Williams recently graduated from Andrews University as a doctor of physical therapy, and has been involved with Enspire Productions since 2011.

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Is Jesus the Best Option?

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Is Jesus the Best Option?

It’s well established and I’m sure you’ve heard it before - God is love - Jesus loves you.

So what do you do with that? How does hearing that God loves you make you feel?

Perhaps you feel like there’s no way he could love somebody like you. Perhaps you feel like ok cool, he loves me but that doesn’t help my friend problems. Perhaps you’re so upset with your current circumstances that God’s love feels empty, secondary, tertiary…to the pain you’re feeling - right now.

I struggle with the idea of God’s love constantly. Stephanie and I are grad students finishing up our last weekend at Andrews University in Michigan and just last week, I was doubting that God truly cared about what I was going through. It wasn’t even that serious - I think I had a lot of homework and a headache - I am a weak man. But it felt really serious at the time so I was angrily looking in the Bible for some kind of answer. 

I stumbled into John chapter 6, and I was reading about all of the amazing miracles and signs that Jesus did for the people around Him like, feeding 15,000 or so people (if you include women and children, which Jesus totally did), walking on water, and claiming to be the source of eternal life. All of these absolutely not normal events took place for those around Jesus to see and observe - and what happens?

Verse 66 says, "After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.”

This doesn’t make sense. Why would his followers abandon him after he did all of these miraculous, visible, tangible miracles in their lives?

We ask this question, but we face the same situation today: We know God has worked in our past. We know God has amazing promises for our future. Yet, we know that we are still suffering right now.

So now we have to reconcile our feelings with our thoughts. We have to acknowledge that God loves us and wants the best for us while we’re in pain. Yikes, man. Much easier said than done. I can relate to what the mass of Jesus’ followers asked him in verse 60, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?”

But in my confusion, in my time of doubt, Jesus doesn’t sit idly by far away in Heaven. He intentionally goes out of His way to come to me personally in order to love me to Himself. Jesus sees what’s happening your life. He sees the hurt, he sees the difficulty with friends, he sees the fear of the future, he sees your loneliness, your anxiety, your talents, your everything - and He hurts and celebrates right alongside you. He loves you in the good and the bad.

But after all of the things that God did and does for you, He asks you the same heart-wrenching question that He asked his 12 closest friends, “Do you want to go away as well?”

Oof. I see this question and I know how I’m supposed to answer…but the claims that Jesus makes are straight up crazy. Sometimes I wonder what would I be like if I didn’t choose Jesus.

But then I see how Peter responds to this question. "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

Not so hidden in Peter’s response is a wave of doubt. That’s relatable. He’s wondering if Jesus really is all He claims to be. He’s feeling confused and unsure - but he’s honest. He basically says I guess so, God. I’m going to stick with you because you’re my best option. I have nowhere to go that’s better.

As I was reading this I realized that I’m more like a crowd member that abandoned Jesus than I am like Peter. God provided the means and the time for Stephanie and I to thrive at Andrews University, and all I could do was complain about it. 

But weirdly enough, I also can relate to what Peter said. When things happen in life that are horrible (pretty sure homework doesn’t actually kill you), I am tempted to search for answers elsewhere when God doesn’t take me out of my suffering like I want Him to.

But Peter’s question reverberates through my mind in the midst of my doubts - God, where else would I go?

So the simple conclusion that I’ve come to is that

Jesus is the best option. 

Look. God values your choice so much. So much. Your relationship with him is not dependent on being in a spiritual environment, having the right friends, or saying the right things. Those are all good things! But your choice to love Jesus each day is yours and yours only. It’s deeply personal, but it’s also simultaneously a community, a family, a taste of heaven.

However, here’s the hard reality: There’s another side that’s the complete opposite of what Jesus wants for you in your life. This other side is actively fighting for your decisions too. Maybe you didn’t realize that your life is so important that literal supernatural beings of light and of darkness are fighting to prove that what they are providing you is best. Your decisions and your choices are like graduate degree diplomas (sorry, graduating in a few days and that’s totally how I feel) that are worth any price. 

So yes, Jesus loves you. But the reality is that God gave us the ability to not love Jesus back. 

Even before Jesus came to the Earth, Moses understood this:

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life,

Deuteronomy 30:19-20

Moses makes the decision seem so obvious. Who in their right mind would want to choose curses and death?? 

Here’s the thing - a life without choosing Jesus is choosing the bad stuff that Moses mentioned. By not choosing Jesus, you’re still making a choice.

The good news is that you’re never really alone in this choice making process. Not really. Jesus is seeking you out, he’s romancing you, sending you the best Valentine’s day card you’ve ever read. He’s wanting to spend the rest of eternity with you. And that’s exciting!! (You know, I have this folder of really dumb Christian memes on my phone and I can’t wait to talk to Jesus in person about all of the absolute nonsense his people get into.)

Listen, I just can’t wait!

I may be entirely biased, but I’m confident that Jesus is the best option. And the beautiful thing is that one option, one choice has such a cascading effect on the rest of your life. 

Because what is character if not a compilation of choices made over and over again? If you choose Jesus constantly, then how can you not become more like Him?

Who, or what do you choose to love? It’s important because who you love decides what home is for you. As you go about the rest of this quarter, this semester, or whatever kind of time frame your years are divided into, panicking about deadlines, worrying about this thing or that, remember that God has blessed you with the opportunity of life with the choice of whether or not to love him back. He’s already proven that He loves you.

So now the choice is yours. What’re you going to do with it today?


Jonny has been involved with Enspire Productions since 2009. He is currently about to complete the MDiv. program at the Andrews University Theological Seminary (Hype!)


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