Welcome to a new weekly series on “Our Home”. We started this series now, at almost a year before our one year “anniversary” in this apartment in China, so that by the time June comes, we would have told you all about our move from our first Chinese apartment to this one, the process of redecorating, sorting, and then settling in. The final step would be to share with you the before and after pictures of our home. It has taken a year to do these, even though we were settled in pretty quickly, but anniversaries are a good time for telling stories. Today: The Realization that we were moving into this apartment, and above all else, my incredibly amazing friend was gone.
In summary, before us this apartment was lived in by some of our very good friends. McKenzie, who I have spoken about before, has been an amazing friend to me. The kind of friend who is always positive, ever-inspiring, and one you can never grow tired of. She is thoughtful, patient and extremely kind. As you can tell, I love this girl very much, so when she told me that her and the family would be moving to Austria (where her husband is from) I was crushed. She knew that I loved their apartment, so she offered to put in a word with the landlord. This was definitely the ONLY good part about them leaving – I LOVED their apartment! I assumed that moving in here would make losing this close friend a little easier… but I was so sorely wrong! We said our goodbyes on Sunday after fellowship. Usually we met right here, in this apartment, but on the last week we met some place nearby so this family could have their house free for packing and preparing. Since the family has three young children, I told them to leave everything as is when they left. Justin and I had bought all of their furniture from them beacsue this apartment came unfurnished. We knew this, and we liked the furniture that they had, so we bought almost all of it. I told them to take what they were leaving with, which was ONE suitcase each, and just leave everything else as it was. I can’t imagine the stress of leaving a place you have lived for over a decade, with three kids, at the crack of dawn…. so many emotions! I wanted to take one stress away, so I kept telling McKenzie not to clean or even tidy up, and that I would do it all. I desperately wanted to see them all one more time, but we had already said our goodbyes, so this was a way that I could help their send off go more smoothly.
I went to the house just after they had left. This was a place that I had been many many times before. Elijah and I used to go visit McKenzie and her youngest two every week. We would meet here with friends every Sunday. We shared much laughter, love and worship in this home. But in the moments when I entered, after they had left, the apartment felt cold and dead. It was a shell of what my memories were, and stepping inside I even felt oddly anxious. I knew that they weren’t there, and that was clear since all of the most personal items were gone, but a great deal of them still remained. In the picture below you can see some frames still on the wall… others gone. It was as if they were still there, but they were also gone. I wandered into the lounge, and then across to the dining room. On the table I found a letter from Nik and McKenzie, hand-drawn pictures from the kids, wine, bread and a bowl of salt. The note read…“We give you bread, that you may never know hunger. Wine, that celebrating and laughing may always comes from your home. And salt, that things would never get boring for you. Thank you for being our friends when we needed it the most, for never turning your back on us, for truly loving us”. As I read the note and looked at the drawings from the kids, tears rolled down my cheeks. It was then that I realized… They were gone! My dear friend was no longer in China, and our weekly hangouts were done. No more of the same familiar Sunday fellowships. No more hanging out on the couch while our kids played on the carpet in-front of us. No more trip to the beach and no more excited chats about babies, life and everything in-between. I sat down in the middle of the cold, empty house and cried my eyes out!
When I was done crying I went to the kitchen to see what other surprises McKenzie had left, and I found this bag of coconut rum filled chocolate balls. In my sorrowful state, I devoured them all, while walking around this home. Honestly, I just wanted to drink the wine on the dining room table, but they had said it was for “celebrating and laughing” so I didn’t think that this moment was appropriate. There were an infinite amount of surprises in every room. Toys, clothes, perfume, books… I spent hours exploring and discovering. In-between bouts of tears, I was filled with joy because I would find things belonging to the kids. I’d get happy and then sad… over and over again. It was a confusing mixture of joy and utter dismay.
It took a long time for this home to start feeling like our own, and each time I went there to sort, clean, and work on renovations, I was reminded on my sweet friend. I missed her so much in those days, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that any moment she would walk back through the door and say that they were coming back.
More on our move in the next part of this series “Our Home’.