The four children giggled and jostled for positions on the rug in front of their mother’s chair. This was their favorite time of the day, when their mother took them on an adventure each night just before bed.
“Now, what story would you like to hear tonight?” Kate whispered, as she switched the overhead light off and dimmed the lamp, which added to the excitement of the children.
Four young foreheads furrowed, thinking of what to request.
Six-year-old Luke answered first. “Our house, tell us the story of how we got our house.”
His older brother Simon snorted in contempt. “We already know how we got the house. Mommy and Daddy bought it.”
The younger boy was unperturbed by his brother’s scorn. “It’s special. God gave it to us.”
The two older children, ten-year-old twins, Jesse and Jake, rolled their eyes. It was always the same; Luke and Simon arguing about who was right. The twins looked at one another. “Kids” Jake mouthed at Jesse.
Their mother intervened with a laugh. “How about I choose a story?”
“Good idea Mom.” The twins chorused.
The four children settled down and looked at their mother expectantly. “It’s a story about our house, but a very different story,” their mother began, turning the lamp down even further. It cast a pale glow that seemed to enclose them in a soft ball of light, separating them from the darkness of the rest of the room.
“It all started when Daddy and I brought the twins home from hospital. The house seemed happy somehow, as if it could see everything that was happening. Then when Simon came along two years later and Luke a year after that, the house seemed to dance with joy on its foundations.
Luke and Simon’s eyes grew bigger and bigger, and the twins grinned at one another in delight.
“Then, one day, about three year ago, the house said “Aaaargh” as it watched a small boy draw with a bright red crayon on the walls of the family room.
“Oh, poor house.” whispered Luke, as he reached out a hand to stroke the floor.
“Did the house really get upset Mommy?” asked Simon, knowing he had been the one with the crayon.
“I think the house understood that these things happen sometimes, but it would prefer that they didn’t.” His mother said, cupping his chin in her hand.
“Mom.” Jesse frowned trying to formulate her words. “I think the house was really, really sad last year.”
“Why is that Jess?”
“Because when Jake was in hospital after he fell off the garage roof and broke his leg, the whole house seemed to be crying. It even kept me awake at night.”
Luke flapped his hands. “And when I fell down the stairs, I heard it say ‘ouch, ouch, ouch’.”
Simon giggled. “That was you Lukey, you were the one saying ‘ouch, ouch, ouch’.”
“Well, the house could have said it too.” Said Luke, refusing to be put off.
Jake had been sitting quietly through this exchange, his head tilted slightly to one side.
His mother looked at him. “You’re very quiet tonight darling.” Jake was her serious one – the one who felt things more deeply than the other three – the one who occasionally astounded her with his wisdom.
None of the children noticed their father slip into the room and stand quietly in the shadows.
Jake took a deep breath. “The house can’t really see things or feel things, can it Mom?” He looked up at his mother and she could almost see the wheels turning as he thought things through. “I mean, it’s just bricks and wood and nails and stuff.”
His mother smiled encouragingly, waiting for him to continue.
“When Simon drew on the walls, you and Dad were upset and when I fell off the garage roof, everyone was sad, and when the people in the house are sad or upset, it feels like their house is sad too.”
“So why do you think some houses feel ‘friendly’ when you walk into them and others don’t?” Kate wondered what he would come up with this time.
Jake thought for a moment and then smiled. “Because when families love Jesus and are kind to one another and kids play together without fighting, people like coming to your home to visit. It’s the people who make the home feel nice.”
Kate looked across the children’s heads at her husband and smiled. “Welcome home.”
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