As I stood in the recessed archway of the now empty dining room, the memories came flooding back.
This was the spot that sold me on this house 28 years ago.
I had been 8 months pregnant with my first child when we first walked through the front door, so I knew time was of the essence in finding a place bigger than our one bedroom apartment.
Still, I really didn't want to buy a semi, or as some call it, a duplex. And I definitely didn't want to buy in the city. But when I saw this perfect little alcove for my piano, it made me change my mind.
The plan was 5 years, then sell the house and move to someplace in Suburbia.
But plans rarely go, well, as planned, do they?
We had a second child, money got tight, life took over, and time just flew.
So there I was, 28 years later, once again looking at the alcove, thinking about how much everything has changed.
The baby who was born just 2 weeks before we signed the mortgage papers is 28 now. Married last October and considering a family of her own. The second child is almost as old as I was when we bought the house. I'm divorced - almost 4 years. And my piano? Given away to a friend because there was no place for it in my new apartment.
Yes, I've moved. After a year of ups and downs, court papers and prayers, it seemed clear that God's plan was for me to leave this house.
But it's been more than just a move. The past year has been one of loss.
I hadn't thought of it that way at first. I mostly thought of it as change.
But the truth is, there have been many losses, large and small. The house, the piano, the many things with sentimental attachment that had to be sold or given away because there's nowhere to store them. The neighbors who have cared for me - cutting my grass, shoveling my walk, keeping a watchful eye on my home. My space and my privacy - it is much harder to be undisturbed in a 4 room apartment than a 7 room, 3 story house. Even the loss of sleep as I try to acclimate to a smaller, less comfortable bed.
I've wrestled with God over a lot of this. Asked Him lots of questions. I'm not angry. Just kind of confused about how and where He's leading in all of this. And kind of sad about all the loss.
I love Ephesians 3:20, but this current circumstance is certainly less than I've asked for or imagined.
So I have to ask myself, does that make the promise any less true?
God still loves me. He's still in control. Still working things together for my good. Still able to do abundantly more than I can ask or imagine.
But I can still mourn that which has been removed.
Yesterday, the sermon was on renewal. The pastor closed by quoting Ephesians 3:20 and said "The altar is open. If you have a burden, come forward and leave it here." It isn't something we do every week in my church. I didn't know the invitation would be given when I got there.
As I went forward and knelt, I couldn't pray. Tears began to flow and they became unstoppable, silent sobs. I stayed kneeling until the singing began again, then quickly slipped into my seat down in front. I sat in the sanctuary until most were gone, not wanting to - not even sure I could - explain my tear-stained face.
My pastor came over and asked what was wrong. I blurted out a mish mosh of everything, nothing, and I just don't know. That's when he said to me "you've been through a lot lately Toni. It's okay to give yourself permission to grieve."
I can't tell you how freeing that was.
I'd been looking for the bright side in all of this a long time. And when friends encouraged me with "it's an exciting new chapter" I knew it was true, but couldn't always feel it.
His words spoke such comfort to me. We don't have to have it altogether all the time. Life isn't tied up with a bow. Sometimes, we experience loss. And sometimes, we just need permission to grieve before we move on to those new chapters in life.
And that's okay.