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Unpacking Once More

Unpacking Once More February 28, 2016

Some of you have followed the account of our recent (mis)adventure of our most recent move via Facebook and Twitter. After more than 3-1/2 years in a quirky 1970’s townhome in a northwest suburb of Chicago, our landlord told us toward the end of January that we’d need to find a new place to live as the place was going to be sold. It wasn’t exactly a surprise, as there have probably been close to 40 showings of the property since late November. We learned that few people dig a mirrored wall in an almost-antique micro kitchen. We couldn’t blame the potential buyers. We wouldn’t buy the place either. However, I did give myself some laughs by pretending to host a cooking show every single day.

Thanks to the help of a realtor friend, we found a new place to rent in fairly quick order.

The newest Casa Van Loon
The newest Casa Van Loon

Hours before we were scheduled to get the keys on February 12th, the property management company called us to tell us there’d been a slight change of plans. Cold weather and a vacant house were a burst pipe waiting to happen, and it did. And then some. One bathroom was stripped to the studs and rebuilt in a week, carpeting was pulled and padding replaced in the living room. Visions of toxic mold danced in my head, no doubt a gift of watching too many home reno programs on HGTV. We emphasized to the property management company that my husband has pretty nasty mold allergies, which makes him an in-house canary in a coal mine.

Meanwhile, I was packing our old house and fighting the temptation to come up with a Plan B. I cycled between gratitude (“Lord, thank you that this happened before we moved in”) and grief about leaving a place we really enjoyed living, mirrored kitchen and all.

The property manager assured us a week later that the house was habitable, so we began moving our stuff in a week and a half ago while a guy was hustling to tape, prime and paint the new drywall. The new place might be muy brown on the outside, but is light and bright inside, and has a brand-new kitchen and updated baths. That one bath was updated about 8 minutes before we moved in.

Our new place has some quirks of its own. Sump pumps ensure that basements won't flood. Our sump pump has a car battery powering it. (Anyone ever seen this?)
Our new place has some quirks of its own. Sump pumps ensure that basements won’t flood. Our sump pump has a car battery either powering it or maybe serving as a backup power source. We can’t tell which. The battery is perched atop a milk crate, just to add to the Beverly Hillbillies feel of the arrangement. (Anyone ever seen anything like this?)

The day before our official move, our wild house cat Phina escaped from her carrier as I was transporting her from our old home to the car in order to bring her to her new kingdom. I spent about 45 minutes chasing her before eventually losing her. I keep replaying her Olympic leap over a stockade fence, the last moment I had her in my sights. In the midst of all that last-minute packing, cleaning, and monitoring the weather for a possible snowstorm, I was also calling shelters, ensuring her contact info was up to date on the ID microchip she came with, making flyers, talking to neighbors, putting out tasty treats, and crying.

Seraphina, where are you tonight?

Phina was…no, IS…a Sriracha of a cat: spicy, friendly and lots of fun. She came with her own set of kitty quirks. She has a ferocious taste for Mac cords. She didn’t discriminate between $80 chargers for my MacBook Air or $15 phone charger cords. Interestingly, PC products never held much appeal for her. Our son Jacob nicknamed her Sassbucket, which pretty much tells you everything you might care to know about her zany personality.

M.I.A.
M.I.A. Meow

Even a welcomed move brings a measure of loss and disorientation with it. This is new address #12 for us, a move we didn’t really want to make, so we were braced for emotional and spiritual turbulence in the transition. We couldn’t expect burst pipes or Phina’s escape.

I had someone casually toss a version of Romans 8:28 in my direction in the midst of all this like she was lobbing a hand grenade. I believe she meant well, but I’ve learned that it’s much more gracious to let the Spirit lead me to this truth in the context in which Paul wrote it, teaching me as only he does that the Father is at work to re-form me into the image of his Son.

In all of this. All of it.

He’s reminded me, not through sermony words, but through the kindness of new friends who have come without being asked to search for our cat several times over the last few days. Through a friend who showed up yesterday with a bottle of champagne and a prayer who spent a precious Saturday helping me sort through boxes and more boxes in order to bring order to the room where I do most of my work. She reminded me that though we’re not expecting this to be a long-term home, it is our home here and now, and we need to unpack the boxes and live here fully.

(on reverse) Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Beautiful blessing from the Book of Common Prayer.
(on reverse) Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Beautiful blessing from the Book of Common Prayer.

We live in the parable-like tension of now and not yet. We are home, and we are not home yet.

Thanks to so many of you for your prayers and words of support over the last few weeks.

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