847 Magnolia

Every day I make a point to walk by the same square patch of dirt. Every. Single. Day. It’s sometimes exhausting because it is so out of my way, and it’s sometimes upsetting for the amount of nostalgia that engulfs my soul, but yet I will continue to do it. I think it’s important.

When I was about halfway through my freshman year at UA, I wanted to be a Resident Adviser. Well. Let me rephrase that.

I don’t know if I ever wanted to actually be an RA, but I enjoyed living in Honors Housing and desperately wanted free housing. As I went through the application process, I felt pretty solid about my efforts. I was incredibly involved in the Honors College at the time and really do love helping freshman find their place.

Well, despite my best efforts and most heartfelt prayers, they must have read the “I really want free housing” aura because I learned I wasn’t placed in honors housing. I knew that I didn’t want to RA in any other dorm, but as I searched for other housing options, I learned it was pretty late in the off-campus housing game.

It was decided I was going to live in my sorority house.

If you know anything — I mean anything — about me, you wouldn’t be surprised to know that the above line didn’t usher in rainbows and fireworks and a beautiful vision of Legally Blonde or the sweetest dreams of my closest 100 gal pals and I getting ready for parties.

I was terrified.

I loved my freshman dorm because I had my own bedroom (yes, I now understand this was luxurious) and shared a bathroom with one other girl (the real luxury, people). I was having nightmares of never getting to be alone. Of closing my door and never having quiet or pure silence. I barely thought of myself as a “sorority woman” and now I was about to live with 50 of them. Having only been at school for a semester and a half, I didn’t know what it was all about, but living in a house with 50 Greek girls definitely wasn’t at the top of my college to-do list.

And then, in God’s typical handiwork, cue the curtains pulling back because we welcomed in two years of joy and love and pain and really good, unreal, would’ve-only-happened-here growth. The walls I was terrified to step into became the walls that made me safe enough to let my own walls down. A room that was surrounded by sad, white plaster became Grand Central Terminal, whether it was friends meandering in for life chats or to store books between classes. The other bed that I was once petrified about was filled with a roommate that knew me in ways only someone who shares a shoe box with you for two years can, and loved me like it had been 20 years.

The door to my room donned decor and signs and the inside held cupcakes and flowers when I got my dream internship, and it was inside that same room that my life forever changed when I got a phone call that my friend died. The carpet I crumbled on as my phone dropped from my hand that morning, was the same carpet I knelt on as I prayed for my life’s purpose after another round of rejected applications’ phone calls. It was the same room that I was sick in for four days straight, as friend after friend walked in and prayed with me. And the bed that gave me limitless freedom and love then, later became my biggest enslavement after a heartbroken 20 year-old binge-watched Sex and the City. The gray-ish carpet was the carpet my big and I sat on and prayed for a house bible study. The patterned living room carpet was the place where over a dozen woman later sat — scattered across the room — in that bible study, a constant reminder of the Lord’s faithfulness.

The community bathrooms that were guaranteed to be blasting Eminem or Beyonce on a weekend night as curling irons and straighteners made the walls melt with heat, were the same walls that I jumped up and down in like a middle school girl after having my first kiss with a boy I really liked. It was in the same bathroom that I later fell to the floor in sobbing after a break-up, mind-numbingly staring at the white, perfectly-square tiles. They held the mirrors that on some mornings I avoided like the plague, and on other mornings I spent countless minutes looking into, plucking and lining and enhancing.

Quite simply, it’s the house that built me and the house that broke me. I left at the end of last semester after a 5 am wake-up call to stuff my whole room into my minivan, pretty ready to get out.

It’s been a good run, I thought to myself, as I shoved the last pillow into a corner crevice. I was exhausted; the physical goodbyes to humans were the most I could manage, so an emotional goodbye to a tangible house was strictly off the table.

But oh, how I have mourned.

847 Magnolia, the address on my favorite shirt, the address programmed into my Domino’s app, the address that is responsible for many of my defining moments, now looks different. We are rebuilding our home over the next year, and as the Lord has gently taught me over the past few months, sometimes you have to tear something down to rebuild it greater and more beautiful.

So that’s what happened.

And every day, I walk by this ground-zero patch of dirt. We haven’t started work on the house yet (we . . . like will be helping). But nonetheless, the big white pillars out front that gave me my first taste of southern flare are nowhere to be found, and the brick steps that sorority sisters have gotten engaged on also don’t exist in this moment. The large wooden doors that have had hundreds of women jumping up-and-down and tossing their hair around practicing the door song are MIA currently, and the elegant staircase that we all got to take for granted walking down every day was torn down with the rest of the home.

But they’re coming back.

I walk by that patch of ground because I relate to it in one-too-many ways. That over the past few months, I quite literally have been flattened. It started gradually, removing the furniture — the Lord slowly trying to release my grasps on things — and then the next thing you know I felt the bulldozer come.

And then silence.

And more silence.

And for a while, I just simply, sat there. I tried to rush healing and the process, but truly, I continued to sit. Pancake-flat. Stagnant. Feeling my legs knocked out beneath me. But guess what?

He’s coming back.

He is coming back and before He arrives, He is continuing to rebuild me. Some days it is slowly and brick-by-brick because He will make me into someone I may not always recognize (in the best way possible); I have a new architect. I’ve known my architect for a while, He has come in and done many renovations — moved a couple couches around and maybe a table or so. Every now and then I feel fresh coats of paint being lathered on . . . but a full tear-down, bulldozed, here-is-a-dirty-square-on-a-beautiful-row plow?

I didn’t like it.

Heck, I still don’t like it.

It doesn’t feel good, but just like my beloved 847, we take heart because He is the writer, the designer, the first and the last.

We don’t always get what we want, and praise Him for that. Because if I had gotten what I thought I wanted, I would have missed out on the home He had for me here. If I would have gotten what I truly believed I wanted a while back, I would have missed the home He has for me in heaven. The home we are all invited in.

To those of you out there who feel like you’re in a rebuilding phase, like you’ve been flattened to the ground or like you’re covered in dust and entrapped by dirt, take heart.

He makes the brokenness beautiful.

He finishes what He starts.

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