Create + Write + Inspire
What Lies in Shadows
by Jennifer Kelly on April 6th, 2017

Somewhere in-between 34, I got a little stuck ... and my husband and I bought a home.

A 1960's, red brick house on Reed Street. Triangular, wooden beams barge overhead and meet together to form a peak as you walk onto the front porch and through the entryway. Although the main living area is open, your eyes are immediately drawn to the light flooding in from the windows like a waterfall. The brightness from the sun is blinding at first, but allowing time for your eyes to settle in and adjust brings clarity — like most things in life.

Dallas Willard once wrote that, "The very light that makes it possible for us to see may also dazzle our eyes to the clearest of realities and make it impossible for us to see what lies in a shadow".

As you steady your gaze and look beyond the patio and into the back yard, the overgrown vines, bushes and trees take you by surprise. Wild things grow in unnatural ways when not taken care of and pruned appropriately.

But then you'll notice a curious, black lamppost. I imagine the friendly light has shared quite a few days with friends and creatures alike. It’s aged, and a bit tired and worn from its time under the sun. The lamppost reminded me of the very same one that greeted Lucy outside the wardrobe when she entered Narnia for the first time. 

I knew this house was the 'one' as soon as we walked through it. Kaytlin laid claim to the brown and Pepto-Bismol colored bedroom and Mike looked at me with those eyes that said, "We can make this work". There were multiple offers within 24 hours of the red-brick house on Reed Street going on the market. With a fantastic realtor, letter, offer and a prayer, our hope became a reality in a relatively short amount of time.

Was this house the answer to my feelings of anxiety? 

We packed up and started our relocation process. It's strange and a bit eerie to move into a house that whispers stories of souls walking through the hallways. Especially from a neglected home in need of love. 

We move so quickly, don't we? My perpetual stuckness at 34 transfixed to rebuilding and making a home for our family, but the anxiety loomed. Whatever was troubling me, I buried and got to work on my new found home and quit writing.

My uneasiness lowered a bit with so much to do. Whatever unresolved issues were still there got swept up in the noise — but whispers inside my head still loomed. Things remained under the surface of my heart, but I knew God was trying to teach me something.

Both my heart and house exhibited needs of deep restoration in shadows.

Middle-age adulthood is not always what it’s cracked up to be, but neither is remodeling a 1960's brick ranch house. Lots of mold, repairs, patches, leaks, overgrown weeds in the front and back yard, and some walls that need tearing down. We tore down mirrors, ripped up carpet, refinished hardwood floors and the basement flooded. There were pipes and electrical wires and real repairs that needed time, attention, money and sweat. 

​I had no idea how much damage and cost can occur to a neglected house after decades of disregard. I'm not talking cosmetic. The deep-down structural and behind the scenes major restoration processes that needs to occur to ensure sustainable, healthy and enjoyable living.

I started demoing everything around me. Literally. The tile and the inside of my heart. The faux marble that needed to come out of the bathroom and the wrong thoughts I had circling inside my head. The more I worked on the house, the more I discovered what needed to be done — both inside my soul and home. The house on Reed Street was simply a tangible picture God used to gnaw at the inside of me. The more work I did on my home, the more frustrated I grew. I knew God was trying to get my attention, I just chose to ignore it for a while.

When matters of the soul are ignored for other pursuits (no matter good or evil) what was once enjoyable becomes a burden over time, until what really needs to be dealt with is faced.

Somewhere at 34, I started listening to old voices inside my heart and mind that said I wasn't enough ...

Good enough.
Fast enough.
Productive enough.
Mom enough.
Wife enough.
Life enough.
Woman enough.
Redeemed enough.

I think sometimes I wish my relationship with the Triune God would magically speak, do, and repair everything to bright and shiny Jen. But the truth is: discipleship is a life-long process of following, remaining, forgiving, redeeming and reconciliation — that needs to happen every day. Sanctification doesn't happen overnight. Thank God for time and grace to heal and mend; even the most hidden things found in shadows. Most cosmetic issues are easy to fix in the early days, but true restoration takes time, perseverance, hard work and sweat. The longer we follow Jesus, the more rooms in our heart we find that need remodeling. 

St. Teresa of Avila wrote a book called The Interior Castle, comparing our soul to that of a great castle. Early on she tells us to, "Remember, this castle has many dwellings: some above and some below. Others to either side. At the center is the most important dwelling of them all where the most secret things unfold between the soul and her Beloved".

The right materials and true elements that are needed for a house to fully function properly and provide safety and shelter is the same fundamental truth for our minds, hearts, bodies and souls. It cannot be a lofty idea alone for a house to have a solid foundation. Someone actually has to go in there and design, purchase, dig, build, pour and work. It's the same with us. Faith cannot be a lofty idea by itself to work. We are called to go, fight, run, and work it out with fear and trembling.

I’m learning that emotions provide honest red flags, much like a leaking faucet. Both are real and important, but they cannot be left alone to deal with our responses to life. Sure, we can hide them, or act as if they aren't there, but overtime we will either have a massive flood on our hands or a burst in our pipes somewhere. Just like my house on Reed Street.

The most secret places of our soul need light and our response to the shadows has to be truth, not emotions. Allow yourself time to settle in and focus, then get to work. Lean into the uncomfortable smell of lies and mold, rip it out, and replace it with truth. The living, central truths that tells you:

I am a child of God (Galatians 3:26-29; 1John 3:1)
I am a chosen friend of Jesus (John 15:14-16)
I am a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17-19)
I am wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14)
I am created for God's glory (Isaiah 43:7)
I am victorious in Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:57)
Jesus is more than enough.

I know these words are as old as time, nevertheless, they are fundamental proclamations that have to become the orientation of your heart and mind. Eventually habitual, where you choose to operate from — no matter how long you've been following Jesus. 

The house on Reed Street is starting to look good. I'm not overwhelmed as to what lies in the shadows nor do I feel unsettled, but I have a notion my sudden lack of frustration has nothing to do with the ongoing renovation of my house as it does with the countenance of my heart. There's still much work to be done.

I think Satan likes to whisper some of the same lies slowly over time, dripping them over and over again like a leaky faucet. Suddenly we’re faced with a disaster that started somewhere in the shadows. But Jesus’ light is there to aid in exposing the darkness. We need but look and respond with the Truth He’s already supplied — and make sure it keeps pouring in every day.

Now, after the fact, I believe trials of transition and uncertainty accompanied with feelings of hopelessness can turn into a blessing or curse. A gift of grace when worked with intention and resolve or a stumbling block when abandoned and left to despair. Two truths that are applicable to remodeling old homes and souls. Both take time.

Be brave; wrestle with what lies in the shadows. God is faithful.

"The eternal, holy and unfathomable goodness of God does not allow us to wander in darkness, but shows us the way of salvation ... This I have seen in others as well as in myself."  Constantine

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Mike Kelly - April 6th, 2017 at 11:14 AM
There's such an elegance about this. Very nice work. Love it.
Linda Wagner - April 6th, 2017 at 11:58 AM
So glad you're working the "problem" and not allowing the "problem" to work you!
Jen - April 7th, 2017 at 9:31 AM
Thanks so much Linda! Your words are always an encouragement to me.
Pam Moser - April 6th, 2017 at 1:09 PM
Loved the read. You painted a picture with your writing, that was very clear!!
Jen - April 7th, 2017 at 9:31 AM
Thanks mom. Love you!
Debra Osberg - April 6th, 2017 at 2:43 PM
Excellent!! I really enjoy your writing so much. Thanks for your transparency and sharing truth to hold to no matter what. You are a blessing and I'm so thankful for your life and family!
Jen - April 7th, 2017 at 9:35 AM
Thanks so much for your kind words Deb! Trust me, I love your family even more ... so glad we are close.
ben faust - April 6th, 2017 at 4:33 PM
Cina Suzanne Bustetter - April 6th, 2017 at 5:07 PM
Simply lovely!
Jen - April 7th, 2017 at 9:36 AM
Suzy! It's so great to hear from you and thank you for commenting!!! Hope your are doing well my friend.
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