Ornament of Grace

An Ornament of Grace
December 12, 2016

This Old House


Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in Far Above Rubies in December, 2000. Now, 16 years later, our children are grown, and our house has passed its 100th year …

I’m sure you’ve all heard the expression, “If these walls could talk…” Well, I’ve never really had the opportunity to speak before, but now that I do, I have some things I want to say! After all, if you were as old as I am, and had seen as much as I’ve seen, you would have a few things to say, too! I have been standing – albeit not in this same spot – for over eighty-eight years now! Times have sure changed since 1912, the year I was built.

Back then, William Howard Taft was President of the United States, and people who could afford to, drove Model-T’s, or “tin lizzies,” as they were nicknamed. The pace of life was much slower in those days, too. People enjoyed simple entertainments, such as family picnics or drives in the country. In the evenings, families would often gather to read aloud or play music together. A little later on, when electricity became commonplace, I remember hearing the scratchy sounds of “Fibber McGee and Molly,” playing on the first radios of the era.

Now, let me tell you about how I came to be. In the spring of 1912, a Norwegian family by the name of Erickson had me constructed on their farm. I was their pride and joy, and for many years, the gathering place for all of their family and extended family, on holidays and other special occasions.

I was so proud of myself when I was finished! The Erickson family must have been proud, too, because they took a picture of me with a couple of family members who were standing out by the front porch. (That same picture is hanging in my front entry way to this day.)

The carpenters who built me actually lived here for weeks, until my inside was completed. Even though people could never detect it, I’ll admit to getting a little bit “puffed up” every time the work of those skilled craftsmen is admired, even now, after all this time. Those carpenters worked hard, and I could tell they got tired. You see, every day or so, when more lumber was needed, I’d watch as they hitched up the team of horses to the old wagon. Before they took off, the carpenters would settle into the wagon bed for their afternoon “snooze” on the way to the saw mill! Those horses made so many trips, I guess there was no way they’d ever get lost!

You know, I’ve seen a lot, and I hold a lot of memories from a LOT of happenings down through these 88 years. After the first 70 years or so, my foundation began to crumble and I began falling into disrepair! I wasn’t being lived in anymore, and sadly, I was just too big and needed too much upkeep for the then elderly grandson of the man who originally had me built. You see, the year was 1992, and that was about the time the Custer family came along and bought me for six thousand, five hundred dollars!

Over the years, I’ve heard the mother and wife in the Custer family say many times, how she wished she could somehow unlock all of my secrets! Besides being old, it’s those secrets – my history, mind you – that make me so appealing to her! Like they say, I have “been around.” I have survived the Great Depression (during which time the Erickson family lost me, due to foreclosure by the bank, and 17 years later, finally were able to buy me back…but that’s another story!), two World Wars, and sixteen presidents.

The Custers always talk about how the Lord led them to me, and I believe it. You see, they needed me, but I needed them, too! They worked on me for a whole spring and summer, and then, one day, some men came and just up and rolled me off of my crumbling foundation, loaded me onto a big truck and trailer, and transported me 15 miles south! It was rather traumatic for me, because I had no idea where in the world I was going!! When they finally sat me down on my new seat – I mean, my new foundation, as they call it – I felt a little lonely at first. Sitting up on this hill made me feel so vulnerable. I missed the big old spruce and oak trees, back on the Erickson farm. They always protected me, and through the years, we had become very good friends. However, since that time, back in 1992, I feel as though I’ve gotten a new lease on life! I guess I still had a lot of good left in me. It just took some elbow grease to bring it out.

The years the Custers have lived with me have been happy times, although, I must admit, I’ve changed a lot, especially on the inside. That Mrs. Custer has painted, wallpapered, rag-rolled, or stenciled just about every inch of my walls! I’ve overheard her husband teasing her many times, about never running out of projects for him to do, either! My opinion is that he relaxes by doing projects, and the two of them sure seem to have fun working together! At least it looks like fun, to me, when she comes up behind him while he’s working, and surprises him by…aw, well, I get embarrassed easily, and I wouldn’t want to start any rumors about them, so I won’t tell you. Anyhow, they think I don’t notice, but my guess is they’d be pretty surprised at what I know about them!!

Let me tell you another secret: the lady of the house is actually kind of a cheapskate, when it comes to furnishing me! As much as possible, she avoids buying me anything new! She is convinced that, eventually, she can find everything she needs at garage sales!

I get a real kick out of the kids in this family, although that oldest boy is not around quite as much as he used to be. (Sometimes his mother seems a bit wistful when she talks about him.) I have noticed they sure do get excited, and shower him with attention, whenever he shows up, especially that little girl! She’ll either smother him with hugs, or run from room to room, calling out, “Aaron’s here! Aaron’s here!” Her calls soon become squeals and pleas for help, when he comes in, grabs her, and starts tickling!

From what I can tell, it seems like the boys’ favorite room in the house is the kitchen! I think, to them, a tasty, home-cooked meal, made by Mom, spells “I LOVE YOU,” in bold letters! It’s kind of funny to watch that youngest boy’s eyes light up when he finds out what his mother is making for dinner! He’s always giving her hugs in the kitchen, anyway, but when he discovers she’s making one of his favorites – like an apple pie, for instance – you can count on him to give her an EXTRA big hug, right then and there!

As a rule, it’s not very quiet around here. Usually, it’s the second son in the family who likes to close the dining room door and play his horn for long periods of time. (I think he calls it a saxophone.) There must be something about the reverberation he hears bouncing off the walls and hardwood floors that makes that room his favorite place to practice. Just about any time of day, piano, trumpet and violin music, can be heard floating through the air. With four children in the family, all needing to get daily piano practice sessions in, it’s not at all uncommon for me to be awakened at the crack of dawn, to the sound of snappy tunes, classical music or hymns, coming from that old, upright piano.

In the mix of the musical sounds, you can always count on that little girl to be chattering to someone, everyone, no one, or even just to herself! If you asked her, I am sure she would be quick to tell you what her least favorite room of the house is. (Don’t bother asking her. I’ll just tell you: it’s the downstairs bathroom, because that’s where the board of education meets her “seat of learning!” Being several years younger than her siblings, she can never quite understand why she had to make more trips to that room than did her brothers.)

I must admit, though, she is very lovable, and quite a funny little girl. When she gets that mischievous look on her face, and has her hair up in braids, she kind of reminds me of Pippi Longstocking!

Her brothers just shake their heads in amazement, because they can’t figure her out, half the time! They don’t have a clue as to why she pampers her doll like it’s a real, live baby, or why in the world she worries and frets over her cats as if they could never take care of themselves without her. One thing that really “blows their minds” is when, within the course of the day, she will parade through the house in one fancy or “unique” outfit after another. These, of course, she has put together from the treasures she finds in her “dress-up” trunk upstairs in the loft.

In many ways, this family is just like any other family. What I mean is, there are times when someone gets up on the wrong side of the bed, or says or does something that hurts another’s feelings. (Unlike me, they are all very human.) Apologizing and admitting fault has been an exercise every family member has had to do on a regular basis. The Custer family is not a perfect family and the parents are certainly not perfect parents! I will say, however, that seeing their children grow up to serve the Lord with their lives, has been the parents’ constant, burning desire for as long as I can recall! Many, many times, after the children were sound asleep in their beds, I’ve heard the parents talking and praying into the wee hours.

And do you know what? I can tell they really like me, but not me – or any other material possession – matters more to them than the Lord. He is the center of their home. Pleasing the Lord and serving Him is their goal. The parents insist that each family member respect the others, and when a problem arises, they deal with it. They don’t ignore problems, and let them pile up! The head of the household sees to that. I have watched him lovingly guide his family with godly wisdom and Biblical principles, for years, now. This wisdom is dispersed around the supper table, from the family room sofa, when kneeling by a bedside, or even while leaning on a hoe out in the garden! By watching this family, I can tell that God blesses families who practice Biblical principles.

Early one morning last week, I noticed the little girl was busy as a bee in the kitchen, making a thermos of hot tea for everyone. Before I knew it, they were all out the door, bundled up against the frosty, winter air. They piled into the pickup, and off they went!Later on, from about a mile away, I could see them coming back down the gravel road. (You can see quite a distance when you’re as tall as I am!) When I saw what they had in the back of the pickup, I really got excited! “It’s Christmas time again!” I fairly shouted to myself. I’ll have you know, Christmas is my favorite time of year. I love being decorated with wreaths, twinkling lights, red bows, and garland. Very soon, nearly every one of my rooms was bustling with excitement and activity.

First, all the ornaments and decorations were dug out of storage. Next, while familiar carols played on the stereo, one of the kids started unpacking the nativity set. Since the manger scene is always set up first in this family, it wasn’t long before it filled its traditional spot atop the piano. At that point, I overheard the little girl fretting about the placement of certain figures of the nativity set. “It doesn’t look good, ‘cause all the big stuff is here, and all the little stuff is over there,” she whined. “But this way is Scriptural,” argued her third brother, “and besides, talk about front row seats!” he said with a chuckle, as he lined up the animals and shepherds directly in front of the manger.

Soon the conflict was forgotten, and the next thing I knew, the little girl was happily helping her daddy string lights, all the while singing with the music, “Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.”

By day’s end, the tree was decorated, the stockings were hung on the mantle, and the house smelled of a wonderful aroma – a mixture of freshly baked Christmas cookies and pungent pine boughs. Before long, everyone was safely tucked into bed; all was quiet, as the twinkling lights shone out the window into the night sky, and onto the new-fallen snow. Ever so slightly, and undetected by the family, I sighed a contented sigh. “Once again,” I thought to myself, “the Christmas season has come to This Old House.

Merry Christmas from the Custer Family

Proverbs 14:1 says, “Every wise woman buildeth her house:”

As a wife and mother, we have the opportunity to build something wonderful, something precious and something enduring. Pour yourself into this sacred, God-given role. Do your best! Learn and grow and sacrifice for those you love. Building a home is a worthy endeavor that will yield lifelong joy and blessing!

In this Christmas season take the time to reflect upon the privilege you have been given to be a wife and mother. And remember, the most special things at Christmas are often the simple things…homemade crafts and goodies, handmade gifts, handwritten notes and cards… things that touch the heart and soul of those you love the most.

Invest in your family, and make some special Christmas memories…together!

From my heart,
Your Pastor’s Wife