Living in God’s House

If asked my address as a six-year-old, I would have answered, “I live in God’s house.”

After missionary service, my family lived in two back rooms of our home church. We children didn’t know we were homeless and nearly penniless. Jesus, our invisible Best Friend, had invited us to stay with Him, like we did with cousins. Boy, were we lucky!

My mother, who made a home for us, no matter where we lived

My mother, who made a home for us, no matter where we lived

Our mother, having recently delivered her fourth child, might not have regarded this sojourn in God’s house so positively. Her life consisted of endless hundred-yard dashes to the restrooms located in the church’s foyer, kids hanging from her skirts. We took baths at sympathetic neighbors’.

My parents and baby brother slept in one room. The other contained a tiny kitchen, table and chairs, and a built-in wooden bed, where my preschool brother and I slept. Our toddler sister slept on a sofa pushed against it. The sofa’s curved back made a great slide. Every morning my brother and I zoomed down upon our sister in a glorious tangle of arms and legs.

Church trash cans hid treasures. After a wedding, my mother found discarded blue netting and made a glamorous dress for my doll.

“We’ll just steal this,” she’d said, laughing. She thought no more about it — until I told wide-eyed parishioners we stole church stuff.

The sanctuary proved the best perk. Our parents forbade us children to linger there after bathroom runs.  But exploring the sanctuary alone, we gained a kindergarten sense of the holy.

Sometimes I sat quietly and watched sunlight streaming into the huge, echo-y room. God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. Though I didn’t know the Bible verse, I absorbed that truth in those serene, stolen moments.

The sanctuary gave us creative ideas. “If we filled up the baptistery, we could take baths there,” I suggested to Dad. “It would make a great swimming pool, too!”

He disagreed. But unknown to Dad, my brother and I walked along its narrow edge, pretending we were tightrope walkers.

We also discovered mysterious, shiny tubes inside the organ. I spread small hands gently over the piano’s keys, imagining myself playing God’s songs, like Mom.

We found free chewing gum stuck under the pews! Sadly, Mom did not recognize God’s miracle of provision. She made us spit it out.

My own children did not live like gypsies. My kids experienced unborrowed bathtubs, doll clothes that weren’t swiped from trash, and soft gum imprinted with no one else’s teeth. As a mom, I am thankful for such blessings.

Still, I would not trade those irreverently reverent days living in God’s house.


How did where you lived as a child influence you?

6 thoughts on “Living in God’s House

  1. Jan Houin

    The first four years of my life I lived in what my parents affectionately called “the chicken coop”. It was a 1 bedroom home on Franklin St. in Plymouth, IN. It had a large bedroom that held my parents’ double bed, a vanity, chest of drawers, a free standing wooden wardrobe my grandfather had made with sliding doors. There was also room for my crib and my brother’s “youth bed”. (today we call them toddler beds) I still remember the small oval wooden plaque with a picture of a little girl kneeling beside her bed in prayer. It hung on the wall by my crib and it’s in my bedroom today. The bathroom only had a toilet, sink and shower so I remember taking baths in the rinse tubs that were part of the wringer washer set up in the laundry room attached to the back of the house. The kitchen and living room were divided by a moveable partition which could be slid sideways to make room at the kitchen table if we had “company”. We had a TV set in the corner of the living room. There was a sand box and a swing set it the yard. I’m not sure how it all influenced me as a child but it certainly gave me good memories because we moved to a bigger home when I was 4 1/2 but I still have memories of the “chicken coop”!

    1. rachael Post author

      What fun memories, Jan! (Very early ones, too!) I’ll bet you think of the “chicken coop” every time you look at that little girl kneeling in prayer 🙂 While not blessed with space or bathtubs, we were blessed with faith and love, right?

      I remember taking baths in the kitchen sink when I was tiny, and also in washtubs at my grandma’s 🙂 The outdoor spa treatment was a little chilly, but fun. The icy cold showers in our mission complex in Mexico? Not so fun!

      I wonder what old-time memories our kids will share one day?

  2. Debbie Burman

    Jan I’m happy you shared about the Chicken. Coop. Before I realized you were her daughter and I began doing her hair one of the fun stories she told me about living in the chicken coop. She seem to be a very nice honest lady. I didnt know her that well at the time. All I could think of was. Who lives in a chicken coop? Not wanting to say anything and offend her or worst loose a good customer I decided It must be real.. She would mention & talk about her memory of it different times. She became a special lady and inspiration to me over the yrs. So thanks Jan for mentioning about it.

    1. rachael Post author

      How awesome that after all these years, you two connect through Jan’s mom on my blog page! That’s a wonderful small-town triumph for me, too 🙂

      Blessings on your day, Debbie!


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