Our first apartment as a married couple was a little piece of heaven, a sweet and tiny oasis of newlywed bliss (well, usually…except for those times when we were fighting over whether we should throw the budget out the window and buy a VCR.) It had the charm and character of an older building. It was situated in an established neighborhood with tree lined streets. We used to take long walks and imagine which one of the beautiful homes we would buy one day. We were excited that it had a garage, a rare find for an apartment building. We were delighted when we pulled into the garage that first time, only to realize that there was no extra room for the driver to open his door and actually exit the vehicle while still in the garage. On a particularity hot summer day, the second story apartment became just oppressive. We realized that running two air conditioners at once was too much for the old electrical panel to handle. Just minor details that added to the charm.
After a year we decided to shake off the dust of that boring, little town and find a real adventure in Colorado Springs. There we found another piece of heaven in a garden level apartment. Oh, the sweet memories of our younger married days! It had a spare bedroom and a cozy fireplace. It also boasted mice and a snake (totally uninvited!) In the big snowstorm of 1997, hundreds of travelers got trapped on the highway between Colorado Springs and Denver. Chris thankfully found shelter in a Denver hotel. Meanwhile, I was being buried alive in that underground apartment, feeling claustrophobic and horribly bored. The little apartment was sparsely furnished with only a bed, dresser, and kitchen table. We would sit on the carpet in the living room to watch movies. That’s right! We did own a TV and VCR by this time. Our lives were full of blessings!
After six months we found the perfect townhouse that seemed just massive to us; two bedrooms and two bathrooms! It was new and pristine with an open floor plan. Heaven again relocated to be with us in this lovely place. We had our first baby and settled her into the extra room. I can’t describe how beautiful it was, that cherub sleeping in her own crib in her own room. We had our second child and added another crib. We had our third child and added a set of bunk beds. Then we had our fourth child, and she ended up in our walk in closet. The walls felt as though they were closing in on us, and the concrete slab in back wasn’t what our children needed for a back yard.
We were able to sell that little piece of heaven (finally!) and find a little larger piece of heaven to rent; a real house with a real fenced in yard! With four, then five young children, I felt like I had won the lottery! The fence was not an effective barrier for the little neighbor boy down the street, who would escape by climbing over his fence and into the neighbor’s yard and eventually into our yard…all without his parents having a clue. They would find him wandering around the neighborhood doing interesting things, such as “selling” free ice cubes door to door out of a soggy cardboard box. My children didn’t feel inclined to follow little Nick, but rather played contentedly in our own back yard, safe and secure, and life was good!
Having had more than our fill of adventure in Colorado, Chris accepted a job back in the boring, little town where we had started. Yet now it had been transformed into our Promised Land. The 5 day trip across the c ountry was like crossing the Jordan. As we drove into Central Pennsylvania, I could hardly believe it! We had arrived! We had reached our own little piece of heaven in a rental house on Market Street. Sure, there was constant traffic and sirens passing our house 4 or 5 times a day. Sure, there was a lot of air pollution and mold in the house. (We have never been so sick as a family as we were in that house.) Yet, out the kitchen window I could see a stunning dogwood tree, showing off its incredible blooms just for me. And the view from the living room – Amazing! I wou ld sit in my recliner and nurse baby number six while my eyes would feast on the sight of the magnolia tree. For two weeks out of the year, it would look so glorious; I thought that this must be what the Garden of Eden looked like.
I was content in my little piece of heaven, but my husband found a house online that he was interested in. There were no pictures of the inside. The outside looked old and outdated, hidden in dark awnings. But there was a huge front porch and my imagination painted the inside with much charm and character. I t was less than a mile from our fist apartment. When we actually got inside to take a real look at it, it was better than I had imagined. “This is it!” we thought, “Our piece of Heaven!”
Miraculously God gave us that house which cost twice the amount we were qualified to borrow, and that is where we live today. I love the custom woodwork, all original from 1924. I love the high ceilings and wide hallways. The large downstairs bathroom, which used to be part of the original doctor’s office, has built-in shelves and cabinets and a counter just perfect for a baby changing station. I imagine that when Dr. Christian was drawing up the plans for this house to his own specific needs, God was quietly whispering in his ear. He was giving his loving “suggestions” that would make this the perfect home for the Brandenburg family 80 years later. It is true; the house is very old. The lead paint on the windows is chipping, the porch is rotting, and the doorknobs come off in your hand if you pull too hard. Yet, this is where heaven resides, and this is where I want to be! Our seventh and eighth babies were born in the bedroom upstairs. The older children have grown into teenagers here. The younger boys ride their bikes on the sidewalk and play with the neighbor children. I love to watch them in the back yard, glowing golden in the setting summer sun.
It is true; we have a lot of people sharing five bedrooms and one bathtub! We have our eye on a much bigger place; seven bedrooms, six bathrooms, and ten acres of wooded land. And when we finally get there, heaven will be there too! I am sure that even that divine home will have its issues. Maybe it will feel like too many square feet to keep clean and heat. Maybe the mosquitoes will be breeding in that idyllic lake out back. Whatever the issues are, they are just details. The real truth is, heaven is wherever the center of God’s will is…and for me, that is in the heart of my family’s home.