The Brown House

We moved to the brown house a few months after I turned one.

For my second Birthday, my mom set a big tall candle in the middle of the dining room table and let me blow it out as soon as it had burned from the “1” to the “2.” For the next five Birthdays, I would sit at the same table with the same candle.

That house holds some of my strongest and happiest memories from childhood. A good portion of the stories I have written about are from this time, including the year I wouldn’t come out of my room on Christmas morning because I was convinced Santa had brought me coal.

In my mind’s eye, I can see every corner of it.

The swing that was bolted underneath the second-story deck, where I would pump until my feet touched the underside.

Our dog Sparky, who I may or may not have blamed for pushing my sister down the stairs one time.

The day my dad brought home a wrapped box, and when I opened it I read “T-Ball” but didn’t know what it meant. He told me we would play with it together after supper, which was all the information I needed to love it.

My grandmother taught me how to swim a few miles from the brown house.

I can still feel the pull my mom’s hands, tugging my wet boots off after hours in the snow.

It was exactly what childhood should be, and albums of photographs have preserved the days of the brown house.

Where I welcomed a baby sister into the world.

And played on a soccer team called the “Brown Bombers” that never won a game.

I listened to records and did gymnastics waiting for my dad to come home from a business trip. After awhile I stopped dancing and stared into the dark night, willing his car to pull in the long driveway so I could stand on his feet and dance with him.

   

I had my first crush there, and subsequently my first heartbreak.

Once I stuck my head through the slats on our porch, only to realize that my ears prevented me from pulling it back through. It wasn’t nearly as alarming as it was comical, and truth be told I don’t remember how we ever did get me out of there.

There was always snow in winter, bright sky in summer.

It was idyllic, really.

I would hasten to say I have exhausted Todd with my stories over the years

Unfortunately, it’s also the house that reminds me of the way I was afraid to sleep. I can remember sitting up in bed, staring straight ahead and waiting to see my parents walk to their room.

One night I thought there were snakes in my bed so I screamed until my mom came. They were actually not snakes, but rather the tails of the mickey mouse images on my bedsheets. We decided Holly Hobbie was a better option after that.

I can smell the humidifier, puffing and piping steam while my sister cried a few doors down.

I got my first scar at the brown house. My mother was sitting behind me, blowdrying my hair, and I swung my legs and lost my balance. I landed on my chin and split it open. I still remember the man at the hospital telling me it wasn’t exactly stitches, but something about a butterfly instead, which sounded better than bleeding.

One of the hardest days of my childhood was the first day of school.

I vividly remember being concerned that my hair wasn’t quite long enough to be braided the way I wanted. I watched my mother make me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and as her hands moved from one side to the other and I stared at the back of her head, wishing she would let me stay with her instead.

I didn’t smile for a single picture, because I was petrified. I gripped the handle of my lunchbox and pleaded with my eyes.

In light of everything that has happened in the past several days, this particular photograph has taken on new meaning.

Beautiful, precious, and full of a lifetime of days I hadn’t seen yet.

I was six- a Kindergartner.

At Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.

I look at myself, standing in a kitchen where another child likely stood last week, and the weight of it all overwhelms me.

We sat as a family today and we each prayed for everyone involved. We begged God to be present with the families affected, and to work in supernatural ways to bring healing.

It’s familiar to me, this town.

It’s as much a part of me as any other place I’ve been.

But this grief, this upside-down, twisted inside-out devastation that is wreaking havoc on streets I used to run…it’s more than I can bear.

I cry as they show images of women, panicked and running with their children. I fold over myself as the first images are released and I am face to face children who are Kate’s age.

I’ve tried to write this post over and over, and I just can’t get through it. I am so terribly broken for all of those who have been affected, and I fear my pen can never reach the depth of these emotions. There are beautiful and right things to say about our hope as Christians, but some days it’s a fight to feel the peace we profess.

I await the day when it will be made right, and in the meantime, I will fix my eyes on Jesus. I will pray for these families by name, and will never forget the tiny faces that flash on the nightly news…

Lord, we don’t understand. We are trusting in  Your goodness, leaning hard into you instead of what’s all around us.

Please, Jesus…have mercy. We are broken and devastated over a loss like this…we need you, Father.

Come Quickly.

 


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  • Judy

    Thank you Angie….simply told and yet so very powerful to all who hurt for those in mourning. We do need Jesus! Bless you for your words of hope.

  • Michelle

    Me too. That’s all I can say! You’ve spoken my life, my heart, my hurts.

  • Rebecca W.

    Your words are so pure and true, and reflect the struggles this nation is facing as this tragedy unites each one of us in grief. I can’t imagine how much more it must resonate with your history and connection to that community and school. This is just awful, and I think it is important to show that although we hold tight to our faith during these times, it is hard to find that peace right now…Jesus, be with us.

  • SKBowers

    Beautifully and powerfully written Angie. Thank you so much for digging deep and pushing through the pain to the words you needed to write. We are all heartbroken….and a little more patient with our kindergartners.

  • Chauncey Cianci

    You are a beautiful writer, Angie. I, too, am affected by this awful tragedy but I have hope and know that God is sovereign and He is good. In joyous times. In tragedy. In loneliness. And loss. He still is good. Thank you for sharing. God bless!

  • Kasey

    So beautifully said. I grew up in Texas but have lived in Connecticut for over 8 years now (about 40 min from Newtown)… Where my husband and I are raising out five year old son… And this fear has crept deep into my being… Just fear in general and wondering if the good that I was able to grow up and live within will be lost in the days ahead of my son. But when you share your heart in this way, I am comforted that I am not alone in my struggle and that God is still indeed near to the broken hearted.

  • Lauren

    You are a seriously gifted storyteller. Thank you for sharing with us :)

  • http://ourfamilyforhisglory.com/ Our Family for His Glory

    So beautifully written in the days when hope seems so distant and pain is so evident. My heart aches with yours, and I cry out to God- Come! Lord Jesus, Come! We need You so very desperately!
    Hugs and tears from afar,
    Jessica

  • SouthernGalThoughts

    I cry again as I think of those children and their parents and siblings. Your words are haunting and beautiful.

  • Coby

    Amen. Amen. I have no connection to Connecticut, other than I am the wife of a teacher and a mother to a 3 year-old and 6 year-old twin boys – kindergarteners, with faces and smiles as sweet as those flashed on the news. I’m just an ordinary mom who fiercely loves her children, and who weeps for the mothers and fathers whose children didn’t come home from school on Friday. Jesus, touch their hearts as only You can, and help us all to hold fast You.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jessica.biles.75 Jessica Biles

    I can see how what happened hits so close to home for you. That is definitely heart breaking.

  • erin

    I do not have a ‘physical’ connection to anyone affected by the events that unfolded last Friday morning, but I feel as if I do. The grief those families must be experiencing is unimaginable. Those pictures and stories you share are full of wonderful memories and raw emotion. Hold tight to your memories. Thanks so much for sharing your beautiful story with us.

  • mj

    I do not think this is a coincidence…I don’t know what to make of your intimate connection, but I know it is in another realm of significance.
    May your heart be open to the calling upon your soul, may you be filled with courage, Angie, be still, this is bigger than big, this is your trumpet call

  • Jenn

    I got chills when I read what school you attended. This tragedy has hit home in my heart, more than I care to admit. I look at my big, blue-eyed boy who runs into school every day with such enthusiasm and can’t even imagine what it would be like if that was my last vision of him. I’ve held my babies close, closer than ever before simply because I can. My prayers are with everyone during this horrific time…

  • muller

    A terrible tragedy that we all know God will use in only a way that He can, for His glory, but yet, still a terrible tragedy. I have cried every night seeing the images and interviews, prayed fervently and cried some more. I also pray that God will move in the hearts of our President and our country. Heavenly Father, we need you so much; come quickly!

  • Jean

    Wow Angie. Praying

  • Jennylee

    you wrote about your childhood so elegantly. I wish I could express myself in words the way you do…I can see why this tragedy hit way too close to home for you, praying for God to bind up all our wounds and comfort in ways only He can. Hugs to you, friend.

  • Monica @ The Writer Chic

    I had to read the sentence under the first day picture over and over. It seems impossible. But I have no doubt that God will use your testimony and your connection to this small town to help bring the healing rain….

    • Karen

      I did the same thing. I pray God will use your connection to shine His light into the darkness. I know it’s got to be overwhelming, but one day I can see you visiting that brown house.

      God, please hold us closer.

  • http://www.pensieve.me/ Robin Dance

    Your recall is enviable. We grew up with you.

    It was such a different time then….30 years from now, I wonder what story a beautiful writer will be telling…

  • http://www.fieldstonehilldesign.com {darlene}

    angie. I am without words. only the thought: for such a time as this. Praying for you. Praying for us.

  • http://twitter.com/fourflights Andrea Howe

    Amazing story, amazing memories. Thank you for telling it as beautifully as you did.

  • pastordt

    Unbelievable. I’m sure there are thousands of people who could tell this story – but for it to be YOU? Stunned. So sad and heartbroken. Adding you to the prayer list – you are carrying layers the rest of us are not. This has hit as hard as 9/11 – praying for grace, peace, mercy, hope. Thank you for your magnificent story-telling. I am only so sorry you had to tell it.

  • http://www.bargainshopperlady.com/ The Bargain Shopper Lady

    I had to read your story over 10 times. Wow! I can’t believe you went to Sandy Hook Elementary school. Words cannot express what you must be feeling. I am so sorry this happened at your hometown and elementary school. My husband grew up in CT and we lived there for 4 years in the past and have lots of family there. I am amazed at the miracle that our country is seeking God right now. We need Him to heal our hearts when life doesn’t make sense. I am holding my kids close this week.

  • laurenkelly

    WOW! At a loss for words! Beautifully written! Continuing to pray for that community and the broken hearts and as they try to mend the pieces back together!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kskorb Karen Sasser Harrell Korb

    What an amazing story. I was so very touched by your walk down memory lane….and then gut punched by the end. You are an amazing writer and I love reading you each day. As a teacher my heart has been grieving for the Newtown families. I realize it can happen anywhere…even in the small town I live in.

  • Erin

    I gasped out loud when I read the caption under the picture. Wow…just wow. Many have felt this tragedy deeply, but I cannot imagine having such an intimate connection.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=609862010 Janet Grimes

    Thanks so much for sharing, Angie, in the way only you can do. Your story continues to shine to point others toward Jesus. Now, it just has more depth.

  • Helen Murray

    Oh. I held my breath as I read that last part.
    Over here in the UK my heart is broken for every Mummy and Daddy whose little love I’ve seen on the television. There really aren’t any words.
    I’m praying.

  • Trennia Hedges

    So heartbreaking…prayers offered to the families.

  • Lisa

    Your childhood may have been idyllic, but don’t you think that was a result of God’s grace on your life, rather than because you lived in Newtown? I would bet (sin being what it is) that some other child, living in the same town, during the same years, had the complete opposite experience. Perhaps even right next door to your brown house, terrible things were happening. Most folks did not own semi-automatic weapons then, but the suffering produced by sin was still there. As terrible as it is for Newtown families now, who have seen their community shattered, clearly something awful had been brewing in the Lanza house for many years, despite how things looked on the surface of this quaint, safe, family-friendly community. And really, there are no “safe” communities because evil is everywhere. We live and breathe by God’s grace every minute.
    I think the true connection you have to the Newtown families is not having lived there or attended that school. Your connection is Audrey. You have experienced the worst loss: putting your child’s body in a grave, and then having to figure out how to go on living. I hope somehow God makes a way for you and your family to minister there. Even though the circumstances of your loss was different, you understand that kind of heartrending pain.

  • http://candelierious.blogspot.com Lis

    I was awaiting this post, after I saw the tweet that you attended this school. Thank you for writing it. I think it is interesting to hear a perspective like this; of course, NO ONE is more affected than those poor families; with that said, there are so many on the outside affected. People, like yourself, whose memories and visions and a life of this seemingly peaceful place being utterly destroyed. I can’t imagine having that peace ripped from you. Praying for all affected.

  • Queen of the Click

    Ang, I loved your pics and memories….I knew it would be leading up to the recent tragedy in CT.

    I don’t understand your last line – come quickly. I hear people say it all the time. But isn’t God already there?

  • http://sparkvoice.wordpress.com/ DS

    I found your blog through Lifeway, and wanted to say thanks for sharing this story, your family’s story regarding Audrey, and the way you serve through your writing.

  • Sarah H.

    An amazing post, and an amazing connection. I too think that your connection is a God given opportunity to share your heart with other parents there who are experiencing the loss of their children. You so eloquently wrote what all of us as parents, and especially as Christians, have been feeling about this tragedy. I will be praying that God will use you to minister to these families in a way that only He can.
    On a much, much lighter note – I had that same lunchbox, and I’m pretty sure, that same dress. Love the era of Smurfs and Holly Hobbie. (My bedspread was Holly Hobbie) :)

  • http://the4crows.com/ ShaRhonda

    I have read your blog before, but was referred again today by my friend Beth at Masterpiece, who is spilling her heart out right now as well. I was interviewed that night by our local news here in Oklahoma and just cried an ugly cry in reaction to the events of that December day. Come Quickly is right, the only right to end this world of evil.

    http://www.masterpiece-beth.com/2013/01/01/what-women-fear/

  • Earl and Kathy

    Thank you Angie, for this blog..we take life so lightly..on November 27 1981 we lost Elizabeth Kate, she was born dead without cause…being in ministry it hit twice as hard..still hurts but we know she is with Jesus… We remember holding her with her little pink hat…she was beautiful…our family 7 boys (men now) know she is part of our family..I feel she prays for us even now to live with our Savior ..His robes flowing touching our faces, shoulders and feet and Being Gripped by His Grace.. our healing will truly come eternally, until then we live for Christ,,,We cried this Christmas while listening to Selah sing “You Rise Me Up” , over and over …Blessings By and By

  • http://www.differentparent.com/ Wick Anderson

    Tragic, and all the more rekindling our calls for the Savior to come. He is Lord, even in the midst of such suffering. He suffers with us, and is at work to bring healing even now. Thanks for your reminder of how precious life must be…

  • Joy

    stunned. the story. the last picture. amazed.

  • arow97

    Beautifully written, with quite a twist that had me in tears at the end – just like so many moments of our lives. I can only imagine how much deeper the horror of the entire situation is to one who knows those halls, has walked those streets and was once in the same places as all these little ones who were gone too quickly. I continue to pray for these families as every morning I awake to the joys and frustrations as a mom and realize, again, with every dawn, how blessed I am to wake up to these faces – thinking of those families that will wake every day from here to the end without their own precious little faces with them. Indeed, come, Lord Jesus.

  • Devan

    It has taken me more than a month to comment on this. I have read and reread it. My heart has been broken by this tragedy. Your words moved me…beyond words. I pray for you…and the families. We all lost a little more innocence on that day.