The Empty Townhouse

by Lisa DeRosa
Empty Townhouse 1

post and photos by Sue Duby,

Chuck dreamed of a serious “downsize” for a long while. After one too many years of mowing lawns (since he was a little guy so the story goes!), trimming trees and repairing leaks, he hoped for the moment to unfold in our move to Northwest Arkansas. I wrestled to join his dream and added a few “ok … if …” thoughts to his. A yard for my flowers. Big windows and happy light. Décor that whispered, “Gather here for rest, safety and warmth”. 

A few weeks of hunting left us discouraged, frustrated and tense (call it one of those record times in our marriage). With no clue how to move forward, we suddenly stumbled on it. A new listing. A townhouse. When the front door swung open, I knew I was home. Depending on the day, we now call it our English cottage (great gardens!) or our Beach Cabin (though the nearest beach is over 700 miles away).

In the excitement, I never really noticed a lot of details… many only realized a few months after moving in. Our driveway sat back on a small cul-de-sac (fewer cars). Our back fence bordered two beautiful homes (with treed landscapes for us to enjoy). Two small turns led to the exiting gate (quick access). Three minutes on the gas pedal dropped me in front of the grocery store. And more…  including a shared wall with our neighbor’s unit. 

Elderly Joe spent his hours inside, with never a sound floating through the walls to our home. Every few days, we’d catch him on the driveway grabbing the newspaper. With only quiet nods from him, we set a goal to continue our greetings and one day earn a smile. The smile finally came. After a few years, Joe passed away, the unit sold and became a rental.

Dave moved in and we began the dance again. Shared a meal in our home. Befriended his vicious looking Doberman, discovering a big baby under all those muscles. Rescued Dave from a flood during the big freeze, when we discovered water gushing from his garage. And this week, Dave moved. Rumor said the unit will soon be sold again.

One night as Chuck and I sat under the stars in the backyard, we discovered thoughts bubbling up in each of us and we dared to share them (true confession time). I frowned. “What if they decide to plant trees next to the fence and ruin my perennial garden?”. “What if they are noisy and strange?” “What if they don’t want me taking charge of the median between our driveways where I ALWAYS plant MY flowers?” Chuck: “What if they have an unruly dog… or worse two dogs?” “What if they build a patio and we lose our privacy?” “What if we can’t be friends?”. The questions continued to spill forth. 

Empty Townhouse 2

“MY” median

Along the way, that familiar unsettling stomach churning began. And then a whisper… ”What about what I want?”… and I knew it was time to pause. “What You want Lord? WHO you want Lord?”. Those questions had not entered my mind. 

Suddenly it hit. We’d made a long list in our pondering together. A lengthy stream of “I want _______, I want ________, I want _______”. All about us. All to do with what would seem to keep us happy, content and loving our space (as if we even know what that would truly be!). How can it be after all these years… still discovering how very human we are…  how easily we fall back into self-focus… and forgetting how we really want to live.

I sheepishly turned to Chuck. “I think we’ve been so selfish. Only thinking about us.” He nodded and sighed… and we began our reframing. Taking a step back and working to get His view. Within a few minutes, the load felt lighter. Our smiles returned. We traded new ideas. “Lord, bring who you want to the unit”. “Show us how we can be the neighbor they need.” “Have your way.” “Let us be part of Your plan, instead of forcing our own” (as if we could even do that!). 

The story is yet to be written, but we’re excited for this next adventure. The “For Sale” sign appeared today. We wait with the empty townhouse beyond our wall … yet a bit anxious, but settled. May He continue to keep our hearts open to receive (and welcome) all who come our way.

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul (life), and with all your mind (thought, understanding), and with all your strength.’ 31 This is the second: ‘You shall [unselfishly] love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”  Mark 12:30-31 Amplified

Empty Townhouse 3

Welcome all…


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4 comments

Herbert Orr April 20, 2021 - 8:04 am

In 1977, we looked at a house with a great room and probably other things we wanted. We would like this house if we stayed there. Shortly, we knew we had to move. We decided that we wanted to move here in Mobile Alabama where
the headquarters of our church movement was located. I am a medical doctor and like to work in nursing homes.So, I sent letters here. No response.
Then, while visited the church I heard the word: “I need to be here where my Christian brothers were.” When we went
back to where we lived, on Monday I got a letter from one. So, Thursday we went back to Mobile. The nursing home was not what I wanted. So, I went to the emergency room of a local hospital asking a doctor if he knew about a doctor
that wanted a partner. He gave me a name and there I had a place to work. (I write this because when I looked at a house it had a great room ans the inside was also to my liking.)
We’ve lived here since. I liked the wall paper that is in the kitchen and bathroom all this time. The great room has been
a place of peace when we had company. We now have our house church here..

Sue April 20, 2021 - 11:05 am

Thanks Herbert. Amazing how some of the most “daily living” things, like housing, can yet again be ways for the Lord to teach, stretch and guide us in trusting Him.

Cathy April 20, 2021 - 10:03 am

What a wonderful story that beautifully describes our common desire to feel some mastery of our space. But you are so wise to recognize that the true mastery of our lives comes in letting that go and focusing on relationships instead. What a blessing you were to two neighbors. I have no doubt you will continue to bless your new neighbors. If I were your neighbor, I would love YOUR median garden! Thank you for a lovely story.

Sue April 20, 2021 - 11:03 am

Thank you Cathy for your kind words! The townhouse has sold and closed, but we have yet to meet the new owners. Soon we hope. . .and trusting it will yet be another good adventure! And the median is about to be planted for the neighbors to enjoy 🙂

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