In west Knoxville there sits a beautiful house high up on a steep hill. From the back yard you can see the mountains sprawled out in the distance. From the front yard you can see, through the window of your imagination, the most epic Slip-and-Slide just waiting to happen. The house belongs to our dear friend Tracy and her boys. Well, it did. Today they’re moving out, and it feels a little bit like we’re moving with them. Actually, it feels like a whole lot of us are moving. Allow me to explain.
Tracy and her husband Kenny bought this house 11 or 12 years ago. Jeremy and I got to be the first ones to see it with them; he was their realtor (a brief career he held in what seems like a former life). I didn’t care much for it at the time; I thought it was too big. I was wrong. You see, Kenny (who passed away nearly three years ago) and Tracy together had a unique gift of hospitality, the likes of which I’ve never known elsewhere, so they needed something that would accommodate their vision. And did it ever. This house needed to be big enough to be a homecoming to three boys and their wives and children someday. Big enough for teenagers and all of their friends, as well as for missionaries home on furlough. Big enough for dinner guests and Fourth of July gatherings and Christmas parties and graduation celebrations. Big enough to host their entire church family for Super Bowl parties and New Year’s Eve parties. And little did we know at the time that it needed to be big enough for hundreds of people to gather and grieve together when Kenny died, and then a few months later, their youngest son Brown also. This house indeed had a unique purpose, one it fulfilled so beautifully.
I have my own delightful family memories in this house. My firstborn’s baby shower was held there, as were many of my friends’. I remember being invited over for dinner when Jeremy was out of town and Kenny telling Aiden, who was a toddler at the time, that he could have all the dinner rolls he wanted and didn’t have to eat his green beans, even though I had just told him otherwise. I remember narrowly dodging the explosion of a 4th of July firecracker lighting gone very wrong. I remember Kenny and I challenging each other to Name That Tune and being mortified that someone actually could beat me. I remember basketball games, children on the swing set, summer barbecues, Bible studies, board games, long conversations, gift exchanges, and a whole lot of hamburgers. I remember laughing til I cried and I remember inconsolable weeping. I remember last goodbyes.
The house that my friends, that we, are saying goodbye to today isn’t just a house to us. For more than a decade it has been a living parable – a shining (house) on a hill where we have seen the love and hospitality of the Kingdom of God lived out by the people who dwelt within its walls. It was full of fun and laughter, yes. But it was also a place of refuge, a place of comfort, a place where there was room for everyone at the table. As my friends say goodbye to their home today, dozens…no, I dare say hundreds of people will be saying goodbye as well, to a home that holds so many cherished memories and that reflected the light of the coming Kingdom to everyone who entered.