New Year, New House

It was April of 2007 and I had just returned home from the hospital with our brand new second son. We were then renting an 800 square foot duplex with next to no yard and had begun toying with the idea of finding a bigger place since the toddler bed and crib pretty much maxed out our second bedroom and we wanted a place for our boys (and any other potential children) to run.

As my mother headed out the door to return home after helping me out for a week, she told me that she would be praying that we would be able to purchase a house soon.  I laughed a little at the idea.  We really weren’t in a position to do any such thing, but it was nice to dream.
Fast forward just a few weeks to when the hubby came home from work early one day, brimming with excitement.  He had something to show me, he said.  Something exciting.  I headed to the car, but he told me we could just walk so, curious, I loaded up the stroller with my two precious babies and we walked just a block and a half to…. what was it?
It must have been a house at some point- there was kind of a roof after all and some walls in the front, but creeping cautiously through the front door (hanging on one hinge) revealed not so much a house but a roost for what appeared to be all the pigeons of Georgia and Tennessee combined.
I stood there as the flapping of the agitated wings subsided and gaped at the rotted out floor, the caved in roof, the gutted walls filthy with who knows what kinds of filth and then to the inexplicable grin on the hubby’s face.
“What do you think, honey? Pretty great, huh? And we could get it for an absolute steal.  But there are several other people who wanna buy it so we would need to act fast.”
It took me a minute to comprehend that he was actually considering purchasing this place- that he thought he could make a home out of it for the wide-eyed toddler clinging to my leg and the tiny, fragile infant I was clutching in my arms.
I’m sure I managed some kind of a “honey, are you kidding me?” response but with the shock of his announcement and the post partum haze I was struggling with, I can’t remember.  What I do remember is him saying,
“I know it looks bad (there was probably an eyeroll from me here) but it’s a great piece of property and this house- it has really great bones.”

I don’t remember much that followed.  I do remember sitting in an office signing papers and shaking hands with the former owner who had given up trying to renovate the house and was practically giving it away. His look of intense relief seemed ominous to me somehow, as did his fervent “Good Luck with that,” as he hastened out the door.
But we were young, optimistic, the hubby had a good job with lots of potential and of course, he was talented enough to do anything.
Then came 2008. And as you all know if you have followed this blog at all, it went downhill fast from there.  But throughout all of our various attempts to complete our home, that phrase has cropped up over and over again from people who have come to help work or just to take a peek.
“Wow, you sure have your work cut out for you here- but this house has great bones.”
There have been times over the years where I have felt like screaming,
“Alright already! I know it has good bones, but I am sick of looking at bones! Can we pretty please put some meat on them?”
And then one day, after years of intense longing and impatience and despair, it happened.  The dried up bones were covered up, clothed, transformed into something that resembles a real, living house.  And it has happened so quickly that I’m still reeling- still struggling to grasp that this house might actually be a home to us.  But I’m slowly being convinced.



20151230_142330~220151230_14231520151230_142350~2As I slowly adjust to the idea of living here, I can’t help but try to picture more fully what it will look like once it’s all done.  For instance, yesterday I just couldn’t stand seeing my dining room windows boarded up any more so I just went ahead and took the boards down. (Really, I just kicked them out.  I didn’t have a drill to remove the screws but the wood was so rotten that it just fell apart.)  It was enormously satisfying.  Of course I had to spend the rest of the day on a ladder covering up the holes I had made with plastic so the rain wouldn’t get in, but it was well worth the effort.20151230_143948I can’t describe how gloriously the whole house was flooded with light and how my imagination zoomed forward to many happy feasts in that dining room and kitchen.




So the challenge for 2015 is going to be increased patience.  The mere fact that it looks so much more like a house intensifies my desire to escape the confines of the trailer and to move in immediately.  But alas, it is still far from inhabitable.  There are still no windows, no bathrooms, no electricity, no heat, no kitchen. Everything needs painting and trimming- the floor is a dusty expanse of plywood.  And the hubby still has a day job.

In spite of all this, I’ve never before faced a New Year that has so much potential for excitement and change and, well, newness of every kind.  Your prayers and support have meant so much to us during this time and we humbly ask that they would continue as we push forwards through this last leg of the journey.

We are now looking at Easter as a possible goal for moving in which would bring our trailer adventure to a full year. But one thing we have learned- you never know what a year (or a month, or even a week) might bring.  So overall, we pray that we would live one day of this New Year a time, stepping out in the belief that God holds us and all things in his merciful hands.



Not your average White Christmas

Shards of papery board litter the floor I walk on. Plastery crumbs crunch under my feet while small clouds of chalky dust rise at each step. The December breeze blows through the window frames still awaiting their shining panes of glass and I shiver in cold and delight as I look at our smooth, snowy, brand new walls. This may not be your average white Christmas. But after a particularly wintry year, it’s one of the happiest I’ve known.

A few days ago, however, I was not this happy. I was all kinds of discouraged and depressed and convinced deep inside myself that this important step towards completing our long-awaited home would never come. My life, you must understand, was doomed to be one weary, interminable ‘work until you drop’ cycle with very little to show for it. I’ll be honest with you, I’ve been having a hard time facing each day.
But this morning I woke up long before the sun- expectant, excited, nervous- although still trying to wrap myself in that self-protective cushion that would prepare me for any dashed hopes or further delays.
This morning there was none of the usual grunting at the children to leave me and my caffeine fix in peace and get themselves a bowl of cereal- I had a broad smile with a side of sizzling sausage and eggs waiting for them when they woke up. The coffee was hot for daddy, the baby changed and dressed before she had a chance to complain, the blankets folded, the pillows and beds stowed away. I felt like my old self again- that self that decided to move us to this place nine months ago- full of optimism and energy and hope- that self who was so confidently sure that life in a trailer would never get her down.

Still I was cautious in my optimism. Only a fool wouldn’t be. But lo and behold, the work crew arrived exactly when they said they would. Not only that but they started in right away- no forgotten tools or last second runs to the hardware store.

Then I watched, breathless,  as the first heavy board was lifted overhead and the first screws went in to hold it in place. I may or may not have wept a little. Then I may or may not have danced a little jig and the workers may or may not have thought me crazy.
I have been sneaking up to the house all morning, in between school lessons, just to see how much they have gotten done. Man, those guys work fast!  Then back to the trailer, dancing another little jig. The boys may or may not have thought me crazy.
But throughout all my joy, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of guilt- a shadow of shame, knowing (as I very well did) that the only reason I was so happy is because things are finally going right, at least for today. Today was a good day.  But alas, I have failed myself and my family over and over again on this journey as I have let the bad days negatively dictate how I have interacted with my husband, my kiddos and with the God who has written this story for us. I have been weak, I have lost faith, I have listened to the Tempter who told me to despair.

In the window of the trailer hangs a snippet of a Bible verse. It simply reads ‘Rejoice in it.’ The words catch my eye each time I head out the door and it is astonishing to me how many different ways I have reacted to this simple imperative.
Sometimes it does the job I wanted it to do when I first hung it up so many months back. It serves as a reminder that this day (good or bad) is the day that the Lord has made- so please, my dear, act in accordance with that fact.
Sometimes it prompts a guilty and grudging obedience and helps me to put on a plastic smile in the face of adversity.
Sometimes I have a little argument in my head with that snippet which usually consists in listing every excuse I have, to show how and why I should be exempt from such a command. After all, my life is legitimately difficult right now.
But more often than not, I feel fear when confronted with those words.  Yes, fear. I am afraid to rejoice because perhaps, if I allow myself to be glad about the fact that I live in a trailer with seven people while I stare at that stubbornly incomplete house, God will look down and say,
“Oh look, she has finally learned her lesson of contentment. She has finally understood what it means to be joyful in all circumstances. I think I will just leave her there. Why mess with a good thing?”
This fear makes me want to cling to my melancholy as a kind of insurance that we will get out of this situation some day.

Of course, in my more rational moments I know that this is nonsense. I know that God wants us to strive for better things and I know that he doesn’t want us to sit on our hands and accept that this life is always going to be hard, so why try?

I also know, in my better moments, that it is not the actual circumstances we are to rejoice over as if God is pleased when we laugh lightheartedly at the grief and pain and struggle in our own lives and at the world at large.
We don’t rejoice because of the mere physical day (good or bad) but because of the Lord who made it. We don’t rejoice merely because of the sheetrock we can finally see, although it is a wondrous sight, but because of the Lord (and his people) who gave it.
And we don’t rejoice at Christmas, merely because of the snow (if you are so lucky) and the lights and the music and presents. These things are just a bonus from a bountiful God. We rejoice because now we can say, every single day, in every single circumstance, that Emmanuel has come to be with us.

Oh Come, thou dayspring from on high,
And cheer us by thy drawing nigh.
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!