A list- of what you don’t get with a 118 year old house:
• 3 beds
• 2 baths
• open floor plan
• a finished basement
• a garage
Now, what you do get with a 118 year old house:
• 1 tiny attic bedroom
• 1 giant loft with 2 awkward nooks
• 1 downstairs bedroom connected to the dining room by double pocket doors
• a kitchen with pink and white checkered tile and cabinets that let mice and *gulp* rats in (don’t worry, we fixed this)
• a creepy old basement that looks like a horror movie (what’s behind that door? Is that red paint or blood? Paint! *whew*)
• 2 off street parking spots that force you to go up two sets of stairs with three under 4 in tow and make groceries a full on workout.
All these parts of this house, they are by most standards: inconvenient, inefficient and downright annoying. I will admit my second list to be part comic relief, part complaining, and part resignation.
We stumbled upon this house almost 4 years ago- only a year of marriage under our belts, a four month old baby taking up most of our waking and sleeping hours, and our current residence being the basement of my husband’s parents’ house in the country (thank you, mom and dad!). We thought we would be basement country dwellers for a while-possibly a year or more-while we saved up to purchase a small starter home.
A few weeks in to the arrangement, I was going mad. Not because my in-laws were stifling (they are actually the best people you could possibly do something like that with), but because my own nature needed a house or space of my own to keep. I felt useless and worthless.
A chance conversation with a relative revealed that they were working on getting a small, old house ready to try and sell, and if we wanted to take a look we could. They were even willing to let us rent it for a winter before we decided if we wanted to buy it!
Long story short, it needed work, but we were willing to do it. We didn’t quite have a clear vision of what we wanted it to be, but it had *potential*. It didn’t really make logical sense to take on such a big project for a first house, but it truly felt like God had put it in our laps. We couldn’t say no.
Fast forward to today: two babies have been brought home here, a couple grand have been added to our credit cards, three Christmas trees have lived and been taken to the curb here, rooms have been painted and repainted, carpet torn out, floors replaced, spaces configured, reconfigured, emptied, filled, cleaned and dirtied. We have half a bathroom more than when we started!
This house, this unlikely house, has taught me so many lessons about gratefulness, creativity, frugality, problem solving, and myself. It’s shown me so completely how God can have a much bigger plan for us than we could ever imagine. I never truly thought we would be here more than three years, and now it seems like we could never leave.
There’s a bit of nostalgia that motivates me to stay here, but it’s mostly the realization that this smallish space not only pushes us all together, but pushes me forward. In the phases I had very little time for creative output, it provided me with some in the form of rearranging to meet our needs. This home has pushed me closer to my children. It’s pushed me out into the world- you can’t stay inside a small house for very long. And then it’s pulled me back into welcome solitude when I knew I was over socializing and over expending.
My feelings of uselessness and worthlessness didn’t disappear once I had this space to keep- if anything they worsened. However, this home was the space that witnessed my lowest lows, and it is the place I have built myself back up in. It has been a safe place to learn (and continue to learn) to be myself, to be a wife, to be a mother, and to be a friend.
Your home doesn’t have to look like mine for this work can happen. Our apartments, houses, townhouses, duplexes, subdivisions, our roofs- these are our dwellings, and thereby the indwelling places of the Holy Spirit.
Our homes are holy spaces, where we break bread together, where we yell and cry and say “forgive me” and laugh and wrestle and do dishes and bake cookies and nap and read stacks of books. I can no longer view my home as a suffocating or inconvenient place- it’s precisely where God wants me to be.