Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Place Called Home

I hope you'll indulge me a little as I write about a topic that has been on my mind almost constantly since we moved from Charleston. It's a myriad of topics that all coalesce into a sort of deeper issue. So it may take me a bit to get to the moral of this story.

For those of you that have known John and I for a long time, and read this blog through its many forms and addresses (bless you for that), you have seen our family change and grow. You have seen us from our first married apartment that was basically a furnished split studio apartment to townhouses, big houses, and just about every type of housing situation in between. This year John and I will have been married 9 years (if my math is right, which, let's face it, is probably wrong), so I'll say approximately 9 years, and we have run quite a gamut of experiences. Throughout all of these years, we have tried to find just the right house to complement the lifestyle that we wanted for ourselves.  Now when I type lifestyle--and probably when you read the word "lifestyle"-- it sounds fake and richy and stuck up. I'm sorry, I can't think of a less snooty word for it, but the idea of a lifestyle--a way of living--is what I want to talk about. It's the way you approach your home. It's the way you approach your problems. It's a way you hope you parent your children. I think at its very essence, it is a vision you have of your life's possibilities. Is there a better word for that than lifestyle? I am guessing so, but that's what I'll refer to it as in this blogpost.

For lots of years I felt that the house I chose would help to reach the vision I had for my life. I didn't think of it in terms of class or keeping up with the Joneses, but more of a space where I could picture our family living up to its best potential. I wanted space for the kids to play. I wanted nooks where kids could hide away and read when they are older. I wanted rooms that were sanctuaries, filled with books, and piano lessons (which also means a piano someday!) and counters for kids to do homework while I baked or putzed around the kitchen. I had in my minds eye a place that would be safe, comfortable, cozy, and welcoming to friends and family.

I think this sort of thinking is normal. I think it is part of what gives women that "nesting instinct." It is a part of my nature that I can appreciate and embrace because I happen to feel that it also gives impetus to my desires to raise my children well and create a haven in our home for them.

However, I think in all of the changes and movings and changing of homes that we have experienced over the course of our marriage, I began to forget that in the search for this feeling in our home, a small part of me began to think that it was more the house that would accomplish this than the people.

What does that difference in outlook matter? Oh, I think it matters immensely.

When you start to think that it's the house that matters and not the home, all of the sudden nothing you do ever seems good enough. Your house is too small. The decorations are not right. The kitchen isn't grand enough. The discontent that pinterest and blogs (or the joneses) can bring enters into our hearts and instead of seeing our house for the potential it once held for us, we only see all of the things that it lacks. We see all of the wishes and wants, instead of the things we have and the wishes granted. It's a sad change--and it happens slowly.

I have been guilty of it, and with this big change in our lives and the time to rent someone else's home, I have been surprised how content I have felt. I can't change anything about this house. I can't paint, I can't beadboard, I can't scheme. And being free from all of that pressure, all of the sudden I felt free to simply enjoy. Do I still sorta hate the colors on the walls of this house? Um, yes, without reservation. :) But does it bother me? No. It's surprising even to me.

All of the sudden, with the focus off of the change and the imperfections, all I can see is the family. I can see the things that I need to work on (and yes, it hurts), and the things that we were doing right all along. I see how the feeling that I was searching and yearning and praying for was the permission to be content with less. The permission to say, yes we could probably afford more of a house, but this time I want less. I want less stress, less of a mortgage, less of a commute for John. I want less noise, less debt, less clutter. But beyond that, I also want more. I want more time for playing games as a family, for cleaning up messes together, for learning and exploring and growing. More time for the gospel to fill my heart and the spaces of boredom and sadness and hurt that I feel I've been carrying for a long time.

It is a difficult change to make. I feel like it is a real change of heart. But it feels freeing to me to learn to say, "That's enough. We are blessed." It feels freeing to lower my (and my realtor's) expectations. :) It feels good to say, These are the things that really matter--safety, good schools, a yard for the kids to play and maybe (if we are ever super amazing) grow a tomato plant. A place for those things that matter in my heart--the books, a beat-up craigslist piano, the dinner table--those can be found in almost any house. But a home? That is something special that must be cultivated in the soul.

As I am going through this process of searching and ruling out homes and schools and areas, I try and remind myself of that truth, and it feels good. Don't let what other's seem to have ruin what you have or are hoping to create. That doesn't mean that painting and decorating and looking at ways to fancy something up is bad. I think it's awesome! I plan to do more of it in our next house because like I said, it's part of what makes women homemakers. But I do hope that I will start off that journey with my heart in the right place this time. And that I'll work harder to keep all good things in their proper perspective. Because really my friends, good enough is better than more.

some links that have helped me and talk about this too are here, here  and also here and here. (and a non-church one that is interesting about comparison here).


Missy said...

Amen, girl! Our house is definitely not what I wanted but it has good schools and we are surrounded by good people. We feel safe and content. That is really what matters. You can fancy things up, like you said, but you can't change schools or communities too easily. Good luck on your search!

jane said...

And if your schools aren't great, you can always look for a charter school within commute distance...

Your wise quote-able of less-is- enough comes as a precious pearl. Thank you for that. I think this is a huge chunk of why I loved Australia--we rented everything. I had less stuff that at any other time in my life, and I loved it!

Thanks for the links! Looks like tomorrow will be a snow day, so I can curl up and read!

love and hugs

BexxT said...

Oh Jenn, lifestyle is exactly the word Adam and I use. When we were just looking for a house, and we looked for months, it all kept coming back to how we would envision ourselves actually living in the house... Could we picture chasing our kids through the halls? Could we play a game of tag in the back yard? Did it matter that the hosue wasn't in the hipster part of town with old bungalows that we desperately want to live in but totally can't afford?

Could we drop 20% on the house and still have enough to make it ours? Could we comfortably afford the mortgage with Texas' outrageous property taxes? Could we bring home another child in it? Or dare we imagine 3 more children? When we found our home we could imagine being a big family all crammed into a fairly small space and it felt right.

I am very anti-keeping up with anyone. I like what I like and there is no reason to compare myself to someone else. Goodness, I would probably feel horrible about my homemaking skills. I can make things look clean- but cute? Pinterest makes me crazy because it feels so full of stuff that I would rather kill myself that actually spend time doing (excepting baking. I love baking.) But crafting? I am sending a shudder in this message. Our home is a place where my boys and I can play- ball, games, tag, chalk, kitchen set, tickles, or just a place to run.

my home is a place to make memories- and I don't care if I live in suburbia and it isn't cool to live out here. This is the right place for my family.

<3 you guys will make the right decision if these are your goals. I'll be thinking about you...

Emily Foley said...

One of the hardest trials of my life is not having our own home. I was born and came home to one house and I slept in that same house the night before I got married. I met my best friend when I was 5 and we were together every second of the day until I left for BYU. I struggle every day with not having that for my kids. But yes...the home is what matters. Not the house. And then robbers defile it and I don't even feel safe there. There are lots of ways to make a home a home, even if it's not "mine" and I try for it every single day.

Anne said...

Well said.

Lori said...

Loved it. Is there something in the air this time of year that causes us to be reflective? I don't know but sometimes the soul searching feels good.