I haven’t been writing much lately, and I’m sorry for that. But the reason is a good one: on Halloween, we finally closed on a house(!!!) And life has been a whirlwind of moving and shopping and settling and keeping up with so much more square footage than I’ve ever had to. All good, yet exhausting things.
And as I sit here in my quiet living room with a light on at midnight, with all of my family members sleeping behind closed doors on the other side of our house, blissfully unaware of my insomnia, I can’t help but reflect on what got us here.
I think back to the nights I stayed up late working on research papers while my husband (with the full day of working in the morning with his three hour evening class to follow) slept on the other side of our studio apartment. I remember the days of nursing our newborn at 3am in the same studio apartment as quietly and with as little light as possible so that he could have at least one well-rested parent in the morning. I think back to our nights in the camper, when I sat at the kitchen table working at my laptop while my husband and second baby slept just three steps away from me. I remember how I was so sensitive to the sounds my typing made and the light my laptop gave off.
We’ve lived in most of the ways that you can live before you own your space: we rented in the city at a reasonable cost, but the apartment was tiny. We rented a much larger apartment in the suburbs but the rent was high and only increasing at each lease renewal, and we just couldn’t save at that rate. We went on to live in a camper on my in-laws’ property for a year and a half. The living was free but difficult and, for me, even shameful. And when an extra room became available in my in-law’s house, we moved in there for six more months, gaining more space and proper plumbing, but definitely sacrificing privacy.
This space, this freedom to make noise and be awake when others are not is new territory for me and for our marriage. It took six years of marriage to get here, to this quiet living room at midnight. With a deed that says this house is ours–though it’s mostly the bank’s and they like to remind us of that fact each month. ;)
Now, don’t get me wrong, I did not grow up lusting after the American Dream. A fancy house was never my end game in life; I am not a person who finds much joy in physical possessions. But something about a growing family and my role as a homemaker made me really yearn for a house. An investment instead of paying rent that we’ll never see again. And owning our space, so we could be as loud or as messy or as quiet and as neat as we pleased to be that day. Also, as a generally unorganized person, I really wanted to live in a house where we finally had a place for e v e r y thing we owned.
But sometimes, the babies just come before the house in life. It might not be what the financial experts prescribe as the wisest path, but it’s where so many of us are. Whether it was a surprise pregnancy or obedience to a conviction or just the plain realization that if your life has to be altogether and perfect before you have kids, you will NEVER have them.
The babies before house path ain’t an easy one to tread. Because when you mix student loan debt with diaper costs; ridiculously high rent with paying off the expense of a birth, it’s just tough. And whether you pay for daycare or you’re a stay at home mom, caring for children is costly. So saving for a down payment and making sure all your ducks are in a row to pay a whole slew of house-related bills every month? It takes a while. It took us six years, and while that felt like forever while I was in it, I’m surprised that we were even able to do it in THAT amount of time.
I visited my college roommate a month after her first baby was born. They were living in a rental house that was infested with mice which could not be eradicated. The landlord couldn’t do enough and certainly did not care enough. My dear friend, the new mom with all of those postpartum hormones amplifying every feeling, broke down into tears when she found mouse droppings in her baby’s swing. I knew exactly how she felt. It’s hard. It is so hard to bring your baby home to a less than ideal situation. You feel powerless and small. Like your baby deserves so much better than you. It’s not where you or your husband want to be, and in the moment, it’s hard to believe that there’s any purpose in your struggle
But there is purpose. These trials are shaping you, your marriage, and your family. You are being tested, and I pray that you are proving faithful. Are you leaning on Jesus or are you resenting your husband? Are you trusting Him or are you fruitlessly regretting the life decisions that got you here? Can you give thanks for what He’s given you? Because if you can’t find contentment now, believe me, you’ll spend your whole life being discontent in circumstances you always imagined to be ideal.
Refocus on what you believe matters in this life. I told you that a house was never my dream; it still isn’t what gets me out of bed in the morning. It’s these little souls I’ve been nourishing all along; it’s that husband I get to love and serve every day; it’s my God who shows me the eternal value of my seemingly ordinary days.
But I had days when I depleted myself of all of the joy that could’ve gone into my marriage and motherhood because I was too hung up on how badly I wanted out of our camper. It was the darkest time in my life and our marriage. I did not suffer with grace or patience. And while God is so merciful to give us what we do not deserve, we are still living with the effects of that hard season. My husband developed an anxiety disorder during that time, and I still find myself wallowing in discontentment occasionally because like I said, that monster will follow you wherever you go if you can’t figure how to give thanks in all things to Him who is worthy. So I share all of this from a state of humility, knowing I failed more than I proved faithful during my season of waiting. I hope you can do better.
So dear ones, if the kids came before the house for you: do no lose heart. Persevere. Do not lose sight of what and who matters. Hint: it’s definitely not the four walls around you. Believe that your children, so long as they are loved and you are striving to nourish their souls each day, are not going without. They don’t deserve better [living circumstances that is]; they do deserve you–all of you–the best you to be present with them every day of their too-brief childhoods. They’re getting to be a part of some formative years in your marriage and family life, and God is using all of it to shape them. Believe that. Wait patiently and trust His provision.