Shame is sneaky isn't it? It comes upon you when you aren't watching and turns your shoulders down. It places bricks on your heart and tugs your forehead toward the ground. You find yourself inching backwards where just moments before you were walking ahead.
Selling our home was supposed to catapult us into a new world of dreams we'd spent years putting together. I had idyllic ideas of a large home filled with children's laughter and homemade bread. In my mind, the house looked a lot like a new farmhouse with a country front porch. Large trees in the grassy yard and the next house a good ways down the winding country road. Peace and quiet, I thought I'd get. All by myself.
I wanted to hang my clothes outside on the line. Put in a garden. Grow ivy up a trellis. Freeze corn, beans, and spaghetti sauce. I thought I'd play music throughout the house as my children played outside in a large backyard where I didn't worry about them getting too close to a busy road. I wanted to sit on the front porch and drink lemonade at night, waving at the very few cars that passed by under the starry skies.
And I wasn't going to leave. The kids would ride to and from school with Michael. They could stop on the way home for whatever we needed from the store. I would run errands, maybe once a week and go to work on Saturday, if I had to, but the only place we'd go as a family was to church.
I wanted to get out there in the country and live all by myself.
We accepted a contract on our house this past week and began talking with a loan officer about what we could afford, fully expecting to be looking for this dream house. The number she gave us is about $50,000 lower than we thought it would be. A quick search of the MLS confirmed our suspicions that we'd been locked out of buying a house like the one we imagined, if one even existed.
Severely disappointed and tearful, I asked what held our number down so low. Part of the answer is the new regulations that have followed the '08 housing crisis. They are every bit as strict as the news reports. The other part of the answer is that the entire mortgage of our condo rental property was held against us, even though we only own 50% of it.
How many times in the past two years have I wished I could undo that purchase? We bought it a year or more before real estate in our area began to slide. When it's doing well, we appreciate the benefits, but when headaches arrive, they pound. We tried this summer to sell it, but received only a little interest. Somehow, whether real or imagined, I have felt a judgement from others for having a rental property. A property we can't easily be rid of.
Shame had jumped aboard and when I learned that once again our condo was to blame I wanted to hide that fact from everyone.
These last 11 months of waiting for a contract on our house have been packed full of learning. One Thousand Gifts, Feasts of the Old Testament, Revelation, grinding grains and making bread, Radical. One after the other they challenged my life, my priorities, my status quo, my place in this mixed up world, my beliefs. Left to my own plans and dreams, I still had every intention of buying the biggest house my money could cover and isolating myself on some country road. Isolating sounds harsh, but I'm a homebody and I know full well that's what I had in mind. Facebook and email would keep me company.
One Thousand Gifts taught to me to see God's hand in my situation and to give thanks for everything, even the hard stuff. I have thanked him for the eleven months and for the contract. I have thanked him for the realtor and the loan officer. And I thank him for the condo and the new regulations in place for mortgages. The condo and the regulations in particular are helping us to live out what we were challenged to do in Radical. That is, to separate ourselves from the American dream and to choose a more humble path that allows us to help those who don't have access to all the resources that we've been blessed with.
I choose to reject the shame that drags me down. I choose to see our condo as an investment in the lives of our renters. Rather than buy a bigger better house, we get to help others create a home for a time. We get to do this and I will not be burdened by it anymore. I will see it as a privilege. A joy. (Remind me of this, though, the next time a rent payment is late or a cabinet falls off the wall!)
As Christians we're meant to be in this world. Not off by ourselves doing our own thing. It's our love people are supposed to see. Who's going to see love in me if I don't interact with folks? If I remove myself from people? Clearly no one. And that's why I think it only took about 60 minutes for Michael and I to grieve our busted dream and ask God to turn it in to something new. Something better. Something that maybe makes a lot more sense. A neighborhood. One full of families. A place where our kids can make friends and bring them to our house to play. A peaceful home that we create, not purchase. A home filled with the laughter of friends who come often because we live nearby, not 'way out there'.
The home buying process is challenging enough without me bringing shame and selfishness along for the ride. I am thankful for the opportunity to move and I thank God for every blessing and gift he has provided along this road. I want my way forward to be about love and interaction with people, not isolation and shame.
Cheers to a new dream and a new home!