Day Two- Transformative Years

Welcome back friend, I'm glad you came over again today.  Yesterday I shared a little about the story of each home we've lived in until now, and a few (low quality) pics from my scrapbooks to give you a visual.  It was sweet to think about those different seasons of our marriage and the twists and turns of our story together.  Each home represented a slice of our lives that feels like yesterday when I stop and reflect on it.  We've shared some humble homes together, places that didn't seem like much on paper or according to any real estate listing, but to us they were our little haven from the world.  Places that we shared life together and regardless of how they stack up in the world of real estate, they mattered to us.  

When I think about what it is that makes a house become a home, I think one of the key ingredients is simply time.  The longer you spend in a particular place, the more you make it your own and the more it transforms along with you.  I worked in the Interior Design world for a little while and went to school to learn how to transform spaces that pleased the eyes and serve the functions they were designed for.  Everything about it was methodical and calculated, there are codes and design principles and scale to consider.  All of it mattered and yet, what really makes a house a home isn't the furniture or the floor coverings or the custom woodwork.  People make homes and stories line the walls.  Foundations are built with history and beliefs, joys and sorrow.  Every home has a humble beginning no matter what it looks like, but it's worth is determined by the people who grow along with it.  

We've lived in our current home for six and a half years.  Who we were when we moved in is not who we are today.  A lot of life has happened in that time period and as we've changed, so has our home.  Its' purpose has changed, its' look has changed, and its' occupants have changed.  
When we moved to Minnesota we were married all of two and a half years.  We spent those first years in North Carolina while Travis was in grad school at Southeastern Seminary.  I was working full-time to pay for school and our bills, although Trav was also working several jobs while trying to take as many classes as he could.  We desperately wanted to pay cash for Seminary as we felt so weighed down by our student loans from our undergrad degrees.  I'm grateful we stuck to that goal but it meant that we lived extremely modestly during those newlywed years.  In other words, we had no money but a lot of love! We loved being in North Carolina, it was truly an extended honeymoon of sorts and we made the most of those years.  But we were extremely far from home, from family to be more specific, and when Travis got a job offer out of the blue in Minnesota we jumped at the chance.
We packed up all of our belongings, drove half was across the country and began a new chapter here.  We came with very little in our bank account, from an affordable part of the country to an expensive city and a crazy inflated housing market.  People often ask us why we bought a condo and didn't get a house to begin with.  The honest and simple answer is, at the time, this was the most we could afford and we were blessed to find it.  We couldn't touch a single-family home with a ten foot pole in those days and every property we looked at was not exactly "maintenance free."  When we discovered this place, it was the biggest thing we had seen, definitely the nicest and most importantly, it was within our budget.  Thankfully we had enough sense at the time to make very certain that we secured a loan that wasn't going to change it's terms and that we could make our payments based solely on Trav's income.

Fast forward six years...for all the times we've wondered if we made a big mistake or shouldn't have bought here, we've never regretted that we bought modestly and didn't go for more than we could afford.  At the time we didn't know how wise that choice would be, but certainly God was giving us grace by leading us in that direction.  Buying within our means has afforded us more than extra square footage ever could.  We've lived inexpensively here, we've paid off debt here, and I've been able to stay home full-time with our kids here.  I wouldn't trade that privilege for anything...
We came to this condo with our dog Ryley and we were giddy to be here.  I distinctly remember walking through the front door on the day we got the keys, believing that the Lord had blessed us and led us here.  I asked Him then to make it just as clear to us when it was time for us to go.  I believed he would then and I still do now.
In these six plus years, we've changed and grown many times over.  We've rejoiced here, we've mourned here and we've aged here.  Some of us better than others....Man we look younger in these pics!
We were your typical working couple and we lived the classic "no kids yet but we've got a dog" life, giving Ryley free reign of our new place and introducing him to all of our neighbors, who thought he was as big as a horse.  Which of course he wasn't, but many of our older neighbors liked to have that same conversation over and over and over, as if we hadn't just discussed it the day before :) 
I was the girl who was desperate to mother someone, so it was no surprise that Ryley became the object of my affection! ha! Yes, I made him cupcakes on his birthday and we gave him presents at Christmas. And no I don't regret that.  Yes, we were "that" couple and yes, seeing these pics of him make me miss him and give me pause for a second about getting another dog.  I better move on...
Life was busy in those first years of ministry, we were gone constantly and working side by side at Church.  Travis had a ton on his plate and lots of new responsibilities.  We came here hoping he could also finish his Master's degree but quickly that became something we needed to put on the back burner.   I was nannying part time and all of my spare time was devoted to something or someone in ministry.  Our home was a retreat for us then, it was quiet and gave us a break from the world.  But sometimes back then it was too quiet and if the other person was gone for some reason, it was lonely.
We were both beginning to ache for kids of our own and it seemed the Lord was taking His time in answering that prayer. If these walls could talk, I'm sure they would tell you of the many tears that were shed in that season, or the prayers that were spoken here.  Maybe they would spill the beans about the tension we often felt or the heartache that one can only express when your defenses are down and at home.  They would speak of our marriage and our faith, both of which were tested and strengthened after we learned we were expecting and then shortly after, when that little one was lost...all within the walls of our home.  When I think of leaving here, those are the memories that make this place dear to me.  Our home knows the real us, it sheltered us in a way that let us be real and hurt and broken when we wanted to be, when we needed to be.
Homes give you space for living and being yourself, but actually God is the one provides all the shelter we need.  We've weathered some storms here, but we've also enjoyed some incredible waves of joy.  In His great mercy, God did answer our prayers and He has filled our home with kids of our own, in His perfect timing.  
He changed everything when He gave us our sweet Ava and when we brought her home here.  Suddenly the function of our home changed, just as we did.  Our nest had a chick in it and where tears once flowed, laughter and joy flooded our lives.  These floors held her when she learned to crawl and these walls heard her cries.  We walked the halls when she was fussy and we stayed in for nights on end just so we could hold her and watch her every move.  
Ryley's life was turned upside down too, but we were complete.  Grateful for every part of this new journey and already feeling that life would never be the same...not to mention we would never be the same.  
 And then God surprised us once again when He gave us sweet Carter, on the heels of Ava's arrival it seemed.  And once again this little home, with its' two bedrooms and 1,200 square feet, opened its' doors to welcome another little bundle.  A busy, bouncing and blue bundle!  He shocked us with his arrival and he shocked us with his easy going, calm presence.  Adding Carter to the mix was a natural fit and I had the best time creating a blue nursery after living in a sea of pink for the year.
 Suddenly this condo was lonely no more and the value of this place increased in our hearts.  We brought our babies home here, to this home, and for that I will be forever in love with this condo.
 We have known sorrow here but we have known joy too.  Double the joy, double the fun, double the giggles to be exact! This place we thought we'd leave in a few short years, has held us well and made room time and time again when we thought it wasn't possible.
We've made more memories than I could possibly count, and more noise than a neighbor ever should! We've grown, our kids have grown, and our home has done its' best to keep up.  We've almost made room shuffling into an Olympic sport and don't even challenge me on creative storage solutions.  I've come up with some amazing ones!  I've been forced to! 
And so, here we stand today.  Still making this place work and riding out a market that is recovering but is taking it's sweet time to build equity again.  We've got a complicated relationship with this condo.  I walked you through the sentimental value of this place, but I haven't really shared much of our frustration.  Twelve hundred square feet isn't impossible for raising a family, truly it isn't, but it is a challenge.  And yet, as I expressed at the start of this post, we aren't the same people we once were.  Bigger homes and more space isn't all we're after these days.  
But Godly wisdom, direction from the Lord, and obedience to His Word?  That's what we're chasing hard after.  We owe it to the two little people God has entrusted us with to make sure that we value them and the Lord, way more than we value real estate or bank accounts.  Today, we are people who have been transformed by the grace of God and who are trying to build a home that reflects it.  We are as flawed as anyone, sinners saved by grace and desperate to say that any good that is in us, is only because of Christ in us.  We are as prone to envy and ungratefulness as anyone, and we're in a day to day struggle to be thankful and content no matter what our address.  

I said it was complicated, no?  We have no idea how the next chapter will play out, if we'll stay until we can sell or if we'll be able to rent and find a new home to love.  We are seeking the Lord often about it and waiting to hear from Him for each step.  Just so it's clear before we move on from here, because of this long and complicated journey, I love who we've become as a result of being "stuck" here.  God knew what this would require of us and He's been working hard to build it in us, no matter how hard we fight it some days.  It's been a refining and transforming work and I'm extremely grateful when I look back and see how far He's led us.  Believe me, we've got a long way to go still; this will always be a wrestling match as long as we're human and we get distracted from our main goal of pleasing the Lord and bringing glory to Him.  But we're making slow steps in the path He's carved out for us and we're seeing so much of His goodness along the way.  

So, tomorrow?  A fresh post about the ways our home has transformed from season to season.  Lots of pics, some laughs I hope, and lots of heart.  Also, some interesting (read: odd) design choices from me along the way!  Pictures don't lie... I'm loving these chats with you, stop back and see me again, will you?  

"Unless the Lord builds the house, it's laborers build in vain..." Psalm 127:1

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