My husband and I are desperate to move.
When we bought our house in West Seattle four years ago, we had been married just over a year, and our household consisted of each other and two small, elderly pets (a dog and a cat, both of whom have since passed away). Today, we have three very active children, another cat, and a large dog named Samson. We host dinner parties just about every Monday evening, we welcome out of town company several times a year, and I’ve been homeschooling our son since the start of the school year.
We’re bursting at the seams.
For the past several years, I have been a serial purger, keeping a large garbage can with a lid on our back porch so that I could fill it easily with items to donate. I make at least one trip a week to our local thrift shop, dropping off toys our kids don’t play with anymore, clothes they’ve outgrown, and much more. I have rearranged our current house’s rooms so many times, my husband just walks in the door and shakes his head when he steps into a new scene: the dining table swapped with the sofa to make more room, the shelves moved around to better accommodate the children’s toys, etc. We’ve even reconfigured our kids’ bedrooms, one doubling as a guest room, one housing our dog’s kennel.
So this year, we started our search for our next house. Scouring Redfin for new listings has become our new hobby. A few times a week, on the way home from the YMCA or picking my daughter up from preschool, the kids and I will drive by properties to get an in-person look and decide if it’s worth our realtor taking us for a walk-through.
In the past month, we have made three offers on three different homes, each one beautifully suitable for our family, each one possessing some/many attributes that our current house lacks: a larger living area, additional bedrooms, a big back yard, a mud room. Imagining our family being able to spread out a bit, imagining having my own office (or at the very least a desk) instead of standing at the kitchen counter to type, imagining the dog having more space to run and play in outside, has begun to consume my thoughts. And each time we are outbid, or another buyer waives inspection, or a neighbor gets the house because the seller wants to keep the house “in the family,” a little piece of me dies.
I’m not getting my hopes up this time, I tell myself.
But I do. I can’t help it.
Saturdays and Sundays have become Open House days. In between soccer games and church pot lucks, we pack the kids in the car, give each of them a tablet with movies, and start the rounds. I enjoy walking through other peoples’ homes, especially when they’re staged to sell. I’m always so inspired to come home and simplify, declutter, etc.
But I’m tired of it.
I just want a house. A different house.
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Not surprisingly, the whole house-hunting thing has turned into a bit of a “shaking the tree” season for me. The longer it drags on, the more my true fruit falls to the ground, and it has not been pretty. I’ve started complaining more. I’ve started criticizing our little house, making deprecating comments about it, despising the ways it doesn’t meet my family’s growing needs. I’ve grown increasingly impatient with my husband, as if somehow it’s his fault that we haven’t found our next place (it’s not). I whine about having no place to put important papers, outgoing mail, my checkbook. I miss my books, most of which have been in boxes since we became parents (my old office is now my sons’ room). Watching YouTube videos about organizing small spaces is my favorite late-night activity. It’s become an obsession.
One day a couple of weeks ago, I was in the middle of a little adult-tantrum related to my frustration with “our house situation,” when I suddenly stopped and listened to myself.
I was mortified.
I sounded like a resentful, embittered, cynical, entitled jerk. Here we have been blessed with a beautiful home in a safe neighborhood, a yard with a fence where our kids can play, neighbors who have become like family, and a kitchen fully-stocked with food and cooking appliances that make it fun to prepare meals for our friends and family, yet I was acting like an ungrateful spoiled little brat. We are richer than most people in the world, and instead of looking around and feeling grateful, I was focusing on what we don’t have.
I began to pray, and quickly a conviction filled my heart: this season is a wonderful opportunity to wait well. I confessed my sin during my church’s prayers of the people last Sunday, articulating that I want to wait well—to be faithful, grateful, and joyful as I wait.
I want to be able to look back on this season of house hunting, which is going on much longer than I had hoped, and know that I trusted God’s provision and timing, rather than griping about it.
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But this attitude, this perspective of “waiting well” is not just for this season in my life. It’s for every season in all of our lives. It is wise to be intentional about waiting well, no matter where we are or what we’re waiting for—whether it’s a spouse or a house. It’s wise to make the most of today, even when what is happening is not what we had hoped for.
I was thinking about this idea of waiting well when I worshiped in jail this past Sunday evening.
I joined a small group of chaplains and volunteers who lead a bi-weekly church service inside the King County Juvenile Detention Center. We held our worship service in the prison library, and as I looked around at the faces of the young men and women who joined us, and as I took in the scene of the library—the books, motivational posters, computer stations—I thought, what an opportunity for these young people to wait well. Whereas many of them might have been doing poorly in school on the outside, they have an opportunity to cultivate their minds on the inside and leave ahead of where they were before their conviction. They also have many opportunities for discipleship through the chaplains who serve on the inside. Whatever circumstances led to their incarceration, they now face an opportunity to make the most of their time on the inside.
Of course, waiting well requires faith to believe that this is not the end of the story. We are waiting well because God is on the throne, and we can trust his plans and his timing. We can trust his redemption power to take all of what we see—the good, the bad and the ugly—and squeeze good out of it.
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So what are you waiting for? And more importantly, are you waiting well?
I still struggle to maintain my grateful heart, especially during a week like this one, when I have all three kids at home all day, every day (a play room sure would be nice), and when we’re preparing to welcome a family of four to stay with us for a few days (I can’t wait to have a real guest room!) But as I have spent time removing a few pieces of furniture to make space in the living room and bedroom, and filling more bags of stuff to donate, I have actually experienced a lightness I haven’t felt in a long time.
We have squeezed a lot of purpose and meaning and quality time into these walls. As I stand at my kitchen counter right now, typing these thoughts, my son is playing a board game with a neighbor boy, his best friend, about ten feet away from me at our dining table. If they were off in some play room I would miss out on the highly entertaining conversation that is happening. I get to know my son a little better every time I hear him interact with his peers. What a gift that is.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:2-12 ESV)