July 16, 2012

Discontent

A few weeks ago I got the following question from a reader
Kat,
You mentioned the other day about a friend who was building a new house.  You are a large family in a smaller house, same as us, although we aren't as large.  You see, I have friends who are moving into a huge house, very big for the four if them.  I am so happy for them as they were in a bad part of town.
We have been finishing projects around the house, all the while thinking about resale, as we hope to move as well. But we keep having to replace things. In the last five years we have replaced the roof, windows, furnace/air conditioner, hot water heater, finished the basement, carpet for family room and had two new babies and paid off a ton if medical bills.  I am thankful we did all that and have no debt to show for it, except for the furnace which was a Christmas surprise last year. We had a newborn and I was not getting paid on leave.  I am thankful for what I have. We have three more kids than all my friends and all the wives work full time. So I can't compare myself to them. I love being home with my kids part time and wish most of the time I was always home.  but I also long for a big kitchen where I have lots if room to cook. And where we are not crammed in.  So back to my question, do you ever feel discontent? Or get a case if the "I wants"?
No, dear reader.  Our family could not have a better place to live or a happier home.  We are truly blessed in every way I can imagine.  We know we are just where God wants us to be and we are here with those we love dearly.  Although, many people are frequently telling us our house is too small, we think it is just right for us at this time.  We also believe if we need more or different, He will provide it.  Just as He has always provided for the needs of our family. 
  
UGH!  
The sound you just heard is the long frustrated cry of a woman who is ready for a little normal.  In the last week...

* our basement has flooded, again.  This makes the third time in ten years we will be laying new flooring down there

* that put the air conditioning out of commission in the middle of a record breaking heat wave

* my hubby was diagnosed with some health concerns

* my bird died... yep the new one

* and the dishwasher needs replacing after a freak accident took it out of service... putting us on the fourth in ten years
So, no, I do not find myself discontent.  And all these things are the normal run of the mill life.  But for the last ten years we have gone about it while stepping over tools, piles of construction materials and watching the paint dry.  And then dry again.

No, I don't believe I ever get discontent, but I do get tired of living in a construction zone.  As a person who lives life in order and seeks order to find peace in times of stress, living in a place that always has lots of disorder is a very frustrating place to be if we lose focus of what this life is all about.  

This morning as I walked through the house doing my morning chores I noted the big girls room is still in parts during the remodel that has been going on for months... a job that was scheduled to be finished before the Easter holiday.

And then I went to help Elisabeth in her closet where I can barely open the door because the clothes of four girls is stuffed in a closet made for one... because of the construction in the big girls' room.  
And then there is the kitchen.  Dirty dishes piled in the sink and the ironing board sitting in the middle of the floor... where we barely had room to move around the table in the first place.  Oh, we can, and will, wash dishes and don't even mind doing it, but it sure does make things look messier in the interim.  And it can be a challenge to get to the counter when all you really want is a cup of coffee to get the day going.  The ironing board is taking up what little open floor space there was because we can't go in the basement to do the ironing... because of the flooding and too many allergies to mold and mildew.

Which makes me think of my hubby who is suffering from a very nasty cough after spending most of last week ripping up the wet floor boards in the basement, again.

Then there is the dirt.  My house is never clean.  Not because I don't clean the snot out of it.  But because there is always some project going on that leaves a layer of dust on everything and bits of this and that being dragged all over the floors and carpets.  An hour or two after polishing and dusting the whole house and you can be guaranteed there is a fine layer of dust on top of all the furniture again.  
Our orderly school room, what used to be my favorite room in the house, has become a place for piles of things that need to be tended, sorted or organized when their prospective places are finished being worked on.  The sewing machine, which I would desperately love to use to finish a quilt or two, sits on the chair to my husband's lab table for lack of a place to put it, because the basement is torn up and the table in the playroom, reserved for sewing, is buried under furniture from the girls' bedroom and other parts of the basement which were affected by the flood.  I try to avoid going into the school room all together because I want to put it in order and there is no way to do it at this time.  

In the hallway I got a nice size bruise when I ran into a rubber maid tote waiting to go in the attic because the only access is in the boys' bedroom where you must move the furniture before pulling down the stairs.  Usually, we would stack things in the laundry room until we make a trip to the attic (the only storage spot in the entire house) but  there is no room because of the mess in the basement due to the flooding and the construction in the girls' bedroom.  Plus, I can not go into the attic because I have an asthma attack the second I put my head through the ceiling, so I have to count on the kids to go up and down and fetch things for me.    

I wanted to make my hubby some cookies to snack on and I had to quit because I couldn't find my ingredients.  Four years ago he built a pantry in the basement since there is no storage in the kitchen.  And this is a great solution to the issue.  Except... because of the flood in the basement he had to rip up the floor in the pantry and groceries are scattered all over the place... including in the bathroom down stairs. Do you keep your flour and sugar in the bathroom?  So you see everything, even the easiest of tasks, becomes such an ordeal right now.
Ha!  Do you get my drift?  We are in an awesome place.  God put us here in no uncertain terms.  But I sure wish it could just be the place we are instead of always needing to redo, remodel or repair something.

When we decided we were buying this house, one of my greatest reservations was the long remodeling projects that would be ahead of us.  We know several people who toured our house with the intent to buy and said after seeing it there was no way they would buy it.  It was in horrible shape.  And we didn't even know the half of it at the time.  Immediately after moving in, we discovered severe water issues that have cost us in excess of $10,000.  And there was nearly $10,000 for HVAC and that was just the beginning.  My very optimistic hubby assured me it would be finished in one year.  Ten and a half years and five children later, we seem farther from finished than ever before.  I would love to have a weekend, vacation or summer where my hubby could spend his free time hanging out with us.

It just isn't for us at this time.  We do the next best thing.  We do as much as we can together.  The kids help out as much as possible, too.  There are some things (like working in a mildew infested basement or using a table saw) that we can't be part of.  And so we leave those things to Allen.

But completely and truthfully, all that considered, I still would not choose to go anywhere else unless the Lord clearly led us.  We have had so many blessings in the trials of remodeling this home.  Our children are able to do just about anything that needs to be done in a house.  I know grown men who aren't able to do that.  We have learned to be patient for God to provide when we need to replace or repair something.  We have learned to look for deals.  We have learned to be diligent in our work.  Yes, I would love to have weekends by the pool with my hubby, but that is rarely and option.  You can bet it is a treat when we get a few hours together with no work to do.  Every time we finish something from installing a new ceiling fan to laying new flooring in a room, we are blessed with a sense of accomplishment that can not be met by living in the "perfect house."  We have learned to work together and to find joy in working.  And I have personally learned to be patient in the piles, messes and unfinished projects.  Most of the time, anyway.

I am so grateful for my good husband who works diligently at his job all week and gladly gives up his evenings and free time to do what work is necessary to keep this sweet house growing and changing as our family grows and changes.  I have never once heard him complain about it.  As a matter of fact, he enjoys it.  I on the other hand could grumble like crazy if I was not careful.

I am grateful for the skills my father-in-law and Allen's mentor taught him that make him able to do ANYTHING that needs doing around the house.  He has covered everything from all sorts of flooring, to adding rooms, to gardening, electric, plumbing and heating and seriously anything you can name.  And it looks good, too.  I had a friend whose husband was not so able.  She told me she seriously had to hire a handy man to hang a paper towel holder in their kitchen.  They were a family of four living in a 5000 square foot house.
When we bought our house we purposed to buy far less house than what we qualified for.  We had several reasons leading such a decision and we have been blessed by it time and again.  It was our intention we should always be able to live comfortable on just one income.  We never wanted it to be a question of me needing to be employed to make a house payment.  We wanted to make sure we still had money to enjoy living.  We wanted to be able to take vacations and make repairs on the cars if necessary.  We wanted to be able to support mission work, church work and to give to others freely.  And we wanted to do it debt free.  Living in the house we do and living frugally when it comes to other necessities (clothes and groceries for example) makes us able to reach all of these goals.

Dear friend, if that is not enough to consider, how about this.  There are many people who have no place to call home.  In fact, there was a time when I had no home.  The Bible never records a home for our very Lord and Savior, the King and creator of everything.  So how can we possibly grumble about what we do have?  The Bible tells us in 1 Timothy 6:8 "And having food and raiment let us be therewith content."   


I am so blessed.  

I love where we are.  Our family loves where we are.  In fact, there were several things that made this very clear to me in the last two months.  
Back in May a friend of ours told us about a great real estate opportunity just a few miles from where we live.  The property was beautiful, the house three times the size of ours and the price too good to not go for it.  We took a look and briefly discussed it.  For the next week or so our kids kept dropping huge hints that the idea of moving was not a good idea.  One day we were in the yard and someone said, "Mama, if we move you would lose your gardens."  Another day it was a comment about how much we love hanging out together in our pool.  And another day there was a remark about how we couldn't leave Gussie's tree behind nor could we take it with us so we would live here forever.  When we finally said we were not seriously considering moving the kids all let up a big cheer.  This tells me a lot about how content they are to be here, even though it means 2 and three children to rooms designed for one when they could be living in a house where they each would have their own room and multiple bathrooms to boot.

Another thing that showed me how happy our family is where we are was when a friend at church made a comment one Sunday night about the mansion Jesus is preparing for her in Heaven.  At dinner that night Ellie asked me if our mansion in Heaven could be just like our house here.  When I tucked Samuel into bed that night he asked me a similar question.  "What do you think our house in Heaven will be like?"  I told him, "I don't know Sam, but it will be nicer than anything we can imagine."  To which he replied, "I hope it can be just like our house."  This attitude once again tells me two things.  One being, despite being surrounded by a society that wants bigger, better and more, my children are content with just what the Lord has put in front of them now.  That makes me very happy as a mama.  The second thing I will come back to later.

It is funny that everyone seems to think we need to live in a bigger house, even though we are the ones living here, and we are perfectly content.  Twice in recent weeks I have been asked when we are expanding the house or moving into something bigger.  My answer to both of them was when it is in God's will we will do it and I have no desire to move if it is not in his will.  It has always been my husband's plan to add a second story to our house.  Needless to say, that would almost double our space and add at least three bedrooms.  We had the plans drawn up by an architect no less than five years ago.  The timing has never been right to move ahead.  I would never want to undertake such a project outside of God's will for I am certain it would be a nightmare.  
To be honest, I am not sure I want to undertake such a project at all.  Let me expound just a little.  I dream of the day our children are grown and married and have children of their own.  I would love to have lots of room for all of them to come and stay with their families.  I can imagine what wonderful times they would be.  Neither Allen or I have families we can really go home to so this is particularly dear to our hearts.  I would also like to have a dining room large enough to extend our dining table (which has 10 leaves to reach 20 feet) so that all the family can celebrate special occasions together.  As it is, we will be pushing it to add a chair for Carmella when she starts regularly joining us for meal time.   


We entertain quite often and it would be nice to have a living room for geared towards that.  But then again, we know many people with huge homes who never have people in.  Our home, on the other hand, is always a gathering place for small and large groups.  Several times a year we host large gatherings and have 50 or more people in at one time.  No one has ever complained and they always keep coming and telling us how blessed they are to be here.  So, one might wonder, do we need more space for that purpose?  I think not.  Likewise, we have had up to 20ish overnight guests at once and even with just 3 minute bathrooms (all smaller than most people's closets and one with no door for two years running) somehow we all had a great time.  I think we are okay.  


But here is the best reason of all for living in a small house.  Family harmony.  Oh, I wish I had a nickle for each time a mother has written me about how much it breaks her heart that her family members are always off in their own corners doing their own thing.  That isn't an option here.  No one has their own corner.  We are all together pretty much all the time.  And thus we are forced to get along.  If an issue were to arise it would be quickly noted by ten people and quickly dealt with.  There is no hiding out and pouting.  No hidden sin in this house.


I was talking with our friends who are building their house the other day.  And we were discussing some changes they made that would allow for a little space where they could have a nursery or reading nook or prayer corner.  I teased them about how if they wanted a prayer corner they would need to get up early and go outside.  Kids have a way of finding you.  While it can be a challenge to find a quiet place at the end of the day, living in tight quarters has caused our family to learn some important lessons on consideration and how to treat others.  Moms frequently complain to me about the kids interrupting their quiet time until they get to the point where they abandon it all together.  My children have been taught that even if I am sitting right in front of them, there is a time and a place to interrupt and a time and a  place to respect my need for quiet and privacy.  Does that make sense?  They could have learned this lesson in a big house where I could go off to my own room and spend some time with the Lord but how much better and quicker have they learned in our 1800 square feet?


So, after I got your email, I spent a lot of time really considering this question.  Do I find myself wanting more or discontent with what we have?  And I think I can completely, emphatically and without reserve say, "No."  Don't get me wrong, I have lots of other issues.  You should have seen me break into tears when I was trying to get Ellie's dress out of her closet and simultaneously find the sugar yesterday morning.  But, at least for now, I am happy where they Lord has planted me.


We tend to be overly positive when it comes to our own character flaws so I took this investigation a little further.  I have been watching and studying my children for the last few weeks.  Children are really a mirror into who we are as parents and as people.  If you see a problem in your kids, you had better check yourself out because more likely than not it is a problem in your own life.  I have been more than pleasantly surprised to see a sense of contentment in the spirit of this family.
Just to be sure I took it even one step further.  I asked my girls.  I love my girls because they will tell me the truth... even when it might be something I don't want to hear.  I can really trust their word and seek their advice when I am struggling with something, to confirm something or if I am unsure what to do.  They all said this was not an issue they saw in my life.  It will cost you a nickle if you want to know what they think I should work on.  ☺


So, dear reader, I hope this answers your question and helps you as you work to step outside the normal for this world and raise your family for the glory of the Lord in the boundaries He has set for you.




Hugs,
Kat

5 comments :

  1. Kat, I knew you would turn this into a post! This was just what I needed. I will purpose to be greatful for where I am and what I have.

    I am sorry about your bird, your basement and all your other house issues, I had no idea. You are always so upbeat it seams. I can see now that you choose to he happy and greatful.

    I also need reminded that in the blog world, we only get a glimpse into others lives.

    Thankyou again for your honest response.

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  2. Oh, and I'll send that nickel!

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  3. Our friends also just moved into a much larger house. It is a very nice house with lots of room. But it doesn't make much sense to us. Their two children are growing older, one a senior in high school and the other will enter high school in the fall. So, why the need for such a large house? To entertain? No. They never have anyone over. No youth groups, no friends, and they don't have a large extended family. But, it's not for me to determine their thought process.

    Our house is probably about the same size as what you've described yours to be, minus one bathroom (we have 2). I get frustrated with finding a place for things. But, my frustration really stems from having too many things, not from having a smaller home. Like you, we've done many home improvement projects over the years, and many are still unfinished. If I had one area of true discontent, it would be the size of our living room. It is small. We do not have a separate family room. This is it. It's very tight when we have guests. But, whenever I feel that discontent, I try to remember that there are many without a home at all. And I'm grateful that we are not attempting to live above our means. In fact, and again like you, we live below it to allow some wiggle room for repairs, vacations, etc. Upon purchasing our first home, we made a commitment to count on only one income, even if I ended up working at some point (which I never have). We did not want a mortgage that relied on two incomes. We certainly have had some financial struggles, but with God's help and with our perseverence, we pulled through every time. It was tough at times. But I believe we are blessed more for having gone through those struggles. I don't believe I have ever truly desired for more just for the sake of having it. Whenever I have desired more, it was so that we would be better able to help others, to give more. But, I've learned that I need to have a lot in order to give a lot.

    Lastly, a bigger house only separates the family. I believe it was Dr. James Dobson who made this point as well. We dropped in on our friends who bought the bigger house after they got settled into it. It was a Friday night and both of their kids were alone in their own rooms (on the 2nd floor) either listening to music or watching TV. Their parents were on the 1st floor watching TV in total darkness in fear of receiving a higher utility bill than they were accustomed to. And, it was quite cold in their house. This only confirmed for me that having a larger house is not a good trade-off for comfort and closeness.

    If/when God moves us, I know He will be clear about it. He has certainly blessed us very much with the home we have. The story of our move here nearly eight years ago is quite amazing. God definitely provided in every way, and I pray that I never take that for granted.

    Thank you for sharing this post, as it served as a great reminder to me that my contentment should always come from the Lord!

    God Bless!

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  4. I had a few minutes waiting at the doctors and was rereading some of your posts. I sent you the original email question you started this post with and I have come to realize you were spot on. I have grown to love my little house and do not want to move at all. I love my neighbors, what we have built there, etc. But mostly I love that because it is small we have to spend so much time together as a family. even my oldest (who is 14 now) said the same thing just the other day. Living in a small space forces you to spend time together, to learn to share, to deal with issues, etc. I even spoke with a friend who recently moved to a much larger house. She said she missed the smaller home, for that very same reason, they are all so spread out she feels like they never see each other. Thanks again for all the great wisdom you have given me over the years. I love your blog and spying on your family through your posts. Such a joy to read.

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  5. i do have one more question for you. I still LOVE my little house(yes, we still live in our tiny house) and will have a birthday party this coming Sunday. I know you love to entertain and have lots of people over. When I have people over, I find myself apologizing or embarrassed that we don't have more space to spread out( I have a very large extended family) and we tend to get squished into the same few rooms! I am okay and even love my little house, but some that come over do not feel that way. How do I deal with them?

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