The Day We Chose Experiences

A year ago at this time, we were in the process of trying to sell our house.  We were making good money with our business, these larger homes were beautiful, and we were sucked in.  Oh, it felt amazing to know we qualified for such gorgeous homes after living so tight since we began our life together.  Suddenly we felt like our house was tiny, and we needed more room.

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We were in no way prepared to sell our house.  In fact, it was a whirlwind operation that stressed me out to the max.  Once we got it clean and picked up enough to go on the market, the task of keeping it that way with three little boys seemed impossible.  In addition, because of my self-employment income, the process to secure the mortgage required much more paperwork that kept me constantly running. Add in trying to run my business, and my stress level was about at it’s limit.

The days ticked by as our house sat on the market, and the expiration on the contract for our “dream house” came closer and closer… and then it passed.  I cried that morning knowing that house was gone.  We took our house off the market and decided we wouldn’t put it on again until we did a few projects to update a few things.  By this point though, we were set on moving!  So we continued to look at houses.  A lot of them.  And we found a house I loved even more than the first.  It had a HUGE backyard complete with a beautiful patio and fire pit.  The basement was perfect for our business.  It came with Greg’s coveted larger garage and an amazing walk-in closet in the master bedroom.  So much room for clothes!  Let’s not even talk about the master bathroom!  It was the kind of house where you walk in and just know this is the one.  And this whole whirlwind process started all over again.

Our house went back on the market.  My stress level rose.  Again, the days ticked by.  Again road block after road block arose.  Until finally one night, as I lay awake (because sleep was rarely seen that summer with all my worry about the financing and the showings and losing that gorgeous home along with a devastating miscarriage we suffered during that time) I begged God to DO something, to make it clear if this was His plan.  I was so tired.  I was emotionally drained.  I was at my tipping point.  In the still dark of my room that night I felt Him whisper, “I am doing something, my Daughter, but you’re not listening.”

Greg and I talked it over the next morning.  It all seemed so crystal clear as I sipped my coffee and took a good hard look over that past two and half months.  There’s something to be said for perseverance and digging your heels in when pursuing something you know to be true and right.  There’s also something to be said for moving on when a door is repeatedly shut.  Most importantly, though, is having the ability to recognize which camp your current situation is resting.  I realized that morning that we were at a crossroads.  We were looking at two choices, and whichever way we chose would greatly impact what our future would hold.

One the hand, we could continue to pursue this home that I absolutely loved.  It was in a quiet cul-de-sac neighborhood in a beautiful part of town.  This gorgeous home where I could watch my Babies grow up and make memories.  But while I could certainly make that house work in our budget, there would be little wiggle room.  If things got rough for more than a few months in a row, that’s about all we’d be doing…watching the Babies grow because an emergency fund can only fund for so long.

OR.  Or we could opt for experiences.  We could stay in our current home.  We could not worry one bit about having enough to send our kids to the school that fits our family’s current needs perfectly.  We could put money towards vacations and family memories (I so want to take our kids to Disney!), pad our emergency fund even more, work towards the debt-free lifestyle we dream of.

As you might guess, at this point, the whole situation seemed ridiculously obvious.  I had been praying for God’s will the entire past two and half months thinking He would move mountains to get us into our “dream home” when the fact was He was moving mountains to make sure we stayed exactly where we are.  As I called our Realtor (who is one of the most gracious people I know dealing with this whole chaotic process) to have her take our house of the market for the second time in less than two months, I physically felt the weight lift off my shoulders.

Over the next few months, we struggled to keep that choice front and center.  We’d see beautiful homes pop up on the market.  I would even look at some of the listings online.  I constantly had to bring myself back to why we chose this path.  We told ourselves, “let’s just get a few updates done so we can get more for our house next summer” thinking this would fix my financial insecurities.  (I’m big on having a LARGE emergency fund, and I’ll suffer through a lot before I dip into that fund.  Yes, we’re also big Dave Ramsey people.)

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So this spring, we started remodeling our kitchen.  This was a project we’d talked about doing since we moved in.  We took an entire wall down, built an island, purchased new appliances.  We started repainting the entire upstairs.  As we went about this process, I looked around and just saw so much…stuff.  Why did we have so much stuff?!  In the midst of the remodel, we purged the entire house.  Broken toys went straight to the trash despite objections from the Littles.  Toys that hadn’t been played with in the last six months went into rummage sale boxes.  Kitchen items, decor, knick-knacks…toys.  So many toys.  (When asked for birthday or Christmas ideas for the boys, we actually ask for gift certificates to go bowling or go towards a zoo membership or something other than toys now.)  We decluttered and decluttered and decluttered.  If it hadn’t been used in the last year, it was gone.  If an object was just there to fill space, it was gone.  (We also made a nice chunk of change at our rummage sale last weekend thanks to all that decluttering!)  I organized until there was nothing left to organize.  (Seriously, organizing makes my heart soooo happy!)  And the craziest thing happened…

Our house got bigger.  I’m completely serious.  I feel like we gained a ton of square footage, and I think to myself why did we ever think our house was too small?!  And as medical bills rolled in for the miscarriage and subsequent surgery last spring, as we have another kiddo entering into our private school system, as we planned a fun mini-vacation next month, I’ve been able to take them all in stride- because we chose experiences over our dream house.  Because we chose to stay in our smaller home to make memories and watch our Babies grow.  Because I finally let go of what the world expects us to do (get into the biggest house you can afford, buy this and that, drive the nicest vehicle you can, upgrade, upgrade, upgrade!), we can say yes to the other things- the swim lessons, the t-ball, extended weekends at the lake, ice cream dates.

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Our kitchen remodel is close to completion, and I can’t imagine moving at this point.  We’ve put so much work into that project.  We’re making this house ours.  While we still desire that walk-in closet and larger garage, while I still peek at listings every once in a while, the truth is, I’m perfectly content right where I am.  Here, in this place, I know how to keep materialism at bay.  I don’t care about the next big thing.  Experiences win the day in our house.  Days at the zoo, family vacations and date nights take priority over the new phones, a nicer vehicle and more square footage.   Investing in our kids’ education takes the cake because that’s where we are called to have our boys enrolled right now.  Being able to show our boys selfless giving and what it means to serve others when the Welcome House needs bread, milk and sugar or when a family faces tragedy and a GoFund me account is created?  That’s worth giving up our “dream house” any day.

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