The House That God Built

We moved around quite a bit growing up, and so I guess I never really got connected sentimentally to a house. Maybe moving around so much is what made my first home a big deal for me.

Two months before we got married, we had NO idea where we were going to live. About a month before the date, we started randomly driving around and I remember having one appointment to see an apartment. ONE.

{I have always wanted to have an apartment. I like small and cozy. One: because you need less stuff to make it look full. Two: because it’s less to clean. Three: because dorm life didn’t count since I didn’t get to pick my roommates. Four: because I wanted to come home and read fun magazines instead of studying constantly. Such will probably never be a reality. Oh well.}

{We never got a phone call back about that apartment. Turns out the person who rented it was arrested later. I’m REALLY glad that wasn’t us.}

I offhandedly mentioned it to my grandfather and he furrowed his brow (which is what he does when he is about to drive home a point or get perturbed). He tilted his head, furrowed his brow, and said, “Why in the world would you consider that when your own family has a house that’s gonna be for rent?!”

This was news to me. And so off we were whisked to look at a house that (coincidentally) (or not so coincidentally) was going to be open, say, August 8. We got married the 13th. Not only did we move in with just enough time to spare, but the people who lived in it before us were clean to the nth degree and left the house SPOTLESS. I didn’t even have to clean before we moved stuff in.

I DIDN’T EVEN HAVE TO CLEAN BEFORE WE MOVED STUFF IN.

As a result, we’re still friends with this couple. We ended up in a home church with them and we still chat and love them to pieces. God is so generous.

Did I mention this house was my great-grandfather’s? There’s just something about having a pantry where the board games and toys used to be. There is character and a ton of memories in this house. We loved it. And the Lord Dropped. It. In. Our. Laps.

I have often wondered why I didn’t panic that we didn’t have a house so close to the wedding. I guess I trusted the Lord. Who knew?

I learned this as a teenager: When you let go of your dreams, you give God permission to dream for you. And His dreams are always way bigger. And better.

Somewhere along the way, we got in our young brains that we were going to build one day. Build for God’s glory, nonetheless!! He was going to give us a beautiful new house with all the trimmings so we could host unbelievers and encourage believers and eat to our edification!

I jest. But isn’t it so easy to shoot God’s Word into our dreams and make it sound spiritual?

We WOULD have done those things. Don’t get me wrong. But here’s the thing? We were doing those things anyway, in a rented house. With 70’s cabinets and speckled countertops and a pink commode. And ya’ll…. we could STILL HONOR GOD. And you know what? If people weren’t coming to our house because it was claustrophobic or because they don’t take showers in pink bathtubs or because our refrigerator doesn’t have an automatic water dispenser, then a) I may need to reconsider the audience I’m ministering to, or b) God would fix it.

(He obviously thought our pink sink made a bad impression, because He had someone give us a new one last week.)

(I kid. But He is kind. That is my point.)

Brandon went to an auction last May and casually asked me if I wanted to go along and look at the property that was being sold. I told him I loved the land and SURE why not buy it if it’s a good price? I’m still not sure what medication I was on, except that my grandparents were in from Pennsylvania and all was right with the world.

That day we became land owners. And about six months later we were ready to tackle building.

We had several meetings with a fantastic (also placed in our laps) architect and contractor. We settled on a design we wanted and a guy we thought would do a stellar job. We were thrilled with the possibilities and I was IN LOVE with the way the outside was going to look. Gray siding with a stone face around the door and beautiful white pillars leading to the sidewalk. And a GARAGE. My three loves? A porch swing. A master bath. And a GARAGE. That I could actually park in. The inside? That was debatable.

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But back to the rental: One thing I loved about this little house? All the walls and corners that added mystery and character. But when we thought about hosting more than 15 people at a time, we realized that it was a little claustrophobic. In the words of one little guy, “Your house isn’t that small, Miss Cara. It just FEELS small.” I couldn’t say it any better. But then we went into an “open floor plan” house that was about the size we wanted. You could stand in the living room and see the kitchen (and all the dirty dishes), the dining room, the master bedroom on the left, and a toilet on the right in the guest bathroom. This was disturbing to me. Ain’t nobody wants to see that. Our contractor said, “Yeah, but you can just close that door.”

Hi. Have you met Brandon?

I can’t get my husband to put the toilet seat down and you think he’s going to remember to close the door?

(This was the point where I seriously doubted the capacity to which I could trust this contractor.)

And he thought carpet was better because of how good it felt on his feet. But we knew how soon we’d need to replace it in the main walkways. And then he told us we couldn’t afford a garage. And that the driveway would be the length of the panhandle state but we wouldn’t have money to pave it. And the house would be sitting behind the barn on our property. BECAUSE GLAMOROUS. And the basement would be unfinished. AND it was already going over our budget. Twice.

The breaking point for me came the day I remember clearly telling Brandon, “I can tell you right now that I’m not going to be content in this house. We will be swimming in debt and I won’t even have my dream house.” I struggled with my discontentment. How selfish was I to anticipate being discontent? Am I not responsible for my level of contentment?

I don’t think Paul remembered his granite counter tops at home when he wrote (from jail) that he was content in every circumstance.

I battled with desiring so much and feeling guilty. Katie Davis lives in Uganda with dirt floors and I’m sad about not having a walk-in-closet? Twice the size of her hut? I felt incredibly selfish. It truly made me want to curl up in a ball and tell Brandon to pick everything and decide how many square feet we should have. Then, if I hated it or felt guilty, I could blame him for it all. But then I knew I wouldn’t get my claw foot bathtub and then I’d just be mad.

{Note: If you’re thinking of building a house, prepare to meet your ugliest, most depraved self. I have met myself and we haven’t been friends since.}

Finally, once we had everything almost ready to go and a promise to have a house by spring, we hit a wall. It’s too confusing to articulate (and frankly, I’m still not positive that this wasn’t something God made up because even our contractor hadn’t heard of this law) but let’s just say that we weren’t allowed to build until June. This was in February.

And ya’ll, I was mostly sad because I had big plans to write Scripture on the 4x4s of each room, Scripture especially for us and for our family. Prayers that we want to see fleshed out in our home. To me, this was going to be a spiritual undertaking. We knew God would bless this house and use it to make us a blessing.

And He would have. We just would’ve been stressed about money and in debt up to our eyeballs and we would have had no money to entertain with. We would have put BYOF on every invitation: Bring Your Own Feast.

I have said that it wasn’t God’s will for us to build. And I do believe that, technically speaking. But I really think it was just that He had a better way. We wouldn’t have been disobeying if we built. Hear me on this: He gives us all a free choice. But He knew CARA and knew that this decision was not best for her. Or her marriage. Or her wallet.

The death of a dream usually gives life to a dream you didn’t even know you had.

We looked at other houses but nothing clicked and we were still looking at a LOT of money. For us. Who are trying to live simple lives and find a budget that would potentially allow me to stay home with kids later on. Brandon kept talking about “if we have kids before we get this paid off” and I kept saying, “Yeah. You should probably plan on it” Because if we didn’t have kids in the next 30 years? Game over.

One day Brandon asked me if I had ever asked my great aunt if she would ever consider selling this house. It was such a long shot that I almost didn’t. You wouldn’t believe (or maybe you would) that she said her daughter had just mentioned to her the week before that she should sell this place. I think I heard angels singing around me.

And the rest is history. We hit some bumps along the way, but never was it more clear that this was the best plan for us. We were able to buy about 11 acres with it, so our family can grow and expand and potentially more houses can be built on it one day. We are five minutes from both jobs and from town, but we’re in the county and don’t pay city taxes. We have family surrounding us who watch over the place when we aren’t there. I have about a two mile radius that I can exercise and I don’t have to pay for a gym membership. Or even go around a neighborhood more than once. (Hellooooo again, folks on the porch….)

And WE DIDN’T HAVE TO MOVE.

It doesn’t have the ridged wood floors I wanted. It doesn’t have a porch swing. It doesn’t have a master bedroom or a connecting bath or even more than one bathroom. But we already know the things that need to be repaired/replaced because we’ve lived here for 6 years. We know the dreams we have for it and we have people in our lives that specialize in keeping character while making things functional. I am also freed up to stay home and make less money so that I can be with my toddler.

I like to say that Jesus tricked us into living here before we bought it. So we can’t say, “I can’t handle this pink sink!” because we already have for three years. Isn’t He sneaky? Sneaky good?

The thing I’ve learned through this journey is that God not only supplies our needs. He supplies our wants. And sometimes, He provides the wants we never knew we wanted. He’s good like that.

So when I pull up to our house, I picture my dream house. Because it is a wonderful place to live a dream.

 

This was one of our engagement pictures 3 years ago. We knew it was the site of our first rental, but no idea that it would be our first home. God has secrets, ya’ll.

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Team After God’s Own Heart

My God is big. And because He is big, He can handle my questions. A lot of my life, I’ve heard this statement: “Because I said so.” This is a perfectly valid response, because sometimes God says to do something and we don’t always know why. We just need to obey. (Exhibit A: Abraham picking up a change of address forms and not knowing to what city he was moving.) But when I wanted to obtain a reason, sometimes I found out that asking questions meant that I was rebellious.

I began to search the Scripture for examples of people whom God favored. And I was shocked to find out how often they protested, complained, argued, and questioned God. And I thought, How is this okay??

I came to Moses in the Bible, who, when called by God, argued and called Him a liar because there was no way he could be a public speaker. And then went on to speak to God face to face and be the first and last man to see God walk past him. And there was Samson, who clearly disobeyed all three of God’s specific commandments to Him and yet God seemingly blessed him, gave him his desires, and answered his prayers all the way up until his death. And there was David, who committed some of the most heinous crimes and yet was still called a man after God’s own heart. And Jacob, who wrestled with God all night long? God could have won that match in five minutes, but the process of wrestling was healing for Jacob. And God named His nation after Him: ISRAEL. And then Jonah. WELL NOW. What do we have here? A person who was so messed up and really wanted God to wipe out an entire people group because he felt they weren’t worthy of grace. Because he was? If that isn’t something, I don’t know what is. Oh, the fact that He told God that and wasn’t a bit ashamed of it? Yeah, that might trump it. And now he’s one of the most-told stories in the Bible and he became the inspiration for the first goldfish cracker.

You see, what I discovered is that God welcomes our thoughts, questions, opinions, and emotions. Mind you, He deals with any of those that are wrong (hence, Jonah lost his shade.) But He doesn’t consider man questioning as disrespectful. It’s almost like He welcomes it. A person who only takes orders answers to a boss, not a friend. God isn’t solely a “because-I-said-so” God. There were times when it appeared that way, but after the obedience He often explained the result He was after. Even in the Old Testament, when He was establishing the law to show man how incredibly short they fall, He interacted with human beings and loved them despite their inadequacies and lack of knowledge.

This is not an excuse to live how we want. It is a mindset. It is TRUTH. Asking questions of God doesn’t always mean we don’t trust Him. Sometimes it means we are trying to understand His character. To find out what He is doing in the world. To draw closer to Him.

This thing of questioning? It is not to hold down the spiritual fort. Because while we stand for truth, God doesn’t need any help defending His Kingdom. He could do it without us. But He wants to use us. And by questioning traditions, we seek out the heart of God. And He becomes our ultimate source of Truth.

We ask Him if our hearts are in the right place when we do things as they’ve always been done.

We seek His face about whether our motives are pure and whether our efforts have been effective.

It means being willing to humbly acknowledge if we’ve missed the mark.

It means being held accountable for whether we are growing in OUR direction or in the Lord’s direction.

It means saying, “Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me, and know my thoughts. And see if there be ANY wicked way in me” (emphasis mine).

And then giving God permission to point it out to us and fix it. (And if this sounds heretical to you, please know that God will not force us to stop quenching the Spirit. That is a decision we must make, and until we become truly willing, He’s not signing the contract.)

I heard a good concept in church recently: Truth doesn’t shy away from scrutiny.

It’s not about being right.

It’s not about being right.

It’s about being on the right team. The team after God’s own heart. Embrace reconsideration. Read the Scriptures with a new light. Be open to new thoughts that God would plant in your heart, even if at first they may seem foreign.

I would hate to miss something big God has for me because it doesn’t look familiar or seem comfortable.

Don’t simply seek God’s ways. Seek His heart. Most of the time, the way I think God would do something is not the way He really would. (How glorious!) We interpret behavior based on our experience. God interprets behavior based on His nature… righteous, holy, and in love with a flock of sheep.

Not my idea of God AT ALL.

The idea of God being different that I think He should be can be terrifying. Because He seems to be more manageable when He is safe and predictable. But the exciting journey begins when I, in no way disrespectfully, let Him be Him. He is always Who He is, even when I refuse to admit it. But life is so much more beautiful when I allow Him to show me new things about Himself. 

And the amazing thing? The more I find out that I didn’t know about Him, the more I realize that He’s just the same wonderful Father I’ve always known Him to be.

1 Corinthians 2:5-16

“So that your faith may not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory…. No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him… these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God…. For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.”

Analyzation IS a word

If analyzing were a sport, I would have a wall covered in trophies.

It started when I was a child, when I made the mistake of vying for a friendship with the popular girl at church. But she had too many friends. {Looking back, I don’t blame her. They were all way cooler than me. Ralph Lauren had nothing on their style.}

I think what bothered me was that she never came out and told me why. She made excuses and left me guessing. And so I hereby determined at age 8 that the rest of the world operated the same way. If your behavior doesn’t make sense, it’s possible that you’re fake.

It’s not that I want to be bullied. Not exactly. Maybe I should be glad she didn’t outright tell me why I wasn’t good enough to be her friend. I just wanted to be given an explanation. The TRUTH. How was I to know that if I would just hit the mall one weekend, I could be on the in crowd? It would have changed everything if she had told me.

{It also would have changed my entire life and I would be a shopaholic.}

{Although some would argue that I already am. Just go with me here.}

Obviously, the way to win friends is not to wear their brand of clothes. Because SHALLOW.

{And by the way, I’ve come to this conclusion because of analization. (It’s a word.) She never told me this. I just deduced it with my methodical reasoning. It’s a process of elimination. It was definitely the clothes. It for sure would have had nothing to do with my being a homeschooler, and at that point in my life, being extremely brilliant but slow when it came to social skills. There’s only one option left: WARDROBE.}

I still analyze in my adult life. Because kids who weren’t real became adults who weren’t real and have you met society recently? The only problem is that I can take it too far. Even with people who tell me they love me. Because what if they’re lying? And what if they’re using me? Nothing is safe, folks.

BUT. (This gets better. Keep reading.)

I love how I can be in one of my mental analyzing states and in the middle of constructing a wall to keep people out when God makes a connection. I can be distressing over how a relationship has gone from endearing to simply business and wondering what happened and coming to no conclusions. And when I say distressing, I mean going over the last 365 days of when we’ve met and spoken and pinpointing the time when they decided they were over me.

This may or may not have happened recently. Possibly last night.

And God, Who so well knows my massive infatuation over who I can REALLY TRUST to be real with me, always comes through with a whisper or a thought transplanted in my head.

And it usually goes something like this: Now you know how I feel.

I can get up in the morning and read the Word and journal and pray my heart out and feel like I’m almost sitting on His lap because I’m that close to God. And then the day begins and pandemonium breaks out and things are going all wrong and from then on, it’s strictly business. I only speak to Him when I’m filing a complaint, or asking for a raise, or asking Him to reschedule my shift. I get exhausted and overwhelmed and under-appreciated and He’s the One I go to for help. Suddenly, I’m not approaching Him with gentle words like “I love you” and “good morning” and “thank you” but the phrases are now longer and more spiteful like “why are You sitting still when I know you can see how they’re treating me and it is NOT OKAY and are You going to do something about it?”

Hypothetically speaking, of course.

And He can pinpoint the moment when it all went downhill and I began to see Him as my boss instead of as my Lover and I begin to feel entitled. And He always reminds me of what He’s already done for me. And how I don’t need Him to do another thing for me in order to be worthy of my worship and praise and adoration.

And I come undone.

God is not human like we are and He doesn’t per se have human characteristics like getting His feelings hurt and feeling left out. But sometimes it helps me to remember how I would feel if I were my friend up in the heavens and that usually makes me feel really lousy.

Because the truth is that He will always be true to me even when I’m unfaithful to Him. He will never love me less or use me to get something or take advantage of me. The only way to truly love is to be vulnerable and I am SAFE with Him.

There’s no relationship in the world that I would rather analyze than the one I have with Jesus. I could never figure it out and that would be a good thing. I’ll never know why He loves me and keeps loving me even when I fail Him. It makes no sense.

And for once, I’m okay with that.