“Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build.” (Psalm 127)
Several weeks ago, Dennis and I babysat our grandsons as Caitlin and Steve closed on their first house. Then we celebrated with a “pizza picnic” on blankets in the kitchen, as Caitlin had envisioned, looking out into their new back yard. It was delightful to be a part of this special milestone in their family’s journey.
The official moving day was just over a week ago. The boys were super excited! Four-year-old Stephen was “Supervisor and Director of Safety.” (In other words, he would yell at the top of his lungs “LOOK OUT! COMING THROUGH!”) Two-year-old Joseph was “Chief Mattress Tester and Protector,” as he bounced on his new big boy bed and kept everyone else off of it.
Any of the immediate family members who were not involved in moving day have managed to go over and see the new house since then and to receive the “grand tour” from Stephen, who did I mention is also “House Concierge”?
All this new home excitement has brought back a lot of memories of a similar time for Dennis and me, and led to some reflection about what makes a “dream house.”
We have lived in three cities, and owned a house in each. With each purchase we learned a little more about keeping our priorities in right order. Realtors will always try to convince us of what we can “afford” or highlight the positives in any dwelling. In our house-hunting, Dennis and I tried to keep our family goals as uppermost, having me home with the children, and keeping our wants and needs reasonable. Since we both came from humble backgrounds, having two toilets available seemed like a luxury!
Upon our return to Buffalo to be closer to extended family, we wrestled with the “country vs. village” decision. Village seemed to be the right choice, and when we found out a local church had previously owned our house, we felt a confirmation that God had helped us to find the right place to raise our family.
Oh, if you were to stand on the sidewalk in front of our house and make an appraisal based on looks, perhaps nothing remarkable would jump out at you. It is a lovely but simple cape cod in a quaint little village in western New York. But it is the history of events that have unfolded within these walls that has made this place our dear home.
Dennis and I realized that we needed to treat our home like the gift that we believed it to be. That meant we must be good stewards, honoring God in our household and remaining open to how He may want to use our home.
Because memory springs eternal, when I look at our house, I see a young couple with two children who are thrilled to have a fenced yard for their little girls to play in. Her hair is not gray, as mine is now. And I see two more little girls who would join the family, each in God’s time, bundled and welcomed by their sisters. A shy little boy, who came a very long way across the ocean, joins the family via adoption and learns many new words and ideas…not least of all that of a parent’s love.
And I see the many adventures of their growing up…Jessie’s fairy fort in the back yard and Peter shaking his fist at the fence that must have jumped out and tripped him as he rode his bike!
I see some special Masses in the home, and friends who wear clerical collars stopping by to support the kids’ car wash for the homeless; elderly neighbors who gave Christmas gifts to the children, like Shannon’s favorite “Crystal Dolly” ….and a couple ambulance rides for a bee sting reaction and an eye injury. I see a foster child who stayed for a time, and refugee children slurping juice pops on a hot summer day. A backyard carnival and Cara doing cartwheels on the front lawn as shadows grow long, oh…and a game of “Ghosts in the Graveyard” after dark!
I see lovely young ladies in prom gowns, awkward dates in tuxedos, Christmas celebrations, showers, anniversary picnics, retirement parties, a young man in his Eagle Scout uniform. I see a young bride, radiant in white, leaving to join her husband… and the faces of loved ones who often crossed our threshold but now have passed away.
My idea of a “dream house” is perhaps contained more in the “dream” than the house, for so many of my dreams have been fulfilled during our years in this home. My memories may not include how we got the money to repair the water heater, or how ugly the dining room wallpaper used to be. The best of this house is due to those who lived here or experienced the community we call “family.”
The best thing we ever did was to surrender our expectations of this place to the will of God. I know too many people whose marriages suffered or ended shortly after their dream home materialized. As with our conscience it is necessary that our dreams be properly formed according to His will. Then our desires will be for the simple things that truly last, and the foundation of our house will be firm and solid.