Not too long ago, I was house hunting. We’ve been in the same house for nearly a decade, and perhaps I got a bit restless. Eric doesn’t care for change, but he’d move if that’s what I really wanted, and I thought I wanted it. I determined that if the Lord willed for us to move to a new house, He would provide a way, and I started looking at houses in our preferred communities. I was really hoping God would deliver me from discontentment and into a “better neighborhood”. But this is what I learned while I was scouting out the local real estate market:
I love our house.
So God did deliver me from the restlessness, but not in the way I hoped He would. During a recent season of fasting and prayer, I specifically prayed every day for Him to steer my heart about whether we should stay or go, and after just a few days I decided to delete the real estate apps from my phone. Once the fasting was completed, I didn’t even want to put them back. God had shown me all the things we have to love about where we are right now!
I’m sure you have things that make you feel restless as well. It’s just human nature to long for more that what we have, and I think that’s because our hearts are looking forward to Heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” So you and I are always looking forward to our eternal home, and that longing spills over into our temporary existence.
Making a “bright side list”, detailing the things that make you feel gratitude about your life, can be a great remedy for discontentment. Here are some of the reasons I have decided to love the house we’re in:
Our neighbors are like family.
I’m well aware that this is a rarity, so I want to hold onto this as long as we can. Many people I know don’t even know their neighbors’ names, much less their stories. In this neighborhood, we swap stories. We meet each other at mailboxes and share greetings and garden equipment and leftover birthday cake. We check on each other, and we keep an eye out for the peculiar things that might signal something is wrong.
The road is quiet, wide, and flat.
We toodle around on bikes all afternoon when the weather is nice. I have no qualms about letting Seth disappear around the block, as long as his helmet is on. He’ll loop back around in a minute, and there are no real hazards between here and the other side of the block. I could hear him if he shouted for help, and be there to meet him in a flash. These are the kind of roads that are perfect for walking (two of our neighbors walk together every afternoon, heads covered in pink scarves, gossiping like fine old hens, making several circuits around the block before parting ways), and even better for bikes and scooters.
Our house is the perfect size and layout.
I think our small house is just the right size. At only 1,125 square feet, you could fit more than two houses like ours inside the footprint of an average American new construction home! But I love that our family isn’t spread out over twice as much space, because we spend a lot of time together as a matter of necessity. I don’t have to cart laundry up two flights of stairs, and it only takes about 20 minutes for us to tidy up and return toys and other belongings to their proper spaces at the end of a day.
Most Americans live in houses that are much larger than what they need, but it’s a waste of resources (space, energy, money…) to live in a house that is too big! The only reason I can think of that might validate a large home is hospitality. I want to have space for parties! I love that someone had the foresight to knock out a certain wall in our house about 50 years ago, which gives our home a unique-for-the-era open layout. Therefore, we already have a perfect space for entertaining.
We are close to town but away from busy traffic.
We are only fifteen minutes from downtown, and about the same to all the shopping we’d ever need.
On the one hand, our neighborhood is not the “happening” place to be. It’s not the hip side of town, and no one I know has ever thought, “Gee, I sure do wish I could live there.”
On the other hand? I don’t have to fight traffic. Ever. Period. BOOM.
Our house has amazing natural light.
It’s dreamy. What else do I need to say about that?
The kids have space to roam.
We only have a 1/4 acre lot, but on either side of us and behind us, there are neighbors with wide open, flat and grassy properties. The kids have plenty of space run wild and free. Just down the road, there’s a small parcel of wooded area, and I let the kids hike through it as long as they stay where I can hear them from the bordering road. It’s not a deep parcel of land, and hemmed in on three sides by other neighbors, so they can’t get lost in there. But it’s just dense enough for them to feel it’s private and they are free. I have yet to find another place where I gift my children this kind of freedom.
We only owe $71,000 on our house.
I’m not sure how many people our age can say that, honestly. Everywhere I look, folks are looking to upgrade to fancy subdivisions… good for them, I say! If you can afford a $250,000+ mortgage, I’m glad for you. We can’t, but I’m not even sure I’d want to do it if we could! I’m eyeballing the day when we might me totally debt-free, and increasing our mortgage payment without good reason doesn’t sound appealing. I quickly noted that a home in our preferred community would wind up costing us at least twice as much, and even more when you factor in the cost of personalizing a new-to-us home, but…
Our home is finally decorated exactly the way I like it.
Finally, this. Ten years in one house is a lot of time to make yourself at home. It took a few years to find just-the-right color for the living room walls, and luck (and Craigslist) brought us a perfectly sized dining table that extends for company. I look around now, and I remember how the furniture we brought with us the day we moved in didn’t really fit, and we had to rig things up and deal with the awkwardness until we could afford something else.
Our kitchen cabinets used to be painted an awful brown color, and the kitchen floor was ugly linoleum. It took almost five years before we could change the floor, and in the process, we took carpet out of the dining area and extended the hard surface floor. That alone made the space look so much more cohesive. And don’t even get me started on the light fixtures! Or that horrid berber carpet with who-knows-what kind of stains. At least now I can tell you what caused each of our current carpet stains.
Recently, I mentioned how hard it can be to force a wayward, distracted heart into a state of contentment. So many people lack peace because they feel unhappy with their current status (be that in marriage, their job, at home). There’s so much to be said, though, for finding the positive potential right where you are.
Sure, there are some situations that must be remedied, especially if they are unhealthy, so don’t think I’m saying that you should always stay put! But if you struggle to be happy with your place in the world and you feel stuck, it can be helpful to make a bright side list like this, itemizing the positive things about your situation. Just list pros, and don’t even bother listing cons! Think about things that make you feel gratitude.
When your bright side list is done, chances are good that the contentment you seek will be easier attain that you thought possible. When I started listing all the reasons I love our home, my desire to move disappeared. I know we will probably still need to move to a different neighborhood one day, but until we are able to, I have a list of things to remind me that happiness can be found right where we are.