“This is not our home,” Mark told the kids, pointing to the house we’d lived in the last seven years — the only house they have known or remember. It was Thanksgiving weekend last year, and we were sleeping in the backyard, snuggled in our sleeping bags and tent. Mark was trying to speak to them about the kingdom of God, this abstract thing we pursue yet cannot see. “I know that’s weird to say since we eat and sleep here, but our home — our real home — is the Kingdom of God. This is just a house.” He pauses, expecting this statement to segue into a larger dialogue, but the kids just shrug and begin making silly faces with their flashlights. They were camping in the backyard after all. “Good talk,” he sighs and tosses an exasperated glance toward me. I thought about these words this morning, these words left suspended in the cold November night so many months ago, and I realize now, they were meant for us.
We didn’t really have a plan when we put our house on the market in March — so unlike the both of us. Always working hard to live within our means (cash budget, debt-free), Mark and I had found it more difficult to pay our bills and expenses since the previous year when we lost more than half of our income overnight. Although our life wasn’t lavish, we lived with more than we needed, and those little details were the first things to go. We sold our nicer SUV and bought an old Suburban. Mark picked up extra writing jobs in addition to full-time teaching and part-time graduate school. I went back to work part-time, tutoring college students in writing in the late afternoon/evening when Mark could watch the kids. I continued homeschooling during the day. And unexpected money came in the mail like manna. Sometimes we laughed and sometimes we cried. We were tired, but making it. Barely making it. And then the house. Our boys were 1 and 2 when we moved here, and this was the girls only home. It was a second home for so many of our friends, a collection of meals and prayer and discussion and parties and play. Our hearts were hungry for adventures and other unknowns we couldn’t always quite articulate. But somehow it seemed to always come around to this: should we sell our home? We decided to list it through the spring and summer, and if it sold, we would move. Otherwise, we’d stay. This was our coin toss, our fleece. It sold after three days on the market.
Mark and I had always joked with Kristen and Tim about cohabitation. Kristen is my younger sister and she’s married to Tim, Mark’s younger brother. (Don’t worry. It’s legit. Nothing weird, just lucky for us.) We live only 1/3 of a mile apart and our lives already overlapped in so many ways, it almost seemed easier. When our house sold, we decided to try cohabitation. We would move into their home, sharing the mortgage, bills, groceries, and space, for a one year trial period. Our four kids would share rooms with their two (girl/boy rooms) and each couple would have their own rooms. And now here we are after a difficult month of moving, cleaning-out, and giving away — the not so effortless combining of our two households into one.
Why am I telling you this? Why am I sharing this now? Because sometimes media deceives us. We see in part without the perspective of the whole. We consume and swoon over the pictures and the poetry without always understanding its origin, its birthplace. And then we compare ourselves, our families, our decisions, and believe what we have is not enough. I’m just as guilty as anyone else. So as I share handfuls of pictures and places of our life the last month, I want you to have context of what it cost us to get there. No one forced these decisions, the house sale, the move. We chose it based on a coin-toss and a longing for more of that abstract Kingdom, hoping to show our children what can’t always be discussed in a backyard tent– this is not our home.