A few moths ago, I promised I’d catch you up on my life this past spring. So warning: This is a somewhat sad start to one happy story.
After learning that my divorce was unavoidable last year, finding a safe, clean place to live that I could afford was a challenge.
And it wasn’t just a challenge, it was an immediate priority.
I’m entirely too independent to entertain shacking up with friends for a spell, although several generously offered to open their homes. Paducah is not known for its affordable rental market, especially for folks in my income bracket, ahem, a divorcee’s income bracket. Add in a place that would accept Baxter von Triptrap, and I was in a real bind.
Thankfully, the apartment I was able to locate came with some incredible landlords who attended one of our sister churches in town. They extended many kindnesses toward me in my leasing and deposit options, knowing my future wasn’t set in stone at the time. The unit even blessedly had a small stacked washer and dryer.
So two days before my 30th birthday, on a Thursday evening, I moved into a new apartment and away from the house I called a home. I even said goodbye to the other cat my ex-husband kept as part of the feline custody agreement (seriously, it’s in the papers). Cue the waterworks as the sun literally set on my old life.
The only problem with my new home was its size. I was downsizing from 1,500 square feet to 550. Not to mention going from a single-family dwelling with a yard and a front porch swing and all the pros of suburban living to sharing a wall with a stranger and making sure the cat didn’t stain the carpet with an unavoidable hairball.
Even Baxter was cramped, with limited spaces to hide from impending doom and little room to sprint.
Ok, things get a little less sad now.
A friend solved some of my space issues by gifting me with an extra key to her climate-controlled storage unit, and I took a load of stuff to my parents’ house in Missouri. Another cycling-loving friend offered to house my bike at her place nearer the middle of town, with hopes that I come ride with her. I packed up a lot of ministry books and took them to church. Instead of a kitchen table, I filled my dining nook with the two desks I would use for my computer and for sewing.
People took care of me. God provided. The cat eased in and found he could hunt lizards through the glass from the comfort of his sunny window perch. I would thank God for putting me in a warm, safe shelter with a landlord who fixed all my physical problems (leaky toilet? No problem!). It was a cozy little corner, and exactly what I needed to mourn, heal and try to once again see in color.
I survived the winter in my little brick box. Until I caught a dose of spring fever and a double mind.
The apartment, while a literal Godsend, was hard on me in some ways. I grew up in the country and at my previous two homes in Paducah during the marriage, had benefited from large private yards with plenty of outdoor space, and I terribly missed the porch swing at my last house where I started so many of my mornings with breakfast and Bible study.
Heading outside at the apartment, with multiple other residents and situated on a busy street, made me feel like I was a guppie in a fishbowl.
The most people I could squeeze into the apartment was five other girls spread into two rooms for craft night, and I’m not entirely sure where they all parked.
I knew from my previous search that I couldn’t afford anything larger or more private on the rental market, but I wasn’t sure if I was ready to take the plunge and commit to Paducah by buying a house.
I’m preparing for a career in ministry, after all. It’s best if I remain somewhat transient if God should call me elsewhere.
But at the same time, I thought, I needed a place to spread my wings.
To make a long story a little shorter, I found a house for sale that I loved in the middle of town. It had a covered porch. And arched doorways inside. And hardwood floors.
My fantastic realtor, Ashlea McMillan, and I went over it with a fine tooth comb, checking out all its faults and foibles. I made a list of all the pros and cons. I brought my pastor over to look at it. I drove by it every day on the way to work at the library. It was a fixer upper, but truly, it was my dream house. The price was right, even before negotiations started.
Still, I was struggling to pull the trigger.
It was so hard for me to decide: Stay where I could answer God’s call in a split second and be uncomfortable, allowing God to be my comfort and true and sole source of joy. OR buy a house and enjoy the comfort provided by a place I could finally call mine.
In short, I felt guilty at the prospect of buying a house. As if it would be selfish of me to do such a thing at this time in my life.
During my last weeks of seminary last semester, I found myself discussing my options with one of my colleagues I truly respected. Daniel Hopkins and I had served at church camp together for a few years, and I trusted his advice.
He heard my story, and couldn’t understand where I was having such a hang up, feeling that my list of pros for moving far outweighed any cons.
I told him that this verse haunted me:
“Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to rest his head.'” Luke 9:58 NIV
Every Christian’s goal is to be like Christ, right?
“Dusty, Jesus didn’t have a place to lay his head so we would one day have a place to lay ours,” Daniel said.
What a gut punch. I got a little weepy. It was exactly what I needed to hear to allow me the freedom to move on with my life, guilt-free.
No, Daniel wasn’t advocating a prosperity gospel by any means. But while we as Christians will be called to suffer at times for being followers of Jesus, Christ also took the place of our suffering. If God is a God of love, God wouldn’t want us to be in pain the rest of our days on earth if we could help it. I don’t think that’s God’s will for God’s people.
I bought the house and closed on April 28. My realtor was an absolute bulldog with the negotiating. Seriously, what a woman! My church went above and beyond in helping me get moved and settled — so much so that I’ve dubbed the abode the Midtown Manse. My family scoured thrift stores to help furnish what I was missing. I’ve painted and cleaned and organized and made the place my refuge. I’ve decorated to my heart’s content.
Yes, the honeymoon ended when I realized my basement was still quite leaky despite some work we had done. I forgot to sign up with the gas company when I moved in, so I had no heat and no hot water for an entire week until they could switch on my gas. I had to buy two window AC units to help last the two month-long string of 90+ degree days.
But I have a home for my ministry. I have an inspiring corner set up for writing, studying and design work on my computer. My porch is ready for Bible study, meditation, and evenings with friends. I have a large yard that is begging for youth group kids to come play in. I have a dining room (with a gifted table from a friend!) that is ready for guests.
My new neighborhood is perfectly situated for bike rides to the local parks, friends’ houses and I can even ride my bike to work at the library or to the farmer’s market. It’s farther from church, but I can come home for lunch when I work at the library.
The cat likes to stretch his legs upstairs, downstairs and snooze in the windows.
My new little house is a home, with room to grow. And it’s made all the difference in my new life.
And P.S., I’ve had “my kids” over twice already. The new place fit 15 youth and three adults a few weeks ago for Game Night with room for a few more. My heart nearly burst of happiness.