Monday, September 17, 2012

Welcomed Little Changes

God amazes me.  Just when I think He doesn't care about the trivial things in my life, He proves me very wrong.  We all have little, persistent annoyances in our lives that we dislike.  Personally, I find myself praying about these petty needs, but because they aren't a big deal and I don't see any hope of them changing, I just try not to focus on them.  Shamefully, when God doesn't change them reasonably quickly for me, I guess I begin to doubt that He even cares about them.  Because I don't really expect Him to ever change or fix them, I usually give up praying about them altogether. But when God decides to move on something in our life, He moves.  

My husband and I have a comfortable life for which we are extremely grateful to God.  God has blessed us financially by giving Matt a job he loves that not only provides well for us, but provides Matt with work that is challenging, stimulating, and rewarding.  It has also given me the opportunity to quit teaching (which I was so burned-out doing) so that I can more easily manage our home during the week, work on my music (which is my real passion), and enjoy time with Matt on the weekends.  Matt's time is more freed-up for resting and his own personal hobbies because he no longer has to help out around the house to the extent that he did when I worked more full-time.  But the best blessing that has come from this is that I am able to travel with him for his work (which is a significant requirement of his position).  We've both discovered that marriage is meant to be lived together, not separately.  As I've blogged about previously, we both have, "quality time," as our second highest love language.  So being together is really crucial to us. 

Matt and I are both pretty content people.  Due to this, we don't feel the urgency to constantly be keeping up with others on a materialistic level.  We're usually the last in our various circles of family and friends to acquire the latest "gadgets and gizmos" on the market.  We've had many friends and family members lovingly make fun of us for this (you know who you are), and at times, we even admit it is a little ridiculous how tight we can be about certain things.  Growing up in a single-parent home, I learned to live meagerly.  Matt grew up on a farm, so he, likewise, learned the value of a dollar.  My mother was (and still is) the queen of "penny-pinching."  I guess she taught me well, as I have acquired some of her frugality.  Just one example of this is the home in which we live.  Based on even the most conservative budgets from financial wizards such as, Larry Burkett and Dave Ramsey, Matt and I could certainly afford to live in a much bigger, nicer home than the one we have currently.  But we really don't need a huge house, we love our neighbors, and neither one of us is a big "change" person.  We have gotten comfortable here.

Though I am grateful for my home and quite content here, I wouldn't say that I LOVE my house.  Upon our purchasing of it, we had all sorts of troubles.  The basement leaked the first summer we were here--not profusely, and thankfully, only in the unfinished side.  But we had over 10 inches of rain in less than 5 hours one day that summer, and very quickly realized our basement has its limits if pushed past them.  Then the septic system failed horribly.  We spent over ten grand and went through two plumbing company's (the first one installed a faulty system) to replace it.  It was a horrific ordeal to put it mildly.  Then a horrendous hail storm came and completely ruined our roof.  Matt and I had roofed our house in Manhattan by ourselves together (and we're still married), so we decided we could roof this one since it is actually a more simplistic roof design than the previous house.  I know, I know.  You're shocked that a prissy pants like me actually tore off and roofed two houses.  But I did.  Oddly enough, I rather like hard labor.  To quote part of a song from one of my favorite Christian musicians, Mitch McVicker, "There is a rest you get from work you can't get from sleep."   There's a lot of truth there.  But back to our money pit, house-roofing stories.  Matt and I are both pretty frugal.  If we think we can save some money, we'll do it--even if means doing back-breaking intensive work, at times.  We did make some good, quick cash roofing our own house.  But suffice it to say, we'll never roof another one.  We're hanging up our roofing hammers and our chalk lines!

All that to say, we've put a lot of money, blood, sweat, and tears into our meager little home.  It is also the first home in which we've lived for longer than four years.  We've moved a lot in our marriage--this is our fifth residence in our nearly 25 years of marriage, and we've lived here for over 13 years now.  We've got roots and good memories in this neighborhood and house.  Plus, we're comfortable here (there's that word again).

So Matt and I have been tossing around the notion of moving into a bigger home so that when our daughter has children (in five years, as she's proclaimed), we have a little nicer, larger home with better entertainment space in which to host our kids and grand-kiddos.  Though we have three bedrooms and two and a half baths here, the layout of our home is not very conducive to hosting many people.  But every time we go house hunting, we just don't find the right thing at the right price (this could have something to do with being tight and not wanting to move)!  We also find ourselves rationalizing why our house is actually better.  We toy with the idea of moving to Lawrence since we love it, it feels like home, and we are there all the time anyway.  Matt would only add about 10 minutes to his drive day, and we'd be a little closer to Kansas City (where we spend a lot of time, as well).  We'd also be closer to family on both sides.  But it is just hard to actually make ourselves take the time to house hunt and consider spending the extra dough when we aren't overly psyched about the whole deal.  We've always HAD to move in our marriage until now (for education, new jobs, and continued education).  Since it literally takes a shove for either one of us to make a big decision, we've just decided to stay put in our little house for now.  We moved so much in the first half of our married life that we are just tired of it.

There are things that annoy me about my current house though.  One thing is all the trees we have on our nearly one acre lot.  Oddly enough, this was one of the things we loved most about this house upon purchasing it.  We have over thirty trees in our yard and along our property line.  They are pretty, and when we look out our front window it feels like we live in a park.  It has also been rather nice to watch the seasonal changes of the trees.  But after thirteen years of raking leaves, picking up hundreds of limbs and sticks (even after small storms and mildly breezy days), planting grass yearly (due to the tree roots), mowing around all the trees, and cleaning the gutters more than anyone should ever have to do in a year, we have decided we despise these trees.  They also seem to bring more spiders and destructive animals in and around our home (termites, carpenter ants, and the like).  We've had to spray for both.  Having so many trees that there is little to no yard space for the gardening of vegetables and sun-loving flowers is also annoying.  For someone who loves flowers and even took several horticultural classes in college (thought I might be a florist one day), I have discovered this house isn't really perfect for me.  But the main reason I have come to dislike all the trees in our yard is that they make our house rather dark and dismal inside.  I call our basement the, "dark dank dungeon."  I have even complained about it to God saying, "Lord, Please give me a new house some day.  I need light!  This place is like a morgue!"  Over time, I have grown accustomed to the petty annoyances of our home and they don't bother me so much.  But God amazed me with an unexpected, small blessing recently.  A blessing I never would have thought He'd bother to give.  

We live at the end of a dead-end street and right beside a huge field that has been unused, CRP ground for the past thirteen years.  Along our east property line and this field, are many trees and so much brush and overgrowth that we can't even see the sunrise.  I awoke one day recently to the sound of bulldozers removing nearly half the trees along this property line and clearing out all the brush that was impeding our view of the sunrise and blocking out the natural daylight to our home.  To our surprise, we learned soon afterward that the owner of this field decided to clear and clean up the field for grazing purposes.  Though we still have a great many trees, the improvement in the lighting of our home and yard has been significant.  We can even see the sunrise now.  This was such an unexpected blessing to me and reminded me how much God does care about the little things in our lives.  God hasn't given me my dream home yet, and He may never choose to do that.  Either way, I'm fine with it.  There are many more important things in life than dream homes.  But He did give me more sunshine for my current home, and I love Him for it.  When God decides to make a change for us, look out.  Here come the bulldozers.

It was a glorious thing to watch them clear that land, though initially I awoke thinking, "What the heck is going on outside?!!"  Now let me state for the record that I'm not someone who is an advocate for plowing over trees.  I'm not a "tree-hugger" either, but I value nature.  However, it gets old living in a house that is so dark you don't even need blinds on your bedroom windows to sleep in on a Saturday morning.  I have thoroughly enjoyed having the glow of the sunrise come through our east window each morning and wake me gently since those trees got yanked.  I have also loved seeing the sun's rays glisten through our existing trees all day and spill onto my lawn where I've never seen sunlight prior.  It just feels like a burst of joy and energy has come into our home.  It sounds really ridiculous and small, but I praise God for it.  I admit that I get a little touch of, "seasonal affective disorder" in the late fall through winter during the dark, cold, dismal days.  This is nothing for which I've been diagnosed or prescribed drugs, but I am a sunshine girl.  Nearly everything I love to do is outdoors or in the sun.  So to me, winter just blows (and I'm not just talking about the cold wind and snow)!  If it isn't Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, or I'm not skiing down a mountain in Colorado, it should always be summertime, in my view.  Our house is even darker in winter, and I am so thankful that we will now have more light throughout those long, dreary months ahead.  God is good.

There is one other quite unexpected blessing that God has placed in my life recently.  It is even smaller and perhaps more odd than the tree removal blessing.  I have posted and blogged previously about my lifelong, dear friend, Michelle, who died of cancer in February of 2011.  I posted (not blogged) a rather lengthy memorial about her on what would have been her 45th birthday this past July of 2012.  (You can read this memorial on my main Google + profile page if you so desire and haven't already).  But one of the things in the post that I stated I miss the most about her is the way she smelled.  Weird, I know.  But I have one of those rare noses that can detect even the faintest scents--most people have their own scent and they don't even realize it.  I find them rather wonderful (usually), and I think they are just yet another one of God's little ways of making us all distinct and unique.  This strange sensory trait of smell that I've been given can be both a blessing and a curse.  I swear it makes food taste way better to me than it does to other people (hence my status as a, "foodie," as well as my less than scrawny physique)!  Matt says it really doesn't surprise him that I possess this trait.  He says all my senses are heightened because, as he lovingly puts it, "You're just a very "feeling" person," (his nice way of saying I am an overly sensitive girl)!  But my precious friend had this distinct, sweet smell about her that I'd never smelled on anyone prior or since, and it is one of the things I miss the very most about her. She smelled like an angel.

Strangely enough, the last few times I have seen my darling daughter, Allie, she has for some unknown, mystifying reason acquired Michelle's scent.  We cannot put our finger on why or how this has happened, but it is a fact.  So I praise God, yet again, for this other new, welcomed change with which He has decided to unexpectedly bless me.  I feel like I have been given a little piece of my best friend back and it has given me immense joy.  I pray this continues and isn't just a temporary fluke.  My daughter thinks it is rather surreal but cool, as well.  She appreciates that God has used her to bring a special part of Michelle's memory back into my life.  Pretty wild stuff.  Again, God amazes me.  It is the little things in life...and God does care about them.  As Ephesians 3:20a states, "Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine."  Thanks, God.