Wildest dreams seldom compare with the sunshiny, blissful, sometimes all-too-dreadful reality of real life.
When I imagined moving from Chicago, I saw friends and family lining the curb and waving to us as we embarked on our next adventure. Instead, Curtis and I alone pack-horsed a bunch of suitcases across a few city blocks, crammed our tiny Ford Fiesta full of stuff (wishing at that moment we’d just torched the whole lot and started from scratch), and drove out of the city in a June hailstorm. Well, that’s not how I pictured it happening.
We knew where we were headed, but we didn’t have a home to go to—so when we arrived at our tiny town in northern-ish Michigan late that night, we pulled into the driveway of a house we’d never seen to stay with people we’d only met briefly. This wasn’t exactly how I thought relocating would look.
Shortly after arriving in Michigan, we discovered it was going to take longer to close on our house than we thought. In the exactly 2 months during which we didn’t have a home of our own, we stayed in six different places. I feel like starting out a new life isn’t supposed to be like this.
The brakes on our car went out. We spent a lot of Sunday afternoons sitting in the driveway of the house, looking at it wishfully and praying about maybe someday owning it. I biked a lot, got a flat tire, got it fixed, biked some more. I started a new job. We were farm animals (sheep and donkey) in the local Fourth of July parade. We spent lots of Saturday afternoons at the beach of Lake Michigan. Most of our meals were eaten in the church kitchen. I took naps on the floor of Curtis’s office. Somehow I don’t feel very much like an adult.
On July 17, exactly two months after Curtis graduated with his MA and we moved out of our apartment in Chicago, we closed on a house in Michigan. It had been owned by an older gentleman who now lives with his son near Detroit. He left the house abruptly two years ago, so it was still full of all his belongings. Including lots of deer skulls. And 11 vacuums. Seven mattresses. Hunter orange countertops in the kitchen, yards and yards of retro wallpaper, and even some schnazzy camouflage carpet. A few acres. An apple orchard, grape arbor, and a semi-trailer container buried in the back yard. I guess this sort of qualifies as move-in ready.
Sweat equity is a gentle way to describe the amount of work we’ve put into the house in the past month, and it still feels a little like it’s just the beginning. Somewhere in there we acquired kitties. A hot water heater. A water pressure tank. A new well screen. A half dozen gallons of paint. Home ownership doesn’t feel very much like Pinterest makes it look.
Exactly a month after closing, last weekend we got the rest of our belongings from a storage unit in Indiana, where we kept them all summer long. Our furniture didn’t fare too well, but to my great ecstasy all my books are back with me. This is definitely not what I had planned.
Nothing about the process has happened the way I expected it to. It has taken longer. Been more expensive. Required more sweat, more patience, more creative problem solving. Between full-time jobs and house renovations, we’ve put in a few 70-hour weeks. In every way it has challenged my idyllic expectations of Our First House Together.
And in every way, it has been better.
Not because it’s been more pleasant—a few times, it’s been just the opposite. But because I know a few key truths:
Our house and everything in it is a gift from God. How could two poor college-students-turned-adults afford enough furniture for a whole house unless God gave it to them?
I get to take this adventure with my best friend. Curtis (he’s very wonderful).
We are not alone. We’ve entered into a community that loves us generously, serves us tirelessly, and can’t wait to do life with us.
Life will continue to be one thing after another that is different from my expectations. But I am learning that’s going to be okay.