Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Can of Worms

There I go getting myself in trouble for thinking too much again. Not that I am blaming anyone, but it is a fact that my dh’s casual remark about possibly buying a house in the U.S. is what triggered my latest conundrum.

First of all, we have never considered such a thing. We are completely settled in Mexico, and with very few exceptions, everything we own is right here under our roof. We live simply and we like it just fine. There are plenty of ministry opportunities to last a lifetime, so retirement has never been a serious option. Once upon a time we half-jokingly promised to die down here so we could keep things affordable and not be a burden on anyone in the States.

Retirement still is not something we consider. What made us think about buying a house is the reality that we are in fact needing to be in the US more often now – possibly every summer – to help care for aging parents, keep in better contact with our supporting churches, see our grown children, and provide stateside job experiences for our three teens before they transition to college and adult life.

With the housing market the way it is, we could conceivably take some inheritance/retirement funds and buy an affordable house or condo. That would remove the agony of finding a place to live each time we take a summer furlough. That would be the biggest blessing of all.

However it also opens all sorts of cans of worms. What kind of place? Where? Everything in me cries out for simplicity. (Read: small and easy to care for) The last thing I want is a big old empty house that needs to be filled and repaired and painted. (We have enough fix-it challenges in our house down here!)

Up until now I have only admired houses from afar. Pinterest has brought it closer to home, but honestly I have never coveted other people’s homes. I figure any discontent over where I live just encourages godly thinking; it makes me long for my heavenly home. Any suffering that makes me look heavenward is a good thing. I can handle a relative lack of beauty and convenience here on earth in this dry old desert home knowing that somehow I have a mansion in the future that is forever – and it will be filled with beauty that eludes me here on earth.

Now suddenly I am approached with a remote possibility of house-hunting, and all sorts of worldly ideas pop into my head. I don’t want just any affordable housing. I want a lovely Pinterestingly decorated place with a lovely garden that I never dreamed of having this side of heaven. Ack. Then I feel guilty for such shallow and selfish ambitions.

Years ago I remember reading that only three things touch the human soul: beauty, pain, and stories. Beauty can’t be a sinful pursuit, then, can it? Somehow through the years I have developed an unhealthy theology that says it is godlier to suffer than to be surrounded by beauty. It’s almost like I fear to be blessed in a material way, lest it draw my heart away from missions and back to the comforts of the U.S.

Any suggestions? How do I keep my eye on the finish line while simultaneously entertaining thoughts of buying into U.S. real estate? Can it be done?

IRL* My can of worms is a sweet dilemma.


  1. This post reminds me of the hymn, "Mansion Over the Hilltop" by Ira Forest Stanphill. I think you just may resonate with the lyrics.

    I recently read, "Beauty Will Save the World," by Brian Zahnd. I think it is a book that everyone should read, but besides that, it reminds us that God is a God of beauty and He has created us to enjoy beauty and need beauty. Don't feel bad wanting beauty in a place you buy. It's part of our Father's finger prints on the place! If our Father wants you to have a home in the States, may it be a place of beauty for you!

  2. My suggestion is to make a list of "have to haves" for this house (including easy to take care of) and a list of "like to haves." Then show it to The Father and say, "Ok, God. It's up to You what we get. I'll wait on You." Then look, but with a waiting/trusting attitude.

    I did that when we moved here. We had a rather scary list of "have to haves" for the house we would rent. After showing God my list, He said, "O, is that all!" and gave us twice as much room and all my "would like to haves" as well! He is a good and loving Father! =)


  3. Shilling, I just bought that book on my Kindle. Now that you mention it, I shall have to read it.

    Beth, your remarks are very helpful, too. I need to be reminded of these things.

  4. Tough one! As in everything, as you pray about it, God will show you the way. He knows what you need: as you already listed, it would need to be simple, not requiring a lot of maintenance; it would need to not pull your heart from where your ministry is; it would need to be a blessing for you and your family. It's definitely worth considering buying a house, but you'd need a clear 'yes' from God. Even if he shows you not to buy, you'll get more clarity about God's priorities for this stage of your family life as you work through the idea!

    If Mexico is where your kids grew up and went to school, and where your family home is, do they really want/need to go to the States for college? Or is their future also in Mexico? Do you own your own home in Mexico? God led our family to buy our own home in the country where we serve him, and now this is definitely HOME, and the country we came from is our SENDING COUNTRY, and despite regular visits, the sending country if definitely a foreign land to our kids.
    Please let us know how God leads you, though! And how he gives you balance with increased commitments in the US.

    1. Thanks, Heather. We do own our house here, but so far the first four have all opted for college in the U.S. or Canada. Now we are scattered all over the globe. We'll keep this as home base, but we still need regular housing in the U.S. For now I am in denial that we may need to split our time between countries.

  5. One of the special things about this missionary life, for me, is that I get look at things from outside the box (that is, I get to consider things differently than I would have if I had never left the U.S. and kept my worldview from the 'less-textured' perspective that I had there). I hear you on wanting to keep your eye on the finish line, and not wanting your heart to be drawn away from missions. We're not in your place, yet, but I have sensed it creeping up on us, and I wonder if a bigger aspect of your 'can of worms' is fear of change. I know what it has cost for the Lord to bring my heart to where it is now, and I'm somehow fearful that when it comes to changing some things about our present life (for the same reasons you mention), that some of the precious things he has taught me and blessed me with will somehow be lost in the change. That you are willing to consider that he has a change or shift for you, and that you are trying to be honest about how you approach it - I think he will more than bless that. Yes, I think he does love beauty, and yes, it is possible to come up with some unhealthy theology; but is the question maybe a little bigger than that? That he is, possibly, calling you to expand your perspective, your thinking, your flexibility - your dependence on him - even more in this new thing, scary as it is? I think the best thing you can do to keep your eyes focused on him and his glory is to keep coming to him and asking his help for just that. Other voices will certainly speak to your situation, helpful or no, but he will most graciously talk you through the whole thing, if you just keep asking him to (which, it seems from what you write, you have experience in already).

    Thank you for sharing the thing about the three things touching the human soul: beauty, pain, and stories. I'm not an ideas person, but I can see the truth in that and I want to see in my life and in the lives of those around me that a pursuit of beauty isn’t necessarily a sinful pursuit; I'm bent a little like you in the unhealthy theology department/fearing to be blessed. But I so want to bask in his glory, experience his beauty personally, and I can do that when I come to him and ask for his wisdom and presence in pursuing some of these kinds of questions. Yes, it can be done!

    1. Wow, those "prove you are not a robot" messages are getting ridiculous. I really appreciate y'all taking time to comment and then to prove you are human so google will accept your comments!

      Donna, you may have hit on a key - the fear of change. Yes, and particularly the fear of losing all I have gained in terms of world perspective and all that. Yes to being stretched. Flexibility is not always my best feature. I really just appreciate your input here.

      And here's to experiencing HIS beauty and embracing the blessings!

  6. Interestingly, we own two houses - something we never even remotely considered going into missions. (It sort of just happened.) And we are considering leaving yet again to another place.

    I used to think "why own?" Real missionaries lived on the road with little. But that is not always true. Sometimes owning makes more sense.

    I love beauty. I'm not good at creating or maintaining it. I love my garden. But one thing we have been able to do with our houses is realize that while our name is on the title, they are no more ours than they are others. The houses themselves are just a trust - belonging to God. So when we are not using them - other people do. Or, even while we are using them, other people do. We can squish over and make room for another family easily. And we do - because this is God's house. (It just made more financial sense for God to own the title as it was cheaper than renting!)

    Our other house is rented out. Sometimes they pay the rent. Sometimes they don't. It is not an ideal situation, but it is a blessing to the people in it.

    If you feel led to own a house, ask God to confirm that. He did with us in such a startling way, that we knew He wanted us to buy this one. And then feel guilt free... it is His house, I'm sure He will show you what to do with it even if you don't live in it all the time.

    Those are my two bits.

    And beauty is important. Beauty helps counteract pain.

    1. I just reread these responses, and realized I never replied to yours, Ellie. I love what you say and how you think. For now it seems the buy-a-place option is seeming less viable, but it's good to know we could and even then it would still belong to God.


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