Building A House & Lessons Learned

Over three years ago my husband and I embarked on an ambitious and heartfelt DIY adventure with the goal of building a beautiful hickory 3-in-1 crib for our first child, who was due in late February 2014.

He arrived in early March 2014, and when he was six months old, he finally got to sleep in his newly completed crib.

The process of building the crib was way less fun that we had anticipated. In fact, our picturesque time in the wood shop was often tense and frustrating instead of gushy and sweet. But alas, we finished it. And by “we”, I mean he did 99% of the work, and I masterfully measured a few things while mostly trying to avoid bumping into sharp objects with my protruding belly.

Now if I may humbly say so, it really is a beautiful piece of work that we’re proud of, and it gives us great joy to know that someday our grandchildren or great-grandchildren could be sleeping in it as well. (Adorable, fussy children currently fit well inside its confines.)

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So after said crib-making was accomplished, we tossed around the idea of releasing our inner Chip and Joanna Gaines by beginning the process of building a new home for our growing family. Surely building a house isn’t much more complex than a 3-in-1 crib, right?

After all, what could be so hard about it? My husband is a general contractor. He knows how to build houses. Pick out a floor plan. Buy the material. Skillfully put it together. And bada bing bada boom. A house!

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Now nearly two years later, we have finally moved in. The last two years of life have been filled with unimaginable difficulty and immense celebration as well. Building the house has certainly been a part of the equation. It’s been way harder than we thought it would be in every. way. possible. It’s stretched us to a paper-thin, translucent state in our bodies, spirits, hearts, minds, marriage, parenting, relationships, schedules, jobs, finances…

It’s been really super hard.

We dug our foundation in November of 2015, anticipating needing a bigger house once our daughter joined our family in December 2015. She died twenty days after she was born, and the new house construction abruptly hit pause. We were heartbroken.

Evelyn’s life and death were a painful reminder that our true home isn’t made out of wood and nails. Because stuff like that can be lost in an instant, and when compared with the value of people, it pales tremendously.

Our true home, the one that will never perish, spoil, or fade is our someday, forever heavenly home. It’s the only place that can bring lasting peace and joy because Jesus is there. And where he is, therein resides eternal happiness that can never be taken away. It’s also the place where we’ll see our daughter again, whole and healthy.

The following year was filled with deep grief, slow healing, and bouts of physical sickness. It was also a year of incredible joy as we began our adoption journey and welcomed our son into our family in August 2016. To put it briefly, that process was bittersweet, and at times a really, really big faith-stretcher. But God is faithful. And we praise him for his grace.

All while this other very big stuff was happening, my amazing husband was running his business, loving his growing family, and trying to build a house with his own two hands. In his spare time.

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Then we found out in April 2017 that we were expecting another baby to join our family at the end of the year. So our sense of urgency to finish the house increased exponentially while stamina and motivation decreased just as rapidly.

Much to my embarrassment, I was not always a gracious, patient wife during the building process. But it’s been in those low moments that God’s light has shone the brightest, mercifully teaching me how to trust in his ways and walk in step with his Spirit, instead of acting like a stinker.

It’s soooooo tempting to nag. And I did so on more occasions than I would care to admit. But the Lord would often remind me that the best thing I can do is pray, help where I’m able, and wait patiently. After all, my husband is amazing, but he’s still only a man who has limits and who functions within the same 24 hour day as the rest of us.

It was getting challenging to live in our small, 950 square foot, 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom home. And many days I would think about how much easier life would be once we had more space. But truly, a bigger home would never make me happy or solve all of my problems. The secret to my happiness in this very moment is knowing Jesus, regardless of how big our house is.

In Philippians 4:11-13 the Apostle Paul is thanking the church in Philippi for expressing concern for him while he’s imprisoned. Here’s what he says to them: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

Here’s the thing. We’ve lived in our new house for a whole month now. And it’s been super wonderful in many, many ways. But I still find myself having to remember on a daily basis: 1. don’t nag and 2. be content.

The house is gorgeous. (Did I mention how amazing my husband is?) But there are several incomplete projects that we’re chipping away at little by little. Front steps. Balusters. Floating shelves. Vents. Under cabinet lights. A custom mantle. Just to name a few.

But, the secret to my happiness remains the same, even though I’m in a bigger house. It’s Jesus. He can align my perspective with his, and remind me that loving the people around me is more important than having a perfectly completed home. Some day the house will be done. But for now, I can still live fully with deep contentment because I have Jesus.

We’ve enjoyed playing in our huge yard, building forts in the woods, and getting covered in mud. Nevermind that we don’t have front steps or that there’s an enormous pile of topsoil waiting to be spread. We’ve loved having friends and family over to visit. They don’t seem to care that the bathroom mirror isn’t installed or that the vent above the range hood isn’t hooked up. We are daily choosing to be content right now in the midst of this incomplete home. It’s not always easy, but it definitely produces the most joy.

We praise Jesus that he has given us this home as a gift to be shared. We even praise him for the long road that led us to this point because it has produced lasting change in our hearts. But more than anything, we praise God that he has given us Jesus. It’s because of him that we can be content no matter what our circumstances hold.

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