Saturday, June 14, 2014

Movin' On Up

My goodness, I don't think I have ever been so busy! I have longed to sit and write about everything going on, but already I have been getting up at 5:30 or 6:00 in the morning and going to bed past midnight each night, so fitting time in to record our lives right now has just not been an option. Finally, today I have a small window of time to breathe, so here I am.

Four weeks ago our renters moved out. I am so very, very sad that I do not have a picture of the Wardens to keep forever. It's actually not that I didn't try--Smadi (the mother of the family) is simply a very particular woman and never felt she looked good enough to let me snap one of her or her family. I almost did it anyway, but then decided to be respectful of her wishes; thus, no picture. But, this dear family became such an integral part of our lives for nearly three years. Can you believe that? Three years!

Little did we know when we first welcomed this family from Alaska into our home to rent our upstairs for a year that it would turn into two years and nine months. Nor could we foresee that we would come to love this family, to serve them at times when they needed it and to learn from them. They were sort of a unique family. Paul was originally from Davis County and grew up here, but his wife, Smadi, was from Israel and grew up in very different circumstances. They had three boys (one of them was born while living here), and my kids adored their boys.

I remember when we first made the decision to move downstairs and rent our upstairs. Everyone thought we were crazy. I'm sure it seemed like we were. It made me realize how little we really know about the integral pieces of people's lives. We knew without any doubt that we were doing exactly what we needed to do at the time. We had just adopted Berkley and needed a plan to pay off the very large loan we had had to take out to make that happen. It had been a huge step of faith to move forward with an adoption, knowing we really didn't have the finances to do it, but also knowing it was absolutely what we were supposed to do. I remember telling Dan, "I don't know how we will pay off that loan and make things work, but I know that this baby is supposed to be in our family, and so I know the Lord will help us figure things out." And He did.

After praying and praying for answers, one night, while I was up in the middle of the night feeding our precious new baby, praying and pondering possible solutions, the answer came as clear as a bell. I knew exactly what we needed to do. I talked with Daniel the next day, and he agreed. The miracle to me, though, was when we approached our four other children and explained to them that we would need to move to our basement so that we could rent the main part of our home to strangers. We told them we would all have to sacrifice for a while so Berkley could be part of our family. There was never a complaint, only complete support. And when we asked who would be willing to fast and pray for a family to rent our home, they all participated. It was so humbling to me! That very night after we fasted the Wardens called.

So, we finished the last parts of our basement and moved down. It's funny to me now to think of how much smaller we were three years ago--literally! Berkley was a little five pound baby, and my other children were just smaller than they are now. We have grown so much in the nearly three years we've occupied our downstairs. We did without a dishwasher and more than one bathroom (which was hardest of all!). We sold nearly half of our belongings in a huge yard sale and learned to simplify our lives. It really was wonderful in so many ways! I learned I didn't need a huge house or a lot of things. I learned it was nice taking care of a smaller space for a while. I learned how nice it was to have our family so close (most of the time:). I learned how wonderful it feels to pay off debt!

When the year was over and the adoption was paid off, our renters wanted to stay longer. We couldn't believe how quickly the time had flown by. We decided we were fine downstairs and thought it would be good to pay off other debt now as well, so we told them they could stay. To get the kids motivated, we hung up a large sign in their bedroom that had the loan amount of our car (Honda Pilot) on it. Each time we made a large payment on it from the rent money, we would let them cut off some of the amount. It was always very exciting!

When we finally paid the whole car loan off, we celebrated by going to Golden Corral, something we NEVER do! The kids thought they had died and gone to heaven. It's funny how little things can mean so much. It was a fun goal to meet together as a family.

After that second year had passed, I was beginning to feel a desire to have more space. Berkley was now out of her crib and our kids were starting to outgrow the space we had, not to mention I was teaching preschool in our basement as well. I had to be pretty creative at times with our room arrangements, I tell you. I was so grateful to my older kids for not complaining about sharing rooms, especially Hallee and Nate, who were definitely old enough to demand some privacy.

Hallee, Nate, Regyn and Boston all shared one room--it was pretty crowded.

This is how they looked sleeping a lot of nights.

Berkley had her own very small room, which also was wall-to-wall furniture. 
We talked it over and finally decided we would give our renters one more year. One more year! I'm not going to lie--it seemed like an eternity at this point. I was feeling so cramped. I think it was the clutter I saw everywhere and just simply not having a place for things anymore. When winter came, I thought I would go mad. Here is just one example of what I mean--no space for snow clothes, that's for sure:

The last year was definitely the hardest. One bathroom for seven of us seemed inadequate a lot of the time, and I felt like I would burst at the seams sometimes just because I needed some space--somewhere I could think, some place I could go and not see clutter and stuff and just breathe. When May 15th came, and the renters handed us the keys to our house, I could hardly believe we would have all that space again. I wondered what it would really feel like. I opened the door and just walked around our empty upstairs, and I nearly cried. That probably sounds so silly and ridiculous, but after sacrificing for nearly three years, I just couldn't help but be grateful for what we would have again. It was so much different than I thought it would be. I thought it would be all about the fabulous kitchen and the three bathrooms and such, but that wasn't it at all in the end.

When we tore the wall down (we had built a wall at the top of the stairs for privacy) and it was just our family again living in our home, I realized how wonderful it was to just be US. We decided to paint a lot of rooms upstairs and replace some flooring, so we didn't actually move upstairs for nearly three weeks. I distinctly remember lying in my bed one morning after the wall had come down and hearing footsteps above me like usual, but when I realized they were our footsteps, instead of another family's, I literally got choked up. I hadn't realized how hard it had really been to share our space constantly with five other people, and when it could just be us again, that felt so intimate and so good. I also felt like I had been set free, which is another feeling I hadn't expected. It was like I had been a caged bird or something, but I guess there is just something about owning a space you couldn't ever live in or be in or go in without someone else's permission that just makes you feel so confined. When we could walk into the front door of our own home, it felt so amazing! I'm sure this all seems quite hard to understand, but I had to record this because I don't want to forget these feelings. I don't want to forget this experience and what it has taught me.

Now, for the past month, we have all worked very hard to make our home OURS again. It was so hard for me for the first couple of weeks to walk upstairs and notice it still smelled like the Wardens (not that they smelled bad--they didn't); the fact that it wasn't "our smell" in our home was so hard for me. I wanted our home to be ours again in every way. So, the kids worked right beside me every day they could to help me make it our home again.

I forgot to take "before" pictures of most of the rooms, but here are a few of the outcomes:

Hallee's Room:

Nate's Room (now that everyone has moved out):

Regyn's room (man, I wish I would have remembered a "before" picture on this one--it was SO different):

Boston's room:

Berkley's Room:

My bedroom: Before . . and After

The Living Room:

I stenciled that far wall where the curtains are, and that was a chore, let me tell you!

At the end of it all, I gathered the children together and we talked about our home and the changes we had made. And then we talked about what really made our home special, things that had nothing to do with paint or carpet or wall hangings or bed spreads. We talked about how to have the spirit in our home so that our home would be a safe place, a place where we would always want to be and even a place where our friends would want to be. We talked about loving and serving and forgiving each other better and more. I looked around at these children of mine, and I looked at Berkley, who was the cause of this whole scheme in the first place, and I felt so much love for each one of them and for her.

Was it worth it to live in our basement for two years and nine months? Absolutely!! It was an experience we will never forget, one we will always be grateful for. The Lord blessed us so much during that time. Am I glad it is over? Absolutely! I would be lying if I answered differently. It was time to get our home and our lives back. It was time to just be our family again and to have some room to breathe and grow and share again. I don't know if everyone is as sentimental about their homes as I am, but to me, a home becomes part of a family; at least ours has. I am so grateful for this home. It is a sacred place to me--a place of learning and love and mistakes and growth and so much more.

It feels great to finally have "moved on up." Now I hope our home will be a place where we welcome friends, family and guests for many years to come and a place where our own family learns to love each other and the Lord. That's what homes are all about.


Linda said...

Thank you so much for writing about your experience. I have tears in my eyes after reading it. You have inspired me, and I really admire you and your family for what you went through. God bless you.