Saturday, September 11, 2010

Paradise Lost

Almost five years ago, we started planning our first 'real' house--the one that Ryan would design and build.  We found the perfect property by accident--an irrigated acre about 4 miles out of town in an awesome, quiet neighborhood filled with tall, beautiful trees, green grass, and great people.  From our lot, you could watch the sun set over the mountains, watch horses grazing in the pasture, or just sit and enjoy the quiet sounds of the evening. 

Our house would be 4,000 square feet--too big, I thought, thinking of all the cleaning I would be doing with two little ones, and hopefully a third on the way soon.  But Ryan insisted that we needed the space.  Four bedrooms, formal and informal living & dining areas, a huge gourmet kitchen with walk-in pantry, an office, and tons of storage (three linen closets, a storage room, and a mud room!).  We put $60,000 down and started building, living in a tiny toy hauler trailer we borrowed from our friends.

With the exception of the concrete & drywall, Ryan did everything himself--essentially our mortgage would cover the materials and nothing else.  He once painted through the night to get the painting done before the carpet showed up the next day.  I even helped--hammering in electrical boxes, putting in flooring, mostly cleaning up.  And writing verses on the concrete...verses of blessing and protection.  Any extra costs went on credit cards that would be paid off when we refinanced when the house was done.  We built the house for 1/3 of what it would cost to buy and had $350,000 in equity before the house was even finished. 

We spent the next four years making the house better, putting well over $100,000 in cash back into the house--just in materials (the things you can do with no debt & a mortgage that is only 20% of your income!).  Ryan re-did the master bathroom tile 3 times, finally putting rock on the walls and slate on the floor, custom building a jacuzzi tub surround and tile countertops.  With the help of my Uncle Mike, we installed a spectacular California Closets system in our closet.  He designed and built floor to ceiling bookshelves for the formal living room, and custom built the fireplace surround.  Ryan built the mudroom cabinets himself, along with a mini-office/craft area in the family room. 

Last summer, when times were tight, he installed two whole house fans--we didn't turn on the AC all summer and saved twice what the fans cost us.  Last winter, he installed a wood stove, so we could save money on propane.  And did we ever!  Probably over $1,000!

And on the outside of the house...We created a mini-paradise--at lease I thought so!  We (Ryan) planted rose bushes and trees.  Poured a concrete driveway and sidewalks around the perimeter of the house.  Leveled the yard, installed custom piping for the irrigation, and made the grass grow.  Planted flowers in planters and honeysuckle around the front patio.  We (I helped a little!) fixed the perimeter fences, and Ryan put in a white picket fence so the kids would have a backyard.  Ryan built square foot gardens for me with railroad ties and trellises.  We planted a mini-orchard, with apple, pear, peach, plum, and apricot trees.  Grapes and blackberries grew along the white picket fence, and our hens gave us fresh eggs every day.  Ryan even built a little "home" for the lawn mower that matched the house--even had it's own little white porch. 

With Ryan not working for almost 18 months, we got an awful lot done, and put more money into the house than we should have, especially given what we know now.  But, late this spring, it was finally done.  Everything we imagined it to be.  And there was even fruit on the trees (one apple, two pears, and a ton of peaches and apricots!)--our first harvest!  I thought it was a sign of hope--even planting a garden.  And then, we realized that we would have to leave.  You've heard the Texas story.  We rented out our house to an elderly couple with a little dog (never had a dog in our house, but they offered us 3 months rent and the deposit cash--we took it!).  From all reports, they were taking care of our house.

Today, Ryan went back to the house to get the rest of our furniture (renters moved out at the end of August).  Driving up to the house, he couldn't see the mailbox because the weeds are so high.  Dog poop was on the patio.  He opened the door to the house and was overwhelmed with the stench of rotten meat.  The renters had left meat in the freezer--you know what happens when the electricity is off for 10 days in the summer in AZ.  The house is a wreck.  All my plants are dead.  Except the corn and tomatoes that sprung up on their own in the old chicken coop.  ;-)  The apple that I was so proud of hangs half-eaten and rotten from the tree.  Ryan said that unless someone comes and starts taking care of the house soon, all of the trees will die.  My heart was broken.  All that work.  All that love.  For nothing.

In the midst of my pity party this afternoon, I started thinking about how God often uses situations here on earth to illustrate truths about Him.  I asked Him to show me what I can learn about Him through this.  And He did. 

I thought about lovingly God planned the earth and its inhabitants.  Made everything to work together in harmony.  Everything was lovely.  No death.  It was perfect.  God walked in the garden and it was good.  And then the 'tenants' sinned.  And perfection was overcome by death.  And God left; He no longer walked in the garden in the cool of the day with Adam and Eve.  Visit a city, where the beauty of creation is covered over by asphalt and shopping malls.  Visit a dump, where we make our own mountains out of discarded, rotting trash.  Death, disease, and destruction.  That's what we have without God walking the earth.   The loss I feel when thinking of our beautiful home and all that might have been is nothing in comparison with the sadness God must feel when He looks at the earth and thinks of what might have been.  After all, I (all of us!) was created in God's image--and my desire to create paradise comes from being created in Him image.  But God knows that, despite the destruction, there is hope--for His garden, and for us!  Because He knows what WILL BE.  From the beginning, He knew that in the end, the earth will be restored.  He will come again and wipe out death once and for all and bring the Earth back to its perfect state. And all things will work together for good!

What will become of our beautiful home?  I don't know.  We will have it cleaned, and Ryan will stay an extra day to make the yard presentable again.  And then...who knows?  I hope that someone who will love it as much as we do takes the time to restore it completely--all things work together for good.  The house was His, dedicated to Him from the beginning.   What I do know is that God has a plan for us...a plan to prosper us and not to harm us, a plan to give us a hope and a future.  I choose to put my hope in Him, to look to what is ahead, rather than to pine for what is behind.  For I know in whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that He is able!  :-) 


Julia M Lindsey said...

We never know what God has planned for us. It sometimes takes me several months and sometimes years before I see the blessings in the challenges in life. But it is always there.

We have a home that we love. We raised our children here. When my Mother-in-law had trouble taking care of her home, we added a beautiful apartment onto the home so we could help care for her. My husband has Multiple Sclerosis and severe heart disease. He requires more and more care. Our medical bills were expensive so we tried to sell our home. I was working two jobs plus running a business to pay for the expenses. The value of the house had dropped significantly and we couldn't sell it after being on the market for over a year.

We recently saw the blessing. My daughter is in college and lives in the handicapped accessible apartment we built for my mother-in-law. We decided to switch sides. She lives in the big part of the house and my husband and I live in the handicapped accessible apartment. We rent rooms to college students. If he has a bad week we trade rent for someone to assist with his care. What a blessing our home is. Thank you God for not bringing us a buyer. We did not see the hidden blessing in our home.

It will be difficult to see the hidden blessing in your story. One day you will know what it is. Or maybe it is already clear to you. Maybe it is just that you had the opportunity built a beautiful home together, a house does not make a home, or your marriage is stronger because of the challenges.

(sorry for the lengthy comment. You inspired me)

Kelly said...

Beautiful stories from both of you! Karen-those weeds must have come up quickly (as weeds do) because we were in the area a few weeks ago and it was alright. Not as beautiful as you and Ryan kept it, but not in disrepair or looking neglected either. I like your analogy, thanks for sharing it!

worryfreemom said...

Thanks for reading & sharing, Julia! Perfect example--sometimes we can't see the blessing until later! Kelly--Ryan will be glad to know that the yard wasn't looking terrible all the time--he used to mow twice a week--drove me crazy! lol

Diane said...

I know that when you put your heart into something it breaks a little when that something is hurt or neglected. What happened to your renters? Have the abandoned the house without telling anyone?

worryfreemom said...

They told us they were leaving, but they left the house a mess, knowing that we wouldn't be there right away. They are older and have health issues, so we're not sure if they really just weren't thinking or they were deliberately trying to deceive us. :-( Merry Maids did a great job cleaning up, and I think we're going to make one more effort to sell the house.

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