Becoming a homeowner has been a strange journey, one I never could have (or would have) scripted the way it played out.
In the fall of 2009 I had just gone on full time as the Director Of Student Ministries at The Hill Baptist Church. I was back living at home after moving out for a bit in college.
With a freshly printed degree, a full-time salary and a wide-eyed optimism I was eager to move away from home. Originally I wanted to rent a small house in town.
At the time, though, the government was giving an $8,000 tax credit to first time homeowners. My parents and I decided this was a deal I couldn’t pass up.
So I found a 2 bedroom townhome a few minutes away from work and decided to pull the trigger on the American dream of becoming a homeowner.
It wasn’t long after that the dream started feeling like a nightmare.
I had lived on my own before, but I learned fast that owning a house is vastly different than renting an apartment.
You see, I’ve never been the best at budgeting. While today I am a Financial Peace University Graduate, back in 2009 I thought I could keep track of all my payments in my head.
It wasn’t long before overdraft fees became a regular line item on my checking statement. The full-time youth pastor’s salary that made my eyes grow wide at first did not stretch as far as I thought it would.
Not to mention the constant upkeep that goes into owning property. No longer could I just call the maintenance man for any air conditioning leaks or plumbing problems. Now I was reaching into my own toolbox and bank account to repair the house.
The success of buying a house gave way to the stress of keeping it paid for.
In any other situation I might have tried to downsize to something cheaper. There was just one little problem.
Remember that $8,000 gift from the government? The only stipulation to receive the money was that you could not sell or rent the house for 3 years.
If I wanted the money I was stuck. And considering how quickly I blew through $8,000, I knew I’d be living in my townhome for a few years to come.
So the years passed by until this summer when my fiancé and I decided to move to Atlanta to start our life together. Finally I had a reason to release the weight of my first house.
I was always so thankful for the opportunity to own a house. I’m so grateful for all that my parents did to help me purchase it, maintain it and sell it.
Still, after working all summer to clean, paint, and move everything out, part of me was glad to lock the door this weekend and turn the key on this chapter of my life.
But as I drove down the driveway one last time I began to reflect on what happened within those walls.
I thought about the friends who celebrated our new hangout spot with board game nights. The morning coffee and writing at the kitchen bar. The roommates who moved in and kept me company. The dog(s) who found a new home and changed my life.
I remembered the miles I logged running up the hills preparing for races. The D-Now weekends and Super Bowl parties where I hosted the youth. The Monday Night tradition of watching wrestling and dissecting Young Life club with my closest friends. The special date nights with a lovely young lady.
It was the place where I took care of The Roc as he recovered from major surgery. It was the place where I built relationships with men who will stand next to me at my wedding. It was the place where I first asked my future wife to be my girlfriend. It was the place where the foundation of our relationship was built (and where we nearly burned the foundation down cooking country fried steak).
Whether I realized it or not, that house became a home over the years.
You never realize how much stuff you have in a house until you move. And I don’t think you realize how many memories you made in a home either until you have to say goodbye.
Too often I let these memories pass by as I worried about making my next bill payment. Instead of savoring these moments each day I spent each night stressing over how to pay the cable bill.
What good did all my worrying do? Nothing – except steal the joy away from some truly special times until it was too late to cherish them.
As I prepare to pass on the keys to a new tenant and settle into my new apartment in Atlanta, I want to treat my next home differently.
I want to be a little less like the Homer Simpson standup which adorned my old home. I don’t want to look over the land with arms crossed and a frown on my face.
I don’t want to see my house as a home only when I drive away from it one last time with a tear in my eye.
I want to settle in and settle down. I want to let my fears slip away.
I want to scrape my doubts and worries off on the welcome mat. I want to paint these walls with memories and laughter.
I want to worry less about turning in my rent on time and more about turning a house into a home.