I’ve written this post in my heart a thousand times, and I’ll be very surprised if I ever actually press the “publish” button on this one. (Sometimes you just have to hold your breath and leap though.)
For months now, I’ve hesitated sharing this story because I don’t ever want to come across as a complainer or a bragger. I always always want to be a source of hope and encouragement, so I hope you feel that as I share this.
If you’ve only been following this blog for a few weeks or even several months, you might not know that, five years ago, Robert and I were broke. Five years ago, I was pregnant and moving into my parents’ spare bedroom with my husband of just over a year. Five years ago, we were barely getting by on my beginner’s teaching salary while Robert went to college on the G.I. Bill… and I felt like a giant failure.
That’s not to say people who live with their parents are failures. That’s not to say that money is the equivalent of success. It’s absolutely not. That’s just how I felt then, point blank. It sounds completely bratty. Because in my mind, at the age of 25, I’d always envisioned I was supposed to have my first house, an established career doing what I loved, and could tackle any problem that came my way to be considered a real “grown-up”. But when does life ever really turn out how you planned?
In all of that struggle, I still felt love. SO much love that I can’t begin to tell you how extremely blessed I knew we were to have a family who supported us when finances were especially tough. I don’t want it to sound like I wasn’t grateful because I was completely and utterly grateful to have parents to support us when we came to them with the news that we could barely pay our rent and had a little one on the way. (We were fully aware of how others in our same situation don’t have parents to turn to, and we were so humbled by it.)
In our first year of marriage, Robert and I lived paycheck to paycheck, often cutting it so close we wondered if we could squeeze out utilities each month for our tiny one bedroom apartment.
One of the things that made me first fall in love with my husband was his strength in faith, how confident he is, how little he falters no matter what, how he is never afraid in even the scariest situations.
I, on the other hand, have been a “worry-wart” my entire life. I’m a dead set rule-follower, always overly cautious, always afraid to offend others, worrying about trivial things and worst-case scenarios. Robert is my better half in that way. He’s the fearless one, and, together, we balance each other.
From Day 1 of our marriage, no matter what our checking account looked like, he always insisted we tithe. But I would always fight back. “We can’t afford to give up any of our paycheck! We can barely pay the bills as it is!” It was one of the few things we argued about. But we still gave as much in offering as we could muster, I much more reluctantly than he.
Fast-forward a year to the soon-to-be three of us moving in with my parents, we still tithed. And even though I didn’t argue as much about it, I still seethed a little. That was money we could be putting towards credit card debt. That was money we could be saving towards a house and be able to leave my parents’ spare bedroom.
But then Olivia was born. And in trying to balance being a full-time teacher, Robert finishing his Bachelors degree, and the two of us trying to be the best new parents we could be, it happened. Grace upon grace upon grace.
Do you know what the best thing is about having a newborn baby when you live with your parents? Babysitters. Sweet Lord, built-in babysitters when all you want in this entire world after a fussy, sleepless night is a 30 minute nap.
And do you know what else? In two years of their support, we were able to pay down credit card debt. We were able to move out of my parents’ home and close on our own new house. Robert was able to land a job with great benefits because he was able to focus on school in those two years.
And just when we thought God was finished with turning our entire life around, it got better.
After being in our new house for a few months, Robert and I made the decision for me to leave my teaching job to be a stay-at-home-mom. With daycare costing us nearly 75% of my paycheck and my time in the evenings spent grading papers rather than loving on our little one, it felt like the best decision. Then, we were back to crunching financial numbers and not seeing them add up. But we continued to pray and tithe.
We had a new, empty house and no money to furnish it. But I had our toddler’s naptimes and a burning need for a creative outlet between highchair clean-ups and snuggly bath times… and a thrift store down the street from our home that was filled with possibilities.
I remember waking up one morning and a voice said to me, “Start a blog, Lauren.” I know that sounds completely crazy. If you don’t believe me, I wouldn’t blame you. But I remember distinctly this overwhelming calm wash over me and immediate sense of direction. It’s cuckoo-house nuts, but I can still hear it clear as a bell. “Start a blog.”
And that’s what I did. I’m pretty sure in that first year, only my mom read my blog posts. But it was my happy place. In three years, little by little, we made that first house of ours a home using every thrift store makeover trick and budget decorating idea as my brain could churn out.
I realized that I loved that house even more than I possibly could have if everything was all bought already pristine and new from the furniture store. Because every little piece held some of my heart.
Every stroke of a paint brush and turn of a screw taught Robert and me more about ourselves and our abilities. Nothing can compare to the feeling of creating something fresh and new with your own two hands, standing back, and admiring all of that hard work. (It’s almost like catching, just for a second, a glimpse at what God himself might have felt in the beginning. Just maybe.)
It’s something I never would have discovered if everything came easily.
This blog is now almost four years old and is currently my bonafide full-time job doing what fulfills every single passion I’ve ever had. We sold that first house of ours for a profit and made all of our hard work pay off. We’re so excited to see what God has planned for us in this next house using every ounce of determination we have.
In hindsight, it’s turned out better than we could have ever planned. And we’ve realized, if it weren’t for those shaky parts of our marriage, for those unexpected turns, we wouldn’t be where we are.
If it weren’t for moving in with my parents, we wouldn’t have had a house to blog about. If it weren’t for making the terrifying decision to leave my teaching career to become a stay-at-home mom, this blog would have never existed in the first place.
If it weren’t for the financial challenges of making our house a reflection of “us”, I don’t know if this little bitty blog would have made it past a couple of months tops. Because there are SO many people in this world who have that same struggle. Every obstacle we ever face is there for a reason.
But we continue to tithe and continue to pray for direction and continue to thank Him every day for providing, for fueling the abilities He gave us, for constantly driving us to help others, and for giving me grace even when I doubted and worried. I’m nowhere near worthy.
He is always in control. And even if it all one day comes tumbling down, He is still good.
We will never fully be able to repay our debt to my parents for those two years of our rocky financial times, but in a way, I’m thankful for that. Because it has taught me my own real life lesson about my own relationship with my Savior, for the debt of my life that I’ll never be able to repay, for the love that pours out from His grace forever. All because love always wins any battle.
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” – Malachi 3:10
If you’re still reading this longest-post-in-the-history-of-ever, I hope you know I pray for you guys every night. We all fight our battles even though we don’t bare it to the world. It just takes a little trust and a little faith to conquer it.
Thank you SO MUCH for allowing us to share our lives with you. We hope that, in some way, it touches yours.