We have committed to basically spending no money on home improvements in our rental house. The landlords take care of necessary stuff (plumbing, new window screens, etc.) and we aren’t spending money on the optional stuff (paint, new furniture, etc.) Because the ultimate goals are to be debt-free and hopefully own a home, we don’t think it’s worth putting money into making it look nice.
It’s one of the ways renting has been hard but good for me.
I’ve learned you don’t have to have a large or beautifully updated and decorated home to invite people over. Hospitality is a heart thing, not a home-decor thing.
I’ve learned it’s okay to live with a wall color that is the same as the carpet color (although it’s not my first choice).
and a kitchen cabinet color that is the same as the fake-wood-floor color.
This past weekend, we went to the Omaha Street of Dreams with our siblings on a double date. We walked through 7 big, swanky homes decorated in all the latest trends. It was fun to walk through and see what’s new in home design. I like browsing the occasional home decor magazine as much as the next gal. Okay, that might be an understatement. I actually love home design. I like houses in general. Old houses, new houses, weird houses, whatever. I think it’s fun to drive around neighborhoods slowly and just look at the houses. #creepy
I appreciate the skill that goes into pulling together a nicely decorated space. When I was little, I used to draw floor plans out for gigantic mansions, complete with indoor pools, movie theaters and tree houses, but short on bathrooms. You get the point.
My mom, perhaps the inspiration for my love of all things home related, casually pointed out “your stage of life is a good one to walk through those homes… if you’re in the process of designing or building a home, walking through those designer houses can create temptation to go over-budget or create a lot of greed.”
Perhaps what she was oh so tactfully saying was: you better check yourself before you wreck yourself.
And, I did. (Because about 6 years ago, I realized I should basically just do everything my mom says. My 13 year old self is eating all my words.) Before we decided to go, I thought about it: Can I handle it? Can I go look at these houses, something that’s interesting and fun for me, without becoming overwhelmed with greed and discontentment?
Honestly, probably for the first time since I’ve been married, I can say yes.
For the last couple years, especially, the Lord has really worked on my heart in the area of contentment. It probably started when we moved to Boston, and lived on loans. There was this inner battle of things I wanted to spend money on (stuff, experiences, travel, etc…) versus not really having the money since it we were living on student loans at 6% interest. The tension produced a lot of different feelings but ultimately, I had a lot of discontentment over the material.
Just over a year ago, we moved back to the midwest. Ben got a job with an income and I was about to pop with baby #2. I thought – yay we have an income. Let’s buy a house. [Side note: income > no income]
Ben knew it wasn’t a good idea.
“Renee, we have a lot of student loan debt, blah blah blah.”
I knew he was right even though I didn’t want him to be. But we agreed. We’d rent until we paid off our loans.
That was one year ago. Over the past year in our rental, the Lord has completely changed my heart. I used to want a different house – something bigger or better, fancier, and with more rooms. A place I could paint. And some money to buy the paint. Instead of those things, God has given me grace and contentment right where we are.
Am I perfectly content? No. Do I sometimes get carried away and start elevating the material over the immaterial? Yes.
And then grace brings me back and reminds me: your home, rented or owned, big or small, is a gift and a provision from the Lord. Use it generously!
Over the past year or so, the Lord has taught me what our home is really for: giving to others. And that it doesn’t need be big to invite people in… because hospitality is a heart thing, not a big-house thing.
Our home is for shelter, a place to sleep. (This one is cheesy, but so true. As it stormed last night, I honestly thought, “I’m glad I’m inside.”)
Our home is a place to make memories. I have so many memories tucked away, and I picture them in each of the homes we lived in. In fact, the other day, Ben and I drove by our old Lincoln house.
The one where I started a piano studio and he discovered his passion for data science. The one we brought Addie home to. The one where I washed 300 recorders in our dishwasher for 4th grade music. I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you.
I’ve learned I can choose contentment instead of complaining consciously reminding myself things I love about our home.
I love that I can clean the whole thing in less than an hour. (As in clean all surfaces, vacuum, & scrub the kitchen and bathroom top to bottom.)
I love that my kids are always within earshot.
I love that I don’t have to stumble very far if one of them wakes up in the middle of the night.
I love that there are a lot of kitchen cabinets.
I love that the kitchen and living spaces are right next to each other.
I love that I can see the backyard from the kitchen window.
I love that there’s an attached garage.
I love that there’s a laundry room with a door to close 🙂
Are there 100 things I would change if this were our house? Sure.
But it’s not our house. And it’s temporary. And, this house was a great provision from the Lord! Plus, contentment is a choice in the heart to focus on being satisfied in Jesus, not my circumstances or my purchases or my house. If I can’t be content where I am now, I won’t be content when we get to where we’re going.
So, what areas are hard for you to be content in? What are simple ways you are choosing contentment wherever you are in life… be it a home, a job, a circumstance, etc…?
p.s. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti-home-ownership, and if you own a house and have other debt, it is not evil. I’m only writing to share the way God has taught me to be content where we are… your story might look different. I would love to hear it in the comments section! 🙂