Sunday, July 30, 2017

Housing Update: Hard Decisions

I had asked for your prayers two months ago that our number be drawn again for a 3-bedroom condo in the Mission (a much desired location). And God answered, although it was in a convoluted cloudy way . . . our number was drawn, but it was fourth on the list for the one available unit. So, we thought that maybe, just like before, they work their way down the list and get to us and we would jump with glee and laugh and praise His Name with a new found joy. We had already seen the place and knew it would work for our family. But, the call never came (or hasn't yet anyway) and from what we were told, lottery winner #1 took the space.

But in that same conversation, where we were told it wasn't meant to be, we were told to consider another 3-bedroom condo space. The deadline to apply was approaching rapidly. I think Chris had to fill out an application, submit one hundred pages of proof-of-everything-we-have in 48 hours. We weren't able to connect with the realtor before the deadline so applied after just seeing photographs. No one else had applied so we had a really great chance if we were approved for the loan.

The photos showed a nice looking place and a good layout so I was hopeful. Started to dream again. Finally after a loan pre-approval and many discussions with the city's program contact and the bank and our realtor, we were able to see the place. I can't say the photos were misleading - but it left a lot out. The space was fine and the layout made sense. I was thankful that it seemed to have ample storage and a connected garage (it looked more like a townhouse than a condo). But it was dirty, the floor was sticky, everything in the kitchen was covered in grease. The bathroom doors didn't close all the way, the closet doors were hideous. The carpets and walls were badly stained. Of course, all of these things can be fixed up, replaced or repaired. But when we went home and ran the numbers we wouldn't be able to afford any of them. And if we did decide to buy it, the things we have said we valued wouldn't be possible either (retirement, savings for our children, travel, fun money, haircuts . . . you get the idea).

I've been waiting for a larger home for years. Seriously, we've been looking for over 2 years. And every time we have a contract in front of me and I think of what increasing our mortgage/rent payment would do to our lives, I can't sign it. And I look around our apartment and I wonder why I need more space at all. Thoughts circle in my mind nonstop. Needs vs. wants; present vs. future; security of savings vs. living paycheck to paycheck; faith vs. numbers on the screen; my desires vs. God's will . . . it doesn't end.

Paul writes in Philippians 4 (emphasis added):
10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me.Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
We stayed up late discussing the pros and cons. Chris feeling that he could be confident in either step we took. Me feeling like I could be talked into taking it, but felt the loss of what we would give up. This morning, Chris grabbed our white board and we started making a list of what we loved about our apartment. It's a practice of growing in gratitude he has found helpful. Over the course of our lunchtime, this is what we came up with:

I am certain we will find more things to add - like it has a dishwasher and coin-operated laundry on site! So once again I find myself coming to a place of contentment in the space we are in. The space we have been in for 7 years. I think we'll keep trying to find a bigger space - we would like to host small groups again or have space for someone stay with us (please come visit us anyway!). But for now and the immediate future we are okay.

Dave Ramsey has a saying "Live like no one else so that you can live like no one else." He refers to saving for your retirement/future and not spending all your income now. I think that quote applies to us in a different way. We can live simply in a small space (when our culture tells us more/bigger is better) and save for retirement and do more things like travel or we can get a mortgage twice our rent and not really live. It's worth considering.

Book Club: Homegoing

The book our book club chose to read this last month was Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Gyasi was born in Ghana, was raised in Alabama and now lives in Berkeley, CA. This was her first novel and it was excellent.

It is a novel, but I do wonder how much of it is based on history and maybe even her own family's experience (although she never says this). This novel is the dissecting of a family tree. Two girls born by the same woman but raised in separate Ghanian villages by different families. One is loved and adored, the other abused and shamed. The story begins in the 1700s and follows each of their family's lineage up until the 1980s where a young girl who was born in Ghana grows up in Alabama and travels back to her homeland. The other lineage includes the slave trade and the struggles they had to find freedom.

Each chapter covers a different person's story and although I met a lot of characters throughout the book, each chapter captivated me in a way I hadn't expected and I was able to follow it well (the family tree at the beginning of the book was very helpful!). Knowing our history with slavery and racism made this novel feel very real and true to me. And reminded me of how dark this history is.

Ten years ago, I was living in The Gambia, West Africa and was able to tour two historic landmarks that were built to house/store slaves until the next "shipment." One in The Gambia and another in Senegal. Reading this book brought back many of those images to my mind and the stories I heard. It also reminded me a lot of the book called "Roots" which is a true account of someone being sold to slavery from Africa.

One of the thoughts I had when I read this book (which I highly recommend by the way!) is that no matter which story line these characters had come from, whether it was the family that mostly stayed in Africa or the one that was shipped to the United States, or if it was the 1700s or the 1900s, there were struggles with something. Not one of them had an easy life, which may just be part of this novel, but it also made me question how life is today -- everyone seems to struggle with something-- and our family's history is always a part of us.

Have you read it? What did you think?

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Fault in Our Stars

I had heard of this book a while ago, even before the movie came out but never seemed to remember the title when I was looking for books to read. Finally, I saw it again and immediately put it on hold at my library. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, a novel about two teenagers fighting cancer that fall in love, was a pretty fast read for me. I really enjoyed it and was thankful Stephen would play quietly at my feet for a few pages at a time!

Of course the story is sad--it's about kids and cancer. But I enjoyed the narrative of the main character, Hazel and her perspective of her life, her parents and friends. Maybe "enjoyed" isn't the right word though . . . she has a sense of (dry) humor, is smart/witty and and seems pretty grounded. She goes through a lot of emotions - fears of death, love, anxiety and worry and I'll stop there so I don't give away the ending.

Anyway, if you haven't read it yet I'd recommend it!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Book Club: The Zookeeper's Wife


Last month my book club read The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman. This book was in high demand from the library and I got it the day before our meeting, but I managed to get to the half way mark in two days! So, now a few weeks later, I finally finished it.

I have to say that it wasn't what I expected. I can usually get into a story fairly quickly and I really don't see myself as a critical reader, but this book was very difficult to get into. It didn't read like a story to me. It was more or less as retelling or compilation of other people's memoirs and accounts of World War II with the main character being a zookeeper's wife in Warsaw, Poland.

That being said, it was all a true story and since I know very little about what happened in Poland during the war, it was informational to say the least. The zookeeper and his wife used their zoo and home to hide numerous people during the war which is understandably a very strenuous task. Add two children and a house and zoo full of animals and I can't imagine the stress. Both husband and wife seem to take so much of the happenings in stride and handle it with exceptional grace. My life feels chaotic most of the time, I really can't imagine all they dealt with, much of it life and death -- for years.

Have you read the book? Seen the movie? Tell me what you thought!