I am still a new homeowner, despite my somewhat advanced age. After 18 years of renting across 3 different states, we finally purchased a home last May, exactly one year ago tomorrow. I had always wanted to own a home, and in the year we have lived here, there have been some serious advantages and disadvantages over renting. But it is nice to know that I can paint my office gunmetal if I so choose…
Perhaps the biggest change to everyday life when you make the transition from renting to owning is the issue of maintenance. In the past, whenever something broke, I called the landlord. If we wanted to renovate something – tough luck, it isn’t my house. But now? Like most new homeowners, I have grand ideas and even grander plans. There is a satisfaction to maintaining your home that I had not experienced before, and I can now understand why many people cannot leave well enough alone when it comes to decorating and remodeling.
We are entering our first major renovation effort now, remodeling our kitchen. Due to a water leak, an insurance payout made this remodel possible far earlier than we had expected. Eleia and I had a wonderful time picking out flooring, new cabinets, and new granite counter tops – I walked around Home Depot like I owned the place. My plan is to take a week off and try and complete the renovation during that time – handling each frustration as it comes.
Coincidentally, Pastor Bart started a new series this past Sunday around the topic of family. We are learning God’s real design for family and relationships, bringing about the idea of totally different kind of renovation, or “home improvement” if you will. And to be 100% honest, it’s actually much easier for me to pick up a drill and do construction around the house than it is for me to take the time to explore our family and course-correct as needed.
Families are tricky. My wife and I came from family backgrounds that are nearly polar opposites – my parents being ultra-conservative and somewhat closed-minded, and hers with turmoil and a much more free-spirited attitude. When we first got married and started looking at how we wanted our family to take shape, we saw in each other characteristics from our backgrounds, desirable and undesirable alike.
Home improvement can be a very complicated thing. I am not referring to “house improvement” as outlined above, but real, genuine improvement of our home life. This is especially true after everyone’s habits have taken root, and everyone has managed to fill their lives with more activity than time could possibly allow. But this begs the question – which is more important – the house and its aesthetic or the community living within its walls?
Eleia and I have been married for nearly 19 years. For some, that’s a long time, while for others we are practically newlyweds. One thing is certain, however – we have co-habited long enough to make terrible mistakes and get on each other’s nerves. This is a fact of life – people rub other people the wrong way. And it isn’t a matter of losing the rose-colored glasses; it is a fundamental part of relationships – no two people are going to see eye to eye on everything.
So this is where communication becomes a major factor in the success of any family. We cannot meet the needs of our spouses and children unless we know what those needs are, and how our response to them affects the other person. But since Eleia and I are old pros at this, I generally take the stance that “nobody is going to tell us how to communicate.” It is very easy to miss a fracture in a family relationship when you are stubborn to the point of denial.
We’ve all heard the old maxim “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” There is wisdom there, but I have come to the realization that there is also wisdom in the opposite of that statement. Sometimes things need to be fixed even when they aren’t broken. Allow me to explain:
My kitchen has cabinets, counters, and quality flooring. The cabinets hold our dishes as designed, and our counters hold all of our junk as designed. Our floor needs repair, but only in a small area. So why are we replacing all of it? For one, our house was built in 1979, and the kitchen looks like 1979. From the dark brown pressboard cabinet doors to the warped laminate counters and the hardwood laid over brown, orange, and olive drab linoleum, it isn’t the most pleasant thing to look at. Functional? Sure, mostly. But is it where it could be with even just a little bit of effort? Not even close.
My relationship with Eleia – beginning 21 years ago, is very functional, very successful on many fronts. We talk to each other in much the same ways we did in the beginning, and still drive each other crazy in both bad and good ways. This approach worked exceedingly well for us during the first decade of our marriage. As time passed by, things changed – kids were born, we moved to new places, worked new jobs, and interacted with new people. I am not the husband and father I was 15 years ago, and the rest of my family has changed just as much.
Perhaps it’s time to change the linoleum in our family. Sure, it’s functional, but it was designed to work in a time where circumstances and standards were different. The same is true of the dynamics of our family. We are no longer the young, new family still figuring things out. We are a mature family, dealing with all that comes with it in stride, except new problems bubble to the surface when we apply our “new family” approach to “mature family” circumstances.
God created Eleia and I for each other, that is clear to me. But we were not created to simply live together, but to grow together. Growing requires renovation – and it has its own frustrations too.
For those who have not yet started their family and those who find themselves in their twilight years where the immediate concerns of the family are not as prevalent as the were in the past, this is still true for you. Whether you are about to start a family or have been on the roller coaster already, God has established the family connection as a benchmark for all of our relationships, and each relationship requires maintenance and updates to stay healthy and strong.
As you listen to each part of this new series, remember that none of us have this whole family thing totally nailed. For those who have put in regular maintenance on their relationships, renovation can be less painful. However if you are like us, our family ties have not always been a top priority as we have dealt with everyday life. In either case though, renovation is necessary.
Now is the time to be open, honest, and intentional about strengthening your family. It seems like everything in our country is attempting to tear at real family values, and we have to give our relationships to God. He is the Cornerstone – the foundation upon which your family must be built.
Now is the time for home improvement.