For some years now, I’ve had a laser focus on a home and its importance, ever since we renovated our house in order to be able to “age in place.” Installing new under-floor radiant heat and hardwood flooring eliminated the dust and allergens in rugs and baseboard heaters. All went pretty well until it was time to move in, and my wife Beryl (who is extremely allergic to a variety of things) reacted to the hardwood. Didn’t see that coming! Further efforts to sand and resurface the floor did not change anything. We were forced to retreat to the master bedroom that had a sun porch to sit in. Our own Tiny House!
And here starts our story.
Home is very much a state of mind. Some have a great home, and some endure endless struggles, hurts, and disappointments, through circumstances beyond their control. And for some, it’s just the way it is—can’t help it—too hard to change it.
Cultures can define a home, as can finances and dreams. We all need a home to escape into and just be ourselves, unhindered. Be it a trailer, a mansion, or even a boat, we all acknowledge home as a place of rest and comfort in our choice of surroundings.
A man’s opportunity and responsibility in a home is to make a place for his wife to be herself—to be his Queen, to understand his needs, and to find her own space and support as the two of you spend a lifetime becoming one. It is he who bears the burden to clear her way to God. However, to take her for granted and settle into a routine where she does her thing and I do mine is not a home, it’s a job. Necessity is the boss, and it does not pay well. In our case, we were coping, but I was not providing a home.
In the Gospels, Jesus commands us not to be anxious. Yet after our house upgrades only served to isolate us from the home we loved, I began to get a bit anxious. And I’ll admit to being anxious for a long time since. We’ve been waiting for His leadings to show us the next move—something that will give us a place to lay our heads again. Two years of holding steady led us to a property manager that rents VRBO vacation homes [Vacation Rentals By Owner].. This has turned out to be a ministry as well as a way for us to be socially connected in ways that we can handle without undue exposure to conditions in people’s homes. Beryl is the supreme hostess, and it’s within her ability to listen, show off her creative fish pond, flower gardens, and enjoy people’s company. They come to us, and she has a delightful place to act on her thoughts and instincts. The marvelous reviews often mention her kindness and warm welcome.
Of course, creating a VRBO house means everything personal comes out of the house and goes into storage. So we had two weeks to pack up and get out. For the past five years, we’ve had the sense we are going somewhere. The trick of carrying this burden is to note that when it gets heavy we’re not letting Him carry it. So we embrace the moments of frustration and let Him be God.
“Do Not Be Anxious”—(even about your home). So we gave it to Jesus. Including our desire for a settled-in feeling. In doing so, we’ve seen many life stories parade by, and most guests have seen why we call our place, “Serenity.” They seem to sense the presence of God here. One visitor was looking for a place to stay while her special-needs daughter went to school. They dropped by with the property manager for a compatibility visit. The little girl was very young, but right away she seemed to sense a feeling of home. She could relax here. Noise and distractions had been making learning very difficult. But now Mom began to comment each semester that the report card had never looked so good. The school gets the credit for that, but the family gets the credit for finding peace and strength to act on the school’s recommendations. We prayed often for her emotional needs, and when the family dropped in, they saw God’s love in us and in the home. It makes the “tapestry of life” a little easier to see when people have real experiences with Him and tell you about it. The Mom was just a bit less anxious when she was here, as Dad had to stay at home in another state and work. There had been multiple levels of stress.
Yet as much as others felt at home (in our home), we did not. Yes, home, at root, is a state of mind, and you become accustomed to conditions. It’s too hard to change floor plans and walls! Still, while pleasant enough, it’s not particularly functional. So we took another step. Finding we could do something more with the lot space and still try to accommodate Beryl’s sensitivities, we made some more plans and began to build a kitchen addition, excavating beneath it for a living room and guest room.
Of course for this, we had to move out again. And worse, there’s no way of knowing whether we can live in this remodel either until it’s finished! But we gave it to God and chose not to be anxious. The first thing to do was find a suitable place to work, and a friend suggested a camper. Though concerned about Beryl’s potential reaction to such a unit, I felt a nudge of the Spirit and checked out a few. To our great surprise, she didn’t react to anything! That had been my “Fleece.” If there are no problems, Lord, lead us to the one you want. And He did. Even with propane heating, all was well. I am still amazed by this. It has been just perfect for our situation, even in the winter. And as it turns out, scheduling is impossible during a build, so this allows us to keep up with the delays right on our property, and not in a rental or hotel.
Of note during this build are the opportunities the contractors have seen where God was evident in the work. For one instance, the excavation went so well that we decided to go for a full basement instead of a crawl space. Another blessing included our retirement specialist. Some time ago I had talked to him about the Holy Spirit because he was a Christian seeking more from God. Then came a wrinkle in the timing for some withdrawals, and he didn’t see a good answer for that. I sat in his office and prayed. He looked at me, asked a couple of questions, and we came up with a strategy. As I left he said, “You know, I don’t know where that idea came from, because I don’t usually use this route.” I just smiled and reminded him about the present help of the Holy Spirit. Later that day he texted me to tell me that remark had made his day—a real touch from Heaven.
The story isn’t over yet, however: it began to be apparent that we wouldn’t be finished with the new project by the VRBO deadline. That was a huge issue, meaning we had to delay the VRBO an extra month to catch up. Again we prayed, Lord what’s the plan here? My builder is used to seeing people react to various disappointments, demanding action, and getting in a great fuss. I’ve worked with him for more than 10 years, and we know each other well. This time he said, “You know, I’ve seen you handle a lot of problems, and I’m amazed at how well you work things out. You’re so easy to work with” (despite all the changes I’ve asked for along the way). So once again I directed him to the great Builder and how it’s His responsibility to keep us in progress God’s way. The blank look I got in return indicated this was still a little beyond him.
Knowing all this, my young apprentice helper asked the same thing one day: “How do you do it? How do you hold it together?” I looked at him and said, “I need Jesus. I need Him to be God right now and create a way through the problem. I need to not react but let Him be God. When I let Him lead, no one gets hurt.” My helper and I have talked about Jesus before, and this time he saw up close how a man who knows God can and should walk. I trust all the crew will come away with not only a job well done but a vision for this in their hearts.
I’ll close with a quote from Charles Swindoll that has meant a lot to me through all this.
The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company, a church, or a home.
The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past. We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable.
The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you: we are in charge of our attitudes. ■
—Working as an electrician, Wendell and his wife Beryl are gracious hosts to many.