CONTENTMENT IS MAKING A HOME WHERE YOU ARE
by Elizabeth Foss
Shortly after our first child was born, we became a one car family. I was
dependent upon the kindness of friends and family in order to go anywhere.
Mostly, we spent a lot of time at home and put hundreds and hundreds of
miles on the stroller. I became obsessed with the desire to have a second
car. I thought about it every day and I knew my life would be infinitely
easier if only I could go anywhere I wanted whenever I wanted. Three and a
half years later, my husband came home very late one night shortly before
our fifth wedding anniversary and awakened me by shaking the keys to a
brand new station wagon. It was more than the car of my dreams and I was
more than thrilled.
About two weeks after we got the car though, a strange thing happened. I
took a good look at our house and decided that I wanted a new one. I
didn't want a townhouse, but a real house. The house in my mind is the one
I haven't dreamt of since I was a little girl. It has dormer windows and a
wide front porch. It sits at the end of a cul-de-sac on a large lot in a
treed neighborhood. The backyard is flat with just a few climbing trees
and a picket fence -- perfect for little boys and a big dog. Inside there
are big bedrooms, a kitchen with space for a big pine table, and a
fireplace within view of the kitchen. No, a townhouse simply would not do.
This house in my mind took over my thoughts daily. It became not a dream,
or even a goal, but all-consuming passion. It became Satan's most powerful
tool in my life. Visits to friends who had houses became tainted with
envy. I thought about the house on vacation -- not especially conducive to
relaxation. Mostly though, I thought about the house at home. And I grew
very discontent. I muttered at first. Then I complained right out loud.
"There is no room for anything. Our family has no privacy. I wish I could
just send the boys out to play in the yard." I listened to the people who
told me I couldn't possibly raise a large family in a townhouse and those
were the days when I was reduced to tears. I knew I might never have the
house of my dreams, but did that mean we could not have the family we
wanted either? It hardly seemed fair.
I voiced my complaints to my husband quite freely. Sometimes they were in
the context of quiet conversations late at night; other times they were
sputtered through angry tears. He listened. He listened on days when he
had just driven home in a beat up car with no air conditioning and bad
brakes. He listened on days when he had just come from working all weekend
at the second job he very willingly took in order to enable me to work
from home. He listened and he rarely complained.
A couple of months ago someone quoted Proverbs 21:9 to me: "It is better
to live in a rooftop than in a house with a contentious woman." That's
exactly what I was: contentious. What a field day the devil was having. I
was miserable when I should be grateful to have an adorable townhouse in a
great neighborhood. I was contentious when I was blessed with a husband I
love more everyday and two beautiful little boys. I sat in front of the
Blessed Sacrament and resolved to change my daily prayer from "please give
me a house" to "create in me a content heart and help me to create a home
in the house I have."
That shiny new station wagon is still shiny two years later and I do enjoy
the freedom it affords me. There are days, though, when I miss the slower
pace imposed by our one car status. I miss having an excuse to just stay
home and nest. The stroller is stored in the trunk and I wonder if I've
cheated my second son of his fair share of walks. I wouldn't want to go
back, but I wish I had savored the pre-car days a little more. There was
beauty there to which my greed had blinded me. I won't let that happen
again. There is beauty in this little house. I am surrounded by the
neighbors God thinks I need right now. I am forced to be creative and
organized in order to maximize our living space. Those are skills which
will be blessings wherever we live. I still read the real estate papers; I
still want that house. For right now though, I'm concentrating on making a
home right where I am.
Foss is a freelance writer and managing editor of Welcome Home, a magazine
for mothers at home.
This article appeared in the September 1, 1994 issue of "The Arlington
Courtesy of the "Arlington Catholic Herald" diocesan newspaper of the
Arlington (VA) diocese. For subscription information, call 1-800-377-0511
or write 200 North Glebe Road, Suite 607 Arlington, VA 22203.