Contentment Is Making A Home

Author: Elizabeth Foss


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 Catholic Herald."

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.