Thursday, March 14, 2013
Eight years ago when we moved into this little half of a duplex, I cried. I was leaving a small studio apartment in West Hollywood for a barely larger space in Culver City - not exactly the most happening neighborhood in Los Angeles. Both the neighborhood and the house felt removed, dull, and small. The duplex was in the midst of being remodeled for the first time in sixty years or so, and I lacked the vision to see it as anything more than a shabby box of an apartment previously inhabited by hoarders. And a duplex meant sharing space with a neighbor. In this case we were lucky to be very good friends with that neighbor, but as a newlywed (and introvert) I wasn't entirely sure I wanted to live too near anyone we knew. So, even though Jimmy was quite content with our new situation, I insisted on dragging him to rental opportunities all over the city in the weeks leading up to our move, desperate to find something - anything - even vaguely comparable to the duplex.
But a yard, a garage, and low rent are all difficult perks to come by in this city, and we were on a tight deadline, so we moved into the duplex. And I cried.
At least once a year, certainly every spring, I've looked over our options for moving. I crave more space - an eat-in kitchen, an office, room for an upright piano, a guest room, a second bathroom, a closet that doesn't dump its contents on my head every time I open it - for starters, anyway. With the arrival of each of our girls I have been convinced that it would be impossible for us to continue living here, but each time it has somehow worked out. Twice we thought we'd found the right place to move into next, once even going so far as to submit a deposit, but both times we withdrew at the last minute because there was something or other that just wasn't quite right about it, or didn't feel right, and we just couldn't shake a feeling of unease.
I've spent these eight years doing a lot of praying about our situation. And not just about our living quarters, but in desperation to change anything I have been praying about everything: Should we be here? Should we be in this city? Should I be working? Should I be working from home? Should we have another baby? Are we doing this right? Are we missing something? So many times when we've tried to make a big change we've ended up withdrawing the decision at the last minute, and with each passing year of the same place, the same budget, the same questions, the same single-income-family-living-in-an-expensive-city worries, I have become increasingly frustrated. After eight years you can bet that my prayers have evolved from "help us to find x," to "please give us any direction - ANY direction?" and still....this. Just this.
At this point we are feeling very tied to our neighborhood due to schools and whatnot. So, last Saturday we visited the open house of a duplex nearby, another small space priced about the same as a house would be priced around here. And still, when we looked at the numbers, it just couldn't work out. I told Jimmy that if we couldn't make that place work - a place where we could at least earn some rent back to put toward the mortgage, then we just couldn't buy here period. And that was heartbreaking.
On Sunday we went to church. The message was complex, covering Genesis 3, but the portion which struck me was about being confident that our God is God, that He has a plan for us, that He is in control. Normally, when I hear these phrases, I have just felt more frustration. So many years I've been begging for direction and hearing so little back. The question I have been most turning over in my mind is at what point is there a plan, and at what point do we just need to make our own decision? Because waiting for a plan has been so much waiting, and making my own decisions - making my own attempts at action - have been so much running into a brick wall. And I am tired and bruised.
But on Sunday it struck me that there is another way to look at this. I have been overlooking a word: confident. If I am going to say that I believe in God and I believe He loves me personally - statements I do believe, because even when the questions have been unanswered He has found ways to remind me that I am not forgotten - if I am going to assert these truths, then I must be confident in Him, in His love, in His plan. I must be confident that if we have been open to any direction and any change, yet here we are, then this must be the right place to be. And if that is true then I must be confident that as unstable as our future can appear, He does have a plan for that, too. I have been so busy looking for answers and direction that I have not realized that where we are now IS the answer, at least it is today. And in missing that realization I have been missing many years of peace.
The space is small, but our children - and also my husband - rarely notice. I am continually purging our belongings and reorganizing in this puzzle of small space living, but these are all activities which I have always enjoyed. The remodeling which was done as we moved in has made the house much nicer than most rentals, and though it is difficult to entertain indoors we have a lovely yard and Southern California weather to accomodate such occasions. Hosting visitors from out of town will always be tricky here, but we do our best, often with the help of our generous next-door neighbor. Did I mention that having a friend as a next-door neighbor has turned out to be one of the best perks of living here? We never speak of moving without lamenting even the thought of losing her, and additionally, our girls could not love her any more, and take immense joy in invading her home at any and all times possible. In the absence of family nearby (save one), she has become much needed family. And the neighborhood I dreaded? In the years just after we moved here, the little downtown area underwent a revitalization effort and is now filled with excellent restaurants and shops, and something we never dreamed of needing at the time we moved in - schools - have turned out to be better than ideal. We honestly love this little town.
I can't say I want to live here forever. I can't say I don't still have a lot of questions about children and careers and housing and proximity to family and....everything. I sincerely hope that part of our future involves more space and more stability, and room for a piano. And I plan to work toward these things as much as makes sense to us. But I feel a peace, now, in the act of placing confidence in my God. We have told Him we are ready and available for whatever and wherever. So if we are here, I am just going to assume that here is right. And honestly, it feels right.
Because I have known for several years, now, that even if we earned everything we think we want, that these years we have spent in a small space stumbling over each other at every turn, piled up together on the sofa, tripping past each other in the hallway, dodging our opposing comings and goings, forever at arms length from one another, these are always going to be the very best years. Years when we could reach out at almost any moment and grab hold of someone we love more than life, or space, or pianos.
I can be confident in this.