We bought a house that was built in 1896. Let me make one thing clear, I am not one of those people who watches HGTV or “Flip this House” or some other kind of home improvement show like that. I am not into renovating houses and neither is my husband. I’m the kind of girl who wants to move into a brand new, custom home and do absolutely no work on it except for hanging pictures. We are not even really big on the do it yourself thing. However, even though it goes against everything that you ever hoped for, when God gifts you with a classic beauty how can you say no?
Upon walking into the house for the very first time, my first impression was not unlike my reaction to nails running down a chalkboard. Ten foot ceilings completely wall-papered in “Golden Girls” inspired florals had me cringing. It was like walking into a potpourri sachet. I’m sure that the style of the wall-paper is historically accurate with what the original owners of the home in 1896 might have chosen and I am sure it was lovely in the 1980’s when floral pastels were all the rage but, God almighty, if we bought this house it would just have to go. However, there was no denying that it was a magnificent house that was very well cared for and restored. Even still, we left the house that day with a resounding “no” in our heads. No. No. No. There was no way that we could live in such a dollhouse. We are too young. We have furniture from IKEA for crying out loud! This was just not the kind of house for us. She was just not our type. Funny thing is that that is exactly what I told my husband when he asked me out for our first date. “You are not my type.” Thankfully, he was up for the challenge and convinced me to go on a date with him.
I guess the house was up for the challenge too because something kept me and my husband coming back to the house for more. It’s that attraction that you just can’t explain. Logically, it just doesn’t make sense but for some reason you just can’t shake it. I only ever felt this way twice in my life- first when I fell for my husband and second when I fell for the house.
After our first viewing of the house (unlike my first date with my husband), we were convinced that we would never go back. Unfortunately, my subconscious wasn’t going to let me off that easy. In the days that followed, I could not stop thinking about the house. Day and night, I daydreamed about living in this house. All I could think about was the hard wood floors, the ten foot ceilings, the ornate fireplaces in every room, the custom window frames, and the stained glass window. Oh my, I was smitten. There was just something about this house!
Oh yes, she was a lovely house indeed but buying an old house was just not our in our plans. I prayed. I meditated. I journaled. My stomach was constantly tied up in knots. My stubbornness was getting the best of me. I did not want to live in an old house and have to deal with the slew of home improvement projects that would be a reality of my daily life. That is just not me. However, I could no longer ignore the sickening, gut wrenching war that was emerging in the very depths of my stomach. And so I began to pray as to why this house. “Why should we live in this house? Convince me God because this house goes against anything I’ve ever wanted and ever planned for.” And then I began to accept this house as a metaphor for my soul. Despite all of the renovating that I deemed necessary in order to make this home livable, perhaps I would feel at home in a house that understands me. Actually, it was the fact that the house needed work (in my opinion) that attracted me to her. The truth was that I was in need of a renovation of my heart. My heart began to melt and I began to realize that I needed to live in this house.
The more I thought about her the more I realized that the house and I actually have a lot in common. You see, she resides on a major street right smack in the middle of town with neighbors including a bank, a liquor store, a flower shop, a nail salon, a gas station, a dry cleaner, an insurance agency, and only two other Victorian era houses . The three Victorians on this street clearly do not belong here. In fact, they belong in the much cleaner and much more appropriate historic district of town (several blocks of elegant and well groomed Victorian mansions and steepled churches). But instead of being a part of the in-crowd, here was our house standing in shocking defiance literally on the other side of the train tracks. How strange to see such a lady keeping company with the likes of liquor stores and gas stations. Not that there is anything wrong with liquor stores and gas stations; it’s just that if one judged this house by its exterior alone one would not think to put this house on this street. One would think that this house would feel more comfortable with the rest of the stain glassed windowed beauty’s in the historic district. And perhaps she would indeed feel more comfortable. But, for whatever reason, her owner, her architect, her creator placed her on this side of the tracks where in the 21st century she would be in a place where she would be both unusual and at the same time fit right in and blend into the peripheral view of daily life.
And this, my friends, is how I have felt my entire life- always trying to be with the “in crowd” but always feeling more comfortable in the outskirts. Honestly, I am always trying to conform to be like the beautiful people that stand as perfectly (in my mind) as the gorgeous homes in the historic district of town. Now, I know that everyone feels this way. It is part of the human experience to feel like you are on the outside looking in (especially if you were a Generation X-er who came of age during the grunge movement like I did). However, if I look back at every club, sport, extra-curricular activity, organization, and circle of friends that I have been a part of throughout my life I can see a pattern of me keeping my distance. I’m always one foot in and one foot out. I don’t really completely fit in with one group but I’m not exactly a “regular” with the other group. I’m kind of a “jack of all trades master of none” when it comes to social settings. I’m not the social butterfly, I am the social chameleon.
Once I figured out the house was just as much a chameleon as I was, I just knew that it was going to be ours and we were going to live in it. I didn’t know how and I didn’t know when. I just knew as clearly as how I know who my children are that we would one day own that house. This house with all her quirks and natural beauty spoke to my soul. No doubt about it- the house was sturdy with a strong foundation, warm and full of natural light. Yes, she was full of charm and history but what stood out to me the most about her was how much work was needed to her interior. And here is where our similarities really began. The faded wallpaper, stained and dusty old carpet, outdated paint and appliances and a serious lack of cabinets and closet space all seemed to scream out for help. My revelation was that I too needed a serious renovation to my interior. The truth is that I have so many bad habits and imperfections plastered along the walls of my soul that are just as old as the pastel floral wallpaper and rose colored carpet. I did not want this house but I clung to the image that both of us needed a divine renovator to come in and relieve us of all that remained from centuries past. And this is how I became ok with the life that laid before me. There was no more need for my stomach to be tied in knots. My revelation brought on relief and peace. There would be no more city life for me and I would probably never live in a suburban subdivision like we had dreamed of, but I would have this house to take care of and teach me through the labor of love. This house and I (along with my husband and children of course) were embarking on a journey together. Later, once we finally did buy the house people would ask me how the house was coming along and I would reply, “she’s like me- she still needs a lot of work and it is going to take a long time to get her to where I want her to be. In fact, she may never be finished; she will probably always be a work in progress.”