A few weeks ago, I had one of those moments. One of those “curl up in a ball and cry to God and ask Him to please just work it out” moments. The kind of moment where I felt like God had probably already answered me, but I wanted more than anything for Him to change His answer. He didn’t, but miraculously, He completely changed my heart.
Here… have a little backstory:
In 2005, I moved into a little 100 year old farm house on nearly-an-acre in Morgan Mill, TX. In 2008, Mack and I got married, and he moved in.
In 2009, Mack and I planned to completely renovate our house. We drew up plans, we got the financing, we hired a contractor. Then that contractor bailed, and the whole project was pushed back, and we would have been living with my parents when our daughter was born. No good. So we punted, and agreed to wait. Instead of a full renovation, we just replaced all the floors with wood, and completely gutted-and-rebuilt the bathroom and the back room that would become our nursery.
In 2011, we realized that we’d irreparably outgrown this house. We’d learned about structural issues that made a renovation unwise, and decided we’d just rather buy something else or build. In the loan application process, we learned that we’d get MUCH more favorable rates by waiting another year, so that we’d have 3 years of provable “self-employed” income. That kind of sucks, but it made sense. So we punted, and agreed to wait.
We’ve been SO excited for this year. We’re in the best financial shape of our lives, and we’d done our homework and knew exactly what we wanted. We prayed out loud, “God, if we’re supposed to do this in 2012, make the road easy. If we’re not, make it very clear.” And we went to talk to a banker.
And then it felt like a sucker punch.
It wasn’t a “no”, or anything. It was just clear we couldn’t do exactly what we wanted. What we’d been saving towards and planning for. We maybe could do it if we wanted another year, but we’ve already BEEN waiting three years, and were so tired of that. And, quite frankly, I threw a fit.
After I was done throwing my fit, though, I asked in earnest that God please give me a peace about our living situation. I woke up the next morning feeling a million percent better. Still a little sad, but not angry, and pretty content with waiting another year. So I upped the anty, and I asked God to go BEYOND giving me peace. I asked Him to please pull me completely on board with whatever His plan was for our lives, and our home.
In the days that followed that, I experienced a complete transformation of my mind. I started thinking about what I’d miss about our little 1,000 square foot house. I’d miss the wrapped porch, that Mack lovingly replaced with his own hands. I’d miss my trees… a dozen tall oaks that are so beautiful. I’d miss the huge full-wall window in the living room. I’d miss our children running up the road to see my folks, and walking to church on Sunday mornings.
Following a conversation with Mack about our travel goals for the next two years, and how we’d have to scrap some of our plans if we moved into a house with a mortgage more than twice as expensive…. And I found `myself` sad about that. Sure, we’d live in a bigger home, but we’d “live” a little less.
I promise, I’m getting to the point. One morning, like a bolt of lightning through the front of my forehead, I got it.
We’ve spent the last four years working so hard to get out of this house, we haven’t thought about all the reasons we might want to stay. It’s small, but that means we’re close. It’s very inexpensive, and we’ll own it outright in five years. FIVE YEARS! That’s huge! In this house, we’re able to build a savings and a retirement fund, and we’re able to travel and spoil our friends and children. The trade off is that I don’t have enough closet space, but you know what? I don’t think I care anymore.
I decided… or, better yet, I realized… that if I had to choose between a rich house and rich experiences, I’d choose the experiences every single time without fail. I shared this with Mack, and he was in complete agreement. And in that one conversation, our entire five year plan changed, and our attitudes along with it.
The new McGowan Family financial motto is, “A Modest Home and Rich Experiences”.
We’re excited to redecorate our bedroom, to work on storage solutions, and make other small changes that will make this house work for us for another five years. We’re excited to put the money we’ve been channeling into a “house fund” toward 100% debt retirement. We’re excited to travel… both with our family, and our friends.
And more than anything, we’re excited to be HAPPY where we are.
Thank you, Lord, for not changing Your mind. Thank you for being powerful enough to cut us off at the wrong road for four years in a row, and finally breaking through and changing our hearts instead. We finally feel like we’re on the path You wanted us on all along, and we’re thrilled to pieces to see where it leads us!
Crying. You have NO idea how much I needed to hear this right this second. Thank you so much for sharing that!
Absolutely love this, got goosebumps and all. I wish I could have this sort of clarity about where my life is and will go.
Amazing post! I would pick awesome experiences over a big house any day.
Thanks Chelsea! Needed this today. We are in a similar situation. We want a new house and are being wooed by the crazy expensive houses we don’t need! We found a great smaller house, but still big enough for the two of us that won’t make us house poor.
Thanks for sharing, Chelsea! We’re in a similar situation and I’ve had to bring myself back to reality and God’s plan a few times already.
thank you for this!
This is one of the most powerful posts that I have ever read!! This is awesome and so wise!! So often we look forward to something, anything and forget to revel in the awesomeness and goodness of today and of God!! Thanks for sharing your story!! You are preaching it this morning, sista!! Good word!! Have you heard of 7 by Jen Hatmaker? It’s a message in living simply and it’s great!
It’s a wonderful thing to be aware and thankful and to find the new blessings that come from what we already possess. Thank you for sharing and making me realize that wanting more is alright when I’ve gotten the most out of what I have. I’ve had it up on my wall for a few months now and it’s become my mantra, “Every difficulty is an opportunity in disguise”. This has helped me make it through several setbacks with peace.
I love this!
I agree 100 percent with your new motto, “A Modest Home and Rich Experiences!” We don’t live in a new fancy house, but it was new to us and our mortgage is less than what most people pay in apartment rent! We’d much rather spend our money on life experiences…especially awesome trips with friends!
Thank you so much for this today. It’s put some light on my own personal strugle with what would be best for my family in this very situation. I thank you for sharing.
So wonderful to hear, Chelsea. Thank you for sharing – I think we all needed to read this, I know I did.
You guys are so wonderful. It is a life changing realization when God opens your eyes and your perspective is changed. A quote that is dear to me hangs on my bathroom wall…
“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” -Epicurus
It’s always good to be reminded of this, love you guys.
This makes me so happy! It’s amazing to see how God can work in our hearts when we let him. I’m excited to see your solutions and travel pictures and spoiled babies!
WOW, trying to keep tears back since I’m at work. The conviction and siprituality you express is beyond beautiful. Walking to church on Sunday morning sounds like something from TV or a book, awesome! Congrats to you and your fam for finding that peace and happiness.
Wow Chelsea – that is some powerful stuff. THinking about what you wrote I have the Mayberry theme all mixed up with Unanswered Prayers going round in my head…but it makes me happy for you and yours.
This is such a fabulous realization you guys! I struggle all the time with looking toward the bigger and better. It’s refreshing to step back and say, “Lord, I’m happy and I’m thankful for what we have.” And what we have is soo much. Blessings to your family!
praise the Lord for how He sometimes stops our plans in their tracks and gives us a new frame of mind!! so happy for the blessings you’re already beginning to reap!!!
18 Comments on A Modest Home and Rich Experiences