Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Grow Where You're Planted

When Don and I decided to buy our first house in 2009, we knew we wanted to live in a very specific neighborhood. Austin's east side is a booming place where cultures, tradition, and the hip kids meet. Years earlier, when I was a grad student in social work, I had a field placement doing grief counseling with students at an east side junior high. I was drawn to the people, the neighborhoods, to the cross sections of culture that buzzed within a short walk from Austin's neon-lit downtown. I wanted to live there.

We found several tiny, partially dilapidated, in major need of repair homes that we knew, way deep down, were definitely meant for us. They were all perfect.

So we prayed. We connected with a great realtor (who thought we were crazy). We put offers down on houses.

And we got in bidding wars on almost every house. It was a nightmare. We thought we would never find the right place.

After lots of agonizing, we decided to humor our realtor (and parents and friends and colleagues) and at least look at the houses located miles from the glittering, paint-chipped east side.

On the second day of looking, we had an appointment to see a house at 10:15. We met our realtor at the address and I was immediately smitten with the enormous ancient live oak tree that shaded the entire house and front yard. A wooden swing hung from the lowest branch, and I felt a glimmer of hope that we might be able to live in dreaded suburbia after all.

The owners told our realtor they needed an extra 15 minutes before we could view the house, and as we waited in their front yard, we noticed a small "For Sale" sign at the house across the street. Our realtor didn't know the house was for sale, but saw that it had a lock box on the door. He unlocked it and we went inside.

Immediately it happened. Don and I both knew that this was our house. It had never shown up on our online searches because it was well out of our price range, but our realtor called the selling agent and learned that the current owners had reduced the price that very morning by $20,000, due to the economy.  It was within our price range. It was perfect. Shortly after, it became our home.

Even though we loved the way it looked and felt, all new and shiny, I couldn't understand why God (because we believe in listening to God through prayer and that He has specific plans for us, including where we live and grow roots) didn't want us living on the east side, renovating a falling down house and being close to our church and friends. I looked at our new home's extremely safe streets, picturesque playgrounds, and overbearing HOA newsletters and felt stunned that we were actually living in suburbia, where we had never intended to live.

Why would He plant us here?

The next week I learned that I was pregnant.

The next year I became best friends with Brandi, who owns the house with the ancient oak tree that we originally came here to view. We have spent a thousand hours swinging and talking under that tree. I am so glad we didn't buy her house and that she still lives there!

And then my dad realized that my cousin and his family (our families have never been close) lived six houses up from us. We invited them for dinner and reconnected just before they moved out of the neighborhood. They are wonderful people and I am so glad to know them.

And then I met Mrs. B, who is 74. She and her miniature chihuahua came over for a short visit and she told me all about her son, whom she loved with her whole heart from the day he was born until the day he died at 48 of a progressive illness. I cried with her. I am a young mother. I only have a toddler. What can I offer her? I apologized for the toys strewn all over our entire house, the sippy cup leaking drops of milk onto our floor. "Do you know what I would give to go back to these days, honey?" she asked me. She finds comfort in our slightly overgrown grass, in our untidy living room.

And then yesterday, I went to a park outside of our neighborhood and met a new mom. We talked about how much we want to be connected in our neighborhood. She asked me where I live and I told her. We live exactly two houses away from each other.

I am starting to get it. Finally. He has a plan for us here. I don't know all of the details. I don't know why He chooses some people to meet and connect on the east side and some people to connect in south Austin, but He does.

We are growing here. Here is home.

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